The Bateleur EP Launch: Cape Town

19 Jun

The launch of Bateleur’s new EP, Cargo Cults, at Zula Bar on Friday was easily the best gig I’ve been to in months.

A contributing factor to this was the venue: Zula is a great space because it allows for so many things to be going on at once. This meant that on Friday, aside from the usual restaurant, bar and motley congregation of hip-looking kids on the chilly pavement outside, there was plenty of space upstairs for a small but captivating art exhibition and some beautiful, beautiful music.

Caves opened, followed by Christian Tiger School, Bateleur, and rounding off with O’ltak and Fun Toy.

After a minute or two of watching Caves for the first time, I was sold. This band is reminiscent of Bateleur in their rich layering of different sounds, and peppered with folky influences in their vocals and guitar parts. They also have a very entertaining stage presence to be found in the steep contrast between the  two guitarist/vocalists. One is solid and calm with the slightly nasal hint in his voice typical of many folk singers, and the other tends to sing apathetically in a soft, Bowie-like voice for a while before suddenly screaming the lyrics like a cat in a scrap, jumping around on the stage like a terrier trying to get out of a suitcase. Caves filled the room with well-composed instrumental build-ups, danceable rhythms and a unique use of vocals, and I plan to see them again at the first opportunity I get.


I unfortunately can’t say the same of Christian Tiger School. Maybe I’m culturally thick-skinned and there is just something about this particular brand of electronic music I have yet to understand. Perhaps Christian Tiger School’s entire performance (and the audience’s response) was an elaborate game of Look At Me I’m Being Ironic, and I didn’t get the joke. Or perhaps not. When Caves finished, this pair of DJs appeared on the stage and announced a remix of one of Bateleur’s new songs. I failed to recognize whatever element/s of Bateleur these guys were trying to emphasize, but it certainly wasn’t their refined texture of sound or the subtle dynamics in their build-ups. Music for Christian Tiger School – as with a toddler armed with a loud voice, a wooden spoon and a collection of their parents’ sturdiest cooking pots – is apparently much less about the conveyance of meaning and emotion than it is about making a noise. Slowly, my horror evolved into a morbid fascination as – cowering in a corner and howling bitterly into the shoulder of Jeanne-Marie‘s velvet jacket – I began to wonder if the ominously-large crowd dancing (read: repetitively moving their torsos violently back in forth) to this music would be just as entertained by a washing machine if you made a poster about it and put it on a stage.

Nothing, however, could ruin Bateleur for me.

I’m convinced that seeing Bateleur live is not an experience designed to be expressed in words, but I’m going to try anyway. Bateleur is a band that does not simply play music but paints with it, constructing wild, elaborate soundscapes and delving headlong into them, their listeners streaming behind them like kite tails or children following the Pied Piper. This performance marked the introduction of two new string instrumentalists to the band, both expanding its instrumental scope and enhancing its fullness of sound. The addition of these members also seemed to increase the energy of the band, which – like not enough bands I’ve seen – appears to run on its members’ own enjoyment of the music.

Bateleur guitarists Adam Bertscher and Nicolaas van Reenen, with bassist Paul Mesarcik in background

String instrumentalists who have recently joined the band

Something that makes Bateleur even more of  pleasure to watch is its strong presence of humility. The skilful precision and responsiveness of every one of these musicians would justify a band ego exponentially greater than Bateleur’s, yet frontman Nicolaas Van Reenen greets the audience at every gig with a thankfulness and appreciation of their support that is heartfelt and genuine. With this attitude on stage, Bateleur makes its viewers feel like fellow revellers in their music rather than insignificant worshippers of its instrumental prowess. Seeing the musicians themselves so moved by the music (and not their audience’s adoration of them) makes for a very moving performance.

Deciding to end my evening on the highest possible note, I left after Bateleur’s set and hence wasn’t around to see O’ltak or Fun Toy.

Bateleur’s EP was released in the form of 30 pocket-sized wooden discs engraved with the Cargo Cults graphic, as well as 20 unique vinyl-sized discs designed by five South African artists, which were exhibited at the launch and are to auctioned online. Both formats are accompanied by a 4GB flashdrive containing five new Bateleur tracks and a B-side of five remixes of these tracks by South African musical artists.

The 20 vinyl-sized discs were exhibited at Zula during the launch.

All in all, the Cape Town launch of Cargo Cults was a phenomenal experience, and I’m excited by the new and innovative way in which the band has marketed their EP  (which I’ll shortly be reviewing).


On a side note: If anyone has a link a Caves page or website, please let me know. I couldn’t find anything online about this band, and I’d really like to.


4 Responses to “The Bateleur EP Launch: Cape Town”

  1. Thomas James Mathew 19 June 2012 at 1:34 PM #

    Ol’tak failed to impress – the sound quality was pretty poor, as if he’d plugged a line output into a phono input somewhere along the line, and for the most part it sounded like he was playing two differently-timed beats at once. We gave up after 2 minutes and went down to Zula cafe for some 1am chocolate cake (fantastic, by the way).

    By the time we returned his sound was much crisper and more coherent, but unfortunately still making somewhat mediocre electro/hip-hop noises. Like you, I’m not sure if I’ve missed the point…?

    Fun Toy was much, much better (assuming that you do in fact like Electronic Dancing Music) with a for more varied sonic palette. Lots of sound and samples I’d never heard before, and some genuinely good tunes. Had the chance to jam with a handful of the folks from Bateleur And Friends with whom I am acquainted. Sleepiness won, though, and I left before the end of his set.

    • Spelunker 5 August 2012 at 10:58 AM #

      CAVES are one of the most exciting bands to come out of Cape Town,
      Its the introspective, mossy love child of the brothers Basler, Max and Seb,

      Check them out on tumblr,
      Spread the word!


  1. Caves: Jupiter Ascending | As of yet Untitled - 10 December 2013

    […] I first came across this band opening for Bateleur mid last year, and was super excited to see them play again at Sidestreet Fest in Woodstock a couple weeks ago. Their performance was Bateleur-meets-Sex-Bob-omb-fronted-by-Michael-Cera-instead-of-Michael-Cera-playing-Scott-Pilgrim; that is to say they combined ethereal layered instrumental with solid, obstinate rock beats and indie-rock, palpably human vocals, resulting in a sound bizarre and delightful enough to come from a kaleidoscopic parallel universe passing itself off as our own. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: