maandag 25 september 2017

Puxico. Natalie Hemby

De naam Natalie Hemby zal niet bij iedereen een belletje doen rinkelen, maar de afgelopen tien jaar was ze in Nashville een veelgevraagd en buitengewoon succesvol songwriter.
 
Ze schreef de afgelopen jaren onder andere songs voor Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris, Jana Kramer en Kacey Musgraves en dat zijn countryzangeressen die ik stuk voor stuk reken tot mijn favorieten van het moment.
 
Na tien jaar in de schaduw te hebben gestaan van anderen vindt Natalie Hemby het tijd om zelf in de spotlights te staan en levert ze met Puxico een van de interessante releases van 2017 af.
 
Gezien de staat van dienst van Natalie Hemby ging ik er van uit dat het met de songwriting wel goed zit op haar debuut en dat blijkt te kloppen. Op Puxico eert de singer-songwriter uit Nashville de geboortegrond van haar grootvader in Puxico, Missouri. Het levert een plaat op vol mooie verhalen en deze verhalen zijn verpakt in bijzonder lekker in het gehoor liggende songs.
 
Folk en country staan centraal op Puxico en net als bij de zangeressen voor wie Natalie Hemby de afgelopen jaren songs schreef zijn deze invloeden verpakt in songs die een mooi evenwicht hebben gevonden tussen traditionele en moderne invloeden en waarin bovendien lekker in het gehoor liggende klanken en in artistiek opzicht wat interessantere klanken in balans zijn.
 
Omdat Natalie Hemby in Nashville al flink wat jaren een gerespecteerd songwriter was, was het geen probleem om voor haar debuut gelouterde muzikanten te vinden en deze zorgen voor een mooi en afwisselend geluid, waarin de ene keer de traditionele folk en country doorklinkt en de andere keer wordt gekozen voor een lichtvoetiger geluid.
 
Liefhebbers van traditionele rootsmuziek horen misschien teveel Nashville pop terug in de muziek van Natalie Hemby, maar wat mij betreft blijft de Amerikaanse in alle negen songs op de plaat aan de goede kant van de streep.
 
Goede songs en goede muzikanten zijn natuurlijk nog geen garantie voor een goede plaat, maar ook de stem van Natalie Hemby bevalt me zeer. Het is een stem die het moet doen zonder de in Nashville zo geliefde snik, maar net als bijvoorbeeld Kacey Musgraves heeft Natalie Hemby een stem die warmte uitstraalt en die niet snel gaat vervelen. Het is bovendien een stem met meerdere klankkleuren, want waar ik in de openingstrack vooral iets van Gillian Welch hoorde, kwam ik via de andere succesvolle Nashville countryzangeressen van het moment zelfs uit bij Alison Krauss.
 
De tweede week van januari levert traditiegetrouw een flinke stapel interessante nieuwe releases af, waaronder releases waar al een tijd naar wordt uitgekeken. Na eerste beluistering springt Puxico van Natalie Hemby er echter voor mij uit en dat is best verrassend.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'This Town Still Talks About You':

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATAipls6YJM

zondag 24 september 2017

Indie Stadt @Paradiso Wednesday 20 September 2017

Get tickets to The Black Angels and get five other bands for free. That is more or less what happened to me. The surprise was that two of those bands I had reviewed on these pages and now got to see live as well. When I arrived at Paradiso, 20 minutes before the first show, I wandered into a nearly empty main stage. Twenty minutes later at lights out, the room was nearly full. I got to see four bands. Let's go through the whole Indie Stadt experience.



Beach Fossils
The singer of this Brooklyn based band announced that this was the last show of the whole tour and the band seemed happy to have reached that point. No one was smiling or seemed happy to play this music. Although I can imagine that fatigue gets the better of people, there's a world to win when people show up in their hundreds to come and watch you play.

Beach Fossils were the right band to kick off the evening. Its light sounding indie rock with a lot of higher overtones made for an extremely pleasant opening of the evening. There's nothing dangerous about this band. The songs are all somehow perfect.

Several years I reviewed the band's previous album 'Clash The Truth'. I more or less summed the album up as follows: "The short version of this review is that Clash the truth is this deliciously, jangly indie pop record" (read on here if you like). This hasn't changed on the new album 'Somersault' of this June, a release I had missed. It is what I heard live. Nothing exciting, but a so nice. Although, Beach Fossils' take on 'Sweet Nothings' was fantastic and warped. It's song, 'Be Nothing', as such has nothing to do with The Velvet Underground song, still I couldn't help singing that as well.

Unfortunately the band had packed up all the merchandise by the time I came to its table. A missed opportunity. So happy to fly home it seemed. Somersault is slowly growing on me, so it may come to a review in the coming weeks anyway.

Elephant Stone
Is a band from Montreal, Canada. Also a band I reviewed its previous album of and missed the new one. I really loved that album. In fact it was in my top 10 of the year 2014. "'The Three Poisons' is a fun album with enough interesting plots to follow and bends that give it an unsuspecting sonic view that has started to endear me fast", I wrote here.

Live the band totally convinced. It must have been 1967 all over again for the people old enough to tell. Elephant Stone aims for the pure melody and then lays layers of estranging hippie stuff over the melody. Yet that melody is always and foremost the starting point. Yes, we experienced long solos on a sitar, there was always a song where things started.

Modern hippies, why not look it when you play it? This was great fun and even better than I had thought it would be. Time to get myself familiar with that new album.

Climbing down the stairs a group of people walked up and I didn't really took notice. Next I hear a voice: "there are only 50+ here. What is going on?" Looking at the group I saw a few 50+ people and one youngster. Yeah, it may come as a shock, but we still go to shows.

A Place To Bury Strangers
Strangers? I'd say this band opts for friends, lovers, family, neighbours, acquaintances, not to forget fans as well. If this isn't the in-attendance band at the new CIA illegal prison facility somewhere in the world, I don't know which band is.

