Friday 27 May 2016

On Stage: Richard Bona and Mandekan Cubano @ Paradiso

It's been a few years since jazz musician Richard Bona, originally from Cameroon, visited our country especially for a club show. With a new album entitled Heritage coming up with Mandekan Cubano, it is high time to see this wonderful artist again who is considered one of the best bass players in the world.

Richard Bona and Mandekan Cubano at Paradiso Amsterdam, May 25 2016

His new album is an Afro-Cuban project where he explores the tight connection between African and Cuban music, which indeed have a lot in common. The sextet Mandekan Cubano consists of some amazing musicians and musical heavy weights, including two of the best percussionists Roberto Quintero and his cousin Luisito. It means all ingredients are in place for a wonderful evening and with the charismatic Bona on stage this is guaranteed. This man radiates positive vibes and sheer joy, chatting and interacting with the crowd as if we're having a drink together but at the same time making sure people don't lose attention. As he points out himself it is a noisy crowd and he needs to get the noise down a few times when he's about to play an intimate quiet song.

But for the rest he turns the night into a big dancing party, with explosive compositions that get the best out of every musician. All of them get plenty of playing time and solos to show their best stuff. Osmany Paredes, behind a large triplex screen with his grand piano, is playing lush latin parts. Trumpet player Dennis Hernandez and trombone player Rey Alejandro play sparkling solos with lots of dynamics, whispering when they have to. The killer rhythm section with the Quintero cousins on percussion and Ludwig Afonso on drums form an incredible base and keep it grooving and swinging.

Bona himself is never really showing off his bass skills but keeps it functional and is acting more as the front man and band leader. Besides an incredible bass player he is also a very good singer, with that characteristic voice that gives the songs an African vibe right away, not just because he's singing in a local language. His voice is amazing and he seems to be able to bend it any possible way. A special moment happens, when he tells how surprised he was about a video he watched with a girl that performed one of his songs in his club in New York. She's here tonight and of course he invites her on stage to sing the song with them. Again he is amazed, and so are we, how good she sounds and is actually able to sing the words in the local language.

It is characteristic for this night where everything is so relaxed and people are simply enjoying the wonderful music together. Luisito Quintero gets one of the last solos of the night and plays an amazing and explosive one on timbales, showing what makes him so good. The crowd keeps shouting for more and in the end Bona returns for the final encore by himself on stage. Such a moment, like a few of those intimate ones earlier in the show, when he gets everyone to be quiet and listen breathlessly to his lovely voice, gets more impact because of the swinging songs in the rest of the set. Richard Bona has shown us the best of Cuban and African music tonight and how wonderful they blend together. Please don't keep us waiting for so many years again and come back soon Richard!

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New Sounds: The Claypool Lennon Delirium - Monolith of Phobos

What do you get when you put together Sean Lennon and Les Claypool? The answer: The Claypool Lennon Delirium and their album Monolith of Phobos that will come out next week. But you can already listen to it now. Stream it below:

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Wednesday 25 May 2016

Spinning: Audacity - Hyper Vessels

When the members of Audacity started their punk band fifteen years ago they were still teenagers. When you see and hear them now, they are still a group of young dogs, that by now released three full length LP's and a bunch of EP's. A few of those were released by the illustrious Burger Records label. This record company, that also settled in their home town Fullerton California, has a nose for bands that go their own way and this foursome fits in there very well. Hyper Vessels is their fourth album which is released on Suicide Squeeze Records.

On the new record you can hear that the boys turned into men and grew some balls. Not that they lost their swagger, since the band still knows how to go full force and the songs still have that garage sound. But it's clear they are on the road to adulthood and this has given the songs more edge. The catchy 'Counting The Days' that opens the LP, may sound very cheerful as if nothing is the matter, but the lads are definitely bringing some depth to their music. For example in the song 'Baseball' where they are wondering why everyone is so occupied with baseball, while the world is on fire.

