FRACTURED AIR

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Posts Tagged ‘The Notwist

Step Right Up: Spirit Fest

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Interview with Markus Acher.

It was one of the best personal and musical experiences for me.”

—Markus Acher

Words: Mark Carry

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Warm percussion and soft strum of acoustic guitar opens the irresistible torch-lit folk pop gem ‘Deja Vu’. Welcome to the bewitching world of Spirit Fest: the newly formed supergroup built around acclaimed Japanese duo, Tenniscoats, and featuring members of Notwist, Jam Money and Joasihno. The intricately woven vocals – swapped between Notwist’s Markus Acher and Tenniscoats – reels you in deep, creating a haven of celestial sounds that swirl majestically in the ether.

The pair of Acher-penned tracks ‘Rain Rain’ and ‘River River’ are sublime avant pop gems that form the vital pulse of the debut album’s opening half. A journey unfolds as the immaculate guitar tones simmer beneath Acher’s achingly beautiful lyrics. The hypnotic quality is not unlike a ripple of raindrops falling onto the surface of water: the meditative refrain of “rain on me” rises beneath the ebb and flow of Tenniscoats’ ‘River River’ invites reflection, of the deepest kind as a healing force prevails throughout this gorgeous pop lament. The sumptuous layers of blissful tones offers solace and hope.

Spirit Fest is a vital musical document from some of independent music’s most treasured artists. This divine pop odyssey represents one of their most accomplished works thus far (in terms of Tenniscoats or Notwist studio albums and the many marvelous collaborations all of these musicians have undertaken). A journey to awaken and enlighten.

‘Spirit Fest’ is out now on Morr Music.

https://www.facebook.com/spiritfestmusic/
https://www.facebook.com/morrmusicberlin/

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Interview with Markus Acher.

Congratulations on the irresistible pop opus of Spirit Fest, a collection of stunningly beautiful pop songs, for the here and now. Please recount your memories of first discovering the music of Tenniscoats and what paths led to the inception of this inspired new collaboration?

Markus Acher: Thank you very much! I’m very happy you like it.

When we visited Tokyo for the first time in 2005 with Lali Puna, I was looking for independent-underground-music from japan apart from the pop- and noise-bands, I knew. A friendly lady at tower-records recommended the CD “Songs for Nao” on chapter-music, a compilation with bands mainly centered around tenniscoats and their label majikick. This CD to this day is one of my favourite albums, as it opened up a whole new world to me. The music is intimate, folky, experimental, strange and familiar at the same time, and incredibly touching… wonderful songwriting and singing.

So, from that point, I tried to find tenniscoats-CDs, where-ever I could, which is difficult in Europe. They became one of my favourite, or maybe my favourite band.
As our friends from the Tokyo-based label afterhours are friends with Saya and Ueno, I had the chance to meet them, and we also talked about a collaboration. When we had the chance to invite bands for our festival Alien Disko in Munich last December, they were the first band, I invited.

It is a joy to witness these songs unfold and the rich musical language that is shared and communicated between its members. There is certainly a fluency and clarity to these avant pop gems. Can you please take me back to the recording sessions of Spirit Fest and your impressions of these particular days, making music together? I can imagine as Alien Disko festival was happening around the same time, this energy and atmosphere channeled into the music in some way?

MA: We recorded all together in the small apartment-studio of our friend Nico. It’s only two rooms, one of them his bedroom, and a small kitchen, with a beautiful view on a playground and the river Isar. It was very narrow and intimate, but that worked very well. It was a great time, between jetlag and sleepwalking, somehow. Also, I was the only person, who knew everybody… it was a gathering of fine people, who didn’t know each other: greek ( Tad klimp), english ( Mat Fowler ), japanese ( Saya + Ueno ) and german ( Cico + me ). We played each other songs, and recorded, without much trying. Mostly everything you hear was recorded live, with some overdubs, and editing afterwards.

In terms of the songs themselves, it’s clear that different members brought songs to the table; where some recordings are tonged with the signature Tenniscoats sound whilst others are more Acher/Notwist oriented creations. I get the impression that the starting point of these songs were perhaps just rough sketches and you must have seen many of these songs undergo a blossom and transformation as the various members put their touches on the recordings? Were there many happy accidents, so to speak that happened during the recording sessions?

MA: The songs were all composed as far as chords and melodies and most of the words go. We played them to each other and everybody found their part. We added new words and parts sometimes. It was so easy, as every one of them has such a clear voice and idea. It was one of the best personal and musical experiences for me personally.

The beating heart of the album (for me) arrives with the sister songs of ‘River River’ and ‘Rain Rain’, both achingly beautiful and meditative laments from the pores of the heart. I’d love for you to discuss the construction of these songs and I wonder were these songs written around the time of the album sessions or were they in your conscience for quite some time? The heavenly harmonies and intricate layers of sonic detail beneath the poetic prose flows like a majestic river, and those clean, warm guitar tones melt into the mix.

MA: These ( and ‘to the moon’ ) were two songs, I wrote with the tenniscoats and the possible collaboration in mind. As their lyrics so beautifully take pictures from nature to tell stories, I wrote about rain and rivers. Also, these songs were composed in not so good times for me, so they are just plain sad, to be honest… that wasn’t a time to be clever…they are just what they are. But what everybody added to the songs, was incredible… and Saya added these new vocal-melodies and arrangement, which made them whole new songs.

