Manafonistas

on life, music etc beyond mainstream

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At first listening, this Polish-Scandinavian collaboration seems almost too archetypal ECM for its own good. But there‘s more to UNLOVED than the surface of the surface may offer. So wait and listen. My edition of Deutschlandfunk’s „JazzFacts“ on December 7th, 9.05 p.m., will shed some light over Marciej Obara‘s debut on ECM. And the sax player will speak about it, in his home language. Other themes are in preparation. Please let us not discuss t h i s album here. But: are there brand new or quite new jazz, jazz-related albums out there (from lesser known labels) I might present on that evening‘s program? Do I have to go back to some overlooked gems? Nearly no one knows, for example, the highly inventive approach to Erik Satie, performed by a piano player and a cornetist, right?! Released on Steeplechase Records. And, with special works, it’s always the question what can still be called jazz in the widest sense? Jon Balke‘s fantastic new album seems a bit far out for a program called „JazzFacts“. Mhmm …  For German listeners: a week later, December 14th, same time, Anouar Brahem’s internationally acclaimed new work is in the focus of Karl Lippegaus‘ portrait.

 

Not easy. You really need access to all four seasons, and they are, via streaming, only accessible on Amazon Prime. Only seasons 1 and 2 got DVD/BLURAY releases, so, you better wait till the COMPLETE HALT AND CATCH FIRE BOX SET will have been released one day in the future. Future is anyway a main topic here, and, as in so many cases, a future long gone. So when time has come, you will dive into the world of four, five flawed main characters who are obsessed with the dawn of the then new computer age, and, in not so discreet ways, with one another, and their own demons. Full program. Soundtracking is great and overpowers the shitty mainstream of the ‚80s. Don‘t expect any far-reaching analysis deeply grounded in sociological and psychological knowledge here. Please. We have this knowledge, we‘re no dumbheads, but, may I say so in the the name of Joey, too, we are still rendered rather speechless by our heaven-and-hell-ride over the last weeks rushing by like an autumn leaf under a stormy evening sky. Clever writing is strictly forbidden when catharsis still works. The aftermath, the afterglow. It is very helpful to stay away from reading any reviews before entering the world of Cameron, Joe, Gordon, Donna and Bos. Stay innocent and let your heart be broken slowly. Seeing is creating. It works best in the dark, with your love or loneliness or ghost friends at your side. You’ll never watch alone. Interesting, though „Mercy Street“ is wonderfully placed at one point, I got, after having seen it all, a big hunger for a different Peter Gabriel album: MELT. The common ground: everything‘s constantly on the verge of falling apart (with great rhyhtms) – and, here we go, some damn good  story-telling may be on its way to you. Just melt away!

One week ago, a friend asked me about the best-sounding jazz album ever. What a question, I answered. I don‘t know anything about „ever“, but ask me about a certain time. Then he asked me about the best-sounding jazz album of my teenager years, and the best-sounding album „before my time“. Okay, choices made instantly. I said, „Dis“ with Jan Garbarek, Ralph Towner, and the short appearances of a wind harp. And thinking of the times before my time, I said, „Way Out West“. It was made in the middle of the night on March 7, 1957, in the shipping room of a small Los Angeles record company, with an underpaid engineer recording a trio playing cowboy songs on a first-generation stereo Ampex tape deck through a homemade mixing console. It seems an unlikely setting for one of the greatest jazz recordings of all time, musically and sonically. But the players were Sonny Rollins and Ray Brown and Shelly Manne, and, on that night, they were cookin’. What seems like strange duo of vinyl albums, makes some extra sense when realizing a strong bond between them: deep relaxation, high intensity, breathing space. Real favourites.

 

It is a distant beach, out of reach for any flight company. People gather on the beaches playing congas, bongos, everything you can hit on. A summer of love vibe in the air and I don‘t know the exact moment where I understood, oh, I‘m dreaming. It happened maybe fifteen years ago (in real life), I always loved the idea of being part of a community who has written peace and love on their flags, and really lives it.

In this dream I am looking for a woman of my dreams, and there she is, I leave out the details of her features, her dark brown skin. We have a lovely conversation about Antonioni‘s movie with the big villa exploding in the end. I tell her how similar this scenery is to the Hippie shangrila of the movie. She says, this is not a movie, and I know, this is a dream, but don‘t want to make things more complicated. She is so real, and her kisses full of life and extravaganza. I tried some of the tricks to stay inside the lucid dream. Quick turnarounds of the body, keeping yourself saying this is a dream. Interesting, all these strategies didn‘t interfere with my romantic feelings.

After another series of kisses and dense body contact – I never came closer to an orgasm inside a lucid dream without awakening – she‘s standing up being worried about the dark clouds appraching the sand with a surreal hurry. Within seconds hard rain is hitting the ground, and everybody‘s looking for shelter. In this tohuwabohu, where everyone is strangely on his and her own, the whole idea of  community is replaced by a nasty fight for survival. The rain coming down so hard, it hurts, makes all of us run, run, run, without thinking, without empathy, and I lose every bit of knowing the state of my mind of being inside a dream.

Cause, otherwise, I could‘ve stopped the rain.

 

 

One – Zazou / Bikaye / Cy1: Noir et Blanc
Two –  Midori Takada: Through The Looking Glass
Three – Bark Psychosis: Hex
Four – The Necessairies: Event Horizon
Five – Pep Llopis: Poiemusia La Nau Dels Argonautes
Six – Michelle Mercure: Eye Chant
Seven – Barney Wilen: Moshi
Eight – Hiroshi Yoshimura: Music for Nine Postcards

 

You can look at this photo with hypnotized eyes. It was shot on a lovely, sun-drenched evening. A moment of silence inside. On that day I listened to the last album of the late Tom Petty. Time for time drifters and glass breakers. The two women on the photo leave the zone of blue shadows and return to the flow of life. The campfires have all been blown out. Benmont Trench is sitting in a corner.

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It‘s a nice way to put it as Michael Dervan from The Irish Times did writing that „Silvestrov seems to be inexorably drawn to the aching losses of the past, and in thrall to the lingering traces of favourite musical shapes and harmonies.“ How apparently simple an album can be while at the same time keeping its magic and mysteries up in the air of the studio space. Lugano studio space, this time.

Let‘s mix up genres and think of other albums that have a comparable approach to sound and silence. The different „Selbstporträt“-albums by Roedelius come to mind, as come, apart from the classical ambient stuff, „Northern Song“, „Cello“, „Provenance“, „Evening Star“ (side one), „Music For Nine Postcards“. Or John Cage‘s favourite shakuhachi record.

I really wanted to hear the album of Anja Lechner and her partner in the two-cello pieces, when Gregs wrote his short notes on the album, and I stumbled on the name Silvestrov. Different to our jukebox trader in the far north, I only have one of his albums, „Stille Lieder“ – that title always rings a bell of ancient haikus, dark clearings, and, sorry for the cliche, a view to the horizon at sea. And, of course, I have a vivid memory of the fantastic (quiet concert) of Lechner and Couturier in Jameos De Agua.

So take your time strolling through the record collection of your mind coming up with musics where nothing really happens on the surface. It takes some time into „Hieroglyphen der Nacht“ till a kind of simple melody turns up. So much is absorbed by pale shadows, night skies, desolate harbours, immersed by a world of grey. Yes, indeed, and closing with Michael Dervan, „they sound fully attuned to the world of these diary-like, gentle obsessions.“

Haben die Namen nicht schon was vom hohen Norden Deutschlands? Vor etlichen Jahren erlebte ich sie auf der Burg Wilhelmstein, und war überrascht, wie viele einzelne Lieder mitsingen konnten. KETTCAR sind alte Hamburger Schule, und erfrischend jung geblieben. Die Gesänge sind schön rotzig, mit dem Schuss Zartheit, der mit jedem Refrain ins Kämpferische gleiten kann. ICH VS. WIR heisst ihr jüngstes Album, grosse raue Stoffe ohne Weltbewegtheit. Da wird die im Scheitern erprobte Story des Ichs dem auch gern verfallenden Wir entgegengesetzt, die Stimme des Leadsängers so nah an die Instrumente gemischt, dass man froh ist, ein Textbuch dabei zu haben. „Nicht schlafen, bevor wir hier / Heute Nacht das Meer sehen / Spüren, wie kalt es wirklich ist / Benzin und Kartoffelchips / Jede Scheisse mitsingen können / Irgendwann ist irgendwie / Ein anderes Wort für nie.“ So geht es hier zu, und wer meint, es rumpelt ein wenig in der schnoddrigen Sprache, wie in der alten Rio-Reiser-Schule, der hat wohl recht, doch trifft hier vieles den richtigen falschen Ton im allerfeinsten Schrammelrock der Ungereimtheiten und botschaftsfernen Träumereien. So ein Album tut verdammt gut, vollkommen uncool. Hier werden die Reste linken Bewusstseins so zusammen gezimmert, dass man immer wieder in das Quantum Trotz einstimmen möchte, ein bisschen hymnisch, ein wenig verloren, am besten mit Textbuch.


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They were a short-lived group with a history. They were nearly lost in oblivion, aside from the happy few New Yorkers with some of their vinyl from the early days of CBGB’s. Arthur Russell was part of the game, and part of their ending, but The Necessairies were not his band. First steps included a single produced by John Cale. Brian Eno lived around the corner. I never even heard the  name of the band, till the label sent me the reissue vinyl copy. Nice cover, I thought. And Arthur Russell? Remember this fucking genius who died so early – the endless line of HIV victims brought bitter endings to a blossoming cultural climate of the ’80s. Arthur Russell was no icon, no hero, he was a versatile composer and creator who preferred the background, loved going  to extremes and sabotaging every trace of mainstream.  He was re-discovered by a long article from David Toop (!) in the „Wire“, more than ten years ago. From that time on, his old works surfaced one after the other. The Necessairies belonged to his most accessible collaborations, maybe one of the reasons he quit service on a taxi ride when street traffic brought evrything to a long halt. For him it might have looked metaphorically. Life is full of errors. Listening to the re-mastering of „Event Horizon“ left me stunned. You know the difference between finding an artefact from times long gone and nod your head in respect – and jumping from your seat by the sheer joy of a „love at first sound“-album . „Event Horizon“ is such a beautiful thing, that of course exists in a power spot of New York’s New Wave offsprings from  The Modern Lovers to The Talking Heads. That said The Necessairies delivered their unique version of sharply cut „sunshine avant-pop“ with a fantastic rhythm section, great guitar work and the undergrowth of Mr. Russell. Its originality and playfulness is ending every discussion of just playing the memory game.

 

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Sie sei einmal sehr wütend gewesen, erzählt sie, als sie ihr frühes Album „My Sweet Old World“ in einem Schallplattenladen fand, mit dem Etikett „out of print“, und dem Mann an der Kasse mitteilte, das sei ein Irrtum. Lucinda Williams war nie blutjung, nicht mal in ihren Anfängen, ähnlich wie Leonard Cohen. Aber glauben Sie ernsthaft, Leonard Cohen hätte jemals erwogen, gute 25 Jahre nach „Songs of Love and Hate“ „Songs of Love and Hate“ noch einmal aufzunehmen? Never ever.

Wenn Lucinda Williams genau das nun macht, stellt sich die Frage nach dem Warum. Eine Erholungspause nach Jahrzehnten, in denen sie eine Qualitätsarbeit nach der andern ablieferte? Ein Spiel mit dem Trend, Klassiker der eigenen Werkgeschichte live neu auzuführen, und warum dann nicht gleich als Studioaufnahme? Haben nicht sowieso alle Legenden und Sternchen Standards und Lieblingslieder wieder und wieder dargeboten, ein Teil der Aufführungspraxis – die volle Breitseite zwischen nostalgischer Patina (Streicher! Streicher!) und zersetzender Dekonstruktion a la Dylan. Letzterer hat es zuletzt allerdings auch gemütvoll angehen lassen.

Nun hat Lucinda Williams, mit ihrer fantastischen Gruppe (ich hatte das Glück, sie jüngst in Köln zu erleben), dem Frühwerk ihr Spätwerk  (64 Lenze, und soviele „beautiful losers“) an die Seite gestellt. Statt die alten Lieder an den Rand der Unkenntlichkeit zu treiben, kommen sie daher, als würde sie jedes einzelne Lied zum ersten Mal vortragen, oder als würde sie schon so lange in ihnen wohnen, dass die sich dort rumtreibenden Schatten einen Perspektivwechsel nach dem andern befeuern. You want it darker? Here it is.


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