When Honest Jon's released Shangaan Electro almost two years ago now, the jittery, high-tempo South African beats found a handy analogue with the emerging footwork craze, depositing this relatively obscure African music right into the bustling bass music dialogue. They've done the logical thing with Shangaan Shake and merged the music itself with techno, bass music, and of course, footwork, a two-disc compilation of their "Meets" twelve-inch series documenting the remix and re-interpretation efforts of producers worldwide with the Shangaan material. It's not your typical remix album, though, as the artists were encouraged to create new compositions with elements from the compilation rather than traditional remixes.
Let's be honest here: look at that tracklist, it's a techno nerd's wet dream. Shangaan Shake's first disc, in particular, feels like a triumph of curation, of interpretation, of intercultural dialogue, of pretty much everything. Beginning with Mark Ernestus' fantastic throbbing dub techno sewer snake, we launch through Oni Ayhun's ecstatic drum machine mayhem, MMM's bass-heavy rave-techno, Peverelist's... whatever (it's awesome), Rashad & Spinn's frenetic footwork... you get the idea. Shangaan Shake plays nearly as well as it reads, and each track's incorporation of some sort of Shangaan Electro element (there's a lot of shared samples here) keeps things from feeling too scattershot.
There's too many highlights to possibly do justice to this thing without just writing an essay, but some bear mentioning. Actress provides two tracks here: one is a short electro-tinged number that worships at a submerged Drexciyan altar, but the other sounds like a welcome leftover from Splazsh, a whimpering house beat drenched in weepy electronics, while Hype Williams construct one of their warbly humidifiers. Then they flip it and reverse it for another two minutes, of course. Demdike Stare build a shuddering shamanic jam that could have been on Tryptych, and did I mention that whatever Peverelist is doing here is awesome?
Like any kind of various artists remix collection like this—especially one with two discs—there are bound to be some missteps, but in light of everything else they're forgivable. The ever-unpredictable Theo Parrish's twelve-minute contribution comes out tinny and disposable, RP Boo's remix is a sticky mess and the Ricardo Villalobos & Max Loderbauer offering, while consummately detailed, lacks a certain vitality found in the rest of the disc. But thirteen out of sixteen is nothing to sneeze at.
Shangaan Shake initially looks like a remix album but comes out feeling like a showcase for the most experimental and adventurous techno of the last few years. Look past the format and take the content on its own terms. You won't find much of anything comparable. We should expect nothing less from Honest Jon's at this point.