Reminiscing Endless Daze 2017, the perfect festival in our hearts!

Festival Review by Francesca Varrie Michel

Nestled behind a dune, a few meters from the sea, Endless Daze is an intimate venue spoilt for choice, where I got to see the bloody OH SEES!

There is nothing better than a small festival done right. For a small stage, the quality of sound complimented every artist that performed. They had killer playlists for the change over’s between sets that featured artists such as Kurt Vile, Black Rebel Motor Cycle Club to name a few, which kept the crowd happily waiting for the next set.

A quick tent set up in a small campsite, a stone throw away from the main area and stage, made for a weekend of utter convenience. You forgot your smokes, needed to quickly change into something warm, craving a quick jump in the salty ocean, or were struggling to walk straight, nothing was too far or difficult to find. It seemed to be a familiar crowd of old friends all coming together from different parts of Cape Town and even a few that left the coup to Gauteng to party and appreciate live music. I felt like I knew most of the people there, so if you lost one friend for a certain period of time you were probably with another friend that you haven’t seen in a couple of months or years.

The fact that the venue is not too far from Cape Town was a game changer, we left straight after work post the Friday traffic, knowing we would soon be enjoying sets of psychedelic rock with a cold beer in hand.

Having not seen most of these bands live, I was in my element, listening with live virgin ears. The fact that Retro Dizzy’s lead guitarist still managed to perfectly stay in sync with the band whilst performing acrobatic acts kaalgat, was commendable and a joyous spectacle. Fridays International act was Moon Duo. Embarrassingly so, I had not heard about them until the festival, but I felt like they were constantly transporting me through a psychedelic wormhole and I wasn’t complaining.

Cutting the music at 2 am on Friday didn’t phase many people, because it forced everyone to be fresh for the early Saturday line up. It was a festival where you could find a comfy spot or a nifty four post hammock and chat with your buddies whilst enjoying the live music. The weather was delightful and many people took to the beach for a salty swim or just a moment to relax in the sun on the Saturday.

Sunset is always a tricky timeslot to get right, but my god did Psych Night kill it with the powerful embrace of Amy Ayanda’s performance. I don’t know Amy Ayanda well, but that womxn held that crowd like no other local artist at this festival to a point that I felt like I did. I didn’t want her set to end. I am too excited to witness the continuous success of this wonderful performer. Amy was bloody mind blowing, possibly the best local performance of the festival if I had to single out one.

Endless Daze by @ashleybrownsa

This photograph encapsulates the culture of the weekend for me. It was a place to come and appreciate live music with your mates. The festival gave me a sense of it being run by a group of people who have a deep passion for live music who wanted to share and enjoy it with their friends. This photo is an overlap of two friends chatting at Endless Daze with an action shot of the Floors Live set at the electro dome at Daisies. Daisies keep up with the contemporary, but the personalized feel and the live rock culture that Endless Daze succeeded in creating is one of the many successes that Rocking the Daisies has lots over the past few years and is lacking so much.

The chilled listening culture of the weekend was definitely interrupted by certain artists, where one had to stand up in appreciation and rock with the music. One of those definitely being Amy Ayanda, but BLK JKS was a set for moving and grooving. I even had to abruptly end a conversation to go watch their electrifying charm.

The Saturday international act was the OH SEES. Never have I ever seen two drummers on a stage, perfectly in sync and on point. The small intricate melodies amongst the pleasant repetitiveness acted as a lure for my ears in between my constant headbanging. The complexity of their sound is pure genius and the fact that Audio Pimps were able to create a kick-ass sound rig to compliment their sound, a gnarly double thumbs up!

It was a lot of fun having the After Hours set at the end of the night, to wean the crowd off from the Saturday line up, but it would have been better if the Saturday night could have only closed around 4 am. The majority of the crowd were still pumped up from the great Saturday line up and still keen for more music, so we just hung around after the music cut off, talking crap until the tiredness kicked in… I wished that the Psych Night organizers gave us a little more time to wind down.

Endless Daze was a great success. I can only wish for another, hoping they keep it small and continue with the culture of live acts. Thank you Endless Daze, see you in 2018!

Endless Daze by @ashleybrownsa

Getting down to the nitty-gritty of Psych Night’s Endless Daze festival… There’s few question that one has to ask yourself regarding the current setup and the future of the festival by Ashley Brown.

