donderdag 16 juli 2015

Benjamin Booker. Benjamin Booker

Het kan nog. Zomaar uit het niets een debuut afleveren waarvan de wereld versteld zal staan. Het is een debuut waarvan de veters spontaan uit je schoenen schieten, maar het is ook een debuut dat gehakt zal maken van flink wat gevestigde namen.
 
Het titelloze debuut van Benjamin Booker doet de laatste platen van Jack White en The Black Keys verbleken en het zijn zeker niet de laatste grootheden die deze jonge muzikant uit New Orleans aan zijn zegekar zal binden.
 
Het in een paar dagen op de band gesmeten debuut van Benjamin Booker brengt bluesy garagerock terug tot de essentie. Een paar rauwe akkoorden op de gitaar, een beukende ritmesectie en een schuurpapieren strot. Meer heeft Benjamin Booker in eerste instantie niet nodig om te imponeren. Het titelloze debuut van de Amerikaan opent met twee rauwe uptempo tracks van nog geen drie minuten en hierna speelt Benjamin Booker een gewonnen wedstrijd.
 
Met nog tien vergelijkbare tracks was ik meer dan tevreden geweest, maar na twee tracks bedenkt Benjamin Booker zich dat de lat nog best wat hoger kan. Na een uptempo track met een heerlijk zuigend orgeltje zorgt Benjamin Booker voor centimeters dik kippenvel met een lome track waarin hetzelfde orgeltje samen met een mooi gitaarloopje tegenwicht moet bieden aan vocalen die door de ziel snijden, waarna de gitaren aan het eind nog even los mogen gaan.
 
Het debuut van Benjamin Booker is dan pas vier tracks onderweg, maar de jonge muzikant uit New Orleans heeft al zoveel indruk gemaakt dat ik zijn debuut niet meer los laat. In de tracks die volgen ligt het tempo weer lekker hoog en verrast Benjamin Booker met de ene na de andere punky garagerock song, al stopt hij ook flink wat soul en blues in zijn muziek en is hij zelfs niet vies van een vleugje onvervalste glamrock. Het lijkt allemaal erg simpel, maar alles wat Benjamin Booker doet is raak. Snoeihard raak.
 
Het debuut van Benjamin Booker lijkt op het eerste gehoor een plaat die iedere vorm van productie moet ontberen, maar dat is toch niet het geval. Voor het debuut van Benjamin Booker nam de van Alabama Shakes bekende Andrija Tokic plaats achter de knoppen en deze heeft een knap staaltje werk afgeleverd. Tokic heeft immers de rauwe energie van het live-geluid van Benjamin Booker weten te vangen op de plaat en deze energie grijpt je naar de strot.
 
Zeker wanneer de tracks wat langer worden en het gitaarwerk een prominentere rol krijgt hoor je ook nog een vleugje Jimi Hendrix, maar vervolgens verrast Benjamin Booker net zo makkelijk met een uiterst sobere en fluisterzacht gezongen song, die uiteindelijk natuurlijk ook ontspoort.
 
Benjamin Booker speelde eerder dit jaar op het invloedrijke South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, en maakte daar een onuitwisbare indruk. Het wist een journalist zelfs te verleiden tot de uitspraak dat Benjamin Booker de redder van de rock ’n roll is en sindsdien is in de VS de hype compleet.
 
Redder van de rock ’n roll is misschien wat veel eer voor een jonge en debuterende muzikant, maar dat Benjamin Booker een geweldige plaat heeft gemaakt is zeker. Eindelijk weer eens een plaat waarvoor de volumeknop helemaal open mag. Als een bezetene de luchtgitaar bespelen is vervolgens nauwelijks te voorkomen. Droomdebuut.

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Have You Seen My Son?':

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkUIknxbg6Y

of kopen op Bol.com



woensdag 15 juli 2015

F.F.S. F.F.S.

After the artistically very successful album 'Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action (read out review here: http://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2013/09/right-thoughts-right-words-right-action.html) Franz Ferdinand surprised me completely with a collaboration with 1970s art rockers Sparks. A new album after two years is not so unusual, a total merger of two bands is. What kind of music does this bring? I'll get to that. First to set the stage.

Readers of WoNo Magazine in 2005-2006 became desperate of my singing the praises of the band's first album, singles, b-sides and live show, followed by the hardly any less brilliant second album. After that things became quiet. Three years and four years a new album took Franz Ferdinand. So two years for a new album is fast.

Sparks however is a band that made me itch in the 1970s. The high voice of Russell Mael in the band's two NL hits, made me very nervous, although I liked 'Amateur Hour'. The band sort of disappeared from my horizon after that, although I was faintly aware of its existence. The notification that my second favorite band of the 00s, merged with Sparks gave reason for considerable concern. It's time to own up.

The first listen on Spotify was no joy. I didn't even sit through the album. Now that doesn't say much. At first listen of new work by old favorites I nearly never shout for joy. I just forgot about it for a while and bought the cd any way, to give it a real spin. This is where this review really starts.

FFS has started to draw me in. Franz Ferdinand is very high up on my list of personal favorites of the 00s bands and after that of all times, so I allow myself to judge the band's judgment. If Fra Fer wants to work with Sparks then something must be right, right? How perfect the mix between the two band is, is shown in opening track 'Johnny Delusional'. The Fra Fer drive blends with the nervousness of Sparks and both Alex Kapranos as Russell Mael shine in the singing.

Where in the first and second listening session I thought that Sparks was holding Franz Ferdinand back the whole time, as if a break was put on the drive, sound and pace of the songs, in the later sessions I started to discover what is given in return. A whole range of subtleties in keyboard(sound)s and a lot of singing that is wider and more varied can be found on FFS. With each spin I discovered more and more. Some brilliant, other details a bit over the top like the interludes in 'Dictator's Son'. The kind of musical jokes I can do without, but can live with when the rest is o.k.

The least known Franz Ferdinand song may be the cover they played of De Kift called 'Heisa-ho'. The funny thing is that the "pom-pom-diddy-diddy" part in 'Police Encounters' reminds me straight away of the intro of De Kift's 'Nauwe Mijter'. It's not a copy, far from, but the ghost of the song is there. One of the songs in which the influence and irateness of Sparks comes out best. Another song where the brake seems applied, but I was wrong. It's just different from what I would expect. And those keyboards!

