Albums / EPs, Reviews

Album Review: naasMUSIC Presents: Slip Slop

Summer is here! It has been for some time, but it’s always a cause for celebration. For those in the Southern Hemisphere, this means more than Grease throwbacks, ice creams and the elusive real tan on California beaches between June and August. Summer in South Africa coincides with the year-end festivities of Christmas and New Year’s Eve, culminating in an interesting and often confusing blend of beach, grandparents, and reindeer-print boardshorts. It is this eventful time in one’s social life to which naasMUSIC and their friends have provided a fresh and appropriately unique soundtrack: their first themed bi-monthly compilation, Slip Slop. 

naas is a well-known Cape Town-based creative agency with its eclectic fingers in many pies. As a project of naas itself, PLATFORM is one such tasty case. naasMUSIC pursues the laudable cause of showcasing and developing exciting, left-field South African musicians. Their recent brainchild, naasMUSIC Compilations, embodies this. It brings together artists to publish music in the form of themed compilation mixes for which people can exchange a contribution to the initiative. Themes appear to encourage and tempt experimentation with different musical styles, also allowing the creative leeway typically quashed by insensitive commercial recording contracts.

Slip Slop is a seven-track summer record in pursuit of this end, mastered by Ross Fink (Dank) and featuring various gems of the South African music scene. It covers a spectrum of bands and producers from the familiar stage faces, Beach Party, to more reclusive producers, like Life Magic.

‘Carolbells’ opens the compilation – an offering from the self-proclaimed Balkan dance band, The Nomadic Orchestra. As a tongue-in-tuba cover of the Christmas classic, “Carol of the Bells”, the song trades the oohs and aahs of a full-scale choir for an experimental blend of brassy bass drops, wobbly backbeats and occasionally up-tempo trumpet choruses. The Nomadic Orchestra deliver with a tried and tested chemistry, and while the song itself has mutated beyond the point of anything synonymous with carols by candlelight, it would be equally pleasant live and in a different, more disorderly setting .

Luc Vermeer, one half of South African dream-hop golden boys, Christian Tiger School, follows suit with ‘Mariah’ under his solo moniker, DESERT_HE∆D. ‘Mariah’ is destined to make you smile, and not because Mariah Carey is instantly synonymous with ‘Touch My Body’ and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, but rather due to how seamless the Christmas love song ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ appears in its remixed state. At its most impressive, ‘Mariah’ is a head-bopping loop of the words “All I…” over the bass/clap drum padding and shaky percussion that features popularly in Vermeer’s work. With a cheeky few seconds of bad Father Christmas voiceovers, it ought to be on repeat at the Christmas Eve dance party that your family are obviously planning this year – set the fairy lights to their ‘strobe’ function.

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Pretoria-based duo, Hawkword, features next with ‘Purple Sandpiper.’ An escalating, reverb-laden introduction first reminds of Greek chillwave duo Keep Shelly in Athens’s October 2013 release, ‘Recollection’. The song boasts a distinct summery feel, rivalled only by that of Throwing Shade’s later number, ‘Palms.’ A chorus-pedalled guitar occasionally riffs and chords its way through ambient build-ups and indistinct vocals, eventually lulling down into nothing. ‘Purple Sandpiper’ could be lost amongst the more crowd-pleasing Christmas remakes on Slip Slop, but its mellowness is certain to push the lazy beach balls of those true summer sloths.

Life Magic’s “Gave You My Heart” is what Wham! would have released, should they have happened to exist as bedroom vapourware artists and develop a knack for computers. Instead, Cape Town’s elusive producer embodies Wham!’s charisma in the form that social media appears to indicate is a beat-making Dolphin. “Gave You My Heart” boarders dangerously on a conveniently cool 90s pop song, one modernised only by its vocal loops and electronic snare smacks. However, it develops into an up-tempo, well-produced and unequivocally fun remix of the modern Christmas classic. Dolphin calls make a subtle appearance. Apparently non-human animals can also enjoy a Christmas romance.

Throwing Shade is London-based RnB producer, Nabihah Iqbal. Her tropical tribute, ‘Palms’ appears amongst the final few songs of Slip Slop. Whilst its drumming build-up may nevertheless be automated, the tones of sticks-on-wood stand out like a tree-shaped radio tower among the buildings that are DESERT_HE∆D, Hawkword, and Life Magic’s electronic backbeats. ‘Palms’ matches subtle synth patterns and a deepened sample of “if you like that then you should have put a ring on it” from Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’ in what amounts to a dreamy summer-camp favourite whilst marshmallow roasting on the beach, marred only by the flashing images of the ‘Single Ladies’ music video that appear in mind when the sample begins. ‘Palms’ is placed perfectly, as a midway between Life Magic’s electronic happiness and the natural ambience of SLABOFMISUSE that follows.

Cape Town producer, SLABOFMISUSE released the EP, We Float Reality, in November this year. ‘3 Untitled Reindeer’ is a chip off his distinctly earthy, ambient and glitchy block. The song sends hoots, rattles and other crafty pops along a wandering meander over abstracted jingles and clipped snares. It seems to pre-empt and then mirror the blurred, often nauseated, stumble through campsites or street parties during the twilight zone between 31st December and 1st January that many of us will meet again this New Year’s Eve. While not overtly Christmas-centred, ‘3 Untitled Reindeer’ effectively showcases SLABOFMISUSE’s unrivalled creativity within a wide-ranging genre that he has made his own.

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Slip Slop’s final effort comes from Cape Town beach-pop favourites, Beach Party, and their summer goodbye, ‘Forget About It’.“Shout out the window, I knew this would never last” admits frontman David Thorpe, over semi-distorted beachy bar chords as a premature, blunt but still unsettled realisation that summer is over. ‘Forget About It’ does much for Slip Slop, elevating it from an electronic summer experiment to a comprehensive, themed compilation. Whilst musically different, it is not misplaced. A trumpet-like solo, which is actually a distorted Simon Ackerman on saxophone, jumps about the chorus, linking the sounds of The Nomadic Orchestra back at the beginning of December. The melody behind Thorpe’s lyrics “Oh baby, I want you, I want you” seems also to reference that of Los del Rio’s hit, ‘Macarena’ in the lines “They all want me, they can’t have me”. Whether intended or coincidental, it hints of the sunny 90s scents that pervade Slip Slop.

The hope for an under-developed and over-ambitious music scene such as South Africa’s can only be its own identifiable version of cool, a local and not internationally-defined yardstick against which to measure goodness, music trends and professionalism. Only upon this foundation will the infrastructure for record labels and media that bolster an efficient and functional network of unique musicians be built. naasMUSIC and Slip Slop edge closer towards this. Whilst exhibiting producers and bands like Desert Head and Beach Party, who have reached success on the scene-levelling internet, Slip Slop is the first embodiment of what is becoming South Africa’s own online music scene, smartly packaged in assigned themes and shared creativity. As summer passes, and we all trade slip slops for Nikes, and the Christmas palm tree eventually falls, it is hoped that the imprint Slip Slop has left for an empowered local music does just the opposite. Look out for the naasMUSIC complications to come.

Contribute to naasMUSIC by naming your price for Slip Slop, the perfect Christmas gift, here.

Stream Slip Slop below:

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