Barcelona electronic producer Gunsal Moreno first drew attention for his work as beGun with spot-on evocations of global cities such as Shanghai and Madrid. On his intensely anticipated LP Amma, he ambitiously takes Africa as his muse and source. To his credit, Moreno approached the subject with loads of intellectual curiosity and sensitivity to the vast continent’s diverse cultures. He began this project with extensive research into not only the music, but also the history and current geo-politics of Africa – all of which inform this project.
A lot of the sounds Moreno chose are West African, echoing Sub-Saharan instruments such as the kalimba. The beats and rhythmic patterns celebrate and draw inspiration from the exquisitely complex yet organic indigenous musical styles of West Africa, “Shama” being a particularly euphoric and clear example. Real percussion samples and traditional African vocal chops add luxuriant depth and richness to the album’s sound.
We got a look at this direction on his DORA EP, which introduced the tracks “Dora” and “Nari.” Listening to Amma is like zooming out from those two to see a complete and extremely detailed picture. In a delicate balancing act, beGun presents his African story filtered through his own (by now) immediately recognizable musical language, which involves softening the edges of familiar EDM building blocks such as the build and the drop and then weaving in hip-hop beats and sounds drawn from ambient palettes. The result is both tribal and futuristic, and made to move a seething festival crowd as easily as it could win over one person with some nice headphones. Album opener “Yoko” starts things off on the more ambient end of things – the loping beat and twinkling synths make it feels like flying through a really convincing CGI forest – but Amma gradually ramps up to EDM-type high speeds and energy levels, reaching a peak with the thumping “Mobasi, Pt. 2” before gently sloping back into arboreal peace.
That such a conceptual statement seems completely natural for him demonstrates the expressiveness of his style and his sure-footedness as a producer. If anything, his sound now seems fully realized here. Amma is an astonishing debut LP. Those who have been following his work should find it very satisfying – yet it also makes you long to know where he’ll take his sound next.
Watch the video for “Yoko” below:
Amma is out now on Foehn Records.