zaterdag 23 februari 2019

Solid Brass. Ten Years Of Northern Funk. Smoove & Turrell

How long do I know Spencer Davies Group's hitsingle 'I'm A Man'? I have no way of telling, but chances are as long as it is old, as songs came by when I was a small kid and some I remember vividly no matter how young I was and others were sort of there along the way. 'I'm A Man' certainly is in the latter category. Of course a few years later Chicago Transit Authority added to the fun with it's version late in 1969.

What does it say when an album released in 2019 opens with a funked and danced up version of that song from 1966/1969? For certain that the strength of the song has not abated in over 50 years. The way Stevie Winwood and the guy from CTA sang is emulated without any trouble by John Turrell. He has that rasp in his voice R&B, the classic version and soul need to sound anything near authentic. John Turrell has it in his voice realtime. I'm even reminded a little of Theo van Es of The Shoes. And if anyone had a rasp in his voice it was The Shoes' singer.

'I'm A Man' is one of two new tracks on this compilation of the past 10 years. Smoove and Turrell met in 2008 by accident, in the form of making music next door to each other. The combination managed to come up with a form of Northern Soul for the 21st century. Music that is extremely swinging, so infectiously danceable. The modern sounds in the rhythm blend with more traditional R&B and soul. The speed allows for modern dance. I hear some of Gnarles Barkley and Cee Lo Green's hits in this music. Above all I hear music from my early youth. The Four Tops, The Temptations, The Supremes, Tamla/Motown. This music has that groove.

It is quite a compliment to give. The singing is more one dimensional as it is mostly Turrell's voice I hear, the effect is the same. Songs for living, loving and dancing Solid Brass presents to the world. Songs that warm a heart and can make people extremely happy. Need I say more? I thought not.


You can listen to and buy Solid Brass here:

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

vrijdag 22 februari 2019

Untethered. Willard Grant Conspiracy

Untethered lag sinds de trieste dood van Robert Fisher op de plank, maar is nu toch nog het fraaie slotakkoord dat Willard Grant Conspiracy zo verdient.

Platen waarop muzikanten het naderende einde bezingen duiken de afgelopen jaren met enige regelmaat op en ook op Untethered van Willard Grant Conspiracy speelt de naderende dood een grote rol. Zijn terminale ziekte heeft voorman Robert Fisher geinspireerd tot een aantal intense en zeer indringende songs vol weemoed en melancholie. Het zeer stemmig ingekleurde Untethered, met strijkers die door de ziel snijden, opent nog rauw en hard maar dompelt je uiteindelijk onder in aardedonkere maar ook wonderschone klanken en nog één keer die fascinerende stem van Robert Fisher.

Willard Grant Conspiracy werd in 1995 opgericht door Robert Fisher en Paul Austin en debuteerde een jaar later. Zelf ontdekte ik de band pas toen in 1999 het prachtige Mojave verscheen. Ik vind het nog steeds een van de betere platen van de band, die met Regard The End uit 2003 echter haar onbetwiste meesterwerk afleverde.

Wanneer ik luister naar de platen van Willard Grant Conspiracy heb ik een voorkeur voor het donkere en vaak zeer melancholische werk, dat je gelukkig in ruime mate tegen komt binnen het oeuvre van de Amerikaanse band.

Ook het deze week verschenen Untethered loopt over van melancholie en dat is natuurlijk ook niet zo gek. Voorman Robert Fisher wist dat hij terminaal ziek was toen de plaat werd opgenomen en overleed uiteindelijk in februari 2017.

Dat er nu toch nog een laatste plaat van Willard Grant Conspiracy is verschenen is een klein wonder. Als sinds de eerste jaren van de band trok Robert Fisher aan alle touwtjes van Willard Grant Conspiracy en omringde hij zich met steeds andere gastmuzikanten. Na de dood van Robert Fisher verdwenen de nog ruwe Untethered tapes dan ook op de plank en leek Ghost Republic uit 2013 de zwanenzang van Willard Grant Conspiracy te worden. Frequent gastmuzikant en vriend David Michael Curry zorgde er uiteindelijk voor dat Untethered van de plank kwam, werd opgepoetst en tot leven werd gewekt.

De muziek van Robert Fisher was altijd al intens, maar op Untethered doet de Amerikaanse singer-songwriter er nog een schepje bovenop. In de openingstrack Hideous Beast schreeuwt Robert Fisher het naderende onheil van zich af en klinkt hij als Nick Cave in zijn jaren vol demonen. Het is een rauwe en indrukwekkende track die gelukkig niet de toon zet voor de rest van de plaat, want ik hoor Robert Fisher nog altijd het liefst donker en ingetogen.

Untethered bevat een groot aantal van de donkere en ingetogen songs waarop Willard Grant Conspiracy al een tijdje het patent heeft. Omgeven door donkere klanken en weemoedige strijkers imponeert Robert Fisher zoals altijd met zijn intense voordracht, die in de loop der jaren dichter naar Nick Cave is toe gekropen, maar ook nog steeds met enige regelmaat herinnert aan Johnny Cash.

De wetenschap dat het einde nabij was heeft Robert Fisher geinspireerd tot een aantal prachtige en uiteraard ook zeer indringende songs. Het zijn songs die het goed doen bij de herfststorm die over raast, maar Untethered is ook een plaat die hoort bij een stille en donkere nacht.

Ik ga Untethered niet direct vergelijken met de andere platen van de band rond Robert Fisher, maar het is absoluut een slotakkoord en een zwanenzang die recht doet aan het bijzondere talent van de Amerikaanse muzikant. David Michael Curry verdient alle respect voor de fraaie wijze waarop de plaat is vervolmaakt, maar het is uiteraard Robert Fisher die je nog eenmaal bij de strot grijpt met zijn intense voordracht en met zijn bijzondere songs. Untethered is hiermee een fraai eerbetoon aan een groot muzikant.

Erwin Zijleman

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


donderdag 21 februari 2019

Garden Of Earthly Delights. Susanna & The Brotherhood of Our Lady

There are albums that are easy to endear to and albums that I instantly dislike with no change at repair. And then there is a third category, an album that makes you work for your money. That is where Garden Of Earthly Delights can be found. The kind of album worthy of finding itself on the tracklist of a Kairos show on Concertzender.

On her 13th album, and this is my first, Susanna lays down a mysterious world where her voice is central to all else. And that else easily might mean hardly anything else. If the sounds had not been as modern in sound this record could have been centuries old. The chant of a primitive people in the backwoods of Norway fighting off the winter cold, hardships, angry gods and darkness with their singing.

It is all but. This is the modern world alright where sounds are manipulated, nothing is what it seems, except the voice of Susanna. She purports to live near a magical place, Jheronimus Bosch's garden of earthly delights. She looks over the fence at night. What she sees is determined strongly by the answer to the question on which side of the garden she lives. Light or darkness, joy or peril? I can imagine her standing there for hours on end, watching in awe of all that passes in front of her, safe behind her fence. This masterpiece of Medieval painting by one of the most mysterious painters of all in reality hangs in Madrid's Prado museum where I looked for minutes on end, loosing all sense of time and place, just looking at this marvel with its hundreds of small details.

