Angular Melodiesby Andrei van Wyk / Images by Paris Brummer / 26.06.2012
A burst of colour shining through the windows of Kitcheners Carvery Bar and the night is illuminated. Blondes in old boots make a silhouette pose behind a dying cigarette. We’re at the newly refurbished Kitcheners and everyone here is assembled around the stage. The atmosphere is disjointed while the soundcheck jumps and drives, keeping the vibe at bay. Tonight has been spoken about with great expectation. All that back and forth between Joburg and the Cape Town, shit-talking and high criticism. It’s still surprising that Bateleur have received so much interest from the cold Johannesburg crowd, assembled and ready a full two hours before their show is scheduled to start. The half-drunk attendees wait around the toilet as they sip on black label and cokes, swaying back and forth as they swap their news and share their views on sport, life, fashion and music.
Silence comes over the Kitcheners as a little man in a colourful scarf and a big glass of wine in his hand climbs the stage. Givan Lotz has a reputation. A sparse sound filled with original and affected noises and an ethereal voice has made him one of the stand out acts in the Johannesburg folk culture. He sits down at an oversized organ and holds onto the keys with desperation as he pushes every note. His voice travels gently in thin, bleak spills. There’s a kind of acrobatic playfulness in the space between his cords. The music conjures thoughts of barren isolation. His rhythms are lost in the empty noise, droning and drowning the sounds of laughter and slurps. He grabs our hands and caresses our palms with a tragi-comic touch. His sound pays homage to the atmospheric dreams of Thom Yorke with simplistic but effective Autechre-style bleeps and beats. Beauty comes through. Some girls dance, rolling their shoulders with eyes closed. Their dresses lift and shift side to side with the unearthly sounds, like terrestrial radiation rising over the crowd. Lotz’s optimistic nihilism sets the tone, as his drug-laced gospel fills the air.
Over the next hour bar has filled up, spilled whiskey lubricates the slide of glasses and drips onto the shoes. The happy are dancing in the other room to Plaat Japie as his dark chillwave drifts through the speakers. Blacks and blondes wind and spin like the smoke off their cigarettes. The sound of a bouncing sequence takes over as the synths drifts from room to room, stuck in the middle of the crowd everyone pushes as they sit down in front next to the monitors. Christian Henn aka Vampire9000 is a lonely dancer with strings twanging while photographers stack up in front of the stage. He dances as the crowd find the beats; they soon bop their heads to the polyrhythmic set and move as the music travels from thrashing swells to stomping kwaito beats. “I don’t want my music to be serious; I just want to make it fun again.” Henn tells me before the show. “I just want to get home and sit by my guitar and write what makes me happy. I want it to motivate me.” His music is obsessed with a kind of optimism. It hits a nerve that makes knees knock and hands wave. He moves and dances to his own beats, as man with a love for his music should. His dirty punches and jangle-pop influenced guitars swing and take the hips of the crowd along for the ride, moving them through a shoe-gaze dream or a beatnik delirium.
Then a group of well equipped musicians make a B-line towards the little edge at the end of Kitcheners. Moustaches, Beards and Pony-tails carrying orange guitars with wooden finishes and a set of keyboards. Bateleur arrive as heroes, applause and cat-calls follow. They sit aside with their rolled cigarettes, waiting for a successful soundcheck. Then guitarists Nicolaas and Adam jump to their feet, bouncing, set off by a frenetic beat, like a drum set tumbling down a staircase. In a really good way. With violin bows conjuring a rich atmosphere deepened by the cello and the trumpet running through scales which rise and fall effortlessly. Their music strikes to the core. Playful experimentalist jazz with a dissonance in the twinkling guitars, the whole thing rides on a wave of tones and textures. The guitars move between timbre and chord driven riffs which pile on with echoes and noise rising to gentle crescendos. Their latest EP Cargo Cults explores the traces of forward thought found in their debut EP Mountain. Songs like “Twins” and “Fishishes” are peppered into the scene as girls scream and aficionados close their eyes and just sway to the droning, bright angular melodies. Bateleur are all odd time signatures and a number of extended techniques. Projected images of clouds and obscure and funny things match the contrast and epic discord within the music. With influences from math-rock, jazz and electronic post-rock they leave behind another satisfied crowd, who congregate outside at the end of the show, while a few dance frantic, stumbling and drunkenly across the wine-stained floor.
The colours subside and the legs of strange dancers begin to tire as the frenetic bangs coming through the speakers finally slow down. A perfect sight as a perfect night makes its exit. The moon falls into the horizon. The clouds covering the cold night hover as people run to their cars dodging guards wanting the rest of the dregs of their beer money. There is euphoric tripping and unabashed laughter coming through and sinking in as cars drive off with the rhythms of tonight’s act stuck in their heads. That infectious sound… That beautiful sound… Like something that shines like a glint of hope in the back of my mind.
*All images © Paris Brummer