vrijdag 30 september 2016

Man Machine Poem. The Tragically Hip

A new album from one of my favourite Canadian bands. Since somewhere in the mid 90s I discovered The Hip through 'Fully Completely' I followed the band through many an album, although I lost track for a few years around 2005. That came all back thanks to a fabulous DVD and a live show I went to soon after that in the 00s.

And now I read that Man Machine Poem may be the band's last due to a fatal illness of its unique singer, Gordon Downie. A thought that makes me sad, as a date with The Tragically Hip meant that we're all still here.

This news makes the album special, but not necessarily good. I can only ascertain that through several listening sessions, but the first round gives me the idea that Man Machine Poem should be alright. It's no 'Up To Here', but than no The Hip album ever was after its first full album, that I got to know as the third one by the band after listening to 'Road Apples' first after 'Fully Completely'. This blueprint of its career is my favourite up to date, which will not change with this album.

Here I hear a few different sort of songs that give the impression that there's rock of old and some newer influences that make the sound more varied. Let me leave it for here and come back after more sessions with the album.

The album opens with 'Man'. We are in experiment territory here where the opening is concerned. After that a lightly touched guitar sets in and a fat sounding drums. A hint of U2 comes by in the playing and singing, but things are so much darker here. This is not a world of hope that we are presented with. "I'm a real machine", sings Gordon Downie. The machine man or the man machine? A view of the future that is not happy. The song does not leave room for a lot of light. The experimental voice points to the man machine.

The darkness does not continue. I have never found The Hip to make happy music, far from. This band is serious and excels in often intricately arranged, but moody indie rock songs. Songs in which the guitars weave in and out of each other and a bass that can be both functional and melodic. Several of these songs come by on Man Machine Poem. Just listen how 'In A World Possessed By The Human Mind' plays itself out. A lot of dynamics that make the song so divers and attractive to listen to. A lot of thought and preparation went into the building of it. Adopting and shedding ideas, to come up with a great mix of all of them.

Not all songs impress like this. A few are more "normal". 'What Blue' is a song that does not stand out. In those cases there is always the typical voice of Downie and a few interesting bursts of a guitar to prick up my ears.

'In Sarnia' is an impressive The Hip ballad. Strangely enough 'In Sarnia' brings Little River Band to mind without all the schmalzy instruments that at times was put on top of its songs. The great and effective guitar solo tops of this beautiful song. It gives the listener a little bit of the uncontrollable temperament that lurks in every man. Those flashes of anger that can weave in and out of a mind within a second. A flash that is usually brought back under control, like this song is.

By then I'm already convinced that Man Machine Poem is an album worthy of The Tragically Hip. Where in the second half of the 90s the band sort of lost itself in ever quieter music and then had to reinvent itself and find where it was good at, in 2016 there is no such doubts left. The Hip adds a few great songs to its oeuvre. The way 'Here, In The Dark' explodes is just fantastic. Without any weird antics, just the dynamics of the instruments and the playing of such; a beast is let loose and reigned in again.

The same quality surrounds 'Great Soul'. A subdued rocker that is allowed to breath and has these dark undertones in the music that simmer through. And then the band starts playing with the inner structure of the song and allows some experiment in its way of working. So fascinating.

I could go on and mention the last four songs as well. I will not. The message is clear. So if Man Machine Poem is to be the end, it is a worthy epilogue to the band's albums. I'm glad to say that I saw the band twice live, both times in excellent form and as a memory have the dvd forever. Like that stack of records I have in the home by one of if not my favourite rockband from Canada.

Wo.

You can listen to 'In A World Possessed By The Human Mind' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgXphurrsE0

donderdag 29 september 2016

Hope Sign Community. Eins Zwei Orchestra

De cover laat zich makkelijk raden. Het iconische beeld staat voor altijd op mijn ogen gegrift. Ook 27 jaar na dato, zie ik de man zo staan. Met zijn boodschappentasjes houdt hij in zijn eentje het hele leger van de Volksrepubliek China in feite tegen. Het gaf het studentenprotest één dag respijt, waarna de tanks alsnog een bloedbad aanrichtten. Hoeveel doden er vielen is nooit bekend gemaakt. Wie de "Tankman" is/was, is nog steeds onbekend.

Het thema onbedoelde helden staat centraal op de nieuwe cd van Eins Zwei Orchestra. De eerdere platen ken ik niet, dus ik hoef niets te schrijven in hoeverre het geluid van de band is veranderd. Ik ga af op wat ik nu hoor en dat is een band die weet hoe een nummer geschreven moet worden en wat er nodig is om dat prettig aan te kleden. De stemmen van de dames Van Maurik en Van Esch voelen van jaren 80 koud tot 2016 nazomer warm aan. Een mooie mix van, onderkoelde, emoties, zoals de muziek dat ook is.

Dat is wat mij bevalt aan Eins Zwei Orchestra. Door de keyboards komen de jaren 70 voorbij. De opmaat naar de overkill van de synths in de eerste helft van de jaren 80. Juist dat deel is weggestript, waardoor songs naar voren komen, die lekker wegluisteren. In "Samantha Smith', een van die gewone helden, zijn de oude synths prominent aanwezig, maar klinken de drums van Bart Reinders vol en warm. Zoals de zang een prachtige mix is die de song in vuur en vlam zet en blust tegelijk.

Eins Zwei Orchestra, ik heb steeds de neiging om ook Drei te typen, weet steeds de juiste invulling te geven. Laat ik eerlijk zijn, de zanglijn van 'Tiananmen Square' is niet de spannendste die ik ooit heb gehoord, maar wat de band er omheen doet tilt het nummer omhoog. De verschillende synths spelen beide een mooie partij. De sober klinkende gitaarpartij in het instrumentale stuk maakt het af. Samen maken zij het een prachtig nummer.

Gitarist en zanger Stefan van Maurik neemt de lead vocalen over in 'Hold Your Ground'. Deze onverwachte switch geeft het album meer diepte en stevigheid. De synts en de gitaar nemen deze sfeer over en veranderen het beeld van de plaat tot dit moment. Er wordt wat minder gedroomd.

Dat blijft niet persé zo. In het dromerige 'Turn around', dat wat weg heeft van The Magic Numbers, deelt men de lead vocalen, komen de jaren 80, China Crises, A Flock Of Seagulls om maar iets te noemen, weer voorbij. Overigens op heel prettige manier, want de gitaar, de bas van Herman Ypma en drums zijn heel echt hier. Redelijk vol aangezet, komt het nummer in de buurt wat collega Utrechtse band The Royal Engineers doet voor het Brood en Gruppo Sportivo deel van de late 70s. Eins Zwei Orchestra sprankelt minder, maar compenseert met de meerdere lagen in haar muziek.

Wie luistert naar 'After The Bombs', hoort een nummer dat iets verder gaat dan het voorgaande. Collega band Elenne May speelt ook in dit segment. Het nummer verweeft verschillende zangmelodieën en opent het geluidspallet volkomen. Spannend en prachtig tegelijk. Voor mij het prijsnummer van Hope Sign Community.

Op mijn exemplaar staan twee niet bij naam genoemde bonustracks. In de eerste laat Eins Zwei Orchestra een vrolijker en echt anders klinkend nummer horen. Een bingo song zou ik het willen noemen. Al is het misschien slechts een song die nooit echt is afgemaakt, althans die indruk heb ik. Live gaat dit nummer het zeker goed doen. Kans op ontlading. Het tweede is meer dance gericht, ook echt anders dus dan de rest. Met het orgeltje en rockende gitaar overtuigt de band nogmaals. Twee mooie presentjes na een mooi, maar serieus en ietwat somber album, als het aansteken van de lichtjes in de kerstboom op een donkere winteravond.

Wo.

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Come On':

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3edS0GhMbGs

woensdag 28 september 2016

Next Thing. Frankie Cosmos

In nagenoeg alle halfjaarlijstjes waarin de Amerikaanse muziektijdschriften en muzieksites de balans opmaken over de eerste helft van 2016, duikt Next Thing van ene Frankie Cosmos op.
 
De naam Frankie Cosmos zei me echt helemaal niets, maar sinds ik Next Thing voor het eerst beluisterde begrijp ik heel goed waarom de critici zo gek zijn op de plaat van de Amerikaanse singer-songwriter.
 
