One of South Africa’s most prolific producers returns with the follow-up album to 2020’s deadly ‘Rogue’ on the Stay True Sounds label, which recently celebrated a century of releases. Over those 100-plus issues, the imprint has ushered in new shapes of Mzansi deep house (and other genres) unconcerned with newfangled fads, letting the good grooves do the talking.

And in Jazzuelle, they have the scene’s staunchest proponent, and one who’s seen his star soar in the last half-decade. With releases on the UK’s Atjazz Record Company, Germany’s Get Physical, Maeve and Foliage, and countless others, he’s at the gleaming edge of the SA dance market, with a Traxsource entry now spanning over twenty pages.

‘Muse’ is comprised of thirteen mostly collaborative cuts, but its overall vision is remarkably coherent, and the choice of partners is unique. They range from well-known deepsters like Atjazz and Aquatone (Da Capo’s deep house alias), but they’re mainly comprised of local up-and-comers like Jas Artchild and Hypaphonik.

Following a jazzy intro, ‘Muse’ kicks into gear with its title track, a collab with Knysna’s Tee Maestro, who’s been bubbling under for a bit. It sets the tone for the record – a chugging backbone with neat percussive twists, dazzling electronic details and a downright delirious bassline. Over its length it accumulates a mass of details, but its momentum remains undiminished.

Jazzuelle worked with Jas Artchild on his previous album, and since then the young music-maker’s profile has exploded. On ‘Poetic Justice’, the duo concocts an altogether dreamier cut swimming in warm chords – and with the occasional surprise, stuttering beat. Meanwhile, ‘Raging Darkness’ with Hypaphonik does what it says on the tin. The Eastern Cape-born producer has amassed a decent discography, but with this moody technoid track (and a new EP on Stay True Sounds) he can expect a bump in approval.

Aquatone aka Da Capo recently released a superb single featuring the voice of Jega, and his contribution here is equally impressive – ‘Nomadic Splendour’ has wisps of sweet vocal, lush pads and heavenly-bound, jazzy electronic shards.

The first version of ‘Hashashin’, his collaboration with Atjazz, follows, and the ‘Astro Darkside Dub’ version finds the accomplished duo in imperious form. It’s a sprawling soundscape that’s impeccably produced, and across its murmurs, chants and ticks, a monster jazz jam punctuated by a deft bassline eventually emerges. The tune’s class is underlined by the ‘DEMO edit’ version – subtly stripped back and more floor-focussed, it reveals how seductively composed the song is.

The remaining entries are a playground for Jazzuelle and his local cohorts. ‘Liquid Mercury; with Cutoff and Zikhona sounds positively delicate for a house track, unfussed, propulsive and spacious, with ethereal vocals doing some light lifting. ‘Apollo’ with the North West’s Tebza de SouL touches on tech house territory: hands-in-the-air atmospherics counterweighed by a dark undertow.

Lejazz is another local name to look out for, and ‘Hidden Messengers’ is again appropriately titled. Snatches of emergency radio audio and various clicks and cuts swarm around its steady rhythm before the track really starts rolling with a mangled bass tone and sci-fi sirens. KwaZulu-Natal’s Msm.de94 closes out the collabs with ‘Alchemist’, a giddy but golden number that seems to make up its own rule book entirely.

Jazzuelle isn’t finished before dropping another two solo efforts. ‘Noir’ is mysterious and ambitious, nodding briefly to Afro-house before forging its own identity entirely. And ‘Muse’ closes the album out with another midtempo kick and dimly lit lower end before inviting in a vista of sunshiney sonics.

Apart from how consummate it sounds – the culmination of years of commitment and a willingness to cooperate with a range of fellow producers – it’s how understated ‘Muse’ comes across. There’s nothing brash here, just a willingness to trust in his unique dancefloor configurations. It’s a confidence that will stand Jazzuelle in good stead – and one that’ll have the heads locked in. 

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