One of the brilliant songs on FFS is 'Little Guy From the Suburbs'. A totally dressed down song, think 'Eleanore, Put Your Boots On' and then a bit more mysterious. The keyboards here are brilliant, as is the vocal melody. A song of total constraint, that allows all the beauty to come out and just shine and then shine some more. The little extras that are played out through the songs make for an interesting build up also. A silencing song that only begs listening.

Taking in the whole album, I'm still running into the fact that Russell Mael's voice is quite irritating to me. It's obviously 40 years older and Mael has to work hard to hit the high notes. Hence the album takes me here and there, as it is not all roses and sunshine as far as I'm concerned. Some of the works make me quite happy, with some I have my doubts. The claim that on this album two bands really mix is correct. Both have brought their stamp to FFS and have given and received some. Time will tell where FFS and I will really go, but after the first shock I have found my way into the album and continue to do so. There is hope and enjoyment so far. Things may just work out fine in the end.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Johnny Delusional' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCxLpte5loY

Look one step further and there's a whole live show on You Tube.

or buy at Bol.com


dinsdag 14 juli 2015

Red & Gold. Hattie Briggs

Ik hou erg van Britse folk, maar ben op de één of andere manier niet heel erg thuis in de hedendaagse Britse folkmuziek en al helemaal niet in de wat meer traditionele Britse folkmuziek.
 
Voor het vinden van de krenten in de Britse folk vertrouw ik dan ook op een aantal tipgevers, van wie er onlangs meerdere hebben geroepen dat ik echt naar Red & Gold van Hattie Briggs moest luisteren. Dat ze gelijk hadden wist ik al na enkele noten.
 
Hattie Briggs is een Britse singer-songwriter, die in eigen land inmiddels wordt geschaard onder de grote beloften in het folk segment, wat onder andere blijkt uit haar nominatie voor de prestigieuze BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award vorig jaar.
 
Hattie Briggs speelt zowel piano als gitaar en gebruikt deze afwisselend in haar songs, waarbij ze gezelschap krijgen van vaak sober maar altijd bijzonder smaakvol ingezette strijkers. De mooie instrumentatie staat in vrijwel alle tracks volledig in dienst van de stem van Hattie Briggs en dat is een verstandig besluit.
 
De jonge Britse singer-songwriter beschikt immers over een prachtig helder stemgeluid. Het is een stemgeluid dat herinnert aan groten uit de Britse folk als Sandy Denny, maar  vanwege de opvallend heldere klanken en de fraaie timing moest ik ook direct aan Eva Cassidy denken. Dat is geen toeval, want Eva Cassidy is de favoriete zangeres van Hattie Briggs en vormde de belangrijkste inspiratiebron voor Red & Gold.
 
Hiermee legt Hattie Briggs de lat direct bijzonder hoog voor zichzelf. Eva Cassidy werd sinds haar trieste dood vrijwel continue de hemel in geprezen en staat op een voetstuk waar maar weinig zangeressen bij in de buurt mogen komen.
 
Wanneer Hattie Briggs op Red & Gold ook nog eens aan de haal gaat met het door Sting geschreven, maar door Eva Cassidy onsterfelijk gemaakte Fields Of Gold en zich hierbij laat begeleiden door Eva’s broer Dan, lijkt ze de goden te verzoeken om keihard onderuit te gaan, maar dankzij een prachtige versie, die goed aansluit op die van Eva Cassidy, komt Hattie Briggs er nog mee weg ook.
 
Dat lukt veel minder goed wanneer Hattie Briggs zicht vergrijpt aan To Build A Home van The Cinematic Orchestra, maar deze song is gelukkig een stuk minder beladen. De rest van Red & Gold bestaat uit eigen songs en dat zijn stuk voor stuk mooie folksongs.
 
Op Red & Gold put Hattie Briggs inspiratie uit de traditionele Britse folk, maar ze heeft vervolgens gekozen voor een betrekkelijk lichtvoetig en hierdoor behoorlijk toegankelijk geluid, waardoor Red & Gold ook liefhebbers van aangename folkpop aan moet kunnen spreken.
 
Red & Gold is een plaat die het uitstekend doet in de kleine uurtjes of in de vroege ochtend. Traditionele Britse folk kan bij mij wel eens zwaar op de maag liggen, maar het debuut van Hattie Briggs streelt steeds weer het oor. Het levert een fraai debuut op dat het verdient om in brede kring gehoord te worden.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Old Eyes':

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

Red & Gold van Hattie Briggs is in digitale vorm beschikbaar via iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/nl/album/red-gold/id975339659 Een fysiek exemplaar bestel je via haar website: http://www.hattiebriggs.co.uk/shop.html. Zowel op cd als vinyl.

maandag 13 juli 2015

Interview with Bongley Dead for WoNo Magazine

by Wout de Natris
© 2015 WoNo Magazine

At the beginning of this year we published a review of the Vancouver, Canada band Death Goldbloom, which was a tip from singer-songwriter Natalie Ramsay. As a reaction to the review we received a link to a website with the strange name Bongley Dead in it. Being cyber cautious, we did not click on the link, but emailed instead. From this email a relationship started with an indie, punk, grunge band from Italy. First with a review of its 'Demo 3' and more recently 'Demo 4'. As this is an unsigned band, deserving a lot more in our opinion, we decided to do an interview as well and find out more about the people behind that mysterious name, Bongley Dead. So it's time to hand over the pen: meet Bongley Dead.




As not all readers may be familiar with the band, how would you like to introduce yourself?
We are Marcello, Simone and Federico. Together we play in Bongley Dead since 2011. We live in Tuscany.

I have to start with the name. What does it mean and where does it come from?
The name comes from a misunderstanding. One night Marcello and Simone were in a pub talking and drinking beer and Marcello said something about Blonde Redhead. Simone (too much beer?) answered something like: "Whaaat? Bongley Dead?". Marcello laughed and said: "Ok, we have the band name!"

