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WPGM Recommends: Muzi – Fire FX (EP Review)

Muzi Fire FX EP
Fresh from releasing his latest single, “Nizogcwala“, South Africa’s hottest young DJ/producer, Muzi, is set to drop his new Fire FX EP on December 4. Described by Noisey as “the South African skater kid making beats that’ll break your chest“, Muzi will be releasing his new EP on his own label, WE.THE.BUNDU.

The six-track release features Muzi’s trademark eclectic mix of hip-hop and electronica, whilst also paying homage to his South African roots in the Empangeni township of the north-east. Fire FX is packed full of intensity, a factor which is important to understand before delving deeper into the music. “The hardness of the sound is probably because I come from a very bad background“, states Muzi. “People used to tell me my music was very violent. Maybe that is true because that’s what I grew up seeing. But the energy of it is happy and positive. I’ll never take you to a dark place with my music, because I know how that feels”.

The first track of the EP is titled “Umzimba“, which can be translated to ‘body’. It opens with a muffled, distorted drum and bass rhythm which phases around the stereo field, building up until it drops with the entrance of a heavy back-beat. The riff is reminiscent of The Prodigy, a group that have voiced their support for Muzi’s sound. It is instantly clear as to why people would tell the South African that his “music was very violent” given the intensity of the kick drum within the mix. It pierces through all in it’s path, and without the use of a snare alongside it, evokes the feeling of aggression.

This is balanced, however, by the hip-hop inspired breakdown that follows. It epitomizes the “happy and positive” energy that Muzi defines. The ferocity returns after this ambient interlude, as the track draws to a conclusion with a final flourish. The intensity of the first and final sections of the track are explained by Muzi: “If my music doesn’t make you feel like your rib-cage is going to break the fuck up, if my music doesn’t make you feel like your eardrums are about to blow the fuck up, then I’m sorry I’ve failed you, Bitch”.

The third track on the EP is called “Access Denied“, and is potentially my favourite. From the fantastic use of instrumentation to the manipulation of harmony and tonality; although on the surface the track may seem repetitious, “Access Denied” grips the listener from start to finish. It begins similarly to “Umzimba” with a riff filtering in, growing in intensity until the entrance of the kick drum achieves what Muzi is looking for – making the listener feel like their “eardrums are about to blow the fuck up“!

My particular interest in the song however is not just through the feelings it evokes but the musicality. For example, let me begin with the harmony and tonality of “Access Denied”. A mainstream producer would be expected to provide an audience with a simple major or minor key, but Muzi provides us with both simultaneously. As the piece begins, the listener could be forgiven for assuming it is in a minor key, however during the interlude that follows they could also be forgiven for thinking the track then modulates to a major key. Muzi achieves all of this while sticking to the same riff throughout.

By using an F# phrygian mode, the track can start off with a minor feel until the sweeping synth chords during the interlude reveal a major underbelly. The third and fourth chord in this sequence which I believe to be a Dsus2 dropping down to a B Major epitomize the “happy and positive” energy that can be more easily found in the B section of Muzi’s hard-hitting instrumentals.

The instrumentation and rhythms found in “Access Denied” are inventive and refreshing. This can be highlighted by the use of a syncopated cowbell over a 4/4 groove in the middle of the track. The cowbell is unexpected, as is the syncopation, and the execution is perfect. It’s a great track, and has drawn comparisons to the 2010 era dubstep releases from the likes of High Rankin and Flux Pavilion.

The final track of Fire FX is one named after the EP itself – “Fire“. Much like the rest of the tracks, after a couple of repetitions of the opening riff, it explodes with energy. An offbeat drum makes you nod your head up and down whilst a harsh synth sound causes you to screw your face up like ‘oh man, this is good’.

We then get the lighter B section that we’ve grown familiar with over the course of the EP. It provides us with respite from the intensity, and gradually builds us up for one more round of feeling like our “rib-cage is going to break the fuck up” to quote Muzi’s phraseology. “Fire” rounds off the release with the same energy and ferocity that can be found throughout. It emphasizes all that is great about this fantastic EP, ebbing and flowing to build back up to Muzi’s big finish.

On the basis of Fire FX, Muzi’s growing reputation is more than deserved. It is no mystery as to why he has received praise for his early work from huge names like Foreign Beggars, Jakwob and Diplo, as well as the likes of Rinse FM, Skrillex’s label OWLSA and Generation Bass. Red Bull have stated that “If you enjoy your music full-on and in-your-face, Muzi is definitely a young producer to keep your eyes and ears on“. I wouldn’t hesitate to agree with them on this but there is more to Muzi than just the intensity of the music.

As highlighted in covering track three on the EP, “Access Denied”, it’s Muzi’s musicality that really impressed me the most. He is not like every other DJ/producer, he is unique and, in my opinion, offers more than the majority. Fire FX was a great listen, and I would recommend everyone to follow me in getting a copy on December 4 when it is released. Until said release, you can listen to Muzi’s minimix below, which will give you a taster of what is to come. Pre-order Fire FX on iTunes here.

Words by William Kitchener

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