Tuesday 28 August 2012

Review: The Claytones – Lake In The Night

The Claytones – Lake In The Night (Rip Roar Music)
Though “Lake In The Night” is The Claytones official debut album, the Ontario trio of Kelly Prescott (vocals, acoustic guitar), Anders Drerup (vocals, guitar, organ, piano, pedal steel, lap steel) and Adam Puddington (bass, acoustic guitar, backing vocals, accordion) have a wealth of experience with various bands, solo projects and even the theatre. In fact Drerup and Prescott starred as Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris in a much acclaimed production of “Grievous Angel: The Legend of Gram Parsons”, and their musical chemistry is present throughout the ten tracks of harmony drenched cosmic Canadiana, though importantly, all three members write and arrange together.

So, three writers, three singers, and enough instrumentation for a small orchestra, it’s no surprise that what they lack in numbers, they more than compensate with a full, rich sound topped with heartfelt songs and first-rate vocals. The record begins with the sublime “Brother Hold On”. The level of musicianship is excellent, with Drerup’s steel shimmering gently, filling the gaps and providing depth and emotional resonance. It’s also a desperately poignant lead vocal from Prescott. She’s just as effective on “Out On the Road Tonight”, but here she’s confident and certain, almost a Lucinda Williams(esque) performance, as the guys simultaneously dig in like a country-rock Heartbreakers. They’re currently being touted as one of the top five Canadian bands to look out for in 2012 (The National Post). I’m certainly glad I found them.
Rob F.

The Claytones: Lake in the Night

Review: Moebius + Tietchens – S/T

Moebius + Tietchens – S/T (Bureau B)
2012 sees the release of this collaborative work between Dieter Moebius and Asmus Tietchens, which was suggested as a parting gesture following Moebius’ 1976 Liliental project (which included Conny Plank, Okko Becker and Helmut and released in 1978). Considering Moebius’ prolific output and well earned reputation as a serial collaborator it’s quite surprising that their paths have not crossed in 35 years.

Since the early ‘70s and Kluster, Cluster and Harmonia, Moebius’ appetite for electronic experimentation has not waned and Tietchens, since 1976, has been an avid recorder of electronic music, musique concrete and more recently abstract music. The 13 tracks are quite wide ranging stylistically and move freely between the space-age landscape of “Vincent”, to the angelic “Fontenay”, the quirky epic “Lange Reihe”, the sampled water works of “Raboisen”,  the Industrial “Im Windkanal”, the heavy metallic-phased “Grimm”, the glitch opera of “Plan” and the wavering “Mach Auf!”

The lengthy “Kattrepel” is slightly nostalgic with its driven, repetitive groove and the dentist’s drill-like piercings would no doubt rid you of unwanted felines (sorry, couldn’t resist…).

As you can see pretty diverse but a couple of tracks of note are “Thorax” which seems to compress a New York taxi horn into its hip-hop motif and “Yes, Yes” which muddles Congotronics with bubbling squelches and electro-fluid.

Review: Hilary Hahn & Hauschka – Silfra

Hilary Hahn & Hauschka – Silfra (Universal / Deutsche Grammophon)
“Silfra” is named after a geological fault-line near Reykjavik, Iceland where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet. It stands as a metaphor for the musical meeting of minds of double Grammy-award winning American violinist, Hilary Hahn, and German experimental composer, Hauschka (aka Volker Bertelmann).

Reaching out from her classical roots for pastures more avant-garde, Hahn improvises playfully whilst Hauschka (quite literally) gets inside his prepared piano: contorting, bowing and banging the strings, and extracting percussive notions from every metallic or wooden pore. 

Together - with the immaculate production of Valgier Sigurõsson (who has previously worked with Björk and Bonny ‘Prince’ Billy) the pair wring and beat out affectations of folk and classical music from a variety of continents whilst the experimental bent adds a mechanical angle: titles of such tracks as “Kraków” and “Clock Winder (Before Stroll)” attesting to this.

To Hahn’s folkloric melodies and minimalist constructs on “Adash (Before Clock Winder)” Hauschka displays an ability to single-handedly create the rest of a driven chamber ensemble – which besides keys offers a pastiche of bass, drums and tuned percussion.

