[LISTEN] Why Abstractica by St Emmo is Just our Type of Weird
Being familiar with Saint Emmo and some of his work, I was ready for some good quality EDM, Techno-pop, Hip Hoppy vibes. I was eager to do it right so, I got my headphones, refreshments and settled down comfortably.
The album starts with a track titled One Drop, which presents itself as a sonic epic from the onset. A catchy melody from what sounds like an Asian instrument, the sound of a thunderstorm and the intermittent speech made me feel like a party to some ancient, powerful wisdom. The content of the speech itself intrigued me, it had me wondering what point it was building up to… it turned out to be a big question about the force of life. The follow-up question in my mind was; will this album provide a big answer?
Kwiragomo, the next track on the album, was almost unexpected. As I had begun to theorise about the purpose of this album this was a sonic and thematic fit, a natural next step so to speak. A reason to ask the big question and seek a big answer. The production here makes it a more universally appreciable song than the lyric base. Taken from a Shona folk song, it speaks to the everyday hustle and bustle from a Harare context, beautifully so with Hope Masike’s vocals. The way her backing vocals shift within the song so smoothly is a testament to a positively striking mix, a quality work of Art.
Following is Love Reset, a pleasant Sylent Nqo tune with a chilled feel. It is really easy on the ears without at all sounding like the usual. That reminds me that I’ve been hearing fresh, almost futuristic and certainly pleasantly abstract compositions so far on this album. In the context of my ‘big question – big answer’ theory, this track suggests a positive distraction. It sounds like seeking fun, positive energy to unwind from the stress alluded to in the previous song. The nicely packaged rap towards the end is a welcome feature, a neat piece by Stan C.My immediate thought when I play the next track, Transcendence, is that it screams turbulence! Next thought is it only makes sense. The title guides my thoughts here, I recognize that transcendent energy is bound to be very active. This has to be how a paradigm shift sounds: turbulent, and almost chaotic. Almost, because there is still a definite rhythm and progression to it, a method to the madness so to speak. The thumping is perfect, punctuating the sonic story with dramatic effect. Deep.
African fairy sounds like a dream. Like seeing a butterfly flutter by and wondering how it felt emerging from its cocoon, a creature transformed and now with a brand new perspective of the world around. Beautiful, airy, sweet sounds of Hope Masike’s mbira. I’m struck dumb, I’m struggling to describe it sonically. It feels like a whole other world made up of familiar components, but not the world I live in. Like a dream.
This Healing, track 6, seems like the part where the energy should be flowing right again, according to my theory anyway. The song oozes positive, reassuring energy, a restoration of previously wavering life force. Love lives! The beat is very vibey, a pleasant upbeat feel that will easily stick in mind, and I wouldn’t mind that. Colleta’s vocals on this are perfect on this, providing an edgy emphasis on the re-invigoration of passion I feel listening to this one.
The 7th song, on the other hand, seems to me like a reminder that it’s not all smooth sailing even after you have evolved like the proverbial butterfly. The sound of it striking, a clear contrast against the elaborate nature of the production before this. It sounds relatively simple but unmistakably fine-tuned. The claps and whistling, which I would assume where personally recorded by St Emmo in his studio, give it a very authentic based on reality feel to the song and the album as a whole. In my theory’s view, this represents a fortification of that good energy flow, a point of reference to the ‘tried and tested’ assurance that is indispensable. The vibe of the song is mellow but also gives a sense of momentum, life goes on after all.
The last song is such a great vibe to land onto after a deep trip, it lends itself as an ideal destination. Sonically, it is a well-blended mix of sounds I wouldn’t expect to go well together. I hear unmistakeable Sungura-stlye lead, Sylent Nqo’s handy work again, a surprisingly good fit to it’s setting of a groovy techno style beat. I am again reminded of the fact that I’ve been listening to something, quite unlike anything I have listened to before.
True to the deliberation of the project; I am drawn towards calling this a new genre of music, except I can’t think of a suitable name for it. St Emmo calls it ‘Abstractica’ which I think sums up all the weird sounds that came together in that studio. I like it. Love Default is a great finale to a world-class album in my view. I am happy that I got to explore as well as experience, that which a talented African did so well to express. Bravo St Emmo, bravo!