Monday, December 26, 2005
One of the most beautiful 7" vinyl releases in memory, Voice of the Seven Woods is perfect for contemplating winter. The four pieces feature acoustic guitar backed with minimal but effective percussion.
Five eventful summers have passed since the young Rick Tomlinson stumbled in to Manchester's vivid musical landscape as a vinyl hungry psyched-out sidekick to Andy Votel and Dom Thomas on their formative Twisted Nerve radio show. Rick, a self taught musician, has since drawn influence from an oblique archive of obscure LPs and bizzare instruments and forged his own unique approach to making music. A potent mixture of krautrock, folk, jazz, tropicalia and Welsh progressive rock has seduced stalwarts of Manchester's alternative music scene into countless collaborations with Rick. Various impromptu appearances at local folk clubs have earned Rick a reputation amongst mainstays of the folk scene such as John Renbourne who recently asked Rick to accompany him on future live appearances.
This debut EP can be ordered from www.voiceofthesevenwoods.com.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
In the past decade, artists such as Matt Valentine and Ben Chasney (Six Organs of Admittance) have opened the door for experiemental folk-blues-psychedelic ragas and song stylings. Fortunate for us. The next wave of musical creations is flowing ...
The Anvil is UK musician Matthew Fullwood, who has recorded a beautiful, shifting collection of psychedelic excursions. Throughout this recording, he uses guitar, bells, percussion, organ, piano and other instruments to amazing effect. These songs drone in places, melodies weave in and around subtle drums, guitar scales, and hushed vocals. There are hints of woodlands, and an earthy rhythm of another time.
From the Woven Wheat Whispers write-up: This album will appeal to fans of 60s psychedelic folk, experimental acoustic, psychedelia and modern folk song. It’s influences range broadly and are too numerous to mention but we certainly haven’t heard many bands who fuse them so well and evolving from that a music which is an expression of their own creativity.
The Gush is available for download from the excellent Woven Wheat Whispers music service at
Monday, November 28, 2005
available as a download from www.wovenwheatwhispers.co.uk
When driving home from work recently, listening to Phantom Dog Beneath the Moon and in danger of slipping into a state of dissociated reverie, a voice in my head intoned (maybe it was Carl Jung's?) "This is music of the guaze psyche."
Phantom Dog Beneath the Moon pulls one into the netherworld with hints of isolation, yet also celebration of the self, the charting of the inner world. The nine songs that comprise "In a Light" are wrapped in guitar and synth and awash with ethereal male vocals. From the Woven Wheat Whispers website: "This is modern folk trying to find its way home through the fog of communication signals and electronic transmissions"
Perfect ghost radio music. What's the frequency, Aaron?
Friday, November 11, 2005
The Fall 2005 issue is titled "Community" and features an interview with writer Niku of Radical South & other projects, an interview with Jennifer, organizer of Southern Swag Market, articles by Sage Adderley, Kenneth Hickey and other, and also a selection of poetry! 36 half-sized pages in all. Eye Candy is available from Sweet Candy Distro, Sage's excellent distro service. Click on www.eyecandyzine.com for more info. It is very reassuring to discover zines of this quality that feature a diversity of articles, writing and art related to DIY and community endeavors.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Samhain has passed & November is upon us. Already I am considering writing a "best releases of 2005" list for the Seldom Heard Radio blog and guaranteed to be included is In Julia's Mind Scene.
Their music blends folk rock with psychedelic and progressive florishes to create a timeless recording that feels right at home in 1970 or 2005.
In Julia's Mind Scene is comprised of: Mark Versteegen on acoustic guitar and vocals; Gijs van der Heijden (piano and electric guitar); Niels van Heuman (trumpet and flugelhorn); Pitrik Koeerts (bass) and Martijn Buser playing drums, percussion and vocals.
This old indie radio DJ recently flew his private pirate station in the sky lear jet to the Netherlands for an exclusive interview with Martijn. Oh, alright - it was via e-mail.
DJ Frederick: What was the inspiration / history behind forming In Julia's Mind-Scene?
Martijn: The first version of the band came together in 2000, then named The Colossal Heads of Magican County. This group was leaded by Mark Versteegen, Niels van Heumen and Martijn Buser. We wanted to form an ensemble with musicians moving in and out, and with a big ‘hello’ to Godspeed You Black Emperor! Unfortunately the idea didn’t work out well, so the nine members split up. Mark and Niels stayed in contact playing acoustic guitars and trumpet. In 2001 Martijn rejoined the group which was then named In Julia’s Mind-Scene.
With fingerpickin’ acoustic guitar, trumpet and drums we were searching for a double bass-player, the right instrument for the intimate songs which were mostly written by Mark and some from Niels. At first we wanted to make beautiful songs just to please ourselves, but in the end we wanted to let them hear to others. And we’re glad we did! We wanted to record the songs and did so in September 2004. The double bass-player is not with us anymore, but since October 2004 we have a piano-player (Gijs van der Heijden) and a new bass-player (Pitrik Koerts). Now we want to make music which we can play live. We want to touch ourselves with our music, we want to be inventive, not making music which is already recorded. Not that we are an experimental band (we still want to touch other people) but the groups individuals create something which is more that the sum of our influences. Now we’re very ambitious. We want to play more live, record more material and want to be a household name in the Netherlands. And we hope we can play outside the Netherlands as well!
DJ Frederick: Where does your wonderful band name come from?
Martijn: The name In Julia’s Mind-Scene was made up by me. The name was in my head one day. I have all of these crazy names (The Colossal Heads of Magican County was also made up by me). We know it doesn’t actually mean something in English, but is sounds beautiful when pronounced. Maybe Julia is a beautiful girl, I hope we’ll meet her once.
DJ Frederick: Who are some of your musical influences?
Martijn: The debut-record was produced by Mark, Niels, Daniël (the double bass- player) and Martijn. As we were only with four people, our inspiration for this record ranged from Nick Drake and John Fahey to Talk Talk and Chet Baker. With the new band we have a great classical pianist/arranger (Gijs) and a fusion-minded bass-player (Pitrik), which makes our music more diverse then before. Fingerpickin’ folk, postrock, jazz, krauthop, hiphop, minimal music, Belgian-styled popmusic, country and singer/songwriter are some of our influences right now.
DJ Frederick: What have your live gigs been like?
Martijn: Live the band is expanded with violin and tenor sax, which means we play with seven people. Our live-performances are getting better every time we play, and the audience is really listening to our songs. But that depends on what kind of stage or venue be perform of course. From May on we’ve played seven times and in January we’ll be doing four acoustic sessions in the Netherlands and Belgium. I hope the audience will like that too. You can listen online to three tracks which were recorded live on September the 15th and which will be recorded for the second album: http://antenne.zomp.nl/platenspeler.php?type=2.
DJ Frederick: What plans does the band have for gigging and recording over the next few months?
Martijn: Well, it’s going to be a hell of a time. We’ll record our second album this December, and we hope we can release it somewhere in April or May. We hope we can promote our album in April, May and June in the Netherlands and Belgium and play lots of gigs. We will also release two EP’s with collaborations with two Dutch acts, Machinefabriek and qrter. The first one will be something like Krauthop, the second one with more The Books-minded electronics. We also have an impro-session recorded and hope we can release that as well. In July and August the band will travel to Spain and we hope we have enough material to record the third longplayer and release that in October or November. And when you think that’s enough there’ll also be an EP with a singer/songwriter called Alexis Vos. This record with 5 songs was recorded last August and will be released sometime in the new year.
DJ Frederick: Have you found that there is an audience for indie music in the Netherlands? Do you get any radio airplay or support?
Martijn: There ís an audience for independent music. Last May and September we played for about 150 people and we get lots of attention in Utrecht. We know the music-scene in Utrecht is supporting us. They play us regularly on the local radio-station. This support in Utrecht makes us more aware that we have chances outside of Utrecht! But then again, you have to do it yourself all the way. But like we said earlier: we are ambitious!