The elongated, “Godot” ebbs, flows and smoulders throughout and draws in Appalachian notes with the hammered dulcimer-like simulations. The duo’s chemistry and “Bounce Bounce” playfulness makes for a conceptually broad - at times minutely focused, and at others, a far reaching album.

Review: Glim Dropper - The Last Days Of Analog

Glim Dropper - The Last Days Of Analog (Independent)
Glim Dropper is a three-piece band from Philadelphia, comprising of Dan Kauffman (vox, bass), Ben Geise (guitar), and Rob Schnell (drums). They take their name from an infamous con that involves a one-eyed man and a spectacularly gullible mark, which is the sort of detail that everyone likes when they’re getting to grips with a new band. Not that Glim Dropper is a completely new proposition. They’ve one earlier long-player under their belt called “A Human Condition”, recorded when they were known as the Dan Kauffman Band, an album that was completely written by Kauffman. Their new moniker reflects a greater songwriting contribution by his band-mates,

“The Last Days Of Analog” is the sort of contemporary rock record that’s just a couple of lucky breaks short of becoming huge, as over eight tracks, the band really don’t put a foot wrong. They mix up a variety of approaches and styles with an ever-present rhythmic thrust and plenty of pop nous. I suppose The Police are an easy point of reference – there’s three of them, they’re not shy incorporating a little reggae into their sound and they’re radio friendly – but they’re no where near as affected as Sting and his cohorts, and they’ve a greater range of styles to call upon. From the lolloping groove of “March” to the grungy post-punk rock vibe of “Williamsport”, Glim Dropper make everything they do accessible and user-friendly. Seriously, a little bit of good fortune and a family size bottle of peroxide and they’d be massive.
Simon M.

Glim Dropper: Last Days of Analog

Friday 17 August 2012

Review: Darius Degher - The Coyote Cantos

Darius Degher  - The Coyote Cantos (Ineffable Train Works)
Darius Degher may not be a household name, but that’s not through lack of talent or effort. Indeed, the most cursory glance at his CV indicates a singer-songwriter with Zelig-esque qualities. Over the years, he’s shared stages with REM, Don McLean, Lucinda Williams, Los Lobos, Dr. John, and Guy Clark. In the ‘80s he led Paisley Underground outfit Darius and the Magnets, released an acclaimed solo debut album, “Cardboard Confessional”, and played sitar on Warren Zevon’s "Sentimental Hygiene" record. After relocating to Sweden for a decade or so, and recording an album with his new band Burning Bridges, he made his way back to California, which brings us to his latest recording, and his first album for eight years, “The Coyote Cantos”.

It’s difficult to believe our paths haven’t crossed before, but as the saying goes, better late than never. “The Coyote Cantos” is very much a singer-songwriter album, with Degher’s rootsy voice to the fore. The production is bright and full, and the arrangements supply plenty of hooks. Opening cut “Edge of the Western World” is the perfect start. Guitar and keyboards come together like something from a classic mid/late ‘60s Dylan record, and a killer chorus wedges the song deep in the subconscious. He likes to tell a story, too. “The Ballad of Bob and Oblivion” is a wonderful title with a song to match, and “The Gas Station Lady” is a banjo-propelled tale of alien abduction and some intergalactic probing. If it weren’t for the fact that he’s 30 years into a career, I’m sure there’d be a call to label him the next Bob Dylan, as it’s similarly branded songwriters like John Prine, Steve Forbert and Elliott Murphy that come to mind. That’s good company to keep, and I’m sure fans of the above trio will find much to enjoy in Degher’s brand of literate Americana.
Rob F.

Darius Degher: The Coyote Cantos

Review: Shimona Kee – Simply Shimona

Shimona Kee – Simply Shimona (Independent)
“Simply Shimona” is Singapore songstress Shimona Kee’s debut album of all-original material. Back in 2010 there was a charity Christmas EP comprising covers of popular festive tunes, but here she gives her song writing talents free rein. Her voice is instantly arresting; it’s whimsical tones and childlike intimations belie a collection of songs that strike at the heart of adult anxieties, concerns and, of course, pleasures. Apart from singing, Kee plays guitar, ukulele, and piano, and various guest musicians contribute percussion, stand-up bass, cello and keys, instilling a well-rounded, almost lush surround for her songs, and transcending the limitations often faced by independent artists.

