The NBT Review 136

Published June 4, 2012 by nbtmusic

Older reviews (1 – 123) can be found here

POEMA – Romina Di Gasbarro (Independent Release)

The colours fall from the pitch black, perhaps its summer disguised as autumn, Heaven is haunting internal, delicate shades of a dreamlike hell, overlaid across a jazz seduced thoughtful city, a troubled sweet Joni Mitchell, younger though, darker.

She sings, ‘’It’s no fun, this place I’m in’ but contradicts by starting the song gentle almost playful, her guilt, her sin, isn’t dark storm obvious , rather like the way the light will shimmer on sighing water, captivating and intense, deeply touching without the sad theatrics that too many fumbling songwriters us as their weapon of choice.

In, ‘’Love Life Sentence’’ the writer allows us to dance around the near future of this couple, all is not quite real , all is what might be, there is a taste of fear in the wind, but again her shadows are colours forming from the darkness, flowers floating through the rhythms.

Shape shifting, time shifting into the epic, soothing cinematic edits, the song, ‘’The Foolish and the Good’’ twists, turns, and beguiles, breathtakingly rich in observation, showcasing the intimate and the frenzied, often within one line of perfectly felt verse. It is the sort of song, that the listener does not want to leave, wants that private earphone moment to last through the night.

Because the innovation, the emotion is subtly portrayed, the thrill is in the discovery, you feel the singer sings secrets maybe only you can quite understand, and you are left in that terribly lovely twilight of being almost satisfied and completely desiring more.

A wonderful album.

http://www.romina.ca

You can hear tracks from this album spread all across the 24 hour stream that is the NBTMusicRadio

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The NBT Review 135

Published March 6, 2012 by nbtmusic

Whitehorse – Whitehorse (Six Shooter Records)

Let’s mood swing for a moment into this new dream. Old time radio filtered captured thoughts, a lazy ghost drifting across wild western desert or is this hazy vision really Russian winter bleak? The music hints that both worlds could be here, within this fragile opening.

We are taken from this delicate tension, (almost Wim Wender Serene Soundtrack like) into the echoed dramatic of, ‘’Killing Time Is Murder’’ the ghosts become rock n roll real, a finger snapping delightfully urgent harmonic surge, the girl boy balance fine tuned, so it’s not truck driver macho or even ethereal femme detached, but rather that space in between.

Even when Luke Doucet takes on lead vocals, there is enough of Melissa McClelland’s dream pop sensibility to make these songs a wonderful fantasy version of what Okkervil River might sound like mixed lovingly with Beach House.

What delights here is that, just when you think you have tied down this duo to some genre or other, they jump/dance away from the label and throw in something else. There is haunted rock-a-billy here, there is AM radio power pop,  there are slivers of wounded wondering Folk songs and there is even that old time roots pop that the Loving Spoonful got so very right which makes their version of Springsteen’s ‘’I’m On Fire’’ a natural marvel.

Indeed they construct rare beauty in songs that make the listener think of Ryan Adams for a few seconds, then KD Lang for a few more, while never losing their own trance logic, an ‘other’ worldly shimmer that is their own.

Find out more about this incredibly seductive band here:

http://www.whitehorsemusic.ca

You can hear tracks from this album spread ALL over the 24 hour stream that is the NBTMusicRadio

But specially during the ‘’Essence Of The Song’’ Hours which go out every day

3 and 4 PM Berlin Time for our European listeners (2 and 3 PM UK Time)

And 9 and 10 PM New York time for our USA and Canadian Listeners.

http://nbtmusicradio.playtheradio.com/
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Burner – TERRANOVACAIN (Independent Release)

I confess to have succumbed to the jagged post punk soul of this album, so my thoughts are those of the converted, are purely spiritual , personal, chaotic random and deep as thought can be in the moment of the music, so critical detachment, a cold clear look or listen is not what happens here. But maybe like this collection, it is something more, more true to the ambition inside the rhythms

This is all oiled machine flirting though with the rust of hard use, it is all friction versus the fluid, the darkest sigh against the pounding hammer. It’s Stax era funk, folded smooth into white boy need, jittering and jerking, animated clown, loose limbed new wave under the mirrorball at 4 am in the morning.

It’s disco with abrasive guitars, it’s the Bass as half robot half panther, these songs never stop prowling, disturbing, they are electro shock without terror, but embracing the fear as a wicked jive partner.

These songs are songs of hope from a cynic’s point of view, where defeat is ever on the edge of its seat, grinning with excitement only to be surprised by the magic and love, the ultimate daring of what comes next.

