zaterdag 29 september 2012

Fragrant world. Yeasayer

You can listen to 'Henrietta' here.

The title "Fragrant world" suggests to tickle the olfactory senses. Yeasayer can claim a lot but not that it tickled my nose. Everything to do with ears was tickled beyond mere pleasing though. This album is so chock full of surprises that I discover a new sound, a new mini melody, a rhythm beneath the rhythm every time I listen to the album. Fragrant world is an adventure. An adventure best to undergo on a couch with a headset on.

Yeasayer's first album 'All hour cymbals' (2007) more or less passed me by and later did not really impress me. 'Odd blood' (2010) I listened to a good deal more, but in the end it did not become a true favourite. My analysis is that is was to hard for me to recollect the songs easily and sing along with. Most bands of the new Brooklyn scene have that effect on me. 'Odd blood' was interesting enough though to give the band's third effort a fair chance.

The mix of pop, dancelike rhythms and experiment may no longer be as much to the taste of people at the vanguard of avant garde as a few years back, but to my pop reared ears Yeasayer has found a balance I very much can live with. The way a song like 'Blue paper' is built up holds the best of several worlds. The sometimes almost Beatlesesque singing melody is set off against a less immediate ear catching mix of electronic rhythm, synth soundscapes and weird noises. The combination works like a tight fit.

Low tempo dance songs dominate the album, but so do psychedelia, 80ties synths and 60ties singing. Yeasayer has sucked in all sorts of elements of the past 45 years in pop music and put it in its 2010s Brooklyn blender. The songs that roll out are nothing like easy digestible pop songs, as the band does not take the high road nor the easy road. It's more like the road through the dark forest and the moors. As listener you are never certain what's behind the next bend, tree or even the grass beneath your feet. You even run the risk of losing a boot to the sucking mud. Yeasayer presents something different in each song. The rhythm, the sounds, the singing, everything is allowed to change and develop what suits the idea or concept of the song best. In 'Devil and the deed' there's even Bee Gees like singing. Of course in a twisted, alternative way.

There is a negative side to Fragrant world. The album tends to  ripple towards the end slowly, not very dangerous. Perhaps too monotonous to my taste. This may explain why the album is received fairly moderately in the press. To me this is certainly the case when the influences of Howard Jones and Nik Kershaw shine through, without the Yeasayer sauce put over in an obvious way, like in 'Damaged goods'. I can't help to like the song though. Like 'Wouldn't it be good' was an exception to me in the 80ties. When I look at the bigger picture, the album falls to my good side, as within most songs enough is going on to make them interesting individually. And isn't that the way most people listen to music these days?, or so I'm told. (A strange idea for someone having been raised on albums, o.k. at first on just 45s.) 'No bones' makes up for "simplicity", but is too weird for my taste. 'Reagan's skeleton' has a great refrain, while the title is great. The line "Reagan's skeleton in the moonlight" made me prick up my ears.

To conclude my review. Fragrant world is an intriguing album, with a lot happening at the same time. At times weird, off centre, some exciting and fresh sounding. If you're looking for an album that sort of puddles on slowly in the back ground, pass this one by, but if you're in the mood for an audio trip in combination with several good songs, you should try Fragrant world out and play it (mildly) loud. Chances are you won't be disappointed, says


You can orden Fragrant world here

and here

donderdag 27 september 2012

Exister. Hot Water Music

You can listen to 'State of grace' here.

In my musical reference bible, Dutch Music newspaper 'Oor', there's a reviewer who writes in an enthusiastic and appealing way on punk (pop, rock, core, whatever) and thus entices me to listen to the music of these bands. Thus I've encountered several albums that I really like and started to play regularly. Where I hadn't really listened to punk music for quite some years. Dropkick Murphies were the last to interest me around a decade ago.

The latest addition on my Ipod is Exister by Hot Water Music. This fast paced punkrock album is laced with up tempo anthems meant to sing along to arms raised fisted in to the air, in a fest of fiery abandon laced with anger on the part of the singer. This is the paradox that (albums like) Exister offer to listeners. The anger and energy band puts on offer, lead to moshpit abondon in concert halls and stage diving, with the odd nutcase among the partying people who's out to hurt hard.

Hot Water Music released its eighth studio album with Exister, but its first in eight years. The band's around since 1993 but after a short break in 1995, broke up in 2005 to finally release a record again in May 2012.

Exister goes way beyond the average. The drummer and bass player do not just play your average rhythmic accompaniment. There's a lot going on there. Drummer George Rebolo is all over the place. In some songs he even seems a solo artist and not the one keeping the band's sound together. A drummer in the vein of Keith Moon or Ginger Baker, but hitting much, much harder. He plays in a very dominant way, with regular accents, fills and rolls that make it fun to listen to him exclusively with the band as accompaniment. Bass player Jason Black manages to put in nice melodic lines under everything else that is already going on, with this clear, beautiful sound. Both make Exister even more interesting. And I have to add, that the mix provides the room to excel. Not all songs are filled to the brim with noise. The mix at times is open as is the guitar playing, leaving room for drums and bass. Another add up to the level of interest.

