THEATRICAL AND OTHER CHAMBER-MUSIC ROCK
review page 2

Barbez ('04,'05,'08,'13)
Dan Kaufman (with Barbez) ('07)
Alec K.Redfearn & The Eyesores ('05)
Frogtoboggan ('92)
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band ('05)
Venetian Snares ('05)
Pascals ('03)
Cerberus Shoal ('05)
The One Ensemble of Daniel Padden ('03)
Techix ('04) 
Mr.Diagonal & The Black Light Orchestra ('08)
Mikhail ('12)

Important Records   Barbez (US,2004)***°

Barbez consists of dancer, lead singer Ksenia Vidyaykina (from St.Petersburg, Russia), bandleader and leader singer, guitarist Dan Kaufman (from Wisconsin ; with interest in flamenco guitar ; -he’s also guitarist for Rebecca Moore-), vibraphonist Danny Tunick, (who also played with Guv'nerBang on a Can All-StarsRebecca Moore,..), theremin player Pamela Kurstin (she played before with Air, The Sea and CakeDavid ByrneCibo Matto,..), bass player, electronica man Dan Coates (from Minnesota ; he’s also the inventor of ‘Pocket Pool’, a sonically inclined palm pilot), drummer & melodica player Shahzad Ismaily(he played before with Marc RibotBrian EnoThe BoredomsEyvand KangSecret Chiefs 3, etc...). On this release there were also guest musicians : violinist Eszter Balint, vocalist Nils Frykdahl (from Idiot FleshSleepytime Gorilla Museum and Faun Fables), drummer Anthony Nozero (playing Drums and Tuba), and toy instrument player Rebecca Moore.

Barbez is a post-cabaret chamber ensemble. They are a bit like “provoking”, with a punk-like attitude, their interest in Argentine tango & Kurt Weil songs into a chamber music style. Brecht/Weil’s music is supposed to be for all the people, in this way it’s back from the people. Ksenia brings also Slavic folksongs to the repertoire. 

In general the style of the group is this kind of vibrant chambermusicrock, which works almost like theatre in its progression partly thanks to Ksenia’s cabaret-story like vocal expressions. The theremin takes care of some weird effects, while the accordion and vibraphone gives the music a tango/jazzrock like swing, or something playful elsewhere. The violin smoothly pulls the musical forms together, reminding us: that this is a chamber orchestra, no?...

The Weil song interpretations have something odd, which is away from its original content, and into a sub-theatre play, with more emphasis on the theatreplay itself than usual. I've experienced before how Weil/Brecht’s music enfolded itself under Lotte Lenya’s lead back in the thirties in Berlin, then became a different stimulation to idealisms in New York before the war. Barbez interpretations compared to this, are more surreal. The rhythmal section takes us from tango to chambermusicrock which is stimulated by accordion and electric guitars. The combination in moments works like theatrical tangorock if you wish.

Audio 2004 release : "The Defiant Bicycle", "Tango Ballade" (Brecht/Weill), "Beauty" (Russian Folk Song), "See the Insect", "The Ultimate Disaster" (Residents), "The Red Urchins",  "West Rogers Park"  
Info : http://www.barbez.com/
Other review : http://www.splendidezine.com/review.html?reviewid=109152640067008 
http://www.importantrecords.com/...
http://www.halo-17.net/5836.html & http://www.fe.org/artists/barbez.html
http://www.cent.com/abetting/256reviews.html#BARBEZ
http://search.insound.com/search/showrelease.jsp?p=INS23602
Review 2001 release : http://www.kindamuzik.net/reviews/article.shtml?id=2101
http://www.collectedsounds.com/cdreviews/barbez.html next album->

private cdr   Barbez (=was preview for new release 'insignificance') (US,2005)****°

Barbez's new release has a different, more subtle approach, with strong compositional ideas, brilliant song leads, and attention to separately contributing instruments that are used to stimulate the musical evolutions, in an emotionality strong way. I'm delighted to see this change, even when I liked already the earlier album. 

