The NBTMusic Review 142

review 143

The Random Playlist Experiment

Older Reviews (1 – 123) can be found here

So I thought I would try something different, Take three very talented, very different artists, throw all their new songs into a folder and let my player spit out the music at will, and I will attempt to convey my emotional, my sensual, my heart’s response to what hits me, and for three tracks from each artist I shall discover what private movies are created, what memories are triggered. I shall leave the technical dissection for other worthy critics; they have my permission, to conduct strenuous autopsies upon the verse and chorus of each song.

The three albums I will listen to are:

Monsters by Dudley Saunders (Strange Troubadours)

Tokyo’s Fifth – Tokyo Rosenthal (Rock and Sock Records)

Long Way Home – Max Carmichael (Independent Release)

So as a famous pair of lips once said in a cult film one dark rainy night, ‘’let’s get to it boppers’’

The first track up is Rosenthal’s ‘’What Did I Used To be’’ a reflective dark start to the proceedings.  3AM fragile where sunrise seems a lifetime away, and the hope that kept the younger man going seems in short supply. What surprises is how gentle this is, perhaps this is how depression hits us not with blunt force, but cloaked in sweet melody.

Saunder’s ‘’ What Rats Are We’’ stays in that temperamental time zone,  part of the night where time slows to a crawl, but this is  jazz romantic, neon sign reflected in puddle moody, kinda hip as the ghosts of Marlon Brando and Miles Davis are evoked. These too are lost men, but watch for the proud tilt of the head, the small wicked smile.

And so we leave the street and enter a packed club, An impossibly cool band whose members all look like Max Carmichael are playing on a tiny cramped stage, the song is, ‘’ Yellow Mud’’, we think of the Beatles, but not in Hamburg, rather in CBGBs, Jonathan Richman looks on and takes notes, a yuppie in the corner is loudly demanding a coloured drink, perhaps because his girlfriend is paying too much attention to the band.

Speaking of the Beatles, Tokyo takes back control of their ‘’Helter Skelter’’ but with none of the affectation of U2. This is country fiddle joyful, recalling a glorious time in the mid 70s when the American charts were full of country rock boogie, sing along anthems devoid of guile, you know, like when the Doobie Brothers were NOT slick, NOT polished, and there wasn’t a genre called adult contemporary.

Carmichael’s ‘’Plateau’’ comes skipping in, keeping the party vibe going, Everly Brothers overdosed on Paul Simon sanctioned subliminal afro rhythms, the singer enjoying the insecurity of sunshine through clouds,  we feel we are on a roundabout ,things become a pleasant blur, tension and giggles in equal measure.

Dudley Saunders brings back the fear, but oh how tactile, stirring seductive he makes it, in ’’ The Man In The Game’’ we cuddle up nervous next to one of his curiously broken characters, find an understanding for the approaching horror, glory in the detachment, this is how nightmares should be written, not with screeches and bombast, but rather with a slightly dangerous empathy.

Rosenthal’s ‘’Waste Of A Heart’’ with its traditional Oprey feel, and shy lilting harmonies from Andrea Connolly, makes us wish that Leonard Cohen, had written more Country songs. Regret and acceptance he moves out towards the dawn at last

In ‘’Zero Out (In These Boxes) ‘’ by Dudley Saunders,  we discover how memories can trap the soul, how powerful inanimate objects can be, as if they are magic, that just by looking at them, taking them out of that box in the attic or the top of the cupboard, they bestow the not  completely welcome gift of time travel. This for me is the most personal track on this album and all the more beautiful for it.

And finally we head down into Max Carmichael’s ‘’Rifted Valley.’’ What amazes me here is suddenly we are no longer in the artist’s beloved New York post Punk Loft dreamscape, but somewhere deep in that intellectual alt Americana that folks like Andrew Bird inhabit. It is fitting that this is the last song of this random journey, because the music is epic, growing, dense and like all that we have heard today, full of ideas, but never disregarding the raw emotion of it all.

Find out more from these artists right here:

http://www.tokyorosenthal.com/tokyo_rosenthal/home.html

http://www.dudleysaunders.com/index.php

http://www.maxcarmichael.com/

And you can hear LOADS of tracks from these three albums on the NBTMusicRadio 24 hour stream

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The NBT Review 135

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.

