Newletter # 4
English Atrakt-ed #4
21 February 2005
Marz ‘Wir Sind Hier’ (Karaoke Kalk/Penguin, 2004) by Georgos Galanis
The second album of the German duet Albrecht Kunze and Ekkehard Ehlers, which follows their debut ‘Love Streams’, will not satisfy its listeners, especially anyone wishing to find here the band that may fill the gap that was left after The Beta Band split up. Accordingly, the opening track ‘Forever Never’, a typical pop song with indifferent vocals in a disturbing German accent, will not particularly impress someone who is not familiar with the band, setting pretty much the tone for what follows.
Things get a lot better in ‘Marz Im Park’, with children’s voices and birds’ singing in the background of the sounds of a banjo, but the band returns to the pop motif in ‘River’, which is, however, fairly rich in ideas. Coming up next, ‘Tropige Trauben’ wades in the fields of capricious electronica, while ‘Blaue Faden’ could have easily been a b-side Notwist track.
‘Wir Sind Hier’ has the potential to become a popular album, although lacking any striking qualities. Ironically, the best moment of the album is titled ‘Pop Song’.
The Blue Nile ‘High’ (Sanctuary Records, 2004) by Vasilis Sintos
There are good reasons to believe that The Blue Nile are a special case of a band: The same 3 musicians have been playing together for 20 years now, having recorded only 4 albums. However perfectionists or just lazy they may be, their releases enter the British charts every time, staying aloof, at the same time, from any commercial hype.
‘High’ is a really good soul-pop album superior to trends and flashy album covers. Its velvet sounds set a melancholic atmosphere of rainy nights and journeys. Economical rhythm patterns from the synths, an acoustic guitar, and Paul Buchanan’s voice are utterly sufficient and offer relish in their simplicity.
Marianne Faithful ‘Before the Poison’ (Columbia, 2004) by Fotini Drakou
Her past (drug addiction, Mick Jagger, etc.) may have cast its shadow on her, however, behind the veil of the legend, Marianne’s singing qualities have always been apparent, stretching from jazz to blues, and from pure rock to dark ballads of great sentimental potential.
Same as in 2002 ‘Kissing Time’, the new album consists of several collaborations. Specifically, the song-writing contributions by PJ Harvey and Nick Cave set a gloomy tone, while their dark melodies and rhythms are delivered chiefly by a piano, acoustic guitars, and, of course, Faithful’s uniquely atmospheric, hoarse voice.
This is one of the best and one of the most personal albums of Faithful, who proves to be outwardly composed, fresh, creative, and with a clear point-of-view.
Lanterna ‘Highways’ (Badman Recording Co, 2005) by Kyriakos Skordas
Lanterna have been making albums like this, long before the term ‘post’ was used in rock music, alongside the likes of Savage Republic, 17 Pygmies, Scenic, and The Rachel’s.
In this album, their tripping music, composed & conceived by Henry Fayne, whose guitars sound is a trademark of the project, is dominated by its serene melodies and its tenable lack of words. ‘Highways’ is a superb instrumental album, of which the cover is illustrated with the stunning landscape pictures by Scenic’s Bruce Licher. Releases like this are keys to escapism and relaxation, nevertheless, the tracks are not mere cinematic compositions: Guitars, drums, and tape effects meet in a psychedelic burst.
Have a good journey!
Great Lake Swimmers ‘Great Lake Swimmers’ (Fargo Records/Hitch-Hyke, 2005) by Kostas Liontiris
GLS are the Canadian singer/song-writer Tony Dekker, who decided to record his self-titled debut in a granary in Ontario, and, therefore, his sound is utterly ‘rural’ folk, and the production fairly subtle. Accompaniments to his warm voice, there is an acoustic guitar, a piano, an accordion, and a crickets choir in the background.
The GLS swim in a lake of melancholy, denoted by nostalgia for the past (Moving Pictures Silent Films - "Is this the dream I’ve been saving where the heart beats slower and slower, to almost nothing?"), disappointment for the present (Moving, Shaking - "I can’t write, I can’t sing, I can’t play, my insides have been broken, my inspiration has fallen away. Oh let me become deaf and mute to this"), and an equally pessimistic view of the future (I Will Never See The Sun). The human condition, loneliness, and the existential question are among their subjects, all elegantly dealt without pretentiousness. Nevertheless, the album concludes on a slightly optimistic tone ("Where is the shore, oh I can’t see it anymore feeling so tired, have to keep floating, I am so far away, the shore is so far away, the finish line is out of sight, I won’t give up without a fight").
GLS’s album is recommended as a suitable companion for the cold winter nights.
Lou Barlow ‘Emoh’ (Domino Records, 2005) by Kostas Papaspyropoulos
It’s been 15 prolific years of song-writing and numerous releases –under his own name as well as with his bands (Sebadoh, Sentridoh, Folk Implosion) -, since he left Dinosaur Jr, a band in which he wasn’t allowed to reveal his creative qualities.
In the new album, ‘Emoh (i.e. recorded at Home), playing his guitar and singing his sad stories, Lou Barlow blends songs that belong to the American folk music tradition and the indie lo-fi. The songs of the latter sort (‘Legendary’, ‘Royalty’, et al) are particularly melancholic, bringing in mind Will Oldham. Moreover, their acoustic arrangement and live recording make them more atmospheric and directly communicative.
The surprise of the album is the cover of Ratt’s ‘Round-n-Round’, but the best moment of ‘Emoh’ is ‘Morning’s After Me’, which has been previously released within the 2001 concept album ‘Colonel Jeffrey Pumpernickel’, Chris Slusarenko’s ‘rock opera’, recorded by Barlow’s Sentridoh.
‘Emoh’ is not without its weaknesses: Barlow plays it safe, doing what he’s always been good at, without any interest in moving forwards, by experimenting with blues and folk like D. Banhart, or by deconstructing these musical genres like Cocorosie. However the album will not disappoint his, or Sebadoh’s, fans.
Therapy? @ Gagarin 205, Athens, Greece. 29/1/2005 – by Georgos Gorgogetas
Therepy?’s amazing gig in Athens was a compensation for the 10 years since their last visit that was during their prime time, in the early 90’s. The playing list, rather than focusing on the new album, was an unofficial ‘best of’ including numerous songs from their early, and by far better, albums.
The opening band, Vodka Juniors, were over-enthusiastic and, as a result, they didn’t manage to put their good ideas across. Therapy? exploded on stage slightly delayed, but the mayhem they caused meant they were worth waiting for. Among the highlights were the dedication of ‘Die like a MF’ to George W. Bush, and, at the encore, the Joy Division-tribute version of ‘Diane’. All in all, they made clear that it only takes 3 good musicians on stage to do a great gig.