DJ Frederick: There's no question that In Julia's Mind Scene is ambitious and this DJ looks forward to the forementioned recordings.
Check out www.injuliasmindscene.nl for more information!
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Positive energy and vibrant enthusiasm abound in the new cd-ep by Georgia band Venice is Sinking, a split cd with the band What We Do Is Secret recently released by One Percent Press (www.onepercentpress.com).
Venice Is Sinking is Daniel Lawson on vocals and guitar, Steve Miller on bass, Lucas Jensen on drums, Karolyn Troupe on viola and vocals, and Alex Thibadeaux on keyboards. Their music is infused with crafted songwriting, gorgeous vocals and harmonies, and seamless musicianship. It’s criminal that bands this excellent don’t get much radio exposure, which is significant part aspect of why I produce Seldom Heard Radio in the first place – to play a small role in turning adventurous listeners on to music they may not have otherwise discovered.
I made a conscious decision only to promote and review music, radio stations, zines & other media in this blog that are engaging & that that I enjoy immensely. Lucas and Daniel kindly consented to an interview for this blog, for which I am grateful!
DJ Frederick: Tell me about the song Pulaski Heights and the making of the video that is on your website (I personally found the imagery of the television everywhere very effective)
Daniel: The video was shot and directed by our friends Chris Poules and Tim Hayden of Wow!Bang!Science! Productions. The filming was done over the course of a few days spread out over two weeks. Chris and Tim did the editing in one 24 hour session in an attempt to meet a deadline that we later found out had been extended. Most of the video was shot in and around the Pulaski Heights neighborhood in Athens, Ga. We trespassed on a construction site for the final shots. The cops showed up but kept driving. It was fun. The lyrics to the song are about losing your keys and breaking into your apartment a 4:00 am.
Lucas: I can tell you that I've never changed my drum part once on that song. That was probably the quickest collaboration processes we've ever had. Daniel just brought in that wah-wah-wah thing at the beginning and it seems like the song finished itself. To be fair, the song is the same chords over and over again and my drum part is pretty basic. The title, "Pulaski Heights," refers to the neighborhood in which the band originally practiced, more or less, and I think that all of us have great memories of our times there, drinking mimosas at three in the afternoon and hitting golf balls at trains. But I can't remember who came up with the idea for the TVs in the video. I think Tim and Chris, the directors, came up with that. I thought it was funny. I decided that I would be cutting would with a Skil Saw. That's about it.
DJ Frederick: Tell me a little about the process of collaboration among the band members and is everyone as cool and eccentric sounding as on the website bios?
Lucas: Well, I would say that none of us is very cool, except maybe Steve. Eccentric maybe. I like a lot of George Michael/Wham records. Is that eccentric? It's surely not cool. As you can probably guess, those bios are a little, um, embellished.
As far as collaboration goes, it works like this: first we consecrate the blood of seven Melanesian virgins. Then we call on Az'grodnok, He of the Third Phase of the Destructors.
I kid, I kid. Actually, collaboration for us is a pretty easy process. Usually Daniel brings in the bare-bones idea for a song: riffs, melodies,keyboard hooks, and the like. Then we sort of jam our way through it and Karolyn and Daniel work out the harmonies and lyrics and stuff. Lyrics are usually the last thing added. Steve's pretty good at figuring out amazing bass parts at the beginning. It's actually not that long of a process for us...it's just getting around to doing it at practice. It's never been contentious.
Daniel: When we first started we weren’t really a band at all. We started out just meeting at a friend’s house at 666 Pulaski Street and improvising. We were much more experimental back then. Eventually, I started bringing in pop songs I had been working on and it went from there. Everyone added their own parts and everything got much more structured. Nowadays, we write songs as a band which is nice. It’s actually a lot like when we first started.
DJ Frederick: How are you promoting your music and how successful has that been?
Daniel: We try to play out of town as much as possible and so far the response has been pretty good. We put songs on the internet for people to hear and things like that. Once our record comes out in March we plan on doing a lot more in the promotion department.
Lucas: We haven't really started promoting stuff beyond small tours and some local and internet press, but we are planning a big campaign starting soon that will last through March, when our full-length is slated to come out. I am a publicist, so that's handy. Hopefully we will find some success.
DJ Frederick: What are your feelings on the state of radio in the US?
Daniel: The only radio I listen to anymore is NPR and certain shows on AM radio. Sometimes I listen to the local college radio station which can be great and sometimes can be annoying. The rest of the dial is pretty bleak though. I think satellite radio is amazing and overwhelming at the same time.I think podcasting is pretty interesting though I really don’t know much about it.
Lucas: Radio in the US? What kind of radio? I like the top 40 stations, to be honest, because they don't claim to be anything else than what they are. I don't want to hear Creed on classic rock radio and Dave FM...well that's just a stupid name. There are exciting new developments in the world of podcasting, the Jack format, and more, but I think that people forget that college radio, however amateur, has been educating and providing great radio in most markets in America for quite some time. I'm a major college radio devotee. Actually, I listen to a lot of AM radio, and, let me tell you, it's as crazy as ever.
DJ Frederick: What is your band doing in the upcoming few months for gigs, recording, etc?
Lucas: We're hoping to record some new songs for an EP. I have this idea about creating new songs completely out of loops, like the band Menomena. We have a bunch of out-of-town gigs coming up, so there's that. And of course the eventual release of our first LP, tentatively titled Pig Manure Mash Up.
Daniel: We’re taking off for most of December to work on new songs for our next release and to start promoting our full length record which should be out in March. We can’t wait to start recording again, it’s been way too long since we’ve been in the studio.
Editors note: Venice Is Sinking have a visually stunning website with sound samples, the video for Pulaski Heights, band bios & more at www.veniceissinking.net.
Monday, October 24, 2005
I'm sad to report that Paul passed away Saturday October 1, 2005 in the early evening at his apartment in San Francisco. He'd been through a long battle with Pancreatitis and Diabetes. This is a huge loss for all of us.
Thanks to the documentary film, Genghis Blues, Paul Pena is now known and appreciated throughout the world for his amazing accomplishments as a musician, particularly for having taught himself the techniques of traditional Tuvan singing.
Paul Pena was born on January 26, 1950 in Hyannis, MA, the oldest child of Jack and Virginia Pena. His grandparents came from the Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa. He was born with congenital glaucoma. When he was five, he began school at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown (a suburb of Boston). He graduated in 1967 and then attended Clark University in Worcester, MA.
As a young child, Paul soon showed his talent for music. His mother heard him picking out melodies and chords on a baby grand piano that had been found in the town dump and brought home, 'as a toy that a blind child might enjoy.' He developed 'perfect pitch.' Soon Paul was studying the piano, guitar, upright bass, violin and 'a little trumpet.' He played and sang popular jazz and Cape Verdian ballads with his father, a professional jazz musician, and also sang in his school choruses. Paul appeared in a talent show, and while in college, performed in coffeehouses in Worcester.
In 1969, Paul played in the Newport Folk Festival 'in the Contemporary Composer's Workshop with such people as James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Kris Kristofferson.' In 1971, Paul moved to San Francisco and recorded his first marketed record for Capital Records, which was released in 1973.
In his musical career Paul played with many of the blues greats, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Mississippi Fred McDowell, 'Big Bones,' and T. Bone Walker. His song, 'Jet Airliner,' recorded by the Steve Miller Band, was a hit in the 1970s. Another album, recorded by Bearsville Records, was never released.
During this period Paul's wife, Babe, suffered kidney failure. Paul gave up his musical career at that point in order to take care of her. She died in 1991. He suffered greatly from her loss.
