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Music Moment: Richard and Linda Thompson, “I want to see the bright lights tonight”

yabber….

I’ve a small confession to make. It seems that for quite a while now I’ve been on a bit of a folk music bender. no, wait don’t run away! come back!

Anyway as I was saying, this happens every so often. i do listen to my favourite albums and my banging electronic music, but then I find myself getting drawn towards the open sounds and wide pastures of yore, etc.

It probably started off slowly when i reviewed that Benni Hemm Hemm album at the end of last year. Damn thing is still great and definitely the hallmark of a musician who has matured and now making music for adults to be listen to by adults. Since then there’s been a gradual but sudden surge in the albums I’ve been listening to that have been of the definitely folky variety. Alasdair Robert’s latest albums collaboration, The Hirta Songs, which had a true calling of home I have to admit I haven’t felt in a while. Then there was that debut EP from local artist ADDA, one of the few Icelandic pieces of music I’ve actually played on a repeat basis on my CD player in 2014.

And then over the last month or so I’ve inadvertently found myself checking out some of the people I’ve known from way back in the old country (Shetland). People like Inge Thompson and Kevin Henderson, whose performance at this year’s live streaming of Shetland Folk Festival as part of the Nordic Fiddlers Bloc I checked out on the internet. I was actually taken aback a little with how good the fiddling was in terms of melodies, rhythms and textures. It was rather stirring stuff.Probably will need to send him a line to tell him that.

I do admit that in my younger years I was definitely a little turned off a bit by what they call the heuchter cheuchter old-time reel-based folk stuff. I mean, why would you want to listen to that when you have indie music groove and rave music to dance to? But perhaps it’s the maturing and advancing of my years that have caused me to look back and realise that even back then, folk music left its indelible mark inside me. Like a cultural sleeper cell waiting to explode in your mind once you were ready to take on its liminal qualities, as well as the wonders of a good eightsome reel

I mean take this album, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, the second album from folk legends, RICHARD AND LINDA THOMPSON. I first heard this album, what, only a couple of years ago. But even though the fact that it’s forty fucking years old, it still manages to sound more vital than a lot of the modern folk music that I hear these days. You hear a lot of what is classed as folk music today, and it’s all clean and well to do and proper, but it seems to have this “lack,” as if it they are merely taking the components of what people would call a “folk” sound without it being connected to anything really tangible in terms of placing it to what made the music folky in the first place. People. Places. Events. that sort of thing. I do admit I have some fairly stringent ideas about what folk music should be about and i find that this lack of connect to the world around us turns me off a lot of what I do hear these days.

People have always fought over the idea and soul of folk music through the ages, whether it was Cecil Sharp and his notions of the rural Arcadia, or the purist dogma of Ewan MacColl et al versus the expansive aesthetics of the folk movement of the late ’60s. These days, the quest for purity has led to a lot of really bad stuff, such as the putrid neo-folk movement. a bunch of wannable nationalists harking over a false romantic utopia of history that never existed, or the truly conservative sound and boundaries of the new folk movement of Mumford, etc, and whatever they’re playing over in Williamsburg these days.

But then you look at Richard and Linda with this album and you can see just how good folk was, is, and can still be. What you have to remember is that at this time, they were blazing a similar path made by the like of the incredible String Band and mixing Celtic, North African, and Indian raga sounds with their own English singing sounds. It had one foot in the past and a foot in more than one world in the present. The fact that they ended up the end of the decade as practitioners of the Islamic sufi faith (apparently Richard is still a practicing Muslim), flies in the face of the cheesy, UKIP poisoned, ruddy-faced nationalism that you see in so much of today societal discourse.

All of the songs are so spare, rough and ready, but everything is there in its place and is used for full effect, whether it´s a celtic accordion, a dulcimer, or Richard’s scratchy electric guitar. but it’s Linda’s voice that is the winner here. Songs such as “Withered and Died” and. “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight” and “Has He Got a Friend for Me” have that sheer simplicity in their execution that sometimes makes you do a slight aural double take. Especially with their country sound where today people often insist of using an Americana twang, even if they come from somewhere, like Lincoln for instance. The album is just pure class, one of the great folk albums of it´s time. Ohhhh yeah. I’m off to have several beers….

Goodnight

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2014 in music, Video

 

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Music Moment: Sleaford Mods, “Divide and Exit”

Hello there!

So, yeah I’ve been away now for a couple of weeks, being wrapped up in exams and all sorts of fun times, having near public meltdowns and clusterfucks (Man, I completely forgot that this studying lark can be hard at times!), all to make sure I pass my subjects and ensure I get my LÍN funding for another semester.

