On their Keysound debut, 2011’s Routes, LV hooked up with London street prophet, Josh Idehen, to deliver an atmospherically overcast UK jungle sermon. Routes was a cloudy aliens-hovering-above, unseen-dangers-below type of affair that was as peripherally engrossing as it was lyrically stimulating. It was an album you could throw words at like “progressive” and “cerebral” and they’d probably stick in more than a few places. The record was thoughtful, grounded in evolving Continuum-centric aesthetics, and, above of all, it felt like it might last. Sebenza, the group’s first LP release for Hyperdub and their second overall, isn’t so much a followup to Routes, but the spitfire single, “Boomslang,” from 2010 featuring South African MC, Okmalumkoolkat. Sebenza willfully flips the script on its predecessor’s tonal obligations and the trio acts as a dancefloor canvas of infectious zero-fucks beat dynamics for their vocal collaborators to volley technocrat riot-starter raps over.
Okmalumkoolkat returns for most of Sebenza, bringing with him two more South African forces in Spoek Mathambo and MC/producer duo, Ruffest. LV reciprocate with their mix of compound-fracture jungle, garage, and kwalto, but the beats are some of their most immediate, physical, and hooky. Sebenza is no less technical than Routes or anything else LV has released to date, but the productions work more in tandem with their vocalists rather than as a concrete-naturalistic backdrop. Okmalaumkoolkat seems to verbally leap from one hillock to the next on the opener title track, bouncing off paranoid synth stabs and gapping breaks in the chunky spin-dry percussion without breaking a sweat before hovering like a stealth drone above large stretches of the track.
Okmalumkoolkat is really the center of Sebenza. His verses aren’t all that linguistically sophisticated or even structured, but his phrases are compact enough to get lodged in your skull — even if it’s just syllabically — after only a few listens and he’s such a charismatically imaginative and playful presence on top of LV’s contortionist production that it’s hard not to somehow feel in collusion with the proceedings whenever he’s on. Even atop maze-like cuts like “DL” where LV build the track out of zigzag patterns of atomic centered synths and unpredictable, shock-paddle drum loops, Okmalumkoolkat remains out ahead with a kind of percussive, textural delivery. “Zulu Computer” acts as a sort of fuck-all party anthem for the MC’s obsession with social networking and computing technology, LV sliding some ricocheting bivouac house rhythms in between malevolent, stewing synth lines while Okmalumkoolkat makes camera phone sounds with his teeth. And “International Pantsula” has some of the best throwaway quotables on the record (“I’m the type to skype on a bike”).
Ruffest and Spoek Mathambo turn in excellent spots as well. “Hustla” is an infectious, tribally whirlwind of Londoner synths and a breakneck vocal delivery while “Nothing Like” is a whiplash, snare heavy storm with a killer staccato synth melody and a delicious conversational back and forth from Ruffest. Ruffest have the most musical delivery, their vocals often double-tracked as they teasingly push and pull the production. Spoek Mathambo on the other hand on “Limb” and “Work” seems to play a more textural game, ducking his head in and out between synths and percussion in little bubbly fountains. There’s an energy about Sebenza that gives it a unique place amongst 2012’s best dance releases. LV have put together some incredibly diverse and replayable puzzle-piece productions that provide a demanding tarmac for a few game MCs who take to the tracks like square sandboxes where they’re more then ready to start flinging sand and building castles. The results are fun as hell, yet it’s hard not to feel like LV have accomplished something with some legs on it.