Over the Great Escape weekend you probably heard a lot about the theft of John Grant’s laptop at his gig (more on that below), but definitely not enough about the support artist… ÁsgeirTrausti.
In fact, John Grant is working with Ásgeirto translate the younger artist’shighly successful album, Dýrð í dauðaþögn (In the Silence), into English to try to bring his music to even more people. Ásgeir and his father have both received awards for the album, with the latter having contributed most of the lyrics. Which always brings up an interesting point… are English audiences missing out on a hidden meaning in the words, something that can only be expressed in Icelandic?
Maybe. There’s certainly a lively debate on most of Ásgeir’sYouTube videos along those lines, but I can’t think of anyone better suited for the task than John Grant. Not that anybody asked me, but if they had, I’d probably have recommended the one guy I know of who’s just moved to Iceland. Among the best currently working lyricists, John Grant is best placed to teach the younger musician how to reach out and really grab audiences with a simple, staggeringly honest couplet, and can draw on that to convey to us the stories of lyrics written in a language that still allows its speakers to read medieval texts.
Purists will probably insist on owning the original with the Icelandic vocals, but having seen this humble and earnest performer sing in both English and his native tongue, I’m inclined to trust his judgement on this one and just roll with it. The underlying poetry inherent in the Icelandic comes through, unhindered by a language barrier even to an English speaker. But check out the English version of ‘Going Home’ and the Icelandic ‘Heimförin’ on this post and make up your own mind. Continue reading “Ásgeir Trausti supporting John Grant – 17th May 2013”→
We’ve all been there… You become conscious of your surroundings for the first time in god knows how many hours and realize you’ve definitely taken advantage of one too many drink offers in a bar somewhere in Brighton. Dimly self-aware and currently micturating, you glance up and realise that dancing around you are lines and colours, grins and eyes and shapes that hint at what demons might occupy and enjoy the gradually ubiquitous blurring and slurring of your senses. A vague thought bubbles up about the artist behind it, but you’re too drunk and too determined to waste what’s left of your work-fried brain to think about it too much. So I’ve decided to write you this.
Billy Mather is an illustrator who lives in Brighton. Influenced primarily by the darker side of our music scene here, he seems to have a gift for channeling his thoughts into darkly comic expressions, scattering themselves across the seaside of sin from gig posters to toilet doors and pianos. He’s got plenty of other work too so check it all out on his site, link’s at the bottom.
Billy told me that he’s never forgotten a piece of advice given to him by one of his illustration tutors on the BA in Southampton. In art, there is a difference between being accurate and being believable. What comes out of this guy’s mind motivated by that phrase is some of the most distinctive art in the city, somehow managing to retain an incredibly strong sense of the artist’s character; even as the lines and colours begin to intertwine in your head and become part of your thought process. Just like editorial illustration accompanies words on a page, so his work complements and influences your internal monologue as you’re exposed to it.
For a Brighton local, the sense of familiarity that emanates from even the most twisted smile and reptilian eye in the center of his most contorted face feels commonplace and natural without ever needing to veer toward a convention. The faces in Billy’s work dance at the edge of recognition, demonically dancing on the ledge between chaotic artistic interpretation and comfortable verisimilitude, which is a long way of saying you really need to check this guy out and give him more work.
Unlike those last two paragraphs, the artwork never smacks of too much thought or trying too hard. It stands out in its naked honesty; it’s inclination to bend further towards expression than conformity. His work across the toilets of the Blind Tiger Club stretch out, allowed a luxurious amount of space yet still reaching further, expanding and moving as you look. Other pieces to watch out for around Brighton decorate Sticky Mike’s Frog bar and Northern Lights.
Please forgive the following phrase, (I promise I’m not just being lazy) but you really can’t sum his work up in words. That’s why this art exists. It expresses the feeling of standing in that space, the artist’s thoughts as he listens. Somehow, he translates the committee of voices that characterise an active mind and regiments them with ink and paint, producing expressions of the space or the event that simply couldn’t exist any other way.
“My hands were tingling because I got to sing on the actual microphone that Al Green recorded with. Nothing has changed. The down-home acoustic treatments are still in place.”
Except, outside of the studio, things have changed since Al Green recorded there. The world has turned round several times since the ’70’s. That quote gives you some idea of what this album must mean to the man with his name on the cover, but it doesn’t tell you anything about just how much he must have going on in his mind. Cody ChesnuTT is very much living with and reflecting on the society of today throughout the most authentically soulful piece of recorded music of 2012. Landing on a Hundred‘s genius lies in modernising the message whilst preserving the medium.