Highlights come thick and fast. The single “Sweet Company” is instantly likeable, a paean to being oneself, and living comfortably in one’s own skin. It’s evidence of Kee’s confidence both as a person and as a performer, and the latter is obvious again on “The Social Media Song”, its theme is in the title, but it’s the lilting Caribbean rhythm and reggae flecked delivery that impresses most. Perhaps my favourite is the charming “Rainy Day”, its pitter-patter arrangement bringing to mind both Virginia Astley's rural idylls and the genius Disney scores of the 1950s.
Rob F.

Shimona Kee: Simply Shimona

Review: Ian Bell – Chameleon Skin

Ian Bell – Chameleon Skin (Independent)
Originally released in 2011, Ian Bell’s “Chameleon Skin” was the English born / California-based singer-songwriter’s five-track debut release. Chronicling a years worth of material, Bell writes wordy, lengthy songs that hang together like a collection of short stories, where individual verses tell a tale before morphing into something new but connected at the root. Four of the five songs clock in at over five minutes long, and each is crammed with verbose detail. His influences seem mostly British, with artists like Roy Harper and Richard Thompson near the top of the list, though there’s little in his sound to link what he does to any particular time.

“Chameleon Skin” begins with the title track, where Bell relays a tumble of striking imagery; a mother’s bathtub suicide and a daughter with a feather in her hair both remain ensconced, and though underpinned with sadness, the mood is one of regretful renewal. “Sharks” is just as desperate, with the sea, its dark depths and titular man-eaters cranking the levels of tension, despair and hopelessness. Musically sparse, Bell keeps the backing simple and raw, with just guitar and occasional harmonica, and his voice, weighed down with poignancy and fraught tenderness, all adding considerably to the mood.
Rob F.

Ian Bell: Chameleon Skin

Saturday 11 August 2012

Review: White Birds - When Women Played Drums

White Birds - When Women Played Drums (Grizzly Records)
It’s interesting the formats that bands decide to release their music on. Should you decide to purchase a physical copy of White Birds’ “When Women Played Drums” you’ll receive a limited edition cassette, a flexi-disc of their “Waters” single, assorted stickers and button badges, and a download of the album. That’s very exciting! A cassette? Can’t play it but I want one. A flexi-disc? That I can play, though it’ll sound tinny and cheap – but I still want one. Of course it’s the download that’ll get all the action, and that’s only right. “When Women Played Drums” is an album of old-school, eerie, C86 indie fuzz. Remember the days when the Jesus and Mary Chain were the new Sex Pistols and Mazzy Star were the great psychedelic hope? White Birds do and their debut drips acid reverb, and whispered, lo-fi harmonies, like the most beautiful Beach Boys demo, with Kevin Shields strafing the dials.

Previous reviewers have mentioned Arcade Fire, and sure there’s an influence at play, also Fleet Foxes and various other contemporary bands, but that’s just a single element of what White Birds do. They somehow merge gentle, ghostly, dusty white clatter with pristine pop songs. It’s dreamy, ethereal and not quite feasible, yet they make tracks like “No Sun”, “Hondora” and the fore mentioned “Waters” live and breathe. I’ve not heard anything quite like this for years and I’m wholly converted to whatever White Birds are preaching. Where do I sign up, and how can I get my mitts on the cassette / flexi combo?
Simon M.

White Birds: When Women Played Drums

Review: Ravi Shankar - The Living Room Sessions Part 1

Ravi Shankar  - The Living Room Sessions Part 1 (East Meets West Music)
At nearly 92 years of age, in October 2011, Ravi Shankar invited long time tabla accompanist, Tanmoy Bose over to his house to “fool around” and with Kenji Ota and Barry Phillips on Treble and Bass Tanpura duties they recorded seven ragas. Four of these are presented in this first installment, and they incorporate a range of Indian Classical styles.

“Raga Malgunji” is a meditative raga that reflects on the distance between the human and the supreme. “Raga Khamaj” and “Raga Kedara” are brighter and marvelously expressive and presented in the romantic Thumri style. “Raga Satyajit” is an improvised melodic and rhythmic raga which is dedicated to and seemingly mourns the passing of film maker and personal friend, Satyajit Ray.

