As soon as the sounds of Michele inhabit your environment through the speakers, give it a couple of seconds and you’ll witness the room gradually give birth to life, especially if you’re with friends. The latest project titled Michele by Cape Town’s very own Thor Rixon is a full package that ‘presents’ the listener with tracks that’ll get you dancing, contemplating about life and humanity, and even tracks that are laid back enough to attentively study to. Honestly, I haven’t come across a release this year from the mother city that is making more noise than this stroke of genius.
The name Thor Rixon is a name that doesn’t require an introduction for those who have a keen ear on South Africa’s electronic scene. From the extravagant synth pop sounds of ‘Yum Yuck’ to the Kwaito elegance of ‘Darkie Fiction,’ Thor Rixon is a traveling man, crossing the borders of genres as he has production credits on many of our favorite releases. On the subject of traveling, in a recent interview he mentioned that his trips to Berlin and exposure to its night life has had a profound influence on the direction of his music and, of course, his latest release. Although, the primary influence here is Michele – his mother. Music geared towards dance music from her son is what she wanted, and music geared towards dance music is what we got.
Besides the individual tracks, it’s the river-like fluidity throughout the album that creates the sensation of a sonic voyage one could lose, or maybe even find themselves in. Once you’ve listened to the album you’ll notice that unexpressed ‘chapters’ begin to form, especially when you look at the track list since the songs are grouped in a manner that tailors a particular feel. We’re introduced to the album with a track titled ‘Our End’ which basically states that our relationship with the earth is indeed an abusive one, heavily emphasized by the line, “we’ve beat it into smithereens,” to indicate his point. It’s Rixon’s voice and the trumpets that truly take center stage here. The inclusion of these vehement trumpets make ‘Our End’ all the more memorable and distinguish it from just another electronic jam. Also, think about this for a moment, a wind instrument was used in a track with a message relating to the preservation of our planet and wind/air is one of the four elements of mother earth. Just from the opener we’re dealing with an album that is rich in meticulousness thus promising a thought-provoking listening experience.
In the previous paragraph I mentioned that Rixon’s voice sits firmly in the center stage of ‘Our End,’ not just because it’s clearly audible but the use of his own voice comes as a surprise since his vocal chords vibrate sparingly throughout his catalog. ‘Soil’ and ‘The Clown’ are great examples of this. Even though ‘Soil’ is a puzzle piece that belongs in the far left of the set by virtue of its monotony and dullness, we pick up that Thor’s use of vocals tend to be accompanied by lyrics imbued in introspection or social commentary. Through the lyrics we can hear that the distant cousin of ‘Our End’ is in fact ‘Soil.’ “The end will only be for us, as the soil seeds itself” – lyrics from ‘Soil’ resembling the relationship between the two. Thor’s moment of gloomy introspection occurs during ‘The Clown.’ Dear reader, have you ever heard of a sad clown? Well, you’re introduced to the story of one over the lyrics of ‘The Clown,’ which is very ironic since it passes as one of the grooviest tracks on ‘Michele.’ That spellbinding bassline and the whirlwind of shimmering synths has the ability to drive you to your feet and fist pump like it’s round three with your imaginary friend. With each minute of progression, you’re bound to become even more exhilarated as layers of textures and synths are placed ever so delicately to direct your body into a physical state of jubilance.
‘He Held Him Close,’ the third track of the album, is certainly a track that can’t escape mention. Roxy Caroline’s vocals are comforting and dreamy to the point where it sounds like an uplifting lullaby. If you’ve heard the sounds of Hyroine, this doesn’t come as a surprise. The lyrics are hazy and somewhat abstract; one could literally spend an entire day speculating what the track is really about. It’s the ‘lyrical blur’ that accentuates the hues of wistfulness which accompany Roxy’s vocals. The anticipation that is erected in the first minute is built in such manner where the listener can tell something great is coming, and when we’re released from the clutches of anticipation, a salacious wave of pleasure immediately crashes into our eardrums as soon as we receive the drop we earnestly waited for.
Another feature includes Duduza Mchunu, which comes right after ‘He Held Him Close’ thus continuing the wave of ethereal pleasure on the track ‘Build Again.’ Techno, House, experimental forms of Electronic and a touch of Funk are some of the genres explored in the album. ‘Build Again’ seems to lean more towards soulful house, with ‘Khahlela’ (featuring the extravagant Mx Blouse) drifting towards… Well, I can’t put a finger on it and the compounded convergence of genres is part of the reason why this is an exhibition of creativity at its finest. Khahlela means ‘kick’ in Zulu and here Mx Blouse devours a futuristic house beat with lyrics oscillating between the weight of living and isolation. It’s predominantly the low end that gives ‘Khahlela’ the sort of character it has, and I’m not just talking about the funky bassline. Even when Mx Blouse’s vocals aren’t pitch shifted, the depth that naturally permeates in his voice commands authority and a display of effortless virtuosity with his craft. It’s almost offensive to label him a rapper.
Michele is one of those albums with a strong sense of longevity by virtue of its genre-crossing nature, amazing collaborations and, my favorite, the journey-like cohesiveness provided to the listener throughout the 37 minutes. With the help of his mother, Thor Rixon is slowly but surely beginning to raise the bar of what it means to come from Cape Town and deliver quality music.