My job is to listen to those that call themselves ‘’Independent’’ and I have noticed how few earn that title.

TERRANOVACAIN wear it with pride.

Find out more:

http://www.reverbnation.com/terranovacain#!

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The NBT Review 134

Published February 27, 2012 by nbtmusic

Physics for Poets: Nick Darcy-Fox

A Review by Helge Janssen

ISBN 9781466462106

Physics, distinguished from that of chemistry and biology includes: mechanics, heat, light and other radiation, sound, electricity, magnetism, and the structure of atoms.

Poet: a person possessing special powers of imagination or expression

This is an exceptionally well-written uncontrite and at times humour-filled tale of seemingly trite White South African life in the dying days of apartheid….into the crossover of the ‘new’ reality…where the relatively sudden adjustment of having to accept that the ‘swart gevaar’ was to be the New Government was as difficult to grasp as any interrupted dream might be. Set in Durban between 1988 and 1990 this is an earnest coming-of-age story of teenage angst as it negotiates a way through sex, drugs and alternative music.

And then a gap in this nightmare: ‘Faces’ nightclub….a fissure enough to affirm a vital perspective.

Relating events is Charl Forth (roughly fifteen in the earlier parts of the story) who is in the throes of realizing that things are not quite right in this land of Nod. Not to mention the omnipresent emotional dishonesty bred through political disinformation that is fostered hand in hand with contorted truth. This reality check is eventually highlighted with the release of Nelson Mandela causing disparate political undercurrents within relationships to become starker: life was indeed very dire hanging at this abyss-edge of total onslaught. One scenario: as Belinda (the girlfriend) and Charl boringly await the release of Mandela from prison (poor T.V. coverage) their dialogue reveals Belinda’s racism and growing sense of threat welling up as a need for sexual affirmation.

The narrative of ‘Physics for Poets’ interweaves subtle allegorical cross linkages and nuances of sexual current/oppressive heat/weather/human behaviour/political change perceptively and craftily within the backdrop of contortions within family life. As such this tale becomes a most poetically inventive, linguistically ingenious, politically left convolution of these problematic times. The over-all dynamic of the text – where sentences and imagery constantly clip-flip into place – gives a sense that Charl is dealing with the intricacies of a South African Rubik’s Cube.

A troubled youth attempting to find cognizance of life’s profound imports while being held in the travails of its ubiquitous cavernous insanity: apartheid – perversely in every nook, cranny, classroom and graveyard. Charl is not only trying to negotiate his way through matric, he also has to face his own demons.

The grim prospects of a warped education system….hell bent on indoctrination….robbing white South Africans of authenticity – is well captured. To not be sucked into the convention needed a cutting edge intelligence counter balanced by a willingness to live in the moment. But, as Syd Kitchen famously said: “South Africa is not for sissies” we realise it is for those who somehow manage to plumb some depth into their psyche honestly, that salvation is possible. This twist of cognizance comes as a calibre that cannot be earned lightly: a spiritual mettle that cuts through the silly double-speak and one-upmanship with deftness….while at the same time realising that the bigger picture is far more serious….if not just a pack of cards so easily collapsible. Charls’ anarchy therefore rests in his spontaneity and he emerges as the antihero not indifferent to the scores he settles (private and political) launching his broadsides with startling accuracy. As such the innate (poetic) mien of his nature is affirmed. He represents the LIFE apartheid tried so hard to quell. The crime (for those who are not aware) is that this is any person’s automatic birthright.

The language is sharp and the sentences bristle with inventiveness and perspicacity. The pace is measured and, as such, creates space for the undercurrent to surface. The situations unfold effortlessly yet surprisingly. I could not put the book down – until closing it with a broad smile on my face. A must read.

ps: the club ‘Faces’ referred to – and experienced – in the novel quite clearly is PLAY at the Community Arts Workshop in Walnut Road. This barn-like building stood next to what became Tilt Night Club and was demolished in 1989 to make way for the multi-story Bureau de Change.

http://www.bookdepository.com/Physics-for-Poets-Nick-Darcy-Fox/9781466462106
10.66

Otherwise the kindle can be found here:
http://www.amazon.com/Physics-for-Poets-ebook/dp/B006NZFX8K/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1329442134&sr=8-8
as well as the actual book here:
http://www.amazon.com/Physics-Poets-Nick-Darcy-Fox/dp/1466462108/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1329442134&sr=8-3

The NBT Review 133

Published January 12, 2012 by nbtmusic

Kara McGraw – Kara McGraw (independent release)
Older reviews (1 – 123) can be found here
The story song is a difficult creature to tame; the writer has just a few minutes to show a lifetime, just a few verses to illuminate adventures and journeys. In many ways it is a skill that comic book writers share, they must distil the story down to its essential essence, move it along with graceful speed even while taking care to keep important details intact and hinting at others.

