Ambient Music

Various Artists – Anthology Of Contemporary Music From South Africa (2022; Unexplained Sounds Group) – Avant Music News

This compilation of electroacoustic, drone, ambient, and experimental music from South Africa begins strong. Kalaharakiri from nonentia starts with a gritty layering of pulsating drones. Thick synths come in, as do portamento chants. The result is music that could initially be categorized as influenced by the Berlin School but with a trip to the far south. A singular track that spans multiple genres, it is representative in scope – though not sound palette – of this latest sound mapping compilation from Unexplained Sounds Group.

In contrast, other contributors focus on bells and tuned percussion, sculpting of sampled noises combined with bleeps and bloops, blending of flute or electronics and percussion, as well as an electric guitar and chime based piece. Some of these efforts feature repetition in a minimalistic fashion, that slowly embeds itself into your psyche. Others are more overt and exploratory, employing improvisation and extended techniques. Tide of the Insects from Chantelle Gray is another stand-out offering, with layers of staccato buzzing over drones and a steady bassline. There is a return to African chant on Nardus Niemand’s The Great Southern Cross which combines unusual percussion instruments, sweeping synths, and song into one of the stronger tracks.

Anthology Of Contemporary Music From South Africa shines the most where the artists bring together indigenous music and modern experimentation. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to this album dozens of times over the last two months. It is a fresh and quite listenable take on difficult music. Very well done.

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