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Black South Easter

by Brandon Edmonds / 03.08.2010

Sometimes you want to drop the critical apparatus. Drop it hard. So it cracks and all the unsaid things spill out. Objectivity is such a bitch. It’s Nurse Ratchett in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. A forbidding, tight-lipped, essentially perverse rule-setting party-pooper. It’s also entirely necessary – otherwise the lunatics take over the asylum, and nothing gets done. So there’s the tension. It’s a tussle defining the evolution of consciousness. Rules, rationality and freedom. This over-reaching language (in what is essentially a webzine, or a “youth culture tabloid” as someone put it to me) is seldom justified. Write like this for academia. For LitCrit quarterlies published by sapless pedants in Grahamstown, in Vermont, in Berkeley, in Walthamstow and Knysna. Indeed. Kid’s want snark. They want outrage. They want gonzo excess. Online life is sordid, shallow, aggressive and low. On the whole. Not this time! This time we’re keeping it classy, Sandiago. Because fuck me with a feral legion of priapic Werewolves (all the disgruntled LA gym boys who failed the Twilight cut), fuck me with a mountain-sized dildo fashioned from the melted down chassis’ of a squadron of Black Hawks, fuck me with the still-frozen head of Walt Disney – the new Benguela CD is stupendously good!

Their CD launch at the Theatre in the District, a fine stone church, was easily the best live thingy I’ve seen this year. Along with sinuously affecting slacker geetar maestro, Righard Kapp, finally over his maudlin hibernation, Benguela put on a staggeringly convincing display of invented, conjured sound – feeling each other out like amorous pickpockets, taking time over the song, letting it rise, supernaturally sensitive to sonic possibility, to drawing wonders from tiny piles of off-notes and repetitions, until locking messily onto a riff you feel you helped fathom, just by being there, so involving and open-ended is their approach. This is star-kissed movie music for open minds. Music filthy with ideas. Expansively seductive. Out of control control. You want to drive to it. Conceive to it. You want surgeons opening the top of your head to pour it all in. Bathe your children in it. Cut grass to it. Make bonfires as it peals from the speakers. Slip it into the purses of nuns. Have its musical notation tattooed onto loved ones. Too much? Who cares? Shit this good is rare as dreams that come true. As everlasting love.

The CD Black Southeaster is now out on Kapp’s garage label Jaunted Haunts Press. They carry all Kapp’s work, obviously, as well as winsome sprite Ella Joyce Buckley, and the Buckfever Underground: all worth rooting around in if you’re remotely beguiled by homemade quality. It’s probably germane to run through the band and their pedigree. Brydon Bolton is on double bass. He looks like he’s wearing a life-size Jerry Garcia costume. The same girth. The same beard. Except The Grateful Dead never had a bass monster like Brydon. The man plucks like Farmer Brown (“Pacific Gyre”). He’s the chthonic core of the band. He plays like its Berlin in the 1930s. Dramatic and true. Bum-quaking bass notes. Deep reach groove. Alex Bozas on guitar has moments on this release (“Killer Frog Fungus”) that take axe play to Mothers of Invention levels of free flowing skronking beauty. If there’s a more supple and inventive guitarist in the country, I’ll drink a hatful of sputum. Which brings us to the drummer. I’ll never laugh at drummer jokes again. Ross Campbell is the drumming equivalent of the greatest period in your life. Think back. Maybe you were young. Maybe you were rich. Maybe you were getting some. He’s that good. Nothing less than life-affirming. The kind of facility and grace you find in tightrope walkers and ballerina’s. Real artists. Listen to him smack up a storm on the titular “Black Southeaster” – this is John Bonham heavy, yet shot through with precision and deftness. Control and release. Hear him sweetly tap “Meridian” into teeming life and try with all your might not to bob your head in unison. Bob your head, and bow. This band redeems us all. If South African music is Dorothy’s Kansas homestead – Benguela is the tornado. You need this.

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