Die Antwoord – TEN$ION (Review)

Remember that guy from In and Out?

That is me. No, not Kevin Kline! The guy on the tape. I am a man. Real men do not dance. I have never danced and I have never planned to do so. It is not that I feel uncomfortable with my body in general. I have always done sports (Football/Soccer, Basketball, Volleyball, Aikido …), but I am a very introverted person (much more than this blog suggests). Dancing is about letting go, loosing up, expressing emotions by movement. I do not do that.

Well, once in my life I did dance. Back in school in 6th grade, we made a choreography to KLFs Justified and Ancient. We had to dance in front of the whole school – it was humiliating. The mob wanted an encore, not because we were so good – no, that bloodthirsty crowd wanted to see me again. Cause I was so bad that I always had to watch, what the other dancers were doing, and of course I was many seconds behind their movements. The next day everybody congratulated me for my extraordinary performance. Since this traumatic episode I have a simple motto in life: I do not dance.

BUT (in capitals 😉 ) lately I have started doing workout with my own body weight. That was about the same time I kind of fell in love with the music of Die Antwoord. And for the work-out sessions I made a mix with my favorite Songs by the band. It really helps me to stay motivated doing the workout four to five times a week for 40 minutes each time. And there are breaks between the units. Breaks in which the music continues and my body is on fire. I just try to relax my muscles, drink a bit and embrace myself for the next torment. But I can not help it, it’s like I have been possessed by a tokoloshe. My body wants to move to the music. And now I’m afraid, I will turn out as this guy:

Thanks a lot, Die Antwoord.

The most seductive dance songs are on Ten$ion.

It is often mentioned that Die Antwoord is weird, especially Yo-Landi. I do not get it. Of cause they have a unique style and Yo-Landis lovely haircut is gorgeous, but there should not be anything weird about people not fitting in to the corset of a normative society.

In my review of $O$ I wrote a about some formal things that I liked about the songs, I put some musical terminology in, that I had overheard or read somewhere, I elongated my thoughts on some of the songs, but in the end the review turned out to be pretty halting. I tried to hard but missed the point to connect my emotions with my written thoughts on it, while hearing the music.

With Ten$ion and especially I Fink You Freaky it is different. That song hit some buttons in me, like only few songs did before. My whole life I felt a kind of freaky. Not mainly by my looks, but more about how I feel around other people. As I mentioned before, I am a very introverted and quiet person. I do not talk much, especially when I am around people. I do not feel comfortable around people (not all people of course, I love my friends), I do not know how to express myself. Like a weirdo who asks himself, what the hell am I doing her, I don’t belong here.

But I found a way to express myself: In writing, writing stories and writing this blog. This is my playground, where I tell people what I like, what I am interested in. Compared to my behavior in real life, this is my stage persona, my act, but this act is much closer to the real me or what I see as the real me than the Markus that most of my friends and acquaintances know.

And I guess Ninja and Yo-Landi have found their way to express themselves in a fitting way. It takes time, it might not work in the beginning, but finally the parts will fit together. This artistic expression might just be a certain aspect of the real persons behind Ninja and Yo-Landi, like I do not write about everything that is going on in my life, but to me it seems pretty descent – not the joke act that many critics suspect. It shows their heart for the weirdoes, outcasts, eccentrics, and that is something I can emotionally connect with. That hits my buttons in the right way, and it does more. It inspires me; their music is like a muse to me. In the last four weeks my creative activities have increased exponentially – as you can see on this blog, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

That is the power of music. I never expected to be inspired so strongly by this kind of music (rap, rave, techno, etc.) – somehow it just happened. It has inflamed a spark in me I had almost forgotten. Ninja sings My baby’s on fire. I write: Babe I’m on fire. Thanks to you. Die Antwoord.

Jesus, I almost sound like some religious goof after his revival. Eight hundred and seventy words, but almost non about the music on Ten$ion. Time for a change.

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Before the aforementioned I Fink You Freaky, Ten$ion starts with a musical intro-song called Never Le Nkemise 1 (must be Sotho) that assures everybody that this record still contains (South) African influences, that Die Antwoord is back, and you can never stop them. After the short atmospheric dense tribal-chorus Never Le Nkemise (You Can’t Stop Me); Le ka zama mara never leloke (You can try but you won’t survive) Ninja shows everybody in a bombastic entrance who calls the shots (and that is not Jacob Zuma).

