vrijdag 20 juli 2018

Live in Concert ABBA

The announcement of two new songs to accompany a hologram tour of their younger selves to be released in December, stirred the international media into action alright. The songs themselves can only be a disappointment, most likely that is. The news said something else between the lines: ABBA is big business, that is nothing new, no, ABBA is at a height where it rightfully belongs: up there with the Beatles.

ABBA is, mostly, a phenomenon of the 70s. Camp, disco, ballads, but even then it was hard to ignore that some of these songs were, really, good. Millions of people weren't wrong. My ears and level of acceptation were. As a teenager liking Bowie, Pink Floyd, Nazareth and all the 60s heroes and later in the decade discovering Zappa, U.K. new wave, etc., there's just no place for disco and ABBA.

Over the years, ABBA had long quit being active, most of these songs just kept presenting themselves. The highlight, my personal one that is, was an unexpected encounter at a conference party in Brussels a few years back, with an ABBA look-a-like/tribute band. Each and every song worked, was shouted along to by all present and so danceable. My 50 something ears knew exactly what they were hearing. Not that I raced to the shops to get the albums. (Read on here: http://wonomagazine.blogspot.com/2016/06/abba-revisited-at-eurodig-brussels.html)

My son already had succumbed to ABBA as a pre-teen. He had the greatest hits cd I bought him, so I had a copy of my favourites made at the time. Because of the tapes I made for him in the car with his favourite songs, ABBA came by regularly through the years.

And talking about hits, there are so many of them. In fact when I go into my 45 collection I found a few singles I bought in discount, 'Summer Night City', Eagle', 'Take A Chance On Me'. Looking at that list, what shows through most is how diverse they are. That is what ABBA has in common with the Beatles (and roughly the limited length of their careers). ABBA had songs for everyone, making people patient when a song was less to their liking, because the next one will be again. The Baroque pop style of 'Waterloo' and 'Dancing Queen' with their lush piano riffs, the flat disco of 'Voulez-Vous', the many ballads like 'Fernando', the exotic in 'Chiquitita, the serious pop of 'Eagle', 'One of Us' and above all 'The Day Before You Came' or the rock of 'Does Your Mother Know' and rock disco of 'Summernight City. It all attests to the diversity of this band and one of the main reasons for its prolonged success.

After reading the mea culpa of 'Oor', earlier this month, on how they mostly ignored the band all through the 70s, and yes, 'Oor' wasn't there to cater to this sort of music: It went punk in 1977 and new wave soon after (and became so dogmatic at it that even I got tired of reading about the "Medium Mediums" and how good they were, which they weren't) I knew that things had settled in the universe. ABBA has finally gotten its right station. Even if you do not like the music, there's no denying that.

So back to last night. I had recorded the Live In Concert show for my girlfriend around New Year's Eve and we hadn't watched it yet. She was a fan in the 70s and still is. The film itself was a bit strange (or perhaps this TV edit, I don't know) of footage of the band on tour in the U.S. and the show from the Wembley Arena in the U.K. Although I had the impression to be watching a few different shows. I had never before seen ABBA in action. A few things stood out.

Yes, the girls were pretty, there's simply no denying. Also that they look like women do. There was nothing there added to who they were except for a training program, make up and a blow wave or two. The two voices of Agnetha and Frida blend so perfectly together, creating the layered vocals that ABBA excels in. Björn is the most rockstar of the four. He really enjoys himself on stage and goes full out, where the ladies are much more reserved. The same goes for Benny, being hampered by his piano of course, still wants to have a good time and enjoy himself. Behind the four was a huge band doing all the work, which is fine. The four need a band to recreate what they make in the studio. I did wonder whether Agnetha and Frida always liked what they were singing. They were served music and lyrics to sing. Musically the band consisted of the two BBs. The nice front presented the results to the outside world. There's no telling what they really thought.

And above all, yes I liked watching the show. The music was good. Yes, GOOD! The presentation great and focused on the music. There's nothing being taken away from that. The single naughty, seductive glance into the camera by Agnetha, the girls smothering the guitar player while soloing (sexual harassment of an employee if I ever saw one) and Frida's ballet lessons of old recreated during a solo was all there was really to note. It was Björn who kept jumping around given half the chance. His role as guitar player was minimal anyway, as the band had to very competent players in it.

No, I will not go to the hologram tour next year. Yet I am sure though that for those who will, "a splendid time is guaranteed for all",  to quote that other very famous band of old.


