The post-punk of the late ’70’s and early 80’s fused dystopian politics with danceable music. Artists like Talking Heads, Wire, Joy Division and Gang of Four tried to push guitar rock to its very limits, channeling inspiration from the outer regions of reggae, disco and Afrobeat. Conceptually the dominant mode was of fear, a reaction to living under the long shadows cast by reactionary politics and the threat of nuclear war. Albums like Cabaret Voltaire’s Red Mecca and This Heat’s Deceit could easily soundtrack the disturbing headlines of 2017. Sometime after 9/11, there was a brief media hype about a post-punk revival, embodied by indie bands like Interpol and The Strokes. But while such groups made a lot of good music, they lacked the sonic and political confrontation of their predecessors. Instead, it’s hip hop and electronic artists who have carried the gauntlet. In the last two years alone, for instance, Danny Brown and Vince Staples paid homage to Joy Division with their album titles and cover art.
The NON collective, home of artists like Faka and Angel Ho, has been at the forefront of this aesthetic. Their latest release, Kisswell by FARAI, is a feast for lovers of deep synths, dark bass and defiance. The 4-track EP is a collaboration between Zimbabwean born singer Farai Bukowski- Bourquet and producer Tone. Farai is best known for her 2015 single ‘The Sinner’, a menacing piece of fire and brimstone future dub. Kisswell, inspired by the spirit of her late father, is lighter in touch, but not by very much! Over the keyboard stabs of ‘Lion Warrior’ she announces “I’m friends with the Hells Angels”, and her conviction sells the boasting. ‘Inhale Exhale’ twists words so that exhale sounds like “in hell”. It culminates in the disorientating ‘Vagabond’, a storm of distortion and effects. I have only complaint about this great project- it left me starving for more!