zondag 25 september 2022

Tresor. Gwenno

Gwenno schuift op haar derde album Tresor op richting wat subtielere en vaak sprookjesachtige klanken, die prachtig combineren met het gebruik van lokale talen en de bijzondere stem van de muzikante uit Wales.

Ik vond de eerste twee albums van Gwenno absoluut bijzonder, maar ze overtuigden me uiteindelijk niet. Het deze week verschenen Tresor doet dat wel en hoe. Gwenno betovert op haar nieuwe album met bijzonder fraaie klanken en arrangementen, waarvan het mysterie nog wat verder wordt versterkt door de teksten in met name het Cornish. Het levert een album op dat geen moment lijkt op andere albums, dat met geen mogelijkheid in een hokje is te duwen, maar dat ondanks alle potentiële drempels die Gwenno opwerpt onmiddellijk overtuigt en vervolgens uitgroeit tot een album dat je tot de laatste noot wilt uitpluizen. Gwenno zet een reuzenstap met dit bijzondere album dat vooralsnog alleen maar indrukwekkender wordt.

Het Britse muziektijdschrift Uncut geeft in het augustusnummer de redelijk zeldzame score van 9/10 aan Tresor, het nieuwe album van de uit Wales afkomstige muzikante Gwenno. De Britse muziekpers was ook al behoorlijk enthousiast over de vorige twee albums van Gwenno, maar Y Dydd Olaf uit 2014 en Le Kov uit 2018 wisten mij uiteindelijk toch onvoldoende te overtuigen. 

Op beide albums zocht Gwenno Saunders, die eerder deel uit maakte van de band Pipettes, nadrukkelijk het avontuur, maar op de momenten dat ze dit in mindere mate deed, klonk haar muziek wat mij betreft juist wat gewoontjes, ondanks de teksten in het Welsh en vooral het Cornish. 

Ook het deze week verschenen Tresor (Treasure) klinkt direct ongewoon in de oren door het gebruik van de lokale talen, die voor buitenstaanders compleet onverstaanbaar zijn en vooral mysterieus klinken. Gwenno zingt op Tresor ook af en toe in het Engels, maar op het overgrote deel van het album maakt ze geen gebruik van haar afkomst en kiest ze voor het Cornish. 

In muzikaal opzicht doet het nieuwe album van Gwenno hier en daar denken aan de vorige albums van de muzikante uit Cardiff, maar ik vind Tresor een stuk beter en veel interessanter. Ook op haar derde album werkt Gwenno samen met Rhys Edwards, maar Tresor klinkt voor het overgrote deel anders dan Y Dydd Olaf en Le Kov. Waar deze albums vooral elektronisch werden ingekleurd, gaan elektronische en organische klanken op Tresor hand in hand en duiken hier en daar klassiek aandoende arrangementen op. 

Zeker wanneer de elektronica stevig werd ingezet konden de eerste twee albums van Gwenno zoals gezegd wat gewoontjes klinken, maar op album nummer drie is de instrumentatie een stuk subtieler. Gwenno combineert op Tresor bovendien uiteenlopende invloeden. Naast invloeden uit de traditionele muziek uit haar geboorteland Wales, hoor je op het album invloeden uit de folk, de new age, de psychedelica en de elektropop. 

Het zijn allemaal invloeden die op uiterst subtiele wijze zijn verwerkt, waardoor Tresor in geen van de genoemde hokjes past. In muzikaal opzicht doet het album me hier en daar denken aan het debuutalbum van Portishead, maar Tresor schiet ook allerlei andere kanten op en kan sprookjesachtige klanken afwisselen met een opeens toch weer redelijk rechttoe rechtaan popliedje. 

Het derde album van Gwenno is niet alleen vooral subtiel ingekleurd, maar heeft ook een voorkeur voor zich langzaam voortslepende en wat dromerig klinkende songs. Het zijn klanken die mooi kleuren bij de al even dromerige vocalen van Gwenno, die betovert met de mysterieuze woorden in haar teksten, maar er ook in slaagt om de luisteraar haar songs in te slepen. Tresor is, zeker vergeleken met zijn twee voorgangers, wat meer naar binnen gericht, wat het resultaat is van het isolement door de coronapandemie en het moederschap van de muzikante uit Cardiff. 