You sing in English. This must be a conscious choice as the only Italian acts I know personally all sing in Italian. You chose different. Why?
It's not entirely true. There are many bands in Italy that sing in English. In our case it was not a conscious choice. We just started singing in English, perhaps because most of the bands that we grew up with sing in that language and perhaps because it is easier to adapt the English language to the metric of the songs.

Your music is somewhere in between the punk-rock-grunge-indie segment of rock music. Who are your main influences and in what way do you let or allow this influence to shine through in your own work?
All of us listen to many, many kinds of music and we can't tell you the name of bands that are a main influence for the band as a whole. Maybe the initial aim was to write songs focused on melodies and distortions and this was what came out. However, surely our songs enter in the indie-rock-grunge- punk-rock category. If you want us to name a few, the ones that come out more often in the rehearsal room after playing are Husker Du, Dinosaur Jr, Pixies, Pavement, Sonic Youth and other bands from the nineties.

If one band popped into my mind while listening to Demo 4, it was The Strokes. Is this band special to you?
We know The Strokes but they aren't so special for us.

How does a typical Bongley Dead song come about and who is responsible for what?
The songs come about in various ways. Sometimes Marcello comes into the practice room with a song basically ready and we work together changing something here and there until it seems good. Other times we improvise and a song just comes out spontaneously. Sometimes we take some parts from different improvisations and put them together.

Playing in a trio leaves a lot of space in the mix and is a tricky balance between sounding too empty or too muddy. How do you make your choices where presenting your songs comes about?
We make the choices simply by listening to our sessions. We are lucky cause we play in the little studio of Simone and we can record every session we do. When a new song is done each of us can listen to it in his car and think about it. So we can say: here I've done too much, here my part sucks...and change something in the next session. Or you can say: when we'll record this song remember to do this and this...it's just a step by step process. Clearly we try not to put too much effort in a single song and be as spontaneous as possible.

So far you’ve released four demo’s. What are Bongley Dead’s ambitions?
Write more songs and have fun :).

My impression is that the band is more hobby than a livelihood. Next there are all these beautiful pictures around the band and friends that join in by “donating” a video. Tell us more about yourselves and is there an art scene around where you live?
The band surely isn't a livelihood and we all have our jobs. We all came from other bands, we have done tours, records and this time from the beginning we decided not to make us too many problems. We just try to write good songs and have fun together. We put our songs out on the web, we give them to our friends and see what happens:). So far the response exceeded our expectations. Many people write to us, many good blogs post our songs, some radio stations play our music and the most important thing is that our practice sessions are still full of laughter.

The video was made by Ilaria and Alessandro. They are good photographers and videomakers and that was a really appreciated gift for us. The girl in the video is Diletta and she a good singer and bass player. Alessandro made two remixes of that song too (you can find them on our Soundcloud site). Maybe they're working on some other things but they are mysterious about it.

Talking about an art scene here is perhaps too much but there are a lot of good bands and thinking about it...we are friends with a large number of professional and art photographers...who knows why?

‘Books and Lemonade’ sounds like a title that is all about enjoying past time. The lyrics are about dying, black holes, too fast flowing water. What happened to enjoying a good book while drinking lemonade on your day off?

Eheh..it was just that we had the lyrics but not the title and we made a self-quotation from the song "the way you love me" when we said: "grab some lemonade and all the books"....in effect the lyrics are a bit too sad for a title like that, but consider that we always like to play with nonsense :).

What inspires you in general when writing lyrics?
Some lyrics are written by our friend Martina (who for a period played second guitar and sang background vocals on some songs). For most of the other lyrics the inspiration depends by the moment and by the metric of the songs. Sometimes the lyrics are related to something that happened to us, but are never as clear and as I said we like to play with nonsense :). Often we mash up phrases from books that Martina left in our practice room for three years (Ferlinghetti, Milton, Burroughs, Beckett and others) trying to make sense (perhaps it makes sense only for us, but that's ok.)

If you had to choose between the “black holes” of ‘Books and Lemomade’ or “the flowers and blue birds” of ‘Blueworms’, what would it be?
The black flowers of lemonworms!

What comes first, the music or the (idea for the) lyrics?
Always the music.

At the end of the demos there’s always a surprise song. Compared to the rest of the Demo it is a musical surprise. What is the story behind the surprise songs?
We often improvise, doing something different from our usual 'pop songs'. Some of this improvisation, after some fast mixing, become the 'surprise songs'. Two of them are at the end of the demos, others are on our Soundcloud page ... but we have hours of recorded music and we're thinking about selecting this noisy and psychedelic material and publish a work under the name of Dongley Bead. We'll see.


What are your plans for the near future?
Write more songs and have fun :).


You can listen to all four demos, the remixes by Alessandro, under the name PNX, and more here:

https://soundcloud.com/bongley-dead

The pictures were provided to us by Bongley Dead for promotion purposes. Hence the question about an art scene around where the band lives in Ponte Buggianese in Italy. 

zondag 12 juli 2015

.No's July Kairos reviewed by Wo.

Foto: Wino Penris. Bewerking: Astrid van der Meijs
Once a month .No hosts a radio show on Concerzender called Kairos. It is a meditation music. Wo. lets this radio show take him totally out of his comfort zone and submerges into classical, new age, church choirs and zen chanting. It was not exactrly "fun" .No wished him is his email announcing the new Kairos. So, dear reader, together with Wo. brace yourself for what is about to come.

That nepotism goes a long is proven once again as Hans Kockelmans has found a place again Kairos. One time publicist in WoNo Magazine and family member of .No. If it weren't for the fact that Kockelmans can play a very nice 'Prelude', in this case "114", I would directly file a complaint with the appropriate authorities, if I knew where and what, but I could find out, couldn't I? But no, the music of Hans Kockelmans deserves to be heard, so enjoy!

The short prelude is mixed into Isaku Fujita's 'To holy Land'. This is a piece for clarinet and synthesizer. The traditional eastern sounds come from an undoubtedly far-eastern assembled digital instrument. The seemingly simple melody is extremely serene. Giora Feidman and Manny Katz play the lead respectively the counter melody, where the latter at times seems to run into the limitations of his synthesizer. As if the instrument needs restarting every once in while. For the rest, typical church music not played on a church organ.

