On Our Own Clock ‘On Our Own Clock’ LP+Fanzine (Mushroom Hour Half Hour / Total Refreshment Centre) 4/5

‘On Our Own Clock’ is the new project from South African record label Mushroom Hour Half Hour bringing together artists and musicians from South Africa, Senegal and London.

Having started life nine years ago as a radio show on a pirate station, the Mushroom Hour Half Hour brand has since evolved into – as described by the label’s website – a “unique Johannesburg-based Experimental Recording Imprint”. From a radio show to a multimedia pioneer spearheading innovative perspectives throughout new music releases, radio, live music events and film.

As relates to the brand’s record label, a wonderful array of projects have been amassed to comprise some inspiring music releases waving the Mushroom Hour Half Hour flag: the cosmic introspection of ‘Ithuba Loku Hlola’ (2016) is a stunning improvised live performance from a collection of Johannesburg’s eclectic minds; the ever-evolving line-up of the experimental afro jazz-funk fusion outfit SPAZA (2019) turned heads with their self-titled debut outing which was swiftly followed up by their soundtrack to the documentary film ‘UPRIZE!’ charting apartheid-rooted protests in Johannesburg in 1976. Each of the label’s releases continually find a way to root their music to South Africa’s past while still projecting a visionary perspective on the music’s future.

On paper, the ‘On Our Own Clock’ project was destined to be something of a jewel within the Mushroom Hour Half Hour crown. An incredibly ambitious project that would have taken musicians from South Africa and Senegal to record in London with a roster backed by Total Refreshment Records.

But what is it they say about the best-laid plans…?

Last year’s global pandemic saw off plans to have the teams collaborate in person but thankfully didn’t deter the project from happening altogether. Whether it be for businesses, schooling or the functioning of general households, the Internet was very much the hero of 2020 and 2021 allowing life to continue in its digital age – Zoom, Teams, Netflix all helped to ease the quarantine burden and also facilitated the existence of ‘On Our Own Clock’. With recording sessions now taking place in each of the home locations, files were subsequently passed back and forth allowing the project to live on through an existence indicative of the times it was created in.

Maybe the project benefitted from this technique in the long run? I suppose there’s no real way of ever knowing which method would have generated the better results but when you listen to songs on this album like ‘Dune Dance’ – a clear standout for one of the album’s many highlights – it’s hard not to perhaps appreciate the serendipitous nature of the finished product. The events of the last year did go on to impact the music in a variety of ways, from how the music was subsequently created, to much of its inspirations as well – the album allots three ‘How to Make Art in a Pandemic’ interludes amongst its eleven tracks which also seek to inspire and celebrate the ability to adapt throughout personal adversity.

‘On Our Own Clock’ boasts an exciting guest list of like-minded and inspirational musicians committed to travelling previously unexplored musical paths. The project’s end result may not be what was originally envisioned but they have ended up with something equally special.

Imran Mirza