When the Indigenous Australian roots ensemble Saltwater Band convened in 1998, they were following directly in the footsteps of Yothu Yindi, who had achieved crossover success by imbuing traditional songlines with contemporary Western influences. Saltwater Band singer/guitarist Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu had even played in Yothu Yindi, setting the stage for this new eight-piece project. After Saltwater Band’s first two albums (1999’s Gapu Damurrun and 2004’s ARIA-nominated Djarridjarri) shored up considerable popularity, Gurrumul achieved even wider reach with his 2008 solo debut. Returning to Saltwater Band for one final album, he and the more pop-influenced singer-songwriter Manuel Dhurrkay demonstrated the adaptability of their combined material right across Malk. Four songs from Gurrumul’s first album are reinvented here: The incantatory “Marwurrumburr” is brightened with unexpected ska guitar licks and horns, while “Baywara” receives an upbeat injection of dance-club energy, with solemnity tipping over into outright jubilation. Beyond that organic mingling of genres, the album naturally weaves a few passages of English lyrics into the band’s regional Yolngu language, most notably with the transporting refrain “Take me to the paradise” on opener “Martjanba.” And amidst the warming reggae overtures of the title track, guest vocalist Natalie Pa’apa’a (Blue King Brown) uses English to call out the importance of country: “Know your country, know your skin.” Meanwhile, an album-capping remix of that song answers Dhurrkay’s repeated invitation to “come on and dance tonight”—and circles back nicely to Yothu Yindi’s own breakthrough with their hit remix of “Treaty.”

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