zaterdag 24 juni 2017

Oohohoo. Moon Moon Moon

Help! Help! is out for only a few months and Moon Moon Moon surprises the world with another full length album. Like there is no time to waste. And there isn't, I'd say, hearing what I'm hearing. If you have something to share, share it before it's too late. Especially if it's this good.

'Help! Help!', unlike Oohohoo released on Tiny Room Records, met with a favourable reception here on WoNoBloG and the releaseparty found it's way here thanks to .No's review.

So now Oohohoo. Out since 1 June already, I have been able to digest the album over the past few weeks and found that it became more fun to listen to with each new listening session. Although the atmosphere of Moon Moon Moon is instantly recognisable, Oohohoo has definitely more upbeat songs on it. 'Help! Help!' was far more contemplative. The motto Moon Moon Moon gives on its Bandcamp page for Oohohoo, where this beautiful piece of work can be bought from €1 upwards, is self-explanatory: "Please drink lemonade with this album and take it with you on vacation". In other words, substitute the lemonade for your drink of choice and "a splendid time is guaranteed for all", to quote the lyrics of one of the songs of an album that celebrated its 50th birthday on the date of release of Oohohoo. There are no coincidences, people!

In fact that splendid time is guaranteed on Oohohoo. That starts with people who enjoy the best songs released by Bright Eyes. I'm reminded of them most of the time. That has to do with the voice of singer (and all else) Mark Lohmann. The musical idiom certainly is not unlike, it is his voice that could fool me easily. There's a significant difference though. For most of the time I like the songs of Moon Moon Moon better, than the oft dismal songs of Bright Eyes. The mood of Moon Moon Moon sits a lot better with me. My song of point being 'Room'. A great song that could well be the essence of Lohmann's life, working on his art in his room, waiting for his "real world skills" to arrive by an act of magic one day. The song is so upbeat, so strong and in fact is a strange but beautiful love song. At the same time the song has so much humour in it and self-knowledge. One of the pure gems on Oohohoo. Which also holds the title "song". What is he doing there? Recording himself outside of his house? Yes. Standing beneath the window of the person he's singing about in 'Room'? It's nice to fantasize here.

The music I am hearing is all composed and recorded in Lohmann's home, "bedroom recordings" I read somewhere. Be that as it may, I can't find much at fault with this recording. In fact several of the songs give me real joy. 'Leaking Rowboat II' is such a fantastic song. It simply twirls. A lot happens here and it is all in the right place. So much going on and a few simple piano notes end it all, while the twirling goes on around them.

Not all songs necessarily go in a linear line from A to B. Expect them to visit A1, C or R8. Some unexpected twist may be there, but they all work. Even if they surprise at the start. The song takes them up and continues incorporating the new theme. This way Oohohoo keeps me on my toes, alert and surprised. Expect some soundscapes or sounds in between, paving the way to the next song. Expect something very busy to go back to a guitar only, before "all" return.

Oohohoo is the second album by Moon Moon Moon I've run into and again I'm impressed. From that bedroom in Heerhugowaad some very interesting music is pouring forth in a tremendous tempo. If Lohmann continues in this tempo I can review at least one more album this year.


You can listen to and buy Oohohoo here:

vrijdag 23 juni 2017

Live At The Lovesong. Spain

It's been a while since Spain made it to these pages. In 2012 I reviewed 'The Soul Of Spain' favourably, but somehow missed the release of 'Sargent Place (2014)' and 'Carolina' (2016) both being fine albums as I discovered recently. Now the live album, yes, the title does give something away, Live At The Lovesong came to my attention. An opportunity to amend my strayed ways.

Those expecting more of the sweet, oft darkish songs that Spain recorded on its last albums are about to make a discovery. On this live album Spain presents long, slightly experimental songs. Songs that are smeared out like thick oil paint on a canvas, allowed to drip with gravity, like a Karel Appel painting, never totally drying up. The sustained notes on the piano, the busy drums within a low tempo, the repeated guitar notes, all create this effect in a musical way.

The musicians are drawn into their own world. Seemingly oblivious to the audience that is chattering away in the background. I'm glad to find out that the "Dutch disease" isn't Dutch at all. In fact in the right venue over here I can hear a pin drop, or water dripping behind the bar in the rinse section. The question "are you guys there?" coming from the podium.

