Westerman: West London Crooner Takes His Time
Westerman does not demand your attention – his songwriting does that for you. The West London crooner takes that pleasant Spring sun feeling Real Estate perfected and emphasizes the melancholy of feeling sad on a beautiful day. The delivery is understated and restrained, the kind of writing that rewards multiple listens. Very excited to see what Westerman does next. Check out more via Blue Flowers Music.
“Describing people’s incessant urge to document their everyday lives, Westmeran asks “is it right to lay it all out like that?” Questioning whether we’re recording our lives or just feeding into narcissistic performances, “Keep Track” is a thought provoking and poignantly delicate song.”
Racha Rizk: “Diva of the Damascus Opera”
What a voice. Racha Rizk is a singer from Damascus now based in Paris. “Sakru Shababîk” is my current favorite Rizk track for that soulful, powerful voice and bonus electric guitar – something I don’t hear too often in Arabic pop. Check out her interview with Onorient from earlier this year, and check her out via Facebook.
From Onorient (translated):
“Passed far too unnoticed, the first album of the Syrian diva, “Malak” released early 2017, deserves to be widely presented on new scenes.
The compositions of Racha Rizk tell with troubling softness the destructive consequences of the war in Syria. Her past of prima donna at the Opera is guessed in the elegance of her phrasing and the amplitude of her melodies. With the freedom of the great artists, she sings in Arabic on oriental music tunes, tinged with jazz, pop suspicions, or a few rock riffs.
His enveloping voice has already charmed several generations of moviegoers in France. A few years ago, she had lent her voice to the films of the Lebanese director Nadine Labaki Caramel and And now we go where? From now on, its homage to Syria and the Syrians is a tribute to the web, beyond the borders.”
Sal Dulu: Mysterious yet Excellent Electronic Grooves from Ireland
I love the mystery of Sal Dulu. I know nothing about this musician (except the Ireland connection) and that the music sounds like the back corner of my mind driving along an empty highway at night thinking about nothing and everything. The music is vast and sexy. It’s worth your time. I also love “Duluoz Dream.”
Jo Tongo: Parisian Funk via Cameroon
The latest Africa Seven release is a collection of old and new tracks from Parisian funk great Jo Tongo. Active for many decades, Tongo is apparently working on new music to come out soon. Give this new collection a spin to hold you over and get your daily fill of high-quality afro-funk.
“Our hero, Jo Tongo (born Joseph Ekambi Tongo Mpondo) was born and raised in Douala Cameroon. In 1964 he headed off to Paris to begin Pharmaceutical studies. Somewhere along the way the music in his soul eventually won out and he embarked on a life of music. In the latest of our series of “Funk Experimentals” LPs we dig for the funk. Not necessarily the artists greatest hits but most definitely the funkiest ear benders. We proudly compile together tracks from 1968 to 3 new brand new exclusive tracks from present day 2017. And yes, they all have the funk. In spades.
The album opens up with stunningly catchy Jangolo. Jo’s awesomely funky bass and percussive “jangly” guitar. The track is underpinned by African drums, funky stabs and 70s nascent synthesiser string machines. Next up we take a trip to 1979 and “Funky Feeling” from Jo’s “Those Flowers” album. Here the beats are big, the strings are sweet and the clavi is into overdrive. We then jump back to 1976 for the evergreen, horn-puncher, funk stomper “Piani”. Before the sweet smooth funk of “Those Flowers”.
Next up is “American Lady” with the bright strings, jangly guitars and driving keys. All locked on to maximize the groove. We then take a trip back to 1968 for Jo’s second single the ever so funky and ever so ahead of its time, “Dig It Babe”. Soul, horns, groove and punch all in two perfect packages. Part 1 and Part 2. Next up it is the funk boogie afro swingers “Ewande”.
Bringing things up date we jump forward to 2017, present day. Jo has been making music more or less non-stop and here we are lucky to premier three brand new tracks. The drums are punchy, the guitars ooze the funk and the locked on keys tie the tracks together in one tight-as package. Jo is on the production and at the controls for the mix. “Lion Roar” is first with its driving clavinet and all-out-assault funky drums. The brass is big and this song is Bold with a capital “B”. “It’s The D Day” is next with swinging soul style groove before “Mystic Power” features a ballsy brass-laden beat and jazz funk overtones.
Many thanks Jo for choosing the music. Nearly 50 years at the top of the game.”
Frida Sundemo: “the exquisite alt-pop songstress channels wide-eyed beauty and desolate melancholy”
I love everything about Frida Sundemo‘s “Gold.” I love how it starts out like Robyn singing Sigur Rós before turning into Charli XCX scoring a Christopher Nolan film. I love how everyone in Sweden knows how to write perfectly melancholy pop bangers. AND I love Sundemo’s voice and how little she needs to rely on a massive band, though “Gold” sounds big in the best way.
“In between hope and despair stands Frida Sundemo. Wrapped in echoes and surrounded by pattering synths, the exquisite alt-pop songstress channels wide-eyed beauty and desolate melancholy with each spellbinding note and delicate breath, with each and every heartbeat.”
EABS: Polish Jazz for an Eclectic New Generation
Polish jazz? Right away I’m hooked. But before you know it, EABS (Electro-Acoustic Beat Sessions) quickly turns the corner into darker, jazz-influenced hip-hop a la BADBADNOTGOOD. Then it all gets violent and explodes in sound and then comes back all together again in a mesh of grooves. And it’s all dedicated to Krzysztof Komeda. And it’s only the first song. It’s so great.
Check out more music via Astigmatic Records.
EABS debut album entitled “Repetitions (Letters To Krzysztof Komeda)” is a dedication to Polish Jazz legend Krzysztof Komeda. This album is an analysis of conscientiously selected compositions by Komeda between 1962-1967. EABS explores some of Komeda’s lesser-known compositions featured in ballet etudes, movies, short films, documentaries, animations and compositions illustrating Polish poems recited in German.
Carefully chosen compositions, the background of the movies for which the music had been written and Marek Pędziwiatr’s lyrics all add up to “Repetitions” being some kind of a concept album about the condition of the human soul in the 21st century. The questions one may ask might be similar to those which could have been asked by the artists witnessing post-war debris: will history come full circle? Lack of knowledge, flourishing idiocracy, aggression, aiming for conflicts, shortage of community spirit and love may lead to another doomsday. Perhaps we simply aren’t able to see the impending doom now… Just like in a poem by Czesław Miłosz, “A Song on the End of the World”, to which Krzysztof Komeda wrote “Waltzing Beyond”.
Kukushai: musicians from South Korea and Slovenia unite in the name of experimental jazz
It sounds like insects marching towards war at first, and then Eva Poženel’s vocals come in and oh shit it’s a jazz thing but with a Fiona Apple-like stomp. Kukushai‘s explosion of sound could go off any minute, but Sun Mi Hong’s drumming keeps everything in check and Rok Zalokar’s keys move things along. It’s all theatrical, and it’s all quite beautiful and bizarre at times. Poženel, Hong, and Zalokar all met in Rotterdam, The Netherlands and they use their varying cultural heritages (Poženel and Zalokar from Slovenia, Hong from South Korea) to good use.
Fruitile is out now via Slovenian label ZARŠ Records.
“Avantgarde pop trio with original music that’s flirting with jazz, rock and even punk, but don’t take these labels to heart, listen and decide for yourself”
Mariesena: existential Ukrainian screamo
There’s a video on YouTube where Mariesena, a screamo band from Ukraine, plays a cover of Orchid’s “…And The Cat Turned To Smoke” live in their hometown Odessa, on the Black Sea. The song is a classic that fans know, but the reaction of the crowd is not what an American or European screamo lover would expect: the audience sang, cried, desperately held their heads, and comforted each other while falling on their knees.
It’s not a parody nor a meme, but one way to show dedication to a genre that has developed quite a cult following in some ex-USSR countries. While foreign bands are rather worshiped here, the local scenes in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia are alive and well, delivering several interesting emo and screamo bands every year. Mariesena is one of them, and a great starting point for those who want to dig in these unexplored territories. Unlike many of the other bands they share the stage with, their lyrics are in English, exploring romantic and existentialist poetics in a personal style, especially on their full-length Ruth. The music is raw, violent and passionate, with reckless conjunctions between emoviolence chaos and staid moments of lo-fi clean arpeggios and abrupt screams.
The band, which broke up in 2014, has played a reunion show just last week in Odessa, with 200 people sweating and screaming all of their lyrics, but its members have also released a good quantity of material with other bands in the past couple of years. Yotsuya Kaidan, for example, are releasing these days what is one of the most poignant screamo EPs to ever come from Ukraine.
Modern Love: Early Hives Meets Iceage Meets Norwegian Lyrics
Possibly due to its dark and cold winters and the lukewarm midnight sun of its short summers, Scandinavia is a land of harsh and juicy oppositions when it comes to music. The most famous artists that come out of here are either writing some of the catchiest melodies ever composed – think of Abba and A-ha – or playing the darkest and most terrific metal in the world, with a large portion of them playing black metal.
While often being included in a scene that prefers heavy and fast music, Modern Love from Oslo clearly belongs to the first category. They play a sort of peppy and distorted punk inspired by ’80s patterns, yet the real secret of the band, active since 2012, lays in their ability to write captivating melodies capable of surmounting the language barrier – their lyrics are in Norwegian, yet they sound almost intelligible to any English speaker for the enthusiastic nerve they hold.
Their geographic provenance can actually be heard quite clearly on their last album Tross Alt. Not just because of the lyrics, but also because the sonic references on the record definitely points towards the Northern countries of Europe: there’s the charisma of The Hives from Sweden, but also the primeval punk energy of Iceage from Denmark.
And like The Hives, Modern Love are at their best during their live performances. The singer wriggles on the stage, making eye contact with the crowd at every word he sputters with a ’77 punk vibe. Unlike the first wave of punk, though, he spreads only positivity in between the songs, turning his band’s show into a spate of “free hugs” and motivational words; to fight indifference and offer an example of what a real (modern) love should actually look like.
Bankrupt: melodic punk rock from Budapest
There’s a lot to like in Hungarian punk rock band Bankrupt, from the driving beat of the drums and guitar to the English dub-like keys and horns. You can hear a lot of the Ramones, the Descendents, NOFX, and the Misfits in these melodies and lyrics. Long live hooks!
“Inspired by the best moments of punk rock history, [this] Budapest based three-piece delivers a unique blend of old school and new school melodic punk rock, tinged with some punkabilly, rock and roll punk, and garage rock. Regardless of what hype is going on right now on what was earlier called the punk rock scene, [they] stick to the music they like, and continue writing songs that sound the way punk rock was meant to be. This is the sound of Riot City and it sweeps you away with the speed of a rocket.”