Monday, December 19, 2011

Circo Vulkano: La Vida Es... (2011)

This is true madness: Circo Vulkano is a crazy combo from Venezuela. I discovered La vida es.. recently at the great blog and it got me immediately infected. The band itself defines its music as Gipsy Cumbia Balkan Punk and when I listened to the record for the first time I thought that this is the how I wanted to have Manu Chao's music sounded all the years (though lyrics are in Spanish, only). It is so full of energy that it makes dance on the spot! One of the great strengths of Circo Volkano is the ability to slow down songs and then to catch up again. 

The first song "Mambo (Italiana)" gets the party already started. From there on till the instrumentals there is no breather to come. My favorite is "La Cachumba" a funny song with great none sense lyrics about a skull. A special thing about Circo Volkano is the usage of the melodica. I don't know how common this is in Latin American music and it definitely adds a very distinctive lo-fi note to the music.
Covers never have been that much fun as on La vida es...: in the middle of the song "Aire Jiri / A Caballo" the theme from pulp fiction pops up and sounds so right here. The king of covers though is the song nirvana: This is an amazing adaption of Nirvana's Love Buzz.
When I saw the live videos on youtube I wished I could have get into an airplane and fly over to Venezuela and join the party! I hope to see this amazing blend of music in Europe one day :)

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Vespera: Desert Of The Real (2011)

Having lived for quite some time in Romania the country surprised me many times with its artistic potential. Especially Cluj, the capital of Transylvania where I lived featured an excess of creative talent. Almost every weekend one had the possibility to attend great concerts of local and national acts.

By chance, on a recent trip to Cluj I attended a concert of a local band Vespera at the Irish Music Pub which is a great venue for concerts in the city. The concert itself was mediocre mainly because of sound quality problems the band had (the male singer was hardly audible) and they did not impress me too much. A few days later I listened to the CD that was given away at the concert and to the contrary it took me much by surprise.


With a rock music style similar to Lacuna Coil they succeeded in creating some really catchy tracks. The vocal lines bounce nicely between the two singers Dorin Panduru and Teodora Bârla. In addition the got some really great keyboards and samples. For a band without a label and management in the back the quality of the songs and production is really great and it still leaves space for further improvements. My favorite songs from the record are "Mary of Bethany", "Behind my smile" and the brilliant "Through the neon lights".

Luckily, with the advent of the Internet possibilities of distribution and promotion hugely increased, even though Romanian bands usually lack resources in order to get (big) label deals and record sales. As Vespera's bio states their next step is to promote their music worldwide, wanting to excite listeners from various genres of metal music. And, indeed they did impressed me!

Preview (flac) | Buy! | Myspace | Facebook | discogs | Metal archives

Friday, November 18, 2011

Haydamaky: Ukraine Calling (2006)

Recently, I discovered a new Ukrainian jewel. Haydamaky combines an excellent blend of Balkan style music with rock, Reggae and ska music influences.
The band was formed in the 1990s and grew in popularity during the Ukrainian orange revolution in 2004. The band specializes in combining the Ukrainian musical heritage with modern sounds.
As I've learned from Wikipedia the band name originates from "haidamakas" (Гайдамаки) meaning "to pursue" in Turkish. These were paramilitary units in the 18th-century Ukraine. The haidamak movement was formed mostly of local Cossacks and peasantry (kozaky and holota), fighting against the Polish nobility in the right-bank Ukraine.

The album was originally published 2005 with the title Perverziya and was republished a year later by the German Eastblock label with a new title and artwork.
Besides classical rock instruments the record features a flute and an accordion together with a really great voice. My recommendations are "Nemae Hliba - Spivai!" (Sing, Even If You Got No Bread!) and the absolutely amazing "Lystopad 2004" (November 2004).

Ukraine Calling is a very strong musical statement and I fully support the band's frontmen Olkesandr Yarmola with a statement he made at a concert:
"Romania, Bulgaria and the Ukraine it doesn't matter where you come from anymore - Eastern Europe is the driving force of Europe the west is no more the best!"

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Zack de la Rocha: Keep It Zipped (2004, 2011)

The former Rage Against The Machine front-man Zack de la Rocha doesn't need a lot of introduction: After leaving the band in the year 2000 he went on to focus on a hip hop career. He appeared on a variety of projects. However, he never released a solo hip-hop record on his own. In 2004 de la Rocha started a collaboration with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, in which about 20 tracks were produced but never published (maybe if either one runs out of money one day). Thus, the rock oriented One Day As A Lion project together with Jon Theodore remains de la Rocha's only inter-RATM release.