But now i’m done and back in work for this summer. Yup I’m back at Össur, I´m even back at my old workstation. it’s almost like the last 4 months never actually happened! probably wasnt a great idea to go “screw you fuckers, I’m never coming back!” when I left in January. Oh well.

But it’s now back to the enjoyable world of blogging and pissing my verbiage across the screen. and I really think you should listen to this band, SLEAFORD MODS. Even though they’ve been going on now for nearly a decade, the first I’d even heard of this duo was a couple of months ago when their album, ‘Chubbed Up. The Singles Collection’ was reviewed by Marko “K-Punk” Fisher in the Wire (Obviously i have my finger on the musical pulse apparently). Reading about them, it seemed as if they were the angriest band in the world (and possibly all the other theoretical world out there as well). I thought that they must have been a hardcore punk band of summat.

A few weeks later, i managed to find their bandcamp page and gave it a spin…… bloody hell! Been a while since a band has made me sit up cat-like on my seat with eyes and ears wide open. Just the sheer energy and verbal attack in tracks like “14 Day Court,”  made me go, “what the fuck was that??”  I’m not going to go into a huge spiel on what they sound like and represent because since Mark’s review, they’ve been in the music media quite a lot, with features about them in the Guardian, NME, MOJO, The Quietus and The Talkhouse (I seriously recommend the talkhouse piece about them by Luke Haines as he describes them perfectly so i don’t have to). An online friend noted the worry he felt that they were being dragged along by a music-biz hype that could easily neuter their anger and then chew them up and spit them out when they’ve had their fun with them after 6 months. This is a definite possibility, but i think they’re too long in the tooth for that to happen like that. they’re just as likely to take a leaf out of Mark E smith’s notebook and say NO to as many offers of exposure as they say yes to.

But SLEAFORD MODS and their music has definitely flipped a big switch on in my head over the last few weeks. One possible reason is probably their look and their backgrounds. In the Quietus’ live review, Kev Kharas starts off with the following sentence.

England today must be a lonely place for men like Jason Williamson. It’s a country that just doesn’t seem designed for him any more; 40-ish working-class ex-mod, a face that looks built from belly gas and fag ash, too savvy for UKIP and too hard for steroids, too old for lad culture but too young for early nights [….] But for all that it’d be wrong to say that Williamson revels in misanthropy. He never seems to be enjoying himself enough for that. It’s more that he’s a man with a social conscience trapped in a society that hates him.

Shit, he could be writing about the likes of me there. SLEAFORD MODS’ music seems to magically articulate a soundtrack of what goes on in my head and think about when I see things before me ALL THE TIME. Culture, society, where you live, and just how shit life around you has become, you know all that stuff. After a while it can get you a bit down, as you start to think that no one else could possibly think this way. So the fact that they’ve come along the way they have has been a little Godsend for me, as it’s good to see I’m alone. And even though Williamson still bears the dapper neat traces of being an ex-mod, his partner in crime, Andrew Fearn, could have been airlifted from the town/estate where my mum and out family live, a place of Farmfood freezer shops, tanning salons, bargain booze bins and Wetherspoons watering holes, where just about every man under 50 is kitted out in a t-shirt, baseball cap, trainers and trackies (Or as we all called it, the Sports Direct uniform). As someone who still decks themselves out in Primark essentials, I approve of his sartorial style and approach. 

And now we have their new album, ‘Divide And Exit,’ and it’s that winning mix of spitfire stream-of-consciousness, with minimal made for purpose beat tracks full of hooks that are more subtle than you think. I’m glad these guys came alone the way they did as I was starting to feel slightly overwhelmed by the sheer comfortableness that surrounds me right now. I honestly don’t think that a band like this could really exist up here in Iceland alas. Oh, I’m sure that people would point to this or that punk band, or someone like Grisalappalisa or Muck for “angry” music. And true, their lyrics do talk about being angry at stuff in a poetic way, but for the best part there’s a certain vagueness to the thrust of their attacks, often sometimes merely being content in slyly taking the piss. But the mantra for living round here is that you need to “go along to get along” in a form of comfy chumminess, and very few of us round here could never reach this withering level of puce fucked-offness for fear of pissing of everyone around them.

