Nazar – Guerrilla Review

Back in 2018, with Enclave EP, Hyperdub unearthed one of its most intersting artists. Nazar is a 26-years-old Angolan producer based in Manchester, who grew up in Belgium and then returned to his native country for a while. His music, for which he coined the term “rough kuduro”, is a way to process his violent roots. Nazar’s father was, in fact, a controversial general who fought for the American-backed Angolan rebel group UNITA, during one of the most violent and recent aftermath of the Cold War, a civil war which only ended at the beginning of XXI century, seeing the group defeated.

Therefore, rough kuduro is a revision of Angolan music, a brutal translation in a wartime landscape through the weapons of hardcore continuum. Actually, Nazar’s music finds in the Kode9 run label a natural outlet. The artworks of these releases alone are able to project in that dirty dub world which made Hyperdub a pillar of electronic music. However, Nazar manages to draw his own path between that sound and the current dominant aseptic HD trend, suggesting an important extension of Steve Goodman’s lecture about the tribal weaponising of low frequencies.

Guerrilla, Nazar’s first album, is a sort of digitalisation of the collective memory of his family through oral histories and detailed individual episodes. The martial dramatic fierceness of the synth in the opening track, Retaliation, alongside with the traditional chorus, is so cinematic to set the mood of the entire album. The following “Diverted”, instead, instantly darkens the atmosphere, reminding of Burial‘s post-rave as a way to draw up images of the past, but applied to the upbeat of African rhythms, which are the real ancient roots of the hardcore continuum, to report a bloody historical reality. The racking guns which act as rhytmic pulse are a explicit costant on the roughest tunes, such as “Bunker”, sickest moment of the album which features the monotonous voice of Shannen SP describing a detailed event and making it so vivid.

That thriller mood becomes more abstract on the footwork of “UN Sanction”, which leads up to the most danceable track of the album, the techno celebration of “FIM-92 Stinger”. “The man wants Stingers? Give him Stingers” as Reagan himself said, and the very fact that the most celebrative moment of the album bears the name of the surface-to-air missiles which still distinguish the USA-backed armed forces, says a lot about the story behind this release. Everything becomes even more anxiety-inducing towards the labored and interrupted breath of “Immortal”, with the gun slides always on the back, but finally a truce comes with the ambient track “Mother”, where all the personal, emotional involvement with the concept itself comes out.

To reach such an ambitious aim, Nazar resorts to a whole series of different textures and styles, in a wide palette which makes it impossibile to define in a few words his music, but at the same time he achieves to create a particular experience trought all the emotions that come off in such an extreme world. So, “Arms Deal” nods towards trap and HD, while the trance synth of “Why” moves over breakbeats, until the footwork of “Intercept” signs a violent peace. “End of Guerrilla” finally comes with its official statement over ambient synths and crude postrave upbeat.

Such a heterogeneus and complete work gives us all the elements to reflect on how the good old visceral low frequencies which constitute the hardware that move the collective body can interact with the alienation and individuality of the HD interface, to define new paths for the music in these foolish times.

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