Meeting Beatenberg is quite an interesting experience. They come off as being so well-dressed, well-spoken and incredibly unassuming. They greet each of their fans with relentless energy and enthusiasm, and they have a lot of fans. They hand out hugs, high-fives, bro-fists and autographs left, right and centre at signing tables. They’ll even sign your wallet for them if you ask nicely – and I carry that wallet proudly with me wherever I go. Despite this laid-back and unassuming nature, there is a sense of strangeness and wackiness that seems to radiate from Matthew Field, Ross Dorkin and Robin Brink. It is a strangeness that is incredibly present within in their music.
Their music is both weird and wonderful. It is that good kind of weird that leaves you with a goofy smile on your face as the music uplifts your heart and soul. The Hanging Gardens of Beatenberg embodies a heavy pop aesthetic, but to call it a pop album is to put this beautiful creation into the category as a Jason Derulo album or any other mediocre pop album. It is just not something that you do. Instead, Beatenberg immerse you in a sea of happiness by throwing a ridiculous amount of foot-stomping melodies and infectious catchiness at you.
Beatenberg have been making themselves since late 2013 with the release of the infectious and downright brilliant song that is “Chelsea Blakemore”, which was a refreshing indie-pop song that sparked the question of “Who is Chelsea Blakemore” – and there still has been no answer. After a ridiculous amount of touring and opening for Bastille in front of 15,000 people, they decided to drop their song “Pluto” (feat. DJ Clock) which took the nation by storm. This was shortly followed by “Rafael”, which is currently taking South Africa by storm. If you thought their singles were brilliant then you’re in for a treat with The Hanging Gardens of Beatenberg.
They have created an album that embodies the spirit of the band. Their self-declared pop aesthetic is blatantly present on every single song, as the synth tones weave themselves around the twinkling and upbeat guitar chords and the catchy, foot-stomping drum beats. The influence of Field’s and Dorkin’s study of classical and “serious” music is present in the flawless melody of songs like “Scorpionfish” and “Ithaca”. Their proud South African nature is present in the rhythmic groove that they adopt in numerous songs and also the way that they incorporate “Africanesque” guitar chords and drum beats on the album. A striking example of this is “Beauty Like a Tightened Bow”, which sounds like a rebooted and much more accessible Mango Groove song, yet at the same incredibly unique as Field’s beautiful voice soars like a graceful eagle.
The band also seems to have a habit of reflecting the fact that they are proudly representing Cape Town. While their lyrics mainly allude to themes of love lost, and also love gained, they do also manage to weave obvious references to Cape Town into their songs. For instance, “Southern Suburbs” revolves around being somebody’s lover who lives in the richer side of Cape Town – that being the Southern Suburbs. Other lyrics take the concept of love and approach it in entirely unique ways as opposed to your typical pop songs. For instance, they deal with the modern age of social media and the role it plays in relationships within “Facebook Apologies”.
Beatenberg’s closing song on the deluxe version of The Hanging Gardens of Beatenberg is called “Bend the Rules”. Perhaps this is an apt closing song for them, as they take the rule book for pop music and shred it to pieces. They disobey the pop music formula entirely and instead invent their own formula with the single goal of creating music that makes you feel alive.