vrijdag 16 april 2021

Kingdom Of Oblivion. Motorpsycho

The trilogy of three albums of great, colourful album art artistry is done. To underscore that the cover to Kingdom Of Oblivion is not so much less artful, it is enormously more simple and less colourful. Art it is, that remains the same. Musically Motorpsycho stays fairly close to home. Fans of the band's music will be totally satisfied and can buy the album with plugged up ears.

There's one snag in reviewing new Motorpsycho albums. So much happens on them that it is impossible to truly form an impression after just a few listening sessions. A first impression is formed, the deeper relationship is something that happens over time, weeks, months and years. The long compositions have many nuances and layers that do not necessarily unfold themselves at the start. Something sounding familiar at first contains a new sound or even a new approach within a "normal" Motorpsycho environment.

On the last number of records whole walls of sound are erected. Somewhere in there the essence of the song lurks to be discovered at leisure. Sometimes to be discovered immediately, sometimes after many sessions by cutting a record up. Overload of musical information is a risk with an 80 minute or plus record and as overwhelming as a Motorpsycho record can be.

So on my first take I'm not afraid to share with you that Kingdom Of Oblivion is another great Motorpsycho record. The monumental opening. 'The Waning part 1&2', sets the pace and atmosphere. The bands plays in large, rough strokes, as if Karel Appel saying "I do not paint, I hit". Pushed on relentlessly by power drummer extraordinaire Tomas Järmyr, the two veteran members on the snare instruments can not hold back for one second. In that wall of sound so much is happening that just reviewing this song could take up much more time than I could ever allocate to the whole album. And should you be wondering how hard the band rocks, just listen to that groove on 'The United Debased'. The album takes a giant step back in and after 'The Watcher' and allows all involved, including you and me, to catch our breath, because what a ride that rocker is..

Promo photo Motor Magritte
Just like I was from 'The Tower' onwards, before that album from 2017 I had lost sight of the band for circa seven years, I am totally impressed by the band. Like I was at that great show in Victorie in Alkmaar in 2018. The band really wrings everything out of itself and the ideas the members come up with. No road remains unexplored, leading to monumental songs and to West Coast jazzy pop songs like 'Lady May 1'. Motorpsycho never is just the classic prog rock band. The bass playing of Bent Saether on this song very much reminds me of the jazzy outings Jefferson Airplane's Jack Cassidy played on 'After Bathing At Baxter's' more trippy, hippy songs. A song like this gives Kingdom Of Oblivion and other Motorpsycho albums, the air the listener needs to recover, while enjoying the song at the same time.

I can't help feeling, and if this is the case I apologise just a little here, in essence I'm writing the same review when reviewing a new Motorpsycho album. The reason is as I explained in the above. I am in awe, once again, but also overwhelmed by the giant amount of musical information hurled at me. One thing is for certain, I will be buying the album soon, as it will be another great addition to my slowly growing Motorpsycho collection and my faster growing collection overall. Kingdom Of Oblivion is as impressive as it is inspired.

Wout de Natris

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donderdag 15 april 2021

Fog Rolls In. Homemade Empire

With Fog Rolls In one of the more mysterious albums of the past months has reached me. On the one hand Homemade Empire stands on the shoulders of giants, while on the other it relentlessly and without compromise seems to follow its own path, wherever it may lead the music.

Listen to the first song, 'Stay Awake, Stay Alive', and you will hear Homemade Empire playing a soft, mysterious song, mostly based on electronics and soundscaping. The accents in the song are traditional Dutch symphonic rock like Earth and Fire played just under 50 years ago. They are nothing but a few accents but do put the song on its head, for a very short time.

Hence the loudness of the intro of the second song, 'Concrete Allure', does not come as a total surprise, no matter how different it is compared to 'Stay Awake, Stay Alive'. All the noise drops away, making way for the soft voice of Bart de Kroon. In the singing he brings together Neil Young with an alternative rocking song, where the rocking is mostly stripped out of.