A Place To Bury Strangers presented an onslaught on the ears, eyes, mind, body and I can't rule out the soul of some present, not to mention some upset stomachs here and there from the reverberations. Never have I witnessed a show so extreme in everything. Permanent stroboscope lights, reflected by stage fog. Drums and bass at an infuriating level of sound and over that all a guitar as a circular saw and something that went for singing. I thought I was going mad. And yet.....

....something happened here. The audience clearly liked what was going on. And the relentless pounding did get me into a sort of trance. Having moved to a place where things were just this little better sonically, I decided not to follow my initial reaction: to leave.

And that sound. With amplifiers that would not be out of place on the dashboard of the Starship Enterprise, I'm sure all these outer worldly sounds are a piece of cake to create. Never have I seen amps like the ones this guitarist used either.

And then some sort of a cart was wheeled in from the back by the lady drummer and bass player. The dance version of A Place To Bury Strangers was released in the back where I was hanging on to dear life. Fairly in front of me another side of the band played itself out, before things went back to normal on stage, with even harder pounding on drums and bass. There was one difference. From that moment on all three on stage were visible. With a white light playing a game with the face of the drummer as fascinating part of the show. Almost like a 20s silent movie with Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd.

As I wrote, this was far beyond anything I'd ever seen, an experience. But once will do nicely, thank you. An experience to tell people about. It certainly makes for a nice story.

The Black Angels
The band I went to Paradiso for was The Black Angels. Having written extremely positive about 'Death Song', the band's latest album (here) this April, I couldn't wait to hear and see this. Especially one of the best songs of this decade: 'Life Song'.

And yes, the band played the song and exactly where I had expected it to be. Right at the end, before the encores. And it was as impressive as I hoped it would be.

The Black Angels takes its name from a The Velvet Underground song, so it was no surprise that after lights out, the strange, weird song sounded through the PA. 'The Black Angel Death Song' is not an every day, run off the mill song, to name your band and latest album after. It does say something about intention.

The Black Angels in general has a more direct and at times somewhat offensive approach to its psychedelia. No 1967 lovey dovey, flowers in your hair kind of music, but songs that estrange, hit into your face like a fist and extreme in the effects used. They all seem to be somewhere at the maximum of their abilities. At the same time this band knows how to write a good song, so extremity meets melody and that is where things get interesting as far as I am concerned. So, yes, The Velvet Underground, without going out all the way and the extreme sweetness, but also the psychedelia that New Yorkers eschewed in 1967.

Although honesty calls upon me to say that after circa one hour, I knew what to expect. There is just too little variety in the music to keep me on alert the whole time. What did amaze me, is the musicianship of the members. The switch from guitar, to keyboards or bass is something several bandmembers can make easily, each with impeccable timing in their playing on whatever instrument. This band knows what it is doing and what to score effect points with.

So I'm not complaining after all (o.k., I dearly missed 'Yellow Elevator #2', but that's all). 'Death Song' is live just as impressive as on record and I went home with a great vinyl version of 'Phosphene Dream'.

Quite a night, people of Indiestadt. I missed out on the other two bands, but a tremendous amount of noise came out of the upper venue when I left. Bartex was playing at earsplitting levels it seemed. So I got a little of it anyway and got away in time.

Wo.

zaterdag 23 september 2017

Big Intruder. Jordan Klassen

In the winter of 2016 I was introduced to Canadian singer-songwriter Jordan Klassen. The Canadian had moved to Texas to work in splendid isolation on his second album 'Javelin', which met with extremely favourable wording on this blog.

In 2017 The Big Intruder is released and Jordan Klassen decided to do everything differently than with 'Javelin'. He stayed at home in Vancouver to work on and record his new album, studied the music of the great, Lennon-McCartney, Harry Nilsson, Joni Mitchell. He was through with being a singer-songwriter and the coffee in coffee houses. All nice and well, but do I like this change? That of course is the only question that matters here when all the stories around the album have been told.

How long ago is it that Elliot Smith was murdered or murdered himself? Over a decade certainly. Finally I hear an artist who is allowed to walk into his footsteps and whose songs are more consistent in quality. Jordan Klassen has that same light, almost fleeting quality in his voice and created that dreamy feeling in his sound. Big Intruder is an album on growing up and making adult choices, according to the bio. The result is a near tribute album to one of the great singer-songwriters of the late 90s and early 00s.

Promo Photo
The full band sound of Big Intruder is certainly one of the strong points of the album. Behind the dreamy delivery bass, drums, guitars and what I can only describe as atmosphere do all the right things to make the songs come totally alive. Where the album totally succeeds. That can be a strong, alternatively rocking song like 'Dominika' or a smaller song like 'Too Far Gone'. Both manage to to get their uniqueness across.

The change in Jordan Klassen approach to his music can only be called dramatic. From the fairly traditional style of 'Javelin' to the indie pop of Big Intruder is a giant step (I am not familiar with Klassen's first album). Soft psychedelic pop mixes with alternative rock songs, all sung with a high, breathy voice. It is not hard to recognise someone with talent to write a good popsong. On both albums Klassen has me on his side, despite the huge difference in style. A good song is a good song.

Promo Photo
The link between the two albums is in a song like 'Housefly'. The acoustic guitar is dominant, the song less alternative. Again the Californian artist Patrick Joseph comes to mind. Klassen and he are certainly connected in the way they make and present their music. Both can easily switch from the grand to the delicate without losing anything of the impact they have on my listening experience. This is not something that a lot of artists can boast of.

In short Jordan Klassen has decided to take his music in a more rocklike direction. I would not have minded another album sounding like 'Javelin'. I had only one after all. Now that I have Big Intruder in my possession I can only say that I'm quite happy to have added it to my collection. Songs like 'Hard Hard Heart' are a lot of fun to listen to and Big Intruder holds several more of these. It's time for you to find out, dear reader.

