maandag 31 oktober 2016

My Woman. Angel Olsen

It's been a while since I played Angel Olsen. She slowly faded from memory after that fine record accompanied by a show in Paradiso that I quite liked. Somehow it did not stick. That caused that My Woman was not on the toplist of my priorities recently. In the meantime I found myself going back the album regularly over the weeks. So here we are, a review.

'Intern', the first song on the album comes as a bit of a shock. Has Angel Olsen been pushed in an alternative Lana Del Rey direction by her record company? It sort of hears like it. Not that the song is not okay, it is more that I did not expect a song like 'Intern'.

The switch to the sixties girl pop of 'Never Be Mine' is rather large. Again it is The Shangri Las Angel Olsen style, but it is not hard to imagine the other vocals draping themselves around Angel's somewhat desolate voice. Would that have made the song better? Perhaps a lot sweeter, teenage misery, but not better. This is the kind of pop an adult sings about when things are not going to be alright.

The alternative rocker that hides in Angel Olsen pops up in 'Shut Up Kiss Me'. The chorus can almost be called a punkrocker. It only takes a bit louder guitars to get there. I happen to like the slightly more subtle approach that leads to diversity and some interesting lead lines to follow.

Without having to stop at each song, it is not hard to state that the two and half years since the release of 'Burn Your Fire For No Witness' have seriously expanded the musical interests of Ms. Olsen. Somewhere deep down it is the (alternative) pop side to The Velvet Underground that shines through the cracks of My Woman, including the elements of 60s girlpop. Resulting in a mix that is pretty irresistible.

It is a side to Angel Olsen that was hinted on in the past, that is let loose fully. In several songs she's still holding back, but not nearly as much as before. Letting go is near. As near false notes are allowed in solos. The feeling before perfection? The music on this record attests to it.

What is also abundantly clear is how diverse this record is. 'Heart Shaped Face' is another 60s song that in a slightly different arrangement would be perfect on any of Lana Del Ray's records. While at the same time Blondie could have covered it in 1977 in a slightly souped up version. Think 'In The Flesh' or 'Sunday Girl'. A change is coming though.

From the middle of the album onwards the mood goes down. Slower songs pass by, some even hint at the Barry White soul of Love Unlimited. Slick guitars play suave melodies. Angel Olsen singing in a whispering way. Another surprise as soul is not what I had associated with her so far. Does it work? I'm still thinking about it to be certain. You won't find me switching it off so far. The question is more do I want this kind of song played by Angel Olsen or do I prefer listening to 'Walking In The Rain With The One I Love' more (which I hated at the time)?

The album ends with 'Pops'. You can find Angel Olsen at the piano in this fine ballad. Again something completely different. Exit lo-fi folk, enter, well, what exactly?

The moodswing from rockers to ballads is hard to make if I'm in the mood to listen to more rockers. At other times the switch is welcome. That is the main problem I have with My Woman. Once I set myself over that, my overall impression is that Angel Olsen has set a good next step in her career. She is experimenting with other kind of songs to see whether they fit her. That answer is yes, they all do. It is too bad that these experiments can only come to us once every two, three years. We're all old before this ends. There ought to be another album next spring and one in the fall of 2017. That would make things a lot clearer. For me, but certainly for Angel Olsen.


You can listen to 'Shut Up Kiss Me' here:

zondag 30 oktober 2016

The Glowing Man. Swans

Ik reken mezelf zeker niet tot de trouwe fans van de uit New York afkomstige band Swans. Eens in de zoveel jaar ben ik diep onder de indruk van een plaat van de band rond Michael Gira, maar vervolgens kijk ik jaren niet naar de band om.
Het heeft voor een belangrijk deel deel te maken met de intensiteit van de platen van Swans, want de meeste platen van de band gaan je niet in de koude kleren zitten.
De laatste keer dat ik flink onder de indruk was van de muziek van Swans, was vier jaar geleden, toen het overweldigende en verrassend succesvolle The Seer verscheen.
Het al even succesvolle (en naar verluid ook even imponerende) To Be Kind uit 2014 heb ik vervolgens weer gemist en hetzelfde leek te gebeuren met het onlangs verschenen The Glowing Man.
Toen ik las dat het mogelijk de zwanenzang van de huidige samenstelling van Swans is, ben ik echter toch gaan luisteren en langzaam maar zeker heeft ook deze plaat me opgeslokt in de aardedonkere wereld van de band uit New York.
The Glowing Man is net als zijn twee voorgangers een plaat waarvoor Swans ruim de tijd neemt. The Glowing Man duurt op twee minuten na twee uur en in die bijna twee uur komen slechts acht songs voorbij. Het zijn songs die het volledige spectrum van een angstaanjagende stilte tot een explosie van muzikaal geweld bestrijken.
Swans is een meester in het maken van muziek waarin slechts hele kleine stapjes worden gezet, maar de band staat ook dit keer weer garant voor hoge spanningsbogen en muziek van een indringende schoonheid.
Makkelijk is het allemaal niet. Zeker als je met beperkte aandacht naar de muziek van Swans luistert ben je de draad snel kwijt en is de muziek van de band eerder vermoeiend dan inspirerend. Bij beluistering met volledige aandacht groeit ook The Glowing Man daarentegen weer snel naar grote hoogten.
De muziek van Swans is vaak repeterend en bezwerend, maar kan binnen een aantal noten omslaan, wat ook deze plaat weer voorziet van heel veel dynamiek. In de meest toegankelijke momenten is The Glowing Man goed voor hypnotiserende klanken vol bezwerende percussie of voor wonderschone en bijna intieme muzikale passages. In de minst toegankelijke momenten vliegt Swans keer op keer uit de bocht en trekken gitzwarte wolken over. Van het oude Pink Floyd naar Talking Heads en van Krautrock naar noise.
Het kost wat energie om twee uur Swans te doorstaan, maar iedere keer dat je het probeert hoor je de plaat groeien. Iedereen die, net als ik, The Seer vier jaar heeft geleden heeft omarmd en hetzelfde deed met To Be Kind, zal ook genieten van The Glowing Man. Het is niet makkelijk en meestal gitzwart, maar onder al dat zwart komt steeds meer moois aan de oppervlakte. Buitengewoon intrigerend.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'The Glowing Man':

zaterdag 29 oktober 2016

Elenne May cd presentation. Amstelkerk, Amsterdam Wednesday 26-10-2016

Over the past months in 2016 those interested have been able to follow the creation of the new Elenne May album 'Veggie Patch In The Desert'. From 'Sheep For Fibre' to 'Stairs Raise Children' and finally 'Veggie Patch'.  Three EPs that merged into one album that was presented in the Amstelkerk in Amsterdam on a Wednesday evening.

On stage there were familiar props from the photo shoots for the EPs' and album's artwork, which holds all three. A funny little addition to the (non) stage.

What a fabulous location. The Amstelkerk is a wooden structure from the 17th century on Amstelveld, which is just of the Prinsengracht and just outside of the more famous parts of the city centre of Amsterdam. Hence I had never seen it before. Part of it is a bar and restaurant and a small part was used for a concert. A high wooden ceiling, no stage. The band stood on the same pavement bricks as we, the audience were standing or sitting on. The PA was just two small boxes, but the mix was perfect(ly adjusted to the room). No echoes or other disturbing sounds here.

Elenne May played the whole cd, all 16 tracks, in one go. Where upfront I had the idea that the three EPs had their own distinctive voice and character, live they suited each other very well. Although the final song, 'I Have The Key', remains very much the odd one out.

What struck me most, is how intricate the songs are. Delicate, frail, but certainly not without a bite. Not all is kindness in the songs of Elenne May. Some of the stories have a nastier turn or subject which is emphasized by outbursts in the music. As the music has been worded over the past months, let's focus on those who produce the music.

Drummer Eddie Jensen has to hold back for most of the time, but comes up with these intricate patterns and varies in the sound by playing with his hands, brushes, sticks of various shapes and sizes or plays the drums with the aid of other percussion instruments. This way the songs have not only different rhythm patterns, but also distinctly different sounds. At the same time Jensen seems not to object to not playing at all if a song or sequence does not ask for percussion.

Bass player Evelien Ypma is the one who keeps the songs on track. Her bass is the most modest, yet firm instrument in Elenne May. Supportive, strong and played modestly but with confidence. It always holds the middle ground keeping the song together. With her harmony vocals she delivers a second or third voice to songs, creating these little spots of magic that enliven the songs. 'Hold My Hand' is the first example where the singing is just beautiful between the three.

Roeland Scherff is the atmosphere master. Playing guitar is all but playing chords for him. All of the time there are these melodies on the guitar. Softly played or, exceptionally, with a bite, pressing pedals here and there to add a specific effect to his sound. He determines mostly what a song sounds like. And he can play piano to. In two songs he plays the grand piano and seems to become one with it. When his voice joins the two ladies this little extra is added in the singing making it just grand.

Elenne Klok is the leading lady. Her voice carries the songs. Delicate, soft with all sorts of emotions that find their way into the sound of her voice. There are many singers that could be named as comparisons, but mostly Elenne Klok is Elenne Klok, like Elenne May very much is Elenne May. Her keyboard was not always heard properly, but this was altered during the show, so that her atmospheric playing was added to the mix, providing the band with a protective layer, that the rest could play off.

There is a fifth player in the band. One that no can see. The spaces between the music. The emptiness Elenne May allows and dares to create in its music. As if, as I once wrote, we can almost hear something which we just cannot. A silence that can only be heard if the audience truly listens. And it did and all present must have heard that fifth, magical member of Elenne May in the Amstelkerk. It is an integral part of the music, of the sparks of brilliance that make Elenne May so good.

Elenne May played the album in a superb way and shows that it is ready for the next step. That will not be easy, but the quality is unmistakably there. The band holds a beautiful album in its hands. It's time to pick that great single that has to garner the attention of those that have to start listening. If only it was up to me, Elenne May would be all over the radio as Serious Talent and that minute with DWDD and other shows taken care of. Best of luck, Elenne May. With 'Veggie Patch In The Desert' you've struck gold.

And should you ask, what are veggies? I only have to think of my Australian aunt telling my younger cousins: "Come, eat your veggies"! and you might get the point.

(All photo's by) Wo.

You can listen to and buy Elenne May's music here:

vrijdag 28 oktober 2016

Mevrouw Tamara live. Amstelkerk, Amsterdam. Woensdag 26-10-2016

Foto: Wo.
In het voorprgramma van Elenne May stond een act waar ik tot vlak daarvoor nog nooit had gehoord, Mevrouw Tamara. Voorprogramma tijdens een cd presentatie van de band die na je komt? Het leek mij een zeer ondankbare taak, vooraf gezien. Ik had de moeite genomen om mijzelf in te luisteren en hoorde zeer zachte, maar beslist mooie, vooral piano gedreven muziek. Tegen kleinkunst aan, maar meer dan voldoende muzikaal om geheel zelfstandig te kunnen luisteren. Om niet te zeggen dat ik het wel mooi vond. Apart, maar mooi.

Live stond Mevrouw Tamara er helemaal alleen voor, uitgezonderd haar tapeloop machine en pedaaltjes dan. En met een gitaar! Achter haar stond een vleugel, maar die leek niet aan haar besteed. In de eerste twee nummers speelde Mevrouw Tamara haar zachte liedjes met haar aparte, licht hijgende stem. De snaren werden zachtjes, maar zeer gedecideerd geplukt en lieten zo kleine, maar o zo fraaie melodietjes door de speakers komen.

De tweede verrassing was dat Mevvrouw Tamara doodleuk aangaf nu ook in het Engels te schrijven. Die had ik niet aan zien komen. Voor de muziek zelf maakte dit niet veel uit. Zachte singer-songwriter liedjes zijn haar métier. Een hardrocksong als verrassing bleef, gelukkig, uit.

In de derde song begon het toveren met elektronica en een analoge tapeloop. Gitaarpartij op gitaarpartij en daarna zang op zang. Het is razendknap, omdat hier echt wordt gemultitaskt. Spelen en zingen, maar daarnaast precies op tijd opnames starten en weer stoppen. Het is ook voor het eerst dat ik, voor zover ik weet, een ouderwets tapeloop apparaat live op het podium zag. In hoeverre alles analoog werd getapet of ook uit de Boss pedaaltjes kwam, kon ik niet beoordelen vanuit het publiek.

Foto: Wo.
De bescheidenheid zelve vroeg ze na een aantal liedjes of ze nog verder mocht spelen, terwijl ze naar de piano liep. Het werd het laatste nummer. Met delicaat toetsenspel werd het intro van de avond afgesloten. En dat publiek? Dat luisterde van de eerste tot de laatste noot in stilte toe. Zoals het hoort. Misschien dat het door de imposante omgeving van het concert kwam, daarover binnenkort meer, misschien waren we gevangen in de cocon waarover zij zong, maar ik sluit niet uit dat het volkomen op eigen kracht was.

Verwacht ook meer over Mevrouw Tamara. De prachtig vormgegeven cd is mee naar huis gegaan en draait zijn rondjes op weg naar een recensie.


Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Prooi':

donderdag 27 oktober 2016

Damaged Good. Bettie Serveert

Good(s) may be damaged, but that doesn't apply to the music on 'Damaged Good'. Is it just me or has Bettie Serveert released its third whopper of a record in a row? 'Oh Mayhem' is in my list of favourite albums of the 10s too date and I don't think this new album is any less. If over time not better and certainly more subtle. With drummer Joppe Molenaar, let me say it once again, Bettie Serveert was offered a new leash on life and music. The energy of its drummer reflects in all it does.