All that you hear on Fog Rolls In is sung and played by Bart de Kroon, who is Homemade Empire, with help from Rats on Rafts drummer Bram Nigten. Where necessary Nigten puts the power of those giants into Homemade Empire as he is an extremely energetic drummer. De Kroon is the sound artist. Just as easily you can hear electronic drones or a church organ on the album. De Kroon sounds as if his music is hiding underwater, but just as easily as if it is shouted from the rooftops. The songs on Fog Rolls In are extreme in nature. De Kroon shows us the different sides of his musicality without any inhibition.

This means that as a listener you have to go with his flow more than on any other album. In that way I'm reminded of  Sparklehorse's first album, 'Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot. Only as a starting reference as Homemade Empire takes quite some twists and turns from there. Mark Linkous intended to shift many an album and I doubt that this was primarily on Bart de Kroon's mind when he conceived Fog Rolls In. The reference is a nice starting point to start listening to the album. Why?, you may ask. Because Bart de Kroon has put a lot of beauty around and under his more adventurous musical streaks. Experimental as parts of the album may be, '3 Swords' holds beauty within it. There's no other word for it. Can you discovered some of the giants' shoulders Homemade Empire is standing on here? Neil Young, Mark Linkous, Damian Rice, just to name a few. Give a close listen and I'm sure you will discover a few others as well.

Until a few weeks ago I had never heard of Homemade Empire, despite this being the project's fourth album. I'm glad that has changed. There is a lot to enjoy on Fog Rolls In. I'm fascinated, not unlike those unique moments that fog does roll in fast.

Wout de Natris

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woensdag 14 april 2021

Ten singles 2021/15

Weeks do fly by. We are in week 15 of our singles roundup for 2021, a quarter of the year already gone by. What do we have for you this week? We start and finish with some nice rock (and roll) from the Rum Bar Records label. In between there's dark wave, pop, singer-songwriter and more, from three continents no less. Once again it is a very diverse set that is presented. Enjoy!

Put Another Cross by the Side of the Road. Freeloader

Running ahead of the 'Freeloader II' album Rum Bar Records releases a first single capturing Nat Freedberg's rough and clearly used voice in a pleasant rock setting. After a little run up on the guitar the song starts a groove that has faint traces of Led Zeppelin. "Give me no quarter", appears to be the tip of the hat here. Put Another Cross By The Side Of The Road is a straight up honest song. Beside the flashy guitar solo the song is what it is, a rock song with a great groove. Nothing more but certainly nothing less.

Without Light EP. Abrasive Trees

The title song of the new Abrasive Trees EP is a mysterious affair. Electric charges fly out of my speakers. Despite the light suggested by electric charges, Without Light is a dark and dismal affair. The title is totally right as there's no light in sight in this music or it should be in the lighter intro before the dark takes over. From twilight and shades to pitch black. At certain intervals an upcoming release is suggested, but like a thunderstorm remaining in the distance it never comes closer. Over it Matthew Rochford singtalks his lyrics. Although at first listen nothing much seems to happen, besides the suspense that is built ever stronger, there are details to be noted. A lead guitar melody, and a second one, a few isolated piano notes. Close to six minutes without release is not easy to sit through, were it not that the darkness does become impressive and not oppressive, making Without Light more than just a listening experience. Can it become any darker? I believe it can. Just continue listening to the EP. The artwork does suggest some light though, like a slim consolation.

Last Day On Earth. Beabadoobee

Not even a year I ago I reviewed Beabadoobee's debut album 'Fake It Flowers' on this blog. Instead of touring for two or three years, corona kept her at home and here's a new single already. Again she hovers between pop and alternative, but more towards the pop segment of music. Not that a lot happens on Last Day On Earth. If this really was the last day, it should even be called disappointing. It isn't though. This single is simply a nice song sung with a light voice placed somewhere between happy and sad, where the many harmonies are full of life. The musical basis of the song sounds like a looped guitar sequence that is repeated over and over. Variation is built in by a keyboard sound and the harmonies, including two male voices, perhaps of Matt Healy and George Daniel of The 1975. with whom Bea Kristi worked on this single. A nice introduction to the upcoming EP, 'Our Extended Play', it is.

