Album Round-Upby Mahala / 02.12.2011
Here at Mahala we’re still being sent albums by the truck load. Mostly, they’re not exactly worth a full review but definitely worth a mention. Occasionally we will compile a selection of music you should know about, either as a recommendation or a warning.
To Disappear In Place/ Guy Buttery/ RY
Buttery’s space folk often totally escapes me, like a trying to catch a fish in a mountain stream. Comprised of outtakes from the excellent Fox Hill Lane as well as tracks left off that album and some live recordings, To Disappear In Place is, in some ways, a superior album to Fox Hill Lane. Throughout the album Buttery’s intricate yet immensely chilled fingerstyle guitar variously duets with guitar maestro Tony Cox, Madala Kunene (vocals and Jewish harp), Chris Letcher and Piers Faccini; with these counter points Buttery’s immense skill is underscored and contextualised.
From Buttery’s slow and soulful re-interpretation of maskandi on ‘Burnside’, Kunene and Letcher’s vocals on ‘Mama’ to the chilling and beautiful saw work on ‘Martin Folk Song’, To Disappear In Place is an instrumental folk album that is never what you imagine instrumental folk would be. Buttery is out there on the fringes, doing strange and far out things with his guitar, and the only real way to hear it is to plunge your hand in and feel the water, forget about the fish.
Volcanic Sunlight/ Saul Williams/ SM
Saul Williams is a rapper that is an alternative to alternative rap. His lyrical mastery doesn’t contain the nuance of Mos def’s jazziness nor the pathological idealism of Common. He finds his craft in a place where chunkiness is the order of things. The thickness of his words is coupled with immaculate timing that makes him one of the most awestrucking MC’s today. This unfortunately at times is what makes his music so difficult to engage with. Melancholic and sometimes druggy effect of his songs makes him a paradox of pain and ecstasy. In all his previous albums (particularly Amethyst Rockstar) you are dragged down by the instrumentals and confronted with multi-layered messages that force you to rewind and rewind and eventually you just stop listening to the music and start dissecting the message. You get the feeling that he is a rapper trying to outpace himself. This has all been done away with in Volcanic Sunlight. Williams ditches the heavy underground violent druggy beats and opts for a cleaner sound. A musical fusion of rock is coupled with flow and a hint of understated rave, as Williams continues to stake his claim as the most potent employer of metaphor in the contemporary music with lines like, “And the fish forget they’re swimming and their fins morph into tails, And the truth like evolution is evolving as it fails.” Volcanic Sunlight is the most flawless manifestation of Williams as a musician. He transitions seamlessly from rapper, poet and vocalist with apparent ease. He ditches the pseudo liberal emcee persona and dawns the cloak of a musician comfortable in his own skin and a vocalist firmly in control of what he is doing. The album opens with ‘Look To The Sun’ which sets the precedent for set. His artistry is in full flight on tracks such as ‘Patience’, ‘Innocence’ and we are introduced to a louder and almost arrogant sound in ‘Diagram’. Volcanic Sunlight is musical relief and Williams at his most buoyant.
Double Dose: Ultimate Hits Review/ Poison/ TK
Dust off your spandex and prepare your septum for some serious abuse, because Poison has just released a double disc of greatest hits. Yeah, I didn’t know they had that many hits either. Then again, as a child of the 80s that particular decade is slightly fuzzy. Poison is hair metal. If that means nothing to you, think dudes with too much make-up, over the top hair and tight clothes, prancing around on stage like a coked up beauty queen. Their name is also rather apt, as that is exactly what I felt like taking after listening to this particularly dated compilation of retro rock.
To imagine what a Poison track sounds like, just take its name and repeat three or four times. There’s your chorus. This rule applies to both the ‘heavy’ tracks as well as the power ballads that litter the compilation. This is a product of pure cheese and will probably only appeal to hardcore fans and 80s DJs. The songs on this album are about as relevant today as VHS and irony isn’t enough to carry it. The best song is a cover of the classic KISS track ‘Rock and Roll All Nite’, which thankfully sounds more like KISS and less like Poison. Unless you know the lyrics to every Poison song give this one a skip.
Happiness/ Hurts/ KK
If this British synthpop duo was attempting to fill the niche that Depeche Mode initially carved out and then abandoned, with this, their debut effort, somebody should really advise them that Lady Radio and commercial success are beckoning with a suggestive finger waggling in the air. The entire album is laced with hints of potential, but never really delivers what it promises. The music is beautifully layered, Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson are a hipster girl’s wet dream and half of the songs are undeniably catchy. Radioplay, this will receive. But it could have been so much more. The songs that don’t make it to single status remain, at best, filler. Halfway through, you can almost hear the album stumble and start to lumber, eventually tripping and falling flat on its face as soon as the Euro-house beat kicks in on ‘Better Than Love’. Every song on here is a kind of ballad backed by big production beats, but you find yourself wondering: what’s the point? The lyrics, seemingly beautiful at times, become superfluous. You realize that they are very much masterbatory and could easily be churned out by any pseudo- Romanticist with a word processor and a “broken” heart. It wants so much to be original, but the boys know exactly who they’re writing these songs for, and it’s definitely not for the compilers of the list of best albums of the year. Promising, yet uninspired. The album just misses the right amount of melancholic ambience so necessary to impress the underground. All in all, a very average effort more driven by a good stylist than the actual musicality of the band.
Talk That Talk/ Rihanna/ KM
There is an inexplicable cool factor about Rihanna’s music that initially polarizes an audience, but that eventually creates die-hard fans and followers of the ‘hecklin haters’. Her music has a tenacious growl that coupled with catchy hooks and infectious beats come together to create music that will make even a Catholic nun want to break it down like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. We are doomed to catchy perpetual ear-worm tunes that are the staple of any dance-floor and party and that also invariably make us want to order double shots of ‘Jaymeh-san’ and Coke. Ignoring the fact that Rihanna is to all intents and purposes a very well marketed and certainly ‘well packaged’ pop product; she has come a long way from her Music of the Sun days. Rihanna has crossed over from potentially being just another nameless RnB musician whose music sells for ‘R 99.99 for 2 Musica’ special to an international pop sensation who has crossed multiple genres, working with artists such as Coldplay (‘Princess of China’) and Calvin Harris (‘We found love’) in the process. I digress, only to show how well placed Rihanna’s new album Talk That Talk, is poised for success just like her previous album Loud, which earlier this week garnered a Grammy nomination for album of the year in addition to four other nominations. Not bad for a Barbados native who some still profess can’t even hold a note, not bad at all. Talk that Talk has all the elements we love about Rihanna’s music and then some. Titles that stand out are the highly listenable ‘We Found Love’, a frenetic and explosive well-balanced party track that brings to mind 90’s dance hits like Snap! ‘Rhythm is a dancer’ and ‘You‘re the one’, ‘Talk that talk’ and ‘Roc me out’ are standard fun Rihanna tunes that are also potentially mega hits in their own right. Rihanna is still sexing it up in ‘S&M’ like tracks i.e ‘Cockiness – Love It’, although she really doesn’t need to prove her allure anymore; (we get it, love). Talk That talk will either go unnoticed to you or will ultimately be one of those albums you on more than one occasion, play until you know every line of every track, even the much to be desired ballads like ‘Farewell’. That’s just how Rihanna rolls.
RY – Roger Young
SM – Sihle Mthembu
TK – Themba Kriger
KK – Karl Kemp
KM – Kudi Maradzika