Frankie Cosmos is het alter ego van de 22 jaar oude en uit New York afkomstige Greta Kline, die in acteur Kevin Kline een wereldberoemde vader heeft, maar veel meer wil zijn dan de dochter van. The Next Thing is de tweede plaat van Frankie Cosmos en de opvolger van het in de Verenigde Staten zeer goed ontvangen Zentropy uit 2014.
 
Het slechts 17 minuten durende debuut krijgt nu een 28 minuten durend vervolg en in die 28 minuten komen maar liefst 15 popliedjes voorbij. Het zijn heerlijk rammelende popliedjes die de grens van 3 minuten nooit halen en meestal rond de twee minuten blijven steken.
 
The Next Thing heeft zeker raakvlakken met de charmante rammelpop die The Moldy Peaches al weer 15 jaar geleden vanuit hetzelfde New York maakten, maar waar dit tweetal meestal bleef steken in goede ideeën, levert Frankie Cosmos op The Next Thing het ene na het andere briljante popliedje af.
 
Flarden van briljante popliedjes zijn het eigenlijk, want veel van de songs op The Next Thing eindigen net zo abrupt als ze begonnen waren en lijken soms ter plekke worden verzonnen. Bij beluistering van de plaat heb je constant het idee dat de songs moeiteloos zijn uit te breiden tot perfecte popsongs, maar op hetzelfde moment besef je je dat het in de huidige vorm ook goed is, misschien wel beter zelfs.

De instrumentatie op The Next Thing wordt gedomineerd door een eenvoudige maar doeltreffende ritmesectie, lekker rammelende gitaarloopjes en een wat goedkoop aandoend keyboard geluid. Het klinkt allemaal erg lo-fi, maar op hetzelfde moment ook aanstekelijk.
 
Het past bovendien uitstekend bij de prettige stem van Frankie Cosmos, die uitstekend uit de voeten zou kunnen in een dreampop band, maar ook verleidt en vertedert met haar kleine en lieve popliedjes.
 
The Next Thing blijft dankzij het hoge DIY gehalte, de rammelende instrumentatie en de korte songs ver verwijderd van de gemiddelde singer-songwriter plaat, maar het is wel een plaat die zich genadeloos opdringt en die alleen maar leuker en onweerstaanbaarder wordt.
 
Goed gezien dus door de Amerikaanse critici, al geef ik Frankie Cosmos uiteindelijk in Europa een veel grotere kans op succes. Ik ben zelf inmiddels hopeloos verknocht aan de charmante popmuziek van Frankie Cosmos en koester alle 15 popliedjes op deze fascinerende plaat.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'On The Lips':

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dUMCtz1pm8

dinsdag 27 september 2016

Tommy. The Who

It's been a while, but Wo. returns to his series of albums released in 1968 and 1969. The years that defined his taste in music. A lot happened since than, of course. The posts on this blog attest to that, but this is where it sort of all started. 

In the spring of 1969 a single was released by a band he had not really heard of at the time. A band that never really became one of his true favourites, although he acknowledges the quality of its singles through the years. This single was the first to come of the Tommy album, he learned a few years later. It's name? 'Pinball Wizard'.

Tommy for me is, despite the fact that I have the album on cd for probably over 20 years not an album that I play a lot. In fact the same goes for most of The Who's albums. It somehow is just not my band, despite the fact that I relate to the energy, love Pete Townsend's playing, Roger Daltrey's singing, am impressed each time I hear John Entwhistle's bassruns explode and laugh at the madness of Keith Moon and admire his playing. I can dream several of the singles and know how good they are. Somehow as an album act it is always a bit too much.

Tommy is a rock opera none the less, but that is something that I was totally unaware off at the time. I just knew that one single, that powerhouse of riffing 'Pinball Wizard'. Thinking back I'm almost sure that I didn't know any other song by the band (well). None of my older friends and family members at the time had anything by The Who. Which is surprising in a way. The Who is still seen as one of the five biggest U.K. bands of the 60s, if not #3.

All this means that I can still look with a fairly fresh ear to Tommy. I haven't heard the album in years. Basically the two songs on the 'Woodstock' compilation album, 'We're Not Going To Take It'/'See Me Feel Me'. Looking at it like that the beginning is quite alright. I recognise now much more what the link with The Who's previous music is, their 1966 and 1967 hits. They simply come back in a different guise. I even hear where Boudewijn de Groot got his riff for 'Jimmy' from. Anyone who listens to the ending of 'Sparks' will know too.

Tommy is a real opera in the sense that themes in the music return throughout the record. A story is told, which I presume is well enough known, to not have to repeat it here. What I hear in the music 47 years after the release, is something I never heard in the past. What I hear is that this four piece band is stretching the format of a band to the max and beyond. A tour de force of some proportion. I'm not so much pointing at all the embellishments around some of the songs, no, this is about what The Who is doing as a four piece. There is so much going on and still it is only drums-bass-guitar. The playing by all three is larger than life and over that the rough voice of Daltrey and the harmonies by Townsend and Entwistle. Nothing subtle and still it fits all so well.

At the same time I'm amazed that The Who managed to restrain itself at this point in time. That may have been a financial restraint, but a lot of these songs could have been filled with whole orchestras and loads of overdubs. In a way that is as much the strength of Tommy as its weakness. Some songs may have profited from additions, they just sound too bare for my 2016 ears. At the same time they sound raw and pure. In a way that surprises me again and again during this listen session. Have I been fooled to long by the "It's a boy, Mrs. Walker" and the fiddling about uncle parts to miss what is really going on on Tommy? I'm starting to suspect that the answer is yes. This album was part of the concept section of this blog for over two years and I only started working on the review only now. Why? I read an interview with Joe Bonamassa saying that the best rhythm guitar ever recorded is on Tommy (and 'Who's Next'). O.k., I thought, let me check that out. And so I did.

Has there eve been an opera with "Underture" as a title of one of the songs? Probably not. By now familiar themes come by again and a prelude to some still to come. Talking about rhythm guitars. Townsend is as adept on acoustic as on electrical guitars. Underneath is the dark sound of the man who went by the nickname 'The Ox'. Until abuse of substances at a fairly advance age brought him down.

At the same time Tommy is an hybrid form of an album. There are songs that go straight back to British pop of the mid sixties, others even preclude that era and songs that are the new The Who and preclude 70s rock. The band excels in all. And then the phenomenal intro to that rock staple song 'Pinball Wizard' starts. That extremely fluent acoustic downwards progression using the sustained chords accented by the single electric chord strokes. Underneath are the true solo instruments of The Who: the bass and the drums. They can go off on all sorts of runs, while Pete Townsend keeps things together. On top are the harmonies the three singers create, as that is the perhaps too unsung strength of The Who.

The hitsingle of Tommy is 'See Me Feel Me', released after the Woodstock soundtrack in 1970. The song comes by for the first time with the lyrics in 'Go To The Mirror!'All mixed with that strong guitar and bass melody that comes through in the whole opera. What to think of that beautiful, small song 'Tommy Can You Hear Me?'? It sounds so simple, yet it is so extremely strong and effective. At the same time totally fitting to the story. How to contact the boy who is shut off from the world? By stimulants and that is what happens to Tommy next.

The third hitsingle or chronologically the second is 'I'm Free'. That contrast between that strong riff driving the song, with a whiff of 'See Me Feel Me' in there and the soft singing of Roger Daltrey. The largely elementary piano playing in the verses is a powerhouse, the acoustic solo strong and effective. Someone who only listens to singles on the radio, must think it strange that also the riff from 'Pinball Wizard' comes by again. But such is Tommy, an opera.

Psychedelia is back for just under one minute when the fiddling uncle Ernie opens 'Tommy's Holiday Camp', with an ominous "welcome". It all ends with 'We're Not Gonna Take It'. Tommy lets people have his experience playing pinball blind, deaf and dumb. By then the song takes on darker overtones where all the familiar themes of Tommy return.

The most surprising thing about Tommy is that there is not one song called 'See Me Feel Me' on the title track. It is a part of 'We're Not Going To Take It'. That deeply sensitive song of an almost religious nature. "See Me. Feel Me. Touch Me. Heal Me". Not to forget all the things that are promised, within grasp, when submission is total. I was so impressed when I saw the clip in 1970. With Roger Daltrey with his eagle wings under his arms and the jumps in slow motion and windmilling by Pete Townsend that were impossible to enact for real. And then I got to know the Woodstock live version and there was no looking back. The Who may have played 'We're Not Gonna Take It' better at some date, but not for me. This is the version.

