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Jumping Back Slash & Būjin
A Seat In Heaven Skye Butchard , December 4th, 2023 09:26

This full-length collaboration thrives in the tension between the two South African artist's colliding worlds, finds Skye Butchard

Electronic producers have long reached for strings (both real and midi) when wanting to create a cinematic feel. Often, it’s a little tacky – budget John Williams over a donk. But sometimes, it works, and earns the wide scope the producer is shooting for. There’s Massive Attack’s ‘Unfinished Sympathy’, with its huge, heartbroken bridge. Space Afrika and Blackhaine pull the rug from under you with their haunted string outro on ‘B£E’. These tracks find catharsis by twisting what you expect a string part to do on a dance song. Now, Jumping Back Slash & BŪJIN join that lineage with A Seat In Heaven, an album full of creative uses of strings, sub bass, and negative space.

The record is a true partnership. South African-based producer Jumping Back Slash first rose to prominence with dark inversions of house and gqom. Kenyan-South African sound artist BŪJIN does the same with her icy and playful inversions of pop melodicism. Together, they've crafted a focused collection that embraces the tension of their worlds colliding. There’s personality and interplay stuffed into these minimal beats and fractured songs.

BŪJIN’S vocals guide the record. She sings cryptic, looping thoughts in sour harmonic intervals. Her delivery is eerily close, but we're always at a distance. It’s those strings that bring the emotion, like on ‘Nortons Whir’, where they rise out of the air and fill in a chord sequence. Later on ‘Order of Change’, a pummelling beat melts away to leave just soft washes of these strings, to colour BŪJIN’s performance in a new light.

‘Friendly Recommendations’ is pitch-black and slinky, underlining the power in BŪJIN’s understated performance. Her cool seduction tactics might be missed at first, until she grows more insistent. “Tell me to bend it over”, she finally urges. As she becomes more vulnerable, so does the instrumentation, with expressive key embellishments and, yes, gorgeous strings.

The push-pull between warm and cold is there in production and performance. Feeling that shift happen is affecting. Harsh club noise shifts into free and fluid moments of respite. On ‘RZN for the SZN’, BŪJIN keeps her cards close to her chest once again, but the looping phrase “I'm a reason for every season kind of girl” evokes grief, loss and spirituality as the song develops.

‘Unfolding’, the closer, is the record’s most wide-open moment. It uses the musical language of a classic love song, albeit in slow motion, with space slowly given to those sweeping strings to take over. “A feeling washes over me,” she sings. Me too.