on life, music etc beyond mainstream

This has been a day full of surprises. First of all, I tried at least to like that record everybody seems to fall in love with, from FKA Twigs, but it left me strangely cold. Maybe someone can offer me a key. The opposite thing has happened with a record I thought, it would just earn my respect, but then I was stunned by its simple and twisted beauty: David Friedman’s solo vibraphone and marimba record, Weaving Through Motion (out on Traumton, middle of September). Then there were two song albums (I had a lot of time today) that, let’s say it simple, totally impressed me with their simplicity, intricacy and, in parts, double bottoms: Mirel Wagner’s sparsely instrumented song cycle „When The Cellar Children See the Light of Day“, and, okay, an old favourite of mine, James Yorkston’s „The Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society“ (ups, long titles!) The song (with spoken words) called „Guy Fawkes‘ Signature“ will belong to my top ten song charts of 2014. The ice on the cake was Arve Henriksen’s The Nature of Connections (out on Rune Grammofon): a textural melange of trumpet with strings, soft pulses, no ego – brilliant. You could make a mixtape of all of these albums, just take your two favourites of everyone, and discover your personal sequence. Ah, yes, and the last track on that tape should be a down-load from Kevin Coyne’s „Millionaires and Teddybears“, the song „People“. Let „People“ be the closer, and I’ll bet it’ll make your day (on the quiet side of sounds). But, off course, what do I know? P.S. Ups, just forgotten, the fabulous duo of Anja Lechner and Francois Couturier (ECM New Series) would intensify this imaginary mix tape for a rainy day. It’s a soft killer from start to end, with the spirits of Komitas, Gurdjieff and Mompou drifting through open spaces.

This entry was posted on Dienstag, 19. August 2014 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

1 Comment

  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    I feel as though most recording artists are missing a trick when it comes to seasonal albums. Although the market for Christmas albums is – as we demonstrate here on theartsdesk annually – a growth one, there are thousands of themes out there waiting to be explored. Easter. Eid.

    That one Wednesday in July when the weather in Glasgow rivals that of the Med and you can only watch in envy from your office window. For her second album, Finnish singer-songwriter Mirel Wagner has produced something not unlike a Halloween album. Not the Halloween of popular culture, cutesy with cartoon ghouls and sacks of sweets, but something properly eldritch and awesome and strange.

    Faced only with the title, opening track “1 2 3 4” could be a nursery rhyme but, although Wagner’s voice takes on a certain sing-song cadence in its opening lines, the sparse baseline that accompanies her words hints at something more sinister at play. In tones that sound not unlike the creaking of the cellar door her album is named for, Wagner is at once the creepy successor to whatever Tom Waits was building in there and the crone next door, scaring schoolchildren away from the secrets of the abandoned house. And that’s only track one:

    although the compositions rarely get more complex than the lower strings of a sparsely strummed, barely tuneful acoustic guitar they hint at melody and create atmosphere while Wagner’s vocals skirt playfully the line between knowing and childlike.

    The more nuanced tracks – something almost approaching a full-on melody line in “Oak Tree”; the shimmer of cello that underpins the closing stanzas of “Ellipsis”; the unexpectedly bright major key and lingering reverb of “My Father’s House” – are interesting, but the sheer simplicity of Wagner’s songs is what makes them so arresting. Not so much as a breath is wasted here, artistic flourishes deemed unnecessary.

    Aptly-titled album closer “Goodbye”, on which Wagner adopts the tone of a ghostly Piaf mid-Wurlitzer death waltz, lays it on as thick as it gets – after it fades out, don’t be surprised if the silence seems comforting.

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