SPOEK MATHAMBO and PEGASUS WARNING at the Drake Underground, Monday, July 16. Rating: NNN
Just a few months afterhis CMW show with Saul Williams, South African musician Spoek Mathambo was back in town for a headlining set.
Opener Pegasus Warning, Mathambo's tour drummer, was unfazed by the sparse Monday night crowd.
Singing over stuttering, washed out beats anchored by hard kicks, Pegasus pulled off a short noise-soul set with good humour, roping the reluctant crowd in some call-and-response by the end.
When Mathambo took the stage, the room was comfortably full.
Born in Soweto, creating out of Cape Town, Mathambo mixes indigenous rhythms, melodies, and genres (like Soweto-brand house music, Kwaito) with broader references from American and British hip-hop and electronic music.
The current tour is in support of his excellent second full-length Father Creeper, a record that's discernibly more rock-oriented than his previous first, Mshini Wam. This new direction might've confused the crowd, who remained eager but seemed unsure whether to dance or to stand.
Mathambo spent a considerable amount of the show hunched over a sampler, cueing and cutting up music.
It sounded great, particularly I Don't Mean To Be Rude, which features Toronto singer Zaki Ibrahim, and stoner-friendly Blood Red which moved from dubby to psychedelic - but the high-energy songs felt a bit underperformed at times.
Mathambo recouped this toward the end of the show by dancing for most of Control, a macabre, dynamic take on the Joy Division tune, and getting in the front row's faces for a two-song encore.