Category Archives: Culture

A Conversation With Charlie Nieland

Divisions, the title track from his new album of the same name begins with a steady pounding drum beat, hovering underneath a treated guitar appears but doesn’t intrude, then Charlie Nieland sings. His deadpan voice sounds familiar yet as the song moves along you realize this is new, not reworked codas from a past decade or three. Nieland has a smart knack for referencing identifiable sounds and making them his own. Charlie is comfortable talking about influences, while almost swooning as he recounts working with New Wave diva, Debbie Harry. Renowned for tastefully blending post-punk, dream pop, and progressive rock with sweeping melodies and restless and visceral rhythms, Charlie Nieland has been writing, playing, and producing music for decades, with a focus on the atmospheric and the imaginative. Nieland played power dream pop with the band Her Vanished Grace for over 20 years before establishing himself as a solo artist with a mix of nuanced songwriting and sonic exploration. He is currently half of the literature-inspired songwriting and performing duo Lusterlit with Susan Hwang. Over the years, Charlie has written and produced material with such notable artists as Debbie Harry, Rufus Wainwright, Dead Leaf Echo, Blondie, and Scissor Sisters. He scored the feature film The Safety of Objects (starring Glenn Close), the pilot episode of The L Word on Showtime, and the VH-1documentary NY77: The Coolest Year in Hell. Charlie was awarded a Gold record (UK) for his production work on Blondie’s Greatest Hits Sight & Sound and achieved a Top 10 Billboard Dance Chart Position with Debbie Harry’s single Two Times Blue, which he co-wrote and produced. Charlie Nieland and Norman B connected via Zoom for this conversation.

LEM Vol 221

Two Important Books

                       
Andrew Marantz – Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation 

For several years, Andrew Marantz, a New Yorker staff writer, has been embedded in two worlds. The first is the world of social-media entrepreneurs, who, acting out of naïvete and reckless ambition, upended all traditional means of receiving and transmitting information. The second is the world of the people he calls “the gate crashers”–the conspiracists, white supremacists, and nihilist trolls who have become experts at using social media to advance their corrosive agenda. Antisocial ranges broadly–from the first mass-printed books to the trending hashtags of the present; from secret gatherings of neo-Fascists to the White House press briefing room–and traces how the unthinkable becomes thinkable, and then how it becomes reality. Antisocial reveals how the boundaries between technology, media, and politics have been erased, resulting in a deeply broken informational landscape–the landscape in which we all now live. Marantz shows how alienated young people are led down the rabbit hole of online radicalization, and how fringe ideas spread–from anonymous corners of social media to cable TV to the ex-President’s Twitter feed.

Laura Levitt  – The Objects That Remain

Professor of Religion, Jewish Studies, and Gender, Laura Levitt was raped in her own bed. The police arrived too late to apprehend her attacker. When they left, investigators took items with them—a pair of sweatpants, the bedclothes—and a rape exam was performed at the hospital. However, this evidence was never processed. Decades later, Laura returns to these objects, viewing them not as clues that will lead to the identification of her assailant but rather as a means of engaging traumatic legacies writ large. Her book, The Objects That Remain is equal parts personal memoir and fascinating examination of the ways in which the material remains of violent crimes inform our experience of, and thinking about, trauma and loss. Considering artifacts in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and evidence in police storage facilities across the country, Laura’s story moves between intimate trauma, the story of an unsolved rape, and genocide. Laura Levitt talks frankly about the trauma of her rape and reveals how these objects that remained the stories that surround them enable forms of intimacy. In this way, she models for us a different kind of reckoning, where justice is an animating process of telling and holding.

Plus, new music from UK-based singer-songwriter, Léanie Kaleido with All The Things I’m Made Of a cut from her new album, How To Weigh A Whale Without A Scale. With a stellar musical heritage – her father is Top Topham of The Yardbirds fame, Léanie says “I’m an indie freak who makes music that isn’t very indie at all”. Her album was produced by Mark Gardner of Ride which kind of contradicts her not so indie claim. Expect to hear more from Léanie Kaleido on an upcoming Life Elsewhere Music show.

