Here at Mahala albums tend to pile up and clog the trestle tables. Mostly, they’re not exactly worth a full review but definitely a mention. Occasionally we compile a selection of music you should know about, either as a recommendation or a warning.
Stone the Crow/ The Sick-Leaves/ TG
The Sick-Leaves is a solo project by singer, songwriter, guitarist and bassist, Eksteen Jacobsz, originally of Mpumalanga. Stone the Crow is his second album, released in 2008. It’s got a certain uniformity to it, albeit wide-ranging in style and genre. There seems to be some Placebo inspired vocalizing, that droning whiney trans-accentual cosmopolitanism that comes from someone who fought hard to make himself a name in London during his 2-year visa visit. It’s easy listening – great for those ambiguous moments on the road when you find yourself travelling with an aunty or grandpa, and the trance or hip-hop is “a bit much”. You can’t go wrong. But no-one’s going to be bursting from their seat to find out what CD you’re blowing their mind with. It’s well produced. The guy is obviously bubbling with talent, but, in my uneducated opinion, there’s no vision. There’s nothing that tells me this is the way; that this is from the bowel movements of the cosmic pangs of the human condition. Rather, it seems a safe route to radio-lengths and popularized muzak for those safer moments. Go check it out – he’s even got a Wikipedia page.
Nostalchic/ Lapalux/ AVW
After a slew of critically acclaimed Ep’s and demos, Brainfeeder Alum Stuart Howard aka Lapalux has released his debut effort. A growth from his previous releases such as the EP When you’re gone he has taken influence from a wide range of areas and has created a highly challenging and creative work. Nostalchic features a greater emphasis on synth heavy arrangements mixed with flowing hypnotic beats and experimental breaks, all coated in a left-field hip hop mentality utilizing tape manipulation, a great departure from his sample based work which borrowed influences from 80’s pop mixed with 90’s dance music. His experimentation is all held together by a respect for traditional song structure which has allowed him to free his mind without lapses. There is a clear mixture between IDM, Hip hop and Ambient music from the 90’s with definite touches of dragging 80’s RnB. Opener ‘IAMSYS’ (Tape intro) utilizes off-kilter augmented beats while Kelly Brook and Swallowing Smoke, drive through with subdued basslines layered with a landscape of rich keyboards. The album moves in waves and builds up minute by minute with devilish intensity as it is drench in a amalgam of disposable pop culture and revered high art, which drive Nostalchic’s main ideas of serenity vs violence and high vs low.
The Next Day/ David Bowie/ SZ
Finally, a new David Bowie album that doesn’t have to make any excuses for itself. All too often new offerings from rock pioneers seem like the old family dog. Nobody wants to admit it keeps pissing all over the couch and that the enjoyment went out the window for everyone years ago. But don’t send The Thin White Duke off to the glue factory just yet. Rather judge The Next Day by its cover; a play on one of Bowie’s most acclaimed works, Heroes. There is an evident reprisal of the solid songcraft of his Berlin period. There is no overpowering of the music just for the sake of pushing of the sonic envelope. This new work, however, is not to be thought of as a mere throwback; a Heroes sequel. It is a distillation of all the best elements of Bowie’s post-Seventies discography. An artist once again at the height of his immense powers.
The 20/20 experience/ Justin Timberlake/ AVW
Justin Timerlake is a contemptuous character. Treading on the line between love and hate with a confidence that can be respected or irritating. In his acting career this involves a great deal of wooden characterizations and weak dialogue. But his music career is something you can sum up in a minute, whether “complete rubbish” or “creatively rewarding”, you can’t deny his talent. The 20/20 experience, released six years after Future sex/Love sounds, is definitely a growth. With songs clocking in at an average 7 minutes and infectious rhythms there is not much to hate. The album runs away from the pop outlook of his earlier work and replaces it with rich impeccable vocal arrangements, gentle string and mellotron lines, found on Pusher love girl, all hinting at influence from 90’s Neo-soul. The first single ‘Suit & Tie’ glides with glittery horn arrangements which follow simple vocal melodies, never mind the whimsical lyrics. The highlight is definitely Let the grove in which grabs onto African influence with polyrhythmic bass and 80’s style Al Jarreau-esque melodies which simplify it down to an imaginative and satisfying piece of music. The epic ‘Blue Ocean Floor’ finishes off the album well while ‘Spaceship Coupe ‘plays the role as the predictable RnB songs which hold a great irritating tinge. Though it is rewarding and highly imaginative, the songs are too long and hold too few ideas to carry them for that long, but the album makes up for this with strong song writing and a mature outlook is definitely something to own.
SZ – Stanley Zive
AVW – Andrei Van Wyk
TG – Timothy Gabb