Lose Control. Radio Days

Bands from Italy are becoming a weekly feature on this blog. Radio Days released its first album in 2015 and in 2021 will release its fourth, 'Rave On!', in June. Lose Control is an extremely nice introduction. The single is uptempo, friendly, poppy and rocking at the same time. The influences are the right mix of U.S. alternative rock and British pop of all fairly recent ages. So think the better songs of Weezer or Fountains of Wayne mixed with the rocking side of The Kinks and Supergrass or Oasis. This results in a song that can be sung along to within minutes and enjoyed under all circumstances. The kind of pop that is so easy to get used to and like. From the familiar sounding guitar intro to the dynamics that are built into Lose Control. Sweet pop and roll it is.

Blushing. Pickle Darling

Pickle Darling is Lukas Mayo from Christchurch in New Zealand. Looking at the music scene over there from literally the other side of the world, it feels like more people release records there than there are inhabitants. Pickle Darling is a new name for me, picked out of the newsletter of Flying Nun Records. Mayo may declare that Blushing is a song like he never wrote and made before, for me it's the first ever and made me listen for a few reasons. The beginning is extremely elementary. An acoustic guitar and two voices, both not natural. In the second half of the song one of the voices is treated electronically even more, as in smurfed, changing the feel of the song totally. The electronic percussion that is added and a keyboard sound repeating the same notes over and over, makes the second half almost a different song. Delicate versus brash. Time to stop blushing as my introduction to Pickle Darling asks for more soon. A good thing an album, 'Cosmonaut, is coming up soon.

Cinema. Tessel (featuring Amber Arcades)

Dark pop from Utrecht with a front row seat for Annelotte de Graaf better known as Amber Arcades on this blog and elsewhere. In information I found Tessel is called a surfpop band. Now I'm hearing a lot in this single, but surf? It comes a lot closer to 70s pop with a soul twist, like The Doobie Brothers with Michael McDonald in the driver's seat. Cinema could almost be a happy song. The lead guitar has a sprightly jump in its playing, were it not that the whole song seems to be hidden under a blanket. This belies the happy sounding guitar solo. Reading back on my review of debut single 'Family Time' the sound is becoming a trademark of Tessel. As a whole it is clear that Cinema is well built up and a song that it is easy to relate to, next to the fact that it's great to hear Annelotte de Graaf sing in a new song. That has been a while. Great move, Tessel.

Gold. The Wandering Hearts

New folk has not gone and still brings forward new and interesting songs. Gold, that can't be denied, uses every trick in the book known to bands like The Oh Hellos, The Lumineers and many other hey-ho or ho-hey bands, as I call them. Gold adds to the whole as the harmonies between AJ Dean-Revington, Tara Wilcox and Chess Whiffin are stellar, of the kind that "breaks up the sky", as they sing themselves in Gold. The floortom drumming sounds familiar. Even our Dotan made a trademark of it in 'Home'. It gives Gold the pace the song can use in the right moments, creating a contrast between verses and chorus and great dynamics. The Wandering Hearts went all the way to Woodstock, yes, THE, to record its new album with Simone Felice and David Barron. If Gold is anything to go on, the trip paid up. With memories of 'Rumours' Fleetwood Mac hidden in Gold, the link to older pop fans is made as well.

Keel Timing. Manchester Orchestra

No matter how different Keel Timing is, Manchester Orchestra has certainly heard of The Beatles. The psychedelic effect on one of the vocal parts is classic The Beatles from 1967. The rest is not. Keel Timing is classic pop/rock and electronic song. A true hybrid it is. After a short, percussive intro a driving rhythm is introduced that the band let no let go off until the very end. At the start of the verse the electronic pulsing is set to pasture for a short while, the drums driving the song with the bass. In between Django Django percussive guitar rhythms can be identified, fitting quite well here. Here and there a short eruption of enthusiasm is allowed before the band is reigned back in to continue the solid propulsive rhythm. Keel Timing is the kind of song that I can dance and listen to. As I wrote a true hybrid it is.

