Album Review: Throes + The Shine – Wanga [Discotexas, 19 May 2016]

Is Throes + The Shine’s new release for Discotexas actually a wanga, as proposed by the album’s title? A wanga is a spell in kimbundo language. One would imagine that an album that is a wanga would have to obsess the listener to the point where both the listener’s conscious and subconscious are actively engaged in living a paradox that has swallowed both mind and body whole. Throes + The Shine attempts this, though poignant and nuanced rhythm is their new release of ten songs. Wanga succeeds, though not as a dance record for anyone uninitiated to West or Central African dance, but as a record to contemplate.

The songs in Wanga are layered and the singing is straightforward, revealing their intentions to dance a listener instantly. The songs seem to layer singing over melody, which is perhaps the most intriguing part of these songs. They are neither romantic – our first instinct is to think of love when anticipating a “spell” – nor do they express “beauty”. They are sung to express the intensity of the rhythm that underlies the singing. The personality of these songs is delivered by their instrumentation; the instrumentals are much sharper and their texture more enlivening than the singing.

All of the songs are incredibly complex, that are not easy to dance to. The beginning of “Praca” is absolutely phenomenal, and sounds traditional. The rest of the song is as good, and will amaze a listener. “Cabetula” might be the easiest to dance to out of all of the songs. Listening to “Ta a Bater” is a powerful experience of highs and lows, given the web and flow of the composition. “Ndele” also has a great beginning, though it is hard to dance along to if one is not initiated to West and Central African dance.

Sometimes the songs are out of reach to a listener. “Coisa Louca” has the effect of being the opposite of a spell for one who cannot dance along. The most spellbinding element of the song is the wind instrument. “Quentura” is also very complex, and more of a song to contemplate than anything else.

Humans have always been conscious of music’s ability to obsess. In the infamous 12th century love letters from Abelard to Heloise, Abelard begins his letter by wishing Heloise that a tambourine plays along with a sitar to please you. The philosopher Plato wanted to banish much from the Polis because of its ability to enrapture. Throes + The Shine has picked up on music’s traditional effect, and produced us a festive album that is poignant, loud, and intense. The  intended festivity of the songs gets lost in translation, and instead it’s some of the sounds in the production that blows one’s mind the most and the polyrhythms that push one to feel amazed. It is the details in these songs that are a Wanga, and ask us to contemplate much more than to dance.

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