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His Name Is Alive - All the Mirrors In the House (Home Recordings 1979 - 1986) Music Album Reviews

Fueled by the curiosity of the untutored mind, Warren Defever’s collection of childhood recordings is wispy, mercurial, and improbably good.
In the 29 years that he has helmed the idiosyncratic project His Name Is Alive, Warren Defever has made many different kinds of music, few of them obvious kin to one another: lo-fi bedroom pop, ramshackle ambient, straight-up R&B, spiritual jazz, stoner metal, even a psychedelic rock opera. Recently, Defever came across a box of cassettes—many without covers or cases, the labels scrawled in ballpoint or Sharpie—that lay at the root of all of it: his own adolescent (and preteen) home recordings, from the years predating HNIA. Some went as far back as 1979, when the Livonia, Michigan, native was just 10 years old. He paid fellow Michigander Shelley Salant, of Saturday Looks Good to Me and Tyvek, to make digital transfers of their contents, and he asked her to flag anything that sounded “new agey, ambient, or had echoey guitars.” All the Mirrors …

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Santi - Mandy & the Jungle Music Album Reviews

The omnivorous Nigerian rapper-singer makes smoothly effortless genre hybrids that feels like everywhere and nowhere all at once.

Santi is the de facto leader of Nigeria’s alté (or alternative) scene, a burgeoning collection of young artists who are defined by a moody, Western eclecticism and by an urge to separate themselves from the mainstream. To listeners in the United States, however, Santi’s music will feel distinctly familiar: It’s in intimate conversation with Views-era Drake, with Benny Blanco and Diplo. Like those artists, Santi makes smoothly effortless composite pop songs that sound like everywhere and nowhere. The 27-year-old Lagosian was raised on the Western music of the late ’90s and early ’00s, along with local music he was exposed to, he’s said, by “the gateman or the house help.” He started out as a rapper, under the name Ozzy B, and slowly incorporated other genres into his music. On Mandy & the Jungle, his sound—an ultra-simple, hyper-processed rap/R&B hybrid—is the sound of the airport lounge, of the antiseptic spaces in between more-exciting locales.


With their sing-song melodies and light dancehall rhythms, tracks like “RX-64 (The Jungle),” “Sparky,” “Maria,” “Turn Down Mami,” and “Where You Been” make their way into your consciousness like air conditioning. They’re the twice-removed second cousins of seasonal favorites by artists like Baby Bash, Lumidee, and Wayne Wonder. Everything here is something you have heard, vaguely, somewhere else: “Murvlana” splits the difference between K-Ci & Jojo and Ryan Hemsworth. “Rapid Fire” includes a sudden, delightful interpolation of J-Lo and Ja Rule. And the guitar chords of “DSM” carry just the faintest echo of “Party in the USA.” This sense of constant recognition and recombination recalls Night Ripper or Feed the Animals. Like those Girl Talk albums, Mandy & the Jungle has no shortage of ear candy; also like those albums, it might make you a little sick after a while.

Santi makes sure to interpolate Nigerian music alongside American hits, but the album never really feels local to anywhere. The songs are uprooted, placeless, all the more so when they refer explicitly to places. “Morocco” isn’t about anything, North African or otherwise. (Though Santi told ID it was about “a man who stumbles upon a land filled with women who appear to have mysterious powers.”) On “Monte Claire,” Santi mentions a big night in Sweden, and the only explanation for his choice of country is either that “Sweden” kind of rhymes with “leavin’” or that Santi’s been listening to Yung Lean. These songs are the sonic equivalents of screen savers, soothing in their artificiality, but disappearing the moment you focus on them.

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A few of the guests add life. On “Settle Down,” Ghanaian singer Amaarae says that “she’s swag-surfing off the San Francisco Bay,” which sounds like fun. GoldLink appears on “Maria,” perhaps the catchiest song here, and also avoids getting sucked into Santi super-synthesis void. There comes a point where eclecticism become more depressing than impressive, and Santi’s music dances on top of that point.

Santi has emphasized that Mandy is a concept album, but the lyrics are all over the place. Lines like “Do you remember the times we had?” or “I can breathe in Morocco” or “Mama’s always chasin’ the cop car, yeah yeah” are meant to float in through your ears with minimal friction or thought. DRAM sounds like the album’s superego on “Demon Hearts,” a familiar lament about digital alienation, double-tapping and backed-up mentions; eventually he dismisses social media in favor of money. A stranger and balder example comes on “Raw Dinner” when Santi says of a woman that “she don’t taste like anything.” Too often, this album doesn’t either.


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