Hello... You have arrived at the Overtone blog archives..

Subscribe to our newsletter for specials, competitions and updates...

MaxNormal.tv: Good Morning South Africa

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Oh hell. Who gave MaxNormal.tv the mike? Don’t you know what happens? Raw, deviant, experimental South Africa electro-rap. Rap’s least wanted criminal crew is back with another versatile kaleidoscope of raw rap audio, point-and-shoot colour photocopied album art and word of mouth ‘marketing’, as it’s come to be known. Aptly named for a nation waking up to the futility of chasing MTV standards, debut album Good Morning South Africa is poes-alicious.

Heavy doses of both Afrikaans and Kaapse Afrikaans feature, making you wonder exactly who this album is targeted at. Oh, yeah. Wait a minute: not everyone has a diabolical ‘target market’ in mind. The results? A remix of classic Cape anthem ‘Super Evil Me’ that could have been put together by a newcomer to kwaito; a random nod to vegetarian homepage GoVeg.com; a track entitled ‘Total F**k Up’; etc.

“The album contains 16 tracks of ridiculously minimal rap music clearly aimed at creative, curious whites and upwardly mobile tik-smoking Cape Flats wannabe gangstars. Local stuff.”

Grab ‘Rap Fantasy’ by MaxNormal.

There’s one thing this deliberately disgusting album has done right. To put it in their words, “MaxNormal.tv is die vokken antwoord.” You see, in South Africa, we’re all whipped. Whipped, and obsessed with commercial fame and aiming for a standard of content both beyond our reach and poached from some other faraway place. On the one hand, MaxNormal.tv doesn’t compete with the lauded international acts you hear on 5fm, but they sure know how to take the piss out of them. The album contains 16 tracks of ridiculously minimal rap music clearly aimed at curious whites and upwardly mobile tik-smoking Cape Flats wannabe gangstars. Local stuff. It’s definitely not copycat stuff, but to help you imagine, think somewhere between 8bit and Battery9.

So, you remember the TV show Good Morning South Africa? With the satirical chameleon and owl made of apartheid-spouting newspapers and shot against a black backdrop? If so, and you’ve seen a Pieter Dirk Uys show but you’re under 30, you’ll enjoy this one. If not, be prepared to be a little confused.

  • MaxNormal.tv & Unit R
  • MaxNormal.tv Home
  • MaxNormal.tv Myspace

  • Posted in Album Reviews | No Comments »

    aKing: Dutch Courage

    Friday, May 16th, 2008

    The best way to write a review on an album is to stick it on your Sennheisers, pump it full blast and just let the words flow. And as I sit here, I can’t believe I’m listening to South African music. The production is hot and debut album Dutch Courage full of the tangible energy of accomplished songwriters and performers. aKing get off to a flying start, and pick up a new fan in the process.

    aKing - Dutch Courage

    The English wing of the Punkskelm brat-pack, aKing has blasted onto the scene with relentless energy, administering guitar hooks and dire, singalong songs that are destined to become the car-stereo classics of future festivals. No doubt about it.

    As much as these guys are the same seasoned musicians behind nation-building bands like Fokofpolisiekar (both Hunter Kennedy and Snakehead Venter are active members of the band), the music overlaps less than you’d think. I went into my first aKing gig the other day expecting a rehash of Fokof and Van Coke Kartel, but through an exhaustive national tour, the guys from Cape Town have demonstrated an individuality that goes beyond album title ‘Dutch Courage’.

    Continue reading aKing: Dutch Courage

    Posted in Album Reviews | 3 Comments »

    Liesl Graham: Chrysalis

    Monday, April 28th, 2008

    Opening track Be Real‘s sweeping, glitchy intro will put you on the back foot from the start, and it’s around now you’ll probably hear someone ask, ‘who’s this playing?’ Yep. Thanks to pop-rocking second album Chrysalis (2008, Loneroc), the artist you’ve heard about, read about and perhaps seen out and about seems to have finally spread her wings and fluttered upwards.


    The artwork may suggest an artist more pre-occupied with adolescent butterfly and bedroom diary imagery, but this ain’t cherry-pop for slumber parties: it’s melodic dance-rock; the kind you may hear at the end of the end of the movie, just as the hero grabs the girl and embraces her, thoroughly re-inforcing gender stereotypes and getting some action at the same time. Aaah, Hollywood.

