Wednesday, 23 September 2009

David Sylvian - Manafon

A long time fan of Mr Sylvian, the owner of possibly one of the most beautiful and affecting voices, many of his albums are right up there with my long terms favourite recordings – Gone to Earth, Dead Bees on a Cake, the Nine Horses output and the Robert Fripp collaboration

I still get excited by the news of a new release but latterly I have to be more circumspect about my enthusiasm. Not because he isn’t still in fine voice and clearly immensely able and talented but albums like Blemish don’t swing it for me – too raw and personal, I feel like some sort of voyeur into a hideously painful episode of his life. Added to this the super minimal quality, the merest fragments of melody make the tracks both hard work and difficult to reward with multiple listens.

Aware that his personal life has been taking continued hits, the announcement of his new album Manafon means that I wonder if the bitterness and hurt shown through the Nine Horses project, beautiful and listenable though it was, is still there to the fore. All the signs from the limited listening available are that yes, and perhaps more exposed than ever, together with the fact that the music is back to the bare, minimal style that I find so hard to warm to. I appreciate that artists, especially those with a capital ‘A’ (much like Scott Walker and his recent projects) will want to push their music, stretch the boundaries, it s just that sometime it makes it wretchedly hard to travel with them. I find myself yearning for the richness and complexity of past music, the high quality playing, the fabulous vocals, I don’t mind if the subject matter is either opaque or transparently harsh but I need something to hook onto, something I can return to without feeling either stupid that I don’t ‘get it’ or aurally brutalised.

No doubt I will gather the album in, but I do hope that his life picks up soon, a spot of happiness wouldn’t go amiss now and then, give us something to transcend the greyness of our daily lives. It doesn’t have to be happy clappy but maybe something with depth, richness, something that rewards the listener. Maybe its just me...

Well here are two vids from past days, Darkest Dreaming and the utterly sublime Orpheus

David Sylvian website

Samandisound website

Manafon website for samples and explanations

David Sylvian fan Myspace and another

Monday, 21 September 2009

Volcano Choir - Unmap

Well this was all a bit of news to me til a friend of the lad sent a link over. The one track on the Myspace, Island IS, was an intriguing and teasing one that promised good things to come. Well the CD was released here today and its in my grubby hands and been through the car player a few times already.

As you might expect the influence of Monsieur Bon Iver is strong, the falsetto voice to the fore, with even more impossible to decipher lyrics than on For Emma. The sound too is very familiar - laid back meandering, fleeting glimpses of a hook and a tune from chaps from Collection of Colonies of Bees, but richer and more obviously 'peopled' than Bon Iver

After only few listens there are as yet few tunes to hum along with, although more may emerge slowly, and there is a sense of greater experimentation, almost an art-rock album with only a slight taste of the rock part

The first five tracks are all fine affairs, rather beautiful concoctions of sound an voice, woven together in an almost hypnotic fashion the later tracks have yet to impress to the same extent but maybe they need more time and space.

Some wags are hailing this as one of those genre defining/changing albums, well I have my doubts about that, but none the less it is good piece of work that suggests more rewards the longer it is given. To be honest it might serve as a goof introduction of the possible delights of Collection of Colonies of Bees (what a fine elliptical name they have)

Volcano Choir Myspace
Volcano Choir Jagjaguar
Volcano Choir NPR
Collection of Colonies of Bees Website
Collection of Colonies of Bees Myspace

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Wheat - White Ink Black Ink

After a couple of months rather vainly searching for the next musical obsession it seems like its here. OK I know it came out earlier this summer but it seems absolutely absent in UK stores, but now I have an mp3 download and a hard copy on its way for the US.

Wheat's White Ink Black Ink is frankly a rather wondrous affair. I rather knew that unless it was an absolute stinker then it would be a favourite, I am afraid that they can do little wrong in my book - after all a band who produces the practically perfect in every way Don't I Hold You (despite the odd video) can be forgiven many a slip along the way

Beset by label problems and a less than prolific output; Hope and Adams and Medeiros seem a long time ago and the more recent Everyday I Said a Prayer was a little hit and miss, there has been quite a wait for this bit of product

White Ink Black Ink is a real return to top form, hook laden tunes, quirky bits and bobs and the characteristic vocal delivery of Steve Levesque that works for me every time. the album seems more focussed on the listener with its more tightly drawn songs clocking in around 3 minutes, more immediate without being slight or fleeting

HOTT (Half of the Time) kicks it all off rather excellently setting up expectations for the tracks to come, followed by Changes Is - vid below - (no matter quite what 'changes is the better part of me, boom boom' really means, tho I kind of get the sense). My Warning with its great bass line and the layered harmonies working their magic and then El Sincero and its almost out of tune vocals, destined to be a classic. A personal fav though is Living To Die with the great loping drum and an almost self-perpetuating chorus/verse thing - honestly this cold roll on for 30 minutes and I wouldn't get bored

Another half dozen three minute gems and all too soon its over. Never having had the chance to see them live you wonder how they might reproduce this on stage - the great sound, seemingly slung together, holding on by the skin of its teeth, an almost fragile, chaotic quality to the songs and playing, the vocals that could so easily simply sound rubbish but end up sounding so right all combining to make for heart-warming, fabulous stuff

Wheat web site
Wheat Myspace
Express Night Out Track by Track