Ik geef eerlijk toe dat ik vooral sceptisch was toen ik de Uncut recensie van het album eerder deze week las en de torenhoge score zag, maar inmiddels kan ik alleen maar concluderen dat er niets op valt af te dingen. Tresor is een album dat drie kwartier lang betovert met bijzondere klanken en mooie zang en met songs die de fantasie stevig prikkelen, maar die ook van een bijzondere of zelfs unieke schoonheid zijn. Prachtig.

Erwin Zijleman

 

Je kunt Tresor hier luisteren en bestellen:

https://gwenno.bandcamp.com/album/tresor


zaterdag 24 september 2022

3 EPs. Wytiki, The Vices, Hazlett

In the past weeks several EPs were released, too long for the single section, too short for a long post, too nice to ignore. So lets do a compilation of EPs this week.

U. Wytiki

Those who follow the singles post each week will have encountered Wytiki or Wieteke Wijte, an Amsterdam based singer-songwriter. She can be known through her stints as background singer for DeWolff and Eefje de Visser. Together with producer Daan Schepers she worked on her own songs. Thus it comes as no surprise that U is an EP filled with songs on the cusp of pop, electronics, dance and dreampop. Wytiki's voice has a dreamy quality that easily mesmerises. I can dream away on her singing without losing the connection with the voice and music. Behind Wytiki's voice synths play a big role but so does electronic percussion of all shapes and sizes. From my point of view this is dangerous music, as usually I do not like it. Why I like U is easily explained. Wytiki remains fully human and sings in a way that gives the electronics a warmth. Besides the songs being strong and interesting. U contains high class pop and not your everyday's. Every second is worthwhile listening to.

Strange Again EP. The Vices

The Vices debuted with a nice album in 2021, 'Looking For Faces'. The band now releases a four song EP and continues where it left off, with a different set of songs that have a base in alternative rock. A song can take a turn left towards indie and right towards pop. With the album I wondered who The Vices really were, as there were so many different, well, faces on the album. On the EP things are not so different, you will find. What combines the four songs is the obvious pleasure of playing together and presenting the songs to the wider world. The outset of the songs may be very different, the centre instrument is the guitar. Just listen how many different parts there are in 'I Had A Name'. The band obviously worked hard on the arrangement, without being content with the obvious. The pop feel has some liking to Chefs' Special. In opening song The Vices are in totally different place, alternative rock. Loud and convincing. The odd one out is song four. A ballad, a piano, an empty sound and beatlesque, as they say. It shows once again how diverse the Groningen band is. Having supported Kensington for that band's farewell shows, it's time to move up a rung. Listening to Strange Again the band is ready for it.

Oh, Downhill EP. Hazlett

Hazlett in an Australian in Stockholm and started his musical, solo career there. Preceded by a few singles earlier this year, he now releases his third EP. It is filled with dreamy songs. Songs that bring a melancholy mood to the listener. Hazlett's voice can be compared to a singer like Patrick Watson. His music is slightly more concrete than the often ethereal soundscapes of his Canadian colleague. They are there but the other instruments, whether digital or analogue are allowed to come through the mist of the soundscapes.

On Oh, Downhill Hazlett worked closely with friend and producer Freddy Alexander to create the music he hears in his head. The result is five songs that deserve intensive listening. To appreciate Hazlett's music you simply have to listen. There's nothing else for it. To do so is being rewarded with five modern day pop songs that are a little more mystical than the average singer-songwriter scoring huge hits this day, like George Ezra or Ed Sheeran. It makes Hazlett more interesting to listen to. As a bonus there's even a real hey-ho kind of song song on Oh, Downhill called 'My Skin'. After so many years, I can stomach a new one again. Five songs, five pleasures.

Wout de Natris

 

You can listen or order the EPs here:

https://wytiki.bandcamp.com/

https://www.mattanrecords.com/product-page/the-vices-strange-again-ep-vinyl

vrijdag 23 september 2022

On. On

On featured on this blog recently for the fist time with a single, 'Blackmail', of its self-titled LP. Today is the right time to introduce the album to you. ON is the kind of album that falls right in with door and all. 'Break You' is there, right in your ears from the very first second. One pound on the drum and there the trio goes. 'Break You' brings memories of great female led bands of the past decades and adds a new classic to the genre. There's no other conclusion. This song is great fun.

