Dead Can Dance members Lisa Gerrard and Jules Maxwell have teamed up under a new guise with James Chapman (MAPS) to create a studio album, titled ‘Burn’. The record began its journey more than seven years ago, when Lisa met Irish theatre composer Jules Maxwell before working together for the first time. ‘Burn’ is set for release on 7th May 2021 via Atlantic Curve.
Speaking about the origins of the album, Lisa Gerrard explains, “It is with great pleasure that I share this collaboration with Jules Maxwell. Jules and I began our creative journey with Dead Can Dance. We realised that we could connect through improvisation and that musical exploration continues to evolve with this present work.”
Although this record is a new release, its beginnings go all the way back to 2012 during that year’s Dead Can Dance world tour. Originally brought in as a live keyboard player, Jules Maxwell helped create a new song with Lisa Gerrard called ‘Rising Of The Moon’, which was performed as the final encore of each show. By the time the tour finished in Chile in 2013, a strong affinity had begun to develop between the two of them and further opportunities to collaborate with each other resulted over subsequent years.
In 2015, when Maxwell was asked to submit songs for the Bulgarian choir The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices (Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares), he approached Gerrard to co-write material and travelled to Australia to work with her in her home studio. The pair came away with four new songs for that release, as well as the building blocks for this new venture together.
Jules describes the introduction to James Chapman.
“About a year later, over dinner in Sofia after a concert by the Bulgarian women, my publisher suggested to me that I work with James Chapman on completing the BURN songs. James had established a sound with his band MAPS, which also had big horizons at its core, and it seemed like an intriguing proposition to me.”
With Chapman joining the duo as producer, ideas began to be generated freely and over time a distinct sound for their work began to emerge. Their focus was to create a sound that was both euphoric and compelling, more inventive than what they had worked on separately in the past. From gentle beginnings, each track builds and intensifies, creating a hypnotic experience to listen to from start to finish.
With Lisa remaining in Australia, Jules adding his keys and percussion from France, and James bringing new light to the sound from England, the three were literally worlds apart, but those worlds fused in the music.
Recently, Jules Maxwell also released his debut solo album ‘Songs From The Cultural Backwater’, Lisa Gerrard received a Grammy nomination and returned to Dead Can Dance to release the group’s critically praised ninth studio full-length ‘Dionysus’, and James Chapman released MAPS 4th full-length album ‘Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss’.
Stylistically, the new album ‘Burn’ is a diverse mix of electronica, alternative, cinematic soundscape and world music with hints of early Vangelis. Accumulatively, this is a stunning departure for all three of them.
Lisa Gerrard and Jules Maxwell’s new album ‘Burn’ will be available as of 7th May 2021 via Atlantic Curve.
I have gotten into the habit of documenting my listening habits over the spaces of time to seeing if I could glean anything meaningful from those statistics. With over 500 unique albums listened to over the course of 2020 I had some sifting and sorting to do.
Did I find anything worth writing about? I think there are some insights that can be gleaned from these lists. For instance, which albums did I listen to the most based on the year they were originally released?
The top spot in that category was taken by the year 2020 with 96 unique albums listened to. This statistic did not surprise me in the least because I like listening to new music. Second place was 2019 with a significant drop to a mere 19 albums, not as many as 2020 but these were still relatively fresh and deserving of another spin around the turntable.
For third place I took a big jump back to 1971 and 1978 with 18 albums released in each of those years that I listened to. The next three most listened to years are all in the 1970s, which came as no surprise to me. In 1970 I turned 16, got a summer job and bought some records with the money from my first foray into the working world. In 1973 I graduated from high school and two days later got a full-time job with a decent salary that helped feed my appetite for music. After the 1970’s my listening jumped all over the place from 1958 to the present.
The next stat is for how I listened to all that music. Thanks to Covid-19 and isolating at home I decided to go through our vinyl collection, starting at A and going through the alphabet. I didn’t listen to every album but I did listen to 210 slabs of vinyl. iTunes came in second with 146 albums that I listened to. I only listened to three cassette tapes in 2020 and no 8-track or reel to reel tapes. I should mention that these statistics are all for full albums, I do not keep statistics for single releases or album samples.
The next category is for the most listened to artist in 2020, and the winner is Pink Floyd, with eight albums in 2020 that I listened to. ‘A Momentary Lapse of Reason’ was the only album with two listens, which is interesting to me because I am a huge DSotM fan, 1973 right!
Second place was Daniel Amos with eight albums and two listens to their album ‘Mr. Buechner’s Dream’. These two come as no surprise to myself or anyone who knows me, the two artists are longstanding favourites for me.
The most listened to album goes to ‘Greatest Hits’ by Various Artists. This happens every year, for some reason I like listening to compilation albums such as this one from K-Tel, which I bought in 1973 from the Hudson’t Bay store in Grande Cache shortly after I graduated from high school, if my memory serves me well there were only about a dozen of us in the grad class.
After that there was a log jam for the most listened to albums of 2020 with these all tying for the top spot:
‘Hermit of Mink Hollow’ by Todd Rundgren
‘Lateralus’ by Tool
‘Shades of Deep Purple’ by Deep Purple
‘Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs’ by Colter Wall
‘The Beatles’ by The Beatles, aka ’The White Album’.
The final observation is for the 2020 album of the year award.
Wait, I don’t do album of the year awards.
What we do have are some of my favourite listens from 2020, with a heavy emphasis on the word some.
Bob Dylan: ‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’. I saw him live in concert in 2017 and that was not a pleasant experience, this album restored Dylan to my good books.
Gwenifer Raymond: ‘Strange Lights Over Garth Mountain’. I had never heard of her before this album came out, and now I can’t stop listening her. An achingly beautiful album.
Colter Wall – ‘Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs’
Colter Wall came roaring out of Saskatchewan playing honest country and western music and with this, his third release, he builds on what the first two laid down and then upped the ante.
Speaking of good C&W music, Sturgill Simpson – ‘Cuttin’ Grass ‘, entertained me for hours.
Sturgill Simpson is like Colter Wall in that I have been listening to his music since he released his first album back in 2013. His newest, ‘Cuttin’ Grass’ is both a departure and a return. It is different from his last release and similar to his first. I have played this on vinyl, and it sounds incredible.
Lucinda Williams – ‘Good Souls Better Angels’ I am a latecomer to Lucinda Williams’s music but having found it I only want to hear more and this release sounds might fine.
Neil Young – ‘Homegrown’ I have been listening to Neil Young’s music since the day before forever. This is reminiscent of some of his early stuff, more acoustic and folky.
Steve Earle and the Dukes – ‘Ghosts of West Virginia’ All I knew about Steve Earle was his big hits, Guitar Town and Copperhead Road. Until last year, when I started streaming some of his music, and then this album came out and now I have my ear glued to his music.
The Avett Brothers – ‘The Third Gleam’ I keep ‘Emotionalism’ and ‘The Carpenter’ in fairly steady rotation, at least once a year and now this recording will start that round dance with them.
Colter Wall, Sturgill Simpson, Lucinda Williams, Neil Young, Steve Earle and The Avett Brothers are all to the Country and Western music of today in same way that Willie and Waylon and the boys were to the Nashville establishment back in the ”70s. Outlaw country isn’t dead; it’s alive and well in the hands of folks such as these.
Kronos Quartet & Friends – ‘Long Time Passing: Kronos Quartet & Friends Celebrate Pete Seeger’ The Kronos Quartet hasn’t laid down a lousy album, ever. This record is story telling at its finest.
Shabaka and the Ancestors: ‘We Are Sent Here By History’ This album is jazz, new jazz, attention-getting jazz. Smooth and raw and emotional. It is good music, nothing more and nothing less. I also nominate this for album artwork of the year. It is stark but it conveys a message by forcing us to focus on what is shown.
This brought to mind the album cover of ‘Unknown Pleasures’ by Joy Division, stark but striking in the same way. I also listen to ‘Unknown Pleasures’ frequently.
I hope you have enjoyed your 2020 musical experience, if nothing else it provided a soundtrack to the year through the gift of music. Some of these albums created a distraction away from the shit show that 2020 was. Demi Lovato created the best commentary on 2020 with her song‘Commander In Chief.’ Music also provided more than a few moments of pure pleasure. For each of the artists in this list and to all of the artists that I listened to but who didn’t make the final cut, thank you.
