The NBT Review 123

The Wild Land – Nate Maingard

This Review by Helge Janssen

From the muse…..through the heart – The Wild Land – Nate Maingard CD release June 2011.

If Nate himself is a matrix of cross-referencing wonders with at times a naive matter-of-factness, his debut CD ‘The Wild Land’ is a mesmerising distillation alchemized into the sum total of brilliance. When his muse speaks, we listen…..and wander with him through enchanted forests……entwined with loose vines….glinting sunlight and a rich dark undergrowth…where we encounter PAN (the god of experience) in all his wonderpotent glory….

The astonishingly opulent guitar tone (a Nathan Maingard original – Nate learned guitar-making from his father) matched by a clarity of pitch with an alluring melodic voice in shamanic harmony (the voice and the guitar are one – so much so that at times it seems as if there is a backing homogeneous male vocalist echoing words) rang a unique resonance within me from the moment this
CD made aural contact. It is always interesting when the intended raison of a song expands beyond its original framework and infuses a wider territory! So, while the songs are deeply personal, they transcend and connect with a listener tired of the glib boy meets girl/boy loses girl phrasing of current popular fare. The driving acoustic rhythms weave through the lyrics and travel an expanse that resonates with the crux of the matter conjoining emotion and intellect. The colours, moods, memories, visions that thus emanate throughout this story/concept motivated album inspires a sense of healing and crusades for a return to our intuitive selves: the innocence of the heart matched by the seduction of experience….yet with discernment….and with caution. While this may seem like a contradiction in terms on a surface level, when one is in that deeply felt intuitive (artistic) space, it all makes absolute sense.

And sense it makes!

Each track is a carefully selected gentle-gem-offering of immense beauty discovered within the thicket of…..

The Wild Land –

the track that gives the album its name – deals with the secret landscape where the river of sexuality/sensuality is obligated to course its way through the psyche without hinderance….or face the wrath of the inner voice that speaks no lie. This very important flow is not that easy to attain, yet where the hurdles serve to strengthen resolve and the bottling up of sexuality is done at one’s peril. This is the domain of that which is wild…….tread gently through it least you arouse the displeasure of these guardians of our underworld.

The plea is not to mishandle the serene (yet potentially chaotic) space that respects a surrender to our innermost gifts in our quest to find our authentic self.

Just Like You:

This song is concerned with a search for personal identity which has come about through a lack of being able to live up to the expected norms of one’s peers/society/parents/religion. There is neither anger nor blame: just compassion for oneself. Yet in so finding, discovering compassion for others which requires reciprocation:

“…if no one is listening then this all seems absurd….”

This is, after all, a deeply felt anticipated yet unwritten human pact which we implicitly make with our fellow man. This is further
demonstrated in the final punch line:

“I hold onto my love, just like you.”

…..where the playing fields are gently levelled.

Fire:

two embers in the fire faced one another
said to the other: What are you doing here?
although I question carefully your presence
I am so grateful for your company
in the fire

until we’re gone gone gone gone gone
gone
gone gone gone
gone gone gone gone gone
when the flames have all burned down
what will remain?

The birth/death/rebirth cycle so beautifully and poignantly expressed in a total acceptance of the heat of experience yet posing a mysterious philosophical question: “what will remain?” The answer to this seems to rest with the quality of the experience. The Phoenix undoubtedly springs to mind too, for is it not from/through the ashes that the new is born? Each experience is savoured, considered…..it forms a vital ingredient in our transformation…..of that which we are becoming..

My favourite track is undoubtedly

I Will Devour:

in the soft moist loam
in the undergrowth
where all creatures know
what that seed is worth..
i will lay me down
and i will sink in to
just like the seed
i will feed the new

…..sheer genius!

And performed to mesmerising perfection at the Bean Green Roastery, in Durban, where I had the
delighted pleasure of also filming it! I am also now the proud owner of a signed ‘The Wild Land’ CD.