So the sunny character of their music is only just first appearance, where the not always very exciting live in the small town of Fullerton found its way into the recordings. Their music now only got stronger and is still full of irresistible hooks and grooves. 'Dirt Boy' has a sharp sounding solo with a nice build up to the end where we can also hear some nice riffs. More of this is in the fierce 'Riot Train' and 'Hypo' with its heavy guitars. The record hardly loses speed and only has a few more quiet moments. Closer 'Lock On The Door' is a somewhat slow song with a very nice bass line. With garage rock giant Ty Segall on recording duties everything sounds extra sharp.

It is nice to conclude that Audacity only gained strength and quality over the years. The many hours on stage probably have something to do with that, but the band also knows how to let this reflect in their song writing. They managed to combine a grown up sound with the youthful eagerness from the beginning of their career and this makes listening to Hyper Vessels a big feast.

This review has been published on Festivalinfo in Dutch over here.

Listen to 'Hyper Vessels' on Spotify.

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Sunday 22 May 2016

On Stage: Radiohead @ HMH

Leave it to Radiohead to create a buzz around a new album and accompanying tour. Rumours about a new record had been going around for months and when they cleared their social media accounts it was pretty clear something was about to happen. Still it was quite a surprise when new album A Moon Shaped Pool dropped so soon and their European tour was about to start in a few weeks. Demand for tickets was very high but still I managed to get my hands on them for the opening show in Amsterdam at the W.A.S.T.E. website in the pre sale. Lucky me indeed!

Radiohead at Heineken Music Hall Amsterdam, May 20 2016

Needless to say all eyes are on the Heineken Music Hall tonight for the return of the band that is so big but at the same time doesn't feel like a big stadium act. The choice for this middle size venue that can hold around 5500 people is a good one, since it won't turn into a mass event and even can get quite intimate but still will do justice to the undoubtedly visual and musical spectacle that we’re going to witness tonight. And of course they need the room for all the fans that want to see their favourite band.

The band kicks off with new single and album opener ‘Burn The Witch’ which is instantly followed by a few more songs from the album in the exact same order. By the time we come to realize this and think that they may play the full new album integrally, ‘Morning Mr. Magpie’ follows. Once again the lighting and visuals, although modest, are wonderful and creative without taking the focus away from the music for a bit. The sound is spot on and I'm once again impressed by this band that manages to recreate the complicated and layered songs with such precision. They have chosen for the two drummer line-up again which is so important to be able to play the complex rhythmic structures but at the same time keeps it organic. Thom Yorke’s voice is clear with those almost out of key falsettos that give the songs the tension and emotion that you hear. And so we see the usual faces on stage without a string section as people were speculating because of the lush strings on A Moon Shaped Pool.

The band looks in great shape and there's so much joy on the faces of the musicians. It's clear they are happy to be back on stage and there's plenty of room for joking around and simply having a good time. Still it is the beginning of the tour and not everything runs smoothly. Yorke is even falling out of character when he gets the giggles. Smirking faces when things almost fail or someone actually does mess up, although nothing really serious. When the technique fails on them a few times, the band doesn't lose their cool but simply keeps on playing. Even when Jonny Greenwood’s guitar problems seem to take longer to get fixed, Yorke says they will start the song anyway and he can join whenever he feels like it. This band has seen it all and doesn't even blink when these things happen.

Radiohead is a one of a kind band and you know every show is unique. Simply because every setlist is unique and will hold a few rare gems, for example ‘Iron Lung’ tonight that didn't make a setlist for a long time. Many fans will even go a few nights in a row and experience a different show every time, that are hard to compare. Haters are gonna hate, but Radiohead remains a unique experience that surprises and grabs you every time. Maybe tonight’s show wasn’t perfect but it was certainly good to see this band return to the stage.

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01. Burn the Witch
02. Daydreaming
03. Decks Dark
04. Desert Island Disk
05. Ful Stop
06. Morning Mr. Magpie
07. There There
08. The Daily Mail
09. My Iron Lung
10. Videotape
11. Identikit
12. The Numbers
13. The Gloaming
14. Lotus Flower
15. Everything in Its Right Place
16. Idioteque
17. Bodysnatchers
18. Bloom
19. Present Tense
20. Paranoid Android
21. Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief
22. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
Encore 2:
23. You and Whose Army?
24. Reckoner

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Tuesday 17 May 2016

Spinning: Bob Mould - Patch The Sky

The solo records of veteran Bob Mould were over shadowed for a long time by the monuments he built with Hüsker Dü. It wasn't that his solo work was bad, but they couldn't measure up with the impact and energy the legendary rock band played in those days. Mould turned out to be a master at writing righteous songs where he transformed his anger and outrage into walls of guitar. But on 2014's Beauty & Ruin he proved again to be able to let his guitar speak and capable of writing powerful songs. Convincingly he continuous down this line on Patch The Sky that holds mostly explosive and hard rocking punk songs.

Good examples are the fierce 'End Of Things' or a typical punk son 'Hands Are Tied' that, because of its short running time, has a huge impact. All songs have that unmistakable Bob Mould signature, where his loud but not too heavy guitar riffs and hooks build a sturdy foundation for the uptempo songs. This is cast into some extra concrete by the tight and solid rhythm section consisting of drummer John Wurster and bassist Jason Narducy. It puts a song like 'Losing Time' in the right gear and makes the mostly acoustic 'Losing Time' still sound very groovy.

Like always the heavy songs are a bit of misleading vehicles for Mould's deeper lyrics. Again he is digging deep into his soul and is turning everything inside out without shying away from themes like insecurity and suicide. It is praiseworthy that he is not afraid of showing his emotions and revealing himself completely. Only in the heavy and slow 'Black Confetti' and the melancholic closer 'Monument' it is clear right away that these aren't light tunes. It is striking how inspired Mould always sounds and how refreshing this makes the record.

In the same way as other veterans like Iggy Pop and Nick Cave, it seems there's a lot we can expect from the old Hüsker Dü front man. Patch The Sky may even be his best solo work so far and reminds now and then of his heyday. Only this time he is a heavy-duty experienced musician with a long life behind him with many ups and downs. Fortunately he still doesn't hide himself behind his powerful guitar play, but shares his mind without problems with anyone willing to listen.

This review has been published on Festivalinfo in Dutch over here.

Listen to 'Patch The Sky' on Spotify.

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Tuesday 10 May 2016

On Stage: New Cool Collective ft. Thierno Koite

On a trip through Senegal New Cool Collective attended an Orchestra Baobab show and got acquainted with their alto sax player Thierno Koite. They got along very well and the band dedicated a song to him on their album Electric Monkey Sessions. Now, a few years later, they even were able to fly him over and record some songs together and of course do a few shows while he's here.

New Cool Collective ft. Thierno Koite at Paradiso Amsterdam, May 8 2016

I've seen New Cool Collective play several times of course but not so often will you be able to see them play with their entire big band. That alone is a reason to go see this show. First they start to play a few songs without their special guest to warm up, as if they need to on this tropical day in May. It's always nice to see this band play, with their loose and cool attitude but very tight arrangements and play. You can leave it to these top notch players to throw a swinging party and it's sad to see not many people are here tonight.

Most of the big band players get their change to play a solo tonight up front in the spot light although maybe the sax players spent less time there. Because their special guest Thierno Koite is invited to the stage after a small introduction by band leader Benjamin Herman. Koite looks a bit overwhelmed by all this attention but NCC make sure he gets plenty of time to play. Herman mentions his unique sax sound and indeed it's almost as if his sax is singing African songs, sometimes even whispering.

There are a few Orchestra Baobab songs on tonight's setlist together with some new songs and everything is entirely written for this special set-up. The band is in great shape and on fire so it's impossible to stand still. The rhythm section goes crazy with explosive solos and all sax players gather at the front for an amazing round of saxophone craziness. Together with Koite, NCC turned this night into an African dancing party and we even had the African sun to go with it. I can't wait to hear the new album!

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Tuesday 3 May 2016

On Stage: The Kills @ Melkweg

It's been five years since The Kills were in our country for a show. At that time they released Blood Pressures that received good reviews. Live on stage they can play brought hot steaming shows when everything is running smoohtly. So now with neir sixth album Ash & Ice coming out next month the duo is finally back for a visit and I don't want to miss it.

