maandag 20 november 2017

The Slow Clock Two. The Slow Clock

The Slow Clock One passed me by, the second iteration of this project hasn't. Earlier in the year I reviewed Chinup's latest effort, 'Shine Bright Like A Diamond' (read here: and received an invite to listen to this album as well.

The Slow Clock is another project of singer/guitarist Harmen Kuiper and a totally different beast than his work with Chinup. Experimental, electronic beats and all. Don't be surprised however when Gruppo Sportivo comes by, in an ever so modern form. The Slow Clock is not afraid of throwing an odd ball here and there, setting its listeners on the wrong foot every once in a while.

Despite the fact that this music is a few steps away from what I usually listen to, I find that the album has a keen ear for melodies. In the mostly (ultra) short song, 2.30 minutes is an exception, Kuiper works out a modest idea. It reminds me of the Philadelphia based duo Carol Cleveland Sings, despite the fact it develops its song more (read here: The Slow Clock uses electronics in the same way and has that upbeat feeling hidden in its music. A seemingly surprising outlook on what it is singing about. Nowhere the comparison is stronger as in 'Attack And Defend'. And yes, early Zappa is in there as well, like Gruppo Sportivo, but hey, didn't that band cover 'Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance' in its intro to 'Superman'? Circles are round it seems.

In a way it is a shame some of the songs on Two do not get a fuller life in hi fi versions. Several deserve it certainly. A small little pop song like 'Turning Up The Crank Handle' has a nice melody and a hook that catches me. It has a 60s feel without copying anything.

It's not allowed to look a given horse in the mouth. Still it is a shame that the album does not have a clearer sound. It is truly lo-fi in sound like the music reaches me through a muffler. There's no sheen in sight on The Slow Clock Two. This is a shame, because it would have been even better with it.

There is an eleventh "song" on the album. One that does last longer. 13.20 minutes to be exact. 'Don't You Wanna Join That Number' it is called. A Zappa title if I ever heard one. The answer is still no. Like I always skip the last two songs on 'Freak Out'. 'Don't You Wanna Join That Number' is a sound experiment. I have no taste for it, but if you do, be my guest and do join in.

For me The Slow Clock Two ends with its 10th song 'The Lame Duck' that starts with the friendly words "You were redundant". No matter how unfriendly it sounds, it does give the sung to person the sound piece of advice to get rid of bad luck. 'The Lame Duck' is another of these hidden gems on the album. Harmen Kuiper is proving to be a songwriter that I intend to follow. Lo-fi or not, with The Slow Clock Two he has surprised me a second time in one year. I don't mind being surprised some more in the near future, whether by Chinup or The Slow Clock.


You can listen to The Slow Clock Two and download it for free here:

zondag 19 november 2017

Let Your Weirdness Carry You Home. Malojian

Het is inmiddels twee jaar geleden dat ik eindelijk toe kwam aan de beluistering van Southlands van Malojian. De tweede plaat van de band rond de uit het Noord-Ierse Belfast afkomstige Stevie Scullion maakte vervolgens vrijwel onmiddellijk de spreekwoordelijke onuitwisbare indruk en haalde de top 10 van mijn jaarlijstje over 2015. (Lees hier verder:
Dat kunstje herhaalde de band van Stevie Scullion met het nog geen jaar geleden verschenen This Is Nowhere, dat werd geproduceerd door niemand minder dan de legendarische Steve Albini (Pixies, Nirvana, PJ Harvey, Low, Joanna Newsom, The Breeders).
Stevie Scullion heeft over inspiratie kennelijk niet te klagen, want nog geen jaar na This Is Nowhere is er al weer een nieuwe plaat van Malojian verschenen. Let Your Weirdness Carry You Home werd door Stevie Scullion zelf geproduceerd en opgenomen in een vuurtoren aan de Noord-Ierse kust.
De Noord-Ierse muzikant werd hierbij bijgestaan door muzikanten van enige naam en faam als sessiedrummer Joey Waronker, Teenage Fanclub Gerry Love en de van Yorkston, Thorne & Khan en Lamb bekende Jon Thorne, maar de meeste aandacht gaat ook dit keer uit naar Stevie Scullion, die er wederom in is geslaagd om een serie zwaar verslavende en volstrekt tijdloze popliedjes af te leveren.
Het zijn net als op de vorige twee Malojian platen popliedjes vol invloeden uit de Britse folkrock en de Amerikaanse countryrock. Hier blijft het zeker niet bij, want ook Let Your Weirdness Carry You Home klinkt weer als een omgevallen platenkast en het is ook dit keer een platenkast die een uitstekende smaak etaleert.
Malojian citeert flink uit de folkrock uit de jaren 70, maar laat ook dit keer flink wat invloeden van The Beatles horen, terwijl van recentere datum flarden Elliott Smith en Grant Lee Buffalo opduiken. Let Your Weirdness Carry You Home volgt hiermee deels hetzelfde recept als zijn voorgangers, maar klinkt toch ook weer anders.
Stevie Scullion kiest op Let Your Weirdness Carry You Home vooral voor lome en dromerige songs, waarin invloeden uit de psychedelica prachtig samenvloeien met invloeden uit de traditionele Britse folk. Waar Malojian je op haar vorige twee platen nog wel eens ruw liet ontwaken met gruizige gitaaruithalen, kiest de band op Let Your Weirdness Carry You Home vooral voor beneveling.
Het levert een fascinerende luistertrip op vol flarden uit het verleden. Ik krijg bijna wekelijks platen die zich op precies dezelfde paden begeven, maar waar de meeste van deze platen niet ontsnappen aan het etiket (overbodige) retro, zorgt Malojian ook dit keer voor heel veel luisterplezier.
Let Your Weirdness Carry You Home is een plaat die je door alle bekende invloeden al jaren lijkt te kennen, maar het is ook een plaat die je steeds weer verrast doet opveren en ondertussen strooit met zonnestralen, wonderschone accenten van strijkers en blazers en andere zoete verleidingen.
Na Southlands was ik bang dat Malojian te makkelijk zou vervallen in herhaling, maar This Is Nowhere voelde geen moment als een herhalingsoefening. Het geldt ook weer voor Let Your Weirdness Carry You Home, dat misschien nog wel iets beter verleidt dan zijn twee voorgangers. Grote kans dus dat Malojian voor de derde keer op rij de top van mijn jaarlijstje gaat halen, maar wordt het niet eens tijd voor erkenning in veel bredere kring?

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier naar Let Your Weirdness Carry You Home luisteren en het album kopen:

zaterdag 18 november 2017

Glow. When 'Airy Met Fairy

A band from Iceland and Luxembourg? It seems like a tax evasion case before I have heard one note. When 'Airy Met Fairy is a true band however and a name like that invites me to listen, even if it sends me negative images of disco, dance or worse. But then, from Iceland the strangest sorts of music comes to the world. So who knows what to expect really.

Listening to Glow for the first time, somewhere in the background during dinner, it proved the right sort of music for that occasion. Non-intrusive yet incidentally capturing attention without demanding it. When listening with half an ear Kate Bush of old is a direct reference. In the way of singing and in atmosphere. Fairies are never far away in this music. Glow holds a dreamlike quality with singer Thorun Egilsdottir as the perhaps friendly witch. Her voice is the kind I always imagined the witch's in Hansel and Gretel would have. Specifically this part: "Nibble, nibble, like a mouse, Who is nibbling at my house?" (Thank you for the translation.)

So imagine a singer like a witch, a woman on helium in front of a band, that plays ever so soft and subtle. She has lived in both countries, studied in France, plays piano, decided to write in English and worked as an actress and tv anchor. When she met Mike Koster (bass, moog) and Thomas Copier (drums) they became When 'airy Met Fairy' and started working on a repertoire together in 2015. Honing their skills on stages around the world slowly but surely they worked towards Glow.

Glow is the kind of album that takes you by the ear as soon as you give it a few minutes of your time. Agreed, Egilsdottir's voice can turn you off the album within seconds, but as soon as you let her in, you will be sold. With minimal effects the band creates its own world around seemingly uncomplicated tunes. Not unlike Joan Wasser on the debut album of her nom de plume Joan as Policewoman, 'Real Life', 'Airy Met Fairy plays with essential emotions in a minimal setting. In nearly every song the right effect is created by adding a Moog or piano to the sound. eels bar the strong beats in a song like 'Susan's House' is another reference, leaving the piano only.