Yes!
They say that the ‘indie folk’ scene is exploding in Cape Town. If this album is an example of that, then folk music in this country has finally come of age. This has to be the most remarkable folk debut album in many a decade, and in my experience, in South Africa – ever! It draws through its many folk influences and turns out a product that is modern, inspired, fresh and immediate. Nate exhibits an innate sense of drama and timing in his distinctive musical and vocal style. He treads…and plays……where few have dared to go….and through his creative process fearlessly faces his beasts inviting them into obeisance.
Buy “The Wild Land” now. Immediately! You will never regret it.

http://natemaingard.com/album/the-wild-land

tracks from this album can be heard on the NBTMusicRadio

http://nbtmusicradio.playtheradio.com/

iTunes: NBTMusicRadio

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The NBT Review 120

Dropping Down – Giulia Millanta (Ugly Cat Music)

It’s a brave thing indeed to start of a set with a song that has, as its main focus, Anger. It could set us up for angst perhaps or that
shouty kinda righteousness that some protest singers favour. But ‘Right Between The Eyes’ balances the singers (rage) disappointment with a restrained sort of energy, holding back when it needs to, letting a gentle folk even reggae mood drift though, but keeping the bite, the tension perfectly.

It’s because its personal. And that’s the album’s defining core, these songs come from the heart and the mind, what takes place is seen through the singers eyes, what is felt is what she feels, and oh she is curious, feisty, humorous, yet introspective. And she manages somehow to make that introspection blossom outwards so that we become emotionally attached to the words and music.

She sets the scene, and often that scene is surreal, yet with a few words you catch on to all the characters, and where they fit, if only for a few seconds before they slip slide away, melt, fade into each other as she tumbles us gently into another chapter.

On the cover we see the artist seconds after taking the great leap off, down, into..where exactly? and we wonder if she will be able to
illustrate through her songwriter this ambiguous fear or joy or that satisfying mix of both.

Wonder no more, this free-fall is seductive, delicious even strangely comforting.

Her arrangements too fit this slow dive, never fussy, the instruments shift around the voice like the wind against the body falling,
special mention must be made though about Lorenzo Forti’s bass which slinks and curls around the songs, sly and provocative.

Millanta takes us on a quirky sideshow reading of Paranoid, which displays a subtle theatrical pose, before ending the set with ‘Floating’ which is placed perfectly as it seems to be an answer of sorts to all the questions raised within the previous stories, an acceptance of love, of self and finally of life.

Find out more

http://www.giuliamillanta.com

Look At The Sound – Jebediah Goodthrust (Independent Release)

 Holy Banjo Batman!  The Country superhero brings us another slice of home cooked rock n roll, or maybe its moonshine, He sure does strut across the speakers like a good old young man all dressed up fine for a Saturday night adventure.

Mr Heise plays about 85% of what goes on here, but weirdly this is the most BAND sounding album of his long curved career.

This is the Breakthrough collection the one that could shove those that merely admire into something resembling pure love. And I for one will rejoice mightily when that happens.

It even boasts a bona fide classic rock single in ‘Go’ which is a gloopy mix of Sweet Jane Velvets and Paul Westerberg  all applied with a big brush onto that unmistakable Heise Brothers structure.

But the fun doesn’t stop there!

There are ungainly waltzes (cowboys learning to love and dance, their minds half on that pretty face half on the hassles and weight of the world outside), and even that peculiar kinda post punk ballad type thing that only a certain type of deviant American really understands or gets right.. again though its the Heise twist that defines them, so its Pixies or Pavement (depending on the hour and the song) but with that  smudge on the windscreen perspective.

Personal favourite  for me, (let it be said that this collection is FULL of faves)  is ‘So Tired’ a song that builds and falls , builds and falls and  contains a delicate tension that bodes well for future releases and also gets that difficult creature that is Nelson’s voice just
right.

Look, they are never really gonna be mainstream, but this one flirts with the possibility, and is perhaps the brothers finest achievement thus far.

And if this ‘solo’ outing makes you , gentle listener want to explore the back roads that the Hit and Mrs and The Heise Brothers travelled, then that’s a damn good thing.

Http://thehitandmrs.bandcamp.com

 Tracks from BOTH these fine recordings can be found on the NBTMusic Radio

http://nbtmusicradio.playtheradio.com/

 and they
will also be featured on the NBT Flagship Podcast going out tomorrow
on this very set of pages 🙂

The NBT Review 112

 Polar Dust is reviewed by Martin Smit

One Eyed Mule is reviewed by Cobus Rossouw

 Selected Demos – Polar Dust

 It is apt that I start with ‘Between The Lines’ as I swim through this selection. Because this music is all about space and weight, the dreaming, the waking, the thoughts in between those states of being.

