Progressive ‘township tech’ artist, Spoek Mathambo unleashes a frenetic fray of beats and electro arrangements on his second album, ‘Father Creeper’; adding another feather to South Africa’s musical cap overseas.
GENRE: Hip Hop, Electro, Afro Rock, Traditional
LABEL: Sub Pop, Sony
RELEASE: March 2012
02. Venison Fingers
03. Put Some Red on It
04. Let Them Talk ft. Yolanda
05. Dog to Bone
06. Skorokoro (Walking Away) ft. Okmalumkoolkat
07. Father Creeper ft. Xander Ferreira
08. We Can Work ft. Rebone
09. Stuck Together
10. Grave (Intro)
Europe and the States seem to be more and more intrigued by South African artists-well ‘Die Antwoord’ seems to be on their weird and intriguing radar for now. Spoek flies lower on that same radar, but he has garnered some notice overseas. The connection to ‘Die Antwoord’ lies not so much in profanity but in the notion of the ‘musical other’. In this context the ‘other’ is one which has been fed Western pop culture intravenously but spits it back reassembled and fitted with their own indigenous bits and pieces. An old phenomenon yes, but bourgeois intrigue seems to be focused more strongly on African acts who exhibit a bizarre and strange mix of African and Western culture.
Unfortunately, while Mathambo might be fascinating to bored and jaded post modern ears his shtick falls flat the moment you actually listen to the album. He might seem unique, through his mix of South African and Western music and lyrics, but for all his ideas and ambitions nothing holds up to scrutiny.
‘Kites’ has a shaky vocal and rap delivery, the singing barely holds onto the key it was written in. The rap segments sit uncomfortably on the beat and the Mario Brothers samples cheapen the track ten fold. Tragically, ‘Kites’ is a template for most of the album.
‘Venison Fingers’ is an electro-rap mess, a case of over-ambition and a perfect study of what can happen when cultural cross-pollination goes wrong and mutates into a musical abomination.
‘Put Some Red on it’, seems to tackle an important issue-blood diamonds. This song, as with all of the albums lyrics are over-wrought and forced-the idea of what the lyrics try to say is not synthesized and delivered cohesively or effectively. Thoughts are strung together haphazardly and words are simply added to seem cool and savvy, creating a lyrical abattoir where ideas, beliefs and experiences come to die by the pen in Mathambo’s hands.
A fairly good trip-hop beat can be found on ‘Let Them Talk’. It has an interesting bass line and nice guitar licks. Unfortunately, this solid foundation is destroyed by weak vocal and rap arrangements.
‘Dog to Bone’, oh, to what could have been! This track could have been amazing. It has a gorgeous African guitar lick and captivating distorted riff. Alas, the song needed a strong, melodic vocal punch but Spoek gate-crashes the jam with a rap-singing style that should embarrass rappers the world over. ‘Dog to Bone’ serves to show a chronic case of over production scattered across the album. The video game samples are ill-placed and might seem like a good idea on paper but they end up destroying any musical value the album might have had.
Weak lyrical ramblings come to the fore once more on, ‘Skorokoro (Walking Away)’ and should grate the mind of even the most impressionable fan.
The imagery created by the music and lyrics plays heavily into the post-apartheid, neo mapantsula culture found in the townships. This is Spoek’s selling point and while it can provide for great musical adventures, Mathambo fails to capture it in a sincere and convincing manner. Instead, the melding of white and black urban culture seems tacky and comical and in bad taste. Spoek Mathambo’s angle on this album might seem cool, new and original to some but to listeners like me, the album sounds amateur, lacking direction or cohesion on all fronts. Ideas are all over the place with too many changes and experiments on each track.
I hope Mathambo finds his voice and a producer who can rein him in and focus his talents in order to deliver a ‘township tech’ album that is solid and convincing. While ‘Father Creeper’ is a mess, Spoek is more intriguing than many acts out there and if he can learn from the mistakes on this album he can make his mark on the local and international scene for longer than five minutes.