Promo photo: Signe Fuglesteg Luksengard
For her new album Susanna took her inspiration from Bosch's paintings. This leads to a musical mystery wonder land. Strange electronic noises fill my ears, while in others angelic voices sing together. Although the basis of the song may be just a simple sounding riff or a few chords, they are only the starting point for the electronic treatment the atmosphere of the song undergoes, the work of Helge Sten, who is a regular musical partner of Susanna and herself.

The Brotherhood of Our Lady is a new band accompanying Susanna. Named after the society in St. Jan's cathedral in Den Bosch that supported Jheronimus Bosch, this band supports Susanna. Although it totally unclear to me who plays what on this record, the contributions are listed.

To me it is inconsequential. All in all Garden Of Earthly Delights is as mysterious as the painting is. Nothing is what it seems. Some songs are more straightforward than others. Somewhere there is a folk element like in 'Wilderness'. The song is nothing but a reference point to the more experimental elements constituting the album. There may be a Gothic element in the singing. Above all Garden Of Earthly Delights is an adventure. In listening and in the making, I presume. As soon as conventional song structures are abandoned by Susanna and collaborators, anything is possible. And that goes wide and far. It makes for hard but extremely interesting listening, including quality. And that is not a given where music and experiment goes.


You can buy Garden Of Earthly Delights here:

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

woensdag 20 februari 2019

ShapeShiftingAliens. ShapeShiftingAliens

Now where have I seen this picture before? I remember being slightly shocked by the hideously stuffed and dressed little monkeys. And here one is on the cover of ShapeShiftingAliens' first album.

ShapeShiftingAliens is a Swedish duo that works in a familiar format started by duos like Yazoo, Soft Cell, Erasure and Pet Shop Boys. There's a singer and a digital musician very adept at working with all sorts of keyboards, synthesizers and beats. Singer Johan Cléve and musician/producer Niklas Rundquist (also known as Brainshadow) lay down a digital pop atmosphere that in part could have been made in the 80s like the examples mentioned, were it not they provide an extra layer over their music. And that is where it becomes more interesting for the likes of me.

Unmistakingly ShapeShiftingAliens plays out a Bowie card. The 'Heroes' guitarsound can be found on this album in different places. Cléve is not afraid of going in search of a Bowie diction in his singing. If this were a competition David Bowie would win it without even a second thought. It isn't a competition, so it is possible to notice how these influences are woven into the 80s synth sounds and more modern (sounding) beats. In a successful way to.

Promo photo: Niklas Rundquist
Like some of the 80s examples I mentioned above ShapeShiftingAliens manages to join cold, distancing electronics with warm melodies and emotions. Although never a real fan of any of these bands, they all have some superb singles, where the blend they present is of utmost quality. On 'ShapeShiftingAliens' the duo manages the same feat. There is always a melody and warmth while the coldness tries to win in favour of the warmth. Listen to 'Showing My Face'. All coldness in the beats and synths that keep pulsing. Even Cléve sings with a voice near dead. And then come in all these little oohs and aahs, like little rays of light reaching the dark side of the moon by some sort of detour.

Another strong feature of this album is found in the diversity of the songs. Like a real Bowie album from the 70s anything can come by. With hints to music from 20s and early 30s Berlin of the previous century ('Stay') back to back with the already mentioned utterly cold 'Showing My Face'. While 'Stay' is replaced by a ballad, including a real piano and those Robert Fripp/Earl Slick guitar sounds, called 'Just A Boy'. ShapeShiftingAliens is not afraid of surprising its listeners.

This album may be a homage of some sort to the artistry of David Bowie. His quality, as in his best work, is never reached here. This duo has managed to blend some of his sounds and influences into its own version of electronic music. This part worked really well. There is melodic strength galore and a sense of adventure that allows for an interesting listen trip. More than worthwhile to check out.


You can listen to and buy ShapeShiftingAliens here:

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

dinsdag 19 februari 2019

Negative Capability. Marianne Faithfull

Marianne Faithfull maakt op haar oude dag een van haar beste en meest indrukwekkende platen

The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan was ooit mijn eerste kennismaking met de muziek van Marianne Faithfull. De Britse zangeres was pas 32, maar haar stembanden piepten en kraakten, wat haar muziek een bijzondere lading gaf. De stembanden van Marianne Faithfull kraken inmiddels nog wat meer en haar stem is nog wat donkerder geworden, maar het maakt haar muziek alleen maar stemmiger en indringender. Negative Capability is een donkere maar zeer sfeervolle plaat, waarop Marianne Faithfull de zware thema’s niet schuwt. De instrumentatie is prachtig en past perfect bij het unieke en ontroerende stemgeluid van deze unieke zangeres.

Van Marianne Faithfull verscheen in november vorig jaar een nieuwe plaat, maar  werden we ook al getrakteerd op de mooie verzamelaar Come And Stay With Me: The UK 45s 1964-1969.

Deze verzamelaar met alle singles die ze in de eerste vijf jaar van haar carrière uitbracht, opent met Marianne Faithfull’s allereerste single As Tears Go By (geschreven door Mick Jagger en Keith Richards). Het is een single die opvalt door een rijke instrumentatie, maar vooral door de heldere, meisjesachtige en wat plechtig klinkende vocalen van een piepjonge Marianne Faithfull.

Mijn eerste kennismaking met de muziek van de Britse zangeres stamt uit 1979, toen ze het fantastische Broken English uitbracht. In mijn beleving was Marianne Faithfull destijds al aardig op leeftijd, want er zat destijds al meer gruis op haar stembanden dan bij de gemiddelde mijnwerker. Marianne Faithfull was op het moment van de release van Broken English echter pas 32 en was gesloopt door vijftien jaar drank en drugs in de entourage van The Rolling Stones.

Inmiddels zijn we bijna 40 jaar verder. Marianne Faithfull vierde in de laatste dagen van 2018 haar 72e verjaardag en kwam op haar 71e met een nieuwe plaat. De Britse zangeres heeft flink wat dalen gekend tijdens haar lange carrière, maar Before The Poison uit 2005, Easy Come Easy Go uit 2008 en met name Give My Love To London uit 2014 vond ik geweldige platen.

Op haar nieuwe plaat, Negative Capability, poseert Marianne Faithfull met een wandelstok. De jaren tellen inmiddels voor de Britse zangeres, en dat hoor je in haar zang en lees je in haar teksten. Haar stembanden kraken inmiddels nog wat meer en haar stem is inmiddels bijna net zo donker als die van Nico, maar met name de manier van zingen verraadt de leeftijd van Marianne Faithfull. Het is zang die vaak de kant van voordragen op gaat, net als Leonard Cohen dat op zijn laatste platen deed. Het zit mij nergens in de weg, integendeel zelfs.

De nieuwe songs van Marianne Faithfull, die in de meeste gevallen gaan over vergankelijkheid, eenzaamheid, de dood en het leed in de wereld (met een indrukwekkende song over de terroristische aanslagen in Parijs), kunnen wat mij betreft de concurrentie aan met haar beste songs. Ze vallen ook niet uit de toon bij haar debuut single As Tears Go By en het prachtige Witches’ Song van Broken English, waarvan fraaie nieuwe versies zijn gemaakt of bij Dylan’s prachtsong It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue, dat op Negative Capability een Marianne Faithfull song wordt.

