'You Will Not Die': Nakhane's new album is spine-tingling
Once shy and mousy, Nakhane has come into his own, both as a person and as an artist - and his emotive new album proves it
The evolution of Nakhane (nee Toure) has been incredible to follow. When the singer first appeared on our radar, he was opening for another fantastic South African musician, Yoav. He was shy, he was mousy, he might as well have sung with his back to the crowd.
By the time his debut album, the South African Music Award-winning Brave Confusion, was released in 2013, he was less apologetic about his existence.
He was being brave, but the confusion was also there: it seemed Nakhane was still fumbling through his identity, both as a person and as an artist.
In 2015 he hit the mainstream as the voice on the Black Coffee megahit We Dance Again. During live performances of the song he showed off his dance moves - yes, he was an alternative musician, but he was also a chameleon who could dance effortlessly between the world of his crunching, dramatic guitars and the world of house music and club scenes.
And somewhere between becoming a published author of fiction and an award-winning film star, he dropped the Toure from his name.
Now, with the release of his second album, You Will Not Die, and debut on BMG France, the "new" Nakhane is the best version we've encountered yet. All one has to do is peep at his Instagram for evidence. He's been living his best life in Paris/Berlin/London, wearing shades indoors, rocking fashion that makes him look like a post-Soviet alt-rock lover in the '90s. Or an extra in Trainspotting. This is a compliment.
His DGAF (that's "don't give a f**k") attitude is especially evident in the video for Interloper, one of the singles from You Will Not Die. Topless, he wears a silver suit, his face beat* on point, slick black hair, looking like an alien and/or demigod who's come to bless us with his presence.
The track is one of the highlights from the album. Anchored by a stunning mbaqanga-style guitar riff and soft, in-the-jungle-style percussion, his voice (accompanied by a choir) is as gorgeous as ever. He doesn't need to over-sing to emote.
The album is filled with quiet, restrained moments - and that's when Nakhane truly shines, when he lets his voice and lyrics take centre-stage. The spine-tingling title track sees his voice soar during the chorus as he sings: "You sent me away." Accompanied by a simple piano and, once again, a choir, the song makes its way under your skin, and it might even make you shed a thug tear or two.
WATCH | The music video for Nakhane's track Interloper
Opener Violent Measures is another highlight, with an ominous undercurrent and glitchy electronics. "Desperate times call for stolen pleasures . I never loved you more than this," he almost whispers. It feels like there's a darkness lurking beneath, it almost makes me uneasy - that's what makes the song so outstanding.
He reworks The Dead from his previous album, stripping away the thumping beat and big guitars in favour of something quieter - and even more beautiful.
Other songs worth repeated listens are the erotic Presbyteria, the emotional Star Red (a tribute to his grandmother), the Portishead-esque All Along and the gospel of Teen Prayer ("White Jesus loves you now much more than he'll ever love me," Nakhane sings).
Upon the first few listens, You Will Not Die pulls you into an embrace and doesn't let go. But it's also the kind of album that gets better with each listen. A slow burner. Those are always the love affairs that last the longest - the ones that don't burn bright and fast, but rather the ones that steadily burrow their way into your heart and slowly engulf you in their flames.
• "Face Beat" refers to perfect makeup. It's Drag slang that has been co-opted by the mainstream in recent years.
• 'You Will Not Die' is out now digitally.