I fondly recall the Notwist ‘On/Off’ documentary (circa the making of the classic ‘Neon Golden’ LP) and I was struck by how you were writing some of these songs while in the studio. I wonder would this be the case for many of your sonic ventures, Markus? Spontaneity must be a key factor for you (and this may serve a constant factor in Spirit Fest and your other compelling musical projects)?

MA: As far as singing goes, sometimes, the pressure of having to compose or write something very fast can have very good results, as you write more subconsciously. But actually, I’m not good in it, and try to avoid it 😉 That’s different with playing instruments. I can find parts more easily.

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As you and Tenniscoats have such a wealth of music made thus far, these must also provide good reference points for you when it came to beginning Spirit Fest? I wonder what aims and concerns did you have (and conversations did you share) from the outset prior to making the album? I also get the impression that this project was always going to happen, it was just a matter of time. For instance, the art of collaboration is something integral to you and Tenniscoats (and continues to be) so it must have been such a natural and fun process to undertake Spirit Fest. Can you shed some light on the band name too, it’s a perfect title!

MA: Saya and Ueno made many wonderful collaboration-albums. Their collaborations with tape , and also the wonderful “two sunsets” with the Pastels, another favourite band. So when they suggested to make a collaboration, I couldn’t be happier. I thought, it would be important to capture the intimacy and intensity of them playing their songs, and that’s why I asked our good friend Tad klimp to record and produce it. I know, that he understands, what we do, and can capture every little detail. Mat and Cico, I asked, because they are very good friends, too, and very individual musicians, who have an experimental approach to making music, but also like songs and pop-music. In the end, that was a very good combination of people.

‘Spirit Fest’ was Saya’s english title for the song ‘Hitori Matsuri’, a song about a spirit / ghost wandering around at night. When she suggested it to be the band-name, we all liked it very much.

‘Take Me Home’ is such a gorgeous and bewitching pop lament. Again, the rich instrumentation and the vocal harmonies shared by you and Tenniscoats is one of the infinite sparks of the record. When it comes to the stages of beginning and ultimately completing a song, are there perhaps similar happenings or moments that occur during this process? For ‘Take Me Home’, how the song builds and the myriad of immaculate sounds (child-like sounds, piano notes, percussion, bass) and the celestial harmonies continually build, producing such a heartfelt and contemporary pop song. What is a perfect pop song for you (ingredients and so on)?

MA: ‘Take me home’ is an older song by the tenniscoats from their CD “We are everyone”, that I already had covered once. We thought, it could be good to play together. It’s mainly recorded, as we played it, with only a few small overdubs.

Everything is a good song, that you find yourself in and get lost…that tells a story, even when it’s an instrumental. Saya and Ueno have written so many incredible songs over the years. Even, when they are sung in Japanese, I understand them, although I don’t understand the words.

The second edition of the wonderful Alien Disko festival in Munich takes place this December. Can you discuss the lineup for this edition (such an inspired choice of incredible artists) and your vision for this special festival?

MA: The vision is to bring bands to Munich, that normally don’t come here. Many bands skip Munich on their international tours, that’s sad…although there is a really great scene of artists and bands here. We try to invite bands, that do something special, ignore genres or borders, and are somehow uncategorizable. This year, we invited the Congolese family-band Konono N.1, Shabazz Palaces, Amiina from Iceland, Colleen from France, Michaela Melian from Munich, Sam Amidon, Sauna Youth from London, MS John Soda with my brother Micha, Vanishing Twin, and many more.
Spirit Fest will also play again… a sort of release-show and return to the beginning of the record 😉

Lastly, what records do you feel were defining albums for you, Markus? In terms of pre-Notwist, growing up and the vital sounds that led you on the music path in the very beginning?

MA: Oh, there are so many actually… after many Hardcore-records, like Rites of Spring, Jerry’s Kids, Bad Brains, etc… Talk Talk “Laughing stock” was very important, This Heat, too. I took a lot of the guitar-playing from the Wipers, and Dinosaur Jr was a revelation for us, when “You’re living alover me” was released. Pitchfork, the Clean, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, Yo la Tengo, Stereolab…they were and are very influential.
In recent years, I would say the Pastels, Broadcast and the tenniscoats are bands, I return to very often. Friends.

 

‘Spirit Fest’ is out now on Morr Music.

https://www.facebook.com/spiritfestmusic/
https://www.facebook.com/morrmusicberlin/

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December 12, 2017 at 2:58 pm

Mixtape: As Tears Go By [A Fractured Air Mix]

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As Tears Go By [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

https://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/as-tears-go-by-a-fractured-air-mix/

 

Tracklisting:

01. Georges Auric ‘O Willow Waly’ (‘The Innocents’ OST) [Finders Keepers]
02. Calexico ‘Dead Moon’ (‘Algiers’ Deluxe Edition) [Anti-/City Slang]
03. Norbert Glanzberg ‘La Sorcière’ (‘The Blonde Witch’ OST) [Finders Keepers]
04. Cheval Sombre ‘As Tears Go By’ [Trensmat]
05. the Marquis de Tren and Bonny Billy ‘Solemn 28’ [Domino]
06. Delia Derbyshire ‘Pot Au Feu’ [BBC Radio Enterprises]
07. Lucrecia Dalt ‘Esotro’ [Other People]
08. Tarentel ‘Home Ruckus: Double-Sided Air’ (Side B) [Type]
09. Dino Valente ‘Tomorrow’ [Tompkins Square]
10. Tindersticks ‘No More Affairs’ (Instrumental) [This Way Up]
11. Cat Power ‘Dreams’ [Matador]
12. Mica Levi ‘Love’ (‘Under The Skin’ OST) [Milan]
13. Rachel Goswell ‘Coastline’ (Ulrich Schnauss Instrumental Mix) [4AD]
14. Kevin Shields ‘City Girl’ (‘Lost In Translation’ OST) [Emperor Norton]
15. The Notwist ‘Sleep’ (Odd Nosdam Remix) [City Slang]
16. Lambchop ‘Low Ambition’ (Stratus Remix) [City Slang]
17. James Yorkston ‘Woozy With Cider’ (Jon Hopkins Remix) [Domino]
18. Nils Frahm ‘Them’ (‘Victoria’ OST) [Erased Tapes]
19. Sufjan Stevens ‘Fourth Of July’ [Asthmatic Kitty]
20. Alex North ‘The Truth/The Locket’ (‘The Bad Seed’ OST) [Finders Keepers]

A collection of some of our most treasured vinyl. The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or their respective record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

To follow Fractured Air you can do so on Facebook HERE, or Twitter HERE.

Mixtape: Illusions and Dreams

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Illusions and Dreams [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

https://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/illusions-and-dreams-a-fractured-air-mix/

 

Tracklisting:

01. K. Leimer ‘Allegory’ [Palace Of Lights]
02. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith ‘Careen’ [Western Vinyl]
03. Circuit Des Yeux ‘Lithonia’ [Ba Da Bing!, L&L]
04. Hildur Guðnadóttir ‘Birting’ [Touch]
05. The Gloaming ‘The Girl Who Broke My Heart’ [Real World]
06. Planxty ‘Time Will Cure Me’ [Polydor/Shanachie]
07. Arthur ‘Sunshine Soldier’ [Light In The Attic]
08. Cem Karaca ‘Bir Of Çeksem’ [Pharaway Sounds]
09. Calexico ‘Woven Birds’ (Cinematic Orchestra Remixico) [City Slang]
10. The Notwist ‘Scoop’ [City Slang]
11. Aphex Twin ‘xmas_EVET10 [120] [thanaton3 mix]’ (excerpt) [Warp]
12. Theo Parrish ‘Tympanic Warfare’ (excerpt) [Sound Signature]
13. Wildbirds & Peacedrums ‘Soft Wind, Soft Death’ [Leaf Label]
14. Disappears ‘OUD’ [Kranky]
15. Mount Eerie ‘This’ [P.W. Elverum & Sun, Ltd.]
16. Dirty Three ‘I Really Should’ve Gone Out Last Night’ [Bella Union/Anchor & Hope]
17. Jonny Greenwood ‘Spooks’ [‘Inherent Vice’ OST/Nonesuch]
18. Richmond Fontaine ‘Valediction’ [El Cortez]

The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or their respective record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

To follow Fractured Air you can do so on Facebook HERE, or Twitter HERE.
http://fracturedair.com

 

 

Mixtape: I Set My Face To The Hillside [A Fractured Air Mix]

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I Set My Face To The Hillside [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/i-set-my-face-to-the-hillside-a-fractured-air-mix/

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Tracklisting:

01. Alexandre Desplat ‘The Heroic Weather-Conditions of the Universe, Pt. 1: A Veiled Mist’ [‘Moonrise Kingdom’ OST / ABKCO]
02. Calexico ‘Frontera /Trigger’ (Live) [City Slang / Anti-]
03. Tortoise ‘I Set My Face To The Hillside’ [Thrill Jockey]
04. Igor Stravinsky ‘L’Oiseau de feu (The Firebird Suite): Rondo (Corovod)’ [Revised 1945 Version] [CBS]
05. Lambchop ‘The Distance From Her To There’ [City Slang / Merge]
06. Karen Dalton ‘Take Me’ [Light In The Attic]
07. Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou ‘Evening Breeze’ [Buda Musique]
08. Grouper ‘Clearing’ [Kranky]
09. Choir of Downside School, Purley, Emanuel School Wandsworth, Boys’ Choir & London Symphony Orchestra ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Op. 64: On the Ground, Sleep Sound’ [‘Moonrise Kingdom’ OST / ABKCO]
10. Oneohtrix Point Never ‘Still Life’ [Warp]
11. PASSAGE ‘Poem To The Hospital’ [Anticon]
12. The Notwist ‘Neon Golden’ (Console Remix) [City Slang]
13. Kiasmos ‘Swayed’ [Erased Tapes]
14. A Winged Victory for the Sullen ‘ATOMOS II’ [Erased Tapes / Kranky]
15. Jack Hardy ‘The Tailor’ [Numero Group]

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The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or their respective record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

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Fractured Air. The universe is making music all the time.

Mixcloud / Facebook / Twitter

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Mixtape: I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) [A Fractured Air Mix]

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I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/i-had-too-much-to-dream-last-night-a-fractured-air-mix/

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Tracklisting:

01. Tape – ‘Dust and Light’ (Häpna)
02. Peter Broderick – ‘Walking/Thinking’ (Type)
03. The Notwist – ‘Lineri’ (City Slang)
04. Barker & Baumecker – ‘Spur (Clark Remix)’ (Warp)
05. patten – ‘Here Always’ (Warp)
06. Bibio – ‘Dye the Water Green’ (Warp)
07. The Gentleman Losers – ‘Mansion on the Dunes’ (Büro)
08. Vincent Gallo – ‘I Wrote This Song For The Girl Paris Hilton’ (Warp)
09. Julia Holter – ‘Try To Make Yourself a Work of Art’ (Leaving Records / Domino)
10. Hydras Dream – ‘Grandma’s Appearance’ (Denovali)
11. Illum Sphere – ‘Liquesce’ (Ninjatune)
12. The Space Lady – ‘I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)’ (Nightschool)
13. The Blue Rondos – ‘Little Baby’ (Pye)
14. Cate Le Bon feat. Perfume Genius – ‘I Think I Knew’ (Turnstile / Wichita)
15. Angelo Badalamenti – ‘Twin Peaks Theme (Instrumental)’ (Warner Bros.)
16. Lucrecia Dalt – ‘Batholith’ (Human Ear Music)
17. Jonny Greenwood – ‘Open Spaces: Suite from “There Will Be Blood” Performed by the Copenhagen Phil, conducted by Andre de Ridder (Deutsche Grammophon)
18. Birds of Passage – ‘Lonesome Tame’ (Denovali)
19. Christina Vantzou – ‘Sister’ (Kranky)

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The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or their respective record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

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Fractured Air. The universe is making music all the time.

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air

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Ten Mile Stereo

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Birds Of Passage ‘This Kindly Slumber’ (Denovali)
Released on January 24th 2014 by the wonderful Berlin-based label Denovali Records, ‘This Kindly Slumber’ is the much-anticipated return of New Zealand-based artist Alicia Merz. Her latest Birds Of Passage album, ‘This Kindly Slumber’ — and follow-up to the sublime ‘Winter Lady’ — is a deeply engaging and truly moving affair. The album’s seven songs reveal a haunting darkness and stark honesty throughout, perpetuated by moments of light, hope, intimacy and revelation. The album showcases Merz’s impressive songwriting talents (‘Stranger’), a heightened atmosphere in drone and ambient textures (‘Ashes To Ashes’) and masterful songs combining innocence and vulnerability with darkness and fear to spellbinding effect (‘And All Of Your Dreams’). ‘This Kindly Slumber’ confirms Merz as one of the most special souls making music today.
‘This Kindly Slumber’ is available on 24 January on Denovali Records.

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Marissa Nadler ‘July’ (Sacred Bones/Bella Union)
Boston-based musician Marissa Nadler has been consistently (and quietly) making some of the most intricately written and movingly delivered songs over the last decade or so. ‘July’ further confirms Nadler as a wholly unique and visionary songwriter, where songs such as ‘Dead City Emily’ and ‘Nothing In My Heart’ recalling the gothic noir tales of Gillian Welch or the timelessness of Leonard Cohen or Van Zandt’s respective songbooks. Poetic, starkly beautiful, and always straight from the heart. ‘July’ will be released on Sacred Bones on 4 February (US) and Bella Union on 10 February (EU).

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The Gloaming ‘The Gloaming’ (Real World Records)
This January marks the long-awaited arrival of much-heralded The Gloaming’s glorious self-titled debut album by Real World Records. The Gloaming are a five-piece of supreme talent, comprising some of the finest musicians Ireland has to offer: Iarla Ó Lionaird, Thomas Bartlett, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill. West Meath in early 2011 provided the setting and time for the collective’s first meeting together. The following, as described by The Gloaming’s website, perfectly surmises the band’s unique, utterly contemporary sound: “The Gloaming carves new paths connecting the rich Irish folk tradition and the New York contemporary music scene. From haunting sean-nós songs to rousing instrumental medleys, they make music that is both ancient and utterly new.”
‘The Gloaming’ is available now on Real World Records.

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Tara Jane O’Neil ‘Where Shine New Lights’ (Kranky)
Musician and visual artist Tara Jane O’Neil provides Chicago-based independent label Kranky with their first offering of 2014. O’Neil has a richly diverse musical background to date, ranging from collaborative works (including Mount Eerie and Papa M), commissioned pieces, improvisations and founding numerous bands, including Rodan. O’Neil is also an internationally recognized visual artist who has had four monographs published on her work to date. ‘Where Shine New Lights’ features a gloriously mystery-laden, atmospheric set of songs (typified by the stunning closer ‘New Lights For A Sky’) recalling the likes of Félicia Atkinson and Grouper’s Liz Harris.
‘Where Shine New Lights’ will be released on 27 January by Kranky.

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Hydras Dream ‘The Little Match Girl’ (Denovali)
Hydras Dream is the new collaborative project of the Swedish musicians Anna Von Hausswolff and Matti Bye. Hydras Dream’s debut ‘The Little Match Girl’ will be released in March 2014 by Berlin-based Denovali Records (Greg Haines, Birds Of Passage, Dale Cooper Quartet).
Anna Von Hausswolff was responsible for one of the singularly breathtaking albums of 2013, with her solo album ‘Ceremony’, showcasing Von Hausswolff’s immaculate talents as a lyricist and composer. ‘The Little Match Girl’ is set to be one of the year’s most precious albums.

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Damien Jurado ‘Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son’ (Secretly Canadian)
Damien Jurado’s ‘Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son’, available now on Secretly Canadian, confirms Jurado as one of the finest songsmiths of today. ‘Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son’ reunites Jurado with friend and producer Richard Swift after previously working together on Jurado’s last full length, ‘Maraqopa’ in 2012.

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Juan Wauters ‘N.A.P. – North American Poetry’ (Captured Tracks)
‘N.A.P. – North American Poetry’ is one of the finest debut records for quite some time, heralding this unique and hugely impressive talent of Alberto Wauters (born in Uruguay, now based in Queens, New York). Wauters’ own back-story is told perfectly here:
“In 2000, Alberto Wauters left Uruguay to live in a basement in Queens. Two years later he called his son, Juan, to join him. Juan Wauters crossed the threshold into manhood when he arrived in New York. Working at a factory, the father and son pooled their money to bring their family to the borough of opportunity. With no friends to speak of, Juan turned to music to take control of the loneliness of his isolation. Juan was inspired by his new neighborhood of Jackson Heights and delighted to find that his library card gave him access to an abundance of new music.”
‘N.A.P. – North American Poetry’ is out 4 February 2014 on Captured Tracks.

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The War On Drugs ‘Lost In The Dream’ (Secretly Canadian)
‘Lost In The Dream’ is the third studio album (and follow-up to the wonderful ‘Slave Ambient’ LP) by Philadelphia’s finest The War On Drugs. Including the album’s lead single ‘Red Eyes’, ‘Lost In The Dream’ is an album showcasing Adam Granduciel’s songwriting prowess while revealing a darker and more vulnerable underbelly than previous material. The beautiful ‘Suffering’ and ‘Eyes To The Wind’ reveal a more intimate and ‘Americana’-leaning sound recalling such bands as Whiskeytown, Richmond Fontaine or The Replacements. “I can see the darkness coming my way” sings Granduciel on ‘Red Eyes’, while the album’s ten immaculate tracks see Granduciel navigate his way out of the darkness, producing a modern-day ‘Born To Run’ in the process.
‘Lost In The Dream’ is out on 18 March 2014 on Secretly Canadian.

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The Notwist ‘Close To The Glass’ (City Slang/Sub Pop)
‘Close To The Glass’ is German indie giants The Notwist first studio album since 2008’s ‘The Devil, You + Me’. Since then the band have scored a soundtrack for ‘Storm’ (2009) and have been running their own label, the wonderful Alien Transistor. Best known for their classic 2002 album ‘Neon Golden’ — which fused the indie-rock and lyricism of brothers Acher with the electronic wizardry of Console’s Martin Gretschmann to stunning effect — it’s follow-up ‘The Devil, You + Me’ showcased a more leaner and accessible sound. ‘Kong’ is the first taste of The Notwist’s long overdue eighth album. This February City Slang will issue ‘Close To The Glass’ in Europe (their label since ‘Neon Golden’) while Sub Pop will release to American audiences on 25 February 2014.

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Lambchop ‘Nixon’ (Reissue) (Merge)
To celebrate the label’s 25th anniversary, Merge will be reissuing classic albums from their back catalog each month throughout 2014. First up will be the reissue of Nashville’s beloved Lambchop’s classic fifth studio album ‘Nixon’, first released in 2000. The album was a significant breakthrough for the band, both commercially and critically acclaimed across both sides of the Atlantic, marking the band’s reluctant rise to the overground. The album sees a shift in the Lambchop sound as Wagner and co. sought to fuse country, soul, gospel and funk into their own unmistakable sound to wondrous effect. Featuring such gems as ‘You Masculine You’, ‘Up With People’ and ‘The Book I Haven’t Read’. The reissue also features a bonus disc, ‘White Sessions 1998: How I Met Cat Power’, a remastered live solo session featuring five songs Kurt Wagner recorded in 1998 (both Wagner and Cat Power were doing back-to-back promo sessions that day).
The reissue of Lambchop’s classic 2000 album ‘Nixon’ is released on 28 January by Merge Records.

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Label Of Love: City Slang

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Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

New City Slang releases adorn Spanish filmmaker’s Pedro Almodovar’s list of musical inspirations for his new film ‘Los Amantes Pasajeros’. The albums in question are the latest albums from two greats, Lambchop and Tindersticks. Lambchop’s ‘Mr. M’ album is the closest thing you can get to a solo Kurt Wagner album which is dedicated to the late Vic Chesnutt. In Kurt’s words, ‘I felt Lambchop had one more good record in us, and this time I was going to do things as directly and true to my desires as possible.’ The result is a heart wrenching jazz-folk opus of, and about love. ‘The Something Rain’ by Tindersticks is their debut for the German label and what an album it is. The album is a milestone in Tindersticks’ long and fruitful career, showing the band in a rejuvenated and truly inspired form. From the opening David Boulter spoken word of ‘Chocolate’ to the closing cinematic piece ‘Goodbye Joe’, compelling experimental rock of ‘Frozen’, jazz infused soul of ‘This Fire of Autumn’ and ‘Slippin’ Shoes”s gorgeous chamber pop noir, ‘The Something Rain’ is a stunning masterpiece in sound, emotion and style. The inclusion of both albums on the legendary filmmaker’s ‘stress lifting’ playlist is a testament to the sheer quality of ‘Mr. M’ and ‘The Something Rain’. In Almodovar’s films, music is a central character and is forever integral to the creation of the unique and wonderful world that Almodovar’s characters inhabits.

The album I hold most dear to me is ‘Neon Golden’ by The Notwist. The album was released on City Slang in 2002. I will always remember the first time I heard The Notwist in the form of ‘One With The Freaks’, taken from ‘Neon Golden’. Every Sunday night I would stay up late, into the small hours of the morning and listen to Jay Ahern’s late night music program on 2FM. The show was my gateway into exploring new and alternative music. I felt the magic in the air’s airwaves for the three captivating hours, from 11PM ’till 2AM. As a teenager, at 17, a whole world of new possibilities opened up before me. Every weekend I spent waiting for the arrival of Sunday night and every Monday at school I would be lost in thought, trying to recapture the music that drifted in my ears from the night before.
My musical discoveries were endless. I first heard the exciting sound of electronic music from the likes of Brian Eno, Aphex Twin and Kraftwerk. A new generation of electronic music in the shape of Four Tet, Manitoba and Schneider TM. The NYC guitar scene of LCD Soundsystem, The Strokes, The Rapture and Interpol were burning brightly. Detroit were doing their thing with The White Stripes, Detroit Cobras, The Von Bondies among others all in full swing. Hip hop was introduced to me, from the legendary Jurassic 5 to new protoges on the Anticon and Def Jux labels. The guitar disco of the DFA label reinvented rock ‘n’ roll for me. Hour 2 was nearly always based on Americana and folk music. I fell in love with James Yorkston & The Athletes album ”Movin’ Up Country’ and M. Ward’s ‘Transfiguration of Vincent’. Oh, and I heard Chan Marshall (AKA Cat Power) for the first time, whose (classic) album ‘You Are Free’ was recently released at this time. The array of bands and artists I became obsessed with are too numerous to mention!

At this moment I realized I’ve transgressed from my original recount of the Notwist and ‘Neon Golden’. Jay Ahern played ‘One With The Freaks’ almost religiously every week. The song’s chorus ‘Have you ever been all messed up?’ sung by Markus Acher moved me hugely. Acher’s vocals were heartfelt and the song was both indie and electronica in equal measure. I was mesmerized, particularly at the moment when the electric guitars and drums crash in so magnificently. This, the DJ told me is ‘indietronica music’, the combination of the traditional indie music guitar/drums elements and electronic music’s experimentation. I soon scanned the shelves of Plugd, my local record store and happily found ‘Neon Golden’ gracing the ‘Electronica’ section. ‘Neon Golden’ is an album I’ve returned to most often in the last ten years, although Calexico’s ‘Feast of Wire’ (also on City Slang) could have broken this record! The album is the amalgamation of electronic and acoustic instrumentation. From the opening ‘One Step Inside Doesn’t Mean You Understand’ wrapped in seamless beauty to the closing lo-fi lullaby ‘Consequence’, the album is the most natural thing in the world. Since its release in 2002, The Notwist’s ‘Neon Golden’ is among the best, most vital and innovative albums of the 21st Century, and branded a universally acclaimed masterpiece. Frontman Markus Acher has said ‘We want (the music) to be fragile, vulnerable. And in a way we want it to include the weaknesses.’ The sonic and emotional journey ‘Neon Golden’ takes you on is otherworldly.

Hazy pop melodies drifts in and out, lo-fi ballads float slowly, beautiful, dreamy electronic textures circulate and delicate instrumentation creates an album of true magic. The poetic lyrics of Acher ring in your ear long after the music has stopped. ‘In your world my feet are out of step/my arms don’t move, my hands won’t grab’ is a lyric from ‘One Step Inside Doesn’t Mean You Understand’. A gently picked acoustic guitar, conga and soft woodwind sounds floats heavenly amidst Acher’s poetry before Martin Gretschmann’s electronic prowess arrives over heavenly strings. ‘Pick Up The Phone’ is perfect electronic pop with New Orderesque bass from Micha Acher, ‘Today I will step out of your past’ are Acher’s final words. ‘Trashing days’ opens with a banjo before Gretschmann’s magical electronic beats guides the song along before a gorgeous flute line enters on the chorus, ‘They’re skipping backwards, they’re trashing days,is that all they’re believing in?’ ‘Solitaire’ weaves its magic, containing a Michael Nyman sample. The violin and Gretschmann’s slowed down beats combine to form an utterly compelling dreamscape of sound. Acher sings ‘We stay here and bare until dawn everyday ‘ on the song’s chorus. I soon realized many off-shoot projects stemmed from The Notwist, namely Lali Puna, Tied & Tickled Trio and Console. These artists were often played by Jay Ahern, together with The Notwist, and often all consecutively for the ultimate German-electronic-indie-tronic journey. The album’s closer ‘Consequence’ is probably my highlight. In fact, the lyrics ‘Fail with consequence, lose with eloquence and smile’ is engraved on my precious ipod! The song is achingly beautiful with layers of intricate textures woven together. The album’s title-track is sublime. Flutes, banjo and layers of percussion creates the perfect backdrop for Acher’s vocals, ‘Neon golden like all the lights/Neon golden, don’t leave me here/For I glow’.

In 2003, I discovered Calexico. Their fourth studio album ‘Feast of Wire’ came out in February on the City Slang label. This was my most important musical discovery as over the past decade, Tucson Arizona’s finest have been my most beloved and cherished bands, unlike no other. Each new Calexico release is a celebration of pure joy. Equally, seeing them on tour is always of paramount importance. The band holds such significance to me that music without Calexico would seem unthinkable. Since discovering ‘Feast of Wire’ I discovered their previous masterpieces, ‘Spoke’, ‘The Black Light’ and ‘Hot Rail’. Listening only to Calexico’s studio albums is merely scratching at the surface. Before Calexico, Joey Burns (guitars, vocals amongst varied others!) and John Convertino (drums, vibes and more) were the rhythm section of Giant Sand and were in Friends of Dean Martinez. Furthermore, Calexico collaborated with a vast array of musicians, including Neko Case, Richard Buckner, Marianne Dissard, and more recently, Iron & Wine, Vinicio Caposella, Depedro and Amparo Sanchez. Calexico have written and composed scores for a wide range of films from the heart-wrenching Mexican documentary ‘Circo'(Aaron Schock) to the Fellini-inspired Dylan biopic ‘I’m Not There'(Todd Haynes). The wealth of music the band have produced and released over the years is staggering. Not to forget their many tour albums that are released in the space between the major label releases, all of which are essential listening.
‘Feast of Wire’ is a masterpiece of beauty and diversity. I first heard the album’s songs on Jay Ahern’s Sunday night alternative music program. The likes of Dirty Three, The Black Heart Procession and (labelmates) Lambchop were often close at hand! The night in question was a rare musical treat where Joey Burns was the guest for the full 3 hour duration. It reached epic proportions! I escaped to Tucson, Arizona, the expansive Sonoran desert, downtown Tucson, Wavelab studios, Craig Schumacher, Cormac McCarthy, the U.S/Mexican border and mariachis, folk, jazz, gypsy, latino music galore. During the show, the entire ‘Feast of Wire’ album in addition to sprinklings of older material was played. What I heard was simply the most exciting and momentous music, unlike no one else. The genres and styles of jazz, gypsy, folk, lo-fi indie, cinematic scores a la Morricone were immersed in their deep-rooted sound.

‘Feast of Wire’ opener ‘Sunken Waltz’ begins with an angelic accordion and acoustic guitar waltz before Joey Burns sings, ‘Washed my face in the rivers of empire.’ ‘Quattro (World Drifts In)’ is next and for me, is still the finest moment in Calexico’s songbook. John Convertino’s drums echo Joey Burn’s lyrics, ‘hit the ground running’. The sheer atmospheric feel and weight of the song is mind-blowing. Paul Niehaus’ pedal steel pours emotion, as do the soaring trumpets on the song’s chorus. A song rarely carries such power and emotion like ‘Quattro’. ‘Black Heart’ is sublime. The mesmerizing string section beneath Convertino’s illuminating drums creates a timeless sound. The song is cathartic and its magical power cleanses your soul, ‘..black heart, crawling its way to the four corners of the world’ Burns sings on the chorus. The album contains as many instrumentals as it does vocal tracks. ‘The Book And The Canal’ is my favourite of the instrumentals. A cinematic tour de force. Meandering piano builds into a crescendo before eerie cello strings appear halfway through. The piece isn’t even 2 minutes long yet the spell it casts is undeniable. This piece always brings me back to seeing Calexico perform in the Cork Opera House in 2003. The lights went off and ‘The Book and the Canal’ came on the venue soundsystem. A short black and white road trip video of Calexico (featuring all members exploring a city’s streets at nightfall) was shown before Calexico entered onstage. ‘Across The Wire’ transports you to the heart of the Mexican border. The song title is taken from Luis Alberto Urrea’s novel ‘Across The Wire’. The song offers a compelling look at life for those refugees on the Mexican side of the border. The song is full of hope and dreams, searching and longing. The rise where Burns sings ‘some say a new day will shine here’ is one of the defining moments of ‘Feast Of Wire’. The glorious mariachis and waltzing accordion is empowering, celebratory and casts light of hope on the darkness ‘across the wire’. The album is an artistic treasure and a feast of musical sounds and styles.

Nashville’s Lambchop is a band, like Calexico, who constantly inspire, no matter what sonic avenue they travel down. Kurt Wagner and co. came to Cork Opera House for their ‘Is A Woman’ tour in 2002. Fortunately, I witnessed this magical night. At 17, this concert (as well as Calexico in the same year at the same venue!) blew me away. I can always remember the presence Kurt Wagner exuded onstage, sitting down with his trademark Nashville Co-op cap and a book of lyrics close at hand. The musicianship in the band was clear to see. Tony Crow’s piano was in constant dialogue with Kurt’s storytelling. The intimacy of the night was something I will always remember. Sitting next to my brother and my Dad, I felt the special spark in the air brought by Lambchop’s deeply soulful creations.

‘Is A Woman’ is a Lambchop album I’ve returned to many many times since it was released 10 years ago. Each song pours with such raw emotion, creating an album of deeply affecting songs that resonates powerfully to this day. ‘The Daily Growl’, ‘New Cobweb Summer’, ‘My Blue Wave’, ‘I Can Hardly Spell My Name’, ‘Caterpillar’, ‘The Old Matchbox Trick’ are all vintage Lambchop. ‘I Can Hardly Spell My Name’ may be my favourite. Gorgeous female backing harmonies appear after Kurt sings, ‘this may not appeal to you, but I can hardly spell my name’. Tony Crow’s piano, Paul Niehaus’ pedal steel beneath Kurt’s gentle guitar provides a meditative soul sound. Moments of magic are dotted all over ‘Is A Woman’. Take ‘Autum’s Vicar’ with Kurt’s lyric on the bridge, ‘believe you me, believe me you’ is life affirming. ‘Caterpillar’ closes with haunting strings amidst Niehaus’ atmospheric lap steel. The title track evolves into a soulful reggae opus. ‘The Old Matchbox Trick’ contains a deep bassline groove. The lyrics on the final verse/chorus is perhaps my favourite of Kurt’s, ‘the old matchbook trick, keeps the table from wobble, slipped under the short leg, steadies the unsteadiness, of the lopsided conversation, makes a solid place to rest, arms and thought upon’.

