Nite Jewel, Shangaan Shake and Nina Kraviz in our roundup of the week's listenings.
If last year’s emotional core was soundtracked by the heartbreak of Adele then, in the interests of balance, this year should belong to LA artist Ramona Gonzalez aka Nite Jewel. On ‘One Second of Love’ she invites listeners in on the inner monologue of being part of a two – “this story between you and me” – and re-invents the love album in the process. There is room for confusion, room for tenderness and room for schmaltz that, crucially, not once feels schmaltzy. Which is all credit to Gonzalez, whose delivery throughout is invigoratingly self-possessed, at points calling to mind the glorious vocal harmonies of 70s folk trio The Roches. She pours herself wholly into these ten songs and, whether through design or divine inspiration, sweeps through the soul, funk and pop archives yet paints only with the strongest, boldest, truest tones. While her lo-fi beginnings provided fruitful limitations, groove has always been in Nite Jewel’s heart and, with the backing at the highest resolution, ‘One Second of Love’ triumphantly holds nothing back. A modern soul classic indeed. [RS]
Various – ‘Shangaan Shake’ [Honest Jon’s]
First off, the back story: one of the more surprising stories in underground electronic music of the last 18 months has been the explosion of Shangaan Electro. The music of the Shangaan people of southern Africa, but played with MIDI keyboards, it gained a huge following, not least because of the beautiful melodies, 180+BPM rhythms, colourful performances and Honest Jon’s compilation. Now, the stars of that comp, from the Tshetsha Boys to Mancingelani, have been remixed by some of Honest Jon’s best friends, most on the “interesting techno” end of music. Think such lights as Theo Parrish, Demdike Stare, Oni Ayhun, MMM and Ricardo Villalobos, and most of you should already be excited.
Conclusion? It’s one of the nicest CDs I’ve listened to in absolutely ages, and, had a legitimately blinding album by Nite Jewel not also been released this week, would have been an absolute shoe-in for album of the week. Most remix albums are a bit of a long thing, quite frankly, but this is a stunning, clever set of reflections that both shed light on the source material and their remixers, from Actress’s witty, frictioned bleep to Chicago footwork originator RP Boo’s intoning of “Africa’s soul is coming … From my body” recalling the ancestral sounds inside juke. A love letter to one of the planet’s most fascinating music vernaculars, a vital reflection on the music of Africa and its diaspora and a great set of tunes. A very, very necessary purchase, people. [CRJ]
Listen to samples of Various – ‘Shangaan Shake’ [Honest Jon’s], or buy it
Nina Kraviz – ‘Nina Kraviz’ [Rekids]
Nina Kraviz burst onto the house scene a few years ago with her trademark sexualised afterhours sound and off-kilter vocals. Her self-titled debut album on Rekids, released this past week, is a giant step away from her earlier releases and has placed Kraviz firmly in the wide (if slightly overused) umbrella of underground pop. I was pleasantly surprised on my first listen a few weeks ago at the catchiness and complexities of this album, but was most taken by Nina’s maturation as a songwriter. Whilst there’s traces of her chilled out grooving trademark sound, they don’t draw out in the way that most dance music does with all but one tune out of fourteen weighing in at less than five minutes. This has tightened up Nina’s song structure to an incredible benefit and has shifted the focus towards fantastic choruses and vocal hooks that make their statements within the first minute or so. Even the more leftfield offerings on this album appear accessible and wrap up ideas well before they become plodding and tedious. The album also has a overriding cohesion that a lot of single-oriented dance music does not. Standouts Ghetto Kraviz, 4 Ben, Turn On The Radio, and Fire appear to have evolved from pop and ambient music far too much to simply be called club tracks. No, this is an album of songs that is best listened to in its entirety, and very good songs at that. [ZW]
Listen to samples of Nina Kraviz – ‘Nina Kraviz’ [Rekids], or buy it
Panabrite – ‘Soft Terminal’ [Digitalis]
If you’re fond of landscape imagining synth music, then Seattle composer Panabrite may already be on your radar. If not, consider this tip an early birthday present. If the idea of ‘landscape imagining synth music’ gets your hackles up then I’d still urge you to give ‘Soft Terminals’ a whirl. There is purpose and direction here, often closer to modern classical than experimental ambient music. Janus is the only track that falls down, the addition of acoustic guitar leaning it a little too uncomfortably towards twee. All in all, though, this is a gem of a record that shouldn’t go unnoticed. [RS]
Buy Panabrite – ‘Soft Terminal’ [Digitalis]