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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Romantic Warriors IV - Krautrock Part 1



It’s been a long, long time since I’ve delved my toes into the waters of the genre that is known as Krautrock. I first became aware of the music back when I was a student at Houston Community College in the fall of 2005 when I went to the ProgArchives website and discovered bands/artists from the realms of NEU!, Can, Faust, Amon Duul II, and Tangerine Dream. It was like nothing I have ever heard before. It was dark, sinister, avant-garde, proto-punk, atmospheric, musique-concrete, and the music itself, was completely off the wall.

I would later find out that some of the bands/artists like Julian Cope, who wrote the Krautrocksampler book in 1994, John Lydon of PiL, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Magazine, Ultravox, Devo, Joy Division, and The Mars Volta admired some of the bands that were like a tidal wave that was waiting to happen. Now in the year of our lord 2020, Jose Zegarra Holder and Adele Schmidt, who have done incredible work on the Romantic Warriors series since 2010, are now doing the Krautrock genre as a three-part trilogy.

Starting things off is Part 1 of the documentary from Cologne, Dusseldorf, and Hamburg. It tackles some of the histories of the bands with interviews that include; Irmin Schmidt, Gunther Buskies of the Bureau B label, Damo Suzuki, members of Floh De Cologne and Faust, Michael Rother, Stephan Plank (Conny Plank’s son), Malcolm Mooney, Wolfgang Flur, Eberhard Kraneman, and the late Jaki Liebezeit to name a few.

There is an incredible moment in the film where Damo Suzuki’s Network is performing in Peru doing this amazing improvisational groove as he calls them “sound carriers”. The reason for that is that Damo himself wants to perform with traditional musicians by working together and bringing world music with any kind of instrument that is very different from his time with Can.

And you may never know what might happen on stage. But for Damo, he is free from anything he wants to, but having his own philosophy with music. Rother is perhaps one of the best interviews that Adele and Jose did. You could tell that he was very spot on about his time as an early member of Kraftwerk. However, there was tension between Dinger and Florian Schenider over creative differences on where they want to take the next level. And so, Klaus and Michael departed from the band and would later form NEU! And then with Harmonia.

Miki Yui is an archivist on the late Klaus Dinger, knows her stuff very well about the history of the band’s music while Rother saw that Klaus had potential in Michael’s arrangments and the time they worked with Conny Plank on those first three studio albums by creating an atmosphere, but taking the risks that would be challenging. For Stephan to see his father work on those albums, was as he mentioned when he was young, almost as if his Dad, was working on a spaceship.

But listening to NEU, it was the beginnings of what is known as Punk Rock. As Eberhard Kraneman described it as “Anti-Music” during that time he was with the band performing with them with some intensity. But when NEU’s second album came out, it got terrible reviews. Which I had no idea about. And it must’ve been very frustrating for them to get reviews like that and the two drummers between Hans Lampe and Thomas Dinger who would later form La Dusseldorf worked on the second side of NEU! 75.

And you can tell that David Bowie took a lot of inspiration on NEU’s third album on what would be known as his 12th studio album for his Berlin trilogy, Heroes. Not to mention watching a rare interview with Klaus Dinger I believe from 1975 in Germany. When I think of Faust in the documentary, I think of their music as insane, out of this world, and surreal Dadaism.

The Faust Tapes when I first heard it in 2006, I consider it to be Faust’s answer to Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica and their nod to the Velvet Underground with the pounding tribal sections of the opening track, It’s a Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl from their second album, So Far. Jean-Harve Peron has a wonderful history about the origin of the band’s name and their late producer Uwe Nettlebeck, who was German’s answer to Tony Wilson.  

They talk about the history of their time in Wumme where they recorded So Far, The Faust Tapes, and their collaboration with avant-garde composer Tony Conrad on Outside the Dream Syndicate from 1972 to 1973. This was for me, one of the best first parts of the documentaries covering the big names in the Krautrock genre. It almost makes me want to go back and take out some of those albums in my CD shelves to see what I was missing.

And new bands like Electric Orange and Wume, are following in the footsteps of the genre. I feel like I’ve learned a little bit more about what I was missing from those bands and artists from that time period in the 1970s. Very much like giving the bloated sounds of Dream Theater, Nickelback, and the boring pretentious horseshit of the top 40 hits you hear on the radio, the big giant middle finger. Krautrock is here to stay. And I can’t wait for both parts 2 and 3.

In the words of Julian Cope’s introduction on the Krautrocksampler book, “Krautrock transcended all this and more. Because it had to.”

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Talinka - Rainbow Over Kolonaki



It’s been three years since Talinka have released their sole self-titled debut release on the Fanfare label and distributed by MoonJune Records. The quartet have taken the genre to a whole new level. In my 2017 review back in September, I’ve described their music a combination between Folk, Jazz, Tango, and the Great American Songbook. Not to mention Tali Atzmon’s vocals in the styles of Miss Lily Banquette of Combustible Edison.