Die Young. Soo Line Loons

Die Young is a song that surprises in a few ways. The song as it starts is not that surprising though. An American band playing music in the realm of early Chicago (Transit Authority) or Blood, Sweat and Tears with a more rocking edge to it and a little less jazz. Grant Glad's rough voice fits the song and the unforgiving title extremely well. In between of that rocking a saxophone finds its way for the whole of the song, as do keyboards, instruments not found in the six man/woman line up of the band. And then some really nice, soulful backing vocals are added. These surprises slowly but surely unfold during the song. In the solo the tempo is brought down totally and a jazzy interlude in which the saxophone takes the lead again after a previous uptempo solo. Andy Meyer more or less takes over the song and sends it in a totally different direction. The soulful keys by Erick Anderson do the rest. Interesting song, Die Young is.

You're A Doll. Pale Lips

In the guitar intro I thought that The Sweet was resurrected. That would have been quite a feat considering that three of the four Brit glamrockers have traded the temporal for the forever. Quite soon I was brought out of my revelry of things long past. Pale Lips is a band in the here and now with a female front. So more Suzy Quattro than The Sweet to remain in the Chinn/Chapman realm. You're A Doll is not a new song. Pale Lips released its album 'After Dark' in 2019, but releases You're A Doll on single now. Pale Lips is a band from Montreal in Canada and far removed from the music I usually hear from that town. Arcade Fire, Patrick Watson, e.g. Somewhere off of main street some rock and roll aficionado's do reside. With a nice boogie rhythm sped up, a little thin sounding organ like they don't make anymore. Singer Jackie Blenkarn has the right girl sound in her voice for this kind of song. Last week I happened to hear Bow Wow Wow on the radio and Jackie goes for Annabella Lwin's crown alright. In You're A Doll Pale Lips brings together pumped up rock and roll and girl pop, in other words, experience and teenage longing. The mix works a miracle in You're A Doll.

Wout de Natris

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dinsdag 13 april 2021

Water For The Frogs. Hooveriii

Hooveriii or Hoover three, is an American band that started as the one person drum machine project of Bert Hoover, believe it or not. Now I can't really imagine what that sounded like. The music Hooveriii makes in 2021 resonates quite easily in these ears. Having already come by on this blog with the single 'Control, an extremely strong song, the six piece band returns here with its second album, Water For The Frogs.

Hooveriii combines parts of rock music, with psychedelic under and over tones, in the mind and in space. This results in an album that is as spacey as it is solid. That solidness comes forward in the firm drums and bass notes that work itself around the drums, but also the hammered piano notes. It all comes together in 'Cindy' the song that opens Water For The Frogs. From that solid foundation Hooveriii is able to elaborate a little. The rather dreamy singing comes forward first. The lead guitar may sound loud, it also holds a little mystery that adds to the song. An interesting beginning of the album it is.

'Control' comes next and I can't help but marvel at the organ sound that hides a little behind the wall of sound Hooveriii puts up for us. The melody it plays is so nice. Four notes is all it takes in the chorus part to reach musical heaven. 'Control' is even tighter than 'Cindy' is. It's the kind of song that nears perfection or simply just is.

By the time 'Hang Em High' starts it is possible to come to a first conclusion. On Water For The Frogs Hooveriii connects 60s psychedelia with more modern alternative rock. The spacey melody really touches on psychedelia from long ago. The music the band plays is of a tightness no band in the 60s could imagine and maybe average band couldn't achieve. Musicians seem to have become an awful lot better, technically and where arrangements are concerned. Of course, the songs of old remain the masterpieces they were. There a band like Hooveriii has an issue, simply because the old songs were stamped onto an empty page. Water For The Frogs has to compete very hard there.

Looking at it from a fresh point of view, as in what has been released in the last, say, 11 years, then the picture is shifts. What I like about this album, is the successful mix that is presented. I can look at this album from both angles, rock and psychedelic, and like it because both work really well. Even when the song really goes far out, like in 'Shooting Star', a Bowie like saxophone sounds out to give the psychedelic song a sound base. Like the sound of a foghorn coming to me through the mist, announcing the presence of a boat somewhere, without me having a clue where. That is how that sax sounds to me.

Next up are an intriguing instrumental, a nice up tempo psychedelic rock song, to finish the album with an almost 10 minute long song. In short, Water For The Frogs is an album that not only varies, but convinces.

Wout de Natris

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maandag 12 april 2021

Major League Heavy-Rock. Hellamor / Red Stone Chapel

"Friends, you have seen the heavy groups and now you will see morning maniac music. Believe me, it's a new dawn", Grace Slick says in the intro of 'Volunteers' on the original soundtrack of Woodstock. What would she have said, had she heard Hellamor diving headfirst into 'Fallen Saint' from its split maxisingle with Red Stone Chapel, just before Jefferson Airplane had to go on? Words would probably not have sufficed.

I was reminded of Grace Slick's introduction to Jefferson Airplane's performance on Max Yasgur's farm because of the title of the album, Major League Heavy-Rock. This is heavy music alright, but totally on my good side. For a simple reason, Hellamor plays a song and so does Red Stone Chapel. A song that is played fast, loud and ferocious, with howling guitars and one grunting singer, but songs they are.

This has to do with, although technically a lot happens in the songs, the brunt is not on pyrotechniques in either riffing or playing, but on melody. In this I have a slight preference for Hellamor, mostly because of the singing that is. Both bands guard their deep end as if it is the treasure of the universe. Only when that defence is up, are other sounds allowed to escape.

Hellamor and Red Stone Chapel are German bands that are around for close to two decades respectively more than a decade, but have not recorded many albums over those years. They do perform regularly together, at the time, and from there the idea rose do make a split record together and let the fans know that they are still around.

Hellamor kicks the album off with four songs, starting with the epic 'Fallen Saint'. This song caught me immediately. It is tremendously rock solid. The kind of song that knows no doubt. What you hear is what you get and don't even think about something else. The brute force takes everything over. Not being a true metal fan, I do hear influences ranging from Black Sabbath, AC/DC to Van Halen guitar shrieks. The other three songs fall into this category as well. The songs are so hard rocking, but I can't help totally liking them. 'I Can Hear It' is a song I may even like better than 'Fallen Saint'. Great accenting in the riffs giving the song even more pace.

Red Stone Chapel shares two studio songs and two live songs to side B. At first I had a harder time listening to the songs, because of the way of singing, that moves closer to grunting, alternating with a bass voice not coming close to Till Lindemann's. Let's say I'm happy not to have to sing this way. It took two listening sessions to realise that Red Stone Chapel also plays songs. The kind of riffs Led Zeppelin played from a blues angle, hardrockified. What I started to notice, is how the band works with dynamics. Keep in mind that the band has three guitarists, and a bass player, when you listen to 'The Paper King'. Then you understand how good this band is at reticence. Playing in a band myself, I know how hard it is to make someone not play or less, including myself ;-). Next I noticed the great melodies that are played on the lead guitar, supporting the exerting voice of the singer. Deep down, that Led Zeppelin blues groove is worked into the songs of Red Stone Chapel. The harmonica in 'Progress In Work' attests to that, as does the Tom Waits like vocals. Never mind the comic vocal interlude before the chorus goes off.

The live songs show how capably Red Stone Chapel rocks on stage. A Lenny Kravitz like riff kicks off 'Genius Junction', before the lead guitars come in, gracing the song as much as Slash's Gibson Les Paul graced 'Always On The Run'. It goes to show how wide this band is able to reach for influences without losing the hardrocking basis that it dwells in.

Yes, this is a loud record, but there's no reason not to like it for one second.

Wout de Natris


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