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


Kairos, 5 July 2018 by .No on Concertzender

Running behind a little has consequences for Wo.. Only a few days after writing on the June edition of Kairos he's already at it with July. Again he emerges himself in the often more esoteric musical tastes, yes, certainly plural is required here, of .No and tries to come up trumps. Luctor et emergo is an appropriate proverb for his challenge every once in a while. Last month it turned out to be smooth sailing. How does he fare in July?

Come the familiar sounds, yet they are replaced by a modern, yet retro sound. An electric guitar, rhythm and a Phil Spector like sound, without the wall. This is early 60s, late 50s teenage girl love angst. The music is by a debuting band called Donna Blue with the song 'Baby'. Short, sweet, although slightly unimpressive. I can't help feeling that 'Baby' could have been somewhat better. On the other hand it captures high emotion in an effective undercooled, if not slightly desperate way. So who knows, I may warm to this song anyway.

There's no fancy mixing going on. In fact the turn to 'The Spirit Will Not Share The Guilt' by Peter Andersson is radical. Pure silence. Did it take me minutes to figure out Bowie's influence in June's Kairos, here it is instantly. The few deep keyboard notes are 100% 'Warszawa'. The rest is a host of noises, with a choir holding long alternating notes. The end of 'Baby' returns in an ingenuous way in between the noise, as if a radio station fades in and out, from long before digital radio. The noise of Andersson is slowly replaced by the minimal piano of Sten Erland Hermundstad. 'The unknown Song' holds slow piano notes, with all sort of stuff going on in the background. A violin holding the starting note of Bach's 'Air', in the version of Ekseption that is, sort of long. (Then something strange happens. The program blocks and is not willing to continue. I've never encountered this before. Perhaps .No, Concertzender or Mr. Hermundstad has enough of my musings. Who knows what is being surveilled on the Internet? Let's try again and see what happens before arriving at drastic conclusions.)

And here we go again.

The next piano is by Pieter Nooten, who released an album this year called 'Stem'. The next ca. six minutes are filled with experimental sounds, not unlike, and here I go again, the start of 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' by Pink Floyd. Perhaps it's time to mix that in for once, .No? The beginning certainly fits Kairos. 'Fieldz' mood changes by fast played percussive instruments, bells and such, that contrast with the long held sounds and atmospherics. A piano hovers somewhere over and in the music. It is busy, creating unrest. While one note is being pounded ever louder and louder. Becoming more pronounced by the minute. But so is all else. All of a sudden it all crashed down, another Pink Floyd trick on the same album, leaving only the atmospherics and the bells. Do I like this? I can't really tell. 'Fieldz' certainly fascinates me.

A classical guitar weaves itself into the whole, but so does a flute. So what am I listening to? The Trio Leandro, that does not hold a guitar. Only flute, viola and harp. This intricate composition by Harald Genzmer gives all instruments its moment. At times they are almost going at each other instead of creating a mutual strength. Something like Donald Trump at a meeting with allies. This is certainly well played, but not for me. Most notes take directions where I do not want to go, I find. And that's fine of course.

Ryan Karazija, better know as Low Roar, returns to Kairos. His soft toned album 'Once In A Long, Long While, that was recorded in Iceland, must by now nearly have come by in its entirety. 'Gosia' is another song so delicate it stands in fear of breaking. Yes, those familiar with this soft pop genre may recognise influences from others. I find them non-consequential in the face of this delicacy. The minimal melody in the song lifts the melancholy in a nice way, creating beauty.

Pieter de Graaf returns to Kairos to. His album 'Prologue' is obviously liked. In my review of the album I wrote that a good song is a good song. Even when the composer does not write songs in the pop traditional way. I find it easy to listen to De Graaf. His slow played notes could be a part of great rock songs.

The mood changes slowly and House of Cosy Cushions kicks in with a threatening hum. The mood changes a few shades to dark. .No has explained to me recently how much he admires Richard Bolhuis literally painting the whole picture of the artist, conceptualist and musician. It just does not reach me. I do not hear anything beyond the droning music that is presented here.

Gilbert Isbin also returns after several months. Again playing a composition by Stathis Skandaldis. The soft lute playing is solemn and contemplative. There are intricate bass melodies accompanying the lead notes, showing how accomplished Isbin is as a lute player. I immediately see the Middle Ages in front of my eyes when I think of a lute. The music of Skandaldis only hold these elements because of the sound. The melody is more sombre that anything shown in movies with lutes or in British folk. That puts this song apart.

