The married multi-instrumental duo, Lourens and Esté Rabé, that make up Bottomless Coffee Band have been steadily gaining fans in both South Africa and Europe since the release of their debut album, Room with a View, in November 2014. Their second studio album, Anthelia, was released in February 2018 and further explores what they refer to as “gourmet music”, their established acoustic folk-rock and afro-blues sound.
Anthelia adopts a more melancholic and modest tone than the duo’s previous work, but it does not allow itself to become sombre. The music is still light and refreshing. It is clear that they find their inspiration in the likes of Johnny Cash, The Beatles and The Lumineers.
While the album’s lyrical work does lean towards cheesy, there is just enough sincerity sprinkled in to keep things real. It is also clear that Lourens and Esté want their music to be a vehicle for a message that inspires feelings of love, hope and change. This ties in with both the name of the album, as “anthelia” refers to the ability to see angels, and a hymn-like quality resonates throughout the album. So, with some effort, Anthelia’s positivity manages to encourage good times.
Esté does most of the vocal work on the album and at times her piercing soprano voice can be overwhelming. Luckily her classical singing background redeems her, as she exerts phenomenal control over her voice to keep it from sounding shrill. Although her voice does eventually grow on you, Anthelia would have greatly benefitted from a more frequent inclusion of deeper sounds – either from Lourens or bass instruments – to ground Esté’s vocals.
Another slight glitch on Anthelia is the ineffective harmonising on the tracks that do feature Lourens’ vocals. However, this does not take away from the album’s musical quality as it adds more character and elevates the artistry. There is a magical spontaneity in Anthelia that manages to emanate the aesthetics of a live performance through a studio album. Whether intentional or not, Anthelia is an album that seriously avoided an overproduced sound, it is definitely all the better because of it.
On Anthelia you will find a wonderful selection of songs that all compliment each other as they create a collective whole. The album also features the duo’s first two original Afrikaans tracks, “Ek Sal Wag” and “Lig Wat Skyn”. Altogether Anthelia is a worthy listen that might not have you seeing any angels, but it will offer a flicker of light in our sometimes grim world.