zaterdag 23 juni 2018

Passwords. Dawes

With Now Living Abroad, the new album by The Furious Seasons, I started my review about commenting on a time machine I seemed to have stepped into, taking me back to the 1970s. (Read on here: Passwords by Dawes more or less does the same with me. Notwithstanding the loud guitar riff opening the album in 'Living in The Future', a nice title when referring to a time machine, Dawes does take us back.

Dawes was one of the first reviews on this blog with an album called 'Nothing Is Wrong' (read on here: Ever since I always thought the band did not do what it was best in. In the bio accompanying this release it says something about returning to older days and I can only concur here.

The hard riff reminds me of the second half of the 80s. It is in 'Stay Down' where Dawes moves into the 1970s West Coast realm. The Eagles and Jackson Browne and the whole entourage around those artists comes to mind immediately. The slow delivered Don Henley like vocal delivery. The soft music all around. It evokes a time long gone in a successful and pleasant way.

Taylor Goldsmith seems to have found his Californian voice once again and the sound to boot. Underneath it all there's a lot of keyboards to be found played by Dawes' newest member, Lee Pardini. His keyboards determine a large part of the mood and the moodswings of Passwords. Always subtle, yet very present notes can escape the carpet he lays underneath the music with extreme ease.

For Passwords Dawes reconnected with producer Jonathan Wilson, who produced the band's first two albums. Perhaps that explains why I am so comfortable with Passwords. That is, when I play the album a little louder. In the background this album does not work, for me. It all just sort of disappears into the rest of my life happening. Passwords is not a dominant album. Far from even. Turning up the volume a little unleashes the true beauty of the album. Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, The Doobie Brothers, just a few names that spring to mind while listening to 'Feed The Fire'.

Wilson provided the music  on Passwords with several layers that make Passwords simply more interesting. A few strings here, an extra guitar there. Where I thought the most recent albums by Dawes to be one dimensional, that objection has been totally lifted on the new album, with the mostly subtle, yet extremely effective arranging.

In my review of 'We're All Gonna Die' I wrote the band is in need of a few percent more originality (read on here: I'm not sure if Dawes found just that, it did find better songs or better worked out songs, making this a far better album. So it must have.


Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

vrijdag 22 juni 2018

Up In Smoke. Town of Saints

A new single from Dutch band Town of Saints providing us with a soundbite from a new album to be released later in the year. I tend not to write about singles, but there are notable exceptions and Up In Smoke is one. The song is so upbeat, while telling a story about things not so upbeat.

The music is even more exuberant than I remember Town of Saints to be. That has everything to do with a very prominent violin/fiddle setting the tone and pace of the song. The Decemberists and The Oh Hellos at their most eclectic is what Up In Smoke gives us. In that regard the band shed a little owness, uniqueness and traded it for a most endearing sound. There's everything to like here. I haven't heard a single ooh or aahh, yet everything around Up In Smoke spells the sort of music the world has been leaving behind for a few years now. The violin does everything the vocal oohs and aahs did for other bands a few years back in this decade.

So, is Up In Smoke, too late, the proverbial mustard after the meal? No, for that it is too much fun, too eclectic, but above all far too good. There is a full band at work, i.e. bass and drums, otherwise this could be a The Hackensaw Boys song. Harmen even sounds like Ferd Moyse IV in seceral passages. The harmonies between Harmen and Heta come straight out of the Butler - Chassagne songbook.

Yes, that are lot of comparisons, but they only make sense if Up In Smoke is a good song all by itself and that it is. A little ball of energy tossed into the world for all of us to charge ourselves with. Quite the present at the start of the summer of 2018. What sets this song apart is when the tempo changes in the short interludes, making it more exciting as every single time a new energy outburst is bound to follow. A little unique element that makes the song even better. Also compared to many of the comparisons mentioned here. Up In Smoke is a hit. Get it on the radio and success ought to play out itself.


You can listen to and buy Town of Saints albums here:

Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

Risha. David Eugene Edwards & Alexander Hacke

When did I buy my first 16 Horsepower album? It must have been after the release of 'Low Estate', as I remember having 'Sackcloth And Ashes' on a cassette copy. (Yes, folks, remember that one?) But who is Alexander Hacke?

Edward's sound by now is overly familiar. Since disbanding 16 Horsepower he has explored his extremely intense music with Woven Hand. There no longer are surprises to be expected from him. A collaboration with another musician might open new avenues for him to make music in. So let's peruse further into the album called Risha.

The unusual name Hacke associated the name Blixa Bargeld in my mind and proved correct. Alexander Hacke is a long time member of the German experimental group Einstürzende Neubauten. A band I do not associate with music in the conventional way. So what is his influence on Edwards?

