Stickx - ESC_ape (EP), 2017
neomositoESC_ape, an EP by Stickx
Hailing from Johannesburg by way of Ezulwini, Swaziland, 23-year-old student Lethumusa Simelane (A.K.A. Stickx) is a producer who shares creative spaces with the likes of Shekhinah, J Molley and TTGO to name a few. Not content to remain behind the scenes however, his debut EP ESC_ape serves as his attempt to break out and establish himself as an artist. I suppose then that the title of the EP is very fitting.
ESC_ape is an instrumental project, straddling the line between experimental hip-hop and future beat, all whilst drawing inspiration from artists like Scottish wunderkind Sam Gellaitry and from familiar African hits. Stickx builds on this with razor sharp sampling, dizzying polyrhythms and a unique attention to musicality. The result is quite profound; I can confidently say that I haven’t heard anything like this before.
The intro, titled Woza slides in ominously with grumbling 808s and serves as a statement of intent, but it is 9AM that, for me, sets the tone of the EP. The swing on it is meaner than your mother-in-law and between the variable time signatures, flawless arrangement and infectious Xhosa Love sample, one can tell that Simelane has gone straight for the jugular from the word go. The sound is heavily experimental and might come across as weird to a lot of listeners but ESC_ape serves as an escape from many things, mainstream normalcy notwithstanding.
Girl from the East offers a change in energy, slowing things down just a tad. The stop/start arrangement provides a nice balance between the lows of chords & spoken word, and the highs of slick drumming and stringy synths. Masingita (Alternate Version) on the other hand is an electrifying reimagining of the DJ Fresh classic, with the 808 almost straining to hit high notes at times and the drums blurring the line between Africa and America.
I have to say the titular song steals the show for me here and is by far the best song on the EP. It builds methodically, with a style of musicality reminiscent of Sam Gellaitry before the song opens up with a delicious chop of Mujava’s Mogwanti wa Pitori accompanied by menacing drums, sitar-style synthesizers and a soundscape that paints a sonic picture of the Milky Way. The song expertly straddles the line between ‘chill’ and ‘lit’ and is at home in either scenario.
The Outro, which bangs in its own right, opens with an excerpt from a documentary titled "Century of Self" and implores the listener to express themselves in a world where a lot of people are doing the same thing. Very fitting for a project that succeeds, spectacularly so, at doing just that. Stickx’s ESC_ape might be a little ‘out there’ at times, but much like it’s kaleidoscopic artwork, the sight (or in this case, sound) that awaits those who take the time to look (or in this case, listen) is unique and frankly more than a little impressive.
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