Soundtracks are a tricky thing, and never more so than in the ’90s. Covering up the lack of plot and atrocious acting with a clever little soundtrack isn’t anything new in the film business, yet finding new and inventive ways of releasing piles of cinematic shit plastered over with rose-scented pop tunes seemed to hit quite an apex […]
Soundtracks are a tricky thing, and never more so than in the ’90s. Covering up the lack of plot and atrocious acting with a clever little soundtrack isn’t anything new in the film business, however, finding new and inventive ways of releasing piles of cinematic shit plastered over with rose-scented pop tunes seemed to hit quite an […]
Tuesday night in Istanbul, and Korhan Futaci’s lyrics are being roared back at him like this is Casablanca, and they’re ‘Le Marseillaise’. Though there’s no overt political message (I’m told one lyric is about this life’s unavoidable tears, and the salve of the afterlife to come – more gospel than rebel rock in sentiment), Futaci’s Kara Orchestra play ritual, Near Eastern jazz-rock with an unmistakable underground edge. They fade in and out of focus in a dislocating, mantric haze, Futaci’s tenor sax facing off with Bariş Ertürk‘s baritone, as psychedelia, muscular free jazz and obscure invocations pass through local, ancient filters. What’s happening feels committed, rooted and urgent. In nearly a week in Turkey’s vast capital, nothing quite matches it.
Istanbul Jazz Festival includes a strong international line-up (Antonio Sanchez, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Donny McCaslin (top), Joshua Redman, Christian McBride and Roberto Fonseca among them). My stay, though, is based around ViTRin, its Turkish new music showcase. In a former shoe factory’s gardens on the Bosphorus’s banks, MadenÖktemErsönmez further update the legend of Turkey’s 1970s underground rock. Playing in front of dark stripes of scaffolding resembling a Tudor house in the moonlight, guitarist Sarp Maden sparks feedback from a fast, bucking solo. The bright laser buzz of his instrument has a vintage science-fiction sheen, amidst a simmer of rattling beats, finger-popping bass funk and spectral atmospherics. Someone approvingly mentions Can. Before them, Miles Mosley & The West Coast Get Down (below) brew up a quiet storm with Hendrix’s ‘If 6 Was 9’.
Then there’s Junun (below), who on their self-titled album were a collaboration between Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, Israeli singer-guitarist-flautist Shye Ben Tzur and India’s Rajasthan Express. Greenwood’s back at his day-job, but Ben Tzur is this heavy, highly danceable Qawwali trance and swing’s guiding force. With a band drawn from Tel Aviv and a Sufi Muslim saint’s shrine, and Ben Tzur’s composition of devotional Qawwalis in Hebrew, when he thanks God, he is melting religious divides. Such projects can sound trite, but this music’s potent existence moves me to tears. It’s the philosophy behind Istanbul’s grand Hagia Sophia museum, with its exposed layers of Christian, Muslim and secular history, of Byzantium and Constantinople.
Crossing the Bosphorus to its Asian side’s bohemian Moda neighbourhood for a multi-venue ‘Night Out’, Gevende are the highlight, influenced by Radiohead, but as individual as their lyrics’ polyglot, imaginary language. A bereft trumpet intertwines with rippling guitar on a softly crooned ballad. Finally, jagged wah-wah guitar is displaced by Bootsy Collins rubber-band bass, and Miles electric funk. Turkish indie-rock in theory, Gevende are on their own trip. Though my chosen musical route-march misses them, colleagues also enjoy Kolektif Istanbul’s “progressive wedding music”, a Balkan-Anatolian blend suiting this crossroads city.
At a concert down amidst the millennia-smoothed Byzantine columns and fearfully inverted Medusa heads of Yerebatan Cistern, Özer Arkun‘s cello and Fatih Ahiskali‘s oud duet with a melancholy familiar from here to Europe’s old gypsy and Jewish ghettos. At the French Consulate’s Palais de France gardens, meanwhile, pianist Can Çankaya and bassist Kağan Yildiz play stately hard bop in the early moonlight, harmonising for a moment with a nearby call to prayer. Unremarkable in style, they feel cleansing tonight. The straight Turkish jazz I hear is often disappointing, trying hybrids which just miss the mark (though I’d like to have heard more of the acoustic, Anatolian Bilal Karaman Trio). A panel of local music business veterans speaks realistically of hard times, greeted by knowing gallows humour from the audience.