So, did I revise my opinion of Tommy? I think you know if you got this far, my reader. No, I don't like all songs, but as a whole, this is a five star album. There's no doubt about that.

Wo.

You can listen to 'See Me Feel Me live' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHTdrPL22-Y

maandag 26 september 2016

Havana Moon. The Rolling Stones Live in Cuba

One day, one cinema show, worldwide. Exclusivity all around. We reported on one such an event once before: 'Celebration Day', the movie of Led Zeppelin's one off reunion show.

Following The Rolling Stones on Twitter helped here and a few days before the cinema show I had my tickets secured. A bit to my surprise the show was far from sold out on Tuesday. Come Friday 23 September the room was full.

2016. The umpteenth movie, video, dvd, live album by the Stones. And yes, I liked it so much. On a big screen, the band up close, the music loud and perfect. Much better than at any live show, let alone the Amsterdam ArenA. It came close to the Imax experience of the early 90s.

The music is so well known. The only surprise to me was 'Out Of Focus'. Why play that song?, I had often wondered seeing the setlists from South America. I know why now. It is a song that has a perfect build up, an inner tension that is released each time in the chorus and definitely funky as shit. And allow me to pull out 'You've Got The Silver', that beautiful blues song sung perfectly (yes) by Keith with the lovely slide tones by Ronnie. I'll end there. The rest has been played for two millennia by now. And it is so good, but not new.

Let's look at the movie itself. What I really liked is that the director not only followed the show and effects of The Rolling Stones' live monster, but truly followed the music itself. The performance and inner dynamics within the band. So we did not only get the friendly smiles Ronnie and Keith give each other and the hairtossling of Mick to Ronnie. No, we followed the cues the bandmembers give each other. We got to see the whole band looking at Jagger, the question large on each face: "when is he going to come back into the song and stop the audience participation?" We saw Keith nodding to Charlie, saying here we go and the tempo is kicked up. We got to see the raised hand that announces the end of a song. There were many of these small flashes in the movie. Moments that define a successful show. Moments that define the quality of a band.

The four Rolling Stones are senior citizens  And it shows. They are not really trying to hide it either. In the interview before the movie I saw four men who are getting on in live. Set them on a stage and this transition takes place. They are still four rock gods who enrapture each other and God knows how many people in the audience. Both Cuba and the world('s embassies in Cuba) had turned out to see something Cubans have not been able to see ever before.

And there is another feature this movie shows. The universal strength of music. I don't know how hard the ban on things western were in Cuba itself. Just that it was impossible to get by due to the embargo on trade with Cuba. Let's face it, it was not as if the people in the audience didn't know the songs. Music can't be stopped and people find ways to get by it.

Four men, and their hired guns, who put on a great show, with their greatest hits set and can tour as long as limbs allow them to do so. "We are still getting better", Keith Richards says in the movie. The Rolling Stones can grow with such an excellent set of musicians around them. "It is you who keep us going", Charlie muses.. Yes, but it is you guys who make us want to come. Your songs, your shows, your exuberance, that make us forget that we are getting on in life as well. The greatest rock and roll band in the world? Perhaps no longer, but from their generation there is only one left in competition and in size. And they are best friends since the early 60s.

Havana Moon. I loved it. Tied to a comfortable chair, I wanted to dance, sing and clap my hands. Perhaps we all did there in Pathé Haarlem, but no one dared to do so. The thought that we could have is hardly a solace.

Wo.

zondag 25 september 2016

Box Of Letters. James Scott Bullard and the Late Night Sweethearts

James Scott Bullard is on the same label as Stephanie Fagan, Big Mavis Music, and as avid readers of this blog will recall, the singer-songwriter featured on this blog with her album 'Heart Thief, an interview and her recent EP, '' The March'. She also features on Box of Letters, the mini album under scrutiny at this point in time.

Box Of Letters is an album that sounds familiar immediately. It could have been made anywhere between 1972 and 2016. By now I have dozens and dozens of albums like it and I just don't mind this one extra. Why? There are two reasons that present themselves to me straight away. The first one is that I can hear the honesty in the music and the singing. This is who James Scott Bullard is, the music he excels in, believes in and loves playing. The second reason is even more obvious: his songs are good. So here you go. It may all sound very familiar, whether he touches on country, country rock or a country rock ballad, he and his band touch upon the deeper truths of the music that reaches out to and touches me.

Having been enthusiastic about Stephanie Fagan twice on this blog, I may surprise all with writing that 'Elizabeth' is the song I like less on Box Of Letters. Yes, I like hearing her voice, but the song is the kind of common country song where I usually stop listening. The softly whining pedal steel is too much for me, as is the melody of the song.

Promo photo
Having that off my chest, I can focus on the other songs that I like all. The mid-tempo country rocker 'First Thing On Your Mind' with Rebecca Morning has this delicious lead guitar that does all between The Rolling Stones and The Outlaws. Nice and rough but like a reigned in, wild horse by an excellent rider. Add the warm organ sound and a slide guitar and I'm sold. Not to mention the great oohs and yeah-yeahs going on in the background. This is the sort of country rock that I get out of bed for.

'Another Heart' is more one dimensional than the previous song, but has this change leading up to the, one line, chorus, that packs me in again. The third duet on the album, 'Heartache No More' with Taylor Nealey, again tends to the cleaner side of the fence, but is more alive. A dirty guitar caters the ache, while the organ takes care of the heart. The two voices match in a great way.

If anything Box Of Letters shows that Bullard swings back and forth between the cleaner and the rougher sides of country music. He convinces in both, but I prefer the dirtier side of things and when he steps a bit more out of style with the ballad 'Town Square'. Bullard is able to tap into some heartfelt feelings and shares them with us translated in finest kind of southern music.

Wo.

You can listen to Box Of Letters here on You Tube:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLiZTwqqI_oB-yaWOttAZzwHFINK91AUIt

zaterdag 24 september 2016

No Burden. Lucy Dacus

Ik presenteerde het een aantal weken geleden nog als een unicum; vrouwelijke singer-songwriters die zich omringen met lekker rauw gitaarwerk.
 
Inmiddels heb ik een handvol platen die in dit hokje passen besproken en ook No Burden van Lucy Dacus past er uitstekend in.
 
Lucy Dacus is een pas 20 lentes tellende singer-songwriter uit Richmond, Virginia, die met No Burden een geweldig debuut heeft afgeleverd.
 
Het is een debuut met lekkere rauwere gitaarriffs, maar het is ook een debuut vol geweldige en opvallend melodieuze songs. Lucy Dacus beschikt over een mooie stem, die het prachtig zou doen in een volledig akoestische setting, maar die ook uitstekend gedijt in het rauwe gitaargeluid op No Burden.
 
De muziek van de singer-songwriter uit Virginia ligt in het verlengde van die van de eveneens jonge vrouwelijke singer-songwriters die de afgelopen weken op deze BLOG opdoken (Margaret Glaspy, Emma Russack, Frankie Cosmos), maar No Burden ontsnapt ook niet aan de vergelijking met de platen van Sharon van Etten en Courtney Barnett. Het is een groot compliment voor het debuut van Lucy Dacus.
 
No Burden laat zich vergelijken met de platen van anderen, maar ik vind het uiteindelijk toch vooral een originele plaat. De naar de voorgrond gemixte gitaren klinken anders dan op de meeste andere platen, de ritmesectie is speelser dan gebruikelijk en ook de stem van Lucy Dacus is er niet een waarvan er 13 in een dozijn gaan.
 
De negen songs op No Burden zijn vooral rauw, maar ze strijken geen moment tegen de haren in. De songs van Lucy Dacus overtuigen makkelijk, maar blijven ook nog lang intrigeren, wat van No Burden een echte groeiplaat maakt.
 
Zeker wanneer de Amerikaanse wat gas terug neemt vindt ze aansluiting bij de eigenwijze folkies van het moment, maar No Burden is uiteindelijk meer rock dan folk. Het is rock die strak en meedogenloos kan klinken, maar de muziek van Lucy Dacus krijgt ook volop ruimte om te rammelen, wat het onderscheidend vermogen van de plaat nog wat verder vergroot.
 