Paul first heard a fragment of harmonic singing on a shortwave Radio Moscow broadcast on December 29, 1984 and he was so struck by it, he spent almost eight years trying to track down its source. In 1991 he was finally able to locate a recording of Tuvan music and taught himself the vocal techniques known as 'Khoomei, Sygyt, and Kargyraa'. In addition, he learned a good bit of the Tuvan language using English-Russian and Russian-Tuvan dictionaries and an obsolete 'Opticon' scanning device which translates text into sensations. In 1993, Paul attended a concert sponsored by the Friends of Tuva organization and met Kongar-ol Ondar after the performance. Paul gave Kongar-ol an impromptu demonstration--and astonished him with his talent and mastery of traditional Tuvan singing. The two men formed a strong friendship along with their musical collaboration.
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Here is WKXL's mission statement from their website:
Our mission is to make our community even better by:
- Offering useful information that makes listeners’ lives more productive, wholesome entertainment that brightens each day, and spiritual programs that provide comfort and direction
- Helping our advertising clients solve problems and sell their goods and services;
- Helping worthy community organizations attract support for their charitable works;
- Creating interesting and rewarding careers for our Team Members;
- Earning a respectable return on investment;
- Setting an example of excellence for our industry.In summary, our mission is to become the very best AM station in the country.
My jaw drops when I read those words. Commercial radio does not get any better than this. WKXL is providing an outstanding service to both advertisers and listeners in the community. Check out www.wkxl1450.com for online streaming, mp3s, and more information!
It's barely mid October & wintery rain, clouds and wind have enveloped New England in a melancholy grey for over a week. Perfect weather for listening to my personal favorite vinyl only release of 2005, Sunday Bridge by Vermont band The Sixth Great Lake.
These twelve songs highlight the storytelling / songwriting skills of Michael Barrett and the unhurried musical craft of The Sixth Great Lake. One easily becomes immersed in the dreamscapes of each of the twelve songs. Mellow, absorbing, and pressed on deep blue vinyl ... Sunday Bridge is a work of art on every level.
Listen to Sunday Bridge online at www.apolloaudio.com & check out the Sixth Great Lake's webpage at www.sixthgreatlake.com .. enjoy!
Friday, October 14, 2005
If you’ve tuned up or down a shortwave radio spectrum for any length of time you may have heard mechanical female voices droning a series of numbers into the ether … or crisp high-toned notes chiming a folk tune several times in succession. These transmissions are mysterious signals thought to be messages broadcasts to spies and agents all over the world. They are referred to as “spy number stations” and appear and disappear regularly on both varied and fixed frequencies. For more information please investigate http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numbers_station.
Derek Whitacre is the architect of The Moscow Coup Attempt and the delightfully cryptic new cd The Failure of Shortwave Radio which incorporates and weaves samples of shortwave numbers stations throughout blissful washes of melody. The title is somewhat poignant for me as a shortwave radio listener who has witnessed the landslide of shortwave stations discontinuing their broadcasts to North America over the past five years including the BBC, and RVI from Flanders.
Graciously, Derek Whitacre sent me a promotional copy of The Failure of Shortwave Radio and agreed to an interview for this blog:
DJ Frederick: How did you discover shortwave radio in general and number stations in specific?
Derek: National Public Radio. I heard a story about Numbers Stations and a CD collection of Numbers Stations called The Conet Project. From that point I was hooked.
After weeks of research into the subject, I went searching for myself. Using online shortwave radio networks, I was finding numbers stations every once in a while. It's quite a tricky feat, but if you have the right information on their occurrences, you can find them. Anyway... some of my recordings actually made it onto the album. Others I got from sources world 'round, with permission of course. I'd also like to state for the fact, that NONE of my recordings came from The Conet Project collection. I say this because the individual that compiled it is quite letigious on record.
DJ Frederick: What are you thoughts on the state of radio in the US?
Derek: Short answer, it's dead. Long answer... The corporations that own most of the stations in the US could give a shit about music. It's all about bottom line. And to them, America is the same no matter where you go. We're all a faceless horde of consumers, who will take whatever we're given. So now they have the SAME STATIONS in different cities with the SAME PLAYLISTS. "Keep them listening so we can sell more add time... Oh, this playlist works in LA, so it must work in Denver, and Atlanta, and Boston." And where do those playlists come from??? Dying major labels that don't want to invest in anything but a limited scope of "artists" because to be different is bad. Do what works until it doesn't work. Then do it again with a new hot young piece of ass and call it new. Ok, ok... yes, there are a handful of "indie" stations (most of which are owned by these same corporations) playing different blends of music. But they are few and far between.However, I don't really care all that much because I really don't do what I do to get played on KROQ or STAR or Teenie-Bopper-of-the-moment-.7 FM. If I could get on KCRW or other low budget indie eclectic shows, that would be cool. What was the question again?
DJ Frederick: What is a Moscow Coup Attempt live concert experience like?
Derek: I give everyone a gram of dried mushrooms at the door and we just stare at a bug-zapper set up in the middle of the room. Yeah, actually it's kind of like going to see a really loud art film. I play with laptop and synth and other toys to a film montage I cut to the music. It's all archival footage, really creepy images, some not, ancient war footage, NASA development shite...There's a trailer for it on the "Moscow" website. Eventually I'd like to get rid of most of the computer oriented pieces and replace them with real honest to monkeys people playing instruments that don't require wall sockets.
DJ Frederick: I’m wondering if you could talk about some of your film / visual projects?
Derek: Well, other than what I just described, I've written scores for a couple short films no one will see. Actually, one of them is a good little film about fathers and sons called "Ringside Hero," directed by John Covarrubias. There have been some video games I've written stupid little LimbBuzzcut style songs for. I'm also into photography... a lot of macro-lens laden images like the photos I did for the "Failure" album art. RIGHT NOW... I'm thinking about the next film I want to do for "the Coup." Where as I wrote this album thinking about cinema and it being music for "a movie that never was," I might go the other direction and write and film and music together. More of a narrative structure than abstract expressionism.
* * *
One listen to The Moscow Coup Attempt folds the listener into a world of “eyelid movies” and beyond. For sound samples, video and more information cruise over to www.moscowcoupattempt.com.
The Failure of Shortwave Radio is available to purchase from cd baby via www.cdbaby.com/cd/tmca
Derek's cd was released on Capitalist Records (somehow being a non-capitalist I love that name!) which has a website forthcoming at www.capitalistrecords.com. The image on the temporary page made me smile.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Why bother listening to shortwave in this era of communications satellites and cable television news channels? Perhaps the biggest reason is that SWLing can give you a unique perspective on events that you simply cannot get from American media. If you watch coverage of an event in Iraq from CCN or CBS News, you get the American perspective on what is happening from an American journalist. If you listen to China Radio International, you might get a very different interpretation of events.
No one knows the exact number of shortwave listeners (SWLs) in the United States, most estimates place the number in the millions. Shortwave radio sales have increased dramatically in the US since September 11, 2001.
Of course, not all shortwave stations broadcast in English. If you’re studying a foreign language—or want to maintain your proficiency in one—shortwave radio will offer you an unlimited supply of contemporary practice material. If you enjoy music, shortwave will let you hear sounds you probably can’t find in the even the most specialized record and CD shops. Ever heard a lagu melayu song? It sounds like a cross between Indian-style instrumentals and an Arabic vocal style, and it’s very popular in Indonesia. You can hear such songs over the various shortwave outlets of Radio Republic Indonesia. The so-called "world beat" popular with young people had its origins in the "high life" music broadcast by shortwave stations in Africa. Other SWLs arise before dawn to catch the haunting huayno melodies coming from stations in Bolivia and Peru. Some SWL music fans have compiled tape-recorded libraries of folk and indigenous music from shortwave broadcasts that many college and university music departments would envy.