Well she’s not that anymore, she’s doing what she wants to do in a decade as we enter the roaring ‘20s. Talinka’s second release entitled Rainbow Over Kolonaki, released on Gilad’s Fanfare label, shows that the Talinka quartet are continuing their journey of the three similarities between song, melody, and beauty. And the three of those, are now as one whole circle.

From the opening sounds of the title-track, we hear birds chirping, church bells ringing, and conversations around common folk while the nod to Camile Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre, fills the halls of a cabaret waltz. With Yaron’s double bass, Jenni’s violin, Gilad’s accordion, and Tali’s vocals, its almost as if you’re right in the middle of the late ‘30s/early ‘40s as Tali honors the arrangements of Lotte Lenya’s Pirate Jenny from The Threepenny Opera.

The spotlight shines on her again with Ol’ Blue Eyes’  I’m a Fool to Want You. Now for her to tackle the music of Frank Sinatra, shows how much she honors this incredible gem as if we, the listeners, are walking into the gardens of two film-noir classics, Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon.

The haunting finger-picking sounds of the Ukulele and the Accordion, takes us through the powerful exhibitions between the paintings of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning on Time Runs Out. Each of the images are set to this composition as Tali and Jenny share some background vocalizations in the midsection of the song.

The next composition of When Apollo Smiles, goes into the samba tradition of a Welsh folk song as the continuation between Tali and Jenny bring out more of the harmonies together in their voices while she and Gilad walk through the landscapes of Kew Gardens between her ukulele and Gilad’s guitar playing.

As Gilad’s opening sax introduction takes place on If I Should Lose You, he follows Tali by walking up and down this spiral staircase before Jenny & Yaron come together as they follow them to bring the curtains down on a soothing finale. This took me about a few listens with Rainbow Over Kolonaki.

And I have to say that the Talinka quartet have continued to bring the magic underneath their sleeves once more by bringing Jazz with unbelievable results to keep the genre going with a delicious twist of the Pomegranate.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Reism - Dysthymia



Now it’s been many months since I’ve reviewed a Metal album on Music from the Other Side of the Room. And it’s been WAY overdue from my part. So now, let’s kick the New Year off from one of the most explosive sounds to come out of Norway that launched back in 2005 in Liverpool of a band called, Reism.

Their music is a crossover between hard, heavy, and powder-keg industrial rock. With two albums in the can, the band came back last year after a nine-year long process with the release of their third studio album, Dysthymia. It’s an autobiographical release tracking the subjects of betrayal, depression, loss, grief, and humanity’s selfishness.

It goes deeper inside that old rotting wound that has been there for many, many years. And that wound itself, will never, ever wash off. For Reism to tackle those subjects, it is a challenge, but it works. The band considers Kirsten Jorgensen on Lead Vocals; Tom Poole-Kerr on Guitar; Kim Lund on Bass; and Wolfgang Ognoy on Drums. The quartet work together as a team. And they know that between the band members, they’ve got each other’s back.

The Folly of Men sees Reism delving into this electronic haunting nightmare with piano, guitar, and bass crying into the night as it plays like a cross between Radiohead and The Mars Volta before the band flies away from the destruction's of hell that it has become. Kirsten’s vocals on This Reality channels the soothing vocals of Within Temptation’s Sharon Den Adel as the song tackles the subject of being free.

The intensity between Kim and Wolfgang’s textures, adds more gasoline to the flames by raising the temperature up at a higher scale. Break my Bones reveal the true person’s identity of their skeletons in the closet to show their true colors that the public doesn’t want to even know about. You can hear this Jekyll & Hyde-sque background that is hard to believe that this person is creating the biggest lie of them all behind closed doors.

Reism now channels the Lateralus-era of Tool on Lost Yourself. In this song, it goes into the heart of betrayal as you feel that you’ve been punched in the gut by being used as someone else’s pawn this entire time while Kirsten pours her heart out in the pouring rain with some haunting piano chords as Let it all Go tackles the pain and suffering of domestic abuse.

Reism’s Dysthymia is not a bad release from last year. It took me a few listens to see whether I was going to like this album or not. And while I’m not a massive fan of the industrial metal genre, Dysthymia grabs your heart very well. And for Reism tackling the difficult subject matters, it is a very challenging album for 2019.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Remembering Neil Peart (1952 - 2020)



How I first got into Rush was 23 years ago when I first heard “Tom Sawyer” on KKRW Classic Rock 93.7 The Arrow which is now a hip-hop station. But when I was 13 years old at the time, it was the only station to play bands that introduced me alongside Pink Floyd from bands such as; Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath (Ozzy Osbourne-era), and Rush. When I first heard “Tom Sawyer”, I was completely blown away.

It was like a breath of fresh air of hearing the vocals, guitars, synths, bass, and drums all combined into one. It was this incredible fast-drum work done by Neil “The Professor” Peart. This guy was like a machine gun that is ready to burst fire at any second. And then I had forgotten about them until 2005 when I went to Borders which is defunct as well. 

And there was a MOJO issue entitled, Pink Floyd & The Story of Prog Rock. I bought it and I read about Rush during their hey-day in the 1970s. I knew right there and then, my re-introduction of their music, was right around the corner. I went ahead and went to a store called, Movie Trading Company and bought A Farewell to Kings and then went to Wherehouse Music and bought their era of the Synths-era and their ‘90s era. But it was A Farewell to Kings that made me re-introduce myself to their music. Listening to that album was like a movie inside your head.

It was everything. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, James Stewart, Fantasy stories, and an intensive cliffhanger story into the black hole. It was all there. This album still has a huge impact on me when I was in College after my re-introduction to their music. And I still try to figure out what Neil was writing throughout his amazing storytelling complex? Whether it’s the title-track, Xanadu, Closer to the Heart, or Cygnus X-1, he was writing them like movies inside our heads.

For Neil Peart who wasn’t just one hell of a drummer who followed into the footsteps of The Who, Pink Floyd, admired Stray, Buddy Rich, and influenced others including Metallica, Mike Portnoy, Iron Maiden, Porcupine Tree, and Billy Corgan to name a few, he was a brilliant lyricist that showed no sign of stopping.

Since he was in another band before Rush called JR Flood in 1970, then joining the band in 1974 after making his debut with the band by opening up for Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and Uriah Heep during their Wonderland tour at Pittsburgh Civic Arena on August 14th, he gave Rush, the power, the mystery, the big guns, and the explosive beats that would knock your socks off. 

Whether it’s the nod to King Crimson with YYZ, the struggle with Fame on Limelight, being an outsider in School with Subdivisions, the battle between By-tor and the Snow Dog and Bastille Day, or the nod to Ayn Rand with the 20-minute masterpiece, 2112, Neil knew what he wanted to do.

For me, Rush along with Pink Floyd, are and will always be my Beatles. Since Neil has passed away on January 7th due to a long battle with Brain Cancer, it’s the end of an era with Rush. And while they called it a day for their R40 tour in 2015, they had come full circle. But their legacy and their music, will live on forever and ever. In the words of Babe Ruth from the 1993 movie, The Sandlot, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”

Monday, January 6, 2020

Sirkis / Bialas IQ - Our New Earth



Since their establishment five years ago, the Sirkis/Bialas IQ have brought the institutions of going beyond the structures of Jazz by taking these gigantic steps into the worlds of different vocal arrangements, church organ, Konnakol, crotales, and the waterphone. Our New Earth sets up this amazing style of a spiritual guidance that MoonJune have unleashed last year.

They take these beautiful arrangements and put them together by creating this strange, mysterious, and surreal adventure that is brought to life featuring incredible liner notes by Bill Bruford. Our New Earth is showing the listener a chance to make our home planet, safe and secure from the dangers that will await us for many years to come. Both Asaf Sirkis and Sylvia Bialas are awaiting to be a part of that journey. And from the moment you put the album on, you’ll begin to wonder why they are so damn good.

With the sound of the waterphone that was invented by Richard Waters at the end of the ‘60s, it creates this haunting atmosphere that is lurking behind you for a Spooky Action at a Distance. Sirkis captures the intensity on the cymbals to see what Sylvia will come up with next. Like something out the Zeit-era from Tangerine Dream, it sends these shivers down your spine as the instruments open up the doors to see where Bialas is going.

And she sings in these melodic textures that give Frank Harrison and Kevin Glasgow to follow in her direction. Letter to A features Harrison on the Church Organ. I almost have this feeling as if he’s tipping his hat to Kit Downes. It has this mournful sequence before Sylvia’s vocalizations opens up the door to the gothic cathedral by giving Asaf a chance to help out in his drum kit.

The title-track gives Sirkis a chance to give himself carte blanche. You have the Indian scat singing of the Konnakol, high-pitch percussion sounds of the Manjira (Taal), and the crotales that he takes centerstage by having these percussions to the forefront. As the droning sounds which I might think it’s from a Sitar, I’m not sure, but Asaf comes out of the woods like a warrior that is ready to attack for the first three minutes to sweat out these machine gun bullets.

And he does it perfectly. But just as he finishes, the sound suddenly changes by opening up the pearly gates to reveal its true glory into the style of the Dance of Maya section. And then it spirals into the abyss for Birkis to enter inside those caves and seeing Frank himself giving out the last rite on the church organ.

The first two minutes of the Land of Oblivion sees Glasgow channeling his rhythmic structures and chords on his 6-string bass. He goes up and down on the frets as if he’s walking through this spiraling staircase while the wind howls throughout the Sahara desert by giving Bialas a soothing warmth to open her heart for us before Harrison’s Guaraldi-Monk like structure on the piano makes it a nice and beautiful segment.

MoonJune Records really hit a big challenge for me to delve into Sirkis/Bialas IQ’s work. And Our New Earth is one of them. While it took me a few listens during the Christmas break, I have to say that both Asaf and Sylvia have done an amazing job. Will there be more challenges in the roaring ‘20s from MoonJune Records? Let’s see the new decade will be for us. But the mystery of peace and surrealism, is an adventure worth exploring into Our New Earth.