The first time I came across Shibule Ndhambi – or Buli as most will know him – was through his music. The track was ‘Black Hole’, an arresting and mesmerising piece of music that lures you in before kicking back with a solid and deeply melodic drum beat. About a year later, I met him in person. It was at a Pretoria pub and club and he had an exam looming.
“Ja, I’m supposed to be studying, but all I end up doing is watching anime and making music,” he said in-between sips of Creme Soda. “You should hear the stuff that’s going on my upcoming LP though. It’s going really well.”
It may seem implausible that at 20 years old, a shy Pretoria-based producer is making music that’s pioneering the local ambient electronic sound, but Buli’s one of those rare newcomers who regularly puts out work that will surprise even the most seasoned producers. And he’s doing it at a prolific rate too. To date, he’s released two EPs, a host of remixes and singles, and now his first LP – Feels.
Buli’s music is sly at first. On the low end you’ll hear hard drum arrangements and sustainable basslines underpinning a hip hop style percussion frenetic enough to really get your feet moving. Between all of this, weaving in, out and far above the percussion, you’ll hear an ambient and synth-heavy soundscape – moody and whimsical enough to sway to. It’s a brilliant mixture of sound that’s hypnotic at times and wholly emotive.
Comprising an impressive 18 tracks and featuring four different collaborations, the aptly titled LP is as much a performance of this sound as it is a personal soundboard for the producer. “The reason I decided on the name Feels was because I wanted to keep the title as simple and descriptive as possible,” says Buli ahead of the release. “The LP explores different aspects of emotions, as well as how to incorporate these emotions into my music. The LP has a sort of ‘dark’ theme with a few tracks diverging from the mood of most tracks in the LP.”
On the LP cover, you’ll find a few of the artist’s favourite things: Pizza, video games, music, producer’s gear, beat up Vans and more. Beneath the cover, things run a bit deeper. The LP opens with ‘Lone’ which sets the tone for many of the other tracks on the LP, most of which lie on the bluer end of the emotional spectrum. It’s not all grim and introspective however. Feels may be the product of one artist’s navigation of emotion, but like all good music, the LP is widespread and relatable.
Similarly, the tempo’s not low and morose throughout. There’s ‘Animosity’ with its spacey horns and frenetic, infectious percussion, ‘Her’ which features plaiting, sultry vocals by Amarafleur, and the dreamy languorous lines drawn by ‘Pluto’ to name a few. Besides Amarafleur, collaborations pepper the LP musically in the form of Vox Portent, Leeu, and Two Lives Left, while Balekane Legoabe, Kevin Radebe, and Seth Pimental provide visuals for the LP’s accompanying digital booklet.
All in all, Feels is a complex piece of work designed to kindle a multiplicity of senses. Take your time with it. Listen through the LP a first time and note the tracks that resonate with you. Then listen to them all again. There is much to uncover in an LP like this, so listen frequently, and listen intently.
LP cover art by Steve Hogg aka Vox Portent.