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Posts Tagged ‘Laura Veirs

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Laura Veirs “Warp and Weft” (Bella Union)
Laura Veirs has firmly established herself as one of the finest songwriters making music today. Even despite her unwavering consistency, it is nonetheless a remarkable achievement to consider this is Veirs’ ninth studio album. “Warp and Weft” (a weaving term), can be seen to sum up her music perfectly as her output has been beautifully nuanced and lovingly crafted since her self-titled debut back in 1999. Renowned producer (and husband to Veirs) Tucker Martine is on board once again. The album is a darker and denser set of songs and is another stunning achievement from Veirs that draws much inspiration from the landscape, motherhood, love and violence (the latter in the form of suicide, war and gun crime). Featuring a host of contributors including Jim James, kd lang, Neko Case and members of The Decemberists, the album sees Veirs at her beautiful, brilliant best. According to Neko Case herself, “It’s masterful; as a listener, it makes me feel loved. As a musician it makes me feel challenged and engaged.” “Warp and Weft” will be released 19th August 2013 on Bella Union.

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Various Artists “Rare Cajun Recordings” (Tompkins Square)
Some of the finest compilations this year has come courtesy of the incredible San Francisco-based Tompkins Square label and their ongoing Long Gone Sound series (whose goal is “to create a catalyst for musical and cultural transformation.”) My personal highlight has been “Let Me Play This For You”, a collection of rare Cajun recordings made between 1929-1930. The tracks are by Babineaux & Guidry, Angelas LeJeune and Blind Uncle Gaspard. As the sleevenotes state: “Most of the performances on this collection have not been heard since they were original recorded on 78 rpm disc and yet they serve as a discrete Rosetta Stone for the traditional Cajun and Creole repertoire that exists today.” Also essential is “Turn Me Loose : Outsiders oF ‘Old-time’ Music”, a collection of 78 rpm records curated by Frank Fairfield, also available now on Tompkins Square.

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RocketNumberNine “MeYouWeYou” (Smalltown Supersound)
London-based RocketNumberNine comprise the brothers Tom and Ben Page who have toured extensively with a hugely impressive number of acts, including Radiohead, Four Tet, Caribou, Nathan Fake and James Holden. In fact it was Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden who released RocketNumberNine’s first material, courtesy of the 12″ “Matthew & Toby” (released on Hebden’s own Text imprint) which closes “MeYouWeYou”, their debut album, available now on the wonderful Oslo-based independent label Smalltown Supersound (the incredible sleeve is courtesy of the impeccable talents of multi-disciplinary artist Kim Hiorthøy).

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Laurie Anderson “Homeland” (Nonesuch)
Have been revisiting Anderson’s songbook since Colleen’s Influences mix for Second Language to coincide with Colleen’s new album “The Weighing Of The Heart” which includes Laurie Anderson’s “Big Science” (from 1982’s “Big Science” LP, Anderson’s first part in her extensive portrait of the United States). Also essential in Anderson’s considerable output is “Homeland”, released in 2010 on Nonesuch, her first album in a decade. Features the haunting sounds of Anderson’s singular violin playing, as Anderson says in the sleevenotes: “Homeland” is built on groove electronics and new string sounds for the violin. I spend a lot of time inventing new ways for the violin to sound. The string filters created melodies that turned into songs.”

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Marsen Jules Trio “Presence Acousmatique” (Oktaf)
Marsen Jules has long been responsible for some of the most quietly breathtaking and tenderly beautiful music released over the last decade or so. Albums such as “Herbstlaub”, “Les Fleurs” and “Golden” have established Dortmund-based Jules as one of the finest composers making music today. As the Marsen Jules Trio, Jules is joined by twin brothers Anwar Alam and Jan-Philipp Alam on violin and piano. Across the six pieces on “Presence Acousmatique” Jules and brothers Alam create heavenly music featuring abstract ambient spaces and textured passages of impeccable musicianship.

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Waxahatchee “Cerulean Salt” (Don Giovanni)
Katie Crutchfield’s Waxahatchee project began with 2012’s debut LP “American Weekend”. This year saw the release of follow-up “Cerulean Salt” (also on New Jersey independent label Don Giovanni Records). The former P.S. Eliot singer Katie Crutchfield establishes herself as one of the most promising American songwriters where her introspective, personal songs are set to wonderfully crafted guitar-based songs. For the set of songs on “Cerulean Salt” much inspiration is drawn from her family and Alabama upbringing.

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fieldhead “a correction” (Gizeh Records)
fieldhead is the moniker for Leeds-born ambient/electronic composer Paul Elam who will be joining Kranky’s Loscil in Spring of next year for his European tour. As well as making his own compelling and hugely immersive ambient material, Elam is also the full-time member of Hood side project The Declining Winter and a part-time member of Glissando’s Fleeting Glimpse Ensemble. Elam’s fieldhead soundscapes are beautifully augmented by the wonderful talents of violinists Elaine Reynolds (The Boats, The Declining Winter) and Sarah Kemp (Lanterns on the Lake, The Declining Winter). Since 2010 Elam relocated to Vancouver, Canada, and has two full length studio albums to date, a host of EP’s, as well as an impressive number of remix work.

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White Denim “Corsicana Lemonade” (Downtown Records/MapleMusic Recordings)
“It has taken five records to make one that sounds the way we do on stage” is how White Denim’s James Petralli describes the band’s forthcoming album “Corsicana Lemonade”. The Austin outfit will be touring with Tame Impala in October, while “Corsicana Lemonade” has been produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy (whose production duties has included recent albums by both Low and Mavis Staples). LP due 28 October 2013.

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Suuns “Images Du Futur” (Secretly Canadian)
Currently, Montreal’s Suuns are performing live across Europe in support of their current LP “Images Du Futur”, released earlier in the year by Secretly Canadian. Lately, the band’s profile increased with the inclusion of the track “2020” for the UK trailer to Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives” where Ryan Gosling reunites with Refn for the first time since 2011’s “Drive”. “Images Du Futur” features a tight, visceral set of songs where the influences of Wire, Clinic and Radiohead can be heard.

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Julia Holter “Loud City Song” (Domino)
One of the most anticipated albums of the year comes from Los Angeles-based artist Julia Holter whose previous two albums – debut “Tragedy” and follow-up “Ekstasis” – elevated Holter’s status to being hailed as one of music’s modern greats. “Loud City Song” is Holter’s first album for the Domino label (who she signed to after previous “Ekstasis” album was released on RVNG INTL) and again displays Holter’s truly individual and captivating artistry where divine musical arrangements are combined with enriching and emotionally charged songs. In fact, the origins of this set of songs predates Holter’s 2011 debut “Tragedy”, and were worked on in late 2012. Holter has expressed inspiration from Collette’s 1944 novella Gigi, the music of Joni Mitchell and the poetry of Frank O’ Hara. “Loud City Song” is released by Domino on August 19th, 2013.

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Label Of Love: Bella Union

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Words: Mark Carry, illustration: Craig Carry

Why most of the music on your ipod consists mostly of Bella Union artists is a testament to the phenomenal output of awe-inspiring music that the label has  released since it was founded back in 1997.

2012 sees Bella Union celebrate its 15th anniversary; fittingly it’s the same year Dirty Three return with their rejuvenating work ‘Toward The Low Sun’. Many of the full-blown classic albums released over the years on the forever reliable independent label come from the legendary Australian trio. The elements of violin (Warren Ellis), guitar (Mick Turner) and drums (Jim White) combine to evoke an overwhelming spectrum of human emotions. On ‘Toward The Low Sun’, their eighth album, they remain peerless as improvisers of instrumental intensity and beauty. Spanning Bella Union’s lifespan, Dirty Three albums ‘Ocean Songs’ (1998),’Whatever You Love You Are’, ‘Cinder’ (2005) and the latest ‘Toward The Low Sun’ (2012) firmly grace the music world. As Ellis has said, ‘There is a dialogue within the group that we are still keen to explore’.