The next piece of music is a lot more mysterious. Tin Hat Trio's 'Old world' by Ara Anderson starts rather frighteningly. Weird sounds, not a melody in ear shot. That changes quite fast. A sad, melancholy melody on a violin plays itself out in a surprisingly touching and beautiful way. Something I'd never expected on the basis of the beginning of the song. Freaky!

The first three compositions fit extremely well together. That also goes for composition four. Again we meet Cees Sax, this time accompanied by Erik Ypma. Together they play  one of Enrique Granados' 'Valses Poeticos'. There may be the tiniest mistake discernible, it is clear these two gentlemen can play and only because the home recording is so clear. The light melody is countered by a darker undertone, that is allowed to take over towards the end, changing the mood and pace of the composition.

Things get a little weirder in 'Afar Alone'. Are these bottles that I hear as an instrument? Tal Weiss' singing is not unlike what many folk and singer-songwriters produce by the thousands, it is the totally broken down melody and music that makes the song very estranging for the average listener. I can't say an unique approach, but for a folk artist it is. With not a guitar in sight. It is the bottles and a horn of some sort that make 'Afar Alone' stand out, but I still don't know what to think of it by the time the recording ends.

What happens next is not unlike opening the door of a cupboard and all the content falls out and crashes around one on the floor. From the extreme silence of Tal Weiss to a cascade of sound that evolves into the opening notes of 'Die Ganze Welt', one of the songs on Sophie Hunger's new album 'Supermoon'. For those following this blog not an unknown artist. In my opinion Sophie Hunger is one of the great talents in pop anno 2015. So there's my influence on Kairos as I'm not alone on this. 'Die Ganze Welt' is dark, moody, mysterious and still all about love.

Ólafur Björn Ólafsson is a veteran of Kairos. This time we hear 'So very strange' from his album 'White Mountain'. The distorted guitar notes t the end of Sophie Hunger's song fade into the soundscapes of the Icelandic musician. Like with many of his compositions 'So Very Strange' gives me the impression that most of the original song has been taken out. A guitar chord here, some voice there. Every time there is the inclination towards a song it is mixed out again, leaving the drones on other instruments to continue. I have a hard time with this. Caught between "get on with it" or forcing myself to surrender and really start listening, for which I do not have the patience tonight.

A piano comes into the drones, breathing and oohing and experience with Kairos tells me that a change is going to come. It is Matthew Bourne with 'XIV Knell' from his album 'Montauk Variations'. After a book called 'Montauk' now music and didn't The Rolling Stones practice there before going on a 1976 U.S. tour? This is not easy music. The sparse notes Bourne plays, tell no easy story. Fluentness nor pleasing seems to be his aim here. Better beware for who likes to hear an instrumental piano driven ditty. I'm not feeling my way into 'XIV Knell' and am pleasantly surprised when the now well known, sonorous voice starts reading another poem by Anita Frenks. Voice and piano mix as if made for each other. Well done.

'Cyrhla' by the Thomasz Stanko Quartet is next. The change is hardly discernible. Not until the trumpet sets in that is. We're into late night jazz territory again. Jazz from eastern Europe, mixed with another sort of piano, that could just as well be on a Tom Waits album, but then with weird rhythms around it and what not. 'Cyrhla' is quite pleasant on a late evening. The composition changes along the way. A drum gives it pace, while the piano does a sort of 'Take five' kind of melody. It is the trumpet though that gives 'Cyrhla' its mood and that is one of late evening, early night relaxation. The drum may try different what it likes. It doesn't succeed to really change the course of the song.

Nearly seven minutes later we move to the harp. Gwenael Kerléo plays 'L’appel de l’océan' from her album 'Terre Celte'. The harp just isn't my instrument. So there's nothing much to say. The main melody faintly reminds me of 'Tubular Bells', but that is about it. When the rhythm all of a sudden changes the likeness to Mike Oldfield grows even more.

Simeon ten Holt's. 'IV Semplice e un Poco Rubato 'from '20 bagatellen' is played by Ivo Janssen, followed straight away by 'IV Lento Sostenuto' from 'Natalon in E' by the same composer. Two compositions for or on piano that are different in mood. The first lighter, the second more serious and slightly darker. I can live with this, without getting it into the home. The second part of 'IV Lento Sostenuto' is quite alright actually. It is not hard to hear a whole orchestra playing the intricate (counter) melodies, played here with just the fingers of the left hand. Janssen does this all on his own. And it could well be turned into a Sophie Hunger song. Points scored here. Although it goes on a bit too long to my taste.

May you live in interesting times, is something wished upon people at times. 'Without God' is an interesting title for a song in this context. Ben Lukas Boysen and Vic Bundy present this song to us. Droning sounds drown out Janssen's piano. Go away, it's our turn they seem to say, while engulfing the last note of the piano. Washing over it like the sea the shore, covering it with water and sand. I close my eyes and try to concentrate on the tones and the airwaves created by the instruments. In the end it is just too hard to do. Why make something like this?, I can't help wondering. There must be some kind of market for it, as .No brings us a new artist making this sort of music with nearly each Kairos. It is beyond me.

Nils Frahm is another veteran of the show. This time with his song 'Do' from the album 'Screw'. A very slow and extremely empty composition. Frahm is not afraid of silences here. Although he allows some percussion into his work. (Either that or .No is playing with us, as it just doesn't seem to belong.)

This month ends with a man who filled the Ziggo Dome twice last month with this band Fleetwood Mac. Here he plays a composition called 'Street of dreams' in an unplugged radio session for '2 Meter Sessions'. A Spanish classical even flamengo approach showing that he can do a lot more than play rock guitar. I think an impressive session at the time and a fitting ending for this months Kairos.

"Fun" is always the wrong word for my venture into .No's record collection, but yes, I enjoyed listening to most of the music of this month's edition.

Wo.

http://www.concertzender.nl/programmagids/?date=2015-07-02&month=1&detail=79206

zaterdag 11 juli 2015

On Blonde. Yukon Blonde

This album did a double take on me. All this 80s pop happiness that it takes off with, made me think: What is this? "All the things a doo-we-oo-we-oo"? Listening into the record things became much clearer and downright fun. If Yukon Blonde is able to do something it is aiming for the perfect pop song. Bands like that earn an extra point in Wo's book.

