zondag 30 november 2014

When the cellar children see the sky. Mirel Wagner

Mirel Wagner werd geboren in Ethiopië, maar groeide op in Finland. Twee jaar geleden bracht ze haar debuut uit, wat lovende recensies en een platencontract bij het roemruchte Sub Pop label opleverde.

Haar tweede plaat, When The Cellar Children See The Light Of Day, zal hierdoor wat meer aandacht krijgen dan het debuut en dit is volkomen terecht. When The Cellar Children See The Light Of Day is immers een bijzonder imponerende plaat, die met minimale middelen een maximaal effect weet te sorteren.

Op basis van de Afrikaanse afkomst van Mirel Wagner en het feit dat ze op haar tweede plaat werkt met de Finse producer Sasu Ripatti (die tot dusver vooral elektronische muziek heeft geproduceerd) had ik een totaal andere plaat verwacht dan When The Cellar Children See The Light Of Day is. Mirel Wagner maakt immers uiterst ingetogen muziek die voor 99% bestaat uit spaarzame gitaarklanken en haar stem. Het gitaarspel is over het algemeen akoestisch en beperkt zich tot een handvol akkoorden. Dit sobere gitaarspel wordt gecombineerd met de bijzondere vocalen van Mirel Wagner die haar teksten meer voordraagt dan zingt.

Deze teksten verdienen overigens ook de nodige aandacht, want ze zijn vrijwel zonder uitzondering gitzwart, maar ook poëtisch. Op basis van de voordracht van Mirel Wagner en het niveau van haar teksten dringt de vergelijking met groten als Patti Smith en Leonard Cohen zich op, maar de donkere klanken van de in Finland opgegroeide Ethiopische zangeres roepen ook associaties op met de muziek van Nick Cave en de minstens even donkere klanken van Chelsea Wolfe (op met name haar akoestische cd).

Incidenteel wordt de muziek van Mirel Wagner net wat meer ingekleurd met cello en piano, maar het blijft altijd bijzonder sober. Het is knap als je als singer-songwriter met zulke bescheiden middelen de aandacht weet vast te houden, maar Mirel Wagner doet nog veel meer dan dat. Als je ervoor in de stemming bent en met aandacht naar When The Cellar Children See The Light Of Day kunt luisteren is het een plaat die je genadeloos bij de strot grijpt.

Mirel Wagner gebruikt maar een paar gitaarakkoorden, maar het is genoeg om haar sobere songs mooi in te kleuren. Haar indringende voordracht, haar mooie donkere stem, de aardedonkere teksten en de wat desolate sfeer op de plaat doen de rest.

Ik moet eerlijk toegeven dat ik het bij eerste beluistering wel erg sober en donker vond, maar als Mirel Wagner je eenmaal te pakken heeft met haar bezwerende muziek laat ze niet meer los. Inmiddels hou ik zielsveel van de eenvoudige maar o zo trefzekere songs op When The Cellar Children See The Light Of Day en hoor ik, hoewel er niet zo gek veel te horen valt, toch steeds weer wat nieuws in de bijzondere songs van Mirel Wagner.

When The Cellar Children See The Light Of Day is geen plaat die je ergens op de achtergrond moet horen, het is evenmin een plaat die je moet beluisteren wanneer je een roze bril op hebt. Zet de plaat op wanneer de zon onder is en het huis stil en When The Cellar Children See The Light Of Day komt keihard aan. Als een mokerslag durf ik wel te zeggen.

Het debuut van Mirel Wagner is me twee jaar geleden ontgaan, maar deze tweede plaat koester ik inmiddels als één van de bijzonderste platen van het moment. Wat een indrukwekkende plaat.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Oak tree':


vrijdag 28 november 2014

Where the ocean meets the sky. Lauren Mann & the Fairly Odd Folk

In 2013 Lauren Mann and her Fairly Odd Folk could be found regularly on this blog. Album 'Over land and see' (http://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2013/04/over-land-and-see-lauren-mann-fairly.html) was reviewed favourably, which was followed by an interview with Lauren Mann (http://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2013/09/laura-mann-interview-for-wono-magazines.html). A failed Kickstarter campaign set the band back a lot. It did not let that get it down. A competition was entered and won, which allowed them to record Where the ocean meets the sky. The official title has A visual EP in it. As we are only reviewing the music, we leave it out.

'Over land and sea' was found by me on Noisetrade. The quality of the album took me by surprise, so the bar for this EP is high. To release the tension; Lauren Mann & the Fairly Odd Folk deliver. It's not difficult to understand why it rather not record than record below the standard the band envisioned. The songs on Where the ocean meets the sky all have a beautiful, warm sound and a lush production. In other words were recorded very well. A keen ear for detail is on display. This element comes forward in the additions of extra instruments, like glockenspiel, a trumpet or a droning sound filling up the background.

Growth is another aspect the new EP has on display in abundance. Where a minority of songs on 'Over land and sea' tended towards a-nice-girl-plays-piano-and-sings-too songs, Where the ocean meets the sky is a band album all the way. From Lily & Madeleine relaxedness to sophisticated pop, some psychedelic hints and superior singing accompanied by well thought out and played arrangements. It's all there in the six songs on this EP.

'Through your eyes' is soft pop song with a not your every day rhythm. Drummer Jay Christman works the skins extensively, leaving the cymbals or hi-hat mostly alone, giving the song a stop-start sort of push forward. Drumming this way gives a song quite a different structure and makes the melody and other instruments work harder. In other words they shine through (because of?) the rhythm in a different, arguably better way, which works pretty well in the song where the EP title is derived from.

St. Lawrence is so much different. The happy sounding electric piano and glockenspiel, while Lauren Mann sings like a sixties pop-singer. What gives 'Saint Lawrence' this extra is the holding back in the singing and singing melody and the happy sounds in the background. "I never felt so alive", but more like that was the week before that other week.

On the other hand I could also write, Lauren Mann and band do not take any risks as there are no overly exiting things going on on Where the ocean meets the sky. A conclusion like that would sell this band enormously short. There is a lot of depth in this EP and the songs are not exactly taking the easy way out. A song like 'Barren land' sounds as dark as its title, without becoming just a load of despair. A fine line the band walks here and wins. Bass lines that are winners, a couple of fine guitar melodies and the moments Lauren Mann's voice shoots up and harmonises with herself, 'Barren land' becomes totally alive, the effect rain has on a desert. Far from an easy song 'Barren land' is, but a winner non the less. The same goes for 'Fragile' that could be on Sinead O'Connor's last two albums easily. A little psychedelia and a pleasant guitar melody make 'Fragile' a fine song. As is 'Changing'. Another one.

The final song is 'Wooden heart'. The closest to a "the piano girl" song on this set, but the arrangement is so different, that every thought in that direction is easily pushed away. Lauren Mann & the Fairly Odd Folk have seen a few dire straits in the past year, but persevered and came out on top. Where the ocean meets the sky is a very nice step forward from the already good 'Over land and sea'. This band deserves to be going places.


You can listen to and buy Where the ocean meets the sky here:


donderdag 27 november 2014

Dim coal night (EP). Glass Oaks

Another round of Noisetrade (www.noisetrade.com). Glass Oaks has put an EP on the website that trades music for nothing or more, that is not so much special, but so nice to listen to that a review is totally in order.

Glass Oaks is from Lynchburg in Virginia and are just four guys, John, Taylor, Ben and Joel playing good old indie-southern rock and pretty much anything else with a guitar in it they like, I notice. After four songs it's all over already, but a lot happened in the meantime.

Dim coal night kicks off with the up beat rhythm, melancholy sounding 'Screens'. A song that starts small, but slowly explodes step by step, becoming more electric by the beat. In this song Glass Oaks tries too hard to be a pop rock band that wallows around in U.S. rock a little bit too easily. Not bad, but not special.

The fun for me starts with the title song. 'Dim coals night' is a warm country rocker. Not unlike Dawes is capable of and very faintly reminiscent of Wilco. The singing is warm, just like the organ sound and the lead guitar. Glass Oaks is on to something here. Not there yet, but certainly showing the potential to grow.

'Man off land' is another rocker with a wide ranging riff and 'Eye of the tiger' guitar muting, before rocking out. This song sort of shoots off in quite some directions. Glass Oaks is looking for several things in one, making for a very busy song, but certainly on the right side where songs go.

'Cassette' is the final song. A slow ballad, acoustic and a great ending to Dim coal night. A welcome song after the "violence" of 'Man off land'. Perhaps it's not meant to be that, but in my opinion 'Cassette' is my favourite track of this EP. (And who hasn't made a cassette tape for a loved one one day? -Cassette tape? What's that?, asks a teenager?) This song speaks to me most and seems to suit Glass Oaks and its singer best.

Glass Oaks does not have its own sound; yet? The sound it does have is quite diverse, as you just read. Some of those directions pay off pretty well, with 'Cassette' and the title song right up front. Whether this is going to be a band worthwhile to follow time will tell. In the meantime I'm enjoying myself with Dim coal night.


You can listen to and download Dim coal night here:


woensdag 26 november 2014

Alarms in the heart. Dry the River

Mystery is the theme of the cover art. Mystery is a fair description of the music of Dry the River on its new album Alarms in the heart. The mystery in the voice of singer Peter Liddle and in the folk influenced music.

Dry the River featured on this blog before. Debut album 'Shallow bed' received a favourable reception in the spring of 2012 (http://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2012/04/shallow-bed-dry-river.html). Dry the River follows the path it walked then. The sound is recognisable, especially because of the typical voice of Liddle. Alarms in the heart not only follows the path, it widens it, paved it and turned on a light here and there. In other words, the band's second album is a strong step forward, delivering on the promise 'Shallow bed' gave.

After recording the album violinist Will Harvey left the band. There's no telling what the influence of his leaving has on Dry the River, which is now a four piece. The next record may give that answer. His contributions to Alarms in the heart are part of the unique sound Dry the River has. Alarms in the heart is varied, somewhat more intimate than 'Shallow bed' and more to the size the band has commercially. One size less bombast, aimed at playing the larger stadiums, one size more growth and a keen ear for details that pay out in playing clubs.

Another fine point of Alarms in the heart is that the band lets it Mumford & Sons references sail down the river. In the first single 'Gethsemane' electric guitars dominate the sound that makes it more like a loud Elbow in a very positive way. Playing songs is a serious matter for Dry the River. The songs are heavy, a lot of sonic weight comes from the speakers. Full songs with a lot of sound(s), spanning the whole range of the mix, is what the band presents us. Music that is present when you put it on. There's no escaping here. Dry the River is there once you put it on. Turning it off is the only escape option presented here.

I'm not 100% truthful here. Alarms in the Heart escaped me nearly. The first time round I did not get it. Wrong moment, wrong time? Earlier this week I put on the cd and got it within seconds and have listened repeatedly since. Alarms in the heart is an impressive album. Fans of Elbow, (yes, M&S also), U2, perhaps even Simple Minds can all embrace this album. If Dry the River is part of the new folk rock movement, which I personally doubt, then this is the album of its kind in 2014. I haven't heard a better one.

Dry the River shows that it can excel in the louder songs and impress in the smaller ones. 'Vessel' is a beautiful ballad, with strings and a solo violin (by Will Harvey). All ends with 'Hope diamond'. At the end of the song, another ballad, this drone sets in. It fades out ever so slowly. Be patient, as patience is paid in full here.


You can listen to 'Gethsemane' here:


dinsdag 25 november 2014

Storytone. Neil Young

After the gimmick cd 'A letter home' ('Neil Young sings old songs in a 1950s recording booth owned by Jack White, with an authentic sound, as if sending a message home to his mother') Neil Young comes back with an album that is more than worthwhile to review. Storytone is an album with several faces. Songs that are just Neil Young singing with an acoustic guitar or ukulele in hand or at the piano, even some harmonica is played. Songs that come back in a different shape later on Storytone.

Nothing new for Neil Young of course. The 100% is new though. The contrast with his previous collection of originals, 'Psychedelic pill' (http://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2013/01/psychedelic-pill-neil-young-crazy-horse.html) could not be larger though. Crazy Horse is shelved again and traded for a solo performance. What this two cd set shares is that they sound inspired. Both make me want to listen to a new Neil Young cd and that is more than most other albums by Young can say for themselves in the past decade and some years.

The voice remains that mystery it always was. Why would anyone want to listen to such a typical voice? A multitude do, so Neil Young now is looking his 50th year in professional music in the face. He sounds this little frailer than before, but instantly recognisable. And hasn't Neil Young always sounded somewhat frail and wobbly as soon as his voice went up?

At the age of 69 Neil Young is in great form. Several songs are intense and very much Neil Young. Correction, as I prefer my Neil Young. There are several of them, right? This starts straight away in the opening song, the terribly titled 'Plastic flowers'. Neil is at the piano and is playing this mournful song, with a sense of regret, resignation and loss. The song is so soft, so tender. And small; at times it is as if I have to strain my ears to hear it. Believe it or not, but Neil Young has written another classic.

The theme of 'After the goldrush' is still there: the environment. Recently I read some criticism about Neil Young singing about the environment and posing with this big car. You better read up on what he did to convert his classic convertibles. If the story is true, he has every right to sing 'I want to drive my car' and sing about the environment. The question he puts to us all is valid: how far do you want to go? "This all starts with you and me".

