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Impazamo Esme Bennett , April 15th, 2020 08:42

The “futuristic gqom” of Durban producer Menzi offers up a thrilling darkness, finds Esme Bennett

A little over ten years ago, Gqom was an alluring word used to describe the raw, hypnotic percussion driven sound made on cheap drum machines, not reaching much farther than the townships of Durban’s local underground retreats. Since 2016, significantly with the release of Gqom Oh! The Sound of Gqom compilation, the influence of the characteristically dark sound has been dissipating throughout the worldwide club circuit.

One key purveyor in this scene is East Africa’s answer to the deconstructivism of PAN: Ugandan label Hakuna Kulala, which operates as the hybrid sub-label of renowned Nyege Nyege Tapes. Its catalogue offers a glimpse into a hyper-futuristic global club music. What characterises Hakuna Kulala is a distinctly more chaotic sensibility than its sister label, favouring more experimental, lucid textures. Genre-defying club producers such as Silkback and Villaelvin have displayed a propensity for a threatening sense of genius on releases for the label.

Impazamo comes as the breakthrough release from young producer Menzi. One of the pioneers of the Gqom scene as a part of the Infamous Boiz, his work as a producer for South African acts Babes Wodumo and Moonchild Sanelly have occupied his creativity thus far. Now, Menzi dissects the Gqom scene and pastes it back together again. His own coinage of “futuristic gqom” is deeply fitting for the nexus of industrial and techno electronics on this six-tracker. Designed on the FL studio, cult factory for Gqom godfather DJ Lag’s raw thuds and pulses, the propulsive EP celebrates the anti-space of its essential nature.

The title track booms into your subconscious with a sprawling darkness that builds into a stomping, raw affair. Throughout the tracks, meticulous sound design recalls the experimental hard hits of Villaelvin or Arca; striking a dark balance between deconstructed club and the Gqom of his trade. The acid drone piece ‘Underground Abaphansi’ is the prime example of Menzi’s employment of broken and often panicked vocals that disorientate with a fierce undercurrent. There’s a welcoming darkness at play throughout, specifically in hellraiser ‘’GQOM TERA’, where Ugandan rapper Ecko Bazz works as the spirit guide beside warped, open snares.

This multi-faceted release appears to be a sign of the jittering pulse of the Gqom movement. With doom-laden elements awash, Menzi’s impressive debut is a thrilling addition to the eclectic Hakuna Kulala label, carving out a dark space he knows we will welcome.