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Spaza: Spaza (Mushroom Hour Half Hour)

A review of the album from the South African sextet

Spaza
The cover of Spaza by Spaza

Spaza is a South African collective with neither permanent members nor prewritten songs. Yet the seven improvised tracks on their eponymous album, recorded in 2015, both rivet and bewitch with a bold mélange of mysterious, penetrating, overlapping sounds.

The six musicians heard converging on Spaza are part of several different Johannesburg scenes—Afro-funk, jazz, experimental electronic—and these stylistic elements synchronize through competition as much as compromise. Nevertheless, this is remarkably accessible music. The mix is fat, elastic and often multifaceted, yet the taste and quality of its varying grooves always holds sway. Two female vocalists deliver everything from squealing screams to sonorous moans, which are usually electronically altered, as are the synths, trombone, and electric violin, while the percussion of Gontse Makhene and the upright bass of Ariel Zamonsky pique the pace and forage for fruitful pathways.

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