donderdag 8 december 2016

Forms. The Micronaut

Listening to Forms for the first time I was pretty sure that this was not for me. Lots of electronics, beats, treated, unnatural vocals. No, I'm going to let this album pass me by. Or so I thought then. Somehow I came back to it as the cd was lying about the house and I shoved it into the tray of the player again.

Things started shifting from there. I noticed how positive the beats bounced. That is the best description I can present you with. Somewhere far away I am remembering 'Moon Safari', another album that is not for me of 'Felt Mountain' from what's her name? Ah, yes Goldfrapp. I had exactly the same process with these albums as I'm having with Forms.

For some reason I would have categorised The Micronaut as French. Maybe because of the faint memories of Air. The Micronaut is the artist name of Stefan Streck and he is, as the name sort of gives away, German. Forms is his third record in four years. I am not one to quote bios sent with a record, but this I would like to quote: "it's no surprise that his floating music has been described as a melting pot of sounds". It means nothing really, yet it comes very close to what I'm hearing. Cut off sounds, halted in their development into full sounds, float over broken rhythms. Although it is bloody irritating at times the effect is a bounciness and with that an extremely positive exuberance.

Promo Photo
Over this all melodies that are not unusual in what they call pop music in 2016, are laid out, so electronic dance music of some sort. The combination of this somewhat maimed music with the exuberance of the EDM (or whatever it is called) makes the final result attractive to listen to. There are interesting things going on and often even interesting melodies are woven into the total. Nothing is what it seems.

Stefan Streck is on his own planet or five. He's making music of the future. 'Kite' is a song that comes close to the futuristic dance music, as I remember it, in one of the episodes of the original 'Star Trek' series where there's a party for the crew with dancing. 'Kite' could have been played there and fitted the future of dance in 1967 or about. As far out there music as they could imagine then. The Micronaut is presenting it for us.

I am sure that Forms will go the same way as 'Moon Safari' and 'Felt Mountain'. Both albums are gathering dust, but they were fun while they lasted. The Micronaut at present intrigues me as much as it gives me pleasure to listen to. It won't replace The Beatles nor The Stones, but then who in the end does? Forms is an album worth checking out and discover. Just listen to the mystery woven into 'Trapez' or the exotic melodies in 'Circle' and you'll know why. There is just too much going on here to ignore.


You can listen to 'Pyramid' here:

woensdag 7 december 2016

1966. The year the decade exploded. Jon Savage

1966 was the year I turned 6. The year I broke my leg, moved from infant school to the first grade, was shocked to find out I was supposed to write with my right hand and the year that I was exposed to pop music in a serious way for the first time in my life. Coming from a merchant marine family, my mother went on a long trip with my dad and I stayed with a family that I'd known all my life with two daughters aged 18 and 14, with The Beatles LPs, singles and a transistor radio. I can't remember being overly enthusiastic about music but do remember hearing it and that I only wanted to hear singles not LPs.

So there's no way to claim that I was into the events described in this book, for from even. But I did see that the older brothers of friends and neighbours were growing their hair longer and drove these cool mopeds with a high steer, that their older sisters wore hipper clothes and shorter skirts than their mothers. Things changed a little. Beyond my reach for years to come.

When I look back at the music of 1966 and let's not forget all the horrible songs that were around at the time, is what Savage also mentions: in three years time The Beatles went from ditty little love songs to 'Tomorrow Never Knows' and the Rolling Stones from R&B and blues covers to blasting songs like 'Paint It Black'. The Beatles went from being liked by my then 38 year old aunt, who bought several of the older singles, to a band that she thoroughly disliked. 1966 was the year the generations truly parted. Let's not forget that this change went by most people by far or was simply beyond the reach of most people, whether young or old in 1966. 50 Years down the line that division may still count, as we can ask ourselves who in this age group voted for Donald Trump and who for Hillary Clinton? A small vanguard of the (cultural) elite led society into changes that are still felt to this day, but were sincerely detested by the political and governing elite and perceived as a threat to the nation, like all generation conflicts are. The abyss opened itself. So what?, we can say now. Of course some people derailed totally, but most came out alright and the better for it. They became the pillars of society.

Another interesting parallel is that the older generation more or less accused the babyboomers of just looking out for themselves. There was no solidarity with, especially, the U.S., e.g. in fighting the war the country called upon: Vietnam. In 2016 in NL the 50Plus party draws an ever growing voter potential of babyboomers. Again they are accused of going after choices that are good for their generation and not for younger people. Solidarity is less and less important, while general well-being in society is built on just that.

