Category Archives: New Music

LEM Vol 190 – Image & Music – A Conversation With Pela + Music From Calabashed & DJ Squarewave

Popular music has always been about image. From the brazen eighteen-year-old truck driver in Memphis, Tennessee who donned showy pimp-like garb slicked his not-yet jet-black hair into a pompadour, grew sideburns and applied eyeliner and rouge – to the spotty youth from Aberdeen, Washington with straggly blond hair and a habit for raggedy urchin-look cardigans,  image was all-important. It still is today. Recently,  I pondered on the relevance of image while chatting via Zoom to Hannah Coombes and Olly Shelton, who go by the moniker of Pela. The South London duo had made a couple of singles which led to my enthusiastic raving, in turn requesting an interview. Looking at the poised couple via Zoom I couldn’t resist mentioning how lovely they are. “You’re gorgeous!” I blurted out. But, my sense of what is politically correct stymied my urge to babble on about Hannah and Olly’s fabulous camera-ready looks. We are here to talk about Pela’s intriguing music, I reminded myself. Their singles, You Got Me and South Of are so good I included them back-to-back in Life Elsewhere Music Vol. 187. Hannah’s sensual voice with Olly’s manipulated sounds presents a “now” sound with honest references to the best of past popular music. The duo has a distinctive sound that is thankfully difficult to categorize. Listen closely to the start of You Got Me, is that a needle dropping on a scratchy disc? The tinkered-with title is repeated then Hannah’s crystal-clear vocals come in as a plaintive piano coda plays with a guitar or processed “other” sounds appearing here and there. More manipulated vocals and the tune fades with a morse-code-like sound emanating from who knows what source Olly has played with. South Of opens with a keyboard riff or maybe it’s a processed guitar, after all in our chat Olly makes it clear he enjoys disguising the original sounds and instruments. Again, Hannah’s voice delivers emotive words. Is this a love song? Is she in despair of a lover leaving? Does South Of (Something) mean it’s all over? The absence of obvious drums with a bass directing the beat adds to the mystery. Olly’s deft hand at the mixing board and digital production are ion fine display on this track. Their latest release, Reverie sounds so familiar as it begins. You cannot help feeling you’ve heard this cut before. It’s that good. Except, it’s completely new. A sax appears to confirm this is an original masterwork of pop music. The title and the lyrics almost contradict Hannah’s seemingly laid-back delivery. She’s questioning, “Are we in reverie?” What happened? An unrequited love affair? “I think we might be holding on” she offers. Reverie sounds nothing like Human League’s Don’t You Want Me, yet here is a song with the same magic formula that’ll have you singing along with the chorus. Hannah and Olly very kindly allowed us to include an as-yet-unreleased track to round out the show, All The Way (With Me). Here Olly gets busy from the opening with processed vocal samples. Is that Hannah at a different pitch? The blips and beats could be micro edits of well anything…is that Hannah in reverse? We catch glimpses of lyrics, “All the way with me”, “In the morning sun…”. This is the most abstract of Pela’s work so far. It drives along with a percussive beat that will surely turn out to be anything but percussion. Then, All The Way (With Me) stops suddenly leaving the listener wanting more. Hannah and Olly are engaging, honest, and forthright. They make wonderful, innovative music and yes, they are delightful to look at.

Ask Joshua Idehen about image and I dare say he will not be lost for words. A favorite guest on Life Elsewhere, Josh of Hugh and Benin City fame has teamed up with Alabaster DePlume to form Calabashed. With other notable musicians from London, Calabashed has released, Ode To Jazzman John Clarke. This is what Josh says about the track, “So yeah, a story. There used to be a poet on the scene, Jazzman John Clarke. One of the mad ones to be honest. You’d see him at any open mic, pages full of rants and pain and fuckifiknows. But every time we spoke, he was always kind to me, treated me as an equal even when I had just started out. I remember, at a jazz open mic, halfway through a performance, he threw his papers in the air, jumped on the stage and yelled: “I WEAR MY SOUL AS A JACKET!” I didn’t even know what he meant, only that it shook me. I’m glad I got to tell him that night. He passed away, I found out via Facebook. I felt in a way like I could have been more than a poet acquaintance, but that’s another story. This song is in honor of him.” And we are honored to play, Calabashed Ode To Jazzman John Clarke. Thank you Josh for sending the music file over to us.

The image of Dubstep and Drum & Bass may well be a little fuzzy here in the US. None-the-less, these genres of music overlap, encouraging a large fan-base worldwide. With a critical eye on always trying to include as many styles of modern music in my shows, Dubstep and Drum & Bass have become consistent additions. I’m always on the lookout for the exceptional offering, so listen carefully to DJ Squarewave & Frenk Dublin ft. DRS with Word Forbidden on New World Audio. London based DJ Squarewave has been involved in the scene since the age of 16. Having started out buying turntables, collecting records and playing at drum and bass events. So far, I haven’t caught too many pictures of the man, but I have no doubt that he carefully considers his image. You don’t have to dress up to listen to this volume of Life Elsewhere Music, but I do ask you to be aware that para-military clobber on anyone ‘ain’t cool. 