The next song is a straight blues. 'I wanna drive my car' is nasty, pushy. A bit menacing. Again a song stripped to the bare minimum. Neil Young and an electric guitar. The simplest of riffs in the turn around and still all is in its place.

Yesterday I read that Neil Young has filed for divorce, after a marriage of 36 years to Pegi. Several songs on Storytone give me the impression that he is already singing about a divorce and new love: "I had my guard down and love passes fast" he sings in 'Say hello to Chicago'. Always easy to say in hindsight. 'Tumbleweed' is the exact opposite as it seems to celebrate a life long relationship. So there you go, Wo. Again such a small song. Neil with a ukulele singing his heart out in the most subdued way possible. Just another one of the gems on Storytone.

As said, Storytone is a double album, at least the deluxe version. Album 1 is Neil Young solo, album 2 with an orchestra. I would have been happy with one album, as the songs are the same. If forced to chose, I definitely go with album one. It is as close as an ordinary fan can come to Neil Young. Put on your headphones and you have him all to yourself. For your ears only.


You can listen here to 'Who's gonna stand up':


maandag 24 november 2014

Forever dreaming. Myles Sanko

Aan jonge soulzangers (en zangeressen) hebben we momenteel geen gebrek, maar er zijn er maar heel weinig die kiezen voor een lekker ontspannen soulgeluid dat herinnert aan de grote soulzangers (en zangeressen) uit de jaren 60 en 70. Moderne of hedendaagse soul zit vol vocaal en instrumentaal geweld en dat bevalt me lang niet altijd even goed.

Ook de Britse soulzanger Myles Sanko kan heerlijk uithalen en kiest zo nu en dan voor een moddervette instrumentatie vol blazers, maar het grootste deel van de tijd kiest de Brit voor een meer ingetogen en meer ontspannen soulgeluid.

Zeker wanneer de blazers ontbreken is het soul-geluid van Myles Sanko heerlijk laid-back, maar het is ook een geluid dat bijzonder knap in elkaar steekt. In dit geluid valt in eerste instantie het mooie heldere, soms ook wat bluesy en jazzy, gitaarspel op, maar al snel weten ook het heerlijke orgeltje en de subtiele pianoklanken genadeloos te verleiden.

In de songs met een wat meer ingetogen geluid kan ook Myles Sanko het ook in vocaal opzicht wat rustiger aan doen en klinkt hij relaxed maar toch soulvol. Zeker in de meer ingetogen songs maakt Myles Sanko lome muziek waarbij het heerlijk ontspannen is. Het is op hetzelfde moment muziek die maximale aandacht vereist, want zowel in instrumentaal als in vocaal opzicht gebeurt er van alles op Forever Dreaming.

Iedere keer dat de instrumentatie het lome pad verlaat en kiest voor een net wat kruidiger geluid gaat Myles Sanko mee en verrast hij met vocalen die het ene moment nog uit het hart, maar het volgende moment uit de tenen komen. Forever Dreaming sluit, veel meer dan de meeste andere soulplaten van het moment, aan op de klassieke soulplaten uit het verleden, maar verrijkt deze vervolgens met een snufje jazz en een vleugje blues.

Vanwege de invloeden die Myles Sanko in zijn muziek verwerkt, zijn  voorkeur voor lome en meer ingetogen songs en zijn warme en tegelijkertijd soulvolle geluid, doet Forever Dreaming me misschien nog wel het meest denken aan de onderschatte platen van Bill Withers, die in de jaren 70 een stapeltje klassiekers afleverde dat helaas nog altijd in menige platenkast ontbreekt. Een groter compliment kan ik een debuterend soulzanger niet maken.

Ook Myles Sanko zal vanwege zijn net wat afwijkende geluid waarschijnlijk niet onmiddellijk de harten van de liefhebbers van moderne soulmuziek veroveren, maar ik hoop dat dit snel gaat veranderen. Myles Sanko heeft met Forever Dreaming immers niet alleen een hele lekkere, maar ook een hele knappe soulplaat gemaakt. Forever Dreaming staat vol met bijzonder lekker in het gehoor liggende soulsongs, maar het zijn ook nog eens soulsongs waarin van alles gebeurt, zodat de fantasie volop wordt geprikkeld.

Forever Dreaming was voor mij in eerste instantie vooral een lekker plaatjes voor de late avond, maar inmiddels beschouw ik het als één van de meest interessante soulplaten van het moment. Forever Dreaming verdient daarom de aandacht van iedere liefhebber van de betere soulmuziek. Uit het verleden, maar ook zeker uit het heden.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Forever dreaming':


zondag 23 november 2014

The November Kairos by .No

November, another Kairos by our own .No on the Concertzender. Last month we already mentioned that .No has a special pair of ears. So what does he have for us this month? In other words, Wo. challenges himself again with music he doesn't hear every day, not even week.

The show starts with the standard sonorous voice introducing Kairos, a meditation in sound. The first work is a piece of minimal music in which the atmosphere is more important than a traditional song structure. Michael Pisaro is a guitarist and composer from the U.S. The soft drones are interspersed sparingly by a violin holding a note extremely long and voices that come to us as from a thick fog. Nothing guitarist can be discerned easily in 'Blues fell', the composition that is the opening song. The soft guitar tones that melt into the song appear to announce Pisaro's own contribution, but to my surprise I recognise I Am Oak, from the band's last cd 'Ols songd', that we reviewed earlier quite favourably this year (http://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2014/02/ols-songd-i-am-oak.html). .No has found his way to the Snowstar Records acts! Last month Broeder Dieleman, now I Am Oak. So who is next of the Snowstar stable?

Next up is someone we have already met in October's edition, Nils Frahm. The atmosphere of this subdued piano work blends in superbly, again, with I Am Oaks' 'Covers cover'. Being unfamiliar with Frahm's work in general, what speaks to me directly is that the song 'Says' has a direct link with the album Pink Floyd released this month, 'The endless river'. A solo guitar is missing, but at the basis Rick Wright was composing, just like Frahm does. Soundscapes with minimal accents and changes, slowly building towards a climax. Not a word is spoken, but 'Says' says it all. Long and slowly building up, it takes patience to learn to appreciate 'Says'. Abruptly it all ends, making room, what sounds like a harp to me. Ólafur Björn Ólafsson's 'White mountain', is another piece of total relaxation. The total relaxation of pure notes from the Islandic, volcanic fjords.

