Boomkat Product Review:
Compiling a trilogy of full-length gqom releases from Nyege Nyege sublabel Hakuna Kulala, 'The Gqom Trilogy’ features a trio of albums from DJ Scriby, MaRiiO and Dj Skothan.
DJ Scriby’s "Izingoma zeGqomu" is the debut album from a 25-year-old who has been an important part of Durban's gqom scene since 2013, plotting a course for the developing sound, routing it thru trap, ballroom, deep house and minimal techno without pausing for breath. Even relatively traditional gqom cinstructions are elevated: 'Goi' sets things off at a breakneck pace, disrupting the usual 4/4 flow with ragged grime-inspired snares and psychedelic synths, and 'Esheee!!!' rocks a "Psycho" synth stab while running thru whistles, woodblock clacks and booming sub-enhanced kicks. 'Friday 13th' is even more convincing; here Scriby strips the meat from gqom's bones, leaving a tuff minimal chug and peppering it with trap risers and reverberating blips. The producer is at his best when he's criss-crossing dance archetypes, like on 'Qumqum!!!' where he contorts trance synths, or 'Ouuu1' with its subtle rave drops and percussive, breathy voices. There's a stylistic coherence to Scribyb's productions that brings everything together with a familiar low-end throb and precision-tweaked percussion that puts "Izingoma zeGqomu" comfortably alongside Scratchclart's killer "DRMTRK" EPs.
'Zulu-Man' centres around the outsized talents of Mariio aka MaRiiO , a younger who started producing at age 12, teaching himself to use L Studio by watching online production tutorials. Without other older artists guiding him through the creative process, Mariio developed his style instinctually, absorbing influences from music he heard online and augmenting his jerky dancefloor expressions with unique elements. Out of all three sets, Mariio's is the most hybridized, inhabiting an outerzone space a few gasps out of step with the rest of Durban. Even on itchy opener 'Gqom NyeGe' you can clock the producer's originality as he curves psy trance risers into plodding dubstep womps, traditional gqom vocals and woodblock clonks. Mariio teams up with vocalist Hot Chicks on 'Ngom ya Phesh', meeting his chants with cyclic shovel-hit kicks and broken toy electronics, and he dials up the low end on 'umShini Odumayo' spraying mind-altering psychedelic synth FX over winding basslines and a driving beat.
Prolific Phelimuncasi collaborator DJ Skothan is up last, showcasing his itchy, experimental style on an explosive debut album. Skothan's gqom and house productions have been instrumental in driving Durban's local musical ecosystem, and the producer has worked with plenty of important figures, including Bhejani, Tweeyking, Lafaristo, MaRiiO and DJ MP3. On "Nevegation" he strikes out alone with a platinum-coated suite of taught instrumentals crafted for peak-time dancefloor ruination. It hits its stride with the self-explanatory 'Salut To DJ Lag', a dedication to the gqom scene's underground hero that tears up the rulebook, running thru the template and adding penetrating rolled percussion that flips every few bars. The track is the perfect meeting point between South African party traditions and sand-blasted club experimentation, and sits in a nether-dimension between the earth and the stars.