Posts Tagged ‘folk’
When this record was released 2003 I had to write a review about it for a music magazine and there were only 3 days left until the deadline. I don´t remember exactly why, maybe I wasn´t in the right mood for it or just hadn´t the time to listen to it extensive enough, but I wrote a very capricious review. Not a bad record, but nothing special. Only a few days after the deadline I realised that this was a very foolish rating. Which should warn you about the so called music critics on the one hand, but also give you another good advice: take some time for José Gonzáles and I am sure you will recognize the beauty in it.
González is a swedish singer-songwriter with argentinean parents who plays music informed by british and latin american, especially brazilian folk-pop. This guy is one serious talent and his music feels confined by the city in a very strong way, which let´s “Veneer” burst out of the folk. A striking collection of hushed and autumnal songs that reside on the hi-fi end of the lo-fi spectrum, this is more than a Simon & Garfunkel or Nick Drake repackage, every piece is rich in its own bare beauty.
Mário de Andrade is one of the most important brasilian writers and poets. His book “Macunaíma” has for sure an outstanding impact on brasilian literature until today and is one of the novels which build up the own brasilian literature which cutted off the dominant european influences. Not coincidental Mário de Andrade was one of the driving forces behind the famous “Semana de Arte Moderna” in São Paulo 1922, which bundled all the uprising brasilian avantgarde artists and presented an brasilian art scene that mirrored the brasilian society with all its african, indigenous and european influences. Sadly from this art movement later a nationalist group splitted off, which wanted to create a “purely Brasilian” form of art (always the same sick idea, create art on a national base…). But the original movement declared that they would “eat” all influences, digest it, and throw out new things – like the brasil society with its indigenous, african, european and asian origins – and don´t want to ignore any influences from Northamerica or Europe.
“Macunaíma” as part of the Brasilian Modernism reflects also the experiences of Mário de Andrade as an Mulatto in the brasilian society at the beginning of the 20th century. A time when politics in Brasil where strongly dominated by white men from the oligarchy, who dreamed of an “white” or “more white” brasilian society and looked with suspicion to the black influences or even ignored them at all. A view on Brasil which also was reflected in the dominant arts, the “Semana de Arte Moderna” was the outburst of a new, more honest view on the brasilian realities, which for sure wasn´t only white-european-based.
But Mario de Andrade also was a pioneer of the field of ethnomusicology. Macunaima, the black protagonist of the same named novel, is on the search for an amulet and travels from the jungles of the North-East to the modern megacity São Paulo. Mário de Andrade processed the oral history of the indigenous people, the folkloristic music of the interior into this novel and confronts the two sides of modern Brasil.
80 years later Iara Rennó, a young musician from São Paulo, decided to to set the novel to music. It is a very obvious idea, with all that ethnomusicologiest influences in it, and it is a wonder why nobody else did it before. But Iara Rennó did it in a wonderful way, mixing the classical folkloristic influences with a modern production and music influences, with deep roots in the most experimental arrangements in the history of MPB (Música Popular Brasileira). The lyrics are all taken from the book and more than 60 musicians took part in the recording sessions. What can you expect? Afrobeat, Dub, brasilian Folk, Trip Hop, slight Hip Hop influences, Psychedelic…. no, you just can´t name this eclectic record with a few genres. Well, better explore this fantastic record on your own.
Tom Zé, Arrigo Barnabé, Dante Ozzetti, Simone Soul, Bocato, Siba, Biu Roque, Mané Roque, Guizadoman, Maurício Alvez, Anelis Assumpção, Funk Buia, Gustavo Souza, Mariá Portugal, Alzira Espíndola, Tetê Espíndola, Sergio Espíndola, Jerry Espíndola, Décio Gioielli, Marcelo Monteiro, Simone Julian, Tiquinho, Amílcar Rodrigues, Andréia Dias, Gustavo Ruiz, Da Lua, Gilmar Bola 8, Toca Ogan, Tom Rocha, Rian Batista, Barbatuques: Marcello Pretto, Dani Zulu, André Hosoi , Mairah Rocha, Flávia Maia, Fernando Barba, Bruno Buarque, João Taubkin, Guello, Dimus Goudaroulis, Zezinho Pitoco, DJ Marco, entre outros…
One of my favourite records from 2008 is “The 59´sound” from The Gaslight Anthem from New Jersey, smart folk/americana influenced punk rock, with a straight focus on the rock in it. And the singer remembers me of the young Bruce Springsteen and in conclusion I again listened very often to the last Chamberlain records.