As Haines points out “Sleaford Mods make Art because they have no choice. They refuse the middlebrow of the (oh so) conventional art scene. They are not “arty.”” SLEAFORD MODS are all about the music of refusal, the refusal to accept what is no longer acceptable to yourself anymore. If they were Icelandic, then they would be compelled take apart everything before them – Bankers, politicians, poncho flouncing 101 moms in coffee houses, the price of booze, living in the suburbs, iPhone apps, Airwaves, Sigur Rós, Harpa, shit shows on Stöð 2, Smelters, mobile phone companies, rotten fruit in the shops, Retro Stefson, comfortable “radical” art, Jón Gnarr, local fashionistas, OAP arseholes in the hotpots at the pool, knitting in the bus station, etc, etc, etc. If someone actually did even half of all this. then I could die happy. Would probably kill their career though!

So do us a favour and buy their albums at least, keep them in Stella for the new months. Cheers.

Goodnight…..

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2014 in music

 

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Reykjavik Grapevine: Album Reviews: Adda and Atónal Blús

A few albums reviews were posted in The Grapevine online this week after being published in the paper. though i’d put them up on here for your reading pleasure….

ADDA: My Brain EP (2014)

‘My Brain,’ the crowdsourced debut EP from singer/songwriter Adda (AKA Arnþrúður Ingólfsdóttir), is a wonderfully austere, haunting body of folk songs. Playing fingerpicked acoustic guitar, Adda sings a lot about her turbulent mind (referring to her brain as a third person entity), as if she were in a passionate relationship with a partner. With all the highs and lows it entails, the intensity and emotional gravity of such feelings reverberate in Adda’s voice (with accompaniment from her sister Sunna). The rising, sustained two-note harmonies on “Taking Off,” for example, set your arm hairs on edge.

Adda has in the past referred to Joni Mitchell as a big influence and Jewel songs such as “Pieces Of You” and “Little Sister” could sit perfectly well alongside this EP. But while those artists have a shiny Americana gloss to them, ‘My Brain’ has a much stronger, rustic folk dynamic, as if it’s been opened up to the changeable elements of Northern European climes. “Waking Up,” with the reedy flute accompaniment of Georgia Browne, is a dew-laden, pastoral sunrise of a song while “I Will Not Forget,” a survivor’s letter of thanks to family and friends, is definitely the best track on the EP. The undulating meter of the guitar accompanied by waves of long drawn cello drones that drift in and out of focus have a mesmeric spectral quality, all windswept cliffs and remote peninsulas.

If there’s one duff moment in ‘My Brain,’ then it’s “Queer Sweetheart” with its finger-clicking jazz-blues melody, which alas does not do anything for me. But even here, decidedly acidic witty lines such as “You might even catch me with a queer porn flick/But don’t tell my country about it though/Cos there I’m a radical feminist oh-oh/And they don’t watch any kind of porn,” made me spit my morning tea out, going “Damn! You went there!”

‘My Brain’ is an accomplished debut EP that’s highly intimate, even confessional, but never comes across as self-obsessed. There is a quiet determination that resides at the centre of the music. The production also shows that when it comes to creating an impact with her song writing, she definitely gets what folk is all about.

Atónal Blús: Höfuðsynd

It should be noted that when you first play ‘Höfuðsynd,’ the debut album from new band Atónal Blús, you quickly realise that despite the cool name, that they’re not really Arnold Schoenberg does John Lee Hooker. But that’s not to dispute that there’s some avant-garde tinkering at play here. The opening track, “Atónal Blús,” is a murky, buzzing, discoloured breakdown of a song that comes closest to the atonal aesthetic implied of the band’s name.

From there it settles down into a spot-welded blend of heaving psych-inflected rock and interesting rhythmic patterns that could be seen as a little bit (whisper it) “proggy.” The rhythm workings shouldn’t come as a surprise. The band’s main instigator, Gestur Guðnason, was a member of Icelandic Balkan beats band Stórsveit Nix Noltes, and a track like “Balkan Boogie” is pretty much a fuzzed up variation on the SNN template, although it’s definitely more subtly employed on tracks such as “Oxygen Kills.” The rock components themselves are manfully done although fairly standard in their structure and occasionally border on cliché (freight train sounds made with the harmonica and acoustic jams with bongos).

All in all, ‘Höfuðsynd’ is a rather enjoyable listen. The drums/bass partnership have been brought right to the front of the mix, giving what could have been an average rock song like “Sexy Slave” some overloading, thumping menace (Jesus, those floor toms!). There are also several moments, such as when the vocals, harmonica and lead guitar combine on “Lítið ljón,” where there’s a looseness that borders on the unstable, giving it a definite edge in comparison to the stiff, crushing orthodoxy of much of Iceland’s lauded “real rock” music. Definitely worth a spin for rock heads looking for a little more danger in their music.

