maandag 23 oktober 2017

Weight_Falls. Kim Churchill

Yes, people, Jack Johnson is not the only surfer dude to write and play songs on an acoustic guitar. Kim Churchill from Australia is another one. Having seen him play in the Q-Bus in Leiden a few years back was an experience. Not just a singer-songwriter, no, far from that. Percussion on the floor and around his feet, loops that were built and sonic storms racing through connected stomp boxes, together created A performance. A rhythmic wonder Kim Churchill on stage is. So many things are happening at the same time, all made up on the spot or at least so it seems, that two ears at times simply were not enough to catch all the effects.

Come 2017, come Weight_Falls. This latest treasure trove of songs is his fifth album since releasing his debut, 'With Sword And Shield' in 2010. For me things Kim Churchill started with his 2014 album, 'Silence/Win'. An album that in my review called Sheeran, Howard, Hozier and Churchill I compared favourably to the at the time latest albums of the other names mentioned (read here: https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=6022018216922190253#editor/target=post;postID=5836037832821262641;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=1;src=postname).

Weight_Falls again is an album where Kim Churchill at heart is a singer-songwriter disguising the fact behind modern rhythms and a full band sound. Rhythms that can be handclapped or played on percussion and drums or from more modern digital sources. His guitarplaying always supports the rhythm, perhaps with a frivolous note or note pattern, rhythmic it is. When this effect is turned into a song like 'Heart Of You', I appreciate the effect certainly a lot less. It gets a little to Coldplay-y to my taste. His voice can do a Chris Martin easily too, yet Churchill will never overdo it and remains himself.

This rhythmic fact makes the music of Kim Churchill somewhat unique. I can't say that there is a Kim Churchill sound, but without a doubt he creates something that I do not hear too often. Where all these elements really come together is in the song 'Second Hand Car'. The kind of song that will really work well on stage. The kind of song Churchill excels in.

The thing that he excels in is also his pitfall. The performance is so extremely strong that the quality of the songs is noticed only when alone with the music at home. Not every song is as strong as the performance of the song. Having said that, as I wrote in the past, I rather listen to these songs than to Ed Sheeran's on any given day.

Forced to choose I would always choose the live show above the record. On stage Kim Churchill is a sensation. So if you have the chance go out and see him... Weight_Falls is a fair and certainly decent alternative and holds enough good songs to justify multiple listening sessions over time. Finally it is worth noting that Kim Churchill is not out to please in an easy way. This makes the album grow a little again, because when it gets down to it, it certainly does please.

Wo.

zondag 22 oktober 2017

Dragonfly. Kasey Chambers

Kasey Chambers bracht de eerste negen jaar van haar leven heel ver van de bewoonde wereld door. Haar ouders probeerden in Australië te (over)leven van de jacht en visserij en deden dit op plekken die destijds nog volledig waren afgesloten van de moderne tijd (niet altijd te verwarren met beschaving).
 
De jonge Kasey Chambers zat ’s avonds daarom niet voor de buis, maar zong met haar ouders countryklassiekers bij het kampvuur. Het zorgde voor een diepe liefde voor de muziek en met name de country, waardoor een carrière als muzikant voor de hand lag toen Kasey Chambers eenmaal op eigen benen stond.
 
Die carrière kreeg in 2000 een vliegende start met haar debuut The Captain. De plaat werd enthousiast ontvangen in haar vaderland, maar kreeg ook in Europa en de Verenigde Staten voet aan de grond. Kasey Chambers zag haar meisjesdromen uit komen toen ze toerde met Lucinda Wiliams en Emmylou Harris en wist het succes van haar debuut te overtreffen met het briljante Barricades & Brickwalls, dat ik persoonlijk schaar onder de (alt)country klassiekers.
 