Op haar nieuwe plaat werkt de Britse zangeres wederom samen met producer Rob Ellis en hiernaast zijn er bijdragen van onder andere Nick Cave (die de meeste songs op de plaat prachtig zou kunnen vertolken), Ed Harcourt, Mark Lanegan en The Bad Seeds muzikant Warren Ellis, die met zijn viool zorgt voor prachtige en weemoedige klanken. De instrumentatie is sober maar prachtig en vult de ruimte met herfstachtige klanken, die met name later op de avond uitstekend tot zijn recht komen, maar soms ook een wat spooky karakter hebben.

Het past prachtig bij de wat krakende vocalen, die mij steeds intenser weten te raken dankzij alle emotie en doorleving die Marianne Faithfull in haar stem legt. Diep onder de indruk was ik na de eerste beluistering van Negative Capability en de plaat wordt echt alleen maar mooier en indrukwekkender. De muzikale erfenis van de Britse zangeres was al zeer indrukwekkend, maar wordt met deze nieuwe plaat nog wat imposanter.

Erwin Zijleman

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

zondag 17 februari 2019

Foxhole Prayers. Vanessa Peters

Vanessa Peters maakt inmiddels al een aantal jaren jaarlijstjesplaten en ook Foxhole Prayers is er weer een.

Ik was altijd al wel gecharmeerd van de platen van de Texaanse singer-songwriter Vanessa Peters, maar de laatste twee vond ik goed genoeg voor mijn jaarlijstje. Daar kan Foxhole Prayers ook zomaar opduiken, want wat heeft Vanessa Peters weer een geweldige serie songs afgeleverd. Het zijn songs op het snijvlak van pop, rock en roots en het zijn songs die de zon uitbundig laten schijnen en genadeloos verleiden. Het budget voor Foxhole Prayers was ongetwijfeld beperkt, maar dat hoor je geen moment. De instrumentatie is mooi en doeltreffend en Vanessa Peters heeft een stem om van te houden. Prachtplaat als je het mij vraagt.

Vanessa Peters is een Amerikaanse singer-songwriter, die inmiddels al een jaar of vijftien platen maakt en minstens even lang met enige regelmaat te vinden is op de Amerikaanse en Europese podia. Ze opereerde een tijd vanuit Denemarken en een tijd vanuit Italië, maar lijkt nu weer teruggekeerd naar haar thuisbasis in Dallas, Texas.
Heel bekend is Vanessa Peters nog niet geworden met haar muziek en dat is jammer. Heel jammer zelfs. De Amerikaanse singer-songwriter maakt immers muziek van een zeer hoog niveau en het is volgens mij muziek die een breed publiek aan moet kunnen spreken.
Ik vind de platen van de Texaanse singer-songwriter al vanaf het prille begin interessant, maar de afgelopen jaren heeft Vanessa Peters een enorme sprong gemaakt. With The Sentimentals schaarde ik onder de beste platen van 2015 en een jaar later deed ik hetzelfde met The Burden Of Unshakeable Proof, dat ik nog altijd met grote regelmaat uit de kast trek. Het zijn twee prachtplaten die nu serieuze concurrentie krijgen van Foxhole Prayers, dat vorige maand al in de Verenigde Staten werd uitgebracht en nu dan ook eindelijk in Nederland te beluisteren is via de streaming media diensten.
Vanessa Peters is met haar platen de afgelopen jaren wat opgeschoven van roots naar pop en rock en trekt deze lijn door op Foxhole Prayers. The Burden Of Unshakeable Proof vergeleek ik twee jaar geleden met de muziek van Aimee Mann en dat is ook een naam die opduikt bij beluistering van de nieuwe plaat van Vanessa Peters. Nu is Aimee Mann een van mijn favoriete vrouwelijke singer-songwriter, maar Vanessa Peters is zo langzamerhand even goed.
Ook Foxhole Prayers staat weer vol met songs waar je vrijwel onmiddellijk van gaat houden en die na één keer horen zijn opgeslagen in het geheugen. Het zijn songs met invloeden uit de pop en de rock met hier en daar een vleugje roots en het zijn volstrekt tijdloze songs, die je al jaren lijkt te kennen.
Alleen hiermee is Vanessa Peters al aardig op weg richting een goede plaat, maar de muzikante uit Texas heeft nog veel meer te bieden. Ook Foxhole Prayers is weer een plaat die de zon fel laat schijnen, maar het is ook een plaat die veel interessanter is dan bij vluchtige beluistering het geval lijkt. Vanessa Peters heeft slechts bescheiden middelen tot haar beschikking, maar ook Foxhole Prayers is weer een verzorgd klinkende plaat met een even doeltreffende als fraaie instrumentatie, waarin vooral het geweldige en veelkleurige gitaarwerk opvalt.
Vanessa Peters varieert op haar nieuwe plaat flink met invloeden en stijlen, waardoor alle songs net wat anders klinken. Soms schuift ze nadrukkelijk op richting roots, maar ook de uithoeken van pop en rock worden verkend op Foxhole Prayers. De nieuwe plaat van Vanessa Peters is een plaat die indruk maakt met de songs, die ook nog ergens over gaan, en met de instrumentatie en productie, maar ook de stem van de Amerikaanse muzikante spreekt mij zeer aan en tilt de plaat nog een flink stuk verder omhoog.
Het komt voor mij allemaal niet als een verrassing, want Vanessa Peters maakt al jaren prachtplaten. Ook Foxhole Prayers is er weer een en het is er een die me minstens net zo dierbaar gaat zijn als de twee jaarlijstjesplaten die er aan vooraf gingen.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt Foxhole Prayers hier beluisteren en kopen:

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

zaterdag 16 februari 2019

Skeleton House. Crooked Ghosts

Crooked Ghost is a four piece band from North Carolina. Had I been allowed to take a guess, my take would have been British. This band certainly found its musical mustard in the U.K. of the 80s. As anyone could and can listen to this music, it can pop up anywhere in the world. And it does.

On Skeleton House Crooked Ghost plays with the darker 80s. That unhappy times for youngsters, who only later found out what a glorious youth they (could've) had. The dark sounds, despondent vocals, even Joe Strummer's tribal call from 'London Calling' is in here, twice. It is all not unlike the album cover. An unmade bed, dirty sheets and windows. Like any youth, looking after the back end of life not to forget appearances is not a main priority. Some stick in there, most become regular citizens with responsibilities, etc.

Crooked Ghost manages to present a consistent atmosphere on Skeleton House that moves between a few central elements. The music holds the heavy handedness Simple Minds had, the singing holds elements of Marc Almond and Morrissey in the meandering singing of Ray Clark. Traces of new wave from the early 80s can be found as well.

Promo photo: Rome Widenhouse
An important question is, do I like the music on this album? Well, it started so intriguing. 'Body In Stars' is this slow moving song. The guitar playing a pattern in two chords over and over. The voice sort of hovers over the music. As if an incantation, spell-binding the listener to hang on for the remaining seven songs. With eight songs Skeleton House is a short album, following 2017's 'Strange Burial Rituals'.

When Crooked Ghosts kicks up the tempo with 'Sleepwalker' the spell works. A fierce rhythm is kept up over which a guitar totally comes alive. The singing is meandering. Long held notes and words, yes, like Morrissey used to sing in The Smiths. I will stop using references here. There are so many more. The question what Crooked Ghosts actually wants to achieve or who it wants to be is a justified one. In fact during the album the spell wears rather thin in the end because of it.

