New Dead Can Dance video

Dead Can Dance 2019

At the end of last year, I gave Dead Can Dance my album of the year for their first album in six years, Dionysus (you can read my review of the album here  and look at my list of albums of the year here.)

The duo of Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry have been responsible for some of the most exciting and original music over the last forty years. This excerpt from Dionysus, ‘The Invocation’ is accompanied by a rather lovely video. It was made by a Bulgarian company called Wonderswamp who state in the press release:

When we were contacted by Dead Can Dance we were very excited, as we had been fans of the band for many years and this was a great opportunity to create something for an act we admire.
When we heard ‘The Invocation’ the excitement grew as the song features motifs inspired by Bulgarian folklore music, and to see that our music and traditions can inspire them motivated us further. It was also an opportunity to create a narrative for a video based on ancient traditions that used to be practiced in our country and are still somehow preserved to the present day.
The match between these peculiar rituals and the band’s music could not be better.”

 

 

Dead Can Dance are conducting a European tour in May and June, and if you are going to see them I am very jealous…

The continuing story of Oceans Over Alderan

Oceans Over Alderaan

Just after New Year (indeed on January 1), I wrote about Oceans Over Alderan, who were just about to release their debut single ‘Sevenfour.’

The band are Alice Deacon (vocals), Steve Trenell (bass), Joe Wylie (drums), and Barry Parkinson (guitar).  As is the way with with these things (usually, when things are going well), the band are due to release their second single ‘Falters’ on April 19, and you can stream the video below. It will be released on their own The Recording Industry Is Dead Records. It is another sublime slice of post-rock meets shoegaze, and very welcome to these ears. Please spread the word.

Future live dates can be found here.

 

 

 

 

Interview – Jenna Reid

Jenna Reid

Ahead of her Queen’s Hall gig this weekend, Jenna Reid calls up 17 Seconds for a chat.

Earlier this year, Jenna Reid released her latest album Working Hands. Her fourth solo album is fabulous – drawing on traditional Scottish folk, and feeling utterly contemporary at the same time. Apart from three traditional Shetland tunes, she’s been responsible for writing it. The Queen’s Hall gig is the first time she’s played it as a solo artist – indeed ‘the first we’ve done the album since we launched it in January at Celtic Connections.’ She adds: ‘It will be really exciting – the Queen’s Hall is a favourite of mine, it’s an amazing venue [17 Seconds can totally agree to this, by the way!]. It’s probably a special one for McFalls, as well, because that’s their home turf, as it were, and they’ve probably played in there countless times, so it’s really exciting for me to be playing with them there.’

(Ah yes, McFalls…otherwise known as Mr. McFall’s Chamber, the group lead by Robert McFall, who have played on a number of 17 Seconds faves. We digress…)

Raised in Shetland, she’s now based with her family in a small village not far from Glasgow. ‘I’d love to say I lived up in Shetland,’ she says, wistfully. ‘I moved to Glasgow when I was seventeen, it’s the nearest I can get to Shetland, here!’

‘It’s been a lot of years since I did any solo touring,’ she reflects. In her early years she titled it the Jenna Reid Band, ‘but it wasn’t really a band, like Blazin’ Fiddles, it was a solo effort and I was being accompanied by musicians.’

‘I’ve got a really close relationship with Harris Playfair, who’s a piano player from Shetland from the same village as me [Quarff],’ she adds. ‘To me, on the piano, he’s untouchable! We’ve played together for maybe fifteen years, maybe more, and I specifically wanted to work with him.’

She was nine when she first picked up a violin, found in her grandmother’s attic in Ayrshire. It sounds like something out of a fairy story, but in her case, it’s true. The culture of the time helped too. ‘In Shetland at the time, all schools when I was growing up, had fully funded music tuition. I think there was, like, five fiddle tutors that went round every school in Shetland.’ She recalls; ‘There were twenty children in our Primary – and so we were getting a one-to-one lesson every week! It’s unheard-of now, unfortunately.’

And the fiddle from Granny’s attic? It’s played by her Bethany in RANT, another of the groups that Jenna plays with. Jenna herself  was lucky enough to get a bursary from the Donald Dewar Awards Fund in 2008, which enabled her to get a new instrument to her. Said violin is two hundred and fifty years old.

She kept on studying – and at the age of seventeen, she left Shetland for Glasgow, to study at what was then the RSAMD [Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland]. It was here that she joined Dòchas, the Gaelic band, and latter played with Blazin’ Fiddles, of which she modestly confesses to pinching herself about playing with. 