The technically brilliant musicianship and the collective experience of Shankar and Bose make for some highly complex, yet sublime, inspiring and intimate interplay between the pair.

Review: Skip Friel – Passage

Skip Friel – Passage (New Moon Music)
“Passage” is Skip Friel’s second solo album, following on from 2007’s “Twilight Red Sky”. Previously he’d recorded an album with his brother (released as The Friel Brothers) and led his band, The Resonators, to much regional acclaim in his home state of Virginia. In fact they’re still going, playing a chilled, leisurely version of bluesy, folky roots music, Americana and alt. country. Friel’s solo material is probably just as easygoing as his band’s, but equally, on his new record, there’s no shortage of rock-solid tunes or grown-up, literate songwriting.

Upbeat and positive in their message, Friel’s songs are delivered with an unhurried elegance. Though nominally a solo record, there appears to be no shortage of musicians plying their trade on “Passage”. A rich, full production is the result (his brother Randy worked the mixing desk), and Friel’s potent vocal plays well with assorted strings and keys, and veteran Nashville legend Charlie Austin’s fiddle. They set their stall out with “Dose of Hope”, it’s animated arrangement feels comfortable and relaxed, and Friel sings the song with an effortless grace. “Transcending” looks to older rock ‘n’ roll rhythms and threatens a revival of sorts, and “Peace At a Time” feels directly related to mid ‘70s British pub rockers like Graham Parker and Paul Carrack. Fingers crossed, “Passage” should make Friel some new fans.
Rob F.

Skip Friel: Passage

Edinburgh Book Festival promises 'Olympics of the mind'

The Edinburgh International Book festival is beginning its 16-day residence in the city's Charlotte Square Gardens.

More than 800 authors from 45 countries will be appearing at about 750 events during the festival.

Festival director Nick Barley promised "an Olympics of the mind" with top authors discussing big ideas.

Half of the 12 authors long-listed for the 2012 Man Booker Prize will be appear at the festival.

Ned Beauman, Michael Frayn, Deborah Levy, Hilary Mantel, Will Self and Jeet Thayil will all showcase their work in Edinburgh.

Also appearing will be Zadie Smith, Howard Jacobson and Pat Barker.

Mr Barley told BBC Scotland: "We have had the Olympics - the joy of seeing all that sport - and I think people can now get themselves into a different mindset.

"This is an Olympics of the mind where people can come and think hard about who we are and what we are doing."

He said that in addition to intellectual challenge there would also be lots of fun at the festival.

Mr Barley said funnyman David Walliams would introduce his new book Gangsta Granny, while crime writer Val McDermid will present her first book for children My Granny is a Pirate.

Sold out

The children's section of the festival also includes Jacqueline Wilson, who will give young audiences a peek of her re-interpretation of the classic Five Children and It.

Andrew Motion will be reading from his sequel to Treasure Island and Frank Cottrell Boyce from his sequel to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Mackenzie Crook, best known as Gareth from The Office, and BBC Radio 2 DJ Simon Mayo will also discuss their new books for youngsters.

Interviewer Jeremy Paxman and former Chancellor Alistair Darling are among the other well-known names.

Other politicians include ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who will deliver the National Library of Scotland's Donald Dewar Lecture, and First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond, who will discuss his life beyond politics and literary tastes with Booker Prize-winning author Ian McEwan.

Many of the sessions have already sold out including Frank Close's A Race for the Higgs Boson, which will be chaired by Professor Peter Higgs, who first identified the concept in the 1960s.

On the opening day, influential journalists Ian Black and Paul Mason are sold out for their session on What Caused the 2011 Revolutions?, as are actor Simon Callow and local favourite Alexander McCall Smith.

On Sunday, the big draws include British-born Pakistani Maajid Nawaz, who was recruited into a global Islamist party and rose to its leadership before being imprisoned in Egypt.

Former Monty Python star Michael Palin will return to the festival for the first time in 25 years.

Source BBC

Beastie Boys star Adam Yauch's will bans music in ads

Late Beastie Boys member Adam Yauch has used his will to stop people from using his music or image in advertising.

The will was filed at Manhattan Surrogate court in New York earlier this week leaving instructions from the pioneering rapper, also known as MCA.

