Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Tindersticks ‎– Curtains (1997)

Style: Art Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Universal, Island Records, This Way Up, Polygram

01.   Another Night In
02.   Rented Rooms
03.   Don't Look Down
04.   Dicks Slow Song
05.   Fast One
06.   Ballad Of Tindersticks
07.   Dancing
08.   Let's Pretend
09.   Desperate Man
10.   Buried Bones (Duet with Ann Magnuson)
11.   Bearsuit
12.   (Tonight) Are You Trying To Fall In Love Again
13.   I Was Your Man
14.   Bathtime
15.   Walking
16.   A Marriage Made In Heaven (Duet with Isabella Rossellini)

Bongos – David Patman
Cello – Anna Chalmers, Oliver Kraus, Sarah Willson
Conducted By – Rosie Lindsell
Double Bass – Lucy Shaw
Saxophone – Lisa Graham
Trombone, Flute – Joe De Jesus
Trumpet – Jesus Alemañy
Viola – Ann Child, Becca Ware, Harvey Brown, Rob Spriggs, Sophie Sirota
Violin – Becky Doe, Calina De La Mare, Caroline Luckhurst, Charles Nancarrow, Chris Koh, Dmitri Van Zwanenberg, Howard Gott, Jonathan Acton, Lucy Wilkins, Paul Medd, Ruth Gottlieb, Susannah Marsden, Ted Wood, Victoria Evans
Written-By, Arranged By, Performer, Producer – Tindersticks

On Tindersticks’ third album Curtains the band stick largely to the familiar: lush orchestration, sweeping strings, tales of love, lust, and desperate dependency. And just as they refined and cleaned their sonic make-up for the second album, they do it again here; fractured instrumentals and orchestral freak-outs are largely absent from Curtains. It’s not exactly more commercial than its predecessors, but it did bring the band their first and only top forty single Bathtime, which reached #38), and its definitely more easy-going, more deftly charming, even if it really only wants to use that charm to have its wicked way with a series of unnamed antagonists. 
Not that charm is what you’d associate with a track like Rented Rooms: 
We had to get throughWe tried the cinemaWithin half an hourWe had to go find someplace elseSome more... you knowWe tried a drinking barIt gets so very hardAnd when the cab ride gets too longWe go fuck in the bathroom 
It’s an illustration of the album’s preoccupations: privacy, a quiet word, lust. People shut away somewhere, anywhere. Rented rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, anywhere private will do - even in a plane hovering over the Atlantic a cheap curtain can give you the feeling of blocking out the world. There’s introspection: on Ballad of Tindersticks Staples muses over the surreal life of the touring artist, the sycophancy (“Showbiz people, always there to be interested in what you have to say”), and what it’s all for anyway? 
When do you lose the ability to step back and get a sense of your own ridiculousness?  They’re only songs
But there’s dancing as well as fucking and introspection, and not the deathly waltzes of the second album: ‘Let’s Pretend’ takes over a minute to get through its repeating intro, as the song’s characters circle each other warily, toreador and bull; (Tonight) Are You Trying to Fall in Love Again is a stand-off tango. There’s no dancing on Dancing, though, except in painfully recalled memories. There’s another beautiful duet, this time with actor, singer, artist, and performance artist Ann Magnuson, which is bracketed by a couple of light ballads (Desperate Man and Bearsuit). There’s beauty in the album’s opening track Another Night In, and quiet in its closing track Talking, which threatens to collide the two worlds Tindersticks are operating in at this time - one the one hand a chamber pop group like no other, on the other soundtrack writers of some talent for hire, providing delicate musical moments for a series of Claire Denis films. 
Perhaps the tension of those two worlds and their opposing directions, the sense of bemusement as revealed in Ballad of Tindersticks, and the desire to avoid falling into parody are the reasons why Curtains marked the end of this first Tindersticks period, and why their next album would see them experimenting with new tones.
Neil / Record Rewind Play

Tindersticks ‎– The Something Rain (2012)

Style: Alternative Rock, Art Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Lucky Dog, City Slang, Constellation

1.   Chocolate
2.   Show Me Everything
3.   This Fire Of Autumn
4.   A Night So Still
5.   Slippin' Shoes
6.   Medicine
7.   Frozen
8.   Come Inside
9.   Goodbye Joe

Mixed By – Stuart A. Staples
Recorded By – Stuart A. Staples
Written-By – McKinna, Boulter, Kitt, Staples

It was a mere coincidence that Tindersticks' original lineup dissolved not long after their most faithful students, the National, broke overground with their third album, Alligator. But in retrospect it's hard not to view that moment as a symbolic passing of the torch, akin to proud working-class parents sending their kids off to an Ivy League school in anticipation of future success. While the National's more melodramatic take on Tindersticks' patented pop-noir balladry has landed them in hockey arenas and presidential-campaign videos, Stuart Staples and co. have been defiant in their refusal to follow their disciples' charge into the mainstream. 
Since signing to Constellation and introducing a revamped lineup with 2008's The Hungry Saw and 2010's Falling Down a Mountain, Tindersticks have gradually drifted away from the string-swept epics that defined their astounding first three albums and the studious soul tones that defined the next three; by loosening up their performances, amplifying their psychedelic side, and projecting a greater degree of playfulness, they've practically become the world's most dignified jam band. While the more freewheeling approach has provided this veteran group with a renewed sense of inspiration by stretching their signature sound into uncharted territory, their first two Constellation efforts didn't yield the sort of cardiac-arresting emotional wallop that's synonymous with the Tindersticks brand. But with The Something Rain, Tindersticks strike the sweet spot between experimental sprawl and hot, bothered soul, and if it doesn't achieve the same weightiness as their 1990s-era name-making triptych, it's fully on the level of their exceptional early-2000s releases Can Our Love... and Waiting for the Moon. 
Tindersticks have traditionally favored low-key opening tracks to gently lure you into their harrowing headspace, but The Something Rain effects a pronounced break from that logic with "Chocolate"-- for one, it clocks in at nine minutes, making it the lengthiest track in the band's dense catalog. More significantly, it marks a return to the spoken-word soundtrack format of their 1995 signature "My Sister", setting a short-story account of a first date to a molten acid-rock refrain that gradually erupts into a brass-blasted climax that heralds the welcome reintroduction of long-time associate Terry Edwards. And just when you start to question why such a seemingly mundane narrative warrants such an over-the-top presentation, there's a "gotcha!" denouement to the story that constitutes the band's most broadly humorous gesture to date.

In both tone and form, "Chocolate" is by far the most atypical track on The Something Rain, but its audaciousness translates into the fiery performances that follow. Where Tindersticks tend to deploy 1970s soul and R&B signifiers to cut through their albums' prevailing air of despair-- and the cheerful, cha-cha-cha strut of "Slippin' Shoes" and the gorgeously languid ballad "Come Inside" serve a similar purpose here-- Something Rain standout "Show Me Everything" uses its smoky Hammond-organ groove, shots of brass, and female backing singers to coax a masterfully intense vocal turn from Staples, with images of latex-gloved hands pressed against glass that ooze with seedy suggestion. "This Fire of Autumn" works a similar trick to equally captivating effect, but at a quickened tempo that turns more anxious with each verse/chorus pass; glockenspiels have rarely been used to such unnerving effect. 
Where Staples' downcast narratives were the driving force of the band's early works, the retooled Tindersticks' power lies in their skills of arrangement; structurally, these songs don't really change once they begin, but they accrue considerable force through the layering of complementary string/horn patterns and Staples' pushing his perennially bruised croon to heightened levels of desperation. That makes the heady rush of "Frozen" all the more amazing-- though the song never breaks out of its skittering, wah-wah-accented rhythm, it still feels completely weightless and disorienting, with Staples' echo-drenched voice contorting in and out of the mix while Edwards' free-flowing horn squawks swoop in like stormy gusts of wind. And each time Staples repeats the line, "If I could just hold you," it starts to sound less like a call to a faraway lover than the predatory intimations of a stalker. It may have taken them two albums to find their proper footing with their new line-up but, with The Something Rain, Tindersticks provide a wholly convincing reminder that they are, by definition, an incendiary device.
Stuart Berman / Pitchfork

Jane Weaver ‎– The Silver Globe (2014)

Genre: Electronic, Pop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Fire Records, Finders Keepers, Bird

01.   The Silver Globe
20.   Argent
03.   The Electric Mountain
04.   If Only We Could Be In Love
05.   Don't Take My Soul
06.   Cells
07.   Mission Desire
08.   Stealing Gold
09.   Arrows
10.   Your Time In This Life Is Just Temporary

Mastered By – Gareth Mallinson
Written-By, Producer – Jane Weaver
Vocals, Keyboards, Synths, Guitars, Marxophone, Percussion, Tubular Bells, Vibraphone – Jane Weaver

Jane Weaver is a transformed woman. After years as a folky, slightly leftfield singer songwriter, The Silver Globe sees her taking a full-scale leap into the cosmic void of contemporary space rock. And it's fantastic. As one of the main figures at the archival Finders Keepers label, Weaver's clearly got impeccably exotic tastes, and 2010's The Fallen By Watch Bird signposted this new direction, particularly the interstellar valediction of the title track, but The Silver Globe is arguably her most sonically adventurous work to date. 
The album takes its name from Polish filmmaker Andrzej Żuławski's sci-fi parable Na Srebrnym Globie (On The Silver Globe), shot in the mid-70s, but supressed by the communist authorities at the time due to its implicit rejection of totalitarianism. The film finally saw the light of day in 1988, and is full of striking imagery in a similar vein to Andrei Tarkovsky and Alejandro Jodorowsky. It's hard to tell how much the film's concepts and narrative have directly influenced Weaver, but the music sparkles with a techno-utopian sheen and speaks to an age of movie sci-fi when all kinds of philosophical ideas were routinely smuggled onto the screen, from the sublime (2001, Solaris) to the ridiculous (Barbarella, Zardoz). 
The album opens with the title track, a short piece of Aphex Twin-esque ambience that conjures up the vastness of the cosmos, its spooky chirruping recurring at various points throughout the album. Then it's time for blast off with the urgent, propulsive simplicity of 'Argent', the insistent drumming and pulsating bass recalling Can's 'Mother Sky' channelled through the deep space filter of Hawkwind. Weaver's voice is pure and full of humanity, but also sounds detached and unearthly, as though she's leaving all terrestrial concerns behind. It's a brilliant example of how to layer musical elements over a basic rhythmic framework, the coiling tendrils of synth building to a string-like intensity as the track reaches its climax.

Speaking of Hawkwind, 'The Electric Mountain' is cleverly based on a loop of the band's 'Star Cannibal' (from the much underrated Church Of Hawkwind album), Dave Brock's metronomic riffing recycled into a breathless slice of upbeat space pop, with Weaver cooing "Time generated us" in its wide-eyed chorus. This feeling of cosmic joy is maintained in the lush, library music fantasia of 'Arrows', before the strident thunk of a drum machine heralds the oompah circus fanfare of 'Don't Take My Soul'. It sounds disconcertingly kooky at first, but soon reveals a gleeful robotic logic at its heart, putting me in mind of The Carpenters' heroically odd 'Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft'. Weaver sings a series of interlocking lines at the top of her range trying to ward off some soul-stealing apparition, before the song gets sucked down a swirling analogue wormhole. 
'Cells' is another glorious piece of synthetic womb music, its lovely ascending vocal line nagging away at my own memory cells, but before we get too comfortable, we're back on a mission: 'Mission Desire', to be precise. Like a dreamy, slo-mo re-imagining of a Barry Gray theme tune (I'm thinking Space: 1999 in particular), this is slinky, super-cool cosmic funk with a great shimmery 'bionic' sound running in the background. "Am I still awake?" wonders Weaver, as a shard of star guitar breaks through the cryogenic haze. Awesome stuff. 
The final trio of songs all mine a seam of ecstatic sadness, wisdom earned at the expense of innocence. 'Stealing Gold' could almost be a companion piece to Broadcast's 'Tears In The Typing Pool', Weaver's voice reverbed to the point of aural burn-out over the simple strum of an acoustic guitar. 'If Only We' is like a musical box drenched in echo, and then it's the big finish of 'Your Time In This Life Is Just Temporary', everything receding into the distance as a piano is hammered into submission in some high-ceilinged celestial ballroom at the end of the universe. 
Where so much space/kraut/psych rock quickly disappears into a formulaic miasma, referencing everything but signifying nothing, Weaver's strong melodic sensibilities and incisive songwriting powers here alchemise raw genre material and turn it into, well, silver.
Joe Banks / The Quietus

Phoebe Killdeer & The Shift with Maria De Medeiros ‎– The Piano's Playing The Devils Tune (2016)

Style: Avant-garde Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Altin Village & Mine Records

