Something Like a War

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Avowing their DJ-minded methodology, Adam Bainbridge starts the third Kindness LP with an excerpt from Underground Resistance's homiletic "Transition": "There will be people who will say, 'You don't mix this with that,' and you will say, 'Watch me.'" Bainbridge uses the guidance of UR's Cornelius Harris to indicate that they are back on their grind, fortified by the intermediary work on recordings by Solange and Kindness affiliates Blood Orange and Robyn. The words indeed seem to have guided most aspects of Something Like a War. Assembled from tricontinental sessions in over 20 private and commercial studios, its polyglot art-pop integrates slick funk and Afro-beat, house and new jack swing, and dub and garage, inclusive of other flavors. Its cast is typically Kindness in makeup but Quincy Jones-like in scale. There are nearly 20 voices, well-utilized string and horn sections, and enough instrumentalists to form a few bands with standard lineups. Producer and principal writer Bainbridge programs the drums, plays some of the instruments, arranges, and applies guileful Todd Rundgren and Playa samples. After a unifying, spirit-lifting house warm-up that almost sounds live enough to have been recorded at a small loft party, Something Like a War gets down to private business. Vulnerability, patience, action, and uninhibited expression are all upheld as imperatives for intimacy. Seinabo Sey, propelled by a springy Rashaan Carter bassline, instructs with sweetness to "Give it up, don't be afraid to fall," a sentiment reinforced with the heady next track through Bainbridge's consoling baritone, accentuated in the background with Robyn and falsetto house legend Byron Stingily. They lead the way and build up to powerhouse Jazmine Sullivan, who on the pulsing and swirling "Hard to Believe" is at her most urgent and commanding since "Don't Make Me Wait." When love falls apart -- the last five songs, all convalescent in some form, sift through the wreckage -- openness is advanced as no less necessary. The quality slips only on a ballad that approximates a late-'80s demo by Smith & Mighty or Massive Attack, lifting again with another Robyn showcase (the storming "Cry Everything") and an emotionally lacerated Cosima ballad pitched somewhere between Maze's "Joy and Pain" and This Mortal Coil ("No New Lies"). "Something Like a War" in no manner references the like-titled documentary about the sterilization of women in India, but rapper Bahamadia -- along with Sullivan, one of only two vocalists to break from the album's tenderness -- swings at another form of oppression. She lands a direct hit just before Bainbridge, Cosima, and Nadia Nair exchange verses on a trembling finale urging against self-concealment.

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