Thursday 17 November 2022

Posted by Gerry Hectic | File under : , , , ,

At the risk of sounding like Victoria Coren Mitchell/Richard Osman, what's the connection between Steve Coleman And Five Elements' 1988 album 'Sine Die' and Felix Laband's new album on Compost Records?  I'll tell you at the end of the show (I mean review).

If you've recovered from the single, 'Derek And Me', here's the whole 14-track album of more leftfield cross-genre dance. Fans of Compost Records will recognise the name Felix Laband from last years' compilation 'Compost Sechshundert' but apart from that we've not heard much of late from this South African electronica musician with a penchant for an old skool cut & paste approach to dance/electronica/field recordings (and cover art for that matter). 

No idea who Derek is in 'Derek And Me' and it might be too late to "stop crap" but this isn't it and it's definitely in that WARM/James Alexander Bright(!K7) tail-cocking at convention genre.

I was going to say that track along with another single called 'Snug Retreat'  - as a re-imaged [Black] Forest (The Cure track) in a South African synth-pop 80s disco - are the extremes but this album is so much more than some quirky tunes. 

I wouldn't want to put you off with the term 'concept album' or, in Laband's explanation, “I have sampled a lot from documentaries from the 80s crack epidemic in impoverished African American communities and believe my work speaks unapologetically for the lost and marginalised, for those who are the forgotten casualties of the war on drugs".

And there's the knock-on troubles of "urban terrorism" ('Dreaming In Johannesburg') which is strangely followed by the music-box house of 'Death Of A Pervert'(!), 'Death Of A Migrant'(!) and 'Dreams of Loneliess' which prepares us for the re-inpretation of Beethoven's hip-hop period for 'We Know Major Tom's A Junkie': this is really great.  Then, get ready for the hip-jazz [re]cut coke ad, '5 Seconds Ago' and Laband does Stones Throw, '7 Rise 7 House'.

What's strange is that as deep and thoughtful as the themes are, there's a beautiful and humourous side that reflects his inspiration of the the 100 year old Dadaism movement (and Hannah Höch for the cover art).  And in the end, if you can image a cut'n'paste electronic musical of Judge Judy set in America and South Africa, with the 'The Soft White Hand' of a svegali Malcolm McLaren laughing in a pre-war German post-war disco; this might just be that concept album.  Thankfully, it's Laband that just about wins out; good always triumphs over evil right?  

Thinking back to the 'Steve Coleman' question, I've never quite understood the phrase, "war on drugs" and, your answer for the starter for 10, the graffiti on wall on the cover of 'Sine Die' reads, "Death To Crack Dealers" - that's the connection.  And I suspect it's still on that wall in Brooklyn, NYC over 30 years later. Make of that what you will.

Artist: Felix Laband 

Title: The Soft White Hand

Release date: 18th November, 2022

Label: Compost Records

Cat. No: CPT 605-1

Format: LP / Digital


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