That does not mean Skeleton House is a bad album, far from. The band manages to lay down the 80s atmosphere in a very convincing way, while the songs all have their moments of interest. Melodically there are no complaints, really. You will find that diversity is taken care of and in a positive way to. Even within songs the band can kick up a storm from nothing really. 'Catch Fire' just goes up and up, from the light-hearted dab-da-da, the band slowly works itself into a state, twice.

Promo photo: Rome Widenhouse
I find that I can listen to this album effortlessly. There's one thing missing: a real winning song. Like Simple Minds had 'Alive And Kicking', R.E.M. 'The One I Love' or The Smiths 'Bigmouth Strikes Again' and The Cure 'A Forest'. O.k., we are talking the absolute top of the 80s here, but it is a song like that Crooked Ghosts needs to stick out, in front of everybody else. For the rest, Skeleton House is an album every lover of 80s music should acquaint him or herself with. Fun is the wrong word where the early 80s were concerned, but yes, Skeleton House does offer it in its own way.


You can listen to and buy Skeleton House here:

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

vrijdag 15 februari 2019

The Afterlife. Noctorum

Having never heard of Noctorum before my guess was to brace myself for a whole lot of heavy metal or worse. What I received instead was perfect pop/rock music, including music floating ever so lightly as if eternal.

The Afterlife is an enormously varied album. Almost as if each song was a loose project without any rules attached up front. Not that the band goes over my acceptance limits, so not that wild, yet so diverse. Nearly each song deserves its own words. As that would take up too much time, yours and mine, I will pick out a few examples, but first let me introduce this band, as it it totally new for me (to?).

Noctorum is a duo, perhaps a project would be a better description. Marty Willson-Piper and producer Dare Mason. Willson-Piper has played in 80s band The Church and collaborated with many other artists. Mason produced The Church among others. They teamed up in 2002 and released four albums to date. After an hiatus of seven years the fourth album, The Afterlife, is released.

On the album Noctorum explores music from West Coast singer-songwriting to progrock invested songs. The common denominator is that all are true pop songs, no matter what happens in the way they are played and arranged. The songs just come and flow ever forward. The kind of popsongs that are a true joy to listen to.

Promo photo: Olivia Willson-Piper
The Afterlife starts after a few seconds of ghostlike psychedelic sounds with slow mariachi rhythms and trumpets (or for 50% more likely synths). TMGS, Calexico territory. The slow pace gives the listener the chance to settle into The Afterlife. Within minutes the sense for details is divulged by Noctorum in the keyboards, the backing vocals, the trumpets. 'The Moon Drips' is a beautiful beginning of the album, but what to make of it, in the light from what follows?

'High Tide Low Tide' starts with a guitar intro and evolves into an indie guitar song. It is closer to a 70s rocker combined with 80s The Smiths than mariachi. You are starting to get the drift. The singing reminds me of Nat Freedberg's on his first solo album, 'Better Late Than Never', also released on 15 February. Both are not natural singers, yet the job gets done extremely effective and befitting the music.

Next up is 'Picadilly Circus In The Rain'. The music is as melancholy as the situation asks for. "Getting tired getting old" is part of the lyrics. In a way Willson-Piper sounds the part when he sings. Everything around him belies the tiredness as things sound light and spritely albeit in an old-fashioned way. That may be the paradox of The Afterlife. There are lots of bright silver linings to the clouds hovering over the whole album.

Some symphonic rock elements enter the album in a song called 'A Resurrected Man' but even more in 'Trick' and 'Head On'. Here the influences from Dutch symphonic bands like Focus and Earth & Fire come forward. Especially in the guitar sound and way of playing. Chris Koerts and Jan Akkerman's style found a place here.

Olivia & Marty by Charly Wulff
And then in 'A Girl With No Love' it really starts to rock. A fiery intro and a huge guitar riff drive the song onwards. The contrast with the opening (and what follows) is huge and more or less sets The Afterlife on fire. In the meantime Noctorum takes care of the option to sing along to 'A Girl With No Love'. Finally 'Head On' presents a flute like it is 1969 all over again. The slightly haunted sound presents a 60s flute sound, 70s keyboard as like 'The Persuaders'' soundtrack and modern sounds, while Olivia Willson-Piper does an approximation of Marianne Faithfull. Together they deliver one of the highlights of The Afterlife.

It is only the final song, 'In A Field Full Of Sheep' I could have done without. The lyrics are a bit like The Mamas & the Papas' 'Creeque Alley', a day in the life of The Afterlife in this case, it is the music, almost like The Afterlife had become bored with it all. It is not exactly inspiring.

On The Afterlife Noctorum explore past and present in a fully satisfying way. Two ageing musicians show inspiration has nothing to do with age. Noctorum delivers a very diverse yet solid album with The Afterlife. Many faces, yet consistent. Even a The Who style riff and organ come by in the intro to the title track after which the song takes its own turn. Just another small aspect of the band and proof how a band can surprise with each turn.


You can listen to and buy The Afterlife here:

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

donderdag 14 februari 2019

The Crucible. Motorpsycho

Looking at the cover art, it is clear that Motorpsycho sees a link between its previous album 'The Tower' and its new album The Crucible. The art has some resemblance as latter day Hieronymus Bosch paintings.

'The Tower' held several long, part experimental, part song structured compositions. The Crucible holds three long compositions in the same vein. Melodic, vocal passages alternate with long jams where a theme is explored on guitar, bass or keyboard while the drums pound away in the "background".

My very first impression is Motorpsycho presents itself as a powerhouse on its latest song collection. Another word is simply, wow. The high level of musicianship the Trondheim based band displayed on its previous album is easily maintained here. The combination of song and exploration again is presented so strong that its easy to conclude that the dip I noticed say around 2010 is totally gone.

Motorpsycho is releasing records for nearly 30 years. The band came into my life with 'Let Them Eat Cake', that I did not buy first time around. It was 'Phanerothyme' I bought a year later and came back to 'Let Them Eat Cake' any way. Since then I followed the band for most of the years up to circa 2010, to return with 'Heavy Monsters', albeit reluctantly. 'The Tower' really brought me back, including the fantastic show in Alkmaar last year. Full of enormous power and energy.

That is exactly what The Crucible offers to Motorpsycho fans. The album offers it in abundance. Of course there are no surprises. The trio does what it is good at. Think up a basic melody and hunt it down in the studio until it holds no more surprises; at least until they reincarnate live. There totally new vantage points could be discovered any way.

In a way the metal sounding opening of The Crucible is a surprise. 'Psychotzar' opens extremely loud. A huge guitar riff opens the album, a mellotron softens it just a little, but not a lot. Motorpsycho explores classic rock in its own style. There's no other word for it. 'Psychotzar' is no Deep Purple nor Led Zeppelin. This is what comes out though after this kind of music has gone through the Motorpsycho blender. Loud, fierce, solid, with always a melody around that only Motorpsycho can come up with. There're so many guitars flying about. Hans Magnus Ryan must have taken out his whole collection and stuck them in here one by one. The bass amp almost explodes under all the effects put on it by Bent Saether. After six minutes into the song there's even an interlude. Soft and ever getting louder, until the riffing starts all over again. Solid like a rock formation 'Psychotzar' is.

