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Warp and Weft - Weaving The Week's Warbles

Updated: Jan 28

Starring


The Coral, Fabiano Do Nascimento, Gonzalez Smith and Jay Gonzalez, Haakon Ellingsen, John Came, Ruth Mascelli, Stephen Steinbrink, U-Ziq,


The Front Runners


Sea of Mirrors : The Coral


These sixties, folk tinged songs show the Coral at their best.


The Coral have been around now for over twenty years. Many bands over that time will have given in to temptation, and grown bigger and bloated, losing sight of their music in a bombastic barrage of programmed effects . I’m thinking of Oasis, Muse and you too, U2. 


Not The Coral. They still work in miniatures. They may be from Liverpool, but there’s little of the big city in their songs. They could have built a career rewriting their catchy debut single ‘Dreaming of You’. Instead, they’ve dug down to their musical roots and nourished them. Their music sounds unpolished, but it’s still a gem lovingly and intricately displayed. They’ve made their musical choices and they show a band still full of integrity in their music.


This collection has a folkier feel. You can imagine their natural home to be, not a festival, but a county show. You can even imagine it transported to the American Plains. ‘North Wind’ taps into the kind of song that Frankie Laine made his own, an image of a lonesome cowboy surveying the scene from the top of a windswept, pencil line ridge.


‘Cycles of the Season’ is a great start. It has a lovely tune, surprisingly one where the verse melody is even stronger than the chorus. It’s a case of leaving you wanting more as I, for one, would have loved a longer outro. The Coral aren’t about to start wasting notes once they’ve made their point.


Strings are surprisingly prominent - proper strings, not fiddles! They make the sound of ‘That’s Where She Belongs’ and ‘Dream River’.


What The Coral have achieved is an album that is authentic and, quite likely, dear to their hearts. It may well become dear to your hearts too.


Taster Track : Cycles of the Season 




Every Day The Weather’s Changing : Haakon Ellingsen


This set of Norwegian folk pop with occasional psychedelic touches is as gentle and well meaning as music comes, in many ways the perfect antidote to modern life.


When I listen to someone for the first time, as a suburbanite constantly in a rush with memories of rush hour commutes, I’m known to jump to hasty first impressions. So when ‘Oh Butterfly’ fluttered out of the headphones I immediately wondered if this was for me. It is. In fact I’m exactly the kind of person who should listen to this and learn to slow down.


Through his music, Haakon strikes me as a gentle man who probably talks to trees, allows birds to feed from his hand and is friends with Bambi. He’ll know how to make good tasting nettle wine and which mushrooms are safe to forage. And, as he puts it in the title of the closing track to this lovely album, we will be friendly now.


Your heart will go out to him, concerned that life will crush his tender and fragile melodies and knock his warm and wise vocals out of the way. This is music full of pastel colours that will rub away the world’s harshness. As Pete Townshend did when he found and listened to the note in ‘Pure and Easy’, Haakon has located a deeper meaning for life in ‘The Melody’. It's worth pausing and listening to what he has to sing.


As for the songs, I picked up folk flavours more strongly than psychedelic ones but both are there, most clearly on ‘Oh Butterfly’. ‘Rusty Morning’ is a nicely composed song that builds winningly. He’s writing about what he knows and believes and, in ‘Fields of Heather’, you sense that he plays the song with a look of smiling wonder on his face and you welcome the folk infused jangle on his guitar. ‘Fire Engine Man’ is the kind of song that serves as a lullaby as cares fall away and you drift off into a reverie.


So, Mr semi detached suburban commuter man, allow yourself to listen to this and remember what it feels like to make time for the truly important moments in life.


Taster Track : Fields of Heather



The Chasing Pack


Das Nuvens : Fabiano do Nascimento


Intimate slices of guitar and electronica characterise this album from Fabiano do Nascimento.


It’s an album that requires patience from the listener. If you’re in a hurry for things to happen, listen elsewhere. If you subscribe to Roxette’s philosophy of ‘Don’t bore us - get to the chorus’ this album could feel like purgatory.


Here you won’t find easy melodies but crafted musicianship. This is music for staring at the world and trying to make sense of it. It’s for gazing at dormant volcanoes or emerging atolls in wonder and trying to understand their scale and meaning.


Das Nuvens is full of music that is a backdrop. It doesn’t go anywhere. A track such as ‘Aurora’ is simply there. Any developments in the piece occur at a micro level. They’re the slight shift in the armchair, rather than a meaningful forward movement. It’s the same approach sometimes taken by Ryuichi Sakomoto.


What you will find is an album full of lonely loveliness, like ‘Stranger Nights’. It holds something to accompany a night shift on your own.’Thrdwrld’ has the squeak of guitar strings that suggests you’re up close and personal for an intimate performance.


There are moments that are lighter, but it’s the light that comes with the first glimmer of a breaking dawn. ‘Blu’s Dreamer’ and ‘3 Pontas’ provide a couple of them.


All told, this is an album for slowing down, pausing for breath and taking time to marvel at the wonders of life.


Taster Track : 3 Pontas




Roll Up A Song : Gonzalez Smith and Jay Gonzalez


Listen to this collection of short, traditional pop songs if you need something warm and sincere that can cheer you up.


Gonzalez Smith’s real first name is Peter. He’s written the lyrics.Jay Gonzalez spends most of his time with hard rockers Drive By Truckers. He plays the tunes, and not in the style of his day job.


If you traced the lineage of these songs back to the early days of rock and roll, you’d find that they were descended from Cliff, not Elvis. Yes. Elvis could write and perform sweet songs - ‘Teddy Bear’ for one - but his hip swivelling leather clad persona always undermined their sincerity. Cliff could sing ‘Summer Holiday’ and you’d offer to help him pack.


These are songs that are instantly recognisable even though they’re not covers. There’s ‘Forgetting You’, their song of 10CC denial. Then there’s ‘Brazilian Sugar’ with its flavour of soft, lilting Brazilian guitar. Help yourself to some ‘Gelato’ if you want to relive the experience of dating as a teenager. It’s familiar even if you’ve never set foot in an ice cream parlour. 


Punk blew all this music away, but pre-punk you could still listen to the Top 30 countdown and hear 4 or 5 songs of this kind. It’s not to be dismissed. Some of the biggest names of the 60s and 70s dabbled in these waters - Nilsson’s ‘The Puppy Song’, Randy Newman’s ‘Simon Smith’ and even the Velvet Underground with ‘After Hours’. They haven’t done so with as much naive charm though.


It’s as if the Gonzalez’s looked around, wondered where this style of music had gone and decided to make their own. It’s a self sufficient musical version of The Good Life, light and disposable but that’s by no means a bad thing in pop. The fightback against cynicism in pop starts here, with water pistols at dawn.


I don’t know about rock and roll but this timeless pop and I like it.


Taster Track : Forgetting You




Rhythmicon : John Came


Back in 1995, experiments were underway to imagine how music might sound 30 years later. This album by John Came is one of those experiments.


It’s intriguing and interesting if not getting it completely right. There’s a concept behind it that I’d need a lot longer than the 45 minute running time to understand and explain. It’s something like : Mathematics determines harmony and hence rhythm. Can you work backwards and determine harmony from rhythm?


I’ll pause there while you scratch your head and reach for the aspirin. If you’re interested in exploring this further, try John Came. (This press release also reveals something foe the puzzle lovers among you.)


To the music, and it’s fair to say it sounds like the work of machines composing a mix of classical and electronic music. You hear its gears shifting, and its pistons pumping. Think of it as steam powered AI generated sound.


It’s driven by rhythm. The opening tracks ‘Root’ and ‘Heavenly Clean’ are busy, like a sped up aerial view of a mainline terminus during rush hour. The rhythm gives the tunes the groove that ties them together. The sound, compared to what we hear today is thin, bleached and metallic. 


‘Yellow’ is a musical representation of a normal daily scene unfolding before you. You could be watching a family group of animals in their enclosure, each going about their separate business. 


To be honest, there’s not a lot happening in quite a few places. It’s the audio equivalent of people watching though, and not without its fascination.


Tunes do emerge, perhaps proving the theory that maths can produce music. ‘Transit Authority’ and ‘Ink Tank’ are quirky instrumentals that entertain.


Rhythmicon is a technical exercise that might prompt a quest to understand how the music we love today came to be.


Taster Track : Transit Authority 



Non Stop Healing Frequency : Ruth Mascelli


This is an album of electronic mood pieces, sometimes accompanied by crooning vocals, but ultimately it fails to satisfy.


Ruth Mascelli’s day job is as a member of the band Special Interest, described in his Spotify bio as a No Wave / Glam / Industrial band. This, then, is his softer side and it’s quite appealing.

It’s generally a soft and gentle affair. His voice may not be that of a natural singer but it’s warm, tender and likeable - a crooner dressed up in the guise of a much older brother babysitting an admiring sibling.


As it opened, this record felt like the soundtrack to an animated cartoon featuring Beatrix Potter characters of the Morph the Plasticine Man from Vision On. Elsewhere it feels like a ‘lope along thru the cosmos’, to steal one of his song titles to make the description for me. 


But there’s an edge here too, uneasy shifts in tone to something harsher.  Yes, it’s measured and even graceful but there’s also a suggestion of something nasty beneath the surface that is controlled but could break through at any moment.


Musically, as this electronic style frequently is, it’s tethered to the bass line. ‘Etheric Double’ is a case in point, prevented from floating away into ambient nothingness by a strong bass groove.


Ultimately though, it doesn’t quite satisfy. It devotes a seriousness to something that is inessential. It doesn’t grip. Its beauty is fleeting and its melodies are insufficiently robust.


This is a brave attempt at something a little different but it just misses its target.


Taster Track : Etheric Double



Disappearing Coin : Stephen Steinbrink



Stephen Steinbrink is a singer songwriter who performs lo fi but fully developed songs that make for an easy and pleasant way to fill 45 minutes of your time.


January is a funny time for music. It’s  a close season for record releases. The big names have gone into hibernation leaving the way clear for less assertive artists to step forward. It’s a good time for more independent acts, like ending Glastonbury with an open mic set while cleaning up carries on all around.


So, it’s Stephen Steinbrink’s chance to shine in the spotlight and he doesn’t fluff it. These songs are lo-fi but not harsh like a garage band aiming to make a noise rather than music. It’s an encouraging album in the sense that music can still be made this way without the need for big corporate backing.


The trouble is, it doesn’t give me much to say. The 15 songs here are all likeable. They’re concise songs that do what they came to do and then move on without extended intros, elongated outros or unnecessary middle eights. The downside is that there isn’t enough variety to give each of them a distinct personality. Those songs include two alternate versions (reprises if you will, and Steinbrink will.) Elsewhere, and in other times,  these might have been bonus tracks or B sides. As it is, it feels as if he was unable to choose which of his children to leave behind. That’s sweet in its way.


‘Opalescent Ribbon’ is a nicely layered piece, but one layer at a time. It’s fun wondering what will come next. ‘If There’s Love In Your Heart’ lopes along steadily, as does ‘Comedy’. ‘Cool and Collected’ has a catchy rhythm and enjoyable tune. ‘Cruiser’ (and its reprise) has a little bit of Westerman in the mix and a tiny seasoning of Elliott Smith at his least morose.


Listening to this felt like going on an overlong road trip, but  in amenable company. 


All told, this is an enjoyable album unlikely to jump out of the pack but it’s welcome on a playlist near me any time.


Taster Track :Cruiser



1977 : U-Ziq


U-Ziq moves away from his lovely brand of intelligent come down music  and ventures further into a darker ambience with this release from last year.


If U-Ziq releases a new album I want to listen to it. He respects his craft and you know that the album will be created with care, that his gift won’t be scattered around on fripperies but used to make something substantial and enduring. ‘Allegro’ is a fitting testimony to that with its echoes of a church organ.


1977 isn’t an entry level album for U-Ziq’s music though. It has nothing to match the pop magic of ‘Jynxiq’ or ‘Magic Pony Ride Part 3’. There are glimpses of it. ‘4AM’ opens the album. It’s a surprising but accessible sound, the Enya like vocals offset by a quiet and confident electronic backdrop. Of course it works. This is U-Ziq and he knows what he is doing. ‘Belt and Carpet’ has a hook to draw in the casual listener. It’s a slowed down version of what he’s done best in the past. ‘Froglets’ simmers pleasingly to close the album too.


The rest needs careful and repeated listening to reveal its pleasures. Second track in, ‘Eire’ moves us from the chill down lounge to the ambient space, and U-Ziq is happy to stay there. The darker, more threatening tone of ‘Marmite’ may act like marmite on the listener. It has a metallic sound, like a dentist’s drill. ‘1977’ is a bubbling piece - not bubbly like champagne drunk in a jacuzzi, but bubbling like a witches cauldron. It’s a haunting piece though, just not what you might expect. Elsewhere tracks spread out like an unidentified liquid from a cracked vial.


As a leading light in electronic music today, this is, on its terms, a masterclass in electronic composition. There are sounds here I’ve not heard elsewhere - those gurgling bubbles for example on ‘1977’. But it lacks the lightness and the uplifting bounce of his recent work.


This is an album that is impressive in all its aspects. I worry though that it’s not quite as enjoyable.


Taster Track : Belt and Carpet



Playlists


As ever this week's Taster Track playlists can be accessed at https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7cSveL7NpVp1xgrKxPe4av?si=SkFlSnvySeuYFpgG0WJFmA or via the Spotify link on the Home Page.



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