Short Cuts, the depressive edition
Beginning of the year, almost spring, so time for some depressive music. Plenty of stuff to hang yourself to. Enjoy!
Stina Nordenstam - People Are Strange
Just because she wants to, this little woman from Norway has been a mystery for years now. But she shouldn't be as unknown as she is, since every single time she releases something into the world, it is so out of the ordinary and beautiful that no other music comes close. To call her approach to music 'original' would be putting it mildly. With every release it becomes clearer that she makes music with a purpose higher than entertainment or making money. This, her fourth album to date, is for the bigger part a collection of covers of some very well known songs: Purple Rain, Sailing, People Are Strange. But the covers in no way resemble the originals. Stina and friends have completely rearranged the instruments, song structures, the way the songs sound and the way they can be perceived. In doing so the songs have become her own, and she has uncovered a completely different meaning. Sailing now contains a hopeful kind of longing, truly as if sung by a sailor in love, sailing home. In Purple Rain you can feel the regret of someone who has been letting a person down. The title song People Are Strange invokes the fear anyone feels when being a stranger and feeling left out. The songs haven't changed, the meaning was there all along, but she's the first one to truly bring it out. (EastWest/Warner) [JV]
Bonnie 'prince' Billy - I See A Darkness
Yet another name for Will Oldham's Palace incarnation. With every change of name his whole approach to making music changes as well. Will's songs are never happy, 'I See A Darkness' is one of his bleakest records to date, but there's always a glimmer of hope in a Will Oldham record. Something to hold on to. His work shines with hope as much as it is blackened by despair. A song like 'Death to Everyone' contains the lyric: "death to everyone is gonna come and it makes hosing much more fun", which may sound a bit morbid, but it is very reassuring to look that way at one of the few certainties of life: death. We will all die. Will Oldham celebrates death. Come join him, it's fun.
(Domino/Drag City) [JV]
Idaho - Alas
I am not sure how Jeff Martin must feel by now. He and his band keep on making records that are so beautiful and I'm sure they know this themselves, but nobody ever seems to notice. I hope they continue and don't feel rejected, because the world would be so empty without Idaho. It's been years since I've been captured by their music and ever since I have had trouble describing what Idaho is about. The feelings they conjure up are so abstract I am lost for words to describe them. To me Idaho is about longing, loneliness, love, frustration, fear, anger and happiness, especially happiness.
I don't know, I guess Idaho is about life. My life.
Ed Rush & Optical - Wormhole
I guess this is a good time to use an age old phrase "It's not dead, it just smells funny". I've forgotten who the quote was by and what it applied to, but it certainly applies to drum 'n' bass right now. Absolutely nothing new is happening and it seems like the genre that held the future of music has been stopped dead in its tracks. Two of the few people who made some interesting d'n'b late last year were Ed Rush & Optical and this double album proves they are still at it. Highly technical, super precision drum 'n' bass, that sounds slick, but because of that just a bit too cold at times. Wormhole will not resurrect a whole genre, but it has extended that genre’s life by a few extra months.
Wouter van Riessen - Napoleon Of The Heart
That is going to be a big surprise to the people living in the Mississippi delta. It has just been extended out to Europe where it ends in the city of Arnhem, Holland. This is the city where Wouter van Riessen lives and he has just recorded his debut album. A record that resounds much of the history of the delta blues and every other blues singer that descends from Robert Johnson onwards, especially John Cale, Nick Drake and Tom Waits. Wouter van Riessen's songs do still contain many elements Of these blues singers, but his technical abilities and his excellent songwriting style will make this guy a musician to watch and listen to, now and in the future. Awesome.
(Konkurrent/Own Label) [JV]
Jim Dead - 13 songs
This record you will probably never be able to buy, because it's from Down under, the land Oz. Jim Dead's songs feature on the soundtrack of "Fresh Air" a movie that had its World Premiere at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. This movie was packed with music from unknown label-less musicians from Sydney. Australians don't care about the music that is made just around the corner. Well they should care and so should we, because people like Jim Dead deserve to be heard. Some of his songs do in many ways sound like the solo work of Elliot Smith; the same quietness, the same closeness. These songs are also the best ones, because Jim sometimes falls into the trap of writing rock ballads accompanied by piano, which sound a lot less original. Hopefully Fresh Air sheds some extra light on his music and maybe even gives him a chance on getting a recording or distribution deal.
(Own label) [JV]