It’s tempting to skeptically throw Grahamstown-based producer B00N into the ever-burgeoning box of up-and-coming, electronic South African artists. But naasMUSIC’s exciting first release of 2014 shouldn’t be pigeonholed as a faceless artist hiding behind turntables, a MacBook and a cigarette hanging from chapped lips. With his debut 3-track EP, sinisterly titled Blood Series, Caydon Van Eck manages to paint an image of b00n in broad and sparse brushstrokes – shadowy ideas that have been wrested from the air and smoothed into just under 10 minutes of sounds and space.
Van Eck – filing clerk and part-time student by day – has himself struggled to define his work as anything other than “experimental” and, indeed, his preceding work has had him buzzing on the edges of local blogs with his experimentation with jazzy, soulful rhythms and methodical layering of hip-hop samples. The video for last year’s brilliant and pulsing electro-hip hop ‘Quit You’ served to colour the image of the artist and yet distort it still.
On Blood Series, he has the distinct sound of an artist changing gears. Opener ‘Asthma’ ebbs and flows in a startling melding of wheezed breaths and television static spinning in and out of a tempo that’s careful, but never laboured (and, indeed, reaches its peak a tad too soon). Between the 3 tracks — perhaps both the strength and assailable point of the release — Van Eck is never shy to mete out samples ranging from ‘80’s Dutch new-wave tracks, to lines lifted from horror film scripts, that all add to Blood Series’ undeniable ‘by-night’ atmosphere. This is done to great success on ‘JoeBra’, the energy here is perhaps subdued on the brief track, but it’s palpable in its there-ness – in the fizz and crackle of the beat, and in Van Eck’s talent for weaving whirring samples into the very fabric of the rhythm. The repeated intonation of “there will be blood,” mid-track is ostensibly menacing, but really rather beguiling.
Yet, it still serves mostly as a bridge to the clear stand-out track here. ‘My Dude Dan’ shimmers beneath its layers in such a way that Boards Of Canada comparisons would not be an unforgivable stretch of the imagination. “Look at me, Damien! It’s all for you!” is jarring in the opening seconds and throughout. The unforgettable birthday party/public suicide scene from 1976’s The Omen and its iconic line is brought to life on ‘My Dude Dan’: mashed and repeatedly tangled into a pulsing buzz of a beat that calls to mind a flickering night in a smoke-filled front room; bottles everywhere, but partygoers long gone.
The fact that B00N is modified internet ‘leetspeak’ for n00b is not entirely trivial. It could seem as if Van Eck is trying to quiet the iconoclast, crash the figurative party of his contemporaries in the same spectacular way of The Omen. Yet, somehow, Blood Series’ layers of texture hum with the cosy and inviting feel of a musical secret murmured over lattés in a Grahamstown coffee shop or drowned out by conversation in a quiet club on a Friday night. We can’t be sure of what will be next for Van Eck or where exactly he fits in the self-producing Grahamstown musical landscape, but the Blood Series EP gives us shadowy spaces to fold into, and for now – it’s not too bad a place to be.