The two front man steal the show off course. Chuck Ragan and Chris Wollard both sing, separate and harmonising. With loads of whoas in there. At the same time their guitars interweave from rhythm into melody or lead, like their singing does. Both have a rasp to their voice. The worse for wear and tear of singing punkrock songs with the full heart for two decades. It gives Exister a very authentic sound.

Hot Water Music never forgets to put melody into the song. "No end left in sight' is the song that springs to mind to mention first. It has this dragging quality, un-hasting, but a great melody and interesting guitar rhythm. In the end this goes for most of the songs on Exister. Hot Water Music recognises a good melody when it presents itself to it. Social Distortion is a good reference here, but a melodic punk band like The Buzzcocks is no stranger to them either. The band combines a few winners in it self that makes it stand out and win. Rock from the 60ties like The Who, British punk from the 70ties and US punk from the 80ties, refrains the likes of Rancid and melodies from almost anyone worthwhile in music. Exister is a great and relevant comeback album from a band I'd never heard of before. Time to check out things backwards.


You can order Exister here

or here

Stranded. Roxy Music

Two weeks ago we started a series on Roxy Music albums, due to the fact all albums were released this summer in luxury box. This week album number three: Stranded, by Erwin Zijleman

You can listen to 'Mother of pearl' here.

De opvolger van For Your Pleasure laat ondanks het vertrek van Brian Eno niet lang op zich wachten. Stranded verschijnt slechts acht maanden na de release van het voorlopige meesterwerk van Roxy Music en laat, zoals verwacht, een wat toegankelijker geluid horen. Op de derde plaat van Roxy Music is Brian Eno vervangen door de jonge maar bijzonder getalenteerde Eddie Jobson, die zowel op uiteenlopende keyboards als op de viool uitstekend uit de voeten kan. Roxy Music schuift door het vertrek van Eno op in de richting van wat makkelijker in het gehoor liggende songs of zelfs wat rechttoe rechtaan rocksongs, maar desondanks moeten de verschillen met de eerste twee platen niet worden overdreven. Een ieder die Roxy Music na het vertrek van Brian Eno had afgeschreven moet hier op terug komen, want ondanks de machtsgreep van Bryan Ferry klinkt de muziek van Roxy Music nog altijd bijzonder intrigerend en is deze nog altijd van een bijzonder hoog niveau. Sfeervolle tracks als het prachtige Song For Europe maken de meeste indruk, maar ook wat meer rechttoe rechtaan songs als de single Street Life blijven dankzij het fraaie gitaarwerk van Phil Manzanera, de gloedvolle vocalen van Bryan Ferry en de sfeervolle accenten van Eddie Jobson en Andy Mackay moeiteloos overeind. Stranded is alles bij elkaar genomen net iets minder sterk dan zijn voorganger, maar nog altijd bovengemiddeld goed.

Erwin Zijleman

You can order Stranded here

or here


woensdag 26 september 2012

The 2nd law. Muse

You can listen to 'Madness' here.

Muse was my last discovery of the 20th century, if we assume the 21st started on 1-1-2000. On a late Thursday evening or early Friday morning after band practice, watching an MTV show called 'Alter8' that played the video of 'Muscle museum'. On Friday I bought 'Showbiz' and played it an awful lot. The bombastic sound only grew and grew with each album, with 'Knights of Cydonia' as epitome to Muse's fury. Until 'Resistance' gave rise to the thought that Muse perhaps didn't know which way to go next. There was something missing, so I thought. With the release of The 2nd law coming up (I'm having a great pre-listen here at NRC. Till Thursday 27-9-12) my question was will Muse deliver again or fade as a band?

My first impression is that the band managed to reinvent itself. There is a good balance between the histrionics and the rest of the album. A song like 'Animals' has this under the skin kind of tension in it. Will it explode or not? As well as great rhythm and distorted guitar playing in a bluesy and jazzy style. In general the album gives the impression that Muse focussed more on the song than on the effect(s). 'Explorer' shows just how good a song Matthew Bellamy is able to write (and sing) and the band to perform. It's sheer beauty. But you also find an intro to which Doris Day could start singing.

With Muse Queen is never very far off. If there's one band allowed to wear the vacant crown, it's Muse. There is even a queen-like disco outing sang by bass player Chris Wolstenholme. 'Panic station' is a well dressed 'Another one bites the dust'. While in 'Big freeze' the choruses also come very close to Queen's 'A night at the opera'. Single 'Madness' is a strange mix of George Michael's 'Faith' and Queen's 'I want to break free'. Deep down 'Madness' is nothing but a blues in a 21st century's slightly tainted jacket. It doesn't hinder me for one second, as each is a good song in its own right. This new, slightly groovy direction suits Muse very well and adds a new sound to their palet.

The spacy solo in 'Animals' and 'Save me' makes me think of Pink Floyd instantly, but also off one of the songs on MONSTERCAT's first EP (2011) (read a review of this fabulous album here), but I suppose that's totally coincidental. This element shows that Muse dared to stick out it's neck and explore other influences and incorporate them into their sound. This makes the band a lot less predictable and more interesting. As Muse coupled this to great melodies, it looks like The 2nd law becomes a winner.

In interviews Matthew Bellamy explains the 2nd law, so I won't repeat it here. There's some vocoder treated science explanations in 'Unsustainable'. Perhaps here the musical experiment is taken a bit to far, but then the message is that we people at present take the modern life too far, which is unsustainable. Dance like beats and electronic treatment of sounds are prominent in the harder songs of the album. This gives them a distinct harsh edge and very modern sound.

All in all. Muse delivered on The 2nd law. The antics have been put aside, to some extend, while some great song are added to its repertoire. The over the top singing and playing have been replaced in most songs by subtle strings, melodies, a choir almost 'Atom heart mother' style and guitar or keyboards playing. A song like 'Isolated system' borders on the classical and trance at the same time and still works. Time will tell whether The 2nd law will stick, but my first impression is Muse scores big here. What a treat!


You can order The 2nd law here (soon)

or here

dinsdag 25 september 2012

Tits 'n' ass. Golden Earring

You can listen to 'Still got the keys to my first Cadillac' here.

Counting the days of teenage kids practising in their bedrooms, this band is around for 51 years. Scored its first hit in 1965. Plays in this line-up since 1970 (not counting additions that came and went). Entered the Dutch album charts on #1 in 2012. We are talking of a national institute here.

Every time I've visited the U.S. of A. since 1989 I heard one song of Dutch origin: 'Radar love'. Each time! (And four others some of time, 'Venus', Het kleine café aan de haven' ('The little pub at the harbour'), 'Una paloma blanca' and 'Twilight zone'.) 'Radar love' is one of the best rock hits ever. Oddly enough the band had many other major hits in The Netherlands and some even better than its staple song, but they never made it this big over the pond. I have always been a fan of their hits, hardly ever of their albums. 'Grab it for a second' being the big exception, with perhaps 'To the hilt'. This spring Golden Earring released its first new album in nine years to good critiques and I decided to give it a try. My first Earring album experience since the mid 80s.

There's only one thing to it and admit that "It's only rock and roll, but I like it". Golden Earring stays very close to home and does what it's good at. A tight rhythmic foundation provided by drummer Cesar Zuiderwijk and bass player Rinus Gerritsen, good singing by Barry Hay, who's voice is ageing fabulously and harmonising by George Kooijmans whose voice has some rough edges in 2012. There's some fierce slide guitar playing and soloing going on lending this album some great blues infusions Rory Gallagher style. I just love 'Cool as it gets'. T. Rex like riffing; Marc Bolan seems an influence on Tits 'n' ass. (O.k. a bit of a sorry title, but I'm ready to forgive the band.)

Another great addition is the playing of Jan Rooymans. His organ playing in several songs is plain beautiful. Apparently he's added to the (live) line up last year and plays on the album. So the Earring has a keyboard player again for the first time since 1976 when Robert Jan Stips, now in The Nits, played on 'Switch' (1975) 'To the hilt' (1976). A well deserved mention for the production by Chris Kimsey of Stones fame is in place. The sound on Tits 'n' ass is very clean while the instruments sound real raucous at the same time. If anything he got out the dirty side of Kooymans' guitar playing spot on. Most songs have a double guitar sound, which benifits the sound. The rock side of T&A is absolutely great.

Tits 'n' ass also has a ballad side. The best one is 'This love'. Starting off very small and half way pumped up to a power ballad. As a composition it comes close to 'Another 45 miles' or 'Going to the run'. The small slide eruptions and the slow played piano notes even give it a little extra. (The duck like singing in one section should have been replaced by another solution though.) 'Stratosphere' is another very powerful rocker. The older man's lament 'Wanted by women' ends the album. I was left behind in awe. People, Tits 'n' ass is the best Earring album since 'Grab it for a second'. Sounding very American and very, very Earring. If this wasn't 2012, I'd say this album should be the international breakthrough for the band.

Tits 'n' ass is a very inspiring sounding album. Grandpa's last trick? That's to be seen. There's no reason to assume that if Golden Earring is able to come up with a tight album like T&A in their 48th year as a recording band, they couldn't do so in the near future. Anyone liking classic rock, with some fierce bluesy accents ought to buy this album. Without doubt one of the best albums so far this year. It's as good, eh, cool as it gets in 2012.


You can order Tits 'n'  ass here

or here

maandag 24 september 2012

Het leven is geweldig

Ik ben op weg met de bromfiets. Waarheen? Dat zal ik u later vertellen. Vanaf mijn bescheiden woning reis ik af naar elders in den landen. Donkere wolken dreigen met neerslag. Voorlopig is het gelukkig nog droog, maar voor hoelang? Ik ben op weg om iets mee te maken wat de algemene geestelijkengesteldheid niet of nauwelijks kan bevatten. Na enkele minuten begint het inderdaad te regenen. Ik voel mij even een professional weerkundige.Eerst wat schuwe druppels, daarna een bui dat menig leeg zwembad in enkele seconden tot over de rand vult. Mijn hoop en verwachting is datgene te vinden dat mij verlichting kan bieden. Soelaas voor lichaam en geest. Het weer trekt even bij, om zich naar het aanzien de schone wolken later weer te vullen met gelukzalig hemelswater.