How sustainable is the Endless Daze brand?

From watching their team shuffle some cooking oil, food coloring and water in-between some glass kitchenware for visuals and making use of a very small pool of artists in small local venues like Mercury Live & Aandklas Stellenbosch to being engulfed into South Africa’s most finely polished music festival.

Looking at the sustainability I always admired Psych Night for their efforts but I was skeptical about the success of the brand in a long-term, not because their hearts weren’t in the right place but mere the trendiness of the handful of attendees when they moved to bigger venues like Klein Libertas & The Assembly… I wondered if the brand wouldn’t become like many Bree Street restaurants – super successful till everyone has had their share on Instagram posts and the next trendy spot pops up.

Foundations, friendships, and the psychedelic cult.

Sitting at my tent this year, I hardly knew the exact timings of the performances except for a handful of acts like Retro Dizzy, Medicine Boy, Mr. Cat & The Jackal, Dangerfields, The Valley, The Tazers and After Hours a neighboring campsite came to introduce themselves and handed some Mary Jane to whoever wanted.

It’s at this time when I could draw a comparison between the organizers of the festival, their ways of life and the sponsors they’ve involved. Psych Night is a collective that host events celebrating psychedelic rock in South Africa and the inspiration thereof. The brand was conceived by a group of like-minded friends all involved in expanding this love to the South African music Scene. They haven’t only built a love for or discovered and taken the managerial ownership of a genre but they’ve built a culture around it.

Each member plays such a critical part of the Psych Night Mark the visual artist and one of the first to travel to Austin Psych Fest, Micah playing more of an admin role in the team, Andre mainly seen as the face of their brand within the festival organizing circuit due to his involvement in one of South Africa’s psych rock influenced bands before the days we could identify the genre The Pretty Blue Guns, Raoul the famous tattoo artist and another leader of psych rock & Simon the guy behind some of the most trendy not only South African illustrations and posters but international as well.

It took them four years to put together their first festival and five years to cement in their brand’s future.

Will Psych Night grow their festival to the size of an OppiKoppi, Rocking The Daisies, etc?

As a festival attendee, I seriously don’t hope so as a fan of the brand and hoping for some more elaborate bookings that must South African rockers could dream about like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Queens of The Stone Age – I hope so. The question is, will Endless Daze be able to maintain their authenticity and true love for music if they do grow their size to double or more the current size? I highly doubt Endless Daze is a product that was born to bring tons of money to the pocket of the owners and it can be seen and felt through the people they attract and the passion that is emitted in all aspects of the festival.

Endless Daze by @ashleybrownsa

Is the demand for psych rock in South Africa sustainable for years to come?

Undoubtedly, would the demand of the genre rapidly grow outside of the current borders of fans that haven’t been involved with Psych Night’s 5-year journey, most likely not, but they could attract the rockers out there looking to OppiKoppi and Rocking the Daisies for rock n roll acts and reminiscing RAMfest. Thee Oh Sees were the most bad ass rock n roll act I’ve seen in years better than Foo Fighters live and really challenging my personal favorite rock act Biffy Clyro. I really hope that Psych Night will try and open their borders a bit more by booking more rock acts without losing their soul.

Come to think of it, they’ve come to a point in their industry where I think they could book any international act they feel would represent them because we as music listeners have come to know them as some of the very best curators – Endless Daze 2017 was one of the most perfectly crafted line-ups from beginning to end.

How big of a role does the location of the festival play?

Due to the target market of the festival, I feel that the festival’s layout plays an absolutely crucial role, most festival attendees were young professionals who are financially stable yet haven’t started settling down yet and the mere fact that one could leave after your work on Friday and still enjoy the majority of the festival after setting up tent and then have a small trip back to Cape Town so that you’re freshened up for work the following Monday is a massive bonus.

Art and music and was Endless Daze able to let their finishing touches bring the festival experience together?

Mutualism the cornerstone of Endless Daze, from the layout, the size, the installations, the bar sizes, the ergonomics,

Have I as a rocker fallen involve with Psych Night to the point that I cannot see it’s minor flaws?

