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KUMD Album Reviews: John Wizzards
It would be a lie to say that few musicians are influenced by travel. The reality that the majority find something music-worthy in their worldly sights goes far enough to say that most often, those that travel have an ear for more than just what they grew up hearing. This is especially true of the Cape Cod group, John Wizards.
Inspired by cities such as Maputo, Mozambique; Cape Town, South Africa; and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and a large arrangement of other large and small cities throughout Africa, the two main members, John Withers (a South African native) and Emmanuel Nzaramba (hailing from Rowanda) seem to have come together by lucky chance. And we're fortunate that they did. Together, their variety of African influences introduce us to an album that's a bit reggae, and a bit dub, with over a dozen other genres tastefully thrown in. The sound is unique and beautiful, although it would be hard to describe as either heavy or serious. It's a wonder, no doubt, especially as the two main creative forces met almost by chance – at first in Cape Town a few years ago (of course, as always, someone loses their phone, and simultaneously loses touch), and then, a couple years later, Withers and Nzaramba happened to be living on the same Cape Town street. It was almost meant to be. The self-titled first album, John Wizards, is smoothly groove-able and delightfully up-beat, consisting of delicately arranged electronic work ranging in genre from R&B to reggae; South African house to Shangaan Electro, and a hint or two of dub. Emmanuel's voice floats atop each carefully orchestrated jam, occasionally auto-tuned, and more often not. It makes sense, as the origin of the band comes from Withers' nights off work when he would invite Nzaramba over for some music making, where the latter would enthusiastically vocal riff over Withers' composed sounds. The band you hear in the album is made up of a gathering of other friends that have worked on and off with Withers, completing the songwriting duo for their live shows. They deserve a heavy mention, as the album is strung together with clever riff-work and intelligent band-jams, none of which weigh down the delightfully airy, Cape Town style. All-in-all, the sound is light and sweet, like a late-night party where you happen to notice that each room has its own character and style, as you are led through by the hand. Sometimes you want to dance, other times you just want to sit and bob your head. It all jives together though; with a result of being one of the most refreshingly genre-defying albums I've heard to date. The curious can find that their album is up for online purchase through their label, Planet Mu. And for the not-quite-curious-enough? I suppose that this is not the last time we will be hearing from the chance combination that is John Wizards.
Recommended tracks: "Tet Lek Schrempf", "Limpop", "iYoungwe", "Jamieo", "Durvs", "Lushoto"
Sounds like: Mount Kimbie, Vampire Weekend, Flying Lotus, Shlohmo, Four Tet, Bibio