1966 was the year of the babyboomers who followed artists that were just a few years older in most cases. Born in the very late thirties at most, but most were from 1940-1943. In 1965 they expanded their minds with hallucinogenic substances and by 1966 the music changed. From 'Eight Miles High' to 'Paint It Black' and 'Tomorrow Never Knows' to 'Rainy Day Women #12 to 35' or fill in your favourite song on the line here

On the basis of hit and obscure songs Savage follows the year in 12 essays. One per month on a specific topic, fashion, the bomb, LSD, feminism, black power, etc. By using original publications of the time, whether books, newspaperclippings, magazines, etc. he recreates what came to the fore then and thus is able to look back at it now. In this vein he comes to the core of developments and conflicts. Society trying to seize back control, the vanguard pushing out harder and louder, involving more and more people, students, youths, taking it far beyond a decadent inner circles of young aristocrats in London or the few dopeheads in San Francisco.

What strikes me most, is the violence that raged through cities and university campuses in 1966. It's only one year away from "the summer of love" and there's fighting in the streets. On the one hand fists are raised in the ghettos and on the other students and youths are fighting for their rights. Against a society that tries to put the genie back into the bottle. Ronald Reagan's political career started out on just that ticket. 1966 was as hard as some of its biggest hits.

Jon Savage captures the year in a masterly way. Different sides come forward and the developments in popular music come out very well. This makes the book extremely interesting reading for everyone with an interest in music, history, sociology and political science. What stands out most, from the point of view of this blog, is the fantastic music that was made in 1966. A year of transition, the year that rock, psychedelia and soul became or were about to become mainstream. The year in which in music the doors were opened and executives could not keep up for a few years. That would change all to soon, but not in the years that followed.

And The Beatles? The Fab Four was the band everyone looked (up) to, that led in every way. "They have to sort things out for us" is a quote in the book. The band had quit touring that summer, dead tired and less caring about the band than ever before, went on hiatus and came back with the inspiration to start making just fabulous music. By the time the world got a glimpse of where things were going it was 1967.


dinsdag 6 december 2016

Revolution Radio. Green Day

Does the creative team surrounding Green Day have predictive gifts or was it inspired by the recent Samsung debacle? Fact is this sleeve rather looks liked the stricken cell phone right after it prematurely met with its ultimate destination.

What more or less is shocking to realise is that Green Day and I go back 22 years this year. Like most of the world the band entered my life with its breakthrough album 'Dookie', including those great hits. I followed the band through the years and noticed that the band gained more and more commercial potential that ended with stadium sized shows and festival headlines. Not all albums were fantastic, but several, like 'Nimrod' and 'American Idiot' were. The trio albums released some years back in a few months time would have made one great album if only edited.

In 2016 I am presented with Revolution Radio and I welcome back Green Day. The songs that preceded the release on the radio, already tickled my fancy and the album as a whole does so again. No, there's nothing new under the sun. Green Day simply does what it is extremely good in: presenting us with extremely melodic punkrock songs with a pop element that just shines like the sun on a warm summer's day. To put it in other words. The drums pound away, the bass fills up all the holes and guitar does the rest, melodic overdubs and all. Over it Billie Joe Armstrong sings his lyrics, using all the different sounds his voice masters.

The album does have a sort of gimmick. Songs start soft, even muted, before the punkrock heaven breaks open, providing Revolution Radio with a sort of dynamics that is unusual. All else is sounding very familiar. As far as I'm concerned on Revolution Radio that is a good thing. Like I said this is what Green Day is good at. Excuse me, extremely good at. Almost all songs have that bundled energy coupled to a fine melody. In other words, fans are provided with a whole bunch of new songs to sing along to at live shows, at home or under way. What more does a fan need? Not a lot in my opinion. A fan is conservative. Any developments have to be fought over. Some bands do that and win, others lose. Green Day just provides and when it is on a level like this new record, no fan has a reason to complain. Nor has a critic any reason to piss acid. Green Day is larger than life in all ways necessary.

But is there a major hit on this album?, you might ask me. Well, what is a hit? A song that is played on the radio, a lot. And I've heard Green Day come by regularly recently and not just old songs, what happens when DJs don't like the new songs. So, yes, there are. Perhaps not chart hits, but I do not know most of those songs nowadays. Most songs on Revolution Road are catchy and easy to remember. That spells a hit to me.

