Saturday, 16 May 2020

Leonard Cohen ‎– Thanks For The Dance (2019)

Genre: Rock, Pop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Sony Music, Columbia, Legacy

1.   Happens To The Heart
2.   Moving On
3.   The Night Of Santiago
4.   Thanks For The Dance
5.   It's Torn
6.   The Goal
7.   Puppets
8.   The Hills
9.   Listen To The Hummingbird

Words By – Leonard Cohen
Producer – Adam Cohen

After finishing You Want It Darker, which was released just 19 days before his death in 2016, aged 82, Leonard Cohen still wanted to add to his tower of song. Thus, he kept on writing and recording as life ebbed away, and the result is this beautiful posthumous collection. His songwriter son Adam has assembled a stellar cast of musicians, such as Daniel Lanois, Jennifer Warnes and Spanish guitarist Javier Mas, to do justice to the unfinished home recordings. However, the sparse, sublime instrumentation never takes the focus away from Cohen’s inimitable voice, which is lush, deadpan, warm and poetic, with a hint of frailty adding to the sense of a final statement.

Opener Happens to the Heart reflects on his career with trademark humility: “I was always working steady, I never called it art. I got my shit together, meeting Christ and reading Marx.” Other songs consider human flaws, some of which were exposed in the recent documentary Marianne and Leonard. He considers his restlessness in relationships – “We played a stunning couple but I never liked the part” – and rues “what I’ve left undone”.

Puppets powerfully contends with the world he is leaving, comparing fascism (“German puppets burned the Jews”) and recent foreign policy (“Puppet presidents command puppet troops to burn the land”). Like those of Marvin Gaye and Prince, Cohen’s oeuvre sought to reconcile the spiritual and the sensual, which both feature heavily again. Any initial chuckles at the fading octogenarian deadpanning about nipples that “rose like bread” disappear as it becomes apparent that he is reliving a distant encounter with startling, undimmed passion: “I’ve forgotten half my life. I still remember this.”

As the pace slows to a transcendent crawl and backing vocals form a heavenly choir, The Hills mocks his ageing body (“The system is shot / I’m living on pills”) and the stunning The Goal finds him “almost alive” and “settling accounts of the soul”. The last poem he recorded, Listen to the Hummingbird, implores us to find beauty in God and butterflies: “Don’t listen to me.” And, finally, there is a vast, empty silence, and he is gone.
Dave Simpson / The Guardian

The Tiger Lillies ‎– Devil's Fairground (2019)

Genre: Folk, World, & Country
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Misery Guts Music

01.   Devil's Fairground
02.   Lucky To Get Out Of Here Alive
03.   Dead Souls' Day
04.   Gypsies
05.   Free
06.   Destruction
07.   Tombstones
08.   Lillies Are Her Home
09.   Cut
10.   Kiss You Quick
11.   Don't See The Sun
12.   King Of The Gutter
13.   Drugs
14.   Golden Brown
15.   Summertime In Prague
16.   Is That All There Is?

Double Bass, Saw, Acoustic Guitar – Adrian Stout
Drums – Jonas Golland
Arranged By – Michal Nejtek
Conductor – Peter Vrábel
Written By, Producer, Vocals, Accordion, Piano, Ukulele – Martyn Jacques

The violence and vulnerability of the darkly appealing songs of cult cabaret trio the Tiger Lillies are evocatively set off among the faded glamour of Wilton’s Music Hall. In a two-week residency, the group is performing a mixture of favourites from their long career and their new album Devil’s Fairground. These stories of sordidness and squalor have a savage and sadistic humour as well as a sadness that makes you wonder, behind the Day-of-the-Dead greasepaint, what’s inside the mind of Martyn Jacques? 
Since 1989 this singular singer-songwriter has led the Tiger Lillies with Adrian Stout on bass since 1995 and Jonas Golland on drums since 2015. They have been called the forefathers of Brechtian punk cabaret. Martyn Jacques’s falsetto singing and squawking can distract from the solid craft of a song catalogue ranging from the driving accordion of Dirty and Queer to the sparky ukulele of Self-Destruction to delicate and achingly sad piano ballads. Peggy Lee’s Is That All There Is? hurtles along in a demented march-time, a ketamine recharging with reduced chords, extending the original’s disaffection with a characteristic sneer. 
Whether singing about murder on the streets of Soho or foolish love in a lost childhood, the songs are pockmarked with cynicism. In tender moments it’s as if he doesn’t really believe in the beauty he is creating. This digs a curious hole at the heart of the music into which pathos pours and bubbles without settling. “We were very much in love” makes obvious lip service to centuries of songwriting but is uttered without passion or love, with a desolation that is ironically very moving. What’s the point of love when “all this time will corrupt and punch you in the front”? 
Many songs remind us that areas of dark and unlikely comedy are the special preserve of the Tiger Lillies. Drugs! Drugs! Drugs! reminds us of a song written for a revue, if you know what I mean; the Tiger Lillies work a lot in theatre but the music is music music rather than music for musical theatre. You might not acknowledge the difference, but it’s there. It again points to the genesis of these songs being not just as vehicles for performance and entertainment but for expression and empathy, regardless of the depth of their cynicism. To some it’s all hilariously funny and vaudeville and weird; to others it’s all too brutally recognisable.
 AJ Dehany / West End Wilma