Chamberlain has come quite a long way since their first appearance, which ended with “Exit 263” and some fans were unwilling to walk that way with them. They started as Split Lip, which by the principles of the 1990s was one of the pillars of passionated post-hardcore (they called it emo back that days, it is astonishing which alteration the definition of emo has made in two decades, so continue reading, ´cause you don´t have to expect an emo record). Over the years the name Chamberlain has deepened in the roots of American rock. That is not surprising either coming from where it comes…Nashville. “Exit 263” follows in the wake of its predecessor “The Moon My Saddle” but with a greater rawness of sound.The record is in the main a rock album with alt-country & americana influences, but it still has the appeal of the awesome vocal style of David Moore which has always been a something of an institution within the post-hardcore scene as being one of the most well-rounded and influential voices. Sophisticated and perfectly executed guitar work gives the impression you”re listening to an old hand and is complimented with a perfectly suited rhythm section played with a more blues/roots style as it keeps things exciting and moving while the vocals and guitars tell their story. The melancholy of its music is transformed moment by moment into heartrending sadness, with lost goodbyes and loves or the sensuality of “Masterpiece.”
With this last disc, they have looked to create their most personal work to date, recording most of the material on four tracks and concentrating themselves on the essence of the songs. And, it never ceases to be peculiar that Chamberlain still are related to the American emo scene considering that the music is nearer Bruce Springsteen and Van Morrison.
The predecessor “The Moon my Saddle” was the record which erased any memory of their mid-tempo hardcore era, but is still more rooted in the Midwest post-hardcore and on this masterpiece (yes, both records are masterpieces, sadly almost unknown) they were able to capture the essence of the Midwest unlike any band I’ve ever heard, maybe more than any other band from the Midwest-scene in the 90s. Within the record you can envision the long drives through empty fields, hear the steps cut the silence in a town where everything closes at 7pm, sleeping with freight trains running in the distance and everything else that goes along with rural life. At least the imagination of an urban boy like I am.
Chamberlain are simply a great band that never really got their due.
First I thought I didn´t presented you so much dark music yet, but that´s not true. You can find a haunting collection of dark, enigmatic tunes here, from really depressive tunes, to melancholic gloriousness, technical cold and dark soundscapes or dark, psychedelic and bitter-sweet tunes, which come closest to Black Heart Procession. A uniquely dark and theatrical Americana, a singular mixture of Calexico, Tindersticks, Angelo Badalamenti and then some. The band from San Diego, with a Three Mile Pilot based core and fame, has used saws, stripped-down unconventional percussion, Wurlitzer piano, subtle Moog, and other nontraditional instrumentation to create the kind of carnivalesque dirges we’ve come to expect from Tom Waits over three records before the release of “amore del tropico” 2002. With this fourth release the BHP forges new paths, seemingly inspired by tango infusions the group has left behind their infamous funereal gloom for a noir-laden land of intrigue. The only thing they packed was their trusty saw and a suitcase full of heartache. Or like pitchfork wrote:
The Procession was once funereal through and through, keeping the same slow pace and lonely lyrics throughout. Here, however, they’ve taken their march somewhere south of the border. Judging from the instrumentation and odd flourishes, the narrator of Amore has ventured to a small Central American country of beauty and intrigue. Wherever he is, one thing’s for sure: things are not going quite as planned. The first track, after all, is called “The End of Love”, a 12-second instrumental spurt that introduces the listener to what will be a 55-minute tale of lost love and vengeful murder. The subsequent titular track, “Tropics of Love” (in translation), opens with the band’s trademark instrument, the saw. But then deft strings and hip-swinging percussion set a sexy, noir-ish scene suffused with whispering men and crooning female gypsies. With this record, the band has taken a risky, ambitious leap forward, ditching the capable producer of their previous records, Ryan Hadlock, in favor of manning the boards themselves. The move has paid off in a dense, inspired musical narrative that should, dare I say, surprise fans old and new.
The Black Heart Procession has seamlessly integrated their trademarks—low, strained vocals, eerily whining saw, organ, piano and strings—into an entirely new sound that they wear so naturally. Sometimes darkness is so beautiful!