Wo.

You can listen to 'No Salesman' here:

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


vrijdag 22 september 2017

Scienza Della Maleducazione. España Circo Este

Whoa, that is some stomach ill. Well, that comes with having an eye that is bigger that your stomach. Even with letters. Studying too much isn't a good thing either, as the cover of Scienza della maleducatione shows.

An Italian band, with Spain in its name and Argentinian roots? Quite confusing. The language the music is sung in is beyond confusion. Except for some words here and there that I picked up on holidays, from tv or wherever, it is incomprehensible to me. So what remains is whether the music and the melodies speak to me. And they do.

Tango punk is what España Circo Este calls its music and I'm o.k. with going along with that. Decades ago there was a French band that had the same effect on me, Les Négrettes Vertes. Some sort of rockified gipsy music I think it was. The Mano Negra hit from around the same era comes to mind also. So what we have is a hard hitting drum, an uptempo playing band, room for an acoustic guitar, a pumping bass and vocals that invites singing, excuse me, shout along with and finally some more exotic flavours to the music.

In the opening song 'Lo Stomaco E Il Bullone' (there's that stumach again) and the following 'Mal Education' go with the description above the whole way. A violin enters the whole, giving the gypsy influence an extra touch. The party is going in full swing.

What happens next is that the speed is taken away for sweeter songs. A sort of, near cheesy ballad is presented by España Circo Este. In the way 'Dammi Un Besso' is played it is clear that the song is far from cheesy, but give to another singer and it will be horrible to listen to. Here the chugging rhythm, the little organ, give 'Dammi Un Besso' an alternative flavour.

It shows that the band can deliver in more than one style which is important when the album is so full of enthusiastic music.

Promo photo: Marianna Fornaro
Scienza Della Maleducazione is España Cirso Este's second album after 'La Revolucion Del Amor' released in 2015. Since the band has been touring Europe with rising acclaim. The reason for that ought to be extremely simple. If this band plays live with the energy the album promises, a live show has to be a roof-raising experience. The record is just an excuse to build a large party around the haunts of Europe.

Luckily Scienza Della Miseducazione goes beyond just that. On its own the album is quite enjoyable. It is far more varied than I ever expected after the two opening songs. There are dynamics within songs and on the album as a whole. From 'Tango KG' that holds back here and there, to 'La Veterana' where the band keeps a pounding rhythm to explode totally in all the right places, it is a party to listen to. Hot and spicy.

So that leads me to make my final comparison. The band that holds the patent on catch and release, Gogol Bordello, has a fine follower with the potential to catch up one of these days. Scienza Della Maleducazione caught me totally unwares and captured me without letting go. The band comes out to tour this fall, so if you're into punky gipsy parties, this band is the feast to go to.

Wo.

You can listen to and buy Scienza Della Maleducazione here:

https://garrinchadischi.bandcamp.com/album/scienze-della-maleducazione


donderdag 21 september 2017

In memoriam Stef de Vries

Jaren geleden, toen dit blog nog een grotendeels intern muziekblad was bij mijn toenmalige werkgever OPTA, schreven vele collega's mee om het blad te vullen. Een van die collega's was Stef de Vries. Een grote, imposante man en een enorme muziekliefhebber. Hij schreef door de jaren heen enkele stukjes voor "de WoNo". (Al ontweek hij mij ook wel eens. Ik was een strenge doch rechtvaardige hoofdredacteur met boterzachte deadlines, die opeens gestold bleken te zijn.)

Eind vorige week bereikte mij het droevige bericht dat Stef is overleden. Zo maar, opeens, maar 56 jaar oud.

De laatste keer dat ik Stef zag, we waren op dat moment al een aantal jaren geen collega's meer, was op een popfestival in Wateringen, waar hij enorm liep te genieten van de bandjes die daar stonden te spelen. Ik zie de lach nog op zijn gezicht staan. Dat beeld houd ik vast.

Stef vertelde mij ooit dat hij een oud VW transportbusje had gekocht, helemaal opgeknapt en zichzelf met busje verhuurde aan groepjes. Een muziekbus, waar de passagiers onderweg aan elkaar hun favoriete nummers konden laten horen en daarover met elkaar spraken, terwijl Stef hen rondreed. Een enorm leuk en creatief idee.

Stef die gitaar speelde tijdens OPTA uitjes, is een ander beeld dat mij bij blijft. En welk nummer deden we samen tijdens de OPTA Tsunami actie tijdens een zeer uitgebreide lunchpauze, die het toezicht zeker met een uur vertraagde? Ik weet het niet meer, omdat ik iedereen op gitaar begeleidde die een nummer durfde te zingen; tegen "zware" betaling.

Muziek speelde een grote rol in zijn leven, zoals ook blijkt uit de rouwkaart. De foto boven komt van de zeer persoonlijke en buitengewoon mooie kaart. Sean Rowe wordt gequote: "I was just trying to leave something behind" en de familie geeft aan veel aan hem te gaan missen, maar zeker ook zijn passie voor muziek.

Stef is niet meer. Vandaag nemen zijn familie, vrienden en collega's afscheid van hem. Wij doen dat ook, met het plaatsen van zijn eerste bijdrage uit WoNo Magazine, jaargang 2, nummer 1. Stef, rust zacht.

Wo. en .No 



Mijn eerste stukje in WoNo

Als er één musicus is die ik in de loop der jaren gevolgd heb dan is dat Neil Young wel.

