Jenifa Mayanja, Close Encounters

[Bu-Mako Recordings]

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Jenifa Mayanja, wife of Underground Quality impresario DJ Jus Ed and veteran DJ in her own right, has released house singles and “mix albums” over the last couple of years almost exclusively on her own Bu-Mako label. While buoyant and imbued with energy, much of her self-released output has owed far too big a debt to New Age for me to really get behind; the rawness that has made so much recent New York house such an invigorating listen has been lost on her 12″s behind an impenetrable wall of incense smoke. So what a pleasant surprise “Close Encounters” — Bu-Mako’s twelfth release — is, both for anyone who would rather sweat while dancing than taking a Bikram yoga class and for New York house as a whole. Bringing the musical influences of her native Uganda to chunky, rhythmically adventurous deep house without drifting too far into the Putumayo preciousness that gives “world music” a bad name, Mayanja has cut a record that would fit almost as snugly in a golden-era Cadenza sleeve as the unadorned paper cover preferred by New York’s loft party underground.

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The EP’s titular A-side pairs meandering, subtly morphing percussion with Mayanja’s sultry vocals and smooth atmospheric flourishes. B1 “Crying Game” follows a similar formula, albeit with a languidness that takes Mayanja a bit farther outside the club than I’d like her to be. It’s the B2, “Bearings,” that lifts this 12″ into the essential zone. Rolling, uncentered percussion and organs distorted into murkiness give the track the stoned quality of the best DJ Qu material. But when a clean acoustic guitar (an element in dance music that, for me at least, hardly ever works) penetrate the dusty groove, an almost Villalobosian moment is born: the added softness of organic tones somehow renders Mayanja’s machines that much more jackin’. It’s one of my favorite and most surprising moments on a dance record this year; coupled with that soaring remix of Nina Kraviz’s “Voices” used to such great effect on Tama Sumo’s Panorama Bar 02 mix, it makes me as excited for Jenifa Mayanja as I am for anyone in the UQ clique. “New Age” be damned — I’ll take this spirit journey any day.

Joe H  on December 1, 2009 at 8:30 AM

Quality EP. I’m really enjoying Jenifa Mayanja’s house sound.Her remix on Nina Kraviz’s “Voices” project is top drawer too.


Tweets that mention Jenifa Mayanja, Close Encounters – Little White Earbuds --  on December 1, 2009 at 10:40 AM

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Benjamin Semtek, Little White Earbuds. Little White Earbuds said: Jordan Rothlein on Jenifa Mayanja's Close Encounters "'New Age' be damned — I’ll take this spirit journey any day." […]

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