To me Yukon Blonde is a new name, but for Canadians it is not, as perhaps to many music lovers who are even deeper into music than I already am. The core of the band formed in 2005, but carries this name since 2008. On Blonde is the band's third full length album. The band's principal member is Jeff Innes, who sings and plays guitar, next to writing most of the material. The other members are: Brandon Scott on guitar; Graham Jones on drums and James Younger on bass. All three do backing vocals. There are more ex-members than current ones, so whether this is a solid line-up I have no way of telling. There are also a load of keyboards on the album, played by Rebecca Gray, who also sings something here and there. Vancouver is the band's home town, so that makes another Canadian band and especially from Vancouver on this blog this year, although one not introduced by Natalie Ramsay for a change.

Yukon Blonde can be placed in the indie rock section. There are hints towards Fountains of Wayne. Right up in the first song even, but without overdoing it. The backing vocals do a lot of things 60s, even The Beach Boys like harmonies in some of the ooohhhs. In most of the songs the band colours neatly between the lines, without crossing one of my lines, which is a feat worth noticing. This has all to do with the fact that there is a hint of Brit punkfunkers Franz Ferdinand and the late 70s sounds of Gary Newman's Tubeway Army at the time of 'Are Friens Electric?'. Yukon Blonde makes this mix in a very convincing way, which is what caught my ear while listening to the album for the first time. Despite the almost tacky parts in the first song, 'Confused'. It looks like Innes may have been a bit confused while writing and selecting, as the level of all the other songs is so much higher. But who says you have to put the best song up front?

Where things really get smashing is 'I Wanna Be Your Man', no not that The Beatles/The Rolling Stones one, and the almost dancey 'Saturday Night'. The mix between pop, rock and perfection is becoming extremely interesting in these two songs. The next song is more of a ballad, 'Hannah'. In this song Yukon Blonde tries to reach the same mix as Dutch band Villeneuf tries to achieve, combining pop, rock and synths in a convincing way. The role of Rebecca Gray is so large on this track that I wonder why she's not a member of the band. Bands of the 80s like The Human League and Heaven 17 come to mind here and Yukon Blonde comes out on top with only a song like 'Don't You Want Me, Baby?' and 'Let Me Go' hanging over them. Two classics in the genre, mind.

What Yukon Blonde manages to achieve is to (indie) rock out in a convincing way, while at the same time have 80s synths in its songs and 60s vocals. As if each member is a fan of a different band and all brought in that fanship in equal parts. That makes Yukon Blonde softer but more melodic than Franz Ferdinand, less rocking than Fountains of Wayne and over-rocking the mentioned 80s bands, while putting a soul into Tubeway Army. What comes out is On Blonde by Yukon Blonde. A record so nice that it is almost tasty.

A title of an album that of course has an almost 50 year history: 'Blonde On Blonde'. It has nothing to do with the music, but quality wise? If Yukon Blonde is to grow further like Dylan did, the name of the album will prove to be adequately chosen. That time will tell. For now On Blonde is an album very much worth checking out.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Saturday Night' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbw1HzAWWQg

or buy at Bol.com:


vrijdag 10 juli 2015

Just a top 25

On Musicmeter.nl a person calling himself Chevy93 started a query in order to compile lists of favourite albums from the 50s to the 10s, per decade. I received an invitation to participate in 60s list, which I did and indirectly all the others, which I declined. Now they all get to be combined. So I decided to join in again. This list is not absolute, as I could only choose from pre-selected albums. The best of the seven decades. Below it is for what it is worth. I promised myself never to make another all over list again, at least until I'm retired. Let's see again by that time.

A few things are noticeable now that I'm circa 30 years older than I was when I made my last list of favourite albums or songs. Nostalgia plays a large role in the selection. It is hard to get past my favourite albums of old. The ones that are with me the longest, roughly over 35 years and more. Only a few have managed their way into that list. As an excuse I can point to the fact that I couldn't pick several from my favourites: older ones like 'The Wall', Jefferson Airplane and Starship, Frank Zappa, etc. and newer ones like Franz Ferdinand and Alt-J's second album. It seems memories go an extremely long way, as the music always comes with memories.

So let's stop talking/writing. Here's my top 25 of all times, minus a lot:



 1. Grace. Jeff Buckley
 2. The Beatles - Abbey Road
 3. Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here
 4. Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare
 5. The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground
 6. Station to Station – David Bowie
 7. Nirvana - Nevermind
 8. The Doors - L.A. Woman
 9. Bob Dylan - Blood On The Tracks
10. The Rolling Stones - Exile On Main St.
11. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin
12. Nirvana - Mtv Unplugged
13. Pink Floyd - The Dark Side Of The Moon
14. Neil Young - On The Beach
15. Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde
16. Supertramp - Crime Of The Century
17. The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet
18. The Beatles - The Beatles
19. AM. Arctic Monkeys
20. The Doors - The Doors
21. The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper´s Lonely Hearts Club Band
22. Queen - A Night At The Opera
23. David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust
24. The Rolling Stones - Let It Bleed
25. Live - Throwing Copper


Wo.

For All My Sisters. The Cribs

The Cribs? Never heard of the band until recently. Life is full of these little surprises that make it so much fun. The Cribs is around for 13 years, Johnny Marr was a member for three years, David Jones of Nine Black Alps, one of my favourite albums of the 90s 00s?, when was it, too long ago, is touring guitarist at present. For All My Sisters is The Cribs' sixth album. Uncanny that I have missed all previous five.

With a tabula rasa where The Cribs is concerned I can listen to the band's latest release without any preconceptions. The first thing I notice is a sort of youth and freshness that hovers over the sound of For All My Sisters. As if this is the band's first album. The Cribs main frame are three brothers by the name of Jarman, Gary, Ross and Ryan from Wakefield in the U.K. The lightness in the music is due to the harmony singing of the three brothers. I can't say that they come close to The Beach Boys, but Weezer? Easily. It is that band that the solid sound of the powerpop The Cribs produces reminds me of most. It is then that I notice that Ric Ocasek, The Cars' guitarist and songwriter, produced For All Our Sisters. That explains something, I suppose.

