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———– Writer / Music re-views / inter-views / and my points of view ———– The GROUND Magazine / HungerTV

Month: November, 2012

Slim Twig / Interview

Read it on Chasseur Magazine

SLIM TWIG by Kourosh Keshiri

Max Turnbull aka Slim Twig is a Toronto based musician, who has not only received much critical acclaim from the press but has also been compared to the likes of  Lou Reed and David Bowie. An eccentric yet fascinating persona, Slim Twig is currently touring Europe with his partner and member of the band U.S. Girls, Meg Remy. Chasseur caught up with Slim and questioned him about the creative process behind his projects, his latest album ‘A Hound At the Hem, his expectations from his European tour and the nature of his relationship with partner and creative half, Meg.

Slim Twig, your music bears many influences from the music scene of the 60s and 70s. In what other ways you find yourself inspired by those decades?

I am inspired by the emphasis of the producer in those decades. In rock based music I think we’ve lost a little of the auteur-ship that dominated those eras. Producers like Joe Meek, Tony Visconti, Phil Spector or from a different scene someone like Conny Plank – these kinds of ‘sound artists’ developed particular techniques and sounds identifiable to them. I try to think about this concept when producing music for Meghan as U.S. Girls or with the Slim Twig records. I certainly do not mean to revive any past era, but seek to re-invent using related textures that I find inspiring.

You are currently touring Europe. What were your expectations for this tour?

Travelling so far abroad to play shows proves a little challenging in some respects. I keep feeling the urge to totally burn the stage down each show, to make it electric for people as you never know when you might make it back to these exotic locales… Of course, you don’t want to force it so it’s best to temper this notion with trying to be yourself and play the songs as best you can. My expectation and desire is for people who have not yet heard my music to enjoy it, that’s pretty much it.

Slim, you were the producer behind the most recent albums of Meg’s band, the U.S Girls. How would you describe the whole process? Was it more work or pleasure and why?

It’s certainly work, but the key is that it is work that brings me a great deal of pleasure. That’s sort of the key to life right there! Meg has been very generous in granting me my longtime desire to produce records for other people. It’s been convenient for us as we already have such a shorthand and history, it makes it easier for us to help explore each others fantasies – mine to try my hand at producing, and hers to extend her voice into the realm of pop production.

Do you think that being a couple helps the dynamic of your live performances? If yes, in what way?

That’s not really an area where we try to exploit our dynamic, on stage. Honestly our relationship as partners outside the creative realm is private and sacred to us, that isn’t what we desire to share with people. We have also become creative partners, emulating to a degree a formula that has worked well for my parents (partners in life and art), this is the dynamic that we wish to share with people but that should not be confused with our relationship as such.

Coming from a film background, do you ever think of your albums as soundtracks to different periods of your life?

Yes. Each record is a document of the things that I found inspiring at the time, and the people who helped me to make the records. I think if you follow any artists career chronologically a path will emerge, I feel a good example of this as my music clearly states it’s interests if you listen closely.

Your latest album ‘A Hound at the Hem’ was recently released. Could you tell us a few words about it?

It’s my densest and most original work if I can say so humbly… It was an honour to work with so many wonderful musicians. The album represents a collaboration primarily with my friend Louis Percival but also with Meg & Carl Didur & Tim Westberg and of course Owen Pallett who arranged strings for it. These people are all fantastic at what they do and I think the record does a good job of capturing that. It was my dream to create an elaborate and baroque sounding record, and I think I achieved this, which is exciting. I also always had the desire to make a narrative album, which this record also fulfills… I am happy with this one.

Share with us the story behind your favourite track off the new record.

Well the whole record is a re-interpolation of Nabokov’s Lolita. I re-arranged the characters and themes a little more opaquely. It is an album essentially about the destructive power of desire, and with the idea of self reckoning. I don’t like to give my straight reading of it, but the record comes with a lovely lyric book for people to try and make sense of the story.

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The Lumineers / “The Lumineers” / Review

Read it on The GROUND Magazine

 

 

Welcome to Denver, Colorado, United States of America. Here, the roots of folk-rock have been rising from the ground to grasp a spot in the music industry thanks to The Lumineers. They are storytellers, singing about classy girls who don’t want to kiss in bars, submarines in the depth of the sea, love, adventures, American folklore, and ultimately simplicity. When a debut album like this manages to peak at number 11 on the Billboard chart it means that sometimes you just don’t need over the top and complicated productions to create a unique, enjoyable, and emotional record like this self-titled album.