Norman B. 7.18.2020

Rest In Peace John Lewis & C.T. Vivian

Two Disturbing Books. An Impressive Movie. Plaintive New Music.

 
James B. Stewart – Deep State: Trump, The FBI, And The Rule Of Law

There are questions that the Mueller report couldn’t—or wouldn’t—answer. What actually happened to instigate the Russia investigation? Did President Trump’s meddling incriminate him? There’s no mystery to what Trump thinks. He claims that the Deep State, a cabal of career bureaucrats—among them, Andrew McCabe, Lisa Page, and Peter Strzok, previously little known figures within the FBI whom he has obsessively and publically reviled—is concerned only with protecting its own power and undermining the democratic process. Conversely, James Comey has defended the FBI as incorruptible apolitical public servants who work tirelessly to uphold the rule of law. For the first time, bestselling author James B. Stewart sifts these conflicting accounts to present a clear-eyed view of what exactly happened inside the FBI in the lead-up to the 2016 election, drawing on scores of interviews with key FBI, Department of Justice, and White House officials and voluminous transcripts, notes, and internal reports. In full detail, this is the dramatic saga of the FBI’s simultaneous investigations of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump—the first time in American history the FBI has been thrust into the middle of both parties’ campaigns for the presidency. Stewart shows what exactly was set in motion when Trump fired Comey, triggering the appointment of Robert Mueller as an independent special counsel and causing the FBI to open a formal investigation into the president himself. And how this unprecedented event joined in ongoing combat two vital institutions of American democracy: the presidency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. At stake in this epic battle is the rule of law itself, the foundation of the U.S. Constitution. There is no room for compromise, but plenty for collateral damage. The reputations of both sides have already been harmed, perhaps irrevocably, and at great cost to American democracy. Deep State goes beyond the limits of the legally constrained Mueller report, showing how the president’s obsession with the idea of a conspiracy against him is still upending lives and sending shockwaves through both the FBI and the Department of Justice. In this world-historical struggle—Trump versus intelligence agencies—Stewart shows us in rare style what’s real and what matters now. And for the looming 2020 election.

Julian E. Zelizer – Burning Down The House: Newt Gingrich, The Fall Of A Speaker, And The Rise Of The New Republican Party

When Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, President Obama observed that Trump “is not an outlier; he is a culmination, a logical conclusion of the rhetoric and tactics of the Republican Party.” In Burning Down The House, historian Julian Zelizer pinpoints the moment when our country was set on a path toward an era of bitterly partisan and ruthless politics, an era that was ignited by Newt Gingrich and his allies. In 1989, Gingrich brought down Democratic Speaker of the House Jim Wright and catapulted himself into the national spotlight. Perhaps more than any other politician, Gingrich introduced the rhetoric and tactics that have shaped Congress and the Republican Party for the last three decades. Elected to Congress in 1978, Gingrich quickly became one of the most powerful figures in America not through innovative ideas or charisma, but through a calculated campaign of attacks against political opponents, casting himself as a savior in a fight of good versus evil. Taking office in the post-Watergate era, he weaponized the good government reforms newly introduced to fight corruption, wielding the rules in ways that shocked the legislators who had created them. His crusade against Democrats culminated in the plot to destroy the political career of Speaker Wright. While some of Gingrich’s fellow Republicans were disturbed by the viciousness of his attacks, party leaders enjoyed his successes so much that they did little collectively to stand in his way. Democrats, for their part, were alarmed, but did not want to sink to his level and took no effective actions to stop him. It didn’t seem to matter that Gingrich’s moral conservatism was hypocritical or that his methods were brazen, his accusations of corruption permanently tarnished his opponents. This brand of warfare worked, not as a strategy for governance but as a path to power, and what Gingrich planted, his fellow Republicans reaped. He led them to their first majority in Congress in decades, and his legacy extends far beyond his tenure in office. From the Contract with America to the rise of the Tea Party and the Trump presidential campaign, his fingerprints can be seen throughout some of the most divisive episodes in contemporary American politics. Burning Down The House presents the alarming narrative of how Gingrich and his allies created a new normal in Washington. 

