CD Review: BRENT KOZAK – THE RICE PADDY TOUR
BRENT KOZAK’S The Rice Paddy Tour is one of the best, easy listening, rock releases of the past year…and the most original. The latter makes definition complication but its heart is folk rock with an underbelly of country. It’s storytelling at its finest but unlike the severity of Bob Dylan, it’s oft presented with infectious humour, undoubtedly ironic so that the topics are not diluted by it.
Universal protests are evident in the titles of Eviro Mental’, ‘Meatless Mondays’ and ‘Cellphone Blues’. Lyrics are as direct as, “Give the earth a break, eat one less steak,” and “the cellphone will be mightier than the sword but let’s not end up debating this from a bed in a hospital ward.”
Unlike many South African artists, KOZAK doesn’t steer clear of a local perspective. ‘Truckers Slowdown’ is as country rock as a song can get, scolding the problem inducing, big truck industry that “if (they’re) gonna drive half a building, at least drive it carefully.” ‘Birth Control’ is a magnificent gem. Whether intended or not, its reggae tone is multicultural. Sung in first person, it’s chock-full of sensibility rather than reprimand, and thus more penetrating. And it’s so catchy! that i bet that you’ll be humming or singing the chorus: “I recommend a rubber on the end…you, and me, and condom makes three.” This should be an anthem for all birth control campaigns.
KOZAK sings truth so when a song is about his own life, it’s like a page shared from his diary, from a misdemeanour run-in with the police in ‘Arrested’ to being the consummate, struggling artist whose unable to feed his puppy and consequently, reluctantly, having to sell it. ‘Poor Puppy’ (easily reinterpreted as ‘Poor Brent Kozak’) deserves attention for being so sad that, ironically, it becomes one of the masterpieces here. In ‘Yellow Fishy’ it’s easy to imagine the artist as bait in our world with sharks out to get him…and, by logical next step, you and me.
‘Unknown Language Song’, with literally self-composed words for an “everyone join in” effect, is a raucous, foot stomper that would have Louisana hillbillies smashing Grecian plates. It’s a gift to be able to lyricize our troubled world into a smile but that’s not yet the sum total of KOZAK. He’s a superb musician too, clearly evident but especially in the well crafted ‘String rattle in F’ and the bonus track and collaboration, ‘Blindfold Test’. ‘Blindfold Test’, almost unbelievably, is an improv of extraordinary calibre and a wonderful closer for a wonderful album. Assistant engineer, Tom Jacobsen, gives a bird-filled, stoner intro into what became known for the session as Jimmy & the Barnburners; Jess Harvey-Butcher on bass (producer’s daughter), James Kielcznski on drums (Offshore Jazz member) and Kozak on guitar.
Keeping with giving credit where it’s due, KOZAK is extremely fortunate to be a resident of the picaresque town of Knysna (population 51 000) because the Rheenendal countryside is home to one of South Africa’s finest studios, Peace of Eden (Dan Patlansky, Guy Buttery, Wendy Oldfield). Owner and producer, Howard Butcher, took KOZAK under his wing to soaring result.
My gushy praise doesn’t mean that it’s faultless. Track order could’ve been slightly different at the start and a few ideas could’ve been extended for effect e.g. a build or double chorus would’ve made ‘Yellow Fishy’ into a single and one of the best songs of 2010. I also enjoyed the female vocals co-existing with KOZAK’S baritone in ‘Arrested’. Similar experimentation should be considered for the next album.
But with so much to applaud, I’ve listened to this on repeat the whole morning…something you will do too. BRENT KOZAK’s The Rice Paddy Tour is an intelligent, musical treat. So treat yourself!
Non-Fiction: FOR INTEREST’S SAKE
“What goes up must go down. The flipside is that what goes down must also go up,” warned Trevor Manuel when referring to imminent changes in the interest rates. A historical perspective makes our near 6% inflation and 12% prime interest rates seem positive but it would be foolish for businesses to do so within the context of current monetary policy.
Between 2003 and 2005, 7 interest rate cuts fuelled consumer spending. Instead of utilising beneficial rates to liquidise debt and increase savings, South Africans took a bull run on consumption so that imports jumped by over 100 billion rand from 2005 to 2006 (a whopping 24% higher than two years previous) whilst credit escalated to a record 24.3% in March this year. “Live within your means,” South African Reserve Bank (SARB) governor, Tito Mboweni, instructed when he hiked the Repo rate another 50 basis points for the third time this year. The increase was classified non-aggressive but wrapped in a warning of further increases should no changes in consumer spending become evident. With the increase more likely to be a filter effect rather than an impact, analysts are predicting a 100 basis point addition before the end of 2007’s first quarter.