Next is a more modern sound, but one that so easily fits together. Those following this blog will remember my jubilant review of 'Live At Jazz Middelheim' by Chantal Acda and Bill Frisell. I am pleasantly surprised to hear it in Kairos as it fits extremely well. It is surprising how close Isbin's 'Amber' is to 'Our Memories'. It is the modern guitars that warm me to 'Our Memories' so much easier. That is a surprising piece of insight I'm presented. 'Our Memories' is the kind of song that can make a person cry when he or she is hearing it. Beauty!

Some more Pieter Nooten. Now with 'Variation In F#' from 'Stem'. Instruments come in and go out of the recording like they are all just doing something, while a chugging sound keeps things together. In the end they all fit together, undoubtedly because they are playing around the F# chord. I would have enjoyed a little more structure. That comes in through a piano playing structured notes. There's one snag. with all these new mixing techniques in Kairos going on, I can't be sure any more what I am hearing. The piano has some similarities to 'Tubular Bells'. All else certainly has less so.

A German woman speaks a few words. The song itself changes so slowly that I can't be sure who's piano is playing. Only when the leitmotiv changes I can determine that now I'm listening to 'Gemein' for real. The music part that is. Before I know it another piano comes in, while 'Gemein' and the white noise surrounding the spoken word German keep going. The piano chords played now are very slow and wide apart. It is Michael Pisaro with 'Silent Cloud'. A violin drones underneath it, filling the second long gaps between the piano chords. Human breathing, sequenced, fills some spaces also, before we return to silences. This is the kind of music that I do not find my way into. I can't figure out what there is to enjoy. The repetitiousness, the droning, the sheer emptiness. Not just of tones but of emotions, of joy. That slightly changes when a woman start singing and blackbirds join, .No's blackbirds that is (or Broeder Dielemans' of course).

A choir comes in. Solemn as choirs go. The Britten Sinfonia plays a Morten Lauridsen composition, 'She Tells Her Love While Half Asleep'. A large piano interlude feels different from the choir, but then who knows how Lauridsen composed this work. As always I am impressed by all the different tones a choir can produce through arrangements.

Something different sets in while the choir fades away. A plucked string, some hiss. Music down to the very bare essence, to when mankind had found out how to string a bow. Probably by accident, hearing a faint noise when plucking the string of a bow by accident, or that and having the bow close to a cavity, creating resonance. Ben Lukas Boylsen slowly adds more and more to 'The Veil'. Going way beyond what a primitive person could ever imagine. Boylsen does show what effects can be reached in music through fairly minimal effects and some echo. The sound is like it was captured all through a huge room by using the room almost as an instrument. The way 'The Veil' is built up, is really well done. A beautiful and modest, yet impressive ending.

The Li's end this Kairos. What do I have to brace myself for next? Yes, you are right, so far they have not produced my favourite Kairos contributions. There's one major plus: They are at the end this time, so I can simply turn it off when too hard to endure. A Jew's harp like instrument is joined by a clarinet. A mix of eastern and western sound. Certainly mysterious because of the Jew's harp. But music, no, I don't think so. And then an explosion as if David Guetta or Armin van Buren joins the Li's. The mouth as the beat. Lucky for me, things stop here and the Li's leave my life. Perhaps for good, who knows?


You can listen to the Juli 2018 Kairos here:


00:12  Donna Blue. Baby (single). Snowstar Records.
01:49   Peter Andersson. The spirit will not share the guilt (fragment). Raison d’être. Album ‘The Stains of the Embodied Sacrifice. Cold Meat Industry CMI 202. 
04:36  Sten Erland Hermundstad. The unknown song. Album ‘The minimal piano Series Vol I’. Blue Spiral Records BSR 015.
07:36  Pieter Nooten. Fieldz. Album ‘Stem’. Rocket Girl RGIRL115.
13:44  Harald Genzmer. Notturno from ‘Trio für Flöte, Viola und Harfe’. Trio Leandro. Album ‘Trio Leandro’. NCA/Debut 60158-207.
17:55  Ryan Karazija. Gosia. Low Roar. Album ‘Once in a long, long while’. Nevado Records 823674059620.
21:55  Pieter de Graaf. City 40. Album ’Prologue’. DGR Music.
23:40  Richard Bolhuis. Weaving Choir. House of Cosy Cushions. Album ‘Underground bliss’. Outcast Cats.
25:38  Gilbert Isbin. Amber. Stathis Skandaldis, luit. Album ‘Stathis Skandalidis plays Gilbert Isbin’. Tern Records, Tern 007.
29:07  Chantal Acda & Bill Frisell. Our Memories. Album ‘Live at Jazz Middelheim’. Glitterhouse GR 945CD. 
33:08  Pieter Nooten. Variation in F# Minor. Album ‘Stem’. Rocket Girl RGIRL115.
38:22  Stephan Wöhrmann & Oliver Doerell. Gemein. SWOD. Album ’Drei’. Towerblock CD 049.
39:41  Michael Pisaro. Silent Cloud. Album ‘Tombstones’. Human Ear Music HEMK 0026.
45:51  Morten Lauridsen. She tells her love while half asleep, from ‘Mid-Winter Songs’. Polyphony / Jaqueline Shave / Britten Sinfonia / Stephen Layton. Album: ‘Lauridsen Choral Works’. Hypérion CDA67580.
49:53  Ben Lukas Boysen. The Veil. Album ‘Spells’. Erased tapes Records ERATP085CD.
55:34  Yom & Wang Li. The dream of a tree (fragment). Album ‘Green Apocalypse’. Buda Musique 860220