The musicians are playing so concentrated to make the slow jams work the best they can. Each musician stepping forward, adding a little extra to the whole before making room again. The basis is a vocal by Josh Hayden after which they all set off on their musical journey.

The album is the result of Spain playing every Tuesday night in The Love Song Bar in L.A. "on tour in L.A.", as band leader Josh Hayden described it. The concept is as interesting as it is daring. All traditional writing and recording sessions went overboard. Spain traded it for adventure, experimentation and collaborations. Guest were invited to play with the band, which gave each evening a different feel and show. What I'm listening to currently is a selection from the recordings over the months. Songs where nothing is added to or subtracted from. What I hear, is what was there that particular evening, including the audience, present in the background at times.

Is all as interesting? No, some songs are drawn out immensely, with just pure improvisations around an elementary theme, with feedbacking guitar tones. What is almost tangible though, is the concentration in playing. The musicians connecting to each other and taking the cues they get. A place where we enter a shadowland between pop and jazz, without any rules. Something to submerge in, letting my own boundaries go as well and make sure that I am open to what I hear. Hearing from the applause on one of the tracks, the musicians must have been nearly on their own: one shout, three or four people applauding. So don't expect perfection, that would be totally behind the point. Expect passion for music, the skills to play like this and the fun band and guests must have had in making this happen.

No doubt Spain will soon treat us to something more traditional. In the meantime enjoy this gift. A present to hear what was there in L.A. and unreachable for most of us ordinary people not being able to have been present. The Love Song Bar must have had many an interesting Tuesday evening last year.


donderdag 22 juni 2017

Golden Eagle. Holly Macve

Toen de eerste noten van Golden Eagle van Holly Macve uit de speakers kwamen, moest ik eerlijk gezegd wel erg aan Lana Del Rey denken. Dat vind ik persoonlijk niet zo erg, maar het is in rootskringen waarschijnlijk geen pre.
Hoewel associaties met de stem van Lana Del Rey meerdere malen op zullen duiken bij beluistering van het debuut van Holly Macve, wil ik de vergelijking met de Amerikaanse popdiva ook direct weer intrekken.
Holly Macve, een in Ierland geboren maar in Engeland opgegroeide singer-songwriter, maakt immers totaal andere muziek dan Lana Del Rey en zet haar stem uiteindelijk ook totaal anders in.
Op Golden Eagle domineren traditionele folk en country, maar het debuut van Holly Macve is zeker geen dertien in een dozijn rootsplaat. Dat ligt voor een belangrijk deel aan haar bijzondere stem. Het is een stem die zo lijkt weggelopen uit vervlogen tijden, maar het is ook een stem met veel emotie en een in countrysongs altijd goed uitpakkende snik. Het geeft de songs op Golden Eagle flink wat emotionele lading, maar ook een bijzondere intensiteit.
Ook de muzikanten op de plaat dragen er aan bij dat Golden Eagle er uit springt. Voor haar debuut werkte Holly Macve samen met Paul Gregory, die vervolgens zijn band Lanterns On The Lake inschakelde. Golden Eagle sluit deels aan bij het standaard roots instrumentarium, maar klinkt vergeleken met de gemiddelde rootsplaat wat dromeriger, atmosferischer en ook wat spookachtiger. Verder speelt de piano een cruciale rol op de plaat, wat Golden Eagle voorziet van veel melancholie.
Niet iedereen zal de snik in de stem van Holly Macve kunnen waarderen, maar persoonlijk vind ik het echt prachtig. Golden Eagle sluit aan op de klassieke countryplaten van zangeressen als Patsy Cline en Kitty Wells, maar heeft ook raakvlakken met de platen van de obscure folkies uit de vroege jaren 70 of de muziek van de groten uit de alt-country. Dankzij de associaties met de stem van een niet meer met naam te noemen popdiva, klinkt de stokoude muziek van Holly Macve op een of andere manier ook nog eens modern.
De Ierse singer-songwriter kent haar klassiekers en komt op de proppen met tijdloze songs. Het zijn songs die door haar indringende vocalen tot leven komen en vervolgens diep onder de huid kruipen.
Het debuut van Holly Macve krijgt tot dusver niet overdreven veel aandacht, maar ik kan me eigenlijk niet voorstellen dat deze dame over een paar jaar niet heel groot is. Haar debuut is immers een wonderschone plaat vol grootse songs. Indrukwekkend. Bijzonder indrukwekkend zelfs.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt Golden Eagle hier beluisteren en kopen:

