Magic System

Toutè Kalé

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Ivory Coast's Magic System actually have a unique streak to them, but on Toute Kale, it's buried deep under a stream of banalities. Or maybe it's just a convergence of tropical musical cultures around the globe. Be that as it may, the record would strike Western audience as a disco/dance-pop crossover with ample Caribbean overtones that is, altogether, nothing if not dated. Admittedly, it's also infectious as a tropical malady: smirk all you want at the '80s flair in the beats and vocals, but the rhythms would get even a high society Victorian lady toe-tapping. It does play as a rip-off at first, though, reveling in those reggae grooves, channeling Lou Bega with his techno-mambo, and shamelessly plundering '90s Euro-dance for drum machine patterns on the tunes that don't sport tricky authentic percussion on par with anything Jamaica has ever produced ("C'est La Télé" for the latter). But a couple of tunes, such as the acoustic guitar-led "L'eau Va Manquer" and "Pas Si Différents," break the pattern, and digging deeper would show that some of the dry synth textures owe a lot to Daft Punk or at least Stromae, and the intricate beats, as well as the throaty solo vocals and tribal choruses, are undeniably rooted in traditional music, and not by way of any past chart successes, either. It's just that Magic System take care to coat their origins in lots of gaudy synths, obviously going for immediacy first, originality or authenticity second. Still, this just means that, instead of a potential world music gem, they deliver a contender for the best beach party album of 2011.

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