Grijs zijn de dagen. Af en toe breekt de zon door. Muzikaal klinkt een verhaal door mijn hoofd, zoekend naar de laatste zin van het leven. Een geboorte geeft met tegenzin een schreeuw. Er is even geen weg meer terug. Alles om je heen is aan verandering onderhevig. De Dood krijgt steeds meer een betekenis. En de zin van het leven ebt langzaam weg.

Terwijl ik al reizend door het land ga, verdwaal ik in mijn levensgeschiedenis. Ik rijd gestaag langs verlaten weilanden en eenzame boerderijen. Geen sterveling kom ik tegen. Een atoombom lijkt te zijn gevallen. Alles lijkt noch thans in mijn voordeel te zijn. Alleen ik. Doorbreek stilte. Het geluid van de brommer die zijn energie uitblaast door de uitlaat laat verder geen sporen patroon na. Voor geen forensisch instituut ben ik na trekken. Doordat ik geen bestemming heb, is het vragen naar de weg niet noodzakelijk. Tussen de buien door, voel ik dat ik op koers lig. Maar waarheen in Godsnaam?

Als ik door Breda rijd en uiteindelijk de onbewaakte grens over ga, voel ik vrijheid. Grenzeloos gaat mijn geschiedenis over in fantasieën. Fantasieën zijn om al wat men meemaakt een bittere noodzaak om te zien te overleven. Neen, het leven is geen ochtendglorie dat zo lang men leeft gepaard gaat in een speelse tuin van geluk. Zonder ook maar ergens zorgen over te hoeven maken. Harmonieuze muziek. Vrolijk spelende kinderen. Dat alles onder een blauwe hemel van geluk en vrede.

De Ardennen

Hier in België als een ietwat verlegen Vlaamse schoonzuster van Nederland blijkt thans mijn voorlopige eindbestemming. De afstand vanaf mijn leefomgeving is zo ver verwijderd naar hier, dat ik besluit even een eetpauze te plannen. Laat de bromfiets stapvoets rijden, kom tot stilstand bij een eethuis. Alsof ik vanuit het heden in een ver verleden afdwaal. De omgeving is betoverend als een droom. Levensecht maar niet tastbaar. Het eethuis stamt van eeuwen geleden. Bijna niets van moderne, schreeuwende middelen aanwezig. Alles zo eenvoudig en zonder enige haast. Kijk ik geparkeerd en zie door een klein venster van het etablissement kaarslicht. Rook dat uit de schoorsteen komt, lijken nieuwe wolken te worden.

Plaats de brommer tegen een oude eik. Het stuurslot lijkt mij afdoende als voorzorg. Ineens bedenk mij een voorstelling. Er zou toch geen busje langskomen terwijl ik uitrust in het stamcafé. Een viertal mannen van verschillende leeftijden, onherkenbaar om door het land geparkeerde brommers in te laden om daarna deze voor een schappelijke prijs weer van de hand toe doen met een valse glimlach en volle buit. Ik word opgeschrikt door een plotselinge hoosbui. Gehaast kan ga ik naar binnen. De brommer achterlatend als een meegereisd hondje dat niet naar binnen mag. Onderweg heb ik al rijdend wel wat gedronken maar dacht aan een ontbijt thuis voorlopig voorzien te zijn van een volle maag. Misschien is het de Nederlandse gierigheid om vooral thuis genoeg te eten, drinken ook van thuis mee te nemen om verder niets te hoeven kopen onderweg.

Als ik aan een tafeltje zit voel ik een flauwte opkomen. Mijn handen en benen trillen en voel mijn voorhoofd vochtig worden. Mijn natte jas hang ik over de stoel naast mij. Een menukaart ligt voor mij en lees ik al trillend.

Ik maak snel een keuze. Bestel een dagschotel. Onderwijl kijk ik wat rond. Het is er rustig. Een barman poetst de kraan van de tap en rolt even later een vat bier dat hij vakkundig aan de tap aansluit. Een man in een uniform zit onderuitgezakt naast de bar te slapen. Enkele dienstmeisjes kletsen tegen elkaar en soms proesten ze het uit van het lachen. Als ik mijn bord wegschuif zie ik vanuit mijn ooghoek iets verdachts buiten. Een busje stopt. Ik zie een man achter een schuifdeur kijken naar mijn brommer. Ik wacht af wat er gaat gebeuren. Achter mij hoor ik de dienstdoende meiden weer lachen en het busje rijd weg.

Gelukkig. Zie je nou wel dat het ook weer niet zo vreemde gedachtegang was. Als ik afrekening kijkt het dienstmeisje over mijn schouder naar buiten.

“Oh, daar is ze weer”. “Wat”? Reageer ik. “Zuster Elena van het klooster even verderop”. Ik schenk er niet al te veel aandacht aan. Pak mijn spullen en loop naar buiten om mijn weg te vervolgen.

Voordat ik mijn brommer van het slot wil halen, valt het sleuteltje in een plas. Verplicht het mij gebukt het sleuteltje te pakken, merk ik tegelijkertijd op dat er voetsporen van de non nog zichtbaar zijn.

Ik kniel dieper en voel aan de vochtige grond, zie mijn evenbeeld in de plas veranderen. Een duizeling suist door mijn gehoorgang. Door het afknellen van mijn bloedvaten stroomt er onvoldoende bloed naar mijn hoofd. Dwarrelen al mijn gedachten als losse puzzelstukjes van de tafel. Ik zie en hoor niks meer. De aarde draait verschillende kanten op. Er is geen atmosfeer en zwaartekracht. Ik zit ver verborgen in een zwart gat.

