(Neill Jameson (Krieg) returns to our site with some remembrances about under-appreciated albums from a formative period.)
Recently I did a piece for Invisible Oranges about discovering Alice in Chains and Nirvana as a young boy stuck in the shitty Pittsburgh suburbs in the late 1980s, and that got me to thinking about that period of time for music and how there’s some really great records that almost never get mentioned because people’s tastes generally stick to what they hear about, akin to how so much great early ’90s black metal is missed because of a lack of a controversial narrative to them.
So I figured I’d share a few records that never really got their due from that era in my continuing mission to be on your newsfeed as often as possible without it being for exposing myself at a playground. And we’re off!
By way of explaining why my own output at the site has been sparse over the last week, I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I have a close friend in the ICU at a Seattle hospital whom I’ve been visiting for hours each day. One week ago she was driving to work in downtown Seattle and was hit in an intersection by a big city aid truck responding to an emergency call. She’s still in a coma, with a brain injury, though there are signs that she is approaching wakefulness.
Yesterday being a Saturday, I spent a few hours at home listening to music before returning to the hospital. I listened to some new metal that suited my mood, which I plan to compile in a Shades of Black post later this morning. But in a sequence of unpredictable but serendipitous events I also happened upon all the music collected in this post. There’s a bit of metal in the first and last items, but mostly this music is way off our usual beaten paths, yet these songs also suited my mood. I hope you’ll appreciate them, too.
A Russian friend in Novosibirsk (and a member of Station Dysthymia) recommended this first band, calling the music “hauntingly beautiful” — and so it is. The band’s name is Offret, from Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. I’m not sure if this is a one-man project or a group. What I heard was a self-titled EP released on April 25, 2016, via Bandcamp.
Prince Rogers Nelson, born in Minneapolis on June 7, 1958, was found dead today at his home and recording studio, Paisley Park, in Chanhassen, Minnesota. This is according to numerous reports, including one by the Associated Press, which seem to be true.
I’m posting this because it is hitting me just as hard, and maybe harder, than the deaths of Lemmy and Bowie. I’d be giving away more about my age than I want to give away if I went into too much detail, but let’s just say that I was an ardent fan of his music in the early years and it was a point of connection between me and my then wife-to-be.
I’m not capable of trying to explain what it was like when he burst upon the music scene, and there will be obituaries and retrospectives galore in the coming days written by people much more eloquent than me. But although I won’t try to write it, I can show you.
Gaelynn Lea is a musician in Duluth, Minnesota. According to the biography on her web site:
“She has been playing violin for over twenty years. First classically trained, she began learning traditional Celtic and American fiddle tunes at the age of 18. During her college years Gaelynn started sitting in with various folk/rock musicians and developed an improvisational style all her own. Eventually she also began singing and dabbling in songwriting.”
“Dabbling” is a humble word for it. Gaelynn was one of more than six thousand un-signed musicians or bands who submitted music videos in NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest. Under the rules of that contest, the song had to be an original work created solely for the purpose of entering the contest, and it had to be performed “at a desk (any desk!)”. All those thousands of submissions were reviewed by a panel of six judges, and they picked Gaelynn Lea’s submission as the winner.
I read the judge’s comments about the song and the video before I heard it. The judges were Robin Hilton, Bob Boilen, Dan Auerbach (of The Black Keys and The Arcs), Son Little, and Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of the band Lucius. You can read their comments about the song here. In a nutshell, they were all profoundly moved. They explained that they heard other songs that displayed better musical craft and skill, but what Gaelynn did was to create something unusual and memorable.
I can’t separate the song from what I watched in the video and what I knew immediately about Gaelynn Lea from seeing it. It makes the song more poignant and powerful — but I believe (though I’ll never know for sure) that I would have found it tremendously poignant and powerful anyway.
Artwork by Anton Semenov
I mentioned yesterday that I’ve had to fly across the country from Seattle for my fucking day job. It’s a quick trip, because I’ll be getting home again late tonight, but what I’m having to do is leaving me with no time for NCS.
So far, I’ve had no time to listen to music, much less to write about it. And I doubt that’s going to change before I get back on an airplane this afternoon to head home.
(Grant Skelton shifts our focus from music to writing — and draws a connection between the two at the end of this article.)
This piece is perhaps a little to the left of our usual norm here at NCS. What I’ve got here are a few podcasts that I think will interest readers of our site. I’ve also included a few literary resources for any aspiring authors, poets, lyricists, bloggers, or other writers who might visit our site. I see you, I know you’re there, and I feel your pain. You are not alone.
Lore is a podcast I heard about from a writing friend. You can find it on iTunes (here) or download the episodes directly from Lore’s website. Each episode runs between about 15 – 25 minutes. Created by novelist Aaron Mahnke, the subject matter covers true occurrences of horror that are the basis for legend and folklore. They are full of historical accounts of murders, grave robberies, bizarre accidents, the occult, and paranormal encounters.
Consider this synopsis from the episode, “The Others”:
(Austin Weber takes us far off our usual beaten paths with this review of an unusual album by a violin-and-cello duo who call themselves Naked Roots Conducive — with a full-album stream.)
I think one of the most wonderful things about avant-garde and experimental music is how it seems to transport you to a very strange yet intense place where you may have to adapt in order to fully appreciate it. Such is the case with the New York City-based duo called Naked Roots Conducive. The two members are Natalia Steinbach who plays violin and sings, and Valerie Kuehne, who plays cello and and sings as well. The range and scope of the music on their new album Sacred521 is impressive, and I’d say additionally impressive because no other instruments beyond violin, cello, and their two voices appear on the album.
Records such as Sacred521 are difficult to describe, since there aren’t many other people doing anything similar, and the musical lines they straddle coalesce into a sound that doesn’t fit into any established musical style. Naked Roots Conducive craft exquisite and intricate songs that are part classical music, and part nightmarish film score instrumentation, accompanied by heavenly singing courtesy of each member. The end result is not wholly classical music, nor simple singer-songwriter-oriented stuff either. It’s very sweeping and dramatic music, constantly traversing, back and forth, a divide between sour and sublime sounds.
(Andy Synn reviews the crowd-funded solo album of Daniel Cavanagh.)
As the old saying goes, “when the cat’s away, the mice will play”. And with both Islander and Badwolf currently semi-AWOL from the site due to attending MDF, it’s definitely time to play…
In that spirit, and as part of my continued quest to drag down the good name of this site, I hereby present to you the entirely clean-sung, all-acoustic, and almost completely un-metal, covers album by Anathema guitarist/co-vocalist Daniel Cavanagh.
Let the games begin!
(In this post our man in the UK, Andy Synn, reviews a live September 4 performance in Islington by the collaboration between Devin Townsend and Ché Aimee Dorval known as Casualties of Cool.)
Last Thursday I was lucky enough to see Casualties of Cool, the world’s finest proponents of Ambient Canadian Space-Country, perform a gorgeous, mesmerising set at The Union Chapel in Islington. And it’s taken me a while (I have been somewhat busy/ill in the intervening time) but I’ve finally got round to penning some thoughts about the experience.
To start with, for those of you who don’t know, the venue itself is pretty magical, a beautifully apportioned and enclosed chapel with rows of pews on ground level before the stage (and pulpit) and several more on balconies up above. The stained glass windows and hanging wrought-iron chandeliers add a touch of weight and worth to the surroundings, while the candles flickering in alcoves in each overhang only enhance the warmth and beauty of the place.
When it came to the show itself… well, there’s a reason this was sold under the title Casualties of Cool, and not under Devin’s own name. Because for once this really wasn’t a Devin Townsend show.
This is off-topic. No metal here. I’m just killing time until I can come up with something else to post today, if my fuckin’ day job will leave me alone long enough to do that. In the meantime, here’s something that happened in my home town of Seattle last Friday, June 7:
Seattle’s own Sir Mix-A-Lot performed “Baby Got Back” with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and about two-dozen butts (attached to about two dozen ladies from the audience).
This was done as part of the symphony’s “Sonic Evolution” project, in which composers are commissioned to write orchestral world premieres inspired by bands and other artists from (or in some way related to) Seattle. In this instance, composer Gabriel Prokofiev wrote and conducted an original piece inspired by Sir Mix-A-Lot. Did not see that coming.
Also, as you’re about to witness, he also arranged an orchestral accompaniment to “Baby Got Back”, the second best-selling song in the U.S. in 1992 and controversial enough to be banned from MTV back then (briefly). I guess you could say times have changed.