Posts Tagged ‘Piano’

Alternative music legend Chris Connelly has announced he will be releasing a long-player paying tribute to the iconic Nico. Originally planned as 10 tracks featuring Connelly’s versions of her songs, once recorded, he decided to write a parallel album of his own compositions, spanning the life of one of the most unique, tragic and misunderstood female artists in the history of music. The result is the 24-track Eulogy to Christa: A Tribute to the Music & Mystique of Nico, to be released in late autumn.

Ahead of this, the Chicago-based Scottish counter-culture artist presents the album’s first single ‘Eulogy to Lenny Bruce’, heralded by some as Connelly’s finest vocal performance. Appearing on Nico’s 1967 album Chelsea Girl, this song was penned by the tragic Tim Hardin about the equally tragic Lenny Bruce with the lyrics slightly altered, Nico describing her sorrow and anger at Bruce’s death.

Listen to ‘Eulogy to Lenny Bruce’ here:

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Connelly once again worked with producer and long-time Connelly collaborator Chris Bruce, a band member of Meshell Ndegeocello, who has also worked with Seal, Aaron Neville, Bob Dylan, The Waterboys, My Brightest Diamond, Cheryl Crow and Sam Phillips.

Eulogy to Christa sees Connelly purposefully adopting the personas of Nico, Lou Reed and John Cale – even Andy Warhol makes a cameo!

Connelly speaks of these early influences: “I was not a stranger to her music, I had been playing The Velvet Underground & Nico to death for about a year, but knew nothing of her solo work until Cosey Fanni Tutti played me ‘Desertshore’ whilst I was visiting her in London in the summer of 1980… Nico’s output was spartan, at that age, I didn’t know why, but I was drawn in deep to the myth, as well as the myth of Lou Reed, The Velvet Underground and the concentric rings of influence in their wake, like so many musicians.”

The album was inspired by the brilliant book You Are Beautiful and You Are Alone by author Jennifer Otter Bickerdicke, who contributed to the liner notes for the album. She writes, “This is a record to be played at full blast, all the way through, as a commemoration not just to Nico the person, the musician, but to art for art’s sake, for making something because it is important and needs to be done – an idea that is as rare and precious as Nico herself.”

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Edinburgh born Kendall based artist Celestial North has shared ‘Yarrow’, a haunting atmospheric ‘botanical’ soundtrack.  For fans of Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds or Sigur Ros, this reflective and meditative piece gently sways with a wash of pianos and sighing melodies. It’s a tantalizing other side of Celestial North’s artistry and a teaser for her album released later this year. 

Watch the video for ‘Yarrow’ here:

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She says of the song:  “I often think in ‘music’. My thoughts are usually awash with colours and sounds. I was sitting trying to meditate, or contemplate, beside the yarrow patch in my garden. I was finding it difficult to articulate how I was feeling and started to feel a bit frustrated. I decided to sit quietly and start again. I realised that I didn’t really have any words to write down as such but I did have a tune playing in my head. I decided to record this tune on my piano and added some other elements that I felt benefitted the song — a bodhran drum, a choir, the rustling of the yarrow patch and the roses recorded from my garden and some simple electronic sounds.  This botanical soundscape is representative of how I felt whilst I was sitting with the yarrow and the tune played on the piano is the tune that was playing in my head whilst sitting with the plant."

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Christian Death – Quicksand

10th January 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Christian Death have long shown a love of Bowie, which has subtly permeated their work but was rendered concrete with their version of ‘Panic in Detroit’ in the Rage of Angels album. But anyone who would think that the Bowie fandom was specific to the Rozz Williams era of the band would be mistaken: Valor has long embraced androgynous elements in his style, and never shied away from pop / art rock elements within the music itself.

There have, of course been numerous covers of ‘Quicksand’, and the one thing that’s apparent from all of them is that a great song is a great song, whoever’s playing it, even Seal. If Dinosaur Jr’s cover was a brilliant example of reconfiguring the song into a slacker anthem, Christian Death’s take, which stretches the original five-minute song well past the seven-minute mark is remarkably faithful to the original and doesn’t goth it up in the slightest. This isn’t a complete surprise: their previous covers, from Garyn Numan’s ‘Down in the Park’ to Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Angel’, which appeared on All the Love, were straight and sensitive, even reverent in their approach.

Performed by Valor and Maitri, it’s predominantly acoustic guitar and piano, but there’s a full backing with drums, bass, and sweeping string sounds, making for a take that’s bold, theatrical, and yet, at the same time, intimate, and fitting at a time when Bowie covers and links to his songs are proliferating on social media: it may be the fifth anniversary of his death, but the week also marks what would have been his 75th birthday, and it’s fair to say few, if any artists have had quite the impact he did. Elvis, The Beatles, The Stones, may have all broken immense ground, but Bowie was an entirely different proposition, on so many levels, and it’s clear the shock and grief are still strong for so many. This, then, is a fitting and well-executed, heartfelt tribute.

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23rd July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The new release from Dutch duo Vaselyne, consisting of singer Yvette Winkler and musician and producer Frank Weyzig is sold as a maxi-single, and sure enough, with the track accompanied by instrumental and demo versions, it does replicate the feel of the old 12”, which in time became the CD single.

If I’m habitually ambivalent about versions and remixes, it’s because they often feel like it’s an attempt to eke out a limited amount of material over the most space, and back in the day – the day being the late 80s and through most of the 90s – as a completist collector of a number of bands, I’d feel a bit swizzed over B-sides consisting of acoustic versions etc spanning multiple formats, and much preferred the first half of the 80s when the 12” single often meant no more than an additional B-side not on the 7”, or at most, an extended version, and there as only a 7” and 12” on offer, rather than a 7”, 12”, limited 12” and likely a standard and limited CD, all with different tracks, plus a cassette single that was likely the same as the 7” but well, you couldn’t just leave it, could you? Especially if it was in a nice card slipcase or a cover like a cigarette packet.

I digress, just a little. Firmly rooted in the brooding corners of theatrical gothic rock, the piano-led ‘Waiting to Exhale’ is six minutes of poised, dramatic splendour, a work of melancholic beauty. Yvette’s vocal are rich, bordering on the operatic in places, although never overdone: there’s no bombastic emoting here, just controlled reflection. The production is full, but again, uncluttered, not over the top. In this respect, there isn’t much difference in the song’s evolution from the demo to the final version, other than the fact that the final version is fuller, more polished, but with no loss of resonance.

And if it invites comparisons to Evanescence, this is perhaps the key difference: Vaselyne keep things real and resist the overblown, and in doing so, render the more understated emotional qualities more sincere-sounding. A mournful string scrapes across the layered vocal and carries the listener into a space of aching reflection.

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Kristin Hayter, the classically trained multi-instrumentalist, performance artist, and vocalist known as Lingua Ignota, has a new album on the way, and here is the next song and video from it.  ‘Perpetual Flame of Centralia’ a quiet meditation on one of the major lyrical motifs of the record, the blood of Jesus; that which can “wash and cleanse every stain,” as tearfully expressed by disgraced evangelist Jimmy Swaggart in a televised confession.

The video, shot by Emily Birds, brings an extraordinary and profoundly moving collaboration between Hayter and acclaimed fashion designer and fellow Sargent House artist Ashley Rose Couture who created the looks specifically for this video, inspiring an entire collection. Prompted with “the blood of Jesus,” the designer created a floor-length, red veil studded with pearls and mountains of tulle. Hayter explains, “I asked her to design a piece indebted to 17th-century Dutch costume, and she returned with a gown with a 20-foot train and a magisterial lace collar exploding with pearls.”  The two artists deal with pain through their art: Hayter through past domestic abuse and Rose through the death of her twin brother, whose encouragement led to her starting her own line.

Watch the video here:

The album, Sinner Get Ready is released on August 6th via Sargent House.

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Clothing by Ashley Rose Couture. Photo by Lisa Birds

16th July 2021

James Wells

Here at Aural Aggravation, we may have a predilection for noise and abrasion, but sometimes, we get headaches, sometimes we just get too het up and stressed and life gets so horrible that we need a break. Besides, even pop songs don’t necessarily mean mainstream these days: and without the kind of exposure that propels them to stardom, purveyors of pop can be as underground as the darkest of sludge metal acts.

Bethany Ferrie – 23 and hailing from Glasgow – beings us a piano-led song that’s poppy, but also serious, but without being Coldplay or Keane about it. She does, however, represent a generation of new artists who are emerging with a maturity that belies their years.

On ‘This is Where I Leave You’, Bethanie twists and turns through a gamut of emotional turmoil, and there’s a whole lot of emotional anguish here, but it’s presented delicately and digestibly thanks to a sweetly melodic delivery.

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Red Hook Records – 16th April 2021

Red Hook Records is the new label set-up by former ECM producer, Sun Chung. Hanamichi is Red Hook’s debut release. And what a prestigious release it is.

This is no casual, passing release or minor effort, and it’s certainly not a stop-gap space-filler of a release in the body of Kikuchi’s work: Hanamichi represents the final studio recordings made by the Japanese pianist, laid down over two days in December 2013, before his death in 2015 aged 75. As the liner notes suggest, Hanamichi is ‘the culmination of [his] lifetime of musical exploration and discovery.

Having featured on no fewer than 62 album releases, and having worked with a host of artists including McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, Miles Davis, Gary Peacock, Paul Motion, Hanamichi provides a fascinating bookend to an outstanding careers, and demonstrates his unique ear for melody. The airy and spacious opener, ‘Ramona’ is exemplary: the notes, played at intervals that hint at a time signature, but one that’s varied and unconventional, flow in a fashion that’s on the surface an easy, vaguely jazzy tune, but then there’s something that doesn’t quite conform to expectation, with small and subtle but still definite jumps between key.

And so Kikuchi leads us airily through the soft easiness of ‘Summertime’, an extended composition of great delicacy. Fleetingly, a bar resembling Ella Fitzgerald’s song of the same name half-appears, but in an instant, it’s floated away on a zephyr. Yet there are some moments of uncomfortable discord, and clouds gather across the sun, before the piece slowly tapers down to nothing in the final minute.

‘My Favorite Things’, in two parts, echoes the lilting lightness of the first piece, and the atmosphere is almost that of the background soundtrack in a basement jazz bar. Back in the day, you’d hear stuff like this that was mellow and laid-back through a smog of smoke and a babble of chat late into the night and even into the morning in tiny spaces down winding stairs. But what renders these pieces interesting are the sudden flurries or notes in a different tempo, occasionally lurching unexpectedly here to there, breeding disorientation and discomfort.

The contrasts are the key: gentle, accessible melodies and soothing tunes veer sharply and unexpectedly into awkwardness – not so awkward as to be horribly jarring, but just awkward enough to be, well, awkward. As such, Hanamichi sounds like nothing else: easy, but not, existing in a unique space, a space apart.

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Lustmord + Nicholas Horvath – The Fall / Dennis Johnson’s November Deconstructed

Sub Rosa – 20th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

According to the press release and liner notes, The Fall is a deconstruction of November by Dennis Johnson. My knowledge of the source material is limited to the same, which explain that November was written for solo piano in 1959, and is the first example of minimalist music composition – and that it was also the inspiration for La Monte Young’s The Well-Tuned Piano (1964). This may or may not be useful information, as may or may not be the fact that this collaborative effort strives to ‘reduce Johnson’s original November to its core element and place it in a landscape of complimentary sound. And as such ‘echo’s [sic] November but with further resonance’.

It’s a sixty-six minute work split into four segments numbered I through IV, with classical pianist Nicolas Horvath playing the piano parts, while Lustmord brings the atmospherics. How that translates is that the album’s first piece is a full twenty minutes of instrumental piano work, played slowly and delicately, with an acre between each note as it drops and hangs in the air against a backdrop of a fierce gale that buffets against a microphone. If you’ve ever tied speaking to someone on their mobile phone on a windy day, you’ll be aware of how the gusting air’s buffeting creates a sense of disturbance, an interference. Around the midway point, the disturbance shifts from being breeze-like to a deep, surging groundswell, something dark and resonant, an amorphous sound that rumbles and expands, then fades and returns in waves, ebbing and flowing slowly, and all the while, the sparse piano plays on.

And that is pretty much it: slow, deliberate piano – individual notes, struck a bar apart – and a distant rumbling backdrop that fills the empty space, sometimes barely, leaving little but empty air, others more densely, a wash of sound filling the air with levels of abstraction. At times, like rumbles of thunder, and others, like unsettling fear chords and an ominous vibe, but never anything concrete or tangible.

It isn’t much to go on, and while it is atmospheric and intriguing, it’s not entirely enthralling either, and I suspect the same is likely true of the original, a work that’s more concerned with concept than reception – something that can be done, and so is done, and example of avant-gardism promoting the project for its own ends rather than a something to necessarily be appreciated. There are things to appreciate, as it happens: The fall counterpoints ominous and graceful nicely, while also paying tribute to and raising awareness of a seminal work that’s been largely forgotten, eclipsed by other works by other composers, with Dennis Johnson’s renown falling far short of the likes of John Cage and Philip Glass. And on that basis, and on the basis of the original work’s true significance, this is worth tuning into.

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Gizeh Records – 25th October 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Although having contributed to various projects and collectives, including a number of independent soundtracks that have appeared through Gizeh, it’s been a while since Christine Ott last released anything as a primary artist. Nanook of the North, a collaboration with Torsten Böttcher, who brings hang drum, kalimba, and didgeridoo to Ott’s diverse array of instruments.

Nanook of the North is another soundtrack to a film which ‘tells the daily life of the Eskimo family living in Hudson Bay. Fights for life, constant shifts, fishing, seal hunting… The spectator shares the life of the family of the far north’.

As a release, this has been a long time in coming, having been first commissioned in 2013 by La Rochelle International Film Festival.

From the first strike of percussion, which sends a low, rippling hum on which eerie atmospherics build in layers like thick mist, the pair conjure highly evocative soundscapes. Pairing piano with non-western instrumentation makes for some fascinating and utterly compelling combinations, with unusual melodies taking shape along the way. Whereas many soundtracks place the compositional emphasis on atmospherics and vague structures, Nanook of the North stands out for its tendency toward keenly co-ordinated structures and definite tunes brimming with chiming melodies.

There are moments of brooding, shade that contrasts with the unexpected levels of light that fill this album, and ‘Walrus Hunting’ balances drama and playfulness through the incorporation of jazz tropes. Elsewhere. ‘Winter’s Coming’ conveys the ominous sense of darkening days and a creeping chill, while ‘Et le blizzard’ is surprisingly calm and soothing as opposed to the tempest one would reasonably expect. But then, the silence of a blizzard can be a strangely tranquil experience.

The range on Nanook of the North is impressive: it’s expressive and conveys such an array of moods and spaces, while at the same time retaining a compositional and instrumental coherence. And while the places these pieces speak of are bone-breakingly cold, the listening experience is most heart-warming.

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