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2014 in Iceland, music

 

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Music moment: Ekoplekz, Dat der “Unfidelity” Album

Very busy and distracted right now.

I mean, between ripping off scribd so I can get hold of two books about Czech cinema so I can scrape several needed essays and spending the last 3 hours trying to juggle 4 or 5 different things in the air, then you’re lucky that I’m actually devoting the 30 minutes that’s needed to get these words down to inform you of something that I think that you really need to hear.

You’ve gotta hand it to Nick “Ekoplekz” Edwards. The man is like the neo-industrial energizer bunny in how me conducts his music making endeavors today. He could have been like my good self and just settled with writing about music under his Gutterbreakz name (I’m currently working my way through his archives. the fucker is so right about Paul McCartney!), But instead he’s gone back to the dark side and has been carving out urban inflected beats made from the broken flotsam of lo-fi hardware, unsettling hauntological memories of misspent youth, and shattered acid dub dreamz of our post-rave society. Like contemporaries such as Shackleton and regular collaborator Baron Mordant, he’s managed to find and carve out his own negative zone where despite the constant digital deluge of music occurring these days, hardly anyone is doing what he’s doing. It’s actually very refreshing in its uniqueness.

The first I heard of his music was back a few year ago when I heard his “Pro Rebus” track on you tube. Can’t remember where from though, probably on Simon Reynolds’ blog most likely. But since then I’ve been keeping a fairly close tab on his stuff and thee’s been a fair slew of tapes, mixes, CDrs and downloads over the last few years. Some of CDr albums I’ve heard such as tended to be more abstract in structure, coming close to corrosive noise. I personally found myself warming more to the stream of EPs that he’s done with Mordant Music, Public information and Perc Trax, where he mixes fractured and splintered melodic lines and loops with some heavy modern dub leanings (check here, here and here for further listening). But what’s been really interesting is his collaborations with Bass Clef (Ekoclef) and with Mordant Music (eMMplekz). eMMplekz in particular last year produced the amazing “Nothing In Here Of Any Value / No Show” 12″, and the seething misanthropic “Your Crate Has Changed,” which were both essential 2013 listens up here at chez Sex Farm.

And now 2014 seems him inching slowly but surely into the big time with “Unfidelity,” on Planet Mu records. You can tell right away that his sound is now much more refined, with a lot more work going into the production and mastering, But despite the glistening oscillating waveforms, it’s still undeniably an Ekoplekz record to the core. in some points he’s tapping into that plasmic, tactile aspect of early Aphex Twin in how the both seem to be informed by their SW England environs, Aphex Twin with Cornwall, Nick with the Bristol area. “Severn Beach” captures the ambiance of post industrial semi-urban life next to the sea, echoing the smells and flashbacks to my own homesteads back in shetland and The Wirral. Meanwhile you’ve got punning titles like “Sleng Zen” that warps and pays homage to the Bristol dub legacy.

Since I bought the album last month,  I’ve found myself wallowing in its mossy analogue trenches and always end up coming out at the end smelling of roses. And from seeing the positive response to “Unfidelity” across the board (Even from th sad sack dad rock magazines), It´s so good to see Nick finally getting some form of reward and recognition for his efforts. Just listening to his music is giving me scheming ideas… lots of them

Do him a favour and get his album from Planet Mu, HERE, right??

goodnight…

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2014 in music

 

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Compare & Contrast: Passionate Frontmen and the idea of “Charisma”

Two following performances by two bands, both for TV.

Both contain what could be considered seminal performances by the singer/frontmen.

There are similarities in both performances. The lack of conventional charm. A certain uncool “dorkiness.” The arresting movements that are linked to their music (intense, twitchy, spasmodic Vs loping, sweeping. “bopping”). A disregard for the norms of what is considered the standard rules of performance.

There are words that could be used by people to describe these performances –  intense or passionate. But the most likely one would be charismatic. It’s interesting, we’ve been looking at school into star personas and the idea of charisma and Max Weber’s Idea of charismatic authority, with special attention to the likes of Brando’s early performances in films such as “On The Waterfront” (It’s actually unnerving how much Future Island’s frontman Samuel Herring actually looks like early Brando!). the idea that you can win an audience over mere by the force of their personality that is greater than mere talent or charm. Weber defines charisma as thus

[A] certain quality of an individual personality, by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader […] How the quality in question would be ultimately judged from an ethical, aesthetic, or other such point of view is naturally indifferent for the purpose of definition.