Het begon allemaal met de aanschaf van het album '4 Way Street' door mijn oudere broer. '4 Way Street' is een live album van Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSN&Y) uit het jaar van Woodstock, waar ze overigens ook opgetreden hebben. Voor mij waren CSN&Y duidelijke afgezanten van het hippietijdperk met veel akoestische gitaren en titels als 'Love The One You're With'. Mijn eerste LP die ik zelf kocht, was dan ook 'Déja Vu' van diezelfde formatie. Hierop staat het briljante maar ook zo treurige liedje 'Helpless' van Neil Young. Het bleek natuurlijk al snel dat het voornamelijk om hem draaide. 'Harvest' van Neil Young solo volgde snel. Hierop staat zijn enige, echte hit 'Heart Of Gold' die zelfs regelmatig op de Arbeidsvitaminen is te bewonderen. Later bleek dat Neil eerder al meer had gemaakt met zijn begeleidingsband Crazy Horse, waarvan 'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere' en 'After The Goldrush' prachtige albums waren.

Het was ook in die tijd dat ik zelf gitaar begon te spelen en Neil Young was veruit favoriet in mijn repertoire. Nog steeds speel ik 'Needle And The Damage Done'. Het deed het toen goed bij kampvuren en andere gelegenheden. Toen ik later ook elektrisch begon te spelen, meende ik het jankende gitaargeluid van Neil goed te imiteren. Toegegeven; echt moeilijk was het natuurlijk allemaal niet. Hij was een ster in nummers schrijven van slechts 3 akkoorden. Het ging natuurlijk om het gevoel. Ik blijf altijd bijzondere herinneringen aan 'Words (Between The Lines Of Age)' houden. Het was in de tijd dat ik veel optrok met mijn vriend Ko. Op school stonden we bekend als Stef & Ko, altijd goed op feestjes en partijtjes.

'Comes A Time' heb ik direct gekocht. Nu was ik toch echt fan. Inmiddels waren we in de punktijd aanbeland en dat liet zich ook bij Neil Young niet onbetuigd. Op het album 'Rust Never Sleeps' staat het legendarische 'My My Hey Hey' ("this is the story of Johnny Rotten"). Eigenlijk bleek hier dat Neil zowel akoestisch als elektrisch eenzelfde nummer fantastisch kon brengen. Dit staat voor mij centraal. Dit was al zo op '4 Way Street' en is tot op de dag van vandaag zo. Verder vind ik 'Freedom' uit 1989 vermeldenswaardig. Mijn moeder was net gestorven en deze muziek reflecteerde zeer goed mijn gevoel.

Hij heeft ook een hoop gerommeld met waardeloze albums als 'Mirrorball', maar hij bleef een begrip. Dat hij is omarmd door de Seattle grunge stroming, heeft hem natuurlijk geen kwaad gedaan. Heeft hij niet met Pearl Jam opgetreden of zoiets? Ik weet het allemaal niet zo precies, maar dat doet er ook niet toe. Ik vond het prachtig om begin jaren 90 te zien dat het helemaal in was om hem te imiteren. Zo heb ik eens op TV (ik meen bij een 2 meter sessie van Jan Douwe Kroeske) een prachtige, maar vrijwel identieke uitvoering van 'Cinnamon Girl' gezien.

Ik prijs mij gelukkig dat ik hem live zowel akoestisch solo als elektrisch samen met zijn begeleidingsband Crazy Horse heb gezien. Trouwens, het voorprogramma met Alanis Morissette mocht er natuurlijk ook wel wezen. Een Canadees onderonsje!

Stef de Vries

Het nummer 'To Leave Something Behind' kun je hier beluisteren:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSgnC5eQ5u0

Neil Young's 'Words (Between The Lines Of Age) hier:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HN53WZjCL_g

Down Hearted Blues. Eilen Jewell

Over the passed years I had heard one or two albums by Eilen Jewell, perhaps even reviewed one. Working in what in general is called the Americana genre, I was somewhat surprised to find Eilen Jewell emerged deeply into the blues. Now the title of the album, Down Hearted Blues, may give something away, it's not the same as a full fetched (electric) blues album.

It is exactly that what Eilen Jewell presents. She explores several blues genres on her new album. So in that she is not so far away from what The Rolling Stones presented to the world late 2016. Down Hearted Blues is filled with covers from A to Z in which Ms. Jewell delves into the American blues songbook and comes up with a whole lot of songs I'm not familiar with. Songs by Charlie Sheffield, Bessie Smith, Howlin' Wolf, Memphis Minnie, etc. come by. One a boogie, the other in the lounge blues style of T-Bone Walker or an up tempo country style rocker.

Promo photo by Joanna Chattman
This mix is what makes the album so interesting and irresistible to listen to. With a clear voice with only the faintest of a rasp on her vocal chords Eilen Jewell sings the songs with self-assured bluster, giving the album its little extras. The musicians behind her all do a fine job. The sound as a whole is great; but, I can't but face the fact that it's all been done before. It's the singing that makes Down Hearted Blues come alive.

The songs on Down Hearted Blues are now from near a century old to at least a half century. All the people who played and sang on the originals have passed away long ago. It is a good thing that these songs are brought alive in the 10s, an incentive to delve into the musical mines once again. I have to own up that I still haven't heard Bessie Smith sing ever as far as I'm aware, yet play one of her songs with my own band (in the Derek and the Dominos version).

Promo photo by Joanna Chattman
Like The Stones half the fun is hearing songs like this in a fresh way recorded on modern equipment that the original artists could not even begin to think of in their day. The other half is the obvious joy of the present artists of playing these songs. Jewell loves playing and singing these songs and it shows. The result is a modern sounding blues album that does right to the different styles in which (rhythm &) blues have presented itself through the years and places.

For someone who at first doubted whether she, a white girl from Boise in Idaho, had any right singing the blues, Eilen Jewell came out quite alright. Yes, great fun Down Hearted Blues is.

Wo.

You can listen to and buy Down Hearted Blues here:

https://eilenjewell.bandcamp.com/

woensdag 20 september 2017

Moonshine Freeze. This Is The Kit

This Is The Kit is het alter ego van en/of de band rond de Britse muzikante Kate Sables.
 
