by Jon Savage
It’s a rare quality when an artist can continue to remain mysterious and still be able to surprise you every time. I believe that Felix LaBand is a must for any record collector because the guy is 10 squillion years ahead of his time.
South African’s talk about Felix only with the reverence that he deserves. And that’s how it should be. I believe that when the whole world finally wake up to the magnitude of this guys creative genius, these “music circles” (that’s what my two year old now calls records) are going to turn in to kilograms of gold!
In my opinion, Deaf Safari is the album that defines Felix as South Africa’s Radiohead; not in terms of his sonic palette, but because of the way that he thinks about music and the emotions he is able to create with perfect repetitive simplicity. It’s not an album, it is art of the highest form.
There was a 10 year gap between Deaf Safari and the album that preceded it and this taps in to another rare quality that separates great musicians from some more successful musicians; Felix LaBand wanted to find something new to offer and took the time to go on the journey of discovery, ignoring the rules of the music industry about supposedly trying to stay relevant. Real art is always relevant.
Deaf Safari is indescribable. Firstly, there are no “vocals” on the LP – he has sampled life; movies, radio, tv, sounds, gospel preachers, anything and everything … and he has somehow managed to turn them in to poetry. In Squeeze The Trigger, he assembles a combination of sound bytes from political speeches to radio dramas to create something dark, poignant yet intangible: “Squeeze the trigger, don’t jerk it, because if you jerk, it won’t work.”
Deaf Safari is surreal story telling it’s best, enveloped in simple beats and memorable melodies. His choices of voice samples give each track real substance and also manage to give us a glimpse into the inner working of what LaBand may be trying to express about the mood of South Africa: “I have decided to take off my eyes from the pain.” and “Why all the robberies and the murders?.”
Somehow, by only using a mixture of other people’s words, Felix LaBand has been able to deliver a seemingly incredibly personal record and speak clearly through the music. The mood is powerful and sometimes terrifying.
Deaf Safari is a prize possession in my record collection, and it has a haunting and memorable record cover too, giving it true trophy position in my collection!
Respect to the mysterious LaBand!