DXing (distance listening) is a manifestation of shortwave’s biggest weakness—the fact that shortwave reception is highly variable compared to the AM and FM broadcasting bands. Reception of a shortwave station on a given frequency will usually vary greatly with the time of day and season of the year. Shortwave reception is heavily influenced by solar activity as indicated by the number of sunspots visible on the Sun. Solar flares and storms can disrupt shortwave reception for hours and even days. Fading is also common on the shortwave bands. While shortwave can offer you listening you cannot find on your local AM and FM stations, it unfortunately cannot offer you the same reliable reception or audio quality from day to day or even hour to hour sometimes.
Many shortwave stations welcome correspondence from listeners, especially reports on how well the station is being received and comments on their programming. Stations often respond to such letters by sending out colorful souvenir cards, known as QSL cards, for correct reports of reception. Some station reply with QSL letters instead of cards, and a few send other items, like pennants with the station’s name or call letters, to lucky SWLs.
Saturday, October 01, 2005
Tell me about your previous and present bands - when did you realise you were in love with music?
I realised music was the best thing since iced raisin bread long before I had any kind of involvement with making it myself. My parents had a big beautiful cabinet stereo that finally bit the dust only about a decade ago, the kind with the stack-o-vinyl spindle on the turntable. I've got an old Christmas polaroid from when I was three of me and my younger brother standing next to what must've been our first record player, with seven-inches without sleeves strewn about the place. Old record filing habits die hard!
The first band I sang in that put a record out was Black Tambourine. I couldn't sing very well but it didn't matter, writing songs and playing with friends was the best time ever. Every band I've been in since then has been the same ace situation of playing with friends and if I still lived in the US I'd hope to be playing music with the same people, I miss them! Speaking of those folks, lemme just say how many times a day I'm compelled to play When You Come Around by The Saturday People, can I get a witness?
I'm presently playing in The Pines with my friend and guitar wonder Joe. These days we record everything at home in my South London flat on a digital 16-track portastudio with my husband at the controls. Joe and I stay pretty busy with our jobs and don't see each other as much as we'd like, but we record more than we play out - we just played our first and last show of the year at what is turning into our annual live gig at the Bush Hall in London. I also join in when I can for Snowdrops recordings with Keith and Dick, who live in Brighton.
Which would you consider your 'day-job' band?
Don't make me laugh! Playing and recording is great but at the rate we do things, I'd be wiser to work on one of the ten gazillion other things that are more appealing than working 9 to 5, like world craft domination or starting London's foremost homemade pie delivery service.
Tell me a little bit more about the process of releasing Pines records - you've recorded for various labels - what is your relationship with them all?
The first Pines release was a song on a comp CD that came with an issue of Papercuts magazine that our friend Stevie put out in 2000. Our first seven-inch came out on the label Long Lost Cousin, which is run by Mark who currently plays in the fantastic Pipas. Mark used to record us on his Mac before Mike and I got the Akai, he wanted to start a label, I was keen to make some sleeves, and it was done. In the earlier days Joe and I didn't really work much on recording until someone asked us for songs, having some kind of deadline would kick our butts into recording action. We've been lucky because the labels who have asked us for songs like Becalmed, Annika, Foxyboy and Matinee have committed to putting out a Pines release and trusted that they'll like the songs without hearing them first! I've known Jimmy from Matinee for ages but still couldn't bring myself to tell him after we recorded that True Love Waits Volume 2's first song was a capella and the last song clocked in at 9 minutes, I just sent along the finished songs and hoped for the best. Only recently have we started recording songs that don't have a home yet.
How many volumes of the 'True Love Waits' eps will there be?
Volumes 1 and 2 are the whole shebang, Joe wrote the songs as a group, though we didn't record them all at once. A long time ago we got asked to release some songs on a new indie mini-CD label and decided to start recording the first half of the True Love Waits bunch of ten. When the label crashed and the record wasn't going to happen after all, Ara from Foxyboy offered to release the songs. Matinee then kindly offered to put out the second batch of five, which mirrored the first five nicely and completed the TLW set.
Did you start 'Chickfactor' with Gail O'Hara - or just work on it for a while? How did they come about?
I started Chickfactor with Gail in 1992 and though she did take on more of the reviewing burden and was a friend to the deadline in a way I never was, we were right there together transcribing, putting on shows, pasting candies and hair thingies on the covers and stapling pages together until I left after issue 11 in 1995. All told, Gail did put much more work into Chickfactor than I did (she hit people up for ads for instance, something I could never do) and though I miss doing a fanzine I really think of it as her mag. Good thing, then, that she carried on doing it after I left and now has a wonderful webspace devoted to it! Check it out for a complete history of Chickfactor, fab pictures by Gail and awesome web-only CF articles (like Peter Paphides waxing excited about choc!).
Do you and Joe have different ideas about how The Pines should sound? Is there any element of compromise when you're working together?
Joe and I have very similar ideas about how The Pines should sound, which is why recording is something I look forward to. We also have very similar ideas about how much lazing about should be done during any day of recording and how much cheese should go on top of the pasta bake made on the day of recording. Doing any kind of creative activity with someone else will always involve elements of compromise but we've yet to have fisticuffs over where the melodica fades out or anything like that, and since we have all our recording gear at home we have the luxury of trying things out different ways, without the pressure of time or expense that recording in a studio would have.
Would you like to be more prolific?
Yes, and not just in music. In music, I'd love to be recording more frequently and getting more Pines records out. In everything else, I'd love to finish even half of the projects I start and get my small biz up and running this year. More music, more bags, more gocco fabric stamping, more mass pierogi-producing and more hat-making!
Friday, September 30, 2005
Jose Gonzalez is a brilliant singer/songwriter guitarist with a full length CD and 3 EPs available from www.parasol.com
Veneer is the debut album by Swedish-born minstrel José González…already a certified quiet-is-the-new-loud legend in his native Sweden. Who needs bells and whistles (outside of a forlorn trumpet and some subliminal percussion) when songs are this strong and the voice is this perfect? When all that you need to hold an audience in blissful rapture is what you can balance on a barstool? Jose’s sensual, sensitive, powerful vocals and supernaturally gifted guitar playing truly recalls artists like Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, Hayden, and Mark Kozelek. He’s earned the accolades by writing incredible songs and staying true to his heart, keeping the songs barebones simple.
The José González song "Crosses" was featured on the season finale of The OC.U.S. press now rolling in:
Entertainment Weekly:"A Nick Drake manqué without — we hope — the suicidal tendencies, José González is a gifted Swedish singer-songwriter of Argentinean descent, whose deft, syncopated fingerpicking and hushed vocals are hypnotic on Veneer, and never more so than when he covers the Knife's ''Heartbeats,'' turning a synth-pop assault into a heartbreaking lullaby."
Harp Magazine:"A succinct acoustic meditation-11 cuts in 30 minutes-that includes hypnotic guitar figures (“Deadweight on Velveteen,” in particular) that create the feeling that you’ve stumbled into a pre-dawn workout for emerging finger-pickers..."
Chicago Tribune:"Everything about guitarist-songwriter Jose Gonzalez surprises you. The first surprise is that he's Swedish. Second, unlike most of his rock-crazed countrymen, Gonzalez's hushed, solo acoustic guitar work recalls the eclectic yet introspective "folk" of British troubadours Bert Jansch and Nick Drake... "Veneer" really is a kindred spirit to Drake's classic "Pink Moon"..."
Pitchfork:"It's taken two years for the debut album by singer/songwriter José González (Swedish, obv.) to reach these shores, and it's easy to see what nudged it here. González's sparse recordings showcase hushed, double-tracked vocals, haunted imagery, and a clearly gifted classical guitarist. His gripping acoustic cover of countryfolk the Knife's electro-pop "Heartbeats" was even a minor hit in his homeland. An ethereal, sometimes-aloof troubadour, González will sing you to sleep and then dash off under cover of night..."