Nothing, where his way of singing is concerned. David Eugene Edwards here is totally his own man. Which is only logical. Someone sings as he sings. Edwards uses his voice in the deeper registers, trying to conjure up moods that go beyond the here and now of our daily troubles and toils. Ghosts and devils are exorcized, the Lord asked for assistance to not be led into temptation and asked for forgiveness when all else fails. The instruments he uses are always organic, stemming from age old traditions.

It is here where Alexander Hacke steps in. David Eugene Edwards' singing is underscored with electronic beats, weird noises, synths and sequencers. It doesn't so much change the mood that usually comes with Edwards' presence, that simply is too dominant to change, it enhances it in several ways. Underscores it with capitol lettering.

Promo photo
Risha starts almost undercooled. Dark sounds creep from my speakers like snakes slivering towards me slowly but surely. An acoustic guitar is in the middle of the murky, condensed sound. The percussive sound that moves in and out of the song, is ominous, near threatening. "On earth, as it is in heaven, on earth ... heavens of earthly delight". The lyrics move into familiar territory. The temptations on earth do not make for a heavenly existence. The opening song is of such an intense beauty, while trying to estrange me the whole time from it as a whole. Separating earthly delight from heavenly beauty. Luckily for me I do not mind enjoying both when offered and Edwards & Hacke do just that here.

The condensed yet fast beat of 'All In The Palm' with the strong electronic undercurrent comes as a shock. Nothing prepared me for this onslaught, the first time I heard it. Here it is Alexander Hacke on David Eugene Edwards' tail, instead of the devil. Relentlessly the beat drives him onwards, while he is singing into his 30s style microphone, distorting his voice. The song is totally turned upside down by an electronic intermezzo, before the beat returns like a high speed train coming towards me out of nowhere at warp speed. The song integrates an acoustic guitar at the end as well.

So far it may be clear that something is happening on Risha. Perhaps I don't yet know what it is, but Alexander Hacke is definitely having an influence on David Eugene Edwards. 'The Tell' is another song where Hacke goes full out and Edwards dutifully follows. Again there is this intermezzo, this time with a faintly familiar melody, before the beat returns relentlessly accompanied by a loud, very distorted electric guitar that is wailing like it has just been separated at the U.S. border from its manufacturer.

Promo photo
I can't say that the music on Risha is comfortable, but then was the music of David Eugene Edwards ever comfortable? There you go. When moving down Risha, there are songs that can be identified as more Edwards and others more Hacke. Both estrange the other's music more than enough to speak of a true collaboration. Where earlier this week I wrote on Arthur Buck, that Peter Buck seemed more like a solo guitarist in Joseph Arthur's band, here the two artist come up with the best of the two of them. Yes, Edwards' voice is dominant, of course, the music is a hybrid. Impressive, loud, intrusive but above all, good.

Risha is a collaboration that fully works. It may come as a shock to 16 Horsepower and Woven Hand aficionados (and who knows to Einstürzende Neubaten ones to, I can't tell) they would do themselves a favour to take this album in, fully completely. It seems 1 + 1 can equal three sometimes.


Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

donderdag 21 juni 2018

Looking For Horses. Kesia Nagata

Looking For Horses van Kesia Nagata lag inmiddels al een aantal weken op de, in dit geval virtuele, stapel met platen die mogelijk interessant zijn voor een plekje op deze BLOG en leek hier eerlijk gezegd niet meer van af te komen.
Een laatste aansporing van degene die me deze plaat getipt had was echter voldoende om de plaat toch maar eens uit de speakers te laten komen, waarna ik binnen enkele minuten (of zelfs enkele noten) verkocht was.
Kesia Nagata is een Canadese singer-songwriter die zich op haar bandcamp pagina als volgt introduceert: “Kesia Nagata is a British Columbia based singer-songwriter who sings about trees, death, horses, and the unbearable enormousness of existence, among other important things”.
Het is een mooie introductie die nieuwsgierig maakt naar haar muziek en die nieuwsgierigheid wordt versterkt door haar volgende citaat over haar eerste plaat: “Looking For Horses spans a ten year stretch. It’s the highlights, as it were, from a meandering decade of heartaches and delights”.
Het zijn geen loze citaten, want Looking For Horses van Kesia Nagata is een intense en zeer persoonlijke plaat. Het is een plaat die in de hokjes singer-songwriter en folk kan worden geduwd en die kiest voor een betrekkelijk sobere benadering.
Op Looking For Horses moeten we het voornamelijk doen met de akoestische gitaar en de stem van Kesia Nagata (slechts incidenteel wordt een mandoline toegevoegd), waarmee de plaat flink wat risico loopt om in de categorie ‘13 in een dozijn’ terecht te komen. Het is een categorie waarin deze plaat gelukkig geen moment thuis hoort, want zowel met de instrumentatie als met de zang weet Kesia Nagate zich te onderscheiden van de hordes aan mogelijke concurrenten in dit genre en dit doet de Canadese singer-songwriter ook nog eens met haar songs en haar teksten.