In 'Lux Aeterna' something surprising happens. The twists in the song sound just like Soup played on its latest studio album, 'Remedies'. Something not too strange as both bands come from the same city in Norway. It provides 'Lux Aeterna' with a little air as this composition has some extreme sides. It starts off ever so softly though. The CSN side to Motorpsycho gets aired here. Just an acoustic guitar and a voice. Slowly the song gets bigger, smaller, while the Mellotron gets a high place, especially in the 'Soup' section. Then the extreme and fast side breaks loose. Drummer Tomas Järmyr can really go full out in this almost jazz rock like interlude. There's devils and hellhounds on the tail of the whole band here. After the narrow escape all crash to the floor panting and puffing in what is one of the highlights of The Crucible. Not just because of the contrast between the two instrumental sequences, no, because it is so powerful, so melodic and extremely strong. The switch back to the acoustic CSN side is almost impossible and can only happen by letting all the noise die out, "to take the pain away", as the band sings. The Soup like sequence ends it all in grand fashion. 'Lux Aeterna' is another highlight in Motorpsycho's career and should be a great addition live. From darkness to eternal light indeed.

The third song is nearly 21 minutes long. 'The Crucible' shoots out of the grooves instantly. Follow it and again you will be surprised by all the twists and turns the band lays into the long composition. The only thing against it and this is extremely relative, is that it holds no surprises. This is a 100% Motorpsycho song, like they ought to be.

Recently I have started listening to the early albums of Dutch symphonic rockers Earth & Fire and Focus. Several parts of the music on The Crucible remind me of what I've heard on albums like 'Focus II' and 'Songs Of The Marching Children' and 'Atlantis'. Motorpsycho is able and willing to be far more extreme in its choices, but also to tap on nearly 50 years of experience in sympho and prog. Knowledge it obviously uses to its great advantage and turn it into a unique beast of its own. Motorpsycho is not the inventor, but the magician's pupil that regularly outshines its master effortlessly. The Crucible is another highlight in Motorpsycho's vast oeuvre.


You can buy The Crucible here:

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

woensdag 13 februari 2019

Soliloquy. Lou Doillon

Lou Doillon is present on this blog for the third time. Her first solo album 'Places' was reviewed by Erwin Zijleman. At the time I could only agree with his points of view and still do. 'Lay Low', her second reviewed album I took care of my self. 'Soliloquy' is mine all the way as well.

(For 'Places:

For 'Lay Low':

On her new album Lou Doillon blends past and present even more than before. The album has on the one hand something totally unique, totally of itself. On the other there are these little references to things long past.

Take 'The Joke', the second song on the album. The main sounds are very modern. Dark, brooding sounds, without exactly being beats, in the centre create a modern atmosphere. On the fringes there's something straight out of 60s movies. Doillon mixes these atmosphere to perfection in 'The Joke'. It proves to be a selling point for Soliloquy.

Her new album is more electronic than 'Lay Low'. Electronics, smooth, soft beats and atmospherics are the bedding from which Soliloquy is fleshed out. It is in the strong accents the album starts to come alive. There are simply so many details that I can not rule out to still be discovering some new ones a year from now. A sound I simply never recognised or never focused enough on.

Even in the fairly straight forward 'Too Much' so many little things are happening. The song is an instant favourite I notice. The driving beat propels the song forward, even when the rhythm is mainly provided by Lou Doillon's voice, it goes ever forward. Yes, I already love this song. Even after only a few listening sessions it is already a favourite.

Another part of the attraction of Soliloquy and her other records is Lou Doillon's voice. It has a rough edge, like a light version of Marianne Faithfull, so unbroken. She gives all the songs a roughness, even when the music does not. There's a hint of danger in this voice, an edge I would not like to encounter at the wrong moment. As I only have to listen to the songs, the attraction is irresistible and extremely rewarding.

Soliloquy is a very diverse, rich album. More so than it's predecessor, that by the way made it easily to my favourites of 2015 (and is among the best read posts on this blog). 'Too Much' e.g. is followed by 'It's You', a totally stripped song. An acoustic guitar, several vocals by Lou Doillon herself, showing off her different voices. The rest is just atmosphere and another winner is scored. So different, the same result.

The album has a total of four producers. This may well explain the very different approaches to several songs. The consistency of quality can only be attributed to Lou Doillon's songwriting skills. It makes Soliloquy a far more diverse album than 'Lay Low' that she made with Timber Timbre's Taylor Kirk, who is one of the four producers here. Soliloquy is the far more modern album with a extremely well-functioning rearview mirror. Even the typical rolling piano sound of the 'The Persuaders' soundtrack comes by.

Soliloquy is extremely rich in sound(s) and genres. This makes that each song comes as a true surprise playing the album the first few times. These changes are something the listener has to stomach. Well, I have and I can only say that my impression this early into February is that the first true masterpiece of 2019 has revealed itself to me. Lou Doillon really reigns. After the certainly nice 2017 album 'Rest' by her half sister Charlotte Gainsbourg, Lou Doillon takes back the crown in the Birkin dynasty.


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

dinsdag 12 februari 2019

Kairos 102, 3 January 2019 on Concertzender

Another year gone by and here is the first Kairos of 2019. Wo. takes up his task once again to listen to the choices .No presents the world with by way of his radioprogram Kairos on Concertzender. Although it seems that through the past four years plus something he is amusing himself somewhat more, probably through getting used to the sort of music he hears, pleasant and unpleasant surprises always lay in wait. So where does .No venture in this Kairos and will Wo. follow? Undoubtedly.

The familiar, yet unknown music sounds out, the slightly whiskey tainted voice does his voice over. A few seconds later the fun starts. A by now familiar name follows, Ólafur Arnalds. Behold, I am even running into this name in my newspaper. Lo, in a two page interview with Nils Frahm no less. Names that would have been meaningless to me were it not for Kairos. The soundscape is over before I've finished typing my introduction.

Already I'm listening to KJ Rothweiler. No barking dogs allowed though. 'You', is a rather removed composition. I wonder whether I would be pleased if it was about or composed for 'me'. All sounds are mixed in a way as if they all come from a distance in a very large hall or church. Somewhat blurry as if windswept or through a wall where part of the sounds goes missing. Like hearing people speak but being unable to pick up any words (that are not meant for me any way, yet so distracting). I have a hard time attaching to what I'm hearing, as in not.

A new soundscape takes over. A digital choir moves in and out over a soft drone in the background. It is Michael Price's 'Sandham' from his album 'Tender Symmetry'. The choir becomes more real. Wordless singing. As .No has not mentioned the title of this composition, I asked Shazam. No, no recognition, but the electrical sawing next door might have aided here. The tranquillity of this composition and the sawing is a bizarre mix, but one I'm dealing with right now. (A poem about groceries is told near the end.) (And, the title misunderstanding stems from a missing dot between Price and Sandham.)