Na de release van het al bijna even goede Wayward Angel in 2004 leek een plekje tussen de groten van de alt-country verzekerd, maar sindsdien verloopt de carrière van Kasey Chambers helaas wat moeizamer. Kasey Chambers verdeelde haar tijd tussen soloplaten en platen die ze maakte met haar echtgenoot Shane Nicholson. Die laatste waren prachtig, maar de soloplaten helaas een stuk minder dan haar eerste drie platen.
 
Pas op het in 2015 verschenen Bittersweet kwam Kasey Chambers weer in de buurt van het niveau van haar eerste drie soloplaten en nu is dan eindelijk Dragonfly in Nederland verschenen (zes maanden na de oorspronkelijke release in Australië en de VS).
 
Dragonfly is een dubbelalbum en bevat maar liefst 80 minuten muziek. Het is muziek die goed laat horen waartoe Kasey Chambers in staat is. Haar sterkste wapen is nog altijd haar stem en het is een stem die gemaakt lijkt voor de country. Kasey Chambers zingt met veel emotie en heeft een heerlijke snik in haar stem. Daar is lang niet iedereen gek op, maar ik smelt nog altijd voor de stem van de Australische singer-songwriter, die de emotie weer uit haar tenen haalt.
 
Op de eerste helft van de plaat werkt Kasey Chambers samen met de Australische singer-songwriter Paul Kelly, die zorgt voor een wat traditioneler of een opvallend bezwerend geluid. Op de tweede helft werkt de Australische weer eens samen met haar broer Nash en dat is een combinatie die nog altijd uitstekend werkt.
 
Dragonfly is een zeer gevarieerde countryplaat met ingetogen en meer uptempo tracks en met traditioneel aandoende muziek en tracks die eerder tot de alternatieve country moeten worden gerekend. De songs zijn stuk voor stuk uitstekend en ook de muzikanten op de plaat leveren uitstekend werk, maar het is ook dit keer de stem van Kasey Chambers die het meeste effect sorteert.
 
Het Kasey Chambers effect leek na drie geweldige platen een beetje uitgewerkt, maar met Dragonfly laat ze horen dat ze nog steeds behoord tot de allerbesten in het genre.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Satellite':

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8_lR08YJTM

zaterdag 21 oktober 2017

Gordon Downie (1964 - 2017)

One of the most typical voices in rock music was silenced on 17 October. Yesterday morning the first song I heard on the radio after my girlfriend turned it on before she goes to work in the morning was 'New Orleans Is Sinking', my favourite song of The Tragically Hip. Gordon Downie had died, was my thought. Never before had I heard a song of The Hip on Dutch radio, so it had to be.

When the band released its last record the story was that Downie had an incurable form of brain cancer and would die in the foreseeable future. That future was over one year later.

The Tragically Hip came into my life with its fourth album, 'Fully Completely', holding that special phrase for Dutchmen like myself: "I remember Buffalo, I remember Hengelo", from 'The Houndredth Meridian'. Searching back in time, immediately I found 'Road Apples' and 'Up To Here', the albums that to this day remain my two favourite TTH albums. Everything seemed to come together here, an intensity they never truly found again. From 'Day After Night', my fourth The Hip album, onwards the band started to play softer songs until I lost interest later on in the decade. Later in the 00s the albums became better again, but it just wasn't the same any more.

Live was a different matter. The band always went the little extra and Downie was a derwish on stage. Moving like he was twisting himself inside out, casting spells with his hands and arms, mesmerizing himself and his audience, while the band around him stoked up the fire ever higher. Always bass player Gord Sinclair caught my ear. His playing fills every hole there is to fill and take little leads here and there as well. I was lucky to have seen the band twice. Once in Amsterdam in the 90s and once in Utrecht in the 00s.

This band was such a sensation live that I never understood that it coudn't make that last jump to the larger venues. The music was there, the passion and the intensity of the shows. This band gave it their all and somehow that was not enough.

From day one the band played in the same line up and the members must have been real friends. Now that one pillar and probably an irreplaceable one has fallen, I do not see how they can continue or even want to. Time will tell.

