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Mavis Vermaak

Mavis Vermaak

by Roger Young / 14.01.2010

In Mavis Vermaak’s self titled album there is a dusky world, like driving somewhere, an aroma on the wind causing you to feel something distant and unspecified. Maybe it’s because my grasp on the nuances of Afrikaans are slight, maybe because I don’t totally understand what she is singing about, but the overall result of listening to Mavis Vermaak’s ambient electronica-ish almost-but-not-quite spoken word acoustic folk-esque debut is longing, a yearning for something exquisitely out of reach.

The effect lies not only in the seamless production, the stylistic unity that never resorts to sameness, the always building in waves nature of the songs but also in Vermaak’s offsetting of simple phrases such as, “gebraai, geswem, gedrink” that evoke common memories with the more complex nuances of, “16 februarie 2007, in die jaar van jou Here”, the “jou” delivered with a bitterness verging on disappointment.

Vermaak has a hypnotic voice; yet she softens the language without removing the menace. The throbbing bass and occasional cricketing trip hop sounds drive her spoken verses, which then break into breathy chorus, perfectly evoking specifically and precisely the titular kaapstadslaapstad of the second track. The lazy djembe and guitar on “Hei” become urgent, the disdain and the desire in her delivery make for a lush tension, calling to mind half forgotten dreams. I could wax on hyperbolically for hours about these five tracks; suffice it to say that Vermaak sonically embodies something so simultaneously thought provoking and emotionally sensual that male Afrikaans intellectuals everywhere must be creaming their pants.

The song that most concisely sums the album up is “Diep Kaleidoskoop” which has a breath like a saw, running through djembe’s and didgeridoos, slowing down deurmekaar with candy floss evenings in Tafel Baai and arriving in a jumpstep smile to proclaim, “Ek steek my tong uit” (a sentiment that echoes in the hidden track).

I speak of Vermaak as if I understand totally what she is saying, but I do not, all I understand of this, (I hesitate to even call it an album, so short it is) release is that the ripples of emotional memory it calls up for me are both satisfying and disquieting. Partially because of it’s brevity and its linguistic inaccessibly (to me at least), but also because it hides a sly musical playfulness within its sincere sunset yearnings Mavis Vermaak’s is the most beguiling new album I have heard for a very long time.

Take a listen here.

Or click click Rhythm Online to buy the album here.

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RESPONSES (13)
  1. ex-kommissar says:

    “because my grasp on the nuances of Afrikaans ARE slight”
    Maybe the same could be said for the nuances of the English language.

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  2. Roger Young says:

    Thanks for the correction. Go fuck yourself for the bitchiness.

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  3. ox-lommissionar says:

    ex, i believe you miss the point.
    i hope this is not a bad habit.
    Listen to the music. go for a drive.
    i have and i quite enjoyed myself.

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  4. Joerg says:

    Thanks Roger – nice find. Just bought it.

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  5. Ace Swart says:

    Just wish the album was longer.
    i share youre appreciation of MV Rodge – you’ll admire her even more if you understood how poetic the lyrics are and the how it work perfectly with flow the music – this is really something special !

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  6. DMoney says:

    just listened on MySpace.
    any tracks on the album where she sings, or is it all whisper-talking over ultra-minimalist percussion? not being a doos, just wondering. would like to hear more … album in stores?
    ps – Ace you’re gay. you don’t like Blk Jks but you like Mavis Vermaak?
    gay and racist and poor-taste-having.

    😉

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  7. ex-kommissar says:

    Dear Roger,

    Thanks for the great content on this site. Go fuck yourself for the sarcasm.

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  8. Roger Young says:

    Dear ex-djf

    We all make mistakes.

    “Maybe the same could be said for the nuances of the English language.”

    should have been

    “Maybe the same could be said for your grasp on the nuances of the English language.”

    Anyway stop focusing on the strings, listen to Mavis and chill the fuck out.

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  9. ex-kommissar says:

    I’ll find it easier to chill out when people stop swearing at me. My last response was a moment of weakness, I sincerely hope that yours was too.

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  10. Roger Young says:

    It was early in the morning, so yeah, moment of weakness.. I for one actually really appreciate the corrections. I hate it when they slip through. But also hate my command of the english language being called into question over a typing error.

    Anyway keep reading and from now on (on this article at least) lets just talk about the music, yeah?

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  11. Jason says:

    fucksakes, get a room you two. English is capitalised, damnit Rog!

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  12. norma says:

    Mavis is fantasties, dis lekker om iets verskillend te hoor. Maar soos gewoontlik gaan jy dit nie op die radio hoor nie.

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  13. Lily says:

    “Drawing on my fine command of language, I said nothing.” That Mark Twain was a fine gent and, the fact is, Mavis rocks.

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