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Thursday, 29 September 2011

Griff says; A remarkable shade of black humour.

Those of you who read my recent ZuKrewe review, or who have been chatting to me in person, will know how much I've been loving that album. One of the most appealing aspects of it was the spoken word raps, which, stripped as they were of any musical accompaniment, were intimately personal and emotionally raw.
For this reason, I've always enjoyed listening to spoken word poetry, whether it's political stuff like Linton Kwesi Johnson or The Last Poets, or more slyly humourous material, such as Ivor Cutler or David Shrigley.

The artist I'm featuring tonight is a little closer in tone to the latter two artists mentioned, although without their more obviously surreal qualities. What is more, he is a fellow Scot so it was particularly pleasing for me to come across him recently on soundcloud. The artist in question is Kevin P. Gilday who desribes his work as:

"Poetry, rants, spoken words, songs, field recordings and general self aggrandizement from one half of How Garbo Died."

How Garbo Died is an experimental electronic duo from Glasgow who can be found 'here' on bandcamp. Unsurprisingly, given a poet in their number, their lyrics are fairly abstruse and literate. It is, however, Kevin's solo spoken-word work that I find most interesting. I'm embedding a couple of tracks below to give you an idea of the substance of his output.

First up is 'The Polite Meeting of Two Well-Mannered Men', which is marked by a clever ironic humour. Kevin modestly describes this as:

"Basically a silly wee story inspired by me having one of those awkward moments when you bump into someone, you both try to let the other proceed…and you both just stand there. Surely one of the most strange and likeable quirks of humankind is politeness. This story takes place in a strange alternative universe where manners have been forgotten by the general population. Let it act as a warning! Let’s never lose these idiosyncratic little gestures, they define who we are."

The next is the shorter, slightly sardonic 'Mixed Up'. Kevin, in similar diffident fashion to the above description, introduces this as follows:

"This is a blatant rip-off of a Tim Key poem. All the hall marks are there - use of first names, an ironic distance, an absurd punchline. So why am I drawing your attention to this fact?"

Kevin has several more, similarly accomplished, spoken word recordings available on his soundcloud page, and gratifyingly these are all free to download. Please give his page a wee visit and support a local (to me anyway) talent.


Sunday, 25 September 2011

Griff says; Journey to the eye of The Storm

If you've been paying attention, you may remember me mentioning my friend Pierre Chandeze previously (see 'here'). Pierre is a talented graphic artist, a member of Top Montagne (featured 'here' previously on The Streetlamp), a solo musician in the guise of Carton Sonore, and, last but not least, an exponent of the musical saw. As if all that wasn't enough, Pierre has also found time in the last two years to play the bass guitar with tonight's Streetlamp recommendation, Sean Croft.

Sean Croft (pictured below) is a singer-songwriter from Florida, US, who decided to move to Paris two years ago. By his own account, he has not seen much of 'La Ville-Lumière' but has spent this time living in the closet of a studio and feverishly working on his freshly released meisterwerk, entitled The Storm.

The Storm is a 'big-sounding', wonderfully ambitious and accomplished 13-track album, which can be found 'here' on bandcamp. A physical copy of the album is a mere $5, while the digital version may be freely downloaded.

The tracks, which have a melodramatic and portentous air about them, are written to sound like the different parts of the storm, e.g. the gathering storm, then the full force, and finally the aftermath. However, they are not in chronological order. The album, which opens with the rousing Landfall, starts with the storm in full flow and then goes backwards and forwards in time throughout its course.

I'm embedding a couple of tracks below, to give you a flavour of the sound. Like many of the 'Griff says' recommendations it has a folky feel but, on this occasion, there is a harder, rockier edge at work too. Listening to this album, the artist I am most reminded of is Beirut, which is high praise indeed round these parts.

Given the richness of the sound acheived, you may be surprised to learn that Sean Croft is merely a trio. The final member of the group being Felice Briguglio, 'a Sicilian madman', who provides the driving percussion.

The lovely cover art (pictured below) was provided by Sean himself who digitally manipulated one of his own photos, taken on the beach outside his house in Florida.

Incidentally, and I don't know if Sean himself is aware of this, but the ancient motto of the city of Paris is; Fluctuat nec mergitur (Latin: "It is tossed by the waves, but does not sink"). Seems like Sean could have found no better place to record his album! However, it seems that his time in Paris is now over and he is soon to be on the move again. As of the beginning of October, he will be in Mozambique with the Peace Corps teaching English in a high school while working on the follow-up to The Storm. The Streetlamp looks forward to hearing it and can't help but wonder how Mozambique will work its way into the music, just as Paris did.


Sunday, 18 September 2011

Ray says; Those Rabbits are Hot !

As you may have read in his previous post, Gordon has ventured to far off shores (on his holidays) and so Griff asked me if I would write something on ' The Streetlamp'. This wasn't the first time (but it'll probably be the last, ha ha!) so here goes.
Indeed, had it not been for the fact that I came across this band recently on the FMA, I probably would still be 'in the shadows'. But their unique sound and feel enchanted me enough to prompt me to give in to Griff's nagging, and so I present to you ...

Les Chauds Lapins ( The Hot Rabbits)
I was reading Griff's recent post on Enter the Zu' by Zukrewe when it took me, like Alice down the rabbit hole, to the Free Music Archive site. Browsing the main page, I was drawn to the song list recommendations and some words in the French language caught my attention. Randomly, I clicked on one of the song titles and as the first strains of the music filled the room I was magically transported back in time to 1920s France. Aaah, the romance, the bonhomie, the joi de vivre! Almost immediately, as sometimes happens, I knew this was going to be a good album and, as I listened through each of the tracks, I found myself falling in love!

The collection available on the FMA is a live recording made on September 12th, 2011 for Irene Trudel's show on WFMU, an independent freeform station broadcasting at 91.1 fm in New York, and at 90.1 fm in the Hudson Valley. While I was immediately smitten by Les Chauds Lapins' sound, I'll admit that I don't know much about them, so here's WFMU's accompanying blurb to help put you in the picture:

Les Chauds Lapins, lead by New York’s Kurt Hoffman and Meg Reichardt, specialize in a repertoire of French swing from the 1920’s through the 40’s.

The group has re-arranged long-forgotten French classics for banjo-ukes, string trio, guitar and winds, mixing the rootsiness of early American jazz with the lushness of a Bernard Hermann film soundtrack.

(Kurt Hoffman and Meg Reichardt)

There, I couldn't have put it better myself; I hope that intriguing description sounds as enticing to you as it did to me.
Although the songs are in French, the essence and feel of the music is what quickly enchants the listener, and in between the songs the interviewer (Irene Trudel)
helps us out by asking the band to describe what each song is about.

'The Rabbits' do this with such charm and whimsy that even we non-Francophones can soon easily visualise the images that the songs paint.

What really appeals to me about Les Chauds Lapins sound is that while many of the songs have a Jake Thackray-style
hint of mischief about them, this is allied with a smoother air of Gallic charm.

Among my favourites are "Il M'a Vue Nue" "Vous Aves L'eclat De La Rose" and "Ce Petit Chemin".

As with all of the work on the FMA the album is free to download and I've embedded it below so that you can have a listen first.

Hope You Enjoy It :)


Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Griff says; We're all going to the Zu!

Scottish hip-hop social-commentators, and Streetlamp favourites, Stanley Odd (see 'here' and 'here') have been in touch recently to let us know that the release of their second EP this year, The Day I Went Deaf, is set for the 24th of October on Circular Records. As you can imagine, The Streetlamp has been eagerly anticipating this, so keep checking in regularly for our review, which will follow soon. In the meantime, The Streetlamp is taking another of our occasional forays into the world of hip-hop, this time to bring you something rather special from the other side of the Atlantic.

AS220 is a 25-year old non-profit organization located in Providence, Rhode Island, US. It functions as an epicentre for the arts in the city, offering artists a variety of opportunities including affordable live/work space, galleries, a performance space, a 'green' print shop, and community dark rooms.

In 1998, AS220 wanted to incorporate more young people into its community. Reaching out the to Rhode Island Training School (RITS), the state’s juvenile detention facility, AS220 began to provide arts programming to incarcerated young men and women. Called AS220 Youth, and serving young people ages 14-21, with a special focus on those in the care and custody of the State, their goal was to engage youth in creative processes that would lead to positive social, educational and vocational outcomes.

By 2000, the energy and momentum around AS220’s arts education program at the RITS had grown to such an extent that a physical space apart from the RITS was needed. A large industrial space was rented on Providence’s Southside, and the Broad Street Studio was born. After being released from the Training School, youngsters came to the Studio to continue the creative work and personal relationships that started inside. Additional art and music classes were introduced at the new site, and staff and youth joined forces to build a recording studio. Alliances were formed with juvenile probation, group homes, and foster care agencies with the intention of staying connected with the young people after their release from the RITS, and as they returned to the community. The Broad Street Studio was created because of the belief in the power of art and the art process to have a positive impact in the life of these young people. So has it worked? Well, I'm not in a position to let you know how any of the individuals involved in the programme faired, unfortunately. But what I can tell you is that in the free downloadable album 'Enter the Zu' by ZuKrewe, released on the Free Music Archive last month, they have produced a blistering work full of passion, vigour, insight and hope that absolutely enthralls from the first listen and fills you full of optimism for the future of those involved.

The self-deprecating central conceit of 'Enter the Zu', as established by the opening track, also titled 'Enter the Zu', is that the performers are exotic creatures caged for our convenience and amusement. However, as the ring-master extols the wonders to be found in his menagerie, the animals escape and begin to face their captors and the audience on their own terms. And this they proceed to do emphatically, and with a surprising and pleasing diversity of styles, throughout the remarkable 14 tracks that follow.

So, which songs would I personally recommend? Well, all of them, really. There truly isn't a poor song on this collection. However, I will single out a few for special mention as they touch on subjects close to The Streetlamp's liberal heart;

The fierce polemic of 'Double Standards' just has to be heard. It is delivered a capella and spat out with a wise and restrained fury. In this song/poem the artist draws our attention to the moral double standard employed by politicians on both sides of the Atlantic; always ready with a trite soundbite to condemn street violence but conveniently forgetting their own state-sponsored violence. This theme is made even more explicit in another unaccompanied rap, 'Peep The Scene', in which we are rightly reminded that;
"a gang is the same thing as a government gang"

Too true! Here in the UK, particularly in the wake of our recent riots, we've all become familiar with the elite, rich, Oxbridge-educated political classes holding forth about a 'feral underclass'. The narrative is always the same, young people are demonised and the poor and marginalised are blamed for society's ills and accused of a culture of 'mindless violence'. These are the same politicians who conveniently forget that violence is their own cleverly-disguised stock-in-trade; their officialy-sanctioned forces of control, the police and the armed forces, are used to supress dissent at home and to acquire possessions abroad. The politicians of countries like the UK and the US are soaked in the blood of innocents and will blithely sanction shelling non-combatants abroad in their lust for oil. As these song reminds us, despite their hypocritical and glib condemnation, they are the masters of violence. A variation on this theme, of money, power and respect and how they are granted or denied by accident of birth , continues with the blistering 'Victim on A Journey', which takes a welcome pop at big business.

'A Woman's Worth', another short unaccompanied poem/rap is every bit as powerful and compelling. With its theme of the contradictory standards set for women in society, particularly in the sphere of sexual mores, it delivers a powerful blow to the lazy and dangerous imposition of gender inequality.

The young men involved deliver some wonderfully perceptive, courageous and emotionally-open stuff too. The best of these is 'How To Be A Man', in which a youth delivers a message of guidance to his unborn son, in case he isn't around to deliver it in person; and given the rates of incarceration and homicides for young black men in the US this isn't an unlikely scenario. It takes real bravery for a young man to be so candid and expressive and the song ripples with emotional power.

'Fathers' Struggle Poem' is another absolute corker. Focussing on the perpetual vicious circle of absent fatherhood, it is both sad and yet hopeful, in that recognition of this cycle can ultimately lead to the breaking of it.

Don't think for a minute that with all these 'message songs' filled with incisive social commentary, or because of the laudable social consciences on display that this is a 'worthy' or 'doom and gloom' affair. Absoulutely not! These songs are rippling with muscular, youthful energy and enthusiasm. 'So Good', for instance, is an energetic bounce along that I guarantee will have you punching the air and singing along. 'Treat Her Right' is similarly catchy and upbeat.

So, go ahead and download this free, righteous and exhilirating album and then tell all your friends about it. AS220, with its faith in those who are too often ignored, feared or disdained deserves our support, and Enter the Zu is a message that demands to be shouted from the rooftops!


Sunday, 11 September 2011

~This Elegant Chaos~#9: Paralléles

If there is one thing I've always hated about some other music Blogs, it's the levels of laziness the owner applies to their posts. I really hate it when people just post a Youtube clip with nary an explanation, or post some download link to some obscure album with scant information about it, or why we should even consider downloading the damn thing!
So it is with rather shamed face that I present tonight's annoyingly short Blog, but this is not out of laziness, but due to the fact that I can find precious little about the band on the Internet.
So.....what follows is really ALL I know about this band, but I am so absolutely enamored with them, that to not share this with you would be a crime.
So let's hear it for the Garage Goddesses that are Paralléles....
Paralléles are an all girl Garage Rock band from Sao Paulo in Brazil. The girls are all former members of various other Garage, Punk and Indie bands from the region, namely The Fuzzfaces, Mercedes, The Transistors and Infect. The line up is Tatiana Sanson on keyboards and vocals, Paula Villas on guitar, Carol Caliman on drums and vocals, and Andreia Crispim on bass and vocals.
Viewing the minuscule amount of information about the band on the Internet, the one band that seems to come up time and time again as a comparative influence is 80s Garage queens The Pandoras, but personally I hear more of a Micragirls influence, with a soupcon of ? And The Mysterians' parpy Farfisa thrown in for good measure.
As it stands, the band have one release out; a limited edition blue vinyl 7" from Portugese Label Groovie Records which comprises the songs 'Voce Só Corre' and 'Juan Miró', although they do have some other songs on their Soundcloud page.
Both sides of the single are presented below.

The band have made a couple of appearances on Brazillian TV(see clip below) and according to their Groovie Records page, there should be some European live dates later this year.

I cannot recommend this band or this single highly enough, and I, for one await future releases like a dribbling fram(now there's a Garage Punk reference for you!)

You can download both sides of their fine single here

Monday, 5 September 2011

Griff says; Do We Not Bleed?

Tonight's band is my favourite type of 'Griff says' find; i.e. they're totally obscure and have somehow slipped under the music-biz radar to provide us with an amazingly well-produced and emotionally true album's worth of music. The band, a three-piece from Toronto, Canada, are called The Bleed Whites and their stock-in-trade is lo-fi indie-rock, flavoured with a soupçon of surf music and garnished with the occasional folky flourish. If that sounds a little too genre-busting to be useful as a description then I'd say that they remind me a bit of US alternative rock/pop acts like The White Stripes, Modest Mouse or Grandaddy.

I can't tell you much more about them as they keep a fairly low profile on the internet. Anyway, all you really need to know is that yesterday they released their eponymous 12-track debut album and that you should really have a listen to it. The album can be freely downloaded from our old friends at CLLCT and also on the band's bandcamp page.
If you need further convincing then please find embedded below my three favourite tracks from the album. This selection of tracks also has the advantage of showcasing the diversity of The Bleed White's sound.

The cover art for the album and the other band art featured in this article is the work of band member James Lee. If you like it, you can visit his excellent little blog page 'here'.



Sunday, 4 September 2011

Three Sides Of Leisha Hailey

Actress, musician, and one time potential football (as in 'soccer') star, Leisha Hailey is certainly not one to let the grass grow around her. Since 1991, when her first band The Murmurs started, she has created a body of music, TV and films, all Independently minded, all exceptionally good.

Most people know Leisha from the TV show 'The L Word' on which she plays bisexual journalist Alice Pieszecki, but her forays into the world of the creative arts began almost a decade before with her first band, and it's her THREE bands; The Murmurs, Gush and Uh Huh Her that we are here to celebrate today.
The Murmurs began in 1991 as an Indie Folk/Pop duo consisting of Leisha and fellow singer/songwriter Heather Grody. The pair met when both were students at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and quickly cultivated a following around the East Village area of Manhattan. Their debut album 'Who We Are' sold healthily enough, but it was their second eponymous album, that begat the single 'You Suck', which gained the pair a certain notoriety.

Expanding to a four-piece, all-woman group in 1997, they released 'Pristine Smut' and played at the legendary Lillith Fair festivals that promoted female-fronted or, indeed, female only bands or musicians. 1997 also saw Leisha's acting debut in the cult movie 'All Over Me'.
In 1998 The Murmurs released what would become their final album, 'Blender', which also contained the song they are probably best known for, 'Genius'.

The Murmurs continued as a band until 2001, which proved to be be quite a tumultuous year for Leisha. Her five year long relationship with Canadian singer k.d. lang ended, as did The Murmurs, although Leisha and Heather remained together to form new band Gush. Sadly, very little material exists of Gush, as they mainly sold their only album at live shows.
Gush continued until 2003 when Leisha was offered the part of Alice in 'The L Word'.
'The L Word' is/was a show that was never afraid to create an extradiegetic situation, and often with Leisha's music, for example; in the first series, The Murmurs' song 'Genius' soundtracks an entire scene; in a later series episode the scorching Katherine Moennig, who plays serial shagger Shane McCutcheon, is seen wearing a Gush teeshirt; and in one of the last episodes, a song by Leisha's third band Uh Huh Her can also be heard.
Uh Huh Her is where we currently find Leisha. After 'The L Word' ended in 2009, she threw herself completely into this new electropop band, which she formed with Camila Grey. The band achieved some bonus publicity when their songs and posters were featured in the Oscar nominated film 'The Kids Are All Right'. Their only album (so far) 'Common Reaction' was released in 2008, with the promise of a new album later this year.

Leisha still turns in some acting performances, appearing on TV shows like 'Grey's Anatomy' and 'CSI: Las Vegas', and recently appeared in the movies 'Fertile Ground'.
In 2007, Leisha was voted the sexiest woman in lesbian website AfterEllen's Top 100. And as for the football, well it appears that a busted knee put paid to that promising career. But, I suppose, football's loss is music's gain, and as long as the music is as wonderful as this, it's our gain too!

"I think she's a genius"