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/

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The NBT Review 63

Second Chances – Danika Holmes (independent release)

It is a brave thing to start a set of modern American country folk songs with a tale of loss and vulnerability,  but this brave thing  defines the music that follows, it states from the get go that this is a candid and original glimpse  of the those that survive, but still are fragile, human, even scared. In this opening the singers prayers are perhaps not answered but by the asking, she is, one feels, made stronger, strong enough to carry on.

The sultry percussive ‘Unlit Match’ carries on this theme, the singer, detached, watches the girl on the stage, deconstructs the rebel boy myth, and the music is an invitation to let go, take those dangerous chances and prove those who would box you into a cliché, totally wrong.

All is not internal though, in stand out track, the ballad ‘Annie May’ Holmes sings the life of a quietly extraordinary woman, sketching the passage of time and history with remarkable subtlety and grace.

Then in ‘Pockets Full Of Gold’ she brings it back to the intimate world of the couple, through faith and love in each other surviving the (harsher) world around them.  In fact all through this album, she commits her self to the belief that its ok to lean on those you trust, to show diary like the simple secrets of the soul.

This is a set that describes how the cold country of Alone, is left behind.

All this is tied together in the title track, the darkness has been preserved against, and the night is turning into day.  What I particularly like here is the admission that even in this brand new hope of a day the journey may still be tough and even third chances may be needed.

Yes this is mainstream music, but I find no concessions here, or cynical production tricks, no artifice.

That all these songs are wrapped in a perfectly balanced mix of the pop smooth and the country honest lets us know that her message will soon get into the hearts of radio listeners everywhere.

Listen here: http://www.danikaholmes.com/

Hear tracks from this album on the NBT Podcast going out on the 13th May

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

The NBT Review 58

Time Is Fun When You’re Having Flies – AfterThem

AfterThem – AfterThem (Both Independent Releases)

SO

Your soul is conflicted, you want danger, you want to be provoked made tense, alert by the music coming to you, want to feel demands are being made, that on the other side of this listening experience you come out changed wiser maybe, crazier surely.

BUT

You also want to be warm, cuddly cuddled, want to be asked to pogo/dance/swing by that cute strange girl with the blue hair and piercing eyes, want to hum the hooks, grin that huge lazy grin you practiced, and most of all, charmed.

It seems like AfterThem is the band for you.

Within one tune you maybe gently rocked by a tropical breeze while being set on edge by sharp knife drill worthy of latter day Coltrane when he was bornAgainRadical. Within another the scratchy ghost of a Dr John look-a-like rumbles fiery against a slowed down Talking Heads (Eno period) minimal groove.

The funk here is all angles and spiky shiny jewelries dropped into messy bubbling stew, modern black magic indeed.

For the self titled album (which disc came first? And does it matter?) Female vocals are slid far down in the mix a delight for those who ever wondered what Jefferson Airplane might sound like fronting an extremely busy lo-fi Pavement. This selection rocks slightly harder than ‘’time’’ and brings the dirt to the fore, but the sharper focus of the other set clicks it slightly harder as the more rewarding listen.

Both sets though pleasure the brave listener

http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/Afterthem

You can hear tracks from both albums on the NBT podcasts

6th May on our flagship cast

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/
 5th may on the NBT Dark Electric

http://nbtdarkelectric.podomatic.com

The NBT Review 55

Thunder Buffalo – Thunder Buffalo (Dig/Sarathan)

Switch on the stereo of giddy distorted, pick up the speakers as they howl and throw them out of the window, this is the sound of them falling. Hitting the ground and bouncing UP back, into the room.

Like the 13th Floor Elevators, tripped up even more, Thunder Buffalo bend these songs into squawky- screechy bubblegum shapes, as the Butthole Surfers, the Residents hoot and howl and jive along.

All is not chaos and glitter though, swooshed up in eternal 3am sinister reverb stolen from the nightclub of the lost phantoms, Gloomy In Us All swings like a 50s rockabilly ballad time warping into nugget era America. Several songs too evoke the spirit and the sheer infatuation with the blues that Jeffrey Lee Pierce had when he pushed out Gun Club screams into the world.

