Bosveld’s 2015 debut is the kind of record you instantly can’t imagine ever having to live without.
In Afrikaans, the word veldbrand means “fields of fire”, a phrase I’ve forever associated with a certain sunglasses-at-night-wearing Montrealer. But from 2015 onward, all the fiery imagery that expression conjures up belongs to Théan Slabbert and Bosveld. Veldbrand, the band’s debut full length, is a combustible collection of soft-focus, modern folk songs, that smoke, smoulder, and give off sparks.
Blending acoustic and electronic instrumentation is not a new idea, but in Bosveld’s hands, the interchange of airy, synthetic atmospherics and warm, human instruments is so seamless, that there’s no way to discern where one ends and the other begins. Add Slabbert’s rich baritone – floating and weaving its way through the instrumentation like an errant butterfly on opener “Back of Yr Mind” – and the sonic soundscapes of Veldbrand start vibrating with energy and life.
“Doors” is pure majesty, as is the sweeping title track, featuring guest vocalist Jenny Berkel. The delicateness of Bosveld’s music often prompts comparisons to Nick Drake (completely justified), but for me, it’s the weightiness and authority of Slabbert’s voice, similar to the trademark tones of The National’s Matt Berninger, that stands out. Joined by Olenka Krakus (of Olenka and the Autumn Lovers) for the muscular, National-esque “Everything”, Slabbert is at his melodic finest, as Jeremy Mulder, Pascal Delaquis, Philippe Charbonneau, and Jean-François Beauchamp lay down a dreamy musical tapestry of sounds so vivid you can reach out and touch them.
In Afrikaans, bosveld signifies an area of expansive fields and rugged ground, which is the kind of musical landscape Bosveld the band traverse with ease. Veldbrand is that rarest of treasures: an unexpected joy to discover, and the kind of record you instantly can’t imagine ever having to live without.
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