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Music fan by instinct

Track of the day #56 – Mogwai

Mogwai credit: Brian Sweeney

I pointed out last month that Mogwai have another soundtrack coming out. This is, as always a cause for rejoicing around 17 Seconds Towers. As of today, you can stream the second track to be unveiled from the album, entitled ‘We’re Not Done.’ This is taken from KIN: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Mogwai are no strangers to soundtracks, and the two tracks unveiled so far suggest that they continue to keep up their impressively high standards into their third decade. It is their first feature film soundtrack, though they have also given us scores for documentaries including Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, Before the Flood (co-written and performed with Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Gustavo Santaolalla) and Atomic, Living in Dread and Promise. They also provided the soundtrack for the acclaimed Canal+ French TV series Les Revenants.

According to the band’s website, ‘KIN, a pulse pounding crime thriller with a sci-fi twist, is the story of an unexpected hero destined for greatness. Chased by a vengeful criminal (James Franco) and a gang of otherworldly soldiers, a recently released ex-con (Jack Reynor) and his adopted teenage brother (Myles Truitt) are forced to go on the run with a weapon of mysterious origin as their only protection.’

…and, just in case you missed it, this is ‘Donuts’ the first track to be unveiled:

 

 

 

An unsettling pop video for today: Introducing Vilde

Photo Credit: Elin Ghersinich

Stockholm-based, Australian-raised Vilde’s video for ‘Warm Milk’ arrived in my inbox yesterday. It’s arty-pop, compelling and strangely unsettling – and that’s before you watch the video.

It’s taken from his new album, Thud, which will be released on July 13. He’s a talented man, not only did he shoot the video himself, but he has written, performed, produced and mastered the entire record himself, which also features ‘Flash In The Pan.’

Known to his parents as Thomas Savage, he says:

 ”I hadn’t any idea for a theme in the beginning, the conscious element in the process is quite limited. It’s mostly reliant upon feeling resonance in the words rather than a specific line of thought. Sometimes I bring in some more conscious thinking, but if I really succeed, they somehow manage to fall into linear coherency. I’m in it for the feeling of experiencing what poured out of me afterwards, rather than attempting to express any sort of certainty. If I was certain about something I suppose it’d be better as a novel.”

Having merely given it a listen, I’m now finding my appetite whetted for the album…

Track of the day #55 – Cecil

OK, so family connections shouldn’t affect who I feature on the blog. However, the fact that Cecil takes her name along with a heavy amount of inspiration from pioneering broadcasting producer Cecil McGivern, her Great Uncle who’s responsible for the screenplay for the original 1946 version of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, one of 17 Seconds’ favourite films EVER is slightly special, to say the least.

Hailing from Berkshire, Cecil’s just released a new track entitled ‘Black Maria’ which is really very special indeed. The PR’s email about Kate Bush meeting Lana Del Rey was a bold claim, that turned out to be entirely justified. If you like Lorde and Goldfrapp, indeed sophisticated pop, you should be listening this way. I’ve played this song about six times already in the past hour…

Not only that, you should check out her earlier tracks, which confirm she is no one trick pony.

 

Cecil plays the following dates over the next few months:

14 June – Hampton Court Festival, Hampton (supporting Jools Holland)
15 June – Eroica Festival, Buxton
16 June –  Eroica Festival, Buxton
17 June – Oceanfest, Devon
12 July – Henley Festival, Henley (supporting Grace Jones)
14 July – Readipop, Reading
29 July – Carfest North, Cheshire
26 July – Carfest South, Hampshire
8 September -Pub In The Park, Knutsford
21 September – Looe Festival, Looe

The return of Low

Low: Photo credit Shelly Mosman

Low were one of the very first bands I ever posted about here on 17 Seconds, nearly twelve years ago. They are shortly to release a new album, Double Negative, which will be released on the mighty Sub Pop, on September 14. Sure, that’s three months away, but there’s nothing like whetting your appetite, is there?

