Les Nubians‘ third album (and first in eight years) opens with a Cameroonian drum circle weaving an accelerating rhythmic web. The disc’s only instrumental track nicely sets the tone for Helene and Celia Faussart, the Paris-born daughters of a French father and Cameroonian mother, to explore in soothing harmonies a wealth of sounds stemming from the African diaspora. The Nubian songbirds go it alone for “Je M’en Occupe,” a French-language a cappella ode in which they overdub their voices melodically and percussively to create a mesmerizing blend reminiscent of Zap Mama. A variety of instruments and voices — live, synthesized, and sampled — and guests including neo-soul singer Eric Roberson, the South African band Freshlyground, and rappers Blitz the Ambassador and John Banzai join Les Nubians on other numbers. The ballads “Vogue Navire” and “Femme Polyandre,” both with smooth-jazz backing and a Sade-like vibe, should find favor with fans of the duo’s earlier recordings.
Many songs were made with the dance floor in mind. Move your body, the sisters sing in English over an up-tempo, incessantly syncopated, drum-machine-driven makossa groove on “Africa for the Future.” And on “Nu Soul Makossa” — with help from Manu Dibango, the Cameroonian saxophonist whose fluke 1972 hit “Soul Makossa” helped launch the disco craze that kept much of the world dancing for the remainder of that decade — they bring the intercultural musical exchange between Africa, Europe, and the Americans full circle. (Shanachie)