For those unfamiliar with their earlier work, Ibeyi is a French Afro-Cuban duo led by twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Díaz. Since they first emerged, Ibeyi have been a spellbinding duo. Spell 31 is their third album and the first released on a major label – XL Recordings. And while the increased polish that comes with a big label budget definitely shows on Spell 31, the siblings’ lyrics are as devastatingly raw as ever.
Ibeyi’s haunting musical soundscapes, courtesy of production by Naomi and longtime collaborator Richard Russell, are undoubtedly perfected and shined – resonant bass lines undergirded by soul-stirring rhythms, gospel-soaked percussion and electronic neo-soul melodies – and the twins deftly move from one sound to another with effortless grace. Sometimes their voices are so tightly woven, and their music is so seamless that you can’t tell which vocal is which.
The album covers so much ground between continents, cultures, and languages, but remains focused at its core: an unbreakable bond between two sisters. This dimensionality has always been the family affair’s greatest strength: Ibeyi sings in a mixture of Spanish, French and Yoruba, a trio of languages that reflect their diverse identities and origins.
Spell 31 is a slow-burning, wide-ranging album that speaks to the artistry and heritage of Ibeyi. Each song is an adventure and constructed like a ritual. Without fail they begin with some sort of winding instrumentation; in each case, you only have to hear it once before it sticks in your brain forever.