The piano of Annelie also finds a place again on Kairos. Softly she tinkers away, while ever larger pieces of whatever are cut in two in the room on the other side of my wall. 'Quiet' it ought to be but alas is not. At least the radio with the Dutch 'songs of life' is silent now. Annelie plays her extremely slow notes slowly taking me over. I notice that this sort of music is released more and more it seems. The ultimate reaction to modern life? It may well be. Anyone who surrenders to compositions like 'Quiet' surrenders to the music and leaves all else out. No messages, apps, emails, no whatevers, just pling, pling, pling on a piano. And it is enough. There is a place for Led Zeppelin's 'Rock And Roll', to name just an example, though a very good one, and 'Quiet'.

I'm am pulled out of my reverie by voices like a siren's wail. After 'Quiet' it sounds like the equivalent of scratching of nails on the blackboard. A sound from the past, I guess. Trondheim Voices sings its wordless melodies. Some like witches, others like angels from cathedrals. Weird is the word here. Why create beauty to distort it with ugliness? It is an effect of course, but the right one? It made it into Kairos, so perhaps I'm wrong here.

Rothweiler comes by again twice. 'Sile' as only a fragment, 'Caro' for nearly six minutes. Although I would not be surprised if the two songs are somehow mixed. The loop underneath continues for a while and is joined by a beautiful piano motive that is answered by a darker one. The same answer over and over, the basis of 'Caro'. It is quite possible to get under the spell of 'Caro', a simple matter of letting go and go with the flow of the piano part or let yourself be caressed by the undercurrent waves. A few times I have the impression 'Caro' is over, yet returns again and again.

When it is really over, there is no doubt left. A high singing lady takes over and the quiet lapping of the undercurrent is truly gone. A holy song by Johan Duijck sung by the Flemish Radio Choir comes by next mixed into 'Sile', KJ Rothweiler's undercurrent. The singing is too high for my taste, the undercurrent quite impressive. Truly like waves upon the beach.

'Zilverspa' is a song from Broeder Dieleman's first album 'Alles Is IJdelheid'. At his show in The Hague, .No and I attended last November we, i.e. the audience, were allowed to sing along with the band. The community singing was so impressive. A man, a guitar, it is all 'Zilverspa' needs. Yes, more comes in later. Soft, delicate, fragile. This is a song that can break if not handled with care. Broeder Dieleman is a unique person in Dutch popular music, a tower of strength all by himself. A song to bring tears to your eyes.

'Selene''s piano notes come next. Ben Lucas Boysen is a familiar name by now. His album 'Spells' must have been heard fully on Kairos. Dark piano notes, a dark mood is 'Selene''s. Boysen is playing without much light. At best a faint dusk on the horizon before dark descends again. Luckily there's beauty in darkness and it is easy to spot in 'Selene'.

O.k., folks. Tie up, as the next contribution takes almost all of the rest of Kairos. Nearly 20 minutes are reserved for 'Glacier Looming' by Rocókon. Glacier Looming? That suggests music for eternity. Music in which nothing much happens, except the slow drip of water melting from the eternal snow. A droning sound, a sparse note here and there. Tucking into the atmospheric music I am reminded by the beginning of 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond', one of Pink Floyd's absolute master pieces. Yes, this could be the beginning of a progrock adventure, except that I doubt it will be. Birds' song is heard, most likely the mash up with Sytze Pruiksma's 'The Sounds And Science of Bird Migration'. (The workforce next door packed up for the day, now somewhere in the house dance beats have come awake, mixing with the deep sounds of 'Glacier Looming'.) Nothing much happens in this composition, yet within that time and space encapsulating nothingness a lot goes on. Small melodies are developing, a beatlike sound moves in, totally isolated from all around it, and out. There's always a drone or two involved. Harrold Roeland is not packed for time. He takes it and expands on it. The birds assist to enliven the glacier, like they might do in real life as well, soaring over the peaks in migration. Well, what to make of 20 minutes of this slow, meandering music? Not my cup of tea. I notice I'm too restless to truly surrender to it today. In another mindframe it might well work as there is nothing against what Roeland presents here. Just not for me today. When it becomes more exciting, it is .No mixing elements of the final song into this one.

Luckily it all ends with a track from Sophie Hunger's latest album, 'Molecules'. It took a long time before the LP entered my home as the first copy had a scratch. Coincidentally I played it with a headphone on yesterday evening and decided I was listening to a superb album. The switch to Berlin and electronics worked very well for Ms. Hunger. 'She Makes President' is the first song on the album. Totally un-Kairos perhaps, yet the sound is so nice after 20 minutes of 'Glacier Looming'. This song is direct in a totally dreamy way. Beats driven, yet totally melodic. A grand opener to the album, a fantastic way to close this Kairos. Sophie Hunger is one of the most important European artists in the 2010s with a lot of promise for the 20s, says


This is Kairos 102's playlist:
00:04      Ólafur Arnalds. Frá upphafi. Album ‘Dyad 1909’. Erased Tapes Records ERATP 019CD.
01:20      KJ Rothweiler. You. Album ‘Ex’. DRONARIVM RD-54.
06:37      Michael Price Sandham. Album ‘Tender Symmetry’. Erased Tapes Records ERATP112CD.
11:39      Annelie. Quiet. Album ‘After Midnight’. Sony Music Entertainment/DGR.
17:11      Trondheim Voices + Asle Karstad. Sardin cluster. Album ‘Rooms & Rituals’. Grappa LC49093.
20:00      KJ Rothweiler. Sile. Album ‘Ex’. DRONARIVM RD-54.
20:37      KJ Rothweiler. Caro. Album ‘Ex’. DRONARIVM RD-54.
26:24      Johan Duijck. O Salutaris Hostia (from Cantiones Sacrae in honorem Thomas Tallis op.26). The Flemish Radio choir / Johan Duijck. Album ‘Johan Duijck Cantiones Sacrae’. PHAEDRA DDD 92058.
28:55      KJ Rothweiler. Sile. Album ‘Ex’. DRONARIVM RD-54.
30:56      Broeder Dieleman. Zilverspa. Album ‘Alles is IJdelheid’. BEEP 020-2012.
35:39      Ben Lukas Boysen. Selene. Album ‘Spells’. Erased Tapes Records ERATP085CD.
37:53      Rocókon / Harrold Roeland. Glacier Looming. Album ‘Generative Landscapes 1’. Self-released (see:
Combined with fragments from Sophie Hunger (She Makes President from the album ‘Molecules’) and from Sytze Pruiksma (Red Knot from the album ‘The Sound and Science of Bird Migration’).
56:22      Sophie Hunger. She Makes President. Album ‘Molecules’. Two Gentlemen

You can listen to Kairos 102 here:

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

maandag 11 februari 2019

Dadcore. Mozes and the Firstborn

It took a me a while to attach myself to Dadcore. At first I was sure the album would go the same way as the band's second album. No review and forgotten for ever (by me). Then there's such a thing as an iPod. Sometimes it just shoves itself into shuffle mode, usually after a bump of some sort and I get surprised by what it plays. One of the songs that came by this way was from Dadcore and I decided on the spot to give the album another chance.

Having snug a quick peek at the band's first album, reviewed here in 2013 (read on here:, the growth and maturity Mozes and the Firstborn puts on display is evident. The band puts itself on the level where a band like Weezer puts itself in songs like 'Hashpipe'. 'If I' is not far removed from my favourite Weezer song. When that is followed up by the heavenly mellow 60s song 'Baldy' Dadcore grows and grows. It is one of those moments that I'm humbly reminded that sometimes my ears are simply not screwed on right when listening to music.

