vrijdag 20 januari 2017

EP #1. Reiger

Reiger recently played the support slot of the Bettie Serveert gig in Patronaat. Unfortunately I only got to hear three songs of Reiger (when a show starts is so hard to predict. Sometimes right on time, sometimes it takes 30 or 45 minutes) which was a shame as I certainly liked what I was hearing. Alternative rock in the way that is popular ever since the early 90s when bands like Buffalo Tom started to draw attention.

Reiger released a first EP last year, simply called EP #1. Does it deliver on the promise of the three songs I heard live? Oh, yes! What the record does not capture is the energy that was released on stage and a certain wild abandon that the band displayed. The EP captures the essence of the songs and is able to deliver a sound atmosphere. There is one major difference. Reiger on record is one person, Mathijs Peeters, who plays all with strings. Only the drumming, Otto de Jong and the studio atmospherics and things keys, played by co-producer Matthijs Kievit, are left to others. That given makes a live studio performance of a band impossible and has its effect on the whole.

Mathijs Peeters used to be a member of The Gasoline Brothers. I am sure I've seen the band play at least once. As support act to The Tragically Hip in Utrecht somewhere in the 00s?

Now after reading the above you may conclude that I don't like the music presented on EP #1. Far from. Reiger has laid down five tracks that are all above the average. Let's break the EP into five pieces to find out why.

'Calm Down' is the first song. It is an upper tempo song with a lot of guitars that play these little extra sustained notes that create pleasant melodies on a guitar. Yes, Buffalo Tom and the like shoot up in my mind. Bands I haven't played for ages. They've sort of come and gone. The different sounding guitar solos make the song even more interesting, a cleaner one and a dirty one for contrast. The light and the shade move around in 'Calm Down'.

'Complicated' reflects on the glam rhythms of T. Rex. At the same time Queens of the Stone Age come by including a Mick Taylor era Stones guitar motive that moves in and out of the song. Simple yet effective. The rhythm chugs forward like a steamboat on the Mississippi. It is hard not to like this song. So elementary yet it seems to have it all.

This rhythm comes back in a somewhat wilder form in 'Tapes'. Here the QOTSA reference is even clearer as the rest is stripped away. The stop-start accents in the rhythm guitars is so compelling. It makes me want to move the whole time. 'Tapes' is an extremely danceable rock song. The overdubbed guitars add to the atmosphere. From little leadlines to a full blast solo. Reiger really cooks up a storm here. Idea upon idea floating in and out of the song, so I have to prick up my ears the whole time to keep up. The (vocal) melody of 'Tapes' is so fluent that QOTSA may even lose out by comparison.

With 'Hollow Man' the tempo really goes down. That does not prevent a distorted guitar from erupting even before the vocals come in. This Reiger type ballad is the kind that drags its rhythm along. Slow, as if everything happens just after it is supposed to, creating an effect of laziness that really lifts the song up. A hollow man, who is not for this world, caught in music. Again many ideas on the guitar come by, adding to the atmosphere and class of 'Hollow Man'.

O.k., all serious things aside. Time for some punked up rock. 'Hey Hey' puts the pedal to the metal. Before I could write this sentence it was already over. 1"25 is all it takes to sing "Hey hey, my my" followed by a, distorted, shout in frustration. The drums roll, the rest blasts, over.

In short: great fun. I can't wait to hear more. A little longer: a lot of work has gone into the details of EP #1, an EP that is very varied in sound and style, yet coherent and that has paid off. Mathijs Peeters is too advanced in age to write a talent is born. There's promise in abundance though.

Wo.

For only $ 4,95 this can all be yours:

https://itunes.apple.com/album/id1127008654?ls=1&app=itunes

donderdag 19 januari 2017

Don't Let The Kids Win. Julia Jacklin

Ik ben de naam Julia Jacklin geregeld op een aantal plekken tegen gekomen en iedere keer trok ik de conclusie dat ik maar eens heel snel moest gaan luisteren naar het debuut van de Australische singer-songwriter.
 
Dat heb ik inmiddels gedaan en ik moet zeggen dat Julia Jacklin de hooggespannen verwachtingen met Don’t Let The Kids Win ruimschoots heeft waargemaakt.
 
Dat is de jonge Australische singer-songwriter gelukt met songs die bol staan van de invloeden, die vervolgens zijn gecombineerd tot een bijzonder eigen geluid dat direct aanspreekt.
 
De muziek van Julia Jacklin heeft het zwoele en verleidelijke van Mazzy Star, het rauwe en eigentijdse van singer-songwriters als Courtney Barnett, Angel Olsen en Sharon van Etten, het gevoel voor perfecte popliedjes van The Pretenders, de voorliefde voor 50s girlpop van Phil Spector, het flirterige van Blondie, het fascinerende van Lera Lynn en Lana Del Rey en het gevoel en de emotie van zeer uiteenlopende singer-songwriters uit de Amerikaanse rootsmuziek.
 
Dat lijken misschien wat veel en bovendien deels tegenstrijdige invloeden, maar luister naar Don’t Let The Kids Win en je hoort het echt allemaal. En nog veel meer, want in ieder artikel dat ik lees over Julia Jacklin duiken weer andere namen op en echt onzinnig is het maar zelden.
 