Almost traditionally, the last song is the totally other side to Green Day, the acoustic guitar pop song. This time a soft ballad. That side comes through in other songs sometimes as in interlude or coda. 'Ordinary World' is the real thing. If anything it shows that this band is no one trick pony, but I'm happy it's just one song. 12 Songs like this and I would most likely not be a fan of Green Day.

With Revolution Radio Green Day consolidates its position as leading punkrock band in a great way. So no complaints from,


You can listen to 'Revolution Radio':

maandag 5 december 2016

Kairos, September 2016 by .No on Concertzender

In a desperate attempt to catch up with actuality, Wo. listens to another edition of Kairos, the monthly radio program by .No on Concertzender. What will he hear in the September show, after the sort of ordeal he went through during the August one. Let's move forward fast, so you can learn of his endeavours into .No's wondrous musical world.

What a fright. I do not recognise the website! Everything has changed and yes, finally I see the right link to the show. White and purple, to commemorate the passing away of Prince? I'm not sure I like the change, but in a while I simply will not know any better.

We start with esoteric, moody music. Minimal drones wash over me. Several layers of drones move over each other, seem to collide, but don't. In the end it all sort of fits together. The straight dromes, the warbly ones and the dark ones moving in the undergrowth. But what is Ken Camden trying to achieve in his 'Jupiter'? It says he plays guitar and computer but what I'm hearing is all electronically induced.

The droning sounds slowly give way to an organ. .No's mixing skills are at work, but there's no mistaking a move into other spheres here. It is Limburg composer André Stolwijk's composition 'Vater Unser' as played by organist Jo Louppen. Music as played in a Catholic church at half time. Non-obtrusive, extremely serious and religious. At the same time it is possible for the organist to play his own compositions instead of a Bach one or someone like him. Perhaps at a moment like this Stolwijk premiered his 'Vater Unser'. That moment when all have received the communion and contemplate sins or dearly beloved ones, while the organist plays something at will.

Ken Camden returns after Vater Unser' is brought to a climax. Another fragment from 'Jupiter'. Drones move in between the wilder organ notes, no longer suited for a mass. (I'm afraid Stolwijk went a little off the little path here and was sacked as church organist after this eruption of notes. Wrenching the whole church out of its contemplation.) Again I can't help but wonder, where is the music in this? Where is the beauty? I just don't understand what is offered by Camden and am almost relieved when a choir sets in with deeply felt singing. Something I would never for one second think of to play myself -no guitars in earshot- but beautiful it is. I close my eyes and let myself be carried away by Gabrieli Consort as it sings itself through several of Thomas Morley's 'Funeral Sentences'. The recording uses the full space and acoustics of a large cathedral or less romantically the effects of a modern studio or even the least romantic the effects on a laptop. But my guess is the former. This is beauty in one of its most pure musical forms. I am totally in the mood for this right now. 10 Minutes? No problem.

I can't help wondering about the enormous contrast between the music on offer so far. In a way there is a parallel. The voices can be seen as drones as well. Drones that move in and out of and passed each other. But Camden's drones are so lifeless, so cold, so Artificial Intelligence 21st century on the move, where the singing can not be more human and warm. "Amen", let me just quote the final word sung here.

Soft piano music takes over. An album that has come by a few times in the spring Kairosses, 'Rothko Chapel'. It is Eric Satie's 'Gnossienne No. 4' played by Sarah Rothenberg. The mood fits so well with the Gabrieli Consort. Just little lines of bass notes, overridden by a lead melody, that also sounds so basic and simple. Yet the effect is so large, larger than life. These notes wrap themselves around the world. Taking it all in.

A voice cuts in. I recognise Tonnie Dieleman's and his Sealand accent. His spoken word performance 'Water' takes over until his bowed acoustic guitar chimes in with its direct, screeching quality. 'Uut De Bron' was one of my two favourite albums of 2015, so I'm glad to hear it come by again. A marvel of music, atmosphere, stories, spoken word, interviews, more atmosphere and even some songs. A monument for a world nearly or totally gone. 'Water' moves into the instrumental 'Onder Zaamslag', that with some fantasy could be called a jig. A song to dance to at a 17th century Sealand wedding. A slow late at night one, the jig for the road, before all went home.

Another piano takes over. This time more melancholy, with a longing for something. What I can't determine, but it is trying to say so with these notes. I listen hard, but I just do not speak this language. Peter Vanhove plays Lodewijk Mortelmans' 'Weemoedig Aandenken'. Looking at the title I'd say it will be a longing for someone lost, but it might be something, like the innocence of youth or the loss of a friendship. Vanhove plays the notes just right so that the title is evoked in music.

