The leading figures of the South African counter-culture movement known as zef, gruesome twosome Ninja and Yolandi Visser, aka Die Antwoord, are just as renowned for their controversial promos as they are their chaotic hybrid of hip-hop, electro and rave. Accompanied by a video which features a Pitbull lookalike getting torn to shreds by a man wearing a grotesque pitbull terrier mask, “Pitbull Terrier,” the second single from third album, Donker Mag, proves that the duo remain as outrageous as ever.
But even without the nightmarish visuals, the follow-up to 2012’s Ten$Ion is still an overwhelmingly provocative affair. Perfectly setting the menacing tone ahead, spoken word opener “Don’t F*** Me” is little more than an expletive-led threat towards the band’s manager. “Cookie Thumper” is the tale of a school girl’s crush on a convicted drug dealer which sounds like Alvin & The Chipmunks covering M.I.A. Meanwhile, “Raging Zef” sees Ninja boast about his sexual prowess on a cartoonish early Eminem-esque number which even the Real Slim Shady himself might think was a bit much.
Donker Mag, therefore, isn’t for the faint-hearted, nor is it likely to silence the critics who argue that Die Antwoord rely far too heavily on shock tactics. (We even made the editorial decision not to display the borderline-NSFW album cover.) But amidst all the deliberate attempts to offend, there are several moments which show that the Cape Town pair deserve to attract attention for their weird and occasionally wonderful sound.
“Strunk,” a portmanteaux of stoner and drunk, is a suitably hazy mid-90s R&B jam which could almost be described as conventional were it not for Visser’s creepy ‘baby doll come to life’ tones. A meditation on how the people around the group have changed since viral hit “Enter The Ninja” thrust them into the spotlight, “Rat Trap 666” is a haunting blend of acidic bass, ghostly synths and 808 beats. And the closing title track sees Ninja eschew his signature abrasive MC skills in favour of tuneful soul-searching on a cinematic slice of post-rock which could almost be mistaken for Sigur Ros.
An exhausting freakshow of a record which impressively sounds like nothing else out there, Donker Mag once again confirms that Die Antwoord’s unique brand of madness can be thrilling and irritating in equal measure.