This is music that seems both Heavy (not as in powerchords or metal but rather that tempting release of allowing ourselves to SINK) and Floating (not as in insubstantial but bravely floating, untethered to darker places)

 As these are demos there is a tiny bit of fear shooting through this reviewer, that when the songs are given ‘full’ life the band may be urged to ‘clean up’ the murk, the delectable dirt, the ‘otherness’ of these recordings. But it is not the shiny that entices here , rather like an ancient mirror, its the warped reflections, the fragmented visions that keep us captivated.

 We are asked to dive into the ‘Deep End’ while sparkly electronics do sonic battle with bass machine rumble, an industrial thing a pop thing, and then the vocals slip in, benign hallucinations.

 These manage float tween euphoric and lament, they are love songs that the enemy sings to you, lullabyes from suggestive strangers.

 They ask you to get lost In them, With Them and not care about the destination.

 I suggest you get tempted, it is well worth it.

 http://www.ilike.com/artist/Polar+Dust

 You can hear some of these Demos and more on the NBTDarkelectric Podcast going out on the 5th March

http://nbtdarkelectric.podbean.com

 and the band is playlisted on the NBTMusic 24 hr streaming Radio

http://www.radionomy.com/nbtmusicradio

 One-eyed Mule – Drifting To A Happy Place (Artiscope Music)

 Anyone hearing One-Eyed Mule for the first time would be forgiven for imagining the band originates from the American heartlands. Their music is standard Americana, so standard that it came as a substantial surprise to hear that they were formed in Denmark and recorded this latest offering in Sweden.

Scandimericana then, easy on the ear, beautifully recorded and always interesting. It’s not an album that sets new benchmarks in music and it’s not avante garde or challenging, but it is wonderful. You see, for me it’s enough if music imparts a mood, evokes an emotion. I don’t always need to think, sometimes I just want to feel, and my word this album did it for me.

Starting off with a happy melancholy, a “September Sigh”, imagery of bleakness and yet hope, something warm, either in the past or the future. Rasmus Dall’s voice could feature in any band, its strength is its ability to express beyond the words, to drag you into the heart of the songs. By the time you reach the second track – “Rain keeps falling on you” he’s dragged you into the album and you will be hooked.

After a crazy week I left the office last week and as I hit the open road the track “Drifting to a happy place” and I wish I could make you all feel how it lifted me. Everything was suddenly ok and the weekend had been set up for joy. And this is why this album is so good. It touches all the nerves, it arouses the happiness junkie in me, it doesn’t so much “keep me going” as “makes me go”.

Now, before you start thinking that this is a simple album with little intellect let me caution you, this band knows its music and the album shows off all the chops without ever being self indulgent. Each song expanding in instrumentation, with banjo, cello, sitar and even jew’s harp. And nowhere is there a trace of overeager ego. In its place is perfect sensibility, which is rare.

It’s even difficult to pick a favorite track, although if I was forced to it would “All your love is gone”. I can’t hear it without singing along, and there’s a Velvet Underground feel to it that I have to love.

So in short – not a single note out of place, never boring, happy without being sentimental, melancholy without being maudlin and a range of pfectly constructed songs – ladies and gents, what One-eyed Mule have given us is a perfect album, perfect in every way.

 http://www.facebook.com/pages/One-Eyed-Mule/176292165300

 you can hear tracks from this album on the NBT Podcasts going out on the 4th March and last weeks show as well.

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com

and One-Eyed-Mule is playlisted on the NBTMusic Radio

http://www.radionomy.com/nbtmusicradio

The NBT Review 110

  The Foxpockets EP (independent release)

 there are some kinds of music that make the curious listener very excited, no matter the mood that surrounds him at the start, the music never fails to invigorate and intrigue. This music usually has folk as a starting point, is played and created with sheer joy by the musicians and is often layered, verbally and musically. Bands like Tilly and the Wall, Los Campesinos,Tunng and now Foxpockets are often labelled twee by a jaded press who seem to like a strong spoonful of angst with their cuppa alternative, (you know the type, the ones who write in little books and are afraid to dance when the band goes mad on stage.) and oh how wrong could that label be.

 This is simply music that makes one feel awfully lucky to have found it.

 The Nautical Song slow builds, adding instruments and vocal harmonising at a subtle pace, wonderfully restrained for a three minute tune. What is gentle becomes almost a jig before the song is done, the producer leaving the explosions for another time.

 Voytek is a finely sketched tale of war, Katharine Simner’s serene vocals counterpoint dark lyrics, all leading up to a most heavenly and moving instrumental break.