I ask her about what to expect from her live performances. ‘It’s always seated, a listening kind of audience. Largely, even with the Blazing Fiddles music, which is louder and rockier, it still works better for us to play to a seated audience.’

She won’t be resting much – after this gig, she has performances in both London and Scotland, and then goes back onto RANT and Blazin’ Fiddles calendars. ‘But there’ll be some down time in Shetland to look forward to!’ she adds with a twinkle in her voice.

Jenna Reid plays Edinburgh Queens Hall on April 7, with Harris Playfair and Mr. McFall’s Chamber. She will also be playing at London’s Kingsplace on April 28 and Perth’s Horsecross on April 29.

 

 

Scott Walker remembered

Scott Walker.jpg

Still kinda stunned a couple of days later to realise that Scott Walker has died. He was truly an original (and dammit, 2019 looks set to be one of those years when you start to worry when you see someone’s name trending on twitter).

I’d covered Scott Walker’s releases both here and over on God Is In The TV, and you can find links to pieces I wrote here:

 Soused (with SUNN O))) review at 17 Seconds

The Childhood Of A Leader OST review at GIITTV

We Had It All re-evaluated at GIITTV

And some thoughts on what I think might be the best Scott Walker track, ‘It’s Raining Again‘:

The opening track from Scott 3 is heartbreaking yet sublimely beautiful at the same time. On the surface it’s a ballad, yet dip just below and there’s more at play, as Scott continued to experiment ever more than before. It has left the screaming fans of the Walker Boys days behind and looks to a future that’s more reflective and full of unknown possibilities.
In many ways, this might be seen as the definitive Scott Walker track: aware of what’s behind him, certainly not at a cross roads but combining chamber pop and an ever more avant grade approach. This is the piece that completes the jigsaw of fifty years plus of music making.

 

Album Review- Kevin Armstrong

Kevin Armstrong

Kevin Armstrong – ‘Run’ (Wishing Tree Records)

While the name Kevin Armstrong may not be known to many readers, the list of people that he has played with over a career stretching nearly forty years is pretty impressive. It includes, amongst others, Iggy Pop, Prefab Sprout and Sinead O’Connor. Perhaps the two artists that most connect with this collection of songs are David Bowie (still missed around 17 Seconds Towers) and Morrissey.

Armstrong has written seven of the songs on this album himself, and the other four songs are co-writes with Bowie and Morrissey, two apiece. From Bowie we have ‘Run’ (recorded with the much-mocked Tin Machine project), and Morrissey ‘Oh Phony’ and the standout on the record ‘He Knows I’d Love To See Him.’

He’s a pretty reasonable singer, and an excellent guitarist. Whilst it’s not Slaughter On 10th Avenue, it’s a pretty solid collection of songs. ‘On Beachy Head’ seems to be a touchy without moping lament for a friend who died at that notorious suicide spot, and ‘Dog Ate My Giro’ is far better than a song with this seemingly daft title has any right to be. To say that this will only appeal to Bowie and Moz diehards is unfair. It’s a gentle listen, without some next textures throughout. Not lifechanging, but a steady grower.

***

Run is out now on Wishing Tree Records.

Stream via Spotify.

EP review – Munya

Blue_Pine_artwork

Munya -‘Blue Pine EP’ (Luminelle)

Munya is the stage name of Canada’s Josie Boivin. Raised in Saguenay, Quebec and based in Montreal, this is her third EP and the final in a trilogy. Following on from last year’s North Hatley (named for one of her favourite villages in Quebec) and Delmano EPs (the latter named for the Hotel Delmano in Williamsburg), we now have the Blue Pine EP. Blue Pine is a mountain in Twin Peaks – so not a real place, but as David Lynch is an important influence on her work, pretty real for her.

