I am not often left speechless, especially when it comes to me having an opinion about a piece of music. But it has happened, just now. Well, it has been two days of putting the music on endless repeat till my brain cells formed around every nuance, every shimmer and every guitar note.
I am referring to the EP ‘In Waves’ by Franz Kirmann & Roberto Grosso on the label ‘Days Of Being Wild’. The EP doesn’t arrive till April 9 of this year, but the single ‘Saudade” came out on February 12, and I can’t get enough of it.
Franz Kirmann is a seasoned musician and producer with an impressive resume. A rich and diverse background has seen him produce numerous compositions for a variety of high-profile projects, including the score for the BBC/AMC series McMafia and BBC4 Storyville documentary Locked In. Franz Kirmann has been releasing music since 2006, both as a solo artist and with composer/multi-instrumentalist Tom Hodge with their electronic/post-classical crossover project Piano Interrupted. Between 2012 and 2016, Franz released three solo albums and three Piano Interrupted albums (primarily on German label Denovali) and touring around Europe. In 2009, he founded the electronic music label Days Of Being Wild. French producer Franz Kirmann has now teamed up with Italian artist Roberto Grosso to deliver their new single ‘Saudade’, lifted from their forthcoming collaborative EP ‘In Waves’ through Kirmann’s Days Of Being Wild imprint.
The music they have created is the perfect chill recipe. I have put this on repeat and indulged in surfing the internet, working on my hobby of building dioramas and even reading a book. The music ebbs and flows, and there are moments when I have to hit pause on whatever I am doing and focus on the music. Back it up and play that section again. Good, now hit play and repeat. And my day passes with ‘In Waves” moving in and out, around and about. It has been a good listen. Indulge yourself and give this ‘Saudade’ a spin, put April 9 in your calendar and listen to the whole EP ‘In Waves’. You’ll see what I mean once you get their groove going in your headspace.
What album do you think of when a person asks you ‘what is your favourite Jeff Beck album?’? I quite imagine most people answering that question would say, ‘Blow By Blow’, or ‘Wired’. A few brave souls might include ‘Roger the Engineer’, the only Yardbirds album that featured guitarist Jeff Beck on all tracks. Jeff Beck was very prolific with something in the area of 17 solo albums to his credit. He also collaborated on dozens of albums, way too many to list here, go to Discogs to see them. He also has nine live albums to his credit with one album from that list that I have to say is my favourite Jeff Beck recording.
That album is ‘Jeff Beck with the Jan Hammer Group Live’. I doubt very much is this recording makes to many other lists, favourites or otherwise. So what is there about this recording that makes it my choice as favourite Jeff Beck album?
Jeff Beck is a guitar wizard and likes to play live, showcasing his licks. He also enjoys collaborating with other musicians in live venues. He also jams with other musicians and bands and feeds off that creativity and spontaneity. This album, ‘Jeff Beck with the Jan Hammer Group Live.’ checks all of the boxes and comes across as an excellent live recording.
Beck’s guitar skips around the beats laid down by Tony “Thunder” Smith on percussion and Fernando Saunders on bass. Steve Kindler and Jan Hammer on all manner of keyboards and synthesizers flow throughout the album supporting Beck on his trusty weapon, his signature Stratocaster. There are times when they bounce off each other in a magical jam session that builds and showcases their immense talents.
Something to be aware of when listening is this bit of trivia that I found on Wikipedia, the stereo spectrum of this album duplicates the stage set-up with guitar positioned centre-right, keyboards centre left, violin right and drums and bass centre stage. I like the instruments’ interplay and how they seem to move across the room between my speakers. I found it best to sit as close to centre stage as possible and avoid distractions so I could fully appreciate the soundscape coming at me. I would give this recording a solid 4.2 out of 5 stars. Definitely worth the time spent listening to it.
Here we are, it’s 2021, and new music is coming out in defiance of the remnants of 2020. Some of that music is for quiet moments of reflection. Music that sets aside time to take stock of where we are, and where we are going. Still Corners are one such musical entity; they make music for the times we find ourselves living and their new album Last Exit is coming soon.
