Mixing and sound engineering are much akin to magic and the dark arts. It’s difficult for most to get a hold of what good engineers do, let alone what makes the great ones stand out. It’s often then by proxy of association that people are judged, and the list of credible credits associated to magicians like Kay Faith is strong and steadily growing.
Faith is a Cape Town producer and engineer, who recently came to prominence as one of the few prominent women within such typically male-dominated aspects of the industry, as well as having a technically astute sound that attracted some of the Cape’s finest auteur rappers.
When videos emerged on YouTube of Kay Faith’s finger drumming techniques on a sample pad, it was a hint that there was a lot more she had to offer away from the mixing boards, moving towards the forefront of the music performance. Today we see more evidence of this, with the release of Kay’s second single, ‘Feelings and Stuff’, featuring a star-studded line up of previous and new collaborators.
The track is a well-rendered vision of neo-soul inspired R&B, co-produced by Pretoria-based beat maker Buli, who previously showed a penchant for layered, emotional music on his album Feels. The pair combined to produce an instrumental track that’s thick and slow as syrup, with shuffled drums calling back to Kay’s MPC-inspired approach. The polish and dust levels are both as high as you’d expect in this context, with influences proudly worn on sleeves and not too much stray from them, outside of a few uniquely idiosyncratic flourishes.
Over this foundation, 25-year old Langa-raised singer and actress Zaya pulls through with an appropriately soulful and wistful performance, veering from desperation to cool admonition, before Dope Saint Jude injects a much needed sense of humour and detail to the song’s overall story. The track explores an unrequited love with an audible smirk – “we fucking… entranced by your spiritual noise” is a lyrical standout. The timing of Dope’s performance, and the brief trap outro in the short song all feel beautifully necessary, once they happen.
Dope Saint Jude is a typically multi-faceted rising rapper whose debut Reimagine EP was fuelled just as much by an energy of anger and frustration, as well as an off-kilter production sensibility. Buli, outside of his slightly more trap leaning Hi-Lux persona, normally deals in the serene and melancholic. Their combination on the track, along with relative newcomer Zaya, does feel a bit like experimental chemistry. If having a curatorial ear for sound isn’t what the essence of being a mix engineer I’m not sure what is.