Member Jeremiah Caleb Fraites stated “We’re not reinventing the wheel or doing anything that different, the songs are super simple. The ideas themselves are very simple ideas. Anyone who can play an instrument can play a Lumineers song. I think there’s a certain cinematic aspect of our music that i really like”. This cinematic aspect is clearly visible if you just close your eyes and listen to the songs, they feel like coming out from a soundtrack of a film. The cover of the album as well is a beautiful black and white shot from a far away époque, a slice of America that we can taste through their music.

 

Wesley, Jeremiah, and Neyla, third member met thanks to a post on Craiglist as they were looking for a cellist, open with “Flowers in Your Hair”, and so begins this folk-pop festival of guitars, bouzouki, mandolin, hand claps, and banjo like in the hit leading single “Ho Hey”, where the simple chorus “I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart” is so passionate, and so uncontrollable to make it the most shared song in Manhattan through Spotify.

“Dead Sea” becomes a beautiful metaphor,  “You told me I was like the Dead Sea, you’ll never sink when you are with me. I’m like the Dead Sea, the finest words you ever said to me” and they definitely are the finest lyrics for a love song. Second single “Stubborn Love” is desperate and haunting “it’s better to feel pain than nothing at all, the opposite of love’s indifference, so pay attention now, I’m standing on your porch screamin out and I won’t leave until you come downstairs”. The folklorist vibe of the vocals makes each track rise and you are left with a yearning to sing and clap your hands like in “Big Parade”.


After the story of Angie in the slow ballad “Slow It Down”, where the image of Angie resting her arms and legs is so perfectly conveyed through the lyrics, and “Charlie Boy” where war is the theme, this picturesque album closes with “Morning Song”, infused with that Hollywood like “to be continued…” feeling that heartbreaking songs have. The Lumineers’ career may be only at chapter one but these guys will have many other chapters and stories to unfold in the future.

They started by investing money to record this album first, a way to produce what they really wanted to do without any influence by the recording label. The result has been overwhelming and unexpected, but this is life and what they sing about. Everyday life experiences of joy and pain reminding us with their stripped down sound that life is not as complicated as we too much often want to think it is. So let’s just enjoy the ride, this film, this simple music for an almost out-of-the-body experience.

Jake Bugg / “Jake Bugg” / Review

Read it also on Chasseur Magazine
His first self-titled album, “Jake Bugg”, has been release last month and not only he sounds promising but he managed to put together a debut album of 14 no-need-to-skip tracks. If this is not impressive enough, this boy from Clifton, Nottingham, is only 18 years old and has already been compared to the likes of Bob Dylan and Oasis.
Comparisons aside, Jake Bugg is someone on his own, a deep and emotional songwriter proving that voice and guitar is a powerful enough combination to make you shiver on ballads like “Broken” and the sweet “Simple As This”. An modern country and folk appeal is the thread you walk on as you listen to the record starting from the opener and single “Lightning Bolt” and as you think about Elvis, you realise how the result is an intimate yet sparkling performance.
Age is just a number. He may be young but still he is very strong opinionated. He didn’t give in to the pressure put on him by his friends to participate in the auditions for the talent TV show “Britain’s Got Talent”, instead, he was chosen by the BBC to appear on their “Introducing” stage at the 2011 Glastonbury Festival, a turning point that granted him a contract by Mercury Records and the chance to support Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds at Belsonic Music Festival.
“Slide” reminds of a far away Oasis era, but Jake’s voice is the essence of an ordinary and peripheral England, a voice so overwhelming when he sings about violence, stabbing, but also of vulnerable moments of love and self-discovery that his age and generation carry along. He is mature enough to sing “Chances, people tell you not to take chances. And I was starting to agree but I awoke suddenly in the path of a lightning bolt”, and even to show two fingers, “I drink to remember, I smoke to forget. So I hold two fingers up to yesterday, light a cigarette and smoke it all away” as he travels back to hometown Clifton.
Elegant touches with very short tracks like “Country Song” and closer “Fire”, the sound is distilled in a fresh and new approach of acoustic music. It is not a revival or a praise of folk songs, and even if it was he made a brilliant job. Take the sound of The Lumineers, smash it on the wall and you will get a darker, edgier and yet balanced mood. As he sings “I’ve seen it all now” over and over, you feel amazed by this young new talent because we haven’t heard anything like this before this year.

