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Music review: Amid the frenzy, Die Antwoord’s ‘Ten$ion’ has a few jewels


Yo-Landi Visser, the singer of the South African band Die Antwoord and Ninja (L) (born Watkin Tudor Jones) perform in Johannesburg on March 12, 2011. (ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images/ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images)

South African rap-rave outfit Die Antwoord got noticed in what has become the usual way, with a viral video that led to a major-label deal and a corresponding amount of blogosphere buzz.

The deal fizzled, the blogosphere moved on, and Die Antwoord, a Cape Town-based trio made up of a DJ, a female singer and a energetically nutty frontman, must now use their second official disc, “Ten$ion,” to address a nagging question: Are they a serious-ish post-post-modern party band, or LMFAO for hipsters?

A little bit of both, as it turns out. “Ten$ion” is an all-encompassing party album that’s better than it needs to be, but not as good as it thinks it is. It doesn’t explore different dance subgenres so much as roll over them in a tank and glitter bomb the ruins. “Ten$ion” is an aural eyesore of Euro-pop, beatboxes, Afro-pop, rave and hit-or-miss skits.

Even the simplest songs are hopelessly complex, with two vocalists (high-voiced, childlike Yo-Landi Vi$$er, who sings, and the group’s supremely confident frontman Ninja, born Watkin Tudor Jones, who raps) performing in two languages, English and the South African language of Afrikaans.

For all its frenetic over-busyness, “Ten$ion” is peppered with great moments, like the primal, percussive “Fatty Boom Boom” (“Taking over America / Blowing up everything,” they enthuse, a trifle optimistically), the trance-y “I Fink U Freeky,” featuring one of Ninja’s trademark halting raps (He loves. Unlikely. Pauses.) or the techno explosion “Baby’s on Fire,” with lyrics so dirty we can’t even quote them in Afrikaans.

— Allison Stewart

Die Antwoord
TEN$ION
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