Love Rat

lovable rat

I first heard Sally Barker some time around 1990 when she was touring in support of her second album, This Rhythm Is Mine. Guest musicians on that album included Mary MacMaster¹ and Patsy Seddon, harpists from Scotland, who subsequently joined Sally and accordionist Karen Tweed to form the all-woman folk band The Poozies. If my memory serves me correctly the concert I attended at the Phoenix Arts Centre, Leicester, UK was billed as Sally Barker but all four of The Poozies were on stage.

I particularly remember that evening for a story told by Karen Tweed. The band had arranged to rehearse at Sally’s house out in the Leicestershire countryside, a place that Karen had never visited before. When she arrived Karen found a rambling house at the end of a long drive and surrounded by a large garden with lots of trees and bushes. She knew from the directions she had been given that this was the right place but, at first, it seemed deserted. Karen had to ring three times before anyone came to the door.

When the door opened a stranger stood there with an expression on her face that seemed to say “whoever you are, don’t bother me now”. Karen hesitantly explained who she was and why she was there and the woman at the door ushered her inside saying curtly, “Go and wait in the kitchen, we’re a bit busy right now”. Karen followed the pointing finger down the corridor and as she did so she noticed a flustered figure scurrying through the house. Some furtive words were exchanged in the next room but all Karen could make out was “we may have to call the police”.

Karen found the kitchen and waited. From time to time far off voices could be heard from the garden. They were calling out to each other and sounded worried. They were looking for something, something important or precious. No-one came to the kitchen. Karen could sense that some emergency had happened and might take some time to resolve. In the meantime she thought it best to stay out of the way and decided to make herself a cup of tea.

As Karen started to search for mugs and tea she thought she heard a scratching noise from one of the floor-level cupboards. The building was probably an old farmhouse and she imagined the kitchen might be home to mice or even rats. Nervously, Karen opened the cupboard and a little girl’s face peered up at her. “Hello”, said Karen, “what are you doing in there?”. But the girl said nothing. Karen explained that she plays the accordion and she had come for a rehearsal. “Shhsh”, whispered the girl, “they’ll hear us”.

Puzzled, Karen asked the little girl why she was whispering and if she knew what was going on – what were they looking for out in the garden? “Shhsh”, said the little girl again, “They’re looking for me!”.

Sally

It was an enjoyable concert. Sally Barker writes unusually original songs and she has a warm, distinctive, soulful voice. The other musicians were faultless – I was particularly impressed with Karen Tweed’s accordion playing. So, yes, readers, I bought the CD. Although I didn’t know it at the time guests on This Rhythm Is Mine include some of the most respected musicians on the folk circuit: Dave Mattacks, Dave Pegg and Danny Thompson to name but three. If that’s not a recommendation I don’t know what is.

From 1995 to 2006 Sally Barker put the music business on hold while she had two children and then cared for her husband who became ill with cancer and died in 2003. In 2007 Sally rejoined The Poozies and in 2013 she relaunched her solo career. The following year she became a contestant on the BBC talent show, The Voice, in which she finished in joint second place. As a result, according to her website, “Sally’s album ‘Another Train’ featured in the official indie charts and ‘ebayers’ were asking in excess of £100 for 2nd hand Barker LPs and CDs!”. That’s quite a comeback.

Sally Barker’s latest album, Ghost Girl, was released earlier this year but it’s not on Spotify² so I’ve chosen her Love Rat EP from 2015 as my Album of the Month. Here’s a live version of the title track. Listen to the words.

Did a chill run up your spine at the one minute mark? No? Then perhaps you’d prefer the studio version with drums, bass, organ and slide guitar supporting Sally’s vocals. (The link above is to the full band recording on Spotify.)

In addition to the title track the EP contains three original songs (Jealous Bones, Kissing a Stranger, Heart & the Shell) and two covers (Walk On By, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood). The covers are done in typical Sally Barker style; either you like them or you don’t. For me, nobody beats the original Dionne Warwick version of Walk On By, but Sally Barker’s take is pretty good, too. I do like Heart & the Shell, though. It’s one of those songs that has all the wrong characteristics for my taste: a folksy waltz, country-tinged slide guitar, not much of a tune. And yet, Sally Barker’s voice burrows under the skin and the poetry of the words sinks deep.

