Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Beefhearts and Monkeys

Hi there

I'll be updating this post on Captain Beefheart any day now, but as I told you in the last one, we're quite busy getting a good connection up and running at the new, improved Ten Songs Mansion...


In the meantime, just check the Ten Songs archives to your right, for a good read on a wide variety of musical subjects! That's right: sell it baby.

Bye,
Rick.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Intermission

Well, I'm a bit behind schedule for my 'ten songs a month' concept - due to our moving to a place where the internet is not yet connected - so I'm gonna cheat a little and just post this lovely, weird (anti-)commercial clip for Captain Beefheart (more about him in the next post):

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Rocking all over the World (4) - Nigeria


This time, it's Fela Kuti's turn in Ten Songs' African Tour. Born in Abeokuta, Nigeria in 1938, Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti can be accounted for the invention of Afrobeat, one of the most interesting genres around; no wonder, then, that HMV voted him #46 in the list of 100 most influential musicians of the twentieth century. I'll try to give a concise summary of Kuti's life and times here, but this guy has a hectic history to say the least.

Strange, but I'm beginning to see a pattern here: it seems that most of the African musicians I like, went off to Europe at a young age to study music, and thus combined various musical points of view. With Kuti, this is also the case: at age 20, being the brother of two well-known physicians, he was sent to London to study medicine, but Fela swiftly discovered his talents lied elsewhere and enlisted in the famed Trinity Music College. Here, he founded his first band, Koola Lobitos, playing a mix of American jazz, funk and African Highlife - the latter originally being a Ghanese horns/guitar driven genre, that soon became popular throughout the West-African region.

In 1963, Kuti returned to Nigeria and reformed the band, meanwhile studying as a radio producer for national radio. A big change in his political, musical and religious views came about in 1969, when he and his band left for the States. Here, he discovered the Black Panther Party, which led him to changing the band's name to Nigeria 70. However, Immigration Services were tipped off that the group didn't have any working permits, so Kuti et al hurried to L.A. to record some tracks and went back to Nigeria.

And that's when the real trouble began. He changed the band name to Africa '70, and his own middle name to Anikulapo ('he who carries death in his pouch') - claiming Ransome was a slave name - and formed a commune called the Kalakuta Republic, which he declared independent of the Nigerian state. Of course, this didn't go well with the government, and the place was regularly raided by the military. True story: at one point, police tried to arrest him on a cannabis charge, but Kuti ate the joint. The officers then arrested him and waited 'till he had to go to the bathroom so they could investigate his feces - but once again, Kuti got smart and offered them another inmate's number two, and he was released.

As his music became more and more political (and more popular), so the raids on the Republic grew increasingly fierce. When his hit record 'Zombie' was released in 1977, it was clear that the 'zombies' in the title were a metaphor for the soldiers who hassled him and his people on a regular basis. As a retaliation, the government sent 1000 soldiers to burn down the commune, ruining his musical equipment and recordings, and his mother was killed by throwing her out the window. Kuti later on recorded two tracks, 'Coffin for Head of State' and 'Unknown Soldier', in reaction to the 'official inquiry' stating that the commune was destroyed by one unknown soldier. Soon after, Kuti tried to run for president himself, but his candidature was refused.

In 1978, he married 27 women (mostly members of Africa '70) at a Kalakuta memorial, and played two concerts in Accra which resulted in riots, causing him to be banned from Ghana. During the eighties and early nineties, Kuti released records on a regular basis, earning him world-wide respect and recognition.

Despite all of the setbacks in his life, Fela Anikulapo Kuti kept on fighting against military corruption and governmental injustice until his AIDS-related death in 1997. His legacy is honored by his firstborn son, Femi Kuti, who is touring the world up to this day.

MP3: Fela Kuti and Africa '70 - Zombie

MP3: Fela Kuti and Roy Ayers - Africa

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Rocking all over the World (3) - Ethiopia

artwork W-1020

...And for this one, we're going to Ethiopia. Born in Jimma in 1943, Mulatu Astatke (also spelled Astatqé) is one of the most productive multi-musicians this much troubled country has brought forth: even now, at the age of 65, he's still touring and teaching young people his craft. As also was the case with Manu Dibango in the previous post, Astatke mixed a lot of western styles with his indigenous musical style; that's why he's now known as the godfather of Ethio-Jazz.

At a young age, in his teens, Astatke left for London to study music at the Lindisfarne College. Influenced by Miles Davis, John Coltrane and especially organist Jimmy Smith, he then moved on to the States, where he became the first African student at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Here, he quickly learned to play - to name just a few - piano, organ, vibraphone and percussion. He then returned to Ethiopia, where he threw in his learnings with the traditional, uniquely pentatonic local music.

And again, there are some parallels with Dibango: whereas their music is fundamentally different, Astatke's relaxed, instrumental, psychedelic jam-like sound once again reminds us of Booker T. and the MG's, but then like they've hooked up with Duke Ellington in the middle of an African desert. No surprise here, since Astatke has played with him in the early seventies and, after Ellington's death in '74, on several occasions with his backing band. Posted here is 'Yegelle Tezeta', from volume 4 in the excellent 'Ethiopiques' series; this compilation album was entirely dedicated to Astatke and is a real must-have. This laid-back yet funky track was also featured on the soundtrack of Jim Jarmusch' 'Broken Flowers', also including three other tracks of his.

In the next post, we're heading for Nigeria, to honor the late, great Fela Kuti, so do stop by for that one!

MP3: Mulatu Astatke - Yegelle Tezeta

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Rocking all over the World (2) - Cameroon

manu dibango. photo: unknown

...And this time, we're heading for Africa. Not much true-form rock'n'roll on this continent, but they have done a lot of interesting rhythm-driven stuff in the soul-funk genre, so let's talk about that. In this post and the following ones, we'll be having pit-stops in Cameroon, Ethiopia and Nigeria.

First up: Manu Dibango. This saxophonist spent the first fifteen years of his life in Cameroon, and only started to play music when he moved to France in 1949. Surprisingly, his first love for music didn't come from Africa either, but from the Duke Ellington tracks he heard in Paris. Fueled by Ellington's playing, Dibango's initial shot at composing was on a piano, but soon he realised it wasn't his thing and, inspired by American blues albums, skipped to saxophone. In 1954, only 21 at the time, Dibango moved to Brussels, where he also learned to play the vibraphone. His musical style began to take shape here, yet he moved back to Cameroon in the early sixties.

And this didn't go down well: as he was the offspring of a mixed couple (his father was from Yabassi, his mother from Douala), he was considered an outcast by both sides. That's probably why he moved back to France in 1965. At this stage, Dibango became a globetrotter without a motherland, with Paris at the epicentre of his travels. First he started out as a bandleader for Nino Ferrer, but it didn't take long before he started jamming with his own group. Although their live sets were like an early version of crossover-afrofunk, their first releases were less inspired variations on soul and New Orleans r'n'b: pretty much rip-offs of Booker T. and The Meters. Finally, in 1972, he found his true form with the now classic 'Soul Makossa' track, in which he mixed his African roots with all the jazzy, soulful and bluesy tunes he'd been hearing in the West - and sure enough it made for an explosive cocktail.

Posted here is that legendary track, as well as a reggae/disco version of it from Dibango's 1979 'Gone Clear' album. In the next post, we're stopping by in Ethiopia to pay Mulatu Astatke a visit, so stay tuned!

MP3: Manu Dibango - Soul Makossa

MP3: Manu Dibango - Reggae Makossa

Monday, September 15, 2008

Rocking all over the World (1) - Asia

artwork 7SN028

After last week's city special on Radio Pink Flamingo - it'll be up for download any day now - , let's take the 'world trip' concept a bit more literally. For some time now, I've been wanting to compile an RPF featuring rock'n'roll bands from not so evident origins. I'm still trying to complete the list so it'll fill an hour - please do leave a comment if you have a suggestion - but at the moment I've already discovered a couple of priceless tracks from India, Japan and Cambodia (kudos to Evil Fons on that last one).

