Opinion Review

Saxit: Systeme Diabolique

Saxit’s second album sees the saxophone quartet dramatically expanding their horizons. Aside from their signature approach to recording things as raw as possible, these 11 tracks feature not only vocalists and guest players but also poets, actors and a narrator. These additions make it an album where anything goes provided that the subject matter is compelling enough.

The first two tracks will give you a familiar impression of Saxit. The quartet is self-contained, relying only on each other for provisions of rhythm, harmony or melody. Songs range from upbeat to melancholy but always with a sense of respect for their instruments and for jazz as an art form.  It’s from ‘Burning Messiah’ that first shows some of their new strategy for this album. A poet elaborates on some deeply sensitive social issues, referencing Robert Sobukwe, leaving homes for matchboxes and poverty. It’s a powerful piece that mixes moody music with uncomfortable truths that pertain to South Africans directly.

From there the album continues to throw surprises your way. For example, ‘Rise’ features a poem by a woman addressing other strong women and recognizing the hardships they have endured. The quartet themselves add a bustling and restless theme throughout the speech and diverts to a slightly happier tangent, carving out a narrative that creates whimsical hope. And then, the format repeats itself.

Perhaps most obscure is ‘Max And Lily’ which features narration as well as actors that allow an entire scene to play out between the to protagonists. The saxophones only show up here to add stabs and swells to emphasize moments of importance. The scene in question is between an apologetic Lily and seemingly wounded Max. As the song progresses the complexities of their relationship unfold and there’s a suitable twist for an ending.

And later in the album ‘Tiny Little Bird’ appears with the leanings of a sweet lullaby. While more conventional in form than some of the other songs on “Systeme Diabolique” it perfectly captures a moment of sentimentality, aided greatly by the musicianship of all involved. It also sits on the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of what the band is capable of- a wide spectrum indeed.

These are just a few of the compelling pieces on Saxit’s latest album. It’s a powerful collection of ideas allows them to express their creativity with the help of like-minded artists from other disciplines. But even more importantly, they sometimes use the opportunity to address some of society’s most pressing issues. It’s a brave, compelling journey that they offer.

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Listen to “Systeme Diabolique” below.