In de plas, zie ik in de rimpeling een bloedend kruis, de beeltenis van de Almachtige met naast Hem, een wenende non. Vertwijfeling maakt mij nerveus, de spanning stijgt en in mijn hoofd maakt een groot orkest zich aanstaande voor een ouverture. Ik word wakker naast mijn brommer. Al ben ik niet meer op de plek bij de oude eik. Ik lig op een binnenplaats van een klooster. Halfliggend zie ik nonnen lopen door de gangen. Hoor ergens gezang. Ik probeer langzaam op te staan, weet mij gesteund door een onzichtbare hand. Die mij lijdt naar een waterbron en ik begin te drinken.

Als dit mijn eindbestemming is zal ik besluiten nooit meer terug te keren. Het lijkt hier zo vredig. Tegen elke conventie in. Vanuit hier hoef ik geen plannen te maken om proberen gelukkiger te moeten worden. Gewoon ergens in een kamer, met tafel, stoel en bed, liefst met uitzicht op een meertje of een oud vervallen kerkhof.

Neen, een mens heeft eigenlijk niet veel nodig dan wat basisbehoeften.

Een zuster neemt mij bij de arm en ik loop door lange gangen. Alles is hier zo schoon dat het lijkt dat ze gisteren hier zijn ingetrokken. Er wordt mij gezegd dat ik zo lang kan blijven als het mij uitkomt. Al snel voel ik mij thuis na enkele dagen. Ik besluit de omgeving te gaan verkennen. Zie twee nonnen in de tuin aan het werk. Alles gaat hier met precisie. Ik verdwaal in de tuin en kom uit bij het kerkhof. Het is er verlaten. Lees enkele nog leesbare teksten op oude grafstenen.

Vanaf deze positie zie ik mijn kamerraam openstaan. De vitrage waait in en uit. Ik voel mij gelukkig en uitgerust.

Marcel R. van der Kwaak

zondag 23 september 2012

Full circle. The New Shining

You can listen to 'When we collide' here.

A real double album in times of financial scarcity in the music business. Rotterdam band The New Shining sticks its neck way out and releases just that. Two albums. That seventies, double sleeved rock orgy of old. One acoustic ('Stripped') and one fully charged. It's this album I want to focus on now. Chances are for 'Stripped' to follow later.

Full circle is an album that has a full production. It rocks mildly hard, mostly within the lines, but excels in these bridges that allow a small change in the sound, by adding a piano or keyboard. The guitars sound nice and dirty, the drums are hit hard. The singing regularly moves towards emo, as there is a lot to digest for singer/writer 'Nax' Stok. You can read all about that on Wikipedia.

The New Shining can be heard regularly on the radio these days. Perhaps a bit more with songs from 'Stripped', but I can only add that this is only as it should be. A Dutch band that can come up with songs like the The New Shining does on Full Circle should be heard on Dutch national radio and tour like crazy. The songs are far above the average and compete with bands on offer from the US that excel in songs like this. The influences I hear range from Guns 'N' Roses to Roxette in rock mode, like in 'When we collide'. Most songs have a pop edge that makes the band acceptable to more people, but probably abhors hardcore rock fans.

On Full circle the band doesn't fall into the trap of making the songs to poppy. This is a hard rocking band, but sweetly mixed, that puts progrock and ballad elements in its music. 'Lay down your head' could become The New Shining's 'Kayleigh'. There's some The Smashing Pumpkins like heavy riffing in there. 'Burning down love' is Corgan/Iha assisted by Slash guitar antics in a Vandenberg kind of a song. Full circle has some The Moody Blues elements as well. In 'Return my heart to me' Stok even sings like Justin Hayward. My Chemical Romance without the over the top pop elements. 'Telling lies' is a great exuberant rocksong with loads of familiar sounding references and still original.

These moments of rest makes the division between the two albums not as strict as it may seem at first. Full circle has its laid back moments, which adds to its flavour, making it more diverse. Like a great, multi course dinner. 'As we grow old' is a beautiful ballad, without becoming to tacky like a Foreigner ballad from the eighties. At moments like these, the bands comes close to other Dutch bands like AlascA and even Sunday Sun. Without the great harmonising though. A good ending for a pretty convincing album

Taking it all in I'd say that fans of melodic rock have a good buy with Full Circle. The New Shining clearly knows how to write and record a good rock song and knows how to vary within this genre to keep it interesting for everyone and could even appeal to those not to keen on rock as well. And you get 'Stripped' for free.


You can order Stripped/Full circle here

and here

zaterdag 22 september 2012

Down the river. Malcomb Holcombe

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Down in the woods'.