ON is a trio comprised of three veterans of the Toronto music scene. Lucy di Santo sings and plays bass, Steve Fall is on guitar and Dan Cornelius plays the drums. Together they rock with an enthusiasm and power that belies their age and mileage in the industry. They are here to stun the world with their songs and presence.

What I think is so good when listening to ON is that the music has power. Call it grunge, call it post punk, whatever you like. To me this is glorious pop music. ON never forgets that a song takes a melody to be remembered. And ON has enough of these songs on ON. The second song on the album is my proof of point. 'Underdog' is loud, rough, tough, with some great riffing and chord changes and over it all is this great pop vocal melody. As a whole the song is simply great.

In the second half of the album the less good songs are encountered. There arguably is a difference in quality by then. Nothing that makes me turn off the record. I play it from A to Z easily. Perhaps the quality of the first bunch of songs is simply so high that everything would disappoint a little. When all is said, they do not take anything away from my overall impression of ON.

Promo photo by Lindi Gordon
This debut album has been years in the making. The three are friends for years and decided to play together at some point in time and from there slowly but surely built this selection of songs. Together in one place, online via video connections and by sending files by email. The result is a riveting album full of exciting songs that are urgent in sound, yet surely recognises what came before. There's some funky stuff, some powerpop and loads of power as such.

In front of all the music is Lucy di Santo who can have the roughest voice imaginable and sound like a purring pussycat with angelic harmonies. Just listen to another great track, 'Hereafter'. Di Santo shows all her different vocal qualities in one song. Extremely different in a lot of ways. The distortions are off, showing that ON does not not need noise to succeed and convince. 'Hereafter' is a beautiful and great track. Another highlight on ON, with great delicate playing by Steve Fall.

The result is I'm hearing a tougher version of The Bangles and The Go-Go's, but also Nirvana, Veruca Salt and others from the 90s. ON plays it all and is itself in the meantime. This is glorious powerpop.

Wout de Natris

You can listen to and order ON here:

https://onband1.bandcamp.com/album/on

donderdag 22 september 2022

Week 38, 10 singles

Another week and 10 more singles are highlighted on WoNoBlog. Once again, a very varied set, although I have to add that for once more singles did not make this list than did. Perhaps I was not in the mood for them, then I apologise but I had the idea they were just not speaking to me. Not all music is meant for me. That said there are simply too many singles being released to keep up with. There's only a spot for 10 here. From serious rock, you'll find dreampop, country pop and what not. It all ends with a big bang and a truly fantastic drummer. Hearing is believing here! Kim Coffel, remember that name.

Cold Killer. Redlight King

Can hardrock and pop go together? I hope I'm not offending anyone but yes it certainly can. Redlight King is combining the two perfectly. The tough guitar sound sets the tone. Together with the rhythm section it makes sure that the verses have the air to breath, to go for it in the choruses. No matter how cold the title is, the feel of the chorus is simply great. Fans of rock music will recognise elements from Guns 'N' Roses right up to Muse and that's only the start of this song. What I particularly take a liking to, is the little details in the song. The top of a cymbal, the extra, extra harmonies behind the front voice and harmonies. Redlight King knows how to embellish a song in all the right places and ways. As I wrote, pure pop. Be on the lookout for the Canadian-American band's fourth album later this year,'On Our Blood'.

Push. Cash Savage and the Last Drinks

Just because of the video it is good to listen (and look) to Push at least once. A band plays in a small apartment while the singer, in a semi-normal way goes about the apartment, doing things she would ordinarily do and sing as well. She may not be "feeling to hot today", the Last Drinks are. The band is on fire in this alternative rocking song. Musically the band strokes against your hairs half of the time while at the same time building this tension of which you know is in search of a release. When it comes it is still close to the edge of my musical tastes but so full of energy that giving is is an easy thing to do. For me Cash Savage and the Last Drinks is a totally new name and I can't even find out any more how the band got on my radar. It doesn't matter, the steam is getting out of my speakers and ears. Excitement is another good word for what I'm hearing.

The Seventh Daughter. Ryan Traster

With Low Miranda not out for another two weeks, here's a little taster in the form of the album's single, The Seventh Daughter. It is an ideal mix of country, pop and indie rock. You will hear a twangy lead guitar, playing in a song that with only some minor alterations could have been by R.E.M. or my fave country singer Karen Jonas. At the same time Ryan Traster adds this pop element to his song that makes it so easy to listen to. He manages to hover between the light and the shade and makes the light win on points. Listen to what the piano is doing, as accompaniment and solo notes. As a whole the song is extremely well-balanced making the listening experience sheer fun. It took me a while to acknowledge, but his voice sounds a lot like Vancouver's Tim Claridge of Death Goldbloom and Hymalyan. Extra points scored because of it. The Seventh Daughter is a great introduction to Low Mirada which I'll certainly start listening to soon. Out on 30 September.

Gin Joint Jukin'. Hambone Skinny

Duo Hambone Skinny, Skinny Mike on guitar and vocals and Stepth F. on drums (and a shout here and there), present nothing more than what they are, a duo. Skinny Mike plays his one riff over and over on his distorted guitar. One chord seems enough for the verses and chorus. The change comes when he throws in his slide for the solo's. Steph F. pounds away on her drums making sure that every inch of the sound not filled by the amp cranked up to 10.5 is filled by the drums. Behind Skinny Mike's voice, rough from wear and tear, she repeats a word here and there. If Hambone Skinny does one thing right, it is recreating the sound of the southern juke joints on a Saturday night. Gin Joint Jukin' is a s close as you'll get these days.

Double Helix. Ronan Conroy

Dubliner living in Brooklyn releases a single from his upcoming album 'The Slow Death Of The LoveMyth'. It is a song, on the dark side of the song spectre, that is quite heavy to digest. Let me start with the thing that irritates me no little: that long held, high keyboard note that is there for the whole song, hardly ever changing at all. With that out of the way, the rest of the song is fascinating. With singer Juli Dicterow of Oh Halo in a Stevie Nicks kind of role. She leads the way despite being somewhat in the middle of the music going on around her. The music comes across as one huge cloud that envelopes me completely. Yes, there are different instruments. They come across as one big whole. A monolith of sound, led by that one note. Listen more closely and a rich musical tapestry appears. With the many layered vocals of Dicterow and all the other instruments behind her. Double Helix is fascinating music in several ways.

I Guess You Had Enough. Kevin Stevenson

I'll be honest and write that Kevin Stevenson's album 'Reality Alley' is a bit too much for me. This single shows why individually his songs can be fun. They tap into a style of song that went out of fashion about 40 years ago, when bands like The Specials, The Selecter and Madness were, almost, past their short-lived hey day. Stevenson adds some pop to the whole and comes up with a mix of pop and slow ska, horns and all. Enough to bring a smile to someone's face instantly. Live this will undoubtedly go down very well. This music is fun. Nothing more but certainly nothing less.

Abstract Oils. Crush

More from New Zealand. Abstract Oils is the title of the latest single of the band Crush. Title and music faintly reminds me of Japan and the early solo works of David Sylvian. Warpaint is a name of the last 10 years that comes to mind immediately. The dreamy music is mixed with the mystical. At the same time there's a down to earth element in the music with thanks to the drummer and percussionist. Things happen that move towards reggae and dub, while singer and synths warble around as there's only sky and wind to sooth and carry you. Put Abstract oils on and let yourself be carried away. Just drift away, softly but surely into the trance the rhythm and warbling synths can bring you in.

Better By Now. Brooke Annibale

Listening to Brooke Annibale's single I get a feeling that The Cure has lost all its effect pedals somewhere on the road and in sheer desperation recorded Better By Now any way. The result is an alternative pop song that is instantly pleasing yet missing something. When I chuck my The Cure association out of the window, I hear a singer that is pining for something better. She wrote the song in January 2021, with the Christmas tree freshly out of the door and a hope for a new fresh year and on came the storming of the Capitol. (And Covid far from over yet of course.) The song expresses the faded hope for a better year in all the right ways. More bitter than sweet and more sad than happy. Better By Now is a song for those moments, without forgetting the silver lining is there somewhere. Hope does shine through. "How we wanted to believe it, somehow". Keep that thought when in the situation Brooke Annibale was in in January 2021. And listen to what came from it.

Dead Trajectory. Black Market Karma

London band Black Market Karma releases a single ahead of its album 'Aped Flair & Hijacked Ideas' (29 September), it's 10th. On Dead Trajectory singer Stan Belton delivers the right tone for the song. Do not expect a host of emotions on the single. The music is a more intricate affair. You will hear several guitars all playing off and against each other. Rhythms, leads, solo notes, wide chords and strums, it can all be found any moment in the song, without it ever becoming a jumble of noise. In the background the drums and bass keep it all on track and nicely going. Black Market Karma is in line with a band like Teenage Fanclub here without the intricate vocals. At the same time the band that hardly anybody has seen live, is quite present as well. The Velvet Underground is in the music and vocals. The pop and the dark come together in Dead Trajectory in quite a surprising way.

The Call. Hoaxed

Hoaxed is a duo, Kat Keo and Kim Coffel, that produces a song that sort of is a perfect blend of everything going on in modern rock music. Kat Keo sings like an angel in The Call and would have fitted with any of the dreampop bands of today. Kim Coffel batters her drumkit in such a way that Lars Ulrich could retire from Metallica any moment knowing that the kit would be filled a formidable way. Together they play metal in such a way that The Call is instantly a sing-a-long kind of song. Yes, it's hard and loud, while being pure pop, 24 carat gold. The best songs of Earth & Fire came to mind immediately in the moments the keyboards ring out, think 'Seasons', 'Wild and Exiting' and 'Maybe Tomorrow Maybe Tonight'. Hoaxed is a totally new name for me but instantly liked. The album. 'Two Shadows' is out on 28 October. Let me put the spotlight once again on drummer Kit Coffel. This is really sick stuff.

Wout de Natris

 

woensdag 21 september 2022

Expert In A Dying Field. The Beths

The impression The Beths made on me with the its single and opening song of its previous album, 'Jump Rope Gazers', it will never be able to repeat. Everytime I hear the song start, it still tingles down my spine. How can a band ever top that? It can't. The only thing to do is to come up with an even greater album as a whole. And it is here. The Beths fully deliver. Expert In A Dying Field is a great album and with 'Silence Is Golden' the band comes very close to 'I'm Not Getting Excited'.

The Beths is another band from New Zealand. This time I was allerted to them for the first time by Erwin Zijleman. Because of his review of 'Future Me Hates Me' I started to listen to the album and within a few songs I had heard enough. One of these days I'm going to have to do a retry of course. Why I haven't? Time is a restraint here with all the music coming in a daily basis.

Expert In A Dying Field contains everything that makes The Beths a perfect band. With Elizabeth Stokes the band has a songwriter that delivers and a singer who hovers between slacker and presence in a totally convincing way. The band has a lead guitarist who dares to derail his solo's without going off the rails. Hearing Jonathan Pearce's solo's is believing. Where is he going? Where does this wind up? In the end always in the right note but a lot of them in between are quite on the edge of the options open to him if not beyond. Pearce is like Roadrunner and certainly no Wyle E. Coyote as it were. The band as a whole knows how to rock and successfully pulls of an indie rock ballad at times as well.

Since the mid 90s I'm a great fan of Veruca Salt's album 'Eight Arms To Hold You'. Here you go where The Beths are concerned. Come 2022, the conclusion may have to be drawn that I have a new standard and it is Expert In A Dying Field. Many songs on the album are sharper, go to the edge more and are less well produced, in a positive way, as in this is not a "huge" album, which Veruca Salt's was.

What I truly like as well, are the harmony vocals on the album. All The Beths' members sing with Elizabeth Stokes, including harmonising with herself, giving the album an extra level of quality. With each listening session there are other details for me to discover.

Musically The Beths must be familiar with the alternative rock bands coming out of Boston around 1990. The Lemonheads, Buffalo Tom and such. Fans of these bands will find something of their liking here. For me The Beths simply go way beyond these bands. The band and its members add a level of enthusiasm to the music, something upbeat and plain fun. When I've listened to this album I always wind up with a smile on my face. Besides being totally pleased in a general way. It looks like I have added another band to my list of top bands.

Wout de Natris.


You can listen to and order Expert In A Dying Field here:

https://thebethsnz.bandcamp.com/album/expert-in-a-dying-field