Rian Treanor & Ocen James // Saccades
(Nyege Nyege Tapes)

Drawing on hypermobile electronics and frenzied Acholi fiddle, Rian Treanor and Ocen James deliver an album for Nyege Nyege celebrating the power of cross-cultural collaboration.

As Nyege Nyege’s impact continues to grow in connecting forward-leaning African electronic music with scenes elsewhere, this is exactly the kind of project we want to hear. Rian Treanor’s sound is rooted in hyper-detailed, wholly synthetic sequencing, where cultural cues like footwork and techno become vague outlines for his computer to run amok in. The results are consistently new and enlightening, and as such don’t come weighed with much baggage when taking them elsewhere. As such, he was a perfect choice to be invited to Kampala in 2018 for a residency with Nyege Nyege – an experience which inspired his File Under UK Metaplasm album but now more literally manifests in this collaborative LP with Ocen James. 

James is a shining example of the vitality within the Nyege Nyege community, pioneering an electrified version of traditional Acholi ceremonial music dubbed Acholitronix. In this approach he fuses fiddle  playing with electronic rhythms and call and response vocals, commonly with high tempos and polyrhythms driving everything forwards. As such, Saccades has plenty of ripping moments of hi-octane sound as Treanor’s custom software pings around metallic percussion to match the kinesis of James’ playing, but it’s not a one-dimensional rush of fast and furious fusion. 

Just listen to ‘The Dead Centre’, where James’ fiddle twirls in cyclical but decidedly melodic fashion around gong-like drone swells, or ‘Memory Pressure’s unsettled merging of plucked string impulses and microtonal murmurations underneath. There’s a lot of ground covered, and at every turn it feels thrilling and fresh. ‘Agoya’ is an undoubted highlight, where all the pieces meld together in a thoroughly balanced whole, with a discernible groove to lock onto and some of the most arresting playing from James as the pair find a melodic synergy. In an album bursting with rich moments, it’s a particularly wealthy exercise in the best kind of cross-cultural collaboration – one which you can read more about here on Treanor’s site.