Cape Town’s producer Okzharp and singer/artist Manthe Ribane have collaborated closely with filmmaker Chris Saunders on Closer Apart, the latest record just out on Hyperdub. The album begins with the watery interlude, W U @. Ribane’s vocal treatment is harmonic and jittery. As we are all bombarded by overproduced junk food hip-hop and other pop sensations, the track has all the pinnings, however escapes the dog + pony show of glittery pomp by bringing a South African laidback sass to the mix. The singer is trying to locate their lover, and beyond the bold beats there is a longing. In spots you can hear toy instrumentation, a funky sensibility, early electronic pop, and some dubby island rhythms. Then comes Zagga which has a James Bond vs. English Beat lead-up, and becomes a slow rhyme, a pulsed list: cars, money, seconds, days, cash, tick, tock…..
This has inflections of so many influences without ever fully impressing upon one’s ears anything but its own unique signature multitiered style. Never ever ever say never again, again as exclaimed by Ribane on Never Say Never. The vocal effect is spat of truth, of certainty not threatening or with a scowl, just a flat statement that flows perfectly into Never Thought, with two overlapping voices and playful sampled playback, this is likely a single worthy of a variety of mixes. There are vague references to both Neneh Cherry and Macy Gray’s latter day work here, maybe with a twist of Morcheeba. Blue Tigers has an infectious slow churn beat, and I wonder what US radio would be like if it had more of this and less of the insipid regurge thin talent of so-called ‘artists’ like Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift and more like this. The Caribbean-adjacent vibe is magically delicious.
And then you have an ambient track in the casing of a space themed soundtrack, Time Machine. It’s vocal delivery is robotic with the echo of ‘tick tock time will be fine’. It’s as if Daft Punk grew some soul, and slowed things down to low tide. The vocoded lyrics balance with the tingly electronic harmony. This record’s thirteen tracks could have been edited down to ten and been as effective, Tide is lost in the mix, Kubona sounds like cutting floor Rihanna. Neither are bad, they are more like incidental tracks on an otherwise non-conceptual record, so simply from a tightening perspective these are more like b-tracks amidst some powerful gems. On Theletsa you feel like invited into a private tribal celebration, the jingle-jangle is fueled by bright tones so jubilant. The vocal becomes just one of the instruments in the mix.
Dun has the attitude of a dubbed out video game soundtrack crossed with a quasi rap. This is definitely this duo’s best territory, and also their most completely original. They combine trippy animated beats with a regional flair. In the finale, Treasure Erasure, an ambient theme with sheer harmonics and a growing tin beat offers an instrumental escape. It’s the lengthiest track here, and the most down low. A repeated ‘don’t forget to remember‘ line is appended about four minutes in, and a psychedelic rainbow of melodies burst on to the scene, ‘lasts forever and ever‘……..