Surprise - Beleive Me (Beaumonde, 2019)

A fresh as hell reissue of a Gabon disco funk classique.

Beaumonde have been quietly collecting and digging some real cool shit as of late. Three music lovers, they have reissued some smoking hot blasts from the past that were perhaps previously overlooked, such as Dick Dickson's 'In the Pocket' reissue, alongside Fabriano Fuzion's 'Cosmik Sindika' earhole of an album. It is this approach to finding and sourcing tunes, alongside releasing interesting and diverse new releases, that means Beaumonde is certainly a label to keep an eye on in the future.

Their latest reissue focuses on the sound of Surprise, and their forgotten masterpiece 'Beleive Me'. Led by the enormously talented arranger Frédéric Gassita, the band release their only LP back in 1983. A quirky yet superbly well put together record, it takes much influence from the American post disco and funk sound that was dominating the underground (and the airwaves at the time). This gives it a similar ryhthmic feel to it as many American releases, but it contains so many more slightly abstract elements that really set it apart from this music, along with creating a beautiful contrast to African styles of music and its American counterpart. The nature of the composition, the variety of sounds, its very much an exploration into the depths of post disco, the use of synths and other elements really shining through on an LP full of desire and intrigue.

The opener, 'We're gonna have some fun', kicks in right from the off, a soaring synth line brings in a equally soaring vocal. Guitar licks rebound off the pulsating groove, and is a extremely refreshing take on sounds from bands like Mtume, Maze, High Fashion and the like. The vocals of Florence Nang Ekomye really steal the show here, adding more to the dynamic range and depth of this tune. The the composition is something else, with transitions so smooth, the key playing exceptional, it really is a magical tune. And one that would make spirits rise on the dance floor, right high into the sky. Up next comes 'Ogoue', that starts off with lots of sounds associated with balearic tunes, before descending into a Afro style slow jam. Guitar picking delightfully adding rthymns, with piano and keys grooving away within a off beat feeling hypnotic jam. Again, the transitions are beautiful, gliding around, with soft synth pads coming through, adding an extra ray of sunshine to the vibe. 'Butterfly' comes in next, and is a short explosive song full of funk, beats and feeling. Synths and guitar riffs play off each other joyfully, with backing synth pads adding depth and space. A Nile Rodgers esq guitar solo keep the fire burning, oh if only this could keep going for another few years! this jam is on point, with solos just coming and coming and coming some more. How they fit in so much into 2:40 minutes, god only knows. A real pearl of a tune.

And then to the slow burner. 'Back to LBV' kicks into life, and remains the most intriguing tune of the whole record. Slowed down, little elements here and there contribute to something of great significance, little key solos and a backing guitar riff working alongside each other. Just then, out of nowhere, everything switches up masterfully, as if this moment was waiting , the song springs into life enormously. It has a real George Benson vibe to it, although much more synth and sonic. The scatting comes in, Ekomye's voice and a beautiful jazz guitar solo working in pitch perfect harmony, before the synths come back in once more. Its so gorgeous, its a real composition, something to get completely boggled by in its ambition and musical beauty. A band at the peak of their powers, its seriously quite something to marvel at.

Towards the business end of the record, comes 'Will be the only one'. Much like the opener, it contains many elements of American styles of post disco, but with such a distinctive vibe. It has more depth, more vocal stylings, more intrigue, synths grooving around constantly. Over a more slowed down beat, its vibes move and groove around effortlessly. Such justice to such a perfect song cannot be done in words. Finally, to end off this peach of a LP, comes the title track. Slow burning, old school funk/soul jam, it has so many amazing ingredients. The show stealer here is the wonderful vocal interplay, that transitions so well from the verses to the chorus, from a strong and soaring female lead to deep and rolling male vocals during the chorus. It is a triumph, and a amazing way to end such a perfect record. Woah. Damn.

If this is the standard of releases from Beaumonde, then holy shit. This record is something else, timeless, and effortless in its presentation, beautiful in its emotions, significant in its uniqueness. Only the most highly skilled composers can come up with such magic, and that is evident in spades on an album full of delightful grooves, emotional vocals, and hypnotic transitions. Synths galore! vocals amazing! listen to it now!

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