Disclosure

Disclosure, a new independent movie from Australia asks the question, what would you do if your child came to you and began telling you a story about something that happened to them, that is one of your worst nightmares as a parent? And what would be the consequences of your actions? This is director, Michael Bentham’s debut full-length film, set in the lush tropical landscape of Victoria. The story is a dark psychodrama, yet Bentham shooting in 4K captures startlingly colorful scenes with unobtrusive camerawork and exceptional acting. Norman B was so impressed with Disclosure, he wants you to know all about it. In this edition of Life Elsewhere, you’ll hear his review.

Jess Williamson ft. Hand Habits – Pictures Of Flowers

To round out the show, new music from Jess Williamson featuring Hand Habits with the lovely and plaintive, Pictures Of Flowers. Written by Jess and performed by Jess Williamson (acoustic guitar, vocals), Meg Duffy (electric guitar), and Jarvis Taveniere (bass, drums, mellotron) remotely from their homes during quarantine. In her bio, the Texas-born, L.A.-based singer-songwriter is described as making “…deeply felt songs that orbit around her powerful voice, a voice that’s strong and vulnerable, big room flawless, quietly ecstatic, and next-to-you intimate.” We agree. 

Please let us know what you think of Life Elsewhere, we want to hear your feedback, your questions, queries, and comments. Write to normanb@lifeelsewhere.co

Show #381

LIFE ELSEWHERE MUSIC VOL 177 ISOLATION MIX 3

 

Perhaps I’ve had more time on my hands because of this self-isolating predicament, I know I’ve listened to far more new music than usual. And, usually, I listen to more new music in a week than most people have had hot dinners. OK, that might be a slight exaggeration, but the truth is, I do listen to a shitload of new music. Curating the cuts for a 60-minute show can prove exhausting. For this volume, I eliminated on average a ratio of 5 to 1. Am I being too harsh? Does listening to more music mean I’m extra critical? A massive amount of new music is being created daily. Most of it well-intentioned by talented people, yet I’m always searching for the cuts deserving repeated plays – and your attention. We begin volume 177 with a positive, upbeat single from Abakush with Cush, produced by Jah Fingers at Mark Angelo Studio on the Common Ground International imprint, out of London. Staying in a UK reggae vibe, Nick Woodmansey, aka Emanative along with Tamar Collocutor gives us Energy. Next, Remi Wolf out of LA delivers her pugnacious lyrics in rapid style, including, “…you run out of Oxycontin” on Woo! (Porches Remix). From the LP farawayfromeveryoneyouknow, New York-based, Altopalo says Am I Am. There was a time in my life when the world was dark and hope seemed to evade me, but then Love met me at the Well and out of all the mess came Victory!” Says ThandiwekaYah from Johannesburg, South Africa. You’ll hear Babylon, You Great City from her EP, Well.Love.Victory. Colombian artist Gabriela Jimeno presents as Ela Minus. Her debut single for Domino Record Co is, They Told Us It Was Hard, But They Were Wrong. Despite the long list of credits of I’m sure wonderfully talented people, the official video for this song is, unfortunately, a terrible mess. Arqestry from California proclaims, The questioning of my beliefs, spirituality, relationships, and existentialism” we are not sure if that refers to the LP Pale Blue or the cut Small – or both. Hippie mom makes daughter with hippie songs,” Says the notes to Lalande with Delusional Trip from the EP Osglim. This is the work of Lia Braswell who started playing drums at eight years old, she began to enjoy it more than any other outlet (besides singing, which she took on by listening to her mom, Jo Alice Braswell, sing all around the house). After many years in the music business, Lia currently resides between Los Angeles and New York. Half Waif is the musical home of singer/songwriter/producer Nandi Rose. We’ve raved about her on previous volumes of LEM and Blinking Light for her latest LP The Caretaker hasn’t changed our minds. Jonnine Standish and Nigel Yang perform as HTRK, based in Melbourne the duo released Venus In Leo in 2019, we love Into The Drama. Their latest release is Rarities which includes Blending’ (Demo) recorded in London 2010. We love that too. “Groovy, lumpy, sonic shit” is how Sleepy House a duo from California describe their music. Do you agree after listening to Concussed? Little Spoon, Who Are You Drinking is by Fuvk from Austin, Texas. We promise Spellcheck will correct you on that name. Dutch frontwoman Michelle Hindriks of Ciel says she moved back to her adopted hometown Brighton and gained inspiration to write the songs that form the band’s debut EP, Movement. We selected, It’s Not All The Same. To close out LEM Vol 177, we go to Denmark to hearSurreal synth noise and depressive field recordings” courtesy of Rölling Stëins with They Brought Mich Jägër In for Questioning from their LP: Rölled Göld. The line-up is worth noting: Mich Jäger (Leslie Singer): Theoretical Vocals, Këith Rikkard (Ditlev Buster): Theoretical Leed Geetar, Bïlly Prëston (Carrie Beyer): Theoretical Steinway. Available on Tribe Tapes out of North Carolina.

