‘Elektrik Ram’, the latest album from South Africa’s megalithic Ruff Majik, is the kind of audio palate cleanser that we all yearn for from time to time. Kicking the vibe back to a sepia-toned era where bell-bottoms and fuzzed-out bass were de rigueur, the ‘Majik lads take a well-known template and drench it with their unique attitude and stoner-esque sensibilities.
The horned infant known as Ruff Majik emerged from the primordial ooze when the band moved from the historical town of Lydenburg in 2012 to the capital city of Pretoria, where they honed their craft for a few years before finally entering the studio to record for the first time. Now, with a number of EP’s and two lauded albums under their belt, not to mention a megaton of local and international touring, they return with what might be their defining work in the shape of ‘Elektrik Ram’.
All the requisite ‘Majik trope boxes are ticked in thick, bold permanent marker – sludgy, distorted riffs, vast landscapes of sonic abandon, dark imagery that perfectly complements the delicious cacophony, and tasty sound bites that add infinite swathes of colour. This is what is expected from the band, their signature sound and one that never fails. But there’s a lot more going on here that shows an evolution of a band maturing and embracing their future with an eye firmly planted on the past.
The b-grade drive-in double-feature aesthetic is still where they are most comfortable, with a Cramps-like wallow in songs like the single, ‘She’s Still A Goth’. The song may start out with a White Zombie kick up the ass, but it lands up in a darker Ennio Morricone-meets-Type O Negative epic that comes straight out of left field. It’s both refreshing and brave, retro and modern, badass and kickass.
Elsewhere, there are true nods to goth royalty in the likes of ‘Mourning Wood’, blues-worthy jams such as ‘Queen Of The Gorgons’, quirky dirges and low-slung boogie with ‘Cement Brain’, and the hauntingly acoustic ‘Chemically Humanized’ that swings from Nick Drake to all-out rock ‘n roll stadium rock in scant minutes, and that’s all just the tip of the proverbial distorted iceberg. ‘Elektrik Ram’ is a thought-out, meticulously-crafted piece of work that, like the legendary classics from the golden era, works as a collected grouping of songs. Each brings a different shade and hue to the portrait, a necessary lift and drop that takes the listener on a goosebump journey through a psychedelic wonderland, and it just flat-out GROOVES.
Ruff Majik are Johni Holiday (vocals & guitar), Cowboy Bez (guitar & vocals), Jimmy Glass (bass), and Steven Bosman (drums), four horsemen of the feedback apocalypse who know what they want to say, and do it without apology.
Rock ‘n roll is dead – LONG LIVE RUFF MAJIK.