Bijzonder aangename plaat dus, die in Nederland echt veel meer aandacht verdient dan de plaat tot dusver krijgt (maar misschien ligt dat aan het feit dat een Nederlandse release pas voor september gepland staat).

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'I Don't Want To Be Funny Anymore':

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88hQgxgqdo4

vrijdag 23 september 2016

Primitive Smile. Emanuel and the Fear

There is not a lot primeval about this album, I find, it gives cause to smile though. Emanuel and the Fear may dip their pens into many inkwells, the music is totally up to date with the age of bits and bites and what went shortly before. I wondered for a while whether I was going to write anything at all. Not because I don't like what I'm hearing, far from, I've played Primitive Smile many a time. It's more that I find that the album is such a hotchpotch of familiar sounds and songs that I found it hard to find the right words. Have I found them? No, but Primitive Smile is to good to pass up on.

Who are Emanuel and the Fear? According to Wikipedia an American symfo band from Brooklyn that released two EPs and two albums, the last stemming from 2012. Symfo? Is this the same band. Doing some more research I found that the band announced Primitive Smile on Bandcamp, so I am on the right track. From the sound of Primitive Smile I had expected a U.K. based band. Coming from NYC may explain that the third song, 'Holding On' reminds me so much of NYC singer-songwriter Steve Waitt. The song is even sung with the same diction.

If the band ever was sympho, then in the past four years it went through a great musical transition. From an eleven piece band to six is a major step for one. There are still loads of strings involved. Half of The Fear's members play classical strings. It is the rest that takes care of the great American songbook style of songs that come by. Together Emanuel Ayvas, guitar, piano, synths, vocals; Nic Cowles, synths, rhodes; Gil Goldin bass; Jeff Gretz, drums, percussion, rhodes, space echo; Sarah Haines, violin, viola, vocals; Liz Hanley violin, vocals with guest Mark Humburg on cello play an enthusiastic mix of music in which basically anything went. Many ideas were explored so that in every song different influences were found and brought to a satisfying end. Whether Foo Fighters or Giorgio Moroder, the listener is able to find something that he may recognise and/or appreciate.

No. I'm not going to tick off everything that I'm hearing on Primitive Smile. That may take away too much of your fun in exploring the record. What is important to write is that Emanuel and the Fear made each song a strength in itself. Whether through an interesting instrumentation or the beautiful singing between Emanuel Ayvas and the two ladies in the band. This definitely is one of the fortes of this album. Ayvas' voice is a perfect mix between Blind Willies' Alexei Wajchman and the aforementioned Steve Waitt. It's strength is augmented by Sarah Haines and Liz Hanley. The music is a mix of so much that at times I seem to run a couple of ears short. There's so much to discover that each spin of this cd is an adventure in itself.

Primitive Smile is an album not to let pass by unnoticed. It seems too good to be true at times.

Wo.

You can listen to and buy Primitive Smile here:

https://emanuelandthefear.bandcamp.com/album/primitive-smile

donderdag 22 september 2016

Absolute Loser. Fruit Bats

De uit Chicago afkomstige band Fruit Bats ken ik alleen van het in 2003 verschenen Mouthfuls, dat ik destijds vooral een hele aangename plaat vond.
 
Dat geldt ook weer voor het na een pauze van vijf jaar verschenen Absolute Loser. De band rond Eric D. Johnson doet op haar zesde plaat misschien geen hele opzienbarende dingen, maar wat klinkt deze plaat lekker en wat word je vrolijk van de bijzonder aangenaam voortkabbelende pop- en rock songs van de Amerikaanse band.
 
Fruit Bats laat zich op Absolute Loser inspireren door de folk(pop) uit de jaren 70, de singer-songwriter pop uit dezelfde periode, de alt-country uit de jaren 90 en de countryrock van een aantal decennia ervoor en verpakt al deze invloeden in songs waarvan je alleen maar een brede glimlach op je gezicht kunt krijgen.
 
De opgewekte popsongs van Fruit Bats strijken geen moment tegen de haren in, strooien driftig met zonnestralen, klinken volstrekt tijdloos en hebben ook allemaal direct iets memorabele.
 
Fruit Bats doet in muzikaal opzicht misschien geen hele verrassende of vernieuwende dingen, maar de songs op de plaat zijn van hoog niveau en doen niet onder voor die van de vele voorbeelden van de band.
 
Die voorbeelden zijn er in overvloed. Fruit Bats heeft een zwak voor mooi verzorgde en licht psychedelische folkrock zoals Love die maakte, sluit aan bij de grote platen van alt-country pioniers als The Jayhawks maar ook bij countryrock bands als The Flying Burrito Brothers en komt zo nu en dan op de proppen met songs die McCartney gemaakt zou kunnen hebben gedurende de jaren 70. Hiermee zijn we er nog niet, want Absolute Loser klinkt 10 songs lang als een omgevallen platenkast, waarin ook ruimte is voor net wat stevigere en net wat zweverigere songs.
 
Wat voor de songs geldt, geldt ook voor de instrumentatie en de zang op de plaat. Alles klinkt even mooi verzorgd en alles is even trefzeker. Natuurlijk kan ik vol blijven houden dat Fruit Bats geen hele bijzondere dingen doet op haar zesde plaat, maar dat doet de band uit Chicago natuurlijk wel.
 
Absolute Loser is immers niet alleen een ijzersterke en onweerstaanbare feelgood plaat, maar het is ook nog eens een heel knap gemaakte plaat. Mouthfuls heb ik uiteindelijk heel vaak gedraaid. Dat zal voor Absolute Loser niet anders zijn. Heerlijk.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Absolute Loser':

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puku2CM0KNU

woensdag 21 september 2016

Schmilco. Wilco

Each new album by Wilco is an event to watch out for. Album #10 is no different. Since 1994 the band went through several iterations, but since 2004 it is completely stable. So the 12,5 and 25 years anniversary is getting closer fast.

Wilco followed a musically and artisticly very interesting path, with a few albums that I really, really had to get used to. With Schmilco, which must be an intended pun to Harry Nilsson, the band goes back to very elementary songs. Gone are the atmospheric music, gone are the guitar eruptions by Nels Cline. Enter the acoustic guitar, enter a softer tone.

The softer tone does not necessarily mean that Schmilco is a lightweight album. Far from, it is an album with mood swings. It rocks as well as cradles the listener. 'Common Sense' appeals to the senses. There are a lot of almost disharmonious sounds going on. It all fits on the edges of the song structure, not as it would in a one on one pop song. It is like all band members were allowed to come up with their own ideas after the chords were presented to them without any pre knowledge of the melody. After that they tried to make them fit, ending up with a rather strange, but intriguing song.

Jeff Tweedy knows how to write a song. Even when they are more basic. The band knows how to colour his songs and embellish them. How to add an interesting lick around a chord change. In each song there are these small things to discover.

In 'Someone To Lose' the electric guitars are finally released. Howling and screaming: why are we not on this record? The small contribution is instantly interesting and satisfying. The fact that they are locked back into their cases in 'Happiness' is o.k. The little keyboard sound is so beautiful. The title of this song is rather deceptive. 'Happiness'? "So sad, it's nothing", as Tweedy sings, is more like it. I can't help falling for the song. It may not bring the kind of solace Nick Cave's song 'Skeleton Tree' does, it is the same kind of song. The same deep layer of sadness and beauty in one. Like Cave Wilco touches on, sings and plays all the right notes.

Schmilco may be an elementary album, the quality is unmistakeably there. There's no need for exuberance nor ultimate estrangement or effects to make a good Wilco album. The basics are enough. At times the band touches on Sparklehorse, as in 'Shrug And Destroy'. Wilco is better in adding a lighter touch, which makes Schmilco so well balanced and Wilco the better band. And humour. "We are the world. We are the children"?

The only disappointment is that there isn't a 'Schmilco' on Schmilco, like there was a 'Wilco' on 'Wilco' by Wilco. A missed chance. As you understand, if that is my only complaint, Schmilco must be a good album. And it is.

Wo.

You can listen to 'If I Ever Was A Child' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykOrfedFJ8o

dinsdag 20 september 2016

Stephanie Struijk. Stephanie Struijk

De Nederlandse singer-songwriter Stevie Ann maakte tussen 2005 en 2013 vier uitstekende platen (en een prima live-plaat).
 