Silmus is a Dutch band from Friesland. It's second album 'Shelter' delivers the song 'Rememberance'. Ambient, soft guitar playing, serene. Produced by Milco Eggerman, known from many records and different bands himself, Silmus excels in quiteness as can be found in the remote corners of the Dutch northern province, where "you can find musicin unexpected places", to paraphrase Silmus' website.

'Yojihito' is another beautiful song by I Am Oak. Thijs Kuijken lays a lot of under the surface tensions in this quiet song, making it something special to listen to. The traditional singing of the Moscow Male Choir is not exactly up my tree. At times the singing is so soft that I fear my ears are failing me. Not everything has to be to my personal liking, does it? Will Samson is up next with two songs of his 2012 album 'Balance'. In 'Music for autumn' the acoustic guitar holds the central position. With other sounds, atmosphere and non textual singing, all emulating the wind, guitar notes appear to be leaves, slowly falling from the trees as if severed by the slightest of winds possible. As if caressed from the branches, carried by this soft wind to the ground. The same softness comes forward in 'Oceans are wilder'. Wilder they may be, the music isn't. Although some electronic beats come in, reminding me of The xx and even the Dutch youngsters The Future Dust, but these ambient songs have nothing to do with dance. All atmosphere with some slight disturbances that cut through the haze this music has enveloped around itelf.

With two compostitions by Anita Frenks from her album 'Coming home' (under the moniker Anna van Avalon) Kairos slowly draws towards its finale. Frenks is a harpist that in 2009 also released a cd called 'Lieve dag' on the WoNo Productions record label (see and listen: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/annanl). 'Coming home' is much more than the album of a harpist. In 'De vlucht van de duiven' total estrangement happens when the composition undergoes this dramatic change, like two songs being played at the same time, until in 'By your touch', because of .No's mix or the original album?, the harp comes back and all is normal again in the final 45 seconds of Anita Frenks' contribution.

Kairos ends with nearly 20 minutes John Tavener, the British composer who died just over a year ago. His 'Last sleep of the virgin' is performed by the Chilingirian Quartet. Again a composition that is a bit beyond my taste, but do not let that keep you from taking a listen. The piece is solemn, dark, quiet, long. Too long for me, but a new experience non the same.

If you want to find out yourself what I'm writing about, just click on the link below and start the November Kairos.




The endless river. Pink Floyd

What to think of this album? An album with so much music, music by what is left of a band that for sure is one of my favourites of the past close to 40 years. There are so many familiar sounds on The endless river, that half of the time I want to burst out singing the songs that I carry with me for 34 to 39 years. All songs that are not on this album. What a strange experience that is.

With my discovery of 'Wish you were here' in the fall of 1975 I became a Pink Floyd fan. What an album! Discovering backwards I got as far as 'Atom heart mother'. After 'The wall' it was sort of over. Nothing since was as good as what went before. Solo or as a band. And now, The endless river. The story is that there were a bunch of left over instrumental pieces from 'The division bell' album, released in 1994. Richards Wright died in 2008, with him passing away any chance of a rumoured reunion stopped right there. In my opinion with Roger Waters finally cashing his legacy over the other three, there wasn't a chance at a reunion at all. And let's face it, his muse has died long ago as well.

Listening to some of the recordings on The endless river the story of the left overs is so hard to believe. Incredible even. 75% of The division bell sounded uninspired, extremely forced, a mere hint at an excuse to send the old beast around the world again. A lot on The endless river sounds extremely inspired, but also too close to call to the band's older work. With sounds so familiar, too familiar, then? Perhaps that is why it was left behind in 1994, while in 2014 it provides a final chance at an album? It may well be. Rick Wright came to the rescue, six years after his death.

The contribution of Rick Wright to Pink Floyd is one I always really appreciated. His organ, piano and synth sound were unique and an incremental part of the sound of this dinosaur progband of the 70s. In fact, listening to The endless river I even get the impression that his part in the band was gravely under-appreciated. It's his keyboards that constitute the main part of the sound. The sound that is always there. The foundation that allows David Gilmore to play his smooth sounding guitar (solos), that second part of the sound of Pink Floyd. Over which Roger Waters could sing, which is part part 3. Underneath that all is the fourth part: the relaxed granddad drumming of Nick Mason, who's finally drumming like the older man he's become, slowly patting the tom-toms and cymbals in front of him. It is that organ/synth/piano sound that is smeared out all over Pink Floyd's records, like a carpet, that unnoticed carries all on top of it, that shines here in its full glory. The endless river finally gives Rick Wright all the credits due. Where Gilmour bends to Wright. Is it a coincidence that The endless river is the best Pink Floyd album since 'The wall'? I don't think so. This is inspiration. Maybe even for as simple a reason that there were no pressures on these sessions. The original sessions were jams never meant to be released or even just Wright playing alone in an odd moment? The added, new sessions as a major surprise to unsuspecting fans, who didn't expect anything from the band any more.

The tracks are all instrumental, with one exception towards the end called 'Louder than words'. Some sound so astonishingly familiar, as if they have always been there in the past +/- 40 years.  The endless river brings the best of Pink Floyd, instrumental. Largely meandering tracks, focussing mainly on Wright's keyboard parts and Gilmour who solos over them. His best since 1979 also. And although The endless river can never replace albums that are a part of my DNA for the past 35+ years, I'm already certain that this is going to be a lasting relationship. The album ends with 'Nervana', a belated answer to the punk movement, Pink Floyd style. I think only 'In the flesh' is louder since 'One of these days'.

And so the world has a new Pink Floyd album. I easily could have lived on without it, but now it's here? I'm cherishing it and play it again and again. If this is the end for the old beast -and all points in that direction- then this is an end in style and proof that without Rick Wright at their side as co-composer/arranger/whatever you would like to call it, no other Pink Floyd member has made an album that truly counts. The endless river is simply one of the better albums released in 2014.


You can listen to 'Louder than words' here.


zaterdag 22 november 2014

Stromae steelt de show. Live Ziggo Dome, 20 november 2014

Na een heerlijk maal bij exclusief sterrenrestaurant Febo Boulevard ben ik getogen naar het concert van Stromae in de Ziggo Dome. Goed geregeld daar: met de Amsterdam Arena en Heineken Music Hall zijn er veel voorzieningen en is bijvoorbeeld de mate van filevorming  na een concert acceptabel.

Stromae is een samensmelting op diverse fronten: nationaliteit (vader Rwandees, moeder Belgisch), sexe (vader man, moeder vrouw) en taal  (Nederlands en Frans). Ook zijn muziek is niet-conventioneel; een unieke combinatie van (softe) hip hop, pop, afrikaanse muziek en ballads. En bijna alles gezongen in het Frans. Zelf kende ik Stromae alleen van 'Alors on dance', een simpel maar pakkend nummer van alweer vier jaar geleden. Tot vorig jaar ik bij toeval de clip van Papaoutai (Papa ou t'est?) zag. Zie ook http://youtu.be/oiKj0Z_Xnjc .

