REVIEW: SHWIII DAH! EP

The Kinyatrap soloist recaptures the moody appeal of his earliest releases on this low-stakes collection of covers.

B-Threy has flourished by returning repeatedly to the sacred well of Kinyatrap. It’s Immaterial, the 2018 First album from B-threy’s turned-project, drank deep from all-timers like Iryamukuru and Hama Hamwe, securing a place in the canon by excelling within established standards: vintage synths, melodic basslines, liberal reverb, melancholic undertones. Nyamirambo, though, did little to advance on that template except by cleaning it up, rendering Bertrand’s music sparkly and bright without developing his songwriting accordingly.

Seeming to sense that something went awry, B-threy has said that the EP exists mainly to get his versions onto tape. Despite the low stakes, or perhaps because of them, Shwiii dah! sounds like B-Threy rewiring itself back to what worked in the middle of the decade. Its lo-fi approach infuses the covers with the familiar charm of his early albums, making the EP a satisfying release, if a minor one.

Most of the tracks fit neatly within the B-threy sound. Produced by Ratio Music adds fluttering arpeggiated synths to “IMARI,” B-threy’s Shwii Dah! shows what a pleasure he can be when he loses that sour edge. These five songs wallow less and luxuriate more. Soothing and sumptuous, more bittersweet than outright sad, the after-hours dispatches “Nicyo Gituma” and “Oya” pair the coziness of an overstuffed couch with the sleek angles of an Eames chair.

There’s no feature on the EP, and it illustrates how delicate of a balance B-threy strikes between laidback and locked in. His verse isn’t so bad that it derails things—four tracks in and the EP’s mood is too established to be upended by one miscalculated verse—but his flow is too hurried, too frantic. He’s doing too much, racing against the music instead of making it work for him. We should be so lucky if our quarantine felt like this.

You can Stream Shwii-Dah! on YouTube

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