De platen werden terecht bejubeld door de Nederlandse muziekpers, maar trokken uiteindelijk ook aandacht in de Verenigde Staten, waardoor Stevie Ann haar derde plaat Light Up (2009) en haar vierde plaat California Sounds (2013) in Los Angeles kon opnemen en hierbij gebruik kon maken van de diensten van producers van naam en faam (onder wie Mitchell Froom).
 
Na California Sounds rekende ik op de definitieve doorbraak van Stevie Ann, maar de volgende stap in haar carrière is wat dat betreft een onlogische.
 
Een tijdje geleden maakte Stephanie Struijk (want dat is de echte naam van Stevie Ann) samen met producer Daniël Lohues een flinke road trip door de Verenigde Staten. Tijdens deze road trip werden de duizenden kilometers tussen Los Angeles en Minneapolis afgelegd, werden negen staten doorkruist, bloeide er iets moois op tussen de twee, maar werden ook volop songs geschreven.
 
De road trip door de Verenigde Staten wordt op de website van Stephanie Struijk geïllustreerd met fraaie beelden en mooie verhalen, maar heeft ook een prachtige plaat opgeleverd.
 
Het is een plaat die een nieuwe start betekent voor Stephanie Struijk. Het is een plaat met alleen Nederlandstalige songs, waardoor het niet voor de hand lag om de plaat onder de naam Stevie Ann uit te brengen. Het is op dit moment waarschijnlijk dodelijk voor een internationale carrière, maar wat is het titelloze debuut van Stephanie Struijk een mooie en indringende plaat geworden.
 
De bijzondere beelden van de road trip inspireerden Stephanie Struijk en Daniël Lohues tot 14 prachtige songs, die uiteindelijk in het Drentse Erika werden opgenomen. Het zijn songs die, net als de songs van Stevie Ann, stevig zijn geïnspireerd door de Amerikaanse rootsmuziek, maar  de songs van Stephanie Struijk zijn een stuk intenser, intiemer en persoonlijker dan die van haar alter ego.
 
Ik ben normaal gesproken helemaal niet zo gek op Nederlandstalige muziek, maar de songs van Stephanie Struijk kruipen diep onder de huid en maken je deelgenoot van een bijzondere roadtrip langs bijzondere, maar minder voor de hand liggende plekken in de Verenigde Staten. De beelden heb je bijna op het netvlies. De wens om dezelfde kilometers af te leggen groeit bij iedere luisterbeurt.
 
Stevie Ann was prachtig, maar Stephanie Struijk is nog een stuk beter. Wat een mooie, bijzondere, intense, intieme en ontroerende plaat.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'De Rivier':

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2R6T9E4Ri7A&list=PLUICM7GVHFXJsomMbsd2jXKYuQMdEYzLM

maandag 19 september 2016

Skeleton Tree. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

The sleeve is as dark as the music on the new album of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds is. As dark as Nick Cave and his family's world most have become when the news reached them that their son and brother had fallen to his death from a cliffs near Brighton. The sort of news everyone with chiildren secretly is afraid of ever having to receive. A potential message that is pushed away as far to the back of the mind as possible, so one is able to live, be happy and enjoy the right moments, alone and together.

In those circumstances Skeleton Tree was made. Cave had started working on the album and finished it after the tragic event. Most had been recorded before though. Now Nick Cave has never been a barrel of laughs. Perhaps in his private life, but not on record. As readers of my previous post on Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, 'Push The Sky Away', know, I never was a fan. Too dark and otherworldly. In the 10s our paths sort of crossed and, yes, we are walking along in the same direction.

Skeleton Tree is a monument. A dark firmament of Medieval proportions. A firmament with small holes in it through which light is allowed to shine on the Earth at night. Add the threat of a storm of epic proportions that excludes all the lights, except in the small openings in the dark clouds that loom overhead, ever growing upwards and upwards. The world waiting for something to happen.

That something is released in the fourth song, 'Anthrocene'. Ultra fast, but fleeting drumming crashes like lighting in the sky, announcing the storm of which it's still not certain it will burst overhead or remain in the distance.

Of course it's impossible to hear Skeleton Tree without thinking about what happened in 2015. The urge to interpret all against it is nearly irresistible. Still, I have to try not to do so. Skeleton Tree deserves to be heard in its own strength or weakness. When I do that, and take into account that most was recorded before that fateful event, I find that this album is not so far away from its predecessor. The dark, brooding atmosphere of 'Push The Sky Away' is all around. Perhaps even thicker, as the songs that provided that album with some air to breath are lacking here.

That makes Skeleton Tree the more impressive. As it is very hard to find a flaw in the singing, the instrumentation, the extremely open, dark but warm production, by Cave, Warren Ellis and Nick Launay. The absolute highlight is the duet with Danish classical singer Else Torp, 'Distant Sky'. Almost a 'non-song' as I call them, if the singing melody wasn't so strong. It makes the atmospheric sounds going on in the background obsolete. Yet so full of quality both are, both the singers and the music, that a monument was raised of a dark quality, that goes beyond nearly all.

The album starts so ugly. A premonition. 'You fell from the sky and crashlanded in a field", Nick Cave more reads than sings. Underneath just sounds repeating a motive or note. Nothing happens in 'Jesus Alone', just ugly scenes that are described, with someone, Jesus?, calling the listeners. Eternal darkness is upon us. With 'Rings Of Saturn' we come on more familiar territory. Cave presents us a song. There's a melody and chord changes. Keyboards and atmosphere carry the song, which continues more or less for the rest of the album. Somehow the quality rises by the song, making it a perfectly built up album. By now I know that I have to start backtracking his career. Maybe my ears just were not adjusted right in the mid 80s? I'm about to find out.

Hope is released in the final song. In the title song, a slow ballad, Nick Cave provides us all with solace. A song that moves me to tears, knowing what I know, but pushed away to write the above. "And it's alright", Cave sings in the final grooves of the album. No it's not, yet or perhaps never will be again, but with a song like this the world may turn out a more beautiful place. Like after the storm and the rain, that sustains all growth, comes the sun that hesitantly pierces its rays through the clouds to shine on us all.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Jesus Alone' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iGxoJnygW8

zondag 18 september 2016

Taymir’s zwanenzang. Den Haag Paard van Troje, 16 september 2016

Foto: HareD
‘Wij waren Taymir’. De famous last words van een Haags bandje, dat de wereld heeft verrijkt met  twee cd’s met aanstekelijke liedjes. Het laatste concert was in een uitverkochte kleine zaal van het Paard. Voor driekwart gevuld met tienermeisjes, al dan niet vergezeld door vader of moeder. Ze lieten lang op zich wachten voordat zij opkwamen en na een uur was het klaar. Bijna het hele oeuvre doorgewerkt. Een verzameling korte liedjes bij elkaar maakt nog altijd een kort concert. Wat grappig was en toch ook wel stijlvol: geen toegift. Klaar is klaar.

Volgens eigen zeggen stoppen ze ermee, omdat niet iedereen zich meer voor 200% gaf en omdat zij uit elkaar waren gegroeid. Dat laatste heb je natuurlijk bij die jonge gastjes. Terzijde: de jongens van de Soul Sister Dance Revolution waren er ook en ik had de kans om de zanger te vragen of zij nog wel doorgingen. ‘Mwah…. we are in limbo’, was het vage antwoord. Ook daar niet veel meer van te verwachten vrees ik. Jammer, nog meer dan het verscheiden van Taymir, wat mij betreft

Foto: HareD
Drie van de vier muzikanten kon je echt geen enkele gebrek aan inzet verwijten. Drummer Isai Reiziger werkte zich  het apelazerus, speelde energiek, strak en had er zichtbaar lol in. Dat gold ook voor bassist, Quiten Meiresonne, die de afgelopen drie jaar uiterlijk uitgroeide tot een imitatie van de bandleden van Led Zeppelin of Deep Purple in het begin van de jaren zeventig. Gitarist Mikkie B. Wessels droeg de avond, speelde goed en had het ook erg goed naar zijn zin. Zanger Bas Prins was de uitzondering. Volledig stoned, dronken, onder de pillen, of alle drie leek hij meer op een zombie die op de automatische piloot zijn ding deed. Zichtbaar plezier heb ik bij hem niet kunnen ontdekken.

