Andries Bezuidenhout’s third solo album Onplaats is a quietly emotive journey through South Africa that creates a sense of familiarity to make its stories more accessible.
The title of the album is as layered as the songs. On one level it’s a play on albums being called plaats in Afrikaans and since Onplaats is a purely digital release Bezuidenhout sees it more as a non-album.
The more serious meaning behind the title came out of a discussion Bezuidenhout had with Dutch musician and artist, Herman van Veen, that made him realise that there are a lot of places in our country that are unheard of to most South Africans; places whose lack of acknowledgement makes them un-places, hence Onplaats.
This lack of geographical understanding gives the background soundscapes Bezuidenhout uses all the more meaning. The use of sounds of the ocean and birdsong etc. mean that whether the story is set in a far-flung forgotten outpost or a bustling city centre there’s always some kind of common ground, making things seem more familiar.
As Bezuidenhout muses on the sudden disappearance of the intimidating Elvis Du Preez, a character who walked the streets of Pretoria in the ’90s, you can hear the world carry on, unaware that such an enigma ever existed.
The almost-drunk waltz “Last Round Regulars” paints a familiar picture of bar-flies making the most of the last few minutes of their night out, the sounds of the engine at the end sounding like the anonymous comfort of a late-night Uber.
I’ve only touched on two of the twelve tracks in Andries Bezuidenhout’s Onplaats but to delve further into the album would require a thesis, such is the depth and sensitivity of this body of work.