I arrive in Braamfontein twenty minutes early, at 6pm, for a meeting with Sebastiano Zenasi (or Seb), Luc Vermeer, and their manager Aaron Peters. It’s the night of their album launch, their second since 2012’s Third Floor landed them in the electronic music spotlight and enabled them to get book at nearly every major music festival in South Africa.
Sebastian is currently on the decks warming up the dancefloor at Kitcheners, a much-loved venue located in the heart of the city. Later, his partner Luc will let loose a well-executed set featuring the latest in gritty rap music–from Pusha T and Kendrick Lamar; to Action Bronson and Roc Marciano; and a bit of Drake for balance.
Seb and Luc are Christian Tiger School, a Cape Town-based production duo whose sound used to exist explicitly within the confines of J.Dilla’s school of beatmaking. The quest to explore their full range means that the Christian Tiger School ‘sound’ (hear the Questlove-endorsed Carlton Banks) is slowly making its way away from that territory. On their latest offering Chrome Tapes, they sway between hard-hitting hip-hop drums, snake past EDM territory, and give a wink at jazz’s–and other genres’–direction.
Chrome Tapes is Christian Tiger School on an upward trajectory. They present new ideas, or new ways of interpreting configurations and arrangements which have already been explored. The music is immersive; their drums are more layered; their sets more considered.
Our interview doesn’t happen right away. When we do talk the next day, Seb tells me that he’s been listening to a lot of house. It bleeds through to the music. Luc, in contrast, is extremely selective about the type of house music he listens to. “[I listened to] like, four house songs regularly throughout the past year” he states.
Both have learnt a lot over the two year cycle since Third Floor got released. Seb has a side project called Yes In French and collaborates with Nic van Reenen as part of his (Nic’s) live ensemble, Fever Trails. Luc’s always onto next-level beatmaking as Desert Head.
This Johannesburg show will be their last in South Africa for at least two weeks. They flew themselves to New York last year to play a couple of shows and see if anything might come from interacting with people in that scene. Through those moderately-sized gigs, they managed to get booked to perform at Okayafrica’s SXSW showcase this year alongside fellow Capetonian Petit Noir. They’ll fly out on Tuesday, play some shows, and head towards the West Coast to explore the LA beat scene as well as see if more fruitful exchanges occur. Aaron mentions Brainfeeder, possibly.
The group has recently inked a management deal with Black Major, a Cape Town-based agency. By association, they’re in the same league as John Wizards and Fantasma (Spoek Mathambo’s new project). In short, things are looking pretty fucking good for Luc and Seb!
Check out this video in which Christian Tiger School speak about how they plan to release this album and how they tackle late night slots at festivals. It’s an Africa is a Country TV collaboration between myself and Leila Dougan.