With a sound and performance that would be right at home in one of Berlin’s grungiest underground clubs, SABiNE’s electronic New Wave dance tracks will revolutionise South African dance-floors in the coming year. Matthew Sabine, frontman and creator of the alternative Depeche Mode-inspired aural aesthetic, has spent three years working on a highly anticipated upcoming album The Inner Workings that will be released in March.
“It’s taken me a long time to find what feels right in my writing. When the two elements come together, the vulnerable lyrics and mechanised backdrop, it’s just the way I hear it,” he said, explaining the origins of the hauntingly nostalgic lyrics framed by electronic urban synth stylings.
“The industrial side represents the bleakness of the human situation. I feel that the more enlightened we become and the more we understand, the more increasingly difficult the paradigm we find ourselves in. We are constantly dealing with two sets of reality,” he explained, referring to the tension between an internal emotional reality as well as an external experience of the world.
An intensely philosophical person, the lyrical content of his work is concerned largely with misanthropy, lost love, the human condition and nostalgia. Sabine writes from experience and his work is deeply personal. “The more I work with the material the more it comes back to who I am,” he said. Standing at well over six feet tall, bald and sporting a carefully groomed beard and moustache, Sabine’s imposing appearance is tempered by his soft-spoken responses and quiet introspection.
That introspective quality is evident in the music, and in Sabine’s desire for perfection. Performing for the first time during the National Arts Festival in 2015, Sabine and synthesiser-player Danielle Durandt delighted audiences with the success of their shows, drawing crowds into the dingy interior of Champs Action Bar in Grahamstown. Subsequent shows have led to an appearance at the Eastern Cape festival Oxbraai and plans to tour the upcoming album.
Despite the painful honesty of the lyrics, the music is true to its 80s roots: each set is rounded out by multiple dance tracks. Particular favourites are ‘Beat You Down’, a high-energy, heart-rending five minutes of both bliss and sadness, as well as the band’s slightly more accessible debut single ‘Desire’, the music video for which can be found here.
Disillusioned with the current output in the dance genre, Sabine said, “Electronic music is so relevant now because I think club music is so maxed out and so brutal. There is very little space for actual communication, it’s sort of like an affront on the senses.”
Sabine’s interest is in communication, creating a sense of “shared consciousness” through the music. While the album is being eagerly awaited by the band’s small army of fans, the live performance is an almost spiritual experience. Revellers often emerge from the dance-floor dazed, looking as though they’ve reached Nirvana. As Sabine put it, “In a room full of people, that’s when the songs begin to breathe. They become a part of life.”