Published Jul 16, 2019DJ Lag has been dubbed the king of gqom, a percussion-heavy form of dance music that originated in his hometown of Durban, South Africa. It's a thrilling sound that blends traditional drumming with sliced-up hip-hop rhythms, resulting in a frenetic and exhilarating club experience. South African producer OKZharp — who was last heard on Hyperdub alongside vocalist Manthe Ribane — is a chameleonic veteran of mutant club beats, who pumps out bangers and slow jams with equal amounts of aplomb.
The pair formulated plans to record while touring together, and the resulting EP is named after the clubs of Durban that birthed the gqom sound. This intoxicating miasma is the perfect balance of OKZharp's thunderous beat-smithery and the piercing rhythms of DJ Lag's signature gqom style. "Now What" slithers into focus with a sinister roar, before pounding away in a tense cadence. A slinky marimba melody introduces "Steam One" until an almost piercing drum sound punctures the surrounding space with what feels like a brutal amount of pressure.
The thunderous "Nyusa" is even more forceful, with an ear-splitting sub-bass rhythm, but is blessed with a robotic choir spraying melodic gold onto the proceedings. Closing things out is the ultra-tense "Sambe," the dankest piece on offer. The steadily chirping lead and punctuating vocal shout are nearly blood-curdling.
Steam Rooms is a satisfying blend of club persuasions that pulsates with the singular sense of freshness for which Hyperdub is known. (Hyperdub)