Beatenberg’s Matthew Field chats their vibrant third studio album The Great Fire of Beatenberg

Indie-darlings Beatenberg have released their third studio album, the trio’s first offering in five years, and it’s an elegant reiteration of their much loved sound. Gentle and vibrant, it boasts the band’s distinct Mzansi-pop musings with the perfect blend of austerity and pleasure.

“In a continuing and open-ended definition of Beatenberg as some kind of place, The Great Fire of Beatenberg references the Great Fire of London, the climate and geopolitical anxieties of our time, the hellish feeling that can sometimes define long processes such as making an album, tracks as fire, fire of passion, and fire of renewal – fynbos, perhaps,” says frontman Matthew Field.

As has often been the case, Field began many of the songs in various home studios, followed by three weeks of recording in Cape Town and Johannesburg with UK producer Tom Stafford and Nathan Boddy (Mura Masa, PinkPantheress, Gabriels).

With spiky rhythms and a breezy vocal hook, opener “Branches On A Tree” started with an idea that Sun El Musician shared with Field shortly after moving to London, making for a fruitful collaboration that features prominently on the record.

“I love the warmth of his harmonic sensibility, and this song demonstrates that,” says Field. “The tree in the chorus I imagine as one I used to drive past in Cape Town and marvel at every time.”

There are also a couple of songs co-written with Tresor, another longstanding partnership, namely “Worth More” and “Wheelbarrow”. Bringing a subtle but unmistakable Afrobeats edge, there’s a fresh deliverance to these tracks that instantly remind me of home. There’s something so particular about Beatenberg’s writing, something so innately South African that’s difficult to put into words, but when you hear it you know.

Speaking about the conceptual undertones of the record, Field tells me, “It worked for the way I was feeling both about the world and the music – fire is both destructive and creative, something we both cherish and fear. And being in London – but also a mythical London behind the Beatenberg – in similar spirit to the first album. And obviously where there’s fire there’s a phoenix, haha.”

“When I Fall Asleep” packs classic Beatenberg, a little bit sad, a little bit silly, while “Don’t Call Her Over To You” offers rich sonic warmth. Harmonic synths slowly wrap around you, ending with a fiddly guitar solo that’s threatening to fall apart.

Field admits to me that “Night Bus” is his favourite track off the album, and I have to agree with him. “It really sounds to me like the nighttime. I love the rhythm and how it ploughs through the whole way,” he says. “When I was in Amsterdam for the first time I took a bus at night, and then went to Berlin and wrote a poem I called ‘Nachtbus’ which is where I got the title idea from.”

The Great Fire of Beatenberg still resembles the Beatenberg we know and love, but with a newfound harmonic strength, creative instrumental production and sweet undertones of folk and Afrobeats, this record doesn’t pale in the successful shadow of its predecessors. It shines.