woensdag 21 juni 2017


The difficult third album? Most people in the world seem to think so. For things are somewhat different here. When the whole world broke out in jubilation over alt-J's first album, I was left behind in wonder. What am I hearing? I did and up to a certain extent still do not hear what makes 'An Awesome Wave' so good. At best I've learned to listen to it. It was with the second album that I totally fell for the band. 'This Is All Yours' by now is one of my favourite albums ever and played so much all through 2015 and 2016. My first, new vinyl album since the late 80s. So I was rather looking forward to the new album. And less "afraid" as I do not have to compare it to that grandiose first album.

My first impression while listening is that RELAXER is an adequate title for the album. The mood is very laidback in several songs. Almost a modern version of medieval church music. So solemn and tranquil. At the same time a lot of things are going on which were beyond imagination only a few decades if not years ago. The three musicians of alt-J combine instruments and sounds that simply did not exist at the time or combine them in new ways, making its music fairly unique.

On RELAXER the past and the future meet in the here and now. Several songs hold much more traditional instruments or at least more obviously than before. It is in the singing that the future comes in. It's almost as if robots are singing for us. And behind that all the electronics come in. Sounds, soundscapes. weird melodies that jump around and impede on tradition. Together it all makes up the fabric of what alt-J is.

'3WW' is the opening song. I hear an acoustic guitar play just sparse notes. Around and behind it forms of (electronic) percussion plays, sounds, mystique. If taken at just face value, nothing happens here. When emotions are allowed in, '3WW' is a perfect opening song for Relaxer. That Medieval feeling is in the singing. The song builds on what went before, but also is more minimal. There's simply nothing extra in '3WW'. Not even in the title. It could have dropped one W, but that's all. Ellie Rowsell of Wolf Alice can be heard further on in the song, adding something really extra to it.

'In Cold Blood' is more alt-J of old, but again it is not. Horns enter the picture. It is the rhythm that is familiar and Joe Newman's voice of course. There's nothing like it in modern rock. All things are binary these days. Like the way Spotify sends this music to me. Joe Newman sings the digital in his robotlike voice, ones and zeros.

'In Cold Blood' is the most famous book by the late Truman Capote. On RELAXER it becomes one of alt-J's anthems. Puffed up, large and pumping in that weird way that sets this band apart from nearly all others. Making it far larger than most of the songs around it.

The weirdest song and most surprising one on the album is the ages old 'House Of The Rising Sun'. Made famous by The Animals in 1964 and rocked out loud by Frijid Pink in 1970. Now the song gets the full alt-J treatment. Why? Is that a relevant question? Not really. The song is changed almost beyond recognition and gets a new rendition.

By then I know that RELAXER is not going to have the impact 'This Is All Yours' had on me, but then how can it? RELAXER is the new alt-J and has the sounds, the changes, the moves that I want it to have. So it's not a masterpiece, but it is an album that I'm going to have a lot of fun with for quite some time. At the first instance it will be the newest vinyl in this home. No doubt there.

What this album does, is trigger my imagination, It makes me listen to all that is going on, all the sounds hiding somewhere. All these little extras. The big strings that move in. Weirdness, normality, sanctity, fiendish, keeping close and expulsion. It's all in the collection of 8 songs that make up RELAXER. alt-J has moved beyond what is has been before. There's familiarity but also a new mood that spans centuries. And capping that is what makes RELAXER a triumph. How this is going to be played live, is beyond me, having seen the trio with its hired bassist in 2015. Sort of impossible.

'Last year' features Marika Hackman on lead vocals. Another of these songs that just slowly move along, like the water flowing tranquilly in the smallest and slowest of brooks. While the song references (the mighty) Mississippi. A very nice difference.

RELAXER goes out with a near classical composition. As relaxed as the title, until the weirdness is let in. A little like 'Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!' The music starts twirling around my head, spinning me around. A whole choir enters the whole. An orchestra and a choir that never met, the one recorded in Abbey Road, the other in a cathedral in Ely. Majestic 'Pleader' becomes a great ending to what is a great album. alt-J has done it again. Surprised me and conquered me.