Julia Jacklin smeedt het allemaal aan elkaar in vrijwel onweerstaanbare popliedjes of in folky songs die je tot op het bot weten te raken. Het zijn de popliedjes die het oor genadeloos strelen, maar de muziek van de Australische singer-songwriter mag ook lekker rammelen of rauw klinken of juist uiterst ingetogen voortkabbelen, wat flink contrasteert met de uitbundige tracks waarmee de plaat opent.
 
In muzikaal opzicht is het allemaal dik in orde, met een hoofdrol voor het heerlijk galmende of juist zeer subtiele gitaarspel, maar de meeste verleiding komt toch van de heerlijke stem van Julia Jacklin en haar goede gevoel voor melodieuze en tijdloze popliedjes en haar gave om diep te graven in uiterst intieme songs.
 
Het zijn songs waarin ik steeds weer nieuwe dingen hoor, want als je goed luistert hoor je naast alle al genoemde invloeden ook een beetje dreampop, maar ook de zich langzaam voortslepende Appalachen folk van Gillian Welch.
 
Don’t Let The Kids Win is een plaat waarvan je alleen maar kunt houden en dat begint al bij eerste beluistering, maar je hoort pas echt hoe goed en veelzijdig de plaat is wanneer je hem veel vaker hebt gehoord.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Don't Let The Kids Win':

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bhf4Mwewh6Y

of luister en koop het album hier:

http://www.juliajacklin.com/ 

woensdag 18 januari 2017

Ella EP. Ella

Ella is the Dutch-Swiss artist Ella van der Woude. She releases her debut EP which she simply named after herself. Now Ella for people older than I am is often simply followed by Fitzgerald. There is not much of a hint on this EP that this association ought to be made.

Ella is full of atmospheric music. Ella van der Woude completely relies on her voice to carry a song. Underneath is a guitar and things atmospheric. Allow this music to and it will get you into a spell, crawl under your skin and does what music can do. Treat this music aloof, with indifferent inattentiveness and the five songs on the EP are over without one ever having noticed them. Ella demands attention. There is a reward for all that share some time with Ella. Intense beauty is showered out over you.

Ella van der Woude is not totally new on the scene. She played in Houses and played in Amber Arcades, a band that has come by on this blog and certainly will again later this year, as a touring member. After Houses broke up, she started writing music for filmscores and met with producer Stew Jackson. He started guiding her towards setting the ideas for film music into finished songs, obviously without taking anything away from the very basics Ella started to work with: a baritone guitar, a Juno synth and her voice.

The result is something to be elated about. However, it wasn't the first single lifted from this EP, the enigmatically titled 'IDWTGTKY'. I had listened to this song once, somewhere last year and not classified it as special. Little was I to know that this song was to be followed by the beautiful second single 'While You Are Away'. That is when I started listening in a serious way. The mysterious sounding double tracked vocal drew me into the song.

Promo Photo
Although Ella sounds light at heart, there is a lot going on under the surface. The still waters, deep grounds proverb certainly seems applicable here. The soft voice of Ella van der Woude may have a soothing quality, it only takes a little distortion to give it a more disturbing one. Large ripples in the pond from that moment on. Ella does not contain happy music. It has a darker edge to it, besides being serious. Listening is required as I already mentioned. Different moods present themselves, even within songs. Take 'Restless'. The song has a lighter, dreamy quality, in voice and guitar, next to something that I'd call a hopeful despair and this darker side that looms over more songs on Ella. The synths looming in the background play a role here. No matter how empty the song may be by pop and rock standards, it is filled to the brim with different emotions and moods, making 'Restless' an utterly intriguing song.

The surprise of the EP comes in the fourth song, 'Unknown Treasure', when drums and strings enter the music. All of a sudden Ella opens up in a totally different way. A beautiful counterpoint to all the other songs.

Yes, here and there Ella reminds me of something I've heard before. Yet I'm not tempted to drop names. With Ella Ella van der Woude has created her own little spot in the universe. A little, but bright star is shining there. Time will tell how this star is going to grow.

Wo.

You can listen to 'While You Are Away' here:

https://soundcloud.com/ellabyebye/while-you-are-away/s-siBD2

dinsdag 17 januari 2017

Hear The Lions Roar. Half Japanese

What to think of Hear The Lions Roar? I tend towards pointing you towards the artwork of the album. The somewhat childish, yet very well stylised lion on the front sort of tells a lot about the music. Somehow I have a hard time taking the music totally seriously. The fact that the Toy Dolls come to my mind while listening to Half Japanese is telling. A punk band that plays great, but through the voice and the topics being sung about hard to take seriously. Let's delve in deeper and see if this first impression is a correct one.

With the accumulation of listening sessions several things start to fall into place. The psychedelic tendencies lacing the music shine harder and harder. The muddied sound lets through more and more details, that show that a lot of attention went into the details of recording (or that musicians were given a free hand to improvise details in the whole). There's no big plan behind the music. It goes where it goes without being hindered by any conventions. Hence there are songs that seem to be built around and above a chugging rhythm ('It Never Stops') and songs that take a famous chord progression and rhythm like 'Everybody needs somebody''s over which another song is played ('Of Course It Is'). In other words there is a lot to discover on Hear The Lions Roar.

