zondag 19 september 2021

Drops. Albertine

With Drops Albertine presents her debut album to the world. I felt attracted to Drops immediately but not for reasons that usually attract me at a first listen. Free flowing melodies and ear-catching choruses. No, Albertine surprised me a little more with each song. Musically, on the one hand Drops is an elementary album. Albertine does not need a lot to present her melodies. On the other hand you will hear sounds that are not common in pop music. Hence the surprises.

Yanna Pelser as Albertine, her second Christian name, goes through life on a daily basis, is a classically trained alto violinist who graduated from the Rotterdam conservatory. Playing in classical ensembles and orchestras was not as fulfilling as she had hoped. This made her switch careers to become a singer-songwriter. Along the way she started playing her violin in a totally different way, as you can hear abundantly on Drops. Basically as a classical guitar is played. This technique gives most of her songs a distinct, own sound.

From there she looks back in music a lot. Do not be surprised when the sound of the best singer-songwriters from around 1970 come by. From Crosby, Stills and Nash to Nick Drake influences can be found on Drops. 'Wind Blows' and 'Hey Today' are examples of each. Also Kate Bush around 'Cloudbusting' can be found on the album. In between she manages to bring in some jazz and classical influences as well. In short, the sound range on Drops is extremely broad, not least due to the beautiful arrangements and contributions from guest musicians on all sorts of horns, soft percussion and bass.

Drops is a soft album, in sound. That is why I am so surprised that it makes me think of Talking Heads, and not because of 'Heaven', the band's ballad. No, the uptempo fast, funky tracks. The sound of the two artists could not be much wider apart, and yet. When 'Space Dance' comes by, the funky track of Albertine, I understand the link much better, but to my ears several of the more subdued songs have this beat as well. Even while it is not there.

Finally, I am pointing to a Dutch connection, both from around 1980. Fay Lovsky comes to mind in the adventurousness of the music and a little in the singing as well. Also The Mo's first album is in Drops. In two ways. First, in the way Albertine created the sounds on Drops, together with producer Lasse Passage and second in the melodies that are not your run of the mill. They are different, not seeking the easy way out.

This brings me back to where I started above. Drops is an album that keeps surprising. Up to the very end.

Wout de Natris

zaterdag 18 september 2021

In The Light Of A New Day. Freddie Dilevi

"Candy, Candy, Candy", I can't help singing Iggy Pop's second greatest hit in The Netherlands during the whole of In The Light Of A New Day, Freddie Dilevi's new album. If ever it was possible to point to a single song influencing a whole album, it must be 'Candy'. As I love hearing the song, I take totally no issue with the Spanish band's new album at all.

From the very first song Freddie Dilevi starts to rock out like there's no tomorrow. Guitar, bass, drums is all it takes here. Away they go and with the exception of an odd ballad, 'Misery', sticking out like a sore thumb, the instruments keep at it, including a spruced up version of Chris Isaak's beautiful 'Blue Hotel'. The song gets a kick in the butt as it never has before. To come back to 'Misery', it's not that it's a bad song as such, but what is it doing on this album? A point of rest, okay.

Let's start with the drums for once. Drummer Pablo Guinea has a huge, dry sound giving the sound of the band tremendous depth, while his functional style lays a great foundation, basically taking care of the whole soundscape of the songs. The drums, as it were, envelope Pablo Velazquez' voice. Of course Guinea takes the opportunity to throw in a little fill or break here and there but in the end his drumming is totally functional, serving the song and not his desire to shine. In doing so he has a great role in the sound of Freddie Dilevi.

The bass, because of this, has the chance to play some great bass runs in between of the rhythm notes, embellishing the songs not a little. The kind of details that can make a song so much fun to listen to. it allows me to focus on the different elements of a song and discover more over time. Juanlu Cordero is able to shine and does.

Quique Ruiz' guitars are huge. His tough, tight rhythm playing on a distorted guitar supports the wide sound the drums already created. The solo's are often fiery and short or supportive melodies in between the singing.

With the singing I arrive at the foghorn Pablo Velazquez' voice is. His style is more in line with some crooners from before the The Beatles age, with Johnny Ray and Roy Orbison as examples and should be out of sync with the rock Freddie Dilevi presents. Also post-The Beatles singers like Frank Ifield and Scott Walker, while stylised like Bryan Ferry and yes, Iggy singing 'Candy' of course come to mind. The voice is as huge, albeit not true rock, as the songs are. Convincing it is. Velazquez is obviously not a native English speaker/singer, but who cares when his singing is so nice?

