Saturday, 20 February 2016

Matka Ajan Rannoille by Jesufaglar.

Photo courtesy of Luova Records.
A few years ago, probably with one eye on the new millennium, there was a fad for burying cultural artefacts representing society in time-capsules for future generations to dig up. I don't know if Matka Ajan Rannoille by Jesufaglar ever made it into a Finnish time capsule but if it did there are going to be some very confused Finns in a hundred years or so, how did a 70s album make it into a 2000s capsule! This is the musical equivalent of a time machine whisking you back to a time before punk. After listening to this album I half expected to see people wearing flares and tank tops and to read of political attempts to limit social inequality!

Jesufaglar comprised of Sanna Klemetti; vocals and piano, Enni Kyttänen; vocals and violin, Taneli Hildén; vocals and flute, Tatu Säteri; guitars, Juho Kalliolahti; bass, Joel Pihlaja; drums and Veli-Ville Sivén; organs (1). Sadly they seem to have split up sometime after 2012 (2) but they should be proud of this album.

Fortunately Matka Ajan Rannoille ('Journey to the Shore of Time'), which was self released in 2010 and sold out, was picked up by Finnish record label Luova who ended up with a copy and decided to re-release it recently. (Interestingly Luova's webpage mentions a planned 2016 EP of previously unreleased material by the band.) Musically the album is very 1970s prog/jazz rock, kind of Foxtrot era Genesis meets Focus meets Henry Cow with the odd sprinkling of Weather Report! The female vocals are what sets it apart for me with hints of Bjork and Dagmar Krause at times, and not speaking Finnish made it even more intriguing!

First track Kultasuu is almost an instrumental which starts with a piano refrain before the flute and then the rest of the band join in, at about 2 mins it starts to develop and build and at 3.30 goes into prog rock overdrive before returning to the original refrain again- good, catchy, pretty track, though is that someone whistling in the background?

Taikuri is a different bag, it starts with half heard voices and a siren before the band come in followed by the vocalist, although I haven't got a clue what they are on about this track is excellent, brisling with energy and purpose. With lots of flute and intent vocals this track reminded me at times of 'Get 'Em out by Friday'.

At the moment Kurtisaani is probably my favourite track, due to the first 2 mins or so of beautiful melody and vocals which return at about 3.10 after a prog excursion, as the track continues the intensity grows before ending with subtle feedback. Again it reminds me of Foxtrot in terms of phrasing and instrumentation without ever being derivative.

Fourth track Katkeris is quite different from the preceding tracks with dramatically changing tempos before it goes into a full on prog/jazz rock out!

As you would expect from a prog band title track Matka Ajan Rannoille clocks in at over 11 mins, it is quickly into its stride with those excellent intriguing vocals coming in early, the rest of the song wends its quirky way to about 5.30 where it fades away but then returns initially with just the flute before other instruments join in (quite 'Suppers Ready' in terms of effect) building to a fairly epic climax!

I've really enjoyed listening to this album by a band I hadn't heard of two days ago! Matka Ajan Rannoille is a well crafted prog rock album with interesting songwriting, distinctive vocals and some beautiful melodies. Yes its very 70s and I know I've mentioned Foxtrot a few times as a reference point but I'm sure that was their intent and if you're into progressive rock you will probably find a lot here to enjoy including copious flute!         



Thursday, 11 February 2016

Jane Weaver: Transformations.

Photo by Rebecca Lupton.

Jane Weaver released her first solo album 'Like an Aspen Leaf' in 2002 and her most recent, 'The Silver Globe' in 2014. In all that time and since, as well as the normal stuff of life, she has produced (released and unreleased) albums, collaborated with numerous musicians, gigged, co-partnered in the putting together of a female folk compilation album (Bearded Ladies) and has run a record label Bird! Her albums have often included elements of the psychedelic and this aspect came to the fore on her last release (1&2) with one track 'The Electric Mountain' even based around a sample from original space rockers Hawkwind!
Amazingly she also found time to do this interview!

I think you started releasing music in 1993 as part of Kill Laura, before forming Misty Dixon in 2002. You also released your first solo album in 2002, and then six more albums; the last being the highly acclaimed 'The Silver Globe' in 2014 (2). Has each album been complete in itself and then you've moved on or are there overlaps, threads running through your work?

I've made more albums than this but they've ended up shelved for one reason or another! (usually not my choice)...such is the nature of the beast. I tend to just keep going, sometimes an album has been conceptual and dedicated to that project, and you can see it all mapped out, then sometimes it's been accidental and I decide those songs are an album. There are threads, even if I throw myself into a different character.

What sort of subjects do you tend to engage with lyrically-the internal or external world? Or has the subject matter changed over time?

It's all in there, its personal, sometimes fictional. 'The Fallen by WatchBird' and 'The Silver Globe' are both concept records really, the visual pictures I had when writing were very strong, but they were different characters. I was trying to approach writing in a more soundtracked and storytelling manner, I usually don't finish the words for ages because they require a lot of concentration, I have the idea of what I want to say and a list of draft words, but I need landscapes and silence! So I'll drive out to places that are very quiet!

Your Facebook page talks about re-creating and re-inventing yourself (3), has that happened unconsciously, gradually or has it been a deliberate choice, a 'knowing' that its time to move on?

I do like to move on, the SG took years to write and record and so I feel after then releasing  it and promoting it that its been with me for a while and I need to indulge in something else, I'm always writing ideas in the background anyway but its good to get stuck into a new album.

You also run the record label 'Bird' which has put out albums by mostly female artists (2&4)- was that a response to your own experiences of the record industry?

I wanted to start a small label, it was a personal mission boiling down from my own experiences. I wanted to release my own music on Bird and also music I liked that wasn't getting heard, I find some of the industry absurd and not very diverse...I'm not against it, I love popular music but there is so much stuff that's good that doesn't break through for one reason or another.

In an article in 'The Guardian' you commented that you had moved back to psychedelic music after a folky previous album and that you thought psych music should ideally be rooted in community (4). Could you elaborate on the relationship between the two?

I was talking about commune rock of the late 60s and 70s like Gong living in a dilapidated chateau in France or Amon Duul's free form art improvisations. I love the romance of it all, I used to attend free festivals in the late 1980s, before the Criminal Justice Act came was sweet, I was always very respectful that people chose to live like that, I had a normal suburban working class upbringing in a chemical town, so it was so far removed from my upbringing, but me and my friends hung out with hippie/bikers because it was exciting and that was our little community when we were finding our feet as young adults, ultimately we all shared the same ideals and loved the same music.

What led you to re-emphasise and re-engage with psych music on your last album?

With 'The Fallen by WatchBird' I'd been listening to David Axelrod's 'Earth Rot' and was into the trippy narrated vocals at the beginning, I wanted to explore more taped vocal effects but with a 'muscular' heavy backing track for The Silver Globe but I was also hearing more 'pop' style melody for some of it, I decided to just go with the flow of it, it wasn't particularly deliberate that I wanted to create a prog/pop/psych record I was just hearing it like that in my head.

In the same piece you enthusiastically promoted a DIY ethos, reminding me of the early punks! Is it easy for musicians to become mesmerised by 'The X-Factor'?!

I can't stand The X-Factor, I don't think any musicians I know thinks its good either, although I can watch it and see that...OK someone has a great voice etc., but to be thrown in that deep and quick to that level of corporate music industry with no previous experience makes me shudder a bit. I don't like my kids watching it, I'd rather they watch a school talent show or Undercover Boss. I take them to music festivals when I can, they like pop stuff that's in the charts and bands like Super Furry Animals.

Has your creative process changed over time, do you have a clear vision when you start a new work or does it tend to evolve? Is an album 'completed' before you go in the studio or still a work in progress?

I have most of it mapped out, and the song is normally in my head but I like to spontaneously experiment with synths and noises, guitar sounds etc. That's the fun bit when you start recording, sometimes at first it can sound odd but I usually know where I'm going with it!

How have you found being a woman in music? Have you experienced much gender stereotyping or have you been pleasantly surprised by your experience?

In some respects things are exactly the same as the late 1980s when I started in a band, I see the big picture and its not equal or diverse so I will fight when I need to fight. Some things make me sad like festival line-ups, (how many boy guitar bands do we actually need?) and ageism targeted at women. I was also sad when I read Bjork's account of people's perceptions of how she makes music, and how male programmers etc. she works with have been over credited, not by them but by the press. Its a general perception that's really sexist and outdated, sad because if it happens at her level of artistry and experience its very odd and disappointing.

What writers/musicians/thinkers have you drawn on, and been influenced by, as a person and as a musician? How do you manage to balance all the different things you're involved in without becoming jaded?

Kate Bush was my first inspiration, I loved her mime and theatrical performance as a student of Lindsay Kemp (same with Bowie of course!) and Yoko Ono is someone I've always been fascinated with. The last record drew influence from a Polish sci-fi film the previous album from a Czech fairy tale and this was purely accidental, they were just things I caught in the corner of my eye that became inspirational...I rarely become jaded, there is too much stuff to discover, we are lucky.

How is 2016 looking? Have you any plans for a new album?

I'm currently writing and recording the next album, I'm excited to focus and explore new ideas again, I've bought some new synths and keyboards so it will be interesting to see where it goes!
The band and I are also going to Austin SXSW Festival in March and then Paris and Lille shortly after for gigs, then festivals in the summer.

(4) Jane Weaver (2015) Jane Weaver: How to be an independent artist in 2015: 


Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Selvhenter; Sonic Explorers.

Photo by Emil Hartvig.

Sometimes on those wandering musical journeys through the internet you come across
unexpected gems-you can't quite remember how you got there but you're glad you did! Last summer on one such journey I came across sonic explorers Selvhenter! Some months later, knowing that our laptop wasn't doing them justice, I took a punt on their second album 'Motions of Large Bodies', an extraordinarily exciting, exhilarating and atmospheric album. This was quickly followed by their first 'Frk. B. Frika- equally good but with a more raw feel. Citing influences as wide as Sunn 0))), Fela Kuti, Velvet Underground, Cluster, Harmonia, Yoko Ono, Wu Tang Clan, Steve Reich, Laurie Spiegel, Terry Riley and The Ex they explore 'the field between repetitive drone-like compositions, strong beats and free improvisation' (1), a heady mix that includes experimental rock and free jazz. Based in Copenhagen Selvhenter are a five piece comprising Jaleh Negari and Anja Jacobsen on Drums, Maria Bertel on Trombone,  Sonja LaBianca on Saxaphone and Maria Diekmann on Violin. Kindly they agreed to an interview.      

Could you give us an overview of Selvhenter? When did you start, has the personnel changed? Had any of you played together in other bands?

The band began playing as a trio in 2007 (Violin, Saxophone and Trombone). We had never played together before and were curious and wanted to amplify our instruments.  Shortly after we were invited to play a show, and for fun we asked the two drummers to join. And that just made so much sense that we continued as a quintet. 

What does Selvhenter mean? Also what is 'Eget Vaerelse' and what is the relationship between the two?

In Danish 'selvhenter' is a term used when playing ball games, when someone shoots the ball way off course and consequently has to go and bring it back into play. Eget Værelse is our working collective, from where we put out records and have a home for all the different projects the 5 of us do. 

How would you describe Selvhenter's music? What influences have you drawn on? Did you all have similar musical backgrounds?

We all come from quite different musical backgrounds, which has to do with the instruments we play on. When playing together in Selvhenter it is quite easy for us to play with the roles and sounds of each instrument since the instruments are taken out their normal context. The music is about making possibilities for the instruments and the musicians to move around take different roles, copy and paste an idea into another instrument and see how that sounds!

Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to sound like from the start or has that sound gradually emerged?

We didn’t really have a clear idea from the start. I remember we worked really hard at the beginning. Playing, improvising it was extremely intense period for us. Now we know each other better and have created a kind of mutual language that we challenge in the rehearsal space.

What is the music scene like in Copenhagen and Denmark? Are there plenty of opportunities for bands to play? 

The music scene in DK is pretty vibrant these days. We are a part of the Mayhem venue where we played a number of times, where a lot of great musicians and artists also hang out. 

How does a piece of music take shape, does one person write a piece or does it evolve in collaboration?

We have gradually expanded our methods and strategies for composition along the way.  Initially we worked a lot with improvisation and from there evolving defined songs, riffs and grooves. Now we also bring individual ideas for a song to the rest of the band and use them as a starting point of a new composition. Sometimes we meet up in smaller groups and work on new materials. There is always a collaborative process involved.

Your first album 'Frk. B. Frika' came out in 2012, I think, and 'Motions of Large Bodies' came out in 2014 (2). Was there a sense of continuity making the two albums or were the creative processes very different? 

When we recorded Frk. B. Frika it was almost in a live setting, with some extra dubs in the end of the session. Motions of Large Bodies were more produced in the sense that we worked with the material a long the recording session. Recorded in different ways depending on the structure of the song.

In 2015 you released 'New Age' on a split single with Dutch band The Ex (2), how did that come about, did you know each other?  

We played a show together with The EX in Belgium on a tour in 2013. We knew of their music from previously and have felt an inspiration from it, but they came to know of us at this show. We got along well and they really liked what we were doing, so it was a mutual fascination. From then on we kept in touch, provided booking connections for each other and collaborated on the split.

When you are recording is it a balancing act between structure and improvisation? How about when you are playing live, do you aim to reproduce your recordings or use them as a starting point to work out from?

In the recordings we have had both very well defined songs and also quite open material to work from and evolve in the process of recording, mixing and producing. It was always a very fun and sometimes challenging process, though all together we have come to know our sounds, ideas and music with a new understanding and reflexion from it. Live it is some what similar, we have both quite well defined songs, riffs, grooves but also integrate improvisation and find that an open-minded approach to all of our material is beneficial as a ways to generate new ideas and concepts, also on stage in a live performance.

Is your music a little like abstract art, the transposing of ideas, concepts and feelings into sound?

Yes, one can definitely say that our music also is alike to abstract art; the zooming in on small fractions and structures, working with sound as material, forming and deforming it and discovering new shapes and associations in what comes out of this kind of playing with our instruments and the sounds we work with. I guess we try to reach beyond our definitions and labels of what melody, rhythms and sound can be and what they represent, so that the matching of the elements hopefully can shed new light and forms to ideas we might had in our heads.
Sometimes our starting point is a concept, sometimes a sketch one of us has brought, but I guess a common thing is to make room and space to that which can seem unclear and intangible for some time, and let it grow in it´s own speed and form.

What sort of ideas and subjects inspire your music, what sort of subjects does Selvhenter's music engage with?

We are very much inspired by lots of different things and those inspirations of course change along with our lives. But generally we share a lot of literature, films and artists, specially when we´re on tour we have loads of time to discuss stuff we´ve seen, exchange books and films, etc., but besides different artist we are of course also affected and inspired by the society and the world around us. 'Everything is a source', as Sister Corita Kent used to say... 

What are your plans for 2016? I noticed you are playing the Raw Power Festival in London this May!

Yes, we are looking very much forward to playing the Raw Power Festival. We will be in the UK for two or three more shows the days before Raw Power Festival, also visiting Exchange in Bristol the 26th and Islington Mill in Manchester the 27th.
In April we´re going to Katowice in Poland where we are going to play in a jail - also quite exciting!
Besides concert activity we are looking forward to work on new material - and we´re especially looking forward to have our second drummer Anja Jacobsen back in the band from her maternity leave.