Undoubtedly, yes… Endless Daze is the best and true supporter of live music and possibly the only festival who passionately and spiritually support the live music industry and I believe that their attendees will not support them if they were too severe of course. Although it’s easy to overlook some of the minor critics I have there are a few elements that could be bettered: Firstly the entertainment duration, ending off a night at 2 am is just not enough although bars would probably be forced to close at 2 am I would love entertainment to carry on till 4am and second although I tasted some of the best festival food to date at Endless Daze 2017 it felt like the stalls weren’t able to supply the demand of a number of people – especially that amazing falafel wrap stall.

REVIEW: Endless Daze 2016

Endless Daze by Ashley Brown shot with Canon A1 on 35mm film’

After a longstanding love affair with everything Psych Night, Endless Daze was finally announced. I became more excited with every phase of line-up announcements, counting down the days while listening to nothing else but my favourites that would be playing that weekend. I had been prepping for weeks.

Continue reading REVIEW: Endless Daze 2016

Cape Town On Air: Retro Dizzy

Cape Town on Air is a non-profit project filming and recording new and up-and-coming bands and artists for free. Tucked into a section of the Sign Bomb warehouse on a Wednesday evening, bands and muso’s are invited to come through to show off their talent in an awesome set. Recorded and filmed by experienced professionals, these sessions aim to get these amazingly talented artists some much-needed exposure and promotion.

They call themselves Retro Dizzy, they are young and fuck, are they talented. These four guys are the ultimate epitome of old school Rock n’ Roll. Their sound is the perfect mixture of The Black Keys, The Doors and a bit of the Rolling Stones. Each member has his unique style and you can’t help but be taken to an old era when music was pure and played by the gods.

 They term their style African Surf Psych, and I couldn’t have personally come up with a better term for their unique sound. Their toe tapping, head bopping beats come pumping out of the speakers at you and you are almost escorted back to the days of the Beach Boys and The Doors. The guys are effortless in their absolute coolness, each moving to his groove and sound, absolutely resonating the sounds of the old days. Cool surf riffs belt out over the groove of the band and the guys move around the area, just feeling the music slamming out of their instruments.

Their influences vary, and although you can hear a very strong sound of the old surf rock culture coming through, they proclaim that they do not do influential soup, rather, inspirational stew. You see, you cannot help but love these guys. Rock gods living in our back yard!

The band consists of Nicolaas Rossouw (Drums), Andre Vlok (Guitar, backing vocals)Stuart Dods (Bass, Backing Vocals) and Richard Liefeldt (Vocals, Guitar). The band was formed in 2014, their origins lying in Hermanus. Andre and Nic went to school together and after Richard had exited a band, the three guys jammed together at Richard’s farm for a few sessions and eventually ended up calling themselves Retro Dizzy. Eventually, they found Stuart at the Shack, (who had relocated from Pretoria in his Space-Ship to Pretoria) and the band came into its own.

For the Bomb Session, the guys moved effortlessly through their tracks which included “Rapid Fire”.

The guys have a pretty active presence in and around Cape Town. They can be found out often as far as Stellenbosch where they drive out their basslines, structured pitches and dips in their guitars and melodic drum skills. They are recording something at the moment in a studio in Cape Town, and soon we will have an entire album to listen to on a chilled Saturday, beer in hand, reminiscing the greats.

The guys are hoping to start moving into the more northern parts of the continent and want to take their sound to Malawi and various other territories dying to hear their amazing sound.

Retro Dizzy: Album Fundraiser

Cape Town based psychedelic surf rock band Retro Dizzy will be playing a huge album fundraising show on the 23rd September 2016 at Mercury Live, so we decided to throw a few questions in the direction of the band ahead of their performance with Dangerfields and Runaway Nuns.

Your two previous full-length albums, Youth is Like a Loaded Gun and Creatures of the Black Desert, have given us a wonderfully well-rounded insight to your sound as a whole. What can we expect from your upcoming project? Are you planning on introducing anything new into the mix?

Well, welcome to a whole new world now. We have added a new cadet to battle the front line of the SA Music Scene and put our flag where it belongs.

You have been very highly praised on your sophomore album, ‘Creatures of the Black Desert’. Has this changed the way you’re approaching the upcoming record in any way?

Yes. It’s a new record. A whole new record and we will be doing this completely different. Let’s not talk about what we have done but what we will do.