"Rock music is something my dad plays" is the average 15 year old's answer to the question what is rock music?; according to the bio accompanying Dadcore. Looking around me at live shows, I'm afraid that is mostly true. However at a band, well former band, like Palio Superspeed Donkey, in league with Mozes and the Firstborn, that was entirely untrue though. So there is hope. Fact is youth plays something totally different I notice all around me. So it is dads like me who enjoy Dadcore. The 90s certainly revitalized my musical tastes and I'm hearing enough on this album of what I liked then and still do now.

Promo photo
Mozes and the Firstborn takes the best of what it heard, but by now is able to lay something extra of itself over it. There is a relaxedness over at least half of the songs giving the songs something most songs of Weezer don't provide me with. The melodies are allowed to shine within the song. With the former they often sound forced. Not so here. Something the Palio boys were very good at also.

Next to that there is a lot of nonsense snippets on the album spelling the name of the album. At first I thought it took away something from the album, but by now I'm having Zappian visions in between, so there I go again with my first impressions. The 11 songs that remain all are more than worthwhile to check out as lover of 90s alternative rock and pop and rock fan overall. Mozes and The Firstborn knows how to shine in 2019. That maturity I already mentioned does not get in the way writing fun, but above all, good songs. The combination is a winning team. A really, really nice album and again from NL. It is time all these bands start to break abroad. They did once before so why not 50 years down the line again?


You can listen and buy (name your price) Dadcore here:

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

zondag 10 februari 2019

Thrush Metal. Stella Donnelly

Geweldige EP van een jonge Australische singer-songwriter, die zomaar kan uitgroeien tot een van de sensaties van 2019 (of 2020)

Sinds ik Thrush Metal voor het eerst gehoord heb, ben ik in ban van de muziek van de jonge Australische singer-songwriter Stella Donnelly. Bij beluistering van haar eerste EP denk ik aan Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers en een jonge PJ Harvey. Jaarlijstjesmateriaal dus. Thrush Metal is soms loom en folky, maar is net zo makkelijk rauw en stekelig. Een ongelooflijk knappe EP die doet uitzien naar veel en veel meer. 

Stella Donnelly is een jonge singer-songwriter uit het Australische Perth, die iets meer dan een jaar geleden zes songs op een cassettebandje zette en 30 kopieën maakte, waaronder een voor haar moeder.
Het zal inmiddels een gewild collector’s item zijn, want met deze zes songs maakte Stella Donnelly zoveel indruk dat ze een platencontract mocht tekenen bij het eigenzinnige Secretly Canadian label, dat de zes songs inmiddels heeft uitgebracht als Thrush Metal.
De op wit vinyl uitgebrachte eerste oplage is inmiddels ook al een gewild verzamelobject, maar gelukkig kan iedereen genieten van de digitale versie van Thrush Metal (of van de versie op zwart vinyl). Ik heb de eerste EP van Stella Donnelly van de week voor het eerst gehoord en ben inmiddels compleet verslingerd aan de zes songs op Thrush Metal.
Stella Donnelly maakt muziek die af en toe raakt aan die van de door mij zeer bewonderde Julien Baker en Phoebe Bridgers, maar de muziek van de Australische singer-songwriter is nog net wat eigenzinniger. De singer-songwriter maakt op Thrush Metal indruk met bijzonder fraai gitaarspel, maar nog veel meer indruk met haar stem die zacht kan fluisteren, maar ook stevig kan uithalen.
Zeker wanneer Stella Donnely kiest voor de akoestische gitaar kan Thrush Metal loom en folky klinken, maar de Australische singer-songwriter schuift makkelijk op richting indie-rock, ook al blijft haar muziek redelijk ingetogen. De singer-songwriter uit Perth kan op Thrush Metal zwoel verleiden met mooie luisterliedjes, maar kan ook verrassend rauw klinken, waarbij ik onmiddellijk associaties had met het werk van een jonge PJ Harvey.
Met het noemen van namen als Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers en PJ Harvey ligt de lat erg hoog, maar Thrush Metal kan de vergelijking aan. De zes songs op de eerste EP van Stella Donnelly hebben allemaal iets bijzonders en iets indringends, waarbij het krachtige Boys Will Be Boys zomaar uit kan groeien tot het lijflied van de #MeToo beweging.
Het is voor een belangrijk deel de verdienste van de mooie, licht hese, maar ook hele bijzondere stem van de Australische, maar ook de sobere maar zeer fraaie instrumentatie op Thrush Metal draagt bij aan het verrassend sterke eindresultaat. Ik ken Thrush Metal nu een paar dagen, maar als ik deze EP eerder had opgepikt was het absoluut jaarlijstjesmateriaal geweest. Ik ben heel benieuwd waarmee Stella Donnelly volgend jaar gaat opduiken. Als ze dit niveau vast weet te houden kan ze zomaar een van de sensaties van 2019 (of 2020) worden.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt Thrush Metal hier kopen:

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

zaterdag 9 februari 2019

Get Away. Donna Blue

The weekend is starting the moment I set myself to listen to this beautiful single once again. "Do you want to get away with me?", is sung ever so seductively into my ears. Well, let's go, is my answer.

I get into the car and drive off into the dark night to wherever. The destination is totally irrelevant listening to this music. The light of the headlights shine on the misty road in front of us. The atmosphere puts me on a long high or byway in the U.S.'s west. Sand, dust, cacti and other denizens of the desert all around. Nothing matters as we're going away, together.

Yes, Donna Blue is back with yet another single. The album may take awhile, as has been explained to me at the 15 year Snowstar Records party late last year, where Donna Blue opened, in grand style. Get Away has that overripe melancholy flavour the duo excels in all over it. Reverb on the voice, on the guitar and a whole lot of emptiness in the mix, that colours in the sound of Donna Blue. I won't say it is unique, yet certainly Danique van Kesteren and Bart van Dalen are on to something. Blending early 60s girl pop with French pop, or yé, yé, with pure atmospherics Donna Blue comes up with a sound of its own. Totally out of sync with the past 50 years and yet something the modern Internet-driven world needs: total relaxation. Donna Blue offers escapism for those who need it and a moment of rest for those in need. For all others, like myself, the duo offers simply beautiful music, with a right accent in the right places, like the keyboard that comes in towards the end. The drums and slow plopping bass underscore what can happen when "eyes meet in the rearview mirror". At the right moment it's just us. We're here now.


You can buy Get Away here:

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

The Omnitone Collection. Elder Island

Talking about retro futurism. Like The Jetsons, Star Trek (1966), etc., the cover of The Omnitone Collection seems to point to a distant future in an extremely old fashioned way. A future that will never be.

The music of Elder Island seems to hang somewhere in between as well. There are beats, but nothing like in vogue today. There's exuberance but nothing that moves kids today (as if I know to be honest). The music reminds me more of the lounge music and triphop of the late 90s.

At the same time Elder Island does things right for me, something in this genre that is quite unusual. The melodies are alright, the beats interspersed with enough organic stuff, including the voices, so that my pop side is addressed and recognised, both ways.