De band debuteerde in 2008 met het door niemand minder dan John Parish (PJ Harvey) geproduceerde Krulle Bol (!) en werd een van de lievelingen van de Britse muziekpers met het in 2010 verschenen Wriggle Out The Restless.
 
Pas met het in 2015 verschenen en door The National voorman Aaron Dessner geproduceerde Bashed Out, trok This Is The Kit ook buiten de Britse landsgrenzen de aandacht en maakte ook ik kennis met de intieme muziek van de band rond Kate Sables.
 
Voor de vierde plaat van This Is The Kit keerde Kate Sables terug naar Bristol en nodigde ze John Parish uit voor de productie van de plaat. Moonshine Freeze is een logisch vervolg op de vorige platen van de Britse band en laat net als zijn voorgangers een intiem en avontuurlijk geluid horen.
 
Kate Sables kan ook dit keer uit de voeten in lieflijk aandoende folksongs die wel wat doen denken aan die van Kathryn Williams of aan de vroege platen van Cat Power, maar treedt ook graag buiten de gebaande paden met songs die wat rauwer klinken of die wat nadrukkelijker het experiment opzoeken.
 
In de wat rauwere songs begeeft This Is The Kit voorzichtig in het territorium van PJ Harvey, maar zeker in de net wat experimenteler aandoende songs creëert Kate Sables een bijzonder eigen muzikaal universum.
 
De meest ingetogen songs op de plaat moeten het doen met het fraaie banjospel en de bijzondere stem van Kate Sables, maar Moonshine Freeze bevat ook een aantal rijker ingekleurde songs met fraaie bijdragen van blazers of effectief gitaarspel van de producer van haar vorige plaat, Aaron Dessner.
 
Moonshine Freeze staat vol met songs die zich niet direct opdringen, maar die wel nieuwsgierig maken. De songs van Kate Sables strijken soms licht tegen de haren in, maar verrassen net zo makkelijk met wonderschone of zelfs bijna sprookjesachtige elementen. Folk vormt het belangrijkste bestanddeel van de muziek van This Is The Kit, maar wanneer de blazers aanzwellen verkent Moonshine Freeze ook nadrukkelijk invloeden uit de jazz.
 
Moonshine Freeze wordt hier en daar een moeilijke plaat genoemd, maar daar ben ik het niet mee eens, wat overigens niet betekent dat de vierde plaat van This Is The Kit een makkelijke plaat is. De meeste songs op Moonshine Freeze overtuigden me vrij makkelijk, maar pas na meerdere keren horen was ik pas echt onder de indruk van de nieuwe plaat van This Is The Kit.
 
Sindsdien wordt de plaat alleen maar beter en raak ik steeds meer onder de indruk van de subtiele instrumentatie vol mooie accenten, de fluisterzachte en bijzonder mooie stem van Kate Sables en van de songs die buiten de lijnen durven te kleuren, maar nergens verzanden in doelloos experiment.
 
Liefhebbers van avontuurlijk indie-folk vallen zich zeker geen buil aan Moonshine Freeze, maar stiekem hoop ik dat de vierde plaat van This Is The Kit wat breder wordt opgepakt, want ook liefhebbers van rootsmuziek kunnen zomaar genadeloos vallen voor de bijzondere muziek van Kate Sables en haar band.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt Moonlight Freeze hier beluisteren:

https://soundcloud.com/this-is-the-kit/moonshine-freeze

dinsdag 19 september 2017

To The Bone. Steven Wilson

The work ethic of Steven Wilson is huge. His solo output is a steady stream of music that is highly appreciated among prog and rock fans. His collaborations are just as steady going. There is one minor setback, I'm not a progrock fan in general, although there are noted exceptions.

Over the past years I read how good this man's work is. I gave several albums a try and usually I gave up quite soon. This music is just not for me. Wait, I hear you say, you wrote on '4 1/2' in 2016. Yes, I did, but is not all good, is it?

Come To The Bone. Again I read nothing but enthusiastic reviews lauding the man's work in general and To The Bone specifically. As I encountered the album in a digital postbox, I decided to give it a try and guess what? This is not the first time I'm listening while writing this review. Don't ask me why To The Bone is different. I just can't tell you. Fact is I like the album.

It starts with the light touch in the music. I recognise the songs as such and not as compositions containing the lengthy exercises of musical prowess that prog songs so often are. Several songs clock in under five minutes. Others under six. O.k., not all. It goes without saying that several elements within the songs can only be described as prog, but they serve the song and not the other way around where the song is an excuse to go all out and lose me.

One of the other prog bands I can sometimes listen to is Anathema and To The Bone reminds me of that band's music here and there. Especially when a lady joins in to sing. Ninet Tayeb plays a great role e.g. in 'Pariah'. My favourite Swiss singer Sophie Hunger is present also in 'Song Of I'.

A good example of why I like this album is 'The Same Asylum'. The melody is extremely free flowing, a near perfect pop song. The guitar outings are varied in attack, sound and approach, to return to that fine flowing melody, without unnecessary detours. In the guitar everything from Steve Howe to Frank Zappa comes by, so enough to enjoy.

I like the way how song can go from extremely small, just a piano, to a whole fiery band sound, without losing the feel that the song started out with. 'Refuge', one of the songs that creeps up towards seven minutes, does this in a great way.

With 'Permanating' Steven Wilson even presents his fans with a pure popsong with a high mid 70s soul element. The O'Jays or Tavares could have recorded this song if only you think away the loud guitar. Strange but true. It's not my favourite of the album though. Diversity is certainly a part of this album.

'Misplaced Childhood' is the only Marillion album I could sit through and at that only barely. In truth I haven't played it in perhaps over two decades. 'Kayleigh' pops into my head regularly off late and I think it has something to do with To The Bone album. More specific, the ultra short song 'Blank Tapes' may be the messenger setting 'Kayleigh' off in my mind.

