maandag 16 juli 2018

Once The Sun. Helge

Helge is from Amsterdam by way of Utrecht and has released his solo debut album only in 2017. It is early summer 2018 and already the world can enjoy a follow up EP. A man on a mission.

It is said that Once The Sun shows another side of Helge, as he let's in more electronics into his singer-songwriter music. Be that as it may. As I'm not familiar with 'The Days Of Young Petty Davis' nor the three albums he released with his band Miss Molly & Me, I'm all fresh ears where Helge is concerned. Be that as it may. This certainly does not go for the music he presents on Once The Sun. The train filled with singer-songwriters who let in some modern influences passes at full speed, yet Helge managed to hook up his own car to it.

The world is the richer for it. The five songs on Once The Sun all have an inherent quality that is hard to ignore. Whether Helge strips away every layer Blaudzun adds to the basis of his songs, like in 'Gotta Let Go' or an acoustic foray into the acoustic side of Ed Sheeran, like 'On Your Mind', Helge Slikker comes out a winner. All songs have something distinctive, something making them worthwhile to explore more in depth to find the diamonds and pearls hidden within them.

It is almost too easy to put Once The Sun aside as yet another record by a man with a high, delicate voice. I almost did so after a first shallow listening session. A narrow escape it was to. Lucky for me and Helge I nearly always give a record more than one chance. The second listen session already opened me up to Once The Sun and put the album on the level of e.g. Low Roar, James Bay and Novo Amor, to name three (fairly) recent examples of singer-songwriters with high sounding voices on this blog. Soon after Once The Sun went into a sphere of its own, somewhere up there where Blaudzun is.

The album starts with 'Let's Be Gone', the single. Delicately, yet with firm but rhythmically plucked strings, the song opens the album. There's no easiness in this song. The rhythm keeps stop-starting. Over it Helge sings with his high song. A piano is allowed in to provide (only) a few melodic notes. It is important to grasp the mood of 'Let's Be Gone'. Do that and you've found your way into this EP.

Promo photo
A muted rhythm guitar starts 'We Know Now'. We know that muting trick now. Yet this song is different from 'Let's Be Gone'. A lot sounds familiar, for sure. To my ears this is the most ordinary song of Once The Sun. That may tell you something.

The title song takes the EP in another direction. A The Beach Boys like ballad. Like 'Tears In The Morning'. The voice(s) and sounds are more modern, making the song 2018. The slow piano and guitar notes, to modest to be called a solo, more an interlude lifting the song tremendously high. The song has a chord progression that could be Oasis' (and Blaudzun's) yet nothing in the song has to do with either. 'Once The Sun' is one of those songs that tell me how music can equal beauty.

With 'Gotta Let Go' the tempo goes up, the voice goes down, taking the EP again into a different direction. "We all have are demons ... and feelings", a truth like a cow as we Dutch say. When they are translated into a song like 'Gotta Let Go' I wish them upon more musicians. The darkness seeps out in the small interlude when the influence of Eels comes through and the song is deactivated instead of brought to a higher level. Well done and interesting this twist Helge presents is.

The ballad 'On Your Mind' ends it all, far too soon. You can name your own names here as influences. There are several. In playing and singing. That may be. This is a nice song that is taken off near the end, changing pace of the song and the album once again.

Helge's Once The Sun is an album to check out. Many familiar sounding elements, songs and sounds have melted into something interesting in its own right. Helge surprised me several times (with)in five songs and that is more than some artists can attest to in a whole career. As the quality matches the changes the only conclusion is: Once The Sun totally succeeds.


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

zondag 15 juli 2018

AM Waves. Young Gun Silver Fox

Young Gun Silver Fox is de samenwerking tussen de Britse muzikant Andy Platts (mogelijk bekend als voorman van de Britse band Mamas Gun) en de Amerikaanse muzikant en producer Shawn Lee (met name bekend als producer van onder andere Jeff Buckley en Lana Del Rey of als de maker van muziek bij games en films).
Als Young Gun Silver Fox keren ze in een tijdmachine terug naar de jaren 70 en maken ze daar soulvolle softrock, die direct associaties zal oproepen met de muziek van onder andere Chicago, The Doobie Brothers, Kenny Loggins & Jim Messina en America.
Het zijn de namen die bij mij als eerste opkwamen bij beluistering van AM Waves, maar inmiddels hoor ik minstens net zoveel van de Bee Gees, The Eagles, Boz Scaggs, Steely Dan en zeker ook Hall & Oates.
Het is muziek waar ik in het verleden niet zo gek op was, waardoor het genre ondervertegenwoordigd is in mijn platenkast, maar met name de laatste jaren kan ik de zwoele en zonnige klanken uit de softrock wel waarderen, zeker als ik even niets hoef of moet.
Het gemis in de platenkast wordt volledig opgevangen door het album van Young Gun Silver Fox (dat hetzelfde kunstje overigens al eerder liet horen op haar debuut West End Coast), dat klinkt als een verzamelaar van de beste songs van alle bovengenoemde bands, duo’s en muzikanten.
Muziekliefhebbers met een allergie voor zoete en gepolijste klanken moeten hier niet eens aan beginnen, want de muziek die Andy Platts en Shawn Lee als Young Gun Silver Fox maken is suikerzoet en zo glad als een net gevangen aal. Het is aan de andere kant muziek die de zon laat schijnen en die je in een keer meevoert naar het California uit de jaren 70.
In muzikaal opzicht zit het allemaal geweldig in elkaar, waarbij de klanken die de temperatuur minstens een paar graden doen stijgen worden gecombineerd met flink wat muzikale hoogstandjes en een flinke dosis galm.
Hierop mogen de heren hun vocale kunstje doen en ook op dit vlak leveren Andy Platts en Shawn Lee een topprestatie. De zang doet af en toe denken aan die van Don Henley, maar herinnert ook nadrukkelijk aan Steely Dan en kan ook nog eens met falsetstemmen richting The Doobie Brothers of de Bee Gees schieten.
AM Waves had probleemloos in de jaren 70 gemaakt kunnen zijn, wat betekent dat de Brit en de Amerikaan een knap staaltje retro hebben afgeleverd. Hiermee doe je Young Gun Silver Fox ook flink tekort, want wanneer AM Waves in de jaren 70 was verschenen had de plaat absoluut met de besten meegekund. Young Gun Silver Fox komt immers met een geweldige serie songs op de proppen en het zijn songs waaraan ik na een keer horen verslaafd was.
Grote kans dat ik uiteindelijk toch de oeuvres van alle hierboven genoemde artiesten ga uitpluizen, maar voorlopig heb ik genoeg aan het geweldige AM Waves van Young Gun Silver Fox.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt AM Waves hier beluisteren en kopen:

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

zaterdag 14 juli 2018

Kairos, 7 June 2018 by .No on Concertzender

Once a month or just about once a month, Wo. listens to .No's radioshow broadcasted on Concertzender. The music is nearly always an adventure for Wo.'s ears and stimulates him to write down the ideas, feelings, associations, etc., etc., that come to him while listening. There's hardly ever a delay between the one and the other. So as such his pieces are not a review of the show nor the music. There is no room for contemplation. The only stop is when a piece of music has stopped before he had the time to finish his thoughts or to check whether his on the spot musings are actually correct, whether his ears were not deceived. There's only one downside, if you do not like to read his musings: he publishes them. There used to be a knob on your TV..... So here you go with June's Kairos.

The familiar notes and voice starts the show. Slow strings permeate the familiarity to take over within seconds. A more complex counter melody comes through and takes over as well. Somehow it is as if I'm listening partly to music coming from underneath the water for something like 50%. Sounds that are muted, unclear. A voice? An instrument? I can't tell what is happening underneath the violins for certain. Mysterious like Iceland is, or so I'm told.

Far more clear strings and a bell take over. Am I listening to something by Laurie Anderson I like? That is a novelty. The bell is very Pärt of course (I know thanks to Kairos). The melody is sad yet strong. As someone who has lost but never given up. Ready to take on the world, if need be. The repetition of the composition is its strength and weakness. It is stopped right in time as far as I'm concerned.

To be replaced by mystery and weirdness. As if the piano man is searching for a well-known melody. It is within his grasp but he can't find it. Like the proverbial word at the tip of the tongue that does not want to come out.

Tavener's exploration is quickly replaced by more strings and moodiness. 'Gnomic Variations' by George Crumb. I am listening to #10 and can't remember to have heard one before. This better be good, because I have a feeling I will get to hear more variations in the near future. This one is over 10 minutes long. a church bell starts ringing out. It is a few moments before I realise it is the church on the other side of the tracks and not a part of a gnomic variation. The strings disappear and are replaced by atmospherics, so soft, the church bell coming through the open window at the back of the house takes over all. Is it a choir coming through the atmospherics? I can't tell. The violins return. I start noticing that this composition holds an inner beauty. One that may even be meant for me. So let me open up truly for a few minutes ...(Closing my eyes) ... Crumb sure knows how to play out a mood musically. There are hints at well-known Christmas carols without one coming through. I even seem to hear a mantle-piece clock strike the hour, without any resonance. Just dry sound. Yes, I can live with this music, totally. Just one question, .No. I'm listening for over 11 minutes and where's .... and there is the piano. Literally when I typed "listening". Answer given, but to name someone with such a small role in the whole?

No, I'm fooled. The piano isn't Ursula Kneiths, it is Matteo Myderwyk. So the question still stands, .No! The mood is continued between 'Gnomic Variation 10' and 'Tuzla'. I couldn't tell where the one went over into the other. 'Tuzla' must be a huge composition as this Kairos present four separate fragments in about 15 minutes. 'Tuzla', a town in Bosnia - Herzegovina if I remember correctly that played a role in the Dutchbat drama in 1995, is a subdued yet dramatic piece for orchestra and sporadic piano. Myderwyk presents himself more as composer here than as a piano player. The Excelsior Recordings label, famous for indie rock acts like Johan, Tim Knol, Daryll Ann, etc., comes up with something completely different here. And yes, it must be a special week. First the tranquillity of Jenny Van West captured me and now I'm finding my way through 'Tuzla'. Perhaps it is because my stereo broke down and I'm devoid of my (indie) rock lps and cds? Who will say. A child's piano is played, bringing me back from my revelry. With this mix of fragments .No has created his own 'Tuzla' it seems. Now that is revolutionary: a remix of a classical piece without resorting to beats. Chapeau, .No.

The motto of this month's show puts another thought into my mind. Has .No mixed the gnomic with Tuzla? As the final 'Tuzla' is not a fragment but a clear piano piece as I know Matteo Myderwyk? Just a thought, I'm not going to check.

The next composition is by Dustin O’Halloran & Adam Bryanbaum Witzie who celebrate the passing of a year with this music. There are worse reasons to create, so why not? A darker piano takes over. A piano as can be found in slow rock ballads. A song like 'Troy' comes into my mind and 'Big Log', but also a song that keeps escaping me that actually has a similarity in melody. Even a part of a melody comes to me. An instrumental or at least an instrumental part, slow, sonorous and with me for something like 40 years I'd say. And I just can't get past that one point, as it brings me back to the start of the fragment in my head each time. Where's the variation I need? In short, again I like what I'm hearing. (Yes, finally, Bowie, 'Warszawa'. There is no singing!)

I recall writing on Yom & Wang Li before. That was not a total joy. To my surprise I'm hearing a Paul Simon like folk guitar. So I had to recap. The short drone morphing from the "year feast" was it.

The guitar belongs to Peter Clijssen and his dialect sung song 'Bij De Rook Van Het Vuur'. Somehow I see a head drawn from lush sea clay, baked and hardened by wind and rain. As hard to crack nuts and other heads with. The melody is beautiful, the voice full of character. The accordion fills in a little space in the background, lending the song even more authenticity.

A droning sound morphs into the sound of a train passing by. The Kairos has a few coincidences as well. It is as if the proverbial wind in my thoughts on Clijssen are released through the music of Richard Bolhuis. A drone with all sorts of atmospherics around it continues, become ever more threatening. A sound as if giant waves are slowly coming towards the coast. The 58 extra meters of sea level coming towards our sub sea level country all at once.

Other music is coming to the rescue. The drone is there with us for a while, only slowly fading out, before Peter Broderick's piano notes take over. The melody is totally right for this Kairos. Again slightly sad, slightly melancholic with hint of a smile in the way some notes are held back for the faintest of moments. At the same time it is like there is something more than just the piano. It must be in the resonance of the strings captured in the room.

A droning sound returns. I have to pay attention as the Li's work is over before I can type. See, there's a melody coming in. A fragmented one. I can't even recognise Low Roar's '13' for what it truly is. A piano returns. Again slow, melancholic and present. Is it a part of the 'Silent Transformation'? According to the information provided below, the answer is yes. A short fragment follows as well.

The show ends somewhat more exotic with two compositions by the Haïdouti Orkestrar. A real change. A clear sounding trumpet takes the centre stage. Totally different from all what came by in this show before. The droning sound in the background is fitting though. It could be a church choir rehearsing on a long drawn note as well as eastern meditation. The cymbals and drone are straight from Pink Floyd. Listen to the drones before the dissonant lick in 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' comes in for the first time to understand what I mean. When the orkestrar starts playing a whole world of familiarities opens itself. Starting with De Kift, but also Greek Rebetika, gypsy music and who knows what not. The sadness drips from this music, yet is extremely danceable. A surprising feature on Kairos, but certainly a welcome one.


You can listen to this Kairos here:

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

00:06  Högni. Dragdu Mig. Album ‘Two Trains’. Erased Tapes Records eratp103.
01:58  Lauri Anderson. Gongs & Bells sing. Laurie Anderson & Kronos Quartet. Album ‘Landfall‘. Nonesuch Records 7559-79338-9.
04:03  John Tavener. The Last Sleep of the Virgin, for string quartet & handbells. Chiligirian Quartet. Album ‘John Tavener: The Last Sleep of the Virgin; The Hidden Treasure’. Virgin Classics VC5 45023 2. 
04:47  George Crumb. Gnomic Variations – Variation 10. Ursula Kneiths, piano. Album ‘George Crumb, A Little Suite for Christmas – Gnomic Variations’. Pianovox PIA 502-2.
15:32  Matteo Myderwyk. Tuzla (fragment). Album ‘To Move’. Excelsior Recordings. 
18:32  Matteo Myderwyk. Tuzla (fragment). Album ‘To Move’. Excelsior Recordings.
23:22  Matteo Myderwyk. Tuzla (fragment). Album ‘To Move’. Excelsior Recordings.
28:21  Matteo Myderwyk. Tuzla. Album ‘To Move’. Excelsior Recordings. 
30:18  Dustin O’Halloran & Adam Bryanbaum Witzie. We played some open chords and rejoiced for the earth had circled the sun yet another year. Album ‘A Winged Victory for the Sullen’. Erased Tape Records ERATP032CD.
36:17  Yom & Wang Li. Silent transformation – epilogue. Album ‘Green Apocalypse’. Buda Musique 860220
36:49  Peter Clijssen. Bij de rook van het vuur. Anna & Peter Clijssen. Album ‘Vagantenkost’. Self-released. 
40:31  Richard Bolhuis. Halo. House of Cosy Cushions. Album ‘Underground Bliss‘. Outcast Cats.
44:22  Peter Broderick. Our Future in Wedlock. Album ‘All Together Again’. Erased Tapes Records ERATP 104.
47:08  Yom & Wang Li. Silent transformation – epilogue (fragment). Album ‘Green Apocalypse’. Buda Musique 860220
47:32  Ryan Karazija. 13. Low Roar. Album ‘Once in a long, long while’. Nevado Records 823674059620.
48:05  Yom & Wang Li. Silent transformation – epilogue (fragment). Album ‘Green Apocalypse’. Buda Musique 860220
52:19  Yom & Wang Li. Silent transformation – epilogue. Album ‘Green Apocalypse’. Buda Musique 860220
52:48  Haïdouti Orkestar. Mouwwal. Album ‘Doğu’. Tchekchouka.
55:20  Haïdouti Orkestar. Ya Ayn Moulayiitayn. Album ‘Doğu’. Tchekchouka.

vrijdag 13 juli 2018

If You Want This To Mean Something. No Ninja Am I

As this EP is out for a few days already, it is high time to write a few words on it. Just a few weeks back I received an e-mail announcing No Ninja Am I's new EP.

The recording was more or less a coincidence it seemed. There was a studio, a microphone and time. Before Sander van Munster realised it, he had four songs recorded. Many people may wish to have such coincidences in their lives.

The result, If You Want This To Mean Something, is a speck on the face of time and space, yet of a seemingly perfect beauty. Just a man and his guitar. What you hear, is all there is. This could have been the most intimate performance possible, one in a living room. Where the artist plays in front of a small, but devout audience, following each note and turn in the melodies.

The songs on this EP are all of such a delicate nature. As delicate as an old 78 RPM record. Songs like 'Saviour Blues' and especially 'Sister Of The Moon' are so delicate that it is easy to imagine them breaking at a too wild a touch.

What is harder, is how to place If You Want This To Mean Something in the whole of No Ninja Am I. There's the live band, the more electronic side and now a purely acoustic solo set. I've decided not to bother with thoughts like these and cast them aside. This EP is nothing but a gift to mankind. The title of the EP is completely correct. "If you want this to mean something, this could mean everything to you", Sander van Munster sings in the title song. It is this what is on offer, absolute musical beauty. Time for you to unwrap this present, dear reader.


You can listen to and buy If You Want This To Mean Something here:

donderdag 12 juli 2018

Motel Bouquet. Caitlin Canty

Caitlin Canty maakte in 2015 een jaarlijstjesplaat met het werkelijk prachtige Reckless Skyline.
De in Proctor, Vermont, geboren singer-songwriter timmerde op dat moment al een tijd aan de weg en zocht haar geluk achtereenvolgens in Williamstown, Massachusetts, en New York City, voordat ze een jaar of vijf geleden haar spullen inpakte en uiteindelijk terecht kwam in Nashville, Tennessee.
In Nashville liep ze singer-songwriter Jeffrey Foucault tegen het lijf liep en wist ze hem te strikken als producer voor de plaat die ze al zo lang wilde maken.
Een stevige crowdfunding campagne was nodig om haar favoriete muzikanten te kunnen betalen, maar het resultaat was er naar. Reckless Skyline liet een fraaie mix van country, folk, rock en blues horen, met werkelijk fantastisch gitaarspel, mooie en indringende vocalen en een heerlijk broeierige productie als meest in het oor springende componenten.
Caitlin Canty staat nog altijd op eigen benen, waardoor ook aan haar nieuwe plaat Motel Bouquet weer een crowdfunding campagne vooraf ging. Voor Motel Bouquet nam Noam Pikelny (Punch Brothers) plaats achter de knoppen en ook dit keer kon Caitlin Canty een beroep doen op een aantal prima muzikanten. Omdat de middelen uiteraard niet onbeperkt waren, moest ook dit keer worden beknibbeld op de dure studiotijd, waardoor de plaat in slechts drie dagen werd opgenomen.
Het is absoluut niet ten koste gegaan van de kwaliteit van de plaat, want net als Reckless Skyline klinkt ook Motel Bouquet werkelijk fantastisch. De nieuwe plaat ligt in het verlengde van zijn voorganger en maakt indruk met prima songs, fraai gitaarwerk, mooie bijdragen van banjo, pedal steel en met name viool, een wederom wat broeierige productie en natuurlijk de prachtige stem van Caitlin Canty, die ook dit keer indruk maakt met even mooie als emotievolle vocalen.
Vergeleken met Reckless Skyline is het geluid wel een stuk ingetogener en hoor ik af en toe wel raakvlakken met de platen van Kathleen Edwards, wiens tijdelijke vertrek uit de muziek helaas al vier jaar duurt, en wanneer het tempo verder omlaag gaat zelfs met de muziek van Gillian Welch. De songs op Motel Bouquet werden voornamelijk ‘on the road’ geschreven en zitten vol mooie persoonlijke verhalen en kleurrijke observaties uit een fascinerend land.
De uitgebreide tour die volgde op het succes van Reckless Skyline leverde niet alleen mooie verhalen op, maar heeft er ook voor gezorgd dat Caitlin Canty als songwriter en als zangeres is gegroeid. Waar de muzikante uit Nashville drie jaar geleden nog werd geschaard onder de grote beloften, is Motel Bouquet een plaat waarmee ze de concurrentie met de beteren in het genre aan kan.
De nieuwe plaat van Caitlin Canty is een opvallend intense plaat vol songs die alleen maar aan kracht aan schoonheid winnen. Het moet genoeg zijn voor de definitieve doorbraak van dit enorme talent.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt Motel Bouquet hier beluisteren en kopen:

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

woensdag 11 juli 2018

Happiness To Burn. Jenny Van West

There's a time and place for everything. Today is such a time that I truly enjoy Happiness To Burn. I'm a bit tired, a faint sore in my legs' muscles from a hiking weekend, energy not too high. Everything on Jenny Van West's album falls right into place.

On Happiness To Burn the pace is relaxed, slow and nothing much intense. The result is somehow a perfect match. Where in the past weeks when I was listening to the album I sat it aside about half way, today it is so fine and good.

Is it a coincidence that Shane Alexander has produced this album? Yes, as I had found that out before I got his recent e-mail and had already decided to give the album a new try. His co-career as producer pays off nicely, as just like Shelby Figueroa's 'Highwire', Alexander manages to create the right mood to come up with a delicate album that puts Jenny Van West right in the centre of her music. That seems like only logical, but is not. Often, the singer(/songwriter) becomes a part in the producer's grander scheme of things, with all sorts of action deflecting from the source. Not on this album.

Promo photo: Jeff Van West
Happiness To Burn starts with a 40s, 50s jazzy tune, also the title song. Which does set the novice Jenny Van West listener, like I was, on the wrong foot. After such an opening song I definitely did not expect a soft country-rocker like 'Live In A New Way' nor a beautiful singer-songwriter ballad like 'Never Alone'. In short Happiness To Burn takes many a turn. Soft drumming and almost neutral bass playing leaves all the room for an acoustic guitar or two to support the pedal steel that steels the show, bar Ms. Van West who, as I already wrote, is the centerpiece of this album. Everything about 'Never alone' is so modest, yet rock solid. Nothing takes anything away from a beautiful song like this.

Jenny Van West has a soft voice that somehow does not have to force itself in any way. She sings with ease, in a very clear way. She reminds me of several U.S. singers, but I'll refrain from comparisons here. She is a force in her own soft and modest way.

With Happiness To Burn Jenny Van West releases her second full album after 2015's 'Something Real' and the EP Honey And Hive' (2016). For all purposes this is beautiful album to release. It ought to find many ears to land in and never to leave again. It found me at the right moment and will most likely never leave again. With its diversity ranging from the Andrew Sisters jazzy outings to modern singer-songwriters folk, roots rock and ballads many genres are, successfully, provided for. Each genre and style doing just fine as presented back-to-back on this selection of songs. Happiness To Burn indeed.


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

dinsdag 10 juli 2018

Conservatory graduation: Jasmine van der Waals, Elenne May, Dakota, Orange Skyline live. Q-Factory, Amsterdam Thursday 5 July 2018

The cause of this article is Roeland Scherff, guitarist of Elenne May, who graduated at the Amsterdam conservatory last week, with a thesis called 'Melodic development in pop music'. He invited me to come to the Elenne May show accompanying his graduation as the band would be playing seven new songs. The invite opened me to three other acts as well, each with its own approach to music, with one common denominator: they were all extremely good in their own musical way and genre. The shows were showcases for the three graduates in pop music, of which one played a solo and a band show. Venue and the conservatory made sure each act was able to shine. And shine they did.

Jasmine van der Waals
The first artist got on to the podium without an introduction (nor outroduction). A guitarplayer, keyboardist and drummer. From one of the latter two I came to understand that they played for this occasion to accompany Van der Waals. And that only for about two months and no idea whether this was a one off or not. Jasmine van der Waals sang in Dutch, singing somewhere between speaking and singing. The lyrics dealing with doubts, self-exploration and existance in general. When the show started I thought Aafke Romeijn is getting some serious followers and competition. That was only the starting point. Jasmine van der Waals' set just grew and grew, creating more atmosphere by the song and changing the atmosphere as well. Her wide guitar sound supported by electronics from the keyboard and (complex) rhythms. She is not the best singer and probably will be the first to admit that fact. It is what happens next that matters. In this she totally succeeds and convinces.

Elenne May

Elenne May set up shop next. With video projections and all running on a screen in the background. Undoubtedly a whole story is going to be told through the new songs. To really draw conclusions here it is far too early, as what the audience heard are preliminary versions of songs that may come out quite differently over time. Musically there is enough to tell. The songs are going to be different. Change starts with different instruments, more keyboards, less (bass)guitar. Even some electronics are involved. Several songs impressed straight away and two even more than that. Yes, it is exciting to listen to new songs of a favourite band for the first time. When the band shows progress in the way Elenne May was able to do, it is a pleasure and honour to be present at. Yes, this was new, but the band, including new matching Afghan outfits, was ready for this step as well. The new work was played with confidence and enthusiasm. For now I wish the band the best of luck with getting things exactly like they want it to become and am looking very much forward to hearing more in the future.

I wondered whether to go home early and am glad I didn't. Dakota was up next. (Thank you, Eveline!) With Jasmine van der Waals on guitar. She turned into a shred and reverb, or better large bathroom echo, meister. Four young women, totally at ease with their repertoire, playing a great set. Yes, my mind was shouting Warpaint the whole time and yet there was one difference. Not a small one either. With the exception of 'Love Is To Die', there isn't a single song that sticks in my mind, no matter how many times I play a Warpaint album. Dakota has that vibe down, totally, exactly and then it comes up with songs. Superb songs in fact, brought with enthusiasm, panache and humour. The band is recording a new album. Something to look out for alright.

Orange Skyline

Now someone held a great secret for some twenty years, but Liam Gallagher is not the youngest of the Oasis brothers. No, he's 20 odd years younger and sings in Orange Skyline. It is quite some time ago that I witnessed a band stepping on stage with so much self-confidence, perhaps even too much so, and deliver 100% and more. The last band I saw doing something similar last April, Poncho, had the looks and attitude, but just not very good songs. Orange Skyline has. Yes, just like Oasis the whole musical history is shaken upside down to come up with a new song, but when they are as good as this, who cares. The lead guitarist also graduated that evening and presented his band. Somehow I managed to overlook this band as it has already had air time, radio and tv, and played support for Kensington in its Ziggo Dome show. Time to check out more soon. Not looking alike at all, the singer and guitarist are brothers as well.

A fine evening it was in Amsterdam's Q-Factory. As I have written time and again over the past years. This country has so many fantastic bands. I just got to know a few more.

(Photo's by) Wo.

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

maandag 9 juli 2018

The Queen Of Hearts. Offa Rex

De gelegenheidsband (?) Offa Rex verenigt de talenten van de Amerikaanse band The Decemberists en de Britse singer-songwriter Olivia Chaney.

De band uit Portland, Oregon, behoeft waarschijnlijk geen nadere toelichting, maar de naam van Olivia Chaney zal niet bij iedereen een belletje doen rinkelen.

Bij mij staat de in Italie geboren Britse singer-songwriter echter op het netvlies (en trommelvlies) sinds haar inmiddels al weer twee jaar oude debuut The Longest River, waarop Olivia Chaney indruk maakte met de eigen draai die ze gaf aan de traditionele Britse folk uit de jaren 70.

Ook het debuut van Offa Rex zoekt de inspiratie nadrukkelijk bij de Britse folk uit de jaren 70. The Queen Of Hearts bevat voornamelijk traditionals en borduurt op intense wijze voort op het werk van roemruchte Britse bands als Steeleye Span en Fairport Convention. In muzikaal opzicht kleurt Offa Rex vooral binnen de lijntjes van de Britse folk, al is er hier en daar wel een uitstapje buiten de gebaande paden, bijvoorbeeld wanneer de band net wat steviger rockt.

The Queen Of Hearts maakt veruit de meeste indruk wanneer de gelegenheidsband vertrouwt op de vocalen van Olivia Chaney en dat doet Offa Rex gelukkig in ruime mate. De mooie maar degelijke instrumentatie op de plaat krijgt dan een flinke kwaliteitsimpuls, want de Britse singer-songwriter zingt op The Queen Of Hearts met grote regelmaat de sterren van de hemel.

Op haar soloplaat herinnerde Olivia Chaney al meer dan eens aan de groten uit de traditionele Britse folk, maar schoof ze ook op richting een ingetogen Kate Bush wanneer ze de traditionele folk verruilde voor modernere en net wat minder conventionele klanken. Op The Queen Of Hearts beperkt Offa Rex zich voornamelijk tot de Britse folk en wat past dit mooi bij de stem van Olivia Chaney.

De stem van de Britse bevat flarden van de stemmen van grootheden als Sandy Denny, Maddy Prior en Anne Briggs en streelt continu het oor. Zeker wanneer Olivia Chaney vrijwel a capella zingt valt op hoe mooi haar stem is en hoe onderkoeling en warmte prachtig samen gaan.

In muzikaal opzicht is The Queen Of Hearts misschien net wat minder spannend, maar je hoort wel een gelouterde band spelen, die hier en daar toch bijzondere accenten, waaronder met name accenten uit de hedendaagse Americana, probeert te leggen. In de net wat Amerikaanser ingekleurde songs schuift Offa Rex wat op in de richting van de betoverende klanken van Cowboy Junkies, maar de diepe liefde voor traditionele Britse folk is nooit heel ver weg.

Ik ben niet eens zo’n heel groot liefhebber van de traditionele Britse folk uit de jaren 70, maar The Queen Of Hearts van Offa Rex is voor mij volstrekt onweerstaanbaar. Zolang het eindresultaat de som der delen overtreft mag Offa Rex van mij platen blijven maken en na dit fraaie debuut ligt de lat direct hoog.

Erwin Zijleman

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

zondag 8 juli 2018

The Orphan King. Ed Romanoff

Ed Romanoff is een singer-songwriter uit New York, die zes jaar geleden, op zijn 53e (!), zijn eerste plaat uitbracht.

De titelloze plaat deed, ondanks gastbijdragen van onder andere Josh Ritter, Tift Merritt en Mary Gauthier, niet zo heel veel, al haalde de plaat wel de Euro Americana Chart; een gerenommeerde roots ranglijst van Nederlandse origine, die mij maandelijks interessante tips oplevert.

In deze lijst dook Ed Romanoff eerder dit jaar op met een nieuw album. The Orphan King stoot meteen door naar de tweede plaats en moest alleen Mary Gauthier, die Ed Romanoff een paar jaar geleden in het zadel hielp, voor zich dulden. Het maakte me absoluut nieuwsgierig naar de tweede plaat van de Amerikaanse muzikant en The Orphan King heeft me zeker niet teleurgesteld.

De Amerikaanse laatbloeier wist ook voor zijn tweede plaat weer een aantal aansprekende gasten te strikken, want dit keer geven onder andere Rachael Yamagata, voormalig Dylan gitarist Cindy Cashdollar, de van Springsteen bekende Cindy Mizelle en het prachtige roots duo Larry Campbell en Teresa Williams act de présence, terwijl niemand minder dan Simone Felice de plaat produceerde en de al eerder genoemde Mary Gauthier meeschreef aan de titeltrack.

Ed Romanoff maakt ook op The Orphan King weer geen geheim van zijn bewondering voor oude (folk)helden  als John Prine, Guy Clark, Phil Ochs, Townes van Zandt en Kris Kristofferson, maar slaagt er ook in om een eigen geluid te creëren, waarin ook zo nu en dan Dylan en Springsteen opduiken.

Op The Orphan King draait het voor een belangrijk deel om de mooie stem van Ed Romanoff en om de verhalen die hij vertelt, maar de tweede plaat van de singer-songwriter uit New York heeft meer sterke wapens.

Zo worden de songs van de Amerikaan stuk voor stuk prachtig ingekleurd. Simone Felice heeft de plaat voorzien van een tijdloos geluid waarin met name de pedal steel en de accordeon zorgen voor mooie accenten, maar ook de bijdragen van mandoline, banjo en viool mogen er zijn. The Orphan King is bovendien voorzien van fraai gitaarwerk, dat prachtig kan ondersteunen, maar ook elektrisch de aandacht op kan eisen met steviger werk.

Ed Romanoff maakt muziek die vaak in het hokje folk past, maar stiekem bestrijkt de Amerikaan op zijn tweede plaat een breed palet binnen de Amerikaanse rootsmuziek en gaat hij ook aan de haal met invloeden uit de country, de bluegrass en zelfs de Southern soul of flirts met Mexicaanse mariachi trompetten. Verder zijn Keltische invloeden te horen, wat ongetwijfeld het gevolg is van de DNA test die ruim tien jaar geleden aantoonde dat hij geen Russische maar Ierse wortels heeft.

Ed Romanoff is op The Orphan King een meester in het vertellen van mooie verhalen. Het zijn vaak persoonlijke verhalen, maar de New Yorker schuwt ook de actualiteit niet. Het zijn verhalen die mooi worden ingekleurd door de bijzondere stem van Ed Romanoff die, zeker wanneer hij zich laat ondersteunen door hele mooie vrouwenstemmen, ook wel wat heeft van Leonard Cohen.

Het levert een prachtig klinkende plaat vol echo’s uit het verleden op die door de fraaie voordracht van Ed Romanoff en zijn indringende verhalen meer effect sorteert dan de meeste platen in dit genre. Een belofte kunnen we de bijna 60-jarige muzikant natuurlijk nauwelijks meer noemen, maar wat ben ik benieuwd naar de toekomstige verrichtingen van deze getalenteerde muzikant en wat geniet ik van zijn nieuwe plaat.

Erwin Zijleman

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

zaterdag 7 juli 2018

Sunday At Eight. Sunday At Eight

It is a little over two years ago. The band I play in, Sweetwood, was going through the final rehearsal before we would do our first ever gig, at The Jammer Festival in Zoeterwoude. In the cabin next to us another band was working hard, the music seeping through when we had small breaks inbetween songs. In the break we happened to meet four youngsters who were also rehearsing for their show at the festival.

Their band was called Fort Da, a bit strange name for a band that played a set that was extremely eclectic. From early The Beatles pop, to Billy Joel MOR and Madness ska. It was as if Fort Da could not make a choice what it wanted to be, not in the least because it did not only surprise me, it also convinced totally in each genre. So why choose?

Fort Da has become Sunday At Eight and at the cd presentation show of The Stream late August the band also played a show. The cd I am currently listening to is produced by Jan Stroomer of The Stream, so no coincidences there. Musically Sunday At Eight fits in well with The Stream, so no coincidences there either.

'Sunday At Eight' provides the listener with the right mix of what Sunday At Eight has to offer. All the sides of the band show on this mini album. The album opens with 'The Thrill', a song released as a single in 2017. 55 Years of pop music come by in 3 minutes and a little. The piano of singer Damiaan van Noort is central on the song. An organ in the background gives the song a warmer feel then when played live. Wouter Bontje's guitar solo is very George Harrison, warm and fitting.

The intro of 'Rain' is very 60s. What happens is even older somehow. The vaudeville sort of music that inspired Paul McCartney or Ray Davies many times. The piano rolls in a very pleasant way. The tight rhythm section keeps the song very much together, allowing the piano and the vocals to take off in the right places.

Somewhere on the Internet can be found that it is the record collection of fathers that inspires Sunday At Eight. There's simply no denying there. These four young men, bass and saxophone player Bas Janson and drummer Antonio Kamerling complete the band, love music from a time long before they were born. Listening to 'The Game' a lot of these influence come together. Jan Stroomer lends some musicians from his band on strings. The guitar solo brings the best of Kayak and Focus to mind. Some early Dutch prog has not gone by unnoticed.

The ska side comes through also. Except for drummer Kamerling all the band members switch instruments to play this music that is carried by Janson's sax. He may not be the very best saxophone player, the mood of ska or better Two Tone, is captured with ease.

Four songs into the album, I find that Van Noort's voice on record does not sound as good as it does live. It may be more, at least that's my impression, from his singing too self-consciously in the studio, something that may change with experience, than a real problem for the band. Time will tell. The changes in the arrangement of 'The Game' show how adapt Sunday At Eight at working on its songs. These variations really work well.

'Turn The Tide' has a fantastic intro, wide and sweeping. Again a totally different song from all the others. Here it's the guitar(s) that are dominant, changing the mood and the sound of the band. The whole of the song is not as good as the intro seemed to promise me yet this is a fine song, deserving to be heard by a larger audience. Again the band surprises with the direction the song takes as well.

The mini album ends with a pastiche with a jazzy feel. Something 50s, something The Beatles, a little The Kinks.

'Sunday At Eight' is only six songs long, yet it seems to hold many more songs and in a way it does. As this is the band's first album, that is certainly excusable. Sunday At Eight shows the world what it is capable of. The album reminds me of the work of Jan Stroomer. The more he took Goethe's famous phrase to heart, the better his albums became. With "Sally" as greatest example to date. There is a lesson there for Sunday At Eight as well. In the here and now though I am listening to an eclectic first album showing exactly where Sunday At Eight is at: here and there at the same time and somewhere in the middle as well.


You can listen to and buy Sunday At Eight here:

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

vrijdag 6 juli 2018

Wide Awaaaaake! Parquet Courts

Parquet Courts is band with a huge work ethic. Albums under several names are shared with the world. The latest is Wide Awake!, an album where the band worked with Danger Mouse a.k.a. Brian Burton as producer. Those really in the know may be able to say what the effect on Parquet Court's sound is, I'm not expert enough for such a judgement.

What strikes me in Wide Awaaaaake! is the pleasant way this NYC band uses the influences of this city, some from over 50 years ago and lets them land in a 2018 album, that sounds as relevant as it is urgent.

'Total Football' opens the album. A million influences simply are herded towards me. In the guitars, the melody, the singing, a pub quiz could be filled with questions just coming out of this song alone. And the fun fact? 'Total Football' is a fun song all by itself. Just take the start the album. Instrumental guitar strumming announcing a mid tempo song and then the song is taken into a totally different direction. The tempo changes, the mood, everything. And, yes, The Clash is all over the place, without making 'Total Football' sound out-dated for one second. Joe Strummer even seems to have been resurrected at the end when the intro returns to the song as an outro. Just listen to how the bass turns into the lead instrument of 'Total Football'. This is a way to start an album alright. I'm on my toes instantly and all ears. Something is happening here and I know exactly what it is to: great music! Ideas were tried out and at least several found themselves in the song.

Now that I have played Wide Awaaaaake! several times, I'm starting to realise that I'm listening to one of the more relevant releases of 2018. All on this album seems to point at urgency. The choruses are meant to sing along to. In a way not unlike Dropkick Murphies' shout out to pub brawls, including loud singing to each other. "Powers of daily lives", alright. Again The Clash is brought to mind through the reggae-tinged rhythm. The organ takes care of the solo with ease. The bass plays the song home. Melodically not a lot happens on 'Violence', so to make the song interesting any way, takes an effort. Parquet Courts succeeds effortlessly it seems.

As I find, each song that follows comes as a sort of surprise. The dull, yet fantastic 'Before The Water Gets Too High' is followed by the psychedelic, yet subdued pop song 'Mardi Gras Beads'. Again I'm listening in a sort of amazement how the songs develops with a great guitar part or two and a piano that pops up out of nothing. Only to be followed by the angry sounding punk song 'Almost Had To Start A Fight/In And Out Of Patience'.

Wide Awaaaaake! is extremely diverse, yet coherent in its approach, making it a consistent album. That is in part in the way A. Savage and Austin Brown sing. Influences of a few 60s heroes and 70s U.K. (post)punk singers like Bob Geldof or Elvis Costello are never far away here. The huge choruses are a part of the sound also. Finally I like to mention Sean Yeaton's bass playing (once more). In nearly every song he has an important part. Not just keeping time and laying down the fundamentals, no always a part of the sound as a whole, distinctive.

This level of musicianship and surprises is kept up with ease for the whole 12 song album. In other words my suspicion to be listening to a relevant album was confirmed after listening to Wide Awaaaaake! enough times. No, I did not "get it" immediately, but aren't those often the longest lasting albums? Parquet Courts are far more organic in its approach to its music, but in the end result I am reminded a few times of Django Django. Just listen to 'Back To Earth' e.g. and you will know what I mean. (And talking about long lasting with Django Django!)

Wide Awaaaaake! is one of those albums that are worth while to invest your time in. Play the songs loud enough and the richdom of the music comes across even better. Party music for the mind? Yes, Talking Heads is in there to. Dance and think! Wide Awake!


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

donderdag 5 juli 2018

Maisieworld. The Monochrome Set

De Britse band The Monochrome Set werd in 1978 in Londen geformeerd. De band liet zich uiteraard inspireren door de eerste punkgolf van het jaar ervoor en maakte deel uit van de new wave en postpunk beweging die volgde.
De band uit Londen wist zich, mede door wat wisselvallige platen, uiteindelijk niet te scharen onder de allergrootste bands binnen de Britse punk en new wave, maar ik vond het persoonlijk altijd wel een bijzonder buitenbeentje, vooral omdat de band zich niet schaamde voor de grote voorbeelden van voor de punk en flink wat invloeden van Roxy Music, David Bowie, The Kinks en zeker ook The Doors liet doorklinken in haar muziek.
The Monochrome Set verkreeg misschien geen hele prominente plek in de geschiedschrijving rond de Britse punk en new wave, maar bleek, zeker achteraf bezien, een zeer invloedrijke band, die hoorbaar invloed heeft gehad op 80s smaakmakers als Lloyd Cole & The Commotions, The Smiths en Prefab Sprout en 90s bands als Pulp en Franz Ferdinand.
The Monochrome Set is sinds 1978 niet altijd even actief geweest, maar is wel altijd platen blijven maken, wat twee jaar geleden nog het verrassend sterke Cosmonaut opleverde. Die plaat wordt nu gevolgd door Maisieworld, dat wat mij betreft nog veel sterker is.
Eerder gaf ik al aan dat The Monochrome Set nooit vies was van invloeden van The Doors, maar zo duidelijk als op Maisieworld hoorde ik ze nog niet eerder. Een aantal tracks op de plaat sluit naadloos aan op het werk van de roemruchte band uit de late jaren 60 en vroege jaren 70, zeker wanneer wordt gekozen voor bijzondere ritmes, donkere vocalen en een onweerstaanbaar klinkend orgeltje.
In de net wat minder donker klinkende rocksongs zijn ook dit keer duidelijke invloeden van The Kinks hoorbaar, terwijl The Monochrome Set op Maisieworld wederom een brug slaat tussen rockmuziek uit de jaren 60 en 70 en de muziek van enkele legendarische 80s en 90s bands. Maisieworld klinkt hierdoor niet alleen als de plaat die The Doors nooit hebben gemaakt, maar ook als de plaat die The Smiths nooit hebben gemaakt.
Maisieworld ademt absoluut de sfeer van het verleden, maar maakt ook muziek die nog niet voorkomt in de geschiedenisboeken over de popmuziek. Cosmonaut omarmde ik twee jaar geleden als een plaat vol mooie herinneringen aan de popmuziek uit de jaren 80. Maisieworld gaat nog een stapje verder en bestrijkt een aantal decennia geweldige popmuziek.
Bij eerste beluistering was ik nog vooral aan het zoeken naar vergelijkingsmateriaal, maar de nieuwe plaat van The Monochrome Set werd al snel een eigenzinnige plaat die op bijzonder aangename wijze een greep doet uit een aantal decennia popmuziek.
De songs van de Britten steken nog altijd knap in elkaar, de zang overtuigt op een of andere manier makkelijk, de ritmesectie houdt de vaart er lekker in, terwijl het orgel en de gitaren (met hier en daar een vleugje Santana) veel fraaie duels uitvechten en goed zijn voor flink wat passages die je alleen maar wilt koesteren.
Wereldberoemd gaan ze er vast niet meer mee worden, maar waar The Monochrome Set in haar beginjaren nogal wisselvallig was, houdt de band nu makkelijk een flink hoog niveau vast. Wat een lekkere plaat.

Ewin Zijleman

Je kunt Maisieworld hier beluisteren en kopen:

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

woensdag 4 juli 2018

Untangled (An Introduction To). And Also The Trees

This album is lying on that stack with cds for quite some time. The music soft, intriguing, different, somehow lukewarm. Heat hidden by 10 kilometres of cold oceanwater. Something like that Untangled by And Also The Trees presents me with. Yes, there are emotions, but well hidden under a suave sound of men who have seen it all and lived to tell.

And Also The Trees is a completely new name to me. To my surprise the band started its career as support act for The Cure just a few years after the breakthrough of that band. The first album is from 1984, the latest from 2016. Nowhere on the website of And Also The Trees there's any mention of an album called Untangled. So what am I listening to?

Somewhere I recall a subtitle 'An Introduction To' and that proved correct. Gentlemen Recordings from Rotterdam releases a compilation of the best songs by And Also The Trees from the past 30 something years. From a band of youngsters from the post-punk, doom and gloom 80s to the 50 somethings in the mid 10s. That is a whole trip. I know, I lived to tell.

Is it possible to present a coherent album as an introduction when spanning so many years? Somehow the answer is yes. This band has a very consistent sound. A song like 'The Street Organ' could have been made in the mid 80s at a time when no one seemed to know joy, in music that is. I remember loads of fun in those years, just not a lot of it in then current music. The song is from 2009. Caught in time this band seems to be.

Promo photo
The album is never as impressive as in the opening and title song. And Also The Trees manages to conjure up a superior atmosphere that sort of stuns. The mood of Untangled is sort of set in stone. Despite the years that have come and gone in between. And Also The Trees stands for seriousness. Life is something to take on seriously. Even when a holiday to Spain leads to a different approach to a song, 'Your Guess', the mood remains dark and moody.

The laden atmosphere of Untangled makes 17 songs a long sit in one go. The alternate sound of the guitars in a song like 'Your Guess' come as a pleasant change. What I did, is to start the album half way with 'Paradiso'. This led to a few nice surprises along the way for sure. As a whole the atmosphere of the record remains too laden for me. The whole seems to brace itself for impending doom. A lot of that comes from the way Simon Huw Jones sings. He has that dark way of singing that was very popular in the U.K. around 1980 and still sings that way nearly 40 years later. The music underscores his timbre. There's simply no escape allowed. A fleeting glimpse of something more optimistic that passes by in the sound of a guitar is the best one can hope for on Untangled.

And Also The Trees managed to keep itself successfully off my radar for decades. Through a tiny label based in Rotterdam that changed and I'm glad it did, despite the fact that this is not easy music to digest. Some songs are certainly impressive, in fact, very good.

When I look at the re-released albums I recently discovered by TV Personalities, Bark Psychosis (there are some similarities to be found here) and The Jazz Butcher, there undoubtedly is so much more out there by bands releasing records for years, and more, without ever really getting noticed. Perseverance pays off in the end.


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

dinsdag 3 juli 2018

REM. Van Subcultuur Naar Internationaal Podium. Dave Bowler & Bryan Dray

So here's a short review of a book I bought in 1996 and never got around reading. It dutifully followed me around from address to address, never to be taken from the shelf I put it on, except to be packed once again. Until the early summer of 2018. There were two reasons for doing that: 1) In my review of the Roger Waters show I referenced R.E.M. and 2) for some reason, I can't recall, I wanted to find out how 'Radio Free Europe' sounds like, as I always hear about the that song and have never, consciously at least, heard it. And then I remembered I had this book and tried to find it.

R.E.M. has never been my favourite band. In the 80s I heard about this band that was supposed to be the new The Byrds or the new Tom Petty. Both not the kind of endorsement that invited me to listen to its music. I had a tape with a live show from somewhere in the 80s that did not convince me. Two cassette tapes from around 1990 with copies of albums, I think 'Document' and Green', that I never found a reason for playing really. My musical taste was in limbo in the late 80s. Stuck between what had been and what I did not like in the 80s.

And then came 'Losing My Religion' and from there onwards I tried to get into R.E.M. and was sorry to hear of Buck-Mills-Stype putting the band to pasture as I liked the band better per album ever since. Its 80s output still went by the song. I never truly found a reason to reach back right up to this day. That may change now I've listened to 'Murmur' with my 2018 ears. When the band quit, several years back, it did so with an album I can't even recall the title of, but that showed a band in great shape and form, that could have grown old gracefully, but decided not to. Independent thinkers as they were (probably are) as I found out by reading this biography, they chose to call it quits while they were still artistically winning.

This book, originally titled, 'REM-documental', follows the band from its first steps in the alternative 1980 scene of Athens right up the release of 'Monster' in 1994. Dutifully the authors follow the band forward in time per album. There's no true depth, hardly any explaining, just the words of the various band members and people around the band culled from interviews in English language music magazines, mostly from the U.K. as well. An aptly chosen title it seems, 'Documental'.

A few things truly stand out. The choices the band made career-wise, were not the easiest to make. R.E.M. became bigger by the album, allowing the band to mature fairly naturally, through the hardships and the slow growth towards bigger and lusher pastures. Control is an important word in the career of the band. True control and no compromises are impossible for every person in life, but this band tried hard to have it over its own career. It came a long way, I learned.

Yes, there's a lot mystique involved around the lyrics and the consciously subdued vocals of Michael Stype adding to the mystery of what he truly is singing. As anyone can see, the titles to songs are often sort of incomprehensible. 'Swan Swan H'? You tell me and that's just one example.

R.E.M. has a clear vision of its music and where it wants to go with that music. Political messages are all over the place and that somehow stuck with me, the none fan, as I think it's time for R.E.M. to step back on stages and telling the world what's happening right here and now.

Finally, what surprised me is that the band more or less gave up on Europe while under contract to IRS, Miles Copeland's label. R.E.M. was a huge underground name over here in the 80s. They never could have become that if the records did not reach the right people. So what's the true story Mrs. Bowler and Dray? This part truly surprised me, as finding a distribution channel isn't an impossibility, even for an U.S. based independent label in the 80s.

As most biographies, R.E.M.'s reads like a page turner. Am I truly learning something? Of course a few things, about the start of the band, producers they worked with and why, but in the end not really enough. For that this book is too light weight. There's not much in there had I been a fan and following the band from an early stage. So for now certainly enough and like I wrote: this is a good read. Perhaps this combination comes with the publisher?

In Dutch the book in 2018 is only available in second hand stores. The publisher, the Free Record Shop, is out of existence for years also. One the many chain stores that went under with the advent of the Internet and illegal downloading in particular. Also a far to shallow record store. I hardly ever went there to buy anything really as it hardly had records I was looking for. Discount DVDs, yes. And somehow this book it seems.


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

maandag 2 juli 2018


Joes Brands, a name that pops up more and more on this blog. The LVE's drummer is also a producer and the artists he works with are able to find their way to this blog.

So here is FELIZ, a band from Flanders, singing in Dutch. FELIZ is also a story about a band wanting to release its songs. Songs it believes in and has the drive to make sure we can all hear the songs. What a lot of people tend to forget or simply do not realise is how costly making music is. Not just the investments in instruments (let alone the time invested, but that starts as a hobby), but the recording process, the pressing of records, the distribution, etc., etc. Dozens of people make money before the artist, who created the music from nothing, sees a first cent. If ever these days of The Pirate Bay and Spotify.

FELIZ worked hard towards this release. Through a crowdfunding project it starting playing living room shows until it had the € 10.000,= together it needed to step into Brands' studio and record the songs. 100 Shows FELIZ played in order to invest. Of course that comes with benefits. Songs crystallise itself by playing them more, new ideas will have presented themselves on route to the end goal. None the less, respect is due to the band and the love of its music.

So, let us focus on the music. FELIZ on its first EP presents the world with a relaxed sort of music that combines a pop feel with a dreamy atmosphere. In front is singer and guitarist Lise Reyners. Her voice is slightly breathy and thin, while touching on a deeper feeling and depth in the right places. Her voice matches the music around and behind her perfectly.

That music is absolutely clear, almost transparent. Mixed in a way allowing me to look straight through it somehow. The drums are positioned in such a way that the different elements are mixed separately, creating a broader sound behind the band. Something easily to spot in 'Alles Anders' as the sound is so transparent and clear. Pieter Van Hecken doesn't play more than strictly necessary, no drumming pyrotechnics here.

Around the drums several layers of music are built. There are synths involved and a piano. If there is a lead instrument in FELIZ, it is the piano. Slow notes are sprinkled over the song, adding to the dreamy atmosphere that is the foundation of FELIZ' music. The guitar is a rhythm instruments, at most playing arpeggios. (Yes, there are a few solo notes in 'Mijn Huis'.) The synth lays the embedding of most songs. Long drawn chords filling up some space in the mix.)

The lyrics are a mix of fond memories and feelings of doubt, hurt or wonderment over things that have left and gone away. "I never said it was over". "I am feeling far too much". "We cannot wake in the shit we've created". Just some (translated) examples of lyrics sung by Lise Reyners, someone who believes in the healing qualities of sleep. Something more people should be able to allow to happen to them.

Producer Joes Brands has provided FELIZ with a clear sound that brings out the strengths of the six songs on the EP. Songs that are a joy to listen to, songs that have that mood, the FELIZ mood. Fans of Hanne, Mevrouw Tamara, The LVE and Elenne May should certainly listen to FELIZ EP'. The same goes for all others who like soft pop and melancholy songs with a beautiful clear sound.


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

zondag 1 juli 2018

Soft Sounds From Another Planet. Japanese Breakfast

Japanese Breakfast is het alter ego van de uit Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, opererende Michelle Zauner.
Deze Michelle Zauner, die Zuid Koreaanse roots heeft, komt niet helemaal uit de lucht vallen. Ze timmerde in kleine kring aan de weg met haar band Little Big League en bracht als Japanese Breakfast al een aantal cassettes (!) uit, voor ze in 2016 debuteerde met Psychopomp, waarop Michelle Zauner de dood van haar moeder probeerde te verwerken.
Het vorig  jaar verschenen Soft Sounds From Another Planet had ik al wel eens beluisterd, maar bij vluchtige beluistering maakte het album op mij zeker geen onuitwisbare indruk. Omdat ik de plaat zag opduiken in enkele aansprekende jaarlijstjes, heb ik de plaat echter een nieuwe kans gegeven en wat eerder niet gebeurde, gebeurt nu wel. Ik ben onder de indruk van de muziek van de Amerikaanse muzikante.

Japanese Breakfast maakt op Soft Sounds From Another Planet muziek die zich heeft laten inspireren door het universum, wat dromerige en ruimtelijke klanken oplevert. Het zijn klanken die prachtig passen bij het warme en verleidelijke stemgeluid van Michelle Zauner, dat de muziek op Soft Sounds From Another Planet nog net wat lomer en dromeriger maakt.

Toch is de muziek van Japanese Breakfast niet altijd muziek om bij weg te dromen. De plaat citeert hier en daar uit de archieven van de dreampop en is ook zeker niet vies van psychedelica, maar de songs van Michelle Zauner hebben zo nu en dan ook een gruizige of tegendraadse kant. Deze komt naar voren in voorzichtig opgebouwde gitaarmuren of in tegen de stroom in draaiende gitaarlijnen, die de muziek van Japanese Breakfast voorzien van net wat meer avontuur dan de gemiddelde indie-pop plaat.
Qua invloeden blijft het zeker niet bij dreampop, psychedelica en wat shoegaze, want Michelle Zauner gaat op Soft Sounds From Another Planet ook aan de haal met indie-rock, synthpop, 80s pop en pure pop van dit moment, waardoor haar muziek uiteindelijk lastig in een hokje is te duwen en zich ook niet makkelijk laat vergelijken met die van anderen. Wanneer ik dat probeer liggen namen als Jay Som, Soccer Mommy en Frankie Cosmos het meest voor de hand.
De muziek van Japanese Breakfast ging bij mij een aantal maanden geleden makkelijk het ene oor in en het andere oor weer uit en dat verbaast me eerlijk gezegd niet. Japanese Breakfast maakt op Soft Sounds From Another Planet popliedjes die makkelijk vervliegen en die bovendien niet altijd direct hun schoonheid prijs geven. Wanneer ik de plaat op de achtergrond laat voortkabbelen blijft er nog steeds maar weinig hangen, maar wanneer ik de muziek van Michelle Zauner met flink volume of met de koptelefoon beluister dringen de songs op Soft Sounds From Another Planet zich stuk voor stuk genadeloos op.
Japanese Breakfast gaat op eigenzinnige wijze aan de haal met uiteenlopende invloeden en springt hierbij van de hak op de tak. Het ene moment zit je midden in de dreampop, het volgende moment opeens in de beste jaren van Roxy Music, om de organische klanken vervolgens weer direct te verruilen voor kille elektronica of juist voor nog meer warmte. Van zoveel variatie moet je houden, maar als je er van houdt is de muziek van Michelle Zauner muziek vol mooie verrassingen. Soft Sounds From Another Planet springt even kris kras door het verleden, waarbij ook nog een vleugje Phil Spector opduikt, maar schiet vervolgens op intrigerende wijze en vol vertrouwen de toekomst in.
Hoe vaker je de popliedjes van Japanese Breakfast hoort hoe zoeter en onweerstaanbaarder ze worden. Waar de groei van Soft Sounds From Another Planet durf ik momenteel nog niet te voorspellen, maar dat de plaat ver gaat reiken is wat mij betreft zeker.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt Soft Sounds From Another Planet hier beluisteren en kopen:

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