The upcoming fundraiser gig is looking to be quite the whopper of a party. Have you guys worked or performed with Dangerfields and Runaway Nuns before?

Yes, we have played with them. What we do isn’t work.  So this is great. Great things. We may or may not be doing a compilation with one or two of the lads on Friday.

Psych-rock is fast once again become a very integral constituent to the local music scene. Where do you see the genre going from here, and how would you like to aid in that? 

They have been very supportive towards us and we love and appreciate them dearly. But there is no scene, it may seem like it cause many bands are in relationships with each other, we don’t take influence from them and they don’t do the same.

I know the band was originally formed in Hermanus before your relocation to Cape Town. Have you found the move influenced your approach to your music and the growth of the band in general?

We may have started in Hermanus but this band has grown and morphed into a whole new creature. Cape Town has that effect.

Andre has become and integral part of this band and he’s from fucking Pretoria. Andre is sitting on a lazy boy playing a strange instrument so nothing really matters, does it?

In addition to this upcoming gig, do you have any other special performances on the cards in the near future?

We will play this Friday and next Saturday and then hibernation until Endless Daze Festival.

EP REVIEW: Dangerfields – Embers

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.

7/10

 

LIVE REVIEW: Electric Rumble @ Mercury Live

This past Saturday saw another event presented by Mother City Music at Mercury Live: Electric Rumble, boasting quite an impressive line-up. With smoke in the air, dark streamers dangling from the ceiling and cheeky balloons scatter all over the floor and stage I knew we were in for one hell of a good night. Mercury has recently started hosting events presented by Mother City Music, which has proven to be very successful and beneficial for both the venue and the artists.

The evening’s acts were The Deathrettes, Retro Dizzy, and The Valley.

Halfway through writing this piece, I realised that it wasn’t so much a review as a “these guys are so good and everyone needs to know about all the cool shit they get up to on stage” post.

Okay? Just read.

The Deathrettes

The Deathrettes were up first. They’d become a favourite of mine after seeing them at Psych Night in February.  The group consists of Dylan Rooibokkie (Black Lung) on vocals and guitar, Warren Fisher (The Future Primitives, The Dyna Jets & Black Lung) on guitar, Michael Clarke on bass and Charl Stemmet on drums.

The Deathrettes recently released their debut single, “Animal”, which was recorded by Theo Crous at Bellville Studios and mastered by Rogan Kelsey at Kelsey Mastering, Johannesburg. The album is available for download over here.

Retro Dizzy

 

Next up was Retro Dizzy’s first gig as a four-piece with Andre Vlok (additional guitar and backing vocals). The group became instant friends with Vlok after finding him in members’ Nicolaas & Stuart’s flat after a night out. Friendships that start out that way are the best kind.

About half of Retro Dizzy’s setlist consisted of new tracks, with it being the first for the band playing their new single, “Feel Alright”, in Cape Town. By then, Mercury had filled up and things were getting messier – in the best possible way.

As one of their final shows before they take a brief break, I think Retro Dizzy couldn’t have had a better “see ya later” hurrah. In addition, they will be performing this coming Friday 3rd June at Mercury for A Dirty Disco with The Nasty Narcotics and Drunk Girls and again on Saturday 4th June at Assembly with The Springbok Nude Girls.

The Valley

As a relatively new act on the scene, The Valley already started experimenting with their sound since 2013. With a sound described as loud, aggressive psych rock, they deliver strong performances.  I’ve been a fan since seeing them perform at another Mercury event not too long ago, but they’ve reaffirmed what I said that night: these guys aren’t going anywhere. With a following that seems to grow with every show, it won’t be long until they become festival prime-slot regulars.

Members are Anton Louw on vocals and lead guitar, Le Roux Hofmeyr on back-up vocals and bass guitar and Charl Stemmet on drums.

Give their page a like over here.

Electric Rumble is one event I’m happy I had the opportunity to attend. These guys are all exceptionally talented and humble musicians that deserve to be taken note of.

Photos by Leigh-Anne Kenny from Killkenny Photography and check out the event album

Shirts came off, drinks were spilt, skin and clothes are now covered in cigarette burns.

It’s safe to say we had a good fucking time.

