Most releases come in and find a home pretty quick. By second listen at least I’ve worked out where to file it, if the sound’s got the pull for a write-up or not. But this track seemed to linger. It moved on to and off of and back into my schedule, and if it hangs around that long, I owe it.
The reason? I’m out of my depth. Ask me about New York 70s punk, or to join dots from kraut-rock to post-punk and electronica, and I’ll rattle out facts like a hyped Pez dispenser. Send me a tagline of ‘Afro-European Hip-Hop’ and I might not have the taste or the know-how. I explained this to Themba Ben Mtwazi (Slaugh), he said gently that was review enough…
There were two parts that caught me, that kept the track lingering, they’re the verses and the feel of the loops. There’s a hypnotic warmth to the simplified forms of loose chords against complex percussion. Slick-produced Afro beats shift their rhythms and weight under bent tones that wane and repeat. It’s that busy-heat looseness that grabbed me, the easy-breathe flow that gives space to the vocals, and that space is made much of and wanted.
Either side of each over-smoothed chorus, verses get soaked in soft rapid fire wordplay. While rhythms get wrapped up, condensed and compacted, every sound comes out clear and unblemished. I dig through the pictures Slaugh streams through. We see the rise of the right and a frightening tide of separation and violence that threads through us all – from borders drawn inside and out. Through the eyes of a man of three homelands, South Africa, Zimbabwe and UK, we hear the fear of new splinters and fractions. And the loss of some gone common faith.
From the wider first verse we gain focus and grip, by the second we’re honed on a truth; “In turn the attitude of others / needs in-depth correction. Historical treason -men imprisoned / based on first impressions.” By the third we’re pin pointed on pain made at home and it’s all set in worn resignation; “Tomb stones are being cemented / with teenage names encrypted. Forensic tents and police tape / change the cities we depicted.”
It’s the last lines of ‘Tears’ that explain this delivery; the lack of raw anger that these things deserve, and the almost detached sense of sadness. It’s the assurance there’s somehow a fix. “Every hour I plead for the sake of my kids /to the author of this motion picture. In this hour I bleed -tears of need- / while reading through the scripture.”
I get the impression from emails sent back and forth, Slaugh might agree all or any faith works, in each other as much as in texts. There’s a clear will and want to get things somehow better, and that starts with us knowing what’s broke.
While we may not be breaking entirely new ground, mix those cold facts and truths with the calm of his voice, and the hypnotic sounds of spilt words and warm loops, and something about ‘Tears’… It just lingers.