01.   The Piano's Playing The Devils Tune
02.   Let's Talk A Good Story
03.   Get Lost
04.   Dream B
05.   Wandering
06.   The Story About The Wind
07.   The Quietest Night
08.   Tumble Rumble
09.   Diggin' In The Desert
00.   Where Are You Sunshine?
11.   Howling Wolf
12.   Maria

Phoebe Killdeer & The Shift is the collaboration between newly Berliner Phoebe Killdeer (Nouvelle Vague, The Short Straws) with experimental musicians Thomas Mahmoud-Zahl (SFX, The Nest, Tannhäuser Sterben & das Tod, Von Spar) and Ole Wulfers (Kapaikos, Party Diktator), supported by actress and singer Maria de Medeiros (i.e. »The Saddest Music in the World«, »Pulp Fiction«). 
»The Piano’s Playing The Devils Tune« is »free music« in a most emphatic sense: The interplay between the abstract instrumentation on the one hand, equally recalling genres as diverse as noise rock, bass music and musique concrète, as well as the intimate, concrete humanity of the sound on the other hand establishes a sprawling sonic space that gravitates around the haunting vocal passages of Killdeer and de Medeiros. »The Piano’s Playing The Devils Tune« thereby succeeds in combining a decidedly experimental gesture with an urgent, uncanny familiarity and warmth; a precise sense of composition with an almost lavish casualness. 
Phoebe Killdeer & The Shift do not resolve the numerous paradoxes that mark »The Piano’s Playing The Devils Tune«: The result is an equally challenging and rewarding album that in fact—as played out as this predicate may be—truly defies categorization. Devils tunes.

Kadhja Bonet ‎– Childqueen (2018)

Genre: Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Fat Possum Records

01.   Procession
02.   Childqueen
03.   Another Time Lover
04.   Delphine
05.   Thoughts Around Tea
06.   Joy
07.   Wings
08.   Mother Maybe
09.   Second Wind
10.   ...

When Kadhja Bonet's 2016 debut The Visitor came out, it was hard to know what to call it. With elements of soft 1960s pop and soul ballads, layers of classical strings and dreamy synths, and Bonet's angelic voice, it didn't fit into a standard box. Neither did - or does - Bonet, who takes issue with even calling herself a musician, much less a singer. 
Perhaps, then, it behooves us not to think of her sophomore release Childqueen in simplifying terms. There are still retro elements to it, hints of gentle psychedelia and jaunts into 1970s funk and soul, but comparing Bonet and her artistic output to anything else misses the point of Childqueen: that Bonet not only is one of a kind but knows exactly how to show it. Her music is incomparable by its nature, and aspirationally so in that its eschewing of rigid schemas and genre conformity allows it to tell us about the extraordinary mind of its maker. 
There is an airy majesty to opening track "Procession", a sturdy structure made weightless by vocals and flutes, lightly grounded by snare and cymbal fills. "Every morning brings a chance to renew," sings Bonet, and the sentiments ring refreshingly true. The simplicity of "Procession" gives way to dazzling, high-drama violins on the title track, their soulful sharpness cut by Bonet's often elusive voice as it wafts between foreground and background. That voice's softness can frustrate at times; Bonet leaves us with the sense that she has life-changing thoughts to share, but it can be hard to hear them nestled in so low among so many other instrumental components, albeit rich ones.

"Another Time Lover" does a better job of bringing out Bonet's lyrics amid electronically enhanced slashes of strings; heavily melodic ballad "Delphine" sees her voice at the forefront, and stands out as one of the more poignant of the album's tracks because of its emphasis on Bonet's poetic side, allowing for a more intimate connection to her inner life. 
The midtempo energy of "Thoughts Around Tea" moves in synth-heavy circles; again, Bonet's vocal harmonies are the main pull in the center of twinkling instrumentation, but the words hide in a less-than-discernable haze. "Joy" opens with heavenly a cappella vocals before being joined by a fantasy of flutes and violins, and the track morphs from shape to shape. It feels like a more exploratory piece of the puzzle, and through it, Bonet displays her skill for imaginative arrangement. That leads into "Wings", and here, Bonet hits peak sonic clarity with an unexpected and mobile melody with an almost cinematic level of intrigue to it. 
"Mother Maybe" opens with synthetic recreations of 1970s funk horns; Bonet sings adoring and wonderfully esoteric metaphors ("You're the quiet forming cloud / You're the nebula that pulls a glow from emptiness") and hits some of her most cathartic high notes. The tracks that close out the album afterward, "Second Wind" and "Nostalgia", are largely the aftermath of this moment of strength, with wordless "Nostalgia" floating into unknown heights as it finishes off the album. 
In the process of offering insight into the prismatic mind of Kadhja Bonet, Childqueen sometimes raises more questions than it answers. Her words wrapped in translucent folds of strings and synths, she carefully chooses how much of her the world can know. In doing so, she remains weightless, an artist ephemeral, even as her genre-resistant music makes a serious sonic impact. 
If Kadhja Bonet has her way, we will probably never truly know her - there is nothing wrong with this. She will show us only what she wants to show us, and each spectacular release will only deepen our curiosity as to just where she can and will take us next. 
Adriane Pontecorvo / popMATTERS

Konk ‎– The Sound Of Konk (Tales Of The New York Underground 1981-88) (2004)

Style: Leftfield, Breaks, Disco
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Soul Jazz Records

01.   Baby Dee
02.   Elephant
03.   Soka Loka Moki
04.   Love Attack
05.   Konk Party
06.   Your Life
07.   Alien Jam
08.   Machina Jam
09.   What U Want (Plus DJ Mixers)
10.   Konk Party (DJ Mixers)
11.   Baby Dee (Live)

Reissue Producer – Pierce Smith
Written-By – Dana Vlcek, Geordie Gillespie, Konk, Shannon Dawson

Don Armando's 2nd Avenue Rhumba Band ‎– Don Armando's 2nd Avenue Rhumba Band (1979)

Genre: Electronic, Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: ZE Records

01.   Deputy Of Love
02.   Compliment Your Leading Lady
03.   Winter Love
04.   Goin' To Showdown
05.   How To Handle A Woman
06.   I'm An Indian Too
07.   Para Ti / This Is Just For U
08.   I'm An Indian Too (Club ReMix)
09.   Deputy Of Love (Club ReMix)
10.   Deputy Of Love (Single Edit)

Executive-Producer – August Darnell, Michael Zilkha
Percussion, Vocals – Don Armando Bonilla
Piano – Ron Rogers
Vocals – Fonda Rae
Producer, Arranged By – Sugar Coated Andy Hernandez

Telectu ‎– Evil Metal (1992)

Style: Experimental
Format: CD
Label: Área Total

01.   Untittled
02.   Untittled
03.   Untittled
04.   Untittled
05.   Untittled
06.   Untittled
07.   Untittled
08.   Untittled
09.   Untittled
10.   Untittled
11.   Untittled
12.   Untittled

Engineer, Mixed By – Vitor Rua
Executive-Producer – Carlos Cabral
Producer – Telectu
Guitar, Performer Synth, Electronics – Vitor Rua
Guitar, Soprano Saxophone – Elliott Sharp
Performer, Composed By – Elliott Sharp, Telectu
Electronics (Workstations W30 And ML, Breath Controllers Casio E EWI 200), Synthesizer, Electronics – Jorge Lima Barreto

Maribou State ‎– Kingdoms In Colour (2018)

Genre: Electronic, Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Counter Records, Beat Records

01.   Beginner's Luck
02.   Kingdom
03.   Turnmills
04.   Nervous Tics
05.   Glasshouses
06.   Part Time Glory
07.   Feel Good
08.   Slow Heat
09.   Vale
10.   Kāma
        Bonus Tracks For Japan
11.   Kingdom (Instrumental Version)
12.   Turnmills (Club Mix)

Mastered By – Matt Colton
Producer, Arranged By – Maribou State

Emerald Web ‎– Dragon Wings And Wizard Tales (1979)

Style: Psychedelic Rock, Ambient
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Stargate, Sebastian Speaks

01.   Dragon Rising
02.   Flight Of The Raven
03.   Twilight
04.   Firenight
05.   Waterlust
06.   Lifeforce Celebration
07.   Whispered Vision
08.   Loosing The Shadow
09.   The Powerstone
10.   Chasing The Shadowbeast
11.   Dawn

Lyricon, Mini Moog, Roland String Synthesize, Flute Electronique, Shakuhachi – Bob Stohl
Arp 2600 Synthesizer, Eml Synkey, Oberheim Ds-2a, Piano, Flute, Vocals, Mesquite Flute, Percussion – Kat Epple
Written-By , Co-producer – Bob Stohl, Kat Epple