Ook deze zaterdag besteed ik weer aandacht aan een obscure parel uit de Amerikaanse rootsmuziek. Dat Malcolm Holcombe nog steeds tot deze obscure parels wordt gerekend is overigens een schande, want de singer-songwriter uit Weaverville, North Caroline, timmert inmiddels al een jaar of achttien aan de weg en leverde in deze periode een aantal bijzonder fraaie platen af. Malcolm Holcombe is een laatbloeier. Hij was bijna 40 toen zijn debuut verscheen en nadert inmiddels de 60. Hij klinkt overigens nog een stuk ouder, want zijn rauwe en doorleefde strot lijkt behoorlijk aangetast door een zwaar leven en/of de nodige genotsmiddelen. De afgelopen jaren schaarde Holcombe onder andere Lucinda Williams en Shelby Lynne onder zijn fans, wat hem met name in de Amerikaanse pers de nodige aandacht opleverde. Voor zijn nieuwe plaat Down The River wist Malcolm Holcombe nog veel meer grote namen te strikken, want naast snarenwonder Darrell Scott (aan wiens nieuwe plaat ik binnenkort aandacht ga besteden) geven onder andere Kim Richey, Emmylou Harris en Steve Earle act de présence. De grote namen dragen absoluut bij aan de kwaliteit van de plaat, maar het is Malcolm Holcombe die het plekje in de spotlights opeist. Down The River bevat voornamelijk sobere songs met invloeden uit de country en de folk. Deze songs worden prachtig ingekleurd door de topmuzikanten die Malcolm Holcombe op deze plaat omringen. Met name het snarenwerk is prachtig, maar ook de zo nu en dan behoorlijk opzwepende viool mag niet onvermeld blijven. Het meest in het oor springend zijn echter de vocalen van Malcolm Holcombe. Holcombe klinkt als een mix van Bob Dylan, Michael de Jong en Tom Waits en zingt met zoveel gevoel dat de toch al indringende songs op Down The River een enorme impact hebben. De doorleefde stem van Holcombe krijgt alleen maar meer glans door de dienende achtergrondvocalen van de gasten van naam en faam, wat een aantal diep ontroerende momenten oplevert. Malcolm Holcombe maakt op Down The River muziek die in dit genre wel vaker wordt gemaakt, maar doet alles beter dan de concurrentie. Zijn verhalen zijn mooier, zijn muzikanten getalenteerder en zijn stem indrukwekkender. Down The River is een plaat die je onmiddellijk genadeloos bij de strot grijpt, maar de doorbraakplaat van Malcolm Holcombe (want dat kan toch bijna niet anders) wordt hierna alleen maar mooier, indringender en overtuigender. De New York Times voorspelde Malcolm Holcombe een jaar of vijftien geleden naar aanleiding van zijn officiële debuut A Hundred Lies al een prachtige toekomst tussen de grote Amerikaanse singer-songwriters. Het heeft even geduurd, maar met het wonderschone en imponerende Down The River komt de voorspelling alsnog uit. Er valt niets, maar dan ook helemaal niets op af te dingen.

Erwin Zijleman 

P.s. Malcolm Holcombe treedt komende maand op in Nederland. Dat is een belevenis om te zien. O.a. in de Q-Bus te Leiden op 23 Oktober. Zie voor verdere data hier. Voor die tijd zal ik mijn recensie op het blog zetten van een paar jaar terug. Wo.

You can order Down the river here

and here

vrijdag 21 september 2012

Battle born. The Killers

You can listen to 'Runaways' here.

Three albums down the road, not counting solo albums and the b-side album, is the career of The Killers in 2012. 'Hot fuss' definitely had its moments. With 'All the things that I've done' as my personal favourite and super song over all. 'Sam's town' was a little to American to my taste. I've never been one for the Springsteen kind of American pathos rock. 'Day & age' may have been all right for some, but not for me. Despite the fact that 'Human' just wouldn't get itself unstuck from my mind. So what about the new album, Battle born?

The first thing I picked up was single 'Runaway' which sounded familiar. The most U2 like song of Battle born. Nothing new under the sun. In an interview I read that the band wanted back to its rock side and leave the synths for what they are. So I decided that the band deserved a chance. So here I am.

Listening the album for the first time my impression was that it is o.k. Of course Brendan Flowers' voice determines the over all sound of the band. Nothing overly exciting, but an album that is quite pleasant to listen to, with a few songs that registered. An invitation to listen again and so I did. What I noticed is that The Killers have used the four years break to gather new influences. Battle born has several flavours and each well worked out. Ballads like 'Be still' and 'Here with me' have everything in it to make a very sticky song, but both manage to stay clear of pitfalls. The very limited electric guitar fills in 'Be still' are beautiful. It would even have been better with a different singer. Flowers has found the limits of his voice. He only just manages 'Be still'. His voice may get the same rasp Bono has by now. The harmonies are the other element that make it o.k., although they come very close to Foreigner (aargh), but also to Live at its best (yes!). Sometimes it made me think of Michael McDonald and other late seventies to mid-eighties singers like Christopher Cross. But what to think of German band Alphaville in 'Miss atomic bomb'? Not exactly what I associated with The Killers before (nor particularly liked at the time). However it works for these The Killers songs to make them more pronounced.

The clinical, cold cover of Battle born couldn't be more beside the truth, I realise. This album is anything but cold. Bit of a strange choice, even if it's made well.