And then the record really starts with the song I instantly fell in love with. I Fink You Freaky (and I like you a lot). It is a pretty classical Rave-song with a hard techno beat at the core and exotic and (as always) lovely rap parts by Yo-Landi in a mixture of Afrikaans and English. It is not the lyrics that made me fell for this song, cause they are about Die Antwoords favorite topic: themselves, their influence and appearance, and how they are blowing up overseas. It is the amazing video by Ninja and photographer Roger Ballen that just perfectly connects with the music and turns out to be a serious, profound and lovely piece of art (I did not knew that sex with dog can cure aids). I can also strongly recommend Roger Ballens other works (like Outland or Asylum of Birds).

Hey Sexy begins with an intriguing guitar riff and a stomping refrain. The lyrics can deliver nothing new to the bands narrative, but as for so many song by Die Antwoord it is more about the sound of the lyrics and how they fit to the music than about content. In this case they are a perfect match to the hypnotic and repetitive beats

Fatty Boom Boom is one of my favorite songs (even if it is all about money), not just because of the driving jungle beat, mainly it is Yo-Landi extraordinary performance as a rapper. She was not bad at all on $O$, but now she clearly has improved and it sounds so charming and sweet. With the fast beat and the powerful structure this song adds definitely something new to the bands portfolio. A disco hit that wanna makes you dance (no pun intended). The video is also a nice piece of art, an ironical comment on the western worlds view on (South) Africa, with some very entertaining details, like the picture with Desmond Tutu in it, shooting with a nine millimeters bible!

And the next song So What, with old-school hip hop beats, is about – wait for it, here it comes – suprise: Ninja and Yo-Landi. But this time it sounds more serious and decent, and tells their story before they became famous, when Yo-Landi showed Ninja the two stripes on the fucking piss test. And he realized: Oh fuck, brock ass Ninja gonna be a dady. And they play with their ambiguity towards the media, when Yo-Landi rapps: So what I tell the truth even when I tell a lie. This is a quiet and relaxed song, a classical hip hop number with smart lyrics, that sticks out between all those hardcore-techno beats on this album. Funky shit.

Baby’s on Fire is one of those (almost hysterical) hardcore-techno numbers, but also contains some reduced videogame sound beats when Yo-landi is performing here verses (very slick and clever). I don’t got beef ‚cause I don’t eat no meat. One of their bests songs that has much more substance than it seems at first.

 

After a Yo-Landi song now it is time for a Ninja solo (U Make A Ninja Wanna Fuck) with a brief house song containing very fast and skillful raps thattotally over sexualized. Nice, but nothing that sticks.

Fok Julle Naaiers (Love you all – no I’m just kidding, it actually means what you think it could mean) is once a again a song about Ninja and his big balls and the ever occurring question what is real – Next time u ask me ‚is it real? ‚ I’m gonna punch u in da face. What makes the song so catchy is the refrain/hook by Yo-Landi.

 

DJ Hi-Tek Rulez. Dj hi-tek will fuck u in da ass. Can’t wait for it. 🙂

Never Le Nkemise 2 closes the circle – that started with part 1 – with a classical techno sound from the nineties. But DJ Hi-Tek breaks that catchy rhythm up half way through the song and gives it his own signature.

What I do not like on this record: Too much songs by Die Antwoord are about themselves (says the guy who just wrote the first 800 words of an music review about himself, and – oops – just did it again). On $O$ we had Evil Boy about circumcisions, Rich Bich about newly rich stardom or She Makes Me A Killer about relationships. On Tension it is all about Die Antwoord – Yo-Landi and Ninja. But that is understandable. $O$ was republished after they became an internet sensation, but before they blew up overseas. Now on Tension they are already famous all over the world. Their lives must have changed with a certain amount of madness happening around them. So at the center of this storm, of cause they sing about the impacts on their lives. And to spoil a little bit: On Donker Drag there will be again a bigger variety of topics.

But unlike $O$ Tension is a very coherent album with a clear theme that pervades all songs. Even with such a great song like Evil Boy missing, it is clear that the skills of all three band members have improved. They have a clear vision and the abilities and resources to put this vision into music (and videos). Ten$ion is my favorite record with the most songs on my work out list.

Wow, this has become a quite personal review. Don’t know how that could happen, but now it’s finished and I can go back reading Knausgård.

P.S. By the way, Die Antwoord are of course not the only Zef-musicians from South. If you are interested in more, I recommend Jack Parrow:

And if you like Die Antwoord you might also like Peaches (Be warned prudes! Could contain traces of vagina!):

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