    Like that weird patch of fuzz at the small of my back, Go Home has grown on me. In criticism, it’s very detached/emo. But in praise, the track oscillates between the soft padding of the crystal-clear beauty of the female voice and a simple hard-rocking, singalong hook.

    Tender and cinematic, Little Bird is the timely, slow-tempo break to Chrysalis’s opening energy. Hold Me follows with a similarly acoustic sound (as does closing, unplugged Hare-Krishna-esque version of the track), and now you’re hugging the wall of the alternative music bar, getting some words in with the cute guy that ‘accidentally’ bumped you with his pool cue before handing it over to his mate in the middle of the game, saying, “I’m out.” Just so he could chat to you. Bless.

    “Most thankfully, we have an ALBUM here, and not just a collection of tracks.”

    There’s a lashing of background electronica on Chrysalis, but, for the most part, we’re talking about live drums and the type of stuff you could reproduce live quite easily, without the trappings of truckloads of hardware. Of course, there is the cheesy value of lines like, “I just wanna walk in the light of what I believe,” (Faithless Heart), but hey! It’s pop! And, most thankfully, we have an ALBUM here, and not just a collection of tracks. In other words, you know what you’re in for the moment you hit play.

    Nothing experimental or weird about it. Seems like Graham’s reserved her place on the radio-friendly bandwagon. But as an independent female artist in South Africa, Graham’s niche sure has been carved out for her, thanks to the likes of trendsetters like Karma-Ann Swanepoel (and Henry Ate) and…uh, the aptly named Louise Carver. It’s pretty safe to say that with two sexy albums and the look (and hopefully feel) of Xena the Warrior Princess, Liesl Graham’s beyond ‘upcoming’.

  • Liesl Graham Home | Myspace | Facebook

  • Posted in Album Reviews | 4 Comments »

    Unit-R: Phosphenes

    Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

    Grab the lube cos Unit-R is about to get heavy petted in the back room of clubs following the release of the hyped-up and disco crazy Phosphenes, the second full album from the Cape Town four-piece multi-talented crossover indietronic outfit. The man from Del Monte says Yes.


    Stick it in the CD player or get it up to the top of your m3u. First, you’ll stop conversing and tune in. Then, you’ll ask, “who is this!” at which point I’ll break into your house, sneak up behind you and shout “Unit fuckin R!!!”, giving you the fright of your life, even though you’re listening to it at 320kbps because you bought it off our music store.

    Then, your mom will walk in and ask what all the shouting’s about, and you’ll know you’re tripping because she died in 1997. And that’s Phosphenes for you. Taking you on a journey that wakes you up with complex synth harmonies and great breaks between choruses, all the while putting you in a trance-like state.

    And you’ll wonder how these guys do it. You’ll recognise a couple of the tracks off EP Two By Four (notably the crowd-pleasing megaphone anthem ‘Clap’ and the dance mix of ‘Scared’.)

    Matthew de Nobrega fits into a greater vocal role, and ‘New Moon’ is a rocking, clap-along two-tone breakbeat number that gets your horny side going if you’re into the underground live music scene. If you’re not, your ears will turn pink. He also sings on No Way, which is lakker.

    Seriously, though, you’ll dance. And it’s not hollow dance music, the kind that Madonna and Kylie sell. No no no. We have the rarest of South African beasts on this one: clear, lovely, meaningful lyrics.

    Speaking of which, the design job is killer (thanko, Kronk), and we can’t decide if we’re about to be gobbled up by the plant from Little Shop of Horrors or molested by a gay bunny. And it has little multicoloured Overtone logo eyeballs everywhere, so thanks.

    What makes this album, really, is the fusion between live drums, electronic drums and synthesized beatz, yo [on that note, wanna know how to make music on Reason?] The danceability scores a scintillating seven (admit it, Barry Ronge: you judged movies by alliteration). In fact, I think a no-holds-barred nine would be better.

    So, come on person. Flick the Switch. Buy a CD. There’s No Way you’ll regret it. That’s what It’s All About. Don’t be Scared. You’ll Clap. Don’t wait for Full Moon! It’s New Moon now! Barely. Anyway, So Long.

    [note for readers: the closing lines of this article were a failed attempt to get every track name off Phosphenes in a paragraph that wasn't completely retardedly unintelligible. Daft, huh?]

