Pull the Rope, the new record by Ibibio Sound Machine, casts the Eno Williams and Max Grunhard-led outfit in a new light.The hope, joy, and sexiness of their music remains, but, further honing the edge of their acclaimed 2022 album Electricity, the connection they aim to foster has shifted venues, from the sunny buoyancy of a sunlit festival to a sweat-soaked, all-night dance club. The atmosphere has changed, but you’re still having the time of your life.
Williams and Grunhard attribute this shift to a matter of collaborators, recording Pull the Rope with Sheffield-based producer Ross Orton (Arctic Monkeys, M.I.A.) over the course of two weeks. The way the pair wrote songs changed significantly — rather than Eno penning lyrics to music generated by Max and company’s jamming, Orton started with Eno and Max writing together before adding the band. With less time in the studio and a new way of considering how they built songs, the duo found making decisions about Pull the Rope’s sound quicker and more instinctually than before.
In melding their songwriting process, Grunhard and Williams have, impossibly, pulled the trick of making Ibibio Sound Machine a tighter band than ever before, building out from their core in a way that highlights the electrifying group of musicians they play with. Rather than recording with the full band in the room, Pull the Rope was sculpted, elements added and shaped by Grunhard, Williams, and Orton along the way. As a result, Pull the Rope is a nimble, sleek machine that’s thrilling from the first note of the opening title track, Eno’s otherworldly voice and PK Ambrose’s throbbing bass driving through a kaleidoscopic array of house, post-punk, funk, Afrobeat and disco, bangers and ballads, making an argument for unity that begins on the dancefloor.
The sound of Pull the Rope, then, is hope in darkness, bliss in spite of bleakness. Once again, Ibibio Sound Machine are here to provide the soundtrack to the best night of your life, and the better world to come.