Tuesday 30 October 2012

Tamaryn Makes You Feel Sleepy

You won't find the name Tamaryn a lot over here, but it is used as a girl's name in Australia and New Zealand. Tamaryn also is the somewhat mysterious name of the singer of the album Tender New Signs. She's from the faraway country New Zealand, but is living in San Francisco nowadays. There's she's collaborating with producer Rex John Shelverton. A first album The Waves was released a while ago, with positive response. The music can best be described as dreamy shoegaze pop, like for example the Scottish band Cockteau Twins did in the past.

Tamaryn - Tender New Signs (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)

The new album continues down the same road as that first record. The sad songs, nine in total, are mostly slow and will get you into a lazy feeling. Tamaryn's thin voice is giving the songs a cold feel which results in an oppressive atmosphere. This is reminding a bit of The XX, but without the estranged character. The music doesn't dig deep enough for that and the songs stay within the accepted boundaries. The usual shoegaze wall of reverb and effects is less thick and remains tasteful.

But that low pace is also a weak spot in this case. The pitfall for this dreamy music is monotony. 'Heavenly Bodies' and 'The Garden' sound flat and are playing along unnoticed. The dream shouldn't get to wild but you have to keep on dozing instead. So don't expect any violent eruptions or outbursts. Tamaryn's style of singing, that doesn't have a lot of variation, doesn't help either. She will keep rocking you asleep. Maybe that was exactly her intention, but it just won't get really exciting because of it. Until the end, where the strong and best song on the record 'Violet's In Pool' closes the album. Here's she's showing that she's able to surprise after all.

Tender New Signs didn't turn into a bad record, but it just can't keep you focused. It is easy to listen to and fans of dreamy shoegaze won't be disappointed. But it could use more intensity and dynamics. Now it has led to an average end result. It does enable you to doze off gently though.

This review has been published on ROAR E-Zine in Dutch over here.

Listen to 'Tender New Signs' on Spotify.

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Wednesday 24 October 2012

Tame Impala Flying Even Higher

Tame Impala's first album Innerspeaker is a great set of psychedelic songs and was one of the suprises of 2010. The band is mostly Kevin Parker's project. The versatile musician is the big mastermind. The great music he thought up found critical acclaim. So the anticipation was high when the new album Lonerism was announced.

Tame Impala - Lonerism (Ronald Says 10 out of 10)

On the record the band is flying even higher and is exploring new ground. Not that it's shockingly different, but the band manages to improve on every aspect. They are digging deeper and adding more subtle aspects and layers. Think about The Beatles on Sgt. Pepper and add even more acid. I read somewhere that the album is kind of a trip in Parker's head. I wonder what the inside of his head looks like. It doesn't really matter, since what eventually comes out is simply brilliant.

The music has the same sound as Innerspeaker. Lots of reverb, flangers and spacy sounds on top of seventies style drums. This also means it's full of jazzy grooves and rolling fills. 'Endors Toi' is a fine example of this. The synths in it remind me of the soundtrack of the movie Scarface: Al Pacino, his nose dipped in coke, pulls out "his little friend". Despite these associations Tame Impala have managed to cut loose from time and age. Although it reminds of past times, it could easily be music of the future. Yes, "timeless" would be a good word for it.

First single 'Elephant' is a smart choice. It doesn't space out too much, has a great groove, is radio friendly, but still catches the whole album. I could pick out a few more songs and talk about them, but all songs on this album are simply top notch. An album like this would be called a masterpiece. And that's exactly what it is. Go buy and listen to it over and over and over again. Experience this brilliant trip yourself.

Monday they are playing Paradiso Amsterdam but I didn't get tickets before it sold out. So if anyone has any left let me know!

Listen to 'Lonerism' on Spotify.

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Friday 19 October 2012

Radiohead Redefine Standard Once More

If there's one band who has been pushing boundaries and keeps reinventing itself it has to be Radiohead. The band from Oxfordshire released The King Of Limbs already 1,5 years ago, but decided to wait a bit longer before visiting our small country. After radically changing musical direction a few times before, this album may have been hard on many a fan. I actually quite like it despite many critics calling it one of their less good records. And I was sure they would play many songs of it.

Radiohead at Ziggo Dome Amsterdam, October 14 2012
Unfortunately we end up late at the venue and have to miss Caribou who played first. We can find a spot somewhere halfway the field. Last time at the Pearl Jam concert we had seated tickets, so this is the first time that I'm in the field at this brand new venue. One thing is clear right away: the stage isn't high enough. Although I'm quite a tall person, I have to try my best to see the top of the stage. Throughout the concert I can only see the musicians from their knees up. A smaller person will have a hard time seeing anything at all.

When the show takes off, it's greeted with loud cheers. Fortunately there's plenty to see besides the band on the stage. A large video-wall with thousands of lights is showing abstract visuals, while twelve square flat screens are lowered from the ceiling. These panels can be moved in any direction, so that they will change position with every song. On top of the stage there are six more square screens. Small cameras make sure that every band member is showing in one of those screens. The twelve screens sometimes are working as a ceiling, other times creating a surreal image, like autumn leaves scattered around, frozen in time. Once again Radiohead have managed to create a stunning light show and visuals. A job well done by stage designer Andi Watson.

It combines perfectly with the music that is surreal itself from time to time. Kicking off with 'Bloom' of the new record, we get treated to a fine selection of songs. Many tracks of The King Of Limbs and from the older albums especially OK Computer and Hail To The Thief are well represented. Pablo Honey and The Bends are completely ignored. The band has added Portishead drummer Clive Deamer to team up with Phil Selway. This is a wise choice, since the complex rythms of the last couple of albums are impossible to play with just one drummer. Instead of using even more sequencers and samples, the two drummers are doing a great job playing the tough jazzy and breakbeat grooves.

The electronic sounds of the past years translate very well to this live environment. Together with the spectacular visuals, they seem to show us what's going on inside singer Thom Yorke. It's like he's showing us the inside of his brain, the images and music he's experiencing when he wrote the songs. Yorke himself has transformed into a confident front man. Moving around stage in his own, sometimes freaky way, submitting himself to the music, seemingly unaware of 15,000 persons watching him. As if he's just enjoying himself in his own living room. Guitarist Jonny Greenwood is even more involved in his own world. The two are left on stage by themselves for 'Give Up The Ghost' where Yorke is looping his voice on the spot to create his own backing vocals.

Twenty-four songs in total are played including the new song 'Ful Stop' and 'Supercollider'. 'A Wolf At The Door' even made it onto the setlist. In the third encore we get treated to a wild version of 'Idioteque' and then it's over. I'm left stunned, wondering what I've just experienced. Even now it's hard to describe. This was so much more than just a music concert. This was a total experience of the senses. Once again Radiohead have pushed the boundaries of the music world a bit further.

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01 Bloom
02 Lucky
03 15 Step
04 Kid A
05 Myxomatosis
06 The Gloaming
07 Separator
08 Reckoner
09 You and whose army?
10 Nude
11 Ful Stop
12 Lotus Flower
12 There There
14 Karma Police
15 Feral
16 Paranoid Android
Encore 1
17 Give Up The Ghost
18 Supercollider
19 Morning Mr Magpie
20 A Wolf At The Door
21 Bodysnatchers
Encore 2
22 How to disappear completely
23 Everything In Its Right Place (with 'Unravel'Bjork intro)
Encore 3
24 Idioteque

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Tuesday 16 October 2012

Felabration: Partying Fela Style

For the second year in a row, Jungle By Night, the young Dutch afro-beat collective, organised a Dutch edition of Felabration to honour and celebrate the life of Fela Kuti. A few days later Fela would have turned 74. Several bands would be playing this night, including Jimi Tenor with very special guest Tony Allen.

Felabration: Fela Kuti Tribute at Paradiso Amsterdam, October 12 2012

I don't need much persuasion when a legend like drummer Tony Allen is announced. Together with Fela Kuti he invented afro-beat. So we make sure to arrive at Paradiso on time to watch Jimi Tenor kick it off on the main stage with Kabu Kabu.

Jimi Tenor with Kabu Kabu, special guest Tony Allen

Jimi Tenor, real name Lassi Lehto, is a Finnish jazz musician. Tonight he's playing with Kabu Kabu, an afro-beat band from Berlin, who already worked with some famous afro-beat pioneers like Ebo Taylor and Tony Allen. Tenor is giving a lot of freedom to the band to play the jazzy tunes. He's playing flute and sax himself and is singing some occasional vocals. Most members are getting their chance in the spotlight. A lot seems improvised, which gives it a very loose but also a bit of a messy feel. After a while they announce Tony Allen, who will be playing the rest of the show with them. Unfortunately this is rather short and after about 15 minutes they have to end. It's still great to see the master himself on stage. His very relaxed style is all coolness. Don't expect any technical tricks or rolling fills. But he's so tight in the groove and loose in his playing. It's a delight to watch this legend and dance to the music he invented.