There you have it, Isolation Mix 3. Enjoy and stay safe.

A Conversation With Harry Stafford

There is something assuringly honest about Harry Stafford’s demeanor. He says without a hint of self-consciousness that he likes to get up on stage and put on a show and if that means dressing the part, then so be it, he’ll gladly do his best. Which goes a long way to explain why the one-time spiky-haired goth rocker now prefers to wear a conservative business suit with a white shirt and tie to perform in. Harry reckons if people pay good money to come to see you, then they deserve a show, not some bloke shambling on in boring jeans and a t-shirt. It all works because Stafford’s new album, Gothic Urban Blues presents melancholy look backward without being old-fashioned. It’s a collection that could have easily been released ten, twenty or maybe thirty years ago, yet the suggestion that this is a carefully crafted homage to nostalgia is shattered by the crisp production and Stafford’s almost languid but up-to-the-moment lyrics. Gothic Urban Blues can be played all the way through without stopping or one track at a time, it’s one of those albums that works perfectly either way. Which is a lot like chatting with Harry. He gives thoughtful, well-considered answers with a treasure trove of insights and details that could persuade you that your sixty-minute conversation was really just ten minutes. He’s an affable chap is Harry Stafford, the ups and downs of the music biz may have given him cause to be cynical but he manages to keep that persona well hidden. Instead, he recounts the early days as founder, guitarist, and vocalist of post-punk gothic rockers Inca Babies as fondly as he chats about his latest venture. Stafford decided to release untamed solo material that echoes his love of blues piano and barroom ballads. The idea he says was to leave his noisy electric guitar behind – abandoning everything he held and cherished – to make some new music with a piano and a head full of ideas. His band is now called Guitar Shaped Hammers to reflect this cohesion of musical unity – with more guitars from Vincent O’Brien, and an additional layered sonic blast from Nick Brown (The Membranes). With intense percussion from Rob Haynes and a truly masterful trumpet contribution from jazz supremo Kevin Davy, the result is very much the soundtrack of a basement radio station stumbling across a new genre they’ve tagged Gothic Urban Blues

LEM Vol 172

Madame President? Fearless Cooking. New Music.

After November 8, 2016, first came the sadness; then came the rage, the activism, and the protests; and, finally, for thousands of women, the next step was to run for office – many of them for the first time. More women campaigned for local or national office in the 2018 election cycle than at any other time in US history, challenging accepted notions about who seeks power and who gets it. The Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential election saw an unprecedented and a record number of women running for office. Now Super Tuesday is behind us and as if time has stood stubbornly still, two late 70s white men are the front runners. To begin to unravel how we ended up without a woman to effectively fumigate the White House of the most debased misogynist of all time, we revisit our 2019 interview with journalist Caitlin Moscatello. She reported on the wave of female candidates who decided to run for political office after the 2016 election. Caitlin followed four candidates throughout the entire process, from the decision to run through Election Day, Her excellent book, See Jane Win takes readers inside their exciting, winning campaigns and the sometimes thrilling, sometimes brutal realities of running for office while female. What she discovers is that the candidates who triumphed in 2018 emphasized authenticity and passion instead of conforming to the stereotype of what a candidate should look or sound like, a formula that was intended to be more relevant than ever as we approach the 2020 presidential election. This look back at Caitlin Moscatello’s exuberant work serves as the forerunner to future examinations of why “Madame President” is not likely to be heard for at least another four years.

Food stylist, recipe developer, and cookbook author, Susan Spungen has a lot to say about Fearless Cooking and Entertaining. In her appealing new book, Open Kitchen she gets straight to the point by telling the reader whether physical or spiritual, an open kitchen is a place to welcome company, to enjoy togetherness and the making of a meal. Her cookbook is full of contemporary, stylish, and accessible dishes, from simple starters such as Burrata with Pickled Cherries and centerpieces such as Rosy Harissa Chicken, to desserts such as Roasted Strawberry-Basil Sherbet. Norman B’s conversation with Susan is a mouth-drooling exercise in the love of food, cooking and the wonders of discovering new recipes.  

Also in the show, a selection of new music from an enterprising compilation, The Music Of Others. This came about when The Glad Cafe, a cultural hub in Glasgow’s south side discovered they were facing closure if they couldn’t come up with 40,000 pounds for repairs to the roof of their building. To help raise funds, the venue started a crowd-funding rally. The outcome was a new label imprint, Glorious Traces Recordings. In turn, they released a 22 track collection which sees a whole host of brilliant names covering each other’s songs…the result is, honestly one of the best compilations we’ve had the pleasure play in quite a while…here then are Wolf with Help This Animal originally by Paul Vickers & The Leg followed by Emma Pollack with Holy Smoke originally by Robin Adams Enjoy!

Show #363

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