Gina Jeanz – Lucid Theory
Over the past few years, Namibian born DJ and producer Gina Jeanz has risen to prominence as one of the foremost female DJs on the South African circuit. Known for her blend of smooth house and Afro fused club beats, she has quickly become a mainstay on the lineups of club nights and festivals across Cape Town and Johannesburg. Having moved to South Africa over a decade ago, Jeanz’s experiences are informed by two distinct spaces of ‘home.’ And for her, music is a mode of expressing the reality of her lived experience. “When it comes to my own projects I use my personal stories as a foundation for the tracks I produce,” she shared in a recent Instagram post. “Music is an outlet that has always allowed me to “journal” and document my everyday life experiences.” But while she has blazed a path for herself on the South African underground scene with grooving sets that freely mix dembow, house, kwaito, and electro-R&B, the music on Lucid Theory, her debut album, is not so much dance as it is pop. The litany of guest artists on the album each feature in the role of pop vocalist and lyricist, with Jeanz’s production following suit and bending toward traditional pop song structures rather than club records.
The majority of Lucid Theory cruises at a languorous pace, steered by a laid back, dreamy approach. Sun Spot featuring Sio is a wistful electronic R&B ballad, tinged in shades of rose gold and ebbing waves of synth. Can’t Pretend is a slow-burning R&B love song which sees Moonga K give Jeanz his best John Legend impression but is upstaged by her kind of corny, kind of perfect inclusion of a scuzzy saxophone harmony. He’s better utilised on Dopamine, which finds itself amongst the tracks on Lucid Theory’s stronger back end where Jeanz’s stylistic influences are freely and joyously cavorted with. These influences are clear; she pulls from the languid pulse of lounge and microhouse, the crooning melodies of R&B, and adds to these textures from afrobeats and hip-hop. The result is a distinctive and characteristic blend of the parts that inform Jeanz’s sonic identity, tracing the arc of her nomadic experience between Namibia and Cape Town. On tracks like the retrofied After Hours, the synthesis of these influences is beguiling. Opening with a twinkling 80’s keyboard riff set against a pattering, tinny highlife rhythm, After Hours simmers over into a breathless synthpop midtempo ballad, led by the relentless pulse of a modular synth and vocals from Brad Knight. We Move meanwhile borrows from garage with stuttering breaks and a Overmono style helium dosed vocal loop, but in reality is a sunny soulful house cut that shimmers with waves of synth and brass accents. Jeanz also pulls from popular South African dance forms. Amagroove is paint-by-numbers amapiano, but displays her natural affinity for and inherent understanding of the style. The exhilarating and utterly inspired 100ml meshes motifs from kwaito and gqom with the bounce of Jersey Club. As the album’s closing statement, it feels like a club turning on the lights just as the party reaches its peak.
Most of the tracks clock in shy of four minutes, but we’re left to wonder if the streaming friendly runtime works in service of Jeanz’s ideas or against them. Tracks like 100ml in particular could use more room to expand on its genre fluidity. Lucid Theory is a quick but satisfying listen, establishing Jeanz as much of a formidable pop producer as she is a force behind the decks.
Listen to 100ml from Lucid Theory below. Download and stream the album from Ditto Music here.
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