'People Who Eat Darkness' is a great rocksong, with, again, a nice role for Israeli singer Ninet Tayeb. The collaboration with Sophie Hunger is a song that could have been a Sophie Hunger song, until the rock elements, hidden deep into the mix, seep in. Very soft, like a ghost at the start of a horror movie. Where we, the audience, are fully aware of what is going on in the background, the cast isn't yet. Strings come in, arranged by Dave Stewart, but the song never really comes alive in the end. It all sounds a bit like the end of a The Beatles song, but by then we had enjoyed the whole of 'I Am The Walrus' and not just the estranging end.

With only two songs left to go, the album has already sold itself to me. My only comment that can be seen as negative is that To The Bone is a bit too long for me. I would have been happy with two songs less. That has nothing to do with the quality of what still follows. After the somewhat experimental beginning of 'Detonation', the song sets off in all the right ways. Over an hour is just a little more than I can handle here.

Yes, I'm somewhat surprised by the new Steven Wilson album. Pleasant surprises are always welcome though. So, is it because of the title? After all didn't The Kinks leave the recording arena with 'To The Bone'? No, this To The Bone does it all on its own formidable strength.

Wo.

You can listen to To The Bone here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUF_-iSZ9kA

maandag 18 september 2017

David Gilmour Live at Pompeii

Recently I visited the region of Naples and of course used the opportunity to peruse the streets of ancient Pompeii. In fact, it was so huge and impressive, that I visited the archaeological site twice. To walk around through streets that were laid out over two millennia ago, was a sobering yet joyful experience. It is so easy to imagine the old Romans walk around the streets, going about their business and lives.

When we arrived at the amphitheatre's catacombs I was in for an extra surprise. In one wing was an exposition on the concert Pink Floyd staged there, without audience, in the early 70s. In the days before its huge commercial breakthrough. The experimental music was played, parts of the film shown and great pictures of the bandmembers in their youth.

Once home I saw an announcement for a movie called David Gilmour live at Pompeii. 45 Years after the first show there Gilmour returned to play a show with an audience and filmed it. I couldn't resist and bought a ticket to go out and see it in my local theatre. Despite the fact that I haven't listened to any of Gilmour's solo albums a lot through the years.

Shine on
Sunday afternoon in Pathé Haarlem. What is there to say except what a great show this was. Everything seen up close, a sound that is not only perfect but larger than life. Everything is blown up to huge proportions for a maximum effect. One of the things that remains to be said is, what a shame it is that it's impossible for three senior citizens, who once made up 3/4 of Pink Floyd to enjoy this moment together on stage. For the rest it seems I was looking at perfection.

Even the later Pink Floyd songs and the few David Gilmour solo songs did extremely well live. Gilmour played killer guitar solos and the band played all the right sounds. The five voices that together filled in the harmonies created a wall of sound. It was so impressive. A great 'One Of These Days' with Guy Pratt and his delay pedal in a fantastic role on bass, the oldest song played. 'Dark Side Of The Moon', 'Wish You Were Here' and 'The Wall' all had their share. Not only reminding me what my favourite albums of all time are, but confirming it. Why have I never gone to a David Gilmour solo show? I can't tell you any more.

you crazy
Grandad on stage. It's impossible not to think this when watching this movie. Gilmour looks like the dad of one of my young adult year friends. But then the man is in his early 70s and I have to remind myself how old I was when I bought these albums I just mentioned, wearing my 'The Wall' t-shirt from around that time. (Yes, I still have it, and it sort of fits too.)

Looking at the amphitheatre of Pompeii, seeing the Vesuvio behind it I thought 'what am I doing here in the rain and greyness and cold'? Just over a month ago I walked around there in 34 degrees, with a nice tan and drinking fantastic limone granitas.
diamond

The audience at the (two) shows, visited something fairly exclusive. There weren't thousands of people in attendance. Perhaps 2.000, but that may have been it. A show of legendary proportions and a million times better than the 1971 show, when the band still played these experimental, instrumental, weird, spacey shit, from before the bandmembers found out they could write fantastic songs/ Songs they became renowned for, probably for eternity.

What a show. I was really, really impressed and have come to the conclusion that Pink Floyd may in the end be my band of bands in my decades of loving music, surpassing probably The Beatles. WHAT A SHOW!

(Pictures by) Wo.


zondag 17 september 2017

Something To Tell You. Haim

De zussen Alana, Danielle en Este Haim debuteerden al weer bijna vier jaar geleden met Days Are Gone. Het trio uit San Fernando Valley, California, maakte op haar debuut indruk met frisse popliedjes, prima vocalen en vooral met een verrassende mix van invloeden.
 
Ik was persoonlijk zeer te spreken over het aanstekelijke en sprankelende debuut van HAIM en daarom heel nieuwsgierig naar de vandaag verschenen tweede plaat van de zingende zussen uit Californië.
 
Er zit een relatief lange periode tussen het debuut van het drietal en de nieuwe plaat van HAIM, maar bij beluistering van Something To Tell You blijkt er relatief weinig veranderd.
 
Ook op haar nieuwe plaat haalt HAIM haar inspiratie weer uit een aantal decennia popmuziek. De succesvolle platen van Fleetwood Mac uit de jaren 70, die in het ouderlijk huis van Alana, Danielle en Este grijs werden gedraaid, zijn nog steeds een hele belangrijke inspiratiebron, net als de harmonieën van Wilson Phillips, de funky escapades van Prince protegés als Jill Jones en Wendy & Lisa en de R&B van TLC, die de jonge zusjes Haim in de jaren 90 warm maakten voor de popmuziek.
 
HAIM maakt ook op Something To Tell You weer Popmuziek met een hoofdletter P en daar moet je tegen kunnen. Als je er tegen kunt valt er op de tweede plaat van HAIM echter heel veel te genieten.
 