Uncommon Folk:"Minimalism is the word on Veneer. Soft, hushed vocals, immaculate and brilliant guitar picking, and soft and subtle songs are the stuff that make up González’s work... Though very classical in style, though very personal in nature, Veneer sounds and feels new, with the ability to connect with new people and the new emotions of an ever-changing world..."Plenty of UK press to peruse as well: Time Out London: "Veneer displays an intense yet hushed talent, equally in thrall to the floating drone of post rock as to the elegant finger picking of Bert Jansch…"Uncut Magazine: "Mentioning a new artist in the same breath as Nick Drake has become shorthand for anyone with an acoustic guitar who favors melancholy restraint. Such a comparison, however, only hints at the talents of Jose Gonzalez. The Swedish singer-songwriter marries Drake’s mournful minimalism to deftly picked, Latino guitar. The results – melodic purity, a mesmeric rhythmic drive and stark emotionalism – are extraordinary."
Telegraph: "It's not just the dreamily introspective vocal and minor key melodies, the 11 songs of Veneer are all powered by Gonzales's mazily intricate guitar picking. He cites a mix of Beatles, flamenco, bossa nova and classical as his influences, but it's old Nick who springs to mind…[a] melancholy mood leavened by a very Drake-like fondness for playing cat and mouse with the beat."
Mojo Magazine: "Dark, still, yet oddly powerful elliptical folk songs that suggest Paul Simon’s Duncan or John Martyn’s Solid Air adrift in Arthur Russell’s "World of Echo"."
Q Magazine: "Lo-fi folk doesn't get any more exotic. 25-year-old Gonzalez was born and raised in Gothenburg to Argentinian parents, grew up listening to bossa nova and Joy Division, and deftly picks at his classical guitar with a flamenco flourish, singing in a hushed voice somewhere between Paul Simon and Nick Drake. Luckily, he's also very good. Occasionally, as on the gorgeous Heartbeats, his sparse music –just brooding guitar and double-tracked vocal—is uplifting. But the bulk of this 30-minute journey is downbeat, a little bit suicidal, and the most intimate music you'll hear all year."
All Music Guide:"Don't let the name fool you; singer/songwriter Jose Gonzalez is the Swedish born and raised son of Argentinean parents. His debut album, Veneer, is a striking collection of hushed and autumnal indie pop bedroom songs that reside on the hi-fi end of the lo-fi spectrum. Gonzalez is definitely a member of the "quiet is the new loud" school as founded by Elliott Smith and the Kings of Convenience. Veneer is about as intimate as they come; it sounds like he is sitting right on the end of your bed singing just for you. At times, Gonzalez is a little more forceful than most of his schoolmates, often working himself into a tightly spinning ball of emotion (as on the driving "Lovestain" and the bluesy "Hints"). At these moments his voice is reminiscent of Mark Kozelek, only without the wild flights of pretension. Mostly though, he is content to cruise along on mellow vocals double-tracked behind gently plucked and strummed acoustic guitars. The beautiful "Heartbeats," "Deadweight on Velveteen," and the gently rollicking "Stay in the Shade" are the high watermarks of a remarkably focused and promising debut."
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Thank the god/dess I decided when I started this blog only to review music, etc. that I enjoy. Life is too precious, etc to waste on negativity. On that note I introduce you all to a complete delight - Christoph Meyer's 28 Pages Lovingly Bound With Twine. Yes it is bound with twine! If there is a more likeable zine publisher / writer, I can't wait to meet them, because Christoph is so personable in his writing I often feel like he is writing to me, personally. Actually Christoph has written to me, real letters! Christoph does not have email and intends to never go the way of electronic correspondence.
From issue #6 "My writing is idiosyncratic and not aimed at a mass audience. 28PLBwT is merely an outlet for me to publish what I feel moved to write. I just write what I like, send it out into the world where maybe someone will find something in it they like." This zine is a handmade labor of love, a work of art, and a joy to discover. Send $4 cash for the latest issue (#13) to Christoph Meyer PO Box 106 Danville OH 43014. Now!
Lauren Eggert-Crowe produces the well written zine Galatea's Pants ... issues of which come in various sizes and page counts and include everything from essays regarding the serious state of our consumerist culture to anti-war concerns, numerous illustrations, poetry, personal stories, articles on 'beauty', media, zine reviews and much more. For this aging hippie it's refreshing to know that the indie revolution is in good hands. Check out the Galatea's Pants website and order a few issues!
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Ker-bloom! is published every two months by artnoose, a non-capitalist, progressive thinking craftsperson from San Francisco. Ker-bloom is very small (about 4 X 5 inches) and 12 pages each issue and made with loving care. Each issue contains a personal essay written by artnoose that relates an event or situation (from epic to banal and everything in between) and how it relates to the bigger picture in our culture. Ker-bloom is letterpress printed in an edition of 250 per issue.
I can't say enough about this zine which is so uniquely a labor of love. Although artnoose's writing sometimes lacks in emotional depth, she makes up for it in passion and spirit. Recent copies are available from www.parcellpress.com
Saturday, September 10, 2005
One area of DIY media that I intend to explore more fully in this blog are "zines" ... usually low-tech self published magazines of varying content.
Zines have been around as long as the printing press. In the modern sense, zines arose on a number of fronts during the 1950s and 60s when inexpensive reproduction methods became more widely available to everyday people: poetry / literary magazines became more widely published thanks to Beat Generation writers; civil rights and political zines sprung up during the 1960s; music zines pressed into the forefront as the VietNam War rolled toward US pullout and punk/radical politics zines were all the rage shortly thereafter. Concurrently, very personal zines evolved that focus on a writer's experiences & reflections sometimes enhanced with fiction or poetry mixed in.
My favorite place to order zines is from Parcell Press at www.parcellpress.com. Taylor is a writer/publisher of a fantastic zine called Cultor-Sore. Taylor also runs a zine distribution service. The website is easy to navigate, informative, and includes a decent variety of zines. I have found Taylor to be very personable and highly recommend both his zine and the distro service.
Review of Cultor Sore #16: Taylor draws the reader into Cultor-Sore #16 immediately with his engaging writing style. This issue is written entirely by Taylor and is filled with reflections, vignettes and stories from his life. He says in the introduction “Everything in this zine is real. When I step away from this paper I can really hear my neighbor yelling at his dog. I really can suck into my lungs the salty gusts of wind that drive up from home. I really do worry a lot, celebrate a lot, miss people I love, and think about them endlessly. I really am me, and I really am here.” Every page in Cultor-Sore crackles with energy because Taylor’s writing is evocative and descriptive. He also includes interesting zine and music reviews. Order this issue from Parcell Press and prepare to be immersed.
Please stay tuned for more postings on zines, shortwave radio, pirate radio, my humble radio projects, musical excursions, and other forms of enlightenment!
Stolen Sharpie Revolution is an essential guide to creating your own lost cost zines. This guide is simple to read, logically organized, and full of useful tips for DIY zine publishing. Information abounds on photocopying techniques, doing creative layouts, mail art, zine ettiquette, distributors, homemade paper, starting/working a distro, how to put out a record, how to make your own envelopes and stationary, binding ideas, cures for writers block and a list of resources. The price of this book is only $4!
Stolen Sharpie Revolution gets DJ Frederick's highest reccomendation. It is available from www.parcellpress.com or www.microcosmpublishing.com
The zine revolution is literally in your hands. Creative expression is not a spectator sport!