The story song is a beautiful thing because it allows the listener, (just as well crafted comic books do) to explore the spaces and add their own imaginative constructions, while still reaching the destination the creator wishes. So it is fitting that this collection opens with a song called ‘’ Comic Books and Flashlights’’ A track that has shape shifting magic designed into its DNA.

This set is a complicated undertaking, in which the artist strives to marry the multilayered strands of the show tune to the sensually skinny format of the folk pop missive. (As a side note, I have been listening to Tori Amos’s album ‘Night Of Hunters’ in which she attempts to achieve many of the things McGraw does here, and while finding many delightful parallels, I think Kara gets it right more often!)

The incredibly rich arrangements and orchestration never overwhelm the melodic drive, never move us too far from the girl and her piano, so we sit and listen and are not afraid to get emotionally involved, never feel that this is just music for Broadway aficionados, or Stephen Merritt fans.

McGraw has fashioned a pop album that feels timeless, it could have been dreamed up when ‘Singing In The Rain’ was huge, or selections from this could drive the latest episode of Glee with ease.

You can hear trax from this album spread all over the 24 hour stream that is the NBTMusicRadio, but specially during the hours of  9 PM New York Time and for the European Listeners 3 PM (Berlin Time) which is 9 AM New York Time.
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Find out more here:
http://www.karamcgraw.com/

The NBT Review 132

Published January 12, 2012 by nbtmusic

Living Your Dreams – Danika Holmes (Independent Release)

 

Older reviews (1 – 123) can be found here

It is fitting that this album is the first reviewed of the New Year; because it speaks about the need to pick yourself up and get fighting, get dreaming again, something that the artist needs to do a fair deal as their turbulent lives roll on. During the opening track, Holmes does not shout at us like a pumped cheerleader, all huge smiles and desperation, but rather quietly along a delicate groove, country soul subtle, no self help thing this but rather self aware and so much better for it.

The writer balances this on the title track and the track, ‘’How To Be Beautiful’’ with the realisation that dreams must be personal things as well, that each person must make his or her own way through, the former comes wrapped in a rich and romantic arrangement that should guarantee it a long and happy life on many a radio station.

With the single, ‘’Bluebird’’ Holmes goes all pop ballad stadium on us, the kind of song that the Taylor Swifts of this business would love to have on their next album. Again the restraint and subtle production is a joy ensuring that a grumpy alternative like myself can get into this, just as much as the housewife and the business man.

What we watch here with this second album, is an artist refining what makes her songs work, letting the musicians smoothly have their say, while never losing sight of what she wants to say and how she wants to say it.

This bodes incredibly well for her release after this one, as she leaves behind the internal and  starts to dive into the larger world, but this excellent set will more than suffice for now and will touch many a lucky listener who discovers it.

You can hear trax from this album spread all over the 24 hour stream that is the NBTMusicRadio, but specially during the hours of  9 PM New York Time and for the European Listeners 3 PM (Berlin Time) which is 9 AM New York Time.
http://nbtmusicradio.playtheradio.com/
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Stream thru yr media player: http://listen.radionomy.com/nbtmusicradio.m3u

Find out more about Ms Holmes here:
http://www.danikaholmes.com

The NBT Review 131

Published December 2, 2011 by nbtmusic

older reviews (1 – 123) can be found here

Who Was That Man – Tokyo Rosenthal (Rock and Socks Records)

There is a thrill in the layers. The opening track swoons in, all epic western romantic, bandit style horns pretty and widescreen, the title evoking  old fashioned imagery of musical daring, the mysterious crusader, and then as we listen closer, this is not a song about that at all, rather someone lost, searching, half deliberately distant half pleading for the comfort of connection.

That is what is so enticing about this record, what lies just beneath the picturesque is quietly questioning, emotionally reflective.

‘Saving Or Suffocation‘ a song of quiet personal protest, has a tangible sense of despair that plays against the sweet sad fiddle arrangements, and yet still maintains its beauty as a seductive country pop song. The kind of song that SHOULD be nominated for a Grammy already!

As with all of Rosenthal’s albums, the production (by the singer and the DB’s Chris Stamey) is just right, never over dramatic, never sickly syrup, polished just enough for daytime radio but rough and honest enough for a midnight caress.