And if there is some kinda justice in the world then in a year’s time, YouTube will be swamped with earnest young mad men women attempting the pathos of the fragile If I Leapt.

Sure this is not always a comfortable listen, but is delicious and noisy and fuck it really  makes me want to dance. A personal favorite.

http://sarathan.com/artists/thunderbuffalo.html

Thunder Buffalo — Gloomy Download
http://sarathan.com/thunderbuffalo/gloomy/

Turtles EP – War Tapes (Sarathan)

One night REM playing within their most PoP defined pose mated with an Interpol dressed in the finest dark glitter hooks. The resulting child was this new collection from this (for now) LA based band.

We sit enthralled in a cinema full of shadows, the slow burn drama of the song catching on to the light stream, this is bedroom epic, bathroom poetical intense, the harmonies, the illuminated and the secret entangled smooth.

The percussive echo, the heartbeat of the extremely nervous or the over thoughtful, his voice effected, the ragged man asks the ghost to join in the dance, and the music builds, the stormy noise tornados around, around, around, till all is the whip, the wind and the breathing. This is a song for those who want, need, perhaps, the freedom of being scared.

This is a crush on fear, adoration of the vulnerable, and the love of the fatal paths that we sometimes slip down, it is the sound of: when COOL bangs up against warmth and ricochets straight into our studied detachment.

The War Tapes have the potential and yes, the will, to straddle both the mainstream airwaves and like the gloomy magnificence of Michael Gira’s Swans capture the heart and soul of the alternative scene.

Watch out for their debut full length release coming out in May

http://sarathan.com/artists/wartapes.html

War Tapes, Turtles EP:
http://tinyurl.com/itunesWTturtles

Listen to tracks from both these bands on a special broadcast of the NBT Podcast going out on the 9th April

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

Also in April read about Sarathan Records, listen to tracks view pix and vids on a special feature showcased on the new NBTwebpage portal

http://nbtmusic.de

The NBT Review 49

Lunchbox  – Richard Kapp and the Gowns (Independent Release)

It is a delectable irony that the opening track “It’s Too Loud‘‘demands to be played rather loudly. It‘s the kind of thing that gets the listener swaying about in their room, or on the street even (if heard on an iPod or mp3 player) conducting an imaginary orchestra. A song about loneliness perhaps but a song that uplifts at the same time, eccentric pop then.

Let this be said straight away, this band suits Mr. Kapp.  And his style, his droll take on love, life and other potential disasters suit this band. It’s almost like, mmm, that with fellow musicians aiding and abetting his creations he can get even more personal than previously allowed.

The title track now sweetly sways with nostalgia drifting from images of peace to feelings of loss then back again, then flying through wonderful harmonies, it quirkily goes schizophrenic on us.

‘’Selling Them Your Love’’ invokes the spirit of Belle and Sebastian, even a chamber pop version of the Lightning Seeds while ‘’So Dirty’’ is a gently elegant smutty show tune with added restrained vocals dips and dots from Woodstock Taylor. The Broadway version of Stephen Merritt would be proud!

Sometimes there is lonely heartbreaking trumpet, sometimes a swoon of crystal clear female vocals, sometimes the piano playing comes into sharp focus, sometimes all this and more fades away lost willingly in the ambiguous emotional heart within the collection.

Then in, ‘’Another Town’’ Kapp along with guest Ina Simone capture exactly what makes a pop ballad work. No whine , no angst, no over emoting dramatics here, something simple, almost country, utterly captivating for now this is my favourite song in the set. A Dreamy companion to ‘Wake Up’ from Asterisk.

As always this is an album that will reveal more every time it gets played and is the perfect progression for Richard Kapp and his band the Gowns.

http://www.richardkapp.com/

Catch songs from this release on the NBT Podcast going out on the 23rd Feb 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

The NBT Review 48

Some Moths Drink The Tears Of Elephants – Boister (Piano Parasite Productions)

Ah this delightful disturbance, this redemption in the darkness. Do you know how ghostly carnival lights seem, from a distance, on a rainy night? This is the soundtrack to that feeling.

