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LIVE: Sinkane - The Deaf Institute, Manchester

After cutting his cloth on the drums with indie stalwarts like Caribou and Of Montreal, Achmed Gallab aka Sinkane decided to go solo and, so far, he must very pleased with the fruits of his labour.

After a self-titled release and Mars, which was unveiled in 2013, he returned this year with Mean Love, an album that sounds more complete, yet goes off on the kinds of tangents that many artists would be unable to navigate without seeming self-indulgent or downright lost.

Sinkane does it beautifully, perhaps a skill that he has picked up gradually throughout a childhood that saw him scale the globe. Gallab was born in London, but spent much of his time growing up in Sudan, where the traditional African vibe is thrown into a multicultural melting pot of sounds and mixed with influences from the middle east and even a twinge of reggae from across the north Atlantic.

Not to suggest that Sinkane’s music can be pigeon-holed so much as to suggest that Sudan acted as any kind of dominating influence – his output is far more of a rich tapestry than that, taking as much influence from from 70s funk and soul as straight up rock ‘n’ roll.

Gallab comes on stage sporting the broadest of smiles and immediately has hips shaking and toes tapping throughout the Deaf Institute. It’s his first gig as a frontman in Manchester, but as he takes great pride in telling the audience, everyone in the band has visited on tour with other projects, so it’s by no means unfamiliar territory.

One thing that immediately sticks out on the live stage is not the smooth tones of Sinkane’s vocal delivery or the thoroughly danceable nature of the rhythms, but his accomplished performance on guitar.

The solos are amped up to eleven and at times it feels a lot more like a rock gig than expected. But if this is a rock gig, it has its roots very much planted in 60s psychedelia. A couple of tracks are proceeded with freakouts that leave the audience unsure when to come out with their applause – but regardless of the confusion it always comes.

On a completely different note, however, ‘Omdurman’ sees Sinkane even head off into the realms of country and western, giving a precursor to the audience that “this one uses the pedal steel!”

Perhaps our favourite moment of the night comes in the shape of the reggae-tinged ‘Yacha’ though – a track that not only offers a fantastic example of Gallab’s unrivaled versatility, but one that also took our Track of the Day title a couple of months ago.

Compared to some of our other trips out Manchester recently, it’s been fairly low-key this evening, but the music has very much done the talking and something tells us it won’t be long to wait until Sinkane is back for his second visit. An expert in his (many) fields who more than backs it up on the live stage.

Patrick Davies