Desire Marea, one half of iconic performance art duo FAKA, recently released their self-titled debut solo album, Desire. The effort features contributions from fellow South African artists namely, Sanele Ngubane, Pasja Sneijder, Nonku Phiri, Hlasko, Simon Wolfson, Gabriel Wolfson, and Gyre.
Desire is a sprawling, experimental affair that deserves repeated listens in order for one to wholly digest the expansiveness of the album.
Sonically, Desire is a major departure from the gqom-influenced sound on FAKA’s most recent and notable body of work, Amaqhawe. Although the production on the album is still rooted in electronic music, it is more akin to the work of FKA Twigs and Arca than it is to DJ Lag and Rudeboyz. It’s littered with swirling electronic synths, pulsating drums, and often features extended breaks of atmospheric pads and wails such as on the project’s first single ‘You Think I’m Horny’ and on the instrumental track ‘The Void.’ There are some instances of live instrumentation as well though – one of the album’s standouts ‘Tavern Kween’ features some flashes of electric guitar and saxophone, and on another standout, ‘Ntokozo’, Marea’s vocals lay atop some gorgeous jazzy production that sounds like they came straight from Sophiatown in the 40s. Overall, the production value is very high, often finding the sweet spot between pretty and haunting. And the fact that Marea was responsible for the bulk of the production on the album is commendable as well (on the liner notes of the album, production is mostly credited to Buyani Duma – their real name).
What might be surprising to most is Marea’s vocal performance – few people knew they had pipes like that. Their singing is gut-wrenching, ranging from crooning in low registers to higher-pitched harmonising. True to its title, the album’s subject matter is centered around a strong sense of desire – a yearning for Marea’s love interest and the emancipation that said love interest gives them. When describing the themes of the album, Marea states it is “an intricate inquiry into various themes including loss, displacement, and the terrifying manifestations of love in the contemporary world.”
These feelings are best exemplified on the aforementioned lead single, “You Think I’m Horny,” a song about how Marea’s feelings for their love interest are more than just lust. The dark video that accompanies the single, directed by Jamal Nxedlalana of Bubblegumclub, sees Marea drinking alone in a club, wandering about the cold nighttime streets of Johannesburg CBD and doing interpretive dancing in a barren, dimly-lit room. The scenes are eerie and moody, yet gorgeous. They embody what the whole album sounds like.
Stream Desire Marea’s debut album, out now on Izimakude Records.