On the whole Sally Barker is an acquired taste. She’s no rocker and her mix of folk with a little bit of country and a soupçon of jazz will never appeal to everyone. She has a really good voice, though, and I’ll leave you with another live video that I think illustrates her talent. Anyone who can do justice to a song made famous by Sandy Denny must have something to blog about.

Notes

  1. Mary MacMaster was also mentioned in my earlier blog about the Archipelago album by Hidden Orchestra, a very different sort of music.
  2. There is a video of the title track on YouTube performed live as a solo piece but I don’t know if that’s representative of the album.

Zamzama

cannon

Kim’s Gun – outside Lahore Museum

The third track on my Release Radar playlist this week was called Zamzama, which is obviously a made-up word and gives no clue to its musical style. It’s by Avi Avital, Omer Avital, Yonathan Avishai and Itamar Doari, names which suggest foreign influences but which throw no further light on what might be in store for the curious listener. The album title doesn’t help either: Avital Meets Avital seems deliberately designed to mystify rather than inform.

What does it sound like? Surprisingly, I can give a very accurate description. It sounds very much like an instrumental cover of Pink Floyd‘s Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun performed by a Jewish popular folk band. There are just four instruments: mandolin, piano, double bass and hand drums. The piano carries the tune and adds some faintly jazzy chords. The bass tumbles along echoing the gentle jazzy feel. The drums inject the rhythm of a joyous dance. And a light smattering of mandolin notes flash like the white hem of a wedding dress as the bride dances with her new husband.

Here’s a live version with some wonderful improvised solos:

Curiosity prompted the Crotchety fingers to search for further information. First stop, the album, which offers various blends of klezmer, jazz and classical styles, including slow ballads and up-tempo dance tunes. One track, Ana Maghrebi, sounded too much like a piece for a bar mitzvah ritual to tingle the Crotchety senses much but everything else has plenty to offer, not least some very impressive musicianship from all the players. Listening to the album convinced me that Zamzama was worthy of a Track of the Week slot.

But there was an obvious problem. This blog puts an appropriate image at the top of every post, a picture that illustrates the subject and helps this old man (and, hopefully, my readers) remember the music and my response to it. How could I choose a picture for a nonsense word? The task seemed impossible, so I decided to pick another track from the Avital Meets Avital album instead. Perhaps I should choose one of the ballads – Lonely Girl or The Source and the Sea would be worthy of a mention – and pictures for those shouldn’t be hard to find. Or should I choose something more representative of the album as a whole? Avi’s Song, Maroc and Hijazain would fit the bill but an appropriate image for those would be just as hard to find.

Avi & Omer

Avi Avital (mandolin) and Omer Avital (double bass)

And then the Crotchety brain cells sparked into life and commanded my flesh and bone digits to consult with the virtually infinite store of electronic digits that is Google. To my complete surprise the cyberspace oracle informed me that Zamzama is not a nonsense word at all. It is, in fact, the name of a very large cannon. Also known as Kim’s Gun, it was cast in 1762 in Lahore and is now on show outside the Lahore Museum. That, of course, made the choice of headline image a no-brainer.

Apparently, Zamzama is also the name of a shopping mall in Karachi and seems to have some connection with a film star famous in at least some parts of the Indian subcontinent (judging by the images Google serves up). More pertinently, though, zamzama is a Persian word meaning “murmur, whisper or pealing thunder”.

So here we have a British blogger listening through a Swedish streaming service to Israeli musicians playing a track with a Persian title used to name a gun made and fired in what was then India but is now Pakistan. Come, let’s murmur its name among our friends, whisper it to strangers and send it like pealing thunder across the rest of the globe. Let’s make it earn the tag of ‘world’ music.

Additional Note

  • There’s a rather lovely video here of Avi Avital and Bridget Kibbey playing a Bach piece arranged for mandolin and harp.

Men Singing

choir

Back in September 2015 the Crotchety Man blog carried a brief review of the Free Henry Fool EP. At the time I said I would be exploring more of their work “very soon”. Being an honest, upright citizen and a man of my word I did, indeed, do a little research and added their 2001 album, Henry Fool, to my collection soon after. The 16 tracks on that eponymous album didn’t disappoint and I put it down for an Album of the Month slot. Unfortunately, though, the Henry Fool album is not available on Spotify and YouTube was banished from these pages back then¹. Consequently, the Fool was unceremoniously kicked into the long grass bearing the label “requires further research”.

Talking of long grass… There’s a primitive tribe of pygmys living in deepest darkest Africa where the grass grows tall and strong. Anthropologists call them the Fukawi. Sightings of the Fukawi are extremely rare. They shun modern society and hide in the undergrowth when strangers approach. Occasionally, though, a small head has been glimpsed as one of the tribe’s lookouts jumps high in the air to see above the green fronds and tassel heads of the indigenous vegetation. All that is known about them is their tribal name which comes from their piercing cry of “We’re the Fukawi!”².

Like those Fukawi lookouts Henry Fool pops up into view once in a while. I spotted his proud head again recently and it reminded me that a full album review is long overdue. So, here are a few words about the band’s second album, Men Singing, which (as you will have gathered from the active link) is on Spotify.

cover

Artwork from the Men Singing album cover

Let’s start with the track listing, which is:

  1. Everyone in Sweden
  2. Man Singing
  3. My Favourite Zombie Dream
  4. Chic Hippo

That looks awfully short. A mere pygmy of an album. But the first and last tracks are over 13 minutes long and the two 6 minute tracks in the middle take the total time up to just over 40 minutes. Not the most generous of offerings by today’s standards but enough to stop the buyer from feeling short changed.

Everyone in Sweden is a longer version of the first track on the free EP. It rocks along contentedly, harking back to the carefree Canterbury scene of the seventies: early Soft Machine, Caravan, Hatfield and the North. If you believe the stereotypes everyone in Sweden is supposed to be this laid back except, perhaps, for the odd angst-ridden detective in a thick knitted sweater. It’s a track for chilling out but it rewards more focused listening, too.

Next up is the not-quite-title-track, Man Singing. This is ambient flute and synthesiser music embellished with crisp percussion, solid bass and gritty guitar. We may still be in Sweden but there’s a deeper, more serious side to the detective story now. Perhaps there is more to the plot than we imagined but there are no words to unravel the mystery – in spite of the title, this is another instrumental.

At this point a dark figure comes shambling over the horizon. He shuffles uncertainly towards us under a lowering sky. Brief flashes of light illuminate his face against the distant hills. His eyes and mouth are moving but his features are horrifyingly devoid of life. Our canine companions shrink away and cower in the shadows. Behind him more half-dead bodies lurch along as if towed in his wake. The air is full of eerie sounds. Is this zombie music? It does wander rather aimlessly and seems to have been drained of the melody of life. No, I have to confess, this is not my favourite zombie soundtrack.

When we finally wake from the nightmare we are treated to a violin serenade over a characteristically gentle Henry Fool backing track. It is morning but we are still sleepy and not yet ready to face the day. The violin poses an idle question and it is answered by a saxophone. An organ joins in the conversation and then a guitar. One by one the instruments murmur disconnected thoughts as our mind drifts somewhere between sleep and wakefulness. This close to slumber even the lumbering of a hippo seems chic. And we wish we could stay like this forever.

henry fool

Henry Fool

So that’s Men Singing. Four tracks, ironically none of them with vocals. Ambient, Canterbury scene, progressive rock and jazz blended into a smooth and satisfying package. The zombies may lack a little vitality but overall this is a fine album that fully deserves to be the current Album of the Month.

Notes

  1. It looks as though all the tracks on the Henry Fool album are in the YouTube topic here.
  2. There is some dispute among the experts about the language being used here.

Thight Lines …

… and Screaming Reels

black marlin

No, I haven’t spelled that wrongly¹. My Track of the Week really is called Thight Lines and Screaming Reels. Then again, it must be a spelling mistake. Somewhere between Colin Hodgkinson’s pen and the record company an extra ‘h’ must have crept in. Perhaps it was a communication problem between an English man and a German music publisher (in-akustik GmbH & Co. KG). Or perhaps someone just had a fubar moment. Whatever the explanation, the spurious ‘h’ is present in every reference I can find.

Colin Hodgkinson is one of the finest bass players around. And he’s been around for quite a while². Colin is the only bass player I know who plays the instrument as if it was an over-sized six-string electric guitar with the top two strings missing. He plays it sometimes with a plectrum, sometimes with his fingers; he plays chords; he plays blues licks; he bends the strings. He is almost a one man band. (He sings a bit, too.)

colin hodgkinson

Colin Hodgkinson – Ten Years After concert, 21st May 2016, Paris

Thight Lines is an instrumental from Colin’s solo album The Bottom Line. The album consists mostly of bass solos but this track features drums and some rather nice keyboards, too. In stark contrast to the screaming reels of the title the feel is one of relaxed anticipation.

Hey, Colin, I called round but you weren’t home. Looks like you’ve gone fishin’ (there’s a sign upon your door). I see the boat has left the shore (you ain’t workin’ any more) and the engine is humming as it glides over the water. Soon it will be time to unpack your tackle and start fishin’ (instead of just a-wishin’). If you’re lucky you’ll catch a big one, a marlin perhaps, that will strain the rod and set the reel a-spinnin’. But for now you can just sit back, enjoy the sun on your skin and listen to the swell of the keyboards and those crisp tight bass lines as they mix with the sound of the waves lazily lapping on the hull.

Half way out into the channel the skipper cuts the engine. You’ve arrived and it looks as though the big fish are feeding. The clatter of a drum solo marks the tethering of the rods and the opening of the bait boxes as you settle down to wait for the first bite. The bass and keyboards return, echoing the gentle thrum of the bilge pump and, with your hat shading your eyes, your thoughts start to drift away. Then, suddenly, the line tautens, the sport begins and, as you play the fish the music fades slowly away. This is going to be a beautiful day.

Notes

  1. Note the adverbial form, here. To have written ‘wrong’ would have been unforgivably wrong.
  2. According to Colin’s website he played in a British band called The Dynatones from 1959 to 1964 and turned professional in 1966. He was a founding member of Back Door (my review of their debut album is here) and has played with all sorts of well-known bands (Alexis Korner, Spencer Davis, Zoot Money and others). In 2014 he became the bassist with Ten Years After and is still gigging. He is now 71 years old.
  3. There doesn’t seem to be a video for Thight Lines although there are clips of other performances by Colin Hodgkinson, both solo and in bands, on YouTube. There’s a nice one of Back Door from the Montreux Jazz Festival here, recorded, I think, in 1974.

Moroccan Roll

khobz

Brand X are back. And how!

Here’s a splendid live version of Malaga Virgen from their 1977 album Moroccan Roll. This was recorded just a few months ago on the band’s reunion tour of the US.

If that performance doesn’t leave you panting with excitement and aghast with admiration I’ll … I’ll … errm … I’ll eat a Moroccan Roll and post the video on YouTube to prove it.

Strangely, although Brand X has been mentioned a few times in these pages before, so far none of their music has been featured here. To right that unforgivable wrong I’m making Moroccan Roll my Album of the Month.

According to AllMusic and Spotify, which quote identical biographies, Brand X was formed in 1975 by Phil Collins (the drummer with Genesis) and John Goodsall (the guitarist with Atomic Rooster) as a side project. The other members of the original band were keyboard player Robin Lumley and bassist Percy Jones. That line-up released their debut album, Unorthodox Behaviour, in 1976 and, after adding Morris Pert on percussion, followed it with Moroccan Roll a year later. Those first two albums are still, arguably, their best.

Judging by the album and track titles those guys must have had a lot of fun. Here’s the track listing for Moroccan Roll:

  1. Sun In The Night
  2. Why Should I Lend You Mine (When You’ve Broken Yours Off Already) …
  3. … Maybe I’ll Lend You Mine After All
  4. Hate Zone
  5. Collapsar
  6. Disco Suicide
  7. Orbits
  8. Malaga Virgen
  9. Macrocosm

Of course, you can’t judge a piece of music by its title any more than you can judge an album by its cover art. And that’s probably just as well because the cover for the CD re-issue of Moroccan Roll has the kind of glaring spelling error that once prompted journalists on other newspapers to re-title The Guardian “The Grauniad”. The most northwestern country of Africa is spelt with one ‘r’ and two ‘c’s, not as the CD artwork has it, “Morrocan Roll”. I suppose that might be deliberate, a way to emphasise the pun – “more rock and roll” does have two ‘r’s and one ‘c’ – but I’ve not seen that justification offered and the correct spelling has been used in everything else I have read.

Anyone at all familiar with Brand X will know that they are no rock ‘n roll band. They were among the pioneers of the jazz/rock fusion genre, the first blacksmiths heating jazz licks almost to melting point and hammering out a new type of horseshoe on an anvil of solid rock.

band in 1977

Brand X, 1977 – Pert, Collins, Goodsall, Lumley, Jones

Moroccan Roll is as good an example of that craft as any but it’s not all hammer and sweat. Sun In The Night, for example, is a laid back, world music song, the only one on the album that has words. Unfortunately for English speakers those words are in a language from the Indian sub-continent. Wikipedia says it’s Sanskrit; Google Translate thinks it’s Hindi and provides an English ‘translation’ identical to the incomprehensible original. This site is more informative but it still reads like a typical Eastern mantra, more mystical than enlightening. But no matter, it’s a good tune and John Goodsall’s sitar whisks us away to India, enveloping us in the spirits of Shiva and Vishnu.

The next two tracks are both credited to Phil Collins. Why Should I Lend You Mine picks up the beat for a while and we enter the heart of jazz fusion territory. The listener’s attention flicks between the instruments as they inject their individual contribution to the piece: five parts, each of them and none of them foremost. That is the hallmark of great bands. Then the beat dies away and we find ourselves cradled gently in the arms of the gods once again. This time, though, it is the gods of the Western traditions that comfort and protect us. Almost as soon as Why Should I Lend You Mine has faded away Maybe I’ll Lend You Mine After All filters through cotton wool earplugs to form a fitting coda to the previous track.

After that good deed of altruistic lending there’s a complete change of mood. A short drum solo takes us into John Goodsall’s Hate Zone. The synthesiser wails, the guitar rants, the bass grumbles irritably and the drums are definitely asking for trouble. Our gang of football hooligans has come face to face with the opposition. Both sides are throwing insults and violence is brewing. But soon the simmering hatred burns itself out, the crowds dissipate and everyone goes home fairly quietly. We should have thumped them (both on and off the pitch), but this blood-chilling music more than makes up for the disappointing draw.

Next up it’s Robin Lumley’s turn in the composer’s chair. Collapsar is an ethereal keyboard and electronics interlude that neatly rounds off side 1 of the vinyl release. When we flip the disc we are greeted with rippling piano sounds underpinning a soft fusion track that shows Brand X at their very best. This one even has some vocals picking out a simple tune with La La syllables. (Actually, it sounds more like Na Na, but La La reads better. :-)) Why it’s called Disco Suicide I can’t imagine; it’s no dance track and it has a joie de vivre that is the complete opposite of suicidal despair. Perhaps that’s the point – to play it in a disco might well lead to the DJ’s predictable murder on the dance floor.

Deep into side 2 we come to Percy Jones’ personal contribution. In Orbits Percy flies us around the fingerboard of his fretless bass in a solo demonstration of his unparalleled flair and technique. And as an encore he uses all his talents in his own composition, the Malaga Virgen that we met in the video at the start of this post. (“Malaga Virgen”, by the way, is a Spanish dessert wine.)

The album finishes with the third of John Goodsall’s pieces. Called Macrocosm, it’s another whole band celebration of the fusion genre – intricate, uplifting, a showcase for the individual skills of the musicians and a fine example of an ensemble that is more than the sum of its parts.

I should mention the part that Morris Pert plays on Moroccan Roll and I can do no better than to quote Wikipedia, which says:

percussion and a vast number of bits and things that he hit while the tape was running, including: The QE2, Idi Amin, and undiscovered parts of Scotland

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And, finally, here are a couple of quotes from the two founding members of Brand X that are currently on their Reunion Tour:

John Goodsall: “It’s a better version now. We’re all a lot more experienced – a lot more skilled… And that goes for every one of us.”

Percy Jones: “This music takes us back to a certain space – which was really cool. I wasn’t sure I’d ever feel that feeling again – and yet here it is!”

They really are back. And better than ever.

Acknowledgements

The photos in the slideshow are taken from an excellent review of the show at the Iridium in New York City on 3rd January 2017.

Sasse

title

A band called Antiloops appeared on the Crotchety Radar recently. I liked what I heard and added Luna from their 2014 Electroshock album to my list of tracks to feature in these pages. Then, two days ago, I played Luna again to refresh my memory of the music and to think what I might say about it. But I found it intensely irritating.

Puzzled and disappointed, I swung the radar dish around and probed the Electroshock album again. The first three tracks gave good strong blips so I replaced Luna with No Question About It and, reassured, went about my non-Crotchety business. Until yesterday, that is, when I listened to No Question About It once more and found … it, too, offended the ears.

Fearing for my sanity I set the radar for a wider sweep in the general direction of Antiloops. It picked up several bright spots a short distance from the Electroshock cluster, the brightest being Sasse, a track from their Lucid Dream album released on 3rd February this year. That one hasn’t faded away, at least not yet. (The curious among you, and I hope that’s everyone, should follow the link to Sasse on Spotify now and read the rest of this post as it plays.)

band members

Antiloops is a French band led by the jazz flautist, Ludivine Issambourg. That’s her in the picture here and looking sassy in the photo at the top. This ensemble, though, has done something I’ve never heard before – they have fused jazz with hip hop. The result is Quite Interesting (as Sandi Toksvig might say on the BBC TV programme, QI). Sometimes it works pretty well and sometimes it just grates on Crotchety Man’s increasingly sensitive ears. It even depends on Crotchety Man’s mood, which changes from day to day. That, presumably, is why I found it so hard to pick a Track of the Week this time.

Antiloops has a website that gives a potted history of the band and describes the music they play. Unfortunately, it’s in French – a language I haven’t studied since my school days – so I turned to Google Translate for some assistance. The resulting translation is quite fun to read; here’s an extract:

Viscerally organic, the group chose Lucid Dream to explore the voices of the machines, absorb them and make them a new driving force. Creation of hybrid crosses between classical instruments and digital emulators, Nicolas Derand, Timothée Robert, Maxime Zampieri and Julien Sérié have rethought their way of sounding, keyboards, bass and drums to begin to reason like samplers, sampling their own riffs and beats To knead them, to triturate them, and to replay them in a loop on themselves. Agitated and illuminated by the scratchings of Dj Topic, colored by the realization and mix of Mr Gib. 

Infused in the compositions through plugs, cables and connections, the machines switched their switches in the groove position, letting the creative energy circulate, injecting deeply this electro fluid that would permanently jam the tracks between them and the men, Without denying the influences acid jazz, new jazz, trip hop and hip hop. 

. . .

Mistress of hostilities, the flute of Ludivine Issambourg has also infiltrated the heart of the circuit boards, winding between processors, dressed in effects and distortions until sometimes forget its natural sound. But still knowing how to extract sound cards and software to come out to twirl in freedom, in and above these grooves become mixed areas where analog and digital have merged their DNA. 

If the reference to the scratchings of Dj Topic leaves you scratching your head in bewilderment this YouTube video, recorded in 2015, contains sections of several of Antiloops tracks and provides a good overview of the band’s material. It doesn’t include Sasse, though – that was written later (I assume).

According to several dictionaries the French word ‘sasse’ means ‘sieve’. Knowing that, though, didn’t improve Crotchety Man’s appreciation of Sasse one iota. It starts unpromisingly with a deep house bass beat and gibbering vocals but it soon settles down to a comfortable groove and at around 24 seconds the flute comes in with a refreshing tune. It then ambles along contentedly for another three and a half minutes, the deep bass keeping it grounded while keyboards and electronics fill out the sound, a drum kit injects jazzy beats and the flute puffs out a balmy breeze that gently ruffles our hair. This is cool modern jazz with a subtle hip hop influence and the overall effect is really rather pleasant.

The Lucid Dream album ends with two more cooled-to-ambient jazz tracks, neither of them having discernible hip hop ancestry: Castor and Titan. If you really don’t like hip hop and you can’t get past the first 30 seconds of Sasse, try those instead. The remaining tracks on Lucid Dream borrow a lot more from the hip hop scene; they are not really Crotchety Man’s cup of tea but, if you like that sort of thing, by all means give them a whirl. The whole band are highly accomplished musicians and their individual skills are something to savour whether you like the style of music or not. (I don’t count the DJ as a ‘musician’.)

All of the Antiloops tracks I’ve mentioned here are listed in this YouTube playlist but none of them seem to be available here in the UK. So, Crotchety Man recommends listening on Spotify instead. Here’s the Sasse link again.

What do you think? Sassy or not?

Rekt

dunno on bandcamp

Crotchety Man doesn’t make New Year resolutions. But this year I want to write more about recent releases. So, this week I’ve been sifting through my Release Radar, a playlist automatically created by Spotify every Friday based on my listening history. Only new releases appear on the Radar and although my taste is relatively broad I am expecting Spotify’s selection algorithm to have a tough time finding tunes that are both new and to my taste. This time, though, the solid state brains have exceeded my wildest dreams. Among the 30 songs on the playlist there were two excellent candidates for Track of the Week, rather more than twice as many as I’d expected.

Of course that left me with a dilemma. Should I choose Chill Kingdom by American Dollar or Rekt by Owane? Obviously, I chose the latter but it was a close call. Chill Kingdom, as you may have guessed, is ambient New Age music for the chill-out room; Rekt is refreshing guitar-led prog rock. Choose Chill Kingdom when you’re wrecked, Rekt when the morning sun opens your eyes, invigorates the mind and floods your limbs with energy. Today, Crotchety Man is wide awake and ready for action, so Rekt has to be the right choice.

Having chosen the track the next question was “who is Owane?”. There’s not much about him on the ‘Net. He does have a Facebook page and a YouTube channel on which he describes himself simply as a musician. He’s also on Bandcamp where we see that his first release was an EP called Greatest Hits (which shows an acute sense of irony and humour) and he has one full album entitled Dunno. There’s rather more information about the man and his music in this review of the Greatest Hits EP. Øyvind Owane is a young Norwegian guitarist, keyboard player and composer. He tags his music experimental, fusion, jazz, rock, pop.

If you check the Crotchety Man tags you will find that I have dropped the ‘experimental’ and ‘pop’ from Owane’s list. His compositions are certainly not chart material and  ‘experimental’ suggests rather more weirdness than we hear. I would describe all of Owane’s material as jazz/rock fusion with heavy prog rock influences – lots of fuzzed guitar, plenty of piano and synth, fast runs. But above all there’s a light touch and a joyful feel that reminds me of the effervescent exuberance on Return To Forever‘s album Romantic Warrior. Owane’s guitar sings and its song says “it’s good to be alive”.

Rekt is the first track of the Dunno album, which is available in its entirety on YouTube.

The rest of the album is quite similar. If you like Rekt as much as I do the album is a great way to get the new year off to a flying start.