woensdag 31 mei 2017

Kairos May 2017, by .No on Concertzender

Each month Wo. gets off his high-rocking hobby horse and descends into the musical realm of .No. A world where other artists and composers play their role and play music that hardly ever comes by in Wo.'s guitar driven world. Except when he manages to get .No's attention that is and points him to a place where the two worlds meet. That happens a few times in this episode.

Once more Wo. opens his ears and describes what happens to him, his brain, his fantasy and what not while listening.

This month's start is a bit strange. A while back I tipped .No on the band Moon Moon Moon, that featured last month for the first time on Kairos. When I was not able to go to the cd presentation, .No went there instead and heard the support act, This Leo Sunrise. And let that band open Kairos this month?! Somehow I feel beaten to it, but the better for the band, isn't it? But, being the editor in chief of these pages, I managed to post my review of the band's latest mini album before this review.

As followers of the Kairos posts have noticed often I find a theme in listening to the music for an hour. This time .No presents it himself: "dying, death and survival". The heavier kind of theme, so I brace myself for what is about to come.

As I already wrote this episode starts with Utrecht based band This Leo Sunrise. 'The Gardener Path' from its album 'Spoken'. A sole violin opens the song to be exchanged for an acoustic guitar. A subdued form of British folk from circa 1970 enfolds itself for me. Like I heard from Fairport Convention decades ago. The difference with the band's latest mini album, 'Do Not Always See' is so clear, the comparisons also. 'The Gardener Path' is so solemn, so serious. There's absolutely no light shining on this path at all. Beautiful, yet desolate.

Jherek Bischoff returns to Kairos with a track from his album 'Cistern'. Long drawn violins notes meander over a rather busy motif, repeating itself the whole time. O.k., everything is relative where "busy" is concerned. Electronic church bells is the impression I get, the sound muffled as if heard underground, in a cistern, yes. The music is relaxing while the "bells" keep me on alert. Something could happen.

House of Cosy Cushions returns as well. Reminding me of the songs of No Ninja Am I's latest album. The mood is dark and subdued. an acoustic guitar, voices and a softly played drum. Recorded as if everything was put under mattresses. 'Bleed The Need' knows no joy, as if there's nothing to enjoy in life. This does not change with the second song, 'Kerkje Te Oostum'. I am wondering whether this is a Broeder Dieleman song that I'm not familiar with. The almost unpleasantly sounding violin and cello. I am about to go on some sort of an adventure, as this song is well over 8 minutes long. Electronics take over and a held note on an organ. I see the impression of a chugging train in my mind, a steam one and then a real train, electric, passes in the distance. The bowed instruments return after a while, but the whole remains experimental. No song is emerging from the small note changes that are repeated often at certain intervals. I'm struggling, this mood does not get to me.

I'm glad that melodies are mixed into the chugging sound. First a piano, then an acoustic guitar. Not that the mood is a happy one. 'Deathbed' is another song from Moon Moon Moon's latest album 'Help! Help!'. Although the song is influenced by Sparklehorse, Moon Moon Moon truly makes something new with this song. No matter how deathlike the mood is, life sparkles though the song in the form of the piano notes that seem to be totally out of place while being totally in the right place at the same time. Life continues in the darkest of moments, something we learn the hard way in life.

Kim Janssen returns to Kairos as well with a song from his latest album 'Cousins'. An album that I truly struggled with when reviewing it. It just didn't reach me emotionally. Somehow 'Cousins' and I remained two separate entities. So I am somewhat surprised that 'Bottle Rockets' touches me instantly when it is mixed with 'Deathbed'. I seemed totally ready for this dark song, which did not happen when part of the album.

Next up is real church music. Strangely enough some of the songs that preceded this composition certainly could e played in church or a funeral remembrance service. 'The Candlelight Vigil' is the real thing. Dark, moody sounds come out of a church organ, mixed with something more modern or totally underused sounds in the organ. Music to contemplate sins by. That is what I end my musings with. Music to be alone with with your own thoughts. In other words, the ideal Kairos music.

Douglas Dare somehow totally disrupts everything. 'Nile' may be a quiet song, the percussion brings me out of a state of mind that my brain had gone into within a few minutes of Johan Johanson. It gets even worse when the near dissonant keyboard chords join the rest of 'Nile'. It is not the same in sound as the nails on the blackboard, the effect is. I am 100% certain that this effect is reached only after this combination of compositions and this unique impact. For the rest there's not much wrong with 'Nile'. In fact it is quite okay the way it plays out.

House of Cosy Cushions once again. Just two chords on an organ and a voice. That's all 'The Mad Sisters' offer, before the song blossoms like a rose on a grave. Nobody notices it really so the flower closes its petals and locks up into herself again. I have to be in the right mood to enjoy this and right now I'm not. Too early in the day of Johanson again? Who knows?

'Heavy In A Wildflower' by Ólafur Björn Ólafsson is up next. Again solemn instruments. A mood that has nothing to do with joy whatsoever. This changes somewhat when an exotic string instrument joins the rest. The tempo changes, the mood is, albeit only slightly, lifted. I like what is happening here. Ólafsson plays with my mind and takes me out of my resigned mood and back into the program. I am challenged because of the changes in the composition, which is just what I needed right now.

Pauline Oliveros is a regular feature on Kairos also over the past months. 'A Love song' takes me through the most solemn part of love. There's no lust involved here in any way. This is the kind of love that is in poetry, the love from a long distance, a love that may never be answered in which the poet revels himself inwardly and wallows in to come up with his best work. A love that is better not reciprocated as it may mean the end of his inspiration. Again there's no joy to be found here. The end of love song?

Next up is an elegy in memoriam of Rupert Brooke. Brooke was a poet killed at Gallipolli in 1915, somewhat less heroically, by an infected mosquito bite. Frederick Septimus Kelly composed the elegy in his tent at Gallipoli where he was wounded twice. He died in action in 1916 during the battle of the Somme. They were both members of 'the Latin Club' of who several members rose to high positions later in life.

This is quite a story. The music is nothing but beautiful. The mourning is so clear in everything played here. Kelly gives it his all to show the world how bereft he feels and to honour the life of Brooke. Brooke had made a name for himself as a poet on the soldier's life, including some firm nationalism. (Thank you Wikipedia.)

This month ends with a fragment of Andreas Holte's 'Full Moon Dance'. Doo wop singing without doo wop being involved. Voices repeating sounds over a soft electronic bedding. Music that takes patience to listen to. It's so slow that it is unclear whether another line will follow or that the program is already over. Birds' sounds in the background. Is it part of the program or outside of my house?


You can listen to this Kairos here:


This is May's playlist:

00:11    This Leo Sunrise. The gardener path. Album ‘Spoken’. Tiny Room Records TR008.
05:01    Jherek Bischoff. Cas(s)iopeia. Album ‘Cistern’. LEAF.
08:20    Richard Bolhuis/House of cosy cushions. Bleed the need. Album ‘Haunt Me Sweetly’.  Outcast Cats CAT 0C01.
11:59    Richard Bolhuis/House of Cosy Cushions. Kerkje te Oostum. Album ‘Spell’. Outcast Cats CAT 0C002CD.             
20:10    Mark Lohmann/Moon Moon Moon. Deathbed. Album Help! Help! Tiny Room Records TR015.
23:30    Kim Janssen. Bottle Rockets. Album ‘Cousins’. Snowstar Records.
26:09    Johan Johansson - The Candlelight Vigil. Album ‘Prisoners’. Water Tower, NTOV.
31:06    Douglas Dare. Nile. Album ‘Whelm’. Erased Tapes Records ERATP 057CD.
35:34    Richard Bolhuis/House of Cosy Cushions. The Mad Sisters. Album ‘Spell’. Outcast Cats CAT 0C002CD.
39:35    Ólafur Björn Ólafsson/Ulfur. Heaven in a wildflower. Album ‘White Mountain’. Western Vinyl.
45:34    Pauline Oliveros. A love song. Album ‘The Well And The Gentle’. hat ART 2020.
50:09    Frederick Septimus Kelly - Elegy for strings in Memoriam Rupert Brooke - St. George Quintet (Liesbeth Baelus – violin; Kaja Nowak – violin; Marie-Louise De Jong – viola; Wouter Vercruysse – violoncello; Bram Decroix - double bass). Album ‘British Legends’. Pavane ADW 7584.
57:52    Anders Holte. Full Moon Dance (fragment). Album ‘Lemurian Home Coming’. www.anders-holte.com.

dinsdag 30 mei 2017

Do Not Always See. This Leo Sunrise

Though released some time I ago, I decided to give some attention to this record after I read .No's enthusiastic report of the support show This Leo Sunrise played at the cd presentation of Moon Moon Moon. I rather liked what I heard, so here we go.

This Leo Sunrise is one of the acts released on the Tiny Room Records label. Based in Utrecht, the band describes itself as playing alt.folk/indie rock. Listening to Do Not Always See it seems that I could add a lot of other monikers to these descriptions. But why bother, really?

What I find mostly is that This Leo Sunrise is doing something that has a clear goal: being unique without being so far out of things that it becomes impossible to listen to the music. Things This Leo Sunrise start with acquainting myself with the atmosphere on this mini LP. So don't be surprised to only hear the drummer playing a rather strange rhythm before other band members join. The bass player, one guitar, then a second guitar. By then we're a minute under way. The drummer adds something to his rhythm, filling in the spaces he left before. On 2.00 minutes the singer joins and before long, rhythmic changes define his melody, that the whole band follows. There's mystery involved. The dark sounding violin adds to this mystery. The song is called like the first man, 'Adam'. Listening to the first verse, "like" could be "after". "Letting us fall", seems the crucial line here and so we were kicked out of paradise.

The dark guitar remind me of Neil Young at his darkest, that guitar sound like thunder in the distance, just rumbling on and on. The rhythmic changes in the vocal underscore the message sung. 'Adam' is a different yet quite impressive song.

The mood of 'Adam' continues into 'Shards Of Glass'. I notice the band pulling me into its universe. A universe where violence is just around the corner. A world that is dangerous. Not because of the band itself, but what is outside of the recording studio. The music is laden with uncertainty, with not having control over things. The contrast with the music is so huge. Everything is under control here. This Leo Sunrise knows exactly how to control the mood of its music. Adds exactly the right detail, like the eerie violin in 'Deck Of Cards'. The mood is stretched out exactly right. The fire stoked up at the precise right time in the song to create a great finishing line.

The most remarkable thing about Do Not Always See is that the band keeps up this inner tension within its music. With each song the band is able to do the little extra while remaining ultra cool. Even when the guitar goes apeshit in the corner of the mix, the violin keeps the enfolding drama together with ease. 'Macrocosmopolitans' is the first song that is really brought to a climax, releasing some of the tension that was built up, but not without remaining in control. This Leo Sunrise is the master of its songs. No matter what happens outside, this band knows that it will "sleep under a perfect sky". Some things do not change because of outside effects. The drama of 'Perfect Sky' rests in this line "I love you, but I will never tell". There's no redemption for the "I" in the song, except the one provided by that perfect sky. It becomes worse when the "I" asks to be erased and forgotten. How bad can it become? There's no saving now.

It all ends with more mystery. 'Half Light' is an experiment of dark sounds in the background with an electric guitar that reminds me of the one in Bowie's 'Lazarus'. Haunting and relentlessly whipping the song forwards to whatever is waiting there further on into the song. It simply can't be good. Hell's demons are making these noises. The chaos outside reigns inside now. Until there emerges something soft from deep within, barely noticeable. Hiding so well. It's another guitar. It lifts on the back of the so stable bass towards real attention. The demons are fended off. The half dark transitions into the half light. Will the light win or is it a Pyrrhic victory .....?

With Do Not always See This Leo Sunrise has produced not only a sonic adventure and a piece of musical art, it stirs my imagination for the whole of the record. It's impossible not to see all snippets of all sorts of stories playing themselves out in front of my eyes.

It is the drums that close this beautiful mini album. The circle is round. .No was certainly right. If This Leo Sunrise is able to recreate this music on stage and is able to add that little extra that live shows often deliver, a show ought to be mesmerising. Who knows some time soon?


You can listen to and buy Do Not Always See here:


maandag 29 mei 2017

Bathing Beach EP. Novo Amor

On the cover of this EP there are some blurred lines between earth and sky. Like the aura of the forest can be seen in the sky. A hazy shade in the sky before clouds can be seen and finally the sky turns blue as it should.

As unclear as the cover art is, so dreamy is the music of Novo Amor. The kind of music that is a part of 10s music. Part folk, part dreampop and part singer-songwriter, with a male high voice and sounds that are all over the mix.

Novo Amor, which means exactly what I thought it would, albeit in Portuguese, is a one man band from Wales. Ali John Meredith-Lacey releases songs under this name since 2012. This is the second EP on route to the debut album in 2018. Is it something to be on the look out for?

After some careful deliberations following several listen sessions I tend towards yes. The reason being that Novo Amor manages to present the world a fairytale reality in his music. An atmosphere too good to be true and probably is. Its music is not of the earth, but sails over the treetops, part of the air, where it mixes with that aura, and is taken where wind and turbulences take it.

The voice is so light and high. It floats over the music. With it comes a form of music that is almost ethereal. Music that I've heard before from several other artists. And somehow they all do not matter when I'm listening to Novo Amor. Meredith-Lacey creates his own universe, especially for you it seems.

There's absolutely no need to pick out one of the songs. I would tell you about the meandering violins or sparse guitar notes, the long, drawn-out sounds, the spaces between the music or how it is filled by strings or something darker. In the end these would be words are inconsequential. Either you believe in fairytales or you don't. Usually I don't, in fact I tend to think of them as pretty horrendous in hindsight. I did not see the endless cruelty when young, just the tension and the adventure. For the fairytale called Bathing Beach I may just make an exception.

Does the world another new folklike album? It just might. We'll all know more next year. For 2017 Novo Amor gets the benefit of the doubt and a little more to go.


You can listen to 'Carry You' here:


zondag 28 mei 2017

Jardin. Gabriel Garzón-Montano

Gabriel Garzón-Montano is een muzikant uit New York die het etiket R&B opgeplakt heeft gekregen.
Het is een etiket waarvoor ik over het algemeen niet direct enthousiast opveer, maar dat deed ik wel toen de eerste noten van Jardin uit de speakers kwamen.
De muziek van Gabriel Garzón-Montano bevat absoluut invloeden uit de R&B, maar de tweede plaat van de Amerikaan (zijn debuut Bishouné: Alma del Huila ken ik niet) is ook niet vies van invloeden uit onder andere de soul, funk, pop, psychedelica en jazz.
Jardin is door alle invloeden een plaat die associaties oproept met van alles en nog wat. Zeker in de psychedelische en funky momenten lijkt het er op dat Prince is opgestaan, maar Gabriel Garzón-Montano sluit ook aan bij een deel van het oeuvre van Stevie Wonder, de eerste plaat van Lenny Kravitz, de soul van Maxwell en D’Angelo, de veelkleurige muziek van Todd Rundgren uit de jaren 70, het experimentelere werk van Paul McCartney en zo kan ik nog wel even door gaan.
Ook de liefhebber van hip hop en R&B zal waarschijnlijk van alles herkennen op Jardin, maar ik ben niet genoeg thuis in dit genre om te kunnen zeggen of vaak genoemde namen als J Dilla en Timbaland relevant zijn.
De muziek van Gabriel Garzón-Montano is muziek die absoluut buiten de lijntjes kleurt, maar toch maakt de muzikant uit New York het je niet heel moeilijk met Jardin. De voornamelijk ingetogen klanken liggen bijzonder lekker in het gehoor en voldoen ook uitstekend op de achtergrond.
Jardin wordt echter een stuk interessanter wanneer je de muziek van Gabriel Garzón-Montano met volledige aandacht beluistert. Jardin valt op door bijzondere songstructuren, een veelheid aan invloeden en songs die zowel het oor strelen als de aandacht prikkelen.
Jardin klinkt bijzonder en dat is vooral de verdienste van de instrumentatie die op fraaie wijze warmbloedige organische klanken (met een hoofdrol voor de piano) combineert met elektronica. Het is een uiterst subtiele instrumentatie die er voor zorgt dat Jardin warm en ontspannen klinkt, wat in deze tijden van overvolle producties een oase van rust oplevert. Die rust domineert overigens ook in de vocalen, die zich vrijwel nergens overdreven opdringen.
Bij eerste beluisteringen van Jardin vond ik het na een tijdje wel wat eenvormig worden, maar naarmate je de plaat vaker hoort, blijken vrijwel alle songs op de plaat aan kracht te winnen.
Jardin begeeft zich absoluut op terreinen die ik normaal gesproken niet zo kan waarderen, maar Gabriel Garzón-Montano doet zoveel mooie dingen dat ik blijf luisteren. "Quiet Magic" noemde The Daily Californian eerder deze week en dat is een mooie omschrijving van deze fascinerende plaat.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Crawl':


zaterdag 27 mei 2017

The Hackensaw Boys live. P60 Amstelveen, Thursday 25-6-2017, with Giant Tiger Hooch

You have found The Hackensaw Boys on these pages from the very first months onwards right up to today. The band from Charlotsville, Virginia has been written on since 2004 in WoNo Magazine actually, from the first show I saw in Q-Bus Leiden.

It's been two year since I saw the band play last, three times in just over a week, so it was about time.

Things have changed. Now officially a trio, with Dutch musician and tour manager Thomas Olivier now full time on double bass duties as addition for this tour (and on record as well), the band is as concise as it has never been before. All the embellishments of banjo, mandolin, accordion, mouth harp and what not were shed. The band is left with just the charismo, fiddle and guitar. To be honest, I had expected to write about how I missed the banjo player of all banjo players, Jimmy Stelling, I did, but not to the extent I expected.

The Hackensaw Boys were a tight knitted outfit in Amstelveen. The songs were brought down to their essence with the fiddle the only instrument allowed to escape every once in a while, but serving the whole in the meantime, more clear than ever before. Now tight is the description fitting The Hackensaw Boys in all of the great shows by them that I was privileged to see. This was different, because no one can afford to have a lesser night now. String breaking, always a feature at a show, now is a small disaster as there is no option to fall out for a minute. And strings tend to break at The Hackensaw Boys shows. The relents pounding and pace of the songs are more than strings seem able to handle. There is so much energy in several of the songs, that I'm truly glad not playing in this band; my arm would fall off at the elbow before the end of the first song, were it not that my hand would fall off long before that incident could occur.

The nucleus of the show were songs from the band's latest and fine album, 'Charismo', reviewed on this blog last year. (Read here: http://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2016/04/charismo-hackensaw-boys.html) It shows what fine songwriters Ferd Moyse and David Sickmen are. Two completely different songwriters at that. The former delivers mostly fiddle songs, while the latter comes up with a whole range of songs, from sing-a-longs to contemplative, introspective ballads. Combined with a fine catalogue of songs from former albums, fun is guaranteed for all.

It all ended with three songs in the audience. I received my shot of 'Alabama Shamrock' and could go home happy once more. The band could always play like that as far as I'm concerned. The effect is even more direct. It does give some limitations admittedly.

It seems the band will be back in October. New songs have been cut in Amsterdam over the past days, so a new album is on its way. Somehow I know it will be special again. For now I'll play 'Charismo' on the LP I brought home with me.

Now before The Hackensaw Boys another band was on stage. A band that made a lot of more noise, as it played electric. Giant Tiger Hooch is a Dutch band that plays rock and roll, rootsrock and 60s influenced garage rock with large helpings of electric blues. Fronted by a singer who indeed talked a lot and at least cost the band one song. This did not withhold the band to play its rough rocking songs to the maximum. The drummer played with a 1950s or 60s suitcase for a bass drum and somehow I have the idea that I've seen this before, but for the life of me can't remember where or when.

A few times I was reminded that someone like Wim Bieler or Wally Tax could have fronted this band. The rough side of The Outsiders and Q65 showed through several times. Giving Giant Tiger Hooch a Nederbiet feel in several of the songs.

Unfortunately my introduction to Giant Tiger Hooch will also be the final one as the band announced that they were on a farewell tour. Well I'm glad to have caught it while I still could. Supertight, If you're a fan of the likes George Thoroughgood, the rocking side of Los Lobos or an electrified John Leek Hooker, go and see this band before it is all over on 2 January 2018.

(All photo's by) Wo.

vrijdag 26 mei 2017

Sound Of Freedom. Paradisia

Every once in a while I have a need for some peace and quiet, a time for reflection. Now the music on Kairos, the radio show of .No on Concertzender, reviewed here on a monthly basis, regularly provides the music that allows people to contemplate their lives or meditate on music bringing them into a trance, alone with their being.

Personally I need another kind of music. Enter Sound Of Freedom by the London based trio Paradisia. Three female voices weaving in and out of each other, allowing a listener to crawl into the melody. The accompaniment is just what a song needs. For most of the time it is the three voices that are central. Sophie-Rose Harper is the lead singer accompanied by Anna Pesquidous (harp) and Kristy Buglass (keyboards). They went to Berlin to record the album where other instruments were added to their basis.

For me the music presented on Sound Of Freedom somehow represents freedom. There is a kind of positive undertone throughout the album that allows each and everyone to escape the here and now. Closing your eyes is enough. Let the music in and it will carry you away. Somehow each and every note seems to be in its logical place creating a seamless experience. Now that could be a very negative connotation, which it is not. Paradisia does not produce empty perfect pop, nor seemed to have strived to find the perfect pop song. For that the voice of Sophie-Rose Harper is to distinct. She stands out from the pack in many ways. Very much her own in a few ways.

When the band started to colour the music in with German producer Mirko Schaffer, three songs were produced by Matt Twaites, the magic all came together. A timeless sort of music came out transcending the decades with a slightly modern accompaniment that places Paradisia firmly in 2017. With Harper's voice hinting at famous singers of the 70s. It's easy for me to imagine a song like 'Just Now', one of the more straightforward songs on the album, in the Eurovision Songcontest, blown up into humongous (and often ridiculous) proportions, where Paradisia simply touches all the right notes. Creating a pop song without any superfluous effects. 'Just Now' is just right. In fact this band could win it one day with the right song.

The song that stands out most, inevitably if someone covers Bruce Springsteen's greatest hit, is 'Dancing In The Dark'. Instantly recognisable and changed beyond anything Springsteen ever played. Just piano, so slow, and the voices of the ladies. If anything it shows the strength of Springsteen (I'm not a fan and thought the song only so-so at the time, too bombastic). Just listening to the song shows that it is good.

Allow me one more example of how good Paradisia plays with my mood. 'Silent Lover' starts out as a U.K. folk song of around 1970, with everything superfluous stripped away and progresses into a beautiful pop song, with a dark lining moving in front of the sun. Again the band plays with a motif showing that nothing is what it seems and one idea can lead to a few others, while presenting a coherent whole. 'Silent Lover' is the female counterpart of Tim Christensen. Just think of songs like 'India'.

Paradisia presented me a huge surprise with Sound Of Freedom. Listening to the first notes I thought been there, done that, many times. Before the album was over the first time I was already convinced. Something that each consecutive spin not only confirmed by deepened. Sound Of Freedom is one of the better albums of 2017 to date.


You can listen to 'Silent Lover' here:


donderdag 25 mei 2017

Swimming In Strange Waters. The Wooden Sky

Two years ago The Wooden Sky popped up on these pages for the first time with its fine album 'Let's Be Ready'. Two years later the band returns here with Swimming In Strange Waters.

For those who need a short reminder. The Wooden Sky is a band from Canada, Toronto to be exact. The album title is a reworked quote from 'Dune' and appropriate for the sign of the times. 2017 seems to be becoming a somewhat normal year, although I'm nearly surprised by news each and every day. So in that sense we all are not only swimming in strange but let me add uncharted waters.

The Wooden Sky tries to give a voice to those times and does so mainly in a recognisable sound. That does not mean that Swimming In Strange Waters just copies 'Let's Be Ready'. Far from even. I remembered a more direct record and listening to it for the first time since a while, proved me correct. The Wooden Sky still has a form of Americana as its starting point, but now adds a fine, at times mysterious rocking sound. Somewhere between Bruce and The Gaslight Anthem. Nothing on Swimming In Strange Waters is this straightforward. Somehow things are allowed to float in the air, leaving room for subtleties. A lot is left to the listener's imagination to fill in. A mood to catch yourself.

That made this new album a surprise and more difficult. It took me a few spins to get used to it, where 'Let's Be Ready' was instantly likeable. Just listen how the title song opens the album. A darkness sweeps over the room, lifted when the light sounding guitar far in one corner of the mix joins the other instruments. Creating a contrast between the hard pounding drums, the harsh guitar and the lightness in the corner, added to by a equally high sounding organ. If something shines through abundantly it is the energy captured in the song. The Wooden Sky is on a roll here.

It is these two aspects that makes Swimming In Strange Waters the better album. Experiment and urgent energy. Here's a band holding nothing back from its listeners. It is happening now and that is what we have to understand. Just listen how 'Life Is Pain, Pain Is Beauty' rumbles on. Relentless.

When the tempo goes down, it is without seeking easy wins. 'You're Not Alone' presents us a firm drums, an organ and a staccato played violin. When we hit the solo section it is a soft sounding guitar and the violin who fill it in, while in the background some electronics do their thing. Pleasing effects remain behind for another time perhaps.

Promo Photo
Over this all the gravelly voice of Gavin Gardener sounds like a strict master in class. Commanding listening just by presence. There's no need for using any force whatever. There's a hint of Van Morrison in his voice, but Gardener's is so much more smooth, so better to listen to. The vocal melodies flow more easily because of it.

Coming back to the demo's the band recorded before embarking on a world tour supporting 'Let's Be Ready', The Wooden Sky decided not to bring the songs to the studio but record them at home on analogue equipment. There's no way of comparing of course, but the decision seems wise. Listening to this album I'm under the impression that I'm hearing more who The Wooden Sky is. This is the bare essence without someone in the studio suggesting to do more of this or add that.

This body of work results in nine new songs ranging from the acoustic 'Born To Die', a truth like a cow, as we say over here, to some nice rocking songs in which nothing is taken over the top, creating that mysterious atmosphere I already wrote on. Ranging between roots, Americana, rock and mystery The Wooden Sky manages to find many a right balance.

The result is a strong mildly rocking song like 'Black Gold'. One part direct, one part haunting and leaving everything in between to me. While the floating melody of 'Riding On The Wind' gives just that impression of being taken here or there by the wind, like piece of paper or a leaf being played by the wind. The way the synth or the guitar through a Lesley speaker? swirls in the background gives exactly the right impression.

With Swimming In Strange Waters The Wooden Sky returns with a strong and imaginative album. An album which surprised me at first, but slowly but surely crept under my skin. It seems like it will be a while before it creeps back out. If ever.


You can listen to 'Swimming In Strange Waters' here:


woensdag 24 mei 2017

Mockingbird Soul. Brigitte DeMeyer & Will Kimbrough

Will Kimbrough maakte aan het begin van het huidige millennium een aantal uitstekende soloplaten, maar is toch vooral bekend als sessiemuzikant.
Dat doet hij meer dan uitstekend (je kunt zijn naam terug vinden in de credits van heel wat legendarische rootsplaten), maar de gitarist en singer-songwriter uit Mobile, Alabama, verdient wat mij betreft toch wat meer eer.
Die krijgt hij van Brigitte DeMeyer, want het onlangs verschenen Mockingbird Soul is een duoplaat geworden.
Brigitte DeMeyer timmert ongeveer net zo lang aan de weg als Will Kimbrough, maar was met platen als Something After All uit 2006 en met name Savannah Road uit 2014 (waarop Will Kimbrough overigens al een flinke vinger in de pap had) net wat succesvoller dan haar mannelijke collega.
Op Mockingbird Soul hebben de twee gelouterde rootsmuzikanten de krachten gebundeld en dat pakt uitstekend uit. Voor hun gezamenlijke plaat trokken de twee naar Nashville, Tennessee, waar ze Mockingbird Soul vrijwel zonder hulp van anderen opnamen. Mockingbird Soul is een eerbetoon aan de muziek uit het diepe zuiden van de Verenigde Staten en bevat elementen uit met name de blues, soul, country, folk en gospel.
Dat Will Kimbrough een geweldig gitarist was wist ik al, maar op Mockingbird Soul overtreft hij zichzelf met prachtig en opvallend veelzijdig gitaarspel, dat de songs op de plaat veel extra glans geeft.
Ook in vocaal opzicht weet Will Kimbrough zeker te overtuigen, al moet hij hier toch zijn meerdere erkennen in Brigitte DeMeyer die haar doorleefde vocalen keer op keer uit de tenen haalt. Het is een stem vol soul en blues, die de songs op de plaat voorziet van heel veel emotie en beleving. De stemmen van de twee kleuren overigens ook prachtig bij elkaar, waardoor de harmonieën herinneringen oproepen aan de grote duo’s uit de geschiedenis van de Amerikaanse rootsmuziek.
De vocalen worden zoals gezegd ondersteund door prachtig gitaarwerk, maar Brigitte DeMeyer en Will Kimbrough kiezen verder voor de eenvoud. Meer dan wat baswerk, eenvoudige percussie en een incidentele mondharmonica hoor ik niet. Dat klinkt misschien erg sober, maar het gitaarspel van Will Kimbrough is op Mockingbird Soul zo mooi en vol dat je er ook niet veel meer bij zou willen hebben. Ook het baswerk blinkt overigens uit in al zijn eenvoud.
Brigitte DeMeyer en Will Kimbrough moeten met Mockingbird Soul concurreren met stapels andere rootsplaten en trekken wat minder aandacht dan de grote namen, maar nadat de plaat eenmaal in de cd speler was verdwenen was ik onmiddellijk om. Mockingbird Soul doet immers niet onder voor al het andere dat in dit genre op het moment verschijnt en is in muzikaal en vocaal opzicht wat mij betreft zelfs beter. Prachtplaat.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Freight & Salvage':


dinsdag 23 mei 2017

Modern Kosmology. Jane Weaver

Jane Weaver is a new name to me, despite the fact that Modern Kosmology is her sixth album (bio) or ninth (Wikipedia), make your choice. That allows me to listen to her music with an unbiased ear, as apparently she is metamorphosing on her new album. What I'm hearing is a musical adventure with a lot of energy that takes me from Fischer-Z to The Velvet Underground and the right kind of 80s rockdisco.

Jane Weaver is from Cheshire in England and active since the 90s. First with the band Kill Laura and since 2002 as a solo artist. 15 Years later I'm introduced to an artist who is in her mid 40s and tapping into a lot of music that has come by in the past 50 years.

Don't expect any overjoyed exultations on Modern Kosmology. For that Weaver is perhaps too reserved, too British. Do expect a travel down many a high and by way of pop and rock music. With her light voice she's always in control of what is going on around her. And that is rather a lot. From pulsating rhythms to a firm folk ballad and a rocking song, Jane Weaver presents it to us in a secure and confident way. There's no doubt that here is an artist who stands by what she does.

Promo photo: Rebecca Lupton
Let's start at the beginning. 'H_A_K' starts with pulsating electronics, a slow vocal before a beat goes at it, the prolonged words drawn out. Until the two merge. 'Going Deaf For A Living' spooks through my head, exempting the modern electronics that did not exist at the time. 'H_A_K' shoots off the album like a sprinter at the Olympic Games and runs on like a TGV at full speed. The light and the dark contrast in the song is superb.

Again a beat plays a roll. 'Did You See Butterflies' has a beat that is kept up by a guitar strummed solidly assisted by drums and bass. Slightly psychedelic singing and keyboard playing, give the song an otherworldly quality. Something very mysterious is going on here.

That dreamy quality is something that describes Modern Kosmology as a whole. This is no dreampop, far from. For that too many dark parts are let into the music. No, it is in the singing of Jane Weaver. She seems to hover over whatever is going on musically. Almost ethereal, as if I could look straight through her had she been singing in my room. That combination works rather well.

She uses her voice in a more folklike tradition as well. Without becoming so eclectic as a Maddy Prior. This way of singing gives her voice a totally different sound, somewhat higher and more pronounced. 'Slow Motion' is a good example of this. The music is 80s poprock. A light synth over darker sounds sets the tone. Over the music this clearer voice is singing almost sounding happy "that we are lost".

Promo photo: Rebecca Lupton
How versatile this record is 'Loops In The Secret Society' shows. The intricate guitar interplay of Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison is all over the place, the underlying pumping rhythm and a light voiced, accentless Nico is singing. Only the screeching viola of John Cale is missing here. It's 50 years ago the banana record was released and it still inspires people to play songs like it. Now 'Loops In The Secret Society' is the odd song out on Modern Kosmology, but certainly one that stands out as the most direct song. How many guitars are woven into this song? Four? Five? There are little parts everywhere.

And out come the dance rhythms once more. In 'The Architect' Jane Weaver rocks out in a very 80s kind of way. It's the synths that rock again. Depeche Mode with a little OMD and China Crisis. Gary Newman with non-robot/staccato vocal delivery. Enough pop is let in to make the song sort of irresistible.

Modern Kosmology is an album that attests to explorations. More importantly Jane Weaver seems to have found what she was looking for. Resulting in a diverse yet strong album that mixes history with modern techniques in most attractive ways. An album worth exploring from the first to the very last note.


You can listen to and buy Modern Kosmology here:


maandag 22 mei 2017

The Witch. Pumarosa

There are albums that get to me right at the very first listen session. They have something that make me prick up my ears and pay attention. The Witch is one of those albums. The further I got into the album, the more I liked it, the more it seemed to have it's own unique feel.

This impression did not change with further sessions with the album. Our relationship easily deepened. Now the challenge is to find the right words.

The Witch is the first album by Pumarosa, a London based band fronted by Isabel Munoz-Newsome. The clock is turned back decades, while pretending very hard to be in 2017. So many familiar sounds come by, sounds that have been played for years and still they sound so fresh on The Witch. Pumarosa mixes a few qualities within its music that fall together into a statement of no small proportions. Youthful exuberance meets a longing to reach for things behind the corner, while a certain shyness meets an expectation of greatness.

The album opens with 'Dragonfly' in which the band makes a statement right away. It is hard to ignore what is on offer. The opening song is much more direct than the more experimental stuff coming on later in the longer songs, that will leave plenty of room for playing around between the musicians on stage. In fact the album starts with a few seconds of silence before soft keyboard sounds come in that slowly fill my room more and more. An isolated bass note joins and Munoz-Newsome starts singing over the keyboard landscape. When the rhythm section joins in it is with an 'The Unforgettable Fire' pulse. Isobel's singing reminds me faintly of the young Bono. All is atmosphere, soundscapes, with outbursts of guitars in the chorus.

'Honey', the second song, is a lot more solid. "Oh, you stupid son of a bitch", follows "God gave us honey". An interesting lyric to say the least. The song brings me into 'Gloria' territory, U2s first single of its second album 'October'. And I will stop there with the comparisons, because I listen to The Witch in one go without any trouble and there isn't a single album of you U2 I can listen to as a whole. It does help though to pinpoint where this music is taking me, to the first half of the 80s. With the difference that the music of Pumarosa has something upbeat. Even in the more laden songs like the title song and 'Priestess' there is always a sun somewhere. 'Honey' plays itself out in a great way. The song is brought to a great climax without ever overdoing it. Pumarosa knows how to restrain itself to have a much bigger impact.

'The Witch' reminds me of Elenne May. You will recognise a lot of the atmosphere of this song in several of the songs of the Amsterdam based band. If you like this song, you better start listening. 'Veggie Patch In The Desert' is one of my favourite albums of all time.

With 'The Priestess' Pumarosa comes close to the atmospheres The Black Angels evokes on its latest, fantastic album 'Death Song'. Without the heavy 60s sounds that band depends on. Still, in 2017 so far that is the biggest compliment I can give to an album, as I haven't heard a better one yet. 'The Priestess' seems to delve into a knowledge that is set outside of time, the eternal. "You dance, you dance, you dance" and there the rhythm goes. Again, all that restraint, yet standing still will not be an option. The saxophone is the only exuberance Pumarosa allows itself. The message is so clear. Lasting for 7"30 minutes, the listener is slowly brought into the trance the priestess already is in. There were bands like this in the 80s also, bands I long ago forgot the names of. Pumarosa allows a hint at commerciality into its music, making it so much more worthwhile listening to.

By then it is also clear that Pumarosa likes to take its time. The shortest song, 'Hollywood' clocks in at one second under four minutes. An atmosphere is built and expanded upon until a modest and more modern walls of sound spout from the disc. This can be a laden song like 'Lion's Den' or a more upbeat song with the downbeat title 'Gruesome', one of the more poppy songs on The Witch. The singing may have a Bananarama hint to it, it is one of my favourite vocal outings on The Witch. The upbeat sound allows Isabel Munoz-Newsome to do more with her voice. Highs and lows are reached, instead of the solemness in the slower songs.

Pumarosa manages to keep my attention easily while the record progresses. The fact that a different sound is added to a song, like a funky guitar or a modern beat under an acoustic guitar, makes the songs sound slighlty different from each other. Only "Witches" or "Priestesses" would have been killing, no matter how monumental.

With that last word, I come close to a conclusion. It's too early to tell yet, but it may be that this album may reach that level, monumental. In the meantime I am listening to one of the best debut albums of 2017. A lot is happening here in a very balanced way, that shows a level of maturity way beyond the band's status. The Witch is intriguing and good, with room left to grow abundantly.

It all goes out with a bang of an 80s influenced dance rock outing 'The Snake' in which something of all the 80s new wave female singers seem to come together, Siouxie, Hazel O'Connor, Toyah, etc. A great way to end an album.


You can listen to 'Dragonfly' here:


zondag 21 mei 2017

Remedies. Soup

Bijna twee jaar geleden kwam ik via een tip van een lezer in aanraking met de muziek van de Noorse band Soup.
The Beauty Of Our Youth beluisterde ik tijdens een zware onweersbui en bleek een perfecte soundtrack bij het overtrekkende noodweer.
De muziek van Soup had immers de intensiteit en de kracht, maar ook de schoonheid en dynamiek van een onweersbui, aldus mijn recensie twee jaar geleden.
De lezer die me twee jaar geleden wees op The Beauty Of Our Youth tipte me nu over de nieuwe plaat van de band uit Trondheim.
Het viel twee jaar geleden al niet mee om meer informatie over de plaat van Soup te vinden en dat is dit keer nog lastiger. Zoek op Soup en Remedies en je leest van alles over de geneeskracht van soep bij het verhelpen van allerlei kwaaltjes. Voeg Norway als trefwoord toe en je ontdekt dat ook de Noorse keuken flink wat geneeskrachtige soepjes kent.
Net als de vorige keer heb ik de muziek van de Noorse band maar laten spreken en net als de vorige keer heeft dit een fascinerende roller coaster ride opgeleverd. Remedies bevat maar vijf tracks, maar dit levert wel 42 minuten muziek op. De kortste track op de plaat telt maar net 2 minuten, maar Soup is ook niet bang voor een ruim dertien minuten durende track.
Vergeleken met de vorige plaat kiest Soup op Remedies voor een net wat meer ingetogen geluid. Het is een geluid waarin invloeden uit de progrock, psychedelica en post-rock prachtig samenvloeien, maar waarin ook ruimte is voor invloeden uit de hedendaagse rockmuziek.
Het fascinerende van de muziek van Soup is ook dit keer dat de Noorse band een fraaie balans heeft gevonden tussen redelijk toegankelijke rockmuziek en muziek die stevig experimenteert. Remedies is nog net wat toegankelijker dan zijn voorganger, vooral omdat de echt zware uitbarstingen dit keer grotendeels ontbreken. De muziek van Soup intrigeert op hetzelfde moment genadeloos met verrassende wendingen, heel veel dynamiek en prachtige spanningsbogen.
Zeker in de wat langere tracks en vooral wanneer Soup kiest voor grootse of zelfs bombastische klanken raakt de muziek van de band qua opbouw nadrukkelijk aan de symfonische rock en psychedelische rock uit de jaren 70, maar Remedies lijkt af en toe ook een geïmproviseerde jam of verrast juist met passages met een duidelijke kop en staart en meer eigentijdse klanken.
Muziekliefhebbers met een allergie voor progrock moeten niet aan Remedies van Soup beginnen, maar een iedere met een stiekeme, latente of juist bloeiende liefde voor dit genre, zal zeer aangenaam verrast zijn door de muziek van de Noorse band.
Waar Soup vorige keer een onweersbui voorzag van een fraaie soundtrack komt het dit keer met de soundtrack voor de ontluikende lente. De zon kan al aangenaam schijnen, maar een kille bries is nooit ver weg en een hagelbui zeker niet uit te sluiten.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar Remedies en het album kopen:


zaterdag 20 mei 2017

The Last Rider. Ron Sexsmith

With 'Carousel One' Ron Sexsmith had entered my musical life. Better late than never it seemed. I just loved that record and now there's a new one already. The Last Rider is not such a big surprise, but certainly as good, pleasant and soothing as 'Carousel One'.

With 'Americana', Ray Davies' new album released last month, I am even pointed more to the commonalities between Ron Sexsmith's songs and Davies'. Say 'Don't Forget To Dance' and I have the starting point for The Last Rider. Beware, I don't mind the commonality at all. 'Don't Forget To Dance', a single by The Kinks from 1981, is a sweet song, full of nostalgia for a time long gone, reminding us not to forget to do now what we loved then.

It is this atmosphere Ron Sexsmith recalls with the music on The Last Rider. Another denominator could be the quest for the perfect popsong. It is a giant surprise when a song all of a sudden goes wild, like the outro of 'Breakfast Ethereal'. Where do all these instruments all of sudden come from?

Usually it seems a song is a vehicle to sing a beautiful melody. His sweet voice as a given, Sexsmith sings free-flowing melodies about love and feeling loved and maintaining that state through life. "These songs were hiding behind the door. I had nobody to sing them for. Till you came along". This lyric from 'Worried Song' tells it all in my perception. Love unlocking the most beautiful songs. Against all proof Ron Sexsmith shows the world that love is a far stronger muse than deep and dark depressions or misery. When searching for the holy grail of a perfect popsong that is.

This truly sums up The Last Rider. There is nothing else to tell. If you want to find beauty in music, how a musician and songwriter can capture just that in notes and melodies in the vocal delivery, The Last Rider is a must. Like the song below. If you don't get it, well what could I say then? Yes, it is sentimental, but that is the whole point, isn't it? It seems that with every spin of The Last Rider I like it better. It's time to start listening to older work of Ron Sexsmith.


You can listen to 'Who We Are Right Now' here:


vrijdag 19 mei 2017

John Lee Hooker's World Today. Hugo Race & Michelangelo Russo

John Lee Hooker was born in 1917 and died at the age of 83 in 2001. He was one of those names of old blues men for me, basically until that album in the late 80s with a lot of the great stars of the time, 'The Healer', including two hitsingles with Carlos Santana and Bonnie Raitt. I found out that I didn't really like his sort of blues. Too one dimensional and, well, to be honest, boring. My standard in blues is Muddy Waters and nothing else compares it seems.

So when I found an album called John Lee Hooker's World Today on my digital doorstep I wasn't too curious to find out more. Of course I tried any way and found out about a mysterious sounding album that presents a modern type of blues that goes beyond anything John Lee was ever able to conjure up. Sit back, relax and be ready to get into a trance with Hugo Race & Michelangelo Russo's version of the blues as played in 2017.

The duo looks at the songs with the eyes, ears and options of 2017. The typical Hooker stomp is there. Under, over and right through it modern sounds are mixed that gives the songs something that it never had nor could have had at the time Hooker recorded. Recorded in something like 24 hours in Berlin, one continuous session, Race & Russo get into close contact with Nick Cave. My first connotation is with the opening song of Fink's blues album that passed through these pages circa a month and some back. Where Fink wrote original blues songs Race & Russo delve into John Lee Hooker's repertoire, including a cover of MC5 Hooker had done.

Promo photo by Rimmer
So it is not a surprise to me that the songs are monotonous. There's no other word for it. Hooker just loves a song in one chord, with short bursts of guitar notes. The rhythm often just his foot stompin' the rhythm. How the man ever wrote material for dozens of albums is beyond me.

World Today does not do anything to hide the elementary music Hooker made. What the album does show is what modern technology can add to the songs. A harmonica is smeared out, as if windswept, over the song. Electronic sounds and treated guitars have the same effect. Creating an atmosphere of desolation. Of U.S. trains honking before crossing unprotected crossings in the wrong side of far off places. There is no joy in this atmosphere. As if what is going on here is dead and not just a little.

Strangely enough I'm reminded of Dire Straits. That mysterious single, that turned out to be the band's greatest hit here in NL, 'Private Investigations'. Near non-music, all atmosphere. Where all music and joy was cut out of the song. Something like that is going on here as well. Except that was always the case with Hooker's music. Totally one dimensional. What was added was danger. John Lee Hooker managed to sound dangerous, perhaps was dangerous in his younger days. That was taken away because he lived to an old age and became something of a pop star in his 70s when he was brought back into the limelight and found a new generation of fans.

The man still has fans as Hugo Race & Michelangelo Russo show. I'm still not a fan of John Lee Hooker's music, but am certainly impressed by what is going on here. Dire Straits meets Nick Cave and John Lee Hooker. Many a day I had never expected to write down this combination, but here it is.


You can listen to 'Love Blues' here:


donderdag 18 mei 2017

Chris Cornell (1964 - 2017)

Some rock stars die too young. Chris Cornell is one of them. Despite the fact that his hey-day as front man of Soundgarden lay behind him for over 20 years, it is obvious that the respect his voice earned him, made sure the world had not forgotten him. A show of the reunion tour that brought Soundgarden to Europe, got reviewed twice on these pages in 2013 (see the links below).

For me Soundgarden is a thing of the past. Part of the grunge movement, but not my favourite band at the time. Nirvana simply is the best, Pearl Jam the best known and Alice In Chains so much sludgier. I'm happy with a few singles, with the dark, brooding 'Black Hole Sun' as my favourite.

By now it is clear to conclude that fronting a grunge band was not a healthy thing to do. Of the five major bands at the time, if we include Stone Temple Pilots, only one singer is still alive, Eddie Vedder. He'd better stop smoking straight away.

Cornell had played in Audioslave with the three remaining members of Rage Against the Machine, releasing three albums together, until RATM regrouped. Some solo albums followed, but it did not seem like Cornell really had focus nor an audience waiting for new music by him. I remained untouched by either his solo albums and Audioslave.

He had become a musician that depended on past achievements to reach his audience. People still loved to come and watch Soundgarden reunion shows, probably without wanting to hear too much new songs. A fairly sad state to be in. Perhaps this also was what it was and no great inspiration hit him any more.

The cause of his death is still unknown. Beyond that it was unexpected, there is no news. For fans no doubt the demise of Chris Cornell will have come as a great shock. I will just play 'Black Hole Sun' every once in a while and remember a great singer who sang songs that were not meant for me.

Let me end with referring you to the true fans.


Here are the two reviews. The first by /PV, the second by ReginA:



The Bird & The Rifle. Lori McKenna

Lori McKenna dook eind vorig jaar op in flink wat van de Amerikaanse countryjaarlijstjes. Het is voor mij een grote verrassing, want Lori McKenna ken ik eigenlijk alleen maar uit het verleden.
Aan het eind van de jaren 90 dook haar naam voor het eerst op in het folkcircuit in Boston, aan het begin van het nieuwe millennium maakte ze twee hele aardige platen, maar de meeste opzien baarde de singer-songwriter uit Boston, Massachusetts, wat mij betreft met het in 2004 verschenen Bittertown, dat ik in het betreffende jaar schaarde onder de beste vrouwelijke singer-songwriter platen.
Hierna verloor ik Lori McKenna compleet uit het oog. Dat was ook niet zo moeilijk, want tussen haar meesterwerk uit 2004 en het dit jaar opgedoken The Bird & The Rifle verschenen zo te zien slechts twee platen, waarvan er één niet kon rekenen op positieve recensies. In de tussentijd was Lori McKenna in Nashville wel heel actief en succesvol als songwriter voor anderen.
Het afgelopen zomer verschenen The Bird & The Rifle werd in de Verenigde Staten zeer warm ontvangen en daar valt echt helemaal niets op af te dingen. In het genre dat me zo dierbaar is, heeft Lori McKenna immers een van de mooiste platen afgeleverd het afgelopen jaar. 

Voor The Bird & The Rifle deed Lori McKenna een beroep op producer Dave Cobb en dat is op het moment bijna een garantie op succes. Dave Cobb, die in 2015 achter de knoppen zat bij Sturgill Simpson, Corb Lund en Jason Isbell, deed vorig jaar ook hele mooie dingen voor Mary Chapin Carpenter, Amanda Shires, Brett Dennen en neef Brent Cobb en heeft hetzelfde gedaan voor Lori McKenna.
The Bird & The Rifle is voorzien van een mooi verzorgde en behoorlijk vol klinkende productie. De grotendeels akoestische en gloedvolle instrumentatie is opgepoetst met flink wat strijkers. Dat is soms wel wat veel van het goede of net wat te gladjes, maar op de plaat van Lori McKenna pakt het prachtig uit.
De Amerikaanse singer-songwriter is inmiddels achter in de veertig, wat heeft gezorgd voor een rauw randje op haar stembanden. Het zorgt voor flink wat doorleving en dat contrasteert prachtig met de mooi verzorgde instrumentatie en productie.
Op Bittertown manifesteerde Lori McKenna zich 12 jaar geleden niet alleen als een geweldig zangeres, maar bovendien als een zeer getalenteerd songwriter. Beide kunstjes is ze op The Bird & The Rifle nog niet verleerd. In vocaal opzicht is Lori McKenna de meeste van haar jongere concurrenten met gemak de baas en ook haar songs steken flink boven het maaiveld uit.
Dat de nieuwe plaat van Lori McKenna opduikt in de jaarlijstjes met de betere countryplaten van 2016 is dan ook niet meer dan logisch. Ik heb hem eerder gemist, maar ben nu weer helemaal bij de les.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'The Bird & The Feather':


woensdag 17 mei 2017

Lens. Close Talker

In my iTunes directory the position of Close Talker is very befitting: two up from Cold War Kids. (With a band called Codeine in between.) Why? This is a band I'm reminded of a few times while listening to Lens. That is one way of starting this review. The other is that I at first had mistaken the album name for the band name. So naming an album after one of the wingers of the NL football team is special for a band from Canada. Saskatoon somewhere on the vast prairies. Alas, that turned out to be my mistake.

Lens is a solemn album. Close Talker not only takes its music seriously. It plays serious music. Right from the start the trio draws its listeners into its own world. Those inclined to listen to music that is like a carpet of sound should feel right at home. I'm thinking of that hitsingle called 'Diamonds' of The Boxer Rebellion, to set the mood here.

Lens starts hesitantly. Sparse keyboard sounds and a soft voice. When the drums, smooth bass and spacious guitar join the sound is expanded. The album really gets under way when the sound is more electrified by the guitar. 'All Of Us' is not so representative of what follows. The song is more to the point, in a very indirect, humble way.

The true sound of Close Talker comes to the fore in the second song. 'Reptiles'. Spacious keyboards with the other instruments keeping close together. A rather suave, vast sound that in most songs is built up in the right ways, by using dynamics and changes of a lead instrument or sound. One of my favourite songs on the album is 'Okay Hollywood' where the band does several of these tricks in one song. The staccato verses and the wider choruses show a keen ear for detail.

Close Talker released its first album in 2013 called 'Timbers', a year after starting the band. Will Guiring, vocals/guitar, Mathew Kopperud, guitar/vocals, Chris Morien, drums/vocals and Jerms Olsen, bass/vocals started the band. Since 2105, after Olsen left the band, Close Talker is a trio. According to the bio "honing their skills, creating a more vast and iconic sound". The leaving of Olsen may explain why I have the impression to be listening to a digital bass on Lens.

It took me a while to warm to Lens. It has happened after a few more serious sessions with the album. In these moments I noticed the details that were delivered with the whole. The subtle differences Close Talker allows into its sound. Once I had come to this point it wasn't difficult to share my thoughts with you, where before it was.

Take 'Afterthought'. A song that did not draw me to it, nor distinguish itself in any way to me. In fact I thought it fairly boring and that for a song that was widely acclaimed and "is as intimate as it is earnest". I did not hear it. Until I noticed, once again on Lens, how this song is slowly flashed out into a something else, something good, full of atmospheric sounds and additions to what it started out with. This sums up Close Talker more for me than the Cold War Kids outing 'Waking Up' that follows 'Afterthought'. The more prominent drums, guitars and rhythms do one thing for Lens though: create variation and they take the solemn top of things.

From what I understand Close Talker have set a huge steps in its development. It will be interesting to find out to see if the band is able to set another step in the near future that will get them in the league where many other bands have already arrived in. For now Close Talker is certainly a band to watch with this fine sophomore album under its belt.


You can listen to and buy Lens here:


dinsdag 16 mei 2017

Building Bridges. Fischer-Z

De Britse band Fischer-Z leverde met Word Salad (1979), Going Deaf For A Living (1980) en Red Skies Over Paradise (1981) drie platen af die de popmuziek van de late jaren 70 en vroege jaren 80 kleur gaven.
Na Red Skies Over Paradise was het helaas net wat te lang stil rond de band en verdween Fischer-Z uit beeld.
De band rond zanger/gitarist John Watts, die vanaf dat moment in zijn eentje Fischer-Z vormde, maakte nog wel een aantal platen, maar trok weer voor het eerst mijn aandacht met het uitstekende This Is My Universe, dat een jaar geleden verscheen. Precies een jaar later is er al weer een nieuwe plaat van de band en ook op Building Bridges klinkt de band rond John Watts weer net zo urgent als in haar gloriejaren.
Fischer-Z is nooit bang geweest om de belangrijke maatschappelijke problemen aan de kaak te stellen en doet dat ook op Building Bridges. Direct in de openingstrack Damascus Disco spuwt John Watts als een ‘angry young man’ zijn gal over het bombarderen van woonwijken in het Midden-Oosten en in de tweede track wordt vervolgens op even scherpe wijze de uitbuiting van arbeiders in de wereldeconomie aan de kaak gesteld.
In de teksten is het nodige vuur en venijn te horen en dit vuur en venijn komen terug in de muziek. Fischer-Z klinkt op Building Bridges heerlijk rauw, maar net als in haar beste jaren verpakt de band haar muziek en boodschap vrijwel zonder uitzondering in aanstekelijke songs.
Ook op haar nieuwe plaat grijpt Fischer-Z weer met enige regelmaat terug op haar gloriejaren, maar Building Bridges klinkt, net als het vorig jaar verschenen This Is My Universe, toch anders dan Word Salad, Going Deaf For A Living en Red Skies Over Paradise.
Vooral in vocaal opzicht is er wel wat veranderd. De stem van John Watts is wat minder hoog dan in het verleden en laat een rauw randje horen. Ik moest daar vorig jaar nog wel wat aan wennen, maar op Building Bridges zingt John Watts wat mij betreft beter dan ooit.
Ook in muzikaal opzicht is de nieuwe plaat van Fischer-Z een verrassend sterke plaat. Building Bridges klinkt nog diverser dan de al zo gevarieerde platen uit de beginjaren van de band en combineert stevige gitaren met funky blazers in songs die stuk voor stuk anders klinken. Persoonlijk vind ik de songs waarin John Watts stevig om zich heen trapt over alle ellende in de wereld het sterkst, maar ook de net wat lichtvoetigere songs op de plaat blijven heerlijk hangen en stralen urgentie uit.
This Is My Universe vond ik vorig jaar een aangename verrassing en een veel betere plaat dan al het andere dat Fischer-Z na 1981 uitbracht, maar de plaat kwam nog niet in de buurt van de briljante trilogie die de band tussen 1979 en 1981 uitbracht.
John Watts, die overigens dit jaar het 40 jarig  bestaan van zijn geesteskind Fischer-Z viert, komt wat mij betreft met Building Bridges wel in de buurt van de drie briljante platen van een aantal decennia geleden.
Direct bij eerste beluistering was het genieten, maar inmiddels is de nieuwe van Fischer-Z nog veel beter en de rek is er nog lang niet uit. Een knappe prestatie van een muzikant die al zo lang mee gaat en zijn successen vierde toen de wereld er nog totaal anders uit zag. En nu volgend jaar ook deze trilogie vervolmaken.

Erwin Zijleman

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