Monday, August 29, 2005
This is something I definitely want to turn readers and listeners onto: The Elemental Chrysalis is music by Chet W. Scott (RUHR HUNTER) & composer James Woodhead. The cd is housed in a 6" X 6" X 6" gatefold sleeve with wonderful woodland / psychedelic mushroom art. Musically The Elemental Chrysalis is unlike anything I've ever heard - and that is one of the highest compliments I could give a recording. The Glass Throat website states "Ponder one of Ennio Marricone's gloomy "spaghetti western" folkscapes, fused with a deeply unsettling Alexandro Jodorowsky film score! "The Calocybe Collection" is pregnant with "heavy" Elizabethan classical orchestrations & acoustic hallucinatory funeral drones! Imagine a Victorian Pink Floyd collaboration with a band of woodland gypsies, performing acoustic funeral doom!!! A beautifully intense experience, conjuring vast forests of fog quilted mushrooms & darkened paths of self discovery!!!". What more is there to be said?
This is music of powerful quietude and quiet power. Very earthy and very ethereal.
Instrumentation includes guitars, piano, cello, theremin, dilruba & more. Check out The Elemental Chrysalis & other excellent recordings at www.glassthroatrecordings.com
Monday, August 22, 2005
Robert Moog, the inventor whose synthesiser electrified the 1960s, dies of cancer aged 71
By David Usborne in New York
Robert Moog would not be expecting pipes or strings when friends and admirers from across the music world assemble in Asheville, North Carolina, tomorrow to bid him farewell. If there is to be Bach at his memorial service, please let it be switched-on Bach, created with currents of electricity.
Just four months after he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, Moog, the inventor of the series of music synthesisers that bore his name and helped to revolutionise modern rock sounds in the mid-Sixties and Seventies, died at his home in Asheville aged 71 on Sunday.
While other synthesisers may have been available, it was the Moogs to which bands and performers almost invariably turned. The Beatles used a Moog to record their last album, Abbey Road.
But more than anyone it was Walter Carlos - now Wendy following a sex change - who turned the Moog into a mainstream alternative to traditional instruments. His 1969 album Switched-On Bach, a collection of Bach pieces played with Moog machines, became the first classical album to go platinum. In 1977, we vibrated to the first completely Moog-synthesised pop hit, "I Feel Love" by Donna Summer.
Musicians chose the Moog because of the unique quality of sound it created. It soon began to serve as a solo instrument, particularly for artists such as Manfred Mann, Yes and Pink Floyd.
"The sound defined progressive music as we know it," said Keith Emerson, keyboards player with Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
It was back in 1954 that Moog first started his unusual career, building and selling so-called theremins with his father. Originally invented by a Russian of the same name in 1919, the theremin was a box that made strange musical sounds when the artist waved his hands between two protruding tubes. Ten years later, using new solid-state electronic technology and with the help of a New Jersey composer, Herbert Deutsch, he invented and marketed his first Moog Modular Synthesiser.
He can have had no idea at the time how far it would catapult popular music into its electronic future. According to friends, he never felt like a musician or a star himself. He was just a technician.
He sold his Moog-making company in 1974, just as the popularity of the new synthesisers was peaking and before they were somewhat overshadowed by new digital sound-making machines. But the Moog sound never died and was kept alive over the ensuing years by progressive rock musicians such as Brian Eno and Frank Zappa as well as the Cure, Fatboy Slim and Stereolab.
Last year a documentary film about the inventor, simply called Moog, was released with tributes to him from a range of artists including DJ Logic, Money Mark, Mix Master Mike, Jean Jacques Perrey and Rick Wakeman, formerly of Yes.
Meanwhile, in recent years the musician Charles Carlini has been promoting a festival in his honour in New York City called Moogfest.
"He's like an Einstein of music," Mr Carlini said, shortly before Moog's death. "He sees it like, there's a thought, an idea in the air, and it passes through him. A lot of people don't realise what this man brought to the masses. He changed the way we hear music."
After spending much of the Nineties as research professor of music at the University of North Carolina, Moog returned to running a full-time electronic instrument business, opening his latest company, Moog Music, just three years ago.
Four other inventions that changed the musical world:
The piano was developed in 1709 by Bartolomeo Cristofori di Francesco. Unlike the harpsichord, where the strings are plucked, the piano is a percussion instrument, which uses hammers to create the sound.
The saxophone was invented by Adolphe Sax, and first exhibited at the 1841 Brussels exhibition. Originally intended as an orchestral instrument, it has transformed jazz.
When the solid-body electric guitar first became commercially viable in the Fifties, Gibson approached the guitarist Les Paul to help develop a more stylish version. The Les Paul Model, as it was originally called, has changed little since its debut in 1952.
The first Drumulator appeared in 1983, followed by drum machines from Linn and Oberheim, which paved the way for bass-heavy electronic music such as drum 'n' bass and house.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Popol Vuh became a group at the end of the 1960's thanks to
the figure of keyboard player Florian Fricke, who was also interested in the cinema. They recorded mostly in the 1970's
but released LPs sporadically through the 1990's.
With their first record, Affenstunde, the group (in that period it was just a trio with Holger Trulzsch on the percussion and Frank Fiedler at the sinthetizer) was included among cosmic music of Tangerine Dream but they distinguished themselves by their remarkable spiritualism. That record was the first one made by a group of rock music using the big Moog (not the mini-Moog).
Their next work In Den Garten Pharaos signed a more radical division between their own music and the clichè of cosmic music. Title-track begins with an apocalyptical atmosphere, an emphatic organ and chorus overture such as King Crimson; but percussions, wich are less and less linear up to become a psychedelic effect of frenetic noises and the prolonging organistic "wall", made that endless swoon a supernatural experience. So doing Fricke blends epic chaos of A Saucerful Of Secrets (noisy percussions plus ghostly choir) with indian mantra ecstasy.
Having disowned "black" tribalism of teutonic rock, Vuh is a masterpiece of atmospheric and celestial spiritualism, it is quite similar to a grave and humble church music. It is a rustling noise, a no time electronic vocalism, a tabla whispering with paradisiac notes. This ceremonial goes slowly in a disquieting emptiness according to the millionary rhythm of universe. Fricke's music explores metaphysical dens towards the essence of things looking for the interior sounds of oriental guru.
The best exemple of this new expression has been given by the Hosianna Mantra mess. Fricke's liturgy gives up to the magniloquent electronic of Tangerine Dream and discovers a more intimal and closed tone where cosmic music is considered universal harmony instead of sketch of science fiction, a "fioretto francescano" instead of symphonic hurricane, just like catharsical human music. Fricke's acoustic mysticism approaches ancient and modern music obtaining right music to space catacombs.
Hosianna Mantra's miraculous balance between sacred and profane, liturgic and laic, future and past, is the first one in popular music history (nothing to compare with Electric Prunes). Fricke (piano) and his classical group (Conny Veit, guitar, Robert Eliscu, oboe, Fritz Sonnleiter, violin, Klaus Wiese, tamboura, and Djong Yun, soprano from Korea) create a dreaming and crystal atmosphere, weak and fading, perfumed and charming. This group can be considered a small ensemble of chamber music.
The emotional crackling of instruments and slow melodies contribute to the restoration of natural order, in the name of a revision which refuses violence as instrument of liberation and leads to a state of huge ecstasy. Ah! intensive opening notes of piano seem to communicate at a distance with cembalo and violin so to build up a complete repeated scheme with infinitive variations.
Kyrie is an oniric whispering and its struggle lirics plunge into a thin rain of tamboura, piano and oboe. Eponymus mantra is a nervous crescendo of heavenly chords fluctuating without cohesion and dominated by oboe's melodies. Oboe is the leading instrument of Abschied, with a sad melody well connected to Renaissance dance theme, executed in ralenti.
But Segnung and Nicht Noch Im Himmel go back to "freeform" accompainment because of soprano's humble chant, with more and more humble and lyric prayers (in particular the second one, the more celestial and oniric of the whole album), alternating sometimes the guitar. Melody is reduced to the essential, a phrase continually repeated, and rhythm is almost completely inexistent.
