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Review: Tony Allen and Jeff Mills Join Forces on ‘Tomorrow Comes the Harvest’

Two pioneers’ collaborative project blends afrobeat and live electronics

Jeff Mills discusses how his unique collaboration with Afrobeat drumming legend Tony Allen evolved.

Pierrick Guidou

There’s a simple, age-old idea behind Tomorrow Comes the Harvest: Throw two luminaries from different worlds into the studio, roll tape, see what happens.

In one corner, find Jeff Mills, whose credentials are unimpeachable — he co-founded Underground Resistance, the future-facing electronic Detroit outfit that created reams of charged, jazz-friendly techno and several house-leaning dancefloor classics. In the other, meet Tony Allen, the longtime drummer for Nigerian star Fela Kuti, who helped invent the commanding, endlessly adaptable afrobeat groove. This is not the first such pairing — for example, Allen played with German techno maven Moritz von Oswald in 2015 — but the scene is set for a cross-generational, cross-disciplinary and even cross-continental exchange; the potential energy is high.

The results are more pedestrian, though. It’s a testament to Allen’s indomitability that Mills largely defers to him. The drummer is everywhere, kicking up a recognizable vortex of pitter-patter, but if you didn’t know Mills was on this, his presence might go unnoticed. That diffidence is a missed opportunity — Tomorrow Comes the Harvest would benefit from a sense of more productive addition, or creative friction.

“Locked and Loaded” comes closest to this: Low-toned electronics bounce and decay, adding a threatening undercurrent to Allen’s unrelenting pulse. This could lead to something genuinely nasty, though they don’t quite reach that point on Tomorrow Comes the Harvest. “The Seed” has the most melodic development, with incessant bleeping giving way to satisfyingly big sheets of sound.

But mostly these four songs, four edits and two remixes sound like an energetic drummer enhanced slightly with the occasional squirting synth and percussive electronic chatter. If the drummer wasn’t Allen, that would be more of a problem.

In This Article: electronic dance music, Fela Kuti

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