By no means is unplanned consumer spending the full cause and effect of rising interest and inflation. The considerable trade deficit is the greatest supporter of the worrying current account deficit. With factors such as the arms procurement escalating next year, government also bears responsibility for the continuation of imports outweighing exports. This will be further pressurised by the loss of the rand to the dollar, lowered gold prices, increased local food prices, rampant domestic crime, nuclear threat (Iran and North Korea), and the larger value placed by China on their exports. With the volatile oil market, investors becoming more cautious towards emerging markets, and the consequences of HIV/AIDS, we’re delivered a situation that SARB has less control over.
Not all is negative though. A weaker rand will stimulate the local economy, adding popularity to manufacture (increasing the job sector) and lessening the current account deficit. Less dependence on internationals lessens the risk from global volatility and opens new markets for local business. Higher rates benefit the pension funds of the elderly and, together with the new National Credit Act, slow unnecessary consumer consumption.
Despite the easiest control over consumer debt arriving from the consumer’s self, reflection shows that this is rarely the case. The overall impact of this heated economic climate demands that businesses manage their debtors with greater attention than ever before.
Movie Review: My Sister’s Keeper
The weather bureau forecasts heavy showers. Bring lots of tissue paper! That Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook) is directing is indication enough but much credit must go to the plot and concept of My Sister’s Keeper, an incredibly moving drama adapted from Jodi Picoult’s book of the same name. It tells the tears and joys of a family with a dying teenager (Kate) and her younger sister Anna) whose body has literally kept her alive.
Kate (Sofia Vassilieva), an acute promyelocytic leukemia sufferer, would have died at a young age had her parents not produced a genetically matching sibling via in vitro fertilization. Anna Fitzgerald (Abigail Breslin) has been probed, prodded and extracted from since an early age. Now, at 13, she’s faced with her sister dying unless she donates a kidney which would restrict her own life. Anna turns to attorney Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin) who represents her as she sues for medical emancipation from her parents.
This may be a family scarred by the focus which has always been on Kate but it’s the conflict versus how much love they have for one another that produces the most dramatic scenes. Extra salutes to the writer for the twist in the tale.
It’s good to find Cameron Diaz escaping romantic comedy and unafraid to play her age in the role as the mother. It’s by far her best acting to date. Nevertheless, hearts will be won by the children. Baldwin plays Baldwin but good to find him stepping into this less familiar genre.
Fiction: Requiem for Love & Sex
For days I’ve sensed the arrival of this juncture but only realised the precise time a few minutes ago. Knew it as I climbed the last flight of stairs (ten steps in all – a countdown if I’d thought to count) and slid my guilty (stolen) key into the iron gate’s keep-me-out lock.
The rooftop is my quietude and I will miss such a faithful servant. Owing to a fat moon, all the sentinel shadows are in place. Glitters of stars ensure that I know which way to fall. The wind tugs at my clothing and not wanting to deny its desire, I unclothe and I’m given a flesh suit of goose bumps in return.
I walk like a sloth. Not because of doubt but as a result of wanting detail to adorn my final memories.
The concrete is cold and rough. My soles fill the gaps; no doubt granted red pin spots on their skin as evidence of passage. My toes are widespread. The air massages coolly between them. My ankles are stiff, my knees the same. No oil will help; nevertheless I grow no fear that my legs will be unable to walk me to my designation. My scrotum is tight. My penis hides so that I cannot see it through ginger, pubic hair unless I bend. I do not bend. My stomach sits coiled. It’s my cold and not my ulcer that makes it so. My hairy chest swells with air and pride. My nose is barricaded by snot and so it is my mouth that invites all the gases and ejects those that it does not like. My hair, blonde and dirty, waves from my head. There is slight regret that I’m not shaved, for in weather like this the sensation would have been likened to the pleasure of a stranger’s fingertips washing my hair, caressing my scalp. My eyes are widened with tingling wakefulness.
It’s a slight down slope to the thigh high wall. On this storm free night, it is I, and not rainwater, that is directed.
I have arrived.
