zondag 25 februari 2018

Daybreak Over Jackson Street. Steph Cameron

Sad-Eyed Lonesome Lady van de oorspronkelijk uit het Canadese British Columbia afkomstige Steph Cameron haalde ik al weer drie jaar geleden bij toeval uit een jaarlijstje met de beste Canadese platen van 2014. (Lees hier verder: https://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2015/03/sad-eyed-lonesome-lady-steph-cameron.html)

Op haar debuut maakte Steph Cameron indruk met muziek zoals die in de hoogtijdagen van de folk scene in het New Yorkse Greenwich Village werd gemaakt door onder andere een nog jonge Bob Dylan en een al even jonge Joni Mitchell.
 
Waar het in de jaren zestig gemeengoed was om te vertrouwen op een akoestische gitaar en een stem, is dit tegenwoordig zeldzaam. Zelfs met wat eenvoudige software en een goedkope laptop kun je muziek rijkelijk versieren en de meeste muzikanten doen dat dan ook.
 
Het is aan Steph Cameron niet besteed. Ook op haar tweede plaat Daybreak Over Jackson Street vertrouwt de Canadese muzikante op de eenvoudige middelen die ze ook op haar in kleine kring bejubelde debuut gebruikte: een akoestische gitaar, een enkele keer een mondharmonica en natuurlijk haar stem.
 
Dat lijkt eenvoudig, maar dat is het zeker niet. Wanneer je als muzikant moet vertrouwen op eenvoudige middelen, stelt dit hoge eisen aan deze middelen. Ik ben er zeker van dat de meeste muzikanten van het moment genadeloos door de mand vallen wanneer ze het moeten doen met de middelen die Steph Cameron tot haar beschikking heeft, maar de muzikante uit Vancouver blijft ook dit keer met gemak overeind.
 
Het geluid van Steph Cameron wordt grotendeels bepaald door haar akoestische gitaar, maar het is een verrassend vol geluid. Het is ook een geluid dat intrigeert, want de akkoorden op Daybreak Over Jackson Street zijn soms onnavolgbaar en voorzien de songs op de plaat van veel dynamiek en kracht. De mondharmonica houdt Steph Cameron dit keer voornamelijk in haar zak, maar de incidentele keer dat de mondharmonica door het fraaie gitaarspel heen snijdt komt het aan.
 
Naast het bijzondere akoestische gitaarspel is er natuurlijk de stem van Steph Cameron. Het is een stem die herinneringen oproept aan de folkies van weleer, maar de stem van de Canadese muzikante heeft ook het aangename dat ook de stem van bijvoorbeeld Suzanne Vega kenmerkt of juist het expressieve van Dar Williams. Het is een stem die de songs op Daybreak Over Jackson Street voorziet van flink wat lading en emotie, wat nog eens wordt versterkt door de mooie, indringende en persoonlijke verhalen die Steph Cameron op haar tweede plaat vertelt.
 
In een tijd waarin rijke arrangementen en gloedvolle producties overheersen is het absoluut even wennen aan het uiterst sobere geluid waarmee Steph Cameron op de proppen komt, maar werkelijk iedere noot op Daybreak Over Jackson Street is raak en bovendien smeedt de singer-songwriter uit Vancouver op indrukwekkende wijze het verleden en het heden aan elkaar.
 
Bijna drie jaar geleden was ik behoorlijk onder de indruk van het debuut van Steph Cameron en dat ben ik nu weer, misschien nog wel meer dan drie jaar geleden zelfs, want Daybreak Over Jackson Street is een wonderschone plaat.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt Daybreak Over Jackson Street hier beluisteren:

https://soundcloud.com/pheromonerecordings/sets/steph-cameron-daybreak-over

Zie nu ook de WoNoBlog playlist op Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=gFKJ8QOiShyY6XIKt-SmrA

zaterdag 24 februari 2018

Echos. Joshua Hyslop

Some records are more delicate than is good for them. Echos is one of those records. Joshua Hyslop is a singer-songwriter in the tradition of Shane Alexander. Soft voiced, soft played, delicate, showing true vulnerability towards anyone listening and in danger of being talked off any podium in the world when the audience is not inclined to listen. Or, get people so silent you can hear a pin drop in between the music. There is no in between here.

Echos is the kind of record I have to grow in to. Each time I start to listen I want something to happen, until the flow of Echos overtakes me, conquers me and encapsulates me in its world. That soft and delicate world Joshua Hyslop created.

Press photo by Jesse Milns
Hyslop is from Vancouver in Canada. The town that also brought Nathalie Ramsay and Death Goldbloom/Tim Claridge (and of course The New Pornographers) to these pages. Especially Nathalie Ramsay's music fits in with what I am hearing here. The difference being that Echos is more professionally recorded, with all the string arrangements sounding behind the voice and acoustic guitar. Something that has been done since the 60s and in that way Echos sounds timeless. I could be a soft album from Donovan or Leonard Cohen, to name just two.

If there is one word befitting this album, it is dreaming. Hyslop dreams himself through this album. While he sings and plays his acoustic guitar with is eyes closed, a band of studio musicians do everything right around him without anyone needing any nudging. That is how I envision a song like 'Stand Your Ground' was recorded. A song by the way with obvious Bob Dylan hints. "May you stay forever young" is there in thought and melody. As I wrote, the dreaming remains there through the whole album.

Press phito by Jesse Milns
A 1001 and one singer-songwriters went before Joshua Hyslop and 2002 will follow him. So it is all about the quality of his songs. No matter how soft they may be, his songs are what carries Echos. An album full of empathy for the people around him. All the songs were written from stories he has heard. That empathy shows through the whole album. Shining through the lone sound of an harmonica in 'Long Way Down'. So if there is a main influence on Hyslop it is the most soft side of Neil Young. It is all about the songs.

It is the tougher sounding, haunted bluesy 'How You've Been' that comes as a surprise. His soft voice does not go with the haunted sound the two guitars produce and yet he softly bends his voice towards a haunted, almost whispered sound. Together they create the most suspenseful track on Echos. The guitars are full of them, echos. Great track.

So if you like a soft-voiced singer-songwriter who aims for writing beautiful songs and often succeeding Joshua Hyslop is your man (and Shane Alexander of course).

Wo.

You can listen to 'Home' here:

https://joshuahyslop.com/

vrijdag 23 februari 2018

Will I Wake. I Am Oak

I Am Oak has released a new single called Will I Wake. Yes, the guitar has been replaced by a keyboard as the centre of the sound. The sound, the mood as such is typical I Am Oak. The softest kind of musical magic around. That has not changed with changing instruments.

The reason I am writing on the song, a true assessment will come with the release of a new album, is to point you to the beautiful video, made by Thijs Kuijken himself and made up of over 2000 pictures. Well worth the view if you haven't seen it yet.

Wo.

Watch and listen to Will I wake here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54IJYPdPKAQ

Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist: https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g

Mutual Horse. Holly Miranda

Holly Miranda is a musician from the U.S. who is releasing her fifth album, counting a self-recorded album from the early 00s. I am getting myself acquainted with her art through Mutual Horse. The album reminds a little of the icy atmospheres Christine Owman released on her record 'When On Fire' in 2016. The differences in music are plenty, yet the atmosphere on both albums can be found undercooled, with Owman winning the chill factor, should there ever be a contest.

Mutual Horse is an album that I comfortably shelve in the indie section with some pop influences. The music resonates safely in a mid-tempo range. The mood is lowish but certainly stable. Nothing strange happens. Although the album is not one that I would call agreeable. For that the music has these little hooks that can scathe a soft and delicate skin. Holly Miranda's voice is able to change between super soft when she sings in a higher register to dark when she sings deeper. Where the music is well worked out all the time but always subdued and melancholy. Experimental with jazzy horns in the background. The music can be patchy, like rough sketches can be. When drums come forward, things change fast. In this duet, 'Exquisite', Holly Miranda works together in duet with TV on the Radio's Kyp Malone. One of the songs that are firm, almost rocking.

All this makes Mutual Horse an album for the spring. The days get longer, the sun warmer, so I can take in a darker tinged album just a little better. In fact I am listening to the album right now and the winter sun comes out bright in the street in front of my window. I am listening to slow playing strings at the end of one song followed by an electronic intro with all sorts of organic details going on around it. (In fact the whole song, 'Towers', works around this basis.)

By now those looking for exuberance in songs know they have to start looking elsewhere. Fans of artists like Joan as Policewoman, perhaps even Sinead O'Connor, know they can proceed safely. In fact getting acquainted ought to be mandatory. In her music Miranda goes to a deeper level than just pop music. Although there are elements of pop woven into some of her songs, she is far too serious for her music to be called pop. There are some traces of Talk Talk to be found, like in the song 'Mr. Fongs'. Once my mind is seriously attuned to Mutual Horse, differences in the details, as just mentioned, do come out.

There is a downside to Mutual Horse. As a whole it is a bit too much for me. The album is 14 songs and around the 10th I notice that I have heard enough. The 11th is a surprising cover, 'When You're Lonely Heart Breaks'. I recognised the song immediately, but couldn't place it. Neil Young, 'Life', an album I haven't played since perhaps the 80s. Released just before my first Neil Young show that made me miss the famous Madjer goal. The cover makes me prick up my ears each time.

Despite the album making me appeal to my stamina, there's enough to enjoy on Mutual Horse. Holly Miranda's voice I truly like, as I appreciate all the details that are worked into the songs. Just listen to the twangy guitar in 'Mr. Fongs'. Despite so much electronic going on, the sparse guitar notes just jump out at me. Many songs have details like this, proving this artist was not happy with the basics but was in search of these fine extras. Those fine guitar melodies in 'Do You Recall' is another example. The use of horns give some of the songs a late night bar jazz flavour. Like they are the last song for the nighthawks at the diner. Cigarette smoke everywhere (impossible today of course), a lone spotlight catching it all.

The big surprise comes near the end when a sort of home recording comes by in the form of 'Gina', where a family is singing to go to the mountain. Holly Miranda goes instead to 'Mt. Hood' alone. Just her voice and an acoustic guitar start the song, before the rest joins in. Another slow and moody song with the ever so slight hint of optimism, perhaps against all odds, ends the album. Delicate and fragile 'Mt. Hood' brings Mutual Horse home, with a hint of Neil Young attached.

Wo.

You can listen to and buy Mutual Horse here:

https://hollymiranda.bandcamp.com/
 
Here's our Spotify Playlist link: https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g

donderdag 22 februari 2018

Shrimp. A Tale Of Golden Keys

I should have known. Listening to Shrimp for the first time I noticed how serious this album was. How utterly solemn the music of this band called A Tale Of Golden Keys is. Of course, it is from Germany.

Beyond that my thoughts went in another direction: a Snow Patrol clone with at times better songs, perhaps because of the seriousness of the music. Where Snow Patrol more than once goes over the cliff of bombast or just remains plain dull. Somehow Snow Patrol has a hard time finding and sticking to the middle ground. This German band finds it more than once and plays within and with my comfort zone (for this kind of music). How does the album fare after more listening sessions?

The start is so surprising. It sounds like the tune of TV series 'The Bridge' ('Hollow Talk' by Choir of Young Believers). That deeply melancholy song full of silences and suspense. A Tale of Golden Keys turns into another direction as soon as the band starts playing. The voice does keep the similarity going. And what an ironic song title 'Punk Rock Hit' is. The song certainly works towards a climax, but it is not one or at least not in the traditional sense of playing guitars loud and fast.

A Tale of Golden Keys is a trio from the Bavarian countryside around Nüremberg. According to the band it is the countryside that inspired the music and singing on Shrimp. Listening from a great distance I can hear the spaciousness the mix allows the music. There is a place and time for all instruments and voices. The mix and sound certainly are the first two things that attracted me to Shrimp. The album's sound is so clear that it immediately attracted my attention. Or, no, that was the Snow Patrol likeness, but I have simply gone so far beyond the comparison that it's become inconceivable.

The mix gives the music on Shrimp something mysterious and places it sort of outside of time. By creating the right circumstances the music can bring me in that place where nothing much else matters any more and time is stopped. "On my way out, I lost myself" is sung in 'Gospel'. It is the other way around. On my way in, I lost myself when listening to a beautiful song like 'Gospel'. There are several of these songs on Shrimp. The true beauty is released when I'm alone with it. In all other circumstances it is nice.

The artwork is also great in all its simplicity. The symbolism of a shrimp and a pigeon eludes me though. It probably choked on it. The combination with purple vinyl is just so beautiful.

A Tale of Golden Keys truly surprised me with the beauty of its music. The album grew on me step by step. Revealing more and more of its beauty with each spin. The album reminds me of the soft side of Madrugada, but even Saybia comes to mind as does Tim Christensen. All Scandinavians, yes. Showing that Shrimp has gone from the first influence reference to deeper and better influences. Giving its music unsuspected depth and warmth. The way some songs, e.g. 'In the Far Distance', are brought to a fitting climax, reminds me of the Norwegian progrock band Soup. Everything comes out to bring the album to an end in 'To Think', to end it with the words "Bring it back to square one". Indeed the little push I need to put it back on again.

With the weeks I was able to listen to this album, I came more and more to the conclusion Shrimp is a beautiful album. Serious, yes, but so beautiful. How the band lays out the puzzle between the three of them with four instruments to play live (drums, bass, guitar, keys), is not for me to solve. On record it works like a miracle. A beautiful album from Germany. Not something I write every day on this blog, but totally deserved.

You can listen to 'Restless' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJWB-1cxYtE