On October 13th, the producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist J Kriv played a song from Detroit legend Moodymann on his monthly show, Live on Radio Alhara. Moodymann’s work is so distinctive that it can be tough to follow, so J Kriv relied on the shock of the new for the next track, cuing up a single from a recently formed group named Conclave: “There’s Enough,” a mishmash of shuffle-thump rhythms, solemn chants, and sudden falsetto howls.
On June 11th, another great New York DJ-producer, Natasha Diggs, turned to Conclave’s second single during her weekly Friday livestream: “Perdón,” a loose-limbed funk track that encourages listeners not to worry about receiving vindication from others. Diggs played a fearsome remix courtesy of New York house music luminary Louie Vega, taking a break from her dancing to hold the record up to the camera, giving curious viewers a long look at Conclave on vinyl.
Conclave’s debut album arrived last Friday, and it contains several more alluringly off-kilter dance tunes. Like “Perdón,” “All That I Need” incorporates vocals from Sharin Toribio and stews and bubbles for several minutes before ending in a headlong rush. But you may want to linger in the song’s first half, where Conclave sets nervous percussion against a cucumber-cool bass line and sings about the all-consuming qualities of romance. “All That I Need” achieves a rare combination of feelings, at once skittish and suave.
Conclave is the work of Cesar Toribio — who spent his teens drumming in church before studying jazz at Berklee — along with Scott Scribner. The project gets its name from a rhythm that’s crucial to a wide swathe of Afro-Caribbean music. “There are many different types of claves: rumba clave, son clave, bembe clave,” Toribio said in a statement. “But the clave is not only in Latin music, it’s also super prevalent in jazz because the same Congolese slaves that were imported from Africa to the new world, in Congo Square in New Orleans and in [the] Dominican Republic, were playing these same rhythms… James Brown has the clave in his music.” He noted the influence of the clave in more recent music, too, like “the way Migos use triplets.”
“Once you understand it, you start to see it everywhere,” Toribio continued. “… I like to think of it as the ancestors still speaking, coming through you.”