  • Unit.R: Phosphenes On The Way

  • Posted in Album Reviews | 4 Comments »

    Goldfish: Perceptions Of Pacha

    Thursday, March 13th, 2008

    Goldfish are one of those rare groups that seems to tick all the boxes. Talented, creative musicians with an innovative product, a media-friendly smile, and good looks to boot. Second album Perceptions of Pacha is not just a nod to producer figures in the Miami (centred around top club Pacha Ibiza), but a lounge- and dance-friendly jazzy house album for the young ‘in’ crowd with their folks’ cash and Sunday evenings to spend.

    Goldfish - Perceptions of Pacha
    Are Goldfish ever gonna slow down?!

    Unlike many hard copy music records these days, the physical album is worth it. If not for the sake of showing it off to your FCUK friends, then simply for the trademark ‘sun-rays’ design job and live 25-minute video from the duo’s Sunday night sessions at Ignite. Dance. Now.

    At eleven tracks, two radio edits and a live video, Perceptions kicks off with Sold My Soul, a relatively mellow West African-sampled blend, followed by vocal, halfbeat radio single This Is How It Goes (feat. Monique Hellenberg). Get ready to hear more of this one.

    Here’s something you probably didn’t know: Dave Poole has a splendid voice, even though you seldom hear it live, other than to gush thanks to the crowds. Just For Tonight features the saxophonist’s Damon Albarn-inspired lyric, “I don’t wanna see you till the morning light” oscillating with a computer-synthesized “just for tonight”. Sweet play of sounds.

    Zakhile Moleshe
    Monique Hellenberg
    Max Vidima
    Hlulani Hlangwani
    Lee Thompson

    The tone of the album straddles mellow but uptempo Cafe del Mar-styled melodies with sharp, acid house synth washes that you might hear from a Fischerspooner track. There aren’t many known local artists to compare to, but let’s just say the pumping Gauteng house scene may buy these guys a drink.

    Look, as mentioned, the group’s got their ducks in a row. Goldfish was spawned from more orthodox jazz beginnings in Breakfast Included, alongside some of Cape Town’s leading musicians. However, the amount of exposure Dom Peters and David Poole are now receiving – thanks to simple techniques like enhanced CDs and hair gel is both testament to their business savvy and rocksolid foundations, primarily, as musicians.

    So yeah, grab a copy before they jet off to light up MTV and the like. We wouldn’t say it if we didn’t mean it. You’ll have some company around before you know it.

  • Goldfish: Perceptions Of Pacha Launches
  • Goldfish And Cocktails, While Stocks Last!
  • Goldfish: Teaching A Nation To Fish
  • Goldfish Home
  • Resident Advisor
  • The History of Jazztronica

  • Posted in Album Reviews | No Comments »

    Tristan Waterkeyn: Hay Day

    Monday, February 18th, 2008

    South African musicians are known for their fierce reputation in climbing the splintered ladder of popular awareness. None more so than upcoming folk/rock solo artist Tristan Waterkeyn, who’s Hay Day may just have arrived with this hard-battled debut album.

    Tristan Waterkeyn

    To call the mellow, twelve-track, Hay Day an international album would be accurate. Waterkeyn was born and raised all over Africa, and the musical shorelines between him and overseas acts Tracey Chapman, Jack Johnson and Damien Rice and are not entirely clear. Such is the overwhelming familiarity of this CD.

    Tristan Waterkeyn: Afraid of the Dark
    More Vids | Submit Vids


    However, the album remains infused with local flavour. Opening track and first single Follow paints an upbeat picture of a typically African village square, with “the women talking about their day”, while “all the men stop and watch the way the hips go”.

    Afraid of the Dark lends the otherwise lively album a slow-paced, jazzy twist (“We’re like children, you and I / Afraid of the dark / It always helps to share our nightmares”).

    The guitar is the backbone of this album — a heavy dose of gentle, non-stop nylon-string strumming gives the various tracks an alluring reliability. Credit must also be paid to local session stalwarts Tony Cox and Steve Newman for their contributions on guitar. Some quality instrumentation going on here…

    Like To The Hills, most tracks feature minimal or absent drumming. Instead, light percussion softens the tone of the album, once again bringing the vocals to the fore.

