Somewhere in the center of SPAZA, the self-titled album from the South African band, an unsettling sense of beauty is made clear. Improvised passages gain density and clarity. The elements come together, and this avant-garde album unlocks itself. Everything that went before makes sense, everything that follows resonates at a new frequency.

We’re not speaking literally, of course. You’re not going to have to wait until mid-way through the third track of a seven track album for things to make sense. From the outset this gathering of sculptured sounds – vocals, SFX, brass, percussion – draw the ear in. But it’s in the middle of the instrumental phrasing – a place where things you’ve never heard before can be heard – that the intuitive realities are hit upon.

Arguably, but maybe not accurately, the spiritual center of the process is to be found in the vocal tracks provided by Nosisi Ngakane and Siya Makuzeni. Their breath is as much as part of their pattern as their lyrical prowess. It’s the human scale, where we hear an ability to breathe through melodic progressions, that makes sense of the larger, more expansive passages.

Jazz can sometimes be a dirty word – too clever, too elite, too far up it’s on arse. Here though, upright bass-lines riff in the ascendency and then drop away into funkier, accessible accounts of the same phrase. This stuff interweaves with stabbing, psychedelic brass – underlining the experimentation that this collective of artists has come together to explore. Conventional instruments are deployed with no mind of orthodox expectation.

Improvised, and captured from live performances of no less than seven artists, there is a sense of thermal air – rising and holding things aloft. Production work here is one solid, and understated structure. Tracks are laid, not so much to celebrate the amorphous aspect of a jam, but more to explore each instrument’s role in the process. Where others would degenerate into a self-indulgent spirals and repetition SPAZA focus on process and target. Deviations are made, but the goal is always in sight.

A beguiling, expansive album, that explores metaphysical discussions, whilst somehow leaving fingerprints and humanity over everything, SPAZA is a rewarding, refreshing sequence that deserves attention.

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