Sunday, September 25, 2016

Marlon Williams & the Yarra Benders - Julia Jacklin -- DC9 - Sep 24 2016

Julia Jacklin - Tonight's all Australasian show begins with a singer songwriter on vocals and electric guitar, accompanied with one guitarist for all but one song. Julia Jacklin keeps things steady as there is a moderate pace to the strumming, which makes the vocals a bit more dramatic than they might be, were they lost in guitar wash. The songs are interesting with quiet deep tones and the sizable crowd is attentive, which is nice for a Saturday night. There is good chemistry between crowd and performer with the banter and things are off to a fine start. Julia Jacklin is a fine artist, who is not quite 'out of the pack' of fine performers and ready to take over the world, but has the raw materials to do quite well and the world is in sight.
Marlon Williams & the Yarra Benders - From New Zealand comes this excellent singer songwriter who handles the guitar and vocals and is accompanied with drums, acoustic bass, and a violin. The violin is a great touch (it almost always is) as the runs are occasionally powerful, but more often subtle with delicate feeling added. The vocals are highly expressive and I am really hearing a powerful Ray Davies style storytelling here. That is not easy, but some how Williams has that command of a phrase and control of the vocal rhythms to lift his songs into higher territories than most singer songwriters. Unfortunately my lack of sleep and globe trotting has caught up with me and I am nearly out on my feet tonight. So I cut the set a little short, but saw enough recommend Marlon Williams to all lovers of song, voice, and craft. He has the full package.

Facebook Grab of the Night: I am a sucker for domino fun and this is epic (it's longer than the first Circle Jerks album)...


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Jah Wobble & the Invaders of the Heart -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Sep 23 2016

Jah Wobble & the Invaders of the Heart - After opening with a fine number from their new album, the band kicked in with a ferocious take on 'Socialist' from PiL's Metal Box LP. As my jaw dropped due to both the selection and the incredible version they concocted, I wondered what is next, 'Fodderstompf'? Well, no, that came later to close off a magnificent set by former Public Image bassist Jah Wobble and his superb bandmates. Having missed out on Wobble when he was in PiL, I was looking forward to tonight. But I had no expectations that this would be such a wonderful performance. It did not look good early on, as only 50-90 people seemed to be in attendance. But the excitement was there from the beginning and the energy built steadily with each fascinating song. Wobble played bass and percussion and handled lead vocals when needed. He was assisted with a guitarist, keyboardist, drummer, and a DJ who handled electronics, synth, loops, and samples. The latter two musicians added some vocals on a few cuts as well. Also from the PiL catalog were 'Poptones' and a irreverent 'Public Image' that was utterly fascinating. There were jazzier bits, loads of fascinating progressive and krautrockian moves, and soundtrack cuts as well. He explained he sits around at home a lot and watches a lot of TV and movies, so 'Get Carter', 'Midnight Cowboy'....
Wobble along with Gang of Four's Dave Allen and Joy Division's Peter Hook, pretty much invented the post punk sound of the bass guitar. Big, bold, and in your face. If he had a big hand in the invention of post-punk, I think he is on to post-progressive here. He also shows a nice touch as does his band, who can handle all kinds of tempos and volumes. The band was all smiles as was the crowd and this may have been small, but it was energized, fun, and fully connected between band and concert goers who were there to get immersed. Although small crowds do not help the band or the club financially, it was fun to be a part of such an integrated musical experience where everyone was involved. After a crazed 'Fodderstompf', the crowd roared and received an encore. I was almost back to 1980 with this vibe. For all the hundreds of people who clear their schedule for Public Image or Gang of Four shows, you really missed a gem tonight.

Quote of the Night: Wobble... "Now the bass is the King of instruments. It has no known natural predator--King of the Jungle."

Friday, September 23, 2016

The LAST PREVIEW of COMING ATTRACTIONS

Just about a week left of live music for me, before I pack up and head off to parts unknown. Here are some of the shows I am thinking about going out on.

Jah Wobble plays the Rock'n'Roll Hotel tonight. This is a great opportunity to see one of the most influential post punk bassists.


Marlon Williams hits the DC9 this Saturday, the 24th.


The Renderers ply their trade at Galaxy Hut with Insect Factory opening. This happens on Sunday the 25th.
Seaworthy from jorgedavies on Vimeo.

Jeff the Brotherhood makes way to the Black Cat on Monday, September 26th.


Elliott Moss latches on to the DC9 on Wednesday, September 28th.


Bob Moses parts the seas to journey to the 9:30 Club on Thursday, September 29th. If you want a homier night out with a big name, try John Hall at the Electric Maid. You can ask him about his infamous album cover (he hasn't heard that one before).


And the mighty Poster Children hit the DC9 on Friday, September 30th. I am booked, but wish I was there.


I will be finishing off things with Opeth at Radio City Music Hall on Saturday October 1st. Seems like a fitting way to go, as Opeth does it all' musically.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Roy Harper - Ye Vagabonds -- Usher Hall (Edinburgh) - Sep 17 2016

Ye Vagabonds - Funny, how there are now as many reviews I have written from shows at beautiful Usher Hall in Edinburgh, Scotland as I have at Merriweather Post Pavilion. And if I could travel better, I would love to add more European shows with unique artists that don't make it stateside. Starting off tonight are a classic folk duo from Ireland (where Roy Harper now lives) who mention how fun it has been playing big halls on this short tour as opposed to the usual spots 'at the corner of Pope Street'. They are brothers and had outstanding harmonies while adding a lot of dobro, acoustic guitar, and a bit of mandolin. They showed exquisite command of their songs and tossed in a couple of traditional cuts from Scotland and Ireland. They are following in the fine footsteps of many folk acts of old from fellow countrymen, Tir Na Nog or even Foley & Kavanaugh. Deep thoughtful music that struck a chord with this large crowd. I read that they play at Walsh's of Stoneybatter every Monday night. And if I could see them or even go to any place with the name of Walsh's of Stoneybatter regularly, I would be quite happy.
Roy Harper - I FINALLY get through my travel anxieties and make my way to lovely Scotland to see one of the most brilliant songwriters ever. Thanks to Joanna Newsom for bringing Roy out of retirement a few years ago, and fortunately he decided to do a handful of shows to celebrate his 75th birthday. This is the last of those (aside from an added Irish show in a couple of weeks) and there is a mixed crowd of older and middle aged veteran fans of Harper's unique style and formidable presence.

The songs cover the 1960s to present day. It is a fine song list and is benefited with an outstanding array of support including Bill Shanley on acoustic and electric guitar, a three-piece brass section, a string quartet arranged by Fiona Brice, and acoustic double bassist. The backing is subtle and stays silent as needed with arrangements ranging from full out to 2 guitars and a bass, to just the guitars, to just Roy. Shanley plays carefully seeking delicate sonic touches at times, but will add hefty folk and rock moments when they are required for the song. The bass playing slips into the string sections comfortably or adds that rock backing that some of the Harper catalog uses so well.

But now on to the master songs-man. Roy Harper still has that stage presence that is so riveting with his oddly charming stage patter. He is not as bitter and angry in tone tonight, but you can sense that it still runs deep. He is less the angry man and more the wise experienced man who shares the highlights of his fascinating and full life. He can still carry most of his range on vocals, although there are several senior moments of forgotten lyrics and musical adjustments, that he thanks the band for handling so well. The guitar playing is still exquisite and the full poetry and music of his brilliant songs shines through every step of the way.

My expectations were that this would be a really good show and for much of the time, this was. But there were moments that were absolutely magical where I was fully absorbed into the brilliant music. 'Me and My Woman' has long been a favorite of mine and with the full backing tonight, lifted the lid off of the house as it closed out the evening. His other Stormcock selection, 'Hors D'Oeuvres', was also amazing as it closed off the first set. 'Another Day' is still one of the most touching songs ever, while Roy mentioned that the exquisite 'Twelve Hours of Sunset' may be his personal favorite. Fortunately, the retirement feeling that his encore song choice emoted, was muted with his promise that he would try to return again one day soon. If he can still reach anywhere near these brilliant heights, I hope he can return many more times.

Set List (as best as I can remember, which I believe was the same as other shows on this tour): Commune, January Man, I'll See You Again, Another Day, South Africa, Don't Grieve, Hors D'Oeuvres (set two:) North Country, Twelve Hours of Sunset, Hangman, Time is Temporary, Hallucinating Light, Me and My Woman (Encore:) When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease.

Quotes of the Night: There were many, but here are but a few.

"I corrected myself (on that lyrical phrase) as English is important. Ooops-wrong country."

On mentioning a long time female friend that he wrote 'Another Day' about: "Denmark is like two islands and a peninsula, sort of like me down below."

After someone inexplicably yelled 'Just play a song already' to him... "I will play a song now, but not because you coerce me into it." (huge applause, of course).

RH: "Should I donate my brain to science?"
Crowd: "No... Yes... Not Yet"
RH: (much laughter) "Good one."

Angel Olsen - Alex Cameron -- 9:30 Club - Sep 15 2016

by John Miller
(Ed: apologies for the delay, but I was in Scotland)

Alex Cameron - Strange, minimalist, and weird; all in a good way. He arrives with the least amount of fanfare legally allowed at 930. Accompanied by backing tracks and a lone saxophone, there are uncomfortable moments; almost Kaufman-esque. I can't tell if Alex is in his own world or it’s an act. Roy has built himself such a home in the first three songs, that his saxophone parts feel structurally necessary. Paired with Alex's uncomfortably sex dancing, Roy almost gives the awkward movements legitimacy. It all reminds me of Promise Keeper; an English artist by way of Georgia. Much like Cameron, Promise Keeper leans heavily on backing tracks that evoke a specific place and time. There are additional comparisons to be made; Dolby, Devo, and the like but the sound is uniquely his. While Promise Keeper is earnest and emotional, Alex is an amalgamation of the best parts of the decade; robotic, electronic, poppy, weird, but most importantly, good.

Angel Olsen - There is no surprise, no questioning whether or not the show has started, no unassuming stroll, Angel Olsen makes a proper entrance. The beats, the pauses, the crowd work and their response are more traditional. Backed by five musicians in matching gray suits, Olsen stands out, her fashion, contemporary. It's not my intention to take away from the music by focusing on fashion, but the juxtaposition is interesting. Like the backing band, elements of the compositions are certainly traditional; the harmonies, the drums, pieces. But just that pieces. With each steady rhythm, a sudden burst of mania is soon to follow; elements of loud, soft, loud. Angel’s voice is strong, even as she sings ‘there is nothing new under the sun’; there is an unmistakable confidence in the conviction of her lyrics. The entirety of the set has this undercurrent of nostalgia. It's as much about holding on to the past as it is about moving forward.

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Next Journey

A ridiculously early retirement from my 'career' led to my next career focusing mostly on this blog.  But it has been eight years and the time has come to end it in early October. I will be writing more on my thoughts of it all in a few weeks, but for now, I developed a playlist for our sendoff.

If you have ever seen Soylent Green, there is a scene where Edward G. Robinson goes to the assisted suicide center (overpopulation is the theme). He is allowed to choose visuals and music to go out by in a very moving sequence. Or perhaps you recall the Simpson parody when Grampa Simpson chooses the Glenn Miller Orchestra playing to video of cops beating up hippies. Anyway, I don't know about the visuals, but I thought about the concept of picking the last 100 songs I would listen to (don't worry, I am not planning the lethal injection, just using this to transition into the next stage of my life beyond a primary focus on writing about music).

This is broken down into four components: Fire, Earth, Water, Air with the songs all set up on YouTube playlists. Clicking on those titles will take you to the list and you can listen along if you like. The descriptions of these songs are below. They are not necessarily my favorite 100 songs, just the ones I want to hear once more flowing to a conclusion. There is a bias on the more psychedelic, folk, and searching songs, as I don't want to necessarily be revved up here (but there is still plenty of room for some heavy material as that was a huge part of my musical history).

Anyway, here it is and I am (hopefully) off to Scotland to see Roy Harper among other things, provided I make the flight.

FIRE

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown “Fire” - This is the first record I ever owned, as I flipped when hearing it at a childhood friend’s house. He insisted I have it and it was a crazed beginning to my love of hard rock, psychedelic music, and punk rock. Other early records I bought were fairly tame, this is still one of the wildest songs ever.

MC5 “Looking at You” - Detroit/Ann Arbor of the late sixties has become one of the most important epicenters of music history. The MC5 pushed forward and pushed hard.

Stooges “1970” - And the Stooges have now become legend. Watch all the documentaries on punk rock and see how many bands formed on three different continents because school kids found other Stooges fans and knew they needed to become friends and bandmates. And their reunion tours were absolutely brilliant.

The Damned “Neat Neat Neat” - And here is one of the earliest punk bands that will admit to taking the Stooges sound and running for their lives, musically (mostly). The Damned are still an overly neglected band that worked many styles brilliantly, but I’ll stick to their second single to take me through the roof.

The Avengers “We are the One” - A profoundly powerful American punk sound that was terribly influential and chilling to listen to.

Stiff Little Fingers
“Alternative Ulster” - When this Northern Ireland band was singing about war and death, they could see it right out their window, which few bands could ever claim. They were smart, worked hard, and made brilliant music for many decades to come.

Radio Birdman
“455 SD” - The Australian punk scene was magnificent and thankfully a few of the bands were able to rise to world wide prominence. Many, including this and the next band, didn’t consider themselves punk, but that matters not. They took the Detroit sound and worked it beyond barriers like the speeding car that this song is about.

The Saints
“This Perfect Day” - More Australian brilliance by the other top band of the continent at the time (with Nick Cave and many more to follow). The Saints were ferociously loud, fast, and tough, making crazy music even before the Ramones and the Sex Pistols and should be far better known.

Bad Brains
“Banned in DC” - I was fortunate to see them on their first tour and many more times at various points of their career. I still remember getting this cassette and having to take people from a party into my car for a listen several times that first night. Early live shows and recorded works prove these guys as being one of a kind.

The Dicks “Hate the Police” - What a buzzsaw sound! This is the purest American punk rock song in my estimation. An erratic band, but capable of brilliance or utter perfection in this case. Many people thought Mudhoney’s cover version was the best song Mudhoney ever wrote.

Mudhoney “No One Has” - How to rescue punk rock from hardcore and other fragmentation? Creating Mudhoney was how these Seattle guys did it, even as it ended up becoming the beginning of grunge. This band was so badly needed in the late eighties and I really don’t see how we would have had Nirvana without them.

The Wipers “Over the Edge” - I am amazed how many young people love the Wipers even though you have to work hard to find this band in American media outlets. You had to work hard in the 80s as well, except in Europe, where they totally understood the brilliance of Greg Sage and his music. I got lucky, I found them just about from the get go and they have been a major part of my life ever since.

Golden Earring
“Radar Love” - Desperate I was for hard rock in my youth, radio was able to offer some occasional brilliance including this perfect driving song. I love listening to it five times to listen to each part which is utterly brilliant by itself—vocals, guitar, drums, bass, and then the fifth time for the overall synchronized production.

Focus
“Hocus Pocus” - It is the early seventies and no punk rock. No problem, just keep hunting out hard rock and progressive rock that is fast and crazed. And these guys still continue to make this signature song faster and more wild then ever when they cut into it on stage.

Love “Your Mind and We Belong Together” - The first three albums took psychedelic rock into fascinating new terrain culminating in the brilliant “Forever Changes’ This audacious song was the follow-up to that LP and the last thing that the first serious incarnation of Love came up with.

The Electric Prunes
“I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night” - It is not surprising that Lenny Kaye chose this to start of his essential psychedelic rock compilation, “Nuggets”, as it virtually defines psychedelic rock music. And this band was not just a studio creation, as they could cut it live, be it 1967 or 2005.

The Third Bardo
“I’m Five Years Ahead of my Time” - So many bands are five years ahead of their time and it was none truer than in the 1960s, but thankfully music history has served them well.

The Misunderstood
“I Can Take You to the Sun” - Oh what a tangled, messed up tale they spun, this brilliant band. Their story is legendary so go find it. After all the missteps, at least we have a six song recording that was made in England after a John Peel invitation to come to the UK, that is one of the most perfect recordings ever.

International Harvester
“There is no Other Place” - This Swedish band mastered droning psychedelic rock long before the Swans and death metal bands. This album is still hard to believe and this song still sends me into shock.

The Rolling Stones “Paint it Black” - This song still has the magic of sounding fresh and vibrant no many how many times I hear it. And I am of the age that as a child too young to understand this music, I at least heard and knew of the Beatles and the Stones (as they hit Ed Sullivan and so on).

Fleetwood Mac
“The Green Manalishi” - No, I don’t necessarily slam the newer Fleetwood Mac to go back the bluesy days of Peter Green… BUT for the brilliant “Oh Well” and this monstrous psychedelic song that is unlike anything Peter Green and Fleetwood Mac ever did. Weird and wonderful.

Roy Harper “Me and my Woman” - Harper is as brilliant as Dylan or anyone else you want to name, if I have anything to say about it. This is epic folk with Jimmy Page helping out. There are about five songs in here, but it all makes sense in its majestic manor.

Comus “Song to Comus” - The British folk revival was not ready for this in 1970. Who was, then or now? Their first LP, “First Utterance” was one of the most singular oddities unleashed on the musical world. When they reformed in 2004 for the first time to play for the first time in 30 years, I along with others from the US, Canada, China, Thailand, and Europe converged to witness the seemingly impossible. And I was slated to be their road manager on an aborted US tour. Alas, but no matter, as this first album is still here to amaze us all.

Opeth “Demon of the Fall” - And one of the people that got Comus to reunite was Mikael Akerfeldt a musician of many tastes and one has taken Opeth to vast adventures along various forms of metal and progressive music over the years. This little number has a bit of everything, although ir usually reminds me I want to listen to all of Opeth.

Ennio Morricone
- “Sixty Seconds to What?” - He may compose soundtracks and I may be using this as a transition piece, but his music is so bold and brilliant that it holds it own without the film (but oh, to put it to Sergio Leone is utter magic). I chose this song as it has so many crazy elements of sound, loud and quiet, and is fully in the theme of this powerful movie “For a Few Dollars More”.
EARTH

The Kinks
“Til the End of the Day” - There are so many good choices for the Kinks but this is a bouncy little rocker that brings it all down to the earth.

The Chocolate Watchband “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” - And let’s go with another Ray Davies song that the Chocolate Watchband gave some toughness to and is a great anthem for all of us that keep searching this planet.

The Ramones “I Just Want to Have Something to do” - And one search was answered when I first heard the Ramones. They ushered in a profound style without any attempt to do so. I met so many great friends at their early shows in Cincinnati and Dayton. Great memories.

The Buzzcocks “Ever Fallen in Love” - Like the Ramones, but even more confusing to me as why this band was not simply massive. Monster pop hooks, sexy-cynical vocals, a great beat, and rocking guitars… no excuse for why the American market did not push this to the max.

Fairport Convention “Tam Lin” - I named my third cat after the legendary character in this old traditional poem/song. Fairport helped usher in folk rock with their album ‘Liege & Lief’ where this is my co-favorite song (along with Richard Thompson’s ‘Crazy Man Michael’).

Moody Blues “House of Four Doors” - I will defend this band to all the naysayers, and until they listen to the psychedelic cuts that don’t make classic rock radio, there is no point to discuss. I love the odd structure to this trippy song.

T2 “No More White Horses” - This obscure rock band was only three guys strong, but strong they were with great touch and fine lead vocalist on the drum kit. Keith Cross should be a better known guitarist as well.

Beatles “A Day in the Life” - John and Paul each get a portion of this epic song that retains much power for me, especially as i move on in life.

Tim Buckley “Pleasant Street” - I had hoped that Jeff Buckley’s success might pave the way for a more thorough rediscovery of his absent father. But Jeff died at 30 and left a lot less music then his Dad did when he died at age 28. But Tim Buckley’s music is still there to discover in all its incredible variety, all with his powerful 5-octave voice.

Woven Hand “Dirty Blue” - I adore the music of David Eugene Edwards, first in 16 Horsepower and then in Woven Hand. It is deep and mystical with an inner power that works its way into acoustic and electric songs of varying tempos and volumes. Amazing band that Europe understands better than the US (like the Wipers and many punk rock bands). And this is my tie to Colorado.

Dead Meadow “Between Me and the Ground” - Originally a DC-area band, this LA outfit has never quite caught in with the real world, but musicians and core fans really dig their psychedelic moves with those playful bass lines. They know how to jam away and write some great songs.

Faun Fables “Housekeeper” - This husband and wife duo manages to work the Brothers Grimm into everyday life with their mysterious music. Chilling and unique.

Townes van Zandt “Our Mother the Mountain” - Although rising out of the earth, Townes’ song covers all of earth, water, fire and air. He had that knack when he was on and he puts a flaming arrow deep inside me, a former mountain dweller.

Trees “Murdoch” - Just two 1970 albums to their name, aside from some found tracks later on, and this UK band still can bring in fans. As a friend said, their guitars just go and go… acoustic meets electric and all with Celia Humphries dazzling vocals.

The Strawbs “Witchwood” - Another misunderstood band who did not make it easy for people with lots of style shifts between albums and songs. This is one of their earlier cradle to the grave life cycle songs that offers space for profound reflection.

Pink Floyd “Jugband Blues” - I am glad the Barrett-less band found room for Syd Barrett’s masterpiece on ‘Saucerful of Secrets’. Although ’Astronomy Domine’ may be just as, if not more, favored; I really love Syd’s approach here and his oh so quiet send off before even going further down the rabbit hole for his solo albums.

Hair Cast “The Flesh Failures/Eyes Look Your Last/Let the Sunshine In” - Still an excellent play and this closing medley is a monster when it hits you in the face on stage. The Age of Aquarius has ended, but keep moving.

Van der Graaf Generator “Darkness” - I easily see why John Lydon cites Pete Hammill of VDGG as an influence, since he is the one guy who had ever sounded anything like John Lydon before the Sex Pistols. This band always amazes me every time I listen closely.

Folque “Ravnene” - This is a Norwegian version of the old English folk song, ’Twa Corbies’. Folque had a rich sound throughout their run and did a masterful job with this song, which is ancient, rustic, and ever powerful.

Mellow Candle “Sheep Season” - Tempting to hear their masterful ‘Boulders on my Grave’, but I love this quiet song and the closing jam that is one of the more woven pieces of music I’ve heard. I could listen to them play that for hours.

Joan Armatrading “Visionary Mountains” - I first enjoyed Manfred Mann’s version, but the original is far better. It was on Joan’s first LP and features Guyanese lyricist Pam Nesbo (had to get a bit of Guyana in my list). Oh, and a sitar (which makes a frequent appearance on my lists).

The Byrds
“Child of the Universe” - The Byrds first wrote a country rock song for the movie ‘Candy’, but then were told to bring them something big and psychedelic. This was the result, a wild over the top cosmic ride, something they hadn’t done much of since ‘Eight Miles High’.

The Zombies “Hung Up on a Dream” - Probably the most psychedelic song for the Zombies, it has all the vocal magic and pop hooks, too. Fabulous band and super nice guys, too.

WATER

Henry VIII “Pastime with Good Company” - I am a minor league Henry VIII scholar, but even if I was not, I would still love this magical song he wrote as an arts loving lad. This is the New World Renaissance Band, but Robin Williamson does a great one as well.

Jethro Tull “Bourée” - Continuing the water theme with flowing classical music is the amazing Jethro Tull interpretation of this Bach piece. I never get tired of what they conjure up here and Glenn Cornick’s bass line and solo may be my favorite of all time.

Donovan “Get Thy Bearings” - Donovan should be considered a giant for all the versatile and wonderful music he created. This wildcard came out of his creative muse as he shifted from a folk club to a jazz lounge while keeping the musical flows of both and more.

Génesis “Raquel” - This the Genesis from Colombia who put out three fine LPs of progressive psychedelic rock music with that unique South American vibe (there is a lot of great South American music from the psychedelic era). This is a Kevin Ayers cover.

Davy Graham “Angi” - Graham wrote this 1960 when I was not even a year old and released it in 1962. I still see finger style guitarists take a stab at it, as it is a rite of passage for just about every finger style guitarist that takes to a stage. It also helped introduce and popularize DADGAD tuning.

Jackson C. Frank “My Name is Carnival” - Unlike Paul Simon, this is the American the British folk scene liked, when Frank spent time in the mid-1960s there in the burgeoning folk scene. He made one brilliant LP before a book length series of miseries wrecked his life. I saw this decaying man at the only Wizz Jones American show about six months before he mercifully died.

Gurnemanz
“To His Love” - A surprisingly little known German band, that like the better known Ougenweide, showed a progressive/krautrock musicality within the deep folk scene. There were so many great songs, but I chose this Shakespearian droner.

Sounds of Salvation
“Overseers” - Believe it or not, there was a day when Christian Rock and Christian Folk were not genres that everyone else ran from in terror. This band was crazy with deep psychedelic folk songs, Country Joe covers, and this wild rocker.

13th Floor Elevators
“Slip Inside this House” - Another long flowing psychedelic masterpiece here, from that wild Austin band who also have yielded full books and movies about what they have created and become.

Radiohead “Karma Police” - A nod to the more modern genius of Radiohead with this mesmerizing cut from the classic ‘OK Computer’.

Thomas Mapfumo “Shumba” - I first discovered this Zimbabwean musician on a long defunct satellite channel, the Caribbean Satellite Network. Thankfully they added one simple African video from this master musician who doesn’t quite fit any genre, although his warmth and power works its way into many a playlist.

Baris Manço “Daglar Daglar” - A nod to the great music of Turkey as the legendary Baris Manco put out some wonderful music. I am sure there is much more to explore if I keep digging, but it is hard to get beyond the giants.

Amon Düül II “Kanaan” - Amon Düül morphed into two bands with the first version retaining a free form hippie brand of musical expression, while II finely honed their psychedelic visions into progressive rock forms that wowed people worldwide.

Scott Walker “Amsterdam” - Walker is the voice I want to hear and his Jacques Brel interpretations still amaze me including this one set in a very watery city.

Phantasia “Winter Winds” - The icy chill in the air may cool down the waters, but they still flow in this lovely psychedelic charmer from a fine band, who should be better known.

MU “Drink from the Fountain” - I was stunned not to find this marvelous cut on YouTube, so I had to make a video myself and even got permission from the writer, Merrell Fankhauser, also getting a great interview with him as well.

Steeleye Span “Lovely on the Water” - Not even the jarring electric guitar of acoustic specialist Martin Carthy can keep the lovely flow of this song from pouring all over me. I particularly like the ending chord.

Incredible String Band “The Water Song” - Alright, an obvious song to fit my theme, but I just had to get in as much Robin Williamson as I could as this is the first of two from the great Incredible String Band.

Sugar Creek “Night Flash” - I really love the vocal work, that is too often taken for granted these days. Jonathon Edwards had a nice solo career, but I really enjoy this early band of his.

Blue Öyster Cult “Screams” - Allan Lanier’s keyboard playing is quite underrated. Just listen to the landscape it creates here in this early cut that shows the psychedelic roots of this classic band.

Erkin Koray “Cemalim” - Part 2 of my homage to the great Turkish Psychedelic masters. Koray’s guitar playing is wildly famous in that part of the world and further into Europe. But you have to really find a sharp scene in the US to find people to discuss him with.

Caedmon “Aslan” - Psychedelic Folk? Folk Rock? Progressive? Christian Folk? This Scottish outfit did not fit anywhere comfortably, but made one dazzling album in 1978 and have thankfully come back to create more music and honored me with a show in Edinburgh, where I spent time with them as well. Great people, great music.

Bröselmaschine
“Gedanken” - I saw a recent video recording of a reunion show where they closed with an incredible version of this, so this apparently is their signature song. It moves me to no end.

Chimera “De Waardin” - The Nederland Chimera is an obscurity, but were one of the more balanced of that scene’s fine progressive/psychedelic folk scene.

Haizea “Hontz Gaua” - Spain does not always feature as prominently in the European Psychedelic Folk canon, but Haizea were grand masters of the style. This is their epic song and a fitting close to the flowing, watery song list.
AIR

The Pentangle “Light Flight” - The air is breezy as this snappy song emits that free flowing late sixties happy urban atmosphere that few captured well.

Elly & Rikkert “Godin van de Liefde” - This Dutch couple put out some deep LPs before lightening it up a bit too much, but were magic in the day.

Ougenweide “Der Hofmaler” - The best known German folk rock band put out many great LPs, all with so much to offer in the ethereal world as well as this.

Gwydion “The Sungod” - Gwydion was either too twee or a brilliant American bardic shaman. I lean somewhere toward the latter especially on this first LP of his two.

Mystery Maker
“Giver of Life” - This obscure Christian folk album has long been a favorite with the mystical vibe and the guitars that go on and on.

Bob Theil “Yesterdays” - Bob Theil put out one transcendent LP that this comes from and finally returned a few decades later to transverse the heavens once more.

Amber “White Angel” - Two Donovan friends Julian MacAllister and Mac MacLeod (also an Argent member with Jim Rodford and Rod Argent of Zombies) hooked up to form Amber. MacLeod borrowed Donovan’s sitar that he got from George Harrison. Elton John’s Ray Cooper played percussion and the Yardbird’s Keith Relf produced. So why didn’t this awesome duo take off?

Pererin “Can Y Melinydd” - Yet another ‘religious band’ from Wales this time, singing in Welsh much of the time. Terrific soaring psychedelic folk, delicate, but powerful.

Rufus Zuphall “Knight of 3rd Degree” - A German band that transversed many genres as did many German bands who got the krautrock moniker because no three genres could hold them.

The Frantics “Relax Your Mind” - Psychedelic music in the sixties reached Billings, Montana and this is the proof. Proof also, that this band should have found better distribution to find the audience they deserved.

Joy Division “Day of the Lords” - This band reopened some distant doors as punk rock was blazing its trail with ferocity. No less intense, just more mysterious in sound and thought.

Incredible String Band “Three is a Green Crown” - Now here is a mysterious psychedelic journey worth taking as it is the second song I have selected from the brilliant LP ‘The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter’. Get high on sound.

Trader Horne “Velvet to Atone” - Judy Dyble from Fairport Convention is the chilling voice and Jackie MacAuley from Them was the guitar and writer of this gem from their only album.

Agincourt “When I Awoke” - John Ferdinando and Peter Howell, who worked at BBC Sound, released many records under various names. This one with Lee Menelaus on vocals captures a unique perspective in the latter day hippie era.

Spirogyra “Van Allen’s Belt” - The Canterbury band that was more folky than others still had loads of creative progressive moments on their three LPs. Rather under the radar more than they should have been.

Voice of the Seven Woods “Silver Morning Branches” - I wish Rick Tomlinson were more prolific, but I still have this modern miracle that sounds like something out of Book of AM.

Book of AM “Hear the Voice of the Bard” - Speaking of which, this band was actually Can Am des Puig, although it was a nice collection of European musicians hooking up in Spain to undertake a fascinating project of setting the Book of AM to music. Gong members are loosely involved.

Robbie Basho “Katari Takawaitha” - It is with great pleasure that I have been able to review so many Robbie Basho reissues and rarities in recent years. His music is steadily the most transcendent of any American artist in the 1960s and 1970s. Indulge.

Corben Simpson “Le Poisson” - This New Zealand artist is little known in this part of the world except for record collectors. The music is good, but this song seemingly came out of nowhere or some intense vision he had, as nothing he did (or many others did) sound like it.

Donovan “Three Kingfishers” - Donovan gets his second airing with this touching song. He and the Incredible String Band pretty much started psychedelic folk by taking bardic tradition through the realms of social revolution, while keeping the focus above all the muck. Also view the performance of this song on Youtube with Shawn Phillips from their spot on Pete Seeger’s television show.

Midwinter “Winter Song” - While looking for the masters of the great Stone Angel material for rerelease, Ken Saul also found his earlier band’s unreleased album. What a find—the world is a better place.

Dr. Strangely Strange “Strings in the Earth and Air” - Tying up Earth and Air, Dr. Strangely Strange takes us to the conclusion of this project. Gently as they do.

Ensemble D.E.U.M. “Tourdion” - An ancient song that I love to hear in a variety of ways. I selected this German vocal group as I love the older human voice compositions of Tallis and Byrd.

Pentangle “Lyke Wake Dirge” - The second Pentangle song included here is a classic song covered by many bands, and one I always play when some living creature I care for has passed on. And this is a passing of sorts.

Dead Can Dance
“Persephone” - But what a way to finish 100 songs than with  a Dead Can Dance composition that opens the earth, parts the seas, emits the fire, and soars into the stratosphere.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Sleigh Bells - Miya Folick -- U Street Music Hall - Sep 7 2016

Miya Folick - This is her first time in DC, well second as she remembered rushing through an airport here when she was 13. It should not be her last based on the fine performance here. She has a powerful vocal style that works in the slower more psychedelic songs as well as the raging rockers that the band coughs up. She has a rhythm section and a guitarist and she adds second guitar much of the time. The sound is intriguing as it has a spaciness, but is not extremely psychedelic, but on the lighter side. But there is nothing light when they kick it into overdrive and sound more like a merging of Penetration and the Reillos, with a punk hard rock amalgamation. Strong soaring vocals stay atop anything this band can conjure up. Songs are good and the crowd takes to them I think. I know I did.
Sleigh Bells - This band seemed to be the rage a few years back. I have not heard as much about them recently, but then again what I hear and what I don't is not at all reflective of what is going on in the scene. They easily sold out this club as I believe they headlined, if not sold out, the 9:30 Club last time around. Tonight, they hit the ground running with intense music and a light show to match. There are pulsating, pounding electronic beats in the mix with guitarist Derek Edward Miller and one touring axeman adding rugged, jagged, attacking runs. Alexis Krauss is third singer named Krauss I've heard and she goes off 180 degrees from Sharron and Allison. She has intense stage presence and can handle the power and pace of the music with crisp delivery bordering rap, but still singing hard and true. I can't get Queens of the Stone Age out of my head, although this may be closer to Nine Inch Nails in spirit and sonics with a touch of pop and hip hop tossed in. It is intense, musical, and a lot of fun live for the sold out crowd. I enjoyed it a bit more from the side of the stage and not receiving the full blast of the too often unrelenting strobes. But if I were younger...

Facebook Grab of the Night:

Monday, September 5, 2016

Porches - Japanese Breakfast - Rivergazer -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Sep 4 2016

Rivergazer - Two guys assume the stage, one on bass with backing vocals and the other on electronics, keyboards and lead vocals. Although this immediately reminds me of my distaste for drum machines, it is good to seem them adding their own playing to the beats and backing tracks they employ. Still it seems a bit too artificial at first, although the lush pop elements come through. Thankfully, they do have a few decent songs that make there way in and the vocals are well handled throughout. Not my cup of tea, but where the depth and emotion come through enough, they had something to offer me. The crowd has taken to their sound relatively well, too.
Japanese Breakfast - Michelle Zauner brings along a fine band with her tonight with plenty of guitar, bass, drums, and a wee bit of keyboards helping her bring her brand of pop rock to fruition. After a really long set up where they showed they some how didn't get in for a sound check earlier, they started things off. By the second song I forgot about the delay and was happy to see the band humming along with a tougher style than I expected. Yeah, the pop is there, but it is almost more indie rock or power pop depending on the focus of the song. They are building this set nicely with some really exciting material unfolding. There is almost a cool drone to the songs, but the warmth is there in voice and in the hook. Very engaging set, full of style and substance and the nearly full club was quite into this all.

Alas, I did not have time to see Porches, although I had wanted to see if they were better live than I thought on album. But based on the size of the crowd, I would guess everything worked out well for all.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Devils Walk as Saints - Famous for a Century -- DC9 - Sep 1 2016

by John Miller

Famous for a Century - I thought it might be slow, I mean the Boss is playing at Nationals Park. I count 13 people here at DC9. It is the unofficial end of summer and I guess everyone isn't quite ready to admit it. That's okay, I for one, am ready for it to be over. Just two bands this evening, both local; Famous For A Century and Devils Walk As Saints. The former is up first, a three piece that plays much louder than their parts. I was only able to catch a portion of the first guitar solo but what I heard was good. It is decidedly geared more towards pop friendly rock but the tone and composition are exceptional. Mostly power chords, though occasionally he adds flourishes by way of sweep picking. And as I mentioned earlier, this is definitely radio friendly, however the songs are composed in such a way that each member is allowed to showcase their individual talents in a way that isn't so vanilla. For instance, while most of the pieces are simple time in regard to time signatures, Dave is able to come up with some pretty nifty beats. Vocally, the range is expansive and though it took some time for him to warm up by the end of set Aly was certainly soaring. 

Devils Walk as Saints - Devils Walk as Saints soon follow; closing out the summer. If interested, they are working on some new stuff which, I have been told, can be found at their SoundCloud page. The three piece begin quietly, fuzz envelops the room before a drum fill signifies the real start of the set. After a quick adjustment to their levels, they begin to play some of their newer pieces. Though still radio friendly, they lean less on the pop elements Famous For A Century did earlier tonight. The drums and more specifically, the fills remind me of early Taylor Hawkins. I'm not sure that you can really go wrong with fills. On more than one occasion, their pieces abruptly stop, two of the members giving way to one to play alone. I wouldn't call it a solo more like a bridge but not in traditional sense. As always, everything sounds excellent tonight at DC9 but there is something missing from the set. The vocals are a little flat and there is almost no banter. In this almost empty room, the lack of energy adds this element of tension. I will say that the tone of both the guitar and bass are on point. Both sound excellent. Devils Walk As Saints make a mention of Failure and for a second I thought a cover may soon follow. Alas that was not the case. Though they did the work for me, and perhaps this is biased (it is) I do hear elements of Failure within their compositions; an alternative sound but an attention to detail that was usually lost in distortion of the mid 90s. Though it was quiet tonight, the two sets were a fun way to mark the end of the season.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

RECORD REVIEWS - August 2016

BAND APARTE “MEMORY ON TRIAL”
From an opening ditty that sounds like ‘Space Oddity’ to a second cut that sounds like a chillwave band covering the Cramps at Cramps tempo, this LP is full of surprises. The band has chilly synth sounds, but in other spots is quite rocking. They remind me more of early Ultravox, Psychedelic Furs, and other British new wave bands that had enough guts for the punk rockers to get into them as well. The urgency in the vocals is key, yet there is manner in the voice with a fine sense of drama.

Songs to start with:

Creatures of Culture - With Lux Interior style vocals, this is an intriguing pop rocker.

Into the Window - Mysterious swirl of keyboards, wild bass and guitar lines and those lightly intense vocals—magic.

Plastic Face - This one rocks more like the Cramps or the Cravats.

ROBBIE BASHO “LIVE at NETWORK COFFEEHOUSE - 1979”
It is not often I get to write about my favorites from long ago, but thankfully there is a renaissance of sorts for Robbie Basho these days with an overdue reissuing campaign for his formal releases along with a host of attic discoveries and live performances. Not bad for someone who died over 30 years ago and probably sold less records than the Velvet Underground. The recording here is raw and simple but succeeds in showcasubg the guitar sound and the finesse of Basho’s playing, much better than I was expecting. At first, there were several instrumentals, which although nice, it was even nicer to eventually hear some cuts with his distinctive vocal work. Also, the instrumental work was quite varied with classical takes from Germany and Vaughn Williams, along with his western Americana songs, and even some of his Indian interpretations. It is classic Basho and another fine release for the fans, both old and new. But for us old timers, this features the only live versions of ‘Blue Crystal Fire’ and ‘El Cid’ known to exist, which is reason enough to buy it. But I have one more reason… this has the only recording of ‘Girl from Marizod’, which is one of the more enchanting songs in his entire repertoire.

PAUL BERGMANN “STARS AND STREAMS”
Leonard Cohen comes screaming out of the speakers when this album begins. Of course that is metaphorically speaking, as the scream of Leonard Cohen is akin to the screams of butterflies, but the point is that Bergmann’s voice and acoustic guitar folk songs have all the elements of classic Cohen. Everything is really low-key with a slow and dramatic pace that is quietly mesmerizing if you let yourself get lost in the music. There is a touch of harmonium it sounds like, which gives off that eerie vibe that happened in Nico recordings produced by John Cale. It may be a bit too deep and steady to some, but in the right mood music like this is special.

Songs to start with:

No One Tells Ya - The opener grabs you early and I love the fall off the cliff ending.

Stars and Streams - The John Cale like feeling is here and the song is nice.

Always Forever - The vocals push just a bit more here, giving a slightly different feeling.

BLONDE REDHEAD “MASCULIN FÉMININE”
This muscular four record set includes all the classic recordings from this cult NYC band. Since they were from the mid nineties, at a time I spent exploring the sixties and seventies, I missed them. But they were on Steve Shelley’s Smells Like record label and developed quite the following. It is easy to see why with the unique sonic attack they have crafted. It  branches out from the heart of New York’s No Wave scene that also led to Sonic Youth and many more. There is a breezy progressive style with extremely noisy rock moments waiting to burst out. They do all of that eventually and often. The bass is meaty and the vocals dark and deep in a very post punk style. There are enough excellent songs to offset the less essential instrumental ditties. The only real problem I have is that this is a lot to digest in one listening session and gets a bit too dark and pervasive over sustained time. But this is a collection and does not have to be binge listened.

And the really cool thing is that they are performing live at the lovely Howard Theatre on October 13th. Just a three city tour, so this is a rare chance to see something unique and really, really good.

ALEX CAMERON “JUMPING THE SHARK”
This is a mixed bag, although it is very consistent and just may grow on you as it did me. Australian Alex Cameron has programmed music with vocals. I like the songs and his singing is stylish and on point. I just wish the music did not sound like it was recorded in his bedroom. But he is not hiding from that and embracing it AND there are plenty of people who enjoy this. And there were times where there was a strong bit of programming that filled out the songs nicely, so this just may bring in some of the curmudgeons like me. The guitar in the very Tuxedomoon sounding ‘Mongrel’ was something I would have liked more of. These songs are quite attractive and I would love to see him live, although I would wish to know if he had a band or a computer with him on the tour.

And I can find out when he opens for Angel Olsen at the 9:30 Club on Thursday, September 15th.

Songs to start with:

Going South - The cool baritone really brings this one home.

The Comeback - I like the brisk active nature of the vocal line, which stands out nicely in a world with too many slackers.

She’s Mine - The bouncy electronica is actually a highlight here as there is a lot going on.

COOL GHOULS “ANIMAL RACES”
The Cool Ghoul was a horror movie host for WXIX TV in Cincinnati when I grew up in the time where most major markets had TV movie hosts and one specializing in horror films. The concept is as quaint as some of the movies, but holds a very fond place in our hearts for all of us that grew up with this. The Cool Ghouls are not terribly horrific here, but certainly capture the psychedelic music of the times. What is especially nice is the subtle varieties of intensity in the songs. The key first of all is that they have good songs to work with. They can keep it popsike or make it heavier or more jam oriented and there is always the kernel of an excellent song and personality. This record will be easy to listen to for long into a future when Cool Ghouls and other horror movie hosts are museum pieces.

Songs to start with:

Animal Races - The opener gives you a fairly easy going jammer, but with a sharp little song at the core.

Time Capsule - This jangly rock has much more urgency than you might first think—a fine balance of psychedelic drift and intensity all in one.

Just Like Me - Almost a psyche folk style, but it rocks a bit with a powerful popsike hook.

COSMONAUTS “AOK”
I thought I was going to have a strong indie rocker here with the opening cut, but the hint of psychedelia had these cosmonauts ready for blast off by the second cut. There is a fine mix of easy going jamming among slightly heavier moments. The songs have character with some going for interesting hooks, while others just grab a groove and run with it. The sound is good, playing solid, and there is enough to chew on here even for veteran space explorers.

Songs to start with:

A-OK! - There is a thickness in the production with an embracing bass sound that lifts this indie rocker into something bigger.

Doom Generation - Good psyche vibe here, something in the vicinity of the Black Angels, but even more variance in the sonics.

Heavenspeak - This has a sense of mystery in the music as much as the vocals, which is intriguing.

DINOSAUR JR. “GIVE A GLIMPSE OF WHAT YER NOT”
Truth be told, I was not as ferociously in to this band back in the early days anywhere near as much as I was into Hüsker Dü or Mission of Burma and others. But they grew on me enough, so I was very excited about their rebirth (now eleven years long!). And the great thing about this second run is that they still have the creativity to make exciting new music like that evident on this new album. There is nothing new to the formula, just the lightning guitar runs of J. Mascis, the meaty melodic bass of Lou Barlow, and Murf’s strong drumming anchoring it all. The two axemen both add vocals, which have steadily improved over the years and offer many touching moments here. Oh, and do I detect a synthesizer or keyboard or heavily treated guitar? That offers a subtle surprise. But that is a red herring amidst this classic sound, which everyone ought to be familiar with by now. Just suffice it to say that these guys still sound fresh and exciting.

Songs to start with:

Goin Down - The opener sounds like a Hüsker Dü song, or perhaps more accurately, a classic Dinosaur Jr. song.

Good to Know - Liquid guitar melody with lively rhythm section and an easy but firm vocal combine for this snaky song.

I Walk for Miles - I will gladly walk for miles with this 5 1/2 minute cool jammer on repeat. It just goes and goes.

LA FEMME “MYSTÈRE”
I enjoyed this French electronic pop band a few years ago when I saw them in the clubs, but this is the first I have heard from them since then. There are roughly two camps these songs fall into… quality electro pop and widely cast psychedelic folk rock styled as Tropicalia, but fully French in feel. The latter music is stunning, but the former is not dismissible as there are guitars working well in addition to synths and the band’s overall approach keeps these two different styles interchanging a bit (hardly a surprise there). But just when you start working out the patterns, they treat you to an 18 minute closing track that is ambient, dreamy with spacey guitar, and unlike anything before (well it sounds like there is a more La Femme like song spliced in at the end). Yet this just adds that much more mystery to this LP, which is quite satisfying as you float amongst that which puzzles and that which comes clear. Lovely imagery a-work here.

Songs to start with:

Le Vide est ton Nouveau pr nom - This transcends a lush sixties style Euro pop with a mysterious breezy psyche element. Unique and wonderful.

O va le Monde - Another dreamy excursion into exotic locales.

Exorciseur - Catchy song, very modern, but rife with nods to cool songs of many a decade past.

ALDOUS HARDING “ALDOUS HARDING”
This is what I wait for every time I open a batch of compact discs to review for Folkworld: a record that takes me back to the great folk revival period in the sixties and seventies, yet sounds fresh and fully alive today. Aldous Harding has a lovely voice taking off from the likes of classic British voices Mandy Morton and Anne Briggs. Yet, there are Americana touches present in some of the songs although it has a delicacy that maintains the ethereal nature present in the music from the isles. The acoustic guitar is delicate with lovely finger plucked melodies, while there are just enough other instrumental choices to keep you on your toes. A theremin? Why not, especially since the overall chilling depths of classic folk music is present throughout. This is one beautiful record.

Songs to start with:

Stop Your Tears - The opening is jarring in its simple intense vocal approach, classic but with full intent.

Hunter - With a more Americana approach and a nice hook here, this cut could soar out to the masses.

Titus Groan - Just another lovely song with delicate vocals, a sharp arrangement, all named after the strange Mervyn Peake novel.

HOLON “THE TIME IS ALWAYS NOW”
This is a brand of progressive psychedelic rock music that I can simply describe as lovely. This reminds me most of recent work by Kattatonia, not terribly surprising as the man behind this project is Norwegian Ronny Pederson. His assembled cast pulled together as Holon have crafted a fine album that is mellow in overall approach, but with dexterous musical muscle underneath. There has been a fine history of progressive music out of Scandanavia and this draws from that, but takes a contemporary song oriented approach as well. Perhaps it leans more timeless than contemporary, but it manages to sound fresh. It may not quite be daring enough in overall tone for some, but patient listeners will be rewarded with fine musicianship and some long mannered carefully constructed songs. This record will last me many years I think.

Songs to start with:

The Golden Lion - A popsike feel with some bold breaks.

The Times They are a-Taming - A smooth cut with fiery musical moments that shows the taming, but with a wild beast underneath it all.

The Time is Always Now - Fantastic slow building drama to a vibrant, quietly exciting conclusion.

JEFF THE BROTHERHOOD “ZONE”
There is still plenty of room for indie rock, particularly if the flair and guts are there. Jeff the Brotherhood seems to have plenty of both as these crunchy guitars offset the irony and sneer of the vocals. I hear some old Ramones styled melodies in here, but it is filtered through all the tricks that the Pixies and Weezer came up with. The better songs are quite good with but a few sliding into that danger zone of being overly slacker oriented. The ferociously gnarly guitar sound does a good job of keeping this from happening. It is a good sound and it ought to be a kick to see live and on stage. But even if you don’t get a chance, there is some intriguing rock music right here.

And we are fortunate to see this band at the Black Cat, on Monday, September 26th. I’ll be reminding you.

Songs to start with:

Energy - If you are going to name a song ‘Energy’, you better bring it. They do, albeit with Pixies like dynamics.

Toasted - And served with a side of metal.

You - Wow, a heavy droner. I did not expect this.

L.A. SALAMI “DANCING WITH BAD GRAMMAR”
I am getting a lot of interesting folk based albums lately with this just coming in late this month. This work is not from some kooky Los Angeles psyche-folk slacker band, but actually the work of UK based Lookman Adekunle Salami. He has a strong vocal presence that catches you as he pulls a bit back from the accompanying sounds and then cuts into the heart with strong phrasing and focused tone. His flexibility is present, but is surprisingly razor sharp and downright chilling at times. And the music is vibrant and exciting throughout, with a wide variety of arrangements, acoustic and electric, and full of fine little instrumental asides that help color the proceedings, without dominating. If anything, more diversity could be employed as it get fairly straight folk toward the end. Otherwise, this does not fit comfortably into any category as there are rap and Americana moves that make occasional appearances among this diverse potpourri. I generally like the more stark folk songs with acoustic guitar and voice, but a few shock elements added in were quite welcome. L.A. Salami is an artist for those who seek out the smarter music in life. But even if you turn your brain off, there is plenty of ear catching melodies to flow into your body.

Songs to start with:

Gong Mad as the Street Bins - A quirky folk song with loud noisy electric guitar blasts—hits my sweet spot.

No Hallelujahs - This is a masterclass on how to take vocals up a couple of notches from the pack.

I Wear This Because Life is War - From that mythical western land that David Lynch filmed.

SOPHE LUX & THE MYSTIC
Sophie Lux achieves a sophisticated lush sound in the way she constructs this inventive brand of pop music. It is not quite Kate Bush, but it has a nod in that direction. The vocals are a bit more straight forward, attractive but penetrating. The music is big and only bold at times, opting for a beautiful yet intense atmosphere. This is not for that simple night of rock’n’roll, but when you want a challenge, that still retains warmth and charm, this album just may do the trick.

Songs to start with:

Arise & Awake - Gutsy to open with your longest song, but this six minute cut keeps the drama strong throughout.

Love is Waiting - A surprising bluesy vocal approach on top of a bouncy pop song somehow congeals into a vibrant taste.

We are One - Reminds me of the grandiose LP by JD Blackfoot, ‘The Ultimate Prophecy’.

M SOUL “THIS TIME THE GIRL’S IN TROUBLE”
This is not exactly country music, but it is a brand of Americana folk rock that is somehow too country for me. I think that is due to the songwriting style, which has a bit of sing song embellishment melodic style that reminds me of country music. There are pop elements here that remind me of a lot of 1970s and 80s acts I don’t dwell on much anymore (Eddie Money, Joe Walsh solo LPs). None of them bad, just a bit overdone in the song patterns that continue to swirl around decade after decade. I am not a fan of some of the phrasing although the hooks here can certainly find an audience, just not this audience of one.

Songs to start with:

This Time the Girl’s in Trouble - This has that mid seventies Dylan rock style to it.

Loving Debt - Brisk musical backing is nice, although the vocals are an acquired taste or not.

Fat Bob Blues - A decent bluesy rocker.

MYRKUR “MAUSOLEM”
I felt with the very name Myrkur, that this would be one band I would enjoy. This is actually a one-woman band featuring Danish chanteuse Amalie Bruun. They say to file this under black metal, even though it is exclusively vocal arrangements and piano with an increasingly present acoustic guitar. But in the same way that the 90% acoustic Comus has legions of death metal fans, Myrkur will certainly appeal to the hard sounding folk who like chilling gothic arrangements, even if Myrkur are not as heavy as Bathory or Emperor. The vocals are lovely and composed throughout with songs that will linger for some time. They call this an EP, but there are nine find songs here in all and nine that I will be playing for those special deep introspective times.

THE PARROTS “LOS NIÑOS SIN MIEDO”
There are lots of garages being built these days, particularly around the sound of rock bands. The Parrots take on this is to keep it short and loose, a bit like a more retro Guided by Voices. When I think of the music from Spain, I don’t think of great garage rock or psychedelia, but this is one of those unique times that something interesting has come from that part of the world in this genre. It starts a bit slowly, but the band identity of this trio begins to form just before half way in. I think there may be a bit too much reverb, which is often used to mask deficiencies in song or voice. It’s  not overly bad here, but it would nice to see a bit more sonic variety in the songs, reverb wise. Still, this one is a lot of fun for grungy psyche fans.

Songs to start with:

A Thousand Ways - A bit slower with a good groove establishe.

Jame Gumb - The fictional serial killer from ‘Silence of the Lambs’ gets a song worthy of the spooky scenes from the movie.

Windows - A good grinding psyche rocker here, thick sludgy goodness.

PORCHES “POOL”
Smooth as Bogie in a bar, comes this latest take on electropop. Alas, I have had my fill of this scene long ago and am not best suited to discuss whatever merits are inherent here. What it lacks, is guitar, violin, cello, or some sort of instrument to cut into the electronics and make it more palatable for me. The drumbeats are clean, electronic and sanitary, and of course that means something negative in my book. The vocals sometimes can transcend this all, but here are done well, but are too fitting with the safe musical approach. After it was all over, I checked out a good review of this. It said he pulled away from rock and murky folk with this electronic pop record, recorded in his apartment. He can call me when he wants to pull back.

PTARMIGAN “PTARMIGAN”
I was disappointed that this was not the rousing comeback album of a great progressive folk band from the 1970s, but was not disappointed that some of those same quality elements are present here. Actually they remind me more of the Decemberists, although that band also hearkened back to the earlier days of folk-rock. This will not work for strong roots music fans as there is there is a gloss and shimmer to the arrangements so I believe fans of slick high powered pop rock will enjoy this more. I found it an interesting hybrid that was well worth exploring at least once.

Songs to start with:

Magician of Sorts - It takes a magician of sorts to pull off a fine folky rocker with a crazed solo at the end—a real rabbit out of the hat.

Peaks - Starts strong, goes quiet, builds back up, yes fine dynamics at work.

O Zephyr - A bit more acoustic, but plenty of big moments come into the arrangement.

SLOW DOWN MOLASSES “100% SUNSHINE”
With the album opening with ‘Faeries on High’ and closing with ‘You Made Me a Ghost’, my interest was piqued. And the nine songs in between offered a fascinating sound with the combination of that driving British sound that Ride helped innovate along with a more dreamy pop style. The vocals are subtly attractive with a good range beyond the one dimensional style that you may expect with music in this neighborhood. The musicians cook up some interesting patterns that are not anywhere near as slow as molasses, but with plenty of room for drama. And for as serious as the music is, it is great that they conjure up a title for an instrumental dittie like ‘Terminator III vs Amon Duul II’. Brilliant.

Songs to start with:

New Release - A great driving rhythm section and shimmering, but tough guitars allows room for intriguing vocal flourish.

Moon Queen - Catchy song, but thick with interesting musical churning underneath.

Levitation Sickness - Dreamy yet crisp popsike song.

TEDDY BEARS “ROCK ON”
There is a lot of energy going on here, but plenty of thought and variety of sound, too. The vocals are a wide mix or world, rap, R&B, while the music is about as varied. Dissecting it is not as terribly important as I would rather just enjoy the surprises around every verse and if I were a few decades younger, I would happier still paying less attention to writing about it and instead just hitting the dance floor. But you can think and ponder on this music as there is much creativity here. Nicely done.

Songs to start with:

Rock On - Not the David Essex song, but an interesting light rocker with soft vocal harmonies and a deep hip voice underneath.

Broken Heart Beat - Lots of vocal contrasts weaving around the electronica and guitars.

Sunshine - A sort of twisted electronica rock’n’roll song with world rap moves. And there is much more as they manage this fine kitchen sink of a song.

THOMAS WADE “BLUE COUNTRY SOUL”
The incredible lounge sound throughout much of this had me really wondering about the album title. But their are some Americana tinged songs that are still more blue eyed soul, than country soul. There are some country moments and even steel guitar, but it is slick and even a bit too ethereal. If anything, there is more early 1960s rock’n’roll, which has a countrified base. I am surprised how interesting this is for me and if I can enjoy this, I am guessing many more will really love it.

Songs to start with:

Funny What Makes You Cry - I hear a bit of lounge sound now and then, but this is the real deal.

Am I that Easy to Forget - Still lounge, but a good rock guitar solo and doo wop backing vocals.

We’ve Got a Lot to Unlearn - Fortunately Wade has not unlearned classic rock songwriting and arranging skills.

WHITNEY “LIGHT UPON THE LAKE”
Slick pop is something I could not stand as a young adult, but it has its place more for me these days. Whitney is worth a listen to see if they fill that occasional need for something clean sounding with hooks that dig deep within the skin. Some of the time they hit all the right buttons thanks to some sharp and clever guitar runs. The vocals are a little one dimensional and treacly for me and I would like more variety there. But the songs are nice and some are catchy, so pop fans should want to have a crack at this. There likely will be something to like and real pop fans may dig into every bit of this.

Songs to start with:

No Woman - The opener almost turned me off, but with great lead guitar and some big brass bursts late on, it ends up a creative keeper.

Dave’s Song - More intricate guitar with a nice rhythm to the vocal lines as well.

Red Moon - Snappy instrumental bit with nice burst of horns of plenty.

JAH WOBBLE ”EVERYTHING IS NO THING”
It is great to see founding bassist of Public Image Ltd. Jah Wobble still active. Not only was he a founding member, he brought a booming bass sound to the front of a band’s sound like none before and few after. It is as much do to that upfront presence as to the quality of the playing that makes Jah Wobble always worth listening to. Jazz is the starting point on this record, but this band’s feet are firmly off the ground and soaring off into other progressive realms with funky songs and post rock territories explored vigorously. Everything is no one thing here, as the songs have many focal points from bass to drums to trumpet to synthesizer to piano to… etc. It is a busy record, but not confusing. It is far more active than relaxed, yet the smooth assertiveness has a certain calmness to it that pulls you in without overwhelming.

And you get the first chance in a long while to see him live when he comes to the Rock’n’Roll Hotel on Friday, September 23rd.

Songs to start with:

Cosmic Blueprint - The opener welcomes us with that big bass sound before going off on a modern funk exploration.

Cosmic Love - The female vocals are strong and take things to a lounge jazz spot, only this lounge is hopping.

We-Me - Gutsy, jazzy instrumental with wailing trumpet runs and that signature bass.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

PREVIEWS of COMING ATTRACTIONS - Early September 2016

This is the final month of me previewing and covering shows. What will this month provide?

Humming House makes plenty of houses hum but Friday the 2nd finds them in the Jammin Java house. Join them.


Have some Japaneses Breakfast on Porches or see both bands at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel, Sunday, September 4th.



Richard Bona comes to the Howard Theatre on Tuesday, September 6th.


A couple of hot bands from not so long ago are here to compete for your attention on Wednesday the 7th. You can hear Sleigh Bells at the U Street Music Hall or Of Montreal and Ruby the RabbitFoot at the 9:30 Club.




Valley Queen comes up to meet her loyal subjects at Gypsy Sally's on Thursday, September 8th.


LVL UP heads one level up on stage at the DC9 on Sunday, September 11th.


Blood Orange turns the Lincoln Theatre ruby red when they squeeze into town on Tuesday, September 13th.


Haley Bonar with excellent locals Luray make music at the Black Cat on Wednesday the 14th.


Angel Olsen descends from the heavens to play her music along with Alex Cameron at the 9:30 Club on Thursday, September 14th.