dinsdag 25 april 2017

Bounce Back. Chantal Acda

Chantal Acda so far was just a name to me. One of those names in music that comes by every once in a while, yet I can't remember ever having heard her music before. For one reason or another I associate the name with jazz and that usually does not trigger me to start listening. Another association was Thomas Acda and that isn't my cup of tea either. With her new album Bounce Back that all changed.

Look at the cover. I see a horse, face turned away from me on a patch of land with nothing but fog behind it. Clear, yet full of mystery or better the unknown. Anything could be behind that horse, including danger or just plain nothing. Who can tell?

It's a bit the same with the music of Chantal Acda on Bounce Back. Several songs have this kind of mystery surrounding them. Not all is clear on the album.

I wrote this part before reading the bio accompanying Bounce Back. Chantal Acda tells about the disassociation that comes with social media. Do people really connect any more or just tell about their (too) pretty side on Facebook? She wanted to go personal and left the large venues to play living room shows and connected with the people there. From the stories she heard there, this album slowly grew.

Promo photo: Hanneke Wetzer
Chantal Acda is from Belgium and also plays in the band Isbells from Leuven. Bounce Back is her third solo album after releases in 2013 and 2015. On Bounce Back she ventures through several different musical spheres. There is a hint at folk, disguised under modern, atmospheric guitar playing and rhythms that are not necessarily straight forward. Another faint hint at pop is given here and there, again disguised behind what I can just as easily call modern classical music. Just like the music .No presents me with on 'Kairos', his radio show on Concertzender with e.g. Nils Frahm, Peter Broderick or Ben Lukas Boysen. Acda does not let herself be caught in a single corner. If there is a common denominator it is that mystery. That fleeting reality and mysterious sounds when surrounded by fog or snow for that matter. All sounds differently, more supernatural.

So expect guitars with a lot of reverb and echo, drums that play rhythms that do not necessarily seem a part of the song structure, but something added as an extra instrument, while a piece of percussion keeps the rhythm on track. Chantal Acda singing slowly, with deliberate words that can only be in that place at that point. The kind of music that befits a living room. Soft, modest, but commanding people to listen to the point of being able to hear a pin drop. If her aim is to do more living rooms shows she has the right music for that here. In large venues it will demand more attention than most people are able to summon these days. A live show is the new pub it seems sometimes.

Promo photo by: Hanneke Wetzer
A surprise is the intro to 'These Terms', especially after the extremely small song 'Stay'. It's like Rammstein is going to play 'Ohne Dich'. That mood is lifted for, again an extremely small song. An acoustic guitar playing slow chords, some atmospherics in the background, a voice. That mood morphs into something bigger soon, when a busy drum is added and strings enter more prominently with an electric guitar.

Acda, the guitar and the drums are the horse, all going on in the background is the fog. I realise that the drums remind me of the role of the drums on Bowie's 'Black Star', almost set free and omnipresent.

Variation is a word that is not in abundant supply on Bounce Back. To find it one has to work hard, pay attention and leave outside impulses behind. Anyone not able to do so will not find the cello in 'Our Memories', the intricate guitar playing, the horn section that comes in near the end. Probably only that the mood changes during the outro of the song. The fun of Bounce Back is in the small details. Each song offers some, making Bounce Back an album to truly enjoy in solitude. An album for two: you and the album, preferably on a headset. It seems like Chantal Acda has succeeded in her quest for disassociation.


You can listen to 'Fight Back' here:


maandag 24 april 2017

Radio Harlaz. Mad About Mountains

Tips van lezers van deze BLOG zijn voor mij zeer waardevol. Wanneer ik een tip binnenkrijg ga ik meestal dan ook snel luisteren en dit heeft me het afgelopen jaar een aantal prachtplaten opgeleverd.
Wanneer ik een bericht ontvang waarin staat dat ik de beste countryplaat van het jaar heb gemist, ben ik natuurlijk extra nieuwsgierig en ben ik echt direct gaan luisteren.
Gezien mijn voorkeur voor vrouwenstemmen is Radio Harlaz van Mad About Mountains voor mij niet de beste countryplaat van 2016, maar het is absoluut een hele goede countryplaat en het is er bovendien een die niet had misstaan in mijn jaarlijstje.

