Friday 31 May 2013

Flea Is Blowing Off Steam In An Interesting Way

Everyone has heard of Flea of course, the kind and wonderful bass player of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The fact that he was mostly interested in jazz and a very talented trumpet player as a youngster is probably less known. After a gruelling RHCP tour in 2007 they took a long break. Their disappointing show in Nijmegen that year made it very clear that the band was completely exhausted. Flea used that break to blow off steam by recording some music. The result are the songs on Helen Burns.

Flea - Helen Burns (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)

The title is a reference to a character in the Jane Eyre book, who he admires a lot. The songs were never supposed to be released. In 2012 he decides to put it out anyway, to raise money for the Silverlake Conservatory of Music. The EP can still be downloaded digitally on using the "name your own price" principle. At the same time it was released on a personally signed vinyl edition that has been sold out for quite a while. Now the record is finally seeing a wide release as well.

It's quite an introduction for an EP with only six songs, that was never meant to be heard by a big crowd anyway. But this background is important for what you will find when listening to the record. Flea himself warns that you should definitely not expect any RHCP music, so loyal fans won't be disappointed. This is quite clear when playing the music. The songs feel kind of unfinished. They are experiments and sometimes nothing more than sound scapes. Lots of electronics were used for it. Therefore it's quite hard to really interpret the songs and rating them is not entirely fair.

But at some moments things fall in place. For example when the trumpet makes its entry like in '333' and the accompanying '333 revisited'. 'A Little Bit Of Sanity' starts with a short fast drum solo, which isn't that strange considering RHCP drummers Chad Smith and Jack Irons were lending a hand. On the title track, a slow ballad that sounds like a complete song the most, Patti Smith is helping out. In general the cinematic music has a nostalgic and melancholic sound with a jazzy feel. After a few listens it is becoming more and more intriguing. As an experiment it is definitely interesting enough to look forward to more full material by Flea in the future.

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

Listen to Helen Burns on Spotify.

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Tuesday 28 May 2013

Reliving Golden Jazz Era With Benjamin Herman Trio

Alto saxophone player Benjamin Herman is a musical carnivore. He's one of those musicians that has an open mind to all kinds of genres. You can easily find him in a small jazz club, playing old standards, while the day after he's playing a club with a hip-hop band. He has so much talent and so many musical ideas, that music seems to spring from every pore in his body. That makes him one of the most versatile musicians in our country. With so many projects you can imagine that it results in several album releases every year. On his latest album Cafe Solo as the Benjamin Herman Trio, with Ernst Glerum on bass and Joost Patočka on drums, they are going back to the old jazz standards. The songs are compositions by great legends like Thelonious Monk, Cole Porter and Dexter Gordon. It turns out to be a great album, with the feel of the old days when jazz cats were rock stars, but at the same time it sounds fresh and up-to-date. I had to go to 's-Hertogenbosch to see them play. Since one of my best friends is living there, it was a good excuse to experience some great music and end it with a few beers.

Benjamin Herman Trio at De Toonzaal 's-Hertogenbosch, May 24 2013

The place to be is an old synagogue called De Toonzaal in the centre of this pleasant town in the south of The Netherlands. It has a beautiful room with a small stage that has good natural acoustics. All three musicians are sitting down, like they did during the recording sessions of Cafe Solo. It is characteristic for the whole performance, which turns out to be a relaxed and very entertaining one. Herman is chatting in between songs, giving some background information on them or treating us to a small anecdote. The only thing missing from this picture is someone serving drinks.

We get to hear many songs of the new album complemented with other standards. The musicians are in a good mood and are playing in the same relaxed way. This may result in a drum stick flying around or other imperfections, but it only adds to the great loose atmosphere. At the same time they are reinventing the songs again. I love a trio setup, since it gives every instrument a lot of freedom. With such skilled musicians this is a delight. Herman is showing why he is considered one of the best Dutch jazz musicians. He has a great sax sound, playing the notes dynamically and he knows when to let the music breath. Patočka and Glerum are a reliable rhythm section. Patočka is a creative player, constantly trying to widen the spectrum of the drum kit. This also goes for Glerum who now and then uses a bow on his bass. Even Patočka is using one on his cymbals at one point.

When you close your eyes for a moment it is almost like you're in one of those famous New York jazz clubs from over 60 years ago. Even a cliché standard like 'Summertime' sounds fresh again, despite or maybe because of the fact that they are following the original Gershwin composition. Once again Herman has impressed me with his talent and skills, not to mention his contagious enthusiasm and approach to music in general.

