Arietta: prog and indie meet!

Here’s a link to the MySpace page of a band brought to my attention this week from the guys at  theMusebox.com.  They asked me to post something about the group,  who I heard and liked a lot, and who are currently touring into the summer.   The group in question is Arietta, based in Toronto and pulling from various strains of rock music, most notably from modern progressive rock, yet with pop hooks in mind.

As such, the group covers the bases for those who are interested in tight playing, yet who are still interested in hearing songs, rather than extended jams, although fans get those too.  This band is like an outpouring of a parallel universe, when it was prog, not punk, which was the prime motivator behind modern indie guitar music.  Yet the showiness of prog which turns a lot of people off is absent.  This is big rock music.  But, it doesn’t forget its audience.

The groups record, Migration is due out on April 28th.

Enjoy!

Andy Summers and Robert Fripp Play ‘I Advance Masked’

Here’s a clip of cool-as-the-other-side-of-the-pillow guitarists Andy Summers (the Police) and Robert Fripp (King Crimson) with the title track off of their 1982 collaboration, the instrumental I Advance Masked. This would be the first of two albums the two musicians would make together, following up in 1984 with Bewitched.  And, just as an aside, it’s Andy Summers’ birthday today!

It may seem to many that these two players were hoeing different rows of the pop music pumpkin patch. By 1981-82 when this track was recorded at Fripp’s Dorset England home studio,  Summers was a part of the biggest band in the world with several hit singles behind him and many in front.  Fripp was a part of rock’s intelligentsia, having founded progressive rock’s first tier band King Crimson while also serving as something of a technical wunderkind to other artists like David Bowie, Brian Eno, and Peter Gabriel.

Yet, the two men shared something of a passion for exploration in the field of instrumental music, and the nature of avante-garde  improvisation.  Yet, they were not interested in what had gone before as far as guitar albums went.  They wanted to present the guitar as a textural instrument, an instrument that can allow for an atmosphere,  rather than just to lay down a bunch of flashy rock  solos.  As a result, the record wasn’t what a lot of rock fans expected, of course.  Yet, it sets out what it’s designed to do, which is to set up each piece as something of a mood, and the suggestion of a landscape or locale, with ambient sounds being as important to the whole as the melody lines are.

After recording I Advance Masked, and its follow-up, Summers and Fripp would stick to their instrumental paths, even if their respective bands would be sidetracked.  Both the Police  and King Crimson would dissolve by the mid-80s, in Fripp’s case because he was the primary mover of his band, with the King Crimson name being more about his own vision for an approach to music, rather than a stable group.  Outside of the Police, Summers would make a career out of instrumental albums, bringing in rock, jazz, and ambient sounds, which he plays with here.  And Fripp would continue collaborations with other artists such as David Sylvian, Steve Wilson of Porcupine Tree, The Orb,  and with musicians in temporary groups like the League of Gentlemen and  the League of Crafty Guitarists.

When I bought the album, I was surprised by how few reference points I had for it.   I wasn’t sure about it.  But, then a lot of the subtleties began to come through for me.  There are a lot of jarring moments on this album.  They were experimenting, after all. But, there are also moments of absolute, crystalline beauty which makes me wish they’d made a few more albums together.

For more information about Andy Summers, check out Andysummers.com.

And for information about Robert Fripp, check out this interview with him that among other things discusses his meticulous (to say the least!) approach to collaboration.

Enjoy!

The Dirtbombs Perform “Candy Ass”

Here’s a clip of dual-drummered, dual bass guitared Detroit demolitionists The Dirtbombs with a live take of the song “Candy Ass”, taken from the 2005 album If You Don’t Already Have a Look.  This looks as though it was filmed at a gig at a bowling alley.  But, whatever the venue, they bash this thing to pieces and then set fire to them.

The Dirtbombs formed in Detroit, being a part of the raucous rock scene that also bred the White Stripes, and of course out of the same city that also gave birth to the MC5 and The Stooges decades before. The band punch out the type of rock you’re hearing in this clip, yet also place some emphasis on classic R&B and the blues which is also seems to be a mark of Detroit rock bands, both now and in days of yore.

I’m not sure what it is about Detroit that spawns bands like this, with a particular emphasis on bringing out the rhythm of rock, as opposed to just straight riffage.  Yet, here they are, with two basses and two drum kits, punishing their instruments for the glory of all as if on some kind of vendetta.

The Dirtbombs most recent record We Have You Surrounded is out now.

For previews of new music and old and more information, check out the Dirtbombs’ MySpace page.

Enjoy!