For now I take out my 'Up To Here' copy and play that greatest of The Hip songs 'New Orleans Is sinking' in tribute.

Wo.

You can listen to 'The Hundreth Meridian' in Hengelo here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fjw9GhCPkc

vrijdag 20 oktober 2017

Remedies. Soup (2)

This spring Erwin Zijleman wrote a review of Remedies on this Blog (read here: http://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2017/05/remedies-soup.html). I was so intrigued by the cover, more than by the review, that I started to listen. I came close to being swept off my feet. Next I ordered the album online, as LP of course, as I fully wanted to enjoy the artwork. It never came. Instead I went to the label in Germany and received it within days. The artwork just goes on and on as it does with the three song EP I also ordered. Sleeves may have been put on walls, but this album cover can go to musea for modern art straight away. Lasse Hoile is an amazing artist. But what about the music? Let me get to that. First things first.

One of the most impressive pieces of natural art I have ever seen are in the middle of the Australian continent: Ayers Rock and the Olga's. These two rock formations can stand as an example of the music on Remedies. There are parts on the album that are totally monolithic, while other parts are windswept, open and more disguised. The music on Remedies is one big adventure taking listeners from one surprise to the other, from breathtaking parts to a repetitive and effective bassline that carries a whole section of side B.

Soup takes me deep into prog country. Way further than I have been for quite some time. Flying Colours is an example in the past years and Steven Wilson. That may be about it. This band from Norway holds nothing back and throws everything it's got into the record, the music, the songs, the band - and comes out a total winner. Another record contending for the top 10 in 2017.

To think that the album starts with a, heavily strummed, acoustic guitar and a way of singing that makes me think of Dutch band Blaudzun. In the background all sorts of things are going on already, tell-tale signs of things to come. A feedbacking guitar held in check. The singing is typical prog style, more telling a story than a true melody. At around 1"20 the music starts a soft build up, towards the second vocal part with a full band backing. From that moment onwards Soup takes its listeners on a magnificent ride past highs and lows, fast and slow, hard and soft, brutal and subtle. It is all there, one whole LP side long. The sleeve may say that there are two songs, but the main vocal theme returns later on, as you will notice. It seems to me that 'The Boy In The Snow', the title of the second song, is a part of 'Going Somewhere', title one.

Soup is a band from Trondheim in Norway and the vehicle for the musical ideas of Erlend Viken. After starting recording music in 2004, he released two solo albums. Through the years musician step in and out of Soup until for Remedies the band consists of Espen Berge (drums), Ørjan Jensen Langnes (guitar and keyboard) and Jan Tore Megård (bass), besides Viken. Don't be fooled by past stories, Remedies sounds very much like it has been recorded by a band. The density of the music is just huge. A wall of sound puts itself in front of the listener. It is not for nothing that the credits for the music are shared by Soup.

The sound at times is close to the limit of what my ears can handle. The cymbals are pounded tremendously hard, crashed, the dry sound of the snare drum that is hit equally hard. And then it all backs down again, like nature after the storm or after when a dog, close by, stopped barking. In these moments Soup creates a beautiful atmosphere where it is so pleasant to just wallow in. To undergo the music and follow the different instruments that move in and out of the whole. All the while the tension being built up, beat by beat on the drums. Instruments play more notes. More sounds are added to what the composition started out with and we return to the central theme of side one.

The EP 7" cover
Side two totally changes everything. A church organ, recorded in the church of Namsos, the town Remedies was mainly recorded, is the sole instrument. 'Audion' is the title of the composition, that has nothing to do with rock, but is something that returns on a rock record every once in a while. As such it is the transition between the two album sides. On cd it will work even better as the music is one whole there.

The subtle way 'Sleepers' starts out with, hints that Soup knows its Pink Floyd. Like the synthsound does, coming straight out of the 'Wish You Were Here' album. The melody is somewhat more uplifting than Pink Floyd's at the time. 'Sleepers' is pure beauty in the way it is played, the small harmonies come together, the way the melody of the vocal and the synth beautify the monotonous core of the song, making me not want to miss a second.

