South Africa’s beloved house maestro proves he’s in as fine form as ever with his second full length album.
It’s been just over 3 years since Jullian Gomes dropped his debut album Late Dreamer. The release came over a decade into his career, which has been characterized by a consistent push towards craft but also an uncompromising love for the culture of South African dance music. The album dropped to huge critical and commercial success, a moment defining representation of the tastes of local deep house fans and the result of a patient approach to cultivating an integrity driven career. His next full length project would come late last year in Big Bad Crazy, which was co-produced with long-time mentor and friend Atjazz. This again dropped to commercial and critical success, with several of the tracks helping to soundtrack floors across the country last summer. It’s within this context that he recently announced, and subsequently delivered, his sophomore album Slow Poison.
The release’s 8 song tracklisting and it’s features are your first hint at a defining element of the album: focused, yet diverse. At this stage of his career it would have been too easy to repackage what worked about his debut with slightly updated sonics, and call it a day. Instead he chooses to showcase how wide his palette really is. Where Late Dreamer might have tried to tell you who Jullian Gomes is, Slow Poison tells you that he’s only scratched the surface.
“I remember thinking the deep house experts are going to hate me for this one“
Intro track Darkness features a beautiful spoken word contribution from Samantha Thornhill over a dreamy instrumental. Opening lines “I am that candle in your cavity, burning at both ends,” help explain the meaning behind the title. “Everyone, no matter what front they put up, is dealing with their own slow poison. Whether that’s fear, anxiety, or depression, I wrote this album to tell them that it’s okay and they’re not alone,” he explains.
This is followed up with 7 full tracks, each of which refuse to be limited by the former. There are deeper tones like the Martin Iveson assisted Temple of Snakes, afro inspired directions like Stay and dancefloor mayhem in the FKA Mash collaboration Ghetto Ballerina. Vocal assists come courtesy of local favourites Tahir Jones, Ree Morris and Zaki Ibrahim, plus an unexpected appearance from the UK’s Jinadu. The biggest curve ball in the record is the closing track, Original, which was produced alongside LA beatmaker B Bravo. Far from being your typical house record, the tune is a funk drenched number that drives home the evolution of Gomes’ sound. “I remember thinking the deep house experts are going to hate me for this one,” he laughs.
“In a couple hundred years none of us are going to be around anyway, so say what you want while you can”
Collaborating with the new wave of producers is something that Jullian takes pride in, and he honours being able to provide assistance he wished he had had in his earlier years. “I look at Mash and I see so much of me in him. When I was coming up the game was different, you had to approach people in the club and they’d often forget you or forget your CD in the booth. Lots of doors seemed closed then, and even though Mash is paving his own way I’m grateful to be able to give him more of a platform”
The material for the album was written almost entirely post Big Bad Crazy, a period where he explains the music was flowing naturally. “I wanted to write solo material again, but I also missed that deep, vocal and soulful sound which I wasn’t seeing being represented anymore.” You might think a cast of this quality would be difficult to assemble but the creative enabler of technology meant the album was put together entirely on the internet, without one collaborative studio session needed. “It’s actually crazy that it happened that way,” he muses, “because it’s so much more difficult when you can’t be in the same space and feel each other’s energy.”
One of the biggest hurdles any artist will ever face is the sophomore curse. Faced with the possibility of not being able to follow up their successful debut, the pressure can often box in their creativity and push them towards playing it safe. This is something Jullian is happy to not only have survived, but defied. The key? Standing tall in the face of expectations: “The most important thing is to be brave. Don’t pay attention to the pretence and the analytics. Be brave in your music, in your writing, in your photography, your fashion. In a couple hundred years none of us are going to be around anyway, so say what you want while you can.”
Slow Poison – Buy / Stream