Een van de weinige keren dat ik werkelijk gegrepen werd door muziek en clip. Prachtig opgebouwd, creatief, swingend. Ook een aantal  andere nummers zijn écht heel goed. Dus toen ik door had dat hij zou optreden in Nederland gelijk maar kaarten gekocht.

Op 20 november 2014 gaf hij een twee uur durende show. Samen met vier bolhoedmannetjes, die de voornamelijk elektronische instrumenten bespeelden, en een wervelende lichtshow, enthousiasmeerde hij het publiek in de uitverkochte Ziggodome. Bijna al zijn nummers kwamen voorbij. Het middengedeelte met de paar saaiere nummers (Formidable) gaven mij en vele anderen de gelegenheid om nog even te whatsappen, mail te checken e.d. Gelukkig was dat maar kort. Erg leuk was de Alors on dance uitvoering in jaren 90 stijl met onder andere Faithless, Crystal Waters, Snap (Rhythm is a dancer) en The Nightcrawlers (impressie http://youtu.be/XW9GeAOPFG8 ). De toegift bestond uit het a cappella gezongen 'Tous les mêmes". Ook weer geweldig. Eindoordeel 8.5.

Na afloop van het concert sprak Stromae me nog aan met het verzoek om met me op de foto te mogen.



vrijdag 21 november 2014

Somewhere under wonderland. Counting Crows

Another band that somehow is around for more than 20 years. Like for a lot of people, Counting Crows came into my life with the 50% brilliant 'August & everything after'. The Van Morrison comparisons were all over the place because of the "la la la la " intro the 'Mr. Jones', a song that referenced 'Ballad of a thin man' a bit more in my opinion. Now Somewhere under wonderland. On this album Counting Crows is a lot more consistent and rocks out every once in a while as well.

Not that a lot new is going on on this album. Somewhere under wonderland is an album that is placing things on the safe side of all things music. It's the quality that sets it apart. 'Elvis went to Hollywood' is a raucous rocker as far as Counting Crows goes and has this delicious organ. This simple sound, old fashioned, not of 2014 makes the song sort of perfect. That little extra making it shine. I just love it when something as simple as a few notes makes a song stand out. The next song, 'Cover up the sun', is a country influenced up tempo song. With Adam Carroll elements and a typical The Beatles harmony tucked away at one point. Exactly once and it is spot on. A lot of effort must have gone into the details of the recording and it clearly pays off.

The album kicks off completely a-typical. A muted trumpet is blowing (Chris Watson) a jazzy melody with just a piano accompanying it. At 1.17 minutes the piano takes over in a decisive way before Adam Durwitz starts singing. A-typical also because Chris Watson is not a band member and introduces the whole album for over a minute. 'Pallisades Park', the intro song, is a long song with many turns and twists, in which many names are dropped along the storyline. A song that begs attention a drew me straight into Somewhere under wonderland.

Counting Crows is a band that I will never mention as one of my favourites. A band that I would never want to go and see live, never even contemplated it. At the same time I somehow have several of the band's albums in the home in one form or another, albums that I always forget to play. How old is 'Hard candy'? 11 Years, 8? I don't know, but I think I haven't heard an album since and missed everything in between. Listening to Somewhere under wonderland I wonder again why this is? I just don't know. Perhaps that the band is to "faceless" for me? I just don't know.

Somewhere under wonderland is an urgent album, for Counting Crows that is. 'Dislocation' rocks in a pleasant way. A typical American rocker, with some slight Keith Richards' kind of guitar playing. The kind of rocker that I usually shy away from. Counting Crows gives the genre this twist, of which one part is the typical voice of Adam Durwitz, that make it interesting. Again there is an endless stream of words coming from Durwitz, a latter day Dylan. As an afterthought the modern world goes under in 'Dislocation'. No more London or L.A.

Counting Crows is not afraid of tossing the listener around a bit. The next song is the acoustic guitar driven singer-songwriter song 'God of ocean sides'. Driving through Dixie, Durwitz and co take us further on this musical ride through the marvel called Somewhere under wonderland, leaving me wondering, again, why I do not consider Counting Crows as one of my (many) favourite bands? 'Scarecrow' is another rocker, but for some reason or another the song reminds me of bluegrass/americana/acoustic punkers The Hackensaw Boys. I know this doesn't make a lot of sense, but 'Scarecrow' just does. But then the whole psychedelic interlude is The Beatles the whole way. 'Scarecrow' again takes me from left to right and back upside down.

Not even halfway into the album I have undergone so many musical sensations that overload is hiding in the fringes. The intro to 'Elvis went to Hollywood' and the upbeat rhythm saves the day here. Adam Durwitz even manages to get that wine out of voice. He's really rocking out. 'Elvis went to Hollywood' may sound simple, but has it all. Forceful, a great melody and fiery guitar solos. Everything that I do not associate with Counting Crows. Neither is a real country song, 'Cover up the sun'. Again we are driving from something towards somewhere. Meeting people along the road. Slowly I'm getting the idea that I'm listening to a musical roadtrip. The Beatles? They are still with us in harmonies.

Counting Crows keeps up this level right up to the end. There are only 9 songs on the album, but the band put everything it's got into Somewhere over wonderland and came out a winner. To me this is one of the better albuns I've heard so far this year (and will probably forget about again).


You can listen to 'Pallisades Park' here:


donderdag 20 november 2014

Break & bloom. Jane Kramer

In de categorie minder bekend talent in het rootssegment deze week aandacht voor Jane Kramer. Jane Kramer komt oorspronkelijk uit North Carolina, maar opereert inmiddels al weer een tijdje vanuit het hippe Portland, Oregon. Dat is de thuisbasis van heel wat gerenommeerde indie bands, maar de stad in het noordoosten van de Verenigde Staten draagt ook Amerikaanse rootsmuzikanten een warm hart toe.
Jane Kramer timmert in de Verenigde Staten al een tijdje stevig aan de weg, zeker nadat ze door niemand minder dan Melissa Ferrick was opgepikt, maar met de hernieuwde release van haar debuut Break & Bloom moet de ster van Jane Kramer ook hier gaan stralen.
Break & Bloom is een opvallend veelzijdig debuut. De plaat opent bijzonder jazzy en doet door de jazzy accenten, maar vooral door de stem van Jane Kramer, onmiddellijk aan Norah Jones denken. Net als je je begint af te vragen of we behoefte hebben aan een tweede Norah Jones verruilt Jane Kramer de jazz voor folk en country en sluipt een aangename snik in haar stem.
De associatie met Norah Jones is vrijwel onmiddellijk verdwenen en maakt plaats voor de associatie met de stem van Natalie Merchant. Dit is een associatie die wat langer stand houdt, maar over het algemeen laat Jane Kramer op Break & Bloom toch een duidelijk eigen stemgeluid horen.
Het is direct ook een van de sterkste wapens van de Amerikaanse singer-songwriter. Jane Kramer heeft een stem die in meerdere genres en in songs met uiteenlopende emoties uit de voeten kan en hier maakt ze op Break & Bloom dankbaar gebruik van.
Op basis van de bijzonder fraaie openingstrack stop je Jane Kramer absoluut in het hokje Amerikaanse rootsmuziek, maar wanneer ze in de tweede track Tori Amos naar de kroon steekt (inclusief uitbarsting) begin je toch weer te twijfelen. De liefhebbers van beide genres (en hier reken ik mezelf zeker toe) zitten inmiddels op het puntje van hun stoel. De liefhebbers van Amerikaanse rootsmuziek zijn waarschijnlijk nog wat afwachtend, maar zullen absoluut vallen voor het fraaie debuut van Jane Kramer.
Op de rest van Break & Bloom overheersen immers de tracks die uitstekend in het hokje Amerikaanse rootsmuziek passen. Deze zijn zo nu en dan behoorlijk traditioneel, maar ook dat blijkt uitstekend te passen bij de bijzondere stem van Jane Kramer.
Jane Kramer omringt zich op Break & Bloom met een aantal prima muzikanten, wat haar muziek nog meer kleur en zeggingskracht geeft. Dat hoor je in de uiterst sober ingekleurde songs, waarin vaak de viool de hoofdrol opeist, maar ook als Jane Kramer kiest voor een wat vollere instrumentatie, met bijvoorbeeld prachtige melancholische blazers, zijn muziek en vocalen in balans.
Door de vocale kwaliteiten van Jane Kramer is Break & Bloom een plaat die onmiddellijk de aandacht opeist en de plaat houdt deze aandacht ook vast wanneer de songs blijken te groeien en Jane Kramer ook in tekstueel opzicht bijzonder vaardig blijkt. Al met al een bijzonder veelbelovend debuut van een jonge Amerikaanse singer-songwriter, die zich met een beetje geluk zomaar tussen de groten in het genre kan spelen.

Erwin Zijleman

Break & Bloom van Jane Kramer ligt nog niet in Nederland in de winkel, maar kan wel worden verkregen via het onvolprezen cdbaby (http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/janekramer).

woensdag 19 november 2014

Fumes. Lily & Madeleine

What a life. Falling asleep in a row boat and not an oar in sight. Neither is an (outboard) engine, so the sisters are escaping fumes as well. Some have it all. The cover is well chosen. As relaxed as the cover picture shows Lily & Madeleine to be, as relaxed is their music. There's no haste in the universe of this duo.

Lily & Madeleine aren't making their first appearance on this blog. Just under a year ago Erwin Zijleman reviewed their debute album, 'Lily & Madeleine' (http://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2013/12/lily-madeleine-lily-madeleine.html), after which Wo. took on writing duties at the beginning of this year (http://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2014/01/lily-madeleine-2-lily-madeleine.html). If you read this review, then you understand why I was looking forward to Fumes. 'Lily & Madeleine' delivered a promise on a lot of potential. And Fumes delivers.

Not that Fumes does things a lot different. The title song that starts the album, starts extremely small. A bell like sound, a piano, a guitar. In the second sentence the voices of the sisters start blending and I'm sold. "Good enough", is more than good enough for me. The drum sets in very hesitantly. In a way that I really think, oh-oh, mistake, two beats later all's well again. The effect of music can be as simple as this.

Even when the tempo goes up a bit and a full band setting gets behind Lily & Madeleine, it does not change the lack of urgency in the singing. The sisters focus on finding the spot on harmonies, taking their voices up and down at exactly the right moment. Creating those little moments of vocal harmony heaven. Everything happening behind and around them is necessary to have a song, but the music is functional. It's there to make the strong points of Lily & Madeleine come out. That is the case best in the slow, ballad like songs. 'Cabin fever', one of the faster songs, is one of the weaker sisters on Fumes.

In my review of 'Lily & Madeleine' I wrote that not all was well. As if in some of the songs the girls were forced to sing again at this or that party. Not so on Fumes. The duo has grown as singers and performers. Not that there is a major party going on now, far from it. Fumes certainly sounds a little more convincing. And that is the important next step in the career of the sisters Jurkiewicz. No second album fever here.

For all those that like to dream away every once in a while with some extremely nice music in the background and those who like to listen intensely to music with a headphone on: this is your album! Just start with 'Hold on to now' and you'll know where this advice is coming from.


You can listen to 'The wolf is free' here:


dinsdag 18 november 2014

We let go. Sunday Sun

Sunday Sun is a familiar band on WoNo Magazine. The three EPs the band released in the late summer/fall of 2012 were all reviewed and followed by an interview with singer/guitarist Yoshi Breen. Two shows were reviewed in 2013 and 2014. The brilliant pop on record translated quite well to the stage. In The Hague this spring many new songs were played and an album announced, although that date went backwards with a few months. So the strange thing is that I'm listening to a new album, but several songs sound faintly familiar and not because the band is playing its influences as main trumps in the game called Sunday Sun.

Sunday Sun is a band that enjoys singing, a lot. Many a line seems to be an excuse to find every harmony and counter vocal melody possible within it. Exactly what makes listening to the band so much fun. The sun comes out immediately on the most glum and cloudy days when the four gentlemen of Sunday Sun start singing together. The Beatles come to mind straight away, but more the George Harrison part than John or Paul, although the solo McCartney of the 80s can be heard also. Some harmonies even approach the complexities of The Beach Boys. The references to the best of the 60s lay thick over We let go.

Musically the album is not so much 60s. Many songs make references to other decades as well. The comparison is mainly in the singing. In the music there's even some light forms of experimentation with sounds and electronics.

On first listening to We let go I noticed that the extreme poppiness of the first two EPs is not there. That extreme jubilation of joy and happiness is missing. The music goes deeper and does not necessarily aim for instant pleasure and satisfaction. Sunday Sun challenges the listener to delve deeper. The bar is raised, with the invitation to search and find something down there. And, did I find?

That question is harder to answer than I'd hoped. At least that was what I thought after listening to We let go twice. After a fourth listen my position is changing fast. We let go, doesn't let go of its secrets as fast as 'Sunday Sun I, II and III' did. It takes working at to find out what is hovering just below the surface. Sunday Sun hasn't lost its touch, far from it. By listening more often, it was just like the Sun bursting though the clouds on a rainy day, changing the perspective of everything on Earth.