Mad About Mountains is een band rond de Belgische muzikant Piet De Pessemier. De muzikant uit Herk-de-Stad en zijn medemuzikanten lieten zich voor Radio Harlaz inspireren door het trieste verhaal van countryster Glen Campbell, die werd getroffen door Alzheimer en vervolgens een aantal gerenommeerde prijzen won terwijl hij zelf niet meer wist wie Glen Campbell nu eigenlijk was en een teruggetrokken leven leidde met zijn vrouw.
Het verhaal van Glen Campbell en de tragiek van het leven in het algemeen vormt de rode draad op een plaat, die in muzikaal opzicht vooral associaties oproept met de muziek van Neil Young.
De melancholische alt-country en country op Radio Harlaz doet meer dan eens denken aan de muziek die Neil Young in een ver verleden maakte (een van de tracks lijkt overigens wel erg veel op Neil Young klassieker Heart Of Gold), al dan niet bijgestaan door Crosby, Stills en Nash of The Crazy Horse.
Het is muziek die prachtig zacht en melancholisch kan klinken, maar Mad About Mountains kan de gitaren ook heerlijk laten janken, net als Neil Young dat zo mooi kon en nog steeds kan.
Het levert een tijdloze countryplaat op, die herinnert aan de hoogtijdagen van de 70s countryrock, maar af en toe ook lijntjes uitgooit naar meer eigenzinnige en hedendaagse bands als Wilco en My Morning Jacket, waardoor Radio Harlaz zich vrij makkelijk ontworstelt aan het hokje retro.
Luister naar Radio Harlaz en de klok tikt opeens een stuk minder snel. De 45 minuten van Radio Harlaz lijken veel langer te duren en zorgen voor aangename onthaasting, die in deze drukke tijden heel goed van pas komt.
Mad About Mountains overtuigt op Radio Harlaz met prachtige weemoedige songs, een al even fraaie en veelkleurige instrumentatie en vocalen die meestal aangenamer zijn dan die van Neil Young zelf. Inderdaad een countryplaat die de liefhebber niet mag laten liggen en die zomaar jaarlijstjes moet kunnen halen. Mooie tip dus.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Walk With Me':


zondag 23 april 2017

Amber Arcades + Moss Live. Paradiso Tolhuistuin, Thursday 20-04-2016

Two bands who's last albums I truly like on one bill. That was an offer I couldn't refuse. Both Amber Arcades and Moss have featured before on this blog in favourable ways. Although both can be stashed in the corner of alternative, indie rock, the differences are significant. Not only in music, but obviously also in experience and presence. Let's dive in, but not before some starting comments.

It is beyond discussion that I like both bands. Their recent albums 'Fading Lines' and 'Strike' are excellent. Both have found their way into my devices without too much effort. Amber Arcades may win out on points as I think its album is just this little more sympathetic. Both are musically beyond reproach with Moss being somewhat more experienced, which shows in the sound and the "tricks" to dress up the song some more. Now lets move on to the show.

In English the position I have manoeuvred myself into voluntarily is that of a critic and I'm afraid that it is this role I have to play where Amber Arcades is concerned. There is no nice way to go about it. And it shouldn't as what I'm writing is well meant. Annelotte de Graaf's presentation leaves a lot to be desired and the fact that she is surrounded by hired hands clearly does not help her. To entertain is hard. It is hard work and takes effort. When all was sung and played I could not escape the feeling that she'd rather be anywhere else than on this stage and was glad to be able to leave it when the show was over. To communicate with the audience is a way to interact and win it over. So make sure that it can understand what you're saying. I had the impression that the interaction does not come completely naturally. That makes it doubly necessary for me to hear what is said to be able to sympathise. And finally the eye needs a little something as well. I'm not implying the Katy Perry, Rhianna kind of dress-up, but a little more stylish clothes would be welcome. It adds to the picture.

Musically there was a contrast as Annelotte de Graaf played her songs extremely confident. Her songs are her strength and it showed. There's no hesitation nor feeling uncomfortable on this front. The band played competently, but somewhat detached. Enough to make the songs come alive. If Amber Arcades is able to translate that inner musical strength into a little more outward podium presence, there's nothing to worry about. The songs are great and the new material that was played literally provided the show with an extra dimension. That new EP, announced for 2 June, is going to be something to look out for. Conclusion for now: the benefit of the doubt. A next time will have to be better.

Moss took over the stage, putting everything in place itself and started to blast away. Here there was only confidence, several band members with a podium presence and songs that were taken far beyond the studio version, if so wished. 15 Years of experience showed easily. I think I could more or less point to my previous review of a Moss show, late 2014 if I'm correct, and take the easy way out.

Of course there were a lot of new songs, who held up great in the setlist. There was a lot of talking, this was a home show with lots of friends in the room and a lot of tuning the guitars. That never took anything away from the pace of the show, that knew an emotional moment when 'Strike' was announced. Guitar effects were all over the place and that 70s synth sound reminded me of everything between Tubeway Army and Fischer-Z. Oh, fine memories of my youth translated into great 2017 music. Because that it is. Nothing to be ashamed of where Dutch bands are concerned these days. It has never been this good and Moss is a proud member of that indie rock ship that ought to conquer the world like the V.O.C. once did.