Hosianna Mantra overturns the link between rock music and its traditional ispirations, infact they can all found among Indian folk, Renaissance chant, Baroque suite, Gregorian liturgy. Hosianna Mantra is the masterpiece of religious rock too, infinitely more genial than raga rock of Santana and others.
Accompanied by the devoted Daniel Fishelsher and by always different musicians, Fricke compose the mystic trilogy of Seligpreisung, Einsjager und Siebenjager and Das Hohelied Salomos, all extracted from sacred books. Having left the radical ascetism of the masterpiece, the music uses a compromise, but preserving its own simplicity.
Letzte Tage Letze Nachte, in trio again, finally changes direction, looking for a more easy and rhythmical sound, although lyric and maestoso. The monumentality and the arcane fascination of this suite link toghether to the requirements of cinema. Not by chance, Fricke becomes a devoted partner of director Werner Herzog, and composes many soundtracks for him ("Aguirre", "Kaspar Hauser", Coeur De Verre", "Nosferatu", "Fitzcarraldo", "Cobra Verde"). The best ones are Aguirre (in two parts) and Sohne Des Lichts (from "Nosferatu").
Later Fricke composed faint works, in particular Die Nacht Der Seele with Renate Knaup (ex Amon Duul) as singer. He comes back to Hosianna Mantra inspiration with the Tantric Songs, a collection of small chamber mantra and melodic sketches such as Harold Budd style (Listen He Who Ventures). The long Brothers Of Darkness has got a kind of unique brightness that is not evident in the first works, although its singing is sterile, according to a new tendency in the new age era.
Agape Agape suite (on the eponymous album) and Take The Tension High (on Spirit Of Peace) represent a period of transition ending with kinematical sound of City Raga, with Maya Rose as singer, Daniel Fischlscher at the guitar and Guido Hyeronymus at the keyboards.
Popol Vuh was an important band for having reacted to the cosmic monumentalism of german rock works of mere lyric suggestion, recovering a way of making music within the rhythm of ancestral origin.
Friday, August 12, 2005
Because I love a variety of music it's easier for me to explain what you won't hear on Seldom Heard Radio. What you won't hear: rap, 95% of what has been called "country" music (since 1975 anyway), gospel music (though I have played less heavy handed Christian bands before) commercial pop ala Britney Spears, and klezmer music. Everything else is fair game.
I prefer "indie" music ... non-commercial music of all genres performed by people who have a passion for their craft. I also go wild for psychedelic folk music which has been called wyrd folk. During any given broadcast you could hear anything from R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders to the Thievery Corporation all in the same set!
Monday, August 08, 2005
A few months ago, Jeremy Pisani sent me a copy of his self-released debut cd which will soon be issued by Spirit of Orr. I listened to it a couple of times and placed it in my "must play on Seldom Heard Radio" stash of cds but haven't actually revisited the cd until recently. Recorded between 1996 and 2003, this selection is a gem.
The cd opens with "Starry Sky" which is like listening to a radio broadcast from another time magically intended for your ears only. The next piece "First" opens like a dreamy raga and evolves toward deeper meditations. By the 5th track "Green Hill Beach" we move into a bluesy psychedelic freakout that segues into a quiet electric guitar passage. The 12th track is a mystery track that is reminiscent of Fischbach & Ewing's underground classic 3LP set A Cid Symphony.
This Red Favorite cd is psychedelic folk music at it's purest and resonates a timeless quality to immerse yourself in. For more information please see www.redfavorite.com.
Jeremy is also involved with the cd-r label Elefantplatte Records which is unearthing some very cool seldom heard music from the vaults of the mind. These are the types of projects that I feel like a little kid in a record store when I come across them ... it's a warm glow to know someone is re-discovering this excellent yet obscure music and releasing it in the DIY spirit.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
The evolution of new Wyrd Folk Music by Mark Coyle
Chapter 1 - Let's Awake The Green Man
With this article we will explore the emergence of a new alternative folk music, often called for want of a better description, ‘wyrd folk’. This music builds on the foundations of bands like Incredible String Band, Pearls Before Swine and Vashti Bunyan from the 60s and 70s to create a new more personal folk derived music that brings in a range of influences from outside. Often strange, psychedelic, mystical, exploratory and sonically more ambitious than the original form, this music takes the tradition into new realms.
This is not a form of folk music that grew from the folk clubs, reads the folk magazines or has connection or often is more than casually aware of important past and current traditional folk artists. In the strict sense much of it is not traditional folk music as purists would know it, but the instrumentation, crafting of the songs, the telling of stories and the outsider position often adopted all use this form to help the artist express their vision. With the strict need of the media to tag music with genres, we hope that being associated and part of a new folk evolution will help them find natural audience and in turn refresh the music reflecting it’s continuous change over previous decades.
The media overuse of the phrase 'wyrd folk' to try and pigeon hole these artists unduly restricts them and we use the term merely to draw a comparison between the alternative acoustic music of the sixties and the possible similarities of recent artists in intent and sound, even is this is unforeseen and accidental by the artist.
We hope to show in the article that the current explosion of interest in this music is not new but has been evolving for twenty years from the underground. Inevitably we cannot cover every artist in such an article but we have attempted to be reasonably broad in coverage and to give a feeling for the evolution of the genre. Indeed this site was developed to provide a linkage between folk music old and new and to make more explicit its context and relevant to old traditional customs and folklore (of which more here).
As we explore the new folk related artists we do not support or express any views on the religious, spiritual or political aspects of any artists.
In 1980 folk music was withering, the rise in folk rock in the late sixties and early seventies had given rise to some chart success but the commercial focus had moved ever onwards to progressive rock, punk and new wave. In the era of emerging cheap synth-pop and two minute bursts of electric guitar energy folk music suddenly seamed old fashioned. Traditional folk music had continued in the pubs and clubs it’s image by now was of fingers-in-the-ear and beards for the mainstream. Folk music was ignored, ridiculed and deemed irrelevant. As the eighties progressed new wave gave way to indie and power rock and artists such as Shirley Collins retired. A revival in folk music did not seem close at hand....
The Evolution of New Wyrd Folk Music by Mark Coyle
Chapter 2 - All The Stars Are Waking Now
UK underground artists who appreciated folk music were starting to emerge, informed by interests in the evolution of society, spiritual development, the gothic and sometimes magical exploration.
In particular the inspirational song-writer performer David Tibet previously of Psychic TV and 23 Skidoo with his band-project Current 93 originally created a series of personal, exploratory, atmospheric albums from the mid-1980s onwards that fused folk, gothic (in the original sense of the word), strong use of imagery and experimentation. New comers should check out 1992 album ‘Thunder Perfect Mind’ as good introduction to what became tagged ‘apocalyptic-folk’. So unique and new was his sound and style that it inevitably influenced others both in the UK and overseas. However David Michael (dropping the 'Tibet' name) is now taking Current 93 in a new direction, towards a positive, life embracing approach that moves on from the earlier explorations.
Around this time a number of UK artists emerged with elements of this apocalyptic folk music such as Death In June. Tony Wakeford of the band subsequently left and formed the band Sol Invictus charting his own personal explorations, also playing in Current 93. These artists produce highly conceptualised works that are not folk based but use elements of the form mixed with spiritual and complex political thought. Also worth checking out from this era are The Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus who also produced intoxicated, doom filled folk that is surprisingly Christian in outlook.
Also associated with David Tibet back in the early 1990s and having contributed to Current 93 albums were a number of artists. Fire and Ice is a band led by Ian Read also sometimes of Sol Invictus and Michael Cashmore’s Nature And Organisation. Nature & Organisation did a couple of albums in particular ‘Beauty Reaps The Blood Of Solitude’ which contained dark apocalyptic folk and a definitive version of Willow’s Song from The Wicker Man at a time when the original was more or less unavailable. Pantaleimon also supported initially by Tibet recorded lovely, largely instrumental albums of drifting, almost ambient folk.
