Post-punk. The bastard child of emo and punk. It is a genre that has never really had much of a footing in South Africa perhaps because the scene has never really leaned towards the shoegaze-inspired eclecticism. An indie rock dominated scene never gave much leeway for bands drenched in dreamy melancholia to gain much traction and the alternative scene is far too rooted in metal for it to give much attention to punk guitar riffs soaked in reverb and drawling vocals that are reminiscent of The National. However, the scene is changing as psych-rock elements have begun to curl their tendrils around the live music scene.
Psych music is beginning to gain much more traction in South Africa with international bands like Tame Impala becoming increasingly popular and musical heavyweights like The Plastics moulding their sound to dabble in the realm of psych rock. It is in this realm of musical experimentation that a post-punk band has tentatively marched onto the scene. The band in question is Dangerfields – a band consisting of members from The Very Wicked, Loveglove Pyrotechnics and Retro Dizzy. They’ve already gained themselves a bit of a fanbase with their exquisite live shows and their debut EP Embers cements what people have been saying about their live music with a five track offering that flows like a well-coordinated jam session but sounds like a well-produced album.
“The Trip” aptly opens the EP. In this song, – Dangerfields gives the listener an insight into the musical on which they are about to embark. A repetitive series of guitar chords and reverb opens up the song before a slow-tempo drumbeat kicks in alongside Lucas Swart’s soothing vocals that makes me think of Matt Berninger of The National. This could easily fool the listener into believing that the entire EP is going to be a rip off of the national, but Dangerfields quickly dispels this notion by kicking in with a vibrant display of punk energy tempered by the dreamy eclecticism of shoegaze and the melancholic self-actualisation of the emo genre. Off-tempo drumbeats drive the song to attempt to achieve the same degree of energy as a punk song but guitars laden with reverb and melody suppress the song’s emotion to match the mournful nature of Swart’s vocals.
This is what occurs throughout the EP. Each song has moments where it attempts to flesh out the “punk” aspect of the post-punk genre. The use of reverb, downtempo drumming or distorted bass riffs allows Dangerfields to reign in their sound and adhere to post-punk norms. This gives the band a brilliant sense of restrained energy and allows for songs like “Haze” and “Bombs” to have gorgeous soundscapes in which they shift from melancholic indie rock to something much more frenzied and punk-like. Even the quieter songs like “Burn” and “The Daylight” are imbued with this punk-inspired energy even though it is dulled down for the sake of emotional impact. This is a band that could result in a surge of post-punk inspired bands – something from which the scene could definitely benefit.