Guitarist Dave Keuning did get the chance to excel on this album, meaning that Flowers' keyboards moved a bit more to the back seat. Or better, the guitar is mixed more pronounced to the foreground. With heavy chords alternated with (atmospheric) lead lines. In 'The rising tide' Keunig even lets it rip totally. Overall I'd say there is a good balance between the two. This makes Battle born a much more diverse album than any of the previous ones. That and the compositions. The variation in the way opening track 'Flesh and bone' is played out, made me prick up my ears several times. There's a lot going on and most of it is very interesting to listen to. With very few exceptions this goes for most songs on this album. And then the end still has to come....

The title track is a great song. Melody, singing, guitar playing, the bombastic sound and the harmonies are Queen light. Over time 'Battle born' may even compete with 'All the things that I've done' as The Killers' best song to date. Over the whole album the band does more with harmonies then I remember before. This is definitely an asset that makes The Killers better than it was. To end an album with the beat track shows that a band is confident of what's on offer.

I can end this review quite simple. Battle born is The Killers best album to date. It shows tremendous growth as songwriters, players and arrangers, but also potential. If this is possible, then what's next? Perhaps, and this is to my surprise, The Killers do have the potential to become one of my favourite bands, where so far they were somewhere in the sub top.


You can order Battle born here

or here

donderdag 20 september 2012

For your pleasure. Roxy Music

In het kader van het verschijnen van een box met al het werk van Roxy Music beluisterde Erwin Zuileman alle cds met de oren van 2012. Hier is deel 2.

Deze tweede plaat verschijnt in het voorjaar van 1973 en luistert naar de titel For Your Pleasure. De spanningen tussen Bryan Ferry en Brian Eno zijn in het jaar na de release van het debuut flink opgelopen, maar vooralsnog heeft dit alleen maar een positief effect op de kwaliteit van de muziek van de band. For Your Pleasure ligt in het verlengde van het debuut, maar laat op alle fronten een imposante groei horen. Waar het debuut van de band nog wat onevenwichtig was, heeft For Your Pleasure een constant en torenhoog niveau. De plaat trekt wederom de aandacht met een prima single, Do The Strand, maar het prijsnummer is als je het mij vraagt het briljante In Every Dream Home A Heartache, op de voet gevolgd door het bijna even mooie Editions Of You. Ook op For Your Pleasure laveert Roxy Music weer op fraaie wijze tussen uiteenlopende genres en wisselt het toegankelijke pop af met experimentele muziek. In instrumentaal opzicht zit het allemaal perfect in elkaar en ook de zang van Bryan Ferry is van een bijzonder hoog niveau. Ook For Your Pleasure heeft de tand des tijd uitstekend doorstaan. Het is opvallend hoe fris, energiek en avontuurlijk de plaat nog altijd klinkt en met name de wat langzamere songs vallen op door hun bijna onwerkelijke schoonheid. Bij beluistering van For Your Pleasure hoor je Bryan Ferry en Brian Eno bijna botsen, maar wat is het mooi. Het vertrek van Brian Eno na For Your Pleasure komt zeker niet als een verrassing, maar doet wel het ergste vrezen voor de toekomst voor Roxy Music.

Erwin Zijleman

You can order For your pleasure here

or here


woensdag 19 september 2012

Interview with Doris Muramatsu of Girlyman

Interview with Girlyman for WoNo Magazine and WoNoBloG by Wout de Natris

© WoNo Magazine 2012

My compliments for Supernova. How happy is the band with the new album?
We are pretty thrilled with the album. It came together quickly because we had a lot of material to work with and we demoed a bunch of songs to see which ones felt the best. It was a satisfying experience and producing and arranging the songs were a lot of fun.

Having added JJ Jones as drummer to the line up, did this add to the possibilities that are offered to a song and what was the reason behind changing the line up at this stage in your career?
JJ joined in 2009, and at that point, we had been a trio for about 7 years. We longed for a bigger sound. She had been a Girlyman fan since 2003 and had been in touch with us here and there, dropping hints that if we ever wanted to add drums to the mix, she'd be more than willing.  We enjoyed having drums on our recordings, but I don't think we seriously considered having a new band member, let alone a drummer for our live shows. But when she played with us, it felt like a magical addition, and suddenly our songs expanded into something even more. We immediately asked her to join after that.

As I understand Ty and you sang together before Girlyman. When and how did you meet Nate and what made you decide this is it to start a band?
Ty and I met when we were in second grade, and started singing together when we were 11. Harmony was always our thing, and we diligently practiced singing Simon and Garfunkel tunes together and practiced their different parts. We went to college (university) in NY, where we met Nate and fast became good friends. Ty and I became a duo called the Garden Verge after we graduated, and Nate was a solo singer-songwriter, but we would play shows together and always end up singing on each other's songs. Soon, singing three-part harmony became more fun than the duo and solo stuff we were doing, and we decided to join forces, scheduling our first formal rehearsal on September 11, 2001. The rehearsal was canceled due to the events of that tragic day, but in our grief and shock, we felt even more compelled to make music together because it was the only thing that brought any sense of love and healing to us and the people around us. Thus, Girlyman was born.

On the album there are other musicians added sporadically. What makes you decide a song needs something extra?
Sometimes you taste a recipe you're making and you know it needs something extra. Some extra spice, a little more salt, a teaspoon of sugar. Finding other musicians to play on your songs is kind of like that. You know the song needs something and you just try to find the right voice or instrument to match what you're hearing in your head.

