There is trying something new, there’s pushing boundaries and then there is Thomas Abban. Abban goes way beyond merely moving existing musical templates forward, he does nothing less than create his own world to inhabit, explore and report on. It is a world where things are familiar yet different, where there are things you recognise but juxtaposed and out of context, an alternative reality that has somehow split from our own timeline and evolved separately following its own gradually diverging rules and laws. Thomas Abban is a mystic, a weaver of dreams and imagination, but then being a Welsh-Ghanaian relocating to Minneappolis means that a complex array of cultural ideas and traditions have been absorbed in his mere twenty-one years.
I will admit that those are some pretty big claims to make for a debut album but for once the hype is going to prove justified, believe me. A Sheik’s Legacy is like little you have heard before, a heady mix of rock grooves, soulful vibes, dark folk and bruised melodies, pop accessibility, arabesque spice, echoes of primal screams and lyrics which effortlessly blend existentialism and eloquence, energy and elegance.
To be the prime mover on such a mercurial and eclectic slice of brilliance would be enough to gain him at least a footnote in the annals of history but when you realise that he wrote, composed, arranged, played and produced the album, it makes you wonder if his choice of Minneapolis as a base might in some way be linked to of one of the twin cities’ most famous and recent dearly departed sons. I will not draw any further comparisons but I can assure you that many will.
Death Song is the skittering, fractured and blood splattered opening salvo, one which will confuse and compel in equal measure and is the perfect first step into this brave and odd new world and songs like Horizons provide the perfect showcase for his often unnerving falsetto deliveries. Aladdin is an exotic blend of ancient orient and dystopian occident and Sinner comes close to being a chart aware pop hit, close but possibly still too clever for current mainstream tastes.
Abban is the first artist I have heard in a long time which has made reminded me that the best music is the music you fall in love with. Over recent years new music has impressed me, reminded me of my formative years, followed or formed fashion or felt like a step forward. Thomas Abban does all of that but has also made me totally fall head over heels for his cryptic charms and his singular musical vision. Not bad for the first album, God only knows where the story goes next but I can’t wait to find out.