Desalniettemin  was dit laatste concert een Taymir een feestje. Kort maar fijn. De liedjes zijn gewoon goed, aanstekelijk en vrolijk.  Grootste hit Aaahhh was een hoogtepunt, maar ook enkele nieuwe liedjes deden het lekker. Taymir heeft zichzelf bijgelegd op het enorme kerkhof van heerlijke Haagse beatbandjes. Jammer.

HareD

zaterdag 17 september 2016

Radio Norfolk. Ghost Wave

The moment Matthew L. Paul starts singing, the Neil character from the 80s comedy series 'The Young Ones' springs up in my mind. "Oh, wow"! Just like the music does in a less direct way. We're in psych territory alright. The record is lying around for a while and it is about time to write a little about it.

Ghost Wave is another branch of the Flying Nun tree from New Zealand. From Auckland, but the members of Ghost Wave seem to have everything they need to space out. Like the Dutch space band PAUW they tickle my fancy in a pleasant way. Simply because no matter how far out the instrumentation and mix may go, the songs are all right. And that is where music begins and ends with me. If there's no song, I'm usually just not interested. Ghost Wave delivers in that department.

For me the album starts, really starts that is, with the second song. 'Whois Doing The Talkin' starts with a sitar and all sorts of other eastern sounding melodies chiming in. The verse is monotonous, but underneath other instruments are added, making the sound bigger. The chorus is classic The Dandy Warhols of the late 90s and I'm hooked.

The sitar is there for most of the stretch and I'm not a fan of the droning instrument, but when used like here, I can live with it. The keyboard that follows the singing gives 'Blues Signal '79' an eerie quality. Like a ghost following singer Paul without being menacing in any way.

That basically is about all there is to tell about Radio Norfolk. All you need to know. The atmosphere is extremely pleasant in a lazy way. The album is relaxed, like a sunny day. For me it is all the drugs I need every once in a while. Radio Norfolk is not an album I will play every day, but just like PAUW's 'Macrocosm Microcosm' taken in the right doses it is so good. When the tempo goes up in 'All U Do Is Kill', you will find it is in the exactly right moment to make the album more diverse.

By now I know there is something interesting in the water in Auckland, NZ. There's so much interesting and good music coming through to me from that town in the past one and a half years that this is no longer a coincidence. Keep it coming, says,

Wo.

You can listen to 'All U Do Is Kill' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDKmvj8_5-M

vrijdag 16 september 2016

Upsweep. Hannah Epperson

Maintaining a blog has its advantages. Every once in a while an envelope falls on the floor with a cd inside. Often I'm surprised by a record that I would never have heard and most likely never even would have heard of. Hannah Epperson's Upsweep is one of those albums.

Hannah Epperson is originally from Salt Lake City, but now resides in NYC. The place to be for someone who produces music like this. Experimental, without compromise and non-pleasing, at least at first listening. A solo performer, who with her voice, violin and loop pedal goes out into the world and creates her songs on the spot, time and again. As such not unique, but daring as live she gives herself up to the patience of an audience.

Upsweep is an album with two sides. The one called 'Amelia', the other 'Iris'. Although both sides are serious, they have a totally different character. Amelia is electronic with loops and harmonies like can be heard on R&B records. Epperson's violin comes through in a quite prominent way at times and then is gone in the electronics. When present her violin is able to screech like 'Papa' John Creach's on Jefferson Airplane and Starship records. The almost fragmentary music calls for attentive listening to divine the deeper layers of the songs. The place where music is "hiding" itself.

Let's focus on 'Iodine (Amelia)', when finally the great release seems to be approaching, synth drums over which the violin swells as well, the big release is given by a simple bell sound percussion, like earlier in the song. She fooled me here alright.

In the way of playing the music there is something of Peter Gabriel. The way the songs are structured and their punctured pace is where the two meet. They drift apart where the colouring is concerned. Epperon's music is so much more elementary. Lots of things that could have been there, simply are not. While the same effect is reached. That is what impresses me. The mood reminds me of Kate Bush records from 1984 onwards.

"Anyway, why did they deviate from that story?",

an uncertain old female voice says. Like a message from a conspiracy theory. It signals change. After five songs we move into the second part called 'Iris', with a song called 'Farthest Distance (Iris)'. The same songs come by but now with plucked and bowed violin. The electronics have been laid aside for organic violin music, but we do get fooled again here and there with dubs. Because of the violin the music gets a (modern) classical atmosphere, although the singing keeps us in pop circles. The singing, light and weightless, brings Amber Arcades to mind.

The differences between the two sides to the album, makes it as if the songs only have the same title. Hannah Epperson plays with the moods of her listeners. She reaches me in totally different ways. On the one hand with the electronic experiments that twist and turn through my ears and with the singing and playing that is going on during Iris. Upsweep is a fascinating album where avant garde meets pop and classical music singer-songwriter songs. The music is clear as a bright winter's day, warm as summer, cold as winter and dark as midnight on a cloudy day. Upsweep is all of that and much, much more. Besides fascination there is quality. This writer was not just surprised, I'm won over. Totally.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Story (Amelia)' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQaOqr65rCo

You can listen to or buy Upsweep on Hannah Epperson's Bandcamp page:

https://hannahepperson.bandcamp.com/

donderdag 15 september 2016

Narcissism Blues. Einfach Kurt

Last year I wrote on Einfach Kurt's previous album 'Moths'. An album so dark that I had to listen hard to find the humour buried beneath the dread, sludge and fear. Not so on this new album called Narcissism Blues. The tongue-in-cheek is there. It seems a trademark of Kurt.

"I care for you, but I love myself". Message understood. Whatever or whoever is present around Einfach Kurt, he keeps falling down to look at his reflected image. There's one item in which this message takes a wrong turn. The band does not keep this extremely pleasant song for itself, but shares it with all of us. On the other hand the more people profess liking the song, the more there is to enjoy in the image in the pond. That's a dilemma I'm not clear about yet.

With 'Moths' Koert van Essen and his band had surprised me in a quite pleasant way. What to expect with such a band name? Just not much, I'll confess a year after the previous review. Because of "Moths' I put Narcissism Blues into the player with a lot of expectation. The fun thing is that this new album meets all the criteria that I have linked to Einfach Kurt over the past.

Narcissism Blues rocks, the lyrics have elements to listen with interest, something to discover and the songs have a melodic quality and diversity. From blues rock, to rock and Bob Dylan style blues rock. This album holds a lot for different ears. Perhaps too much for some.

'Extra Medium' is probably the weirdest example. Sounding like a Bob Dylan rock song from the 'Blonde On Blonde'/'Bringing It All Back Home period, with a lyric concerning the way a piece of meat is cooked. With a lead guitar that wasn't invented yet in 1965/66 (played by Einfach Kees (Lewiszoon)). That's humour for you, alright. Those who listen will find more examples of styles where Einfach Kurt dips his nose in, to stay in Narcissus' style, explores and discards again for his next fave.

The way Einfach Kurt plays his music here leads to an eclectic album in which nothing is held back. A subdued rocksong like 'I Hate Everyone' gets a soul injection with the singing of  Einfach Karlijn (Wolsing) and a great Hammond organ. Add a Herman Brood like piano and an amalgam of styles comes forward that is pretty much irresistible.

It all ends with a family history in singer-songwriter style, in a way Cowboy Gerard style, but for that the story takes some too special twists and turns. The song, Palm Sunday', as such is not so special, but that is not what it is about. The music is just the vehicle for the story. Go ahead and find out yourself.

Narcissism Blues is a satisfying album for those anxious to hear more from Einfach Kurt after that fun album 'Moths' and for those who would like to know more from an artist that is not afraid to explore where he can go, following different musical styles, without losing himself in the process. One of the better albums from this country in 2016.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Narcissism Blues' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bH-9YaS4nX4

woensdag 14 september 2016

The Bride. Bat For Lashes

Het is iedere keer weer even afwachten waar Natasha Khan mee op de proppen komt, maar dat de platen die ze uitbrengt als Bat For Lashes heel goed zijn is inmiddels al lang geen verrassing meer.
 
Op The Bride hebben we vier jaar moeten wachten, maar sinds de eerste noten van de plaat uit de speakers kwamen ben ik geïntegreerd door de vierde plaat van Bat For Lashes.
 