The Kills at Melkweg Amsterdam, May 2 2016

This time they bring two more people with them on stage, but a drum computer and sequencer are still used a lot. The songs do gain more body with the two additional musicians that are kept to the back a bit away from the spot lights. If it's not clear who the stars of this show are, this should give you an idea. And of course it's all about Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince, who both are in great shape and in a good mood.

Mosshart has rock chick written all over her, the way she moves around stage, strikes rock poses and plays the crowd. Like a caged lion she's sometimes walking up and down, only to let go of a big roar later on, or a purr when appropriate. She can look seductive and sexy throwing sultry looks, but sometimes drops the rock star mask when she smiles adorably.

Hince is very active on the other side of the stage, showing his incredible guitar skills. Even when technically things aren't optimal or a guitar is out of tune, he keeps on going like everything is all well. He takes his share into the spot light often, shredding his guitar while pointing it theatrically at the crowd. Hince and Moshart are always keeping an eye out for each other and the chemistry is incredible between the two of them. It gives their music extra energy and the show more fire.

About half of the new album makes it onto the setlist, especially halfway the show when three of them are played back to back. Shortly after, new single 'Doing It To Death' follows, that already has captured the heart of the fans judging from the cheers. The new songs fit in perfectly with the rest and don't seem to be so drastically different, althoug they may be more heavy compared to the rest. In the encore another new track 'Siberian Nights' pops up until an inspired version of 'Sour Cherry' closes the night. The Kills looked very convincing tonight and this makes me look forward to the new album a lot.

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01. No Wow
02. U.R.A. Fever
03. Heart Is a Beating Drum
04. Kissy Kissy
05. Hard Habit to Break
06. Heart of a Dog
07. Impossible Tracks
08. Black Balloon
09. Doing It to Death
10. Baby Says
11. Whirling Eye
12. Pots and Pans
13. Monkey 23
14. Tape Song
15. Siberian Nights
16. Sour Cherry

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Monday 2 May 2016

On Stage: Ought @ Paradiso Tolhuistuin

Last year Montreal band Ought released a very impressive album Sun Coming Down, that I thought was one of the best albums that year. They played a good show at Into The Great Wide Open last September, that made me long for a club show. Half a year later they are playing the Paradiso venue Tolhuistuin across the IJ water.

Ought at Paradiso Tolhuistuin, April 29 2016

Singer Tim Darcy asks during the show which venue people like more, the legendary Paradiso in the city centre or this one, the Tolhuistuin. They didn't know it was an island he adds, which it is not by the way, although the shortest way for many is a few minutes by ferry. It's one of the scarce moments Darcy is actually trying to have a conversation with the audience. For the rest he restricts himself to some quick thank yous when it comes to audience interaction. That is actually a good thing, because tonight it enables Ought to put up an impressive and intense show that keeps building up tension.

And that is exactly what their music needs to actually make an impact. The dark riffs are hammered into your head tonight and all the words in Darcy's nasal vocals hit us with great force. The first album already had some great stuff, like title track 'Today, More Than Any Other Day', that is spot on today. But their latest album 'Sun Coming Down' simply has so many of those songs like 'Men For Miles' with that repetitive chorus singing "There were men for miles/There were men for miles/And doesn't it just bring a tear to your eye". It is repeated so many times and builds up more tension every repetition, until it sounds like an abstract mantra.

That's where the strength of Ought lies, the words and music combined are shaping a structure until the band decides to either leave it or crush it with a bang. Like on the album 'Beautiful Blue Sky' is the centre piece, the monument where it all comes together. Darcy is raising his finger now and then as if he's trying to make a point, where he isn't really but it works very well. Sometimes they want to make the crowd uncomfortable in a song, where the music kind of itches and gets under your skin. Drummer Tim Keen doesn´t always play straightforward rock grooves, but instead is very creative in his drumming, which adds an extra dimension.

Tonight all these elements work very well where the band looks focused and in great shape. It's great to see when things all come together they can take their music to the next level and it really gets to you. I can't wait to hear new music by these guys.

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01. Sun's Coming Down
02. The Combo
03. Passionate Turn
04. Men for Miles
05. Beautiful Blue Sky
06. Pleasant Heart
07. On the Line
08. Habit
09. Never Better
10. Today, More Than Any Other Day
11. Pill

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