The wall gives chair to my buttocks. My feet remain grounded. The moment is not yet for I must dispossess that which I’m not allowed. I have a story to sacrifice. By all means, clog your ears with wax. It is not that I wish to move my salty lips and snaky tongue. As poet I’m bound by, and obligated to, darkness … and Death is patient with certainty.
Consequently, I address love…
Non Fiction: MITCHELL’S BREWERY
Mitchell’s Brewery, the biggest micro-brewery in South Africa, has its home in Knysna. Their tasty, tongue quenching products include Bosun’s Bitter, Forester’s Draught, Raven Stout and Ninety Shilling Ale. These unpasteurised, live ales, are produced with the finest, available ingredients utilizing British mashing and German lagering techniques. They are all preservative free. Tasting them is a must for any visitor.
To say that Knysna locals are proud of their beer is an understatement. Only 51 000 people live in this paradise yet over 40 pubs and restaurants stock Mitchell’s. Particularly popular is Bosun’s and Forester’s in draught form. The draught taps are as much part of the landscape as the lagoon and trees. And for takeaway, to share with family and friends at home, most liquor stores are stockists of 500ml and 1l bottles. Indeed, the popularity has been so great that a second branch operates on the classy V & A Waterfront in Cape Town plus the Roach family has acquired the rights to distribute these fine beers in the North-West and Gauteng Provinces. The Garden Route, as a whole, has demanded growth too.
1983 heralded the opening of Mitchell’s Brewery by Lex Mitchell. Owing to demand, Lex then opened the Cape Town branch a short, 6 years later. Scottish & Newcastle (a massive brewing group in the UK, recently bought out by Heineken and Carlsberg) took over in 1998 but Dave McRae, then an employee for almost 2 decades, and Allan Hodgson (a Johannesburg business man), bought it back in 2002. The Cape Town branch went to an independent but, in 2008, Allan and his son-in-law, James Henderson, returned it to the fold. Alan has since sold his shares so that there are now 4 directors/shareholders (Coen Bezuidenhout, Dennis Finch(MD), Dave Wright and Dave McRae), thus assisting further expansion.
Mitchell’s Brewery know that making beer is fun so tours are available to the public. You will witness part of the process and the equipment utilised. It all begins with high quality malt (barley that soaks and germinates before being dried to varying degrees so as to distinguish the different types; pale, crystal or black malt). Via crushing, the malt becomes grist that is soaked so as to gain fermentable sugars. The result is called wort. Along with more water, this is boiled. Hops, the bitter flavourant, is added. The wort is whirl pooled to rid itself of sediment. Add yeast and the alcohol process is initiated. The first fermentation takes 6 days and the second 10 days. In the latter, carbon dioxide is absorbed giving the beer its bubbles. Fascinatingly, isinglass finings (made from the air bladders of fishes), are used during clarification. The findings attract the yeast and sink to the bottom where it is drained.
21 days later and you have one of the finest beers in the world to enjoy! As a recent visitor pointed out, Mitchell’s is the Harley Davidson of beer!
Mitchell’s Brewery Tours are a nominal R50 and take place on weekdays at 10H30 and 15H00.
Poetry: EVEN HUMANS EXPLODE
I am a cloud taxiing
on a runway called Earth
I’m an ironic
clarity of consciousness
for i’ve no idea
where i’ll be next
I’m just a raindrop
waiting quietly to explode!
My mind would’ve seen you if my eyes were blind;
the snatches of lipped smile and shouting breasts
arresting me to the sexual swatting of fly
and the ill-confident prayer for a mounting music
where you and I compose the life and crowd
Introduce rituals expected and enacted
Exhibition saddles the safe of inhibition
so that I’m visiting within you and you in me
Discoveries in sweaty adult worded nothings
granted respect by fleshy objects with strings
The feeling floats that we’re bugs on blissing bloom
and so committed are we to the glowing Oneself
that we’re lending hearts without I.O.U.s
Who knows or cares whose is whose
when purpose is abandoned for the dream-awake?
Laughter twists in the fatalism of dishonesty
I say objects are objects, you ask what’s in-between
We’ve forgotten our bodies to fuck with our minds
so that solutions play hide-and-seek and love is intrusive
Should we have known that happiness obsesses holes?
This new mind order breeds discomfort and interest
Am I a leaf on a tree or a tree with leaf?
Unanswered, ignorance is a shield and I the common Man
but asking travels the way of echoes of echoes
until I accept that redemption and victim live hand in hand
This is Alone.
* * *
Time for you to hire me!