Released at the very beginning of the year in a limited edition of 80 cassettes and digital download, Afromutations is the latest album by LA underground MC, DJ, and beat-maker Riddlore, which comes only a year after the CD Mixed Tape.
This time, however, the album has been released through a label Riddlore had never worked with before. Called Nyege Nyege Tapes – a Kampala based label ‘exploring, producing and releasing outsider music from the region’. And if this label was the one of choice, it is because Afromutations is deeply connected with African music; a concept which involved the reworking of field recordings Riddlore gathered in Uganda and the rest of Africa, and recorded (back in 2015) at the Boutiq Studios in Kampala.
But, as the title suggests, it is neither an ethnographic nor a folk project. The field recordings are embedded in a frame of powerful beats that transform them inevitably into something new. Riddlore calls it Afrofuturism; a kind of music that takes traditional sounds into the future. ‘A new Afro inspired bass sound’. It is an album that works better in clubs and at parties, rather than in anthropology classes.
Afromutations is made up of fourteen tracks but it is rather short, lasting only 40 minutes in total. It comes as no surprise though, since Afropop and Afrodance songs are often quite short, adapting themselves perfectly to the needs of a DJ working on a mix. And perhaps, it was the best way for Riddlore to experiment with different beat lines.
Indeed, one can find a wide range of sounds in the album, from the percussions of the opening track ‘Bakka Pygmies Riddim’ to the enchanting melody accompanied by a smooth female voice of LA UG. ‘Mad Is’ might be the shortest track on Afromutations, but it is both rich and captivating. In many others, such as ‘Soul Clap SA’ or ‘UG CV Beat’, samples of traditional singing are incorporated, in a juxtaposition of old and new.
Afromutations is an interesting album, and it is definitely refreshing to see an artist who has been on the scene for so long, delving into something new and experimenting with several sounds and different genres. However, it works better on paper than in reality. When listened to, it sounds a little repetitive and not quite as original as it would like to be.