The Cribs is another band that is big in the U.K. That may be a reason why the band is less known here in NL. The next big thing in the U.K. is ignored over here for at least over a decade. The guitar work reminds me Hurricane #1 and The Stone Roses, those lead lines that continue all through a song. No heavy chords pounding here. All melody. That makes songs the busy kind as there are not a really lot of points for rest or reflection. Where this didn't matter for The Stone Roses, it did for Hurricane #1 and The Cribs.

While listening further into the album, something changes, I notice. I start getting extremely bored. More and more I get the idea that I've heard enough. So much so that I dropped finishing this review completely. In this lost hour on a later Sunday evening I return to the album. Put it on again. Again the beginning with 'Finally Free' is fine. Strong guitar work, a sound rhythm section, but the stadium anthem wailing of the singing of the Jarmans is already crawling on my nerves as is the all over the place lead guitar.

There is just no restraint in this music. As I already put some effort into the review, I've decided to finish it with the thoughts I have at this point in time. I rather not write a negative review. Why spend the energy while I could be doing something positive in the meantime? Next to the fact that I can imagine that someone, in this case The Cribs, puts in his best efforts. Who am I to judge that? Next to all that these restrained and politically correct reasons, I have a personal one as well: I write here to share the joy music gives me.

Alas, this time an exception. The more I played For All My Sisters the more the record irritated the hell out of me. In other words, where I had a positive mood at the first two tries on the basis of which I wrote an intro, it stopped there. No deepening affair with The Cribs for me. Fear and loathing with The Cribs instead.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Burning For No One' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-SANFfXDvQ

or buy at Bol.com


donderdag 9 juli 2015

Tied To the Moon. Rachel Sermanni

The first thing I noticed on receiving this cd was the similarity in style in the artwork with Laura Marling. Both are seemingly simple lines leading to a clear picture. One of a woman, the other of a mountainous landscape. Is that where the similarities stop? Not completely as Rachel Sermanni in her more quieter songs moves into folk territory. That is not the only side to Ms. Sermanni though. She likes to rock out a little as well. The difference is that where Erwin Zijleman sings the total praises of Laura Marling, I tend to listen more to Tied To the Moon.

Rachel Sermanni is from Scotland. 23 Year old and this album is her second after 'Under Mountains' from 2012. No, I haven't heard that album. With that out of the way, it is easy to state that the music on Tied To the Moon in nothing reminds me of Scotland. This music could just as easily have come out of the U.S. The more folky tunes certainly. There are banjo's, pedal steel guitars and acoustic guitars. Combined with the clear, mid-high singing voice of Rachel Sermanni this sets a mood that I often hear on the alt.americana, folk, country albums that cross the pond.

The album starts out with an (alternative) rock song. It was either 'Run' or 'Tractor', I think the latter song, that attracted me to Tied To the Moon. Because of this experience my expectations lay somewhere very different than is on offer. The differences in styles is also the reason that a review was somewhat slow in the coming. I really had to delve deeper to start appreciating the other songs. That started happening, slowly but surely.

Let's return to 'Tractor', as that song started my fancy. Dark toned, somewhat mysterious, with Rachel Sermanni almost underachieving as a singer. She's so cool here. There's something of The Walkabouts in this song. The soft voice versus the beast let loose on guitar. If I had been a dancer, I'd know what the rhythm here is, unfortunately, at least for this review, I'm not. But it could be a waltz or some sort. The sound of 'Tractor' is extremely open and clean. Even when the guitars growl. A good song to start an acquaintance to Tied To the Moon with. Even if it set me off on the wrong foot.

Opener 'Run' has the same space in the mix. Lucinda Williams' rockers come to mind. Only in the music though. The singing is so much more angelic and lighter. The girl versus the older woman who's lived too hard. The music finds that deepness though. A strange but successful mix of tightness and looseness. 'Run' holds this mystery, as if there's more than just the song, something that can not be heard, but has a place in the mix any way.

The Walkabouts come by again. 'Wine Sweet Wine' uses a cello in the exact same way, although I could use 'Nirvana Live in New York' or other examples as well. It has more to do with the whole atmosphere of the song and Rachel Sermanni's voice that I mention the former band. Carla Thorgerson is just not far away here. 'Wine Sweet Wine' already winds the tempo down, in a beautiful way. It is with 'Old Ladies Lament' that I was totally surprised. The change is so abrupt. Just a girl and her guitar and in a very slow, empty song. All that I did not expect.

So who is the real Rachel Sermanni? In the bio it says that Sermanni travelled to Nova Scotia after an invitation by Old Man Luedecke (who isn't old at all) to work on new songs, for four days in total solitude. With a bag of them, six of which she used four, she returned to her own home and started recording with producer Colum Macleod and her band members. In Macleod's living room no less. It also says that on her new album Rachel Sermanni moves into new, unchartered musical territories in her career. That may be, but I don't care who she really is, as it must be both. I like the harder songs just this little better, but am certainly appreciating 'Don't Fade'. A deep mystery just flies out of this song. There are atmospheric sounds popping up and disappearing just as easily. The acoustic guitar and the piano play their sparse and sparser notes. 'Don't Fade' shows a deep understanding of what a song can achieve and may be the best song on Tied To the Moon. The change to 'Tractor' is a beautiful one. A great mood change, so well placed on the album.

After that things get real quiet and I'm still finding my way around there. I already fell deeply for 'Don't Fade', so who knows what will happen in the future. So far it is only the song about the old lady that is to neat for me. Compared to all other songs, so little is happening there. 'Ferryman' holds the banjo, while Ms. Sermanni is using her voice differently. The songs that follow move into a mix of singer-songwriter and folk. 'Banks Are Broken' is an interesting duet. The dark voice contrasts in the right way with Rachel Sermanni's.