Elder Island is from Bristol in the U.K. Of course this music could come from anywhere, but reading Bristol, I was not surprised. Read just above here. The influences of the best known bands from the west-England town seep through everywhere. Singer and cellist Katy Sargent, beat creator and bassist Luke Thornton and guitarist and synth player David Harvard make up Elder Island. Together they make up this blend of past and future, electronics and organic in such a way that even an indie, alternative, 60s, 70s guitar buff like me can easily lose himself in The Omnitone Collection. After two EPs and sold out U.K. shows it is time for an album and here it is.

Promo photo
According to the band all songs start with jams that are recorded. From the jams the best bits are stuck together into a song, which is often a long and arduous process. There's no telling what the alternatives sound like. Probably 30 years from they will be released just like all the old stuff being re-released now. In the meantime it sounds like the band made some correct decisions. The Omnitone Collection is a consistent collection of songs, where Elder Island slowly introduces new sounds and scapes into its music. Where a cello can enter a song like a guest walking into a house for dinner or just to hand over a package delivered next door.

The atmosphere of the album reminds me of the first album of Modern Studies, despite the huge differences in music, folk versus electronics. Both albums hold a certain pastoral atmosphere. Something I'd call typically English, where emotions are held in check no matter what. A keep calm and carry on mentality staged in music.

Anyone who delves into The Omnitone Collection will find some fine melodies and a surprise in sound around every other bend in the album. Who is not afraid of some soft beats in a song should be able to spot the pleasant surprises effortlessly.


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

vrijdag 8 februari 2019

Blood Red Shoes Live. Bitterzoet, Amsterdam Wednesday 6 Feburary 2019 with John J. Presley

Photo: Wo.
A coughing singer and a drummer jumping off stage to the rescue of a bleeding fan. The Blood Red Shoes show held a lot of unexpected events, but above all was spectacularly good. If circumstances put singer Laura-May Carter at low ebb, I can only start to imagine how good she otherwise is.

Coloured green by three lamps the stage took on the atmosphere of the latest album cover. A bass guitar and electronics in the background suggested more than just a duo setting. So the question I posed in my review of Get Tragic (read on here: was answered when four people walked on stage. All songs played from the band's latest album were played with a guitarist/bassist and a commander of digital wizardry and percussion. Carter and Ansell did what they always do, I suppose, this was my first Blood Red Shoes show, cook up a storm together of extreme tough and tight drumming and totally distorted guitar playing.

Photo: Wo.
The audience, for a change, had the average age for a band that is around for little over a decade. Circa 30 I'd say, with some mainly men, like myself older and a few younger, but hardly youngsters. People still in for some abandon in the wilder, punky sequences of Blood Red Shoes' songs. There was some tossing of bodies going about, but not in a way that people could get hurt. Except in that one instance where a glass was involved in front of the drums.

I never went to a Blood Red Shoes show as I am always doubtful of duo bands in a live setting. I can only wonder why, having seen Blood Red Shoes in nearly full glory ('Cold', cough, sniff). Yes, the sound became even bigger with James and Hanna on stage, but all the old sounds remained as they were and was more than enough. The power of the songs, there I never had any doubts, was so utterly convincing. Only somewhere halfway was there one song I could have lived without, the rest was simply fabulous.

Laura-May Carter, dressed in something like a school uniform, from a distance looks like innocence incarnated. And here is this delicate woman playing a guitar like the gates of hell are fully opened and unleash tempest and storm galore. Deep, guttural sounds escape her guitar, effect pedals and Marshall stack that is two thirds her height. From delicate to rip to shreds, all escape her instrument.

Photo: Wo.
Steven Ansell kicks out the jams on his drumkit. Ferocious where necessary or only kicking his bass drum and still keeping the groove that is at the basis of all things Blood Red Shoes. My guess is he sang a little more due to the problems Carter had with her voice than usual. If so, it took nothing away from the impact of the show. Together they are a grooving unit that made me forget there were only two people on stage.

And 'Get Tragic'? The new songs stood their ground effortlessly. Yes, pogoing went on in most of the old songs. Blood Red Shoes shows a new side to herself with 'Get Tragic'. After five years of no album release a development that comes at the right time. In fact the new songs lent a layer of variation to the show that gave it some more depth in my opinion. Total winners this combination.

Photo: Wo.
I entered a bit late to here all of John J. Presley's show. Three songs I heard. My impression was exorcism of deep dark thoughts. His hollow body guitar was kept in checked, but barely. Feedback was around each and every second. The sound mix was not optimal as I could hardly hear the organ and background vocals. This seemed a pity as what was going on certainly came across as interesting enough to really hear. In the final song I seemed to hear the underwater organ sound like in one of Led Zeppelin's songs, 'Over The Hills And Far Away'? The loud guitar and fierce drumming prevented me from really hearing. Presley's voice was somewhat worn, I'd say. The overall impression was interesting enough to check out. So watch these pages.


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

donderdag 7 februari 2019

Big Shadows Of Small Things. Bertolf

Some albums reach for the sky, full of ambitions, aimed at becoming part of the pop pantheon where only the greatest albums can arrive. Big Shadows Of Small Things is such an album. The music reminds me of all the greats I loved or used to love circa 40 years ago and some. The great bands and artists of the 70s are brought to mind not just a little. Bertolf lays the bar extremely high for himself. Will it crash while trying to jump it?

In 2016 Bertolf gathered a few musicians around himself, called themselves Her Majesty and played in tribute to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Diederik Nomden, now famous as an The Analogues member, is part of that band and can be heard on this album. Just like Jelle Paulusma (ex-Daryll-Ann) with who he co-wrote three songs on Big Shadows Of Small Things.

Despite having played the album regularly over the past weeks, I have not managed to warm myself to it. Bertolf taps for inspiration many singer-songwriters of the 70s and later who you do not find among my absolute favourites. So more David Crosby and Graham Nash than Neil Young, more The Moody Blues than The Beatles, more Midlake than Supergrass, more Elliot Smith than The Walkabouts. Just to name a few. In this way Bertolf can be compared to The Maureens or Maggie Brown. Artists and bands that simply are more exuberant and upbeat in a melodic way. His voice is one of the reasons, I suspect, as it is not a happy voice. Contemplation is the word I'd like to describe it with. Paul McCartney certainly sings in this way, but also, as one of his many tones of voice.

Having said that, on Big Shadows Of Small Things there's a lot to enjoy. Bertolf shows on his new album he is quite capable of writing fine songs that are able to distinguish themselves from bland mediocrity. Bertolf is not afraid to make is personal heroes enter his music, without surrendering himself to pastiches of copying. His songs stand out in several ways. In all the genres he tries out. You may be surprised here as well.

At first I did not want to write about Big Shadows Of Small Things, because I was afraid it would only be negative. As this is no longer the case, I started typing. This album is full of little gems to explore. People with an ear for high quality pop music should certainly give this album a try. They will find that Bertolf has written, played and arranged twelve songs with a keen ear for melodies and harmonies. A song like 'Hills' combines the best of Ron Sexsmith (verses) with Midlake (chorus) and Elliot Smith (violins, guitar solo and all-over mood), all in one. It is moments like these I realise a master is at work. Soft, delicate and totally true. Someone who gets away with a feat like this, is good.

It took me several listening sessions to realise things like this are going on on Big Shadows Of Small Things. It is the small things I had to notice, before I could start to appreciate the album. Now its your turn to try.


You can buy Big Shadows Of Small Things here:

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