The album starts with the first single 'I call you honey'. This is an obvious throw at radio fame. Production wise there's a lot going one. With horns, baritone sax?, and all. Pure exuberance, Robby Williams style. A major difference with Mr. Williams is the quality of singing and the harmony interludes, that make this song just a little more complex. 'Come on down' is Sunday Sun old school. As good as the best songs on Fountains of Wayne's debut album. And to that quality, again, the harmonies are added. The trump card of Sunday Sun. 'I saw you with another guy' and singing anyone? Yoshi Breen, Koen-Willem Toering, Jelle Teertstra and new drummer Dave Menkehorst can sing together like a dream. Hearing is believing! With 'Should have known better' certainly one of the best songs on We let go. In the end it's only 'Frank Jr.' I can't get used to.

So all is well in the end. It was all me, having to get used to new songs, with the old songs in my head that did not want to give up their unique position. With We let go Sunday Sun has come up with an extremely strong first (second?) album. For everyone loving extreme pop music in the most positive sense of the word, this is your album. Sunday Sun has raised the bar for itself and any other band in this spectrum of pop. Except for the cover, eye-catching but hideous, this is it: top of the pops. The cover won't stop me from listening though.


You can listen to 'I call you honey' here:


maandag 17 november 2014

Jan Stroomer en Mieke van Veen in Theater Scheltema

Photo: Wo.
Op de druilerigste zondag van het jaar vond ik mijn weg naar weer een nieuw singer-songwriter concept in Leiden: Theater Scheltema. Ja, dezelfde waar ook Quite Quiet in Leiden gehouden wordt. De opzet van deze bijeenkomst is anders. Ook stand-up comedy en cabaret heeft een plaats. Naast het genieten van muziek, heb ik ook goed gelachen deze middag. Maar helaas voor u, daar gaat dit blog niet over. De focus ligt nu eenmaal op muziek.

Jan Stoomer mocht de middag op gang brengen. Voor een goed gevulde zaal nam hij plaats achter zijn piano, met koude vingers. Nou, ik zou willen dat ik zo kon spelen met warme vingers. Al snel rolden er prettige pianoklanken door de ruimte. Jan Stroomer is een Leidenaar en voorman van The Stream, een mij nog onbekende band, maar daar gaat nog wel verandering in komen. Erg grappig was dat uit het interviewtje op het podium bleek dat hij precies het tegenovergestelde heeft dan ik: geen piano in muziek, geen lol. Laat ik dat nou met gitaren hebben. Dat opzij zettend, merkte ik dat ik alle nummers geboeid zat te luisteren naar Stroomer. Hij heeft een uiterst prettige stem, waar hij met gemak een aantal gevoelens en emoties in kan leggen. Daarnaast heeft hij ook een kleinkunst kant in zijn teksten. Het nummer 'The end of laissez-faire', had ook van Tom Lehrer kunnen zijn. Een eindeloze rits woordgrappen op (moeilijke) termen uit de economie. De manier waarop allerlei tempowisselingen in een ander nummer zaten, gaf aan dat ook muzikaal Stroomer wel in is voor een geintje. Uit de rest bleek dat er een kundig songsmid in Stroomer schuilt. Met pianonummers die mij deden denken aan een aantal van de grotere pianohits uit de jaren 70 en Billy Joel. Dan kun je wat. Beneden is een link naar een site waar je een paar nummers kunt luisteren van The Stream.

Photo: Wo.
Zoals ik een week  geleden al had aangekondigd, kwam ik deze middag voor Mieke van Veen. Met de prachtige cd 'Between these walls' (http://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2014/11/between-these-walls-mieke-van-veen.html) nu een aantal weken uit, is het tijd om haar vleugels verder uit te slaan naar een groter publiek. Met Rubenn op cajon en Hans op bas had zij op de achtergrond een jazzy begeleiding voor haar singer-singwriter liedjes.

Het was hier leuk om te zien de muzikanten ook gewoon mensen zijn. In de pauze druppelden de drie binnen, jas nog aan, instrument op de rug. Jas uit, podium op, zoeken naar het stopcontact, wat schuiven met monitorboxen, soundcheck van anderhalve minuut en klaar. Het podium weer leeg gemaakt voor de cabaretier, nog even een bekende begroeten. Klaar voor de show. Zo kan het dus ook.

Mieke van Veen had last van een kleine verkoudheid. Desondanks kwamen de liedjes prachtig haar keel uit. Eerder schreef ik al dat Mieke van Veen het verdiend om te worden ontdekt. Prachtige liedjes staan er op haar cd en ze weet die op een warme manier naar het podium te vertalen. Ieder met zijn eigen verhaal. Als bühne persoonlijkheid staat er een uitdagend gekleed iemand, met een streng uitziend kapsel, bijzonder innemend te zijn. Opnieuw verbaasde ik mij over het contrast.

Photo: Wo.
Qua presentatie stond er in Scheltema een echte singer-songwriter op het podium, die ieder liedje zijn eigen verhaal mee gaf. Het intro gaf de ontstaansgeschiedenis mee of iets om over na te denken. Het prijsnummer is 'Riverside', dat gebaseerd is op een familiegeschiedenis uit de Tweede Wereldoorlog. Ik vind dit zo'n prachtig mooi nummer. Alles valt op zijn plaats in 'Riverside'.

Alles eindigde, net als op de cd, met 'Lege handen', een Nederlandstalig nummer. Uitgedaagd om eens in het Nederlands te schrijven, is er direct een bijzonder poëtische tekst uitgekomen. Mieke van Veen kan voortaan kiezen, als ze dat zou willen.

Er is nog een derde incarnatie van Mieke van Veen, die met een grote band. 30 november in Bird in Rotterdam. Ik kan daar helaas niet bij zijn. Wel ben ik heel benieuwd dat ook eens mee te maken.


