Download : Get Valiant Swart's new single "Lekker Zef", plus other MP3s, and a podcast interviewHorisontaal (the album) doesn't have the purity of purpose of Deur Die Donker Vallei (1999). Valiant draws together many different musical threads of varying strengths to make it, and this makes for a choppier musical journey.But Valiant keeps conquering fertile new territory, too, and the bumps in the road are worth it. Another album just like Maanhare (where double entendres like the title track's refrain and "Sy dra teveel eyeshadow" were his signature) or another pure road album like Deur Die Donker Vallei wouldn't have been as exciting
With "Vaalhoed se Baas", Valiant records a traditional song, while "Janfiskaal" plays with traditional Afrikaans sokkie rock that Valiant has so finessed - it's a good live track.. "Oppisolo" sounds oddly bland - like someone imitating Valiant, but lacking the strange detail of touch that make his best and simplest songs so arresting.
Horisontaal's mission seems a self-conscious one, with songs to acknowledge his musical origins ("Vaalhoed se Baas"), songs about the perils of the Rock lifestyle ("Horisontaal"), and songs about his love for his wife ("Duisende Maande"). Valiant's 13-year-old son (a future accountant, or comedian?) apparently said "Ja, Pa, 'n rand 'n traan" when this touching ballad was played on radio.Two tracks stand out from the rest, though. "Tussen die Lyne" delivers Valiant Swart sublimity, contrasting unease and security, trust and uncertainty. "Lekker Zef" takes self-awareness to a pop pinnacle with its satire of his media interviews. It's funny, it's catchy, it's rapped not sung, and everyone's going to be clapping their hands with one common thought running through their heads: This song isn't about me ... is it? Brilliant.
Unfussy but Fine is the motto of Valiant's production style, applied again here. And though Albert Frost (Maanhare) and Anton L'Amour's guitars (Donker Vallei) are absent and much missed, Valiant has, as always, an impressive list of familiar collaborators warming up the mix - and usually on tour with him too. Simon Orange, Barry Steenkamp, and Adriaan Brand are just a few of the familiar names fans will recognise from his old sleeve notes.
The CD also features the video for "Horisontaal", set mainly in the old Horison Hotel* (like Morrison Hotel?)
Horisontaal is an unusual self portrait of a rock star persona meeting with the real world. The album (dedicated to his late father) has got it all - humour, trane, sing along songs and a real feel for history.
Valiant has a knack for reminding us South Africans how South African we really are. The experience of life between the road and the longed for home may be universal in the music business, but the roots of the arrangements and some of Valiants lyrics couldn't be easily translated. Like these from "Horisontaal": "'n slangolie glimlag / 'n graf in die Traansvaal / wie kom jou haal / horisontaal" Full of secrets and romantic dispair: Whose grave is it? A musician's? Just one he saw through a window? Or one of those Southern Crosses that line the curbs of our national roads after the Easter holidays, maybe?
Now that's poetry.
- Jean Barker
* "Horison Hotel" is also the title of a song off 2002's Maanhare.
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