With Night Safari, Andrea Mangia returns to the Populous moniker after spending several years working with Life & Limb, a collaboration with singer/songwriter Mike McGuire (who also worked with Mangia on Populous' last album, the excellent shoegaze-meets-synth pop fusion Drawn in Basic). While Night Safari is very different from its predecessor, similarities can be heard in the creative layers and juxtapositions of sound Mangia uses to create the globally minded fantasias and secret adventures the album's title suggests. "Night Safari"'s mix of atmospheric field recordings and slinky electronics defines the album's seductively surreal aesthetic. It's an approach that remains striking even on subtler tracks like "Brighton Pier," where swelling synths mimic lapping waves under samples of crying gulls and a soft atmosphere that captures the depth of shore-side sounds. Adding to Night Safari's expansive feel is the host of collaborators Mangia brings aboard. These include Afro-future artist DJ Khalab and Clap! Clap!, whose contributions make the album reminiscent of a less hyperactive version of Débruit's inspired mix of global sounds and electronics. "Agadez" nods to West African music in its sinuous melody and bustling percussion, while "Water Temple" and "Quad Boogie" (a collaboration with Digi G'Alessio) combine traditional chanting with neon synths. Meanwhile, "Fall," which features whispery, ecstatic vocals from Japanese singer/songwriter Cuushe, proves that Mangia's flair for deceptively sugary pop hasn't been lost in translation. However, Mangia transforms the wistful simplicity of Drawn in Basic's pop into more ambiguous songs with plenty of contrasts. For every sensual reverie like "Honey" or "Brasilia," a collaboration with Giorgio Tuma that sounds like a memory of Carnaval, there's a song like "Vu," where the combination of African chanting and somber piano strikes an unusual, unsettled mood. Moments like this may make Night Safari slightly less immediate than Drawn in Basic, but in the context of Populous' discography -- and in its own right -- it's a worthwhile journey.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares