Basscadet is a monthly column from Gary Suarez, combining thoughts about current trends in electronic music with short-form reviews of recent releases.
South African producers are responsible for some of the most compelling contemporary music right now, electronic or otherwise. While the West has long dominated the dance music discussion, cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg now conversationally counter the didacticism and dogma of Deutschland and Detroit. Though you’ll no doubt find any number of locals happy to ape the sensible sounds of America and Europe, some South African producers have a higher calling to both and think locally.
A fierce proponent of the syncopated Gqom style, Jumping Back Slash waves the flag for this particular youth music movement with originals and mixes like this Future Sound of Mzansi 10 set. War God, DJ Spoko’s invigorating 2014 set for Lit City Trax, introduced self-described Bacardi House mixology to the worldwide bass music community. Flirting with EDM, Card On Spokes’ most recent Sunwalker EP takes listeners on a brisk trip through Cape Town dance pop and J-Burg (t)rap. Western labels from Austria’s Affine to London’s Warp have rightfully taken notice, with the latter poised to drop the most crucial project yet from the scene, Nozinja Lodge.
Pleasant and plump, Richard “Nozinja” Mthetwa is a colorful character prone to wearing elaborate, many-colored ensembles that, to an outsider’s eye, appear simultaneously both traditional and radical. The same could be said for his music, a futurist’s reimagining of the Shangaan people’s musical tradition. While some foolhardy chump might remark that this is merely Warp hopping on the latest exoticism fad, Nozinja Lodge’s melodic purity and progressive execution harkens back to the label’s deceptively simple beginnings. His Soweto synthplay on “Xihukwani” syncs up with the classic British bleep of Sweet Exorcist and Tricky Disco. “Mitshetshoi” comes as close to “Testone” as it does some of Richard H. Kirk’s most ambitious Sandoz outings.
Bass is, at best, an afterthought. As demonstrated on “Nwa Baloyi” and “Baby Do U Feel Me”, Nozinja’s melodies bubble and fry, steadily vibrant and always poppin’ off. Still, even though footwork has conditioned a generation to rise above 140BPM, the deliberately high tempos here sometimes challenge. But this is Soweto, not Sheffield — and it’s about time for a more global dance music definition.