Meg Baird ‎– Don't Weigh Down The Light (2015)

Genre: Folk, World, & Country
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label:  Drag City, Wichita

01.   Counterfeiters
02.   I Don't Mind
03.   Mosquito Hawks
04.   Back To You
05.   Past Houses
06.   Leaving Song
07.   Stars Unwinding
08.   Good Directions
09.   Don't Weigh Down The Light
10.   Even The Walls Don't Want You To Go
11.   Past Houses (Reprise)

Recorded By, Mixed By – Bob Marshall, Eric Bauer
Guitar, Organ, Percussion – Charlie Saufley
Guitar, Voice, Organ, Piano, Bass, Percussion – Meg Baird

Some albums seem desperate to grab hold and never let go of the attention of the listener. They will try anything and everything to keep you from skipping off into the deep blue yonder of other music. The sense being that once you have been lost you might never return and that, if you only stayed still long enough, you would discover a beating heart of solid gold underneath all the attention seeking 'look at me, I’m amazing, can’t you tell?' behaviour. Other albums, fortunately, have enough substance, gravitas and artistic merit about them not to need to resort to such gimmickry. These albums focus, often, on the core elements of what makes an artist so spectacular, whether it be the voice, the balance of instrumentation or, whisper it now, the songcraft. Most pleasingly, Don’t Weigh Down The Light, the third album from former Espers member Meg Baird, falls firmly in to the latter category.

This is a beautiful album. It is a collection of atmospheric moments, delivered one after another as if music so emotive and yet accessible was the most normal thing in the world.

Opener ‘Counterfeiters’ emerges breathily in to the light, a folky strum with a decidedly psychedelic hue. The first notes of Baird’s exceptional lead vocal are similarly breathy, controlled yet gentle, far from the stridency she will evoke at other points in the album. Here, as throughout the record, there is a gorgeous sheen of echo and reverb which gives some of the guitar work, and the sound in general, a distance which is just right.

Elsewhere, ‘Back To You’ is a slightly straighter number, albeit one that features a woozy and off-kilter guitar solo. Shorn of the haze of reverb, this track only serves to further emphasise the strength of Baird as a writer and vocalist, as her voice shifts easily from mid-range to a gorgeous and floating falsetto.

Floating: that’s a good word to describe what happens in much of this album. Listening, it’s easy to feel like you’re flying somewhere above the world entirely of Meg Baird’s creation, being graciously afforded a glimpse in to a place of rare and vibrant possibility. On the more driving ‘Good Directions’ we are drifting in to a decidedly Seventies-infused vibe, guitar tones redolent of the Eastern phase of several bands throughout that period are to the fore. Throughout though, it’s Baird’s crystal clear vocal, regular layered to provide some sumptuous close harmonies, which is the central focus.

As well as forming and being a mainstay in Espers, Meg Baird is a member of the decidedly freakier Heron Oblivion, who recently had their first show opening for The War on Drugs. As well as this, she has collaborated with Will Oldham, Kurt Vile, Sharon Van Etten, and toured with Bert Jansch. You get the picture. She’s well connected, and on the strength of this album she certainly has the chops to join such illustrious names on the upper echelons of her genre. It’s hard to properly describe an album which needs to be experienced from start to finish rather than intimately analysed. Give yourself the opportunity to become part of Meg Baird’s brave new world. You won’t be disappointed.
Haydon Spenceley  / Drowned In Sound

Einstürzende Neubauten ‎– Stahlmusik (1980)

Style: Industrial, Experimental
Format: Vinyl, Cass.
Label: Eisengrau, Rip Off, Ruck Zuck Records