Damaged Good kicks off with the kind of indie, almost punk rocker 'B-Cuz'. In the best Bettie Serveert tradition the band rocks out, but there's this heavy riff going straight through the song, but also this organ that adds a little extra flavour. The softer intermezzo gives the song extra depth. The ideal opener for a new album. I can see Peter Visser rock out in his own special way, one with his guitar, pedals and amp. Together they are a human driven machine. The song to open the shows with. Yes, I'll admit it, I'm a big fan of his guitar playing.

That the listener is really in for a trip with Damaged Good is shown in the second and third song. 'Brickwall' is this slow atmospheric song, just two guitars and Carol van Dijk's voice. The solo guitar plays long sliding notes, heightening the mood. After a short silence it is not 'Brickwall' that continues, but in all sense and purposes it could have, as 'Brother (In Loins)' is the up tempo brother of the song that went before it. The light notes in the intermezzo, again great use of dynamics, make it one song.

Promo photo
By then it is clear to me that Bettie Serveert has made another step in its career. The band has on the one hand accepted that what it is extremely good at, up to mid tempo indie rock songs with inventive guitar playing and fierce rhythms. The other hand follows below.

First I'd like to focus on something that is easily overlooked. The undertones of Bettie Serveert are in the able hands of bass player Herman Bunskoeke, who lays the foundation for all the songs. Who listens more carefully though, will find that there are often melodies to be found as well in his playing, making a song so much more interesting to listen to.

I may be the only one, judging from the shows when most people around me start drooling when a song from 'Palomine' comes by, but Bettie Serveert is so much better than in 1992 and 2002. The songs are tighter, the dynamics so much better placed and there's still a will to experiment and incorporate what works. Take 'Whatever Happens'. It starts out as a pure singer-songwriter ballad, acoustic guitar and voice. In the chorus the band explodes, after which the mood goes down to a late night sequence, but all electric. Carol van Dijk is not afraid to sing to the edge of what she can manage. Yes, her voice is ageing, but listen to the beauty of it all. And then the song goes of in another direction again. One of the most beautiful songs Bettie Serveert ever did, with a small The Beatles nudge at the end of each chorus to top it off.

The way in which the band tries out something new and incorporates it into its own sound is just fabulous. It sounds as if a lot of work and preparation went into Damaged Good. All for the greater good. It expands the record beyond just the new Bettie Serveert album, something I've always welcomed since 'Lamprey' and with the exception of 'Private Suit' the band never disappointed me. However with 'Oh, Mayhem' and now Damaged Good something extra has happened. The band exceeded my expectations. Believe me, that is rare for me with a band that is around for a long time. I'm so pleasantly surprised to all what is going on on Damaged Good that words really are not enough. Listening in awe ought to suffice, but then you would not have had anything to read. The adventure a song like 'Deadly Sin (No,.7) presents, really is enough though. That Claw Boys Claw's Peter te Bos features on 'Love Sick' by then is just a pleasant footnote to Damaged Good.

There are many interesting new bands around in The Netherlands that have released one or two albums in recent years. Several have found its spot on these pages. The indie master called Bettie Serveert fends of the competition easily. Damaged Good is, I know I'm in a lot of trouble coming up with just a top 10 at the end of this year, one of the great records of 2016.


You can listen to 'Never Be Over' here:

woensdag 26 oktober 2016

Aura Blaze. Aura Blaze

From a like to the blogpost on Primitive Smile by Emanuel and the Fear to a blogpost on Aura Blaze? Stranger things have happened, I'm sure. The like brought me to Aura Blaze's Bandcamp site with its latest album and some other, older ones.

Aura Blaze is a latter day Mike Oldfield. That all songs were written by one person only is not so exceptional. That with the exception of the organ solo in 'Sub-Earthen Patchwork Torus', played by Carl Rachel, all instruments are played by Rhode Rachel is more special. Now that organ really tears things apart in 'Sub-Earthen Patchwork Torus', making the mention totally deserved. Robin Piso of DeWolff would be proud if he was the one playing here. DeWolff is a reference in general, but also more rigorous in most of its songs, but we are in its territory. Rock, pop and psychedelia, all come by on Aura Blaze in different guises, but all extremely pleasant and pleasing. It is difficult not to be tickled by what is coming by here.

Aura Blaze can set off in a grand style. After a guitar progression in a 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' style  intro a full band kicks in. Rocking all out. At that point in time the song can go in very different directions. From grunge light to The Beatles. The moment Rhode Rachel starts singing things change. Someone close to me calls it bathroom style singing and usually demands something else on the speakers. I prick up my ears. Sweet psychedelia. The song is an aural version of the sleeve design. All the instruments are ever present in full presence, blurring at the edges. "I won't let you down' is the central part of the lyric in 'A Glass Of Tears Half Empty' and the music sustains this for 100%. There's no falling through the cracks here.

I'm glad Rhode Rachel knows his Goethe: "It is in self-limitation that a master first shows himself". If the album had consisted of songs this big only, Aura Blaze would have floored me somewhere halfway the album. It doesn't. Overkill was just around the corner for Aura Blaze. It never took that direction and went for glory instead.

Everyone who starts with the first song, 'White Lotus Chakra Blossoms in Pranotthanic Euphoria', knows that already. Spoken, distorted words over music that is slowly being built up around an organ theme. When released the song grows into the lotus that opens itself with firm drums and a great electric guitar. The song titles do remind me of Marble Sheep, the music at times, but remains more on the song side of things.

'Life Is A Lucid Dream', the second song on the album, is a song that could have been recorded in the second half of the sixties. Without pinning it to one specific band, it is more a morphing of many British and U.S. bands of the era, the time comes alive totally. A strong melody and full of fantasy. You will find a few more of these glorious songs on Aura Blaze. Songs that are instantly pleasing and have it in them to grow as well. Rachel knows how to add an interesting lick and attractive solo or harmony to the mix. Neither is he afraid to add another instrument, creating a full sound in which each instrument has its place and moment of glory.

And here I'm touching upon one of the strong points of Aura Blaze, Rhode Rachel is an expert arranger. So much is going on and nothing appears to be out of place. In that the album, the style of music totally apart, reminds me of Steely Dan. No matter how complex, it all seems so effortlessly. There are more modern comparisons as well of course. Aura Blaze certainly has listened to The New Pornographers at least once. 'Gold Sparkle Sun Design', attests to that.

Aura Blaze may be for over a year on Bandcamp, to me the album is totally new and it deserves more attention. I have heard many psychedelic rock albums over the past few years, not many as good as Aura Blaze though. Aura Blaze presents a perfect mix of pop, sixties psychedelia and rock combined with a modern day attitude. When all's been said and done Aura Blaze may have its head high up in the sky, its two feet remain firmly on the ground, creating the best of both worlds.