It is a surprise when a full sound, everything is relative though, emerges on Glow. In 'Sanctify You' the sound swells to a storm of When 'Airy Met Fairy proportions. After which the album continues in this dreamy, minimal way. I find that Glow is extremely intriguing. With a minimal effect it is able to change a song completely and making for an impact that I did not see coming.

Summing up, I find that Glow is not so much extremely good, but extremely well made, intriguing and captivating. So it's not 'Dark Side Of The Moon' or 'Abbey Road' to name two of my all time faves, but certainly up there with albums like 'Real Life' or 'Beautiful Freak'. An album to cherish with care, like I tend to do with something fragile and of beauty.


You can listen to 'Intoxicated' here:

vrijdag 17 november 2017

Walk Into A Storm. The Lone Bellow

The Lone Bellow is een band uit Brooklyn, New York, die in de Verenigde Staten de jaarlijstjes haalt, maar in Europa tot dusver helaas geen potten weet te breken. Ik begrijp daar eerlijk gezegd niet zoveel van, want de eerste twee platen van The Lone Bellow waren werkelijk geweldig.
Op het titelloze debuut van de band uit 2013 liet de band Americana horen zoals die ook door bands als The Civil Wars en The Lumineers (dat helaas nog steeds wordt geassocieerd met één niemendalletje) wordt gemaakt, terwijl het door The National’s Aaron Dessner geproduceerde Then Came The Morning uit 2015 imponeerde met een voller, avontuurlijker, veelzijdiger en gloedvoller geluid en bovendien diepe indruk maakte met vocalen die de hele plaat garant stonden voor kippenvel.
Walk Into A Storm is de derde plaat van de Amerikaanse band, die het hippe Brooklyn inmiddels heeft verruild voor de bakermat van de country, Nashville, Tennessee. In Nashville dook The Lone Bellow vervolgens de studio in met Dave Cobb, momenteel met afstand de meest gewilde producer binnen de Amerikaanse rootsmuziek.
De verhuizing naar Nashville en de samenwerking met Dave Cobb hebben zeker hun sporen nagelaten in de muziek van The Lone Bellow. Walk Into The Storm schuurt, zeker vergeleken met Then Came The Morning, dichter tegen de traditionele countrymuziek aan, terwijl Dave Cobb heeft gezorgd voor een geluid vol invloeden uit de jaren 70.
Het is een geluid dat mogelijkheden biedt voor The Lone Bellow. Zeker in de flirts met countryrock en aandacht voor de muzikale erfenis van Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young en The Eagles kan het muzikale vuurwerk worden ontstoken en dat doet The Lone Bellow dan ook met grote regelmaat op Walk Into A Storm.
Voorman Zach Williams laat ook op de derde plaat van The Lone Bellow weer horen dat hij een groot zanger is en bovendien een zanger is die zijn ziel en zaligheid in zijn stem kan leggen. De band beschikt met Kanene Donehey Pipkin echter over nog een stem die iets met je doet en zeker wanneer de twee samen de registers open trekken imponeert The Lone Bellow net als op haar vorige platen met zang die door de ziel snijdt.
Walk Into A Storm klinkt in muzikaal opzicht wat minder imponerend dan zijn voorgangers. Dave Cobb heeft de plaat zoals gezegd voorzien van een behoorlijk traditioneel klinkend geluid en heeft dit geluid ook nog eens volgestopt met strijkers. The Lone Bellow zet vergeleken met het zo bijzondere Then Came The Morning een stap terug wanneer het gaat om muzikaal avontuur en een eigen gezicht, maar in tegenstelling tot een groot deel van de Amerikaanse critici, vind ik ook Walk Into The Storm weer een geweldige plaat.
In muzikaal opzicht is het misschien wat minder spannend, maar het traditionelere geluid vol invloeden uit Nashville past uitstekend bij The Lone Bellow. Zeker wanneer de instrumentatie in dienst staat van de vocalen, en dat is op het grootste deel van de plaat het geval, maken deze vocalen nog meer indruk dan in het verleden en zit ik toch weer op het puntje van de stoel. De tijdloze popsongs op de plaat prikkelen bovendien de stoffen in het lijf die zorgen voor geluk, waardoor de zon weer gaat schijnen.

Walk Into A Storm is niet de logische stap die ik na de vorige plaat had verwacht, maar onderstreept wat mij betreft wel het enorme talent van deze band, die ook dit keer weer meerdere keren zorgt voor flink wat kippenvel, wat toch een bijzondere ervaring blijft.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier naar 'Walk Into A Storm' luisteren:

donderdag 16 november 2017

Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series, Vol.13/1979-1981. Bob Dylan

There is no period in Bob Dylan's career that was so venomously discussed as when Dylan went into religion as born-again Christian. The man was vilified, once again. For folk adepts it was anathema that Dylan plugged in in 1965, but he shocked his fans beyond believe when he made gospel(rock) albums in 1979-1980-1981. Nothing had prepared his listeners for this move. Not 'Street Legal' (1978) and 'Live At Budokan' (1979), that excellent double live album from his last tour until then. On the tour that started in September 1979 he started playing Christian songs exclusively and discarded his whole back catalogue. The shows were without exception negatively written about. Lo and behold, many of these shows were taped and here's the Bootleg Series Vol.13, from his born-again Christian shows. I am listening to the one disc sampler version on Spotify and am amazed, once again, by the strength of Dylan's hidden back catalogue.

I can't remember when I played 'Slow Train Coming' for the last time. I only played 'Saved' for 50% or less after buying it second hand somewhere in the early 90s for completion sake. The third album, 'Shot Of Love', may have been played somewhat more recently. None of the three albums, like almost all albums in 80s that followed, made a lasting impression on me. Then and now.

'Biograph' and 'The Bootleg Series, vol. 1-3' had made it clear to me that the gospel years had rendered some fantastic songs. The period had indeed delivered some extremely inspired songs, including perfect renditions. And here I am, listening to a sampler with versions of songs recorded through the whole religious period. Remembering Ian Bell's book 'Time Out Of Mind', the second volume of his Dylan biography, a lot of the shows were uninspired or even saw an angry Dylan as his audience wasn't willing to follow him (again). Where ever the truth is found, usually somewhere in the middle, this sampler shows how strong Dylan and band were. The gospel choir singing with all they have got, pushing songs to great heights. One of the singers is Clydie King, who can be found on The Rolling Stones albums as well, is rumoured to have turned Dylan towards his born-againness. She and her colleagues are singing like they mean it alright. 100% Dedication and conviction can be heard in their voices.

Dylan's voice is already on route to what we are hearing today. Not yet on his Never Ending Tour, he was already touring relentlessly in these days and it can be heard in the weariness in his voice. Not a single choir would have taken him on as a member. He is leading his band with all he has. But then listen to 'When He Returns - Take 2'. Just Dylan and a piano and there's nothing else needed. The strength of the song and the wording are more than enough. Dylan may be singing about the Lord, if I look through that, all I hear is a fantastic Bob Dylan song.

The sampler shows that the whole box set must be a feast of live recordings, outtakes, alternative versions, etc. For the xth time it seems time to save up some money and emerge into the whole. Why is it that with Bob Dylan, whose new albums I've stopped buying, as I can't listen to his versions of songs from his youth (usually the same goes for the original versions as well), I need to have all this older stuff. Somehow, almost without a doubt, it proves better than the original versions and recordings. With every other band it is the other way around. The Beatles 'Anthology' is fun, but not more than that. With Dylan it is as if he releases the real version of songs, and his bests songs, only on his 'The Bootleg Series'.

I've stopped thinking about the why and just receive the albums with a silent thank you to his Bobness. Even the one I thought to be able to skip without a thought, proves to be so strong it is almost shocking.

So here goes prejudice. Never listen to people like me, writing on what they like or dislike and always make up your own mind first or at least, certainly afterwards. Perhaps with a little aid by posts like this. Never the title of an album rang more true than this one: Trouble No More. Happy listenings.