A1.   Energie (Zum Einsturz Bringen)
A2.   Eisenmolekül
A3.   Alphabet
A4.   5:48 Tier
B1.   Schönheit Der Geschwindigkeit
B2.   Arbeit
B3.   Kein Bestandteil Sein
B4.   Kristallines Eisen
B5.   Gut (Mit Dem Kopf An Die Wand)

Guitar, Vocals, Noises – Blixa Bargeld
Percussion, Noises, Vocals – Endruh Unruh

Fondé le 1er avril 1980 à Berlin, Einstürzende Neubauten est un groupe qu'on peut facilement qualifier de groupe culte. Fière tête de proue de l'indus, la formation allemande (rien que le nom de l'album était un gros indice) a su débarquer et s'imposer comme un composante essentielle de ce genre si particulier. De nos jours, Neubauten est un groupe respecté et laissant globalement une impression positive, appuyée par de nombreux albums attestant d'une qualité notable (Kollaps, Haus der Luge, Ende Neu...). Ce qui est appréciable d'ailleurs, avec Einstürzende Neubauten, c'est aussi sa capacité à avoir su mettre de l'eau dans son vin au fil des années sans perdre pour autant sa crédibilité ni son âme, ce qui est franchement une bonne chose. 
En effet, il est encore des olibrius pour dire que les premiers pas du groupe sont les seuls qui valent le coup, que rien ne valait l'indus pur et dur. À l'écoute de Stahlmusik, véritable première oeuvre publiée du Neubauten, est-ce seulement vrai ? Sorti fin 1980, cet album retranscrit une performance donnée sur la Bundesautobahn 100, à Berlin. Et autant dire qu'il faut s'accrocher pour apprécier un disque à sa juste valeur. Car primo, la qualité sonore est épouvantable. Un vrai chemin de croix pour les amoureux du son cotonneux de la chaine hi-fi de qualité. En revanche, les experts en bootleg auront de quoi tester de nouveau une audition qu'on espère à toute épreuve. Il faut s'y attendre, quand on enregistre et vend un album sur cassette. 
Secundo, Stahlmusik présente de l'indus, du vrai. Mieux, cela reviendrait à dire que l'eau liquide est liquide. Einstürzende Neubauten, ici constitué de son leader Blixa Bargeld et de N.U Unruh, fait s'entrechoquer les plaques de métal, explose du béton... en gros, il récupère tout les rebuts de notre société pour faire de la musique avec. Une idée, voire une idéologie très intéressante, qui se pare en contre-chant au chant de nos civilisations pseudo-triomphantes mais gangrénées et chancelantes. Le résultat est donc brut, sans concessions, et salement sombre. 
Stahlmusik n'est cependant pas un bon choix, du moins pour commencer Einstürzende Neubauten. Outre la qualité sonore terriblement faible, les morceaux en eux-même sont franchement difficiles à aimer. Non qu'ils soient mauvais : dans l'absolu, outre certaines caractéristiques bien présentes comme les cris de Bargeld ou l'usage innovant de percussions, certains morceaux sonnent bien à l'oreille, comme "Energie (Zum Einsturz Bringen)" ou encore "Kein Bestandteil Sein". Pour peu qu'on soit déjà rôdé avec d'autres Neubauten et/ou d'autres groupes indus, on en aura pour son argent. Mais pas plus, il ne faut pas exagérer ici. 
Pour un premier album, Einstürzende Neubauten s'en sort pas forcément mal, notamment pour un obscur enregistrement cassette. En raison de sa rareté et de sa qualité, il convient de ne pas faire de Stahlmusik une priorité, mieux vaut passer directement à Kollaps, qui est encore meilleur, pour ne pas dire qu'il le surclasse.
WALTERSMOKE / Fordes Parallèles

They're Heading West ‎– They're Heading West (2015)

Genre: Pop, Folk, World, & Country
Format: CD
Label: Pataca Discos

01.   They're Heading West Com Frankie Chavez - Kind Of Nelson
02.   They're Heading West Com Nuno Prata - Refrão-Canção
03.   They're Heading West Com Samuel Úria-  Barbarella E Barba Rala
04.   They're Heading West Com Joana Sá E Luís José Martins - And A One
05.   They're Heading West Com Capicua - Vayorken
06.   They're Heading West Com Afonso Cabral - Buzz
07.   They're Heading West Com Ana Bacalhau - The Fox
08.   They're Heading West Com Peixe Random - Nelson
09.   They're Heading West Com Ana Moura - Eu Seguro
10.   They're Heading West Com Peixe - Future Me
11.   They're Heading West Com Luísa Sobral - I'll Be Waiting
12.   They're Heading West Com Nuno Prata - Sunday Is A Common Day
13.   They're Heading West Com JP Simões - Rio-me De Janeiro
14.   They're Heading West - Me And My Gin
15.   They're Heading West Com Bruno Pernadas - Old Habits