On the first three tracks : “As for the Little Grey Rabbit...” (-a Russian folk song), “Strange” and "Fear of Commitment", the band sound is emerged into a more progressive / psychedelic vibrant rock drive, with arrangements that come and go with a pulsating evolution. Instead of a cabaret-like theatre performance, on these tracks it’s a more psychedelic and emotionally rewarding direction. 
The fourth track, "Song of the Moldau introduced by theremin, shows another emotion. Also here the arrangements (=lots of theremin, mixed with chimes,..) are thought over, and serve the compositional evolution well. This interpretation is a brilliant transformation of a Eisler /Brecht song. "A Melancholic Picnic" is emotionally similar. Also "Insignificance" shows a brilliant play of the theremin. It starts with a beautiful, violin-pitched- like theremin, and concludes this song with so controlled, in fact really brilliant arrangements with the same theremin. It made me also wonder which type of theremin Pamela Kurstin used here*, besides it is the result of talent.
"The Sea Spread Wide" is a Russian folk song. This is performed like Underground Russian (Folk)Rock. Still with a Russian flavour is “Pain”, the longest track, which builds up tensions with song, guitars, drums, vibes and theremin, in a kind of mix of elements recognisable to Barbez. 
"The Portrait" after that, is a more pleasant melodic instrumental track featuring the whole group but, again, with a special touch by the theremin. Strangely enough this seems to be a composition by the brilliant contemporary composer Schnittke, because I am not able to recognize his, what I considered as a very dramatic, style. 
"Like Snowflakes, some sort of Red" starting up as a more melancholic track, builds up an emotional rock drive, with additional funny ideas of yodelling, and all different kinds of rhythms and rhythm evolutions. 
Concluding track, "Gnossienne #3" is a brilliant art-rock Satie interpretation, with drums, guitars, theremin and chimes. A musician friend just told me that Satie, like Debussy was very much inspired by a gamelan concert he saw in his days. In some way both Debussy and Satie had used the silence and an underlying rhythmical pulse of sound in their compositions, which in their time was a completely new approach to composition. It's also the idea that rhythm has its own compositional idea. If one interprets Satie that way, like the group does here, with leading chimes and additional tones by theremin, in some way, without realising, reinvents the compositional structure with the original thought from where it was developed from.

Talented ! Highly recommended !!

Audio : "The Portrait", "Insignificance"  
Other introduction of band  : http://www.21grand.org/20030523.html
Info : http://www.importantrecords.com/releases/imprec063_release_page.htm
Dutch review I did for Kindamuzik here.

PS. This release finally was released in 2006 (still listed as 2005) on Important Records.
I found out on the net Pamelas theremin seems to be an Etherwave Pro, not sure if it's basically very different from most theremins : http://www.moogmusic.com/...

2008 EP further down->

Important Rec.     Barbez : Mexico City Impressions / 
  Somebody get rid of the king -single- (US,2008)***'

While I very much liked the two earliest works by Barbez, but I missed checking out their Tzadik release.* Their latest product to date is this single, limited to 400 numbered and signed copies. It contains two, rather semi-improvised tracks. The first one, “Mexico City Impressions” is an emotionally strong and building up instrumental rock track with doorbell/Fender-like glockenspiel, drums, electric bass, rather violin-like theremin, close in harmony to the cello by guest Julia Kent (King), while “Somebody get rid of the king” is a slower rock improvisation with male vocals, a song with equally building up tension in the emotional rock fire as well as in the vocal aggression. A snapshot of how they sound live nowadays ?

Audio : "Somebody Get Rid of the King", "Mexico City Impressions" & on juno.co.uk/...
Info & audio : http://www.myspace.com/barbez
Review with audio : http://www.boomkat.com/item.cfm?id=47384
Info : http://www.importantrecords.com/releases/imprec153_release_page.htm
& on http://www.squidco.com/
& on http://brainwashed.com/...
Homepage : http://www.barbez.com

update : review of this release : see below ->

Tzadik Rec.   Dan Kaufman : Force Of Light (US,2007)****'

When John Zorn (Tzadik) asked Dan Kaufman to make a release with Barbez for the Tzadik series, he suggested making a project around the poetry of the Roman Jewish, German speaking poet, Paul Celan, who had survived the camps. Both John and Dan admired his poems very much, so it was as if a long time dream came true. The music is different from previous Barbez albums, sounds more like a soundtrack, a silent and still emotionally intense ode, like a silent gravestone telling his stories of an unsolved past expressed by words and tensions. The band plays rock chamber music with growing emotional intensities, sometimes lingers quietly sad on the background, filmic and moody. The theremin more often sounds like the voice having lost ground by emotions, guided closely by violin. 

Music with poetry like this I think opens up perspectives to mutual understanding, because the personality with it reaches something universal and recognisable. 

The band has a slightly different line-up as before. Pamelia Kurstin still is on theremin, Peter Hess (Balkan Beat Box) on clarinets, Dan Kaufman on guitars (electric, nylon, and lap steel), Danny Tunick (Bang on a Can All-Stars) on vibes and marimba, Dan Coates and Peter Lettre on bass (electric and upright) and John Bollinger on drums. 
Special guests were Fiona Templeton for narrations ; Sarah Bernstein : violin, Catherin McRae : violin (4,5), Julia Kent : cello (2). 

(PS. John Bollinger and Julia Kent also played with Antony and the Johnsons.)

Audio : "Aspen Tree"(or here)
Other reviews : http://www.squidsear.com/...
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/... & http://www.prefixmag.com/...
http://www.pitchperfectpr.com/a_barbez.html & http://www.sequenza21.com/carey/?p=21
http://treblezine.com/... & http://www.firstcoastnews.com...
http://www.outsideleft.com/always.php?catID=30&updateID=951
http://www.pittsburghcitypaper.ws/gyrobase/PrintFriendly?oid=oid%3A37785
http://mailman.xmission.com/lurker/message/20071004.104408.e0dee9c9.en.html
http://www.thedailypage.com/... & http://www.tucsonweekly.com/...
Barbez info : http://www.barbez.com/celan.html
Label info : http://www.tzadik.com/index.php?catalog=8119
http://www.pitchperfectpr.com/images/presskit/dankaufmanbio.pdf
Sarah Bernstein homepage : http://sarahbernstein.com/
Interviews : http://www.jewcy.com/tags/dan_kaufman
http://www.nextbook.org/cultural/print.html?id=714

Some pages on Paul Célan http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/celan.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Celan
http://www.nortonpoets.com/ex/celanp.htm
http://www.celan-projekt.de/; extra CD reviewed further below->

Les Disques      Pascals : abiento (JAP,2003)**°
Du Soleil et de l'Acier

First of all I had to have a good laugh with the name, 'Pascals'. It is funny to call a group of individuals, all the same name. Especially some particular names in plural get this funny effect. -I knew a Belgian group before which was called The Ludoos (plural of Ludo).- Pascals refers to Pascal Commelade

The group appears funny too, in a natural entirely unaffected and innocent way. Their smiles on the cover tell me already they all joined the band to "enjoy" the band. Musically it holds perfectly the middle between a good foundation of serious compositions with European inspiration and at least Japanese inspiration on one track, and some touches of a musically cohesive foundation of humour, and at least some entertainment effect. 

They sound a bit like Penguin Cafe Orchestra (some say Yan Thierssen, which makes a point), but more happy. (The Penguin Cafe Orchestra style is most clear on the "Home Coming Song" track). "Egyptian Reggea" is the track which holds a perfect middle between Japanese music, and East European? or whatever (style) : very funny, with a serious sense of nonsense (played by singing, acoustic instruments, toy-instruments, singing saw, trumpet,..). Every composition must be inspired by some people/person who knows music. There's a Brian Eno track. "La Lluna" is a Spanish lullaby which I know from a demented folk-psych album from Pau Riba. Any melody-with-rhythm probably was fine to interpret. "Meters" on an African? rhythm has all kinds of elements from jazz to chamber orchestra. "Mayday" sound the most serious reflective and beautiful composition. Also "Hashire Kozou" starts a bit melancholic but in a definite theater play mode. Last track concludes with an overexposing of their theatrical craziness / madness. Great ! 

The group consists of 16 "Pascals".

Info on gig in Belgium -Za 19 maart 05- :
http://www.ccleopoldsburg.be/html/voorstellingen%200405/avondvoorstellingen/...
Review : http://www.artistdirect.com/nad/store/artist/album/...
French review : http://www.routard.com/mag_musiques/id_musique/258.htm
http://www.m-la-music.net/article.php3?id_article=327
http://servanemalette.free.fr/Chroniques/P/Pascals_Abiento.htm
Label : http://www.dsa-wave.com/
(with entry : http://www.dsa-shop.com/contenu/fiches/artistes/6.html)

PS. Another group which I associated similarly is the Matinee Orchestra. Review on next page->.

Cuneiform Rec.   Alec K.Redfearn and the Eyesores : The Quiet Room (US,2005)****'

This Providence band have developed even further their chamber music post-rock (or call it neo-chamber rock) sound. The group continues their ideas of their previous and third album, (which was reviewed on next page). Only now the band is bigger :

Alec K.Redfearn plays here amplified and non-amplified accordion, Hammond B3 organ, jews harps, alarm clock, paper cutter, telephone, piano, bowed cymbals and sings ; Margie Wienk plays string bass and sings ; Alec Thibodeau plays guitar ; Anne Schattle plays horn in F ; Matt McLaren plays drum kit, hand cymbals ; Chris Saraullo plays floor tom, glockenspiel, cowbell, maracas, tambourine ; Jason McGill plays alto sax, brake ; Frank Difficult plays analog and digital recordings, handheld tape recorder. Guests are Sara Stalnaler for cello and Matt Everett on one tracks, and Sarah on one more track.

Like a avant-rock "marching"-chamber-band their energy is simply captivating. It is not really like rock-cabaret but musically a lot happens. "Punjabi/Watery Grave” is especially hypnotic. This track is again (-I mentioned this reference a few times before on other releases-) based upon this hypnotic one note rhythm that could be heard on an Indian hit earlier this year (-a Punjabi rhythm-). Perhaps the most brilliant track on the album, amongst others. There's also one Bulgarian interpretation in their own distinctive style. 

A splendid, highly recommended release. Perfect from beginning to end.

Homepage : http://www.aleckredfearn.com/
Label info : http://www.cuneiformrecords.com/bandshtml/redfearn.html
German review : http://www.babyblaue-seiten.de/...

Review of 2006 album : http://psychemusic.org/prog17.html#anchor_211

Constellation    Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band : 
Horses In The Sky (CAN,2005)***°

‘Silver Mt. Zion’ is a group led by founding Godspeed You Black Emperor!’s guitarist Efrim Menuck, together with other Godspeed (You Black Emperor) members Sophie and Thierry (acoustic and electric bass). When the group expanded to six members with Becky (cello), Ian (guitar), and Jessica (violin) the band was renamed to The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-la-la Band. After this (fourth) release the group became 7 members with Scott.  

This album is song driven with room for chamber music rock improvisation. The songs, texts and voice are confronting with the harsh reality we’re living in, expressed with passionate but desperate emotionality. 

It is true our world the last couple of years, became more difficult for many, for one sees many more demoralized and socially disconnected individuals with no contributing message any more to their environment : “The politics of it is just love thy neighbour mostly, or heartbroken temper tantrums for grumpy refusers, or saucy anthems for all the stubborn dumbass resistance cadres maybe..” 
God Bless our Dead Marines" (or audio here), is sung by lonely weirdo voice, even when consciousnesly noticing certain facts. The song builds with energy, with violins & cello and handclaps and some other percussion, the band performing here as if from a gypsy nightmare, then additional electric guitar comes in with aggressively exposing choir arrangements. 

Mountains made of steam”, an anti-drug song is like bringing back the best of the dark 80’s, with a voice of emotional injustice, of another shocking reality, with equally emotional electric guitar, and the chamber rock band improvising. 

The titletrack, “Horses in the sky” is another sad song, with just acoustic and amplified guitar, and some bowls. Also “Teddy Roosevelt’s Guns” sounds like another complaint or song about discomfort, with the chamber orchestra first quietly crying, then brooding and bringing up the energy of expression, like the pulsating monster of its expression. 

“Hang on to each other” is recorded at a campfire, with a spontaneous underground gospel choir effect, expressing the best emotional aspect of what holds the group together in friendship, into the name of the Tra-la-la Band, into weirdo-like choir expressions. Also the last track, “Ring Them Bells (Freedom Has Come And Gone)" starts filmically, and is sung with some desperate aspect and is taken up by the group as to liberate its feelings, with some distortion like one might know from the Godsp.You Black Emperor! group. A very good release !

Label entry : http://www.southern.com/southern/band/ASILV/
Homepage : http://www.cstrecords.com/html/asmz.html
Other review : http://www.cstrecords.com/html/cst033reviews.html 
Live concert review : http://www.manchesteronline.co.uk/...

Review of earlier release : 
http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/record-reviews/s/silver-mt-zion/this-is-our-punk-rock.shtml
http://www.citypages.com/databank/24/1198/article11674.asp
http://www.dot-alt.com/asilvermtzion_tralala.html
http://www.cstrecords.com/html/cst027main.html
http://www.dustedmagazine.com/reviews/1001

Anticlock Rec.       Frogtoboggan 
Frogtoboggan Meets The Unpaid Professionals (US,1992)****

This is a wonderful release which combines heavenly, classical music based new music played by violin, 'trumpet with bassoon reed', flute and 'clarinet with garden hose extension', bass clarinet, with an additional beautiful contra-tenor voice, combined with a more experimental "Gothic" side of some dark drone, prepared piano, rant, a distant theatre-voice which comes in almost like a distant television-message and some soundscape like sounds as fundaments that make the violin and wind instrument contributions with them sound like ghosts. Starting and ending with 'Heaven', with classical music, this sounds like a trip to various levels of existence with the complete composition as unfolding the stairway between them.

Audio : "1st Invocation", "Thelema at various stations"
Info : http://anticlock.net/frogtoboggan.htm & http://artists.iuma.com/IUMA/Bands/frogtoboggan/  & (not sure if it's the same artist :  http://frogtoboggan.com/  ?? -with other release to listen to-
Other project by this artist : Gamelan Spontificus : http://stage.vitaminic.com/...

Anticlock Rec.     Techix : Monosymphonic (US,2004)****

Techix is not really a chamber ensemble, but a project led and composed by Justin Jones, who has a degree in electronic engineering besides heing an experienced violin player. During his studies he played violin with some bands with names like the All-State Orchestra, and the Lyle Zaring’s Monkey Death Grip Band, later to be known as The Subterraneans with one LP, "Strange no Stranger". After this debuting work Justin graduated with a degrees in electronic instruments, digital signal processing, sound synthesis, and music electronics. With Ethix he found a way to combine classical composition, ideas from violin improvisation with electronic processing.

Most of the composition consists of layers of violin improvisations, solo or dialoguing or in orchestrated form with backward effects, electronic processing, mixing and some electronic beats on some tracks, with some acoustic or amplified guitar mostly.

First track, “Silverflames” starts with a choir mixed with classical music which sounds like a backwards wind & string instruments recording, with a varied exposure thanks to the studio mix. This composition itself is ethereal and full of beautiful overtone movements. This is followed by "Bodi's Last Breath", a quiet acoustic guitar improvisation, and some bass ? mixed with what sounds like a fuzzed violin improvisation. 
On the next couple of tracks we get multilayered violin improvisations, also mixed with some electronic beats, mixed in a complex way to give a spacey feeling. The 6th track “Drumtah” has some medieval folk aspect. Some plucked violin sounds are used as electronic rhythm elsewhere, or other electronically manipulated ambient sounds are interwoven with another violin improvisation. Acoustic and amplified guitar is also used a couple more times,like  on “Tear of Dust”, with manipulated voices as some background choir, mixed with electric violin. On “Via Mass” also the guitar is mixed in an intelligent way with backward recordings of it, mixed with violin once more.

A rather unique, but not too complex, beautiful individual release for rewarded repeated listen.

Info : http://www.techix.com/ 
Label entry : http://anticlock.net/techix.htm
Some unreleased tracks : http://www.techix.com/music.html

Textile Rec.   The One Ensemble of Daniel Padden : The Owl of Fives (UK,2003)****°

I already know a few fantastic chamber-music like ensembles & bigger music projects who perform their own, somewhat surreal fantasy theatre world, like Faun FablesCerberus Shoal, (a little bit Animal Collective), and groups who lean towards this 'bizarre' group sound (Tra-La-La Band, Eyesores,..). Like Faun Fables this isn’t really a chamber music Ensemble but it performs with the energy and with an even wider melodic richness of one. 

The One Ensemble of Daniel Padden is a solo project of Daniel Padden from the experimental group Volcano The Bear, (review of a VTB release on next page), with guest Mary Wells & Alex Neilson on one track, Dave McDonnel on another track, Andra Kulans on two other tracks, with some unclear reference to a couple of other persons. 

The music compared to his other group Volcano The Bear, is more directly acoustic and melodically structured. The music is often like a filmic soundtrack fantasy, a few times like an improvisational inspiration. I can also say that T.O.E. is more melodically structured and V.T.B. more free experimental. 

This album was recorded between 2000 and 2003 in US, England and Scotland. There are acoustic guitar pickings, piano and evolutions, some beautiful weird vocals, lots of orchestrations, some background sounds and noises. On a few places here an there I heard some ethnic melodic inspiration on the piano & string instruments, clarinet. Recommended !

Audio : "Farewell My Porcupine" (or here or here), "Gong Farm" (or here), 
"Early Music of the Morning", "Singing Norway To Sleep","Shambles"
Info : http://www.brainwashed.com/padden/
& (on The Volcano the Bear website) : http://www.brainwashed.com/vtb/op-1ensemble.htm
Info on this release : http://textilerec.free.fr/..
Daniel Padden's favorites in music : http://www.dustedmagazine.com/features/105
Other reviews : http://www.kqed.org/topics/arts/music/aquarius/padden.jsp
http://www.staalplaat.com/search/catalog/13372
http://www.fakejazz.com/reviews/2004/padden.shtml
http://www.brainwashed.com/padden/reviews.html
http://www.digitalisindustries.com/foxyd/shortshome0103.html
http://www.secondlayer.co.uk/index/p265.htm
http://www.brainwashed.com/brain/brainv07i07.html
French review : http://www.stnt.org/UneChroniqueDeDisque.php3?i=768

Review of 2007 release : http://psychemusic.org/prog18.html#anchor_237

Planet Mu Rec.   Venetian Snares : Rossz Csillag Allat Született (CAN,2005)*****

I must admit I truly love breakbeats and modern electro mixing techniques when skilfully used and when mixed with acoustic ideas. This rarely happens. Amon Tobin used some modern mixes with orchestral and multidimensional effects in his masterpiece “Supermodified” and this had opened up my world already. The next step in developing my interest, was the Japanese composer from the Multophonic Ensemble using intelligent breakbeat compositions, as a few other examples. Venetian Snares aka Aaron Funk also has a long time obsession with intelligent beats and with so many releases he can’t be anything else but very highly experienced in this area by now. Here he uses full-space-filled wonderful alternated compositions with orchestral and other arrangements. There’s only a very sparse use of beats, with more attention to the contemporary compositional spheres. The kind of breakbeat playing is a skill art on its own, when it achieves beats that hardly can be played by any drummer, but could be composed by one, if he can use the technique. This particular album might be the best in its kind or even of a kind.

Audio : "Szerencsétlen", "Öngyilkos Vasárnap", "Felbomlasztott Mentokocsi", "Hajnal", 
"Galamb Egyedül", "Második Galamb", "Szamár Madár", "Hiszékeny", "Kétsarkú Mozgalom", 
"Senki Dala" or at http://www.juno.co.uk/products/172271-01.htm

Info on artist : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venetian_Snares
Label info on artist : http://www.planet-mu.com/artist21.html
Homepage : http://www.venetiansnares.com/ Fansite : http://www.vsnares.com/
Interview : http://www.themilkfactory.co.uk/interviews/vsnaresiw.htm
http://www.thewire.co.uk/web/unpublished/venetian_snares.html
Review with audio : http://www.boomkat.com/item.cfm?id=16625
Other reviews : http://www.themilkfactory.co.uk/reviews/vsnares_rossz.htm
http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/record-reviews/v/venetian-snares/rossz-csillag-alatt-szuletett.shtml 
http://www.playlouder.com/review/+rosszcsillagalat/
http://www.ab-cd.com/icbin/media/PLMU111.2.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A3768050
German review : http://ww.bigkult.com/index.php?kate=pop&id=295
Dutch review : http://www.storing-zine.net/review.php?id=130

More Venetian Snares on album on a separate page for Venetian Snares->

North East Indie   Cerberus Shoal : The Land We All Believe In (US,2005)***°’

Seems like the label of Cerberus Shoal don’t understand how the group still doesn’t get wider recognition, so they hope at the point of this 11th CD already of the group, that they might reach this stage. And I must say the songs sound much more like ‘alternative rock’ than ever before, with a different kind of public tracking attractiveness. 
The music overall didn’t necessarily need this change, but it gives it a different, on the first two tracks less surreal and more focused and directed theatre-stage expression. In a way they fit now better with groups like Mt.Zion, Eyeshores, all groups with a certain shame to their present governments’ ways of thinking, and with a chamber-like rock, and here with a complaint in a post punk & Indie theatre like ‘reactive’ singing. 
At the stage of “Pie for president” musically a whole history from the 40’s until now, are resumed in a puppet theatre like performance. All other songs are like a whirling rock-opera vision of the present, with their own vision portion of a Broadway road performance, with some marching and also theatrical instrumental passages. 

All the best elements of Cerberus Shoal, like the odd female harmony vocal arrangements, are still in there but I think this particular CD has a strong build up aspect that can make the maximum out of a live performance. 

The last almost 17 minutes long track is a more quiet and delicate song in their earlier developed style, evolving with structured power. 

The new line-up consists of Erin DavidsonKarl GreenwaldColleen KinsellaTim MorinCaleb Mulkerin, Tom Rogers, Chriss Sutherland with support by Diablo Crank Sturgeon

Audio : “The land we all believe in”, "Soul a foot of Man"
Label entry: http://www.northeastindie.com/land.htm
Article : http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/audience/stories/050417cerberusshoa.shtml
Interview: http://www.portlandphoenix.com/music/beat_report/documents/04575574.asp
http://home.comcast.net/~nosoapradio/cerberus.htm
Cerb Shoal page : http://www.adequacy.net/reviews/c/cerberusshoal.shtml
Nordic page: http://www.groove.no/html/band/36396792.html
Italian page: www.sentireascoltare.com/CriticaMusicale/Monografie/cerberusshoal.htm

Most other releases of Cerberus Shoal are reviewed by me here

Home Rec.   Mr.Diagonal & The Black Light Orchestra (B/UK,2008)***°

I never had so many contradictory first confrontations with music as with this band and release. The first quick listen I thought it was something really special, like with an avant-garde or at least very original personal approach to Broadway theatre or something, while a second time I found it hopelessly pretentious, because of its rather philosophically-empty lyrical absurdity and directions, but perhaps this last aspect of unfolding an escapist world in theatre no matter what its purpose is, is something which a theatrical world in a spotlight on its own automatically is dealing with, especially when one man comes too much into a solo focus (as writer, organiser, leader and singer, ego, giving introductions as well), more than the play and a concept behind the music itself (except in unity with this), this becomes a personal escapism, which others can still enjoy completely. And indeed it does not matter much if we are taken away into a different world with no other purpose than music, as a complete alternative to real expressions, this can work as a powerful alternative world as well. Besides, the music itself is highly ambitiously arranged, and very well performed. 

On “My Life is a broken bike” the singer sounds like David Bowie doing Berthold Brecht/Kurt Weil (Bowie did this, successfully, long ago), which is a compliment, and which I think is a deliberate style variation on this, as a strong performance accompanied by piano only. This goes over in a well arranged track (with the band), with certain circus-like themes too. The music then varies from chamber-rock over jazz/poprock (“Zarrinqx”) to even well composed / played baroque arrangements (on “Busy Bee”), with the voice changing shape as if dealing with different characters and personalities, just like different aspects of the same magic projection on stage. Of course, “I’ll be a kangaroo on the moon for you” sounds a bit absurd, while “my life is a broken bike” is more imaginable, in general all forms of imaginations are emphatically imaginable like astral projections of an ambitious ego. I am sure live this will be well entertaining for those who look for an evening of music hall entertainment.

Audio & info : http://www.myspace.com/blacklightorchestra 
Label info & audio : http://homerecords.be/anglais/en_BLO/en_BBB.php
Homepage : http://blacklightorchestra.org
Article : http://www.pingmag.jp/2006/10/23/black-light-orchestra-rules-the-underground/
Reviews by public on http://troutfactorynotebook.blogspot.com/...
http://imomus.livejournal.com/324787.html

Ici d'ailleurs   Bed : The Newton Plum (F,2001)****

review moved to 
http://singersong.homestead.com/MarkHollis.html#anchor_216
Sub Rosa         Mikhail : Xenofonia (UK/GR,2012)***'

I was highly impressed by the video introduction of the mining concept DVD performed by the ex-miners Snowdown Colliery Male Voice Choir performing with their voices within the vocal composition the sounds of drills, sweat and hard work in the mines. I have checked the DVD (review here). This main piece can also be found on this compilation album, which more gives an overview of Mikhail’s general view on music, here in a bit bigger concept of associations. 

There are in fact so many different ideas and focuses and associations on this album it becomes fragmented like a collage that is only united by the lead singer’s performance and vision, Mikhail’s, where the music itself becomes a background idea of collage as if from a DJ mind and the singer himself becomes like someone of cabaret performer in a more experimental context. Mikhael calls these associations an opera, while all the allegories remain a collage with a bit more random content than a story-like focus with a group full of visions (like an opera would be), even though a lot of performers were involved, it is not.

The contrasts in Mikhal’s music show craftsmanship of production, as electro-pop with classical contemporary vision ideas and with some ethnical associations of music like some Arabesque Middle eastern associations. 

The true vision behind this is the voice, which is more a loudly expressed mind, looking for what has been left of a Greek origin after so many years of slavery and dependence, meeting classical music forms but keeping this at a distance, meeting the idea of the Greek rebetika sporadically, while leaving the middle eastern part of it like a background collage, expressing with madness in his voice the association of J. P. Rameau, and a few more associations, in the end the voice often does not add more meaning than the wanting to be a personality in a context, a personal expression with a place in all this. It is trying to find a place but at the same time also loses its attention for where it is and what there is, in the middle of a world of contrasts. 

I think that only with the mining choir arrangements, which are completely one within its context and environment it really finds a place to express its vision for something bigger that just one man’s place, these expressions remain also the most powerful creation that deal with almost every aspect in its full power of being. I wish only that such vision had enfolded itself more than just here, or had found one more place to stay. Now Mikhail remains mostly the stranger in the world with a personal voice which is so loud there’s not too much said in the end, leaving the feeling of a migrant there in the midst of elements he cannot chose anything from that touches him really deeper outside its wish and desires, only if he could find more something of his own. You must know how much of Greece culture after its history in reality also has been destroyed, it takes more effort than a wish and some associations to trace that down to find oneself relieved in it. Just the contrasts of all shows something unique of a passionate vision that is possible to do something with, if only it could find something of a resting ground, which it does not.

Audio : http://soundcloud.com/mikhail-k
videos : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlHq1rKO8eE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9hcvZvxusU
http://vimeo.com/30791006
Distro info : http://www.dense.de/news.html#mikhail
Homepage : http://www.mikhailmusic.com
Label info : http://subrosa.itcmedia.net/en/catalogue/soundworks/mikhail-karikis.htm

DVD review of "sounds from beneath" on http://www.psychemusic.org/SoundArt.html#anchor_757

Tzadik              Barbez : Bella Ciao (US,2013)****

There is a new upcoming album from Barbez, which is paying homage to the musical legacy of the Roman Jews and the Italian Resistance during the Second World War. I don’t have the original album yet, so that is a reason to keep the review shorter this time. The tracks hang well together, like a musical concept, with a strong and professional band sound. Half of the tracks have a rockier, more marching rhythm on drums, while the melodies are led by violin/clarinet, with a few times the appearance of the theremin, and we also heard marimba and just a bit of piano. The spoken word tells us dramatic life stories, while the melodies are sad and loaded with a bit of anger. Although I can’t figure out yet how many references are made to real melodies or tunes, I know that the “bella ciao” melody had become a famous Jewish theme that recall regretful memories. This track works towards a dramatic climax with a few off-key electronics interfering in it, while keeping the band entity is kept intact. 

This is dramatic chamber-like music with rock edges.

Info: http://vimeo.com/69041139
http://www.barbez.com/first.html
Label: http://www.tzadik.com/

GO TO NEXT REVIEW PAGE ->
(more theatrical & Chamber Music-Rock)
or go back to progr/psych music index
or go back to general music index