 And Wintersleep should really be play listed all over the damn place. Timeshifting, swaying, elastic it slips across three or four moods from thoughtful funeral to shy invitation to dance and ends way too soon.

 As a prologue to a full album, this is a delightful introduction to band that we will be hearing a great deal more of.

 http://www.myspace.com/foxpockets

 Hear tracks from this release on the NBT podcast

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

 and in the next few days Foxpockets will be added to the 24 hour stream of NBTMusic Radio

http://www.radionomy.com/nbtmusicradio

 

The NBT Review 108

  The Man With Two Brains – Dirk Speksnijder ( Independent Release)

 There is always a place in this indie world for the English Eccentric, from Syd Barrett to Julian Cope, from Ray Davies to Robyn Hitchcock, there thankfully is a music that transcends the ageing process, and can provoke and excite the modern listener while seemingly twisting away in a time warp made up from fabric poached from the Incredible String Band and McCartney’s more fanciful daydreams.

This is PoP but not as we know it, Jim, this is Folk but from those strange Folk, those travellers and Pranksters, and this is joyful, funny and yet with a tinge of the melancholic twinkling darkly underneath the shiny shiny reflected surface, as the opening track’s lyrics go, ‘this is war, and we don’t know what we are fighting for’ all echo and multi tracked harmony.

The songs are linked quirky/mock sombre with orchestra and spoken word adding to the overall ‘otherness’ of the record, but also giving the concept a sly unity: within the mostly sparse arrangments there are a lot of giddy touches that make each track a new discovery every play, from the opening riff of ‘Hot Air Balloon’ which wouldnt be out of place on Alice Cooper’s Killer album to ‘Going Out’ which could be made in an alternate universe where Blur was a late sixties band.

Dont think for a moment that is is just mere novelty, take a listen to stand out track ‘Two O Eight’ which lifts itself off from Space Oddity via Paul Weller and becomes its very own entity. Listening to this album makes me really want to hear Dirk’s Alter Ego, Phil Knight’s next offering, whatever and whenever that maybe..

For now though, this gentle love letter to a certain type of wonderfully warped songwriting shall have a cherished place in the cd player and radio rotation for the many months to come

 hear more

http://www.myspace.com/dirkspeksnijder

 you can hear tracks from this album on the NBT Podcast going out on the 30th Jan 2011

 http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com

 

The NBT Review 100

A special edition celebrating our century of great reviews for bloody amazing bands.

Invisible War

The Firefly Garden – Merry Ellen Kirk (independent releases)

We dive into the drama, edged on by sighing bells; we are soon drifting along the most somnolent of melodies, these tunes taking on the character of dreams, unhurried thoughts, and their intent flexible, serene and devious even.

The piano waltzes like a kid in her first ballet costume while the bass slides from a Cheshire Cat purr to a subtle growl as the
listener is tempted to let go, let the light flow in, this is music that gently demands you set time aside for it, an escape if you allow it.

This is a hope filled set, the believing that there is always some way out of the darkness, (and yes she does embrace the darkness here) that a touch, a word, a rescue is available to the lost, an antidote to fears.

Stand out track for me is the slow build of ‘Victory’ a finely tuned mix of observation and the personal.

And so we move onto /into the Firefly Garden, still in its pre-release stages, Kirk takes the ethereal to the next level, the song ‘Candy’ being an especially delightful piece of modern dream Pop, immensely catchy without sacrificing wild charm. This set opens up the spaces, becomes so much wider than the bedroom intimate, yet..still..manages to speak to you, as in a private conversation.

The thing is, these are songs that can be played solo illuminating the dark night of the restless soul, or (soon I hope) can be
played to millions televised from the stage at some huge cool festival, where the chaos of the crowd cannot dilute the affection of the creations.

BUY the Firefly Garden Official Release

http://merryellenkirk.bandcamp.com/album/firefly-garden-2

Find out more

http://www.merryellenkirk.com/

Depend On This – Ruth Minnikin and her Bandwagon (SongMillMusic)

Artists love to shape shift their songs, from acoustic demo, the bare bone new born, to the band arrangement, to the live rendition, songs are made for pulling and prodding into exciting new forms, (tis why remixes so often work so well, if the manipulator shares a soul space with the composer) and here Minnikin takes six of her tunes and delights in showing just how a change of pace, focus and density can bring about new wonders.

Thus the Theme Song morphs from breezy Mamas and Papas pop brilliance into a wistful progressive folk interplay between wordless harmonies overlaying a carelessly disturbing instrumental.