Mixed By – Eduardo Vinhas
Performer – Francisca Cortesão, João Correia, Mariana Ricardo, Sérgio Nascimento
Producer – They're Heading West
Recorded By – Eduardo Vinhas, Nicholas Wilbur

Os portugueses They're Heading West editam a 9 de outubro o álbum de estreia, homónimo, feito de versões de músicas deles próprios e interpretadas com a ajuda de músicos convidados.  
Os They're Heading West integram Francisca Cortesão, Mariana Ricardo, João Correia e Sérgio Nascimento, músicos que decidiram há uns anos juntar-se para fazer concertos e ganhar o suficiente para viajar até aos Estados Unidos.  
Além das viagens àquele país, o grupo foi atuando com regularidade na Casa Independente, em Lisboa, sempre com convidados, como forma de se comprometerem a tocar e ensaiar, uma vez que estão envolvidos noutros projetos.  
Em fevereiro, quando estavam em estúdio, Francisca Cortesão explicou à agência Lusa que o álbum seria fiel ao espírito que tem orientado os They're Heading West: ser uma banda de versões de temas deles próprios e de canções dos artistas convidados dos concertos em Lisboa.  
O grupo apresenta-se assim: "Quatro vozes, ukulele, minibateria, guitarra e baixo, para caber tranquilamente na mala de qualquer carro. Tocam as músicas uns dos outros e as de quem a eles se juntar".  
O álbum "They're Heading West", com selo da Pataca Discos, conta, assim, com alguns dos músicos que passaram  por aqueles concertos mensais: Ana Bacalhau, Capicua, JP Simões, Peixe, Bruno Pernadas, Nuno Prata, Luísa Sobral, Samuel Úria, You Can't Win, Charlie Brown e Frankie Chavez.  
Com a Casa Independente funcionou quase como "um quinto elemento da banda", como explicou Francisca Cortesão, o concerto de apresentação do primeiro álbum será naquele espaço, no largo do Intendente, a 6 de outubro. Nele participarão o guitarrista Peixe, Frankie Chavez, Samuel Úria, assim como Afonso Cabral, Salvador Menezes e Tomás Sousa, três músicos dos You Can't Win, Charlie Brown.  
Francisca Cortesão é Minta & The Brook Trout, João Correia integra Tape Junk e Julie & The Carjackers, Mariana Ricardo faz parte de Minta & The Brook Trout, Silence is a Boy e Domingo no Quarto e Sérgio Nascimento atua habitualmente com Sérgio Godinho, Deolinda e integrou os Humanos.

Cluster & Eno ‎– Cluster & Eno (1977)

Style: Minimal, Ambient
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Sky Records, Bureau B, 4 Men With Beards

A1.   Ho Renomo
A2.   Schone Hande
A3.   Steinsame
A4.   Wehrmut
B1.   Mit Simaen
B2.   Selange
B3.   Die Bunge
B4.   One
B5.   Fur Luise

Producer – Cluster, Conny Plank
Written-By – B. Eno, D. Moebius, H.J. Roedelius

For 15 or so years Brian Eno was the Zelig of Western music, popping up wherever new ground was being broken. He was more than just "around," of course; he was also making history on his pioneering pop albums and the records on which he invented ambient music. But Eno seemed to be on hand for a sharp observation even when he wasn't directly involved. From his instant recognition of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" as a watershed moment in pop, his tireless championing of German bands that would later be canonized, to his role as the curator the No New York album, Eno was always understood to have exceptional taste. Perhaps that's why he saw such success as a producer, a job that requires above all that one be a good listener.

In the mid-1970s, Eno was particularly enamored with the synthesized music Dieter Moebius and Hans Joachim Roedelius were making as Cluster. He traveled to the town of Forst, Germany, where Cluster lived and worked in their home studio, and began a collaboration that would result in two classic albums.