Produced by legendary maverick/storyteller Jim Dickinson, who once channeled the sweet twilight of Big Star into something eternal, this collection, seems to be ancient Pop, perhaps even tomorrow’s Americana, Though with wonderful contradiction,  there is a fragmented European soul breathing between the lines too.

It starts with a languid gasp perhaps sigh , definite slow motion thoughts catching up to the moment, the music subtly builds, the room the picture fills with detail, the story unfolds ragged yet elegant. Funeral music that makes you feel very much alive.

Then a lullaby morphs into a sly grin take on Brecht, the band swaggers, the curtains, windows, thrown open onto a vibrant street gathering, a party full of tension.

Then a drum thing that seems to be slowed fractured down sympathy for the devil grooving into horns and guitar, washing up against the vocals, then without noticing we have slid into a perfect rock song sway, a gift with gentle hooks that we will be humming months from now.

These are tunes that are built fragile, crafted intricate standing there, the title track: quick take a snapshot before it all falls down, but it never falls down, no matter how harsh the rhythms that swirl around it, rudely affectionate.

Then the weirdest thing: I hear the east, the far east, not east America, but also: I hear almost a ska thing going, I hear the islands, come on dance and Thank You.

Then invited into this strange tent at this strange market, we shiver into an exotic fumbling before the band throws another cruel ballad or three our way, and as they are wrapped in the most beautiful melodies, we catch them easy, we are captured easier.

Layered and complex, yet never contrived this is a near perfect release.

http://www.boister.net

Catch tunes from this release on the NBT Podcast going out on the 23rd Feb 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

The Amchitka Concert 1970

From the Greenpeace Canada website

‘’The two-disc CD takes you back to October 16th 1970, when 10,000 people gathered in the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver to hear Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Phil Ochs and support the very first Greenpeace action ever taken – the legendary voyage to Amchitka to protest nuclear bomb testing.’’

The Protest was unsuccessful and the testing went ahead, But the War was far from lost and Greenpeace went on to become an extremely powerful Voice for those who cared about the Earth and Environment and against those politicians and business men who through action and inaction threatened the delicate balance of true nature.

NBT is proud to have been given a chance to interview Barbara Stowe, daughter of Irving Stowe, one of the founders of Greenpeace. She is author of the insightful and touching liner notes for the ‘Amchitka 1970’ CD.

NBT: Why the release NOW, why wasn’t this put out in the weeks, months, years after the actual concert, did it have to do with technical problems or getting the release of the Artist’s music from their record companies and so on?

In the beginning, Greenpeace was a local organization consisting of at most a couple of dozen volunteers, and the time and energy needed to see such a project through would have been overwhelming. We were too busy trying to stop nuclear testing worldwide!  My father would have been the logical person to consider such a thing, given his passion for music, chutzpah and his legal background.  But he got cancer and died in 1974.

My family has always hoped that Greenpeace would be able to get permissions and release this music, but just to get the ear of busy artists like Joni and James was a daunting prospect.  In 2003 my brother got the ball rolling by transferring the music to CD, and he presented my mother and myself with a CD each as Christmas presents.  He is a meticulous person and he’d timed each song and crafted a few paragraphs about the concert and the technical recording details.  He even used photos of the artists taken at the concert for the covers.  He realized he’d created something Greenpeace could use as a prototype to seek permissions, so he proposed the project to Greenpeace.  When they sent John Timmins out to Vancouver, I knew they’d found exactly the right person.  John is a founding member of the Cowboy Junkies — a renowned Canadian band — and also a Foundations Officer for Greenpeace, and given his passion for the project, his background as a professional musician, and his experience in activism, he was perfect, and we were very excited.  That was two and a half years ago.

NBT: Have you ever visited Amchitka?

Yes. I was part of the “Bering Witness” campaign in the summer of 2007, when the Greenpeace ship Esperanza sailed to Amchitka.  The whole trip totally blew my mind.

NBT: World Powers are always wanting to re-activate Nuclear Testing, in your opinion is there a solution to this problem, or will Greenpeace and others still be fighting the ‘good fight’ 20 years from now?