The first thing to be released in support of the album is a video Triptych of the first three tracks from the album ‘Quorum,’ ‘Dancing And Blood’ and ‘Fly.’ The electronics may through some off at first, but persevere: it all makes sense…

That album tracklisting is as follows:

1. Quorum
2. Dancing and Blood
3. Fly
4. Tempest
5. Always Up
6. Always Trying to Work It Out
7. The Son, The Sun
8. Dancing and Fire
9. Poor Sucker
10. Rome (Always in the Dark)
11. Disarray

The band will begin a world tour in the UK next week:

19 Jun – Leeds, UK – Brudenell Social Club
20 Jun – London, UK – Queen Elizabeth Hall (Robert Smith’s Meltdown Festival)
23 Jun – Duisburg, Germany – Traumzeit festival
25 Jun – Munich, Germany – Ampere
26 Jun – Dresden, Germany – Beatpol
29 Jun – Bialystok, Poland – Amphitheater of the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic (Halfway Music Festival!)
20 Sep – New York, NY – National Sawdust
21 Sep – New York, NY – National Sawdust
29 Sep – Lisbon, PT – Lisboa ao Vivo
01 Oct – De Compostela Santiago, ES- Sala Capitol
02 Oct – Madrid, ES- Sala But
03 Oct – Barcelona, ES- Fabra i Coats
05 Oct – Milan, IT – Teatro Dal Verme
06 Oct – Zurich, CH- Bogen F
08 Oct – Leipzig, DE- Conne Island
09 Oct – Berlin, DE – Festsaal Kreuzberg
11 Oct – Brussels, BE – Orangerie (at Botanique)
12 Oct – Amsterdam, NL – Paradiso
13 Oct – Paris, FR – La Gai?te? Lyrique
15 Oct – Bristol, UK – Trinity
16 Oct – Manchester, UK – Manchester Cathedral
17 Oct – Dublin, IE – Vicar Street
02 Nov – St. Paul, MN – The Fitz
03 Nov – Davenport, IA – Daytrotter
05 Nov – Detroit, MI – El Club
06 Nov – Toronto, ON – Great Hall
08 Nov – Montreal, QC – La Sala Rosa
09 Nov – Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall
10 Nov – Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts
12 Nov – Washington, DC U Street Music Hall
13 Nov – Pittsburgh, PA – The Funhouse
14 Nov – Cleveland, OH – Grog Shop
16 Nov – Chicago, IL – Rockefeller Chapel
17 Nov – Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon

Album Review – Angélique Kidjo

Angelique Kidjo -‘Remain In Light.’ (Kravenworks Records)

OK, let’s try and take this record at face value. It’s a record that sees American and European music meet African music, coming together to produce a record that shimmers with infectious rhythms, singalong choruses and a general feeling of euphoria. On those terms alone, this would be a pretty damn good record.

The reality is that face value really doesn’t begin to do justice to this album. Remain In Light is Angelique Kidjo’s version of the Talking Heads’ seminal 1980 album of the same name, which was produced by Brian Eno. The final record of a trilogy he produced with the band, it is still an astonishing record nearly forty years after its release.

See: if the original album drew on West African rhythms, particularly the  Nigerian afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, then this album actually takes the album back to Africa. Leaving behind her native Begin in the 1980s after a communist dictatorship, Ms. Kidjo found herself in Paris, where she encountered the music of Talking Heads, and recognised that this was music with its roots in Africa, something the Talking Heads were always open about.

Let’s be upfront about it: this is not simply a cover of the original album. It’s an album that takes it by the hand and travels with it to Africa. It’s not admonishing it, rather explaining where its original roots come from. The songs are all re-interpreted, and even if they are in the same order as they appear on the original album, they sound radically different. Album opener ‘Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)’ comes across as a call to arms. The song for which the album is best known ‘Once In A Lifetime‘ is celebratory in tone, and the haunting ‘Listening Wind’ is even more hypnotic than the original, its lyrics even more appropriate in the near forty years since the album was first released.

This is an album that stands in its own right as a key work. With an impressive team on hand, including legendary drummer Tony Allen, her longterm guitarist Dominic James, percussionist Magatte Sow, as well as Blood Orange and Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, this is more than a tribute.

Outstanding. A serious contender for album of the year. I’m off to listen to it again.

****1/2

Remain In Light is released on June 8 on Kravenworks Records

 

Stream the album in its entirety ahead of its release over at NPR

Canshaker Pi review

Although Canshaker Pi had been a name on my radar for a while, when I finally sat down and listened to the album, I then did so repeatedly.

My review of the Dutch band’s latest album Naughty Naughty Violence can be read over at God Is In The TV, and why not get yourself in the mood, if you’ve not already heard this track?

Album Review – Blair Dunlop

Blair Dunlop – ‘Notes From An Island.’ (Gilded Wing Records)

Having rather enjoyed his last album, 2016’s Gilded, I was intrigued as to what Blair Dunlop would present listeners on his fourth record. If perhaps I struggled to find something on this release to connect with as much as I did with ‘356’ subsequent listens have revealed the charm that lies within. 

The album opens with one of the strongest tracks, the really rather lovely ‘Spices From The East.’ Sure there aren’t many songwriters who can work the word ‘coalesced’ into a song, but this is a beautifully constructed- and performed song. A song about a couple cooking a meal together could have ended up horribly twee, but there’s more going on behind the scenes here. The spices themselves are a metaphor for Britain’s colonial past, as well as those of others:

‘King Charlemagne sowed the finest seeds in the West

Filled his garden with sprigs of thyme

And the Crusaders, returning from their sullen quests

Opened the routes to a sweeter wine.’

As with much folk music, it reflects on the past to show the connections with the present and encourage us to re-examine our surroundings.

Another highlight is ‘Sweet On You.’ Reflecting on a relationship gone wrong, where he actually realises he prefer’s the girl’s mother, the song’s structure is reminiscent of Richard Thompson (which is high praise indeed, believe you me). He realises that if the girl didn’t like Ry Cooder that the relationship couldn’t work. Doubtless some will accuse him of snobbery for his ‘shame on you with your chart house and your tabloid noise’ though others would argue it’s just about being discerning.

One of his main collaborators on this record is Ed Harcourt, who, as producer, weaves much of the same magic present on his own records here. It’s not a groundbreaking record, but it is one which presents a cosy atmosphere, like being given a warm hug. There are a few occasions when it can get a little naff -‘Feng Shui’ feels a little clumsy and awkward, for instance.

There is impressive use of light and shade in terms of how the album sounds; it is clear that Dunlop puts a lot of thought into his songwriting. These sound and feel like songs that have been patiently crafted and reflected upon. On this evidence, Blair Dunlop is growing into a great songwriter. There may be some more growth to come, but on this evidence he is able to distinguish himself from the masses of singer-songwriter-guitarists, which has never been more necessary than in the present time. I look forward to his next record with interest.

***1/2

Notes From An Island is out now on Gilded Wing Records

Gig Review – Gretchen Peters/Kim Richey

Gretchen Peters/Kim Richey, Edinburgh Queen’s Hall, May 22, 2018

If, as I (respectfully) observed, Gretchen Peters’ latest album should have been sub-titled Eleven tales of heartbreak and loss from the American heartlands, then the evening should have been billed as ‘an evening with two of the finest singer-songwriters America has to offer.’ I guess there’s only so much space on posters, and it was slightly galling to arrive midway through Ms. Richey’s set, thanks to the latest set of roadworks in Edinburgh conspiring to make getting anywhere on time near impossible. Hey ho…

Just accompanied by her acoustic guitar, Kim Richey’s set drew on her latest album, Edgeland (spoiler alert: it’s very good indeed). She get’s a laugh from the audience when she tells us about a four year old God daughter she has in England whose favourite track is ‘Chase Wild Horses’ – which features the line ‘Things I’ve done that I ain’t proud of‘ – ‘you’re four years old! What could you possible have done that you aren’t proud of?!’ She’s collaborated with her friend Chuck Prophet on a couple of songs on the album ‘Pin A Rose’ and ‘Whistle On Occasion’ which get an airing too. Given that she has a full band backing on the album, in lesser hands the performance might have suffered, but she has the flair to make this work.

Walking on stage to perform ‘Arguing With Ghosts,’ the album opener from her latest album Dancing With The Beast, there’s something that strikes the listener as to the magnificent melancholia within her music. It’s not like the bleak melancholia that you hear in, say, Mogwai’s music, but a bittersweet melancholia that reaches the ears even before a single note has been sung. Yes Ms. Peters breaks your heart, but in oh such a lovely way. Going straight into ‘Wichita’ we visit the tale of the twelve year old who gets her revenge on her abusive step-father. This is Greek tragedy as played out in the American heartlands and utterly compelling it is, too.

This is a counterpoint to Peters’ stage presence, which is like those occasions you are given a welcome, warm hug by someone you have never met before. She chuckles, telling us the take of someone who a few nights ago had asked her to sign his copy of the album and commented how sad it was – ‘we’ve already had two deaths!’ she observes, barely three songs in.

As might be expected, most of the songs are drawn from the new record, though there are also nods to Hello Cruel World (‘The Matador’) and Blackbirds (the title track). During ‘Lowlands’ I find myself quietly brushing a tear away, when she sings about no longer talking with her neighbour since they put that sticker on their bumper. Sometimes what you don’t say or just infer is just as powerful as what you do, and this reference to how Trump’s America finds itself utterly divided is stunningly powerful.