The Bride is een conceptplaat over een bruid die bij het altaar tevergeefs wacht op haar aanstaande echtgenoot, omdat deze op weg naar de kerk bij een auto ongeluk om het leven is gekomen. De bruid besluit vervolgens om alleen op huwelijksreis te gaan en doet verslag van haar emoties. Het zijn de ingrediënten voor een prima keukenroman, maar gelukkig maakt Natasha Khan er een echt kunststukje van.
 
The Bride is door de thematiek vaak wat zwaar aangezet en dat past wel bij de prachtige stem van de zangeres met Pakistaanse en Britse roots. De geweldige stem van Natasha Khan wordt op The Bride omgeven door een verrassend veelzijdig instrumentarium. Een aantal tracks doet bijna klassiek aan, maar Bat For Lashes strooit op The Bride ook driftig met speelse elektronica of met stemmige gitaren.
 
Door het steeds weer anders klinkende instrumentarium valt er op The Bride van alles te beleven. De klanken zijn vaak donker en stemmig, maar hier en daar breken de donkere wolken open en waait een veelkleurig klankentapijt breed uit.
 
Hoe mooi de instrumentatie ook is, alles staat in dienst van de vocalen van Natasha Khan die op indrukwekkende wijze in de huid van de betreurde bruid kruipt. Natasha Khan doet dit afwisselend op zeer intieme en op zeer theatrale wijze, maar het blijft smaakvol, ook als alle registers open gaan.
 
The Bride is het mooist als je je volledig op laat slokken door de plaat en alle emoties van de bruid doorleeft. Zeker met de koptelefoon blijf je je verbazen over de volle maar ook subtiele instrumentatie en groeit de bewondering voor de prachtige vocalen op de plaat.
 
Het maakt Natasha Khan niet zoveel uit of ze de strijd aan moet gaan met een vol elektronisch klankentapijt of haar stem tegen een subtiel gitaarloopje (dat één keer stevig is geïnspireerd door Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross) aan mag vlijen. De zang is altijd even emotievol en trefzeker en tilt de prachtige klinkende plaat iedere keer naar een nog wat hoger niveau.
 
De Britse muziekpers kan voor The Bride prachtwoorden als ‘haunting’ en ‘bewitching’ uit de kast trekken, ik moet het doen met bezwerend en betoverend. Het doet de pracht en emotie van The Bride van Bat For Lashes net wat tekort. Wat een indrukwekkende plaat.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar In God's House'':

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

dinsdag 13 september 2016

Kairos, June 2016 by .No on Concertzender

In June Concertzender broadcasted another Kairos show made by .No, Wo.'s partner in this thing called WoNo Magazine. About once a month Wo. listens to .No's selection of music in which often he is more than not exposed to music he has never heard before and most likely would never have been exposed to. In fact he even listens to contributions that he hardly recognises as music in the way he understands it. This leads to thoughts, musings, associations, recollections and even small stories he shares with the followers of this blog.

"Kairos, a meditation to present day music", is the familiar, somewhat odd introduction to the show, I notice. Present day? Some compositions are ages old, although the recordings are modern or several decades old at most. Later I discovered we do go back this month to a recording made in the late 1950s.

The show starts with Lyenn and his album 'Slow Healer', an album that was reviewed this spring on this blog, a post that triggered hearing the music on Kairos. The many layered composition is about trying to find. The phrase "show me the way" is repeated over and over.

When an organ note holds on for a few seconds I realise we are in for the change. The note comes through Lyenn's last notes and moves into 'By And By' from the Dutch band Luik. Another album that I'd say could only have been released on Snowstar Records. More atmosphere than music and still extremely beautiful. Despite that there is a full band setting, live one ought to be able to hear a pin drop in the audience. Otherwise there would be nothing left. The delicate guitar solo notes worm itself through the organ/harmonium, drums and bass. Luik is close to I Am Oak in everything, but just a tat more down to earth as far as this floating music can be thus.

'Chanson Exotique?' That reminds me of a movie I once saw in New York City that I forgot the name of, but something like Exotica. I remember the desolation, no scenes. Something with a lapdance club? I seem to want to put Jeff Bridges in there, but have no way of knowing any more and there's no need to look it up. The dark sounding violin with the harp playing deeper notes exhumes some of this atmosphere. It is music that touches me on this afternoon when I feel I have not slept enough, feel a bit lazy and tired, without it hampering me. I find this is the right music to listen to.

The high singing that follows is no surprise after what I heard just before. It lands in the place opened by Larissa Groeneveld's cello, so not a violin, sorry. The music sounds like it could have been made for a Hollywood movie of the 40s or 50s and even early Disney movies. The singing is more classical though. So what am I listening to? 'Sea Slumber Song' sung by Janet Baker with the London Symphony Orchestra behind her. I hate this sort of singing, usually, but not at this moment, although there comes a point in which I hope Baker does not outstay her welcome.

Lyenn returns with a second song, 'In Reveries'. Although we switch from classical to singer-somgwriter pop (dreampop?), for lack of a better description, the mood remains intact. Fredrick Lyenn Jacques sings high, with an acoustic guitar and a lot of atmosphere behind him in the form of an occasional bass note and the room he's in. Until more instruments move in. A banjo, strings and the song fleshes out to what brings the late St. Thomas to mind, the Norwegian singer who took his own life some years ago.

The switch to Ravel is a small one. By then I have found the common theme for this month. It is in the music. These are all people when making their music forget that when the sky drops upon us, we finally all will wear blue hats. 'Adagio assai uit Piano Concerto in g' is so melancholy, so soft spoken, so beautiful that it completely takes me by surprise. This piece of music could have been in any movie as well as be part of all sorts of interludes in rock records. This does not change when the Philharmonia Orchestra joins pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. Ekseption did something like this in its adaptation of Bach's 'Air'? Marillion, Yes? My guess is almost that they heard this music. The soft violins under any romance scene in old black and white movies? Here you have the source. It is the piano that is off sorts every once in a while, almost disharmonious, before being reigned in again or tames the orchestra. Yes, I'm pleasantly surprised here.

Although today is a bit of a autumny day, the Indian summer in general is working out well. It's a bit strange to hear a song on snow on oranges, if I translate the French right. This choir miniature by Maurice Ohana is sung by female voices only. A piano takes over and again it has this melancholy, meditative quality that is all over this Kairos. Back to the Rothko Chapel and Eric Satie's 'Gnossienne No. 3' played by Sarah Rothenberg. The soft notes are played delicately, even when the pressure on the keys is a bit harder. The choir was only a short relief from the piano. The door that was opened by the cello and harp is still wide open.

Peter Broderick composition 'What Was Found' is far more modern. The delayed, I think guitar, sound is mixed in with strings after a soft introduction. The composition has a touch of sumptuousness around it, as if there's more than I can hear. The music stops for the poem by Willem Wilmink. No mixing this month.

Taylor Deupree produces some quaint sounds after which Matthew Bourne plays his piano in 'The Greenskeeper' from his album 'Montauk Variations'. The notes are so sparse that it is impossible to hide. Each notes reverberates for a long time filling the space available in a lazy lingering fashion.

Lyenn's third contribution, 'Vaguely Lit' takes over and fits so well. The pace is so slow that there is only one way to listen to this music: total surrender. Nothing else will let it reach the listener. You listen or not, there's no alternative. And that is what almost all other compositions have in common this month. There's no way in between. Once you are listening, there's nothing else for a whole hour. Again I am caught by the quiet desperation and resignation of Lyenn's songs.

A composition by Henrik Gorecky is next. There is a bell that I recognise from Pärt, but not as upfront and it goes away. The title is 'Tranquillo', another description that could fits this month's Kairos. This is the first composition that does not really touch me, if I leave out Deupree. Yes, it is tranquillo alright, but there is also something disturbing (my late Sunday afternoon reverie) in the music. Especially when we move into the composition. Compared to all that went before, the violins get me out of my listening mood like nails on the blackboard. Shudders down my spine. Something not quite right is going on here, so I leave it alone for Lyenn's final contribution to this Kairos, 'Keep It Still'.

For whom Gurecki's bell tolls I may never find out, but I do not particularly care, I have to say. Strange sounds come out of my speakers over which Lyenn's voice comes out. Like a trip to the ghost house at the fair as a child. Anticipating the scare around the next corner was almost scarier than the skeleton or fake spider webs themselves. That is what Lyenn's doing here. No longer a normal song more the sublimation of Mark Linkous' 'Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot'.

Nils Frahm again closes a Kairos with an excerpt from one of his songs. No urge to singing along this time though. 'I Would Like To Think' is all his own, but take care and listen up, as it is over before you know it.

There is one comment left. Why does .No praise himself in the introduction to this Kairos on the Concertzender's website, when it obviously ought to go to

Wo.?,

although I am sure he meant well.

You can listen to the June 2016 Kairos here:

http://www.concertzender.nl/player/?mode=rod&prid=339303

This is the full list:

00:15 Frederic Lyenn Jacques. Show me the way.
Album ‘Slow Healer’ vanLyenn. V2 Records Benelux
03:58 Lukas Dikker. By and by.
Album ‘Owl’ van Luik. Snowstar Records)
09:30 Hidayat Inayat Khan. Chanson Exotique, lento.
Larissa Groeneveld, cello; Gwyneth Wentink, harp.
Album: Chanson Exotique (STEMRA 200692).
13:30 Edward Elgar. Sea Slumber-Song uit Sea Pictures Op. 37.
Janet Baker, alt; London Symphony Orchestra; dirigent: Sir John Barbirolli.
EMI Classics 3 67918 2.
18:29 Frederic Lyenn Jacques. In Reveries.
Album ‘Slow Healer’ van Lyenn. V2 Records Benelux.
22:24 Maurice Ravel. Adagio assai uit Piano Concerto in g.
Arturo benedetti Michelangeli, piano; Philharmonia Orchestra; dirigent: Ettore Gracis.
Philips Classics 456 901-2.
31:37 Maurice Ohana. Neige sur les orangers.
Calliope, Choer de femmes; Dirigent: Régine Théodoresco.
Album ‘Métissages’. Calliope Cal 9406.
32:46 Erik Satie. Gnossienne No. 3.
Sarah Rothenberg, piano.
Van album ‘Rothko Chapel’. ECM NEW SERIES 2378 4811796.
36:03 Peter Broderick. What was found.
Van album ‘Music for Confluence’.
Erased Tapes Records Ltd. ERATP036CD
38:20 Taylor Deupree. Rusted oak (fragment).
Van album ‘Shaols’. 12K1060.
40:25 Matthew Bourne. The Greenskeeper.
Album: Montauk Variations. BAY 77CDP (LC 12877).
43:14 Frederic Lyenn Jacques. Vaguely lit.
Album ‘Slow Healer’ van Lyenn. V2 Records Benelux.
46:58 Henryk Gorecki. Tranquillo uit Kleines Requiem 1993.
Schönberg Ensemble olv. Reinbert de Leeuw.
Philips 442 553-2 55:32
Frederic Lyenn Jacques. Keep it still.
Album ‘Slow Healer’ van Lyenn. V2 Records Benelux
58:43 Nils Frahm I would like to Think (fragment).
Van album ‘The Bells’. Erased Tapes Records ERATP021CD
gedicht: Willem Wilmink

maandag 12 september 2016

Town Called Patience. Waiting For Henry

"It's a big decision in a town called Malice". I can dream that song. I read a book called 'A Town Called Alice'. What was it about? I can't remember for the life of me. And now 'Town Called Patience'. Is there a similarity between the two former mentioned titles? Yes, there is and it is familiarity and touching upon well-played strings inside of me.

Waiting For Henry is playing on my Gin Blossoms and The Wallflowers sentiments. It makes me want to get out the debut album of the latter band most of all. Jacob Dylan's breakthrough record. was so nice almost a quarter of a century ago.

Enough of the past. Enter 2016. Hearing the first song only, the strangely titled 'Musconetcong' (it's a river in New Jersey, so I found out), I knew that Waiting For Henry and I were going to be alright. It was that simple. And no, this album is not the best ever made, sorry for being so frank, but bare with me here and certainly not the most original ever in this genre. Too much water has passed under the bridge for that, but Waiting For Henry simply does everything right on Town Called Patience. The way the lead guitar plays in the first bars has everything from The Tragically Hip to southern rock bands of the 70s. And when the singing starts all that fits in a country rock voice presents itself. Gritty emotions from travelling on too many dust roads swigging a moonshine liquor container until the final drops are licked off the lid. In short a bit rough and dirty.

The tempo is pleasant. Nothing too fast, but the kind that allows dancing and swaying, but no one will blame anyone the moment someone is listening in a serious way as so many nice things happen in the guitar driven songs. Layers of guitars make up a song and it's a nice challenge to follow them all while listening. Waiting For Henry is not one for the subtlety department, but does surprise you about the care for details and all these little melodies.

Waiting For Henry is around since 2010 and released it's first record 'Ghosts & Compromise' in 2013. With me in ignorant bliss because of all else I was listening to at the time. Singer, guitarist and writer Doug Slomin, co-writer and guitarist Dave Ashdown, Mike Chun on bass and newby Rob Draghi on drums set out with veteran producer Mitch Easter to catch their alt-Americana in the best way possible. There's no REM in this record as far as I'm concerned. (Well, the guitar (intro) to 'Angel On The Run'.) A lot of other things are present for sure. But as I said it is about touching people and that is what Waiting For Henry does. The 12 song set is well-balanced between the rockers, the rock ballads (of the not Foreigner kind) and hints at country. So all's well in a Town Called Patience.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Musconetcong' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJ45e6FyRcc

The whole album is available on CD Baby:

https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/waitingforhenry2

zondag 11 september 2016

Forever Sounds. Wussy

En opeens ligt er een nieuwe plaat van de Amerikaanse band Wussy op de mat. De band uit Cincinnati, Ohio, maakte in 2005 een onuitwisbare indruk op mij met haar prachtige debuut Funeral Dress, maar vervolgens verloor ik de band volledig uit het oog en ging ik er eerlijk gezegd van uit dat Wussy al lang niet meer bestond.
 
Dat blijkt zeker niet het geval. Onlangs verscheen er een gloednieuwe plaat van de band, maar tussen Funeral Dress en Forever Sounds zitten ook nog vier andere platen en ook die zijn allemaal goed weet ik inmiddels.
 
Wussy kwam ruim tien jaar geleden overigens niet uit de lucht vallen, want voorman Chuck Cleaver maakte ook al minstens één meesterwerk met de band Ass Ponys (Lohio uit 2001).
 
Goed, inmiddels is er dus Forever Sounds en wat is dit een geweldige plaat. Allmusic.com schaart Wussy naar eigen zeggen inmiddels al jaren onder de beste indie bands van de Verenigde Staten en na beluistering van de nieuwe plaat van de band kan ik hier echt niets op afdingen.
 
Het stevige en bezwerende geluid van Wussy is bijzonder en bestaat uit componenten die niet al te vaak vermengd worden. De bijzondere cocktail van Forever Sounds bestaat uit gelijke delen 60s psychedelica, 90s noiserock en 90s indierock en wordt op smaak gemaakt met een vleugje Americana, een beetje My Bloody Valentine en een snufje Arcade Fire.
 
Het levert een zwaar en bijna hypnotiserend geluid op dat wordt gedomineerd door hoge gitaarmuren en een zware ritmesectie. Het gitaarwerk van Wussy heeft zich laten beïnvloeden door alle bovengenoemde genres, maar is ook zeker geïnspireerd door het geweldige gitaarwerk van Neil Young’s Crazy Horse.
 
Het is een geluid waarin de bijzondere stem van Chuck Cleaver goed gedijt, maar ook de vocalen van Lisa Walker (die afwisselend aan Patti Smith en Grace Slick doet denken) zijn van grote waarde in het bedwelmende geluid van Wussy.
 
Ook op Forever Sounds doet de muziek van Wussy bij vlagen weer aan van alles en nog wat denken, maar uiteindelijk is de mix van een aantal decennia rockmuziek behoorlijk uniek, waardoor de band het sterke wapen van een volstrekt eigen geluid in handen heeft.
 
Naar aanleiding van deze release heb ik ook Funeral Dress weer eens opgezocht en kan ik concluderen dat het nog altijd een fantastische plaat is. Dat geldt echter ook voor het kersverse Forever Sounds, dat heel veel aandacht verdient van een ieder die houdt van rockmuziek die zich ook buiten de gebaande paden durft te begeven. Jaarlijstjesplaat als je het mij vraagt.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar het album:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T70rE2aB9EQ