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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 130

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

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The NBT Review 127

older reviews (1 – 123) can be found here

Native Sons (deluxe reissue) – The Long Ryders

by Cobus Rossouw AKA 88KOS

Reviewing a reissue of an important and influential album from 1984 is a very challenging prospect for someone who has never heard the original. Some of the greatest albums ever made cannot stand outside of the context of their time and so it’s worth pausing to reflect on the history surrounding The Long Ryders’ “Native Sons”

By 1984 the genre of country-rock had been reduced to a pale shadow of its potential. While bands such as the Eagles had produced memorable songs and had advanced the style in terms of popularity, lyrical content had suffered and so this music had become associated with an anodyne middle-of-the-road sensibility.

Bear in mind that by this time The Sex Pistols had been and gone and the charts were filled with Culture Club, Keny Loggins and Lionel Richie. By the end of 1984 a day-glo Wham would plead with us to wake them up before they went.

The Long Ryders’ Native Sons entered into this market perception with a set of songs that, musically, embraced every riff, bassline and phrasing in the country-rock canon albeit with far more lyrical meaning than their immediate genre predecessors. The impact of the album was such that it peaked at number 2 on the NME Indie Charts in 1985, only kept out of the number 1 spot by Meat is Murder.

Look no further than “Ivory Tower” for this content. In two verses the Ryders sum up today’s slacktivist culture as if they had been privy to some prophecy.

In their version of Mel Tillis’ “Sweet Mental Revenge” I hear tribute to the vocal style of David Byrne, in “Tell it to the Judge on Sunday” there are moments when the voice of John Lydon calls out instructions and “Wreck of the 809” could have been included on “Sandinista”. The music on this pays homage but stands on its own feet, stands tall.

It’s a fascinating album, always surprising and filled with meaning. This is a band that could play anything, in any style. From the bass on “Wreck” to the banjo on “Never got to meet the mom” every instrument is appropriate and perfectly played. This combines with a vocal capability that manages to reference (as far as I’m concerned) every significant vocal contribution in the preceding 30 years. On top of that they do this without ever sounding like a gimmick, everything blisters with intensity, the Long Ryders mean every word.

I should have listened to “I had a Dream” in 1984.

you can tracks from this album all over the 24 hour stream of indie music that is The NBTMusicRadio and you can loads of cool 88KOS songs too!

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The NBT Review 124

welcome to the new home for album reviews of Artists featured on NBT

older reviews (1 – 123) can be found here

 In The Lonesome Hours – Oh My Darling (independent release)

 Four souls collide, the voices the music drifts out from this luscious explosion, soothes but also, with cheeky attitude exhilarates those dancing muscles, the old time waltz part of your brain, that is seldom ignited. In seconds you take for granted that these are virtuosos, modern musicians covered in history, who take the old and fashion a new way of looking at it. They create songs that stand alone in any genre, are careful and thoughtful with lyric creation, with mood and texture, Four souls collide for sure, but this is no accident. They were, are, driving straight for your heart.

 In ‘Caught You looking’ they do something rather clever, the split time into two channels, there is the fast frantic giggle time of the barn dance swirl, and then there is the slow smile of a couple, two strangers, attracted, wondering, if the connection will be made that night.

 This affection for the characters that inhabit the tunes, adds colour and a deep warmth to creations that already, even on first listen, feel like old wise pals.

 Even when touching on subjects like the death of a loved one, its more about the freedom, the release than the burden, they dare to concoct something uplifting, but tempered with insight, knowledge and calm, even in their most giddy girl moments.

 This is an album that finds joy within the drama, and some of these tales are as dramatic as old man’s late night tales, or snatched pages from battered westerns. They mix the ‘big’ themes, like war crime and money with the internal, intimate encounters of the analytical spirit.

 And oh how they have fun doing this.

 Highly recommended.

 Find out more here

http://www.ohmydarling.ca

 You Can hear tracks from this album on the NBTMusicRadio

http://nbtmusicradio.playtheradio.com/

iTunes: NBTMusicRadio

 and also Featured on the NBT Flagship Podcast going out this Sunday.