    The idyllic, carnivalesque, two-step Private Beach is a testament to the self-styled cheery “hammock” music on offer, but switch over to the Dave Matthews-intoned Colours and we’re in a New York coffee shop on a rainy day.

    Two versions of Atmosphere grace the album — an acoustic reprise later in the album revisits the original slow-funk Santana-themed guitar track, and also earmarks the artist’s versatility, bridging various genres with a single set of rich and distinctive vocals.

    Waterkeyn’s slight hybrid English accent give this piece unmistakable character, yet maintain their honesty across a number of categories: reggae, blues, folk and soul are all present. A great one for the fireside…

  • Kidofdoom: Album Review
  • DVD: Chris Chameleon Post-Boo!
  • Alan Funk: Alan Funk
    More albums…

  • Posted in Album Reviews | No Comments »

    Hot Water: One

    Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

    Is another South African cultural crossover album what we need? Since before Mango Groove were even ripe, South African music has been steadily working to undo the ‘you there, me here’ pattern of past ages. Now that Freshlyground have seated themselves on the throne of local export pop, bands like Hot Water have translated their home influence into a gloriously listenable afro-jive-rock album entitled One.

    Hot Water: One

    Hot Water’s second full-length album, One (surely it should be ‘Two’ – sorry), is pretty much the closest thing we’re gonna get to gospel without the discomfort of being blared full-power from a speaker above your head on an overnight bus through the Transkei.

    Hot Water
    More Vids | Submit Vids


    But the country influence is there. Djembe backing, ethnic harmonies and the playful three-chord jams typical of Southern African theory. From between the headphones, we can almost see band/collective frontman Donovan Copley adorned as some hybrid between Sir David Livingston and a can-blasting hillbilly from the outskirts of East London. Nice shot.

    The album is somewhat unpredictable. Opening track Jamanga and first single Shushu are welcome African ass-shaking jive tunes. But anywhere in between, you may find forlorn love (My Lady), hollow, vocal-free jamming on some Swiss instrument called a ‘hang’ (Hang On) or a wistful ballad to encroaching spiritual unity (One Name).

    The album title gives it away: Hot Water’s songwriting comes from a very spiritual place, but one that somehow takes the words of protest from your mouth before you can realise that it’s all deeply rooted in personal truth (Peace, Mother Mary). In other words, an album that dutifully fulfils one of the primary functions of art: to deliver a message.

    The iconic savannah tree imagery on the garish album art salvages an otherwise basic visual appeal, but what we’re after here are the tunes. Animated Disney-singalong number Home is Generation Two Freshlyground all the way, complete with Mowbray Kaap-styled whistles and catchy pop guitar licks. Refreshingly real stuff from a band defying the plastic-pop environment like a herd of cantankerous buffalo.

  • New Academics: City of Strange
  • Kidofdoom: Album Review
  • DVD: Chris Chameleon Post-Boo!
    More albums…

  • Posted in Album Reviews | 1 Comment »

    New Academics: City of Strange

    Monday, January 21st, 2008

    The New Academics are aptly named. Debut album ‘City of Strange’ is an intelligent urban confession, a trip into the joys and ills of modern society, relationships and global culture. Drawing heavily on musical styles ranging from The Streets, Rage Against the Machine and Red Hot Chili Peppers to the classic funk acts of yesteryear, the honesty of this album is appealing.

    New Academics

    But there’s certainly something contemporary about this, a modish dip into musical innovation which boasts a host of genres, including metal, reggae, alternative rock, shoegaze and jazz.

    New Academics – Change Up.
    More Vids | Submit Vids


    Spiral is the tightest groove on the album, and a distinctly South African message echoes throughout the catchy chorus line (“We’ve got a long long way to go/and a hard hard line to tow”).

    The guitar work of Dave Baudains is sublime: not too demanding or distorted, the notes fit right on every track, with special creative attention on Plastic Soul. Impressive rhythm performances by bassist Martin Labuschagne and Howie Combrink completes the instrumental act.

    Cathartic sing-along Snakewoman is the group’s tribute to pop music, boasting a super-catchy repetitive tagline, “why don’t you love me, love me, love me?” Definitely a live set-opener.

    However, the oft over-present rawness of emcee Joe Penn’s vocal style occasionally unties some of the album’s tightness. While known to be a talented saxophonist (as the unpretentious solos on Chromatic and Line will prove), the vocals can be somewhat jarring at times.

    Perhaps, however, it’s because he has taken the bold step of not broadcasting his homegrown views in a ridiculous American accent. In fact, Penn’s grass-roots lyrical authenticity (“take a trip to the bar and get boozed”) is by far the most attractive part of this album, and a definite draw card for lovers of South African music.

    Party-starter, road trip motivator and perhaps another progressive hallmark of a new generation of South African music styles, New Academics will be sure to draw the crowds with this classy contribution.

  • Kidofdoom: Album Review
  • DVD: Chris Chameleon Post-Boo!
    More albums…
  • Aside from a distinct, original emcee vocal style, frontman Joe Penn also plays saxophone, clarinet and piano.

  • Posted in Album Reviews | No Comments »

    DVD: Chris Chameleon Post-Boo!

    Thursday, December 20th, 2007

    We all know that Chris Chameleon always had the muscle-vest appeal in his former days as the quirky monkey-punk frontman for Boo! But for a guy with a supposedly versatile melanin, the solo singer’s latest venture into glam-pop is…well, pretty similar. Live concert DVD Flight of an Extraordinary Alien tells all…

    Filmed in March 2007 in Stellenbosch, the DVD is a professionally produced live music concert and includes a bunch of interesting insights into one of the greatest voices in South African music history, plus questions from the fans, three music videos and a discography.

    Pink, yellow, a host of other garish colours flank both the front cover image of the DVD and the on-stage action. Keeping the fans rabid are a legion of lasers, some graphic Chameleon logo lighting, and a few opportunistic crowd-pleasing tricks (the jump off the stage, the jacket toss, headbanging…you get the idea).

    Wikipedia may suggest that Chameleon is an ‘Afrikaans folk’ musician, but with just three of the tracks at Flight of an Extraordinary Alien being performed in the vernacular, and with more easy-listening, accessible pop sensibility than Janet Jackson circa 1994.

    In criticism, the entire branding of this product runs more Boo!ward rather than the sentimental authentic (if not eclectic) folk rock tone which overlayed his third solo album, Ek Vir Jou (2007). In fact, the concert features a cover of OOAA (that weird vocal trip), complete with trumpet-replacing guitar licks. Shockingly misappropriated intellectual property but a great song!

    In praise, Chris Chameleon is doubtless one of the most versatile vocalists around, and the quality of his performance is worth the DVD alone. Using one’s voice to sound like anything from a raw synthesizer to fuzz guitar to a mouthful of gargling salts is something special. The DVD sleeve contains a humble thanks to “each person who has contributed to it. That, of course, includes the fans who arrived en masse to help create an unforgettable night in my life”. With a unique look, sound and style, there’s nothing stopping Chameleon‘s wall of talent from keeping him at the top of the Afrikaans music charts, at least.

  • Kidofdoom: Album Review
  • Overtone To Launch Online MP3 Sales

    Posted in Album Reviews | No Comments »

    Kidofdoom: Album Review

    Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

    Thanks to the blip-bloop revolution which seems to have converted everyone’s darling child into a character out of a ZX Spectrum game, we now have fully-fledged artists riding the neo-digital wave of synth-pop known as 8-bit. With their self-titled debut album, Pretoria foursome Kidofdoom have traded in flashy frontmen for a slick, vocal-free, Theremin-fuelled adaptation of the hip kids’ favourite genre.

    Kidofdoom on Overtone

    The band performs live with glee, and, as is normally the case, the album fails to convey the energy of the live act. It’s the glee of the crowd and the musicians themselves gets lost when digitised. However, as a genuine, first-off attempt at – let’s face it – music that no South African group has ever produced, there are gems of musical beauty that make this one worth it.

    Kidofdoom on Overtone

    There are genuine moments of classic rock on the heavily-toured album. Early crowd-pulling favourite Forest Fire ends with an outro guitar solo straight out of Pink Floyd‘s The Wall. Then, there are uptempo, half-beat dance-rock moments you may get from a David Bowie middle-eight. Also think Air, New Order, Sigur Ros, The Beams, Radiohead, Pearl Jam and Nine Inch Nails. More influences than a chameleon on a Smartie box.

