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Esa – Highlife Vol. 3

hghlf03-esa
Release Date: February 24, 2014
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Album Review

South African artist Esa Williams is best-known as Brian D'Souza's partner in the Auntie Flo live show, though they've also been working together in the studio recently—this year's second Auntie Flo album is a collaborative effort between the two. Williams' second EP as Esa is the third in a series of edits 12-inches on Highlife, a Huntleys & Palmers sub-label. His previous releases had plenty of textural elements that referenced South African music, but the two cuts on Highlife Vol.3 see him dive headlong into the music of his homeland.

The opening track is an almost-total refit of Margaret Singana's "We Are Growing," which was the theme tune to the well-loved South African TV series Shaka Zulu. Retaining Singana's stirring original vocal, Williams deploys an array of analogue synths, adding off-kilter pads and effects, echoing arps and a punching, winding bassline to create a masterful crossover piece. The equally compelling "Sipho Gozongo" is an edit of Mafika's "Killer," a late '80s South African synth-pop gem. Its key feature is a spectacular earworm of a vocal hook, with stomping kicks and claps, a delirious house piano line and periodic synth chords forming an irresistible surrounding melee. Both cuts perfectly balance respect for the source material with floor-slaying house elements.
- Resident Advisor - 4.0/5