Lockers, an EP by the band White Jackets is my new favourite band that I know nothing about; they went to the top moving Jazz Sabbath from the #1 spot. A/ White Jackets are from Finland, that’s a good starting point, I have Finnish in my DNA. B/ They are a two-person band, that’s nice. I have listened to some excellent music played by two-person collaborations over the years, and these two guys do more with two guitars than some bands manage with four people. C/ They live in Vaajakoski, a small town in south-central Finland; there are more people in the community that I live in than all the people in Vaajakoski, Finland. D/ One of the people in this musical collaboration is Jussi Petäjä. From his Facebook page, I have found that Jussi is an incredibly gifted musician who has kept himself busy with numerous music projects. E/ I like their music. I have listened to this EP, Lockers, six times. End to end. The front end opens with Locker 65, a right smart instrumental that features some solid grunge guitar work over bright guitar accents, drums and assorted other noisemakers. We then listen to four well-crafted songs with lyrics that speak about the human condition, i.e. love found and love lost with lots of confusion between those two. The EP closes with Locker 57, a nice bright instrumental that is closer to shoe-gazer than grunge, and it leaves us with fond memories of the music behind it.
Harvey tells us: “Everyone’s got good memories of picking up a recorder or triangle in school, so we used lots of instruments. Davey brought along some shakers; there’s also a ukulele, woodblock, kazoos & a kalimba. My school instrument was the flute, so we put that in too.”
“I was walking to my job as a barista one sunny day in North London and saw some little go-getters selling Lemonade outside their house. I thought that was really cool and reminded me of when I used to make Lemonade from a lemon tree we had in the back garden. Anyway, I had a charity shop acoustic that I kept upstairs at work & I wrote the song on my break that day. Some songs take weeks, months and even years to write, but Lemonade only took a few hours. I think that’s how you know it’s a good tune – just totally uninhibited, like the song was already in me somewhere, or in the air that day! In terms of its lyrics and meaning, there’s not really much to analyze, haha. There’s a nice Gremlins reference in the first verse which makes me happy. In terms of production, with the help of wonderful producer Charlie Francis, and awesome session musicians Davey Newington (Boy Azooga) and Matt Evans (KEYS), we achieved this cool ‘classroom’ sound. Everyone’s got good memories of picking up a recorder or triangle in school, so we put in loads of fun instruments. Davey brought along some shakers, so we used all of them. There’s also a ukulele, woodblock, kazoos & a kalimba that Charlie keeps on his desk for good measure! My school instrument was the flute, so we put that in too! If you listen closely, you can even hear a kitchen sink. Enjoy!
Lemonade is available to stream now, with Phwoar & Peace.
This is a great sone with a great video to round it out. I present for your viewing pleasure: Crawford Mack and his new single/video, Firing Squad.
Following on from the release of his gracious love ballad ‘Depends on Where You Stand’, we see a change in the singer, as he swaps orchestral melodies for downtempo acoustic stings in his second offering ‘Firing Squad’. Building a sharp momentum using melodious gentle guitar riffs and a rhythmic drumbeat, ‘Firing Squad’ explores the power of a guilt-ridden conscience that one might feel due to their own behaviour; specifically targeting the action of mistreating others.
Accompanied by a short film conceptualised by the songwriter, the new music video directed by Liam Hendrix Heath, borrows heavily from space oddity era Bowie and Stanley Kubrick; following an astronaut’s journey through suburbia and his past in a jarring, mirroring the claustrophobia and hidden menace of the track.
The lyrics draw on the use of power to oppress the powerless and were inspired by a reference in a William Mcllvanney book to the blindfold used in firing squads being to spare the shooters seeing the condemned eyes. The teacher in the film embodying a particular personal memory for Crawford.
Discussing the new music video, Crawford tells us: “I didn’t want to go for something obvious with a literal ‘Firing Squad’ and soldiers because I think I’ve seen plenty of that in music videos before. Liam and I spent a long time over lockdown talking through what the song was about for me, until one day out of the blue, he came up with the idea of the astronaut walking past tableaus that are flashbacks of his life. The idea grew from there until we started to create our antagonist teacher character for the final face-off.”
Swedish synth act Kite are releasing new track Bowie ‘95. It’s an ode to being lost, and the existential dread that comes from having to engage with the ‘real world’. Made up of singer Nicklas Stenemo and keyboard player Christian Berg, the band tell us “The lyrics addresses both the feeling of guilt of not being more part of making the real world much better, but also the acceptance that music and escapism have an important role to play in people’s lives.”
