Let’s flip this review on its head and reach our conclusion first: Nakhane’s new album ‘You Will Not Die’ is extraordinary. It’s an incredibly beautiful document of self-acceptance, a soaring ode to self-worth, a blissful, remarkably assured piece of creativity as wide as South Africa itself.
From the very first second it’s clear this is a record constructed by a genuine artist, by an aesthete guided by an astute, passionately held stance on aural beauty. The vocal performances – part gospel heritage, part Bjork-like abandonment – range from the abandon of ‘Clairvoyant’ to the intense poignancy of ‘Teen Prayer’, a howling spectrum both of style and emotion.
Brought in a religious family in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Nakhane spent years struggling with his sexuality, attempting to ‘pray away’ his feelings before finally embracing them. This repression, though, deepened his love of art, with the singer hurling his feelings into cinema, books, and – especially – music.
All of which supplies an enormous wealth of inter-textuality to his debut album. Listening to ‘You Will Not Die’ is like watching the doors being opened to a huge library, books tumbling down endless corridors of reference and inspiration. ‘Clairvoyant’ was sparked by a line from Jean Cocteau’s Les Enfant Terribles, while the record is littered with allusions to authors such as James Baldwin and Toni Morrison.
It’s an album filled with drama, with verve, and a continual sense of the unexpected; ‘Star Red’ is a tale of religious rebellion prompted by the singer’s own grandmother, while the movement from sharply defined techno driven pop to lush arrangements from co-conspirator Ben Christophers is wonderfully well executed.
A singular experience, ‘You Will Not Die’ is a theatrical jewel, the sound of a rich, vital talent moving briskly into the limelight. At times reminiscent of Kate Bush in its sense of performance, ANOHNI in its integrity, or even Marvin Gaye in its soulful, sinewy groove, this is an album to be cherished.
- - -
- - -
Join us on Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.