‘Nixon’ is another masterpiece from Lambchop that came out in 2000, the predecessor to ‘Is A Woman’. This in fact was my first introduction to the ‘Chop, and what an introduction!! I remember my brother and I were in HMV and we saw the colourful autumnal artwork of ‘Nixon’ and blurb that read, ‘A tenderly gorgeous hybrid of country, folk and soul’. That was enough for us to dole out the cash! Like The Notwist’s ‘Neon Golden’ and Calexico’s ‘Feast of Wire’, ‘Nixon’ is a rare treasure which breathes significance and life’s insights. If ‘Feast of Wire’ introduced me to jazz and latin music, ‘Nixon’ introduced me to soul. Funnily, this album got me into Curtis Mayfield shortly afterwards. Whenever I played it, my parents would say his voice (Kurt’s soul falsetto) is like Curtis Mayfield!

The album is sublime. Words can’t paint the feelings I have for ‘Nixon’. The strings, clean guitar tones, Kurt’s soul voice, brass, bass grooves, country licks pour out of the speakers. Each song is an anthem with a message delivered by Reverend Kurt. My favourite all time Lambchop song is ‘You Masculine You’, the third song on ‘Nixon’. The song has such a wide dynamic range from the opening delicate string soaked verses to the cascading soul grandeur it becomes. Kurt sings ‘Don’t follow me’ in refrain over the swirling strings, guitars and drums proving to be ‘Nixon”s climax. It’s breathtaking and live, the song becomes something more, an anthem for a generation, embedded in a whirlwind of emotion.

Similarly with Calexico, Lambchop have released countless tour albums for the fans over the years and each one documents the band in a particular moment in time. Recently both bands have released their tour albums in one box set; Calexico’s ‘Road Atlas’ and lambchop’s ‘Tour Box’ are steeped in inspiration and wonder. Lambchop’s liner notes say, ‘Making things difficult since 1992’. For the listener, Lambchop have made some of the most beautiful, moving and transcendent music of our time. The sound of Lambchop transcends time. Asking ‘What is your favourite Lambchop album?’ is like being asked what your favourite Beatles album is. It’s never a constant. It changes with time. It changes depending on life’s current circumstances. One day it could be ‘Rubber Soul’, the next day ‘Revolver’ or ‘Sgt Pepper’. Likewise with Lambchop, the latest ‘Mr. M’ is my current fave. A short time ago it was the double-album of lush instrumentals, thoughtful ballads and rousing rock of ‘Aw C’mon/No You C’mon. I love their older albums too, released during the nineties. ‘I Hope You’re Sitting Down’ is their debut and contains classics such as the infectious ‘Betweemus’, and the achingly beautiful ‘I Will Drive Slowly’. At the time of its release, Lambchop were pronounced as ‘Nashville’s most fucked-up country band’ with their unique songcraft and style(s). Since 1992, Lambchop have evolved into becoming American music’s true national treasures.

The German electronic artist Schneider TM (AKA Dirk Dresselhaus) was another discovery I made via Jay Ahern’s late night radio program, on the City Slang label. I first heard his collaboration with Kpt. Michi.gan on ‘Light 3000’. The electronica track is a re-working of ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ by The Smiths. I was already familiar with the Morrisey/Marr original but this complete re-interpretation was absolutely mind-blowing. I don’t think a better cover version has been made since. Schneider TM’s ‘Zoomer’ album was released on City Slang in 2002. Exciting and fresh electronic pop sounds painted each of the album’s eight tracks. The opener ‘Reality Check’ starts with a strumming acoustic guitar accompanied with strange effects and electronic blips. A lyric is ‘beware of the matrix, and keep a warm heart inside’. Schneider TM’s vocals are reminiscent of Beck and like Beck himself, creates exciting and cutting edge music. At the same time ‘Zoomer’ was out, Manitoba AKA Dan Snaith released his masterpiece, ‘Up In Flames’. Although this very album was released on the Leaf label, almost a decade later, Dan Snaith would release a classic electronic album ‘Swim’ under the ‘Caribou’ moniker, on the City Slang label! I fell in love with Dan Snaith’s unique sound found on ‘Up In Flames’. The single ‘Jacknuggeted’ is sublime as is the beautiful music video that accompanied its release. A great electronic-indie musician who effortlessly combines rhythms, percussion, electronics, jazz, indie/psych music among other styles, forming a unique and revelatory sound. Dan Snaith’s masterpiece arrived in 2010 under the Caribou moniker. ‘Swim’ was borne out of Snaith’s desire to create “dance music that sounds like it’s made out of water”. ‘Swim’ is an organic dance record with remarkable sonic detail and textures. Snaith has been at the forefront of electronic music for a decade, with the likes of Four Tet, who are capable of creating utterly compelling and transcendent music. I can’t wait for Caribou’s follow-up to ‘Swim’! Also, the remixes to ‘Swim’ are essential listening.

More recently, a wave of indie-rock acts have been signed to the City Slang label. Most noticeably, Tu Fawning’s album ‘A Monument’ is an enchanting and truly interesting album. The opener ‘Anchor’ is reminiscent of Beach House and many fine indie pop moments are scattered across the nine tracks. Laura Gibson’s ‘La Grande’ feels ancient and new all at once, whose voice echoes the great Karen Dalton. Indie acts Get Well Soon, Nada Surf and O Death make their own distinct indie rock sound. Arcade Fire released their third album, ‘The Suburbs’ on City Slang to huge critical praise and cemented their reputation as the best indie rock groups around. The best of 2012 is yet to come with the imminent release of ‘Algiers’ by Calexico. The album was recorded in New Olreans so expect yet another melting pot of sound from New Orleans via Tucson Arizona.

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August 3, 2012 at 7:47 pm