The NBT Review 80

We are honoured to have Cobus Rossouw creator of Project Band 88 Kilos Of Sunshine write this Guest review for us.

Hadestown – Anais Mitchell (Righteous Babe)

Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown achieves several things that make it a candidate for album of the year and in my collection album of the decade.

In the first instance it is ambitious; a departure from normal fare that clearly indicates that commercial success is not the intention. It is a brave goal to adapt a Greek tragedy as an opera in a folk style. To then use this vehicle to exhibit talents and to ensure that it never becomes too highbrow to be accessible is a lofty ideal to reach for, but Ms. Mitchell sets forth to bring this masterwork to us.

Secondly, this ambition is successfully achieved in no uncertain terms. While the credit for the achievement must be shared I firmly believe that nothing comes without vision and so a lot of credit must go to Anaïs. To deliver such a project obviously requires the correct personnel and here special mention must be made of Michael Chorney, whose score tells the story brilliantly and matches the idiom without ever wavering or becoming contrived. By clever utilisation of different folk music forms he has managed to combine the words and music into clear messages, articulating meaning not only via the libretto but by style. To do this over 6 or 10 songs would be astounding, to do this over 20 songs speaks of a talent that deserves every accolade available. Suffice it to say that this writer cannot convey his gratitude in mere words.

This stunning excellence in staffing continues throughout, with Justin Vernon (Orpheus), Ani di Franco (Persephone), Greg Brown  (Hades) and Mitchell as Eurydice delivering each line with compelling conviction, imbuing their respective characters with the correct personification through their vocal talent.

Hadestown is also beautiful. This may not be a pre-requisite for everyone, but for this reviewer an aesthetically pleasing artwork is always preferable to a work that is provocative but not evocative. I could listen to Hadestown anywhere, in any company. It will reward the casual listener and the listener who wants, needs to be broadened.

 A last word: If you love music then buy Hadestown right now. Buy Hadestown because you need to own it and praise the gods that Anais Mitchell is a musician and not a sculptor, because most of us would have to make do with a photograph of her work if the latter were true. Buy Hadestown because Mitchell and Chorney have earned the right to your money and your heart.

http://www.anaismitchell.com/

Listen to tracks from this release on the NBT Podcast going out on the 29th July 2010

http://traffic.libsyn.com/nextbigthing/5th_august_NBT.mp3

The NBT Review 79

Chocolate Paper Suites – Krista Detor (Tightrope Records)

It was tempting to get all theoretical on your ass for this, to pull out my battered vinyl copy of Dylan Thomas reading a Child’s Christmas In Wales and Do Not Go gentle.. Or mull over again the mystery and sadness of how politics killed a Poet close to a Fountain of Tears, but I am, like most good listeners that will hear this collection, simply just an intelligent savage, and it is what the music and the words give to me that is important, not the brilliant inspiration for their creation.

I noted too, that the fact that these songs are animated by Lorca, Thomas and Darwin amongst others is only mentioned in the various press releases and not on the album itself. So as they say wherever good music is on trial ‘let the songs speak for themselves’

The first suite ‘Oranges Fall Like Rain’ pushes open sudden storm like, questions shudder against descriptions and the lonely brooding strings blow and wrap around the vocals ever surging forward.

The singer, the storyteller has a gift for noticing the small things, the colour of things, making these scenes live vibrant. The suite continues with dreamy piano, creating an underwater tension, the story (not the song) speeds up, the colours agitated now, there is a riot of the senses going on and it is beautiful, intensified in the third section as the singer drifts from distant to harmonic intimate.

The ‘Night Light’ begins with a slow dancing to wounded genius jazz, there is Love here, unfiltered, unashamed of how frail it may be,  this is how the world listens, that world above your rooftop, that world beyond your fence.

From this the focus shifts subtly, the warmth is gently danced away and the moon, slightly cold but swinging sweetly sets the singer apart from her previous affection. We are now there in black and pinpoint white star night, alluring sure, the now of the Dazzling has changed for the thoughtfulness of tomorrow and what it may bring.

The Bass burps into the third suite the ‘Madness Of Love’ these are hours made giddy with coffee, cigarettes and dangerous emotional chemicals, the journey here is from crush to anger (held in) to contempt and finally stopping at a weary kind of regret. Perhaps this singer knows the one deep truth, that try as we might, these journeys will take place within our life, again and again.

