Nazar – Guerrilla (4 stars)

Nazar – Guerrilla

Angolan-Belgian producer's new release is a sonically and conceptually challenging personal story of the Angolan civil war and its aftermath

Aggressive, urgent, and brutally alive. The mood on Nazar's Guerrilla, the Angolan-Belgian producer's follow up to 2018 EP Enclave, is more than fitting for an 11-track rip through the Angolan civil war of 1975 to 2002.

Nazar champions 'rough kuduro', his answer to traditionally more upbeat kuduro, a type of Angolan dance music which he feels is uncharacteristic of the nation's true suffering. Guerrilla is an exploration of a dark past he feels the country should be far more explicitly open about.

The record flits strongly between the chaotic elements of war, moments of tranquil escape, and violently vivid imagery, all underpinned by the fundamentally extreme anxiety of guerrilla warfare. He impressionistically tells stories about his dad fighting in 'Diverted', while sampling speeches and gun sounds evoking street violence and the surrounding political atmosphere in 'UN Sanctions' and 'Arms Deal'. Label-mate Shannen SP joins for 'Bunker', a downbeat tale of 1992's Halloween Massacre in Luanda.

Guerrilla is messy, without mercy and still hypnotic. Its messaging is delivered via relentless sonic attacks befitting of the topic. 'Fim-92 Stinger' teases with a club-like beat, and 'Mother' offers a fractured but warm ambience with various vocal samples. Both of these are still rooted in immense aggression and hardship. They're countered by ominous wastelands of synth attacks and percussive drone on the likes of 'Immortal'.

For his generation, direct experiences of combat are generally mediated through older family members, though the trauma still persists with no quick fix. Decades later these experiences are buried in the nation's consciousness while it continues to suffer endemic inequalities. With an atmosphere of necessity, Nazar crafts a brutal but reflective story meditating on how to possibly move forward.

While much experimental electronic music comes across as novelty, this is anything but. It's sonically and conceptually challenging for all the right reasons.

Out now on Hyperdub.

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