Where do London and South Africa influences in LV's music begin and end? It's hard to distinguish the line between the input from the trio's hometown and that from the African country. For the fans of English underground electronic music, LV's music has an important exotic counterpoint that makes it unique and different from the rest of the music coming from the British capital. For the fans of ethnic sounds, LV bring the perfect dose of urban and familiar sounds that make world music not more enjoyable, but easier to digest. It works like Gavilast before eating a meaty Botillo. The Botillo tastes equally good, and you're less worried about how on earth you're going to digest all those pork intestines while you're chewing. It seems obvious that there are influences from both sides; “Sebenza” (Zulu for “work”) features three South African agents: the Ruffest duo, Spoek Mathambo, and Okmalumkoolkat. However, while the fourteen tracks of the album go by, the references to either geographical points come and go, sometimes obvious, sometimes disguised. By the time you reach the end of the album, it no longer makes sense to ask about where what comes from. This is the 21st century, my friend, and projects like LV (or Buraka Som Sistema, or the upcoming Mala album) are some of the great things about globalisation.
“Sebenza” starts with the title track. A kuduro-like rhythm, frantic and galloping, mixes with the words of Okmalumkoolkat, who combines his South African accent with the Zulu language. The first impression inevitably takes you to the ghettos of Johannesburg. But that fades with the second track, “Animal Prints” is old school garage and British dance floor sounds, and it's also the brightest song on the record, even almost out of tune with the rest. It's on the third song, “DL”, when the two worlds come together perfectly. Okmalumkoolkat and the sparing quality of the composition - the priority of the percussion - converge with the Hyperdub way of doing things; with those analogue synths and those dry snares Kode9 and Scratcha DVA like so much. Nothing new from LV and Okmalumkoolkat; it's the same modus operandi they used on 2010 banger “Boomslang”.
At this point, the record starts to bubble, to become denser and to take shape, combining moments of impasse, where the MC is more important than the music ( “Limb”, “Hustla”, “Spitting Cobra” and “Safe And Sound”), with highlights when the trio do a great job of achieving a homogenous sound. “Zulu Compurar” is one of them, a teasing, Anglo-Boer dembow tune, while on “Nothing Like Us”, hip-hop and a kind of dark 2step come together as one. “Thatha Lo” has tribal speeds and western crescendos. The textures and resources are the same any London producer uses; the way they use them, however, are reminiscent of the electronic productions coming from Africa over the past decade (remember Mujava? Whatever happened to him?). Something similar happens with “Primus Stove”, a scorching hot slice of Lagos brothel retro funk, music for the pool bars where the new oil barons let it all hang out. And with half-step lullaby “Work”, on which Spoek Mathambo's voice sounds like another track.
There are countless moments on this album when I really feel like hearing it played live. In my humble opinion, if a record manages to convince you to pull out your wallet to get tickets for the live show, it's done a good job. But I can't help but wonder: if LV's first album was with Joshua Idehen, and their second with three South African MCs, not to mention all the collaborations on their EPs, what are they going to do when they have no-one to work with? Maybe the next step in the trio's evolution is to face the absence of outsider input, and show the world what they sound like without any guest vocalists, for the first time in 12 years.