She brings on Kim Richey to add vocals for a number of the songs, including particularly affecting versions of ‘Say Grace’ and ‘Dancing With The Beast’. It’s interesting to note how these songs live take on a whole new resonance – and that’s from what are often pretty damn fine collections of songs on record. Yet perhaps the most affecting part of the evening is when by herself, just an acoustic guitar and no microphone she closes with ‘Love That Makes A Cup Of Tea.’ It’s beautifully intimate and a lovely closer to a fine night.

 

Angélique Kidjo vs. Talking Heads

Having been somewhat overwhelmed by submissions (just for a change), I am really glad not to have missed out on this.

 

Angélique Kidjo, the acclaimed singer from Benin, will shortly release her take on the Talking Heads’ seminal 1980 album, Remain In Light. Produced by Brian Eno, the album drew on West African sounds, and featured ‘Once In A Lifetime,’ which would become the band’s first hit in the UK, helped by an innovative video.

Angélique worked with 2015 Grammy Producer of the Year Jeff Bhasker (Kanye West, Rolling Stones, Beyonce) for her version of ‘Remain in Light,’ which brings the landmark 1980 album by Talking Heads full circle, back to the sounds of West Africa that inspired the original.  It features appearances by Ezra Koenig, Blood Orange, Tony Allen, Antibalas Horns, Angélique’s longtime guitarist Dominic James, and Magatte Sow (percussionist for the Black Panther film score). Visual artist Kerry James Marshall collaborated on the album artwork.

On her own version of the “Once In A Lifetime” video, Angelique said: ” In the 1970s, under the dictatorship in my home country of Benin, it was really difficult to find music to listen to from the rest of the world. When I went into exile in Paris in 1983, I discovered so much new music, and among them was the song “Once In A Lifetime”. Initially, it felt strange to me. People said it was Rock and Roll, but it felt African somehow. When I performed in New York in 1992 at SOB’s, David Byrne was the first American artist to come see my show. Many years later, I discovered that Brian Eno and The Talking Heads had been influenced by Fela Kuti and studied John Miller Chernoff’s book African Rhythm and African Sensibility about the power of African music. “Once In A Lifetime” was released at the start of the Reagan presidency, and you feel the anguish and anger in its lyrics. I feel the same tension in today’s political climate. Bringing “Once In A Lifetime” back to the African continent, with the help of superstar producer Jeff Bhasker, Black Panther’s percussionist Magatte Sow and guitarist Dominic James, feels so right today.”

Angelique’s version of the album is released on June 8. You can see the video for her version of ‘Once In A Lifetime’ below. It was directed by 25 year old Antoine Paley, a student at Luc Besson’s Cité Du Cinema film school.

 

…and as a bonus, the video for ‘Born Under Punches’

Album Review -Brian Eno

Brian Eno – ‘Music For Installations.’

This year, amongst the many significant anniversaries for various albums (The Man Machine, Beggars Banquet, Deserter’s Songs – and a Beatles’ album) is forty years since Brian Eno’s Music For Airports. The first in his four-part ambient series, it wasn’t the first ever ambient album (a discussion for another time) but rather, the first ever album to be intentionally created as ambient music. Its long shadow is cast over this release.

Music For Installations really is what it says on the, uh, tin. Whilst some of this has been available before, over the course of 6CDs, it brings together some of Eno’s work for his Installations since 1985. His acclaimed works have been exhibited all over the globe – from the Venice Biennale and the Marble Palace in St. Petersburg to Beijing’s Ritan Park and the sails of the Sydney Opera House. Rather sheepishly, this writer has yet to see or experience these installations first hand – something I imagine will apply to a significant number of other listeners – the music therefore must stand on its own merits.

Generally speaking, it does. Much of this is previously unreleased, or only released in limited form (it’s the first time any of it has seen the light of day on vinyl). It opens with the gorgeous twenty minute ‘Kazakhstan’ and ‘The Ritan Bells’ which divorced from their original context, give the listener the chance to either be drawn to focus upon the music or drift off. It says much about the quality of Eno’s music that taking it at face value, there is enough substance to provide a worthwhile listening experience. ‘Unnoticed Planet’ is another personal highlight, taken from the sixth CD.

As well as the aforementioned Airports, parallels could be drawn with other Eno works such as Discreet Music and Apollo, though these are single disc recordings. It must be said that the work is great listening in small doses – but even over the course of a whole CD it can be a bit much. There should surely be no questioning the man’s talent and his significant contributions to music over nearly fifty years (that’s very definitely contributions plural, by the way). The phrase ‘for completists only’ usually infers a below-par work; in this case, it’s likely to be more to do with quantity and price rather than quality.

***
Music For Installations is out now on UMC.
Click here to hear ‘Kazakhstan’