Monday, May 29, 2006

Jhelisa - A Primitive Guide To Being There

From time to time there comes an album that reminds us why music exists in the first place. Where the words "pure", "back to basics" and "deep" make sense again, with music that doesn't care about what's fashionable or not, coming from today but just sounding timeless. Jhelisa was first known during the british acid jazz period in the 90's, with "Friendly Pressure" being her most recognizable song. Before recording "A Primitive Guide To Being There", she travelled around Africa and Brasil, to understand her music roots and ended up in New Orleans to feel what makes this city so special in musical history. And there she witnessed the Katrina Hurricane and the feeling that the best things can't be taken for granted. The result is an album that takes something from all these experiences, creating songs that are contemporary but still inspired by traditional genres like gospel, blues or even indian music. An intense journey through life in general, that starts with an ode to freedom -"Freedom's Land"- and ends up being a question of survival -"Survivin' (In The Key Of E Flat)"-. In a few words, one of those rare occasions when music transcends itself and becomes larger than life.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Poetry # 2

by Tim Burton

Brie Boy had a dream he had only had twice,
that his full, round head was only a slice.

The other children never let Brie Boy play ...
... but at least he went well with a nice Chardonnay.

Must-have objects for a survival kit #3

The Melancholy Death Of Oyster Boy & Other Stories, by Tim Burton

Being the brain behind masterpiece movies like Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Mars Attacks! or Batman Returns, we all know by now that Tim Burton is a genius. This is a book first published in 1997, consisting of poems and drawings that tell us the stories of tragic characters like Stick Boy, Staring Girl, The Boy with Nails in His Eyes, The Pin Cushion Queen, Brie Boy, Oyster Boy or The Girl Who Turned Into a Bed. Pretty much all of his trademarks are here: a sympathy for misunderstood outsiders, sophistication and childness, some black humor and an innocence mixed with the macabre. Enough reasons to make this a mandatory book that remind us why we like his work so much.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Confessions Tour - first show

Madonna has kicked off her Confessions Tour last Sunday in L.A. to rave reviews from both press and public. has a nice description of the show and setlist here.
As always, there's already some controversy, especially regarding the hanging-in-the-cross act during "Live To Tell". The L.A. Times has made a very interesting analysis about it that pretty much applies to her entire career:
"...In the nearly two-hour show's most obviously controversial sequence, the 47-year-old was positioned on a giant steel mesh cross, singing her poignant ballad "Live To Tell" while pictures of suffering children swirled about her. What was so fascinating wasn't the message of compassion this outspoken children's advocate attached to her heretical stance; it was the way she held it, arms outstretched and face serious, for the entire song, until the shock wore off and it seemed less like blasphemy than an ardent attempt to understand what makes such an image so compelling. If the dizzyingly elaborate Confessions revue said anything in particular, it was that images - Madonna's stock in trade - have a way of veering out of control and gaining new meanings..." (Taken from an article by Ann Powers, The Los Angeles Times.)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Final Fantasy - He Poos Clouds

This is probably what happens when a grown-up man goes back to being a child and starts creating music using an orchestra, all his pop knowledge, loads of imagination and a huge sense of humour. Pop meets classical, video-games meet opera, cabaret meets cartoon soundtracks? Coming from Owen Palett, who previously colaborated with Arcade Fire creating some of the arrangements heard in "Funeral", this will probably be 2006's biggest musical u.f.o., one of innocent and genius beauty. To be heard by everyone that simply likes excellent music and doesn't care about rules. "He Poos Clouds"? The title says more about Owen and this album than you would ever imagine at first.

AGF + Delay - Explode / Quio - Like Oooh!

As said before, there's probably no city right now with a more creative atmosphere than Berlin, with many of today's most relevant musicians being found there. If ever they were needed, here are two more good proofs, both coming from the brilliant mind of Antye Greie-Fuchs, aka AGF.
"Explode", done together with Delay, is pure, dark and austere electronics, being a good soundtrack to your most intimate thoughts. It's a very poetic album, with some interventional lyrics but, at the same time, using whispered vocals, showing that you don't need to shout to make yourself heard. With full effect, as shown in this hypnotic album.
"Like Oooh!", by Quio and produced by AGF, is the opposite, with a ludic, fresh and funny feeling, almost sounding naive. Full of references to street music genres like dancehall, grime or reggaeton, everything is then filtered by the german electronics school, as if two opposite forces were joined together...and lived happily ever after.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Invisible Session - The Invisible Session

