Category: New Weird America


marissaBlack becomes Marissa Nadler. It suits her pale complexion and matches the atmosphere of her songs.

On stage, however she is not dark and gloomy but polite and unpretentious. Her much publicised stage fright is not evident. It helps that she is accompanied by cellist Janel Leppin who lends gravitas to the tunes.

This being a free concert at a beachside bar/club, there’s always a chance that you get an audience of sightseers rather than true fans but the small but appreciative crowd were on Marissa’s side from the outset.

Of the thirteen songs she played in a one hour set, only three were from her earlier records; the rest were all from her latest album, July. This song-cycle covers a year in her life, from one July to the next, and centre on an acrimonious break up.

Bleak settings in cheap motels and lost highways add to the forlorn mood. The bitterness and anger is controlled and directed towards moving on rather than wallowing in self pity. Continue reading

Mutual Benefit - Love's Crushing DiamondI want to shout it from the rooftops but I’m rubbish at climbing and I’m afraid I’ll fall.

I’ll blog the news instead that Love’s Crushing Diamond by Mutual Benefit is the best record I’ve heard all year.

I don’t usually look for music tips from Pitchfork Media – I’m too frequently irritated by their show-off reviewers and their keenness to demonstrate their hipster credentials.

But I’m eternally grateful to Ian Cohen’s enthusiastic write-up for bringing  to my attention this instantly appealing and spontaneously joyful release.

Cohen is right to draw comparisons to Devendra Banhart (and other freak folksters) and to note that these lovely songs are about as un-macho and quietly endearing as you can get. Continue reading

Steve Lacey on the front cover of the first issue of The Wire from Summer, 1982

Today, The Wire  announced that every back issue of the UK-based magazine is now available to  subscribers online and via the iPad, iPhone and Android apps.

You can peruse more than 350 issues which includes some issues that have been unavailable for up to three decades.

It’s hard to know where to start and I imagine that ,initially, I’ll be dipping into the archive on a fairly random basis.

I was interested to read the editorial in the first  issue  from Summer 1982, which gives an insight into how the remit of the mag has broadened; this states:  “The Wire’s brief will be to cover the field of contemporary jazz and improvised music – the happenings of now with a clear nod to its past greatness and wink at its possible future”.

The digital world that makes it possible to scan these back issues has also had a huge impact on the world of experimental music. Jazz still has a place in the current magazine but this has to compete with genres that include electronica, ambient, noise, weird folk and avant rock.

If you close your eyes and listen to the voice and virtuoso banjo playing, I am sure you’d visualise Sam Amidon as an older and more ragged individual. A modern-day Dock Boggs perhaps.

Instead, as you’ll see in this quirky video, he’s clean-cut and far younger than he sounds. The track – As I Roved Out – is from his excellent new album, Bright Sunny South, which I had the pleasure to review for Whisperin’ & Hollerin’.

Amidon was born less than 25 years ago into a music loving family in Brattleboro, Vermont (where the New Weird America genre took root after Matt Valentine’s free-folk festival).

His music has gradually evolved to embrace British influences, thanks in part to his marriage to Beth Orton.

All his songs are covers of old and new tunes but he adapts these so radically they could pass as his own.

The new album shows that he’s an artist brimful of talent and brimming in confidence.

Caligine’s Anomia Mediterranea

Caligine is, to all intents and purposes, the brainchild of one man although,as Gabriele de Seta loves playing with other people, he prefers to define the project as a collective than a solo act. He’s an Italian who, for the past two years, has mainly divided his time between the Netherlands and China.

Having begun in 2007 by experimenting with harsh noise and found sounds on two volumes entitled Minimalia, Caligine’s new album Anomia Mediterranea is a more luminous and melodic collection of contaminated folk music.

The title track has spoken words (in Italian) that are all but drowned out by insistent drones and there’s even a brief hint of Carmina Burana in there if you listen carefully. These inserts make the musical journey so much more interesting, it’s as if each track begins with the intention of taking a direct line from A to B, then gets drawn to a sound or idea that lies a little off the beaten track.

The longest piece on the album, all 12 minutes and 26 seconds worth, is entitled ‘Cani di Paglia Divorano Tigri di Cartapesta’ which roughly translates as ‘straw dogs devour paper maché tigers’. This surreal ,even faintly savage, imagery belies the lyricism of the instrumental track where a rustic acoustic guitar has elements of Jack Rose’s work with Pelt in which traditional folk becomes gradually corroded by complimentary elements.

Other tracks make me think of Czech poet-musician Vladimir Vaclavek, self-styled neo-folk guru David Tibet and Six Organs of Admittance’s Ben Chasny. In addition, a brief piece of improvised acoustic guitar (Blitris) sounds like an homage to Derek Bailey. Continue reading


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