Every once in a while a nice, female backing vocal, by Abbi Fernandez, kicks in to support the vocals with some nice oohs or aahs, and even a backing vocal in the final, fantastic song, 'Cross The Line'. Also I have the idea to hear a Hammond organ here and there, deep in the mix, but I'm just not sure, strange enough. The credits do mention it though. Time to play the album on the living room set alright.

The previous record I heard by Freddie Dilevi gave me a totally different impression, as if it must be another band, filed away wrong. The crooning was not for me. In The Light Of A New Day is. The album is close to a sensation.

Wout de Natris

vrijdag 17 september 2021

Mirror II. The Goon Sax

De Australische band The Goon Sax strooit op het prachtige Mirror II driftig met onweerstaanbaar lekkere popliedjes, die ook nog eens alle kanten op mogen schieten en maar blijven groeien.

De komkommertijd in de muziek lijkt deze week begonnen, maar de uit het Australische Brisbane afkomstige The Goon Sax doet er niet aan mee en levert zomaar een van de leukste albums van 2021 af. Mirror II laat horen dat The Goon Sax uit de voeten kan met popsongs die herinneren aan The Go-Betweens, maar het Australische drietal blijkt van vele markten thuis. Mirror II verschiet vrijwel continu van kleur en laat zich geen enkel etiket opplakken. De band kan uit de voeten met melodieuze en aanstekelijke songs, maar zoekt ook het experiment. Het levert een serie geweldige songs op en het zijn songs van het type die je na één keer horen nooit meer wilt vergeten. Wereldplaat!

De Australische band The Goon Sax debuteerde vijf jaar geleden, toen de leden van de band nog op de middelbare school zaten. Ik heb Up To Anything destijds niet opgemerkt en ook het in 2018 verschenen We’re Not Talking heb ik onbeluisterd op de stapel laten liggen. Het zag er lange tijd naar uit dat het bij twee albums zo blijven toen een van de leden van de band naar Berlijn vertrok en de andere twee leden aan een nieuw avontuur begonnen. Gelukkig is het allemaal weer goed gekomen, want met het deze week verschenen Mirror II zet The Goon Sax uit Brisbane een reuzenstap. 

In de openingstrack doet de muziek van The Goon Sax direct wat denken aan wat mij betreft de beste band die Australië heeft voortgebracht, The Go-Betweens. Ook die band kwam uit Brisbane, maar de verwantschap met de legendarische Australische band gaat nog een stuk verder. Bandlid Louis Forster is immers de zoon van The Go-Betweens voorman Robert Forster en heeft de kunst van het schrijven van geweldige popsongs in de genen meegekregen. 

The Goon Sax beschikt over drie getalenteerde songwriters, want ook James Harrison en Riley Jones laten op Mirror II horen dat ze een onweerstaanbaar popliedje kunnen schrijven, al vliegen die van eerstgenoemde wel eens uit de bocht. Ik heb de eerste twee albums van The Goon Sax inmiddels ook beluisterd en het zijn charmante albums, maar album nummer drie is een paar klassen beter. 

In de openingstrack doet het zoals gezegd wel wat denken aan de muziek van The Go-Betweens uit de jaren 80 en 90, maar The Goon Sax heeft op Mirror II meerdere gezichten. In de tweede track wordt een flinke batterij synths ingezet en klinkt The Goon Sax bijna als The Human League, zeker als de donkere stem van Louis Forster wordt gecombineerd met de meisjesachtige zang van Riley Jones. 

De eerste twee tracks op het album klinken al flink verschillend, maar Mirror II kan echt alle kanten op. Soms hoor je The Go-Betweens, soms 80 synthpop, soms shoegaze, soms Phil Spector girlpop, soms jangle pop, zo nu en dan new wave en postpunk en zo kan ik nog wel even doorgaan. The Goon Sax schuurt hierbij met enige regelmaat tegen zonnige en nagenoeg perfecte popliedjes aan, maar de band uit Brisbane kan ook een stuk experimenteler klinken. 

Het zijn met name de zonnige popliedjes die zich in eerste instantie genadeloos opdringen, maar ook de songs die het je net wat moeilijker maken zijn na een paar keer horen vrijwel onweerstaanbaar. Vergeleken met de vorige twee albums klinkt het allemaal wat complexer en eigenzinniger, maar de songs van de band uit Brisbane komen ook stuk voor stuk bijzonder lekker uit de speakers, zeker wanneer een scheurende sax wordt ingezet. 

Het is ook de verdienste van producer John Parish, die een goede balans heeft gevonden tussen zonnige en zoete popliedjes en wat donkerdere en schurende popsongs. Mirror II klinkt soms bijna lichtvoetig, maar het album kan net zo goed loodzwaar klinken en schakelt tussen beiden in een paar noten. 