We, the music listeners, continue to ‘explore’ new bands and artists through the devoted output of the Bella Union label. The record label was founded by Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde of Scottish alternative rock band Cocteau Twins who created a heavenly, ethereal dream-pop collage of sound. Since 2002, the label has been run solely by Simon Raymonde. Unsurprisingly, it is this unique blend of dream pop that is apparent on the Bella Union roster of like-minded acts, who have the necessary freedom to create their art.

A seamless array of gems have been discovered and re-discovered over the past fifteen years. Fleet Foxes self titled debut (2009) and follow-up ‘Helplessness Blues’ (2011) epitomizes the magic realm of music discovery the label so clearly thrives on. Beach House’s utterly stellar dream pop creations: ‘Devotion’ (2008), ‘Teen Dream’ (2010) and ‘Bloom’ (2012) conveys the immense level of artistic depth within the Bella Union sphere. The enrapturing, elegant sound of The Czars ‘Goodbye’ (2006), the life-affirming concept record ‘Glory Hope Mountain’ from The Acorn (2007), irresistible French chanteuse Francoiz Breut ‘Vingt A Trente Mille Jours’ (2001) and Midlake’s transcendent ‘Trials of Van Occupanther’ (2006) are just some of the many glowing embers of artistic brilliance showcased by Bella Union.

I was first introduced to Bella Union in 2004 in the form of a free label sampler CD from my ever-dependable local recordstore Plugd in Cork. The title was ‘Beneath The Surface Vol. 1′ and upon first listening I knew I needed to explore deeper, beneath the surface. The hauntingly beautiful solo piano of Dustin O’ Halloran scattered among the astral indie pop of Trespassers William and the evocative ‘Through December’ by Laura Veirs opened up a heavenly wall of sound. My highlight was the fourth track, ‘Little Pink House’ by The Czars. I was (very) late in discovering this very special band, fronted by the great John Grant. The song encompasses free jazz, gospel and late night blues that hits you straight to the heart’s core. More recently, John Grant has embarked on a solo career; his debut album ‘Queen Of Denmark'(2010) was lavished upon with critical praise from all corners of the music world.

Later in 2004, Seattle-based singer-songwriter Laura Veirs released her second studio album ‘Carbon Glacier’on Bella Union.The album consists of immense simplicity and unerring beauty. The isolated songwriting style contained within the winter laments evoke the cold, harsh landscape of the Colorado Rockies that formed Veirs’ childhood. Layers of gorgeous instrumentation (banjo, piano, glockenspiel, vibraphone, trombone, guitars, percussion) creates moving folk music, the effect of which is transcendent. On the opening track ‘Ether Sings’, Veirs sings ‘All the time spent dreaming is never lost’ illustrating how the album, like so many Bella Union releases, is for the dream space.

An equally special album arrived four years later, from the multi-instrumentalist Peter Broderick, whose ‘Home’ (2008) album was his Bella Union debut. Amazingly, Broderick was a mere 21 years of age when making this record. A wonderful fusion of field recordings, found sounds and folk/americana creates a breathtakingly beautiful ambient-folk soundscape. It’s an album I’ve returned to countless times, and each time something new can be discovered. ‘And It’s Alright’ builds into a blissful folk pop gem and ‘Not At Home’ is simply sublime. Live, Peter Broderick is a spectacle to behold. Alone on stage with his array of instruments close at hand, he loops violins,musical saw, piano, vocal harmonies, in turn creating music that transcends time.

The Bella Union album that I must pick as my all-time favourite must be ‘Teen Dream’ by Beach House, released in January 2010. The special chemistry that exists between Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally creates such powerful, compelling, unique dream pop of sheer beauty. Their live performance at the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona is one of the best concerts I’ve ever witnessed. Furthermore, their latest album ‘Bloom’ looks to be one of the most important albums of 2012, and beyond.

Later this Summer, Bella Union acts galore grace the idyllic South England Dorset countryside, at the End Of The Road festival. Dirty Three, The Low Anthem, Midlake, Beach House, John Grant, Jonathan Wilson, I Break Horses, Lanterns On The Lake among many others will truly inspire audiences from August 31st to the 2nd of September 2012. Bella Union’s 15th anniversary is a real cause for celebration and ‘with the notes in my ears’ I look forward immensely to the next 15 years.

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July 22, 2012 at 12:38 pm