Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Interview in Argus

Expanding the musical horizon October 28, 2009

By Atiyyah Kahn

Righard Kapp and Ramon Galvan are two greatly underrated names on the local music scene.

While not at all similar in sound, they do pose a challenge to anyone comfortable with the idea of "easily digestible music".

Kapp has been playing in bands since high school. Best described as a perfectionist and a conceptualist, he is recognisable by playing a right-handed guitar upside down.

He co-ordinates the annual improvised music festival, On the Edge of Wrong. His earlier musical forays were in ambient guitar music, but he became interested in looping guitars, effects and noise. Once settled in Cape Town, Kapp joined The Buckfever Underground.

On his album Strung Like a Compound Eye, Kapp focuses on acoustic guitar compositions, with a cross-pollination of concepts with artists Ross Campbell, Marcel Van Heerden, Toast Coetzer and Lee Thompson. It is co-produced by producer-engineer Dirk Hugo, whom Kapp compliments: "He really pushed me on areas I needed to work on. He is able to understand abstract concepts and put them into a concrete form."

Galvan is the ex-keyboardist and vocalist for Blackmilk. On hearing his album Outer Tumbolia my reaction was not unlike stumbling upon a secret treasure, as I imagined him hiding in some lair making music in a room full of toys.

His MySpace page describes his music as "guitars trying to sound like kalimbas". Galvan is a self-taught guitarist and has been involved in music since school.

Blackmilk started in the '90s, after sharing a flat with members from Lithium. Galvan says: "I picked up the synthesiser and we made a lot of noise, then we went our separate ways."

The idea of a solo album came about in the early 2000s and Galvan says: "After Blackmilk, I thought about doing something less noisy; more intimate. I taught myself guitar and fiddled around with things like kalimbas and put together a body of work."

Galvan writes songs on guitar, but uses many other instruments - a chandelier, a whistle, a bulbul tarang, an auto-harp and a kraakdoos - to which he shrugs, saying: "Collecting weird instruments is part of my hobby."

Tumbolia refers to the "the land of dead hiccups and extinguished light bulbs". Galvan explains: "It's a reference to where dreams go to when you wake up. There is a sparseness to the album. Some of the songs are strung together with skeletons or ghosts of songs."

Both artists are signed to the Jaunted Haunts Press label, which is headed by Kapp, who also does the artwork for the albums. They spare me a bitch-session about the difficulties of being independent artists and are surprisingly positive about their songs not standing much of a chance of radio play.

Kapp comments: "Radio is a very specific kind of format. They wouldn't playlist it."

In their own ways, these two provide a challenge to the listener, something many musicians don't concern themselves with.

Kapp says: "I think the conversation about challenging music is yet to be started, as there are tons of musicians creating music like this."

Ultimately, it's about educating one's ears and Galvan and Kapp's albums are a good place to start.

Also 'Trying to Tell (Summer House)' sample stream available on

The former front man from avant SA rockers Black Milk channels Scott Walker's Drift on this delicate existential blend of arcane folk and bludgeoning menace. Off his debut solo album, 'Outer Tumbolia'.

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