26 November 2014
DJ Spoko - War God
Welcome to the ATTILTMOWOS roulette wheel of album covers!!! As some regular readers may know, every now and then I pick an album based just on its cover alone; it has to be an artist that I have had no experience of before, so that it is a completely new surprise for me. The album that has been picked here is by DJ Spoko (aka Marvin Ramalepe) who is a South Africa and he deals in something called Bacardi House - according to sources it is a mix of house music, kwaito (a South African hip hop variant), and Shangaan electro; the Bacardi is added as it is the drink of flavour with fans of the music. To be honest, when I was looking at the cover I was expecting a Metal or Grindcore release. But it turns out I am quite far from that genre. Now I have little to no knowledge of this type of stuff, I have just picked the album due to liking the cover. So, with that in mind; here we go into an adventure with Bacardi House.
Starting with "War Of The Pizzi" which is very snare heavy and has only the minimum amount of keyboard and swirling noises floating over the top of the work. The bass works its way in and out of the tune with the greatest of ease and the song itself keeps moving at a good place. It feels like this would be a good song for the clubbing generation and it is well constructed, it also has a 90's vibe but without the use of the word N-RG at every turn. "Dikwakwa" follows on and to be honest, apart from the slight change of keyboards and the odd vocals draped over the top of the song I am hard pressed to tell the difference. They are both good tunes, but very similar for my taste. "Trigga Happy" is at least different to the first two songs. I have a feeling that the snare and hi-hat are going to be the most important parts of this album, but "Trigga Happy" has a few interesting break beats and which lets the bass come to the forefront. It is an interest tune which makes a lot more noise about itself than "War Of The Pizzi" and "Dikwakwa", hopefully the rest of the album will follow suit. "Motota Mutapa" starts with a different percussion set, but you delve into the snare package and it has a fantastic rhythm section is the obvious machine section of this song. Once again, not being familiar with much in the scene this has originated from I found my mind drifting; it is not quite as engaging as recent works I have heard in the House genre, but it is also not bad or dull. It is just not quite to my own tastes. "Mshongville" is another retro sounding anthem from the 90's which would have been going down a storm in my youth, I do enjoy the song and it is one of the stand out numbers from the album so far. The good time vibration of the number is very appealing to me, the keyboards are just right and overall tone of the song is really good.
Track six is called "Angels & Demons" which does feel like a natural continuation of "Mshongville" in style (maybe as it uses the exact same drum pattern). It is a little busier on the keyboards, but I could see this going down a storm at parties and clubs around the world. A classic house tune in the making. "Chitahuri Dance" uses different patterns to reach the listener, the high pitch siren at the beginning is like a call to the dance floor, the change in the underlining bass is noticeable and the slowed down nature of the keyboard work is very effective. As always, the snare is the focus of the song at times and that is understandable in House music; I just wish there was a different tone to it. After this is the title track of the album - "War God" - and this starts with a fire in its belly and is another track which works really well, albeit with little variation from its original opening and to the rest of the album. "Mzansi" afterwards starts off as if it might struggle after "War God", but once you get past the opening it has a beauty that overcomes its humble beginnings. It is almost the song of the album to be honest, but if only the opening was stronger. So we have reached the half way point and "After Party" is the marker. This song does not sound like a chill out number, it sounds as if the party is still raging and it has no intention of stopping any time soon. I have to admit, it is a song I have struggled the most with. Whilst not doing anything wrong, it is also not doing anything to excite me - maybe each time I come to it I am reaching Bacardi House overkill, but even when I start with this number I still struggle with it.
"Planet X" is much better than "After Party", you are moving onto a much more funky moment to the album; the all present snare is a little more subtle here and the bass with strange guitar sound are the dominant factors of this song for a change and that makes it really rewarding. "More Pain" starts off promising, but soon it falls into line with a lot of the record. It is a good individual piece that starts off well, but it soon drifts off into a sound that once outside its natural environment (the clubs and parties) it does not stand up as well. "Bula Ma" is the thirteenth song of the album and this is an immediate improvement to the sound. With a darker backdrop, it brings together the elements of this album to make one of the best House songs I have heard in an awfully long time, it is also one of the more traditional House tracks I have heard in a long time. It blends old and new thinking perfectly and gives one of the tracks of the album. Following on is "Oreng Mo" which features vocals by DJ Mujava going on about MTV and television. Much like "Bula Ma", it is a much darker track that quite a lot of this album. It does follow the similar grooves and drum patterns of the record, but it is a storming track none the less. "Man In Black Suit" falls back to the traditional parts of DJ Spoko's musical pallet. At this point, it can seem a little blurring to other tracks on the record, it feels like we have passed this route before; but it is still a good number, albeit a familiar one.
Entering the final quarter of the album with "Phelindaba", it starts with the traditional drumming sound that appears every now and then on the album, it helps to diversify the song from quite a lot of the record and along with the darker sections of "Bula Ma" and "Oreng Mo" give us some fun tracks for the parties. "Civil War" is a very interesting number - the tone is harsher than on other tracks and the groove to the tune is huge, once again it feels like this is going in a slightly new direction; ultimately it stays within the album's given parameters, but it is another of the standout tracks of this record. "Captain Jack Spoko" mixes up light keys, heavy snare and constant hi-hat work, its title brings to mind Pirates Of The Caribbean. The tune sadly does not have a Caribbean feel going over it; sadly this is a trick which is missed. Much like the best percentage of this album, it sounds good but it is not moving those parts of my mind that want to party. Penultimate track "Thugs Of The Night" does have a different rhythm that makes this number, it has more break beats and this creates a more interesting track. Granted, once again it is not the greatest leap forward; but this is not DJ Spoko's mission. He is there to make you dance to the more traditional sounds of House music, without the more modern production techniques. Ending the album is bass heavy "Moon And Sun", it does nothing that is really any different to the rest of the album; however I cannot say that it is not a good tune, when looked at on an individual bases you have a great house number. It is just that there is another nineteen on here doing the same or similar turns.
Overall, this is a well produced album for a genre that (for me at least) is best suited to the clubs and live shows that this will undoubtedly be played at. It has a retro sound that runs though the album, but this is both a good and bad thing. The bad things first: It sounds like an old song writing computer game called Music 2000 which you could get on the Playstation 1. It has very little in variation of tone and this makes it a long album to listen to, it would have worked a lot better as a series of EP's for people to digest or even white label vinyl’s (do they still do that sort of thing???) and in the album format it is an awfully long record for this genre outside of a mix album. The singularity of the delivery is both a blessing and a millstone for the artist; he will be known for his great songs, but the similarity to a lot of this might put some people off. The good things now: What is on offer here is well crafted and shows a passion for House/Techno releases of yester-years which I have no doubt will be going down a storm in the parties/shows/nightclubs it will undoubtedly played in, also when there is those small difference in the tune, it makes for a more interesting listen/experience. It is not a record I will probably revisit, it has probably been released in the wrong format; and whilst it might not be for me, I can see that this music needs to reach a greater audience. It will hopefully give DJ Spoko a wider audience in the Europe and America.
6 Out of Ten - Now I see where you were going, but not quite there
Top track - Bula Ma
You can purchase the MP3 version of the album from Amazon here (no CD or Vinyl release of the record on Amazon)
You can follow DJ Spoko's activities on Facebook here
You can also follow him on Twitter here
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
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