Here’s the video for his latest single, ‘Til I Met Thee’, out the 18th March:
Buy the album (links at the bottom of the page), get hold of some headphones and allow yourself to wallow in the aching sense of hurt and wisdom in the voice, the strings, the shuffle grooves and horn melodies. Written and arranged in a traditional style, the songs use the natural volume and brightness of brass to boost the song’s volume, playing stirring snatches of melody brought to life by the instruments’ raw beauty. Even so, the album sounds fresh and to keep it sounding like something made in 2013, it’s been given all the modern love on the production side. Seriously, anybody having a bad day just needs to spend a bit of time with this.
There are tracks that capture the sound and passion that lies within great soul as a music of sex, protest, hedonism and hurt. The lyrical themes seamlessly interlock with the music they are accompanying, as the brass and strings squeal exasperated platitudes under the vocal line in ‘That’s Still Mama’. ‘What Kind of Cool Will We Think Of Next’ is typical of the classy and intelligent approach to an entire song, the refreshing freedom that has been given to the band members means that every phrase is full of interpretations and intensity. I swear you can almost follow each session musician individually as they all lend the kind of expression that sometimes feels confined to recordings originating in America’s South.
This album is almost like an origin of the species, or Hawking’s A Brief History of time, in that it’s a statement to the world of everything it’s creator has accomplished to date. It’s a historic assertion of everything the man is right now, a snapshot into his mind and thoughts – carefully mediated through music to bring themselves to you in their best possible light and with great care taken to the clarity and presentation of the message. This is one album that has significantly benefitted from the hours of thought and meditation poured into its sonic presentation.
Do you like Stax, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, James Brown or Stevie Wonder? If you do and you don’t yet own this record, you’re missing the only album available today that truly understands you. I’ve been playing it for a few weeks now, and its made for an incredible travel companion. This is the soundtrack for today, written in the key of life and it contains more than enough soul, heartache and comment for humanity to reflect on as we move through 2013.
Cody ChesnuTT is performing at the Concorde 2 on Tuesday 19th March 2013 – get tickets here.
A little while ago Erin McKeown, an American DIY musician, producer and activist, came to Brighton as part of her tour to promote her new album: Manifestra. Erin is a 2011 – 2012 Fellow of Harvard University’s Berkman Centre for Internet and Society, which studies alternative independent methods of earning for musicians. Her own research contemplated how to make a creative life a viable profession, so I went down to have a chat about her work, PledgeMusic and making the world a less violent place.
What is the most important thing for you to communicate through your music?
For me, it is a sense of another world besides the one we live in. One that is more poetic, and saturated.
You experiment with a wide variety of musical styles. Are there any genres (besides folk) that you find particularly suited to your particular blend of musical activism?
I have always thought rock was excellent for activism. A great chorus can really change the world. Also, Afrobeat has a wonderful history of activism in its songs. you don’t just need an acoustic guitar!
Do you see the current issues surrounding copyright and digital streaming services as a major barrier for a future harmonious relationship between tech and music companies?
As long as someone figures out how to make money again off of musicians, the music biz and tech world will get along fine in the future. It is the day-to-day lives of musicians that I worry more about… How will we continue to make music and be part of our communities if we cannot make a living from being artists?
It’s been a while since anything got me excited enough to inflict my opinions on the Internet (today that’s you), but that brief reprieve is now over. Something or someone (hint: it’s a someone) has me so jumpy and excited I just couldn’t make it through the weekend without letting you know about it. If you want my opinion (I hope so or this is really the wrong website to be on) if you’re not frantically Googling the name Sabrina Altan by the time you’ve heard the audio embedded here, I’m afraid you’ve probably been born with a complete lack of conscious thought and you’re most likely to be dangerously insane.
Go go go
She’s taken the basic elements of music best referred to as Neo-Soul and filled in the gaps with her Freudian superego. Quality Neo-Soul looks to both the past and the future – maintaining a fiery outer shell of musical elements swirling around the immense gravitational pull of the central performer, and Sabrina brings a comfortable confidence to her performance that staples her message to the front of your brain, while her band backdrop it all with the relaxed style of people who really know what the fuck they’re doing. The brief moments of explosive virtuosity shining out through each song launch each stunningly executed phrase into the next, as sultry verses suddenly mushroom into vigorously amorous choruses. Continue reading “Listen to this – Sabrina Altan”→
You can tell a lot about a band from the atmosphere they create leading up to their set. Below Audio, on Brighton’s seafront, the atmosphere was a smoky mix of bright lights and deep bass – the grey haze floating above the dancers constantly coloured by the laser beams and PAR cans dotted around the ceiling. As I stepped into the room, with every liquid molecule vibrating in time to the dub, there was no escaping the unmistakable smell of dancers and emotion, carried by the incessant pulse of the electronic beats and deep bass that thumped through the room.