First up: Ted Lyons and his Cubs - at least, that's what it says on their drumkit in the hilarious clip shown below. I couldn't find much info on this band, except for this baseball playing person, but their fabulous 'Jaan Pahechan Ho' (Hindi for 'we should get to know eachother') was featured in 'Gumnaam' ('lost one'), in 1965 the very first Indian suspense thriller. In fact, its storyline was stolen from Agatha Christie's 'Ten Little Indians', its theme song's a blatant rip-off of Henry Mancini's 'Charade' theme, and save for one stunning dance sequence, the entire movie may be disregarded. Credited for the film's music is a duo called Shankar Jaikishan, so I suppose they're the ones responsible for this genius track. It's also in the opening sequence of 'Ghost World', an excellent adaptation of Daniel Clowes' comic featuring Steve Buscemi and a teenage Scarlett Johansson. Whatever, just enjoy this one:



Next: the 5.6.7.8's. Again, there's a movie connection: this Tokyo all-girl garage trio has been rocking it since 1986, but it wasn't until they did three tracks in 'Kill Bill Vol.1' that they got some international recognition - come to think of it: those Indian dancers sure look a lot like the Crazy 88. Mostly playing covers of 50's and 60's American bands, this bunch manages to give it their own distinctive sound by injecting loads of fuzz, fun and flimsy English. Posted here, though, is the completely wordless 'Woo Hoo', a brilliant cover of the Rock-A-Teens who recorded it in '59 - here's a video collage of the original. Also, as you could tell by that sticker on the cover above, it was a big hit in the US thanks to a Carling commercial.

And finally: Ros Sereysothea. It's not a happy story, this one: in the early seventies, an American tourist named Paul Wheeler bought some cassettes at a market in Cambodia. No playlists were included, but the recordings were from various indigenous musicians playing psychedelic rock music, inspired by western bands. Not much later, in 1975, the Khmer Rouge took power in the country, and it's safe to say that most, if not all, of the people on these tapes were murdered. Thankfully, their music made it through, as the Parallel World label released the excellent 'Cambodian Rocks' compilation in '96.

MP3: Shankar Jaikishan - Jaan Pahechan Ho

MP3: The 5.6.7.8's - Woo Hoo

MP3: Ros Sereysothea - Chnam oun Dop-Pram Muy

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Legends and Rockets

jesser (left) with thee andrews surfers. photo: rick brands

According to the poster, today was to be the last day of the Music Mania clearout sale, but due to the good response and excellent new supplies by Charlie and Lorin, it's likely we'll stay open 'till the end of the year. New opening hours and other updates will appear in this post as soon as we've made our minds up, so keep an eye on this one. *** UPDATE: The opening hours will stay the same as before: from 11.30 am 'till 6.30 pm, only now it'll be open from Wednesday 'till Saturday. *** In other news: as visual artist JesseRobot is planning a big exhibition at the Artifex later this year, his mother and acclaimed photographer Malou Swinnen is having a photoshoot tonight, on which he will base some of his paintings. But this JesseR dude is also quite the active bongo player under the Señor J. moniker, in bands like the Secret Fez Society, Jerboa and the recently split-up Fifty Foot Combo. So let's have a closer look on these, shall we?

In Secret Fez Society, Roosen was accompanied by two other FFC members, Rodrigo Fuentealba and fellow graphic artist Matto Le D., as well as Isolde Lasoen (Daan, Saint-Marteau, the Whodads) on drums. This loungey bossa nova jazz act, clearly tapping into the Henry Mancini-vein, only released one 10" EP via the 'To the Nines' label, so it's a pity I can't post an mp3 here - but we still have some copies lying around at the Mania, so feel free to stop by and buy one!