Looking out at the Bosphorus one night, I run into a musician who mentions the frustrations of being an artist here, unable to say what he’d like. The situation with President Erdogan is otherwise left implicit, and never volunteered (though a massive, defiant protest march reaches Istanbul from Ankara as I leave). This oppression at the city’s edges is something I considered before travelling, but I’m profoundly glad I came. Istanbul makes London look small and young, and offered the nuances of cosmopolitan conversation, human generosity and sometimes subtly brave, enlivening music. People are bigger than their governments.
– Nick Hasted
– Photos by Mahmut Ceylan and Faith Kucuk
Mark Rylance in Dunkirk, directed by Christopher Nolan
Director Christopher Nolan’s previous movies have ranged from the intriguing (Memento, The Prestige) to the over-budgeted and overblown (Inception, yet more installments of the Batman franchise). He has reportedly long wanted to make a film about the evacuation of British armed forces from the French beaches at Dunkirk in 1940, and his box
Motorpsycho has been able to feed the vinyl junky with unique and high quality releases more than any other norwegian band has managed over the past three decades. Twenty years after Angels and Daemons at Play came to life we bring Trondheims legendary prog metal bands sixth studio recording to our audiophile altar.
BENT SÆTHER AND JOHAN HARSTAD
In this seasons opening night of our ongoing series of norwegian album presentations at Deichman Main Public Library in Oslo, we discuss the music and recordings with Bent Sæther from the band, before we lean back, soften the light and descending into one of the finest examples from Motorpsychos experimental and hypnotizing world by hearing the entire album from beginning to end.
“The amount, the scope, the register and complexity, everything else appeared with such puzzling and predictable variations on top of eachother, while this was something completely of its own, despite the obvious references, it was impossible to understand what it was with this band, the only way to experience it was to let go of everything, allow it to sink in, the shifts between the wary and the brutal, the short, the concise and the often beautiful compositions and the heavenly eternities where the band seemed to release itself and disappear into something that just grew, until the sound became three-dimensional and all-encompassing, a malstrom you did not want to escape, knowing that you had happily followed them out of the room, out of town and into the mountain, where the exit was closed behind you forever, as long as it was never quiet again.”
We also get visited by the author and playwright Johan Harstad, who describes the overwhelming and physical feeling of hearing Motorpsycho live with these lines in the opening of the book about his relationship to the predecessor ‘Blissard’. The book was written in 2012 following 100 fellow norwegian artists votation of their 10 favourite albums, finally to be presented as the 100 best norwegian records.
HYPNOTIC PROG METAL
A total of five Motorpsycho albums from a hugely productive decade ended up on the top 100 Norwegian album list. The self-inflicted competition explains in part why ‘Angels…’ surprisingly isn’t to be found among the chosen ones. Another reason may be that Motorpsycho on this album really folded out their urge for musical explorations, with what for some fans with a penchant for the band’s more melodic and groovy sides might possibly be perceived as long trippers with less accessible psychedelic excursions.
Within six years, from 1994 till 2000, the hardworking psyche rockers were awarded the Norwegian Grammy equivalent ‘Spellemannsprisen’ four times, including once for ‘Angels And Daemons At Play’. It is about time we make a deep dip into one of the most hypnotic and fascinating journeys of this persistently hard-working band.
A COLLECTORS DREAM – OR NIGHTMARE
Completing the discography of Motorpsycho can be an equally exciting and nervebreaking exercise for a record collector, like looking for bootlegs in the hidden alleys and trenches in the wake of a Grateful Dead or Frank Zappa live tour. There are not only a myriad of them, but also many versions of the same recording – small variations it would be unheard of to leave untouched (if you are a compulsive completist).
In addition to the consistently high musical quality the band has been able to display and add to its productive inventory over the years, from the first releases in the late 80’s till today, they are known for their jam like methods and at the same time detailed ingenuity with both the recordings and the physical end product, ‘Angels And Daemons At Play’ being no exception.
The album was released in several different editions, all with the cover work from Kim Hiorthøj, but with small adaptations within the song material depending on the format the music was presented through. Originally released as three EPs in only 500 copies; ‘Baby Scooter’, ‘Have Spacesuit Will Travel’ and ‘Lovelight’, it also appeared as a double LP, 6CD box and a triple CDEP, and it is the latter we choose to play at Deichmans music department this Thursday.
A WORLD CLASS AUDIO MENU
On some occasions our faithful molecularists from Duet Audio choose to pull on the white butler gloves to prepare an audio menu that does not stand back to any other audio equipment found on the higher end of this world. Like the ambient noise artist and co-producer Deathprod, the guys from Motorpsycho are also great listeners and skilled explorers in to the treasury of the history of music.
This empathy and curiosity has constantly sparked new, exciting musical landscapes on their records, a rough terrain they have managed to draw and present in a refined way. When such a conscientious craftsmanship has been made in regards to the recording, there is every reason to offer the best possible conditions also at the other end of the horn. With Piegas flagship speaker Master Line Source 1 as final instance before Motorpsychos psychedelic metal meets the ears, we will be assured of an audio file listening experience of the rare. We will simply serve one of our favourite discs on world-class audio equipment this evening, customised the room we’re supposed to be in. So here’s nothing more than enjoying yourself.
Date and Time: Thursday 17th of August 6pm-8.30pm (doors open 5pm)
Venue: Deichman Main Public Library
Tickets: 100NOK in the door or in advance HERE. Students (student card), Juniors (under 18), Seniors (above 65) and Initial Service Norwegian Armed Forces (ID card): Half price!
Audio Menu installed by Duet Audio: CD-PLAYER: Soulution 541, Preamp: 4 x Monoblocks Auralic Merak 2x800W, Integrated Amp with phono stage: Ayon Auris, Loudspeakers: Piega Master Line Source 1, Interconnects: Midas Reference Silje, Speaker Cable: Midas Reference Silje, Power Conditioner: Isol-8.
At the end of June, Sony Music Japan announced they would start pressing their own vinyl records in their own plant for the first time since the end of the 1980s. It was big news both domestically and abroad, where interest in the ongoing revival in physical records continues unimpeded. The company hopes to open […]
Photo by François Bisi
Jane Cornwell speaks to Snarky Puppy’s Michael League and singer Malika Tirolien about their latest supergroup Bokanté, who are set to be making waves this summer.
This article originally appeared in Songlines July #129. To find out more about subscribing to Songlines, please visit: http://ift.tt/2lbcV5M
Michael League has never formed another band in the 14 years since he founded Snarky Puppy. For who needs a side project when your Grammy-winning, Texas-bred, New York-based, improvisational instrumental jazz collective is an active collaborator, working with the likes of the Dutch Metropole Orchestra and releasing albums that feature such special guests as Peruvian diva Susana Baca, Americana icon David Crosby and the Malian Caruso, Salif Keita? Serendipity, however, works in mysterious ways – and Bokanté, which means ‘Exchange’ in Creole, feels like it was meant to be.
“I record ideas on my phone all the time,” says the slight, bearded League, sitting backstage at a sunlit WOMADelaide in March. “Melody, groove, rhythm, bassline, whatever; I’ve been doing it for about five years. When I eventually listened back to them I thought, wow, there’s a lot of stuff with the same sound.” A Delta-meets-desert sound that he is reluctant to define: “This band [Bokanté] marries a lot of my interests. I grew up loving American blues and Led Zeppelin and different blues formats, and over the last five years I’ve been getting deep into West African music. Bassekou Kouyaté, Ali Farka Touré, Salif Keita, Tinariwen,” he pauses and smiles. “I started thinking that I should put a band together that plays this sort of stuff. A band with a singer, a bunch of guitars and a bunch of percussionists but no [kit] drums, horns or keyboards.” In other words, a band that was nothing like Snarky Puppy.
Bokanté’s outing at WOMADelaide was only their third public gig. Some in the appreciative crowd made comparisons to Talking Heads, King Crimson and Meshell Ndegeocello; to this observer they sounded like no one else. Their performance was tighter and more accomplished than any band with very little rehearsal might dare to imagine, much of which can be explained by the calibre of musicians in the line-up (acclaimed in some quarters as a ‘super group’). There is League, swapping his bass for baritone guitar, along with Snarky guitarists Chris McQueen and Bob Lanzetti and Miami-based pedal steel virtuoso Roosevelt Collier, seated centre-stage, a slide guitar set across his knees.
On percussion, there is Keita Ogawa – Nagasaki-raised, Riotrained, a veteran of orchestras including the London Symphony, the Hong Kong Philharmonic and the group belonging to superstar cellist, Yo-Yo Ma. On more percussion, the multi-awardwinning Jamey Haddad, an ex-Berklee College music professor and longtime rhythm man for Paul Simon and Sting. On the third and final set of percussion, André Ferrari, a mohawked Swede whose innovative flourishes – handfuls of bells, Gnawa qaraqab (metal castanets), frame drums played face down – are a trademark of Swedish folk outfit Väsen, and whose self-penned ‘Shapons Vindaloo’ is the first track that Snarky Puppy ever recorded. “André is one of the most unique percussionists I’ve met,” says League. “Nothing he uses is conventional.” The bass guitarist, just for WOMADelaide, was Paul Bender of cult Australian space-jazzers Hiatus Kaiyote. The bass guitar slot will remain open, with bassists cherry-picked locally; the bassist for the UK tour is yet to be decided.
“One of the things I love about Snarky Puppy is we always have new musical personalities contributing. With Bokanté the bass chair will be that thing.”
Then there is Bokanté’s pièce de résistance: Malika Tirolien, a charismatic Montréal-based Guadeloupian vocalist who sings mainly in Creole, in a honeyed voice that hits the spot and then some. It was the creative exchanges between Tirolien and League that fleshed out the ideas on the latter’s iPhone: “I would send Malika the music and a lyrical concept that was socially conscious, to do with individual and social struggles.” More specifically, about strife and success, racism, apathy and the refugee crisis; hopes for peace and unity. “She would write the lyrics and melody, demo the song and send it back.”
Trained in classical piano and jazz, Tirolien was fronting a hip-hop leaning outfit called Groundfood that supported Snarky Puppy in Québec, and blew League and his band mates away. “Our whole band were like, ‘Who the fuck is that?’” says League of Tirolien, who is here at our table underneath a spreading Moreton Bay fig tree, and laughing good-naturedly. “She was singing beautifully in three languages, then she’d improvise, then she’d rap in Creole.”
The French-based Creole language has a percussive flow, they say, that lends Bokanté another dimension. “It is beautiful but it can be really rough sounding too,” says Tirolien with a grin. “If you want to insult someone, it’s fantastic.”
Her dialect is particular to Guadeloupe, and not dissimilar to that of the neighbouring Caribbean island of Martinique. Of the ten songs on Bokanté’s debut album Strange Circles, two are in French (‘Heritier’ asks us to think about the legacy we are leaving the next generation) and the rest are delivered in Creole. Tirolien has the gift of conveying real emotion, even if we don’t exactly understand what it is she’s saying.
“We tried one song in English when we were recording [at the legendary Dreamlands Studio in New York] and were like, ‘No!!’” twinkles League. “It’s kind of like when you hear certain styles of music sung in different languages, flamenco sung in English, for example, and it feels wrong. For some weird reason for this band Creole works perfectly.”
While Tirolien, Collier, Haddad, Ferrari and Ogawa have all collaborated individually on Snarky Puppy projects, most notably on the Family Dinner recording sessions, many of the musicians in Bokanté hadn’t met until the first day of their week-long recording. Establishing a sense of unity was paramount: “The ensemble is multilingual, multicultural and multi-generational but we all feel connected as musicians and people. This combination of different accents gives a strangely common and poignant sound, a sound that can reach and relate to listeners around the world.”
Asked to file Bokanté under a genre, and League and Tirolien spar good-humouredly. Jazz? Rock? They shake their heads. League wants to call them a blues band but Tirolien doesn’t; the folky Gwo-ka rhythms from Guadeloupe and the three sets of percussion, she argues, are almost blues averse. From a guitar perspective, counters League, the root of Bokanté’s music is African, Delta blues and rock; ergo, the music of the blues.
“A lot of this stuff is so rich harmonically,” he says. “I think of the guitars like percussion instruments or voices; at any moment the guitars are playing something very rhythmic and short and groovy or else long slide melodies and harmonies in the same way as singers. The way I think of the band is having two singers: Malika and the guitars including Roosevelt.” They settle, reluctantly, on ‘world’ (“We’d rather not file us under anything”), what with Ogawa hailing from Japan, Ferrari from Sweden and the Lebanese-American Haddad having studied Karnatic traditions in South India among other musical pursuits including building his own instruments (“I’m a jazz musician who jumped the fence,” Haddad has said).
Bokanté’s one-love vibe tips over into songs such as ‘Nou Tout Sé Yonn’, which means ‘Remember We are One’ and ‘O La’, a song-come-fable about a lost man who is welcomed into a remote house and shown great hospitality before killing the owner and taking over, building a wall to keep people out. “One night comes a knock on a door and a cry of ‘I’m lost, can you help me?’” says Tirolien, who wrote it. Karma, it seems to be saying, is a bitch.
Tirolien flashes a grin. “This is why we called our album Strange Circles,” she says. “What goes around comes around.”
“It really does,” says League. “You’ll see.”
This article originally appeared in Songlines July #129. To find out more about subscribing to Songlines, please visit: http://ift.tt/2lbcV5M