A Time of Beastsby Kallak Jonesic / Images by Pieter Jordaan / 02.07.2012
Sitting down and writing about music is problematic no matter who you are or how much you know about the subject. Even Lester Bangs, the great American music writer, was culpable of straying greatly from a topic to procure enough of a reason to buck from the Toril and into the Bullring. Music must be heard and seen, not read.
Writing successfully about music depends on whether you’re in the music. When you’ve been watching football on an average of 4 hours a day, critical conclusions regarding any art form may be dinky. Since that first kickoff in Warsaw a few weeks ago, my mind has been consumed superfluously by a select group of Snotty Cockerels praised for their ability to entertain us with deeds tremendously human: running, kicking, rendering winning as more important than life itself, and avarice. Some journalists have gone as far as calling them geniuses and artists, but in reality they are here for the same reasons Orgy Porn, Talk Shows, Idols, Penn & Teller, and Julius Malema were invented – to divert attention from The Important Things and make Grinning Thralls out of all of us. For them a public gathering such as this means Harvest Time.
The past few weeks, however, have also been unusually constructive in pointing out to the rest of the world that National Socialism still runs rampant through Europe’s varicose veins. It is the eventual realization and final trepidation that The Old Continent’s youth is far more unlearned than we ever thought and much angrier than the regular, unemployed village drunkard: no chance in hell for a Black Man, Arab, Jew or Gypsy to get a taste of beneficence anytime soon. Not for a hundred years.
But let’s get into the music before things get out of control.
Inge Beckmann is notorious for her nasal timbre – it’s the one and only thing that could irritate any listener. In these steam whistle episodes you are reminded of a Sandton coo-girl, drunk on confidence and about to sink her claws in your nape; but you must remember that this is only an auditory illusion, an innocuous, unruly fault amidst oodles of applaudable positives.
One such is her musical pithiness: to hit a note without searching for it is admirable no matter what your interpretation of music may be. When Beckmann sings, her neck is goitrous, her jugulars about to detonate and sprinkle the crowd sanguinely; and if you’re somewhat of a sick bastard, you wish they do just for entertainment’s sake. Beware of making eye contact with this chanteuse or you’ll end up in a bughouse trying to lick your own elbows.
Beckmann’s new project Beast junks the guitar once again. Instead, two Basses glower at you. On the right wing Louis Nel, on the left Rian Zietsman, both of Taxi Violence. The Number 3 Player is Sasha Righini from Kooks-mimickers, The Plastics. He may just be the only dubious figure in this team. This statement does not necessarily percolate from reason but from a feeling experienced by anyone who’s seen and heard enough music to become obsessed with it: if this Beast has an ailment, it’s Righini.
“I am Gary Bailey standing next to an HD Screen of Rancor, and unless this defender starts moving with the offside trap correctly, he’ll be dropped for sure.”
Beast’s sound is colossal. In its best moments the instrumentalist trio slog like Black Sabbath, pounding at your chest as Butler and Ward once did* whilst Beckmann chants above it all, cleaving your Cranium horizontally. In certain flashes the band swings fluidly as if having played together for decades.
Nel, a drummer by trade, usually plays the more syncopated bass portions whilst Zietsman concentrates on the grit – and grit he has. It is a Southern Grit – somewhat similar to Paz Lenchantin’s distorted playing with The Entrance Band, but more controlled. If I hadn’t lost my dictaphone at a Rivonia strip joint later that night, my bootleg could have served its purpose of giving you a more objective account of this performance. I think it may have been a Russian with a beautiful rear that took it – but probably not. Others will still write about this band and you shall soon hear for yourselves what I have failed to describe.
One thing I do remember, though – without requiring the help of a recording device – is that Beast weren’t at all times all that cohesive. This is where Righini is mostly at fault. His drum compositions are frequently uncomplimentary to the music’s heave. He is too elementary in instants where he must let loose and trust Zietsman or Nel to govern the rhythm. He must play like a corroded tumble dryer full of pebbles, coins and beer cans. Instead, he is cyclical and his load is yellow bed linen. Polyrhythms, more jazz, more freak frolics, is what Beast lacks. And since it clearly strives to be new and different, it is in desperate need of more rabidity if anyone is going to take notice outside these borders.
But let me not crucify this musician all by himself, even Jesus needed company. I believe that the entire band should be lambasted for not addressing the folly of failing to dress themselves down. With one in three songs worthy of our ears, Beast needs to rapidly (or not so rapidly) compose ten more – perhaps fifteen – cut out the slack like a rancid tumor and give the audience what it deserves from a so-called “Capetonian Supergroup”. Beckmann herself ought to experiment with more compelling phrases – she too is at fault of often taking the easy route in certain segments and covering them up with her commanding persona. This trickery will not translate well in a studio.
But regardless of what I think, I’m sure that with time and such immense talent, this group will ease into the correct lope and bathe the country like a massive solar flare, turning people into maniacs and making them check their pulses for that next chest-pounding palpitation.
Other bands that performed at Newtown’s Town Hall on the 22nd of June were Shadowclub and Jet Black Camaro, both of which deserve their own dedicated reviews, but that’s not for now. Now I’m off to watch the match that’ll decide which nation gets the Green Light to behave like pompous, beastly assholes for the next few years. Winning Euro 2012 will mean more national pride and the right to assassinate everything foreign and unknown. But for survival, people have done things far worse. At least here we haven’t yet begun taking mephedrone and gnawing at each other’s faces. Not yet.
* Kudos to Bill Ward for not rejoining Sabbath for the band’s 2012 paraplegic reunion.
All images © Pieter Jordaan.