Show 412

 

 

The Valentine’s Special – Life Elsewhere Music Vol 220

Everyone has a few favorite love songs, don’t they? Yet, when it really comes to narrowing your choice down to just one song, it’s far more difficult. We choose love songs for different reasons, falling in love, being in love, and falling out of love. As time moves along favorites change, for our Valentine’s Special my curated selection of love songs features old favorites, a couple of classics, and a few brand new releases. All of these cuts you will hear evoke for me the essence of love in its many delicious forms. To begin, one of the sweetest voices ever, the one and only, Cornel Campbell with Girl Of My Dreams. The Kingston, Jamaica-born singer’s falsetto is truly a stand-out amongst the legion of reggae artists. Cornel’s 1972 hit sounds as perfect now as it did back then, the same has to be said of Deep Shadows by Little Ann. Originally from Chicago, Ann Bridgeforth had a short-lived recording career, in 1967 she recorded Deep Shadow in Detroit, but it was not released and was almost lost to history. It was released as a single in the early 80s but finally caught wide attention via a Soul compilation in 1998. Then, with the release of some of her music, Little Ann performed to great acclaim in the UK, shortly before her death in 2003. Irish singer-songwriter, Miranda McCarthy released From Loving You in November of last year. Since then, it has been repeatedly on my playlist. Brutal Hearts from the 2010 album, Light The Horizon by Toronto-based, Bedouin Soundclash features Coeur De Pirate, AKA Canadian artist, Béatrice Martin. You are missing out if you have not explored her music and videos. Awww, just listen to those lyrics, Are you the brutal heart that I’ve been looking for. Cause if you’re looking for love, you can look for that door. Next up, the late Ivan Kral with Crazy About You, the Prague-born songwriter and musician came to major attention in America as part of The Patti Smith Group. Ivan played guitar, bass, and keyboards, appearing on all of her early records (including the seminal Horses), and was involved in writing a number of her songs (he co-wrote “Dancing Barefoot” one of Smith’s pivotal tunes). One of reggae’s more distinctive voices, Horace Andy gives us his version of the Diana Ross hit, Love Hangover. The 1983 release is essential for any reggae lovers’ collection. My 12’ version of Lovers Rock by Love Trio is dated, 2000, but there have been a number of versions and remixes released since then. Ilhan ErsahinJesse MurphyKenny Wollesen along with samples from U Roy produced a love song you can dance around the kitchen to. Maybe it was isolation and all the problems that came along with Covid that resulted in such an abundance of incredible releases. Without a doubt, one of my big favorites from the last year is Crème Brûlée from King Hannah. It’s sexy, it’s hot, it’s a love song! Sometimes a talented singer-songwriter comes along, drops a song or two then vanishes for a while. When I first heard Thunder from Rosie Peppin I said I want to hear more from this UK artist. Rosie, I still want to hear more from you, please. Thunder is such a painfully, knowing love song. Canadian musician and poet, Barzin is a master of knowing love songs. He has written so many beautiful lyrics, I could honestly fill a whole show with the man’s plaintive work. Barzin knows exactly how to touch all those confusing emotions of love. In Soft Summer Girls, he is reflective yet although quietly despondent, he is not despairing. At the last count, I have going over one hundred and fifty versions of possibly, one of the gut-wrenching love songs ever written, Love Will Tear Us Apart. Susanna & The Magical Orchestra takes the Joy Division song and remolds it into a song that is so icy-cold, its almost hard to listen to without allowing the tears to flow. Keep the tears flowing with The Sundays haunting version of Wild Horses. I’ve always considered this to be such a moving love song and certainly, Gram Parsons’s version does just that. Vocalist Harriet Wheeler’s fragile-sounding voice goes further, underneath the pathos, she is angry, she’s pissed off and the band’s accompaniment helps to get that mood across. Fragility could be used to describe the overtones of the many recordings from Jacobites. Both Dave Kusworth and Nikki Sudden have now passed, musicians who flirted with the edgy-side of life, never diminishing their fondness for drugs and booze. Yet, beyond their deliberately-wasted image, they wrote and performed exceptional love songs. Listen to It’ll All End Up In Tears again and again. When I first heard I’ll Never Let You Go (Li’l Darlin’) I remember doing a double-take. Elvis Presley’s croon was a magnificent thing. Oh, what a voice and with such ease, he emotes, then without warning the song shifts into a rockabilly finish. I make no excuses, Elvis lured me into loving rock ’n’ roll. This song was written by Jimmy Wakely and recorded at Sun Studios in Memphis, September 1954 (some sources cite August). Truly one of Presley’s most magical recordings. A big tip of the hat to the accompanying musicians, Scotty Moore and Bill Black. We close The Valentines Special with Here’s Where The Story Ends brilliantly reworked by huge favorites at Life Elsewhere, Hannah, and Olly AKA Pela. The duo take on The Sundays’ classic is mesmerizing. Hanna’s voice not only proves what range she has but also proves she knows how to read and interpret beautiful lyrics. While Olly demonstrates his skill as a producer has to be revered. Let me know what you think of this mix of love songs, tell me what your favorite love song is?

Norman B

Playlist

  1. Cornel Campbell – Girl Of My Dreams
  2. Little Ann – Deep Shadows
  3. Miranda McCarthy – From Loving You
  4. Bedouin Soundclash – Brutal Hearts (Ft Coeur de Pirate)
  5. Ivan Kral – Crazy About You
  6. Horace Andy – Love Hangover
  7. Love Trio – Lovers Rock
  8. King Hannah – Crème Brûlée
  9. Rosie Peppin – Thunder
  10. Barzin – Soft Summer Girls
  11. Susanna & The Magical Orchestra – Love Will Tear Us Apart
  12. The Sundays – Wild Horses
  13. Jacobites – It’ll All End Up In Tears
  14. Elvis Presley – I’ll Never Let You Go (Li’l Darlin’)
  15. Pela – Here’s Where The Story Ends

About the artwork for this volume: Jamie Lewis “Lovers #5” 2019 3′ x 3′ lithograph and screenprint on archival paper. Courtesy of Norman B’s collection

LEM Vol 220

Two Questions About Love

 

Yes, it’s that time of the year again when Hallmark cards make most of their money for the whole year, red roses are sold for extortionate prices and we all get misty-eyed and serenade beautiful sonnets to each other. OK, I’m exaggerating just a little – yes, it’s the annual Life Elsewhere Valentines Show. We have two questions about love for our distinguished guests. Question number one, “What is love?” And, question number two, “What is your favorite love song?” Seemingly simple questions or are they? Our guests are Tom Leaper, Shanaz Dorsett, and Joshua Idehen, who perform as Benin City. The trio are amazing talents individually, together they make music that is inspiring and joyous. As they say, “We believe dance music is a form of protest!” Their latest single, Freaking You Out is a fine example. Listen carefully to the conversation that unravels as Tom, Shanaz, and Josh consider the questions and give their answers. You’ll hear intimate and sometimes revealing answers. Later in the show, a singer-songwriter who digests everything with deliberate care, just as he creates his very personal and reflective music. Phil Parfitt is a man who has a lot to be proud of, after all, his plaintive Somethings Got To Give by Orange Disaster released in 1979 remains an extraordinary and timeless song. Phil’s long musical career included, Oedipussy, Varicose Veins, Psychotropic Vibration, The Architects Of Disaster, The Perfect Disaster, and his solo recordings with his highly-rated new album, Mental Home Recordings

