When ubiquitous talisman and amicus of Cape Town’s experimental music scene, Nicolaas van Reenen, is not fronting for Bateleur he keeps busy by producing Spoek Mathambo joints and, more recently, doing his own thing with Fever Trails. It’s the Okerekian dream to be able to focus primarily on a bread-and-butter troupe but indulge one’s alter-ego in a hearty electronic side-project. But off ‘Pattern Language’ alone, it appears that van Reenen holds greater ambitions for Fever Trails than to call it his ‘electro stuff on the side’. Bateleur are sometimes criticised for being too smart, musically, for their own good. The same unashamed artistic intellect is applied here but leaves little room for this critique.
‘Pattern Language’ kicks off, or rather drifts off, with an intriguingly indulgent and haunting introductory sequence. It is made clear that the listener has been permitted to glimpse inside van Reenen’s mind. After a lengthy ninety seconds the song abruptly transforms into a gorgeous upbeat exposition of seedy nightlife. The tripped-out intricacies that colour this cut show that, despite his catharsis, the artist has no intention of skimping on aesthetics. For the closing minute and a half, things are slowed down and reconsidered for a gradual, textured climax.
The track is a thematic cousin of Dirty Beaches’ Drifters/Love is the Devil from earlier this year: from opposite ends of the world, both Zhung Huntai and Nicolaas van Reenen offer their listeners a tour of their streets by night through their eyes, sharing all of the beauty and hiding none of the grit.