Monday, February 6, 2017

TWINS-Shona Phansi (1996)


There's a legion of music artists who are either called 'Twins', 'The Twins', or have the word 'twin' somewhere in their name. That includes the German synthpop duo called THE TWINS, electronic music producer APHEX TWIN, the British synthpop/new wave group I grew up listening to in the 80's called THOMPSON TWINS, then this South African-based group I just discovered while taking a leisurely stroll through the South African pop music catalog. What I would find with these guys and their 1996 album titled "Shona Phansi" is thirty-nine minutes of the more interesting music I've listened to in recent days. From listening to just the first few moments of the breezy and nicely jazzed-up opening title track, I'd already gathered a few things: the warming voice of the lead guy's voice, the group as whole delivering words in both their native African language as well as in English, plus an overall easy-listening pop sound that's so easy to sink into. Already immediately following the opener is the latest candidate for 'Slow Jam Of The Night' with "Love Ten Thousand". I suppose that's how many times the songwriter wants to make love to his baby, given the romantic mood that's set by the seductively romancing words of wanting to turn off the lights and the telephone. That, coupled with the marvelously slow groove, plus the collective harmony of the backup crew and the lead guy shining with his dynamite, powerful vocals as they once again sing in both their native African language and English, makes this one an r&b lover's dream! Can definitely say the same about the other sensational slow jam that is the sunny Track #7's "Feel So Good". As the words to the chorus 'feels so food to be loved by you' keeps playing on and on, the song eventually grows on the ears, highlighted once again by those dynamite soulful vocals of the guy on lead. There had been a sign on the opening title track that there would be at least a few tracks that would be taken right out of memorable house music era that dominated the 90's dance scene. "Ke A O Rata (When I Saw U)" is the first to offer up that house influence. and given that just the title lyrics are the only words repeated over and over, it makes for a nice minimal club groove. It even almost has a spiritual and tribal feel to it, with the way 'ke a o rata' is chanted all throughout. The second house-influenced jam would be "Set Me Free". I really like the smooth arrangement here, which had me totally missing the sounds of the mid-90's all over again. On this one, a guest female vocalist is featured, and in the classic 90's house style, it's her boastful wailing of the title lyrics and 'treat me right' that steals the show here while the TWINS are delivering 'give me a break' in the background. There's a couple of pop jams that I really like because they have strong hooks that keep me attached to the music: "I'm In Love" (I suppose the 'Model C' they are in love with is the woman they speak of in the lyrics) and my favorite, "Get On Up", which is designed to get listeners into the party mood. With the letter, I feel that a full-on dance remix would've been more than worthy, but I love this 90's r&b swing nonetheless. The closeout piece, "Free Boys", seems as if it was a special tribute to a lost friend, evidenced by the chanting of 'we miss you brother!' in opening movement. Was that a gunshot sound effect I heard in the very beginning? Makes me wonder if that was the cause of their friend's untimely fate....

1. Shona Phansi
2. Love Ten Thousand
3. Ke A O Rata (When I Saw U)
4. U Drive Me Crazy
5. Set Me Free
6. I'm In Love [Model C Mix]
7. Feel So Good
8. Get On Up
9. Free Boys

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