Evan’s Top 10 ‘Alternative’ SA Releases For 2017

Since he’s now our official “Rock music guy”, Evan van Zyl decided to break down a few of his favourite “alternative” (whatever that means in 2017) South African releases of 2017 for his top 10. Here’s proof that “the scene” isn’t dead, yet.



Like a disgruntled mob of citizens, at the end of every year, we often find ourselves repeating phrases like ‘’The scene is dead’’ and ‘’It used to be better’’. It’s a trap that all of us fall in to from time to time, but thankfully we’re all wrong. Just because you don’t go to shows doesn’t mean that they aren’t happening and just because you don’t know about rad new alternative music, doesn’t mean there isn’t any. Here are my top 10 (in no particular order) alternative releases you missed because you were too busy complaining.


The Bad Ass Execs: Explore Me

This year we got to see BAE tackle songs with a bit more production behind them. Moving away from the sound of the original 2016 demos, we can experience the lo-fi rock in a way where we can play it louder and on more devices, without sacrificing BAE’s charm. Now a four-piece, this track sees a fuller sound with more members behind the layers. Just like an onion, no matter how many of these layers we peel back of new members and better production, it still tastes as good as James Hammerton and Bradley Donaldson wailing away by themselves in 2016.



Common Creatives: Apathy

Over the last two years, we’ve all been around for a weird adjustment period for Common Creatives. After a few line-up changes and some growing pains, we received this single over a year after their previous one, Space Kings. A number one TUKS track can be a bit of hype to live up to, but Apathy gave us not only a different kind of song but a different band. Most notably Colin Mansurik taking over vocal duties, we find ourselves with a whole different feeling to the band, with hints of their past hiding in the hooks of this release.


Read our interview with them about the track and their rebirth here.


All These Yesterdays: Suffer

Hard rock and I haven’t really gotten along over the years. All I can really compare this to is trying to listen to Breaking Benjamin in high-school. The only difference being I actually enjoyed this. Suffer stands out from other hard-rock for me by its ability to lend itself to other genres. Slight tinges of metal and punk blend into this release comfortably and instrumentation that strays from being down the line elevates it above other bands I have come across. Although not a genre you’ll usually find on my playlist, these guys sprung up seemingly out of nowhere this year and a whole community of Durbanites I never knew existed out in folds to support this release.



Hated Related: Joy Dealer

Released not too long after Caffeine Diet, Joy Dealer serves as somewhat of angry older relative to its predecessor. Being both dirtier and louder, it definitely stands out as the heaviest Hated Related release to date, especially when looking at the opening track. Yet these touches don’t come at the expense of the songwriting we’ve come to expect from frontman Barron Harley, as he still delivers his depressingly relatable take on life, relationships and everything in between.



Here’s our take on Caffeine Diet.


Ruff Majik: The Swan

2017 saw Ruff Majik put out 8 releases. I can try and make that sound colourful, but I feel like the statement alone is enough. As far as underground music concerned in South-Africa, I feel like we have to acknowledge that the number can border on prolific by our standards, especially when we take into account that all of these releases sound good, and are supported both locally and internationally. I take you back to 2016, when their EP, The Fox, was mentioned in Classic Rock magazine. Reaching local print media is impressive, but these guys were sharing a page with their international contemporaries. A year later and they’re putting out more music and it still kicks ass. I chose The Swan as their release of the year because, amongst all of them, I feel like this translates their live energy the best, which is to be expected on this tape mastered EP. It’s a wall of stoner doom in a sea of the 70s from start to finish. I can’t say any more other than just listen to it.



Pollinator: Fruit

There is nothing that I can say about Fruit that I haven’t already covered in my review. A lengthy, but diverse full-length, Fruit is capable of reeling in a multitude of listeners for various reasons. You just need to find yours.



Life Below: Grim Reality

Now, I’m not the kind of guy to get a chest script tattoo, but if I were, it would probably be a Life Below lyric and you’d probably find me flaunting it in the pit at any of their shows. Although I might not even be the most qualified person to talk about Hardcore in the Durban is Yours team, I feel that my ability to connect to this release stands as a testament to its accessibility. My first time seeing Life Below ended with frontman Mitch rolling around on the floor of the Winston Pub, amongst shards of broken glass and a whirlpool of people losing their minds around him. I was attracted to the chaos of the experience, and I was pleased to find out that their first release, I, translated the experience effectively. It’s two years later now and the chaos continues. Although not much of a stylistic departure from their previous works, you can find this release going just as hard, if not harder than their 2015 one, and definitely faster.



You can read our review of Grim Reality here.


Black Math: New album singles!

Following up the release of 2016’s Death, Existing & Other Joys of Life, we see a leap in quite a few aspects, aside from the general direction, it’s louder! And if there is anything we could probably agree on, it’s that Black Math could never be too loud. A definite jump in production quality is accompanied by the band venturing into polarised regions with each of these songs. Birth Create Dissipate offering us a mixture of what I can only attempt to describe as an afro-punk doom cluster of psych goodness. Whereas Greasy Pete finds the band venturing back to their roots in a garage rock track that they wear like an old sweater, without giving up their new influences or sound.



MOUSE: Three

After two years, MOUSE finally gave up the goods and I’d like to think it was worth the wait. Although the latest release is Red Saint, Three, released two months prior, consists of newer songs. This is why I chose Three as my favourite release because here we see the guys have gone through some self-discovery and come into a sound that is their own. Loud and dirty, the tracks aim to recreate a feeling you can only get from two amps about to blow up as frontman Damon Miles jumps off of them.



Runaway Nuns: Resistor / Crips 7″

I’m the last person who wants to admit that if South-Africa had a California, that it would be Cape-Town. But unfortunately, Durban didn’t see much of this vibe this year. Runaway Nuns got us through the half year mark with this surf-tinged garage rock nugget, making me feel pleasantly lethargic, but in such a way that I want to grab an inefficient mode of transport and spend the day at the beach. Apathetic and blissful, the only I’m left questioning is how they manage to sound this unenthused about killing gangsters.



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