The NBT Review 68

Fly Gallery – Frequency Theater (independent release)

One mans journey into the heart beyond the switches, travelling along the giddy current, he rides the dark sparks into a unique messy world.

The intro hints at the disturbance to follow, ancient voices saved perhaps from apocalypse, counterpoint the alluring lethal future siren full landscape.

Fragile mechanical rattle shivers for a few seconds then POW the song explodes, driving martial foot-stomp brave, call to arms call to dance call to PoP over artifice, call to commercial breakthrough, the chorus will save us.

Then we feel the wave motion, sultry swim of the Modern Myth, recalling the exact moment the young boys from the Depeche machine, plugged in, tuned out and lost their innocence and found a wry sense of melody.

                                Ahh the poignancy of the retro electronica, the percussion slinks in, all criminal rough telling us this ballad is being lead, willingly, lovingly to the slaughter.

This Theatre loves the chaos, but loves the sadness too, hear how the almost drum and bass chaotic rumbles detached as a gentle tune unfolds. This is Frenzy sure, but a wry thing indeed.

The vocals are unwrapped from their steel camouflage, allowed to be flimsy even personal, within a song that dares to be modern soul, the orchestral syrup of the latter day urban.

The pilot of this rocked up spaceship, Nathan Butler has a keen ear for hooks and a steady grasp of the human emotional behind the flickering effects. These are chart songs shooting down from a cool planet.

Finally the squelch slow build as we are pushed Over The Edge, sculpted tension the song spirals seductively outward.

The bodies undulate, the trance smokes in, and all too soon the song gurgles out.

Take a breath.

Press play

Begin the journey again.

http://www.frequencytheater.com

Hear tracks from this album and thoughts from Mr Butler on the NBT Dark Electric Podcast going out on the 17th June 2010

http://nbtdarkelectric.podbean.com/

And later in June on the NBT Flagship Podcast

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

                              If you use Internet Explorer you can stream snippets of a couple of Frequency Theater’s 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 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

 

 

 

 

 

The NBT Review 37

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Songs Of Sins And Redemption – The Molenes (Independent Release)

Take in the purity of Roots Americana, dirty it lovingly with hints of feedback, splashes of political anger and huge gulps of driving rock n roll, and you have the first two tracks, the gateway into the world of very human very fragile saints, and  sometimes beautiful sometimes scary and sinister devils.

As just music this collection is oh so easy to fall in love with. There is not an instrument out of place, no arrangement over blown or underdone, and the nuanced interplay between musicians (who follow each others rhythms as instinctively as brothers) is thrilling.

Of course it’s not just about the playing and the tunes, but a journey towards the light with all the perilous thoughts and shadowy images that the odyssey entails.

Stealing from the track, ‘Bring the Bottle’ these are often snapshots onto a world that is ‘One Righteous bloody mess!’ and as the cover of the CD suggests, there is  an allure to the decay, there is something deeply uplifting in the fact that the broken souls will keep standing, keep moving on.

And the Molenes will be the dance band they party  loud to, in wicked stops along the way.

Find out more here

http://www.themolenes.com

And you can hear the Molenes on this episode of the NBT podcast

http://www.nextbigthing.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=495389

Foresight/Poorsight- The Johns (Ghost In The Cupboard)

Rewind the film, slowly. A train sneaks back tragic into a tunnel, and the sun slipSlides behind a cloud. With rolling thunder, the drama of ‘Sun For Days’ unrolls. This is the end. NO, actually this is a seductively brutal beginning.

The theme of loss continues, made strangely sweet with a power pop chug, kinda like Mathew Sweet fronting a new wave Byrds. These are songs about dancing as close to the edge as possible, sometimes accepting that the fall is the most wonderful thing, these are songs that SEEM to be about giving up, but look/listen closer and they are about surviving the dull chaos of break ups and fractured dreams.

The singer is a cynic, the singer is conflicted, and the singer is a romantic, he searches through the shudders of the songs, through leftovers of a rock n roll explosion, the shattered remains of affairs and love, and he tries to explore the truth of things. And with this band, these are his findings.