You can listen to and buy Aura Blaze here:

dinsdag 25 oktober 2016

Veggie Patch In The Desert. Elenne May

And finally here's instalment number three. I started this trip in January with the first EP that was released in November of 2015, 'Sheep For Fibre', followed by the second EP, 'Stairs Raise Children' (and a live show in Utrecht) this May. All songs are to be combined into Elenne May's second album with the same name as this EP. This blog followed the sequence of the EPs, so why stop now?

Again Veggie Patch In The Desert does not let itself be caught in the first listen session. It grows on me, like plants grow slowly but surely, to finally bloom and show their beauty. All mood, all atmosphere, so musical, yet so apart from what is common in music in 2016. Elenne May does not please instantly, but certainly in the most satisfying way. As an experience worth reliving. Again and again.

Like the angels' dust on the cover, the music is sprinkled over the listener. Slowly but surely I let myself be enraptured by the music of Elenne May. Mystical, mysterious, as if Enya in a rock setting, because of the dark guitar sounds of Roeland Scherff and the soft drums and bass behind it. Elenne Klok is less prominent as a keyboard player than on the previous EP. This is the guitar side of Elenne May.

It all starts with 'Prayer Booth'. A dark song that unfolds slowly. There's so much inner tension within the song that it's almost bursting at the seams. There's a Kate Bush meets choir music by Agnes Obel meets The xx guitar element to the song.

At the same time Grace Slick at her best in Jefferson Airplane can be heard over the first three songs as well. All have that 'Rejoyce' magical element. The songs have a lightness that belies the mood. This is an evening record at a minimum. Late night is even better suited probably. No one left to run around in the streets. 'The White Dove' begins soft and tranquil but somewhere halfway the mood changes and becomes a bit harsher. The guitar has what I'd call the signature sound for this EP. Some sort of vibrato effect is put on the solo notes, giving it an ominous sound that adds to the tension that is not released.

'Vegetated Kindness' creates its own universe. Again a soft song with a few synth sounds moving in and out of the song. The rhythm is introduced by the bass of Eveline Ypma. She softly cradles the song with the repeated soft riff over which all enfolds. Again the song changes mood when Elenne May sings '"Dominate Me', quite a change from the previous EP where textually the opposite was sung.

Veggie Patch In The Desert ends with the lightest and most joyful song of the EP: 'I Have The Key'. It unwinds towards the moment we are, abruptly, sent on our way: "And of you go". Back to life and reality, with a head full of magical songs. Songs that are not easy to sing along to, songs that are hard to grasp and remember, but also songs that are with like a warm coat. Missed as soon as it's not there when I need it.

No matter what I compare Elenne May to, it is totally its own. The band has a unique sound that is getting more to the point by the record. Fairy tales and angels' dust might have been a title to for one of the EPs. To call the band unique is perhaps slightly far-fetched, the term comes close though. This band builds its own mood and atmosphere and presents itself very self-assured. Time for a first breakthrough of some sorts. A minute with Matthijs would be a good start.

The trip started in January this year is over. It is all here now and turned into a cd and LP with 16 songs. How will it all sound in one go? I'm about to find out.


You can listen to and buy Elenne May's songs here:

maandag 24 oktober 2016

Interview with Death Goldbloom’s Tim Claridge

Because of a review on this blog of an album by Natalie Ramsay by Erwin Zijleman I listened to her album 'Fly To Home'. I liked it so much that I wrote my own review and contacted her to do an interview. She did something fairly unusual in her response. She pointed me to local musicians she liked first. One of them was Tim Claridge, someone who has a tremendous output under several names, including his own. For some time I was interested to hear more from him, but needed an excuse to do so.

With the release of the first full-length Death Goldbloom album 'A Dirty Dozen Bars', it was time to reach out to Tim and find out more. In the following he talks you through his life and music, which are very inter related you'll find. Tim Claridge is a man with much to say and you'll find a lot to play as there's a lot coming out soon. Also a man with a lot of talent, a great voice and many musical skills. It's time for you to meet him and get to know him better.

Interview: Wout de Natris

© WoNo Magazine 2016

All pictures by Natalie Ramsay

How would you like to introduce yourself? 
Hey I’m Tim. I may not have a perfect body, but at least I’m poor and tired all the time. 

In my mind you seem to eat, drink and sleep music. Music of very different genres as well. Do you come from a musical family and what are your earliest musical impressions? 
Yeah, on my mom’s side, there’s tons of music and art. My Aunt is a piano teacher, her son is a music teacher, I have an uncle who’s a painter, his daughter is a DJ in London and flies out to gigs all over the world. My older brother is a saxophone/clarinet player and has travelled to almost every continent on the earth on cruise ships playing jazz and whatever old people like to listen to.
I played flute for about 8 years in school, and in high school I was in jazz band, ripping Jethro Tull blues licks over jazz songs. We went to the regional jazz band competition and my brother and I would both come home with the “best soloist” award and plaque for our grade. It was some intense brotherly competition.

Then in grade 11, the amount of people calling me “fairy boy” got to me, so I dropped out of jazz band, and started taking guitar lessons, and I was the kid walking around the hallway with a guitar on my back all the time. I also quit football, which severely disappointed my dad, and stopped playing video games to give more time to really learning guitar. It was one of my few good decisions. 

At what age did you start to develop your own taste and what were you listening to at that time? 
When I was young, I was the fattest kid in class, and was generally pretty miserable most of the time, so when I found Eminem and Linkin Park, that was my shit. A couple years after that, a friend sold me Paranoid by Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin III, for like $5 each so that he could go buy some weed, and from there I got into Ozzy Osbourne and Dio and tons of metal. I had a two hour bus ride home from school everyday, so a walkman and one of those huge cd cases was my best friend for years and years. I listened to music so much I had to steal batteries from London Drugs because I’d run out of allowance. Till, one day when I was 13, I got arrested (cus I got greedy and went back for blank cds) and the cops drove me home.
Then Mp3 players came out and they seemed to need less battery juice and the music addiction kept growing. 

You wrote to me that Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ is one of your favourite albums. What appeals to you in the album? 
Yeah, I think that probably is my favourite album. Maybe it’s a toss up between that, and QOTSA’s Songs for the deaf (although that has a few tracks that I have to skip…)
I love how it makes you wait. There are no vocals for something like 4 or 5 minutes into the first track. The lyrics are about losing your mind, and how the melody falls and rises, it sets up this intense, longing mood. When the chorus kicks in with the backup vocals and organ, it kicks your ass with a beautiful explosion of emotion.

The next two tracks bring this dark, sci-fi adventure, and then the title track is a surprisingly stripped down, acoustic song, and the contrast is incredible, I cried the first time I heard it. And I wasn’t even on any drugs…

Although that day, my vice principle had told me I was expelled and I took my last $20 to future-shop to buy some Pink Floyd cus I thought the forthcoming wrath from my parents would ground me for life.. So my emotions were running sky high when I first heard that album, and it’s one of those parts of my life that I’ll never forget. It’s beautiful that music creates bookmarks in our memories. 