In the absence of an official release I prepared this compilation back in 2004 and added some minor updates for this version. My favorites are the great Blackalicious' "Release (Part 1,2,3)" and the excellent collaboration with KRS One and the Last Emperor on the track "C.I.A.". Lyrically, most tracks deal with various aspects of politics: "Mumia 911" for instance is about the ill fate of Mumia Abu-Jamal who is on the death row right now and "March Of Death" is a strong anti Iraq war song.
Surprisingly, I discovered that someone else made a simple cover for this compilation and now, in the wake of the RATM reunion I don't think that an official release is highly likely so please enjoy the track listing after the break!

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Rona Hartner: Nationalité Vagabonde (2008) (Update)

Rona Hartner is an Romanian artist of German descent living and working currently in France. Nationalité Vagabonde is thus not only a title of record but also a phrase that presents her personal lifestyle. Born in 1973 she got popular with the 1997 movie "Gadjo Dilo" alongside with the now very famous French actor Romain Duris. Rona Hartner portrayed a Gypsy in the very same movie and this might have contributed to the perception (in Romania) that she is a Gypsy aswell. Unfortunately, she is not recognized very well in Romania. However, I think RH has overcome terms like nationality nationality best expressed by the title track's great lyrics:

“Nationalité vagabonde
Mes voisins je ne les compte
Plus à Rio, Prague ou Hong Kong,
Un passeport dans tous les ports
Nationalité vagabonde
J’ai la terre beaucoup plus ronde
Que tous les résidents du monde
Et dans la peau
Tous les drapeaux…
J’ai une âme rebelle
Emigrée universelle
J’ai toutes les tracesDe toutes les races
Dans mon sang et sur ma face
Je suis citoyenne
De la nation humaine
Je suis … ( ?)
A la page vagabonde”

The record is a great mix of different languages (French, Spanish, English and Romanian), moods and genres. I like a lot the great track “Chocha de la vida” which is a brilliant blend of reggea meets Africa accompanied by a magnificent clarinet. The upbeat "Gadji boh`eme" and also "Vagabond remix" are favorites of mine as well. Besides music RH does a lot of theater appearances as well. Unfortunately, she doesn't seem to do a lot of concert touring outside of France right now but as always I hope that this fact is going to change very soon!

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Richard Devine: Lipswitch (2000)

This album was a revelation for me: something new opening my world to a complete new sort of music. While there was an Ambient explosion in the early 1990's (which I did not experience myself) the end of the millennium saw the IDM or experimental electronic music explosion. A major driver to this "revolution" was the increased capabilities of computers as musical instruments and the abundance of software samplers. These allowed the dissection and reassembly of any sound resulting into totally new pieces of music. One of the pioneers of this genre is surely Richard Devine. His soundscapes are extensively crafted forming complex structures and amazing results. A majority of the tracks of Lipswitch are beat-less and require active listening. My favourite tracks on this record are Kepter and Route, Increment.
Today, ten years later things have shifted again and a new generation of laptop artists appeared but this release still sounds very fresh to me. Nowadays, with no official release in five years Richard Devine focuses on his own sound design company and film music and some new tracks can be found at soundcloud.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Alternosfera: Orasul 511 (2005)

There are always surprises: Though I have lived quite some time in Romania I had never heard of Alternosfera before until recently. The band is from Chisinau, Republic of Moldova and it was founded in the it late 1990's and their sound could be best described as alternative rock.
The songs of "Orasul 511" (Eng. city 511) sung by the melodic voice of Marcel Bostan are in Romanian (mostly) and Russian (some). These are also Moldova's major languages and I am of the opinion that these songs are also very appealing even if you do not understand either language. I am still amazed by the melodies and the fantastic keyboard hooks. My favourite from this record is "Wamintirile" which approximately means Memories in English. I hope that I'll have a chance to attend a concert next time I visit Romania or who knows maybe they'll are going to tour in Western Europe one day...  

If you like this record I also highly recommend to check out the band's second release "Visatori Cu Plumb In Ochi" (2007) (Eng. vistors dreamers with lead in their eyes). Luckily their new album "Virgula" (eng. comma) is just about being released right now. Yippee!

Alternosfera: Orasul 511 (2005)
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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Philip Glass: Solo Piano (1989)

Justify Full
Surely, Philip Glass is one of the best and prolific modern composers. One of the works I particularly like is the 1989 release "Solo Piano". Characteristic elements of this record are the repetitive structures which results in a very accessible piece of piano music. It consists of three individual works which were written in different contexts and times but still blend perfectly into each other. The first part Metamorphosis consists of 5 pieces that was written in 1988 taking their name from a play based on Kafka's short story. Mad Rush was written for the occasion of the Dalai Lama's first public speech in New York in 1981 and the last piece Wichita Vortex Sutra was a result of a collaboration with friend and poet Allen Ginsberg. It is difficult to pick a favorite one but "Metamorphosis Four" and "Mad Rush" stand out for me.
Glass also interprets his own works which is is not so common for classical music composers and some say he is not the best interpreter (of his own music) which I certainly disagree but I also found another interesting interpretation of "Solo Piano" by Branka Parlic (see the clips below). If you wish to dig deeper into Glass I also recommend the Glass Box and The Hours Soundtrack.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Enchained Souls: Tears of Silence (2006)

South America again: Enchained Souls is an amazing Gothic Metal discovery from Bahía Blanca, Argentina. Adorned with the "usual" growls and soprano vocals but compared to the genre average with a more atmospheric, delicate and sombre sound. The result is a fairly unique rendering of this genre. "Tears of Silence" was the first demo of the band released and the songs are in Spanish and English. I have to admit that I was not too fond of rock music with Spanish lyrics before but for sure Enchained Souls is one reason why my perception changed.

One feature I like particularly about Enchained Souls is the usage of a harpsichord which amplifies the atmosphere. Favourites of this record include the stunning beautiful "Innocence", "Torturandome con tus Recuerdos" with the mentioned harpsichord, "My Own Requiem" and "Moon Tears". If you like the band as well you should also check the first official release "Silentium Æternus". Here, in Europe unfortunately the band is a little bit far away but they had already concerts in Argentina with bands like Anathema, Tristania or Theatre of Tragedy. Currently, the state of the band at metal archives does not look too promising as it appears that some members left the band. Anyway, I certainly wish the band all the best. Cheers!

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

My charts for 2010

Heading towards mid February it is time to evaluate 2010: I feel that the importance of "record charts" is diminishing compared to lets say 20 years ago because music choices are more personal and styles and offers exploded. Nevertheless, if you look around the web there is plenty of them but I actually never cared about creating one so far myself. For instance, I like the lists over at BNR Metal a lot as they compare personal charts with votes ones. A short evaluation within foobar2000 showed me that I added 583 releases in 2010 (eps and lps) and these are my findings for the best of each month for 2010. Many of the entries are released in 2010 but As the release year does not matter for me there are also new highlights with a different release year:

January Badi Assad - Solo (1994) World Music, Jazz
February Magaly Solier - Warmi (2009) World Music
March Crookram - Through Windows (2010) Electronic Music
April Various Artists - Futuro Flamenco Vol. 2 (2003) World Music
May Comfort Fit - Forget And Remember LP (2005) Electronic Music
June Vacation :)
July Ghosthill - Embrace Of A Chasm (2010) Metal
August ReVamp - ReVamp (2010) Metal
September Dizzy Mizz Lizzy - Dizzy Mizz Lizzy & Rotator (2010) Alternative
October Evig Natt - Darkland (2010) Metal
November Hossein Alizadeh, Madjid Khaladj, Homa Niknam - Parandeha - Birds (2002) World Music
December Claudia Acuña - Wind From The South (1999) Jazz

So, from the music point of view 2010 has been a year of great discoveries for me - maybe you discovered something here, too!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Magaly Solier: Warmi (2009)

I first heard of Magaly Solier when she won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film festival in 2009 for "La teta asustada" (which is an excellent movie by the way). Like in her previous movie "Madeinusa" she had short sequences where she sang in her very unique and impressive style. Luckily, she also decided to publish with Warmi a really uniquie and beautiful piece of music. There are severaly things that make this record particularly special: The songs are sung for the most in Quechua (a native language of Peru and the Andes) and all the songs are written by herself. I have not been much of a fan of pan flutes and south american folk groups (playing in city centers) but Magaly Solier has changed my perception about Andean music strongly.

The songs accompanied by guitar, charango, quenas and violins have an exotic mood with Solier’s voice adding a very natural feeling. Lyrically, the songs deviate from standard folk music: One of my favorites from Warmi (meaning Woman in Quechua) "Ripu Ripusajmi" is a protest song that tells the story of a girl escaping from the physical abuse of her father. If you do not understand the language (like me) it gives you a pretty happy mood contrasting the actual dark lyrical theme. The record left my with a very intense impression changing my impression of Andean folk music but unfortunately Warmi is not commercialy available outside of Peru.
If you want to explore further this kind of music I recommend this blog which is dedicated solely to South American folk music.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Autechre: Laxir - Autechre Remixes 1994-2005

I've always been a big fan of Autechre's work. With their genuine style of electronic music which varies from catchy IDM tunes to (quite) abstract soundscapes they always manged to add something very exciting to their records. Besides the large number of albums and eps they were also busy as bees putting out a large number of remixes. Unfortunately, an official compilation was never released (maybe due to rights issues?) and so a couple of years ago I compiled a 6 disc home brew collections of Autechre's remixes all created between 1994-2005.

The tracks which are in rough chronological order display also the evolution of Autechre and more general the the change of electronic music over a decade. From dreamy ambient tracks like Saint Etienne's "Like A Motorway (Skin Up, You're Already Dead)" over to pushing tracks like Merzbow's "Ecobondage [Ending] Ae Remix" and abstract pieces like Hecker's "Itiso161/ae". My favorites are probably "Autechre Play Weissensee Against Im Glück" (composed by Neu!) with its drifting beats and the beautiful collaboration with post rockers Tortoise on "Ten-Day Interval (Adverse Camber)". The youtube playlist below features some of the compilation's tracks.
This version of Laxir is the second version which was finished in 2008 seeing some minor updates and including some cover artwork. You will also find included in the archives a text file with more specific information about the individual tracks. Cheers!

Part 1 2 3 Mirror 1 2 3 | Buy! | Myspace | Facebook | Official Web!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Arcturus And The Deception Circus: Disguised Masters (1999)

This jewel is a 1999 remake of Arcturus' album La Masquerade Infernale. Arcturus being originally a (black) metal band tried something completely new here. At a time when when musical genres were still more fixed than today they released a remix album and somehow, I am sure this is how Arcturus imagined this record originally to be – to break the tight boundaries of the metal scene with new arrangements and electronic oevres.
It reminds me a lot of what later Ulver and Manes released: metal either stripped away entirely or heavily augmented with samples, orchestral synths and electronics with songs and sounds completely re-arranged.
My personal highlights include "Du Nordavind (1998 Re-recording)" with its fine structures, "The Throne Of Tragedy (Phantom FX Jungle Remix)" with its twisted beats and the “gangstafied” hip-hop version of the title track "Master Of Disguise (Phantom FX Remix w/gangstafications by S.C.N.)". After some line-up changes it seems like the Arcturus split up but there are rumors of a reunion in the future – let's see if they can up with something truly innovative.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Alexandrina: Om de lut (2009)

This is the first album of the Moldavian artist Alexandrina Hristov. It's an excellent warm and interesting Jazz / Nu Jazz album spiced up with modern electronic sounds. I saw her live in 2009 in Romania and her concert was really fascinating not least because of the great backing band. "Om de lut" is Romanian and means "man (made) of clay". The lyrics are sung in Romanian, French and Russian giving this album a very special feeling.
Alexandrina is not only a great musician but she is also a fantastic painter (she painted the cover) - If you have some free bucks to spend you should check out her blog. Hope you enjoy this great listen!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Delgarma: Den Andra (2010)

"Den Andra" of Delgarma ("The other" in swedish) was one of my personal suprises of 2010. Delgarma is a folk indie type of band from France (Rhône-Alpes) and the songs are presented by Laïla Roux (of possible Swedish origin) in English, Swedish and French.
It is a netlabel release of LCL which described the record as "...a mystical inspired and an enchanting music served by a unique voice" which I can definitely support. According to the band it took more than 4 years to complete the record and this results in so many colors of the album. My favorite tracks are "Sweet as a cat" (see youtube below), "Reveil" with a very easy going Reggae feeling and Att Sakna (the only Swedish track). The album is a free Netaudio release so you should definitely check it out and leave comments over at the band website!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Kultur Shock: We Came To Take Your Jobs Away (2006)

A picture is worth a thousand words: This is definitely one of the greatest album cover I've seen. Kultur Shock is band from Seattle, USA playing music what I think is best described as Gypsy Punk similar to Gogol Bordello but more lively, aggressive. The band describes itself as a living organism with members originating from Bosnia, Bulgaria, Japan and the US and the lyrics presented by singer Gino Yevdjevich are really thoughtfully and ironic and deal to a large part about immigration. Here an excerpt from the first track God is Busy:
"I know, I'm stranger in your land,
I know, ladies and gentlemen,
I know, I am coming here to stay,
And take your jobs away.

And you know, I will trade your soul for mine,
Freedom doesn't cost a dime,
Don't waste your time, religion is crime,
I can make your problems go away right now,

'Cause God is Busy, may I help you?"
So all in all We Came To Take Your Jobs Away is really powerful energetic music coming along with a lot of humour. I wait for them to come to Europe for concerts again. But god is still busy...