Patrick Wolf / Sundark And Riverlight / Review

Read it on Chasseur Magazine / Issue 2 / Page 8

 

There are much better ways than releasing a greatest hits to celebrate a ten years long career and The Wolfpack, Patrick Wolf’s fanbase,  are treated with a double album, “Sundark And Riverlight”, where the English born melancholic, electronic, and poetic songwriter reinvents acoustic versions of selected songs from the last decade producing an album that sounds like a moment of reflection and an intimate “musical biography”, as he explained, rather than a collection of singles.

The acoustic guitar has been left behind after 2003 debut album “Lycanthropy” in favor of the baritone ukelele but it this record it is played along with the piano and violins to create a stripped down dimension that sounds honest and where things are looked at from a different and more mature point of view.

The first chapter, Sundark,  displays the more solitary and darker material of Patrick. The guitar is so suggestive in “Oblivion” and the violin is exquisitely dramatic and almost medieval for “The Libertine”. It is Patrick’s inner and hidden world, a world of youth’s loneliness that has an expressive and sort of melodramatic italian-like voice as in “Vulture”. It is a sinister and folkloristic setting that ends with a ray of light in “Paris”, “I shall turn my head to the sun”.

Riverlight chapter opens with the romantic “Together” and the same set of instruments become much more melodic to convey hope and relationship’s dynamics. There is light and rejoice in “The Magic Position”, “Who is the one that leads me on through, it’s you”, and even sorrowful moments like “Teignmouth” breathe a sense of security and good omen.

The song “London”, from “Lycanthropy”, is about wanting to leave your city and travel somewhere new, “Sun dark on darker streets, it’s violent times for weary feet… Forget me, I wash myself in your grey river light”. It holds the city’s nostalgia and melancholy, the pouring rain and the sudden sunshine, and Patrick’s coming back as an explorer of his career, ready for the next ten years.

Mika / The Origin of Love / Review

Read it on Chasseur Magazine / Issue 2 / Page 9

 

A pop odyssey in search of the origin of love is Mika’s mission as he releases his third studio album “The Origin of Love”. The cartoon boy of 2007 breakthrough record “Life in Cartoon Motion” is a grown up now but despite aiming for a serious and simple approach the overall result is still quintessentially Mika, as to say happy, cheeky, and fundamentally camp. Up to you to decide whether it is just enough or too much.

In the pop bubble world where everyone seems to unnecessarily collaborate with the likes of Guetta, Harris, and Benassi brothers, I appreciate that Mika is mildly contaminated by this trend. Only “Stardust” features Benny Benassi as producer and it is a fair compromise that brings about a liberating, positive, and sunny track where Mika’s trademark high-pitched voice is utterly rip-roaring.

Piano and guitar-driven tunes like “Underwater” and “Heroes” are  little moments were Mika’s romantic sensibility is just enough to make a connection with the songs, “‘Cause all I need is the love you breathe, put your lips on me and I can live underwater”. It may be unconventional to have a single as the closing track but unfortunately “Celebrate”, featuring Pharrell Williams, is more of a filler track like “Make You Happy” where an engaging arrangement is spoilt by a superfluous loop.

Still, as flamboyant as he can me, named-after-girls tracks like “Emily” and “Lola” are set to entertain during live shows where Mika delivers his best and shows that there is creativity and talent in his extravagant world as he plays with all sorts of taboos. The concept of this album is not as emotional as his debut’s but thanks to his admirable ability as a lyricist, that nowadays pop acts should look up to, this odyssey is a naive yet real contradiction that gives depth to a tricky love-pop album.

No Doubt / Push and Shove / Review

Read it on Chasseur Magazine

No Doubt - Push and Shove

It has been over a decade since Gwen Stefani took off for her lavish and glamorous pop solo career and the last No Doubt studio album ‘Rock Steady’ was released.  The waiting is over though and the “Don’t Speak” band is back with their trademark ska attitude, drawing just enough from today’s dubstep and synths like in the title track “Push and Stove”.

Looking at the four of them performing and promoting the single “Looking Hot”, it felt like they were a bit out of space, especially thinking about Gwen Stefani’s image shifting back to No Doubt’s ska-punk from fashion trend setter hollaback and rich girl.

Seriously, can they still pull it off? Midway through the song an electro-reggae arrangement kicks in giving a cool twist that will characterize the album and keep the live rendition entertaining.

The album doesn’t really hit a high moment and a series of ballads like “One More Summer” and “Undercover” have that light approach of California’s summery tracks about finding and questioning love stories without any deep lyrical meaning. First single and opener “Settle Down” is one of the few reminders of who No Doubt have been but despite the overall playful mood of the record, most tracks sound too generic and less distinctive.

As a comeback album though, it is enjoyable and on a positive note No Doubt try to keep their essence intact without selling out to nowadays trends. Ten years is a long time and “Push and Stove” is ultimately about reawakening the chemistry they had and a good starting point if they will continue working together again.

Settle Down

No Doubt / Looking Hot / Acoustic

Not the greatest record but a bit of reggae infused tracks can just do the trick

Efterklang / Piramida / Review

Read it on Chasseur Magazine

Black Summer

A trip to Piramida is the inspiration of Efterklang’s latest record. The three childhood friends, drummer Thomas Husmer left the band in 2011, took a visit to an abandoned Russian mine and like a painter in front of a white canvas came back to recreate the isolation, decay, and frozen atmosphere of this landscape. The Danish band relocated in Berlin were a classical instrumental direction has been introduced to synthpop, indie-funk, and alternative folk elements.

Casper Clausen’s vocals are not only sadly melancholic but they immediately convey in the opener “Hollow Mountain” this emptiness  where bits of natural noises recorded on site during their trip have been turned into sounds, like metal spikes being struck, generating from an oil drum. It is a unique process and songs like “Sedna” and “Apples” are perfect examples of how subtly these noises melt into  instrumental arrangements even though the result is an obscure work that never pushes to any extreme sonorities or feelings. “Black Summer” is where everything flourishes with strings, marimba, brass, and a crescendo of the vocals that feels like a proud and sublime opposition to the dark title.

Elegant and unconventional but still difficult to access unlike their previous album “Magic Chairs”, “Piramida” is majestic in its concept but not breathtaking in its delivery. It is like a professional and objective reportage from miles away that will attract open minded listeners and indie-rock band Foals admirers.

Flying Lotus / Until The Quiet Comes / Review

Read it on The GROUND Magazine

Unfortunately quietness is something that does not come even in dreams because eventually you wake up from them. Nonetheless music from Flying Lotus latest work “Until The Quiet Comes”, could be the perfect lullaby for a constant daydreaming state of being. It is the perfect soundtrack to listen to in a grey London morning, as you sip red wine, or as you get ready for a night out.

Some mystical doctrines believe that as we fall asleep our soul ascends to the endless world, back to where it came from. As our body rests, the soul recharges in this dimension where there is no space and time and the law of cause and effect is working. In this process, the soul remains attached to our body with an invisible umbilical cord and every glimplse from above, may come to us in what we call “dream”. If this realm exists, FlyLo access it through irregular drum beats, electronic jazz, and African percussions, leading us up there with occasional ghostly vocals performed by Thom Yorke, Erykah Badu, and Niki Randa.

Flying Lotus – Until The Quite Comes

This dreamland scenario of FlyLo fourth studio album comes to life after two years of recording in a much more acoustic space where meticulous mixing techniques and dynamics have been fused in order to give to an instrumental mark to the album, a choice that results in an intellectual, sophisticated, and unpretentious work, far from the previous electronica and dance of 2010 “Cosmogramma”.

When you are lucky enough to have Alice and John Coltrane in you ancestry, sooner or later you will be inspired and as he listened to their music and took piano lessons to master more chords and progressions, “Until The Quiet Comes” shaped its minimal sound, getting to the core of emotions in a very intimate way.

This collage of mystical states, dreams, sleep and lullabies opens with “All In”, that prepares you to fall asleep and just let go as the battle beetween the conscious mind and the unconscious is expressed with bells, harps, and electric basses. Less than three minutes and a much more aggressive drum pattern leads you through “Getting There”, where Niki Randa’s vocals welcomes you in this magical world.

The first part of this journey is an enchanting sort of downtempo jazz suite and after “Heave(n)”, the more psychedelic tunes of  ”Sultan’s Request” and “Putty Boy Strut” are hypnotising. As you are deep into your sleep by now, unaware, dreams starts shaping and FlyLo plays with your subconsciousness through tense synthesizers, complex and irregular drum beats, and even steady hand claps. Creative partner Thundercat is also responsible for this as he plays live bass on nine songs.

Flying Lotus – Sultan’s Request

Leaving logic and reasons and straight into the arms of unconsciousness we are now ready for some dream-like treats. The first one is Erykah Badu that with her warm and soulful voice sings in the jazz fusion and tribal rhytms track “See Thru to U”. FlyLo prerogative was to have vocalists that would understand and add something to the already existing texture of his production without turning it into a song. This has been remarkably accomplished and Thom Yorke’s moment in “Electric Candyman” has its own overture with “Only If You Wanna”, a marvelous jazz trio piece with both digital and analog sounds.

“Look into my mirror and say my name”, “Electric Candyman” has a sensual and dreamy R&B style and it is inspired by 1992 film “Candyman”. The last graceful guest vocals are by Laura Darlington in the electro-acoustic “Phantasm” before a deep and tense change of direction as this dream starts fading. Consonant and dissonant sounds are blended with bright arpeggios and ethereal vocal choruses in “me Yesterday//Corded” and the melodic refrains of a childlike innocence that you witnessed along this journey are now far behind. As the soul comes back to the body, we wake up from this dream with an introspective and futuristic synthesizer that kicks in after 2 minutes during the song.

It may seem an abrupt way to wake up but it is not, it is just the moment within the dream where you actually realise that you are dreaming. Sometimes you don’t want to wake up and sometimes, during a nightmare, you just can’t seem to wake up even if you want to. In this case the closing track, “Dream To Me”, is another lullaby to enjoy with your eyes wide open in the warmth of your bed. The journey is over but if you put this album on repeat like I do, it is an endless visionary experience that brings fine musical inspiration back to reality and shows FlyLo’s ability as sound engineer and his clever wit to focus more on the music dynamics rather than the production.

They say that a dream is never just a dream, even though our rational mind comprehends that it is an abstract concept. “Until The Quiet Comes” is what dreams are made of when they take a musical form and to me this is the purpose of art. Creating something as real as possible out of something that belongs to the abstract.

2:54 / 2:54 / Review

Read it on Chasseur Magazine

 

England strikes again, because let’s face it, when it comes to music most of the interesting upcoming artists comes from England. This is the time for clear-cut melodic lines and a shoegaze production. It is 2:54 o’clock and it is the time of Londoners Thurlow’s sisters.

If you are familiar with American female dream pop duo Azure Ray, you will probably connect with Hannah and Colette’s debut album even though they are more uptempo and less dramatic and experimental than another well know duo, CocoRosie.

Taking their name from 1983 rock band Melvins (2:54 is from a point in the timeline of one of their songs) this first self-titled album is well composed and linear but lacks of  those emotional and captivating elements, leaving you in a limbo where nothing ever takes off.

What impresses the most though is Colette’s daunting and biting voice throughout the whole album, bringing a sort of aura that permeates these 10 tracks even when melodies are mildly stained by gothic and grungy basslines.

The trio of tracks that stands out the most are “Scarlet”, “Sugar”, and “Circuitry” where vocal becomes more mature, feminine and bittersweet enough not to spoil the overall subtle result. “Ride” has a stinging guitar in it and the shoegaze distortion of the closing track “Creeping” is enhanced by the “I feel so dizzy” lines.

The album follows 2:54′s opening act tour for some of the XX European shows and even though the performance of the Thurlow’s sisters doesn’t overwhelms as Suzanne Wooder vocals in “Take My Head” album by the Archive, it is still darkly enchanting and full of personality in the current British wave of emerging bands. 2:54 in perfect timing.

Video / Sugar