When another piano morphs itself into 'Weemoedig Aandenken' the theme of September 2016 is clear: piano music. Not that all is piano. Yet each move to something else works without disturbing the piano atmosphere. But then, we are only half way, so what do I know?

'Andante Cantabile' by Alexander Scriabin is played by Kyoko Hayashi. Why not? Italian title, written by a Russian, played by a Japanese? This is 2016. Anything goes, although that may change all to soon. Softly played notes move towards hints at madness and chaos. Hayashi obviously knows what he's doing, playing this composition in a virtuous way. Whether Scriabin knew what he was doing all of the time while composing, I doubt at some passages. None the less it is an intriguing composition.

It's been a while since Silmus was on Kairos. It returns with 'Bare'. A dark composition by Gert Boersma, based on an acoustic guitar with a lot of moody instrumentation around him going on. 'Bare' is not out to please but to puzzle, to quiz. Very present, but mystical. Beautiful for sure.

'Bare' moves into, piano music and mother nature. I hear a bird, monotonous. And then what? 'Evoke Ewok', we are in Iceland. No Icelandic "hakka" here. Deep mysterious moods come out of my speakers. Like mist rolling out over an almost bare landscape. Here and there something sticks out of the fog. A tree? A hill top? A human being? A troll? It is too dark to see clear. Ulfur puts the pictures right in front of my eyes with this mysterious music.

To come up with a song called 'A New Home' now is not so strange as it seems. It could have been the rooftop we saw in the mist. Annelies Monseré talk-sings and oohs herself through this bare composition of atmospheric sounds and a few guitar notes, combined with the sound of fingers moving on the strings with a lot of echo on it. It is not my music, but in combination with what happened before it speaks to me. Loud and clear.

The next cut is radical. A classical trained voice with a cathedral load of echo behind it takes over. The King's Singers sing John Tavener's 'The Lamb'. The poem by Margriet Ehlen is squeezed between a sequence of singing. About time being caught in emotions. I don't like 'The Lamb' I notice. To monotonous to my taste. Something like what happens to me with Pärt often on this show.

And then a harmonica comes in. A tribute to Toots? Yes, it is. Jean 'Toots' Thielemans and Bill Evans work themselves though a Paul Simon song. A jazzy sort of song, but that may not even be a radical departure from Simon's original, as he has made a lot of songs based on jazz or as the undertone of his pop. I don't know whether I know 'I Do It For Your Love'. I find it's on his 'Still Crazy After All These Years' album, so I must have heard it. It has not made a lasting impression I'm afraid. Evans tinkles away in improvisation and Toots sprinkles his famous sound over the song. It just reminds me of 'Turks Fruit', that it what this does.

James Hatfield? Lars Ulrich? Is .No taking a radical departure from the concept of his show and is this final song an introduction to a metal themed show for October? Well, you never know with '.No, but I'd say no. 'Nothing Else Matters' is played by Scala & Kolacny Brothers. Yes, on piano, while we hear a children's choir sing Metallica's biggest hit. The song after which the band lost itself and its focus for a few decades. Yes, I like this version. It works with a choir alright. If anything it shows the strength of this ballad written by a thrash metal band.


You can listen to this Kairos here:

This months playlist:

Playlist Kairos  1 Sep 2016   23.00 PM CET

00:00     Ken Camden. Jupiter (fragment). Ken Camden, gitaar en computer. Van album ‘Lethargy & Repercussion’. Krank140.
03:50     André Stolwijk. Vater Unser. Jo Louppen, orgel. Van album ‘Positief’. Uitgave Stichting Limburgse Componisten.
08:46     Ken Camden. Jupiter (fragment). Ken Camden, gitaar en computer. Van album ‘Lethargy & Repercussion’. Krank140.
11:05     Thomas Morley. Funeral sentences. Gabrieli Consort o.l.v. Paul McCreesh. Van album ‘A Song of Farewell’. Signum Records SIGCD 281.
21:11     Erik Satie. Gnossienne No. 4. Sarah Rothenberg, piano. Van album ‘Rothko Chapel’. ECM NEW SERIES 2378 4811796.
24:15     Broeder Dieleman. Water. Van album ‘Uut de Bron’. Snowstar Records.
26:09     Broeder Dieleman. Onder Zaamslag. Van album ‘Uut de Bron’. Snowstar Records.
30:03     Lodewijk Mortelmans. Weemoedig aandenken. Peter Vanhove, piano. Van album ‘When the Soul Listens’. Pavane ADW 7547.
32:46     Alexander Scriabin. Andante Cantabile (uit Deux Poèmes op. 32). Kyoko Hayashi, piano. Pianovox PIA 508-2
36:13     Gert Boersma. Bare. Van album ‘Shelter’ van Silmus (Gert Boersma, Minco Eggersman, Jan Borgers, Mirjam Feenstra). Volkoren 58.
39:18     Ólafur Björn Ólafsson. Evoke Ewok. Ulfur (Erla Axelsdóttir, hoorn; Ólafur Björn Ólafsson, vibrafoon, percussie.) Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, zang; Bjarni Frimann Bjarnason, viola; Hans Jóhansson, cello. Album ‘White Mountain’ van Ulfur. Western Vinyl.
43:12     Annelies Monseré. A new home. Van album ‘Nest’. Morc 60.
46:37     John Tavener. The Lamb. The King’s Singers (David Hurley, Nigel Short, Bob Chilcott, Bruce Russell, Philip Lawson, Stephen Connolly). Van album ‘Sermons and Devotions’. RCA Red Seal 8287664299 2
49:44     Paul Simon. I do it for your love. Bill Evans en Toots Thielemans. Van album ‘Affinity’. Warner Bros. Records BSK 3293.
57:00     James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich. Nothing Else Matters. Scala & Kolacny Brothers. Van album ‘Circle’. PIAS.

Gedicht / poem: Margriet Ehlen.

zondag 4 december 2016

Heart Like A Levee. Hiss Golden Messanger

Hiss Golden Messenger verraste twee jaar geleden met een plaat die zich liet beluisteren als een vergeten Bob Dylan plaat.
Lateness Of Dancers zou overigens zeker geen slechte Bob Dylan plaat zijn geweest, maar was uiteindelijk vooral een hele goede plaat van het alter ego van de Amerikaanse singer-songwriter Michael (M.C.) Taylor (in het verleden ook de man achter The Court & Spark), die op de prachtplaat overigens op indrukwekkende wijze werd bijgestaan door multi-instrumentalist en engineer/producer Scott Hirsch en leden van de band Megafaun.
Ook bij beluistering van de nieuwe plaat van Hiss Golden Messenger zal de naam van Bob Dylan nog enkele keren opduiken, maar Heart Like A Levee is een plaat die de oude meester nooit gemaakt heeft.
Op zijn nieuwe plaat verrijkt M.C. Taylor zijn muziek niet alleen met invloeden uit de folk, maar citeert hij ook uit de archieven van onder andere de gospel, de country, de blues, de psychedelica en de soul.
Megafaun leden Phil en Bradley Cook zijn ook dit keer van de partij en krijgen gezelschap van onder andere een saxofonist en een aantal zangeressen, onder wie Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, Sonyia Tuner en Tift Merritt, die zorgen voor mooie en emotievolle vocale accenten.
Vergeleken met zijn voorganger heeft Heart Like A Levee een opvallend veelkleurig geluid, maar Hiss Golden Messenger weet het hoge niveau van Lateness Of Dancers vrij makkelijk vast te houden.
Op zijn nieuwe plaat neemt M.C. Taylor je mee op een muzikale reis die enkele decennia terug gaat en een groot deel van de Verenigde Staten bestrijkt, maar Heart Like A Levee is ook een tijdloze plaat vol uitstekende popsongs.
Door het veelzijdige geluid en de veelheid aan invloeden verdwijnt de vergelijking met Bob Dylan al heel snel naar de achtergrond en verschuift de aandacht naar Hiss Golden Messenger. Het is aandacht die M.C. Taylor en zijn medemuzikanten verdienen, want wat wordt er op Heart Like A Levee knap gemusiceerd en wat zijn de songs van de prachtig zingende Amerikaan sterk.
Ik was twee jaar geleden behoorlijk onder de indruk van Lateness Of Dancers, maar de nieuwe plaat van Hiss Golden Messenger is nog een stuk sterker. Heart Like A Levee, dat overigens in een hoes is gestoken die herinnert aan die van Boy en War van U2, is een plaat die prima past bij de eerste herfstdagen van 2016 en deze herfstdagen voorziet van een stemmig maar prachtig kleurenpalet.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Heart Like A Levee':