What Moss excels in, besides playing some great songs, is the use of dynamics. Within the show as a whole, but also within songs. Sonic storms can follow quiet moments and all played with extreme confidence. No holding back followed by extreme restraint. And then came 'She's Got A Secret'. The song to end all songs. Moss has not written a more powerful song that this one. With bleeding ears I left the Tolhuistuin, with a new vinyl and a new cd under my arm, receiving apps about 020 going to the semi-final. Congratulations, well-meant to, but you know what to do just about now!

(All photo's by) Wo.

Creeper live. Saturday 15 April 2017, Melkweg Amsterdam

Photo: Kristine Naess
For their last concert of their tour, 'horror punk' band Creeper gave a show in the Melkweg in Amsterdam on the 15th of April. They clearly are not afraid to make a lot of noise, their front singer, Will Gould, clearly is not afraid to scream, the bass guitar and the guitar can be very present, and the drummer is not afraid to hurt his drum kit. However, neither are they afraid to produce some excellent melodies. The 'noise' is used to stress bits and parts of the songs, in between it never exceeds levels we are not accustomed to through Green Day. This means you never lose out on the excellent voice of the front and second singers, more subtle guitar riffs, and the support of the bass. Together the 'noise' and the melody do allow you to lose yourself , though, while dancing and jumping.

Many of the songs were great to sing along with, which added much to the atmosphere. Yet, while some parts of the songs are great sing-alongs, the music is not 'simple', rhythms constantly change, different instruments take precedence in different parts of songs, and several melodies are interwoven in the songs at times. The temporization of the concert was excellent too, with some slower songs to allow you to catch your breath. For instance, Hannah Greenwood, the keyboard player, did an excellent duet with guitarist Ian Miles.

Photo: Kristine Naess
Although the crowd was not extremely large, the Oude Zaal of the Melkweg was not packed, of the people who were there a large share could sing along with most of their songs. There also was a quite acceptable circle pit, edged on by the band. The band was clearly very happy to play for us, which also appeared from their interaction with the public, helping crowd surfers on the stage and even letting one guy sing along with one of the songs. All in all it was an excellent concert, by a band which could become very big, if they manage to write more songs as good as their best ones so far, like Black Rain, Suzanne, Misery and Down Below.


zaterdag 22 april 2017

Where's The Funky Party? Hallo Venray

Dertig jaar Hallo Venray wordt gevierd met een nieuwe, veertiende, cd en een clubtour. Na het teleurstellende 'No Show' (2014) is het nu veel fijner rapporteren over de creatieve output  van Henk Koorn, Peter Konings en Henk Jonkers. Where Is The Funky Party is gewoon goed, lekker fel, met veel uptempo nummers, psychedelisch elementen en melancholische zangpartijen.

Het begint al goed, met de opening 'Funky Party'. Veel trommel en galm begeleiden de felle gitaar. Tekstueel stelt het niet veel voor, zoals dat bij meerdere nummers het geval is. Het lekkerste nummer is 'Blood', heerlijke punkrock, opwindend, vrolijk en opruiend. Echt een feestje. 'Oh, you’re not bad' zet die lijn door, hoewel een tempootje lager. In deze song is het gitaarwerk goed afwisselend en stevig aanwezig. Met 'Drink' ("I don’t drink as much as you do", is de terugkerende tekstuele lijn) gaat het gewoon op hetzelfde hoge niveau door. Het meest opwindende nummer, ook het kortst met 1 minuut 31, is 'Sticking', waarbij het moeilijk stilzitten is. Hallo Venray op zijn best. Dit wordt gevolgd door 'Ball', dat een heerlijk donkere ondertoon van de bas en drums heeft bij een aanstekelijke partij op de leadgitaar. 'Supermarket' is ook weer een kortje (1:42), maar heftig en intens.

Het slot valt tegen. Wellicht niet toevallig zijn het ook de langste nummers, alle drie ('Stories', 'Different Kind of Air', 'Look Outside') met ellenlange instrumentale stukken. Op zijn best doet het denken aan de instrumentele delen van nummers van The Cure uit de vroege jaren tachtig. Vaker is het gewoon een beetje saai en een tikkie te psychedelisch en monotoon.

Maar dit mag de pret niet drukken. Hallo Venray heeft een lekker album afgeleverd, met meer dan voldoende meeslepende en opwindende nummers. Het luisteren, en zien, meer dan waard.