Show 411

Life Elsewhere Music Vol 219

It was a busy week putting this volume together. A massive amount of new music arrived, which resulted in a lot of late nights of listening. Not really a hard task staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning enjoying new music. But, it’s narrowing the selection down to a 60-minute show. Here are the results. First up, we go to Liverpool to hear from Amber Jay with Stay The Same. Now here is one you need to listen to carefully. After a plaintive first few lines Amber delivers a bouncy, seemingly happy song, yet is she not happy about staying the same? This comes from her debut EP, Debut EP Never Too Far From A Dark Thought I love her voice. The beginning of Doctor Says by Midnight Sister reminds me of, well I’m not quite sure. The same goes for the rest of the album, Painting The Roses. This is well produced and I feel I should not question all the effort that went into it. Lovely artwork too. Adam, Char & Kieran are just three people from the North of England trying to make a nice noise so if ur ears love it we love you, they say collectively as Hinata. They also let us know their So Far EP was recorded during 2020 lockdown in a bedroom. It would also seem these Leeds-based people don’t really want to be saddled with one genre because they use these monikers, dream pop, shoegaze, goths, whatever, lofi, dream pop music to dance around your bedroom too. Where’s Home? is from an excellent EP. “I didn’t trust anyone adult,” claims Nana Yamato, “even my parents”. She says, “As a 20-year old I walk the streets of Tokyo like a superhero incognito. By day, I’m an ordinary girl who marches anonymously between her flat, her school and her job. But by night, when the world gets quiet, and the demands of education and employment have subsided, I become something else.” Listen to her If from her LP, Before Sunrise and you decide. Fascinating video for this track. Glasgow’s Octo Trax put out quality music and here is a perfect example, Plenty Of Me (Original Mix) by Amber Leith. Danny Igoe is Amber Leith. The Plenty Of Me EP has 3 superb cuts with a cool minimal remix by Octo Trax co-founder, Poly800. Stellar work. You gotta love the name, Bored At My Grandmas House. One can presume that Amber Strawbridge was not in fear of upsetting her grandma. You’ll hear Showers and Sometimes I Forget You’re Human Too from the Leeds-based artist on the excellent Clue Records, a label I suggest you check out. Keep an eye out for Bored At My Grandmas House. Next, we dash on down to the South of France to hear from Ceikaba Meets Handyman with The Truth. Ceikaba a singer born in Marseille says she discovered music as a child with the violin. Then, years later, she decided to try the experience of living for and through music accompanied by her guitar and her voice. Listen closely, see if you can hear join as I segue into Dub The Truth. This one is available on HFD Records out of Avignon, France. There is so much to talk about with Ian Sweet and Drink The Lake. First up, Ian Sweet is Jillian Medford from LA, her LP, Show Me How You Disappear comes out in March and I’m recommending you investigate it. This note came with the LP, “Show Me How You Disappear is the sound of someone coming apart and putting themselves back together — the moment an old mantra, repeated into the mirror time and time again, finally clicks. To look at your reflection, and finally feel seen.” The video for Drink The Lake begins with Jillian laying in pitch-black water, it looks as if she is wearing a school uniform, tie, white shirt, and jacket, then the scene cuts to daylight with Jillian and a group of boys fighting, all dressed in black suits, white shirts, and black ties – maybe they are not in school uniform? – It’s a series of disturbing scenes, especially when the chanteuse looks knowingly into the camera. Julinko is the music project of Giulia Parin Zecchin from Treviso, Italy. Her LP is No Destroyer, you’ll hear the title cut. Yes, it’s slightly off-kilter, Giulia says she “oscillates between ancient melodies and disquieting distortions” and adds, “I recorded it myself during a one-week session at home, during the first lockdown. It is brief and authentic and somehow, impersonal, beyond me: that’s why I need to share it, to give something back”. Over in Brooklyn, we find Charlotte Rose Benjamin with Back To The Future. “Written in a state of isolation and born out of a sense of anxiety common to many of us in recent months”, Charlotte says. “When I was maybe 7 I watched the movie Back to the Future with my dad and the scene where Marty McFly is on stage at the school dance playing guitar and his fingers start going see-through and he keeps looking at this photo of him standing with his family and he’s slowly fading out of because he went back in time and (spoiler) almost prevented his parents from ever getting together scared the shit out of me and I made my dad turn it off and didn’t see the ending for years. The idea of having ~never existed~ was horrifying to me. A few months into quarantine I realized that’s exactly how I felt. I moved back into my parent’s house and sometimes it was hard to believe that anything in my adult life had ever even happened. Depression has a way of making you feel like you have always been sad and will always be sad. I also liked the irony of “Back to the Future” as a title in one of the darkest times in American History wherein moments I truly thought we were facing the apocalypse and any notion of “the future” was so unclear”. I want to hear more from Charlotte Rose Benjamin. Taking us up to the close, a tasty slice of Drum and Bass from famed Swiss D & B duo, QZB. We Pretend (Ft. Charli Brix) is from their Clairvoyant EP. Expertly crafted dismissing the critiques of D & B who argue it is an out-of-date genre. Far from it, QZB and others are making music you need to hear. 

LEM Vol 219 Playlist

  1. Amber Jay – Stay The Same
  2. Midnight Sister – Doctor Says
  3. Hinata – Where’s Home?
  4. Nana Yamato – If
  5. Amber Leith – Plenty Of Me (Original Mix)
  6. Bored At My Grandmas House – Showers
  7. Bored At My Grandmas House – Sometimes I Forget You’re Human Too
  8. Ceikaba Meets Handyman – The Truth
  9. Ceikaba Meets Handyman – Dub The Truth
  10. Ian Sweet – Drink The Lake
  11. Julinko – No Destroyer
  12. Charlotte Rose Benjamin – Back To The Future
  13. QZB – We Pretend (Ft. Charli Brix)

About the artwork for this volume: Paulette Wilder 1980 – 2020 “Hello #3” 2008 6’8” x 6’8” Emulsion base with colored dyes on plasterboard. Courtesy of Norman B’s collection

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