Words by Max Reinhardt
The man who Brian Eno dubbed the finest drummer on the planet has made a string of intriguing albums in the 35 years since he left Fela Kuti, his partner in the creation of Afrobeat. This is undoubtedly Allen’s strongest 21st century album to date.
Film of Life is a return to his Paris studio habitat; the production, by the attractively named Jazz Bastards, captures Allen at yet another peak. It provides a punchy solid, dynamic sound both for his drums and also for Cesar Anot’s bass. ‘Moving On’ kicks off the album with an instantly enticing nu-Afrobeat groove, in which funky horns, squelchy synths, repetitive guitar and even ukulele catch you in a compelling slipstream. Damon Albarn joins Allen for a dub instrumental and for the single ‘Go Back’, in which a slow Afrobeat drum pattern catalyses a melancholy Albarn melody. Ignore the couple of synthy noodling Parisian filler tracks, which don’t take the shine and potency away from this fine album.
You can’t help hoping that Allen’s magnificent musicianship might soon take some other pathways: an album with a substantial jazzer such as Herbie Hancock, say, or one with an electronic music giant like Aphex Twin or Matthew Herbert. But while we’re waiting, Film of Life will remain a funky delight.