Beatenberg is at once familiar and inscrutable. In person, they are well-dressed, well-spoken and moderately charming. They are not at all rock and roll. But there is definitely something strange about them. They seem to know something we don’t. Their music is once crystal clear in its vision and strangely challenging to describe. The guitars, basslines and rhythms span several continents, the electronic sounds are from Logic Pro, the singing is from the heart and the songs are from another world.
In 2012, Beatenberg opened for The Tallest Man On Earth at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. This was a special concert that got a lot of people talking about them and several features in the media. They also played Rocking the Daisies in 2012.
Beatenberg is a fresh new face in pop music from South Africa. Or rather, three faces, handsome and young and intelligent. The faces are of Matthew Field, who also has a beautiful voice and plays the guitar, Ross Dorkin, who has beautiful hands that play the bass, and Robin Brink, who has a beautiful life-force and plays the drums like a nutcase.
Despite being in love with and schooled in ‘serious music’ like Beethoven, Debussy and John Coltrane, Beatenberg is adamant that they are heard as ‘pop music’, which they believe is actually quite serious too.
Songwriter Matthew says: ‘It’s about emotions, images and fleeting senses of things: the mad stuff that everyone feels and almost understands.’
Their first album, Farm Photos (2011, released independently), was a tender and somewhat naïve offering which somehow makes a strange and lasting impression with its sophisticated harmony, sincere delivery and boyish lyrics. But this is not the final definition of Beatenberg: last year, the band pointed towards a new direction with the internet release of their first independently produced single, Echoes. Their self-declared ‘pop’ aesthetic becomes clear in this strange but alluring song. Echoes blends synth elements with ‘africanesque’ guitar lines and stark, haunting vocals, while the band’s impromptu acoustic performance video of Scorpionfish (2012) displays their core as a trio that actually plays instruments.
Over the last couple of years, Beatenberg have played extensively. They’ve appeared many times at The Assembly and other prominent Cape Town clubs, and they’ve also played in more unexpected places from the TEDx Conference in Stellenbosch to AfrikaBurn on the back of a flat-bed truck. They have also done several tours to Joburg, playing shows with bands like Desmond and the Tutus and The Brother Moves On.
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