In 2007, after twelve years of rocking the world with their unique Monstrophonic Sound, Fifty Foot Combo called it quits. I had the opportunity of seeing this great r'n'r/surf/exotica act live several times, and they sure knew how to blow me away with their tight chemistry, high volume and go go dancing specials - a Dutch review of mine for Belpop can be read here. A nice track off their 2000 'Strike!' LP, 'The Legend Of Hanau Eepe', starts off with a flaming bongo roll by JesseR, to be blown to bits by screeching guitars and bombing drums later on. The mp3 is at the end of this post, so listen for yourselves. Most of the final FFC line-up (drummer Bart Rosseau, guitarist Steven Gillis and bassist Jenz DW) is still occasionally touring as Thee Andrews Surfers Deluxe, with guest appearances by Señor J., The Stiffs frontman Staf Derie and others. So if their name's on the line-up someplace near you, be sure to check it out!

And finally: Jerboa. Quite the different genre compared to the aforementioned acts, this project by 'Flemish DJ Shadow' Frederik Dejongh leans more toward turntablism and electronics. Well, this was definitely the case on 'Music for My Instruments', his excellent debut LP, but on 2007 follow-up 'Rockit Fuel' it became more of a group effort, played live by a four-piece band and a whole bunch of guest-vocalists. At the moment, Jerb is working on record #3, and expectations are quite high-strung after the critically and commercially well-received last one. Let's hope it'll sound somewhat like the last song on 'Rockit Fuel', the eponymous intrumental posted here, because it's a killer track if I've ever heard one. Enjoy!

MP3: Fifty Foot Combo - The Legend Of Hanau Eepe

MP3: Jerboa - Rockit Fuel

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sailors and Cities on the Radio

artwork CID131 on island. photo: anders petersen

After the summer hiatus and some funky mix shows, Radio Pink Flamingo is back in full effect! And next Saturday from 6 'till 7 pm CET, on 105.3 Urgent.fm, we already have a special treat for you: DJ Divine and yours truly put their heads together and came up with an RPF City Special. Basically, it's a journey around the world in 58 minutes, stopping by at every genre conceivable, as long as it's linked to the name of a city. Of course, some inevitable classics are on the list ('New York, New York', 'Viva Las Vegas', 'Waterloo'), but this one's also packed with quite some lesser-known gems by the likes of The Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen.

However, since this show is linked to the marine theme they've got going at the Pink Flamingo's bar, we also needed one true sailor song - ànd with a city in the title. We finally found it on Tom Waits' outstanding 1985 'Rain Dogs' album: a raunchy, dangerous track called 'Singapore'. The typically distorted guitar has Marc Ribot written all over it, as he hoisted the axe on most of the album - except for three songs, where none other than Keith Richards jumped in. The overall sound of 'Rain Dogs' is also very atypical for the mid-eighties, since synths, drum machines or samples are nowhere to be heard. Waits himself on the subject:

'If I want a sound, I usually feel better if I've chased it and killed it, skinned it and cooked it. Most things you can get with a button nowadays. So if I was trying for a certain drum sound, my engineer would say: "Oh, for Christ's sake, why are we wasting our time? Let's just hit this little cup with a stick here, sample something (take a drum sound from another record) and make it bigger in the mix, don't worry about it." I'd say, "No, I would rather go in the bathroom and hit the door with a piece of two-by-four very hard".'

And much respect for that decision, because these songs still sound crispy fresh today. Posted here is 'Singapore', as well as another great track off the 'Rain Dogs' album called 'Fockey Full of Bourbon'. Enjoy, and be sure to tune in next Saturday: 105.3 FM if you're in Ghent, or via the worldwide streaming. As always, you can check the playlists on groovekit.be!

MP3: Tom Waits - Singapore

MP3: Tom Waits - Jockey Full of Bourbon

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Battling Babies, Made Out of Mice

julie christmas (pic: seldon hunt)

The weather round here is what an Indian Summer in Belgium is bound to be, so we're in dire need of some gloomy melodies, to correspond with that dreary mess outside. And as dark tunes go, few can top the two bands fronted by Julie Christmas. In Battle Of Mice, featuring members of the equally excellent Red Sparowes, this Brooklyn-based singer successfully combines eerie, hushed nursery rhymes with sudden nerve-crushing screams and epic walls of guitars and drums. Two years ago, Neurot Recordings released their debut album 'A Day Of Nights', on which Christmas et al knocked me off my feet with a mere seven tracks. Built around a fascinating fable involving a chained, bloody-beaked dog reminiscent of Cerberus and more grim, Grimm-ish faerie tale nudges, it's one of those rare concept albums that actually manage to pull you completely into their own, hermetic universe.