When the bass takes over the basic duty from the acoustic guitar, the song changes in mood and directness. Slowly it is build out further, making it grander and more impressive. Layer after layer is added of little musical motives that fit together yet are different. Sonic storms come by and lie down when an electric guitar takes over the central duties as a solo instrument. Here I'm reminded of Mike Oldfield for just two minutes, before 'Sleepers' moves into its final sequence and the storms slowly return, to fade away again for a more electronic sound experiment worthy of a spot in Kairos.

The final song 'Nothing Like Home' morphs out of the soundscape slowly, little by little it exposes itself. Hesitatingly as if it is not supposed to be here at the end of Remedies, but is trying to get away with it anyway. Again, in these limited spots, Soup shows how good it is in harmonising. Changing moods in one song is an average manoeuvre for Soup, so it does so in 'Nothing Like Home'. Slowly the composition regains the confidence the rest of the album has and let's a guitar motive play the song home, with more and more instruments arranged in intricate harmonies and counter melodies around it. Bigger and bigger the song becomes, in nothing reminding me of its modest origins.

Remedies is one of the most beautifully covered albums ever. It is also one of my favourite progrock records ever. A perfect combination.

Wo.

You can listen to and buy Remedies here:

https://soupsound.bandcamp.com/album/remedies

or here:

https://www.stickman-records.com/shop/soup-remedies/

donderdag 19 oktober 2017

Beth Wimmer, met Billy Watts op gitaar: Wo.'s Huiskamerconcert, 14 oktober 2017

Foto: Wo.
Het is al bijna vertrouwde muziekgrond, de Haarlemse huiskamer van Wo. en Karen. Hun tweede huiskamerconcert dit jaar, dit keer met de in Zwitserland woonachtige Californische singer/songwriter Beth Wimmer. Zij trad op met haar Amerikaanse vriend, producer en gitarist Billy Watts, die trouwens al decennia in een heel aardige eigen band speelt: Mojo Monkeys.

In het eerste deel van het concert trakteerde Beth ons op een selectie van haar nieuwe, vierde CD, Bookmark, die pas volgende week uitkomt. Beth zingt wat nu Americana schijnt te heten, een begrip dat mij op zich niet veel zegt. Maar houdt het inderdaad maar op een mix van folk, country, beetje blues, en snufje rock! Haar stem is erg goed, krachtig, zuiver, met veel emotie. De nieuwe cd klinkt mooi, en de nummers die mij in het bijzonder aanspraken waren Louisiana, en titeltrack Bookmark.

Foto:Wo.
In het tweede deel van set, na een goed verzorgde pauzeborrel in het zonnetje in de achtertuin, speelden Beth en Billy een selectie uit het eerdere werk van Wimmer, met name haar cd’s Ghosts & Men (2011) en Miracle Girl (2008). Opvallend genoeg speelde ze niet het nummer dat haar tot op heden de meeste radio airtime in de VS en diverse prijzen heeft opgeleverd: Self Righteous Son of A Bitch. Dat is nogal een rocksong, dus wellicht niet geschikt voor de huiskamersetting.

Wel presenteerde ze een mooie selectie uit haar oeuvre. Tekstueel gaat het vooral over de liefde en relaties, geheel passend bij het genre natuurlijk. Dus kregen we grappige nummers zoals Mexico, waarin zelfs een Zwitsers jodeltje zit. Het door de vrouwelijke aanwezigen wel heel erg gretig omarmde Simplicity of a Man, Mahogany Hawk, een fijne ingetogen versie van Bowie’s Starman, Makin’ War (over haar Zwitserse vriend die net nadat zij bij hem was ingetrokken drie weken dienstplicht moest vervullen), en het mooie Move On. Luister en oordeel zelf, via http://www.bethwimmer.com/. Kortom, Beth maakte indruk, net als de gastheer en gastvrouw!

HareD