You also switch instruments regularly. When is it decided which instrument fits a song and who best?
When we arrange a song that someone has brought in, we start off with the instruments we think will sound good. Most of the time our instincts are correct, but sometimes it won't sound as full or complete as we had thought. So we mess around and try other instruments until we get the right mix. The beauty of a studio recording though, is that we can track multiple instruments even though in a live situation, we'll have to choose one over another because we don't have enough hands to play.

Ingrid Elizabeth toured with you, her band Coyote Grace is on Supernova. How close is your relationship to Coyote Grace?
We are very close with that band. They toured with us extensively in 2010 and 11, and our chemistry is unmatched. It's almost like we become a power band together, because our energy expands and doubles. They are a lot of fun and write beautiful songs and have a ton of energy together. We feel really blessed when we meet other musicians who compliment our music so well.

I describe your music as close harmony pop, others write folk(pop). What are your influences on the music you make and who on the singing part?
Well like I said, Simon and Garfunkel was my earliest influence, as well as the Mamas and the Papas, Indigo Girls, Bee Gees, Patty Griffin, Allman Brothers, John Williams (the classical guitarist), the Beatles. I studied classical guitar  and voice and piano when I was in high school and college, and even though you may not hear a lot of that in my playing and singing, the musicality and dynamics that I learned from studying those subjects are.

Your Wikipedia page says that you are a favourite in the gay community. My best guess is that you attract people that are “different” from the average. Do you feel that this comes with a responsibility also?
I feel like we appeal mostly to people who like well thought out lyrics and music and who especially enjoy close-knit harmonies. A lot of our fans feel like they know us through our music, and we have thus created kind of a family of fans. We've had lots of skeptics who come to our shows put-off by our name, Girlyman, and then become the most die-hard supporters because something about our music has touched them so deeply. Children also seem to love our sound (and they love the tuning songs Nate makes up) as well as teenagers, adults, and older folks.

Are you concerned that being outspoken in your presentation, which I assume to be a conscious decision, could hamper your career?
I think we've always tried to be ourselves because that's all we know how to be. Having a name like Girlyman probably doesn't benefit us all the time, because people have preconceived notions about who we are and what kind of music we'll play, but there's nothing like seeing a total convert after a show. I think that is a beautiful thing, to help someone see something in themselves that they may not have wanted to recognize or acknowledge before, whether that has to do with gender or overcoming a stereo type, or just discovering that they have something in common with our songs and personal stories and that we're not so different after all.

Do you ever get negative reactions to your presentation?
We get a lot of "you might think about changing your name!" I think some venues and festivals might not want to take risks with a band called Girlyman, too, but we can't know that for sure. Hopefully the music should just speak for itself.

The latest tour turned out to be a financial disaster for the band. How do you deal with this? Does it upset your motivation or has it made you more determined to succeed?
I think after 10 years of doing this, it was a pretty big blow to work as hard as we did for so little financial payback. Not that that's why we do it, but this was the first time we felt like we were in over our heads. I think, if anything, it alerted us to the fact that we haven't ever taken a significant break from touring the way we do, even when I was diagnosed with leukemia, and that it might be time to consider doing that. 10 years is a long time to be touring and making music together, and though we love each other very much, I think we've outgrown the Girlyman shoes, so to speak. So if anything, this tour made us pay attention to what the Universe was trying to tell us.

You mention St. Augustine in the same titled song. What makes the debaucher gone ascetic church father relevant to the character in the song?
The song is a plea to one of the patron saints of vision, Saint Augustine, to help me out of a debilitating depression. I was diagnosed with CML, a type of leukemia, which was a vastly life-changing event. Luckily, the cancer itself was treatable with drugs, but the depression that settled in afterwards was an extended winter. Imagine seeing bare trees, gray skies, and frozen lakes out your window and believing that's how it would always look, for eternity. That's how my life felt before I'd wake up and before I'd go to bed, I'd hear a voice whisper "Saint Augustine." So I wrote a song about St. Augustine, Florida. The music felt complete, but the lyrics felt detached and incidental. I continued to hear the voice, and would even see street names like St. Augustine Place, when I'd drive around Atlanta, and finally realized that the song was asking me to listen more deeply. When I found out he was the patron saint of vision, I kind of knew that that's what I needed to write about.

Ty and Nate do the same with Michelangelo. You sing “How could you know, you are Michelangelo”.  What is the idea about this phrase? 
The phrase is "your mom and your dad/never knew what they had/so how could you know/you were Michelangelo?" and I believe it addresses the hesitancy and insecurity *all* artists feel when they're vulnerable and creating their art.

In several songs I notice a longing for acceptance in different situations. In how far is this topic important to you? 
Well, I think it's part of the human condition to want to be accepted! And loved for who they are. So I think it's a topic that is quite relevant to us.

I almost do not dare to ask, but what can we in The Netherlands expect from Girlyman in the future?
Oh, Wout. We'd love to come back to the Netherlands at some point. The people there are so kind and friendly and we were amazed at how well everyone speaks English. That was so impressive. So let's keep our fingers crossed!

You can order Supernova here

or here