The solution is clear.  Nuclear weapons threaten us all, and should be eradicated from the face of the earth.  But I’m not naïve.  I suspect Greenpeace may still be fighting to end nuclear testing in 20 years time.  Nonetheless I refuse to relinquish hope, and I’m glad that leaders like President Obama and Russian President Medvedev are talking about denuclearization. Greenpeace can help hold their feet to the fire and push them to make good on their promises.

NBT: The 3 artists perform and create in ways that are very different to one another, how did this change in styles go down with the audience of the time?

There was tension because everyone wanted to hear their favorite artists, and this electricity was intensified by the fact that it was one of the most politically charged days in Canadian history.  Martial law had been declared at 4 o’clock that morning, in an attempt to quell terrorism in Quebec.  So when Phil Ochs, who is a fervent activist, got onstage and started to play, the mood was heightened. Someone put up a banner about the War Measures Act (martial law) and someone else tore it down.  And you can hear Phil on the CD, saying “I never played in a police state before”.

But people were ultimately respectful, and in this sense, the whole concert became a kind of visceral metaphor for peace.  Because there could have been real trouble, but there wasn’t.  I mean, there was zero security!  All the ushers that night were volunteers who had no experience, and everyone just sat wherever they liked…you can see in the photo, look at the floor, there are no aisles, the whole floor is covered with people sitting on every inch of it!

Part of the reason there was no trouble was respect for the cause, and part of it is down to Chilliwack, who played this brilliant set that got us on our feet dancing for joy.  I’d never heard Chilliwack live and it was a revelation.  Recently I asked Bill Henderson, the lead singer, how they did it, because one song seemed to segue magically into another, I can’t even remember any separation.  He said that the way they were playing then was to start with quiet sounds that served to ground both themselves and the audience, and then gradually develop those sounds into melodies and rhythms, and eventually find a way into one of their songs, and then into another, and so on.  It takes a lot of trust and vulnerability to do that and I think the audience really responded in kind, so that a special bond developped between performer and audience. And then, James further chilled out the crowd, I’m still amazed at how he did that, it felt like we were almost hypnotized with bliss.  He was singing us lullabies, you know, “Sweet Baby James”…”won’t you let me go down in your dreams…and rockabye sweet baby James”.  And Joni, she just let her lyrics speak: “bombers turning into butterflies above our nation”.  It was really beautiful.  I sound like I’m back in the Seventies now, don’t I?

NBT: Did you get to meet the singers? Offstage what were they like?

Phil Ochs came to our house for dinner before the concert.  He was outraged that we were under marital law. Canada was considered such a benign country, a peaceable kingdom. But Phil kept his fury in check when it came to personal relations.  He gave my brother a cigar from Cuba, which Bobby treasured for years.

When Phil came back to our house several years later on another tour I had the impression of a gentle and deeply tormented man.  He was so depressed that when I later heard of his suicide I was very much saddened but not really surprised.

I didn’t get to meet Joni, but my brother did.  He went to the airport with my father to pick them up.  He told me there was only room for one other person in the car besides my father, and that was him, and I had to go to school!  And I did!  I’m still kicking myself.  But people at school were psyched about the concert, so that was pretty cool.  My brother saw Joni and James kissing in the back seat of the limo, they were in love.

I met James backstage on a later tour. He invited us into his dressing room and he had that Southern charm.  He was extremely cool and good looking and I’m sure I blushed to the roots of my hair!

NBT: You mentioned your Dad’s love of all forms of music, in 1970 what were the Teenagers such as yourself listening to?

Some of the favorites for my crowd were Joni Mitchell; The Beatles; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; Leonard Cohen; Laura Nyro; Jefferson Airplane and Simon & Garfunkel.  We also loved Chilliwack and Small Faces, and until the concert, I hadn’t heard James Taylor, but after I heard him I became a big fan.

NBT: Why is Chilliwack not on the CD?

