Following a SAMA and MTV MAMA award-winning album is no easy feat. Simply
ask Gangs of Ballet. Throw in the departure of a band member (bassist Hardus
De Beer) who has played an integral part in establishing the sound on their debut
album yes/no/grey, and you have a real challenge on your hands. The Durban
trio is set to delight old fans and win over new ones with the first installment in a
series of three EPs, entitled Form & Function.
Hereby an introduction to the six tracks on the EP:
“By some strange miracle a spark chooses you.”
Promoted as the first single from the Form & Function Part 1 EP, Gangs of Ballet
cleverly grabs the listener’s attention with an atmospheric album opening. At first
listen, ‘Always’ seems like your average upbeat radio hit, but upon more listens
the hidden musical and lyrical layers comes to the surface. A simplistic sing-a-
long chorus is surrounded by hauntingly beautiful metaphoric verses, making this
a love anthem worth chanting.
“Don’t need words to make a sound.”
Forming a complete juxtaposition to the first track, ‘Ageless’ is soulfully mellow
without carrying the risk of being labeled as boring. Electronic organ forms the
backbone of a super laid-back track, giving the listener chance to catch their
breath for the tracks to follow. Catchy synth keys in the chorus colour in the bold
lyrics as you feel the dark rock energy bumbling under the surface, urging to
burst free. Be sure to listen out for Brad’s challenging vocal melodies, combining
both his low and high registers.
“Kindness has no time or season.”
The song’s sudden start makes you sit up straight. The band uses a clever
musical build up to create a rollercoaster of emotions. What at first seems to be
another unflinching love confirmation song like with the previous two tracks is in
fact a vulnerable question posed to a loved one. The band’s softer side is
showcased, without losing their musical force. Synth chimes and a kick drum are
echoed throughout. The second chorus accumulates in a majestic
instrumentation leading up to a repeated bridge. A beautiful piano ending brings
this masterpiece to a lingering end.
“I’ve been holding onto dreams I’ve had but can’t yet see.”
Once again moving from one extreme to another, ‘Nylon’ takes a step back and
focuses on vocal emphasis rather than musical abundance. This is arguably the
lyrically craftiest song on the EP, comparing the world to a mistress who keeps
her lover waiting. Staccato musical compositions and layered backing vocals
construct the perfect ambiance for the theme being investigated. Very high range
vocals show further musical versatility. The haunting outro leaves enough space
for the listener to digest the song’s potential deeper meanings.
I Can Hear You:
“We’ve followed the compass inside our souls.”
Emotions of joy and optimistic anticipation overrule this track. The most cheerful
song on the EP will have you dancing along in no time. The electronic dominance
of ‘I Can Hear You’ by no means takes away the rock edge that the band has
become known for. Off-beat tempo and phrasing makes for another musical
challenging song that Gangs of Ballet pulls off brilliantly.
“Teach me to forget what’s lost.”
An ominous, mysterious mood surrounds the EP’s final track. The intriguing
push/pull, fight/flight theme is imitated by ever-changing tempo changes. Their
musicality as a band shines through best on this track. The repeating bridge (“A
part of me knows”) leads the way to the hardest rock moment of album, where
you will literally be able to let loose. And then suddenly, way too soon, an abrupt
ending announces the conclusion of Form & Function Part 1. Without thinking
twice, your hand will automatically move to the replay button, so that you can
experience the diversity of moods and feels all over again.
Form & Function Part 1 is a clear testimony to Brad, Josh and Jonny’s musical
evolution and re-invention as a band. The EP’s production by Denholm Harding
and engineering by Brendyn Rossouw are absolutely world class. Part 2 and 3 of
the EP trilogy better not keep us waiting too long.