Promo photo
Until I received this record late in 2016, I had never heard of the band Half Japanese, as far as I'm aware. Hence my surprise when I found out that the band is around for over 40 years, having started in 1975 by the brothers Jad and David Fair. Half Japanese released its first record, the EP 'Calling All Girls' in 1977. In the 80s David Fair left the band, that Jad now leads for three decades. A rather bizarre claim to fame is that Kurt Cobain was wearing a Half Japanese t-shirt when he took his life. In 2017 the band is rather active after a long recording hiatus. Hear The Lions Roar is the third album since 2014 to be released.

The more I listen to Hear The Lions Roar the more the album grows on me. It has so many different sounds and songs that I keep being reminded to truly listen to what is going on. Of course I heard something in it from the start, otherwise I would not have invested the time. But I honestly did not know where things would go between us.

The switch from the ballad 'The Preventers' to the title song is such a pleasant one. Having been surprised by a slow song of a good quality, the band goes out into a carnival fair sort of song that twirls and reaches out. When the horns chime in, the party is complete. A memorable psychedelic outing it is.

Promo photo
The music of Half Japanese walks a thin line. 'Do It Now' has a talk/sing vocal. So I start listening to the music more intently. A fierce drum drives the song forward, with outings on the organ and the guitar which makes the song extremely lively. It is not hard to find the Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, The Rumour, Ian Dury, The Stranglers sort of influences in this music. There's always a high sounding organ. The days the simplicity of punk was left behind, while the energy was still there. Half Japanese plays with these influences, makes it something its own and then adds the typical voice of Jad Fair.

That is not the whole story. What the band also does, and here I start to repeat myself, is add something interesting in the whole of the music. Its love for this music shows in those little details that are added. No matter how murky the whole at times may sound, the mud is full of little shiny pearls that were definitely not thrown in for the swine. And that is what endeared me to Hear The Lions Roar. This is no Toy Dolls, believe me. It is only in the final song, 'Super Power', that simply goes on and on without going anywhere, that I have heard enough. By then I have no complaints left. Hear The Lions Roar has convinced me: Good record.

Wo.

You can listen to 'The Preventers' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiYJJCmtzRg

maandag 16 januari 2017

Bettie Serveert live. Patronaat, Haarlem. Saturday 14 January 2017

How many times have I seen Bettie Serveert play since around the late 90s? I can't recall. Many a time, once even totally unplanned at the spur of the moment. There were several great shows among them, but this one? The band played blisteringly good. With so much power, energy, joy and good old fun, that it started to dawn on me that had this been a band of youngsters at the start of their career, no one would have been surprised. It's the lines on the faces of the band and a lot of the audience, that pushed the band enthusiastically onwards, that belied my thoughts.

The evening started out with a band called Reiger ("Heron"). Unfortunately I came in a bit later to a packed Patronaat and missed out on some great indie-rock songs it seems. Three songs were all that I got to digest. Reiger also is not a young band, 40 somethings were on stage with a younger drummer, replacing the injured drummer. Hearing the songs for the first time it is hard to really form an opinion, but from what I heard, I had the impression that Reiger is an ideal warming up band for Bettie Serveert. Some great interaction between the guitarists and songs that gripped me without any hesitation. 'EP #1' went home with me, so watch these pages if its as good as the few songs I heard.

The show opened with a video of the band on route to Haarlem and behind the scenes during which Peter Visser walked on stage, picked up his favourite guitar, the one with a 'P' on it and started to play with his stomp boxes. Noises zoomed, plopped and meandered around the venue. Drummer Joppe Molenaar joins and hits this hard, fierce rhythm. Bassist Herman Bunskoeke steps on stage, straps on his guitar and joins the rhythm. When singer Carol van Dyk makes her entrance, including her bag, thank you HareD for pointing out this detail, the noise turned into a song.

A lot of the songs of the latest album 'Damaged Good' came by. Bettie Serveert can be truly proud of this album in my humble opinion. The songs added to the live show that was interspersed with many a favourite and/or album track from the past.

I don't even really care which songs the band plays. What I love first is the energy that always comes from the stage. A drummer who seems to give more than he has in him. His face contorted as if each single next hit could be his last. The cool of the 100 kilos bass player who is in his corner, doing his thing. Playing great lead lines or elementary supportive notes, adorned with an occasional smile. Peter Visser who is one with his guitar and stompboxes, playing like there is no tomorrow. Over this all Carol was singing great. I truly believe that Bettie Serveert's singer is still getting better. At the same time she keeps things together with her tight rhythm guitar playing.

About four years ago I wrote on a show in the, now defunct, LVC in Leiden that Bettie Serveert was on fire. So what was the band this evening in Haarlem? How to describe this enormously energetic show? It must be something more than that. The smiles on stage said it all. I mostly saw the back of heads in front of me, but surely one big smile must have radiated back from the floor to the stage. Radiated? O..k., nuclear then it is.

(Photo's by) Wo.