The Mixtape Vol. 86

Bateleur’s Nicolaas Van Reenen on his bands debut-slash-swansong album

For the release of their self-titled debut LP, Bateleur created The Nest, where all you needed to do to get yourself a free copy of the genre-defying instrumental music characterised by multiple movements of melodic motifs, complex polyrhythms, and reverb-drenched soundscapes, was climb a mountain.

Located near the first beacon at the lookout atop Table Mountain's Kloof Corner hiking route, The Nest was a futuristic device embedded in a rock face. Instead of buttons to be pushed, whistling acted as a user-input trigger. Then, after you'd given the rock your cat-call, a light pattern indicated that the thing was initialising and you could then upload the new Bateleur album to your USB.

But then someone destroyed the thing, because people are crap.

However, a cheap act of vandalism isn’t going to get this band down – you can still get the album here, and the only thing that can stop Bateleur are the six people in the band. Which unfortunately is exactly what they’re doing: Bateleur’s first album is also their last.

You can read about this and some other stuff in our interview with Bateleur’s Nic Van Reenen after the jump.

Why is Bateleur's first album also the final one?

We’ve decided after six years of writing music together that we’d like to formally release the anchor that’s keeping us all tethered to Cape Town. We’ve had a great run, and ticked most of our boxes (save for touring Japan), and felt that releasing our album would be our final milestone, and embracing it as our pinnacle achievement seemed like a graceful way to say goodbye.

Who was involved in the making of the album?

The six members of Bateleur are responsible for the music, of course. I acted as producer for the album and wrote the orchestral arrangements. We had Rus Nerwich playing saxophone on two of the tracks (‘Zoom’ and ‘Bear Minute’) which added a whole incredible extra dimension to the tracks. Philip Kramer of Phantom Sound joined us as our recording engineer on several trips to Louis’s family’s beachside house on the West Coast where much of the album was recorded. Finally, after getting stuck time and again trying my own hand at mixing and mastering the tracks, I just wasn’t able to distance myself enough from the process to give it the fresh ears it needed, so we employed the skills of Beatenberg’s Ross Dorkin to do final mix and mastering on all the tracks.

The album was available via an installation on Table Mountain. Sounds like quite a barrier to entry, right?

I guess, but it was never meant to be the sole distribution method, and was actually launched a week prior to our publicly scheduled release date. The idea was to give fans who were willing to make the effort a chance to engage with our music in a way that we felt was special and unique. People (myself included) engage with music far more passively than they used to - when I download an album, I generally listen to it in my studio, in front of a bright backlit computer screen with a web browser open - it’s a pretty dull, unvaried experience, and when I think back on what my favourite albums of all time are, I can pretty much pinpoint the time and place I first experienced them. With that in mind, we wanted to give people a unique experiential memory to attach to hearing our album for the first time.

It's a very cool idea. So what happened?

Someone destroyed it. We don’t know who did it or why, but it did contain both an Arduino and a Raspberry Pi micro-processor, which are like semi-valuable, so the current theory is that it was straight up just someone who happened to find it and, seeing the USB port, assumed there was something valuable inside. Either that or someone who really didn’t like the album…

Now that you're stopping your band, are there any new musical projects that you'll busy yourself with instead?

I’ll be continuing to write my own music as Fever Trails or otherwise. Dylan will probably join or start a jazz band at some point (calling it).

We heard you guys are behind a New Year's party, Search. What's this all about?

There’s this great party that happens every year called Search. Bateleur as a group have nothing to do with it, but some members are independently involved in the organisation thereof.

Okay, so it's holiday season now, which is all about road trips and beaches and parties and such. What are your tips for being better iPhone DJs while doing our various festive things?

My road trip pro tip would be to always be as devastatingly eclectic as possible - take risks! Dig into your musical past for playlist inspiration - even if it’s questionable. Actually, especially if it’s questionable.