LIVE REVIEW: Belly of the Beast – The Assembly

It’s always exciting when the Hellcats are in town. Since their rollicking Campsite Stage set at Rocking the Daisies last year, the Joburg-hailing two piece rock outfit have drawn a significant amount of attention to themselves, with their frenzied heavy-rock sound and infectious energy. Add to that The Tazers, fellow electric Jozi rockers with an EP hot off the press and local surf-rockers Retro Dizzy and you have a psych-rock line up worthy of a heaving, hand-banging throng.

Apparently not.

It really seems like I have ventured into the belly of a beast as I emerge into the gloom of the Assembly’s deserted dance floor, lit by the dusky hues of the stage lighting, which throw the equally empty stage into dim relief. A handful of thirty or so of – apparently – early arrivals and band members mill quietly in the bar area while, in an attempt to get into the swing of things, a guy heads over to the foosball table and energetically slams the handles towards his opponent, hitting him in the groin. I make my exit and head to the bar for a drink.

By the time I have returned from a prolonged visit to the bathroom, spent reading the newly scribbled additions to the walls – some are impressively poetic, I have to say – several of the braver attendees have ventured into the dimly lit depths of the Assembly as opening act In Bloom stride onto stage with little fanfare and launch straight into their set. The foursome hailing from Observatory is brimming with excitement to finally have scored an Assembly gig. Bassist Tanner Michell, long haired and lively as all hell, revs up the little crowd with intermittent bouts of hair-flicking coupled with throaty roars. There is a girl in six inch stilettos getting down on the dance floor, and despite my mild disapproval the feat remains undeniably impressive when the band you’re dancing to is rippling with this sort of electric energy.

After a brief reprieve it’s time for Retro Dizzy, the Hermanus hailing trio who have been set on making waves since their relocation to Cape Town. They are wild ones, these three: their lively set peppered by passionate bouts of cross legged rock ’n roll moments, thanks to a broken guitar strap. Their psych infused surf-rock beats causing the little crowd to once again flock to the stage but aren’t enough to keep there for long.

One of The Tazers’ members is wearing a Hellcats t-shirt in endearing alliance with the following act. The Jozi based psych rockers dive straight in, heady baselines and slick guitar riffs filling the air. Their rugged sound is effortless while their rather clichéd lyrics let them down somewhat. The Hellcats don’t disappoint as the duo belt out their old school style rock ’n roll anthems. Raw and real the band pull out all the stops when it comes to their live performance.

In Cape Town, with so diverse and active a music scene, it is always something of a disappointment to see so great a line up draw so few. However, what may have lacked in numbers was certainly made up for with infectious tunes and unwavering energy.

In Review: Malkop Rock Festival

We hurtled along the strandveld of the N7 for four hours to the Malkop soutpan and the heat became increasingly relentless with every kilometre we ate up. Like lurkers at the edge of a circle of scummy, smoky light pulsating to LCD strobe-stroke EDM, we’d hunkered in the dark long enough for someone to take note – they were waiting for us at the entrance. They were Christ-figures with tattoos. They were dishevelled and disorganized and amazing. They were offering themselves to us, the last of the takhare. It was a sparse crowd, a sparse field, a sparse surrounding redolent with rooinaeltjies and the smell of the ocean and ample space for a lot of fokol to grow in. The pan was a frying pan and we flew up amongst the heatwaves radiating from it, navigating pockets of hitte from shade to shade like scuttling lizards. With us were the very old and the very young, the very high and the very sober, the bric-a-brac of Cape Town, the Wes-Kus locals with nothing better to do, the giants of genuine, great, authentic South African rock ‘n roll. There was Koos Kombuis, who played 2 sets, and there was Valiant Swart, the Mystic Boer himself. There was Piet Botha in his various incarnations and there was Jan Blohm, the addict-turned-troubadour tortured soul left out in the cold by the death of MK. There was Sons of Trout, a 90’s nu-grunge band come together for a reunion show. There was Gerald Clark and Arno Carstens and The Young Folks and The Plastics. And then there were some of the best of Cape Town’s burgeoning push for real, raw, radio-less music – Retro Dizzy, Black Lung, The Valleys, and Beast, the inheritors of the torch, the reluctant – or unwitting – flame-bearers of substance and authenticity in Saffa music. It was, all things considered, very much a tale of two times set in one country, united by lust and a need for everything to stay the same and also change unrecognisably and as quickly as possible.