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


donderdag 19 juli 2018

Carnivals & Other Tragedies. Marshall

A very serious voice sounds out. A kind of voice I haven't heard since somewhere in the 70s, usually belonging to a singer that aimed for an audience older than the teenage version me. It doesn't come as a shock that Marshall Hjertstedt is about my age. His music has the seriousness and contemplation that can come with age. What did surprise me is that Carnivals & Other Tragedies is only Marshall's first album (after two locally released albums).

The album has only seven songs and all are more or less in the same register. So seven songs is the right number for me. In the songs the acoustic guitar of Marshall is the centre. Around it a band is formed. The fiddle is the most dominant of the instruments, the harmony vocals the most live part. The other instruments are all in service of the song. And songs Marshall presents us with.

Promo photo
There's nothing going at it. All is laid back with a message or two for the rest of the world on offer. I'm reminded of Tim Hardin, David Crosby and a few other singers of the day more than once. Marshall finds his way between them and can claim his own spot with ease. With me being older, it is not hard to appreciate what he is doing on this record.

"I'm to old, so I'm told, to be a dreamer", Marshall sings in 'Merry-Go-Round'. This record simply proves all those non (or cynical ex-)dreamers wrong. There's hope for all of us. If Marshall can release his first international record, why do all of us not do what we dream of? It takes one thing though: get out of your chair behind those geraniums and start fulfilling them, write, create, invent, paint, etc, that something you dream of. Now!

Promo Photo
Carnivals & Other Tragedies presents exactly the right amount of variation on the album to keep my attention on the music. Following the soft 'Make It Right' 'The Devil Is In The Details' rocks out in a modest way. The difference gives the album the vibrant touch it needs to convince. (Although the too neat 'The River', the final song, is a bit too much or rather too little, for me.)

Yes, Carnivals & Other Tragedies will not attract any youngsters, but all who enjoy a good, melodic singer-songwriter album as they were made in the 70s should listen to it. There's a lot on offer here that will make you remember and even reach out to those albums of old, probably stacked away in the attic together with your gramophone. It will also do something else. It will find it's rightful place among those records. Now here's a win-win.


You can listen to and buy Carnivals & Other Tragedies here:


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


woensdag 18 juli 2018

Tiger, Now! Vera Jonas Experiment

This spring another Jonas, Karen, featured on this blog with her new album 'Butter'. Come summer it is Vera who finds herself on these pages. The differences between the two Jonasses are more distinctive than the similarities, musicians and female. Vera Jonas rocks out in a fashionable way where Karen is more at home in the americana section. And Vera is from Hungary.

Tiger, Now! is an album that was released before. At the time it totally escaped my attention. This time it has not and I'm the better for it. Vera Jonas presents an interesting mix of music that does really well with the current summer temperatures. She not only rocks out, loudly, who moves down the album by the song discovers several surprises and changes of mood and music. So here's a similarity between 'Butter' and Tiger, Now! any way.

Vera Jonas Experiment is a band from Hungary, fronted by Vera Jonas. It released an album, 'The Game' in 2013 and an EP in 2014, 'Wanted'. And now this discothèque of musical styles. If anything Tiger, Now! seems like a graduation assignment. Show the graduation committee you are able to ... And out come these different tasks, all fulfilled with great dedication and love for the musical style and genre.

Had that been the whole story to Vera Jonas Experiment's latest album, then I good have served a short shrift here (which I would not have done, just ignored the album). No matter what the genre is this band takes on, it serves a great sound, an even better song and I am sure at the best of its ability. Even the song sung in Hungarian, gets a special treatment. 'Szel Hozott, Szel Visz El', which means "The wind that has brought me here, will take me away" (thank you Lyricstranslate.com), is kept very small and stands out just by Vera Jonas' voice. Until the band kicks in and finishes the song in a grand, impressive way.