When, in ‘Black and Blue’ Rosenthal adopts a larger canvas of criticism (the oil spills) his art and bite is worthy of a Dylan, yet somehow calmer less strident, a voice of reason, troubled yet somehow hopeful.

When listening to a song like, ‘The Librarian’ one can hear the sounds that those left of centre heroes Wilco and Calexico currently create, with a voice that is completely his own. He is so comfortable within these tunes, that even if I heard these in a busy noisy Mall I would know it was a Tokyo song.

The thrill is, that he plays it traditional too, these are Grand Ol Opry concoctions, he never loses sight of what is essential, there are no aimless ramble jams here, all is in service of the perfectly constructed composition.

He just keeps getting better.

http://www.tokyorosenthal.com

You can hear tracks from this album spread ALL over the 24 hour stream that is the NBTMusicRadio

But specially during the hours of 9 and 10 AM (New York Time) and 9 and 10 PM (New York Time)

http://nbtmusicradio.playtheradio.com/
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The NBT Review 130

Published December 2, 2011 by nbtmusic

older reviews (1 – 123) can be found here

The NBT Review 130

Lossless – Lilo (Independent Release)

Reviewed by by Cobus Rossouw AKA 88KOS

Picture © Ryan Joffe

Confession: This album has so many personal touchpoints for me that it is inevitable that this will be a good review. The source of this bias is threefold and relates to the personnel on LILO’s new album “lossless”.

The first is Alexander Sudheim. He has been the genius behind LILO for more than a decade, running through many incarnations. Once, many years ago we shared the stage for two nights, at the Abelarde Sanction and at Silver Creek in Pretoria. He has steadily championed an alt country/lo-fi aesthetic and I rank him alongside Malkmus as inspiration. If you can find “Light me a Lucifer” from 2002, buy it.

Lossless, his latest offering, also features the talents of Chris Letcher and Richard Haslop. Chris Letcher is responsible (alongside Matthew van der Want) for one of my favourite albums of all time, “Low Riding”, and Richard possesses the kind of musical knowledge that means he is always right about everything musically. His print articles are part of my staple diet of music lit and his radio shows (when I managed to catch them) have always been enlightening in their scope and depth. He also plays a truly mean guitar!

So you have a trio of minds; a challenger of convention, a musical savant and a library of all that has gone before, contributing to a stripped down collection of songs. Forgive me if reviewing this effort is therefore slightly daunting.

The songs are, with the exception of “Forgiven” and “To FloreAnne on her 25th birthday”, arranged for guitars and voice. This leaves space for the songs to build an atmospheric tension, the kind you feel before a highveld thunderstorm. Sudheim’s lyrical intensity is undiminished (how do you maintain this kinda output for over a decade?) and his words carry the songs throughout. No mean feat considering there are 17 tracks on this offering. The density of his imagery is such that the album only unfolds after several listens. This doesn’t mean it’s a hard listen, in fact the music is immediately accessible and for an album of such sparse arrangement there is ample instrumental meaning underpinning Sudheim’s voice. Letcher’s skills as an arranger and Haslop’s way with a guitar create the perfect backdrop for Sudheim’s dark muse.

Honestly, sometimes I don’t even know how they’ve achieved this sublime sound. When Butcher Boy unfurls into techicolour rivers of strings (at 1:50), combining, flowing, twining… I find myself transported to a place where only Tindersticks could have taken me before. It’s a heaven that I love, it’s what angels sound like in my religion. If that single minute was all they’d produced I’d still feel they were gods, but this beauty doesn’t stop, each track builds its own character. Take “Sonnet for Tamara” – here the guitar builds from a simple twanging figure over a slide guitar into shimmering surf chords that eventually break into distorted walls of reverb wash. It’s like an anxiety attack that hangs behind the lyrics and it makes my little brain pop.

Lyrically there are recurring themes of circular reference, exercises in futility, failures in understanding. The loves, the hurts, all the despair is carved out in relief, our detachment, our inability to deal with each other in any honest manner, all laid bare. A way with words, Sudheim should get far more attention from the South African music press and I can only hope that more of them will listen to this album.

Lossless is almost entirely flawless. I say almost because there is one track that I simply do not understand. Not the song itself, but the way in which it is presented. It’s a personal feeling, a personal preference that makes the last song on the album a bit of a letdown, but the first 16 songs are of such transcendent quality that I would not be surprised to find that I am alone in this sentiment.

You can hear tracks from this album spread ALL over the 24 hour stream that is the NBTMusicRadio

http://nbtmusicradio.playtheradio.com/
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