    Cadillac of the Sky, another early venture, is a utopian mash up of catchy guitar licks and heavy synth washes. New single Doves is the standout track of the album, oscillating between overdriven rock guitar, minor-key keyboard riffs and layered basslines, all of which break through into drum-heavy metal-infused breaks. Again, a real hybrid offering.

    Mysterious and ambivalent, the bland album features an average-looking white kid on the cover, but with not a shred of ‘doom’ to be found. The lower-case and handwritten text suggests a personal touch from a singerless band that seems to shy away from the limelight.

    There is the potential in South African music to reach a scale never before seen. A level which will not only put hardworking bands of the creative strain on the map, but in the minds of the global community. Barend, Rykmaster, Joe and Richard keep time and key signature fresh and musically innovative with this one. Not bad, seeing as they are from Pretoria and all…

    Right click, “save target as…”

  • Minor Disagreements (Pravda23 Mix)
  • Kidofdoom on Myspace

  • Posted in Album Reviews, Upcoming Events | 3 Comments »

    Kobus: Swaarmetaal

    Thursday, June 21st, 2007

    Darkness! Looking deep into the frighteningly white eyes of four-piece Afrikaans heavy metal flagbearers Kobus!, one feels a long-dormant rage rising from out of nowhere. And no, it’s not the curry.

    The self-proclaimed “beste Afrikaanse band in die heelal”, hasn’t had to look far for a fanbase. Not just because of the success of Afrikaans music in South Africa lately, but thanks to the blood-brother partnership of Springbok Nude Girls axeman Theo Crous and known demon-summoner Francois Breytenbach Blom.

    Paul André Blom en Pierre Tredoux fill out on precise, powerful drums and nasty bass on Swaarmetaal. The band’s third album (after self-titled debut and 100% Skuldvgevoelvry) was reportedly hand-delivered to music outlets by Satan himself. Nonetheless, the morbidly alluring artwork supports the production quality and screams of a world-class record with a definite target in mind.

    That target is the angry, demanding, young post-Apartheid Afrikaner. Witman, Tienerangs, Honger and Kinderhel feature abrasive lyrics: “geen oë in hul koppe nie”, “witman loop met ‘n swart agoraphobia…in die strate van Pretoria”, “ek loof die naam van Jesus met ‘n juigende guitar”.

    Tienerangs is a vocal cry from the tortured throat of every teenager who ever got punished by their two-packs-a-day father for smoking. Lyrics encourage one to “blameer you ma, blameer jou pa vir die eiebelang wat jy saam met jou ronddra.”

    Die Vlam is an instrumental interlude from the screaming: bassy, monotonous synth and a couple of gritty guitar riffs, followed by a vocal-free few minutes of footloose jamming. Enough to give you time to grab a beer before hitting the pit again.

    As loyal to authentic band music as is Audioslave, Amen deviates from the scratchy guitars with a reverberating choir ensemble, before double-kick pedal overtime returns in explosive screamo closing track Swaar Metaal.

    The freshest part of this album is a haunting six-minute ambient closing track which sounds of the ghoulish marshes of some demon-possessed wasteland inhabited by snarling dogs. Properly frightening.

    There is no shortage of skill when these four gentlemen take to a room, but besides raw talent, the band’s image reeks of a performance sensibility, boasting images of a blood-drenched Francois “Jesus”, amongst other intense metal moments. And behind all the repellant Gothic muddiness, there is a sense of humour about themselves. Such as the sticker on the casing reminding us to “Luister FKN Hard”!

    The album sourly tastes of being targeted by forces beyond one’s control. Subsequently, we are politely urged throughout to convey our aggression at society, political structures, God, the devil, and ourselves, for being alive. We may, however, redeem ourselves by receiving at least ten facial piercings and thrashing our inebriated craniums into a pit of similarly annoyed black-clad longhairs.

  • Interview: Chris Tait On Video, Remix Launch
  • Interview: Prime Circle In Prime Position
  • Who Are CrashCarBurn?
    More news…

  • Posted in Album Reviews | No Comments »

    Alan Funk: Alan Funk

    Thursday, May 17th, 2007

    Am I going stir-crazy, or is the broadly interlaced afro-beat/ska Cape Town scene making a musical charge? It kinda makes me wonder how aptly titled eight-piece group Alan Funk manages to convoke a single practice attended by all, let alone a tight, upbeat and fiercely indigenous self-titled debut album.