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Friday 24 May 2013

The Pigeon Detectives Best Consumed Live

According to themselves The Pigeon Detectives are particularly a live band and have the most fun when performing. Making an album may even be a burden for the five some from Leeds. The band can't seem to establish themselves at the indie-rock top. They never managed to leave a lasting impression despite several brave attempts. Their music just won't stick, no matter how much heart they put into it. The challenge for this band, who claim to make a difference live on stage, is how to get this live feel on a studio record.

The Pigeon Detectives - We Met At Sea (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)

And they pretty much succeeded on that on the new We Met At Sea. The record does sound very lively and has a more rough sound than before. It offers ten compact songs and with just over half an hour of music it is a bit short. The songs are all written following the same familiar recipe. This means they are built around pleasant guitar riffs and sing-along verses. Not really suprising but again played with a lot of enthusiasm.

There aren't any real highlights which makes the songs quite interchangeable after all. Closer 'Where You Are' is maybe the best song on the record and seems to have the most potential. In 'Day And Month' there's an attempt in variation with an Arctic Monkeys-like feel, but it misses the tension to compete with that band. Don't expect anything outstanding lyrics wise either, but the band kind of is admitting that them self as well. And so their fourth record again is one that won't be remembered. Despite the fact that songs like 'Animal' and 'Unforgettable' are quite pleasant.

No doubt the new songs will go down well at their live shows. They are easy to dance to and within no time you're able to whale along. The real fan won't have any problems embracing the new album. But it won't convince many new fans. Maybe we just should see them live instead.

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

Listen to We Met A Sea on Spotify.

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Monday 20 May 2013

Savages Stun Everyone With Intense Show

British all female band Savages already left a big impression with their music before their first album even came out. They also proved to be quite a sensation live on stage as well as I experienced myself during the London Calling festival. Now with their album Silence Yourself out they are taking on the Melkweg this time.

Savages at Melkweg Amsterdam, May 15 2013

We were able to catch the last bit of the set of Johnny Hostile when Savages singer Jehnny Beth was just making her guest appearance. They were both in John & Jehn after all and are still working together. After the support the lights stay off while a low feedback keeps buzzing, making for a gloomy and threatening atmosphere. When the four ladies take the stage they break this uncomfortable feeling with aggressive opener 'Shut Up'. Beth is taking her familiar pose, high heeled and firm, like a soldier going to battle, ready to fire off her vocals. The band leaves no mistake, they will not stop before we all surrender to their music.

And that's not a hard thing to do. Compared to the London Calling show, which obviously was much shorter, it has gotten more stunning. Although drummer Fay Milton is struggling with her moving drum kit throughout the show, she's playing a very tight and powerful set. Together with bass player Ayse Hassan they are the strong engine pushing this band forward. Their record has plenty of great songs to build a thrilling show. 'City's Full', 'No Face' and 'Husbands' offer enough ammunition to fire at the crowd. We also get treated to a new song 'My Condition' that is equally intense, completely justifying the band name.

It also proves that the band sounds best when the engine is going full throttle. Slower songs like 'She Will' kind of miss that same intensity. So there's enough room for the band to grow as well. Imagine what this could lead to in the future. In the meanwhile Savages has everybody down to their knees at the end of the show. Closer 'Fuckers' ends the gig in style. No encore? Who needs it when your show is this overwhelming and strong.

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01. Shut Up
02. City's Full
03. I Am Here
04. Give Me a Gun
05. She Will
06. Strife
07. Waiting for a Sign
08. My Condition
09. No Face
10. Hit Me
11. Husbands
12. Fuckers

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Wednesday 15 May 2013

The Perfect Trip With Motorpsycho

Although they visit our country regularly it has been a while since I had seen Motorpsycho live. The music of this Norwegian band has always interested me. Their mix of psychedelic rock with other musical styles is very creative and often leads to hypnotic jams. With a new album out it was finally time to see them again.

