Monday 24 February 2014

Wooden Shjips Flies Colourful Trip

Last year psych rock band Wooden Shjips from San Francisco released their fourth album Back To Land Its vinyl cover has circles cut from it so the colourful inlay can be seen through it. This is a nice visualization of their music. The spacy music holds references to The Doors and The Velvet Underground. The album is great so it is time to go check them out live.

Wooden Shjips at Bitterzoet Amsterdam, February 19 2013

Behind the band a white sheet is hanging. A beamer projects colourful psychedelic images on it throughout the whole show. Only a few other lights are used. It is a nice effect and totally supports the lengthy spacy jams. My small compact camera is incapable of taking decent pictures though. The band members are totally into their colourful world, hardly addressing the crowd. In the end that doesn't matter, because with this amount if reverb on the microphone, the few words Erik Johnson is directing to us are impossible to hear properly.

Words are totally irrelevant anyway. Most of their music doesn't have lyrics and doesn't need them. It's the grooves that count, the psychedelic jams that put you in a hypnotic trance. In between a songs you can still hear the effects buzzing from the amps as if water is running. Mostly the bass is pumping similar grooves with the drums, while keys and guitar are jamming away. Just when you think this may need a bit more variation they kick into a more classic rock tune. The keys do remind of The Doors from time to time. In the dark with all those projected colours it feels like we stepped back in time. If it wasn't for the smoking prohibition you probably would get high from just the smoke in here tonight.

All credit to the band who manage to lay down this atmosphere. Like on the album it doesn't take long to submerge into the hypnotic sounds of the repeating grooves. Similar to the cover we travel from circle to circle until we can see the whole colourful picture.

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Friday 21 February 2014

No Milk Today? Automatic Sam Sure Doesn't Need Milk

The No Milk Today festival wants to offer a stage to bands that have outgrown the beginner's phase and are on the verge of a break-through. The idea is to help them with it. When I found out Automatic Sam was on the bill, I just had to go there. They already broke through in my book. They are the headliner for this night and The City Hollers and Bartek complete the line-up.

No Milk Today at Bitterzoet, February 18 2013

The City Hollers
The MC of the night states that this band didn't quite understand the concept. Since this will be their last performance, so a break-through isn't going to happen for this duo. Which is a true shame. They play a good set of blues rock songs in the style of The Black Keys, but a bit more rough around the edges. Guitar player and singer Ruben Seyferth is playing a mean slide guitar supported by Henk-Jan Berkhof's standard but effective grooves. Too bad this band is calling it quits since they lay down a good show with a bunch of catchy songs.

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When it's Bartek's turn, it's obvious some people just came to see The City Hollers's swan song. There are less people left over to watch Bartek work it's way through some very heavy noise rock songs. This is not music for the faint hearted and it is quite heavy on the stomach. Now and then they create a hypnotic feel that can put you in a trance. It's almost like listening to heavy machinery pounding away. It could use a bit more variation though.

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Automatic Sam
A few years ago this band blew me away when saw them for the first time. Half a year ago they released their new album Sonic Whip which sounds great and even made it into my 2013 top ten. Finally I can see them play again. It looks like even more people left and by now the small club is half empty. It doesn't bring the band down at all. They play a tight set with many songs of the new record. Their solid set shows they have outgrown the beginner's stage long time ago and definitely are the most professional band of the night. Their songs are heavy, with plenty of dynamics, psychedelic elements and variation. Why bands like this aren't drawing any bigger crowds in this country is beyond me. They are one of the more interesting rock bands around here. So a festival like this, definitely is useful. Go see Automatic Sam for yourself if you get the chance and pick up a copy of one of their records. You won't be disappointed.

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Monday 17 February 2014

Balthazar Work Up Appetite For New Album

Belgian alternative band Balthazar slowly have grown into one of the top musical export products of Belgium. They have crafted their own unique sound and their live shows have come close to perfection. Almost too perfect since they show little room for improvisation. Songs sound just like the album versions. However this still is a delight to watch. With a new album already in production, they were playing a sold out Paradiso.

Balthazar at Paradiso Amsterdam, February 13 2014

I expected some new songs from the new album. In the end a couple of new ones make it into the set. The rest of the set is a nice mix of songs from their first two albums Applause and Rats. That second album gave them their big break and its hits give the biggest response. All in all the set list doesn't show a lot of surprises.

But the songs do sound better than ever. They get slightly different versions than the album versions and the band is playing them with renewed energy. Hits like 'The Oldest Of Sisters' sound sparkling and fresh. The band are looking stoically as always but also very focused. The instruments sound crisp and the way the band knows how to integrate the violin parts of Jinte Deprez and Patricia Vanneste is still quite remarkable. Even though there isn't a lot of contact between the band and their fans, this is in no way disturbing. It is this distance that actually adds to the atmosphere of the songs.

The new songs sound promising. 'Leipzig' already is starting to sound familiar and the other two, 'No More' and 'Will My Lover', are worthy Balthazar compositions. They don't show any major changes in their sound and so I don't expect the new album to be a major change. It only makes the anticipation for it higher. In the second encore the band closes their gig traditionally with 'Blood Like Wine' where everyone is raising their hand and glass. Will that ever get old? It is always good to see this band play and we'll definitely be back when they present their new work to us.

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01. Lion's Mouth (Daniel)
02. Later
03. The Boatman
04. The Man Who Owns the Place
05. Leipzig
06. No More
07. The Oldest of Sisters
08. Will My Lover
09. Joker's Son
10. Fifteen Floors
11. Morning
12. Sinking
13. Listen Up
14. Do Not Claim Them Anymore
Encore 1
15. Sides
16. Any Suggestion
Encore 2
17. Blood Like Wine
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Wednesday 5 February 2014

New Sounds: Les Claypool's Duo De Twang - Four Foot Shack

Les Claypool goes Americana. What!? Yes, the Primus front man has teamed up with his friend Bryan Kehoe, a guitar, a bass and a mini-tambourine-doohickey to form Duo de Twang. They are playing Americana songs, rootsy country songs, seated down in a rocking chair on their porch. In Claypool's unique twisted and brilliant style of course. Wait a minute, 'Staying Alive'? 'Man In A Box'? They didn't! Yes, they did. Listen for yourself:

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