What’s the story?
Debut album by Johannesburg’s “post-Apartheid, post-hip hop” rapper/producer/graphic designer Spoek Mathambo, one of the strongest voices in a strong scene.
What does it sound like?
New wave for a multi-polar world – Spoek has bleep techno, electro, kwaito house and hip hop running through his bones, but the really revelatory thing about the album is how he combines a thrilling percussive heart with an expressive, witty and poetic soul.
Thunder is both rattling and moving, the Joy Division-paraphrasing Control is witty and fun, the 1 minute jam March For Union Buildings shows off the breadth of his experimental tendencies, Mshini Wam pt II is as rambunctious a work out as Mujava’s made, and Let Them Talk has a heartbreaking vocal from Zaki Ibrahim.
If you’re being pernickety, you could say that Gunboat lacks the originality and soul that the rest of the record has in bundles. Though a handsome retort would run along the lines “That man has turned a first-person account of modern high-seas piracy with a gunshot rhythm into a proper radio-friendly hit is kind of amazing.”
That it comes from such fascinating and – until very recently – overlooked musical place makes it an important album. The fact that it shows a man – more than any in a long time – making radical music that’s both personal and fun makes it essential.