The trilogy of EPs very much sit together (so if you haven’t heard the previous two, get on with it!), making a coherent whole – in fact they’re available. Her sound is that of gorgeous electronic pop, with a lightness on the surface, but a sadness that’s just beneath. Comparisons (not to put her down) could be made with the likes of Stereolab, and also Grimes, Air and Zola Jesus.
As with the previous EP releases, this is a three-tracker, and all songs stand very much on their own terms, rather than simply being one single bulked out with a couple of bonus tracks. ‘Blue Pine’ perhaps shows the David Lynch influence strongest, not as a rehashing of the music from the TV series, but in terms of the dreamy electronic spirit. Seriously, you can imagine Sherilynn Fenn swaying to the music on the jukebox in the Double R Diner. While Munya has recorded in both French and English, ‘Benjamin’ the second track is the first time she has recorded a bilingual song. It’s perhaps the most French-sounding track (even without the singing) on the EP, but what is impressive is that it refuses to become cloying, instead being sophisticated and dreamy at the same time. On the final track -‘It’s All About You’ we get an eastern influence, with a sitar providing an interesting juxtaposition with the sophisticated French pop. Dreamy enough to be shoegazing, and certainly music to lose and find yourself within, though much less rocky than the music that has generally comes from that genre.
On the evidence of this latest EP, Munya confirms what her previous releases suggested, that she really is a fantastically talented writer and performer. It’s harder than ever to make a living as a musician in this day and age, but I keep getting dragged back to this EP (and the others), and I hope that she gets the recognition she deserves.

****

Blue Pine EP is out now on Luminelle

 

Rest in peace, Keith Flint

Keith Flint

Dear God. Please don’t let 2019 turn into another year like 2016, when celebrities dropped like flies and every time you saw a name trending on Twitter you started fearing the worse.

News has broken in the last hour that The Prodigy’s Keith Flint died this morning at his home in Essex. He was just 49. According to the Prodigy’s Liam Howlett, he had taken his own life.

It would be dishonest to claim that I was a Prodigy fan from the off, because I wasn’t and for much of the first half of the 1990s, I didn’t get much dance music. This was far more to do with me being a moody teenager, seeing boundaries that weren’t there, and nothing to do with the music itself (though the fact that I can’t dance for toffee may be something to do with it). I didn’t care much for these tracks at the time – I now recognise them as representative of much of the great dance music coming out of Britain then.

 

But The Prodigy – along with many other acts, such as The Orb, Underworld, Orbital, Leftfield and The Chemical Brothers changed my approach, along with the more down-tempo sounds of the likes of Massive Attack, Tricky and Portishead.  When I heard the news, there were so many songs I wanted to hear. Sure, they may have been the hits – but what hits they were.

The year after I left school, they topped the charts with ‘Firestarter,’ a song that blistered visually as much as sonically, with a video that was supposedly too scary to be shown on TV (the following year’s ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ would put it into some kind of perspective, along with Aphex Twin’s ‘Come To Daddy’ video).

This was followed by the even-more exciting ‘Breathe’ which mixed Joy Division bass-lines, punk energy, seemingly several different styles of dance music (I was learning by now) and Keith Flint and Maxim leading this brilliant monster out of our stereos. Perhaps like Massive Attack, they were a British band who managed to combine so many different styles to produce something that was reflective of where Britain’s many tribes were coming from and how they had come together.

Frustratingly, the only time I saw them live was at Glastonbury in 1997. Keith was on fine form, even if the electrics gave out after the second song, and Dennis Pennis had to keep things going by singing to the crowd in Hebrew (no, really). I headed off to China a couple of days later, but not before I picked up a copy of Fat Of the Land, their third album, released the Monday after Glastonbury. Perhaps I drifted apart from The Prodigy after this period – I didn’t much care for the ‘Baby’s Got A Temper’ single in 2002 or the Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned album from 2004 (which didn’t feature Keith), but my interest was reignited with 2009’s Invaders Must Die album and listening to two of the singles from this album again, they deserve to be shared. What also struck me as interesting – I was teaching by this time – was how many of the kids I taught loved The Prodigy, too.

I never met Keith Flint, but according to those he was a lovely guy, and always very appreciative of the crew who worked with The Prodigy. His death, seemingly from suicide, is heartbreakingly sad, but he leaves behind some utterly awesome music.

Album review – George McFall

George McFall

George McFall -‘XIV: Surrounder.’ (Tenement Records)

It’s been nearly eight years since his first album, God Save The Clean, but the artist who formerly recorded as Clean George IV, is back with a new album which has definitely been worth the wait.

Towards the end of last year, McFall unveiled the first track from the album ‘Autumn.’ If so have still to hear it, it’s a wonderfully dark track, which genuinely feels like that time of year when the days are getting shorter. It was a perfect taster for the album, fitting in with the peculiarly Scottish melancholia of bands like Mogwai and the Twilight Sad, Sad and sounding as if it had been processed through the post-punk electric sounds of Gary Numan and John Foxx-era Ultravox, them finished off with addressing of prime 1970s German progressive rock. It broods with barely contained menace, as if any moment it might jump out of your speakers and attack.