What happened was, during the concert, my father saw a tape recorder under the stage, and he went to the sound engineer and said, “Dave, I see you’re taping this.”  Dave said yes, I always tape my concerts for technical reasons, and Dad said, I want a copy.  Then he went to the artists’ managers and asked for permission to keep the tape for personal use.  All the managers agreed, except Chilliwack’s. So the copy that my family had all these years never had Chilliwack on it.  During the past year, Bill Henderson launched a valiant search to find the master tape which might have still had Chilliwack’s portion on it, but he couldn’t find it.

NBT: The proceeds of this release, what will Greenpeace use the money for?

To support Greenpeace campaigns: climate change, forests, oceans toxics, sustainable agriculture, disarmament and peace.

NBT: In your opinion: Were the 70s more optimistic/hopeful than this day and age, could this concert have happened in 2009? This release must bring many bitter sweet memories to you; tell us how you see the Political world, the music world. Are there still free world activists willing to risk life and limb to change the status quo? 

Oh, why not ask me some hard questions, Martin? Ha ha ha ha!  Actually I love questions like this that make me think.  To answer your first question:  Was the 70’s a more optimistic and hopeful time?  It was in some ways.  Many people believed that existing power structures and institutions had to be smashed and a new way of living had to be created. In this sense the ‘70’s was more optimistic because people really believed that a more utopian, peaceful existence was possible. And the social revolutions of the Sixties and ‘70’s, the Civil Rights, Women’s Rights and Gay Rights movements did so much to further change.   But these movements were driven by historic tragedy as well as hope, they were driven by anger, and by a willingness to die for a cause.  So while there was optimism, there was also this dark underside of rage and the struggle for freedom was fierce and painful.  Then there was the Vietnam War which literally tore American families apart. And the music of the day, which can’t be separated from the times, was driven by this darkness and a soul-searching at the deepest level, as well as a corresponding and opposite belief in love and hope, peace and change.  You can hear the music reflect all this, whether it’s Phil Ochs raging “I’m Not Marching Anymore” or Joni’s bombers turning into butterflies, in “Woodstock”. 

Your second question, could this concert have happened in 2009?  I don’t know.  I think great musicians like Joni, James, Phil and Chilliwack, who have so much heart and soul, will always respond to an appeal as urgent as the one to stop nuclear testing on Amchitka.  U2 is a modern example of artists responding to urgent need, on both anti-poverty campaigns and environmental campaigns.  Which, incidentally, thankfully, no longer have to be considered separate campaigns, now that anti-poverty activist Kumi Naidoo has been appointed head of Greenpeace International.  But I digress.  To get back to the point:  I believe great artists will always commit for a worthy cause, but as for the nature of the thing, that is a concert with no backup musicians, no visuals, no big screens, just one musician and a guitar commanding a huge arena?  I don’t know.

Also there is something magical in the spontaneity of these performances, perhaps because the artists didn’t know they were being recorded, which is ironic given that we’re so glad now that it was recorded.  The instant musicians step onstage nowadays a million iphones capture their every breath.  There’s something sad about that, because when you’re recording, you’re not present. It breaks the intimate connection between performer and audience, and that changes the performance.

As for the third question, how do I see the music world and the political world?  Well in terms of music I’m overwhelmed by the wealth of music now available to us! It’s wonderful, but also I think today it’s more difficult for artists because the bigger the talent pool, the more they have to fight for attention, and art and public relations don’t go together. I’d like to see artists more nurtured and respected and the almighty buck take a back seat.  When commerce takes precedence it weakens us culturally and lessens our humanity. Phil Ochs says it pretty clearly in “Chords of Fame”.

As for politics…it’s easy to live in fear and anger — the Bush Administration was driven by it — but I think the brave thing to do is to try to live in hope, no matter how difficult things become, and we couldn’t be facing greater challenges than we are in this millennium.

And as for whether there are still free world activists willing to risk life and limb to change the status quo?  Absolutely!  I saw them on the Esperanza.  Greenpeace is full of activists who are utterly committed to peaceful non-violent action.  It inspires me and gives me hope.

You will be able to hear Barbara herself say a few words and listen to trax from the CD on the NBT ‘best of 2009`Special 21st December 09

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

Learn more about the release here:

www.myspace.com/amchitka

www.twitter.com/amchitka1970

www.facebook.com/pages/Amchitka/60751539970