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Jungle By Night
Of course the young members of the band themselves are also playing tonight. It's clear they are spending a lot of time playing together and on the road. Every time they sound more tight and look more relaxed and confident on stage than the time before. Where Jimi Tenor was lacking some speed and may have been a bit too jazzy for this crowd, Jungle By Night know how to light the fuse and get this party going. Fortunately besides Jimi Tenor and Kabu Kabu, they get Tony Allen to play with them as well, so I get to see a bit more of one of my favourite drummers. The old master is all smiles and looks like he's loving every minute of it. It has to be a great feeling, that such young people are playing and dancing to the music you invented fourty years ago. It looks like the legacy of him and Fela Kuti is safe. Kuti himself would have approved as well I'm sure.

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Bixiga70 It's a diverse bill tonight. We missed two more bands, one from Germany, Woima Collective and another Dutch band, Atanga Boom. Now there's a band from Brasil playing on the small stage upstairs. It's their first show outside their country and I hope it won't be their last one. Their music, afro-beat with some latin influences, is very catchy and danceable. It's impossible to stand still. The band is very excited and is working hard to please the crowd. When a few members of Jungle By Night join in on the fun, it turns into a wild jam. It's the appropriate ending of the live part of this Felabration, before the after-party downstairs takes off.

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This event is a great idea. For the second year in a row it proves to be very successful. It's good to see that a musical genre that almost seemed destined to be forgotten, is catching on with a young generation. This way we will never forget about great people like Fela and Tony Allen. Hopefully we can "felebrate" for many years to come.

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Sunday 14 October 2012

The Many Faces Of Case Mayfield

Musician Case Mayfield released his first full album The Many Coloured Beast earlier this year. It was received very positively and since then he has been playing a lot of club shows and some festivals. However the songs kept coming and now he's already releasing his second album 10. He's shooting ten videos for it as well and presented it in Paradiso on the 10th of October.

Case Mayfield at Paradiso Amsterdam, October 10 2012

Mayfield keeps on growing, so much is clear. I already wrote this many times. He doesn't like to stick to conventions and is trying to draw his own plan. This is probably not always that easy, since record labels usually like things to go their way. It does suit the wayward nature of Mayfield. Something that is also obvious from his music. Although most of his songs are dark, they are very diverse. The new album even has a few "happy" songs, as he calls it himself. Tonight he's starting with these lighter and more uptempo songs. Mayfield and his band are touching upon a more soulful sound here.

Mayfield looks very comfortable on stage these days. He's chatty and joking around with people at the front of the stage. But once he's starting a new song, his face changes, it is getting a serious look. Especially in the heavier songs. In the middle of the set, the band leaves and Mayfield is on stage all by himself. In the past he sometimes would look a bit lost. But now he's standing there confidently, playing a few of his best songs including the always impressive 'Louise'. The crowd goes silent and is holding its breath.

With his new album Mayfield has added more great songs to his repertoire. It makes for a diverse and convincing set. Songs like 'Schizofrenia' and 'The Green Mean' are worthy additions. As encore we get treated Mayfield's and his band's version of DJ Afrojack's 'Rock The House', which works very well. His performance reflects his personality. I really hope he will stay that way, allergic to any existing convention, drawing his own plan. That's what makes him stick out. That will make him come close to a perfect ten in the future, although I'm sure he could care less about that.

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Thursday 11 October 2012

Our New Favourite Toy

A few years ago the promising British band Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong caused a bit of a stir. An album was announced, but it never saw the light of day. The band left their label and broke up shortly after. Toy rose from their ashes.

Toy - Toy (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)

This band díd manage to release an album: the self titled début album. They already played a few festivals and toured as a support act with Primal Scream and The Horrors. That last one isn't a complete coincidence, since they already called Toy one of the most exciting new bands of this year. The British press are onto the foursome as well and are excited too.

Not a bad start for a band that has been around for just over two years. Listening to the record makes clear that all this attention is justified. The band sounds confident and sometimes reminds of aforementioned The Horrors. Except Toy have a broader sound. Where The Horrors mostly sound dark, we can hear more Britpop influences here. Especially echoes of Pulp and The Stone Roses can be heard in the twelve tracks. Among those songs, a few could definitely turn into a hit. Like the catchy 'Motoring', that keeps rocking from start to finish. Or the radio friendly songs 'Lose My Way' and 'Make It Mine'.

The music, which is leaning heavily on effects, reverb and synths, reminds strongly of the eighties, combined with psychedelic influences. Some songs have long parts without vocals, which only strengthens the psychedelic effect. The freaky and dark 'Drifting Deeper' even is fully instrumental, as is the short intermezzo 'Omni'. That is not disturbing in any way. In fact these moments make the record so interesting. Eventually it ends in the almost ten minute dessert 'Kopte'.

No doubt Toy are one of the most interesting bands in the UK at the moment. The Horrors were spot on there. All this attention could turn them in to the hippest kid on the block. It wouldn't surprise me if we will hear a lot more of them. And hopefully we get to see them in the next festival season.

This review has been published on ROAR E-Zine in Dutch over here.

Listen to 'Toy' on Spotify.

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Sunday 7 October 2012

Rival Sons Working Hard For Success

Some bands make a first album and with a few hits immediately rocket into the big league. Rival Sons is not one of those bands. They just released their third album Head Down (review coming soon) and are slowly becoming more popular. It's hard to believe they even had time to record it, because the band seems to be on the road all the time. After playing here in November last year they are now back for another show. And this time they are playing the big hall of the Melkweg.

Rival Sons at Melkweg Amsterdam, October 3 2012

Although not sold out, the venue has filled up nicely. Last year the band had to warm up after partying the night before. Tonight they are focused from the beginning and are ready to rock the house. The first song is 'Keep On Swinging', which is also the opening track on their new record. This time however it looks like the crowd needs to warm up, since the response is a bit low at the beginning. This doesn't discourage the band at all. Their set list of tonight is one that builds up slowly anyway. A number of mid tempo bluesy songs follow where singer Jay Buchanan is immediately showing his skills. He may look and sound a lot like Robert Plant, but definitely isn't a copy cat. His voice never ceases to amaze.

Together with guitar player Scott Holiday, Buchanan is taking the spot light, although I definitely don't want to leave out bass player Robin Everhart and drum player Mike Miley. The last two are exactly the rhythm section this band needs, providing enough space for Buchanan and Holiday to excel. And that's exactly what they're doing tonight. While the show progresses the set is building up on power. Uptempo songs like 'All Over The Road' and 'Pressure And Time' are at the end of the set where the band is going more full throttle. By this time the crowd has come alive and especially the people at the front are rocking. But it's obvious that all the way to the back people are enjoying it as well. The encore ends with 'Manifest Destiny', both part 1 and 2, off their new album, where the band is showing one more time what a great rock band they are.

Bands like this don't get the exposure like hip indie bands sometimes get. All they can do is work hard, spend a lot of time on the road and hope people pick up on them. That's exactly what Rival Sons are doing. It looks like it's starting to pay off and they are gaining momentum. It certainly paid off tonight, where they had to work hard but walk off stage as winners. After the show the band is relaxing and taking the time to talk to fans, take pictures and sign records. I can only hope that in a while these venues are becoming too small for these friendly rockers.

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Monday 1 October 2012

Muse Suffering From Obesity

Every time the British rockers of Muse released a new album you didn't know what you were going to get. However you did know it was going to be bigger than the last album. Black Holes And Revelations was already balancing on the edge of credibility and I was hoping they would choose another direction and maybe even go to a more modest and intimate sound after that. Instead on The Resistance they blew it up to an even bigger and more bombastic sound. And that's when they lost me.

Muse - The 2nd Law (Ronald Says 5 out of 10)

And I won't cut around the bush. They continued on the journey of inflating their own sound and are now light years away from the point where it's still pleasant and interesting to listen to. The 2nd Law is so chuck full of musical directions, ideas and bombast, that it just has turned plain ugly. It's like a body builder so pumped up, filled with steroids that he turned into a cartoon version of a real man. When I listen to it, I get visions of the fat man in Monty Python's 'The Meaning Of Life': the album is trying to absorb so much that it explodes. Muse have created this monster that just keeps swallowing more than it can hold and they can't control it any more.

Just listen to the first two songs 'Supremacy' and 'Madness'. It's as if they were trying to put every band they admire into their songs. Queen? Check. Led Zeppelin? Check. U2? Check. Radiohead? Check. Not crazy enough for you? Let's throw some orchestral and classical parts to the mix. For the first time two Muse songs are without the vocals of Matt Bellamy. Bass player Chris Wolstenholme is getting the honours here. 'Save Me' definitely won't go down as one of their best songs ever. And you can hear him again on 'Liquid State', which is an average prog rock song that isn't actually that bad, but it feels completely out of place.

I'm not even going near the horrible dubstep experiments 'Follow Me' and 'The 2nd Law: Unsustainable'. Muse have created their own black hole which just sucks up everything that comes near. They have become their own troubled universe, a cartoon world where everything is blown out of proportions. In 'Animals'which is actually one of the few decent enough songs on the album, Bellamy is singing "Out of control/We’re out of control/Crush those who beg at your feet". I guess they are aware of it themselves by now as well.

Listen to 'The 2nd Law' on Spotify.

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