LLUIS LLACH – Viatge a Itaca (1975)

Review by: Charly Saenz
Album assigned by: Roland Bruynesteyn

Well, this definitely ain’t my area of expertise (if I have any, this is not!), this is a songwriter album, Spanish but in Catalan, much in the vein of Joan Manuel Serrat. The surroundings are way important, as this was 1975, the last year of Franco in Spain, and well Lluis was not exactly a supporter of the government, with that Catalan singing and all. This belongs in a sacred category where only artists like Leon Gieco, Violeta Parra or Mercedes Sosa (or Serrat for the matter) are welcome.

“Itaca” is the tour de force, 15 minutes long and is the closer you can get to a prog rock vibe. At around 4:00 there is an evolution into a bigger sound, an orchestra slowly crawls in and the song becomes a little symphony, not unlike a tragic “Odessa” piece. It’s an interesting intermezzo that returns a little later, more prominent, with a majestic choral arrangement and unexpected electric guitar flourishes, Pink Floyd-Ummagumma like. But in the heart this is a great folk song, and in the end it all comes together and Lluis does his best singing out his lungs, and we end up with birds sounds and beach waves.

It’s a chant about travelling, freedom, about warriors, about wisdom.

“A forca de nits” a pretty lullaby-folk song gives way to “Escriu-me aviat”, my favourite song in the album, a staggering beautiful piano motif, full band, night mood, flute and the most intense piece of lyrics for an erotic love song:

Write soon,
don’t wait any longer
don’t let this anguish win me over
don’t turn loneliness
into my loyal companion

Write soon,
every word a gesture
every phrase a look
Write soon
and as much as you can
fill the emptiness
of words.

“Fins el Mai” is another love song with a great bass line:

I want all the fresh smell of your kiss
Feel the seconds of your heart beat.

“Abril 74” is a combat litany, that serves as a goodbye song, a loving cup for all the friends in the war, in case we all do make it back home:

Brothers, if you are searching for the springs of freedom,
with you I want to go
For enjoying them
I became a soldier.

This is an intense and meaningful album, musically dated (Thank God for that) except for the highlights, but enormous for its lyrics; this is a music tied to a time and a place and all the more important for that.

DANNY KIRWAN – Second Chapter (1975)

Review by: Charly Saenz
Album assigned by: Nina A

Why do some people draw comparisons between this album and America? It’s in the voice I guess. It’s country rock, too, but that’s where it ends. This is a great, minor key album, that reveals more on the second (and third) listening. Ideal setting: Put on the fire, get some Fernet (with Coke for me dear) and caress the dog (or cat, a Maine Coon ideally if you don’t mind the hair) while you put on the vinyl record on the old 1974 Pioneer turntable, a PL-530 for me, thanks..
We’ll I’m letting myself go. Danny was a member of the more obscure stage in Fleetwood Mac’s career, so it is a nice surprise to listen to this piece of music forgotten by history (not in Youtube, not in Spotify, who are you? Van Morrison?).
The album starts off with a lively countrysh song, “Ram Jam City”. Fiddles, nice vocals and a cool melody line. Great song in the best Dillard & Clark tradition. “Odds and Ends” is a little more like saloon music, Macca style, a little wonder and it does work. “Hot Summer Day” is a delight, worthy of being covered by Karen Carpenter. Adult contemporary music at its best.
Well, “Mary Jane” is more.. ska. And this one does sound like America indeed. In the worst possible way. Not my cup of tea. Next! “Skip A Dee Do” is another happy Macca-like song, but this one is much better, though the title may put you off initially (like Ob-la-di Ob-la-da should by the way).
“Love Can Always Bring You Happiness” is perfect and sunny, with those fiddles, not “Hot Summer Day” level, though, but the chord changes are beautiful. “Second chapter” is more subdued and there are nice details here and there but it’s always this wrapping sweet effect that gets you. An ideal companion for the nighttime relax mood. At a certain point the song grows with saxes and more horns all over. I might even use it as a relief in Shaft’s soundtrack.
“Lovely Days” is more introspective, almost “Forever Changes” quality. “Falling in Love With You” is in the country/folk vibe again, somehow reminds me a little of Fleetwood Mac. “Silver streams” is a little gem, bits of Gene Clark but the soother voice taking it to a more mainstream level.
After the perfect Paul Williams’/Gilbert O’Sullivan wanna-be “Best Girl In The World”, “Cascades” is a great and soft ending to a very delicate album.
If you’re in the mood you’ll definitely enjoy a fantastic piece of work. Danny had a rough life (well, take a seat, Pal!) devote some minutes to him, he deserves it. But you gotta take the time to let it sink in. Stop and Smell the roses, they say. Don’t let the wolves fool you, the truth is out there. Peace, Out!

HINDS – Leave Me Alone (2016)

Review by: Eric Pember
Album assigned by: Viudas Tormo


This is maybe one of the most generic rock albums I have ever heard, and possibly one of the most generic albums period that I have ever heard.

It rocks, but not too heavily. It’s punky, but not in a threatening way. The singing and playing are good, but not good or distinct enough to draw attention to the band members. The songs are decently-written, but not well-written enough to have their hooks jump out at you. The production is nice-sounding, but seemingly has the dynamics sucked out of it. It’s emotional, but not emotional enough to make you feel what the band members are singing.

This is basically just the kind of music that hipsters who want to say something but don’t particularly have anything to say would make, and the kind of rock that hipsters who want to rock but don’t particularly know how to would make. 

Of course, not all hipsters are like that, and indeed there are some hipsters out there who know how to make good music and know how to rock. For example, take a look at Cloud Nothings, whose early work showed a lot of promise and who have just kept getting better and better.

However, few hipsters seem willing to go beyond the boundaries of hipsterdom and actually get in contact with music and rock’s legacy, so most hipsters will just keep making hipster rock for hipsters to groove to for a while before the next good hipster rock album comes along.

PATRICIO REY Y SUS REDONDITOS DE RICOTA – Oktubre (1986)

Review by: Roland Bruynesteyn
Album assigned by: Charly Saenz

For some reason, this album sounded very much like Animals by Pink Floyd (with a touch of Run like hell), at least until the singer started singing Fuegos de Octubre. The singer takes some getting used to; he sounds like he’s constipated while being strangled.
 
The second song, Preso en mi ciudad, sounds on the one hand like quite generic late 70’s rock (a bit Gerry Rafferty, because of the saxes, some Survivor), but a little less pretentious, and on the other hand, for that very reason, quite outdated, as it was released in 1986. 

Música para Pastillas starts almost like Talking heads, but soon David Gilmour joins the conversation and tries to turn it into his song Young lust, as done by Crazy horse.
 
Yes, this is an album of the times, and it wears its influences on its sleeves. When you realize this album was released in 1986, you think: OK, apparently stuffing democracy for a decade or more slows down development in rock music as well. One cannot blame Raul Alfonsín for this music, like one cannot blame Yeltsin for Russian rock in 1992, but with hindsight, we have to be brutally honest: this would be good music in 1978, but it sounds quite irrelevant in 1986.
 
Is it bad? Not really, as Charly would never do that to me. Also, some tracks, like Motor Psico and especially Jijiji, sound very much of the 80’s: drumming sounds awful, as it should, and the sax gets dangerously close to Spandau Ballet territory, but the melodies are there, and the musical competence cannot be denied. Jijiji has some nervous singing in the verses (with nervous guitar as well), but the chorus is catchy and has something triumphant that screams Fuck the guerra sucia, we’re here to party!
 
And I realize: I can be snobbish from my high horse in the Netherlands, but then again:
  • name one internationally, culturally relevant pop artist from the Netherlands, apart from one hit wonders like Venus, Radar love and Little green bag and a couple of DJ’s
  • one should respect the steps the musical culture and music industry have to follow from the dark ages (or a period of stagnation) to the present
  • this album, by this group, could actually be very important culturally, in Argentina, for people born in the early 70’s and I’m hardly qualified to judge the album from that perspective.
 
All this does not detract from the fact that the last track Ya Nadie va a Escuchar tu Remera is very silly…

ANNEKE VAN GIERSBERGEN / AGUA DE ANNIQUE – Pure Air (2009)

Review by: Roland Bruynesteyn
Album assigned by: Nina A

Never heard of her, although she comes from the same country as I do. Slightly confused when the assignment came with the warning that she had a ‘generic heavy metal past’. Arjen Lucassen (aka Aeryon), Danny Cavanagh (Anathema) and Sharon den Adel (from Within Temptation fame), artists I all quite like, do guest which seems to confirm that we get some very heavy but melodic proggy music.
 
Boy, was I wrong! This is very nice acoustic folk/pop and she has a lovely voice. Quite high, sometimes sounding a little girly / tentative, as if she’s looking for the right tone (or words), all in all very charming. 
 
Even the best voices can sound a little boring if it’s just an acoustic guitar (imagine David Crosby solo acoustic for an hour), but luckily, four songs in, more instruments are added, and many songs have some (male or female) backing vocals.
 
Come Wander with Me, with subtle trumpet by Kyteman is a highlight for me. He’s no Miles Davis, but he gets the melancholy across. To Catch a Thief, a duet with John Wetton, is the lowlight for me. If it’s the John Wetton I know, his voice is OK for his age, but the two voices just do not sound right together. Bad idea of the producer, I fear…
 
I read that some of the songs are covers, and some are reworkings of her own songs. I do not know the originals, so I judge all songs as new songs, except for two: Ironic and The Power of Love. Ironic is an Alanis Morissette song that was a big hit way back when. It’s a good song, but it’s a lot like a feminists’ Hallelujah: it’s covered way too often. This unplugged version loses much of the anger in the original and doesn’t really add anything to the song or the album.
 
The Power of Love was the ultimate 80’s power ballad by Frankie goes to Hollywood, with everything that goes with it. Like most power ballads, it loses most if not all of its power in a simple, low profile rearrangement. It sounds flat and is definitely one of the worst songs on the album.
 
So, I do think she needs some advice on her choice of songs to include on an album. Picking songs from your own youth or songs that otherwise mean a lot to you personally, is not necessarily a good thing. On the whole however, I’m pleasantly surprised by Anneke: she can sing, she can perform, and if this is a new direction for her it’s definitely worth pursuing some more.

SONNE HAGAL – Ockerwasser (2014)

Review by: Roland Bruynesteyn
Album assigned by: Eden Hunter

The Shapes of Things to Come, a great title for the first song on an album by an artist I never even heard of. Very ‘droney’, with rather monotonous singing, but very impressively creating an atmosphere of loss or depression. Apart from the synthesizers (I guess) there is some acoustic guitar strumming and it’s very light on percussion, simply a great song.

The next song, Morpheus starts with what sounds like a flute synthesizer, and it evokes a somewhat similar feeling of desperation. It sounds beautiful. Some weird noises and again an acoustic guitar enter the scene, shortly before the singer, who is now joined by a female voice, making it a little lighter. A choir and an electric guitar join in, not interfering with the main melody, such as it is. Not necessarily innovative, but very pleasing to the ear. Some pre-recorded conversation enters as well, sounding somewhat ominous. This could be the music accompanying the end credits of a very sad movie.

I absolutely love it! A bit like the Besnard Lakes (on a quiet day), or the Antlers: depressing music, but very well performed.

Third song in, Of Dissembling Words, has a similar descending melody. Acoustic guitar, female voice (first in, this time), male voice, some distorted electric guitar, almost Frippian in tone, and some (electric?) piano, and again some choir-like voices. The song sounds a bit like someone explaining to you why he or she is disappointed in you: you made him or her very sad.

But I’m starting to wonder a little: should I understand the title of the first song as a warning that all songs on the album sound absolutely the same? On to the fourth song: After the Rain. A little bit more up tempo, a violin, and almost happy. The percussion is a little more intrusive as well, but it still sounds like it was recorded in the next room (or the next building, or the next city). Still a great song on its own.

Next we have Black Spring: a little bit more (droney) violin, but I’m really getting worried:
  • How did the first song go anyway?
  • Is the album really one 50 minute song?
  • Is it a concept album?
  • Where did the third song differ from the fourth?
  • How does this album fit into their career?

So I find myself getting somewhat sceptical, rather than curious, about song # 6, called Thyme. They knew it!!! Totally synthetic 80’s style percussion to start with, and only then do we get the droney descending melody with the depressing voice! Funny thing is, as I slowly start to lose interest, the songs seem to be getting better (although the first two still stand out as well). How can this be? Did I lower my expectations? Did they suck me into their sound? What’s going on?

Song number 7, Silence, starts with a gong, there’s silence for you. Then some treated acoustic guitar and what sounds like some accordion, with the synthesised flute. Somewhat menacing, I’d never think that of flute and acoustic guitar as being menacing…

Gold starts with acoustic guitar and then some bass that is reminiscent of the Child in time bass line. Some vibes (I guess) add some color, but do not enough to differentiate the song. Female voices do add something though.

Next song Devon is more of a duet, and sounds a bit like Magna carta, or Kings of Inconvenience, folkie acoustic pop with added atmosphere and production tricks (windy noises, some shrieks, etc.). So far, this is the most folkish sounding song on the album.

Mediocrity in Love Rejected (love that title…) is a speeded up clone of Devon (which is probably why it’s a little shorter), or am I getting confused? Final song, Assassins, starts with a monologue, warning about the dangers of man as the source of all evil. Luckily, we soon get to familiar territory: acoustic guitar, male voice with very limited range, some production effects (whip lashes?), vibes and generally sadness.

What to make of it? I think you could call it prog-folk: the seriousness and general virtuosity of prog without the tricky time signatures, plus the instruments of folk, but generally without their ‘classic’ or ‘old fashioned’ melodies.

I absolutely love every song on the album, but that’s at least partly due to the fact that they do all sound the same way too much for my taste. In a comprehensive album collection, you (may) need an album by this group: they DO create some very small (one song?) niche of their own that sounds very accomplished and complete. I may buy it one day, but I’d be listening repeatedly to other albums before I ever buy a second album by them. They do not only show promise; on one CD they show promise, success, fulfilment and completion, a complete career!

THE CRAINIUM – A New Music for a New Kitchen (1998)

Review by: A.A
Album assigned by: Tristan Peterson

16:22
 
Nurse With Wound.
 
Trout Mask Replica era Beefheart.
 
Flowers of Romance era Public Image Ltd.
 
Hints of avant-prog and free jazz and perhaps musique concrète.
 
And dins of noisy cacophony.
 
Still fails to be more than mildly interesting for most of its duration.
 
Haha, the last track won’t even scrobble. Only 0:24.
 
 
17:19
 
I have a slight headache.
 
And a slighly sore throat.
 
* slightly
 
And power failures have twice interrupted my writing flow.
 
But I must go on and finish the review.
 
Thankfully the second time I had remembered to save.
 
For rethinking is tedious today.
 
 
18:01
 
When I was a child I spent many a lonely afternoon playing in the quiet upper storey of our house where no one lived.
 
(Save the ghost that lived in the ventilation duct.)
 
And so imagination had free sway.
 
Once it suited my fickle fancy to try and make tea using sunlight.
 
(Maybe herbal tea would help with my throat today.)
 
So I went down and pilfered some sugar. And milk. And tea leaves. And sneaked them upstairs.
 
And combining them all put the cup beneath the window of the vast dusty anteroom before The Room With The Toys and The Dark Locked Room With The Books and The Room With The Boiler.
 
(I remember it was the same year two airplanes would crash into two tall towers and I would be deprived of my cartoon-watching TV time for many subsequent days.)
 
(And the same year my father bought me a PC ­­­­­–­ I was overjoyed seeing it when I came back from an evening at Pizza Hut, recently become a thing in my country.)
 
The curious concoction, when I returned to it in an hour ­­­­­– about the duration of “A New Music For A New Kitchen” — certainly looked like tea. And smelled like tea. And was also warm like tea.
 
But was not tea.
 
 
 
[tl;dr: I would like this album if it were not both so spastic AND so cacophonous at the same time. As it is, however, I shall probably not be returning to it anytime soon!]