The first recorded material to emerge from this meeting was Cluster & Eno, which was recorded in June 1977 at Conny Plank's studio, and suggested that the collaboration was completely organic. Eno's relentless sound experimentation helped Cluster get the most out of their synthesizers; the record is filled with textures that must have seemed otherworldly in 1977, but still manage to hold up today. The vibrato quiver of the Moog in "Schone Hande", for example, overflows with tension and mystery, soundtracking perhaps a hesitant exploration of a potentially hostile alien planet. Piano is in the foreground on "Wehrmut" and "Mit Simaen"; at that time, a few notes on a baby grand with the sustain pedal to the metal brought to mind the furniture music of Satie and sounded terrific surrounded by wispy synths. On tracks like the warmly percolating "Ho Renomo", Cluster contributed a heightened ear for melody and an interest in repetition that pointed directly to where electronic music would eventually go. Cluster & Eno demonstrates that the parties had developed along parallel paths but discovered something new and fresh by working together.
Mark Richardson / Pitchfork

VA ‎– The Indestructible Beat Of Soweto: Volume One (1985)

Genre: Funk / Soul, Folk, World, & Country
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Stern's Music, Earthworks, Virgin, Shanachie

A1.   Udokotela Shange Namajaha - Awungilobolelo
A2.   Nelcy Sedibe - Holotelani
A3.   Umahlathini Nabo - Qhude Manikiniki
A4.   Amaswazi Emvelo - Indoda Yejazi Elimnyama
A5.   Mahlathini Nezintombi Zomgqashiyo With Makgona Tshole Band - Emthonjeni Womculo
A6.   Udokotela Shange Namajaha - Sobabamba
B1.   Moses Mchunu - Qhwahilahle
B2.   Amaswazi Emvelo - Thul'ulalele
B3.   Nganeziyamfisa No Khambalomvaleliso - Sini Lindile
B4.   Mahlathini Nezintombi Zomgqashiyo With Makgona Tshole Band - Ngicabange Ngaqeda
B5.   Johnson Mkhalali - Joyce No. 2
B6.   Ladysmith Black Mambazo - Nansi Imali

This anthology of South African artists surprised everyone by becoming a best-seller. It introduced worldbeatniks to Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Mahlathini, and Moses Mchunu and paved the way for Paul Simon's Graceland. Winner of The Village Voice's Jazz and Pop Poll for Best Record of 1987, it's an essential sampler of modern African styling, a revelation and a joy.
j. poet / AllMusic

Junior Parker ‎– Love Ain't Nothin' But A Business Goin' On (1971)

Genre: Funk / Soul, Blues
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Beast Retro, Groove Merchan, Vogue

A1.   Love Ain't Nothin' But A Business Goin' On
A2.   The Outside Man
A3.   Darling Depend On Me
A4.   Taxman
A5.   Rivers Invitation
B1.   I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone
B2.   Just To Hold My Hand
B3.   You Know I Love You
B4.   Lady Madonna
B5.   Tomorrow Never Knows

Arranged By, Conductor – Horace Ott
Mastered By – Sam Feldman
Producer – Sonny Lester

Herman Parker Jr. was born at the heart of the blues in Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1932. He died tragically young, from a brain tumour in 1971. In between, he produced some of the most soulful blues of the ’50s and ’60s. Mentored by Sonny Boy Williamson and Howlin’ Wolf and talent-spotted by Ike Turner, Parker started out as Little Junior who, with The Blue Flames cut the riotous Feelin’ Good and the eerie Mystery Train for Sun Records. Parker’s downhome late-’50s sides for Duke brought him success but when he moved away from hard blues he lost his audience. As a result, most scholars tend to write off Parker’s later, more soulful sound. This is a shame as his final recordings contain some of the most warm-heated sunshine soul of the period. Cratediggers rate this album (alt. titled Outside Man in its Capitol incarnation) because of Sonny Lester’s clear production, and in-the-pocket groove from Jimmy McGriff’s soul-jazz combo and Parker’s three Beatles tracks – Taxman, Tomorrow Never Knows and Lady Madonna – where the singer’s good-hearted character cuts through the clichés, even going so far as to blanche at the meanness of George Harrison’s lyrics on Taxman (“Oh, this is awful!”).
Also worth tracking down is Parker’s glorious cover of Ain’t It Funny How Time Slips Away from the same period; an epic spoken-word reworking of the Willie Nelson country classic that deserves to sit alongside such other soul overhauls of white radio standards as Isaac Hayes’ By The Time I Get To Phoenix and Bobby Womack’s cover of The Carpenters’ Close To You. 
 Andrew Male (Mojo Magazine) / Funk My Soul