It’s easy to lean on geography as a lens for discussing the music of Mo Kolours. EP2: Banana Wine, the latest release from the half-Mauritian singer and percussionist, draws as much from the sega music of his father’s homeland as it does the sounds of South London where the artist resides. The second offering in a planned trio of releases on One-Handed Music, the nine-track EP builds on the success of its predecessor, EP1: Drum Talking. Here, Mo Kolours continues combining the ambling rhythms of Mauritian sega with the inventive studio treatments of London hip-hop, this time incorporating a wider sonic palette.
The strongest elements of Drum Talking—the syncopated percussion, unexpected vocal flourishes, and groove-oriented production—once again take a central role. However, on Banana Wine Mo Kolours fills out the sound, replacing his previous work’s sparseness with lusher arrangements and tighter compositions—claps, shakers, and hand drums still form the backbone of the songs, but they’re now joined by synthesizers, organ, and more prominent melodies. Tracks like “Twelve” and “Talking Move” drift by supported by a dubby bass and flanging synth lines that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Peaking Lights set. The latter even sports a persistent minimal wave plink that’s ripe for remixing. In fact, the record’s more fleshed-out sound means most tracks are apt for danceable reinterpretation – an opportunity that hasn’t gone unexploited. For the album’s final track, Maryland duo Beautiful Swimmers rework “Mini Culcha,” looping the jazzy organ chords and vocal samples into a club-ready thump.
This isn’t to say Banana Wine ditches the hypnotic irie that’s been the artist’s hallmark tone. Most of the album’s playing time is still given over to pleasantly soporific stretches. Soothing beats and hypnotic drumming continue to invite plenty of meditative head-bobbing from the listener. Adding to the relaxed tenor are Mo Kolours’ vocals. When it is not being chopping and tweaked, his steady voice has an unhurried delivery that brings a calming melodic complement to many of these song’s layered poly-rhythms. On the title track, he repeatedly intones “I’m feeling fine / I got banana wine” as if in a trance. Backed by a loop of finger-picked tropical arpeggios, droning chimes, and subtle shakers the tune takes on an otherworldly, listless quality. The opener “Ridda Mountain” sets the flavor of the whole album with three minutes of hypnagogic dub. The track plays like classic reggae 45 spun at 33rpm, complete with dragging echo-drenched vocals and horn busts that wilt and melt away.
In the end, the great triumph of Banana Wine is the record’s inventive synthesis of disparate influences. Where the intricate beats and distorting effects employed by London artists like Burial can come off as cold and alienating, Mo Kolours combines them with the warmth and rattle of sega for to create an engaging and intimate sound. Where the synth revival brought on by chillwave can can lead to flat, new age washes, the album’s musicianship and energy overcome the pitfall that many fall into. While he’s still at the start of his career, Mo Kolours has already established a strong sound, and we’re eager to see where the final release in this trilogy takes it.