Former Blur Guitarist Graham Coxon Performs ‘Standing on My Own Again’

Here’s a clip of unsung Brit-pop architect and understated, yet imminently skilled guitarmeister Graham Coxon with “Standing On My Own Again” as taken from his Love Travels At Illegal Speeds album from 2006.

Graham Coxons interest in American indie rock allowed his group Blur to make a quiet exit from the Brit-Pop ghetto.  His continuing interest in bands like Pavement and The Pixies continues in his solo career.
Graham Coxon's interest in American indie rock allowed his group Blur to make a quiet exit from the Brit-Pop ghetto by 1997. His continuing interest in bands like Pavement and The Pixies continues in his solo career.

Coxon of course is known for his work with Blur, having come up with instantly recognizable and extremely ‘hooky’ guitar figures on singles like “There’s No Other Way”, “Parklife”,”Song 2″, and others.  But, by 2002, Coxon was restless, wanting to stretch out on his own.  His initial solo efforts had a decidedly experimental feel, leaving behind the right angles of pop structures for music that was a little less expected from a songwriter and guitarist from a pop band known for their accessible singles.

Some critics noted that Coxon was resisting his own instincts for pop writing on these records.  But, by the time he’d recorded this tune and the album, he had clearly embraced them again.  His touchstones of Kinks-influenced writing, mitigated by the intensity of statesmanlike punk-pop were once again allowed to take centre stage.  And yet, this isn’t a safe record either – it rocks, and on its own terms.

For more information, check out the official Graham Coxon website

And for more music, there’s always the Graham Coxon MySpace page.

Bluesman John Lee Hooker Performs “Boom Boom”

Here’s a clip of the immortal John Lee Hooker performing his hit “Boom Boom”

John Lee HookerThe blues is easily parodied – 12 bars, 3 chords, 3lines of lyrics for each verse, with subject matter about feeling bad. Yet, to reduce the blues to these cliches, as easy as it may be for some, is to forget how primal the blues really is as a form. And this isn’t just about how many genres of music it’s given birth to and fed. It’s about the basic human need to express something physical, something (for want of a better word) base. These expressions are as true to the human experience as anything to be found in any sacred text or scientific journal. For these purposes, singing the blues has few rivals. And Hooker’s tune is all about physicality, a celebration of arousal – “I love the way you walk/I love the way you talk/when you walk that walk/and talk that talk”. Grrr, baby! This is one of the songs about lust for the ages, and certainly one that has caused a ripple effect through into rock n’ roll.

“Boom Boom” was released by Hooker in 1961, marked by its unique guitar riff and Hooker’s own lustful growl. It was a staple song in the set of many blues and R&B acts on both sides of the Atlantic soon after. It became a single for the Animals, who were admirers of Hooker, a few years later along with another Hooker hit, “Dimples”. The “twelve bars-3chords-3 lines of lyrics” model for which the blues is known is entirely discarded here. What we get instead is a call-and-response drone, with Hooker’s guitar used more as a rhythm instrument, almost a percussion instrument, rather than the now-expected guitar histrionics with which electric blues is often associated. This song is much akin to Hooker’s earlier side “Boogie Chillun” which is a single riff on one chord, with only Hooker’s boot on the studio floor as a secondary instrument. It’s here that the world of the blues is taken out of the clubs of Chicago, and Hooker’s adopted hometown of Detroit, and is transported back to Africa.

Malian musician and innovator, the late Ali Farka Toure was always annoyed when he was compared to John Lee Hooker. “When I hear John Lee Hooker,” said Toure, “I hear African music”.

Thanks to www.allaboutjazz.com for use of John Lee Hooker’s image.

The Song In My Head Today: ‘Catch the Sun’ by Doves

Doves Lost SoulsIn 2000, I worried about the state of guitar music until I heard Doves’ “Catch the Sun” on the radio one morning that year. It was perhaps the last time for a while that I’d heard anything new on the radio that really made my ears perk up, and would pretty much stay that way until I heard Johnny Cash’s take on Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” a number of years later. But, that’s another story.

Doves is a trio from Manchester, a group which evolved out of another band Sub-Sub, a proponent of the dance scene in that city earlier in the decade. “Catch the Sun” appears on their debut album under the Doves name, Lost Souls, which is a highlight record of that year. The song is a soaring, celebratory guitar-bass-drums interplay, the anthemic quality of which perhaps belying the morose lyrical content; “Catch the sun/before it’s gone/Here it comes/Up in smoke and gone…”

The song, and the rest of the album, proved that mood and texture can be achieved using traditional rock instruments. The group would go on from here to create atmospheric sounds in follow-up releases like The Last Broadcast, and Some Cities. But for me this song, which was later covered by British pianist/singer Jamie Callum, is one of my favourite songs by anyone.

Take a listen to the track, and tell me what you think.