The album ends with the folk noir of 'This Love'. A dark mood moves over the album again, where the previous song 'Begin' was so much lighter. Rachel Sermanni keeps playing with the mood of her listeners. That makes Tied To the Moon something of a rollercoaster albeit one that is dragged upwards most of the time. More suspense than release. And with that conclusion I am able to write that Tied To the Moon is an interesting album, at times extremely good album that intrigues and invites the listener to keep doing just that. Not perfect, but good is definitely good enough here.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Tractor' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfOHq2tJV_o

or buy at Bol.com:


woensdag 8 juli 2015

That Kind Of Girl. Amy Speace

Een kleine twee jaar geleden besteedde ik in de categorie minder bekend of zelfs miskend talent in het rootssegment aandacht aan How To Sleep In A Stormy Boat van de Amerikaanse singer-songwriter Amy Speace. (Lees hier: http://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2013/08/how-to-sleep-in-stormy-boat-amy-speace.html)
 
Lange tijd dacht ik een sensationeel debuut in handen te hebben, maar Amy Speace bleek voor How To Sleep In A Stormy Boat al vijf andere platen gemaakt te hebben. Het onlangs verschenen That Kind Of Girl is dus al haar zevende plaat, maar helaas wordt het talent van Amy Speace nog altijd in veel te kleine kring op de juiste waarde geschat.

Ook That Kind Of Girl had maar heel weinig tijd nodig om mij voor zich te winnen. Een mooi bluesy gitaarloopje, een paar pianoakkoorden, een subtiele ritmesectie en dan de stem van Amy Speace. That Kind Of Girl is pas een seconde of twintig bezig, maar ik ben al om.
 
Dat ligt deels aan de smaakvolle instrumentatie, maar toch vooral aan de geweldige stem van Amy Speace. Net als bijvoorbeeld Lucinda Williams, Allison Moorer en Emmylou Harris beschikt Amy Speace over een stem die je diep weet te raken. Het is een stem die van een eenvoudig rootsliedje een song maakt die garant staat voor heel veel kippenvel, waardoor That Kind Of Girl zich vrij makkelijk weet te onderscheiden van het merendeel van de andere platen in dit overvolle genre.
 
De al genoemde instrumentatie was een sterk punt op How To Sleep In A Stormy Boat en is ook weer een sterk punt op That Kind Of Girl. Amy Speace grossiert op That Kind Of Girl in zich langzaam voortslepende en voornamelijk ingetogen songs, maar de inkleuring van de songs is keer op keer prachtig.
 
Binnen deze instrumentatie is een zeer voorname rol weggelegd voor het prachtige gitaarwerk van Will Kimbrough (die inmiddels in iedere stad met enige betekenis voor de Amerikaanse rootsmuziek een standbeeld verdient), maar ook de bijdragen van pedal steel en viool zijn buitengewoon smaakvol.
 
Het kleurt bovendien prachtig bij de krachtige maar ook emotievolle stem van Amy Speace, die iedere song op de plaat naar een nog wat hoger niveau tilt. Amy Speace beschikt over een stem die zich kan meten met de besten in het genre, maar desondanks zet ze op That Kind Of Girl een heel leger aan achtergrondvocalisten op, onder wie muzikanten van naam als Garrisson Starr, Tim Easton en Rod Picott. Het zorgt er voor dat de vocalen er nog meer uitspringen, waardoor That Kind Of Girl in vocaal opzicht een hoogstaande plaat is.
 
In muzikaal opzicht bestrijkt Amy Speace nog altijd een breed terrein binnen de grenzen van het verzamelbegrip Americana, waarbij uitstapjes richting folk en country net zo vanzelfsprekend zijn als uitstapjes richting de blues en zelfs een wat pompeus aandoende powerballad niet uit de weg wordt gegaan. That Kind Of Girl is hierdoor wat gevarieerder dan zijn voorganger en dat vind ik persoonlijk een pre.
 
Amy Speace was na de release van How To Sleep In A Stormy Boat compleet blut en moest voor That Kind Of Girl een crowdfunding starten. Het budget was gelimiteerd, maar dat hoor je er geen moment aan af. That Kind Of Girl is een rootsplaat van een torenhoog niveau en voorlopig één van de hoogtepunten in het genre dit jaar.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Better Than This':

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

of kopen bij Bol.Com



dinsdag 7 juli 2015

Sprinter. Torres

Torres may stem from the U.S., she fits in nicely with Courtney Barnett. She has the same directness in music and performance. She balances on the brink of punk rock and delicateness. A split in approach as decisive as the split of the cover photo of Sprinter. The normal, vs. the outer spaceness, strangeness, colourfulness, you name it, it all may well be in there. There is one major difference, Ms. Barnett's lyrics are decidedly more upbeat.

Torres sounds southern European, Spain to be more exact. Torres' name at birth is MacKenzie Scott, born in the south, of the U.S. of A. She debuted two years ago with the album 'Torres'. Sprinter is her sophomore effort.

Torres' voice is lower than average for a woman and she's not afraid of using her voice at full volume. Without any abuse of voice like Courtney Love used(?) to show her anger. Torres puts the emotion more into the explosion of the band or in the suspense of the more empty songs. The latter songs come as some sort of a surprise to who is exposed to Torres for the first time and hears 'Stange Hellos' and 'New Skins' as their first exposure. It is here that the cover is so symbolic for what is on offer on Sprinter. Somebody else may call it confusion though, which does have some merit.

'Strange Hellos' enters extremely small, with a very spiteful personal message to a Heather it seems. After that the band kicks in. The drums pound away mercilessly. (Perhaps making up for not being present later in the album?) The angry voice and lyrics are echoed by the band in a perfect way. 'Strange Hellos' is a brilliant opening song and I can imagine every show starting it and for good measure end it as well. Why not? If U2 can start and end a show with its best song ever, 'Vertigo', whay can't Torres do the same trick?

'New Skin' is more quiet, but still a storm compared to what is waiting for us later on. In this song the grandmother of punk comes to mind: Patti Smith. The way Scott sings echoes the way Smith sings. Just as unsteady in the lower ranges, seemingly running out of breath, adding to the dramatic effect of 'New Skin'. In the second half of the song the band is unleashed and especially the lead guitarist, who is allowed to put on a horrible effect or two, underscoring the mood.

The tempo totally disappears in 'Son, You Are No Island'. A guitar, electronic sounds and the double tracked and treated voice of MacKenzie Scott. A 2015 version of Jefferson Airplane's 'Spare Chaynge': "No man is an island". Both songs are totally experimental and have the same main message. Lyrically Torres is much stronger though. Her music in general presents a mix of psychedelia, singer-songwriter and pure old (punk)rock. She allows herself to explore all corners of these types of music and blends them where a song needs something different.

