Simon and the Bande À Part. Blinking and Breathing.
Released on Bandcamp, 2013.
Simon and the Bande À Part hails from Cape Town, South Africa, a country that (if it isn’t yet) really, really needs to be on your radar for hot new stuff, I’m not at all joking on this one- start listening to what’s coming out of South Africa. The producer is from a world away- Australia, to be exact- and absolutely excellent, bringing all the talents of traditional producers to the table, and they have financial backing from Dubai. Looking at that geographic spread, you should know right off the bat not to be surprised by anything you hear on here and to expect the unexpected. “Blinking and Breathing” is there fourth album, and consists of an expansive dozen tracks.
The album has a certain flair that isn’t too common, quirky and innovative while holding technical skills to the highest standard and still having soul. The best example of this feeling that I can think of is Chumbawamba, and note that is the feeling of this album, not necessarily the sound. With background horns, staccato drums, diverse strings, and vocals very much in the foreground, the sound of “Blinking and Breathing” is a cross between big band and parade in many parts, with more typical pop and folk sounds also appearing. Most of the songs are short, two to three minutes is the norm, with a few four minute gems sprinkled in.
Am I the Worm sets the stage with a distinct other-worldly tone, and Ants on Fire marches to a different drummer but holds a high energy. Complications comes down a bit and becomes more rooted in this world, while taking a bit of a harsher, less carefree attitude. Brave Ones has a big horn presence at the beginning, holding big themes in place in this complex and earthy song that leans into serious rock in the middle. Se Me Sink See Me Rise has music that follows the lyrics thematically, with up and downs and changes and passing off major components from one instrument to another, giving the song an overall feel of transition and growth. Moths in My Hair holds steady the energy found at the end of See Me Sink See Me Rise, and maintains a more even keel in a comfortable and calming place that isn’t high or low, just kind of *is*, like a stroll through a park- not rushing to get somewhere while not explicitly trying to be slow. Blinking and Breathing has a friendly, folksy sound that communicates across feelings of love and loss and togetherness across humans. Happy Home is thoughtful and frolicking, rolling with the banjo through an open prairie at the back of the porch.
I’m going to save the rest of the album for you to discover on your own, let you find out about the joy of this group by showing instead of telling, but believe me when I say that it’s worth your time, so go check it out!
Personnel: Simon van Gend (vocals, acoustic guitar), Eric Michot (bass guitar, vocals), Ross Campbell (drums, vocals), Chris Letcher (synth woodwinds, brass, organ), Ross McDonald (horn, trombone), Lee Thompson (trumpet), Gene Kierman (French horn), Frances Kierman (vocals), Brendon Bussy (mandolin), Nielen Prinsloo (banjo), Dave Ferguson (harmonica), Gustavo Fasani (bandoneón)
Tracks: Am I the Worm, Ants on Fire, Complications, Brave Ones, See Me Sink See Me Rise, Moths in My Hair, Blinking and Breathing, Happy Home, Weasel You Out, Oceans, Lonely Dreamer’s Song, Nailed to a Totem