Photo by Megan Taljaard.
Cape Town’s resident garage rock stalwart, Johnny Tex is back with a non-wave EP for the modern apocalypse, with 6 tracks of despairingly-sweet melancholy.
Hail Mary’s first release Rosa Mystica, the non-genre solo project from Johnny Tex (Future Primitives, Dyna Jets, Revelators) captures a state between waking and dreaming, nightmare and bliss. Having already established an immense impact on the Cape Town garage scene and South African indie history, Tex’s latest contribution is a delicate but languid foray into the limbo of sonic experimentation. It is neither here nor there, refusing any concrete category, making it eerily beautiful.
Whilst grunge and garage influences remain clear, Hail Mary is a breakaway from the core ‘rock ‘n roll band dynamic’ of The Future Primitives and The Dyna Jets. With this solo EP Tex relies instead on introspective poetry and the mystical nature of Catholic symbols. The Intro track’s bright opening riff betrays the listener with the promise of an upbeat surf tune before the turn to gloom with its crawling, and agonised vocals. While the trumpets fade into the darkness; the EP’s opener slowly extends its hand and leads you towards a ballroom at the end of the world. Altogether this short release is resplendent with lavish but decaying velvet and frayed silk – a truly unavoidable danse macabre.
As the urgent yet soft croons and low organ sounds swirl together on Circles, an image of Tex’s white-knuckle grip on the mic manifests as he dearly begs and pleads – awaiting the return of an end. The title track, Hail Mary, layers the EP’s thematic roots with a careful requiem and gentle synth melody, lulling the senses into a hypnotic solace. With lingering nods to Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible, the album’s presence reverberates endlessly in the empty cathedral it conjures.
The 6 tracks maintain a saccharine creepiness expressed through a blend of ethereal ambient rhythms and orchestral nods. I Fear Not holds a sweetly-hopeful note – ushering in the warm glow of Tex’s reimagined rapture. The warm synth-buzz of the closing track weaves itself in and out of the accompanying guitar twang as shadowy angels descend around you.