The Paradox: Counter Active (Axis, 2021)

February 10, 2021 at 6:51 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

The Paradox: Counter Active

Guyanese keyboardist Jean-Phi Dary joined Jeff Mills and legendary Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen for a series of improvised collaborative performances a few years ago. I kind of feel bad saying this but in all honesty, when I saw them in Detroit, I thought Dary and Mills were far more in tune with each other, and Allen was a little out of his element and seemed like he was struggling to keep up. Maybe other shows were different, I haven’t checked out any clips of their other performances online. Regardless, there’s definitely a spark between Mills and Dary, and it’s plainly evident with their first album together as The Paradox. Much looser, jazzier, and housier than most of the music Mills is commonly associated with, their debut album contains six tracks which feel like the best moments of a series of free but focused jam sessions. Mills programs beat patterns on the fly and augments them with real-time percussion, and Dary plays smoothly flowing but disciplined keyboard melodies. “Super Solid” (with guitarist Herve Samb) and “The X Factor” are the most overtly Afrobeat-sounding tracks here, but all of them incorporate shifting polyrhythms, and while “Twilight” is maybe the closest to Mills’ usual spacey techno, all of the tracks get deep. Effortlessly successful, hopefully there’s more to come from this project.

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