Still Corners. That is a decent name for a band. It is easy to read, it is easy to remember, and they use a sensible font. Still Corners, yeah, that’s an alright name. I wonder what is means!
When I do a review of an album, I will usually listen to it a few times to get its feel. Then I read through the lyrics while listening to the music again—then researching begins, reading about the artists and visiting their body of work up to their most recent release. In this case, that album is Last Exit by Still Corners. I got lost in this album, and for two days I listened to it over and over.
I eventually reached this moment, and I am still listening to it while I write. Still Corners got me hooked for several reasons. One is because they sound a bit like another favourite band of mine, Cowboy Junkies, another excellent band name, right! Do yourself a favour and listen to The Last Exit and then check out The Trinity Sessions by the Junkies. The voices of Margo Timmins and Tessa Murray sound similar through my old ears. Still Corners also channel Sergio Leone and the spaghetti western vibe. Rome by Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppie also get a nod for being into that vibe.
Enough of that rabbit trail lets talk about The Last Exit. It is good music. Full stop. Tessa Murray and Greg Hughes are consummate musicians whose music has the power to send me to pleasant places. Amid our current world, this type of music is…well, music to my ears. On top of their musicianship, Still Corners also write some right smart lyrics. Tessa explains, “There’s always something at the end of the road, and for us, it was this album. Our plans were put on hold – an album set for release, tours, video shoots, travel. We’d been touring nonstop for years, but we were forced to pause everything. We thought the album was finished but with the crisis found new inspiration and started writing again.” It was in this context that songs like “Crying”, “Static”, “Till We Meet Again” were written, reflecting on the impact of isolation and the need for social contact and intimacy.
Last Exit, new music for a new year, check it out at these internet addresses:
Distancer is the new album from Hiatus, which will be released March 12, 2021. The London-based British-Iranian producer has given us ‘Arrival’, a single and video from that album to whet our appetites.
‘Arrival’ is music that haunts, excites and called out for me be hitting the repeat button over and over. The track features a spoken rendition of a poem called ‘The Guest House’ by the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi, words that Cyrus says lend the ‘Arrival’ a powerful message of hope. It also lends ‘Arrival’ a statement that good music transcends time and place. And make no mistake about it, this is good music.
“For me, the poem is about how as humans we are subject to thoughts and feelings that seem beyond our control, the result of animal instincts that connect us to the origins of life on Earth. I find myself bombarded with complex thoughts about my relationship with others and the world around me, many of them judgemental and negative in nature, all of which have their roots in a handful of behaviours that throughout evolution have ensured our survival – paranoia, pride, anger, ambition. But the poem suggests that there is a world outside of the stories of our lives, and though we can never be entirely free of the behaviours that define us as humans, we can connect with something much larger, and find liberation through recognizing that it is us, and we are it.”
It’s a message also conveyed by a stirring video, which features live-action footage shot by Owen Tozer in Tokyo, London and Kathmandu, alongside cosmic animations created by AI artist Nathan Shipley.
“The visuals are created using a Generative Adversarial Network (GAN),” says Nathan, “an algorithm designed to learn and generate patterns. We trained the GAN using images of cells taken through a microscope and also star formations taken through a telescope. This enables the GAN to dream an infinite landscape of new cells and star formations and also morph between the two. This ties back to the message of the poem: showing a connection between our elemental selves and the larger universe, which seems so alien and outside of us, yet which is made of exactly the same stuff, and came from exactly the same place.”
Cyrus began producing electronic music while working as a journalist in London in the early 2000s. In 2005 he was living with his grandmother in Tehran, spending his days working for an Iranian newspaper, his nights sifting through his dad’s old records. On his return to London he began work on ‘Ghost Notes’ (2010), an album featuring samples from many of those same records, and channelling the timeless melancholy of Iranian music. Despite being self-released, the album met with acclaim – tracks like ‘Sightless’ and ‘Insurrection’ received mainstream radio play, the latter voted single of the week on Steve Lamacq’s Roundtable on BBC Radio 6 Music.