And Sleeping and Dreaming slips from being a more orchestrated Au Revoir Simone ballad of quirky dimension into a skewed dancefloor shuffle all reflected mirror ball distorted.

Mention must be made of the re-arrangements of the six by Chuck Blazevic, who has taken care to instil the essence of the original into not just a negative image or enhanced backing track, but into cheeky(sly) brothers and sisters with distinct individualistic personalities.

This is one of those albums that make you fall in love all over again with the Possibilities of music.

Listen and discover for yourself

http://www.ruthminnikin.ca

Both artists can be heard on the NBT podcast going out on
the 11th November 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com

THE NBT Review 98

Bigger Teeth – BirdEatsBaby (Independent Release)

If earlier BirdEatsBaby releases were indicative of those small town
cinemas from stranger times, all romance and slightly twisted in the way they
spread the dream, this EP dares to go widescreen, the cabaret grows epic, the
soundstage morphs into a garden of distraction and the players now become real
indie pop stars.

The cool thing is, while achieving this; the music loses none of its
charm, its delicious sleaziness or cruel power and in spite of the added
polish, the heart and soul still shines through.

The collection starts deceptively with a sparse vocal harmonic interplay,
then a grunted countdown and the circus slides into our town, hints of future
scares, random violence, exotic encounters blur past fast, then it clicks back
to the minimal.

The Replacement is Coco Rosie gone frenzy breathless, a pogo creature of
a tune the counterpointing semi operatic vocal/piano layer just adds a poignant
tension.

Then martial drums, Cure guitar slithers and it’s a modern POP
masterpiece/centerpiece, this is a calling card to the world, about future chart
domination, this is the kind of song that while it is playing the listener
wishes, needs, to see this beautiful thing played damn loud, live. A hint of
the best of those Prog groups of old, Curved Air, Family, even Alice Cooper,
mixed with the arch camp thrill of a Siouxsie, who knew a thing or two on how
not to let a rocknroll jive interfere with the bubblegum deviance. This is ‘Enemies
Like Me’, a song that seems destined to be play listed as often as is possible.

‘Gone’ is Liza Minnelli on speed with a dash of that typical
BirdEatsBaby craziness, and yes the charming Devil IS in the details, the twinkle
here the shiny distorted waltz break-away leading us through to be caught unawares
by the exquisite new folk of the kinda heartbreaking Rosary, heartbreaking that
is, in that sing along rejoicing way of course.

This, my friends, is the sound of the breakthrough, the Birds are gonna
be huge.

http://www.birdeatsbaby.co.uk

Camouflage Baby – The Histrioniks (CatErratic Records)

This is a kind of fearless indie pop, a nervous lyrical artist
vibrating up against the normal, their songs a blur in the sunshine, maybe visiting
the now from some harsher darker suburbia, it’s the sound of stoplights ignored,
distilled into a brittle modern dance, too sharp to fit into what passes now as
American punk, it reminds me of the raw honest Replacements,(not quite so
shabby ) or perhaps that ragged beautiful Exene led X, though by now the band
has a distinctive mood-sound all of their own, instantly familiar to those who
have loved earlier collections. When I try to pinpoint the secret that sets
this band apart, I think, there is a love of Brit-pop refinement within the
songwriting that lifts it away from the slacker easy alternative, so the dirt within
is not thrown at you but has to be dug for.

While listening to this, I am taken back to earlier this week and a curious
hopeful search for good indie American tunes, and getting song after song of
either ancient hard rock dressed up in new glitter, or soft adult orientated
whimpers pretty much designed by boardroom committees. Thank goodness then for the
arrival of the Camouflage Baby.

This set strays from the powerpop of previous installments in that it
flirts rather madly with the blues and stripped down country rock, but again, strangely,
its country rock as heard, seen, played by outsiders, and this is a very good
thing, cause it gives the tunes shiny hooks and angles, a welcome distortion of
the facts.

And that is the very essence of a Histrioniks release (and never more so
than this child) it doesn’t really belong neatly in any one genre, within any
too structured playlist, it is the stranger at the dinner table, the welcome uninvited
guest.

Stand out track out of a bunch of standout tunes,  is the ghost-dance called ‘The Last Three Days’
where the male and female voices blend and shiver outwards together and haunt
the airwaves.

http://www.thehistrioniks.com/

Songs from both these albums will be played on the NBT podcast going out
on the 21st of October 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com