People were talking, whispering, that this festival was exactly like the ones they held a decade or so ago. Certainly there were no boets, beach bars or bouncing balls. It was dry, deserted, poorly attended, bursting with a kind of delicious, misguided nostalgia that had everyone reflect at least once on how bad things had become for us to be forced up the West Coast to see music that doesn’t require vast quantities of MDMA to digest. The sun circled the pan like a halo hovering over Christ’s head on the cross, and most every set was better than the last. We were the sacrifices and the die-hards and the bittereinders. It was like the organizers had brought along the Cape Town bands in the hope of instilling some kind of work ethic in them that extended beyond niche fame and underground cult status if only to make some kind of break and get the fuck out of the Dodge that the lifestyle fests had become. Break down, build back up again. Like a crop cycle, we were sprouting, hardened by hopelessness, alwyne breaking through the crust of an earth that’s been stomped flat and lifeless by millions of wifebeater-wearing wankers. It was at times old, bone-dry, a crackle from the past over a draadloos – Valiant performed solo, as did Blohm, in his now trademark two-man band act, and although the class was there, the message has become scratched and faded over the years – great for greatness’ sake, but no longer vital or capable of driving anything forward other than booze down throats. And yet, bands like Beast and Black Lung yanked us straight back into the now and did so dancing on feet with blood in the cracks from making the journey, waving at the old-guard as they did so. It’s fresh, fast, furious, but missing the essential politicism of the Voelvry brigade. Yet here, in the dusty arena, in the face of 30 kids screaming themselves hoarse for more vitriol, more fire, there is some kind of baptism. The old becomes the new, and the seed is sown, and so the cycle continues, and the essentialism of it all might look different, but as long as it’s not measured in BPM or amount of women harassed during, by god we’ll take it. Even if we have to hang ourselves on a cross of heat in the desert to do so.

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Retro Dizzy – Creatures Of The Black Desert

Retro Dizzy is not an unfamiliar name on the South African music scene. Patrons of Psych Night events will be well acquainted with the band’s vivacious blend of surf rock and gritty punk rock tinged by psych rock influences. For ease of reference, the band’s style can really just be referred to as surf punk – as much as I dislike frivolous sub-genres. It is a sound that is best appreciated alongside a few shots of Jägermeister and gaggle of strangers with whom you can dance. They’re band that perform their best on the live stage where the frantic energy and groove of their music is palpable.

However, they encounter a bit of a hitch in their sound with the release of their sophomore album: Creatures of the Black Desert. The way psych rock albums go – Creatures of the Black Desert is actually a rather decent album. The band presents themselves as a grungy and gritty group of psych rockers with a penchant for dishevelled licks of guitar and retro throwbacks to 60s punk rock. The rapid wall-to-wall bursts of frantic guitar licks and bluesy vocals tinged with a degree of 80s hair metal chic of “Lick Your Tongue” followed up by the groovy blues-styled musings of “My Baby Got Electrocuted” showcase a band set on carving out a niche in their local music scene.

The only problem is that, despite their frantic energy, Retro Dizzy have still managed to make a rather lacklustre and drab album. Which is surprising considering the fact that the majority of the songs clock in at under three minutes, and for the most part are deliciously fast-paced songs drawing on the varied influences of psych rock, punk rock, and left-wing indie rock. It quickly becomes apparent that the reason for Creatures of the Black Desert’s lacklustre atmosphere can be found at the start and the end of the album.

The problem comes in the form of the two longer songs on the album: “Swing Softly” and “Brothers”. The opening and closing songs of an album should set the tone for the entire album, but this is not the case with these two songs. They rather serve as a means to dial back the mood before Retro Dizzy unleashes a bevy of vivacious surf punk anthems, but it is a dialling back that should be found halfway through the album in the form of “Honey”. Instead, their attempts at drawing out the songs with guitar melodies come off as being showy and unnecessary.

That being said, I will stand by the fact that as psych rock albums go – Creatures of the Black is pretty decent. You’ll just have to forgive the lacklustre attempt at producing melodic pieces of psychedelic rock and rather focus on the snarling yet groove-laden surf punk that dominates the rest of the album.

6/10