An entirely improvised album recorded live, in one take, featuring a once-off ensemble of Johannesburg-based avantgarde musicians.
A band with no permanent personnel, with each line-up assembled for the express purpose of recording improvised or workshopped material. For this, the initial salvo, SPAZA was put together from a group of musicians with individual and collective links to Johannesburg’s jazz, afro funk and experimental electro scenes.
As a body of work created on the spot, there is a heightened and sustained sense of intuition running through this recording whose sonic palette is so wide it captures - through soundscaping, invocation, lament, impressionistic vocal weaving - not only the transient and hybridised nature of life in Johannesburg, but also the heaviness of the air at the time of its recording. Between percussionist Gontse Makhene and bass player Ariel Zamonsky on the bottom end of the scale (both of whom are part of Shabaka Hutchings’ band, Shabaka & The Ancestors), and sound sculptor João Orecchia and string wizard Waldo Alexander on the nebulous end of it, vocalists Nosisi Ngakane and Siya Makuzeni (who also plays trombone) marshal a vocal experiment that is as tense as it is playful. The results, shaped in the Pan African milieu that is Johannesburg, is a freewheeling representation of continental astral travel.
• NEW YORK TIMES PLAYLIST – “Their cyclical patterns may call to mind the steady tread of an evening walk in the woods, the comforts of nature and the danger of darkness closing in around you”
• ALBUM OF THE DAY ON BANDCAMP - “A spellbinding mix of spiritual jazz and New Age that pays homage to black South African culture”
• MOJO MAGAZINE (No. 5 on their Top 10 jazz albums of 2019 feature) – “Electric with possibility from the moment singers Siya Makuzeni and Nosisi Ngakane harmonise its opening bars, its mantra of treated electronic violin and textured electronics gets twisted further and further out of shape as a series of elastic grooves battle barking trombones, overlapping drones, looped Autotune vocals and, seemingly, bleating sheep”
• THE WIRE MAGAZINE - “It’s incantatory music – militant, luminous and fresh”
• THE QUIETUS (No. 39 on their Albums of the Year Chart for 2019) – “South African experimentalists SPAZA sound equal parts incantation and cosmic message, with shades of Arthur Russell in their rolling congas and staccato strings. A trip, for sure”
• ALL ABOUT JAZZ - “The most surprising and gratifying album you will hear this year by a group you’ve never heard of before