I first saw the diminutive 22 year soul diva Iva Lankum on stage during a warm and balmy Sunday session at WOMAD about 2 year’s ago, wowing the crowd with the brilliant single ‘Kung Fu Grip”. Baut back in her home town of Wellington’s soul-believers have followed her from residencies at the Southern Cross and from her self-titled debut EP which front loads six very well-polished tracks that had seemingly out of nowhere. Plus you may have also caught her on Sola Rosa’s “Turn Around” where she approximated the funkiest Billie Holiday you’ll ever know!
So, it’s about time a big label has taken charge because Black Eagle is one hot musical origami of hip hop, reggae, jazz, funk and rock. Yet the title track is sultry and contemplative, held together by a simple chord ascension and some deliciously underdone VBs by Rio Hemopo. Also lurking is Mara TK, and vocalists Bella Kalolo and Aaradhna who create some absolute goose bump moments on the first verses of “Come Back Enemy”. Opening the album is the commanding and masterful “No”, recycled from the previous ep. That single was pretty impressive back then but now it has the crispness of some high end musicianship and a quality production desk. The song reprises in a similar guise as “Raise Your Glass (Way Back) a few tracks down. A nice surprise is the very Motown-hip hop “Doo Bop” that sneaks up towards the end of the record. But my personal favourite is “Bankrupt Visa” which is a skanky lil’ reggae-travel groove that surprisingly breaks into some very sophisticated deep dub mid journey. All over, this is a very strong product from a lady who’s been under the radar way too long. People – this is Iva Lankum – Applaud Now!