Ook op Something To Tell You grossiert HAIM weer in nagenoeg perfecte popliedjes. Het zijn popliedjes zoals Stevie Nicks ze in haar jonge jaren schreef voor Fleetwood Mac, maar de perfecte pop van Fleetwood Mac uit de jaren 70 is op fascinerende wijze het nieuwe millennium in gehaald en steekt veel knapper in elkaar dan de snel oordelende criticus of de oppervlakkige luisteraar zal vermoeden.
 
Ook op de tweede plaat van HAIM vervult producer Ariel Rechtshaid weer een belangrijke rol. Hij heeft de aangename popliedjes van de zussen Haim voorzien van een fris en sprankelend geluid, dat nadrukkelijk citeert uit de jaren 80 en vooral de jaren 90, maar ook met één been in het heden staat.
 
Alana, Danielle en Este Haim zijn sinds het debuut weer vier jaar ouder geworden en hebben zich flink ontwikkeld. Something To Tell You bulkt van het zelfvertrouwen en laat in vocaal, muzikaal en compositorisch opzicht flinke groei horen. De individuele vocalen zijn krachtiger, terwijl de harmonieën een meer eigen geluid laten horen en waar de rijke mix van invloeden op het debuut nog niet altijd even consistent klonk, heeft HAIM nu een herkenbaar eigen geluid waar het makkelijk patent op kan aanvragen.
 
De songs van het drietal zijn nog net zo onweerstaanbaar als op het debuut, maar laten hier en daar wel wat meer eigenzinnigheid horen. Een vleugje melancholie dat voortkomt uit de niet altijd succesvolle stappen op het liefdespad van Alana, Danielle en Este Haim geven de sprankelende popliedjes van het drietal tenslotte net wat meer diepgang.
 
Something To Tell You doet het prima op de achtergrond als een soundtrack voor een mooie zomerdag, maar luister net wat beter en de kwaliteit van de tweede plaat van HAIM komt nadrukkelijk aan de oppervlakte. En luister zeker tot en met de laatste track, want die is van een bijzondere schoonheid en laat horen dat we van HAIM nog veel meer kunnen verwachten.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Something To Tell You':

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

zaterdag 16 september 2017

Play Dead. Mutemath

It took Mutemath a while to get to me. To use the title of the band's new cd, I played dead for a while. After the third song I could not get through the album, despite liking the first songs. That changed with investing some more time in Play Dead.

Looking into Mutemath on Wikipedia I find a band from New Orleans that is around since 2002 and releasing music since 2004. That is a long time without me having heard a single note. That changed with Play Dead, the band's fifth album.

The album opens with a song that has a distinct prog flavour. It holds faint traces of the Alan Parsons Project, Yes and what I have heard from someone like Steven Wilson recently. 'Hit Parade' is the kind of song that catches my attention. Not just because of the grandeur its exhumes, I am not that big a prog fan, but also because of the pop element and the little elements of madness that pop in and out like a Tourette syndrome sufferer on parade. It makes for an intriguing song with a lot of surprising elements on display and hidden.

The change to the next song is somewhat large. 'Pixie Oaks' is a much more straightforward pop rock song than 'Hit Parade'. A tight, accented rhythm guitar sets the pace for the verses, where the chorus somewhat explodes. In sound the likes of Vampire Weekend come to mind, which is quite a long way off Yes, to name one. Surprising perhaps, but 'Pixie Oaks' also catches my attention and keeps me on my path into Play Dead.

The Madchester rhythm of 'Stroll On' is the next surprise. Especially when Alt-J elements of estrangement move in as well. With the word estrangement, Play Dead is typified quite well so far (and later on). In all songs something happens that sets the listener in another environment than he thought he was. Without disturbing this listener too much. That is a feat. What I do notice is that a dance element has gotten into Play Dead, including some digital scratching. And that is where things went wrong.

In 'Break The Fever' the, odd, rhythm (and a vocoder) take the upper hand. If I wanted to listen to disco, I would have become a fan in the 70s, which I didn't. That is where Mutemath lost me.

Recently I reviewed the album 'Nocturnal' by the German band Nazz and wrote how the band went from a to z and back, over backwards, and how that put me off in the end, despite hearing several nice songs. Mutemath also gives me the idea that all three members have totally different musical tastes and that all three are in control of their own songs, making the band a ship without a rudder.

This is an observation that may hold true. Fact is that after listening better, I find that 'Nuisance' is a small, electronic, but certainly nice song. The pop of 'Placed On Hold' is full of melancholy, where singer Paul Meany captures the atmosphere in a great way. Again a switch from what went before, including a great guitar explosion played by Tom Gummerman, who can finally show what he is capable of.

By then I seem to have accepted the curve balls Mutemath throws at me. O.k., some disco. Why not? Even Arcade Fire does it. I believe it when the band says it did not have any rules when writing and recording Play Dead. Every idea that came into the members' heads was pursued and worked out. Some of it into songs that I have come to like and some that I have come to accept as part of this whole. Like 'Everything's New'. Disco with some great music in there that keeps being interceded with odd balls and weird interruptions.

And so Play Dead continues for a few more songs. I guess you have gotten my drift by now. Mutemath isn't going to be caught in one hole. You have to search for them in many holes and never sure in which one they will be now. Call it versatile, surprising or musically suicidal, Mutemath seems to be getting away with what it is doing on Play Dead. It certainly grew on

Wo.

You can listen to 'Hit Parade' here:

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

vrijdag 15 september 2017

Favourite Pleasures. GUN


In the first week of 1969 a song by a band called Gun entered the Dutch charts. 'Race With The Devil' impressed me no little at the time. Now I would call it a gimmick hit. That Gun was never heard from again, although I found the single second hand somewhere in the past decades. The second Gun scored a hit in the 90s with a cover of Cameo's 'Word Up', a disco song from the 80s that I sort of liked. Never to be heard from again, by me. Gun nor Cameo.