However, it’s not an album which simply xeroxes the lead single to diminishing returns. The following track ‘Practice’ comes in two parts, the first part coming on like a fight song meets mantra, before slowing down into a soundtrack that evokes the opening of space doors onto unimaginable horror. Our George could have a bright future scoring Hollywood soundtracks if the fancy took him. Meanwhile songs like ‘Repetition’ and ‘Change’ channel the ghost of a young Mark E. Smith (circa 1979) and head for the dancefloor, dragging you along with a supernatural power, sneering at Kasabian that anything they can do, McFall will surely outclass them.

Several listens before reviewing this album demonstrate on each listen just how excellent this album is. Legendary Edinburgh drummer Murray Briggs (Aberfeldy and Oi Polloi) plays drums, but otherwise everything else is played by Mr. McFall himself, leading to the feeling of an album that’s entirely as its creator intended (no A&R fool bleating about the lack of a single for the American market here). There’s a huge number of influences within, but they are interwoven so effectively that there is no question of this being written off as mere record collection rock.

Interviewing McFall earlier this year, he told me that he intends to finish two albums under his own name this year. For us as listeners, on the strength of this album alone, that’s a treat being dangled in front of our ears and noses. Yum Yum.

A resounding success.

****

XIV: Surrounder is out now on Tenement Records

Andy Anderson remembered

Andy Anderson

Andy Anderson, with his father Cliff Anderson, a well-known boxer in the East End of London.

Jeez, not a good week, is it?

Andy Anderson drummer for The Cure between 1983-84 and frequent collaborator with other acts, including Iggy Pop, Isaac Hayes and Peter Gabriel,  died on Tuesday aged 68. He had been battling cancer.

His death was announced by former Cure member Lol Tolhurst. Tolhurst wrote:

‘It’s with a heavy heart, I have to report the passing of a Cure brother.

Andy Anderson was A (sic) true gentleman and a great musician with a wicked sense of humor which he kept until the end, a testament to his beautiful spirit on the last journey. We are blessed to have known him.’

The Cure in 1984

The Cure in 1984: (l-r) Phil Thornally, Porl Thompson, Robert Smith, Andy Anderson and Lol Tolhurst.

So as a tribute, some of the tracks Anderson played on.

He first played with Robert Smith, in the side project The Glove, who released one album, Blue Sunshine, in 1983:

He first played on The Cure’s top ten hit ‘The Love Cats’ seen here on Top of the Pops in late 1983. The track was first compiled on the Japanese Whispers album later that year.

Andy also played on The Top studio album and the live Concert, bothreleased in 1984. ‘The Caterpillar’ was another top twenty hit.

Mark Hollis remembered

Mark Hollis

Of all the band’s whose evolution over their lifespan might not have been expected, Talk Talk might well top the list. Lead by Mark Hollis, who died today aged 64, they went from being seen as possible new romantic rivals to Duran Duran around the time of their 1982 debut, The Party’s Over and its accomplished follow-up It’s My Life (1984) to laying the groundwork for Radiohead and post-rock over the trio of records that is The Colour Of Spring (1986), Spirit Of Eden (1988) and Laughing Stock (1991).

So here, in tribute, a track from each of those five albums, and one from his only solo album.

From 1982’s The Party’s Over, the eponymous single ‘Talk Talk.’ Sure you can hear the similarity to acts like Duran, Visage and A Flock Of Seagulls, but there’s a scope here that suggests they are thinking beyond the nightclubs of London town.

 

From 1984’s It’s My Life, the title track (later covered by No Doubt). This wouldn’t be the last time there would be an animal flavoured video.

From 1986’s The Colour Of Spring ‘Life’s What You Make It.’ Another animal-featuring video…one of their best known songs.

 

Whilst 1988’s Spirit Of Eden didn’t produce any big hit singles, it showed that the band had moved on leaps and bounds even from the changes that had come about on their previous album. It shows a link with pastoral records like Virginia Astley’s From Gardens Where We Feel Secure (1983) and points to post-rock, particularly bands like Sigur Ros.

The band’s final album would become even more minimalist – and links to bands like Godspeed You Black Emperor!, and possibly full circle to early 80’s contemporaries like David Sylvian. This opening track is seemingly about suicide but utterly beautiful.

Mark’s sole release under his own name was his 1998 eponymous album from which this is taken. Just brilliant.

He retired from the music business to focus on bringing up his two sons. 17 Seconds sends best wishes to his family and friends.