In 2013 he followed it up with ‘Parklands’, a record featuring several vocal collaborations, including ‘We Can Be Ghosts Now’, the stop-motion video for which won Best Animation at the 2013 UK Music Video Awards. Four years later he released ‘All The Troubled Hearts’ (2017), an album-closing with ‘Delam’, featuring his father reciting and translating old Iranian poems, the story behind which Cyrus recounted in an article for the Guardian.
In 2019 Cyrus was introduced to Faraz Eshgi Sahraei, an accomplished player of a traditional string instrument called the kamancheh, and his wife Malahat, a talented singer, both recently relocated from northern Iran to north London. Over several months, the three met regularly at a studio in Brixton to record the songs that would eventually comprise ‘Distancer’, Cyrus’ fourth album.
As a result, ‘Distancer’ is Hiatus’ most Iranian album so far, crowning a process that began long ago; it also closes with another contribution of Iranian poetry from his father. Yet it is also a record liberated from the melancholy of past releases, channelling instead a sense of awe informed by the meditation, psychedelic experience and reading that in recent years has helped Cyrus deal with bouts of depression. It is a record offering hope at what can feel like a hopeless time, and one perhaps best embodied by Rumi’s closing words on ‘Arrival’:
The dark thought, the shame, the malice:
Meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes,
Because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
I hope you enjoy this album as much as I have. ‘Arrival’ gives a great big shout-out that Hiatus has indeed arrived.
Following on from his ‘12 Songs Of Summer’ project, which has seen him release a new song or remix every month for the past year, Swedish musical troubadour David Alexander aka Summer Heart has now returned to announce the details behind his latest EP ‘Ambitions’, which arrives on 6th November 2020.
Having been performing independently for over eight years, Summer Heart is now signed to the renowned Swedish label Icons Creating Evil Art. With an already impressive roster under their belts, the imprint is set to become a welcome home to the frontman’s breezy and lovable direction.
Much like his work to date, his latest collection looks to take influence and inspiration from his everyday life, which has always given him an extremely down-to-earth and relatable style of writing. Filled with his bright and euphoric aesthetic, each track looks to tell the story of the man behind the name, giving us a more humbled and intimate feel to his direction.
Written between his recent trip to California and his hometown in Malmö, Sweden, the frontman treats us to a blend of personal tales in his lovelife, to just letting himself go and experiencing life as it happens. While singles like ‘Ambitions’ and ‘Black Jeans’ tackle the anxieties and insecurities of what to do next, the EP’s closer ‘Motorcycle’ sees him in renewed spirits, shaking off past experiences and letting himself feel free once again.
But continuing to keep his cards close to his heart, this new release is still filled with all the romantic ventures he is known for. With ‘Good Together’ seeing him pursue that bright and elegant dream-pop sound we all know and love, the EP’s opener ‘Ambitions’ and closer ‘Motorcycle’ act as the bookends for this sweeping new journey. Bringing a sweet and effortless energy throughout, they mark the beginning and end of an emphatic journey that looks to cement the same positive direction that landed him his first record deal.
Speaking about his new collection, he said, “Before going on tour I always make sure to wrap up all the work I have postponed or ignored so I can come back to a blank slate. But since my tour got cancelled it was the first time in my adult life I actually didn’t have anything to do. It was very freeing and I could sit down and think about what I wanted to create and what I had struggled with in the past. I realised I’ve just wanted too much and never really been able to slow down and see things from a different perspective. The EP itself is about having high ambitions and wanting to do so many things at the same time but not always knowing where to put your focus.”
Summer Heart’s new EP ‘Ambitions’ will be available to stream and download from 6th November 2020 via Icons Creating Evil Art.
wassailer – someone who proposes a toast; someone who drinks to the health of success of someone or some venture
Wassailer – the pseudonym of the artist, Will. Formerly of the band Evergreen (previously known as We Were Evergreen), a French alternative indie-electro-pop trio. The band formed in Paris in 2008 but relocated to London, UK, in 2011 and that is were Will now lives and records.
Will honed his skills as a musician through the four EP’s and an LP that We Were Evergreen released, Will now based in Lewisham is finding his own identity influenced by South East London’s jazz and afro scene.
Weaving his style with songs that land somewhere between Irish trad and popular grime, Will tackles a plethora of social malaise and the lack of empathy behind humanity’s behaviour.
Will, as Wassailer, delivers a very forthcoming album. Commenting on it he explains “I’ve managed to tell the story I wanted to tell, the way I wanted to tell it, starting with the newest song I’d produced, and finishing with the eldest and most personal piece I ever wrote… It’s very intimate and very political. I could not have been more honest, clumsy, passionate, very me.”
From the debut single ‘Son’ Wassailer returns to unveil the atmospheric single ‘242’. Accompanying the single “242” is a lyric video featuring Wassailer himself, sitting at the top of a 242 bus, the video overlays with distorted time-lapses of the journey. Commenting on the video, he says: “I went back to East London to shoot some time lapses with my phone, sticking it to the upper deck front window of the actual bus 242. I was obsessed with the raindrops trickling on it at night, creating these psychedelic colour fx with the traffic lights. That’s basically as blurry as what’s going on in my mind most of the time.”
Will is building suspense in anticipation of the release of his solo debut full-length LP, ‘i, the bastard’ which will be released via Empty Streets Records on January 27, 2021. You can get a sneak peek through the links to his singles, see below. I managed to get a preview, and I can honestly say that this is a killer album. January 27, 2021, mark on your calendar and listen to his single till then.
Six songs on the new EP from Tungz titled “Why Do Anything?”
I don’t know why we do anything, like “What For” man?
Six is the natural number following five and preceding seven. It is a composite number and the smallest perfect number. Just because it’s small is no reason to treat it like “Somebody To Get Shy With”.
Don’t be shy, “Go Out”, buy a six-string guitar and make music for your friends. Then after you are famous and selling tons of records, there is no reason to say “Can’t We Just Be Friends Again”?
We need to stay close, to “Touch” each other, to be “Emotional” but not cold and distant.
We don’t need to have six degrees of separation between us.
Our relationship can be full, as prosperous as the six whole notes in an octave. Let’s keep the distance between us small, as small as the six semitones in a tritone.
Let’s stop writing in abstract forms. The EP, “Why Do Anything” from the Bristol-based band Tungz is a smooth listen. Dabbling in electronica, R&B, and even touches of funk, make these tunes a pleasant listening experience. The variety of music kept me listening intently to find what came next as each song played out. ‘Why Do Anything?’ came out on the 30th of October via Heist or Hit. Do something, listen to this EP, you will not be disappointed.
Way back on Sept. 16, 2020, I posted a favourable review of the single “Breakfast Again” by Owen Meany’s Batting Stance. Today I have been listening to the album that that single came from, Feather Weights.
I searched high and low for a definitive definition of feather weight. For the single word “featherweight” it was easy to find, it is a boxing classification for contestants between 54 and 57 kg. and by analogy, it can be anything of little weight including an insignificant person or thing. A definition of “feather weight” was more challenging. It could be an individual that consumes a small amount of alcohol and is intoxicated, or it could be a scrupulously exact weight so that a feather would turn the scale.
For Daniel Walker, who is the alter-ego of Owen Meany, “The featherweights are the heavy burdens that we place on ourselves that are imagined, or that we can create by overthinking,” says Walker. “Trying to reconcile with gut instinct versus an anxious mind.”
That’s me in a nutshell, overthinking the deeper meaning between “featherweight” and “feather weight” and resolving nothing other than giving myself an anxious mind. Carry on then, shall we?
Daniel starts the album Featherweights with what should become a Canadian anthem right up there with Stompin’ Tom Connors “Hockey Song”. It also has one of the best song titles ever, “The Androgynous Hockey Stick”. Isn’t that an excellent handle for a song! As a youth, I was a featherweight hockey player, so my career only lasted to my 13th birthday when I found out that everyone else on the team outweighed me, outskated me and out checked me. I focused on writing after all the pen is mightier than the hockey stick.
Next up is He(art) Attack, which makes a nice bookend with “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modest Mussorgsky.
Further along the meandering tracks of this album, we come to “Car Attack”, a new single for Owen Meany’s Batting Stance. This groove hugging ode to our fixation for automobiles, Daniel Walker tells us: “This is a song about how humans often will put more time into vehicle maintenance than upkeep in a relationship. The song dwells on a used car in a junkyard as it re-tells old adventures and hopes for the chance at a new one.”
We encounter several more exciting songs; you need to explore them; it is well worth the time spent. The album closes with “Breakfast Again” which Daniel Walker tells us “is about the emotions: the worries and resolution that come with no
longer sharing a life with someone important to you.”
This album is no featherweight or feather weight for that matter. It is a well thought out and crafted piece of art. The lyrics give you pause to wonder what Daniel Walker is writing about, for example, what’s up with “Empty Vespers”? In conclusion, I found this to be enjoyable to listen to, and I nominate it for my end of the year list. This album comes with the bonus of a rather enjoyable video: 1https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MV3_ESlSbBI&ab_channel=OwenMeany%27sBattingStance
Our brains are marvellous repositories of life experiences, including music and every time we listen to a piece of music bits and pieces of it get stored in our long term memory. When I hear some new music, my brain wants to associate this new music with something concrete, a piece of music that I have listened to previously and stored in my medial prefrontal cortex. The more I listen to an album, the stronger the neural connection and the easier it is to retrieve that memory.
I have spent the last week listening to “Chewing Gum”, the soon to be released EP from Promise And The Monster, aka Billie Lindahl. My brain has been trying to make associations between this new music and bits and pieces of older music strewn throughout my prefrontal cortex. I feel that there are bits of Enya swooping and swirling about, listen for it on the song “Vykort från förr” and the title track “Chewing Gum”. Her use of bass lines that build the music up to create tension shows a connection to Orinoco Flow in my brain cells.
There are also healthy doses of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, most evident in the use of cello on the track “One Summer”. Listen for it on Nick Cave’s album and the title track ” And No More Shall We Part”.
Billie Lindahl learned the cello at school playing Swedish folk music. My remarkable brain neurons through some feat of molecular engineering that I do not understand made a connection between Swedish folk music and Australian alt-rock, go figure.
I keep thinking of Maryanne Faithful as I listened to this new music from Promise And The Monster. I don’t know where that comes from, but I can’t seem to shake it. Let me know if you can hear it, and where if you do.
I heard echoes of Enya, Nick Cave, and Maryanne Faithful, on the other hand, Billie Lindahl tells us that she took her inspiration from Nick Drake, Kaki King and Elliot Smith. I only know for sure that Billie Lindahl sounds a lot like Promise And The Monster and that is a good thing. I also know that after umpteen listens, Chewing Gum is permanently stuck in my brain.
After she debuted her EP Antaktis in 2007 at the age of 18, Billie Lindahl kept very busy over the ensuing years releasing her solo music, as well as under her alias Promise And The Monster. She also collaborated with like-minded musicians such as Alcest and This Gift is a Curse.
“Feed The Fire”; her third full-length album came out in 2016, produced by Love Martinsen. In 2020, Martinsen joined Billie to co-write her upcoming material. The new songs explore a less introspective side of her psyche, with an emphasis on the tongue-in-cheek nature lurking beneath a veneer of earnestness.
On the signing news, Billie tells us, “I’m so pleased, together we can take this in a great new direction. I used to like writing quite cryptic stuff, but I tried hard this time to get out of that safe haven and be more direct. The new songs often express the feeling of being that last person at the party, dancing slowly in the background, waiting for something to happen. Like a sad moonlight disco.”
While the label Icons Creating Evil Art added, “We are thrilled to welcome one of the most iconic voices in dark pop to our evil art family. Promise and the Monster has been working right beneath the surface and in the shadows creating the most beautiful world of her own. It’s time we invite you all to share it with us!”
I invite anyone reading this to listen to the EP “Chewing Gum” when it is released. The single “Closed My Eyes”, is available wherever fine listening is offered.
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.