This proper full-length debut of the Very Best — a star-crossed collaboration of Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya and London-based production duo Radioclit — should work better than it does. As Radioclit, Etienne Tron and Johan Karlberg have more than enough experience incorporating far-flung foundations into their dance-floor rallies (hard Caribbean soca meets kuduro textures along a Fabric-ready thump), and the dual riches of Mwamwaya’s voice and lyrics define the best stretches here.
Too often, though, the negotiation of form and freedom have a flattening effect on Warm Heart of Africa; the tracks sound twice removed — found, sampled, and repurposed for something that strives to resemble that from which it was taken. For listeners already more interested in Sir Victor Awaifo’s wild, visceral joromi than a stuttering sample of it and a yelpy Ezra Koenig cameo, the title track may prove a true cognitive challenge. And the team’s inching toward actual instrumentation (marimba on “Nsokoto,” strings on “Angonde” and “Kada Manja”) is inconsequential under their paved-over production, which frequently leaves Mwamwaya burdened with the role of giving the music all its life.
Lack of body heat and dynamics aside, the ideas on Warm Heart of Africa are pretty strong, perhaps awaiting ironically fairer treatments in the hands of future remixers. To their credit, the Very Best embody an ambitious, forward way of thinking about music that, in most cases, ought to be rewarded. Until that record arrives, Warm Heart remains an admirable missing of its own point.
THE VERY BEST + JAVELIN + MANY MANSIONS | Great Scott, 1222 Comm Ave, Boston | November 1 at 9 pm | $12 | 617.734.4502 orwww.greatscottboston.com