Motorpsycho at Melkweg Amsterdam, May 13 2013

Without a support act the foursome kick off at nine sharp. Four big lamps are lighting up the stage. All musicians are aligned on the stage with the two remaining founding members, Hans Magnus Ryan and Bent Sæther, standing in the middle. On one of the far ends is drummer Kenneth Kapstad's half opaque white drum kit. Combined with the changing colours of the stage lights it gives quite a nice effect throughout the show. The band opens with 'Hell, part 1-3' off their newest album Still Life With Eggplant. In total they will play three songs off the five song album. The rest of the set is a nice overview of their more than 20 years spanning career. It is showing the diversity of the band and their music. We get thrown around between psychedelic rock, jazz, prog rock and several other genres.

Especially when songs turn into long jams the band is excelling. Many times creating repeating riffs and grooves with a heavy bass sound, slowly dragging you into a nice trance. Halfway the show I'm totally into it, bobbing my body and head to the heavy grooves. The four lights have now turned into piercing eyes, staring at us from the back off the stage, trying to hypnotize us. It's working and I'm flying higher and higher on their music. Can you believe this is not about drugs at all? I didn't even drink alcohol tonight.

After more than two hours it's not over yet. The band leaves the stage but returns for an encore before we can awake from this pleasant trip. We're screaming for more, in need for another shot, already hooked to the addictive music. Once more they leave the stage and return shortly for the final blow 'Fool's Gold'. The almost three hour trip is now really over. Again Motorpsycho has swept me totally off my feet. Their music is more powerful and will take you higher than the strongest drug can ever do. They certainly are the best drug for me. Can't wait for my next shot.

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01. Hell, part 1-3
02. The Ocean in Her Eye
03. Stained Glass
04. Cornucopia
05. Überwagner or A Billion Bubbles in My Mind
06. Barleycorn (Let It Come/Let It Be)
07. Upstairs / Downstairs
08. Watersound
09. Kill Devil Hills
10. The Alchemyst
11. Walking On The Water
12.The Bomb-Proof Roll and Beyond (for Arnie Hassle)

13. Whip That Ghost (Song for a Bro')
14. August
15. All Is Loneliness (Moondog cover)

Encore 2
16. Fools Gold

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Wednesday 8 May 2013

Sunny Festival Vibes On Liberation Day

This year's Liberation Day was celebrated on a Sunday. That day totally lived up to its name with lots of sunshine and warm weather. For the first time the Amsterdam edition of the festival was held in Westerpark, which turned out to be a perfect choice. The park is a great location with lots of space and the stages were spread around it, not too far apart. We stuck to the main stage and the talent stage where we saw a balladeer, Girl Beard, Lucas Hamming, The Vagary, Jungle By Night and The Don't Touch My Croque-Monsieurs. You can see some pictures down below and all of them over here.

A Balladeer

Girl Beard

Lucas Hamming

The Vagary

Jungle By Night

The Don't Touch My Croque-Monsieurs

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Friday 3 May 2013

!!!'s Dance Is Slowing Down

From California comes the band with the somewhat strange name !!! (pronounced chk chk chk), who released a new album every three years since their debut in 2000. Their biggest success, both commercially and creatively, was achieved in 2007 with the highly praised Myth Takes. They combined their mix of punk, disco and funk into a delicious set of songs, that made it impossible to stand still. Now there's the release of their fifth album with a similar strange name THR!!!ER, referring to the Michael Jackson masterpiece.

!!! - THR!!!ER (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)

The raw punk part was even reduced more on this record. This was already the case on the not so well received predecessor Strange Weather, Isn't It? The production itself is fine. The tracks sound clear, where a lot of time was put into dressing up the songs. But they overdid that a bit too much. It feels as unnecessary pimping of the compositions who are full of claps, timbales, shakers and other frills. Where the band was working in an exciting and rash way in the past, now they sound very mindful. A lot of spontaneity and excitement was lost this way.

Fortunately there are a couple of highlights after all on the nine song record. It opens with a catchy 'Even When The Water's Cold'. 'One Girl/One Boy' is a pleasant funky disco song with catchy falsetto vocals and especially the closer 'Station (Meet Me At The)' is a great typical !!! killer song. There's still plenty of reason to dance but it will be less enthusiastic.

Unfortunately THR!!!ER didn't become the masterpiece the title promises it to be and that we hoped for. It feels more like another step back. Where Myth Takes felt like a pleasant slap in the face, this time it's more a friendly tap on the cheek. The raw edge that !!! once had is missing here. Instead they are acting too cautious now. And that's a real shame. Hopefully there's still plenty of craziness left in their normally so lively and energetic shows.

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

Listen to THR!!!ER on Spotify.

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