    Alan Funk

    With a cascade of echoing saxophones and bold Xhosa vocals, Alan Funk‘s self-titled debut album bursts onto the Cape Town scene, bringing with it familiar yet fresh afro-funk and soul-infused melodies. If you’ve heard the likes of Freshlyground, The Rudimentals, Kolelo and the smattering of other Mother City kwassa-kwassa, ska and afro-beat pathfinders, you kinda get a quivering idea of what you’re in for.

    But other than one of the acts at the Oudekraal Vodacom Joy Of Jazz Festival, who the heck are they?

    “The band’s name came about by accident, says manager Stephen Charnas. “They played a house party at Alan’s (the guy with the long grey beard who is a friend of everyone in the band) house, and called themselves Island Funk. However, when it was reported in the paper the next day, the journalist who attended the party thought they were called Alan Funk, and that’s what got published.”

    The octet formed two years ago, when a “highly productive jam session” between bassist Steve Funk and guitarist Dan Boschoff began attracting other members.

    First was drummer Geoff Adams, then vocal duo Lwazi Manzi and Nhoza Sitsholwama. Alto saxophonist Max Starke was next, then Greg Bridges on percussion and finally, tenor sax player Victor De Freitas jumped on board. Everyone offered their own piece of the pie.

    Corporate gigging seems the way to go, but after the MyCokeFest scandal – where, rumour has it, none of the local bands were paid – it seems that you gotta watch your back before you compromise your integrity as a creative unit.

    “I am aware of the realities of having to compromise for the sake of making progress,” says Charnas. “Each potential interaction with the corporate world will be adressed according to its particular merits and, like all major decisions, will be decided on by the whole band.”

    Mashing up Xhosa, Zulu and English, duo Lwazi and Nhoza dominate the musical proceedings on the stage with resolute vocal command, but the album (like any other) strips the performance dynamic and distributes the limelight somewhat. News is that Lwazi is leaving to begin her medical internship (yeah – a singing doctor – ‘how aaaare yoooou feeeeeeling?’), and the plan is for Nhoza to take the reins. There are reportedly some extra vocal harmonies in the pipeline.

    It always seems a little pointless to rattle off lists of genres, such as “afro-funk, 70s American funk, township jive, rock and soul”, because they say very little about the musical experience. So let’s break down the 7-track album piece by piece…

    Bilingual opener Running Away boasts some easily recognisable chord sequences in a slow tempo, and begins the album in a very familiar key.

    Ntomb’Olahleko (Lost Girl) is laced with subtle build-ups and features some soft R&B percussive riffs and beautiful, two-tone sax harmonies. The seven-minute Wedding Song is an upbeat township jive track at number three, and boosts the gentle tone of the album somewhat. Neighbourhood Vibe is a pumping track, doused in Zulu click onomatopoeia, and classic funk guitarwork and an (almost) power-rock drumming climax.

    Opening with a stylish jam sound, vocals take a back seat on Funky Daze, and serve more as instruments of melody than lyrical expression. Again, sax duo Victor De Freitas and Max Starke shine brighter than their lustrous instruments in this one, both in their brass harmonies and their solo work.

    Club Blues is the closest thing the album has to a single, outlining a little about how it feels to be in the scene. A mid-song phonecall sample and a sexy, pounding slow beat makes this one a pelvic motivator. “Walk into the club, I’m all dressed up, I need to get myself together Gotta find a man…cos I don’t walk the streets.”

    Album closer Tie The Dog Loose was recorded live at Zula, and was wisely left to the end. The atmosphere and cohesion of this young group can immediately be sensed through the applause of the crowd and Lwazi Manzi’s band introductions and crowd banter.

    On the whole, the soft-edged tone of the album lends it an easy home-listening feel. However, like many other traditional African-influenced groups, it takes a vibrant live audience, a good sound man and a beer to appreciate Alan Funk in their definitive entirety. And, unlike the steaming heaps of transoceanic bullsh*t dumped upon us through any number of internationally obedient radio stations, this album is fighting its way into domestic consciousness with a knobkerrie, a tambourine and a saxophone or two.

  • Hot Water: One
  • New Academics: City of Strange
  • Kidofdoom: Album Review
  • More albums…

    Posted in Album Reviews | No Comments »