City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto

BY Kevin JonesPublished Jun 9, 2015

Soweto is the latest source of inspiration for Nicolay's growing series of musical travel diaries, and while the prospect of a South Africa meets the Foreign Exchange soundtrack sounds pretty tight on paper, the execution doesn't quite match expectations — though not for lack of effort.
The producer's multilayered synth wizardry is present and lively from the opening break, and his drums — a mix of vibrant kit and hand percussion with in-and-out African rhythmic hints — are busy and well-constructed. Save for the slightly more stylistically assertive "Daydream," however, much of the album's sound and arrangements feel sterile and reserved, like the unobtrusive soundtrack to a more interesting visual sequence we're not seeing. Large pieces of "Tomorrow" play like the intro to a retro instructional video, with the mellowed "Aurora" serving as a fitting accompaniment during the lesson portion, both as a result of Nicolay's preferred synth tones. The sleepy pace of "The Chase" is confounding given the song's title, and the few vocal portions found throughout the album leave the impression that you're listening to instrumentals that are, sadly, missing their verses.
As for the Soweto influence, much of that is restricted to a handful of introductory language translations and geographical explanations, which do actually leave you wanting to know more about the region, though perhaps not as the album intended.
(Foreign Exchange)

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