‘Subconsciously’ is a fine showcase of Black Coffee’s artistic genius [Pulse Album Review]

The album is an expression of darkness and pessimism in attractive formats.

‘Subconsciously’ is a fine showcase of Black Coffee’s artistic genius. (Apple Music)

As a South African man, he was born into a culture that appreciates dance music; be it the 80’s Bubblegum pop or the many offsprings of African House music. On his latest album, Subconsciously, his brand of Afro-House is more experimental than before. It is also more psychedelic, atmospheric and ethereal.

Black Coffee’s multifunctional music can also trigger a wave of emotions and introspect with his deft use of synths, chord progression and percussion.

In a lot of ways and by construction, all the songs on ‘Subconsciously’ are built like the typical records by DJ-Producer hybrids. The songs have an incredible buildup before exploding on their respective hooks.

These things make his music sonically dense, thus he always requires vocalists with unique voice types and techniques to attack his beats in a certain way. That’s no surprise; Black Coffee has repeatedly stated that he listens to “Donny Hathaway, Curtis Mayfield, anything soulful, you know? Before R&B became R&B.”

The topics canvassed on the album are heady, dark, morose, amorous and largely pessimistic; sometimes at different instances and sometimes, all at once. ‘SBCNSLY’ featuring Sabrina Claudio is a tale of incomplete love; the story of a prideful woman who wants love but isn’t humble enough to admit it. It is dark, morose, heady and amorous all at once.

As the title-track, ‘SBCNSLY’ is the thematic nucleus of this album. The other songs basically channel it; either they are the dark and morose ‘Lost’ featuring Jinadu and its focus on the sad throes of depression or even the love-themed, sexually charged ‘Falling’ featuring Ry X.

On the latter track, we still get the line, “Come let it fall to pieces…

When ‘Time’ featuring Cassie discusses sex metaphors and subtlety, it still arguably addresses the concept of time as an impediment. While ‘10 Missed Calls’ deals with a confession of love, it still focuses on the sad reluctance of one party to pick up their phone.

With his selection of features, the album has a circlical appeal that brings different ends of the world into the appeal of African Pop music, in the House format.

Delivered entirely in English, it shows that Black Coffee intends to create an album with strong European and American appeal while retaining his strong African sonic identity. However, ‘Ready For You,’ a love song featuring British-Nigerian singer, Celeste is a downtempo Dubstep record.

His selection of features might be multi-ethnic, but they seem more like pure musical choices than strategic choices. While the album features legends like Usher and Pharrell, and new-age wave, Sabrina Claudio, it also features niche Australian singer-songwriter, Ry X, who is known for his regular DJ collaborations and his atmospheric, orgasmic sounds.

Africans like Sun-El Musician, Tellaman, Delilah Montagu, the fast-rising Una Rams and more also got their shine.

His sounds are so infectious that a listener doesn’t even realize how long some songs are.

Black Coffee has lofty expectations for his music. In a chat with Cuppy on Africa Now, he says, “Music saves lives, you know? It saves lives. And I want to always go that far, create a song that could save someone's life. It doesn't have to be literal, but it must have an impact on that level.

This is the best album this writer has played in 2021. However, the album could have been sequenced in a way that tells a story.

Ratings: /10

• 0-1.9: Flop

• 2.0-3.9: Near fall

• 4.0-5.9: Average

• 6.0-7.9: Victory

• 8.0-10: Champion

Pulse Rating: /10

Album Sequencing: 1.5/2

Songwriting and Themes: 1.8/2

Production: 1.9/2

Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.8/2

Execution: 1.7/2

Total:

8.7 - Champion

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