Lark 'Gong is Struck' Preview by Murray Walker
Welcome to the world of Lark. Here be spirits. Here be darkness. If this is your first visit, behold the intrigue, beware the beat. If you've been here before, you're in for the trip you were expecting. The gong is struck, the journey must begin.
After five long years, Lark return with their third studio album ‘Gong is Struck’. It arrives at a period in South African music that leaves me bored. But finally here is something brave, mysterious and exciting from two individuals that seem incapable of letting down the team. Inge Beckmann and Paul Ressel spent almost two years making the album. For most of that time there was a continent between them; Inge in Cape Town, Paul in London.
“Working with Paul again really inspired me. Initially there was just this boom of ideas. It was so exciting” says Beckmann, who would sing into GarageBand and then mail it off to Paul who would send back a complimentary melody or bass hook. “We romanticized the whole distance thing at first which helped but eventually it caught us up. It’s complicated working with that retardation.”
It was a conscious decision to give the album a mythical, supernatural energy which has resulted in stalking beats and shadowy melodies that transport you to an ancient, haunted forest where gods roam menacingly. Chasing you from tribal rituals to the lairs of wolves, up into Zeus’s thunder and back to a witch’s cauldron. “Lyrically and conceptually this album was inspired by mythology, gods and immortality.” Explains Inge, searching for the best words to explain where the roots of the album’s theme lie.
The album opens with ‘Afflatus’ which means ‘an impelling mental force acting from within’ or 'creative inspiration'. “We allow Afflatus to move inside of us…a divine impulse we must obey” sings Inge in a commanding, haunting tone. This could be Lark’s anthem. We finally know where the magic comes from.
Beckmann is supreme on this album. Her vocal abilities are astounding. From manly drones to angelic hums, there are few young vocalists who can match her. Her expansive range has allowed her to assume characters, something she explored in earnest while collaborating with Markus Wormstorm on his project ‘Tale of How’. “I became aware that singing could become a form of method acting. I’ve tried to build characters for these tracks” says Inge. The result is an album of rich stories; vocal characters brought to life, feeding off music that constructs vivid contexts.
‘I am Zeus’ is a perfect example of Inge’s character and Paul’s soundscape coming together powerfully. Beckmann is commanding and imposing while the drums roll relentlessly and electronic sweeps and glitches swirl dramatically around her.
Then, suddenly, the forest opens up and fog descends on a clearing, in the middle of which is a women summoning her god with a beckoning chant on ‘Long Mantra’. Catch your breath in this eerie place for the forest is quickly upon you again.
You’re aware you’re being followed now. ‘Seek to Find’ stalks along in the darkness behind you. At times the bass line buzzes past you, a fallen angel sweeps back and forth, you feel her breathe on your neck but you dare not look back.
‘Two Wolves’ stop you in your tracks. They circle and snarl. Stand still. It’s a wonderful track that lights up the forest in the final showdown. “I’ve got two wolves inside met/One be the strong one…One be the weak one” warns Inge.
Make it out and a celebration awaits you. Lark have done their first cover; ‘We Are Growing’ from the TV series Shaka Zulu, originally by Margaret Singana. It’s a song that complements the album’s theme and also gives Inge the chance to employ multiple characters, “There’s definitely a young man there, possibly Shaka himself. And there’s an older lady, then a choir of men. It was emotional doing the vocals for this track. I was shaking afterwards” admits Beckmann.
Ultimately, this album will take you on your own unique journey but one thing is for sure, you won’t feel like you’ve simply listened to music. You’ll feel like you’ve had an experience, like you’ve ended up in a different place to where you started.
Lark launch 'Gong is Struck' in Cape Town tonight
at Trinity and in Pretoria
on 3 August and Durban
on 4 August.