The fourth suite is perhaps my favourite ‘cause I too have played that dream game of wishing to have more time or replay time to want to rewrite a history of a love affair, the way I do a piece of fiction, in fact what good listener hasn’t? But the singer here doesn’t stop with this, she shifts her attention to a conversation between two souls who know or at least can guess (pretty damn well) each others moods and thoughts. Intricate love songs if you will. This is ‘By Any Other Name’

The bonus suite  ‘Darwin Song House’  (including an absolutely stunning live rendition of ‘Clock Of The World’ with guest vocals by Karine Polwart, Emily Smith and Rachael Mcshane) cleverly captures the emotions , fears and admiration of both Darwin’s detractors and those who found comfort in his beliefs. The singer ends the album with a Lullabye, a wife telling a loved one to forget the battle for now and let the profound pure love of a father for his daughter take over.

This album is inspiring, human, and full of wonder. One of the best sets of the year.

http://www.kristadetor.com

Catch Tunes from the Album on the NBT podcast going out on the 22nd July 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

If you use Internet Explorer you can stream snippets of a couple of the Tunes here

                               http://www.nextbigthing.co.za

  (After the intro Click on the ‘#Just want to look around# text it will take u thru to next page)

   A chart made up from browsers rating and listening to the song streams can be found here:

                                      http://nbttopten.podbean.com/

The NBT Review 78

Ghosts Of Radio – Patrick Bloom (Mud Dauber Records)

Listen deeper, closer.  At first it is just this gentle country swing, somewhere between a slow spin between old lovers and a prelude to a giddy Saturday night shindig. Then the tale of this broken( but not defeated) survivor comes into focus. Once a prisoner of both his fragile mind and government institutions this is a song of escape from the chill into the warmth of an ambiguous Minnesota.

Even though, as I listen, I think that this journey is towards the conclusion of this man’s story, the feeling of hope, of release, of peace, shines oh so brightly.

Patrick Bloom creates a cast of quiet eccentrics who he has a great deal of affection and empathy for. Most are indeed Ghosts, fading in and out of family and our ‘normal’ day to day strivings. These are nostalgic, wishful creatures, the blur in the photo, and the crackle on the radio, the voice in the creak of a chair or the turn of a smile.

This is time travel, history told without bombast and an eye on the personal, the tears are in the details, the joy in the simple effective sketches and descriptions. It is roots music about America but so well constructed and felt that anyone anywhere can relate, can be touched.

The musicians share the songwriter’s communion with his stories and Bloom produces the collection with restraint and elegance, (the subtle use of brass on Red Dodge Dart in a very ‘The Band’ way is a particular delight.)

What is unique about this album is that it’s about how these ghosts BECOME ghosts, Bloom seems to capture the moment of flight from this troubled world out, away into a better place. This perhaps is a collection of goodbyes, but devoid of bitterness. The dying here is natural, even wanted, not with fear not with hopelessness, but a reward for hard lives lived full.

This is not about giving up, giving in, but rather acceptance.

Highly moving and beautiful.

http://www.patrickbloom.com

Catch Tunes from the Album on the NBT podcast going out on the 22nd July 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

If you use Internet Explorer you can stream snippets of a couple of the Tunes here

                               http://www.nextbigthing.co.za

  (After the intro Click on the ‘#Just want to look around# text it will take u thru to next page)

   A chart made up from browsers rating and listening to the song streams can be found here:

                                      http://nbttopten.podbean.com/

The NBT Review 77

Heavy Water Experiments – Heavy Water Experiments (Intrepid Sound Recordings)

Sometimes the elements connect in just the right way and surround the listener with the right mood, environment, in which better to discover new music. Today as I explore this collection, the heat wave pulses, the road works outside shake and shout, in fact the whole damn day positively VIBRATES as I press play.

Welcome to the disturbance, it’s going to be a fine ride indeed.

This is the sound of a mirage, gentle shimmer of unreality, then that heat (now here in the speakers) explodes outwards, the dream figures melt, the colours collide, mesh frantic, the drums tiptoe up top the flames, and the song settles into an agitating lullaby. The vocals shift into focus, the harmonies subtle, and within all this fine magic, pop melodies strain against the ‘difference’.

Like a storm sneaking into the glare of a summer’s day, this band thrives on the ambiguity of it all, glorious messy mix of the chaos in the Jam and the structure of the song craft.

They let the instruments roar, and sing as people used to flying, finding the swoops and danger above somehow calming. There is a scent of the Psychedelic madness here, a tension grown from the soon to be freedom of the willfully frantic.

It is a place where the ghost of a traffic jam is filtered over the serenity of a deep forest, where the grit and grandeur of a festival edging into sunset along the howls of guitars is superimposed over forgotten photos of homes long lost by destructive lovers.