Not so at the start of the album. Jonas mixes her impressive voice with a huge guitar sound and is not afraid to take the band full on. Only to come out winning. Vera Jonas has a powerful, yet pleasant voice and shows it to the world straight away in the driving title song of the album. The beat is relentless, yet almost one dimensional. Think 'I Love Rock And Roll' with more vocal melody. Vera Jonas Experience manages to keep a song interesting which at heart is only a pounding rhythm of all involved instruments and a guitar that goes apeshit every once in a while.

Straight afterwards the band moves into something extremely melodic, still rock, certainly, but the ballad kind of rock. 'Ordinary' is the kind of ballad that rocks out, explodes. From there Tiger, Now! starts to explore many directions. Even the Suzanne Vega style folk comes by in a more modern, solid way that is. There's so much to enjoy, discover and recognise on Tiger, Now!. So many moments of joy, exultation and contemplation. Vera Jonas Experience may just be given it's all. Putting Experience behind your name, comes with quite a legacy and is dangerous to do. In this case, the only conclusion can be that listeing to this album is a true experience and a satisfying as well.

Speaking of curiosities. The cover of the Beatles' 'Michelle' certainly counts as one. Almost a late night jazz standard is what the 1966 no. 1 hit is turned into here. It does show what the Beatles got away with through the years. (Drool, drool.) 'Michelle' is one of the band's biggest hits over here. Everybody liked it. Those are the biggest hits.

As far as I'm aware, up to today I have only heard music from Hungary by a The Beatles cover band, singing English and hardly speaking it, The Blackbirds? All the other news from the country is often set in a negative connotation concerning immigration and the rule of law. Today this changes with this beautiful and extremely varied album by Vera Jonas Experience.


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


dinsdag 17 juli 2018

Future Echoes. Pictish Trail

Whether all is well in this future remains to be seen. Chances are not that good. The busy and rather strange cover art of Future Echoes gives off a signal. I am just not certain what it is and whether I want to be part of the picture.

What I am warming to though is the music of Pictish Trail. At first I was simply overwhelmed by the sheer size of the music. Two fully filled cds, with music that at first listen seems to lack consistency in many ways. Slowly but surely the album found its way to me and step by step finds itself in full action, as good albums should.

Pictish Trail is Scotsman Johnny Lynch and Future Echoes is the double vinyl re-release of an album first released in 2016. The second album is filled with extras like remixes, live versions, etc. As I haven't heard Future Echoes before I will stick to the original album and share my views with you.

Promo photo
If one influence shines through on this album, it James Mercer's. Also a man who works mostly on his own behind a band name, The Shins. Part is in the way of singing. The music deviates more, but I can imagine The Shins playing most of these songs. Future Echoes is an album that is dreamy by nature and full of influences spanning several decades. For those with a clear ear, it is even possible to distil 'Cloudbursting''s violin part, Kate Bush's 1985 hit song. Pictish Trail leans a lot on electronics and electronic rhythms. A lot of this music may have been created by Johnny Lynch on his laptop. This takes nothing away from the fun I have with Future Echoes.

In fact, you do not hear me complain at all. There are never enough albums with a great alternative pop feel - when they are good that is. The more I've listened to Pictish Trail I am convinced that 'good' is the right description for this album.

There are hints at psychedelia in Future Echoes. This is where it is left at. There are enough latter day psychedelic albums to last me for a while. Pictish Trail weaves some psychedelia through the fabric of its songs, containing so much more. With his light, slighter higher voice, Lynch always sets the pace and mood. Dreamy, as if looking into a far off future. How the mood can change within a song with just a few 'ooohs' is shown in the superb 'Until Now'. An acoustic guitar lends a hand, as does all sorts of electronic, small musical jokes.

Promo photo
It can be said that the over all mood of Future Echoes is almost flat. That is what kept me from the album for a while. The richness of the album opened itself over time. In such a way that I understand now why Future Echoes was nominated as best Scottish record of 2016. In fact I may even have supported it, knowing what I know now. (Had I been asked that is.) There are so many small details to discover that I am certain I am not at the end of that development yet.

My advice to you is to take a little time for yourself and Pictish Trail and listen to what an oh so small song like 'Strange Sun' has to offer. A ton and then some more you will find.


You can listen to and buy Future Echoes here:


For vinyl fans:


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