You can listen to 'Gonna Change My Way Of Living' here:

woensdag 15 november 2017

1971. Never A Dull Moment. David Hepworth

Every one experiences a year that is defining for his taste(s) in music. For writer David Hepworth that was the year he came of age, 1971. There is one difference between the importance all others give to their respective years: Hepworth claims he is right about his year. According to him 1971 was the most important year in popular music. In 12 chapters, one for each month, he goes about proving he is right. As he admits, every one will have his year. Let me add that with the right amount of research and the ability to write well others may get a long way proving it as well. He does have a few fair points though.

I bought 1971 on the same day as I bought John Savage's '1966' (read on here: Personally I tend more towards the latter book, than the former, but that aside.

In his book Hepworth gives his readers a host of stories, facts and gossip about music and the music industry. Where music industry moguls lost all control in 1966, when things started happening that they could no longer control and certainly did not understand, in 1971 a new generation of music moguls started to take over and we on their way building their own empires. Whether new or on the building blocks of old, industry stepped back in and took control over musical careers as artists would soon start to find out.

1971. Never A Dull Moment takes its title from a 1972 Rod Steward LP from after his major breakthrough in 1971 with 'Every Picture Tells A Story'. The album that was the true starting point of a career that lasts right up until today. Hepworth shows more signs of the turns some artists made in that year that defined the rest of their career. The Rolling Stones and music publishing e.g.. Only in 2017 the tax evasions through Promotone B.V. in Amsterdam is getting serious negative publicity. The band became a business company with a CEO (Jagger) and a board of directors. The way in which singer-songwriters were held in high regard from 1971 onwards, shows how mature the rock market had become. The book holds many of these smaller and bigger stories. All with delightful details that one could only learn by reading up on each individual artist. Something Hepworth obviously has done before connecting the dots between them.

Who slept with whom, who wrote for others -reminding us along the way that gossip magazines didn't exist in 1971-, who was influenced by whom at the exact right moment, who broke through to make a difference and who did not. From the likes of Slade, hitting the big time, to T. Rex and from the transformation of David Bowie to the failure of Big Star and the vision of Roxy Music in 1971, Hepworth touches upon them all, including explanations for longevity and instant, but short success. What he shows in an excellent way is how hard some of the acts worked to gain their success, where others were not able to go to that extremes or just were not good enough, like T.Rex's Marc Bolan or were to insecure like George Harrison.

For me 1971 is not such an important musical year. 1968-1969 may have been the most defining as in that year I started to discover music for myself and in the mid-70s I discovered albums. Of course there are brilliant albums from 1971, but for several albums over which a lot of fuss is showered in this book, like 'What's Going On'; all the singer-songwriters of the time; T.Rex and Sly & The Family Stone to name some, goes that I'm still not hearing it 46 years after the facts. So the conclusion has to be that everyone has his or her own year of defining musical moments. For David Hepworth that is 1971. His book, 1971. Never A Dull Moment, is an extremely enjoyable read, with lots of details that make it worthwhile for most musiclovers of the time to take notice of and enjoy.

Without giving anything away about his conclusions surrounding Elvis Presley shows in 1971, in that he is totally right, but then, the average human being is feeling safer and more secure with what he knows. He overlooks an important fact. New acts are discovered by the day and gain new fans. Hey, even at my age it tends to happen, regularly.


dinsdag 14 november 2017

Sky Trails. David Crosby

David Crosby does a Steely Dan was my first thought when listening to 'She's Got To Be Somewhere'. The electric piano, the singing, the rhythm and jazzy atmosphere, everything spells Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.

This is far from strange. David Crosby always has more jazz than pop in his songs. The reason why his music can turn me off just as easily as it can please me. The music reminds me also of what he did in the band CPR around the turn of the century.

David Crosby turned 76 this summer. Decades older than some may have predicted decades ago. He seems on a mission as Sky Trails follows 'Lighthouse' within the year. (Read on here: Crosby has something to say before he goes. Perhaps not being distracted by his old pals SN&Y accounts for his creativity as well. The burden of the quality rests totally on his own shoulders as well.

David Crosby does not make music that I listen to often. When it comes down to it, ever since I heard 'Triad', his song that got him kicked out of The Byrds and was recorded by Jefferson Airplane instead, I sort of have heard it all. 'Triad' is the blueprint for his career. Sung beautifully by Grace Slick by the way.

At the same time I find myself emerging in a song like 'Sell Me A Diamond'. The song is beautiful. Despite the fact that I can hear David Crosby coming up for air here and there, his voice does everything it needs to do, to cut this track perfectly.

His son James Raymond produced the album and is musically all over the place. The P in CPR, Jeff Pevar, plays guitar. For the rest there's a long list of session musicians and David Crosby, to my great surprise, on drums, though not exclusively. So it is no surprise that the album sounds familiar. It could have been a CPR album too. I remember my surprise when I ran into a live show of CPR on TV by chance.

If you love David Crosby, Sky Trails can do no wrong. The man is in great form. I find myself liking this album better than Lighthouse easily. There is more to discover here. The arrangements are of a subtle lushness. Take the flugelhorn(?) in 'Here It's Almost Sunset'. Flying over the bare guitar notes the instrument adds something near magical to the elementary song structure.

His ageing voice shows in a song like 'Capitol'. At the same time he is still able to show his indignation and protest against things he thinks are not right. Politicians "filling up their pockets from here". Again a horn fills up the song, battling it out in a decent way with a jazzy electric guitar in the best Steely Dan tradition. The arrangement just did not take six years to refine -and yes, that shows too.

Neil Young will forever be my favourite of the four individuals making up that great collective in 1969 and 1970. David Crosby beyond doubt is my #2. The other two just don't come close in my universe. The future is uncertain but if David Crosby releases a further record I have no doubt it will be one of substantial quality.


You can listen to 'Sell Me A Diamond' here:

maandag 13 november 2017

Hitchhiker. Neil Young

Neil Young never seems to stop amazing me and perhaps the world in general. When I started buying Young's records in the second half of the 70s I noticed that songs could have been recorded a few years before the release. I always wondered why that was. A little of that mystery is explained with the release of Hitchhiker.

The story is that Neil Young wanted to record demos of some new songs and so it happenrf that he went into his home studio with producer David Briggs and recorded 10 songs on the evening of 11 August 1976. The artist was so pleased with the result that he wanted to release the tracks as were. His label, Reprise Records at the time (and still), did not think it such a good idea. Demos are demos and not to be released. Hence the songs were shelved, only to be released in, mostly, new versions on albums like 'American Stars 'n' Bars' (1977), 'Comes A Time' (1978), 'Rust Never Sleeps' (1979) and 'Hawks And Doves' (1980).

Thinking that Neil Young had toured as a solo artist with just his acoustic guitar, it is amazing to read that his record company did not trust him to release this set of strong songs. He had already proven his strength as a solo performer, as the rest of the world knows now from released live albums in the past years. Hitchhiker should have been an album in 1976 or 1977. So what was keeping them from releasing this body of work? Probably because they expected it could be bettered and some were.

A release would have probably meant that the world would not have known the versions that came out of new sessions with other musicians. The extremely powerful 'Powderfinger' might have been lost or the countryfied 'The Old Countrywaltz', to name two.

Hitchhiker shows me how a typical Neil Young demoing session went. Neil sits down, picks up his guitar (and harmonica) and just starts playing some new songs. Not just any bit of songs, but songs that have found their place in Neil Young's catalogue. Hitchhiker shows how good the man was in 1976.

There is another side. None of these songs have become Neil Young classics, he still calls back on when playing shows. In other words, that may have been what the record company executives were missing on Hitchhiker, a "hit" in the Neil Young sense of the word. If so, in that they were right. There is no killer song in this collection. There's one exception. 'Powderfinger' became one, but, as far as I'm concerned, only in its new incarnation.

Hitchhiker is released in 2017 as a piece of nostalgia, as so many other albums were in the past years. Aimed at people my age, wanting something new from the past. That doesn't mean the album shouldn't have been released. The album shows Neil Young in a great form, relaxed in his own home, recording his t(h)en new songs. For Neil Young fans Hitchhiker is certainly recommended listening. For all others, I'm not so sure.


You can listen to 'Hitchhiker' here:

zondag 12 november 2017

Carry Fire. Robert Plant

Beware, dear reader, in the coming days we are emerging in old stuff. Musicians come by who started their respective careers in the 60s and are still around. Some with old, but newly released work, others with brand new songs. There's one constant: the quality is extremely high.

The quality of Carry Fire is everything what I have come to expect from Robert Plant and the musicians he works with, The Sensational Space Shifters. There are absolutely no complaints here. In fact, in my opinion Carry Fire is exactly what Led Zeppelin might have sounded like, now all the musicians of the band still alive are in or are approaching their 70s. All the elements, bar the classic (blues)rock are there. Folk, eastern and Moroccan influences and traces of the rock the classic rock band infused in its music. The blues is gone but Plant introduces some 60s pop into the whole.

Fact is that Carry Fire sounds so full of ambition. The artistic fire is burning brightly, even after nearly 50 year in the music business. In my review from 2014 (read here: I wrote that I guessed that Plant didn't want a reunion tour with his old band, just because of that. It would waiste time for the things he really wanted to do: create new music, where Jimmy Page is in a reminiscing mood for the past three decades.

The only complaint one can have of Carry Fire is its lack of originality. And then the music on Carry Fire kicks in. Robert Plant's voice is over-familiar. It may be more that fact, than the music on the album. Despite the fact that there are several familiar sounding tunes and sounds, the production is modern and even takes a jazzy, triphop, folk turn in a song like 'Keep It Hid'. There's no holding back on trying to be influential, even after all these years, here. And that is something that goes for more songs on the album. Robert Plant is still grooving with the best of them. Just listen to what happens to the late 1968 The Beach Boys hit 'Bluebirds Over The Mountain'. And don't I recognize Chrissie Hinde's voice there in the duet? Besides the vocal melody there is nothing helping me towards the original song. So much is going on at the same time. Classic rock (drumming), modern sounds, an Irish fiddle, folk, eastern sounds. A hodgepodge making up for a great cover.

The opening song has a title that points directly to things past. 'The May Queen' features in 'Stairway To Heaven' of course. The acoustic guitars reference many a folk song played by Led Zeppelin. Without a doubt Robert Plant is catering his fans of old here. Without ever touching on the hardest rock and blues side of the band, Plant is graciously dealing with his heritage. That is the only thing that could be seen as negative about Carry Fire, it leans on things past. The music no longer holds any form of danger. The quality of the music on the album outweighs any inhibitions as mentioned just now. If one could dream of a new Led Zeppelin album Carry Fire would come close. Without any forced ways of trying to find new riffs that may just no longer be there in their forté.

Robert Plant again comes up with a beautiful album that not only does right to his past, but makes him as relevant an artist as one can be at 69. His voice still contains that characteristic lightness that made it him stand out in the past. The pace of the songs befit his age and all, without a single exception, hold a level of quality that makes the singer shine. I already liked the previous album, 'Lullaby And ...  The Ceaseless Roar'(2014), I may come to like Carry Fire even better. I can't find a single fault.


You can listen to 'The May Queen' here:

zaterdag 11 november 2017

Collection. Soccer Mommy

Soccer Mommy is het alter ego van de uit Nashville afkomstige, maar tegenwoordig in New York wonende en studerende singer-songwriter Sophie Allison.
Deze Sophie Allison maakte haar thuis opgenomen muziek al een tijdje beschikbaar via bandcamp, maar nu is dan ook haar eerste echte album verschenen.
Collection bevat acht songs, gekozen uit haar eerdere werk, en duurt nog geen half uur. Dat is kort, maar het is ruim voldoende om het talent van Sophie Allison te onderkennen.
Collection van Soccer Mommy bevat zoals gezegd acht songs en het zijn acht zwoele en vrij ingetogen popliedjes. Sophie Allison speelt zeer verdienstelijk gitaar en heeft een stem die makkelijk verleidt. Een degelijke ritmesectie en subtiele bijdragen van toetsen maken het geluid van Soccer Mommy op Collection compleet.
Collection werd bij Sophie Allison thuis in elkaar geknutseld en dat hoor je. Het debuut van Soccer Mommy heeft het charmante en rammelende van veel platen die in het hokje lo-fi worden geduwd, maar in tegenstelling tot veel songs in dit genre, zijn die van Soccer Mommy allemaal voorzien van een kop en een staart.
Het doet meer dan eens denken aan de muziek van soortgenoten als Jay Som, Japanese Breakfast, Amy O, Palehound, de eerste platen van Waxahatchee en uit een iets verder verleden Julie Doiron, maar de muziek van Soccer Mommy heeft ook raakvlakken met 90s bands als Throwing Muses en Belly.
Collection werd opgenomen in de slaapkamer van Sophie Allison en klinkt zo loom als je verwacht van een op een slaapkamer opgenomen plaat. Het klinkt in muzikaal opzicht allemaal betrekkelijk eenvoudig, maar met name in het gitaarwerk hoor ik veel mooie dingen. De ingetogen gitaarloopjes van Sophie Allison klinken ruimtelijk en intiem en geven Collection een bijzondere sfeer, die af en toe ook wel wat doet denken aan de vroege platen van Elliott Smith.
De grote kracht van Sophie Allison schuilt echter in haar songs. De songs op Collection vallen op door mooie melodieën, die af en toe tegen de haren instrijken, maar toch vooral verleiden. Het zijn songs waarop je onmiddellijk verliefd kunt worden, maar vervolgens blijken de songs van Soccer Mommy ook nog eens groeibriljanten die lang winnen aan kracht en schoonheid. Ook in tekstueel opzicht maakt de jonge Amerikaanse overigens indruk met vlijmscherpe observaties. 

Sophie Allison is pas net 20 en komt op de proppen met een serie songs die ze in haar tienerjaren schreef. Het zijn songs die doen uitzien naar alles dat nog komen gaat, want dat Sophie Allison zeer getalenteerd is staat na het beluisteren van Collection niet meer ter discussie. Alle reden dus om Soccer Mommy in de gaten te houden, maar ook het kleine half uur van Collection levert al meerdere songs op die je na één keer horen wilt koesteren.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier naar Collection luisteren en het album kopen:

vrijdag 10 november 2017

Dreameater. Garciaphone

With Dreameater Tiny Room Records releases its last album of 2017. Garciaphone is Olivier Perez, a Frenchman from Spanish descend living in Clermont-Ferrand, a town surrounded by former vulcanos where, I've been told, it can get very cold at night. Even in summer.

On Dreameater Perez keeps his music small. I am reminded often of another band I was introduced to by this label in 2017, Moon Moon Moon. Songs of such a delicate nature they may break from listening too hard to them. There is a main difference: Garciaphone has a clean sound the whole way through. Each instrument has its place and comes forward when its time and place is offered by the song.

It is exactly this what I like so much about the first bunch of songs on Dreameater. From a basic melody small little lead lines escape from the mould casting a bright light on the shadows surrounding it. Whether a guitar or some form of keyboard, the effect is always the same. A gleam of happiness where none is expected or even supposed to be.

Olivier Perez sings with the same subdued diction as Elliot Smith was so good at. His voice sort of slides over the music instead of leading or standing in front of it. Both leave these elements to the instruments in their respective best songs. This aspect provides Dreameater with an extremely familiar outlook and with aspects of extreme, though melancholy beauty.

What is surprising in a way is Garciaphone reaching a manner of completeness in its music with such minimal effects. Despite the fact different instruments are involved there is a spaciousness in its music that leaves all the room I need to hide myself in the music. To become part of it. Hence I come to a second Dutch reference: Maggie Brown, the Amsterdam based band who finds all the right ways to infuse its pop with a longing reaching far beyond what I find in most acts. Just compare 'Our Time To Spare' with a song like 'Another Place'. You will find some pleasant similarities in both bands' approach.

Dreameater is an album obliging people to listen. Those who do will find music of a very elementary nature with the sparsest of embellishments, none the less instantly pleasing. Without your undevoted attention nothing will come from your attempts. Spend the time Garciaphone describes and you will be aurally satisfied instantly. From sad dreampop to minimal folk and subdued pop, there's something here for all of you.


You can listen to and buy Dreameater here:

donderdag 9 november 2017

Heiress. Novo Amor & Ed Tullett

This spring I reviewed an EP by Novo Amor on this blog, 'Bathing Beach'. A bit edgy because of the high voice of Ali John Meredith-Lacey, but the EP as a whole was a pleasurable experience to listen to (read on here:

Just over five months down the year there is a full album by Novo Amor with Ed Tullett. Tullett is a singer-songwriter from Oxford in the U.K. who has released two albums so far. Novo Amor and Tullett have cooperated before and now release their first full length record. Having only heard four songs by Novo Amor and none by Tullett it is hard for me to conclude whether the two are more than the parts of their sum. What I do know is that Heiress is an album worthwhile listening to.

Hearing the high voice of Meredith-Lacey dominating the first songs it comes as a surprise to hear 'Cavalry' explode in a Dotan kind of way. Lots of percussion are infused into the empty, vocal song. The silent parts of the song works with atmosphere. Lots of it. The songs are not so much non-songs as songs where the duo doesn't let anything into a song that it doesn't need. Hence the huge effect 'Cavalry' makes on me.

An acoustic guitar is the foundation of Heiress. From there sound effects come in, like the eerie guitar sounds in 'Amateur Blood'. Or a strong drums that do not so much produce a tight rhythm as a combination of fills and accents. The guitar effect, probably the combination of a volume pedal and a delay and/or an e-bow, in combination with Meredith-Lacey's high voice gives most of the songs a desolate atmosphere. Vocally the likes of Bon Iver, City and Colour or Ásgeir come to mind. The combination with the music works really well here. Far better than 'Bathing Beaches' Heiress is. The album contains so much more depth. Tullett's voice is far darker, so the effect is immediate when he joins in, like in 'Pteryla'.

I find that listening to Heiress with the headset on is an experience. The music really grabs me. It is easy to succumb to this music. The world of Novo Amor and Ed Tullett is created around me. Making me a private bubble to peruse in for a short while. Closing my eyes allows me to fully undergo this world of soft voiced singing, intricate playing and strong effects. Multi-layered and forceful in all its timidity Heiress is. A true gem of a record.


You can listen to 'Cavalry' here:

woensdag 8 november 2017

Magic Marker Love. Eriksson Delcroix and Sun Sun Sun Orchestra

Eriksson Delcroix is a duo from Belgium that has been on the edge of my musical awareness but never managed to draw full attention to itself. Sometimes things change, fast. The minute I started listening to Magic Marker Love I knew I was in for a treat. A dark one, but a treat none the less.

Magic Marker Love is the duo's third album and its first with Sun Sun Sun Orchestra. 'Heart Out Of Its Mind' was reviewed in 2016 and 'For Ever' in 2014 by Erwin Zijlemans, read here: and here time I decided to do the honours. The music contained in this album has nothing to do with the country music I heard on the first two records. Another level is reached that makes this album so intriguing.

Chris Eckman and Carla Torgerson fronted The Walkabouts for over two decades and toured as a duo when they were still romantically involved. It's their music I'm reminded of on Magic Marker Love. Music that touches upon the mystic, the unknown and perhaps the bit scary thrown in for good measure too. Eckman and Torgerson come from the U.S.'s northwest, so the Twin Peaks feel and stories are never far away. (The music of Angelo Badalamenti is not too far away on this album either.) What the two also did was let more and more strings into their music, culminating in a great live album recorded in Greece with local musicians.

Promo photo
Eriksson Delcroix more or less left everything it knew behind and chartered the Sun Sun Sun Orchestra to move into uncharted waters together. It shows as strings can be found all over Magic Marker Love. The strings of the orchestra gives the whole a laden mood. The traditional instruments of the duo shine through here and there, mainly an acoustic guitar, drums/percussion, something else with steel strings is let in as an exception. Together they move towards the mystique in a successful way.

Eriksson Delcroix remains extremely serious for the whole of the record. Magic Marker Love was born from sadness and remains just there. Last year a good friend named Lenn Dauphin died "from living". Several references can be found on the album that carries the nickname Bjorn Eriksson gave to Dauphin, "Magic Marker". The album ought to have come with an explicit warning: "Do not play when attempting to create a party". On occasions when you like to wallow in sadness, start here. Or just to enjoy serious music in a quiet moment. You will find Magic Marker Love will do nicely.

Eriksson Delcroix caters all this and delivers the whole way through. I think you know enough, so let me leave you alone with a link to the music.


You can listen to 'Three Sisters' here:

dinsdag 7 november 2017

Out In The Storm. Waxahatchee

Waxahatchee is geen nieuwe naam op dit blog. Ook de vorige twee albums van deze Amerikaanse singer-songwriter werden gerecenseerd door Erwin Zijleman. Die kun je vinden via de zoekfunctie hierboven. Erwin blijkt nog meer onder de indruk te zijn van plaat nummer drie.

Waxahatchee, het alter ego van Amerikaanse singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield maakte met Cerulean Salt uit 2013 en Ivy Trip uit 2015 al twee jaarlijstjesplaten, maar overtreft beide platen vrij makkelijk met het werkelijk fantastische Out In The Storm.
Op haar nieuwe plaat bezingt de Amerikaanse singer-songwriter haar liefdesbreuk of eigenlijk meer de ontsnapping uit een relatie die niet goed voor haar was.
Het levert zeker geen plaat vol zielige luisterliedjes op, want Katie Crutchfield is vooral opgelucht. En boos.
In de openingstrack uit zich dat in een behoorlijk stevige rocksong en Out In The Storm bevat meer opvallend stevige songs. Deze stevige songs worden gecombineerd met intiemere luisterliedjes en vooral met heerlijk broeierige songs.
De muziek van Waxahatchee vergeleek ik in het verleden met de klassieker Exile In Guyville van Liz Phair (totaal onvergelijkbaar met haar andere platen) en met de muziek van onder andere PJ Harvey, Cat Power, Kristin Hersh, Sinéad O'Connor, Juliana Hatfield, Ani DiFranco, Courtney Barnett, Frankie Cosmos en Sleater Kinney. Het zijn allemaal namen die ook weer opduiken bij beluistering van Out In The Storm, maar Katie Crutchfield heeft op Out In The Storm toch vooral een eigen geluid.
Het is een geluid dat enorm veel kracht en urgentie uitstraalt, waardoor de plaat mij direct te pakken had. Vergeleken met Cerulean Salt en Ivy Trip heeft Out In The Storm een veel voller bandgeluid en dat bevalt me wel.
Waxahatchee imponeert op haar nieuwe plaat met een vol en bij vlagen overweldigend geluid, maar Out In The Storm klinkt door de persoonlijke teksten en de mooie stem van Katie Crutchfield ook intiem. Natuurlijk komt er de nodige persoonlijke ellende voorbij op de plaat, maar Waxahatchee komt vooral sterker uit de relatie die achter haar ligt.
Out In The Storm werd geproduceerd door de gelouterde John Agnello, die alles en iedereen tussen Dinosaur Jr. en Sonic Youth en tussen Cyndi Lauper en de Drive-By Truckers produceerde. Agnello heeft de nieuwe plaat van Waxahatchee voorzien van een tijdloos rockgeluid met flarden noiserock, maar heeft Out In The Storm ook voorzien van een broeierig geluid dat de perfecte basis vormt voor de persoonlijke songs van Katie Crutchfield.
Het bandgeluid op de plaat krijgt mede vorm door bijdragen van Sleater Kinney tour gitarist Katie Harkin en zus Allison, die aan het begin van het jaar ook al een breakup-plaat afleverde. Het zorgt er allemaal voor dat Katie Crutchfield zich comfortabel voelt en de kans krijgt om op Out In The Storm tot grote hoogten te stijgen.
De stevigere songs op de plaat komen aan als de spreekwoordelijke mokerslag, de broeierige songs grijpen je genadeloos bij de strot, terwijl de wat meer ingetogen songs op de plaat zorgen voor het kippenvel en de diepe bewondering voor de muziek van Waxahatchee.
Ik had Katie Crutchfield door haar vorige twee platen al heel hoog zitten, maar Out In The Storm heeft mijn stoutste verwachtingen overtroffen en is een mooi, krachtig en bijzonder muzikaal statement. Probeer overigens de luxe editie van de plaat te pakken te krijgen, want hierop komen alle songs ook nog eens in een ruwe demo vorm voorbij.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt Out In The Storm hier beluisteren en kopen:

maandag 6 november 2017

Saxofoon verhalen/Saxophone stories. Lazarus and Donny McCaslin live

Foto: Tineke G.
Dit verhaal kwam binnen in twee talen: Nederlands en Engels. In die volgorde plaatsen we het ook.

This story came in in two languages: Dutch and English. In that order you can find it here.

Deel 1
Het verhaal begint bij de zwanenzang van David Bowie: Blackstar. Naar later bleek was Bowie al enkele jaren ernstig ziek en wilde nog een paar wensen vervuld zien: een musical en een plaat met jazzmuziek. In 2015 werkte hij aan beide projecten. Na allerlei concepten als Diamond Dogs Tour, Serious Moonlight Tour, Glass Spider Tour met een mix van muziek en theater ontstond Lazarus. Precies een jaar geleden woonde ik een voorstelling bij in Londen met een aantal acteurs uit de oorspronkelijke New Yorkse uitvoering. Een show, met zijn hits en gebaseerd op zijn eerste hoofdrol in een film: The man who fell to earth.

Het verhaal gaat over de pogingen van deze man terug naar zijn planeet te gaan. Voor mij de manier om een laatste eerbetoon te brengen aan een groot artiest in combinatie met een bezoek aan veilinghuis Sotheby’s waar een groot deel van Bowie’s kunstbezit zou worden geveild. Samen met de grote tentoonstelling David Bowie Is, die nog steeds de wereld rond reist, allemaal signalen dat Bowie nog één keer vooruitkeek maar wel met een terugblik. Hij had het goed gezien, de hele wereld wil het allemaal zien en horen. Voor hem had het urgentie, maar wij zagen dat toen nog niet.

Op dus naar Londen voor een voorstelling in een speciaal opgebouwd theater met de verwarming op 23 graden Celsius en te weinig oplopende rijen stoelen. Het podium kon ik dus niet goed zien terwijl de artiesten nogal eens zittend of liggend acteerden. Het verhaal kon ik de tweede keer beter volgen dan de eerste keer, maar het lijkt me wat los zand om van hit naar hit te hoppen en uiteindelijk toch met de raket terug te keren. Er was te weinig tijd. De voorstelling eindigde met een groot portret van Bowie en een staande ovatie. Vooral voor hem. Ik was dus niet geheel positief, maar de songs werden goed uitgevoerd en het voelde goed erbij te zijn. Behalve die hits, waren er ook de 4 laatst opgenomen nummers waaronder Lazarus. Nu kan het haast geen toeval zijn dat Bowie als de mooiste muziek de 4 letzten Lieder van Richard Strauss noemt, maar dat terzijde. Al met al een gedenkwaardige voorstelling die wellicht nog een voortzetting gaat krijgen in Nederland.

Deel 2
Photo: Tineke G.
Bij de live band van Lazarus was er nadrukkelijk een saxofoon aanwezig, het instrument waar Bowie sinds zijn 14e op getoeterd heeft. Bij elk concert kwam die sax uit zijn doos wat door veel fans werd verfoeid. Voor Blackstar had hij iemand uitgekozen die dat veel beter kan en dat is Donny McCaslin. Een integere muzikant die niet wist dat zijn opdrachtgever ziek was en die ook zijn muziek nauwelijks kende. De Blackstar musici waren dan ook met stomheid geslagen en ontzet door het overlijden van Bowie. Dezelfde mannen waren in 2016 te zien en te horen op North Sea Jazz in Rotterdam. Nu zijn ze afzonderlijk op tournee door Europa met verscheidene sessiemuzikanten.

Zo stond Donny McCaslin tot mijn verbazing op vrijdag 3 november in LantaarnVenster te Rotterdam voor 20 euro in een zaal voor 500 bezoekers. Hoewel ik nooit naar jazz luister omdat ik er slecht tegen kan, kocht ik direct een kaart. Ik werd niet teleurgesteld.

Het eerste nummer werd aangekondigd als nieuw en had nog geen titel maar wel een sound. Met een drummer, een bassist en Jason Lindner van de Blackstar band op keyboards werd er een stevige sound neergezet. Ik vond het mooi en ik genoot ervan naar de drummer te kijken die als het ware heel creatief maar wat raak sloeg met zijn stokjes of is dat juist jazz? Natuurlijk kregen we Blackstar te horen, van een remarkable person, zoals Donny zei. Er werd ook een nummer gewijd aan de man waarvoor we ons al een jaar schamen in Amerika. Het heette Beast en eindigde in een saxuele schreeuwpartij. Plotseling kwam er een vocalist tevoorschijn die zo bij Sparks had kunnen invallen als de toetsenist zou uitvallen. Hij paste er uitstekend bij en kon alle kanten op met zijn vocalen terwijl hij verschrikt of niet op zijn gemak rondkeek. Bowie’s Small plot of land bracht hij er ook uitstekend vanaf. Na anderhalf uur en een langdurige erg diepe buiging van McCaslin kwam de band terug met Tempest als toegift. Toen was het over en verdween iedereen achter het toneel. Direct daarna stond Donny weer bij het publiek met een doos CD’s en klaar voor een praatje. Het bleek een hele bescheiden, aardige, zeg maar lieve man. Het volgende optreden vindt plaats in Antwerpen, daarna nog wat meer bestemmingen en dan volgt Groningen. Gaat het zien!

Deel 3

Vrijdag 17 november 2017 staat Blackstar drummer Mark Guiliana in dezelfde zaal voor dezelfde prijs. Ik ben van de partij. Ik ben benieuwd en ook hiernaar: op zijn recente CD Jersey State staat een track met de titel: “The mayor of Rotterdam”. Daar wil ik meer van weten.

Wordt vervolgd.

Foto: Tineke G.
Part 1
The story begins with David Bowie’s swan song: Blackstar. As turned out after his death David Bowie had been seriously ill for some years and wanted to see a few more wishes fulfilled: a musical and a record with jazz music. In 2015, he worked on both projects. After all sorts of concepts such as the Diamond Dogs Tour, Serious Moonlight Tour and Glass Spider Tour with a mixture of music and theatre, we got Lazarus. Exactly one year ago I attended a show in London with a number of actors from the original New York cast. A show, with big hits and based on his first starring role in a film: The man who fell to earth.

The story is about the attempts by this man to go back to his planet. For me the best way to a final tribute to a great artist in combination with a visit to Sotheby's where much of Bowie's art collection would be auctioned. Along with the great exhibition David Bowie Is, that still travels around the world, all these were signs that Bowie once more was looking forward while looking back. He was right again, the whole world wants to see and hear it all. For him it was urgent to share his past, but we didn’t see that at the time.

On so to London for a performance in a specially built theatre King’s Cross with the heating on 23 degrees Celsius and rows of seats that were ascending too little. Because of this I could not see the stage well as the artists were often sitting or lying down. The story I was able to follow better the second time than the first time, but it seemed to me like conversations to get from one hit to another and a final return by rocket. There wasn't enough time, it seemed. The performance ended with a great portrait of Bowie and a standing ovation. Especially for him. I was not entirely positive, but the songs were done well and it felt good being there. Apart from all those hits, the last four recorded songs including Lazarus were performed as well. It may be no coincidence that Bowie once mentioned the most beautiful music he ever heard are the 4 letzten Lieder by Richard Strauss, but that aside. All in all, a memorable performance that may get a continuation in The Netherlands.

Photo: Tineke G.
Part 2
The musical Lazarus had a live band with of course a saxophone, the instrument that Bowie had played since he was 14. Every concert that sax came out of its box, something that was detested by many fans. For Blackstar Bowie had chosen someone who could play it much better and that is Donny McCaslin. A true musician who did not know that his employer was ill and whose music he barely knew. The Blackstar musicians were stunned and horrified by the death of Bowie. The same men performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam in 2016. Now they tour Europe separately with various session musicians.

To my surprise Donny McCaslin was going to perform in Lantaarn Venster in Rotterdam for 20 euros in a hall for 500 visitors on Friday 3 November. Although I never listen to jazz because I can’t stand it I bought a ticket immediately. I was not disappointed.

The first song was announced as new and still had no title but what a sound. With a drummer, a bass player and Jason Lindner of the Blackstar band on keyboards, a solid, wonderful sound. I thought it was great and I also enjoyed watching the drummer who was very creatively using his sticks or is that jazz? Of course we got to hear Blackstar, written by a remarkable person, as Donny said. A next song was dedicated to the man that makes America feel ashamed since last year. It was called Beast and ended up in saxual shouting. Suddenly there was a vocalist who could be a good substitute for the Sparks keyboardist. He fit in excellently and could use his voice in all directions while looking deranged or uncomfortable. He sang Bowie's Small plot of land very well. After one and a half hours and a long-lasting very deep bow of McCaslin, the band came back with Tempest as an encore. Then it was over and everyone disappeared behind the stage. Suddenly Donny was standing in front of the audience with a box of CDs and ready for a chat. He turned out to be a very humble, nice, let’s say sweet man. The next gig will take place in Antwerp, then some more destinations and then Groningen. Go see it!
Foto: Tineke G.
Part 3
Friday 17 November 2017 Blackstar drummer Mark Guiliana will perform in the same venue for the same price. I'll be there. I'm curious and there’s something else: on his recent CD Jersey State there is a track with the title: "The mayor of Rotterdam". I would like to know why.

To be continued.

Tineke G.

zondag 5 november 2017

Wolf Alice live. Melkweg Amsterdam, Friday 3 November 2017

Photo: Wo.
Was this one of these legendary shows that years onwards one can point to as being pivotal in a band's career? I can't tell as yet of course, but fact is I saw something happening between audience and band during the show that was fairly unique. A sort of mutual understanding and admiration: something special is happening here and we all know it.

Something made me want to be at this show. A great second record that proved a giant step forward and not a (weaker) rehash of a fine debut record and a vibe I sort of felt within me. My expectations were so high that during the first two, three songs I was totally disappointed. The music sounded flat, the audience hardly responded to that fine punk song 'Yuk'. Is this it?, I was asking myself.

From that exact moment things started to change. The band stepped up its efforts. Bass player Theo Ellis stepped forward and started to waive his arms high, like shouting out "come on, you guys! We are going to give it our whole, so join in". The response was instantaneous. There was no looking back. With every song the audience was responding louder, started jumping up and down, spontaneous handclapping and sing-along moments. I found myself enthralled and encapsulated by Wolf Alice's music. With each further song I found myself thinking: 'Don't let this be the last one'. That moment came inevitably of course.

Photo: Wo.
What I was afraid of most up front was that Ellie Rowsell's voice would not hold up live. It is rather thin in sound. There were no worries there. She was always on top of things. Playing guitar with her thin fingers like any rock chick I've ever seen before. Behind her was a permanent beat by drummer Joel Amey, who came up with inventive rhythms throughout the show, adding to the atmosphere Wolf Alice creates in no small way.

The other attraction of the band is the guitar of Joff Oddie. It's almost like the guitar plays him instead of the normal proceedings concerning guitar players. The instrument went places it wasn't supposed to go, surprising its player it seemed every once in a while. Oddie is one of those players who lays down sonic storms, strange effects and whatever it takes to get the effect needed. The two are one making it nearly indistinguishable who does what. A treat to watch.

If something became clear to me, it is that Wolf Alice was not just playing a show. This is a band on a mission. Everything has to go for the greater goal. The band is ready for greater things. The songs and the instruments are so ingrained that the individual members can all perform next to playing. That made it so surprising that something in the audience made singer Ellie Rowsell laugh and could not stop so she just skipped a part of the song, while playing here guitar laughing. It showed that there is still a human side to Wolf Alice.

Photo: Wo.
The dynamics in the show were perfect. The accents within songs were executed perfectly. It didn't really matter whether the band rocked, played a punked up song, a slower one or songs with a more modern beat like 'Sadboy' or 'Visions Of A Life', whether older or new. Wolf Alice laid down its songs with dedication and love for its work. There was a general mood of excitement both on stage and in the audience of a nature that I have not encountered often.

Friday 3 November 2017. Time will tell whether this was an evening of legends. Like U2 or UB40 shows when I was much younger in the Countdown studio. There's only one doubt: where were the youths? The average age must have been well over 30 from where I was standing. For the rest, what a great band Wolf Alice is. It lived up well above my expectations. It was so good. To take something by storm? Well, I watched it happen (to me).


zaterdag 4 november 2017

Eilen Jewell Live. Patronaat Haarlem, Thursday 2 November 2017, with The Assorted Travellers

Photo: Wo.
Eilen Jewell staged a perfect show in Patronaat as a shrine for music of years gone by for decades. The great thing about the show is, she does it without an inch of nostalgia or sentimentality. The blues, country and (jazzy) rock and roll is brought into the second decade of the 21st century as if it belongs there and meant to stay.

Previously I had one album in my possession, 'Letters From Sinners & Strangers' from 2007. Since this year her blues tribute album, 'Down Hearted Blues' joined it in my discography. Despite the extremely traditional approach to the album, I found I liked it and decided to go out and have listen.

Eilen Jewell performs as a combo, with husband Jason Beek on drums and washboard, Jerry Miller on guitar and stand up bass player Shawn Supra. This standard line up could lead to a uniformity in sound. Despite this being the case I found it to be broken each and every time by the diverse choice of songs in the set and by Eilen playing a harmonica in a few songs. A record provides more options and she uses them there.

On stage there seemed a permanent fight going on between Eilen Jewell and her microphone. In the audience we had a perfect sound. The balance between vocals and band were excellent. Everything could be heard, understood and enjoyed.

Every other song I found myself impressed by the tightness of the playing, the melodic prowess laid into the songs and by guitarist Jerry Miller who kept searching for the very edge of where he could take notes in his solos. Daring them to tip over just before pulling things back in. "The worst that can happen, is that I have to slide my finger a half note up or downwards", he told me afterwards. Also with little references to famous solos here and there in a few notes starting a solo e.g. The lady up front led the band through it all with her fine voice. There wasn't much doubt who is the star on stage.

Photo: Wo.
The blues album was visited regularly. A great cross-section of the different sorts of blues that have been played in the U.S. between the 20s and 60s. Such differences in approach and sound, all taken on with confidence and a clear love for the genre by the foursome. (Read my review here:

With a solo performance called 'Song Bird' about her little daughter, a song the little girl genuinely dislikes we were told, the encore was started, before it all ended with the song we were promised at the start of the show: 'Voodoo Working', the opening song of 'Down Hearted Blues'. A song in one chord that still is so interesting to listen to.

Photo: Wo.
This ended a perfect show of an evening startimg with a support set by The Assorted Travellers, a Dutch country and western band that dreams of the life Eilen Jewell has made hers. In the songtitles American states and cities came by. I found that this band played real well, authentic. The three piece singing sounded great, also because the addition of a female singer to the line up. So no complaints there. I missed one thing: a hint of danger in the music. It all was so neat and well polished. A little bite here and there would spice things up and make The Assorted Travellers not just good but more interesting as well. As support act the band totally delivered and invited me to listen. For a support act things start there.


vrijdag 3 november 2017

Kairos, October 2017 by .No on Concertzender

Once a month Concertzender broadcasts the radioshow that .No meticulously puts together. A music show that often takes Wo. to uncharted musical territories, like a seaman aboard a ship discovering the still unknown ends of the world. Never knowing what comes next. Never knowing whether the surprise is nice or hideous. Never knowing when fresh food and water will be found. Once again Wo. charters his discoveries for this blog. Let's see what he has found for us all to learn from.

This Kairos is dedicated to a colleague of .No and a former colleague of mine, Stef de Vries. Stef has written for WoNo Magazine in the past and was a great lover of music, especially Americana and to be more specific, Neil Young. My commemoration of Stef was published in Spetember, read here: I am about to start listening to .No's commemoration, including that impressive raga that was played during the service for Stef in The Hague.

The familiar introduction seems to last longer than usual. .No has mixed some wind into the words, coming from an album called 'Green Apocalypse' by Yom & Wang Li. Over before I know it, because the music morphs into 'In Winter. Burrows'. So a song about hibernation? The violins are enough to keep any sleeping primate from its sleep and get it out of its lair. Kate Glavey's music is not for me. Too many prickly parts and too little melody.

Yom & Wang Li return with a song called 'The Dream Of A Tree'. I notice that the instruments changed, but that is about it. The mood becomes eastern, the basis remains prickly though. What might be a mouth harp is giving it its all in the background, in fact as a sort of percussion, while in the front a woodwind instrument is being as busy as possible. The label that released 'Green Apocalypse' may be called Buda Musique, this form of musical expression is making me feel very uneasy. . No must really like it. I notice that this 6 minutes is not the last I'm to be exposed to the two Lis. The Prologue to 'Silent Transformation' is up and more to come.

Slow piano notes, by now a trade mark of Kairos, take me out of my negative reverie and sooth my raw nerves. Matthew Bourne plays 'Candela (for Sasca Heeney)'. A violin and a cello interact with the piano. They are allowed to slowly fill the holes that the quietly played piano leaves between the notes. Gracious is how I would like to describe this composition, with a hint of sadness. All the more effective as it is placed between the Lis.

With 'Flower Diary' the duo returns. This time around however they seem to strike a more contemplative tone. Alas, not for long. The clarinet becomes extremely busy. The drone in the background does its best to level this out. It is not before too long that the clarinettist cannot keep himself in check and goes all out again. When the droning instrument leaves the drone and an interplay between the two instruments starts, to my mild surprise I find it of interest to follow what is playing itself out here. The pretext of relaxation has been left behind by the Lis. It makes their music a lot less irritating. Five and a half minute is a bit long though.

Having had the Epilogue and the Prologue it is time for all 31 seconds of 'Silent Transformation' itself. Some more static and that seems to be it.

A woman's voice takes over in a Broeder Dieleman style. Is this Finnish I'm hearing? 'Peterburi' the song is called by Sänni Noormets. The voice is quite melodic, without going for extreme variations. A ukelele keeps up a very basic riff that is eclipsed by a whole range of instruments, before they are all cut off. I can't say I find this music beautiful. Something of a godsend after nearly 15 minutes of Yom & Wang Li Sänni Noormets certainly is.

"When the rain comes" The Beatles sang on the flipside of 'Paperback Writer'. It comes in the form of a song by Poppy Ackroyd. Sparse piano notes over a sound made by something that appears to be turned around by hand. Strange though the combination is, it does work, in a way as if the piano player is on top of a beltdriven machine. Something like that.

Finally a guitar in a more familiar setting. I've heard so many different sorts of music by House of Cosy Cushions by now. So why not an alternative rock song? Male-female singing over an ominous setting that is not brought to a conclusion of some sort. I find that 'Wings' does not need a climax. It is fine as it is. Small, gentle and modest, but most important, a good song.

Aarghh, a harp. What is up next? Gwenaël Kerléo with 'Tir Na Nog'. Listening a little bit in I'm taken back to the more earthly parts of Mike Oldfield's 'Tubular Bells'. So I can live with this composition for a while anyway, even it is because I'm remembered of an album that I got to know so long ago.

An old hand of Kairos returns, Limburg's master guitarist Hans Kockelmans. 'Pour Anne. Prélude 503' meanders softly like a brook through a forest. The water rushes through the small waterway towards something bigger, further away, out of sight. Without a worry for the unknown. The delicate phrasing is over before I know it.

A piano with some urgency behind it takes over. A high male voice sings in a language that I just don't seem to get my ear around. The title suggests English, the name Ásgeir Icelandic. The music is a mix of the eternal landscape of Iceland and the business above of modern life. The piano and the strings are mixed with modern beats and effects, creating something other worldly. This has been done before. It's the name that eludes me. 'Fennir Yfir' is an intriguing piece of work. I just have a hard time adjusting myself to it.

.No provides me with a second chance. 'Nothing' from the same album 'Afterglow' comes by. Again Ásgeir creates an atmosphere that has me guessing where I've heard this before. Although this song is much bearer that its predecessor, something extremely modern is mixed into traditional folk/singer-songwriter music or better the tradition is cut out of the whole. I'm under a suspended verdict here. I just do not know what to think of it at the moment.

The raga that was played at the funeral service of Stef de Vries is up next. Although shorter than played there, it grips me again like it did then. 'Sri Argala Slotram' by Khrisna Das is a mix of modern music and traditional Indian music that just works so well. See if you can hear what major hit song from the 80s is mixed into the traditional music. The title begs for something I am grateful for,  each and every day, to have found in my life. (I will admit to the fact that I was so entranced by the song at the service that I remember singing along to the lyrics, like many others were doing softly, without ever noticing what I was singing. The atmosphere was so special that I missed the obvious totally.)

'Kavkasia' by Minco Eggersman returns to Kairos. This time the song 'Holy Ground' is selected by .No. A jazzy outing of the sparsest piano chords and some saxophone notes. Silence is a huge part of this composition with perhaps some birds singing through the open window. This is the softest song on this show by far. So melancholy at a time every one is in bed or should be. To my surprise a church organ enters the whole, the saxophone shoots up, waking the world like the rising sun.

Sänni Noormets returns again, but this time with Leana Vapper – Dhoore on the latter's album 'Saar'. An acoustic guitar drives the song, with some strings entering the whole for the chorus where two female voices harmonise in the for me totally unfamiliar language. The song holds a combination of rusticity and being haunted. A strange combination that leads to unrest.

Traditional folk is up next. 'She Moves Through The Fair' by Alan Stivell. With a melody that reminds me of Simple Minds' 'Belfast Child' Alan Stivell takes us through his love life and the loss of his love, who comes back in his dreams. The whole mood is as serious as the lyrics tells it to be. All the instruments are traditional, including what I expect to be a hurdy gurdy.

It all moves out of focus for a stern piano that ends this Kairos. The final minutes are for Poppy Ackroyd. His fingers on both hands move over the keys graciously. No surprises here, just a beautiful interplay between his right and left hand.


You can listen to this Kairos here:

This month's playlist:

00:00    Yom & Wang Li. Silent Transformation – Prologue. Album ‘Green Apocalypse’. Buda Musique 860220
00:15    Kate Glavey. In winter. Burrows (Kate Glavey, John Haggis, Tommy Keating, Alec Brown Gerry Madden, John Kent, Colm Heylin). Album ‘In Winter’. Self-released.
03:14    Yom & Wang Li. The dream of a tree. Album ‘Green Apocalypse’. Buda Musique 860220
08:56    Yom & Wang Li. Silent Transformation – epilogue. Album ‘Green Apocalypse’. Buda Musique 860220
09:27    Matthew Bourne. Candela (for Sacha Heeney). Album ‘Isotach’. Leaf BAY 105CD.
12:59    Yom & Wang Li. Flower Diary. Album ‘Green Apocalypse’. Buda Musique 860220
17:31    Yom & Wang Li. Silent transformation. Album ‘Green Apocalypse’. Buda Musique 860220
18:01    Sänni Noormets. Peterburi. Estbel (Sänni Noormets, Leanna Vapper – Dhoore, Ward Dhoore, Hartwin Dhoore). Album ‘Saar’. Nordic Notes NN092.
22:00    Poppy Ackroyd. Rain. Album ‘Sketches’. One Little Indian Records TPLP1413CD.
24:37    Richard Bolhuis. Wings. House of cosy Cushions. Album ‘Haunt Me Sweetly’. Outcast Cats records CAT 0C01.
26:39    Gwenaël Kerléo. Tir Na Nog. Album ‘Terre Celte’. Diffusion Breizh ‎– DB 13.
30:21    Hans Kockelmans. Pour Anne, prélude 503. Hans Kockelmans, guitar. Private recording.
32:49    Ásgeir. Fennir Yfir. Album ‘Afterglow’. One Little Indian Records TPLP1319CDP.
37:33    Ásgeir. Nothing. Album ‘Afterglow’. One Little Indian Records TPLP1319CDP.
38:53    Krishna Das. Sri Argala Slotram (fragment). Album ‘Kirtan Wallah’. Krishna Das.
45:15    Minco Eggersman. Holy ground. Album ‘Kavkasia’. Volkoren 73.
49:38    Leana Vapper – Dhoore. Kivid. Estbel (Sänni Noormets, Leanna Vapper – Dhoore, Ward Dhoore, Hartwin Dhoore). Album ‘Saar’. Nordic Notes NN092.
52:59    Alan Stivell. She Moved Through The Fair. Album ‘Master Serie – Alan Stivell’. Polygram 846 648-2 PY899.
57:04    Poppy Ackroyd. Light (fragment). Album ‘Sketches’. One Little Indian Records TPLP1413CD.