It read: "Notwithstanding anything to the contrary, in no event may my image or name or any music or any artistic property created by me be used for advertising purposes."

Yauch died of cancer in May aged 47.

His will leaves his $6.4m (£4.1m) estate to his widow, Dechen Yauch, and their 13-year old daughter, and gives Dechen the right to sell and manage his artistic property as the executor of the estate.

The phrase "or any music or any artistic property created by me" was added in handwriting, according to Rolling Stone magazine which has seen a copy of the document.

Yauch founded the Beastie Boys with rappers Ad-Rock and Mike D in the 1980s, going on to have a string of hits including Fight for Your Right (to Party) and Sabotage.

He was diagnosed with cancer of the salivary gland in 2009 and underwent surgery and radiation therapy, which delayed the release of their latest album Hot Sauce Committee Part Two.

Corporations have regularly used the images of deceased musicians, celebrities and historical figures in their advertisements, such as Apple's 1997 Think Different campaign featuring John Lennon, Martin Luther King Jr and Gandhi.

This week the remaining members of the Beastie Boys took legal action against US energy drink company Monster over allegations of copyright infringement.

They lodged papers in Manhattan federal court on Wednesday, claiming executives have been using their tracks in a promotional video and downloadable audio file without their permission.

Source: BBC

Review: Dinsmore / Callard - If We Could Fall In Love Again

Dinsmore / Callard - If We Could Fall In Love Again (Rider Records)
Rick Dinsmore and Jos Callard got together in 2005 and moved to Austin a year later. They follow in the tradition of Americana musical pairings such as Buddy and Julie Miller, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, and EmmyLou Harris and, well, just about everyone. On “If We Could Fall In Love Again” they’re joined by a full band of talented young players and experienced session musicians, who between them have performed with everyone, from Manhattan Transfer to the Brothers Johnson and Bruce Hornsby. Needless to say, the musicianship here impresses from the off, and coupled with the duo’s contrasting vocal styles, “If We Could Fall In Love Again” deserves serious attention and much consideration.

The album begins with “Mr Blues”. Dinsmore takes the lead and he’s in possession of a fine county voice; the sort of voice that’s simultaneously new and yet completely familiar, and comes laden with roots tradition. Rich and warm, I suspect I’d happily listen to him sing the Spice Girls back catalogue, though I hope he doesn’t test the theory. The pair alternate lead vocals, and both provide harmony backing. Callard’s voice is quirkier with more of a bohemian folk edge. The first name that came to mind was Edie Brickell, though it’s more of a feel rather than a direct similarity. On “It's Your Night” there’s even a suggestion of Debbie Harry, which to my ears is a very good thing, and it’s a highlight of the set. As is the very last number, a fine uncluttered version of Joe ‘Red’ Hayes and Jack Rhodes’ “A Satisfied Mind”, a song that’s been covered more than most, they manage to find something fresh and new.
Rob F.

Dinsmore/Callard: If We Could Fall in Love Again

Friday 10 August 2012

Review: Mark Montijo – History

Mark Montijo – History (Independent)
Mark Montijo began his career in the 1960s, performing his own songs in various clubs and on festival stages. He joined bands, played solo and lived the troubadour lifestyle until the late 1970s when other priorities took precedent, namely business and politics. He helped organise a small non-profit visual and performing arts foundation, and got involved in the management and expansion of a major regional museum. It’s not an uncommon tale; youthful musical aspirations giving way to real life and a regular wage packet. It’s less common to make a comeback after 35 years.

In 2011, Montijo was persuaded by musician friends and former fans to go into a studio and record some of his songs, both old and new. The project was completed in March, 2012, and in April the album was released. His sound can best be described as Americana, and it’s artists and songwriters like Guy Clark and John Prine that come most readily to mind. Montijo’s songs are measured and thoughtful, where every syllable counts. “Midnight Silence” provides an upbeat launch, a bona fide toe-tapper, but there’s a fine song underpinning the track, and a melody that sticks around long after its 3 minutes are up. Equally, the magnificently titled “Streetlights Street Fights and Saturday Nights” uses banjo and mandolin to propel the classic country themes. Throughout the collection’s fourteen tracks, Montijo’s voice is warm and inviting, as is the production as a whole. I suspect those musician friends of his have done him proud.
Rob F.

Mark Montijo: History