You can listen to '3WW' here:

dinsdag 20 juni 2017

Rock And Roll Consciousness. Thurston Moore

It's 2017 and like when I recently reviewed my first ever album of Robyn Hitchcock, now I'm reviewing my first album, in whatever guise, of Thurston Moore. Despite being about the same age, as far as I know I never heard one of his records. Somehow all descriptions of Sonic Youth's albums didn't agree with my taste at the time, so I never tried one.

So here comes 2017 and I find a Thurston Moore record in one of the many digital delivery services I am allowed into these days. So I neglected it for a while. And with good reason too, I thought. Curiosity got the better of me though, so I took a listen and much to my surprise I took another one and then another.

Rock And Roll Consciousness is an album on which many different styles of rock come together, but most can be traced back to the time new wave raged in the streets of New York, to be picked up, left behind and mixed with an ever so light psychedelic sauce in the (treatment of the) singing and barely traceable elements of symphonic rock in the way some songs are structured. Add some jazzlike solo textures, some jamming and experimenting and finally The Velvet Underground rhythms and I am getting closer to a description that does justice to what is going on here.

This starts in the 11.33 minutes of opening song 'Exalted'. Layer for layer the song is built up. Guitar after guitar (melody) enters in an intricate composition that slowly plays itself out into a hugely expanded song. 'Exalted', like the state of mind, is not in a hurry to make its point. Slowly the pace quickens and the space in the song narrows down to one focal point. Taking my time in turn, by following the slow changes, I am sucked into the song and ride the waves of change with Thurston Moore and his musicians. And then, finally a lead guitar enters. Like the one in 'Tubular Bells' does after minutes and minutes of interplay of all these instruments. Throw in a dramatic change before the singing starts after the longest of times and I'm approaching a musical high. That part is so direct, that it's almost another song. Drums and bass driven with a strong rhythm guitar. Not unlike the strength of The Velvet Underground. And then it all ends with something Marillion could have played in the 80s or The Who in the early 70s.

So now you know where this prog notion of mine comes from.

With 'Exalted' Thurston Moore touched upon several interesting musical themes, perhaps stumbled upon while just jamming in the studio or not. All these different themes come together in one large piece, that certainly opened me to the rest of the album.

In 'Cusp' it is the rolling drums of Steve Shelley and the bass of Deb Googe that carry the song. A 'Road To Nowhere' rhythm allows for a very tough pace. Where the guitars either follow the pace or go sort of nuts in the background. James Sedwards is unleashed here and there alright. Over this all Moore sings like a male siren, with his light voice that more rides the music than dominates it. Either it is this voice or a grunting maniac that could go with this song. There's simply no in between I think.

With 6,30 minutes 'Cusp' is another long song and with the 10,17 minutes of 'Turn On' it does not get any better for those loving pop songs under 2,30. 'Turn On' is another song that plays itself out over a long period. Small changes come in with every few measures. One of the chord sequences is of the mesmerising kind that I would like to hear forever. Like the solo at the end of Bowie's 'Boys Keep Swinging'. It could go on forever as far as I'm concerned; and doesn't which is it's strength. 'Turn On' does go on, so allows for mood changes at the right points in time. Again prog enters my mind as does Frank Zappa in Sedwards' guitar solo in the song. The tone certainly has that direction. In the meantime it is Steve Shelley's drumming that really decides what is played and how loud. He picks up and sets the drive and stamina of the song.

With two more songs of over 6 and 8 minutes to follow Rock And Roll Consciousness is all but over after three songs lasting close to half an hour. And it isn't as if I'm hearing something completely new. No, several things I'm hearing please pleasant memories lurking somewhere in my head. Like the opening guitar of 'Smoke Of Dreams' brings me back to Nirvana. The way that legendary band could start a song before exploding. Thurston Moore wisely does not follow this track. Restraint is wise here. It is Sedwards who is set free again to play a beautiful solo over elementary chords and rhythm. It all sounds so familiar, yet so good, that I'm again surprised by what is going on here.

The album closes with a song about the woman who walked out of the sea of legends in what is now Cyprus, 'Aphrodite'. By then I have a tendency to have heard enough I notice. Yet, also hear how powerful the song kicks in after the intro. So in the end we are alright.

It's nice to be surprised every once in a while. Rock And Roll Conciousness did just that. Accompanied by a set of fine musicians Thurston Moore has made a fine record on the verge of experiment and rock keeping the right balance the whole time, so very worthwhile listening to.


You can listen to 'Smoke Of Dreams' here: