Okzharp and Manthe Ribane Promise a Sonically-jeweled Future on the Masterpiece 'Closer Apart'

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

Producer Okzharp and performance artist Manthe Ribane have produced one of the best electronic albums of the year with Closer Apart.

Closer Apart
Okzharp and Manthe Ribane


6 July 2018

There's a yin-and-yang quality to the way Okzharp and Manthe Ribane put together a work of art. Producer Okzharp, raised between Cape Town and London as Gervase Gordon, gravitates toward sparse, lowdown structure as the foundation of each track of the duo's collaboration Closer Apart. Johannesburg-based performance artist and singer Ribane, whose extraordinary path has led her to dance for Nelson Mandela and Die Antwoord tours alike, brings a light and melodic sense that binds together the whole composition, growing organically through Okzharp's mechanical wonderland. More than a matter of balance, though, Closer Apart is a show of complementary styles reaching out to each other from across an impossibly wide circle of musical possibilities and joining hands to climb higher.

Cosmic bliss and modern reality start out the album as track "W U @" cuts languid, echoing vocals with synth resonance and a distorted ringtone sample. Easy beats hit halfway through, adding a sense of action to thick atmosphere. Throughout the album, the percussion tends toward woodsy or thin and metallic to brighten slower, softer songs like "Why U In My Way" and "Blue Tigers". Ribane works in tandem with the soundscape, and the soundscape, in turn, follows Ribane; she climbs on the beats with poise, in perfect form whether to support or in being supported. Sometimes there are conspicuous Auto-Tune tweaks her voice to better blend with the more unnatural aspects of Okzharp's musical creations; at other points, Ribane is in full control of her pitch, and, as when she raps on "Never Say Never", the production parts to let her stride through it.

Versatility reigns on Closer Apart; the duo incorporates dancehall as easily as dream pop. "Dun" brings quirky trap beats into play; "Never Thought" moves like heated jazz. Hard-edged "Zagga" features Ribane juxtaposing cold lists materialistic buzzwords -- cash, money, Ferrari, Lamborghini, dollars, rands -- beside a much more existential recitation: seconds, minutes, hours, days. Later, ocean sounds swirl around an ode to both the dangers of climate change and the potentialities of the human collective on "Tide": "Rising, rising / We always rising," Ribane concludes, a hauntingly ambiguous line in the double context of seas and spirits. In both cases and throughout the LP, Okzharp and Ribane look at the big picture, the small picture, and the links between the two -- finding harmony in the inevitable tensions.

It's Okzharp's and Ribane's mutual affinity for working together that allows them to face emptiness and build their worlds with such a fearless sense of musical exploration and innovation. Perhaps the most perfect pas de deux is to be found on "Kubona", where a twinkling instrumental introduction leads into Ribane's sparkling verses, all elements wound together in serenity, gliding forward on the smooth strength of both halves of the project. Ribane's chorus here is a statement of empowerment: "I'm precious / I'm timeless / I'm endless / I'm priceless."

Ribane hits more notes of sincere positivity as her processed voice sways through melancholy "Time Machine" with the blissful delicacy of a lullaby ("Open your eyes / And your mind / And stay steady"). The long closing track "Treasure Erasure" serves as a tribute to the time spent, both close and apart, as a partnership. "Don't forget / Don't forget to remember / The times we shared / They will always be my treasure," ends the album.

The sentiments are utterly appropriate. Closer Apart is nothing if not gem after gem, an electronic masterpiece that proves that distance is no obstacle for such compatible senses of artistry. Each moment here is, though often minimally produced, fully realized. Together, Okzharp and Manthe Ribane are somehow even greater than the sum of their parts, and what they have made here promises a sonically-jeweled future.





The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.


90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.


Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

‘The Avengers’ Offer a Lesson for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.


Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.


Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.


First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?


HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.


Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.


How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.


Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.