Album in Focus: The Ascension EP By The Ascension (Charisse C & Koek Sista)

Once upon a time simply referred to as South African House (due to the country's dominance in churning out music in the genre), Afro-House has become a culture and a movement. Not only across the continent but globally, and with no sign of peaking yet. 

Riding on the wave of sprouting subgenres and a new generation of DJs that are not only gifted on the decks but in production too, Afro-House has crossed over to influence almost all other genres that are closely inclined.

Titled as the 4th revolution of the House genre, Afro House is the sound the now and propelled by a foundation of collaboration there's no telling how far it will go. This brings me to The Ascension. The London-based duo of Charisse C and Koek Sista, and their 5-track EP share the same as them. 

The Ascension EP By The Ascension
Charisse C & Koek Sista
Image: Twitter/CharisseC

Based in London but hailing from Zimbabwe and South Africa respectively, the duo has a certain ethereal sonic landscape to their music. This sound is born out of fusing Amapiano, Gqom, Tribal & Progressive House elements, alongside African Dance Music. All this serves to make The Ascension standout and it positions their debut project a bit outside the box. The duo was even honoured by being on the cover of Spotify's Afro House Pulse playlist on their EP's release.

The Ascension EP By The Ascension
Koek Sista & Charisse C
Image: Twitter/CharisseC

The two reportedly connected via social media through a now mutual friend, DJ DBN GOGO. Bonding over a shared passion for Southern African electronic music and the desire to push it beyond its current boundaries, Charisse C and Koek Sista soon became fast friends.

They announced their arrival as The Ascension earlier this year with their debut single Khulula. A mantra of freedom for the soul. The soothing Amapiano track has production by Sfarzo Rtee, with Koek Sista as the lead vocalist, accompanied but the addition of harmonious contributions from Charisse C, Makhanj, S.O.N, and Reed. 

The log drum is utilized just enough and the beat transitions perfectly cascade into each other, which gives that pleasant on the ear. Added to this is how the instrumental and vocals have a certain equilibrium, that allows both to shine through.

It [Khulula] beckons the listener to determine what kind of freedom they're in search of, undeniably a spiritual piece of music with just the right amount of isigubhu (bass drum) to keep every groovist on their feet. - The Ascension 

Kushuvira, a song titled after the Shona word for strongly wishing for something, brings the sound of Mbira to the fore. It is filtered with the sound of percussion and harmonious vocals that have a deep yearning. It makes you feel like you've found yourself in the middle of a seance. Renowned mbira artist SEKURU and Zimbabwe-born duo MVM lend a helping hand, to create a song I can only define as transformative art.

The Portal is in itself a gateway to another realm through the soundscape of music. It has a techy feel to it, accompanied by a pulsating bass and distorted vocals. The song is wordless yet I could feel it speak to me. I Said What I Said has what I can only call an insistent rhythm. Adorned with crescendos and beat drops that captivate, it is African Dance Music at heart. Although it felt like something was missing from it.

4EVA sees The Ascension collaborate with PYY Log Drum King, and what they create is a small slice of magic. There's a gentler nature to 4EVA when juxtaposed to Khulula. It could be described as mellow for how you feel it sink into. The Ascension puts on a display of all the different elements of Afro House on this EP. Its experimental nature sacrifices cohesiveness but it's not all bad.

As a first foot forward, The Ascension EP achieves everything it needs to do. It is striking, varied and definitely brave in the soundscape it puts forward. There are however a few missteps, the key among them being how the tracks don't really flow one into another. However it is certainly a memorable project, and it presents great potential from a duo that refuses to boxed in.

Greedysouth rating: 6.7/10

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