Review: Life and Death on the otherside of the Dream
On his sophomore album, jazz guitarist Vuma Levin again works with his Europe-based quartet, but draws from wider sources than on his debut, including digitally manipulated sound clips.
The album is an intriguing emotional journey, from political satire riding jaunty African jazz (End of the Rainbow) to sombre reflection (A Necessary Pain) and soaring exploration (Rebirth). Levin’s work aims to confront what we’re living through: inspiring stories, disappointments and, above all, “necessary conversations”.
Contrasting textures, and the tensions set up between words, effects and music all help to achieve that, grounded in Levin’s intricate composition and some impressively precise sound engineering. The emphasis is on dense sound design – it rewards multiple hearings – and ensemble work. But the album talks to the heart as well as the mind.
A track like End of the Rainbow demonstrates not only the empathy between musicians who’ve played together since Levin’s college days, but also powerful individual voices. Melodies and rhythms evoke South African jazz history (A String Struck recalls the days of Sakhile) alongside edgy contemporary sounds.
*The album showcases tonight at Illovo’s Arbour Café as part of a three-city national launch tour, and is available online from CD Baby, Spotify, and more.