It has been a while since i last heard a good and simple jazz-electronics album, apart from some u.f.o. experiences such as last year's "Spirituals" by Flanger and "Spirit Walk" from the Steve Reid Ensemble. This one doesn't really bring anything new but it sounds ellegant, sophisticated and fresh enough to be playing on repeat in the last few days. And while that happens, its slightness and good-vibrations have the power to change the atmosphere and make the air around easier to breathe. Simple and vital as that.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

X-Wife - Side Effects

It may be considered slightly-dated (electro-punk revival was fashionable at least 3 years ago) or ulta-dated (the origins of this movement date back to the early 80's, as documented by the excellent collections "Mutant Disco" and "New York Noise"). But being so-last-season isn't synonym of bad quality. Two years after "Feeding the Machine", Fernando Sousa, Rui Maia and João Vieira (aka DJ Kitten) are back with a new album that just sounds like good music - dated or not, fashionable or not - and is a clear step ahead into a more mature direction. 12 strong and addictive songs to hear from the portuguese "post punk electronic rock power trio". Official site here

Sebastien Tellier - Sessions

A friend of Sofia Coppola and discovered by Air, Sebastien Tellier now releases his third effort, a concept album consisting of alternative versions to some of his previously released songs. With minimal instrumentation (it could be described as "a man and his piano"), it transports us to an intimate atmosphere that makes this music sound so delicate and yet so expressive. French-charming.

Various Artists - Big Apple Rappin': The Early Days of Hip-Hop Culture in New York City 1979-1982

An excellent collection dedicated to the first days of Hip-Hop, when it was a close relative to disco and essentially party music (being the soundtrack for the famous "block parties" where DJ's such as Kool Herc invented the breakbeat). The MC's would rhyme about the pleasures of abandoning yourself to the rhythm or shout worldwide slogans ("How we gonna make the black nation rise?") while the beats were as funky as they could be. Irresistible.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Music Videos # 2

Gnarls Barkley - Crazy

A brilliant song didn't deserve less than a brilliant video and here it is. Directed by Robert Hales with animation and visual effects done by BL:ND in Santa Monica - California, it's also an homage to Rorschach.
Watch the video here

Monday, May 08, 2006

Iconic Images # 2

Madonna photographed by Steven Klein, W Magazine, June 2006 issue

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Knife - Silent Shout

This one is quite special. Like most of the best music in recent times, it's difficult to describe it, as it sounds like something we've never heard of before. Imagine someone creating music in his room and sharing all his secrets to us - a bit like Khonnor did last year with Handwriting. Now imagine that someone has a twisted mind, multiple personalities, sinister thoughts, lives in the coldest place in the world, has a sister with a ghostly voice and likes using techno keyboards. And, with a brilliant imagination, manages to create perfect pop music despite all these contradictions.
The Knife are a mysterious duo coming from Sweden that always appear wearing masks. Their concept totally fits its music, full of those rare moments that remind us the most special things can be found in the strangest places with the most creepier atmospheres. File under: Cold, dark and strange yet hauntingly beautiful.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Coup - Pick A Bigger Weapon

There's a reason why Boots Riley, the mastermind behind The Coup, is sometimes called the Michael Moore of funk. While his music borrows direct inspiration from Parliament, Funkadelic, George Clinton and all the P-Funk golden years to create vibrant sounds, lyrics such as "I’m here to laugh, love, fuck and drink liquor / And help the damn revolution come quicker" or "Bush and Hussein together in bed / Giving ‘h-e-a-d’ head / Ya'll muthafuckers heard what we said / Billions made and millions dead" and songs like "Babyletshaveababybeforebushdosomethin'crazy" or "Ass-Breath Killers" ("you've been kissing ass too much") remind us that even the most upbeat and addictive music can have a strong interventive power. Pick A Bigger Weapon manages to be excellent in all levels. And considering the times we're living in, records like this don't deserve to be small curiosities or fait divers only. They should be given free at schools.

Sway - This Is My Demo

British black music scene seems to be living some very dynamic moments and this happens specially when it gives up on copying american models and instead just worries about being itself. While Mike Skinner from The Streets thinks he's now the english Eminem (and thus disappoints with his new album The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living), Sway - aka Derek Safo - releases his debut album and is a strong contender to be the new spokesperson for a whole generation. His music - which could be described as hip-hop with some inspiration in r&b and grime - is powerful and innovative yet very accessible, his flow is natural and dynamic and his lyrics describe real-life situations and tales from common people than can go from hilarious scenes to really dramatic stories ("Pretty Ugly Husband" is probably one of the most violent and touching songs we will hear this year). Brilliant.