Mirror II van The Goon Sax is een album om direct bij eerste beluistering smoorverliefd op te worden, waarna de songs van het Australische drietal alleen maar leuker en spannender worden. Het rammelt zo nu en dan aan alle kanten en het springt ook nog eens van de hak op de tak, maar ondertussen wordt de perfectie keer op keer benaderd. Wat is The Goon Sax een leuke band en wat is Mirror II een fantastisch album.

Erwin Zijleman


donderdag 16 september 2021

Comfort To Me. Amyl and the Sniffers

To take a recently released song as a comparison. Wolf Alice's 'Play The Greatest Hits', a great punkrock song but also an outlier on 'Blue Weekend'. That is the song to take as a reference and starting point as far as Comfort To Me is concerned. Amyl and the Sniffers go at it from the very first second and keep at it. There's simply no holding back on the album.

Singer Amy Taylor undoubtedly is Australian, she's not hiding it for a second. A little like Courtney Barnett when she decides to rock out loud. For Ms. Barnett these are exceptions. Not for Amyl and the Sniffers. Guitar, bass, drums play full force with Taylor spitting out her lyrics like a fog horn in the mist. She has one voice and uses it to the max.

Comfort To Me is one huge surge of energy. Can I set one song apart from another? Had I been much younger, probably yes. Today? No, this album is one surge of energy that rages over me, with me enjoying every inch of the way. An overdubbed guitar solo that jumps out at me? Simply fantastic. It overtakes all the other instruments and becomes a presence all by itself. Does it matter that I can't really tell one song apart from the other? Of course not, for that Comfort To Me is simply too much fun. This album is all punkrock in the 2020s has to be. A brazen singer, great melodies and loads of energy. Because that word tells it all, energy.

Amyl and the Sniffers are too young to be on the Rum Bar Records label, but would fit there excellently between bands like The Short Fuses and The Dents. (All band members there are getting a second career in their late 40s and older.) For a simple reason. The band has the skills to write interesting songs and the chops to deliver them. The songs are not just noise and anger. Far from. They are great punk songs that make a difference in the genre. Far from commercial. It will be hard to find one on the radio. Each song has its own quality, making Comfort To Me a good album, with a potential to become great.

Wout de Natris

woensdag 15 september 2021

Parallel Timeline. Slothrust

Yes, I should have been warned, but once again I was fooled by the band name, Slothrust. Somehow I see a bunch of long-haired, heavily tattooed, denim or leather-cladded metal band in front of me. 'The Pact' was reviewed favourably exactly three years ago this week. And so will Parallel Timeline. The difference with my previous Slothrust review is that from the very first notes the album sat on my good side.

Opening song 'Cranium' is the kind of spaciously mixed slow alternative rocker that quite often packs me in with ease. Reading my 2018 review, I get the impression, having heard Parallel Timelines several times over the past weeks, I can rewrite the review and only have to rewrite the song titles. (One exception: the artwork. I'll refrain from commenting this time around.) Usually that spells inertia for a band. However, that would be selling Slothrust's new album considerably short.

Again, Slothrust surprises with a wide range of styles. The band can rock with the best of them, play a sensitive ballad and everything in between. Leah Weilbaum's guitars munge on huge riffs, fiery solo's and pleasant sounding balladry. Behind her the bass, Kyle Bann, and drums, Will Gorin, can grow to huge proportions. Her voice has several sides to it that she all explores and shares. I stand by my comparison with Wolf Alice('s Ellie Rowsell). Weilbaum's voice has more power but the effect they strive for in their singing is similar. From delicate and vulnerable to rage and back.

Promo photo: Lyndsey Byrnes
Listening to Parallel Timeline does ask flexibility of its listeners. Slothrust shows different sides of itself that the listener has to be able to stomach. A soft ballad is alternated with a strong rocker or a demure song built around a repeated riff on an acoustic guitar. It is an adventure in music that the listener has to be open to, to undergo.

Those who do, soar across the plethora of emotions Slothrust presents. They surf on huge guitar solo notes, are pummelled by the bass and battered by the drums, soothed by Leah Weinbaum's voice or shouted into the corner making oneself as small as possible, as hiding is the only thing left to do. It all comes by and more. But it all sounds crystal clear. Recording and mixing give Parallel Timeline a beautiful sound.

Leah Weinbaum wanted to make a very personal album. That is for her to judge. I can acknowledge that I'm being taken through a whole host of moods, atmospheres and vibes. They touch me and make me work, without noticing it, to like the album more and more. Mission accomplished by Slothrust it seems.

Wout de Natris