Immersed in this concrete landscape, Space Afrika's music exudes a haunting quality befitting a ride on a night bus or dead-silent winter walk. Earlier releases, such as Above The Concrete/Below The Concrete (2014) and Somewhere Decent To Live (2018), played on this industrial life in northern England through sparse, electronic abstractions, though it’s their latest full-length release, Honest Labour (2021), that has seen their sound more fully fleshed out.
A cursory listen may still invite the term ‘minimal’, but sit with the tracks a little longer or engage a little deeper, and a greater depth and intimacy can be revealed. Tracks are furnished with samples and heavy instrumentation that are then met with the cold embrace of distortion and delay. There’s a coexistence of various genres in their slow-stepping sounds, largely taking elements of dub and Detroit techno to more ambient and spacious terrain, before applying further whispers of sonics from hip-hop, garage and even the orchestral world (as with the profoundly emotive cello on B£E). It’s music that defies much textual explanation, instead evoking a mood, and exemplifies what their friend and fellow Mancunian artist Rainy Miller has said previously: the idea of genres isn’t so important in today’s world – and it certainly matters less still for artists like Space Afrika.
Uplifting those around them, the album brings to light others in the burgeoning and immensely communal underground scene of Manchester – like the polymath Blackhaine on aforementioned track B£E – which also boasts the likes of Aya and Iceboy Violet. They’ve further expanded their world-making beyond the strictly musical arena, collaborating with photographer, filmmaker, and poet Tibyan Mahawah Sanoh for the short film Untitled (To Describe You) (2020). With a Warp Publishing deal freshly announced, and an album with Rainy Miller on the horizon, the space for further expansion is seemingly unimpeded.
This interview was conducted through back-and-forth messages prior to the world premiere of the duo’s collaboration with Caterina Barbieri at Berlin Atonal, with the festival continuing with its second weekend between 15 and 17th of September. We spoke with Space Afrika about the purpose of live shows like this, as well as the relationship between their artistic intentions and audience response, plus what underpins their ever-broadening practice.