Like recent single ‘Teenage Bliss’ the new song has been produced together with Blanck Mass (Benjamin John Power). The pair tell us that “When we started Kite the band F*** .Buttons were a big source of inspiration to us. Since then we have been following Benjamin John Powers brilliant music as Blanck Mass. We are now extremely excited to announce that we are working on the production of two new Kite tracks with him.”
The band have brought their projection filled, brain melting visual live show to audiences in Scandinavia, Germany, the US, Canada and China. It sometimes even includes cats shooting laser beams out of their eyes, and when their performing their sold our show’s at Stockholm’s Royal Opera House – a 16-piece orchestra.
The pair combine an adventurous nature with pop sensibilities, throbbing beats and an early nineties aesthetic. Their lean approach to songwriting – a methodology of ‘cut the fat’ results in tight, focussed songs that never outstay their welcome.
Back on July 7th, I did a review of Ben Hobbs single, Own Arms, which was in almost constant rotation on my iTunes account. Today I did a proper listen to Ben’s upcoming EP, dropping on July 31st, and I have no problem giving this a 4-star review, that’s four out of four by the way.
In the EP, Better Weather, I hear a bit of Bowie and his Diamond Dogs through to Heroes era. I also feel a bit of an R&B vibe going on in Better Weather. This EP is not mired in the past though. It has a 2020 vibe to it that is very contemporary and very listenable. Better Weather pays homage to the music of the past, but Ben Hobbs is very much connected to the present and is looking forward to better days with his new music on Better Weather.
The title song, Better Weather, gives me hope, hope for better weather in a literal and a figurative sense, our summer where I live has been very wet with minimal warm, cloudless days. The music and lyrics of Better Weather warmed my soul via my ears, thank you, Ben.
Ben tells us that the EP is about “insecurities, life challenges, everything. My girlfriend, the inspiration for ‘How We Care’, the journey we’ve been on together, and how we’ve helped each other. In contrast, ‘Loaded Gun’ is based the idea of leaving your world behind for a new one, partly inspired by what was is happening in UK politics; feeling like we are being lied to by our government.
A vast pool of inspiration that brings us Better Weather by Ben Hobbs. Do your summer a favour and listen to Better Weather. The Better Weather EP will be available to stream from July 31st, 2020.
What we have on the imaginary turntable today is modern pop music at its finest. Explore is a five-song EP by up and coming Swedish artist Discrete, with help from Charla K, on the opening track, Feed Me With Love. A catchy little dance tune with retro synth sensibilities.
At the number two spot is the churning of Typo which spotlights Tudor and Victoria Voss who engage each other in a verbal sparring match with some more smart dance-friendly pop music.
Number three is a Stupid Thing. For real, it is a Stupid Thing, that is the name of the track, Stupid Thing. It features Neville, and together they explore the never-ending topic of love and dating. Discrete tells us that she sent a demo to Neville and her producer and what had once been an instrumental track flowered with lyrics and stunning vocal. Discrete was excited because this was different from anything she had done previously, we are glad for that because this Stupid Thing is irresistible.
Second, to last on the EP is a radio-friendly little number called Better Days. This collaboration with her longtime friend Chris Collins is a catchy synth-pop tune. Taking a different angle to the never-ending love story this is about long-distance love and the challenges that come with that.
The closing track Runaway sees Discrete collaborate with well-respected Swedish songwriter Alex Shield, who is launching his projects under the name of KELLYKKE. Combining crisp beats and breezy synths that flow graciously together; Discrete and KELLYKKE explore urges for self-discovery and new beginnings.
Talking to us about the collaboration, Discrete tells us: “KELLYKKE and I met for the first time last summer, and we’ve been working on a lot of songs together since. He came up with an idea for a song using a guitar and his vocals, and before we knew it, Run Away was born. We ended up experimenting until we finally found a middle ground that fitted both of our sounds. I feel humbled that he wanted to release his first single as KELLYKKE with me.”
So there we have it folks, five catchy modern pop, radio-friendly, little summer dance beauties. Summer will be different this year with social distancing but if you find yourself alone on a desert island Discrete has cooked up a nifty EP for you to pass the time until the rescue arrives. Have fun, listen to more music and stay safe.