Made Out of Babies, Christmas' other, older band with ex-boyfriend Brendan Tobin on guitars, recently unleashed their third LP called 'The Ruiner' upon the world. Their first release via The End Records, a NY label that also harbours some other Ten Songs faves like Nadja (drone-metal) and Enemy of the Sun (doom-core), it's once again a big step forward from their previous albums. Here, Christmas takes a more in-your-face approach, backed by a furious noise rock/metal combo. As you can tell, it's pretty heavy stuff, or, as they fittingly put it in their bio, 'devastating'.

It's quite a surprise, then, that this same dreaded vixen plans to release a solo-album in 2009 under the 'The Bad Wife' moniker, including a cover by none other than fellow Belgian chansonnier Jacques Brel. On her MySpace, you can listen to a 55-second snippet of 'If You Go Away', a translation by Rod McKuen of Brel's classic tearjerker 'Ne Me Quitte Pas'. She's in good company on this one, since a.o. Frank Sinatra, Shirley Bassey, Scott Walker and Dusty Springfield tried their hand on it before her. And quite frankly, Christmas' version sounds promising to say the least. For a heartbreaking live rendition of the original by Brel himself, check YouTube.

Posted here are 'The Lamb and The Labrador', the opening track of Battle of Mice' debut album, as well as 'Cooker', an electrifying new track off Made Out of Babies' 'The Ruiner'. Enjoy breaking your neck to these puppies!

MP3: Battle of Mice - The Lamb and The Labrador

MP3: Made Out of Babies - Cooker

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Wizards, Stones, Grids and Lakes

bibendum concurs

One of the new psych-oriented gems on heavy rotation at the Music Mania is called Beyond the Wizards Sleeve. This duo, consisting of Mixmag's '06 dj of the year Erol Alkan and The Grid founding member Richard Norris, picks up where great sixties/early seventies bands like the Who, the Kinks and all of those Nuggets bands left off, and injects their guitar groove with some envigorating modern-day synths and cut-and-paste magic. On 'Ark 1', recently released by Rough Trade, BTWS compiled most of the tracks featured on a series of 12" maxi's recorded over the last two years - well, when I say 'tracks', I mean re-edits mostly. It's definitely one to hear - especially on vinyl, so there's a tip for ya.


Another spectrum of these guys' studio genius can be heard via their remixing abilities: thus far, Alkan and Norris have done some wonderful things with tracks by such diverse acts as Chemical Brothers, Findlay Brown, Midlake and Simian Mobile Disco. I'm not sure this thing will boom in the same way The Grid did back in the early nineties, or how Alkan is now a superstar DJ - it's a bit too underground and revival-ish for that, not to mention the copyright consequences - but it's still a great idea, exquisitely executed.

Posted here are two tracks off the Ark 1 album: 'Percy Power', which is basically a guide to treating your plants nicely, and 'Light Years (Spring)', a reworking of '2000 Light Years from Home', one of my favorite Rolling Stones tracks. Furthermore, a great remix of Midlake's 'Roscoe' is at your disposal, and for old time's sake, the Grid's 'Swamp Thing' off their '94 'Evolver' album. I remember watching the video at night on MTV when I was 13, and sure enough it freaked me out.

MP3: Beyond the Wizards Sleeve - Percy Power

MP3: Beyond the Wizards Sleeve - Light Years (Spring)


MP3: Midlake - Roscoe (Beyond the Wizards Sleeve RMX)


MP3: The Grid - Swamp Thing

P.S.: be sure to check out the great 'Part of the Weekend Never Dies' documentary about fellow Ghent residents Soulwax: Alkan has some funny things to say about them.