This is no one man quest though; this band is a whirling strumming thrumming beating heart of a music machine, creating swirls and harmonies, a subtle modern wall of noise.

Through the loneliness, this band wants to reach out and touch you.

Find out more here

http://www.thejohnschicago.com/

Catch songs from this album on this weeks NBT podcast.. Going out this Friday

http://www.nextbigthing.libsyn.com

The NBT Review 35

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As NBT head honcho Martin Smit is down with the Flu this week,( yes summer flu in a heat wave, not wonderful!)  He just reviews Tag by Adriana, second in command William Elliot takes the reigns for Nick Daugherty

Movin’ Higher – Nick Daugherty (Sky Rocket Records)

The title track sets the mood, a song for flying, for those thoughts that touch a soul as you travel to a loved one, a gentle gliding melody full of bright easy harmonies.

This is summer drenched pop, evoking the same laidback rock and jazz tinted soul journeys that Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson often take, and in the track ‘Out of My League’ Nick even adds a hint of cool gospel.

The album is full of accomplished emotional ballads like ‘A Thousand Times Tonight’ and ‘ Please Come back Home’ showcasing a heartfelt vulnerability  counterpointing the amiable swing of other tracks, during which Daugherty invites you to slow dance the humid sultry night away with him.

All is not just unruffled and dreamy though, in standout track ‘Staring At The Sun’ Nick allows his voice to get a bit rougher, and rocks out with the best of them.

This is a fine pop album of the sort that will always be full of sweet summer breeze, that was made for lazy Sunday afternoons, and that brings a little bit of California to the room where ever it is played.

http://nickdaugherty.com/

 

Tag –Adriana (Independent Release)

This collection is sneaky and delightfully seductive, it is wicked, human, and heartwarming, sometimes all these things resting gleefully together in one song.

It carries a European chill into the sweaty jungle rhythms, an ice cream swirly centre covered by day-glo  PoP Art laughter.

It slinks along, big back cat like, growling, purring, elegant and oh so  deliciously dangerous.

Adriana refines what worked so well with her previous band Kid Creole and the Coconuts, and disregarding nostalgia, she slips and slides onto wry modern dance floors, letting the words bite and kiss as the beat clitterClatters ambiguously across the dancers’ bodies.

Best of all, there is nothing shallow about these nightclub confections, layered in between the loops and licks  is the soul of the edgy, the thoughtful, the ironic and the daring.

An album that subtly surprises with every new spin, gently hypnotizes and revamps, rejuvenates the tired listener.

Get your own seduction here

http://adrianakaegi.com/

 

Catch both these artists on this week’s NBT Podcast

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com

The NBT Review 32

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Barbara Gilles Favoriti Quartet – Barbara Gilles Favoriti Quartet (independent release)

This is not a review this is a Quest.

How do I capture the essence of this music?

Do I wait till the sky grows stormy, so that the light is strangely refracted, sharp and pulsing? Closing all the windows so that the traffic battle cries diminish?

Then play the music loud.

Then in the hush after the 5th track has concluded, I listen to the echo, the ghosts still dancing, asking.

Merry now, thoughtful now.

Or

Do I take the earth brown square, that enfolds this music, walk the midnight streets, until I find a basement of old men, wounded artists, casual drinkers and sped up ravers, do I demand this music be played in the battered CD player behind the bar, and sit back and watch…

I watch an old ravaged man, wasted elegant, waltz strange with a boneless fluid jazz Lady.

I watch the hip click their fingers like they saw French movie stars do.

I watch the lonely caress the dew upon their tall glasses, connecting with the fragile of the new song.

I watch strangers ask other strangers to dance.

Or

Do I siphon the juice from this recording into my pocket player, catch a bus, train, crowded anything, watch the harsh normal unfold, as the dreamlike sighs from my too tiny earphones.

Then I realize that the essence of this music is that it is a portal.

Away from HERE.

An escape. A rescue, a sometimes sly often sensual deliverance, almost 22 minutes of beauty.

Begin YOUR quest here:

http://www.barbaragilles.com.ar/

Catch songs from this EP here (and in many other NBT shows)

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=481028