When did playing an instrument come into your life and when did you find out for yourself that you wanted more than to just play? 
So I’d been playing instruments since I was really young, when I was 16, I took up guitar. And after about a year of lessons, I jammed with a friend who was the best guitar player any of my friends knew. And the jam was so exciting and fun, that he called his older brother down, who was even more amazing, and his younger brother came down on drums. That was a huge spark going off in my head of how much fun it is to jam. The blues, Megadeth, Pink floyd songs, anything and everything I just wanted to shred solos over. 

Who influenced you most as a guitar player? 
Marty Friedman, Josh Homme, Randy Rhoads, David Gilmore.. I could go on and on about these guys for decades, but it’d probably bore anyone who doesn’t play guitar. I like people who balance soul with taking risks. And people who know how to tune their fucking guitar.
Recently I’ve also been lucky enough to take lessons with Kenny from Anciients, my favourite Vancouver band, and the best Canadian metal band. I had to drive at least an hour to and from the lessons, but it was worth it. He’s one of the most inspiring guys I’ve ever met, and he’s super nice. Anciients got nominated for a Juno on their last album, the new one is even more amazing.. Being in the same room as him makes me feel like a terrible guitar player, which is good for the ol’ ego. 

From a continent and an ocean away it seems that meeting Natalie Ramsay was important to you as a musician. How did you two meet and how important is she to you? 
Yeah, I don’t know what I’d be doing if it wasn’t for her. I wanted to take vocal lessons (I was tired of being in a punk band),  I found her teaching ad on craigslist, and she said we could do Alice in Chains songs all I wanted. And when I met her, I immediately had a crush on her.. So I did vocal lessons twice a week for I don’t know, almost two years?..
At one point, after about a month of lessons, she told me ‘no more lessons, until you do an open mic.’ Which despite being a terrible performance fuelled by codeine and weed (I was a university student..) Helped me get over my stage fright.

All of my first gigs were because of her. She often writes these very beautiful folk songs that are lovely and warm, but what keeps me falling in love with her is when she sings with darkness and blues. She does a cover of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats’ “Devil’s Work” that blows me away every time I hear it. She also has a cover Opeth’s “Faith in Others” that’s amazing.. She does a goddamn mean Lana Del Rey and Lera Lynn. I’m usually not that into female singers, but she’s got one of the most beautiful voices in the world. I’ve been spoiled being in a band with her, I’m not sure how anyone else would be able to hold up.. I’ve also learned everything I know about harmonies from her. She’s a genius at that.

Things with her have been the most intense connection in a life of intense relationships for me, but through the ups and downs she’s been the most encouraging, loving person I’ve known. It’s a complicated connection between two very complicated people, but we still love each other tons and she’s my best friend.

Her and I have been playing shows at yoga studios once or twice a week for the last two years, and the response has always been amazing. Singing next to her in a dead silent room full of 40-50 people all listening, has really cut my teeth and forced me to get my shit together. If I’m off pitch, there’s no drum set to hide behind.

She’s my Layne Staley. And she also loves Jim Jeffries and Louis CK, so when we aren’t jamming there’s stuff we can still get along doing. 

Musically a lot seems to be going on in Vancouver. What does the city stand for to you? 
Hmm, Vancouver is the warmest part of the country.. So leaving it would be hard because it’s already kind of cold for me.. It’s beautiful and I love the epic hikes and kayaking, and a lot of my friends live here. But it’s hard getting gigs at a bar, and inviting friends there, and telling them “oh, it’s just a block and a half away from the poorest, sketchiest intersection in the country.”
Main and Hastings is a third world country hidden inside one of the wealthiest cities in the world. I used to love putting on my headphones and walking down Hastings street at midnight on a Friday, listening to either demos I’m working on, or some dark stuff like Opeth and you see terrifying things all around. People shooting up in store openings, surrounded by crowds of lost souls selling stolen tv-remotes on carpets on the sidewalk. Middle-aged women with sunken in, crooked cheeks openly selling themselves. Guys on every block eying you up and asking if you need anything. There’s always cops there, but it’s obvious they’re overwhelmed.

I wouldn’t walk there alone if I was a girl. But I’m kind of a dark, fucked up person, so that sort of stuff excites me. It also reminds me not to do drugs… And to deal with mental issues and not let them destroy your life. I don’t mean to sound like I look down on these people but I just find that keeping in touch with the underdogs of the world is good for me. Too much comfort can really ruin me.

Every month or so, the police put out another warning of how we’re in an epidemic of drug overdoses. Every year for the last couple years has been the most overdoses in recent history. Anyway, it’s a beautiful city, with some awesome local bands. It’s great if you’re a millionaire, but it’s a hard place for young people, and for the poor. 

You have a few musical careers. Solo, Death Goldbloom, Hymalyan. How do you set them apart for yourself? Do you know when you write a song that it belongs in either category? 
I read Zakk Wylde say in an interview something like you never know when your last day is going to be, so don’t save things up for later. Whatever I’m doing at the moment is where I’m going to put my best ideas. That said, in a band, everyone has to be into the songs, so if no one else likes it, I’m saving it for myself. Or bringing it back two weeks later and hoping they don’t recognize it.. So much of whether you like new music depends on what kind of mood you’re in. 

At the same time, from the same distance, I have the impression that you approach music as an, important, hobby. What are your ambitions musically? 
When I was in school, all I could think about was music. When I’m travelling, all I can think about is music. When I’m at work, I’m writing lyrics in my head or working parts out and trying different things. I feel like I’m still trying to find a sound that works that I’m good at, but I’m getting better and closer all the time. These yoga gigs pay really good money, and I’m constantly getting better, even over the last couple weeks. So music doesn’t make me a living currently, but it’s definitely my life. I’ve never dated a girl who I thought had bad taste in music.. I’m currently trying to get over the anxiety of applying for grants, booking agents and the business side of things, all the while finding a voice/sound that sticks. It’s hard to nail down a specific ambition, but maybe playing a festival would be up there. I used to really want to be nominated for a Juno. Some of the bands that get those are fucking terrible. 

To focus on the latest Death Goldbloom record. I rather like the Jeff Goldblum sort of as the Teletubby baby sun. Does Goldblum know he is on the cover? 
Haha, no he doesn’t know. It’s as illegal as it is awesome. But I look at how NWA got a cease and desist letter from the FBI as the best thing they ever did. Local bands that get in trouble, like “the Vietcong,” (for apparently having an offensive name), the only reason I know who they are is because they got in trouble. Jeff Goldblum sues Death Goldbloom would be a nice headline. 

The title of the album is different from what I would expect, i.e. A Dozen Dirty Bars. What does it stand for? 
Well it’s referencing 12 bar blues, which is the basic kind of blues song you’d sometimes whip out at a jam to get warmed up or whatever. It’s also referring to the dirty types of bars you’ll find bands playing at in Vancouver. Also, The Dirty Dozen, which is a badass Charles Bronson movie. 

How long have you worked on the album and how was it recorded? 
Ah it took me months to write. We recorded drums at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra building. Everything else was kind of done in a basement. It took more than a year to finish and was just a nightmare in general. It was a lot of fun, and I’m psyched on how the songs sound, and I learned a ton about recording and production in the process, but it wasn’t easy. One song “Ain’t Got Nothing” we must’ve re-recorded three times and it went from being this huge Queens of the Stone Age-ish triple tracked heavy monster to being a single track of vocals and guitar/Jimi Hendrix sounding thing. Which worked so much better. I was learning Midnight Lightning by Hendrix one day, and a light bulb went off in my head, of “why don’t I steal some of these licks?!” And Graeme (my bass player/producer) and I were both relieved to be finally into it. 

Again there are very different kind of songs on ‘A Dirty Dozen Bars’. Who influenced you for this record? 
I was really into the Doors. I wanted some chill songs that you could put on while going for a summer walk. A lot of my earlier stuff was kind of an unintentional chest thumping exercise in masculinity and aggression, and some of these songs were just me wanting to make something I could relax to. I was  really into O.V. Wright, and old soul tracks. And Hendrix. My previous stuff was mostly like 4 or 5 guitar tracks layered, so the challenge here was to get it stripped down and still sounding good, so that my voice had more space. 

In between several songs there are collages of spoken word and imagery. Is there a continuum in the fragments or individual song related and where did you find them? 
I spent a couple hours looking through youtube videos of old instructional videos from the 50s/60s. And I took parts of my favourite youtube video of all time (the Petey Green shows you how to eat watermelon video) and spliced them together. I was kind of inspired by the Black Keys’ first album. Also at our shows I’m usually telling some super offensive jokes between songs, which is sometimes my friends’ most memorable part of the show. I wanted to inject some of my strange sense of humour into the album. 

In the lyrics you are rather harsh on yourself and/or the circumstances. Are you emulating the blues of old or is this you singing to us? E.g., did you “pray for death” when young? (I like the ‘no one was listening and mother’ part that follows.) The contrast with the spoken word preceding it is rather large to, isn’t it? 
Yeah, I think the lyrics are almost all honest. You’ll always exaggerate things a bit, or combine things, or sometimes make them more vague to be poetic/relatable, but I can remember praying for death when I was young. I would also pray for cancer. And then I’d get terrified and ask to take it back. And then the next day pray for it again. I was just kind of a lonely kid, and heaven sounded like a cool place. Or I thought the cancer would be an exciting, new thing that’d get me sympathy from my parents/friends.
Yeah it’s a huge contrast, and I wanted to put that in there to kind of take some of the seriousness and angst away from it. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with being sad. One of my favourite Nietzsche quotes is “The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night.” Metallica’s most popular song, “Fade to Black”, is about suicide. The world is so strange, and so discouraging, and I think you’d have to be psychotic to not be cripplingly sad for at least some of your life. When I hear other people sing about dark things, it reminds me that I’m not alone. 

The sound of ‘A Dirty Dozen Bars’ is different from the mini album ‘Cluster Funk’. What changed in between the two albums? 
We got a bass player, so I wanted the bass to be more of a presence in the songs. I also wanted stuff that we could more easily recreate live, so one or two guitar tracks instead of like 4 or 5. I’d also been writing parts for string quartets for a couple albums, which has been one of the highlights of my life, watching a professional quartet play my music.. But I wanted to try something different, so my room mate, Ari from Chicken-Like Birds, (who’s the best blues guitarist/harmonica player I’ve ever met) laid down some wicked harmonica for us. 

The devil plays a role in songs on both albums. What does he stand for to you? 
He’s my favourite mythological character. I went to catholic school, and was really religious until about the age of 16, so I was one of those people who was terrified of him for most of my life. But he’s really the main character in the Christian mythology that I can relate to. He gave humans free will, and took Jesus into the desert and told him he could save mankind by ruling over it. Honestly, wouldn’t the world be a better place if Jesus was an immortal warrior (Scorpion?..) king instead of a dead hippy on a crucifix?
If you had a boss who murdered everyone at the company for misbehaving (except for suck-up Noah and his friends) and you didn’t question or rebel against him, would you not be a sociopath?
He’s also the side of you that tells you to enjoy the now; the epicurean way of life, of pleasure and sin. I usually sing about him as a metaphor for temptation. Sometimes it’s a girl, sometimes a substance, or sometimes depression.

There’s a lyric in 66th and Crimson about having “666” tattooed on my hip. Which is something I actually did in on a trip in Thailand, to prove to myself that I’m not superstitious and I don’t believe in that stuff anymore. It was kind of liberating for me after a youth of catholic guilt. It didn’t make my family very happy though. 

What is the future of Death Goldbloom now that drummer Tomek and you parted ways? 
I came up with the name Death Goldbloom, so I might still use it. It’s too bad Natalie doesn’t like it. It’s what I’m calling an album that I’m almost finished working on right now.. And if I get another bluesy band together, I might take up that mantle again, because some of those songs and that sound, I still love and people are still excited to hear live.

I don’t know how appropriate it is to get into personal details of why the band broke up, but I will say that they say if it has tits or wheels, it’ll give you problems. And our problems didn’t have any wheels. 

In general what can we expect from you in the coming year? 
I got the drummer from Anciients, Mike Hannay (who’s amazing), to record on my album with the booked studio time (before Tomek left, WdN). Jamming and recording with him was a blast. Doing the album by myself was a lot of money, but I decided if I cancelled, emotionally I was going to be in too dark of a place, so I ended up splurging. Life’s short..
I recorded it with Stu at Rain City Recorders who did my first solo one, and the first Death Goldbloom EP. This album’s called “Every Place in Hell is Special,” and it was me in a dark place, exploring the scenery a bit. Some of the riffs I wrote 4 years ago in an Ashram in India, but didn’t have a drummer who could pull the riffs off. The album is also a bit of a ‘fuck you’ to my last band.

I haven’t really felt like collaborating in a band with anyone over the last little while, and I’ve just been working on dark, folk stuff. I’m almost done recording an album of stripped back songs in that style with Graeme (who did A Dirty Dozen Bars). When you have a low voice, it gets lost in big mixes pretty easily. Giving it space lets it shine in a way that it wouldn’t otherwise. I used to want to bury my voice, but now I’m a little more narcissistic.

I might end up just taking my favourites from both albums and selling that as a physical release. It’d be pretty eclectic though.

The future is always a bit of an anxiety attack for me to get into, but I’d love to put together a bluesy trio like Gary Clark Jr.’s, and to try writing/recording stripped down, dark stuff with Natalie.
You can also expect a wide variety of cardinal sins, struggles with hashbrowns and procrastinating life.

zondag 23 oktober 2016

The Burden Of Unshakeable Proof. Vanessa Peters

Vanessa Peters maakt al heel wat jaren interessante platen, maar met het vorig jaar verschenen With The Sentimentals overtrof de Amerikaanse muzikante zichzelf met een plaat die op indrukwekkende wijze het oeuvre van Aimee Mann naar de kroon stak.
Op With The Sentimentals werkte Vanessa Peters samen met de Deense muzikant MC Hansen en een volledig Deense begeleidingsband en maakte ze indruk met geweldige songs, die na één keer horen voorgoed in het geheugen waren opgeslagen.
Vanessa Peters, die in het verleden ook al een tijd vanuit Italië opereerde, maakte haar nieuwe plaat voor de afwisseling eens in haar thuisbasis in Texas. Het maakt voor de kwaliteit van haar platen weinig tot niets uit, want ook The Burden Of Unshakeable Proof  is weer een plaat om zielsveel van te houden.
Ook op haar nieuwe plaat maakt Vanessa Peters weer met het grootste gemak popsongs die na een half keer horen memorabel zijn. Het zijn bijzonder melodieuze popsongs, die redelijk in het verlengde liggen van de voorganger van The Burden Of Unshakeable Proof, al heeft het feit dat de studio dit keer op Amerikaanse bodem stond gezorgd voor net wat meer invloeden uit de Amerikaanse rootsmuziek.
Ook bij beluistering van de nieuwe plaat van Vanessa Peters moest ik weer met enige regelmaat denken aan het werk van Aimee Mann, al heeft de nieuwe plaat ook raakvlakken met het werk van Dar Williams en dat van Natalie Merchant, waarmee ik direct drie van mijn favoriete zangeressen heb genoemd.
Het is niet eens zo makkelijk om uit te leggen wat zo goed is aan de platen van Vanessa Peters. De Amerikaanse maakt het soort songs dat je al jaren lijkt te kennen en het zijn songs die onmiddellijk een positieve invloed hebben op je humeur en op het weer buiten.
Vanessa Peters voorziet haar platen bovendien van een mooi verzorgde instrumentatie en productie en beschikt over een stem die aangenaam rondwaart in je hoofd en keer op keer behoorlijk meedogenloos weet te verleiden.
The Burden Of Unshakeable Proof zal, net als zijn voorgangers, niet al teveel aandacht krijgen in Nederland, maar daarmee doen we Vanessa Peters echt flink tekort. Ook met haar nieuwe plaat heeft Vanessa Peters immers weer een plaat gemaakt die de wereld even een stuk mooier en aangenamer maakt. Alle reden dus om ook deze nieuwe prachtplaat van de Amerikaanse heel vaak uit de speakers of koptelefoon te laten komen. Ik kan al een tijdje niet meer zonder en dat zal nog wel even zo blijven.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt het album hier luisteren en kopen:

zaterdag 22 oktober 2016

Young In All The Wrong Ways. Sara Watkins

Het cv van Sara Watkins is zo langzamerhand behoorlijk indrukwekkend. Ze maakte op jonge leeftijd deel uit van de met name in de Verenigde Staten zeer succesvolle (progressive) bluegrass band Nickel Creek, imponeerde met het hobbyproject Mutual Admiration Society, leverde twee prima soloplaten af en verraste vorig jaar nog met  de plaat van de gelegenheidsband Watkins Family Hour (waarop onder andere Fiona Apple acte de présence gaf).
Met haar derde soloplaat Young In All The Wrong Ways zet de singer-songwriter uit California een volgende stap en het is wederom een flinke stap geworden.
Sara Watkins heeft de bluegrass die ze in haar tienerjaren zo liefdevol omarmde zeker niet afgezworen, maar laat ook op haar nieuwe plaat weer horen dat ze op een zeer breed terrein binnen de Amerikaanse rootsmuziek uit de voeten kan.
In de uitstekende titeltrack en openingstrack laat ze de gitaren scheuren om vervolgens indruk te maken met een zeer ingetogen song waarin haar stem alle aandacht opeist. Pas in de derde track winnen invloeden uit de country en de bluegrass aan terrein en laat Sara Watkins horen dat ze ook in dit genre tot de absolute top behoort. Andere invloeden overheersen echter op de plaat, waarmee de lijn van voorganger Sun Midnight Sun uit 2012 wordt doorgetrokken.
Sara Watkins heeft Young In All The Wrong Ways zeker niet in haar uppie gemaakt. Voor haar derde soloplaat kon ze een beroep doen op topkrachten als onder andere Jay Bellerose (die ook dit keer goed is voor geweldig drumwerk), Jon Brion, Jim James, Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan, Benmont Tench, broer Sean Watkins en de zeer getalenteerde producer Gabe Witcher. Young In All The Wrong Ways klinkt hierdoor fantastisch en loopt over van muzikaal vuurwerk, waarin vooral de af en toe stevig rockende gitaren opvallen.
Sara Watkins voelt zich in het wat stevigere instrumentarium als een vis in het water. Waar haar stem vroeger vooral puur en lieflijk klonk, kan ze nu zo nu en dan stevig uithalen, waardoor het ook in vocaal opzicht smullen is.
Sara Watkins heeft al flink wat uitstekende platen op haar naam staan, maar op Young In All The Wrong Ways hebben haar songs flink aan kracht gewonnen, mede door de door een liefdesbreuk toegevoegde emotionele lading.
Het klinkt allemaal zo goed en steekt zo knap in elkaar dat één keer horen eigenlijk al voldoende is om te vallen voor deze plaat. Laat het hier zeker niet bij, want de nieuwe plaat van Sara Watkins groeit nog lang door en laat steeds meer schoonheid en bezieling horen. Young In All The Wrong Ways krijgt nog niet veel aandacht in Nederland, maar is echt een prachtplaat.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Young In All The Wrong Ways':

vrijdag 21 oktober 2016

At Swim. Lisa Hannigan

Het is al weer bijna 15 jaar geleden dat de Britse singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan een onuitwisbare indruk maakte aan de zijde van Damien Rice.
Haar prachtige achtergrondvocalen schreeuwden werkelijk om een solocarrière en die kwam er uiteindelijk in 2008.
Na Sea Sew uit 2008 en Passenger uit 2011 is het deze week verschenen At Swim de derde soloplaat van Lisa Hannigan en, laat ik maar met de deur in huis vallen, het is met afstand haar beste plaat tot dusver.
Op Sea Sew en Passenger viel weinig toch niets aan te merken, maar bij beide platen had ik, zeker achteraf, het idee en gevoel dat Lisa Hannigan beter zou moeten kunnen. Dat dit zo is laat de Britse op indrukwekkende wijze horen op At Swim.
At Swim werd geproduceerd door The National voorman Aaron Dessner. Dessner heeft de derde plaat van Lisa Hannigan voorzien van een op het eerste gehoor behoorlijk ingetogen productie, maar het is een productie die uiteindelijk flink bijdraagt aan de schoonheid van At Swim en van de eerste tot en met de laatste noot trefzeker is.
De ingetogen maar ook veelkleurige instrumentatie voorziet de plaat van een rijk maar stemmig kleurenpalet en dompelt de vocalen van Lisa Hannigan onder in een bad van melancholie. Het is een bad waarin de prachtige stem van de Britse singer-songwriter uitstekend gedijt.
Waar Lisa Hannigan op haar vorige twee platen de urgentie geregeld uit het oog verloor, is At Swim zo’n plaat die vastgrijpt en niet meer los laat. Zeker bij beluistering met de koptelefoon hoor je goed hoe mooi de akoestische instrumentatie voortkabbelt maar ook verrast met prachtige accenten van onder andere piano en strijker. Je hoort verder vooral hoe mooi Lisa Hannigan zingt.
De vocalen op At Swim zijn vaak fluisterzacht, maar het zijn ook vocalen die betoveren en bezweren. Lisa Hannigan kan je op At Swim raken met directe en emotievolle folksongs die soms een bijna pastoraal karakter hebben, maar kan ook heerlijk wegzweven als een Scandinavische ijsprinses.
At Swim is een plaat die je onmiddellijk wilt koesteren, maar de ware pracht van de derde plaat van Lisa Hannigan komt pas naar boven als je de songs op de plaat meerdere keren hebt gehoord. Sinds die eerste noten op het debuut van Damien Rice koester ik het talent van Lisa Hannigan, maar op At Swim laat ze pas horen hoe goed ze echt is. Indrukwekkende plaat.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'At Swim':

donderdag 20 oktober 2016

City Club. The Growlers

It's like a whole wave of musical memories washes over me listening to City Club. The Growlers is a band that loves working with existing ideas, works them around and presents them as something new. That is basically the idea I get from listening to its album. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. If the quality is there, it's just fine.

City Club has come by on my player regularly, so the quality part is certainly o.k. What is behind The Growlers? I had not a clue, so I decided to open the bio. The name The Strokes and more specifically its singer Julian Casablancas had popped up in my mind while listening to the music on offer more than once. City Club is released on his label, Cult Records and was co-produced by the man. That explains a lot I have to say. Singer Brooks Nielsen certainly recorded his vocals in a similar vein.

The Growlers are from Los Angeles and is, now, a three piece band. Around since 2006 it has released five records since 2009. For an album that started out as loops over loops it has an extremely melodic side. The Growlers have found the melodies in or around the loops.

In the first track the approach mentioned is easy to discern. Until the break it is a uniform kind of song that starts and repeats each and every time. Matt Taylor is responsible most for the loops. Singer Brooks Nielsen recorded his vocals over them. In the title song that opens the album, it's like a part of the 80s marches through my speakers. A guitar like Duran Duran's 'Girls On Film', a beat like same song. The voice is just so much different. The exuberance of Duran Duran's first hitsingle is certainly missing. That is where the influence of Julian Casablancas shows itself. It is not as if this is New Romantics disco. For that everything is too dark and subdued.

'I'll Be Around' is a more funky track. Not a happy track, but certainly danceable. The rhythm is at the bottom of things here. A relaxed version of The Stone Roses or Primal Scream. Madchester is not far around the corner with The Growlers. Half of the rhythm parts are stripped away here and its not organic percussion I'm hearing. The slurry singing certainly is.

Luckily for the mood of the album, The Growlers can take a softer turn. 'Night Ride' has a much more relaxed and lighter sound. Here it is Brooks Nielsen's treated voice that keeps the mood down. By then it is clear that in each song an interesting lead melody can be found. Talking about expertise, then this needs mentioning.

As the album progresses The Stokes' influence becomes larger and larger, without the few absolute top songs that band has a patent on. Towards the end of the album it even becomes a bit irritating, I can't help but noticing that my attention wanders off. The uniformity of the way the album is compiled does become a problem to sit out the whole length at once. The other side is that when I start the album half way, that problem is taken care of. So that adds to the positive side of things.

All in all City Club pleases me half of the time, with enough interesting melodies to be on the good side of me. And that club? Apparently it's real. Like Big Star's supermarket, it's right across the street from the recording studio.


You can listen to 'City Club' here:

woensdag 19 oktober 2016

Friends & Lovers. Las Kellies

We have a premiere here on WoNoBlog: the first band from Argentina to feature on these pages. Hurray, but if someone had told me Las Kellies is from just around the corner of from London or San Francisco, I would have believed him or her instantly. The sound is so familiar, dreamy, new wave, pop and rocking shoegaze that there is nothing much unique about Las Kellies.

The band started after the three ladies met at a show in Buenos Aires in 2005 and decided to start their own band. So they did and after releasing a record or two decided to tour the rest of the world as well. Two are still together, while the bass player changes nearly by the year it seems. For me Friends & Lovers is a new experience and a nice one.

Promo photo
Reading a story like the above one, makes me wonder what show did they go to and are they playing the kind of music they heard then and there in their own way with their own compositions? It ought to be telling, like the cover is. A rustic picture of roses in a garden, but tainted by light leaking into the camera. The songs on Friends & Lovers have the same sort of tainting. Somewhere beneath the gravelly rock and distorted guitars is a friendly pop song made into something of the post punk era of 1978 till 1981. When guitars still were in the driver's seat, but the mood had changed from exuberant defiance to the bomb is dropping on us any moment. The sort of music that really turned me off, something that was only made worse by the synthesizer darkness that became prominent soon after. Something that I am totally not bothered with on Friends & Lovers.

Las Kellies have a trump card: their voices. The music may be on the dark side. The female voices light up the scene. Sort of the light at the end of the tunnel. Being a trio, the musical spread has to be filled with sounds. The drummer is ever present, filling a large part of the mix. Sil Kelly has to work hard all of the time and sing her part as well. The bass is a solid presence without being in my face the whole time. In fact it is played modestly for a trio setting. The guitar fills in the rest. Rhythm and lead, so two parts in fact. Always with an echo or delay on it. Just like the voices. Bathroom style Ceci Kelly addresses us in a dreamy way. She sounds like 60s French singers; soft, innocent seduction, but beware there's a bite every once in a while underneath it all.

Promo Photo
The playing is less innocent. Rooted in The Velvet Underground groundwork, Las Kellies tries to blow me off my feet. Now I'm a big man, but they come a long way. The melodies often work and the riffs and melodies in the songs are interesting. The combinations of darkness, stark riffing and the female voices, just works. It is easy to hear how much further Las Kellies is compared to Hinds whose debut album, 'Leave Me Alone' was reviewed early this year. At best a good starting point. Friends & Lovers is music by an arrivé. Tight, to the point, no frivolities.

I find playing the album once again that it lightens up my day. It shows that so much more can be done with the musical idiom from 1980. Add a hint of 60s pop and darker rock here, a pinch of psychedelia there. In other words a little light here and there, some optimism works a miracle. Las Kellies also manages to walk around the biggest trap of this kind of music, uniformity. There is abundant variety on Friends & Lovers making it a very nice record.


You can listen to 'Summer Breeze' here: