One of Kombuis's bigger strengths on this album is his good taste in collaborators. Equilibrium features spot-on studio session work by the members of SA's stalwart instrumental outfit Benguela - Ross Campbell, Alex Bozas and Brydon Bolton.
Koos Kombuis's often rough, humorous style has won him adoring fans and made him cool to know. But his songs can be a bit tiring on repeat listening. Benguela's music is often accused of being so intricate, exacting and clever that it's almost featureless to the untaught listener - music for musos, by musos.
But producer Albert Du Plessis immaculately fuses Koos's guitar and vocals contribution with the Benguela backing. In the final mix, they sound as if they were always meant to be together, although they were recorded completely separately. The combination yields an album fresh but nostalgic, which hasn't dated since its release in 2002.
Equilibrium draws together threads of Afrikaans alternative culture as well as exploring broader issues. It opens with "Picasso se Song" a moving, patriotic collaboration between Koos and a 16 year old girl Annelize Olivier, whose poems he found through the Internet. "Kerke Van Die Nag" is a Bitterkomix poem to music.
Reflecting some of the pessimism of its time (it was released in 2002), songs like "African Skyline" and "Equilibrium met Lithium" are intersections of personal and political despondency, occasionally spiced with Koos's bitter wit.
The English song on the album - which Koos says he finished off with the help of David Kramer and Taliep Pieterson - is a pleasant surprise. "Wrapped Around the Moon" muses on Koos's relationship to his father. It's hard to say whether it'll help him reach a broader market - his South African English fans probably speak Afrikaans more than well enough not to care.
Equilibrium has moments of brilliance - it's probably the best Koos Kombuis listen since his masterpiece, Niemansland. There's also room to criticise some decisions, like the inclusion of the "Lalie Dub Remix". It's probably meant to be charming, but the limp sexual humour kills its charms. Then again, what do I know? The album notes say this incredibly annoying song is a favourite with his audience.
Overall, for all its debateable flaws, Equilibrium is an essential, slick South African album full of beautiful, meaningful music.
- Jean Barker
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