The early imagery of some of the so called 'apocalyptic folk' is based on a feeling that Western society has failed and that rampant capitalism is removing our humanity. They were exploring a feeling that Western society is in a consumer goods fed slumber, removing the free will of the people and hence their ability to realise personal potential. Therefore the people need confronting out of their complacency and to challenge the decline of their society. The decline of the 'West' is at the heart of the music and the alternative model offered by a diverse Europe in contrast to the USA approach is explored. However often all forms of oppression such as political bureaucracy or organised religion are seen as part of the problem. There is a feeling that the simpler forms of existence prior to modern complex society may be a more viable approach to living. This decline of society, a removal of societal structures back to simpler models is the 'apocalypse' at the heart of the music. Over time this generalisation fell away and artists began a long personal journey not only into the state of their external environment but also regarding their own evolution as people, the internal drives and frustrations inherent within them.
It is impossible now to generalise, each artist is expressing a personal approach or ethos. The level of frustration and anger by the artists varies, some use allegorical imagery and a need for spiritual reawakening via non-conformist techniques as their approach. Other are more direct and see this as a battle of wills, showing people the oppressed society they live in via totalitarian imagery, with some artists talking about renewed European war to confront this hypnosis over the populace and revival of 'old' traditional models of living. This is not meant literally in almost all cases but is a symbolic struggle, a call to awakening rather than a crusade.
Exploring sentiments that are meant to be empowering but using confrontational imagery or themes can mean they are interpreted literally and associated with the very topics they decry such as fascism (another organised oppression). To be best of our knowledge this is not the case and they are working at a symbolic level, using techniques to shock people in the same way punk did (which this is in part an enduring continuation). In its own way it's a continuation of the punks using swastikas but usually in a more subtle (and hence easy to confuse) way. We do though we feel that any exploration of a folk 'purity' must be done with caution if at all as it leads towards confused areas that became associated the far-right and nationalism, topics we repudiate at the site (and the musicians themselves are not affiliated with).
We therefore advise people exploring this area of music to set it in the context described above and not to take it as a literal expression of political intent. Indeed these artists often abhor politics themselves and if they have in their impetuous youth been drawn towards extremities of politics and expression, as they mature and leave these flirtations behind they enrich their creativity with a more intelligent, insightful creative debate about the position of modern society.
In terms of the UK, the concept of 'apocalyptic folk' is a broadly historical one, there was never a scene as such, just artists working together who has since developed further. They gradually have each evolved a more personalised expression, often centred around spiritual growth. For example Current 93 themselves quickly left behind these qualities and moved towards personalised, stark folk ballad confessional style that evolved the form in an individual way gradually seeming to grow beyond their early explorations. We particularly look forward to their future output with the focus on a more positive approach.
In mainland Europe an entirely separate area of folk related music emerged which was explicitly more dark by intent, using Norse paganism and seeking a direct link beyond simpler society to ancient, even savage models. This is often called 'folk noir' or even 'black folk' (especially as many of the musicians were previously involved in the black metal area of music). Here it does seem that the artists 'mean it' and their lyrics are all the more disturbing. This is music we feel particularly uncomfortable with and generally do not cover at the site.
The eighties also saw other artists emerge who would prove helpful in bringing forward a climate that would slowly become more receptive to folk music and the psychedelic once again. In the UK Dead Can Dance combined medieval music with elements of folk and soundscapes to help give credibility to a more acoustic, alternative sound. In particular on tracks like 'Black Sun' they were creating a new style of doom filled acoustic music with direct parallels to folk music. Lisa Goddard would go on to solo success, notably on the Gladiator film soundtrack and Brendan Perry works in production and also solo.
Also important then and now was musician Martyn Bates formerly of experimental independent pop band Eyeless In Gaza. From the late 1980s onwards he has combined lonesome avant-folk music with cold isloationist ambience across a wide series of albums. A mid-period album of his that brings together many qualities of his work is ‘Glistening Praise’.
Things had also started to slowly turn in the mid-1980s as some artists sought a different path to the spandex-rock of the time. With acoustic rockers The Waterboys recording a folk oriented album in Fishermen’s Blues and in particular a mystical last track that was a stunning version of W.B. Yeats’ ‘The Stolen Child’. Suicidal Flowers combined sixties garage pop and folk music ballads and other artists emerged later from the festival circuit combining progressive rock, folk touches and celtic or pagan stylings elements such as White Willow and Morrigan developed a new pagan influenced folk-rock music.
In Japan the psychedelic folk band Ghost were starting their long journey into mind melting rock and lysergic folk captured brilliantly on the Pink Floyd-folk combination of 'Snuffbox Immanence' . This Mortal Coil also did a quite sublime version of Tim Buckley’s ‘Song To The Siren’ with Liz Fraser of Cocteau Twins singing that created a new highly atmospheric approach to folk.
Folk music was still a long way from the mainstream but these first formative developments and a revival of interest in artists such as Nick Drake would sow the seeds for the growth to follow.
Note: for much more of this article (four more parts!) please see the Color Wheel blog at www.colorwheeljournal.blogspot.com
Monday, August 01, 2005
The Folklore of the Moon – May’s “Flower Moon!”
This month’s 3” cd-r offering from Hand / Eye’s subscription series is by “In Gowan Ring” and offers 21 minutes of entrancing and enchanting folk-psych. Five tracks that blend and flow into one another … This is music for an ancient future, or from deep within an oaken grove. In Gowan Ring can be found on the web at www.ingowanring.com
For more information on the Folklore of the Moon series, contact: Hand/Eye PO Box 131 Glenville PA 17329-0131 or visit www.somedarkholler.com.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Prominent in my record collection is one of only 1,000 copies pressed of Greg Murray's debut 7" vinyl EP released via Elefant Records in Spain. I read about this record some time ago while browsing Tonevendor www.tonevendor.com for new vinyl releases (if you have browsed this blog you probably realize I'm a vinyl junkie) and bought a copy based upon the description alone. Often my intuition pays off and this time was no exception! Greg Murray's songs embody everything I enjoy about indie music - deeply felt lyrics, inventive melodies, songs that keep playing in your head long after the first listening. The first song "Go Honey" is timeless, with a hint of psychedelia that might have been right at home on AM radio back in 1970 yet is completely original and engaging. "Edge" features folk-ish guitar, harmonica, and minimalist druming that weave together perfectly. All four songs on this EP illuminate and expand one's musical consciousness. Greg has recorded several other EPs (equally excellent) and a more recent full-length CD "Tymes Ten". For more information including free MP3s (thank you!) check out Greg's informative and comprehensive website at www.gregmurray.co.uk
Thursday, July 21, 2005
One of the things I hope to accomplish with this blog, as well as my radio broadcasts, is to broaden readers' / listeners musical horizons. I want to turn people on to the very overlooked indie "band" The One AM Radio. The One AM Radio is the moniker of songwriter / musician Hrishikesh Hirway & occasional guests. His songs are heartfelt, introspective, bordering on melancholy and minimalism ... with beautiful melodies and sentiments, sometimes swells of strings or (mostly) unintrusive electronic effects.
I've managed to obtain most of The One AM Radio's recordings (several are out of print). "Night Falls" is my favorite, a split CD-EP with the Wind-Up Bird and its standout track "All That I Can Recall Is the Haunting":
i could not see the horizon
the seas had swallowed up the skies
the wind died down, and the world turned silent
the fog rolled back before my eyes
diffuse blue light swelled all around us
like water at once both clear and deep
i called to you over and over,
but you would not come out from sleep
voices rose up in a chorus
in a song of longing and what could be
i closed my eyes, but i could see you
oh Light, please stay with me.
For more info on The One AM Radio including mp3 downloads visit www.theoneamradio.com