Alekesam: Sound Proof Heart
Alpha Pup Records
Release Date: August 10, 2018
“Sound Proof Heart is about the myriad ways our senses engage with love and life itself in a decidedly precarious world, while dancing between relationship biographical and relationship aspirational.” – Sal Masekela
Sound Proof Heart is a poetic R&B reflection that feels honest and inviting, the sonic manifestation of a deep-rooted connection between friends and a vocal-heavy record that fits into the most soulful of pockets. It’s the second album by Alekesam, aka Sal Masekela, with production duties handled by session titan Sunny Levine. The friends were raised as brothers by their fathers Hugh Masekela and Stewart Levine, two artists who made music together for five decades. With Sunny Levine adding his musical intelligence to hit records, Sal has paved a path as the once voice and face of X Games, a producer and correspondent for outlets as essential as Vice and National Geographic, and an ambassador for the convergence of modern soul and the experimental sides of the music sphere.
Masekela explains how he reunited with Levine to make this album shortly after recovering from a heartbreak, a healing process that took three years. “It was the life learning experience at a soul level that fueled much of this record. You get your heart broke a couple of times, you get to be real a protectionist about giving it up. You give up all of your body, space and time, yet work overtime to convince yourself that you’re safe. An actual soundproof heart is a wild idea in the infinity discussion called love. A probable impossibility.”
Masekela and Levine share an almost telepathic connection in the studio, which translated into a fruitful and abundant number of sessions when creating Sound Proof Heart. “We speak in a language where we finish each other’s sentences in an abstract manner. It’s something we learned from mimicking the way our fathers spoke to each other from the time we were little. It lends itself to writing songs. Knowing each other our whole lives allows for us to really soul-mine. You have to be truly vulnerable or you’re going to be called out by one of the only people in your life you can’t lie to.”
The music of Sound Proof Heart expresses this authenticity. “Old Love” launches the album with open arms, a positive and uplifting plea for love to “put down your guns… best if we call it a draw.” Introspective “All Is Forgiven” searches for meaning between the lounge driven rhythms. With a wandering cadence, “Vagabond” wanders the road with a warm and welcoming snap. Title track “Sound Proof Heart” experiments with the ever expanding harmonies of horns and spoken word. Colorful layers of vocals and African drums add funk to “Breaking 2 UR Shadow,” and “Only Ones There” sends things off into a soothing state of sunshine. The crowning achievement comes in the form of “In An Age” feat. Hugh Masekela, which showcases the sole studio collaboration between the father and son. To summarize the whole, Sound Proof Heart is surf R&B nestled in the sensibility of ’90s hip-hop and so much more.
In the studio, forging the absolute best takes were the highest priority, regardless of the laborious process or time spent constructing Sound Proof Heart. “My favorite memories on this record are ones where Sunny and I are in a silent battle. He’s got me on the 20th take of a verse that he feels I’m being cheap with my phrasing. It’s 4:30 in the morning and I want to go home. Inside, I think he’s full of shit, but it forces me to dig deeper. And then we’re both laughing when it lands properly and now the song’s energy is suddenly raised by 1000. It’s hard to fall asleep after those sessions because they are such an exhausting yet invigorating ride. That’s when the breakthroughs happen.”
The seeds of Alekesam were first sown when Masekela and Levine became roommates in 2003, a road that has lasted for close to two decades now and has created an output that’s evolved without compromise. “It was when Sunny really began coming into the next level of his already mutant-like producing and songwriting skills,” says Masekela. “We built a studio in the house that was essentially Sunny’s dojo. Countless artists from across many dimensions were coming in and out to make records with him.” Masekela sat in on sessions and by default wound up singing backup. Soon people were asking when he would release an album. The knowledge and approval he gained from talented musicians boosted his desire to release his own records, and the duo’s debut album The Sound of Alekesam was released in 2012.
In the years leading up to the release of Sound Proof Heart, Alekesam dropped a handful of singles and landed sync deals with various film and TV projects. Sound Proof Heart by Alekesam is a road long traveled in that sense, finding its home with Alpha Pup Records on August 10, 2018.