Monday, June 8, 2015

Anja Kowalski - Wolke ALBUM STREAMING (2015)

Brussels-based singer, songwriter and guitarist Anja Kowalski has been around the Belgian musical scene for a pretty long time now. She was first encountered by my ears, and eyes, during the Middelheim Jazz Festival in 1999, if I recall correctly. Anja Kowalski was the guest vocalist for soprano sax Pierre Vaiana's African project Foofango. I honestly didn't care much for that combo, I was there for Misha Mengelberg Trio and ICP Orchestra, which had a standing ovation for their unique and brilliant take on Duke Ellington's repertoire. Nevertheless, if Foofango's gig was unmemorable, Anja Kowalski stood out as a particularly interesting and extraordinary singer. I told myself two things, first "I've never heard such a voice before" and "how is it possible she's looking even more beautiful when she's singing ?" And I told myself a third thing : "This is an artist to follow and I can't wait for this lady to come out with her own musical project".

Well, Anja Kowalski wasn't easy to follow, and if she has taken part in several musical projects of her own (the chamber-folk trio Swiebel, the piano and voice duo Purzelbaum Unlimited and the last intimate duet Seven Stumbling Poets), only the second mentioned issued an album, "DÖ"... ten years ago. As a vocalist on the other hand, Anja Kowalski on records can be found alongside Antwerp's experimental jazz-rock ensemble Think Of One and more prominently Belgian best big band ever, and possibly one of the best, period : the iconoclastic, explosive and oddball avant garde cabaret jazz orchestra Flat Earth Society (I beg you to listen to their handful of records, you have no idea).

Good news appeared in 2009 with the creation of Anja Kowalski's own four-piece band Wolke (German for 'cloud'), the release of a beautiful self-released EP and several gigs around Belgium. But up until April 2015, and despite several concerts around, I honestly thought a full Wolke album will never see the light of day.

"Beauty Is a Rare Thing" is an Ornette Coleman's composition, which appeared on his seminal "This Is Our Music" in 1960 ; both titles could very much be applied to Anja Kowalski's first album under her own name, "Wolke" being relegated to the album title : this album is a thing of beauty, and this is their, mostly her, music. The Brussels record label, NAFF rekordz, bandcamp liner notes include Marlene Dietrich, Hanne Hukkelberg, Robert Wyatt, Eintürzende Neubauten and Bill Frisell as references, but if it gives an idea of what to expect here : melancholy, playfulness, fragility, punctual sonic destruction and succinct avant jazz improvisation, it doesn't say much about the sum of all its parts. The album works like a journey thru the band's, and mostly Anja Kowalski's, mind, and if the lady seems calm on the outside, there's much going on under her mane of hair. "Wolke" is at the same time and alternatively introvert and eccentric, delicate and powerful, pretty dense and airy, dark and colorful while it's certainly excellently performed, the instrumentation suits Anja Kowalski's idiosyncratic vocals perfectly. Two third of the songs are delivered in German, which adds to the uncompromising nature of the album, and that language never sounded that soft and intimate, heimweh being the German close equivalent of the Portuguese saudade.

Listen, share and surely spooking buy this thing there or anywhere!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

PRAIRIE - Like a Pack of Hounds (2015) ALBUM STREAMING

Brussels-based one man project PRAIRIE debuted in 2013 with a compelling and dark self-released EP called “I’m So In Love I Almost Forgot I Survived A Disaster”. A very promising record, if a little raw on the edges, oddly labelled here and there as post-post rock, whatever that means. Or is it because the influences are clearly rooted into the most experimental and abstract side of post-rock, while expending its sound pallet to incorporate ambient, noise, drones, electronic, spoken words, film music and even post-punk aesthetics? Oh, but that's quite what post-rock is, isn't it? And does it matter? Nope.

What matters is that the man behind PRAIRIE, Marc (Notthefckngdesigner) Jacobs, has signed a deal with Berlin-based Shitkatapult label, which has released a couple of months ago PRAIRIE's second effort to date, "Like a Pack of Hounds", and that's good news. It is good news because the man's music deserves to reach a wider audience. All the elements which made the first EP a fine listen are there, but like developed and extended towards larger than life yet terrifying proportion. I knew the man has an extremely vast musical knowledge as a music lover and professional, but it's fascinating to hear how those numerous influences ended up into this impressive musical sum that's greater than its parts, and best of all deeply personal, while almost worryingly relentless. Some parts could almost be too obvious to pinpoint, experimental composers Tim Hecker and Ben Frost come to mind, and when exceptionally - the album being mostly instrumental - one track got closer to a song, with vocals indeed, like on "Closed For Thirty Midnights", it's hard not to think of Phil Elverum's Mount Eerie/ The Microphones. The thing is, PRAIRIE does it better, surely concerning them surprisingly hip and overrated above mentioned couple of composers, because contrary to Tim Hecker's sterile harsh metallic multi-layers-that-go-nowhere and surely Ben Frost's special fx boom blasts-that-well-blast-for-nothing-and-is-that-all-there-is, PRAIRIE's "Like a Pack of Hounds" contains full formed fertile compositions, with an effective sense of direction, while somewhat keeping it close to Earth. There is sweat and dirt and sorrow and despair and even menace around here. An ambitious, uncompromising and ultimately rewarding listen.
Stream it down here, share it and buy it on the Shitkatapult website.

Sunday, February 1, 2015


YODOK, the Scandinavian duo of Tomas Järmyr, on drums, and Kristoffer Lo, on amplified tuba and flugabone (sic) was founded in 2008 in Trondheim, Norway (same place the mighty Supersilent appeared) and proposes improvised music within the drone/doom/noise genre. One of their many influences comprises Belgian guitarist and sound sculptor Dirk Serries' project  Fear Falls Burning and it's nearly no surprise, if a good one, to see Vidna Obmana's founder join those productive Scandinavians in order to expand their already expansive sound. On this occasion the project was renamed YODOK III.

Both Järmyr and Lo are versatile musicians, active in the local Norwegian experimental and improvised scene. Järmyr and Lo collaborated in the drone trio Sunswitch, with bassist Trond Frønes, and the jazz-pop band Doffs Poi. Lo plays in the art-rock bands PELbO and Highasakite, is a member of the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra and the experimental tuba trio Microtub. Besides, he issued a solo tuba record. Järmyr is at least as versatile (check out his website) and he has already recorded a duo album with Dirk Serries, under the moniker The Void of Expansion, called "Ashes and Blues".

"THE SKY FLASHES, THE GREAT SEA YEARNS" is already the second studio recording issued by YODOK III (they also issued two live ones) and it is once again released on the small Dutch label Tonefloat Records, under their ironically called "a new wave of jazz" imprint. Their first studio effort, simply called "YODOK III", contained two long improvisations, both running around the 23-minute mark, this second opus doubled it with four tracks for a total of around 90 minutes of music. Despite the jazz appellation, YODOK III's music is closer to the long post-rock instrumentals proposed by bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Stars of The Lid, with slow-building and thick-layered/thick-timbered aesthetics, except the music is here entirely improvised, which make them sonically somewhat closer to their near compatriots Supersilent.

This long album can be played in the background but I would recommend to push the volume button up as much you possibly can.

Stream, buy and share this thing below, spooking hell!