How Boredom Saved Jazzby Max Barashenkov / 26.11.2010
Boredom is the enemy. Boredom is the creeping death. Boredom is the bane of those that live by the cult of the New. Boredom is also the force behind the quest for innovation, for the pushing of boundaries. Boredom drives you out of your comfort zone, makes you go to gigs alone on Wednesday nights. It makes you get hooked on a band with ten-minute songs when all your favourite tracks rampage for no longer than a minute and a half. And while there is no certain way of telling what fuels Closet Snare, my bet is that boredom has something to do with it.
Would I normally go see an ‘experimental jazz’ act launching their live album recorded three years ago? No. But tonight, I’m ready to sing praises to the beautiful, emptying bitch that led me to Assembly. Loser kid in the corner with a notepad and beer bottles for friends, content as fuck, getting his mind blown, that’s me. Ask me a week ago, and I would say that We Set Sail are the best instrumental band under the mountain, ask me now, and Closet Snare dethrone the Sailors with graceful ease. What makes me grin even more like a retard is the lack of the hipster crowd that usually breeds on the couches of the Assembly. The Closet Snare audience is an oddity in the fickle, image-obsessed Cape Town scene – they know no creed, wear no immediately identifiable signifiers of their chosen social circle, they seem to be a disorientating blend of old punks, rude boys, jazz connoisseurs, venue owners, electro fiends, rastas and mature family men. Why are they here? Are they a step ahead of me and have tasted the semi-secret delight of Closet Snare before? Or were they driven here by boredom, by the stagnation of the post-indie sound that usually floods this stage? Whatever their reasons, I feel like I belong despite being alone – a cliché, revoltingly-sugary image unless experienced in earnest.
Closet Snare’s music is overwhelmingly complex, dense enough to swim in. It is not dance music, though you will move, it is not show-off music, though you will be scraping your jaw off the floor, it is not even listening music, it is appreciation music. Total immersion in sound and visuals with the addiction rate of heroin. I’m in over my head with the only frame of reference being Weather Report, the jazz-fusion outfit to which Closet Snare seem to make a tongue-in-cheek reference on their ‘Havvy Weather’ track. They don’t mix styles, they craft them into something distinctly theirs, something that might be a bit too much for those who are used to accessibility, to easily distinguishable sounds, to established trends. Forlorn horn melodies that slip into head-spinning solos, subtle but imaginative electro rhythms that come to the fore when you least expect them, absolutely insane drum work changing beats every ten seconds or so without loosing the coherency of sound, solid guitar/bass backing… Dilute this band by two measures of desire for commercial success, divide by three and you can get a kick-ass ska-jazz act, a progressive electro outfit and a one-man-band drum demon. The technical praise can go on forever, but who am I to judge this? This band shouldn’t be told about, this band needs to be heard and their ‘Live at the Armchair Theatre’ record, available through African Dope, is the best review Closet Snare can get.
In terms of performance, the band sets a whole new level. The intensity of the duel between the two ‘frontmen’, Lee Thomson on the trumpet and Kesivan Naidoo on the drums, is what first hooks you in. Both musicians are scarcely rivaled in their mastery and the abandon of their delivery infects you from the eyes right down to the soul. Despite the music’s complexity, despite the fact that most people don’t know how to dance to it, the band freaks out on stage, the guitarist and bassist spazzing in cubist angles, Mr. Sakitumi bouncing with the ferocity of a hedgehog on speed, all wearing conscious smiles reserved for those who know that they are doing something really fucking good. The music is only two-thirds of the Closet Snare canvass, the rest being the visual material mixed live by Inka Kendzia – rows upon rows of mannequins repeating the same moves in a gloriously cut marionette dance, glitching memories of childhood looped into a vortex, lines of multi-coloured highway markings running away behind you like the end scene of Terminator 2. The intention behind the inclusion of Inka in the band is clear – under her screens, the show becomes more of an experience than a simple gig – but, because the music is so good, the VJ work comes off as a bit lacking – the transitions between songs are weak, the frequent reliance on randomized pattern flow is trite when compared to actual cinematic image looping. The only, sourly unwanted, criticism that can be leveled at Closet Snare is that the visual material needs to step up its game to match the audio.
To say that I leave the Assembly that night as a changed man would be an overstatement, but my horizons have definitely been blown far open – I find myself researching the New Orleans jazz culture, downloading obscure electronic drone acts, causing the parentals to wonder if I’m OK because I haven’t listened to that ‘dastardly screaming noise’ for a whole week. All hail boredom! All hail the boredom-destroyers!