Tag Archives: music

the noble art of giving your music away for free

8 Feb

Yep, yep. Another band has just appeared among those who chose to advertise, give away for free and sell deluxe copies of their music through the Internet. Paaliaq, I salute to you!

Of course, in the very beginning I was afraid of the quality of music. Not of the sound. Of the very music itself. It is pretty different when such acknowledged artists as Nine Inch Nails or Radiohead distribute their music through the Internet. In this case it is often combined with legal problems and a growing frustration with the record industry.  Many journalists noticed the problem of entering the market by a completely unknown artist. Let’s face it. If you don’t know the musicians and you see that they’re happy, if you download their music (legally, of course), there is a slight anxiety coming with that package. You may think and, let’s be honest, you do think: “Awright then, hereby I state that I am going to download a shitload of crap that I will not be even able to listen through”. The beauty of the Internet, however, makes you immediately add: “And it’s for free. Meh…”

So, sure, I was a little anxious cause I couldn’t tell if Paaliaq would be a shitload of crap or a mesmerizing discovery. And? Well, I blame it on the good days, nice weather, feeling cool and relaxed, blah-blah-blah, but for the past few days I was extremely lucky with music and everything I touched turned either to gold or silver at least. I discovered the amazing Absolace, adored the new record of Seefeel and now this. Either I lost my ear or I became some kind of a musical Queen Midas.

Paaliaq IS mesmerizing. What annoys me the most is that I absolutely cannot find any info about them. I’m digging through gigabytes of data and, unfortunately, little I can find. I’m not even sure if it’s “them”. It could be one single guy. The Paaliaq facebook page claims: “I am gathering my music into albums, to be released during 2011”. So it could be one person. All we know is that it’s an artist/s from London, who defines his/their music as “rocktronica”.

What caught my eye though is that the debut album Keepi was released on January. The second one, Zosma, is out now. There are at least two more coming up this year. If all of them are as good as Keepi, then I’m going to face a serious problem here. Wanting to write about each and every one of them, I’d have to devote the whole year of 2011 to Paaliaq. God knows how much of “my music” was gathered! Obviously, I cannot focus on Paaliaq only (LOL). But I will write a bit about Keepi and I will update you on the other releases by Paaliaq.

Keepi is absolutely amazing. Among the influences Paaliaq names e.g. dEUS, the Cinematic Orchestra, Peter Gabriel, Thomas Newman, Björk, Massive Attack and many more. All of this is true, however, I’d add Radiohead to it. Cause Paaliaq, remaining an electro band (what the hell is “rocktronica” anyway?), is still very true to the roots of the British alternative rock. It actually reminds me of the crucial moment in Radiohead’s career when guys decided to shift from being “I-don’t-know-what-but-it’s-not-britpop-still-not-enough-to-be-rock” to a more experimental route that redefined their music and their artistic career in general. Well, I wouldn’t say Paaliaq is as innovative as the electro experiences of Radiohead. But it is somewhere in between. It’s somewhere in the Radiohead shift.

Moody, ballad-like melodies played mainly by guitar and/or piano, pretty classical and, therefore, almost tribal, ritual-like drumming (which, actually, reminds me of Maureen Tucker of the Velvet Underground) with a pretty cool electro noise from time to time. An interesting male voice that leads the whole. All of it makes a great experience. I was surprised that a debut album could be so well arranged and performed. On the other hand, as I mentioned before, noone knows for how many years was this music performed and gathered. It’s really hard to say if we can treat it like a debut album or not ;-]

The minor flaw of Keepi is perhaps the fact that in some of the cases instrumental pieces are slightly worse than the rest. This is something that is very distracting or annoying even. Right after a pretty mediocre Ascension which is rather blunt we receive a beutifully simple and touching Eel Moon. Of course, albums are full compositions with a structure and their role is not being greatest hits or highlights of… However, I found it disturbing that innovative and inspired tracks (e.g. Vangueria or Inhale Exhale as one of my favorites) are compiled together with pretty boring ones. Maybe that’s the point of “gathering music into albums”? An album is not only a gathering, it’s a whole process of creation. This is one sole fault of Keepi. It is amazing but you can tell that some pieces do not fit the puzzle and perhaps it would have been wiser to be much more strict with choosing the tracks for the album.

No other mistakes noticed. I rest my case. And do download Paaliaq. It’s worth it. A really good piece of alternative shit! You’d be surprised!

To enter the Paaliaq official website (where you can download Keepi for free), click here.

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it’s warp again

7 Feb

Hell yeah, one of my favorite record labels. Again. After issuing great records last year, among them the debut album by Gonjasufi, two albums (an LP and an EP) by Flying Lotus and a minimalist electro album by Brian Eno, it released a brand new self-titled LP by Seefeel. An album which, this I have to add, comes after 14 years of silence in the career of one of the most brilliant and acknowledged bands of the British electro scene.

The album is perfectly balanced, this is what came to my mind after I listened to it for the first time. There is electronic noise, a lot of weird, psychedelic loops as well as delicate rhythms and trans-like, monotonous vocals which make your head spin. The whole is pure, very carefully planned and clean which makes it sharp, spatious and powerfully raw at the same time. It becomes hypnotizing at times but not the way Flying Lotus is. Cosmogramma is far more complicated and based on heavily structuralized melodic lines and rhythms. Seefeel is much more frugal and, therefore, enchanting. It’s pure ambient. Funny, one of the first thoughts I had after listening to it a couple of times was: this is perfect music for having sex X-D

What I appreciate most about this album is the use of vocals. They’re there – a very delicate female voice that becomes part of the music and it becomes more of an instrument than a leading voice to which all the other sounds tune. The music is not supposed to accompany the voice. It is more like the voice is an inseparable part of it. Sure, others also did this. It’s nothing new, one may say. But Seefeel remains fresh, innovative and extremely powerful which just proves, as the whole Warp label does, that contemporary electro and ambient scene is far more interesting than the rock scene in Europe. And that it is a great come back of a band that didn’t record anything for such a long time. (Good job, Seefeel! After 14 years of silence you still rock!)

A very good record. It didn’t make my jaw drop – as did the records of Flying Lotus and Gonjasufi last year. Still, it’s perfectly created and played, amazingly engineered and mixed. So I probably wouldn’t say it’s excellent but if only all of the records this year were so good, I’d be most happy. And by the cathegory of “excellence” I mean something that I just did not expect. Seefeel is amazing, especially when it comes to dark moods and much more moody tunes (Airless is one of my favorite tracks). It completely made me fall in love with their music. My comparison to Flying Lotus and/or Gonjasufi comes probably from a fact that it was a real shock to hear their music. Why didn’t Seefeel shock me? Well, I guess I just got used to how Warp recordings good are.

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pure soul

1 Dec

Hah! Of course, the title is completely misleading. Sure, I do listen to different kinds of music but what the hell do I know about soul? What I mean is the pure soul of blues-rock. Ladies and Gentlemen, behold – The Black Keys.

Of course, it’s nothing new in America. The Black Keys are known there already for a while and though their newest album (released in mid-May 2010) is the first one to gain commercial success, they released 5 other LPs prior to 2010. Still, some things, unfortunately, come to Europe much slower. And if you’re not a regular reader of any local (or foreign) magazine on rock music, you have little chances to hear any single in the radio and/or tv – that is until the band gets big and noticed enough to get broadcasted.

Brothers is actually produced as a hit album from the very beginning. The whole is just flawless. Each song is very emotional, deeply rooted in American rock and blues, witty, funny, sometimes sad, poignant and perfectly in place. Plus the professionalism of the Akron duo – Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are just great! I can’t tell what it is. They’re at the same time delicate and strong, prefectionist and raw. They can either sound like a huge, almost gospel (I’m not kidding!) orchestra, or like a teenage garage band with all its rawness and anger.

And, at the same time… perhaps the title of the post is not so misleading after all. Surprisingly enough, they do get a bit “souly”. And… hell… I would even risk it and say that it’s a perfect blend of rock, blues and… funk. The way Auerbach sings, the drums played by Carney, the guitar, the vibe… I guess that if James Brown ever decided to play rock, this is how it would sound. And I assume it’s a huge compliment for the guys. Well, actually, I assume it’s a huge compliment to just anyone.

All in all – I’m mesmerized! I just don’t get the comparisons of The Black Keys with the White Stripes. Let’s think… ok, both of them are duos that include a drummer and a guitarist/vocalist. Both of them are deeply rooted in American blues. And, yes, the names of the bands include colors. But that’s a totally different story, I think. Sure there are some similarities but there are similarities between just any band that plays blues-rock or any kind of rock that is true to  its roots. Still, I’d rather perceive the White Stripes leaning more towards punk (yeah, you heard me), although still being strongly connected to blues, whereas The Black Keys…? Well. I wouldn’t exaggerate with the blues influence too much. At least not as much to minimize the influence of the 1960’s rock (e.g. psychedelic rock – check their songs She’s Long Gone or Black Mud) and 1970’s funk (e.g. Next Girl). And I am even bold enough to say that in the music of The Black Keys I can even hear tiny influences of Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band.