If there is a hit single on Sprinter it's 'A Proper Polish Welcome'. The song title doesn't really help though. Torres reaches a level of beauty that is amazing and comes close to some of the songs of Morgan Mecaskey on her debut EP 'Righteous Kind'. Especially the title song. Both lady singers have a few things in common. A great voice and a level of seriousness in their music which combines into some fantastic songs that are irresistible and beg listening. 'A Proper Polish Welcome' has an intriguing melody and interesting twists in the song. Torres reaches a very mature level of making music here.

To compensate the guitar and drums are thrown back in in the title song. At the same time Torres dares to not do the obvious. The first chorus is totally quiet, displacing, disorienting sounds. Screeching guitar leads adorn one of the verses. Torres plays with the mood in and between her songs and with the mood of the listener. 'Sprinter' is another great song. Some 'Heroes' Robert Fripp like guitar playing. Everything is possible here and why not?  It makes 'Sprinter' the better. This makes me think of Angel Olsen also, but she is much more one dimensional compared to what Torres offers on this album.

If Torres has a voice of her own already, it is in the way she's able to swing moods around. In between the changes there is still a world for her to win, but showing influences is not a bad thing. As long as the result is either something copied extremely good or the artist comes up with something of him/herself. Torres does both, tends most to the latter option and because of that feat is on her way to succeed as an artist. As such I can say that Sprinter is a most intriguing album with so many secrets to discover that it is an album to come back to regularly.

'The Harshest Light' is another ballad turned into rocker. It all ends with a very personal song called 'The Exchange'. Nearly a cappella and some birds in the background. Added or recorded? A nice question. Who knows we might get an answer to this review?

So isn't there any critique? Yes, there is. Perhaps the musical mood is a bit to diverse for some. Either too loud or too quite. The other one is more personal as I'm personally fine with the diversity in sound on Sprinter. Torres is not able to keep me on the edge of my chair for the whole album. That is why Sprinter isn't a perfect album in my view. But hey, this is only her second album. There ought to be room for improvement!

Sprinter is an album by an artist that is extremely promising. In that very much like Courtney Barnett and hopefully Morgan Mecaskey. Any one who likes what Torres is doing, should start typing that name into his or her search engine straight away.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Sprinter' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6SIw30IOt8

or buy Sprinter at Bolcom




maandag 6 juli 2015

My Love Is Cool. Wolf Alice

If the love of Wolf Alice is cool. Come on over, now, please! This country is sweltering under extreme warmth, so some coolness is very welcome. In a few days unfortunately this entree will not make any sense anymore, but so be it.

Whatever I read about Wolf Alice, the band that recently released its debut album, it always has to do with folk music and that the band in the recent past for some reason left this music behind. That is two points for Wolf Alice already, for who in 2015 in his right mind is anticipating another "hey - ho" album. Now that even Mumford & Sons, the banner bearers of the neo-folk movement, have switched to stadium sized rock songs, who was Wolf Alice to stay where it was? A smart move in my opinion.

All this still doesn't say anything about the music Wolf Alice makes on My Love Is Cool. The answer to that is somewhere between dream pop, indie rock and some hints at gothic singing. The guitar, more specific electric ones are what drives the music of Wolf Alice. Long held, distorted tones in a distinct mix between chords and atmosphere.

For me there are two Wolf Alices. One that I play on my headphone and one that I tried playing on the stereo. For some reason there's a large difference between the two media. The latter doesn't make much of an impression. Whether it is the quality of the promo record, the mix, or a non-compatibility with my stereo set, I can't tell, but the music goes in one ear and leaves the other, almost unprocessed, muddy sounding. The former shows a sense of melody, depth and intricate inter play between the band members, making My Love Is Cool come alive and o so interesting. So what I'm writing here is based on my ear phones experience.

Wolf Alice started out as duo in 2010. Ellie Rowsell and Joff Oddie released one EP together, after which Theo Ellis (bass), and Joel Amey (drums) joined in 2012. After another EP and a few singles, the band released its first full length album recently. If anything My Love Is Cool proves that the band is more than ready for the release. The songs on the album are mature, arranged well and clearly played with a clear concept in mind.

Focal point is the voice of Ellie Rowsell. She sings everywhere between Lily Allen, Jerney Kaagman, the lady from Garbage and the two Veruca Salt ladies. More than once Wolf Alice reminds me of the early Earth & Fire, the Dutch sympho rockers, at least in the first half of the 70s part of its career, despite that the music on offer does not have anything much in common at first hearing. Especially when the band goes into the alternative rock direction. 'Giant Peach' is another classic Veruca Salt song. Somehow this name keeps popping up in my reviews lately. Earth & Fire is in the way certain chord changes are presented and in the singing.

That things are serious around Wolf Alice is in plain sight. Producer Mike Crossey has made a name for himself with bands as big as Arctic Monkeys. He is around when a band breaks, so must be doing something right. What he managed to capture is the sense of urgency Wolf Alice lays in her music, without giving away any on the moods the band can portray. The band is able to play with the mood of its listeners. From lightness all the way to darker moods, Wolf Alice takes you there and beyond. It's this mix that makes My Love Is Cool really interesting. If anything this album is far from one dimensional. There is something to discover for everyone.

Not that the music on My Love Is Cool is unique, but that is beside the point. Bands have influences and show them, some more others less so. Wolf Alice manages to work with these influences and finds interesting new songs that prove that they add to what went on before. Hence, there is a mix of some 80s synths, 90s alternative rock, some Coldplay in the atmosphere and hints at the folk they left behind, hidden in the more quiet songs. In the end I like Wolf Alice best when the band gets it foot off the brake and lets it rip. 'Fluffy' is a really great alternative rock song and there are a few more as well.

In short My Love Is Cool is an extremely satisfying debut. Wolf Alice shows that it is able to write and play very different songs and present them in a way that makes the album of a convincing unity. With Ellie Rowsell it has a front lady that can truly sing with a few voices, while drummer Joel Amey can take over also very adequately. A better version of Sons & Daughters in that way. Wolf Alice is a band to follow in my opinion.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Bros' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TD_Q9CxXTo4

or buy on Bol.com