Fast forward to 2017. An album lands on my digital doorstep by a band called GUN. So what Gun is this? Not the one of the Gurvitz brothers, but the band from Glasgow that is making records since 1989. After an hiatus of nearly a decade the band is back in business since 2008, all of which I was totally oblivious of until recently.

With Favourite Pleasures GUN has come up with a rock-pop album that is easy to like, perhaps too easy, but who cares when listening to some great songs? And some great songs can be found on Favourite Pleasures.

Promo photo
Straight away there is some strong riffing going on from the get go. GUN speeds head first into a song into which there is a Led Zeppelin element in the roughness of the riff and the attack of the song, combined with a great sing-a-long chorus. Together 'She Knows' adds up to a grunge meets Britpop at lunch with U.S. powerpop, spiced with a little punky stuff. In short 'She Knows' is totally irresistible.

In this and the rest of Favourite Pleasures the band totally delivers on its own word: "GUN will always have tons of melody - over the years that's been instilled in us". There is not a gram of originality on Favourite Pleasures. From the singing style of Steven Tyler to every pop rock sound of the past decades, they are present on this album. You will find references to so many well-known pieces of music, that it could have been a music quiz. This could have made this album one big cliché. It isn't for a very good reason. What makes it such a pleasure to listen to is the enthusiasm with which it all is presented and the sheer power of the songs. The first and the last criteria for the songs seem to be free flowing melodies and harmonies that are flawless in composition and arrangement. The kind of songs that always seem to have been there and always will be. Tons of melodies indeed.

Promo photo
In the end the name Aerosmith keeps popping up. There is one huge difference though. Where Aerosmith has come up with perhaps 9 truly great songs on all its albums, GUN comes close to that number with just one album. With the exception of the totally unnecessary ballad at the end called 'Boy Who Fooled The World', there isn't a weak brother on this album. There is a little something for all rock fans, save the lovers of the metal side and louder. That could also be a let down for some, not for me. I sit here moving my head and smiling a lot, while writing this review.

There's no need for more words here. This album is a ton, minus one ballad, of fun. With an extra mention for 'Black Heart'.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Favourite Pleasure' here:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFFYzg3IvTI


And that other Gun? Alright, you find 'Race With The Devil' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaSxvL5QiVw




donderdag 14 september 2017

Truth Is A Beautiful Thing. London Grammar

Het Britse trio London Grammar debuteerde al weer bijna vier jaar geleden met het terecht de hemel in geprezen If You Wait.
 
Op haar debuut maakte de band uit Londen indruk met een broeierige instrumentatie vol invloeden uit de triphop, maar het sterkste wapen van de band bleek zangeres Hannah Reid, die If You Wait naar grote hoogten tilde.
 
Het succes van het debuut heeft gezorgd voor een flink budget, waardoor London Grammar voor haar tweede plaat kon beschikken over topproducers als Jon Hopkins (Coldplay), Paul Epworth (Adele, Florence + The Machine) en Greg Kurstin (Adele, Sia). Ze hebben stuk voor stuk goed geluisterd naar het debuut van London Grammar en vervolgens Hannah Reid de hoofdrol gegeven op Truth Is A Beautiful Thing.
 
De instrumentatie van Dan Rothman en Dot Major is ook dit keer prachtig, maar treedt veel minder op de voorgrond. Het is een wijs besluit, want Hannah Reid maakt ook dit keer een onuitwisbare indruk met een stem vol kracht, subtiliteit en emotie.
 
Truth Is A Beautiful Thing opent opvallend ingetogen. Het tempo ligt laag, de instrumentatie is loom en aardedonker, wat prachtig past bij de van melancholie overlopende zang van Hannah Reid.
 
Door het lage tempo moet je, zeker bij eerste beluistering, wel wat moeite doen om bij de les te blijven. De trage en donkere popsongs van London Grammar dringen zich zeker niet onmiddellijk op, maar wanneer het kwartje eenmaal valt, valt het ook hard.
 
Ondanks het feit dat de band voor haar tweede plaat heeft gekozen voor producers van naam en faam en voor producers die niet vies zijn van grootse en meeslepende hits, heeft London Grammar het eigen geluid dat op If You Wait zo mooi vorm kreeg behouden en verder ontwikkeld.
 
De tweede plaat van de Britten bevat wel iets meer invloeden uit de pop, maar het is smaakvolle en eigenzinnige pop. Het is een moedig besluit, want waar London Grammar met een paar stevige stampers makkelijk de wereld zou kunnen veroveren, liggen de lome en donkere klanken voor menigeen waarschijnlijk wat zwaar op de maag. Persoonlijk heb ik echter een steeds groter zwak voor de meer ingetogen songs van London Grammar en het zijn deze songs die domineren op Truth Is A Beautiful Thing.
 
Zeker bij beluistering met de koptelefoon is goed te horen hoe loodzwaar de ritmes zijn, maar ook hoe subtiel de rest van de instrumentatie is (let maar eens op de prachtige gitaarlijnen en de mooie pianoklanken). Het is de perfecte ondergrond voor de weer hemeltergend mooie vocalen van Hannah Reid, die beter doseert dan op het debuut en ook meer emotie en doorleving laat horen. Het is goed voor heel veel kippenvel.
 
Truth Is A Beautiful Thing is ook nog eens een plaat vol ingehouden spanning. Je verwacht dat de ingehouden en zich langzaam voortslepende klanken ieder moment tot uitbarsting komen, maar dat gebeurt uiteindelijk 50 minuten niet (op de luxe editie van de plaat zelfs ruim een uur niet).
 
Waar If You Wait met louter superlatieven werd onthaald, zijn de reacties dit keer gemengd. Persoonlijk vind ik Truth Is A Beautiful Thing niet alleen een waardig opvolger van het prachtdebuut maar bovendien een stap vooruit.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Truth Is A Beautiful Thing':

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPcPtd3k-Qg