Or maybe I’m wrong? I guess it’s just an album that is so good that anyone will find there, what they want.

the runaways – another movie about musicians, this time by Sigismondi

25 Nov

Floria Sigismondi

After reminding myself the most beloved and most hated movies about rock stars that I have ever watched, finally I decided to watch The Runaways – a silver screen debut by the amazing director known for her brilliant photography and artwork in the field of music videos.

Yes, Floria Sigismondi directed her first movie and personally, I think it’s not a coincidence that it’s basically the type of the movie that we already know pretty well – not a musical, not a film biography but something in between. A genre which, in its own, has many great examples such as The Doors by Oliver Stone, Walk the Line by James Mangold or I’m Not There by Todd Haynes. When I heard of the movie by Sigismondi, I was really excited to see it since I value her work a great deal. She’s done most thought provoking, most aesthetically thrillilng videos ever for such different artists as Marilyn Manson, Christina Aguillera, Sigur Rós, Page & Plant etc. The features of her work which are most easy to notice are a little “dusty”, grey colors (she’s a photographer as well), jittery camera and unnatural movements of the people she depicts – they move more like mannequins or puppets which on its own is fascinating. In fact Sigismondi is an Italian-born, raised Canadian daughter of a couple who worked for an opera house, so she’s absolutely familiar with music and with musical performance.

The second point was The Runaways itself. I’m not a huge fan of the band, although many believe it’s the first rock girlsband in history, still… the turn of 1970’s and 1980’s is, in my own belief, a pretty mediocre part of the history of popular music, with only a few classical examples being outstanding (but my taste revolves here mainly around prog rock and a few punk bands cause, even though it has some amazing examples, I cannot really consider new wave being rock). I do love Joan Jett though and, frankly, I watched this movie mainly for the character of Jett and for Sigismondi.

Joan Jett and Cherie Currie

I was surprised. It’s not a major movie which will become part of the film history. But I have seen so many bad movies about musicians and/or specific phenomena in the history of popular music, that I had full right to be afraid of what would this movie be like. I was content. Not necessarily amazed but very, very content with what I got. The story is not especially thrilling. But it’s told in a correct way, it tells the story of the band as well as the story of individual members of the band, it shows the atmosphere around being a rock star, the damage one is suffering when becoming a rock star, and all these, already iconic, issues such as the complex and difficult relationship between a performer – his or her audience – and publicity. Nothing new, you can say. Sure. But Sigismondi, not being really creative, is also not disappointing. It’s not a movie that gets you tired and frustrated the first 10 minutes just because it tries to be “different” than anything else and, hence, becomes completely messed and impossible to understand.

Three most important things for me, however, are: Sigismondi’s amazing photography (the movie is just aesthetically beautiful!), the character of Joan Jett (played by the Twilight saga star Kristen Stewart) and the somehow subversive, ambivalent part of the movie – about being a teenager, being a girl in a man’s world, being perhaps sexually different, a lesbian or a bisexual (Sigismondi is a happily married lesbian herself).

These are the parts of the movie I enjoyed most. Mainly because I completely hate all the movies dealing with the difficult matter of puberty, teenage sexuality and the moment when a teenage girl realizes she’s a woman in a… let’s say… somewhat male world. 90% of the movies dealing with the subject end up either being sermon on the disadvantages of doing drugs and having casual, premarital sex; or they are emo shit-stories which are popular at the moment with all these children whining about being depressed, unhappy and rioting against the whole world in their outfits I cannot even afford living in the less privileged part of the world, huh…

Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning

Well. Sigismondi’s movie is not a sermon nor it is emo crap. She’s consequent in revealing identity problems, complicated relations with family and friends, difficulties with growing up and transforming into an adult, mature human being. And, although it’s not a psychological movie, I enjoyed this part a lot.
Joan Jett is a character that is particularly interesting for me since… awww, let’s be honest, she’s the only true musician out of the whole band (well, ok, Lita Ford is also great but she never became a major rock star in the sense Jett did). I loved the way Sigismondi portrayed her. She’s most confident of the whole band, most self-conscious and, also, most determined. She knows that music is her only chance to get away from poverty, broken family, all the problems of a low class environment. And, what I think Stewart does best, is the transformation from a teenage, rioting, white trash girl to a confident artist that is aware of what she is doing and what is she trying to reach.

Musically… well. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Runaways so I won’t bore you with whining about how Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning do a good job or a bad job singing the parts of Jett and Currie. The girls are not so bad but I wouldn’t be interested in buing the soundtrack. First of all, it lacks the original music composed by Lilian Berlin (a musician and Sigismondi’s partner), which – frankly – is just amazing! Secondly, when it comes to the Runaways… well… it’s just not my kind of music (although I’m into rock and I love Joan Jett) but personally… oh well… I guess the soundtrack to The Velvet Goldmine was much more interesting also in the terms of not only collecting the best hits of the era but also recording new songs by a non-existing band that pretended to be another band (however messed, postmodern and post-Baudrillardesque it may sound, LOL).

All in all, I was positively surprised with The Runaways. And I do hope Sigismondi will continue making movies, probably not only movies about musicians and music, although… deep down I have this small, tiny hope she will create something astonishing about one of the great rock stars (and truly, there are many of them) but using more of the dark atmosphere that is so typical of her amazing videos.

shame on me

26 May

Yes, exactly, shame on me for not listening to the latest Alice in Chains album earlier! I don’t know how but I simply overslept some of the cool albums of the last year. Maybe it was because I was on the road pretty often and when I wasn’t travelling, I was completely loaded with work. Ok, no excuses from now on (“Find me sittin’ by myself | No excuses that I know” X-D).

What am I supposed to say? The album is stunning! I am not a hard-core Alice in Chains fan but I have always appreciated them a lot and I followed their career from Dirt and up (possibly because in my part of the world nobody had ever heard of Alice in Chains prior to Dirt). And, somehow, since the death of Layne Staley, Alice in Chains somehow… slipped my mind. Of course, I was watching Jerry Cantrell closely and checked what was he doing but new plans, getting William DuVall as the new vocalist – I had no clue about it all.

And? Frankly? It’s amazing. I am not expecting DuVall to become the new Layne Staley, I am not even expecting him to sound similar. But he DOES sound similar. His voice is definitely different than Staley’s, I would probably put it somewhere mid-way between Staley and Chris Cornell. But parts which are sang together with Cantrell remind you of the old Alice in Chains so much that, somehow, I did not feel disappointed, uncomfortable or uneasy by the sole fact that it’s somebody different than Staley. DuVall’s voice is softer and higher than Staley’s but still – he’s doing a great job. It’s very emotional, with the amazing vibrato and a fantastic expression – even in the more calm songs (for example, Your Decision). The other musicians are as brilliant as ever and they’re in their top form (amazing guitar-solo in Last of My Kind, which is one of my favorite songs of the album – totally stunning!)

I am looking forward to the future of Alice in Chains with lots of expectations. Last month Jerry Cantrell stated that he did not see any reason for which recording a new album in the nearest future would not happen. Let’s hope so!

The album itself is sort of a coming back to the roots of Alice in Chains. The atmosphere, doubled vocals, rhythm, guitar riffs – it’s all a sort of a tribute to the earlier works of the band. However, it doesn’t mean that the band is stuck with imitating what they had created prior to Black Gives Way to Blue. It’s clear that the album was recorded by very creative and mature musicians. Listening to it I had a feeling that it somehow should be an example of how a path of a musician should look like – constantly developing and consequent. Of course, there are bands which changed their style and experimented with different things and I’m not saying it’s wrong. Absolutely not. But in this case I am absolutely thrilled by how Alice in Chains forged their new album out of what they had been doing earlier. This is slow, consequent advancement that I value so much, that – I think – is not valued enough in this world, and, finally, that I would probably compare to the difference between Tool’s Ænima and 10.000 Days – showing that you’re truly devoted to something, true to what you’re doing and, still, being able to progress, develop, change. Therefore, I am absolutely taken by this record – and very surprised (in a positive meaning of this word) cause it’s a huge relief to listen to something like that knowing that so many bands gave up, totally abandoned their former achievements or got stuck in the same point not knowing how to get out of the cage that they themselves had created.

P.S. Don’t you find it odd that both Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley died circa April 5th? Ugh… Creepy!