Wednesday, March 24, 2010

VAN COKE KARTEL: SKOP, SKIET & DONNER


Van Coke Kartel

Skop, Skiet & Donner

Rhythm Records


Overall, it's not as "different" as you might expect. The sound's more modern, fresher and conceptually more intriguing. And when you pop the CD into iTunes the genre column comes up with "easy listening" (another reminder of producer, drummer and collaborator Peach van Pletzen's third eye for detail). But underneath,
Skop, Skiet & Donner still pulses with Francois van Coke and Wynand Myburgh's weighty, emotionally draining take on rock 'n roll.

"Voor Ons Stof Word" (before we turn to dust) is a great place to start. The sound's so fresh it's likely to take off. It's neat songwriting: slick changes, tight beats, cool lyrics, neat backup vocals (by van Coke himself, I guess) and a killer hook - a natural first single. The line that sticks with you is, "Ek glo glad nie in sprokies nie" (I absolutely do not believe in fairy tales). So no happy endings on the horizon for Francois van Coke then?


Track two, "Ondier Kom!" (The beast is coming!), took a while to grow on me. Now it's my favourite song. A perfect blend of van Pletzen's new age electronic gleam and Van Coke Kartel's rugged, wrestling-in-quicksand intensity. "Ek kan my bes probeer maar dit sal nie help nie" (I can try my best but it will not help), sings Francois. There's no controlling it.

Besides van Pletzen's surging brain tremors and his not-so-subtle (this time) electronic punctuation, "Ondier Kom!" also properly introduces guest guitar soloist Nathan Smith with a wailing metal solo. Intense - you'll break a sweat listening.

From the first note of "Huissiek Gebede" (homesick prayers), aKING frontman and lead guitarist Laudo Liebenberg's all over track three. So much so, that it sounds more like Francois van Coke guest-starring on a new aKING track -
the guitar solo and classic rock licks as familiar sounding as Liebenberg's booming vocals. Hearing Liebenberg's deep, composed croon wash with van Coke's raw, unrestrained cries is a treat for South African music fans. Like an iconic Afrikaans Jekyll and Hyde.

Then there's the shock-to-the-system cover of Michael Sembello's "Maniac" (from the 1983 film Flashdance). Van Pletzen leads a full-blown video game charge and Smith's solo is badass to a pornographic degree. It's weird hearing van Coke sing in English again and the song's a surprisingly decadent inclusion but, like "Ondier Kom!," it grows on you. Although the elecro-spoofing video teaser looks a bit ominous:



The rest of the album charges from one emotional landmine to the next. "Man Sonder Missie" (man without purpose) reminds you that van Pletzen also produced Pretoria deep space champions Kidofdoom. "Spookstad" (ghost-town), another album standout, reminds you that van Coke also moonlights with Fokofpolisiekar - as does the acoustic version of "Raad Vanuit Twee Woorde" (advice out of two words), with its Monoloog in Stereo sound. And VCK's cover of J.J. Cale's "Cocaine" reminds us that they all still enjoy a bit of skiing on their holidays.

On a pair of headphones, the production on tracks 1-10 sounds mental. Every time you listen something new pops out. A subtle Peach bomb you didn't catch the first time; a little electronic gem waiting to be discovered.
Previous (current? I don't know) drummer Justin Kruger turns up on tracks 11 to 13 - acoustic (and "gospel") versions of older Van Coke songs.

Overall, it's a classic case of same, same but different. From the striking album art, supplied by Pretoria designer Louis Minaar, right down to the lyrics, Skop, Skiet & Donner's a reawakening. A fresh start of sorts. And often, it's the Kartel's newest recruits pulling the band's sound further. From van Pletzen's imaginative beats, production and electronic garnishes to Smith's shredding guitar solos and Dave Sharp on Hammond - they've even got B-Sharp Studios' JP de Stefani playing a blazing guitar solo on "Cocaine." But deep down, it's van Coke and his own Silent Bob, Myburgh, pulling the strings. And they weighed anchor a long time ago. Dark, but more likely to buy you a drink and check out the jukebox than before.

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