So, according to the press blurb, the Afro Celt Sound System shed the "sound system" portion of its name because the band is refocusing on a more organic, acoustic sound. Yes, that's why their new album opens with a vocoder-and-synth solo, because they want to sound more natural. In all seriousness, though, the "more acoustic" claims aren't entirely unfounded. What they're talking about is a more audible presence for some excellent and decidedly non-electric guitar in many of the ten new songs. It may not seem like this would make a huge difference, but you'd be surprised.
Other than that, the band's sound is largely the same. Where their third CD Further In Time found the Afro Celts trying to reach for a world music fusion that seemed to reach well beyond the ethnic implications of the band's name, and it was a truly lovely thing to behold. With Seed, they come down unquestionably on the "Celt" side of Afro Celt, and while the polyrhythms are still present, the focus this time around is definitely on the Irish sound. Not that this is a bad thing, mind you.
The album's first two tracks remain my favorites, despite the incongruity of "Cyberia"'s "more acoustic" vocoder opening. The title track is a sweeping epic along the lines of Further In Time's "Lagan," another favorite of mine. The guest vocalists this time around aren't quite the high-profile rock legends that the group welcomed on their previous album, but that's okay too. It may just be that the band has found a sound that could get some attention and airplay without the publicity stunt of a famous voice in front of the mix.
Excellent stuff, even if I do keep calling them the Afro Celt Sound System.