Norway´s duo Kings of Convenience, Eirik Glambek Bøe and Erlend Øye (he also released solo records), handed over source material from their folky “Quiet is the new loud” record to a batch of remixers that included both people they knew, as well as others suited for the task that they hadn’t yet shaken hands with. The source record you can pick up at the me myself and mary jane blog, here you´ll get the reinterpreted versions by artists like Röyksopp, Four Tet, Alfie, Riton and many more. And if you might ask yourself now if electronica remixes of acoustic folk songs can be worth a try or just have to be trash, I can assure that versus is a fantastic remix compilation. This is masterful; a piece that should be viewed as a model for what remixes of folk should look like. The artists on this disc recognized the essence and soul of the music it is derived from and the experience this creates is an even more passionate rendition of the same emotions of the first album. Taking the brilliant originals, recognizing the reason they exist as their own exceptional works, and reworking them to make those points even more prominent. The group of remixers picked for the disc seem to be on the same wavelength as the duo. While they’re for the most part in completely different genres usually, most of the time the feel of the original track – even if completely different elements are introduced – is kept intact. A perfect example of this is the remix of “I Don’t Know What I Can Save You From” by country-mates Röyksopp. The group keeps the almost flamenco guitar bit of the track and the vocals, but they add a subtle groove and some sampled wind noises that keep the track light yet slightly on the pensive side. And after you have listened to both records you have a dilemma. Which one is better? The original “quiet is the new loud” which defined the neo-acoustic sound with their Nick Drake meets Simon and Garfunkel diamond sharp songs and managed to sound new and surprising although traveling in a well-established path (you might say this made their achievement even greater)? Or the electronic remixes? I just love both records.
Some bands are desperately on the search for a record deal and many never reach their aim. I guess only really few would deserve a record deal, but never get one – the most artists just suck too much to have success. It´s not only about the major record companies (their politics are abhorrent, I don´t doubt that) which keep good music down, because almost every music genre has some very fine independent record labels. Club 8 are a good proof, after formed 1995 by Karolina Komstedt and Johan Angergård this swedish group made simple bedroom recordings and sent them to their ten favourite labels. Half of the labels wanted to release the band, good music always finds it way to be released.
Their debut was heavy bossa-nova influenced with a naive sound as well as shiny pop melodies, but soon they moved away from these direct pop songs and got darker and slower, the progress culminated in their third album “spring came, rain fell” from 2002, their most creative to date recording with diversified, semi-electronic and slightly experimental, but intensely emotional songs.
It´s obvious that songwriter and über-instrumentalist Johan Angergärd had Air’s “Moon Safari” in power rotation, with bubbly space synthesizers and fat bass keyboard. His writing and production is generally spare and simple so the little bits of color (a guitar lead here, a synth swoosh there) linger memorably and makes space for Angergård´s tenor that’s almost as light as bombshell singer Karolina Komstedst’s airy alto. But the real appeal of the album comes from Karolina Komstedt’s pillow-soft, slightly accented vocals, which have the kitschy allure of Claudine Longet, only with better enunciation and much less tendency to go off-key; Angergård only raises his voice on few tracks. The songs are mostly based on subtle layers of acoustic guitars, hand percussion, and rubbery, surprisingly melodic electric bass. They always keep the melancholic dreamy edge, now matter if they mix up Dub, C-86, triphop, chill out, 80’s or bossa nova, without ever losing focus on those wonderfully Scandinavian and melancholic pop melodies.
By the way, what´s wrong with Sweden? From jazz, hardcore/punk to indie in general, this country with only 8 millions inhabitants offers an above average count of bands with surpassing quality. Why is so much good music coming from Sweden (and Scandinavia in general)? I only can explain it with the short summers and cold winters, without nothing else to do than jam in rehearsal rooms (which you can find in almost every village around the country), because Gothenburg, Stockholm, Malmö or Umeå are much too far away.
Since 1970’s the Benelux countries became a rich source of experimenting musicians. The leading Belgian songwriter Stef Kamil Carlens was co-founder of the premium band dEUS. Between 1994-96 he recorded with them 3 highly successful albums and also his own legendary Moondog Jr. In 1997 Carlens left dEUS and started equally triumphant Zita Swoon, a band sailing like a magic spaceship between styles of past and future. Critics often struggle when it comes to categorizing the Zita Swoon sound, but retro-wave meets smoky, laid-back lounge blues will do for now. Zita Swoon are cultural nomads, their music is a journey through the long tradition of popular music, going from the absurd funk of Funkadelic over the era of singer-songwriters as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, towards the eclecticism of Tom Waits or Einstürzende Neubauten and the programmed sounds of Aphex Twins, DJ Shadow or Howie B. In a single song a total musical trip experience is to be discovered. A kindred spirit is found in musician as Beck, who feeds every concert and record with references to a long music history.
If there’s a single narrative thread linking the Zita Swoon songs together, it’s Carlen’s overwhelming passion for women and the complex emotional entanglement of love. Consider just the titles of albums like I Paint Pictures on a Wedding Dress (1998), Life = A Sexy Sanctuary (2001) and A Song About a Girls (2004), which proved to be instantly enjoyable, warm recordings with strong songs, lyrics in frensh and english.