[…]

Charisma knows only inner determination and inner restraint … and [the leader] demands obedience and a following by virtue of his mission. His success determines whether he finds them. His charismatic claim breaks down if his mission is not recognized by those to whom he feels he has been sent. If they recognize him, he is their master—so long as he knows how to maintain recognition through proving himself.

There are differences in the intended charisma of these two though. Curtis has got that impenetrable distance in his body language, before he explodes at the end. Those eyes giving off that “Thousand Yard Stare” into nothingness that, even before his journey to deathwish oblivion, is slightly unnerving. Herring though is all about the masculinity and the physical expression of his passion. The chest beating, the tightly held fist, the reaching out into thin air. The way he smiles and nods, has shades of the evangelic preacher about the nature of the performance as he bares his soul and beseeches the audience

This could be also due to the song itself which compared to “Transmssion” is lacking that sense of urgency. It’s as if Herring is doing the emotive heavy lifting for the entire band, injecting that urgency through the passion his performance alone (Joy Division in this respect come across more as a unit of totality). He’s sweating buckets by the end.

 

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2014 in music

 

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Music Moment: Nine Inch Nails, “Recoiled [Full Album]”

Well I’m putting in the order for this album, even if it is being released on the slightly dodgy, olde-English-wyrd-musicks-as-front-for-BNP-tendencies label Cold Spring.

So a NIN/Posthumous Coil remix EP. Now here’s something that does interest me a fair bit. Been listening to the tracks over the weekend. Compared to some of the bombast you get with some of NIN (even the remixes), here everything comes across as more sombre and degraded, it’s soul weakened by the ravages of the world. The entire EP just sounds sick, both in sonic and metaphysical terms.

Of course that remix of “Gave Up Open My eyes” does contain souped-up drum breaks/edits along with some decidedly sharp, punky guitars. All you need to do is imagine The Prodigy in their “using real instruments live” phase.  But then things seems to get all hazy, everything a Gaussian blur. Both “Closer Unrecalled” definitely has that whole spatial, pondering Post Punk doom that the likes of Fra Lippo Lippi used to do, while “The Downward Spiral (A Gilded Sickness)”  sounds more like something that could have come from former neo-industrialists Young Hunting. Trent’s no longer giving his pained rock howls, instead being reduced to a haunted crackled whisper. No bombastic rock guitars, just looped bleeps and signals. “Eraser (Reduction)” is simply the sound of civilisation going down the plughole to be honest.

The “Recoiled EP,” hints at alternative artistic paths and futures that could have been – Either that of a Grandstanding industrial rock band losing itself to a morass of smeared drone and noise experimentation, or possibly a couple of filthy recidivists using mainstream electro rock as a front to infect the young with all sorts of nasty chaos magick viruses!

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2014 in music, Video

 

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Long Live The New Flesh: When Metal & Circuitry Mix Together

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A couple of weeks ago one of my good friends says he doing a remix. My friend is very much into electronics, industrial music, all that stuff.

I ask him what he’s remixing. He tells me that it’s a track for an upcoming release from a black metal band. As he plays it to me, it’s a long drawn out mix of black metal ambiance and power electronic noise bursts.

I liked it, but afterwards I come to realise that there’s been a fair amount of recent meshing between various brands of extreme metal and bass heavy electronic artists in the last year.

First of you had Irish Black Metallers ALTAR OF PLAGUES (Whose current album I was tipped to by my friend Guðny Lára). When they released ‘Teethed Glory And Injury’ in Japan, they added this mix from local boy electronic composer BEN FROST.

Which was then followed late last year with ANDY STOTT’s remix of BATILLUS’ “Concrete” (Hear the original here)

and recently crusher of souls (And Ben Frost doppelgänger) THE HAXAN CLOAK, working with THE BODY on their latest album.

Naturally the mixing of electronics and metal sounds are nothing new (Justin Broadrick, Ministry, Burzum’s “Dark Ambient” albums in prison, a million other industrial metal albums). It does seem though that in this case there seems to be more of a meeting of like minds, as opposed to a coming together of opposites. these guys all seem to operating in that liminal space between solid blocks of music (Long drawn out tones, sluggish meter) along with falling into that aesthetic abyss of “cosmic pessimism” that i talked about recently. Even though they have different hardware, i guess it was only a matter of time before they started coming together in a darkened room. I wonder who will be next on the bill? Perc and Watain? Raime and Wolvserpent??

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2014 in music

 

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