The Stream kun je hier luisteren:


'Between these walls' is hier te koop:


zondag 16 november 2014

Silent passage. Bob Carpenter

Het is opvallend hoeveel moois er nog steeds uit de archieven van de verschillende platenmaatschappijen komt. Je zou verwachten dat de meeste planken inmiddels wel zijn ontdaan van de vergeten parels, maar nog steeds duiken vergeten meesterwerken uit een heel ver verleden op. Silent Passage van Bob Carpenter is zo’n vergeten meesterwerk.
Bob Carpenter werd geboren in een Canadees Indianenreservaat, maar kwam via een weeshuis uiteindelijk in California terecht, waar hij aan het begin van de jaren 70 met zijn onafscheidelijke gitaar de aandacht wist te trekken van destijds al behoorlijk bekende muzikanten als Emmylou Harris en Lowell George en al snel een platencontract wist te bemachtigen. Naar verluid dook hij op in een omvangrijk artikel in Rolling Stone, maar dat heb ik niet kunnen vinden.
Het zou uiteindelijk leiden tot Silent Passage, een plaat die in 1974 had moeten verschijnen, maar vanwege problemen met zijn platenmaatschappij op de plank bleef liggen tot 1984, toen er niemand meer op de muziek van Bob Carpenter zat te wachten.
Silent Passage is nu alsnog uitgebracht en dat is goed nieuws voor de liefhebbers van folky singer-songwriters. Bob Carpenter heeft het zelf overigens niet meer meegemaakt, want hij overleed in 1995 op slechts 50-jarige leeftijd.
Silent Passage is een typisch product van de jaren 70, maar de plaat heeft de tand des tijd verrassend goed doorstaan. Silent Passage bevat 10 bijzonder mooie en volstrekt tijdloze folk(-rock) songs. Het zijn songs die een groot deel van hun kracht ontlenen aan de geweldige stem van Bob Carpenter, die een warm en doorleefd geluid laat horen, dat in veel gevallen wordt versterkt door al even mooie achtergrondvocalen (onder andere van de al eerder genoemde Emmylou Harris en Anne Murray). Het is een stem die ergens tussen die van de jonge Tom Waits en Bob Seger in zit, maar het doet me nog veel meer denken aan het ook al vergeten en alsnog uitgebrachte meesterwerk van Billy Marlowe (een van mijn favoriete releases van vorig jaar), dat overigens uit de jaren 80 stamde en ook in muzikaal opzicht dicht bij Silent Passage ligt.

De mooie stem is zeker niet het enige sterke wapen van Bob Carpenter, want ook in muzikaal opzicht valt er op Silent Passage heel veel te genieten. De plaat laat een gevarieerd geluid horen, waarin flink wat instrumenten worden ingezet. De songs op Silent Passage variëren van ingetogen tot uitbundig en vallen vooral op wanneer blazers en vooral strijkers worden ingezet, al is het maar omdat de laatsten bijzonder fraai contrasteren met de doorleefde strot van Bob Carpenter.
Silent Passage herinnert aan een hele stapel klassiekers uit een ver verleden, maar het vergeten debuut van Bob Carpenter voegt ook wat toe aan deze klassiekers. Met name door de mooie en gedreven vocalen en de indringende teksten op Silent Passage stralen de songs van Bob Carpenter urgentie uit. Veel urgentie. Silent Passage neemt je onmiddellijk mee terug naar het California van de jaren 70 en doet het heden even vergeten.
In eerste instantie was er natuurlijk vooral de verrassing en sensatie van een vergeten klassieker, maar inmiddels is Silent Passage me nog veel dierbaarder. Het vergeten debuut van Bob Carpenter is zonder enige twijfel een klassieker, maar het is ook een prachtplaat die keer op keer zorgt voor kippenvel. Bijzonder indrukwekkend.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Silent passage':


zaterdag 15 november 2014

Esben and the Witch. Live QBus Leiden, 14 November 2014

Photo: Wo.
 Before Esben and the Witch took to the stage, there were other, more mysterious things going on. One guy, a table, loads of electronics and movies projected in the background. 70s Movies, I think. How anonymous can someone make music? Very, I learned. Twiddling knobs, finger settings like playing a keyboard, without the sound, I suppose to create a loop, pushing buttons to release a pre-recorded beat. Slowly but surely soundscapes were let loose on an uninterested audience. Just looking at the guy made my back hurt. Bent over deeply the whole time, becoming one with his knobs, while I watched the laptop next to the sound desk, where the projected film snippets, e.g. Burt Reynolds in a large 70s US car being chased by the police, played also. Not a clue who played, but Internet tells me Hunter Complex. Creating his own soundtrack to selected film clips. It was intriguing; let me stop there.

Next things got even stranger. Again one guy, one table, loads of knobs and one electric guitar. "My grandmother lives on a boat, with a horse", or something like that, in Dutch, while trying to play a monotonous riff on the guitar. It sounded so beyond help, that I couldn't stop myself from laughing.The song was stopped. Either the guy was pulling our leg or the electronics went wrong. After that we got beats in different shapes and sizes and a soft singing guy, in English. There were even recognisable melodies in the songs, at times. Who he is? Internet tells me Zeevonk.

Photo: Wo.
After the table had been cleared it was time for Esben and the Witch. This week the trio featured already on this blog with their latest album, 'A new nature' (http://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2014/11/a-new-nature-esben-witch.html). Esben and the Witch plays passionate music in an introverted way. Guitar Thomas Fisher, shaven head, big, dark-rimmed glasses and a beard growing towards ZZ Top proportions, half of the time is playing half turned, away from the audience, not making a connection once. Drummer Daniel Copeman is enraptured within his own rhythms and electronics that he manipulates on the side. So it's all up to singer/bassist/guitarist Rachel Davies, but she isn't a master of communication as well. So it's up to the music.

Of course I wasn't there for nothing. The music Esben and the Witch played was alright, but through a large part of the show I found myself waiting for that little extra, the spark that would make the show magical. My patience paid out, for from the moment Rachel Davies announced some old songs, that I'd never heard before that moment, things changed. Two guitars instead of guitar-bass and more electronics in the background. As one other audience member called it after the show: "it's like a fairytale". Now let Wikipedia claim that the band named itself after a Danish fairytale with the same name.

My opinion on the sort of music Esben and the Witch plays you find by clicking on the provided link, so there's no use to repeat that here. The intimacy of the music is something worthwhile to commemorate. Despite moments that the band goes all out, the main part of the songs are quite intimate. Up to a level that it is just Rachel Davies singing, with silences in between. As if daring us to speak or make some noise. Twice in all. During the first some less pleasant person just kept talking despite incessant hissing and a direct request to stop, the second time it was just silence. Total enrapture.

Photo: Wo.
A trio setting is always difficult to fill all gaps, especially when like Esben and the Witch a lot of the songs are based on atmosphere. Intricate guitar motives and complex drum patters. Patterns is definitely a better word than rhythm in this case. At times sterile vocal melodies, towards the monotonous. That leaves a lot of holes to fill. The class of Esben and the Witch is that they pull this trick off, as quite often they find the magic factor by using dynamics within the songs, by slightly changing patterns and the intenseness of Rachel Davies' singing.

Again the QBus surprised me with a band that good on its stage, the superb quality of the sound, but also the emptiness. How is it possible that so little people find their way to this concert in a town as large as Leiden is? On top of that the city council ordered it to close on 1 December. Where will all the practising bands go? No idea.