Honest Jon's Records' eye-opening 2010 compilation Shangaan Electro: New Wave Dance Music from South Africa brought worldwide recognition to a regional style of hyperkinetic dance music driven by 180-bpm digital rhythms, to which dancers in outlandish, colorful costumes move ecstatically. The architect of this sound was Richard Hlungwani (stage name Nozinja), who produced the tracks and released several albums by artists such as Tshetsha Boys and Tiyiselani Vomaseve on his Nozinja Music label. While Nozinja has toured the world and worked with European and North American artists since the compilation's release, his 2015 Warp Records debut album, Nozinja Lounge, finds his own style pretty much intact, free of outside influence. His tracks still feature high-speed rhythms with marimba-like digital percussion and bright, playful synthesizers, setting the stage for smooth, sensuous lead vocals. The majority of the album's few English lyrics are along the lines of "my baby" and "my sweetie," continuing the sentiment of Shangaan Electro highlight "N'wagezani My Love." Nozinja's usage of female group vocals is equally stunning, particularly on exhilarating centerpiece "Vamaseve Vatswelani." A few tracks on Nozinja Lodge slow down to a more relaxed 120-bpm range, with songs like snare-heavy "Xihukwani" and "Vomaseve Hina" recalling fellow South African DJ Mujava's phenomenal 2008 hit single "Township Funk," which was also given international exposure thanks to Warp Records. Album closer "Wo Va Jaha" is only slightly slower than normal for Nozinja, but the song seems much less frantic and more spaced-out, giving the song's lush synthesizer and guitar melodies room to breathe. Even with the occasional dip in speed, the songs are still filled with curious, ear-catching sounds, such as the wheezing sample throughout "N'wanga I Jesu," the call-and-response soundbites peppering "Baby Do U Feel Me," and the insectoid vocals of single "Tsekeleke," ensuring that the album is never less than fascinating. Nozinja Lodge is a gleefully frenetic album that continues to broadcast Hlungwani's singular vision to fans of otherworldly dance music across the globe.
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson