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While this website has become known for its in-depth album and concert reviews, the digest contains concise comments on new music our audience has either recommended or might enjoy. Click on album covers or label names for links to further information. Click on the title to view the article.

Content
Kemopetrol
Kemopetrol
Kemopetrol
Sarah Fimm
Sarah Fimm
Sepiamusic
Natasha Lea Jones
Colleen Coadic
Lucie Silvas
Anubian Lights
Petra Haden and Bill Frisell
Petra Haden

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Instrumental Digest
 
Play For Me CD Cover
Image © Plastinka MusicMakers 2004

Kemopetrol
Kemopetrol | Photo by Mikko Harma
Image © Plastinka MusicMakers 2004

More Kemopetrol:
Slowed Down
Everything's Fine


Kemopetrol
Kemopetrol | Photo by Mikko Harma
Image © Plastinka MusicMakers 2004

 

(18 April 2005) Fifteen months after their second album Everything's Fine, and only a month before Kemopetrol were due to begin the recording of their third album, Play For Me, Kari Myöhänen left the band and was replaced on bass in the studio by Kalle Chydenius. Recording began on schedule in August 2003, the album being released in March 2004.

The first noticeable difference between Play For Me (Plastinka MusicMakers (Finland) 82876606652, 2004) and its predecessors is the artwork. The natural look of the previous two albums is jettisoned for a much more glossy and posed series of photographs. Maybe this reflects more confidence in their position as a top Nordic band, for the music on this CD also shows a greater certainty than on Everything's fine.

It opens with "Seagulls," a song with a classic Kemopetrol groove backed with a luscious string-laden chorus. The dynamics on this song--and the album as a whole--are well thought out and executed, the half-minute mid-point build from Laura's voice plus sparse strings to the full band and guitar solo is a master class of how to do this simply and effectively. The repeated chorus at the end is also handled well, though the play out seems a little weak by comparison. Nevertheless it's a great way to start the album.

The strength of the songwriting and the greater emphasis on chorus hooks continues on the engaging "From An Aeroplane" which has some nice vocal harmonies, something the band have used only sporadically in the past.

It's clear that with this album Kemopetrol have totally embraced the notion of pop and are, by sheer talent, powerful songwriting, thoughtful arrangements and their own originality, attempting to lift it from it's current poor-relation status in much the same way that say ABC's "The Lexicon Of Love" did at the start of the 1980s. So it may not be entirely coincidental, that title track has a certain 80s sound in the opening keyboard.

The first single and video from the album, the brilliant "My Superstar," has yet another blisteringly singable chorus. The band manage to conjure up a variety of moods and references: the first short instrumental passage in the beautiful "Weekend Friend," for example, wouldn't have shamed Pink Floyd at their zenith, and the second break has dual leads which echo early exponents of that art, Wishbone Ash. The album's full of little echoes of the past while remaining solidly in the 21st century.

"End Of The Day" is simply another top draw pop song. "Two" is a wonderfully emotive love song built around piano, percussion and strings, the simple heartfelt lyrics perfectly delivered by Laura. The track also benefits from the addition of some well thought out melodic woodwind lines in the instrumental passage. All in all, it's close to perfection.

The opening section of the album's closing track, "Undying Love," has recent antecedents in the Bristol sound of Portishead and Massive Attack. At over seven minutes, it's the longest piece Kemopetrol have yet committed to disc barring remixes and perhaps could best be described at prog pop. The second section has some acoustic guitar from the Anthony Phillips school and some understated vocals from Laura before strings kick in and together with some early 70's keyboard sounds, it mutates even more closely towards an early Genesis sound and leaves one musing if this is the way the band may be heading for their next album. It's certainly an interesting and unexpected way to close the CD.

In an age where 'pop' has a become synonymous with music where the computer generated beat is more important than melody or lyrics and which is usually delivered by dance troupes rather than groups of musicians or by manufactured vocal bands where the main criteria is that no-one has reached the age of majority and where concern over looks far outweighs that of talent, Kemopetrol make an unanswerable case that intelligent, mature, thoughtful pop music still has a place in the musical firmament. Play For Me is an exquisite, boundary-pushing, pop album reminding us of all that is best in a much-maligned genre.--Jamie Field in Hereford England and Russ Elliot in New York

 
Everything's Fine CD Cover
Image © Plastinka MusicMakers 2002

Laura Närhi
Laura Närhi | Photo by Mikko Harma
Image © Plastinka MusicMakers 2002

More Kemopetrol:
Slowed Down
Play For Me

 

(18 April 2005) Kemopetrol's Slowed Down went into the charts in their home country shortly after its release and stayed there for five months and eventually went gold in May 2003. In February 2001 Kemopetrol won the Best New Pop/Rock Band Award for 2000 at the Emma gala--the Finnish music industry prize event--and on the back of this went back into the studio a couple of months later to begin work on their second CD. Entitled Everything's fine (Plastinka MusicMakers (Finland) 74321934622, 2002), it took almost a year to complete.

"Saw It On TV" was the first single taken from the CD--as with their debut it was released a month before the album--and the opening is a fine example of the band weaving different melodic lines to form a whole. Although the chorus is massively punchy, it wouldn't be considered the most obvious choice for a single in the UK or the US. Indeed the middle eight is a quiet passage with an electric guitar sound reminiscent of early Genesis or Yes's Steve Howe in one of his more ambient moments.

As the album progresses, through the powerful "For Nothing" with it's pumping bass line, and the cross rhythms of "Shine" where DJ Slow reprises his scratching from the debut album, it's clear that some of the more unlikely moments from Slowed Down have been sacrificed for a more direct approach. It's probably a more commercial sound overall, but contains fewer surprises and less moments of magic.

Only when we get to "Everything That Surrounds Us" a brief two-minute interlude of just Kalle's piano and Laura's voice do we have a respite. "Windmills" is also more relaxed with Leri Leskinen's accordion adding a little color. "Hypo Eyes' opens with a dramatic repeating piano figure played over a somewhat annoying drum machine pattern, but the song develops well and smacks of the 1980s and Claire Grogan fronting Altered Images.

"Forest For The Trees" is a beautifully laid back affair with some effective strings. The penultimate song "Everything Under Control" opens with Teemu giving the kit some fearful hammer before Kalle piano pounds in. This track is the highlight of the album, some of the commercial polish of other tracks is absent, but Laura's expressive vocals and the quirky arrangement--Leri's accordion has a cameo--together with the build and thenthere's a berserk guitar solo from Marko that makes it by far the most musically ambitious, powerful and interesting piece on the disc.

The album closes with the mellow and very beautiful "Everything's Fine" wonderfully juxtaposed with the track that precedes it. Kalle's electric piano is to the fore in the introduction and there's some great keyboard ripples later in the piece. They saved the best two tracks for last.

Everything's fine is a somewhat pared back affair when compared to Slowed Down. Whilst still a fine album, maintaining the strong melodies of its predecessor, overall it doesn't match the extraordinary level of song writing, imagination and inventiveness of their debut. Whereas on their first album, inspired ideas seemed to be falling over themselves to get noticed, this CD lacks that feeling of spontaneity and adrenalin. It has the feel of an album that's aiming for a more commercial section of the market. If so, it succeeded: on release in April 2002, Everything's fine went straight to No. 1.--Jamie Field in Hereford England and Russ Elliot in New York

 
Slowed Down CD Cover
Image © Plastinka MusicMakers 2000

 Laura Närhi | photo by Jukka Suloranta
Image © Plastinka MusicMakers 2000

More Kemopetrol:
Everything's Fine
Play For Me

 

(18 April 2005) Finland's Kemopetrol came into being in early 1999 as the result of an instrumental side project by keyboardist Kalle Koivisto and guitarist Marko Soukka who were then playing in the band Charm Quirk. When vocalist Laura Närhi joined the experiment, the remaining two members of Charm Quirk, drummer Teemu Nordman and bass player Kari Myöhänen were quickly summoned and the quintet played their first gig in March 1999. In April, they recorded a demo disc appropriately entitled Demopetrol.

Reaction was overwhelmingly positive and Kemopetrol began recording their debut album in July. A single, "Child Is My Name," from the forthcoming album was released in November, and their first TV appearance followed shortly after. The album, Slowed Down (Plastinka MusicMakers (Finland) PLACD01 and PLACD02, 2000) was released in April 2000.

The band's sound is unique, combining cinematic songwriting, complex cross-rhythms, hypnotic instrumental shading under laid with powerful bass lines and topped off with Laura's siren voice. It's an intoxicating cocktail.

The upbeat opening track, "Tomorrow," introduces immediately the rhythmic complexity that features on a number of the tracks--the drums, keyboard and bass all weaving their own lines to great effect. This track also has some great keyboard solos from Kalle.

The styles of music invoked are many and varied, even within a single track. "African Air," for example, has a relaxed ska groove running through it, a totally unexpected accordion solo by Leri Leskinen and some nifty turntable work from DJ Slow, all of which fit perfectly within the overall sound. One of the crowning glories of this album is the way it keeps surprising you time after time.

The band knew what they were doing when they released "Child Is My Name" five months ahead of the album itself. It's a stunning piece of music with which to introduce oneself to the world. Drums and a strong bass set the scene with some underlying keyboard strings adding mood before Laura's vocals come in with the line "Immortal angels, dressed up as junkies" over this sparse but rhythmic backing. The line is later turned on its head to great effect. There's also a wonderful chorus with some powerful guitar from Marko. With this song they have achieved the seemingly impossible task of creating a danceable track that is also utterly chilling. "This is my hand, shaking and raised, reaching out for something more than mere play." It is a prime example of musical alchemy at its best.

The melodic complexity of the band is shown off to great effect "Night After Night" with each musician weaving a line of their own into the wholecloth of the song. There's no hint of an actual chord till the memorable chorus, later there's another fine understated keyboard solo from Kalle. A sedate piano introduces "View On The Sea" and Laura joins in alone for the first verse before the band power in for the chorus. The track also contains a lovely string interlude arranged by Esa Nieminen.

The second half of the album opens with two immense tracks. "Drown Little Girl" has an almost industrial quality such is its power. Laura's vocals have a laconic, fittingly disinterested feel at times in this piece about the story of girl drowning which is on TV so often that the true tragedy of it is lost. "I keep seeing you every day now on my TV, and when I get bored, I turn it off, you don't exist anymore" before she screams the repeated chilling mantra "It leaves me cold, it leaves me cold." A fine take on the ongoing debate regarding the desensitizing effect of television.

The high standard of Kalle Koivisto's song writing is maintained throughout the album and his ability to sum up big ideas in short pithy lines is exceptional, especially when bearing in mind he isn't working in his first language.

"Drown Little Girl" segues into the equally strong "Teeth" which has the same repetitive intensity of say Led Zeppelin's "When The Levee Breaks," again Kari's bass playing is very much to fore.

With "Disbelief" we're moving back into the musical territory first explored in the opening track. The song starts with some unusual keyboard chord sounds reminiscent of John Martyn's "Small Hours" (from One World) before the song leaps into life with the drum/bass combination. It's another remarkably strong piece with a fine build to an immense climax before it drifts away into the ether.

The title track "Slowed Down" has an appropriately slow groove driven by a keyboard bass line. The track features some fine understated guitar work from Marko, and some very effective vocals from Laura, including a spoken section. Throughout the album, her voice dives, weaves and floats emotively. Perhaps the nearest equivalent is Sarah Blackwood from the criminally under-rated Dubstar. All the songs are sung in English, and her pronunciation is better than any number of native British vocalists. Only very occasionally is there a hint of a accent such as we've become accustomed to from say Bjork. Oddly there's also a hint of Kirsty MacColl in some of Laura's delivery.

The closing piece "Without Listening" has dance tendencies balanced by some enigmatic lyrics and whilst not the album's finest moment still packs a punch many bands can only fantasize about. The arrangements throughout show great imagination. There are many elements, both contemporary and retro, that ghost their way into the music, but these are always subsumed into the distinct Kemopetrol sound.

There's also a special edition of the album (PLACD02) available with a full length bonus disc containing excellent remixes of "Disbelief," and "African Air," and with two each of "Tomorrow" and "Child Is My Name." There are also live versions of "African Air," a very slinky live "Slowed Down," "Disbelief" and a very powerful "Drown Little Girl. Finally there's the video of "Child Is My Name." The special edition is worth the search. And Slowed Down is certainly an essential album.--Jamie Field in Hereford England and Russ Elliot in New York

 
Nexus CD Cover
Image © Sarah Fimm 2004

Sarah Fimm
Photo by Michael Friedman
Image © Little Big Man, LLC 2004

More Sarah Fimm:
A Perfect Dream
Cocooned
 

(17 April 2005) With music as dark, mysterious, and angelic as her namesake, Sarah Fimm makes a resounding splash with her latest effort, Nexus (Sarah Fimm (USA), 2004). While her earlier work was impressive in its own right, Sarah has effectively taken her music to the next level with this album. Straddling the line between female singer-songwriters like that other Sarah (McLachlan) and more progressive electronicists like Bjork, Sarah Fimm's "folktronic" sound is a breath of refreshing air. In fact, there are strong comparisons to be made with favorites Sylvia Tosun and the newly reformed October Project.

First and foremost, Nexus is an assertive display of solid songcraft. With introspective and poignant lyrics, dreamy piano breaks, bold percussion and mechanical synth pulses, the songs on the album set the perfect pitch for a lonely and beautiful night. "Story of Us" calls to mind the efforts of melodic trip-hoppers Daughter Darling. A strong downtemp percussion contrasts wonderfully with Sarah's subtle melodic voice and coruscating arp synths.

The gossamer piano and shuddering soundwaves of "Strange" work amazingly well together. Once again, Sarah's accesible and pensive musings are married perfectly to the dream-like music. "Be What You Wanna Be" sails close to Tori Amos realms. (Sarah has jokingly indicated that she is not allowed to listen to Tori Amos in her efforts to develop her own sound). Nevertheless, the jaunty percussion and romantically plaintive piano rifts work together particularly well.

"Walk Away" is another richly layered piece of musical heartbreak that somehow manages to sound both melancholy and luminous at the same time. The closing track "Storytime" is an undeniably serphaic and tender solo piano instrumental that gently concludeds the album.

Sarah Fimm is just on the cusp of her breakthrough. After being mentioned as one of the "top ten" albums of 2004 by Rolling Stone, Sarah may finally garner the notice she so richly deserves. Certain to appeal to fans of Tori Amos, Hungry Lucy and Harland, Sarah Fimm has joined the ranks of the best of emerging female singer-songwriters.--Justin Elswick in Provo, Utah

 
Cocooned CD Cover
Image © Sarah Fimm 2001

More Sarah Fimm:
A Perfect Dream
Nexus
 

(17 April 2005) Sarah Fimm's album Cocooned) (Sarah Fimm (USA), 2001) is a strange, chimerical beast that evinces a prodigious musical ability and a unique voice. More disparate and possibly less approachable than 2004's Nexus (review), Cocooned, nontheless, still has great merit. A more hard-edged, piano-based work, Cocooned lacks much of the electronic moodiness evident on Nexus. Without question, however, the album showcases a legitimate blossoming talent.

Take the scottish instrumental "Bonny at Morn," which could have been written by Loreena McKennitt and contrast it with the prog/rock "After the Blue." The first sounds as if it were an ancient folk song complete with bagpipes and nimbus hazy synths. The second is a strong, teeth-baring ballad that holds no punches. Yet, surprisingly, the two tracks--which are next to each other in order on the album--sound perfectly situated on the album.

On tracks like "Valhalla" and "Bombay Cafe," Sarah Fimm effectively allows her lush and tender piano free rein, her voice at once accentuating and enhancing the music. One cannot help but be impressed an amused with songs like "Running from the Whole" which begins with gleeful and slightly maniacal pounding piano chords and then adds searing electric guitar that would make "Dio" proud! Without question, the acoustic "Sets us Apart" is a standout track. Very close to early Heather Nova, Sarah Fimm's imploring voice combined with sparse guitar picks and violin render a stunning result.

The unusual instrumental "Cocooned" is a real stunner. Lush violins fight and then converge in beautiful harmony. "At Dawn" foreshadows Sarah's later work on Nexus. The song opens with Sarah singing: Random little things keep taunting me / the rose left on my pillow after you leave / Favorites turn to monsters as the seasons turn around / I had no idea I could feel so upside down.

Strangely touching and revealing, Sarah Fimm proves she has no fear of laying her sentiments and passions on the table. In between her debut and 2004 project, Cocooned shows great merit and a sign of things to come.--Justin Elswick in Provo, Utah

 
Prototype CD Cover
Image © Sepiamusic 2003

Erin E. Chapman
Erin E Chapman (lead vocals)
Image © Sepiamusic 2003
 

(17 April 2005) Electro-acoustic duo Sepiamusic are bound to garner numerous fans with the release of their full-length debut entitled Prototype (Sepiamusic (Denmark), 2003) American singer Erin Chapman and Danish producer/songwriter Michael Adler Miltersen have combined forces to create a highly listenable album full of seductive, late-night, iridescent grooves.

Like the music of Delerium or Balligomingo, Sepiamusic walk the line between dreamworld etherealism and solid pop agreeability. After meeting in 1999, Erin and Michael released a demo track "Fall Into Me" on Danish national Radio's P3. Subsequently, Sepiamusic scored two #1 hits on garageband.com. Work on a full-length album began, and the duo began fine-tuning their live show. After being warmly received by critics and fans in Denmark, Sepiamusic look poised to repeat their success worldwide.

Prototype's ten tracks are rich in variety and range from Dido-esque chillout numbers to more hard-hitting rockers. Throughout, however, the album remains consistently enganging. This is largely attributable to Michael's strong songwriting skills, Erin's accessible and pleasing voice, and quality production values.

Fans of Brit trip-hoppers "Lamb" will adore "Sweet Pollution," which features banging percussion, William Orbit-influenced synth blurbs and lush guitar and string accompaniment. The surprisingly funky and jazz-tinged "Heart Debris" show the diversity of Sepiamusic's style. Although it starts with kickin' upright bass jazz fingering, the song metamorphosizes into a breezy electronic trip that sounds a bit like Fleetwood Mac with a touch of Madonna thrown in.

The enchanting and heavenly "Stone" may be the best song on the album as Erin laments over a bed of lush electro pads, panning synth harp strings and deep moog rips. This track will certainly appeal to Balligomingo devotees. In similar fashion, "My Empathy" is a mid-tempo winner that conjures images of a laid-back night drive through a big city.

"Ease Me" is a sweet and contemplative downtempo track that relies upon pleasing acoustic guitar strums and soothing loops. The James Bond vibe of "Fall Into Me" is instantly appealing with its wry chord progression and adventurous imagery. The standout track "Static" again moves the album into lush electronic territory as layers of arp synths and string textures create a relaxing but provactive soundscape.

With the clear success of female-vocal ethereal/ambient acts like Delerium, Harland, and Lunascape, Sepiamusic will, no doubt, find fertile ground for their album to bloom in. With Erin's engaging voice and Michael's lush audio panoramics, Sepiamusic deserve the acclaim that they have received thus far and to be heard by a wider audience.--Justin Elswick in Provo, Utah

 
The Morning After CD Cover
Image © Natasha Lea Jones 2003 
 

(17 April 2005) Natasha Lea Jones was one half, with Sharon Lewis, of the UK duo Pooka, and The Morning After (Independent Release (UK), 2003) is her first solo album since they went their separate ways.

A feature of this album, as it was with much of Pooka's work, are the swooping vocals--no-one can slide across notes quite like Natasha Jones, and the album is also strewn with extraordinary, pushed-to-the-limit harmonies.

As well as providing all the voices, Natasha plays most of the instruments on the album, including bass. On most of the songs acoustic guitar is her weapon of choice, but she adopts the piano to great effect on tracks like "Birthday" and "Instinctive Desire."

One of Pooka's many charms was their lyrically honesty. They never shied away from airing their most intimate thoughts and emotions and it's great to see that Natasha has maintained that tradition. Nice too that the lyrics here are specific to the singer, not trite generalisations - it gives the album a confessional feel, as if the performer and listener are sharing secrets.

The music ranges from the relative simplicity of voice and acoustic guitar on songs like "Naked Flame" and "Fate No Fall," through more full-on tracks like the powerful opening number "Monsoon," to the strange and ethereal as on magical "Cure My Sentiment."

Those of you familar with Pooka's work--and shame on you if you're not--will recognise the quirky 'go-with-it' song writing style - the music here pays no lip service to conventional structures.

"Birthday," for example, is a terrific stream of consciousness song about the disillusionment of getting older, of losing that youthful zest for life. It also reflects on friendship and on becoming aware of how precious time is and how much of it we waste.

The closing song, which gives it's name to the album, is one of the simplest and strongest pieces on the disc. It has the same hypnotic beauty that Neil Young conjured up on say his After The Goldrush album.

This is not a CD that's going to rip your head off on first play--it demands a bit of work from the listener, but the rewards are great; and over a period of time you'll find it insinuating itself into your consciousness. Weird, wonderful and very beautiful.--Jamie Field in Hereford England

 
You Feel This Good CD Cover
Image © 12 Records 2004

Colleen Coadic 2005
Image © Sean Cobb 2005

More Colleen Coadic:
Today
Scream Of Confidence
The Opposite Only Better
Interview and Photos
Balligomingo Review

 

(17 April 2005) Cape Breton born Colleen Coadic's fifth album You Feel This Good (12 Records (Canada) 12R-001) shows a growing confidence in her own ability and the arrangements reflect this as she progresses through a range of different tunes.

Musical Discoveries visitors will recall Colleen's contributions to Balligomingo's Beneath The Surface on tracks "Escape" and "Being." An interview with the artist and reviews of her three prior albums can be found in our Women of Balligomingo feature.

On You Feel This Good Colleen delivers a range of styles including pop-country, for example, on "There's A Hole;" Middle Eastern on standout track "Wicked Kate" which opens imaginatively with just percussion and voice before the string line introduces the Arabic influence.

Only on the "Better Than This" does the adventure in arrangements fall flat. The reggae tinged rhythm completely lacks the necessary 'feel' and thus strikes the only false note on the album.

The song writing is consistently strong, both lyrically, and especially, melodically. Musically, there's maybe a little over reliance on rising chord sequences, but the arrangements more than make up for this.

The album's strewn with hook-laden pop songs replete with sing-along choruses. "Flatbelly" and "Everything Turns To Gold" both have the melodic strength of the best of Sheryl Crow's offerings.

The drawbacks are few; the album is perhaps a little one paced and hence occasionally it feels a bit relentless; only two songs breach the four minute barrier. The longest, "There's A Hole," clocks in at 4:21, and one or two of the musical ideas are worthy of further exploration and development, especially "Wicked Kate" which at 3:10 is barely underway before it ends.

"By The Time You Read This" begins with a fascinating quiet loop with some backwards voices and instruments before breaking out into one of the strongest songs on the album--but the intro seems to have nothing to do with the rest of the piece and would have been worth pursuing for it's own sake--maybe it would have provided the slow song the album needs.

Basically though, this is a fine album that stands up to repeated plays. Eleven of the twelve songs offered are of a high calibre and the vocal performance throughout is exemplary.--Jamie Field in Hereford England and Russ Elliot in New York

 
Lucie Silvas
Image © Chrysalis Records 2005

More Lucie Silvas
Breathe In/What You're Made Of

 

(24 April 2005) Live at Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton. Had she not told the audience so towards the end of the evening, then nobody could have guessed that the gig on 23 April 2005 at Wulfrun Hall was Lucie Silvas' first-ever live solo concert. With a six-piece band placed well towards the back of the stage, and a large grand piano standing stage left, full attention was always on the talented British singer-songwriter. Of course, a sequence of three hit singles in the UK and a hit album helped, as did her perfect looks. She is simply stunning in the flesh, with her blonde locks cascading over her shoulders, and what she lacks in charisma she makes up for with a vulnerable, yet confident charm.

Thankfully, her looks were not over-exploited. There were no changes to her casual jeans-and-jacket costume through the 75-minute set, and care seems to have been taken to present Lucie as a singer songwriter of some talent and not a sex object. Indeed, two Lucie's were on display here, firstly the crowd-pleasing diva on the up tempo numbers, like the excellent hit single "Breathe In," during which she strode confidently about the stage inviting the audience to sing along. Secondly, we saw the introspective singer songwriter on the quieter numbers, like "No Defence," which she sang accompanied only by her own piano. Then, of course, there is the voice, and what a voice she has--powerful, soulful, and perfectly pitched. Most remarkably, it all seems so effortless, though she never overdoes it, avoiding the irritating vocal gymnastics of Maria Carey or Christina Aguilera.

The sound--sometimes an afterthought at mainstream concerts--was immaculate throughout, with quieter instruments audible through the mix throughout. Indeed, the whole concert was presented with a minimum of glitz and with am emphasis on the music. There was no choreography, and any schmaltz was kept largely to within the songs themselves. A moment where Lucie kissed a small child presented to her from the audience (this was very much a show for all ages) can be forgiven since it was completely spontaneous. A few members of her very professional band stood out in particular Most notable were the two backing vocalists: Lucies' sister Mia (familiar from Judie Tzuke's band) excelled on harmony vocals and percussion, and long-time collaborator Richard Lobb (who also opened the concert with an excellent 30 minute solo set). Eagle-eyed Tzuke fans will also have spotted guitarist Graham Kearns almost hidden at the back of the stage, though his Les Paul solo on the splendid “Twisting the Chain” was a high point of the evening. Other highlights included the gospel-tinged closer "The Longer We're Apart," outstanding despite the lack of a choir, and the dramatic new single "The Game is One."

The main set list for the performance included: "Don't Look Back," "Build Your World Around," "What Your Made Of," "It's Too Late," "Breathe In," "Nothing Else Matters," "Twisting the Chain," "No Defence," "Without You," "Last Man Standing," "Deeper," "The Game is Won." Encores included: "Forget Me Not" and "The Longer We're Apart.

But this was very much the Lucie Show, and as a first toe in the water of live performance it was, if undemanding, an entertaining and musically credible success.--Stephen Lambe in Cheltenham England

 
Phantascope CD Cover
Image © Rhythmbank Entertainment 2004

Interview and Photos
 

(07 May 2005) Tommy Greñas and Len Del Rio, aka the Anubian Lights, are back just in time to get under the skin of modern music one more time before it implodes. The bands early eighties brit-wave neo-psychedlic bliss is aided, abetted, and taken to new levels as the legendary Adele Bertei joins the fold. After a decade of writing, recording, and performing Phantascope (Rhythmbank Entertainment (USA) RBE-00001, 2004) finds Anubian Lights at the top of their game.

Adele Bertei is a rock and roll legend. She began her career as the frontwoman for rocker favorites Peter & the Wolves and has also fronted her own all female band The Bloods. She has contributed backing vocals on albums by everyone from Culture Club and Tears for Fears to Matthew Sweet. She has read her poetry as an opener for the likes of William Burroughs and Allen Ginsburg. What could possibly be left to do?!

Adele's unique voice has been absent from music for the last decade but a group of quirky cult favorites have lured her back to us. Adele is finally back in the fold and it was imperative that we find out what it took to bring her home. Read more in our exclusive interview.

The dissonant--almost annoying--guitars and funky bass line of the opening track, "Wild Winter," catch you right away as Adele screeches, "’m Vexxxxed! Like a bug in a clock/ Pushing the Arms/Hitting the seconds/ Marking the hours/ And I’m counting the red…" The song pushes you to the brink of hating this album right away and then sucks you back in ever so gently with the soft caress of the keyboards and understated male lead vocal of "Bahjan." While "Wild Winter" may catch you off guard and throw your balance a bit, the Lights more than make up for any rough introductions.

Phantascope is quite an interesting ride through the collective mind of this trio. The quirky early punk sounds of bands like Blondie, Devo, and maybe even a hint of a band like Berlin--especially vocally--are more than evident on songs like "Wild Winter," "Shine," "Andromeda Skin" and "Thru the Wire." The band manages to make this sound fresh and new but they also leave little question about where their roots lie. The heavy worldbeat style dance rhythm of "New Wildlife" is definitely the odd man out on this CD of quirky pop but it ushers in some interesting sounds that give you a break from the quirkier nature of many of the songs. Anubian Lights truly shine on the songs "Lady Berlin" and "Way Gone Man" though. Their laid back approach and dreamy sound are unquestionably a nice change of pace from today's music scene.

Although this is a great CD, the band's roots may be exposed a little too much for some listeners' preferences but Adele Bertei's voice adds a whole new dimension to Anubian Lights sound. If this is a hint of what's to come then you'll be hearing a lot about the Anubian Lights again in the coming years.--Mark Fisher

 
Petra Haden and Bill Frisell CD Cover
Image © Sovereign Artists 2005

Bill Frisell and Petra Haden
Bill Frisell and Petra Haden
Image © Sovereign Artists 2005

More Petra Haden
Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out
 

(08 May 2005) Petra Haden and Bill Frisell may not have names as recognizable as Britney Spears and Usher but many of us are familiar with the work and probably don't even know it. Bill Frisell is one of the world's most critically acclaimed guitarists and, in addition to his solo albums, he has worked with such artists as Elvis Costello, Bono, Daniel Lanois, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic among others.

Vocalist/violinist Petra Haden is the daughter--one of the triplets--of legendary jazz artist Charlie Haden. She spent much of the early nineties as a part of the indie-pop band That Dog and since their dissolution has appeared on albums by Beck, Green Day, Sean Lennon, Victoria Williams, and many many more. Just seeing this collective resume sets high expectations for this recording.

Petra Haden and Bill Frisell (Sovereign Artists (USA) 1956-2, 2005) is an odd collection of songs from many artists. The album includes modern cover songs such as Coldplay's "Yellow" and Elliot Smith's "Satellite" as well as classics such as Stevie Wonder's "I Believe" and Tom Waits "I Don't Wanna Grow Up." It's the inclusion of songs like "When You Wish Upon a Star" and "Moon River" though that raise this album far above the average collection of cover songs.

The inclusion of some showtunes and traditional favorites gives this album tremendous depth. If you're not careful you may begin to think that these are all Bill and Petra's original songs. While many of the songs stick to their well known melodies, Petra Haden's vocal work shines and certainly helps to make each song their own. There are multiple vocal layers on each song and Petra's harmonies are nearly perfect although it is Bill's subtle and emotive guitar work that pulls the reigns back and keeps each song at its best.

Also included are two original songs, one written by Petra Haden and one written by Bill Frisell. Both songs have a dreamy sort of artistic pop sound that is both unique and creative. Neither song has lyrics, yet Petra's vocalise clearly establishes the melody of each song and by the end you will surely attempt to sing along.

This is an excellent CD if you are looking for something that is a bit out of the ordinary. Unlike many "creative" artists albums there is nothing harsh or crazy sounding to be found. The record is very subdued and emotive and really allows the songs to shine in a way that they never have before. If you are a fan of great singers, great guitar players, or just peaceful sounding beautiful music that is both catchy and thoughtful then this album is for you.--Mark Fisher

 
Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out
Image © Bar None Records 2005

More Petra Haden
Petra Haden and Bill Frisell
 

(08 May 2005) Hot on the heels of her duo release with Bill Frisell, That Dog alumni Petra Haden offers up Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out (Bar-None Records (USA), 2005), a completely acapella remake of the legendary album The Who Sell Out. This album, the idea of the legendary Mike Watt, has been a long time in the making but was finally finished during the fall of 2004 as Petra was recovering from an accident. Bar-None Records wisely snatched the album up and have released it complete with remade versions of the original album's pictures featuring Petra.

Daughter of jazz legend Charlie Haden, Petra's jazz background definitely comes to the forefront on this album. In addition to the many layers of vocals, you will hear Petra singing various guitar and bass lines, as well as the commercials that appeared on the original album. It's sort of a cross between beat box and bebop.

There are only few artists that could pull something like this off and Petra’s subtle, yet strong, voice really makes the album work. Songs like "Armenia City in the Sky" and "I Can See For Miles" are good examples of Petra's unique ability to redefine already great music. The actual songs here are left intact but Petra's addition of various a capella background vocals adds a different kind of depth to them and certainly takes a step towards making them her own.

Petra's work on the commercials is quite interesting as well. The commercial segments will draw laughter at first, but they are left exactly as they appeared originally. Petra performs them line for line and they seem to come off more serious than the songs do at times. This is a part of the album that could easily have been left behind without much notice but their appearance here undoubtedly helps keep the albums original intent intact.

This is an equally amazing and tremendously interesting take on an already amazing album. Thanks to Mike Watt's great idea and the power of 8-track recorders, Petra Haden shines on this album. This is destined to carve Petra a place in music history, just as it did for The Who. Long time Who and Haden fans will love this and it is sure to garner a lot of interest, which will hopefully result in many many more fans for both.--Mark Fisher

 
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