From my position at the back of the crowd, I could faintly see shapes moving onstage through the smoke and lights. In the moments while they set up, Gentleman’s Dub Club revealed, for a few precious minutes, the ardent concentration and serious dedication that their music requires. All around them, the DJ and the dancing went on, seemingly oblivious to the coalescing musicians onstage. Then, emerging from the mists, a live band began to play. Continue reading “Gentleman’s Dub Club Live and Q&A”→
Kill Moon may have been birthed from the ashes of What’s Your Vice?, but it’s channelling an altogether different kind of energy. I sat down with one of the most entertaining live bands on the Brighton scene to talk about how they’re planning to bring ‘Dirty Noise Pop’ to your attention. If their successful endeavours with previous musical outfits are anything to go by, Kill Moon will soon be injecting their expansive, and strangely ethereal, sound straight into the calm centre of your brain, filling it with glorious fire.
Izzy, Chris and Tommy picked a Brighton pub in the North Laine, The White Rabbit, to sit down and tell me about their latest musical toil. We nestled on one of the picnic tables that furnish the small square of smoker’s concrete, surrounded by quiet afternoon patrons and a grey, wet afternoon of April showers.
Although I hadn’t seen it at the time, the seeds for the new project had already been sown in the fertile ground of their last band. In the Audible Thoughts review of one of their last gigs, I’d noticed the change in pace, from an explosive burst of repressed energy to something similar, yet contemplative and planned. The notoriety they’d already achieved for tempestuous live shows and turbulent song writing had shown no signs of decelerating, but it seems there were a few creative itches they just had to scratch.
Tommy gave a short explanation for the change in direction: “We felt like we needed to move on from it, like we’d got ourselves in a little box.”
Izzy: “Democratic, that’s a word we use a lot. This is definitely a democracy. We vote on everything.”
Tommy: “Whenever Izzy doesn’t agree with something we do, yeah” (laughs).
So… why Brighton?
Tommy: “I fancied the scene, the music down here – and being close to London. I wanted a change after living in Glasgow, which I love, but I fancied a change.”
Izzy: “I sort of landed here, and fell in love with it. I originally went to London, but events landed me here…I think people are very quick to speak negatively about other bands in Brighton. Yesterday, I saw one of my friend’s bands, The Witches. I was sat with everyone after, and realised we have a massive group of talented musicians here. I’m one of those people who feed off the environment, and if there’s really talented people around you…then, you know, it gets me excited when I see bands who are really good. Some of the Brighton scene is really pretentious, which is kind of inevitable and it’s got a reputation for that. We try to steer away from it and focus on people uniquely into their own sound.”
Chris and Tommy recorded the new EP in their bedroom studio, I asked them about the process of song writing and committing the sounds to tape.
Chris: “We’re in our own little bubble at the moment. We haven’t played a proper show in about 6 months. We’ve just been in a little writing cave.”
Tommy: “From a creative point of view, it’s great. We can literally do what we want. You can add as many guitars as you like. If we want to put Morse code in something, we can just, do it, without having someone else produce. [Home recording] obviously has its drawbacks as well, because outside influence is normally a good thing, but with where we’re at now it’s good to learn exactly what we want, and how we want the record to sound so that when we start working with other people we’ll have more focus.”
Your music seems to have slowed down, broadened somehow…
Chris: “Before, we kind of had a little framework and everything came out of the air in the studio, we found it quite counter-productive sometimes. With this stuff, we’ve stripped it all back – acoustic guitars and vocals, that’s how we start our writing now. Then we kind of develop it while we record, and we’ve found the production side of it as creative as the songwriting stage… if not more.”
Izzy: “We’re still learning together.”
Chris: “Yeah, I mean the songs don’t come into being until they’re finished recording nowadays. With the recent ones, like Jupiter for example, I wrote the last guitar parts after recording it. Literally everything was done apart from the guitars. It kind of came to life when we finished recorded it.”
Izzy: “Lyrically, its a very…raw…thing. I’m being much more fearless with these new songs. Trying to say things that I really feel. Sometimes its a bit embarrassing, if I feel a certain way, or ashamed of something. I’ve learnt, with these guys encouraging me, that those are the sorts of things to write. When you write about something real to you, if it’s so deep inside that its uncomfortable, that’s ok.”
“All of us contribute guitar lines, but we normally like to write around themes. So ‘Jupiter’ is that atmosphere of space – its that universal thing, you know? It’s a bit more metaphorical, but I tend to write more literally. ‘Home’ is a tribute to what we’ve been going through these last three years. Lots of people interpret it as a love song, but it’s about us.” Continue reading “Kill Moon Interviewed”→