Electribe 101 – Electribal Soul: Album Review

The follow-up to the 1990s debut album from Electribe 101 finally sees the light.

Release Date:  18 March 2022

Label: Electribal Records

Formats: Vinyl / CD / Download

Two or three years between albums isn’t an unusual thing.  Thirty-one years more so.  Predicted to be the next big thing in the early nineties, Electribe 101 released a storming debut album in Electribal Memories which teased a waiting audience and embarked on Depeche Mode’s Violator tour as support act.  Minor hits in Tell Me When The Fever Ended and Talking With Myself followed, an appearance at Milton Keynes Bowl with Erasure – all was going well.

Vocalist Billie Ray Martin seemed to be appearing on the cover of many pop mags before they were then inexplicably dropped by label Mercury/Phonogram and Electribal Soul was never released.  Even the mentorship of Tom Watkins (Pet Shops Boys, Bros) didn’t help as slightly anarchic band members insisted that they do more things their way.

Formed in 1988 with four musicians from Birmingham (Joe Stevens, Les Fleming, the late Rob Cimarosti and Brian Nordhoff), German-born Billie Ray gave their electronic sound something very special.  Her bluesy, soulful voice finds itself at the centre of the Venn diagram between Alison Moyet, Dusty Springfield and Roisin Murphy and, in the same way that Moyet was an unusual match for Vince Clarke in Yazoo, so Billie finds her vocals strangely connected to an electronic backing in a similar vein to Violator.  The combination really shouldn’t work but does, and magnificently.

The result is the perfect continuation from Electribal Memories.  That electronic house sound mixed with a Balearic Beat and psychedelic slants is infectious to say the least – in many ways far ahead of its time where the potential audience just wasn’t ready for something as leftfield and dissimilar to everything else that was chart bound in the 90s.

Martin’s voice is nothing short of incredible and can be best appreciated on Space Oasis, an infectious beat is joined by the final piece of the musical jigsaw her voice – which rises and descends through the musical scale – and leaves the listener quite in awe and breathless by the time it ends.

Electribal Soul isn’t all high-powered soul rebellion, there’s a short but perfectly positioned instrumental in Conquering Tomorrow and a quite superb cover version of Throbbing Gristle’s Persuasion.  A minimalistic rhythm hypnotizes as we’re taken to a seedy world of sexual coercion and creepy infatuation which can be unsettling listening at times whilst managing to caress an empathy and comfort as it progresses.

To continue to highlight tracks is unfair such is the quality on show here although two very different versions of Deadline For My Memories warrant special mention.  A full-on, powerful affair and a stripped-back, almost gospel version once more confirm the special relationship between music and voice.

It may have taken over three decades to materialise but in many ways, it was well worth the wait and will be greeted with the success that it deserves.

Listen to Space Oasis here:

Check out Billie Ray Martin online: Website / Facebook /Twitter / Instagram / Youtube

Electribe101 online: Facebook / Bandcamp

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