Opinion Review

Riaan Nieuwenhuis: Collaborator


Blues instrumentalist Riaan Nieuwenhuis is no stranger to the South African music scene, having formed part of groups such as Delta Blue, AGES, AMAfist and even an Afrikaans hip-hop group called Piet Potent. “Collaborator” is Nieuwenhuis’ third studio album, and fans of hard rock, grunge, blues and even metal are sure to find a track to suit their music needs on this release.

The album opens with ‘Coordinates’, a bluesy track that is essential for any road trips taken in red Mustangs. The track is heavy, yet soothing, showing off Nieuwenhuis’ mastery of the guitar. The organ accompaniment on the track fuels its blues atmosphere even more, and this serves as the perfect backdrop to the song’s languid guitar solos.

A change in atmosphere comes about on the track ‘Deep Dust’. The track’s guitar accompaniment is much heavier and is reminiscent of the golden age of rock ‘n roll – the track is bound to evoke scenes from Almost Famous and images of rock greats like Led Zeppelin. It’s coupled with a promo video that features some daring manoeuvres by sky-divers and one manoeuvre that is done by Nieuwenhuis himself.

‘Burnside’ is a confident, almost swaggering track that calls up images of smoky bars and Harley Davidsons. The track’s whining harmonica solo almost makes you forget the lack of a vocalist – for music this emotive and powerful, vocals are unnecessary, as the melodies manage to stand strong on their own.

The track ‘Reflection’ changes the pace and ambience of the album with its relaxed, blues-infused solo, before gaining speed and becoming a track that seamlessly amalgamates blues and hard rock in order to make a song that constantly varies and keeps you on your toes.

Tracks like ‘Discourse’, ‘Fate’ and ‘Justice’ invoke a sound that Nieuwenhuis calls “desert rock”, a sound which is also brought to life on the track ‘Solitude’, which is the album’s closing track. Its intro incorporates the moaning harmonica once more, which will make listeners see a lone stranger on a horse with no name in their mind’s eye.

Making instrumental music can be a risky move, but it is undoubtedly Riaan Nieuwenhuis’ forte and overall, “Collaborator” is a collection of emotive, haunting tracks that will force you to focus on its musical mastery rather than lyrics that might not do these soulful melodies justice.

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Listen to “Collaborator” below on Deezer.