De instrumentatie op de plaat is sober, maar zeker niet eenvoudig en Kesia Nagata slaagt er ook nog eens in om haar akoestische gitaar rauw en direct te laten klinken, wat zorgt voor een bijzondere sfeer.

Dat rauwe zit ook in de stem van de singer-songwriter uit British Columbia, die de ruwe emotie van Joni Mitchell weet te combineren met de donkere klanken van Tanita Tikaram. Platen met alleen een stem en akoestische gitaar gaan me vaak snel vervelen, maar de songs van Kesia Nagata zitten vol onderhuidse spanning en hebben bovendien een bijzondere lading.
De Canadese singer-songwriter slaagt er ook nog eens in om variatie aan te brengen in haar songs, waardoor Looking For Horses je pas weer los laat wanneer de laatste noten weg ebben. Kesia Nagata heeft tenslotte ook nog eens wat te vertellen. Haar songs zitten vol persoonlijke verhalen, maar schuwen ook meer filosofische thema’s niet, waardoor haar songs je in een nog wat stevigere wurggreep houden.
Kesia Nagata heeft met Looking For Horses een indrukwekkende plaat afgeleverd. Het is een plaat die waarschijnlijk makkelijk ondersneeuwt met het enorme aanbod van het moment, maar daarvoor is het debuut van deze getalenteerde muzikante echt te bijzonder. Wat een mooie plaat.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier naar Looking For Horses luisteren en het album kopen:

Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

woensdag 20 juni 2018

Now Residing Abroad. The Furious Seasons

Every once in a while an album surfaces that is like a time machine. I am not referring to all the new psych albums, as the sounds they produce could not have been made in 1967. No, I'm talking about singer-songwriter style albums that could have been made in the 1970s on the U.S.' West Coast but are from 2018.

Now Residing Abroad by The Furious Seasons is such an album. Acoustic guitars, soft singing, a slightly gloomy mood following the lyrics on longing, loss, yearning and things not here but there, out of reach. Absolute beauty caught on tape or digits. The Furious Seasons sounds like it was born 40 years too late, yet in time to replace the slowly lost heroes of the past.

And then I started to read up on the trio. David Steinhart is on the musical beat since 1984 and formed this trio in 2006 with his brother Jeff on bass and Paul Nelson on guitar and harmonies. Now Residing Abroad is the band's 6th release. I can't tell anything about the past, as I haven't heard any of the band's music. Fact is that I'm tremendously and pleasantly surprised by what I'm hearing. Thoughts of Tim Hardin, Jim Croce, John B. Sebastian, Bread, Harry Chapin, the acoustic Neil Young and Marty Balin and many others come to mind who scored hits in the late sixties to mid 70s and played these slow moving singer-songwriter songs with an ever so slightly jazz-tinged flavour to their music.

The Furious Seasons lay down a beautiful mood on Now Residing Abroad. A mood for a time long gone and of innocence lost. In 2018 the whole world is watching in amazement at the speed with which the national and international order is shaking on its very foundations. The Furious Seasons appear to be a beacon of stability in uncertain times. A buoy to anchor a ship on in a too rough sea. "The chaos subsides as the seasons change" Steinhart sings with his soft voice in 'Status Quo'. It seems like he knows what he is singing about.

Under the soft singing that often comes closest to the voice of Bread's David Gates, there are two acoustic guitars at work. David Steinhart and Paul Nelson intertwine their instruments in delicate ways. The upright bass lays the soft foundation under it all. Every once in a while one guitar escapes for a firm solo. All that is relative of course, the music being as brittle as it presents itself. It compliments the singing in the most beautiful of ways.

Did I like this music in the 1970s? The answer is a definitely maybe. Somewhere on the fringes of my musical awareness there was 'Guitar Man' or 'W.O.L.D.', Rod Stewart's 'Maggie May' or 'Reason To Believe'. That was about it for me around 1974. Now I'm confronted with music that sounds just like it and I am nearly swept away. Now Residing Abroad certainly strikes a chord in me and not for the last time I'm sure.


Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about: