vrijdag 30 november 2018

Eros. SX

SX is a duo from Belgium with an international sound, not unlike Depeche Mode was doing circa 1990 when the band scored its biggest hits in this country. Eros holds the same kind of electronic beats combined with synthetic atmospherics and something sounding like metal being hit upon. That is not the whole story though.

Although I have played the album several times over the past weeks, it never came to a review. It does now. But do not get over-excited as I am not either. Eros has its strong and weak points I will try to cover them both.

SX has a few faces I discovered after delving a little deeper into the music on offer. The darker sound that comes forward in several songs, e.g. in 'Devotion', the second song, is fairly well done. The synth carries the whole, with beats of all colours behind it. The voice hovers over and interplays with the dark synth covering all up. No sparks fly, but then they shouldn't here.

Opening song 'Designed Desire' surprises me. Has Marianne Faithfull of old been teleported to the present? No, the voice reaches a higher register too easily for that. In other moments I can imagine Kate Bush having made several of these songs in 2018 had she been 20 now instead of in 1978. Parts of Eros has certainly been influenced by Kate. The mood, the way the songs progress. There's no denying here. 'Give' is a great example of that. The later Kate Bush shines through again against a dark background. SX takes it time here, it isn't in any hurry to score its points and yes, I like it.

When things get darker still I even get a Nick Cave association. That is the moment that I skip a song though. The voice of Stefanie Callebaut simply can not emulate the deepness and darkness of Nick Cave. It just doesn't work.

Some of the songs have a poppy feel so that I'm remembered of the slower songs of Roxette. In 'Real Life' the mix of the dark synths and beats with the Roxette like vocal melodies work well. Goldfrapp is a final association creeping up on me.

It is further on in the album that I am starting to think that I have heard things before. This may have to do with the fact that this electronic pop wave is not my kind of music really. Most likely, yes. Still, a little more variation over the ten songs would have worked a miracle for me at least. Perhaps a little ray of light in the darkness here and there could have changed things for me. Of course this choice is up to the band and not me.

It leaves me with an album, that I at least half enjoy, despite my bias against electronic music. So SX has scored a few points, just not enough to convince me past that point of no return. Now I remain standing on the precipice, looking down, not going over.


Listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:


donderdag 29 november 2018

This Too Shall Light. Amy Helm

Amy Helm imponeert nog wat meer dan op haar debuut met veel gospel en een stem die garant staat voor kippenvel

Amy Helm timmerde al een tijd aan de weg toen ze drie jaar geleden dan eindelijk haar debuut uitbracht en dat was te horen. Op haar nieuwe plaat zet ze een volgende stap. Samen met topproducer Joe Henry en een aantal geweldige muzikanten heeft Amy Helm een plaat vol invloeden gemaakt, met een voorname rol voor invloeden uit de soul en de gospel. In muzikaal opzicht klinkt het fantastisch, maar het is de soulvolle stem van Amy Helm die er voor zorgt dat de pannen van het dak gaan op het buitengewoon fraaie en krachtige This Too Shall Light. 

Amy Helm is de dochter van The Band drummer Levon Helm en kreeg de Amerikaanse rootsmuziek met de paplepel ingegoten. Naast een beroemde vader heeft ze ook nog een beroemde stiefvader, want toen het huwelijk van haar ouders op de klippen was gelopen dook niemand minder dan Dr. John op in het liefdesleven van de moeder van de op dat moment nog piepjonge Amy Helm (later zou haar moeder overigens ook nog met Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen trouwen, maar toen stond Amy al op eigen benen).

Het was daarom niet zo verrassend dat ze zelf na de middelbare school ook koos voor de muziek. Na wat flirts met pop en R&B ging Amy Helm zich verdiepen in de muziek van de band van haar vader en schoof ze steeds meer op richting de Amerikaanse rootsmuziek.

Aan het begin van het huidige millennium dook ze op in de New Yorkse band Ollabelle. De band, die in Nederland helaas niet zo gek veel deed, vermengde op fascinerende wijze invloeden uit de traditionele Amerikaanse folk, blues en gospel en met name het debuut van de band is een hele goede plaat. Hiernaast maakte Amy Helm veel muziek met haar vader, die na enkele jaren vol gezondheidsproblemen zijn solocarrière een impuls probeerde te geven (en met succes).

Amy Helm naderde dan ook al weer haar 45e verjaardag toen ze in 2015 dan eindelijk haar eerste soloplaat uitbracht. Didn’t It Rain was een ijzersterke plaat en bevestigde het talent van Amy Helm. Op de plaat omringde Amy Helm zich met een aantal geweldige muzikanten en bestreek ze een opvallend breed terrein binnen de Amerikaanse rootsmuziek. De meeste indruk maakte Amy Helm echter met haar krachtige en soulvolle stem, die zich buitengewoon soepel, maar ook met veel gevoel door het zo brede muzikale landschap bewoog.

Amy Helm heeft de tijd genomen voor haar tweede plaat en verruilde dit keer het vertrouwde Woodstock, New York, voor Los Angeles, waar ze de befaamde United Recording Studios in dook met topproducer Joe Henry.

De nieuwe plaat stond uiteindelijk in slechts vier dagen op de band, maar tijdens deze vier dagen liet Joe Henry niets aan het toeval over. De topproducer haalde topmuzikanten als drummer Jay Bellerose, gitarist Doyle Bramhall II en toetsenist Tyler Chester naar de studio en zorgde voor een glashelder, maar ook warm geluid.

Het is een geluid waarin wederom een breed spectrum aan invloeden uit de Amerikaanse rootsmuziek is geland en het is ook dit keer een geluid waarin de krachtige stem van Amy Helm de meeste indruk maakt.

Toch is This Is Too Shall Light een net wat andere plaat dan het terecht zo geprezen debuut. Amy Helm koos dit keer voornamelijk voor songs van anderen en het is een fraaie selectie songs die op haar nieuwe plaat is terecht gekomen. Het is een selectie songs die wederom met zeer uiteenlopende invloeden uit de Amerikaanse rootsmuziek aan de haal gaat, met wat meer jazz en vooral veel meer soul en gospel dan op haar vorige plaat.

Het zijn genres die uitstekend passen bij de geweldige stem van Amy Helm, die vanaf de eerste noot voor kippenvel zorgt en dit tot en met de laatste noot vast houdt. Topplaat van een van de betere zangeressen van het moment.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar This Too Shall Light en het album kopen:


or listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:


woensdag 28 november 2018

Sunday at Eight and Out of Skin live, Haarlem Sunday 25 November 2018

Photo Wo.
On a dreary, grey, late November day Wo.'s living room was set ablaze by two young acts. The biggest bass drum to date was carried into the room, a harp was driven in and what not. Even a wine glass was filled, emptied and refilled with water to reach a perfect F#. Sunday at Eight does not have a lot of experience with living room shows. "Yes, the volume can still go down", and people in the audience later proved that the volume could go down and all could be heard. Out of Skin has this experience and used it fully. While the voice of the singer seemed to be able to produce more volume without amplification than the full band did.

Slowly the audience gathered and Sunday at Eight had to get ready to play. It was nice to see the band this close. Having played in the same rehearsal spot in the past, I have seen the band grow and diversify and now also saw it focus more in its new songs. The 45 minute set took us through musical history, but as singer Damiaan said: "the basis is the record collection of my father, with foremost The Beatles". A The Beatles like end chord chimes at the end of nearly every song. (Do coincidences exist? The White Album was playing when the band walked in.) The way the music changes, even within the songs, is something that may not have been noticed by all in the audience but certainly with several connoisseurs. The range of songs Sunday at Eight plays is wide and it excels in each one.

Photo: Wo.
Experiments in latin, ska and ballads all come in through the 60s pop and 70s (piano driven) singer-songwriter songs which form the basis of the band. Intricate guitar lines by lead guitarist Wouter are supported by fine bass playing, including melodies by Bas and inventive drumming by Antonio. The only thing one can hold against the band is that not all is steeped in originality, but having said that three things become very clear: the band loves what it plays, it does so inventively and most songs hold several surprises for the listener. The interaction between band and audience topped things off so nicely. In the final songs the saxophone came out for the ska song and a beautiful ballad. Sunday at Eight had a revelation about living room shows but proved to be able to master subtlety as well.

Photo: Wo.
Out of Skin is a duo based in Rotterdam. They (also) have featured on this blog before. Having a setting no one expects, acoustic guitar and harp, it already sets an expectation. In the circa 30 minute set, not even pins were dropped, perhaps even breaths held in moments of absolute silence. The show was intense and the audience shifted into this mood swing immediately. Up front I would have expected the bands to play in another sequence, but it proved to be perfect. Wouter Mol showed every aspect of his singing voice and the heights he is able to reach. Maartjes harmonies are at times below his pitch. The audience followed his every move. And move he did. Walking outside the kitchen door while singing about goodbyes and walking back in through the living room back door. Climb upon the table for the final notes. One thing is for sure. Out of Skin made a huge impression upon most present. Through its songs and the presentation.

Photo: Wo.
The contrast between the two acts, who know each other for a while, was huge, but together they provided the gathered friends and acquaintances a perfect afternoon. From perfect pop to intense acoustic music, our fifth living room show proved another success thanks to two young and promising acts. More come March.


Listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:


maandag 26 november 2018

Simulation Theory. Muse

How can a band like Muse ever top itself? Being the most bombastic band since Queen, after nearly 20 years everything must have been tried out one way or another? I would have thought so.

Having read the first reactions to the first songs released from Simulation Theory I would have expected that the answer to the question above must have been yes. In fact it is no. With Simulation Theory Muse appears to have delivered its most complete album to date. And yes that is surprising but also invigorating. Bands can improve themselves after 20 years in business.

With 'Drones' Muse had kicked life back into itself in my opinion. The attack in the music was back. Although towards the end of the album some fatigue settles itself in my ears. Not so with Simulation Theory. The build up on this album is simply superb. There's a place and time for everything. Rock, dance, George Michael pop, prog, Queen and classic hardrock. Muse incorporates it all in a perfect blend. In fact I bought the cd as I enjoyed the music even into the remixes.

The album starts with a drum beat. Arctic Monkeys? Yes, the beat sound very, very familiar, but continues for too long and immediately the song turns a sharp right into 'Algorithm'. A medium sized rocker pleasing ear and mind. A rocker with synths, piano parts inspired by the classics. 'Algorithm' sets the stage for the whole album. Almost anything is possible the band seems to convey. In 'The Dark Side' the more poppy side of Muse is allowed in. A dance rhythm and a very pleasant melody carry the song home. 80s bands like Erasure are remembered fondly it seems.

This combination is the secret to this album. Muse is exploring all sorts of directions in its music but it all comes with a golden melody wrapped around whatever it puts to its audience. Accompanied by a great, full sound Simulation Theory can be overwhelming and all absorbing. By taking away that layer every once in a while the album shows some fragility as well. Muse is able to present it all within the confines of a four minute song and takes the listeners on a listening trip of fairly unique proportions. Just listen how the mood goes up and down in 'Blockades'. From the huge beat, the Bryan May like reverse sounding guitar solo, to the soft bits in the verses. Muse gets away with it all. This song could have been 100% kitsch, yet here it is a great rock song of some epic proportions.

Hearing 'Dig Down' for the first time I was seriously wondering why the music controlling team of Muse's record label could have passed this. Let's face it, the chorus is nearly 100% "Freedom, freedom, freedom, what you give is what you take, yeah yeah, yeah". The rest of the song is not, true. 'Freedom! 90" is my favourite George Michael solo song, so I'm not complaining here. 'Dig Down' is the song in which Muse takes off the power house and shows restraint in a superb way.

And exactly that is the reason why I like Simulation Theory so much. Muse has found the balance between its extremes. Where I in the past could not really listen to a whole Muse album because of either too much bombast or too much reticence, here I have the best of all Muse excels in. Whether extreme sounds, extreme bombast, holding back, classical influence and Queen of course, it is all mixed into eleven great songs and five alternative versions with me not either turning the record off or skipping a song here or there. Add to that all Matthew Bellamy who is in great form as a singer and it seems Simulation Theory is a ***** album.


Listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:


zondag 25 november 2018

Throbs. The Fog Ensemble

Until quite recently I associated Greece with sunshine, Retsina, Greek salads, pita giros and souvlaki's. Having visited the country quite often in the 90s and 00s on a yearly basis as a tourist and later a few times for conferences. Musically I only heared Greek pop music or the Rebetika, both not exactly to my taste. And in the more distant past Demis Roussos/Aphrodite's Child and Nana Mouskouri of course.

Something changed in 2018 when I got acquainted with Inner Ear Records. First I reviewed Tango With Lion's last album and here is the new album of The Fog Ensemble. Again one that I instantly liked. The difference between the two bands is huge. The Fog Ensemble plays what appears to be called post-rock. I never understood that term, but who cares? By the way, The Fog Ensemble is from Thessalonica, a nice city in the north east of Greece where Chris & Carla of The Walkabouts recorded their best duo album ever.

On Throbs the pleasant kind of rock can be heard. Nicholas Kondylis plays bass, George Nanopoulos drums. The drumming is extremely powerful when needed. A potential skinbreaker Nanopoulos is. Together they provide the firm foundation over which Antonis Karakostas plays his guitars, creates his loops and does his programming, both prominently present in the music. There are no vocal melodies involved. Usually I take that as a sign a band couldn't find a singer. In the case of The Fog Ensemble I do not miss a singer for one second.

Promo Photo: Sophia Solika
Each song starts with a firm, basic chord progression. From there the journey starts. Slowly a song evolves around a guitar motive or a keyboard melody (unless it's an extreme guitar effect, an option I can not exclude). By playing with the dynamics within the song a diverse set of seven songs is presented, making Throbs an interesting and powerful album. Things are topped off with exquisite chord changes, creating a song without a vocal melody. A compliment in my book. 'Breathe' is the best example on this record.

The first reference coming to mind is the Norwegian band Soup, who entered my universe last year with the album 'Remedies'. Like Soup The Fog Ensemble is able to create a soup of noise without losing the focus on the central theme, the melody and the end result: a song.

This trio creates a lot of noise for a threesome. Impossible to recreate on stage without at least one extra guitar and/or keyboard player. In the studio this is just fine. Use the options it offers to make the best product possible. In this The Fog Ensemble succeeded fully and completely. Fans of (post) rock and of the more straightforward progrock kind should find their way on Throbs. Even as an overall less enthusiastic fan of these kind of rock, I certainly did. There is simply too much to discover and done in such a great way, that there is no escaping Throbs.


You can listen to and buy Throbs here:


or listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:


zaterdag 24 november 2018

Red Rescue. Jaimee Harris

Jonge Texaanse singer-songwriter verruilt de goot voor een plekje tussen de groten van de Texaanse rootsmuziek
Jaimee Harris dacht het na de middelbare school even te gaan maken in de muziekscene van Austin, Texas, maar dat viel toch wat tegen. Na een aantal zware jaren is dan eindelijk haar langverwachte debuutalbum verschenen en deelt Jaimee Harris de mokerslag uit die ze een paar jaar geleden al in gedachten had. Jaimee Harris excelleert op haar debuut als zangeres en overtuigt als songwriter. De steun van de juiste mensen uit de scene van de Texaanse muziekhoofdstad maakt het af met een fraai en gloedvol geluid dat alle uithoeken van de Texaanse rootsmuziek verkent. Grootse plaat.

Jaimee Harris groeide op in Waco, Texas, en kreeg al op jonge leeftijd belangstelling voor muziek. Toen haar vader haar op een dag meenam naar het Austin City Limits Festival en de jonge Jaimee onder andere Emmylou Harris, Buddy & Julie Miller en Patty Griffin had zien optreden, wist ze precies wat ze later wilde worden en waar ze zich wilde vestigen.
Na de middelbare school vertrok Jaimee Harris in 2009 dan ook naar Austin, Texas, en begon ze een onzeker bestaan als muzikant in de lokale bars en cafés. Het talent van de jonge Texaanse muzikante werd echter zeker niet direct onderkend en langzaam maar zeker gleed Jaimee Harris af richting de zelfkant van de samenleving en zocht ze haar geluk in alcohol en drugs.
Toen ze zelfs kort achter de tralies belandde, was duidelijk dat het roer om moest. Jaimee Harris liet de drank en drugs staan en begon haar eigen songs te schrijven, hierbij bijgestaan door muzikale mentoren als Jimmy LaFave en Betty Soo en een aantal prima muzikanten uit de Austin scene.
Naar het debuut van Jaimee Harris werd inmiddels al een aantal maanden reikhalzend uitgekeken, maar inmiddels is de plaat dan eindelijk verschenen. Red Rescue werd vorige week op de prima muzieksite American Highways onthaald als het debuut van het jaar, terwijl Jaimee Harris direct werd toegevoegd aan de hoofdrolspelers binnen de Americana van het moment. Het zijn grote woorden, maar als ik luister naar het debuut van Jaimee Harris kan ik ze alleen maar beamen en bevestigen.
Jaimee Harris vertrok ooit naar Austin met een krachtige stem en die heeft ze nog steeds. Het is een stem vol warmte en emotie en het is bovendien een stem die alle kanten op kan, waardoor Jaimee Harris binnen de Americana op een breed terrein uit de voeten kan. Het is een stem die wat met je doet, waardoor haar songs direct binnen komen.

De Texaanse singer-songwriter is nog altijd jong (ze vierde eerder dit jaar haar 28e verjaardag), maar door haar zware eerste jaren in Austin heeft ze wel de nodige levenservaring opgedaan. Dat hoor je in haar songs, die minder onbezorgd klinken dan je iemand van haar leeftijd zou verwachten, en dat hoor je ook in haar stem, die verrassend veel emotie en doorleving laat horen.
Red Rescue werd gemaakt met haar vaste band en met producer Craig Ross, die ondere bekend is van zijn werkt met Patty Griffin. Jaimee Harris zong op de laatste twee platen van de in 2017 overleden Jimmy LaFave en de Texaanse singer-songwriter is op zijn beurt te horen op de titeltrack van de plaat; een van de vele hoogtepunten op dit debuut.

Red Rescue is een veelzijdige plaat, die binnen de Amerikaanse rootsmuziek meerdere kanten op schiet, maar altijd past binnen de rootsmuziek zoals die in Austin wordt gemaakt (Real Americana music from Austin, Tx noemt ze het op haar website). Het is rootsmuziek die niet bang is voor uitstapjes richting rock en incidenteel pop, maar echt stevig of poppy wordt het debuut van Jaimee Harris nergens.
Producer Craig Ross heeft gezorgd voor een vol geluid dat ook voorzichtig buiten de lijntjes van de rootsmuziek kleurt en het is een geluid dat uitstekend past bij de krachtige stem van Jaimee Harris, die in vocaal opzicht diepe indruk maakt op haar debuut.
Het levert een modern klinkende rootsplaat op, maar het is een moderne rootsplaat met respect voor de tradities van het genre, wat goed is te horen wanneer het volle en moderne geluid even wordt verruild voor slechts een akoestische gitaar en Jaimee Harris zorgt voor het kippenvel. En Red Rescue is ook nog eens een plaat die alleen maar beter en indrukwekkender wordt. Bijzonder imponerend debuut.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt Red Rescue hier kopen:


or listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:


vrijdag 23 november 2018

Heartaches And Hot Problems. Justine and the Unclean

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote about the new single of Justine and the Unclean. I simply loved the song but also wondered whether more than a couple of songs would be just as much fun. The answer is there in the form a mini album called Heartaches And Hot Problems.

Without a doubt the flagship of the album is that single, 'This System Is Set To Self Destruct'. There's no need for a lot of thought there. So read on here should you wish to know more: http://wonomagazine.blogspot.com/2018/10/this-system-is-set-to-self-destruct.html.

'Heartache Knows Your Name' is another one of those fine punked up rock songs. Justine Covault sneers her lyrics in a delightful way. She's showing what she thinks of this heartache causing example of a human being alright. Behind her the bass - drums tandem is as tight as can be, supported by the rhythm guitar. Over it all the lead guitar of Charles Hansen handles duties in an extremely competent way. Someone not paying attention may even think it's still the same song. Again the melody is one so easy to sing to. Another hit in that parallel universe of mine.

Promo Photo
Things do not remain at that level but then not much over all does in this genre. Perfection is something which is out of reach for most and Justine and the Unclean has touched base there twice already.

Not all songs that follow have the same amount of energy. Which is probably as well for band and audience. Yes. (It's impossible to be monosyllabic as a reviewer. Especially when in 'Be Your Own Reason' the speed returns, as does the obvious joy this band is spreading.) 'Monosyllabic Man' is a song that would have looked great on Blondie's 'Eat To The Beat' but not on 'Plastic Letters'. That tells a lot in my book.

Justine and the Unclean has the right attitude. The band rocks as loud as it should playing this music, without losing a decibel on the melody. The members have reached an age where insight into the twists and turns in life are recognised more easily and anger isn't the main feature any longer. With age the two sides to a story are a part of life. Not necessarily easier, but a part for sure. This results in the fact that in the music of this band sheer fun shows through no matter how tough the songs and lyrics may be. It shows in the melodies, the harmonies and the melancholy in that final song 'Love Doesn't Know A Thing', which can almost be called a ballad. The mood and the speed have gone down and the album is lifted to another level. Justine and co-singer Janet Egan King (also the bass player) harmonise near perfectly (everywhere). Sounding like many of the female fronted punk rock bands of this decade, yet outplaying and singing them all. I haven't heard a better punk rock band this decade fronted by two ladies (so far. The rest needs to catch up fast).

So one song was a dead give away after all. Heartaches And Hot Problems is a near perfect mini album. There's nothing to it than banging those heads and shaking them fists, but with only one goal in mind: to sing along as load as possible. Justine and the Unclean should be able to let every venue it travels to explode. Many times over. With Heartaches And Hot Problems it has five great songs to its name and a sixth that is more than alright. Promise delivered and more!


You can listen to and buy Heartaches And Hot Problems here:


or listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:


donderdag 22 november 2018

Johan Live, Victorie Alkmaar, zaterdag 17 november 2018, met Scram C Baby

Johan door HareD
Driemaal is scheepsrecht. Ik had dit najaar vaste plannen en kaartjes voor twee eerdere optredens van Johan, maar telkens kwam er iets tussen. Maar ik was vastberaden hen te gaan zien deze najaarstoer. Dus op naar Alkmaar met mijn geliefde, ook al had zij hen al wel in onze homebase Den Haag aan het werk gezien, anderhalve week daarvoor. De Victorie is trouwens een erg prettige zaal, dus het is helemaal geen straf om naar het noorden af te reizen.

Wo.’s superlatieven over Scram C Baby’s laatste cd bleken volkomen terecht (zie hier: http://wonomagazine.blogspot.com/2018/11/give-us-kiss-scram-c-baby.html). Zij verzorgden met lekkere muziek en onverstaanbaar gebrabbel van de zanger tussendoor een heerlijk opwarmer. Een voorprogramma zoals het bedoeld is, met muziek die lijkt op de hoofdact, zonder precies hetzelfde te zijn. De Alkmaarders hadden dat blijkbaar goed in de gaten, want de zaal was al voor driekwart gevuld toen zij begonnen.

Scram C Baby door HareD
Johan kwam, zag en overwon. Hoewel, dat laatste is een beetje overdreven, want het publiek was al positief voorgesorteerd. Wat een heerlijk concert. Een mooie mix van een ruime selectie van hun laatste cd Pull Up (zie de review van Wo. op dit blog: http://wonomagazine.blogspot.com/2018/04/pull-up-johan.html), met veel steengoed ouder werk. Het heerlijke Swing is mijn persoonlijke favoriet, maar het aanbod goede nummers van de voorgaande cd’s van de band is lekker groot. Strak gespeeld, Jacob de Greeuw was goed bij stem en de mannen hadden er lol in. Ze lieten ook verschillende malen zien dat het rock-element met het aantreden van gitarist Robin Berlijn sterk is: lange en harde gitaarpartijen daar waar het kon. Kortom: heerlijk. Als je nog een kaartje kunt bemachtigen, bestel dan snel, en geniet.


woensdag 21 november 2018

Tips on cleaning LPs

Recently Wo. wrote on a Pink Floyd album, 'Animals', that seemed unplayable due to a strange residue that had settled into the grooves of his 41 year old copy. After writing this he thought. 'what have I to lose if I try cleaning it with water and a cloth'? The result was a spic and span sounding record, as if he had bought it yesterday. Something else happened as well. He received tips from his correspondence partners on the blog. So finally something useful on this blog, some might say.

Mark, 23-10:
Problems with vinyl. There are shops with machines for cleaning records - in London they charge 50p a side. I do clean records myself: first rinse the record under warm water tap (not hot - may warp the record) and place it flat on a towel - and then wash it with a small, soft washing up sponge (the kind you get in a six pack) with a little washing up liquid. Wipe with the sponge in the direction of the groove several times in a circular action - then rinse off the soap suds under a running cold water tap - and repeat at least once. Then let the record dry unassisted standing vertically in the (conveniently configured) dish rack! A couple of my 50 year old Francoise Hardy albums which had languished unloved in someone's dusty and damp attic for years were transformed as a result - like old paintings that after enduring decades of smoky drawing rooms and dismally yellowing layers of  varnish, are cleaned to reveal long hidden details and resonant colours that previously were only hinted at. Francoise finally revealed all.....

Sorry - getting carried away there a bit.  What causes "bag rash" as it is known in the collecting fraternity that damages vinyl records is a controversial issue amongst collectors - see for example the discussion here: http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/warning-to-all-record-collectors-outer-bag-inner-sleeve-concerns.387179/.   My advice is beware clear plastic or PVC-lined inner sleeves because they may react with the vinyl: and if there is any damp they could encourage mould. My instinct is you are safer with absorbent paper inner sleeves. I remember advice being given on Antiques Roadshow on TV some years ago to a book collector that you shouldn't cover precious books or rare magazines with plastic covers because the plastic is not inert: while it would seem you are protecting the item, it can actually chemically react with the card or paper under strong sunlight or if under pressure - and cause irreparable damage. 

I found this out with shrink-wrap on a couple of jazz records I bought 30 years ago. Not only did the shrink wrap eventually start to break up but it also fused in parts with the record sleeve - and pulling it away damaged the sleeve so it became all blotchy....what a mess and there was I, thinking I was preserving the original sleeve in pristine condition. Lesson learnt: R-R-R-RIP off the shrink wrap with r-r-r-r-reckless abandon (but put in the recycle bin of course).

Meanwhile my originally clear plastic Talking Heads Speaking in Tongues album, with the Robert Rauschenberg revolving sleeve, is now progressively discolouring into a smudgy brown - and the corners are cracking.....still worth a bit more than the standard issue though! The story about how David Byrne engaged the renowned (now deceased) pop artist is recounted here:

Plastic: doncha just.....  hate it! 

Hope some of the above tips are helpful! 

Gary, 23-10:
Yes, the cleaning and protection storage of vinyl is a subject that is generally neglected but is still very important for collectors. The BBC is the world recognised authority on vinyl collection and they instigated and supported Keith Monks to invent vinyl record cleaning machines many years ago: http://www.keithmonks-rcm.co.uk/index.html . Have a look at his site to see where authorised retailers offer services… to buy one would be expensive but if you are looking for a little retirement business for the future, this may be a great little investment?

DIY wise, I have heard good things about a range of products by a British company called VinylClear: http://www.vinylclear.com/home.html. I have never used their products so I can’t vouch for them, but look at their site and decide for yourself?

I have used similar processes as yourself to clean LPs and singles Mark although be careful about getting the centre label wet as some get irremovable water and detergent stains….

And yes PVC album covers do release chemical agents that destroy covers and vinyl! The problem comes from "off-gassing," where there's a chemical reaction between the vinyl and the plastic lined sleeve, and it causes a cloudy film like staining on the record that will not come off. Initially it does not seem to affect the sound quality, but over time I think that it can cause damage. In my experience, the records will slowly develop a soft crackle that gets progressively worse over time.

I have heard though that a major problem is actually more to do with pressure, and not exclusively the sleeve that is the problem. So you should get rid of the PVC right way to avoid this. In the meantime, if you don't have any sleeves to replace them with and you don't want your records to get damaged, make sure that your records are not packed extremely tightly on the shelves, with maybe just a little bit of space. So they're still vertical but there is still a little bit of wiggle room to slide them in and out. You shouldn't be having to like tug on your records to pull it out of the Shelf…. If you're concerned about the collectability of the original inner, just store the old inner sleeve separately.

There is also a general recommendation to replace PVC with polyethylene sleeves… look around online and they can be brought in packs of 100s.

When you think about it, our collections are an investment and a little extra should be spent to maintain their value, financially and emotionally!


dinsdag 20 november 2018

The Beatles. The Beatles 50th Anniversary

Photo: Wo.
On Sunday 11 November, Armistice Day in many European countries, I left my home for Paris for a near week of work there. Trump, Putin, Merkel, Rutte, many notables were there already for president Macron's Paris Peace Forum. The so-called digital week was in full swing. Peace on the Internet is more and more becoming a topic in need of discussing between leaders of state. The digital haven of liberty and independence as envisioned by John Perry Barlow (Grateful Dead's lyricist) in the 90s has been out of fashion for over a decade. Only now the rest of the world is catching up on that and yours truly was a part of that all.

This is not what I wanted to talk about today. Getting into my local train station to start the journey to France's capital, I ran into a poster with four familiar faces. Faces of young men in their 20s, with a date, 9 November, announcing the re-release of the famous double album called 'The Beatles' or as the world has started to call it "The White Album", for obvious reasons. A nation wide campaign, this add was. So expectations must be high.

Those four faces took me back about three decades. To a 3 by 4 meter room on the 7th floor in a hideous flat in Leiden filled with over a 160 students. Our floor was called 7th Heaven and in several ways it lived up to its moniker. Many friendships for life were formed there. After living there for a few years I ran out of cupboard space and asked my parents to ask around whether someone was doing away with a (simple) closet. Within weeks I got a response and "your brother is moving so he'll bring it on Saturday". So when he rang the door downstairs I went down and found not a closet in the van but a three piece living room cupboard of a couple of meters long and close to 2 meters high. Remember the seize of the room?

It was heavy to and did not fit into the elevator .... and I lived on the 7th .... So dutiful son as I was I gathered flatmates and we started lifting the hideous thing. I had to rearrange my whole room in a few minutes and a couple of hours later I had a room filled with cupboard. Dark brown and extremely ugly. As my flatmates said "Hij is niet mooi, maar weg is je zooi". It isn't good looking, but does away with your rubbish.

My whole record collection fitted into the lower section, which was handy. It even had a booze cabinet in the middle. Not that I could afford much, but fun anyway. Certainly for keeping the Belgian beerglass collection, as had become in vogue at the time. But how about that connection to 'The Beatles', you rightly ask by now.

Photo: Private archive
As you may know, the original The Beatles album, all white with a few small letters on the front spelling the band's name, contained four pictures, the same for as on the add poster last week. I stuck those to the four top doors of the giant cupboard, taking a bit away from the enormity of the thing.

Now The Beatles were not exactly on the peak of their popularity around 1986/7. I was a fan already for two decades, but my mostly, slightly younger flatmates were not, even hardly knew the music really. The 80s new wave, disco or progrock ruled in their universes. So they started to call the giant cupboard "the mausoleum" or "the morgue" depending on the story they told on The Beatles and what was contained behind the four doors.

So come 2018 the album is re-released in a new mix by Giles Martin. I have not bought the x-disked set for all those euros but did buy the three cd version. And yes, it is sounding beautiful. The fun audibly to be heard on the so called Esher tapes, is clear for all to hear.

Come 2018 I have changed my view on 'The Beatles' (again) for years, also because of The Analogues. Let's give that band its due for my reappraisal of The Beatles' work. From something taken for granted, to once again my favourite band ever. The two recent re-releases certainly have helped also. Listening with fresh ears to music I have known for many decades certainly helped here.

I can remember being somewhat slightly shocked listening to 'The Beatles' for the first time, probably around 1980 after I had bought the album. This was some weird shit altogether alright. In fact I recall not really being able to digest what was on offer all in once. It was too diverse, too far out, too shocking perhaps even. So un-Beatles; yes, I realise how bad this sounds.

And now, well, for quite some years already, I hear how diverse it all is and mostly how brilliant. 'The Beatles' offers, once again, a band at the top of its abilities and it would get one album better as well. 'Abbey Road' is the pinnacle as far as I'm concerned, but 'The Beatles' is almost as fantastic (barring 'Revolution #9' of course, but I can even live with that in 2018).

It is 2018 and even more than before, I realise that The Beatles truly are my band, although that mostly is due to the three albums (sort of) mentioned here. Together with the "red" and the "blue" double albums they are the pinnacle of pop music. Something which is clear in so much music being made today. Beatlesque is a word that points to the influence of the band on all that came after, something I discern almost on a daily basis. Right up to this day and most likely far beyond.


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zondag 18 november 2018

The Art Of Pretending To Swim. Villagers

Villagers revancheert zich na twee wat zwakkere platen met misschien wel de beste plaat tot dusver

Ondanks mijn liefde voor de eerste twee platen van Villagers, was ik na plaat drie en vier helemaal uitgekeken op de muziek van de Ierse band. Ik had niet verwacht dat Conor J. O'Brien zich nog zou revancheren, maar met The Art Of Pretending To Swim heeft hij een prachtplaat afgeleverd. Er gebeurt zoveel dat het je soms duizelt, maar ondertussen strooit de Ier ook driftig met geweldige popliedjes, met prachtige muziek en met heel veel avontuur en melancholie. Villagers maakt popliedjes die je na één keer horen dierbaar zijn, maar die je vervolgens volledig wilt ontrafelen. Prachtige plaat.  

Na twee werkelijk geweldige platen, Becoming A Jackal uit 2010 en {Awayland} uit 2013, viel de derde plaat van Villagers, het in 2015 verschenen Darling Arithmetic, me behoorlijk tegen. Hetzelfde gold voor de een jaar later verschenen remake van oud materiaal (Where Have You Been All My Life?).

Beide platen waren zeker niet slecht, maar ik had het op een of andere manier wel gehoord en vond het een stuk minder spannend en ook een stuk minder mooi en bijzonder.

Ik was de Ierse band, of eigenlijk het alter ego van de uit Dublin afkomstige Conor J. O'Brien, daarom al min of meer vergeten, maar toen de nieuwe plaat van Villagers op de mat viel, was ik toch weer nieuwsgierig.

Laat ik maar met de deur in huis vallen. Met The Art Of Pretending To Swim heeft Villagers de oude vorm weer hervonden of zelfs overtroffen. Conor J. O'Brien heeft de touwtjes nog wat steviger in handen dan in het verleden en heeft een heel bijzonder geluid in elkaar geknutseld. Naar verluid verloor de Ier zich in eerste instantie volledig in de techniek, maar gelukkig is hij uiteindelijk ook de popliedjes niet vergeten.

De nieuwe plaat van Villagers valt op door een geluid dat bestaat uit vele lagen, vele instrumenten en het is een geluid waarin elektronische en organische klanken bijzonder fraai samen vloeien. Het is een geluid dat bovendien weer wat spannender en dynamischer is dan dat op de vorige twee platen van Villagers. Conor J. O’Brien smeedt op The Art Of Pretending To Swim ook nog eens meerdere genres aan elkaar en schakelt bovendien makkelijk tussen ingetogen en wat meer uptempo klanken en tussen uiterst ingetogen songs en rijk georkestreerde songs.

Openingstrack Again laat goed horen wat Villagers momenteel te bieden heeft. Het duurt even voor je de vele lagen in de instrumentatie weet te ontrafelen en dan zijn er ook nog flink wat samples toegevoegd. Hierop liggen de mooi verzorgde zanglijnen en alles is verpakt in een song waarvan je alleen maar kunt houden.

Villagers manoeuvreerde op haar vorige platen tussen folk, pop en rock en dat zijn genres die ook op The Art Of Pretending To Swim terugkeren. Conor J. O’Brien beperkt zich echter zeker niet tot de gebaande Villagers paden en flirt ook met 80s pop (ik hoor geregeld wat van Aztec Camera), jazz en zelfs R&B en soul. Het levert een serie heerlijk melodieuze songs op en het zijn songs die zowel lekker in het gehoor liggen als de fantasie prikkelen.

Veel songs op The Art Of Pretending To Swim klinken loom en dromerig, maar de plaat heeft ook een wat melancholische ondertoon. Zeker als de zon onder is, komt de muziek van Villagers uitstekend tot zijn recht en verwarmt en verlicht het de avond en de nacht.

De plaat verdient het ook zeker om met de koptelefoon beluisterd te worden, want dan hoor je pas echt hoe uitvoerig Conor J. O’Brien heeft gesleuteld aan zijn nieuwe songs en hoe knap het allemaal in elkaar steekt. Nieuwe geluiden duiken op en verdwijnen weer en elektronische klanken kunnen zomaar evolueren in echte strijkers of andersom.

Ik was echt goed uitgekeken op de muziek van Villagers, maar The Art Of Pretending To Swim is in alle opzichten een prachtplaat en misschien zelfs wel de beste die Conor J. O’Brien tot dusver heeft gemaakt.

Erwin Zijleman

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