Never clumsy enough to be mistaken for simple hard rock, never bland enough to please those that seek the new age as a refuge from the difficult, it is an invitation to let go, to ride the hallucination bare back, to get fierce, to go crazy.

A LOT to discover here.

http://www.heavywaterexperiments.com/

Catch Tunes from the Album on the NBt podcast going out on the 8th July 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

If you use Internet Explorer you can stream snippets of a couple of the Tunes here

                               http://www.nextbigthing.co.za

  (After the intro Click on the ‘#Just want to look around# text it will take u thru to next page)

   A chart made up from browsers rating and listening to the song streams can be found here:

                                      http://nbttopten.podbean.com/

The NBT Review 76

Gorgeous Enormous

Through A Screen Door Darkly – Carolyn Alroy (Wussy Records)

Love can be funny in a bitter sighing sweet way, especially when connected to a desire that is unspoken but deeply felt, mulled over, knocked about in an internal debate, while the focus of all this remains blithely ignorant. And so it begins with crystal clear simple guitar gracefully (all Byrds jangle) waiting for the vocal to complete it.

Alroy continues with the theme of things left unsaid, actions not yet taken, one gets the feeling that with every hidden thought, the picture of the singer’s self awareness becomes stronger, crisper. There is a flexing against mental bonds and this is the story of how they were broken.

Sometimes she changes personas and we get sweet with the bitter almost dropped, but made palatable by her intuitive sense of detail and mood. In those songs Love isn’t complicated it’s just something you want to, HAVE to flow along with. If you dare allow yourself that is.

Then back to the internal, the sound of revolution, heard by the girl who wants to be on the front line, wants her shout noticed wants her tears acknowledged, wants it to be the world where anything can happen.

This is a set of songs that seem to try putting into words what so many of us feel day to day, in our private ramblings and our social striving. This is an album about the delicious tension of WAITING.

Even the wondrous cover of Helter Skelter strips the fear and insanity of the original away and aims rather, for the taught desire, the Waiting to get that dance..just..right..

And what is beautiful about all this, is the fact that the outcome is nowhere near predictable.

The EP that follows is indeed a darker thing. Less pop country now, this has an eerie folk feel about it.  The perceptions here are distorted by mirrors, through the textures of screen doors, refracted by flickers of light. Love becomes as dangerous as the sea, and the common things in the girl’s world become talismans , roses and phones and tea all become extraordinary as we move in slow haunted motion in and out of these songs.

I for one look forward to whatever comes next from this talented songrwriter.

http://www.carolynalroy.com

Catch Tunes from both Album and EP on the next NBt podcast going out on the 8th July 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

If you use Internet Explorer you can stream snippets of a couple of the Tunes here

                               http://www.nextbigthing.co.za

  (After the intro Click on the ‘#Just want to look around# text it will take u thru to next page)

   A chart made up from browsers rating and listening to the song streams can be found here:

                                      http://nbttopten.podbean.com/

The NBT Review 75

On Concrete – Pollyanna (Songs&Whispers)

In this rainy day world, kitchens are not for comfort, the sugar, the glow of Christmas treats cannot quietly heal a broken love. But, no! this is no doom and gloom thing at all, when we first hear this band, Her words lay out the facts with a wry acceptance, and his minimal harmonies give her strength.

This acceptance takes on an ambiguity in the next song, A Landscape,  her affair here destructive perhaps even fatal, and as she sings ‘..it doesn’t matter if it hurts..’ is that because its worth every bit of pain, or is it that she has, just, given up?  The swirls of Electric Guitar here are wonderful because they are simply implied rather than showy or overbearing.

The players switch easily from tender to torrid,(the instrumentation echoes this) sometimes within the same song, their vision of beauty is often spiked, even cruel, and then they switch focus on us and allow shafts of the darkly romantic to blur into the melodies, they make each song seem crowded with possibility.

Songs are allowed to build, to breathe, and to whisper through, notes follow on hesitant notes and the haunting takes place. The uneasy desire is stretched, the wanting tightens internally and like a Hitchcock film of the soul we long for the release the singer craves but cannot quite dare find.

When the traditional ballad ‘Railroad Boy’ slips into place, we the entranced, now haunted listeners are not surprised, these are all in their way death ballads, not always the death of the body though, sometimes the past, the cities, even how nature fades, but again I must stress, these are NO angsty things, rather tales of regret sung to clear the way forward to a different day.

There is nothing wispy about this modern Folk music. The more I listen the more I feel the vitality  of these intricate constructions.

It’s an easy album to fall for.

http://www.pollyanna.org/

Hear tracks from this album coming up on the NBT Podcast going out on the 8th July 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/