Archive for October, 2011

BAMMsterdam Review: dEUS – Keep You Close

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label: PIAS (Play It Again Sam)

listen: Spotify

dEUS are a rare breed of legend in their native Belgium. They’ve been the authorative style icons in the Belgian rockscene for nearly two decades, creating an impressive slipstream of artists indebted to their alternative rock idiom. Meanwhile, the Antwerp-based outfit’s path has been riddled with stylistic turns, clashing ego’s, political engagement and artistic soulsearching, spread across five studio albums. While some argue that dEUS have reached their artistic peak at their jazzy/experimental 2nd album In A Bar, Under The Sea (1996), this third line-up is perchance the most solid and surely the longest running incarnation of the band. Having arrived in their late thirties, leading man Tom Barman and his compadres have lost little -if any- of their restless artistic vigour.

live performance (Pukkelpop Fesival 2008) of Instant Street (from The Ideal Crash (1999))

The coming about of dEUS’ sixth studio effort Keep You Close is a peculiar one. Their previous studio effort Vantage Point (2008) was criticised for containing too much abrasive, one-dimensional machismo and too little stunning songwriting. Despite such anthemic staples as The Architect and Slow, it was dense, industrial and distant. Simply put: it was cooler than it was honest. The band declared they recognised it should be the other way around. As such, Keep You Close is an attempt at rekindling the intimacy and immediacy they used to emanate. Moreover, it’s also the first album that was written entirely by dEUS as a group, abandoning Barman’s songwriter-pieces in favour of collaborative works.

live performance (Lowlands Festival 2011) of The  Architect (from Vantage Point (2008))

These changes are felt throughout the album. The organic key-driven productions are a breath of fresh air, with a more laidback and loose atmosphere than any other dEUS album. Barman’s voice is calm and supple here, quite a relief from the aggreviated groans and shouting heard on Vantage Point. Of course there are plenty of raging outbursts left, but these seem to be less about ego-play and more like Barman actually has something to get off his chest. Dark Sets In and Twice (We Survive) have a particularly heartfelt delivery. This is enforced in a great way by the appearance of none other than Greg Dulli (ex-Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers) as guest-vocalist on these pieces, his bone chilling outcries a perfect match for Barman’s gravely baritone.

official videoclip for Constant Now

But in the end the group efforts pay off most on Keep You Close. Leadsingle Constant Now encourages you to shout along to the standout vocal of bassist Alan Gevaert in the chorus, while the marimba-infected Ghosts sees the entire gang singing as one. Whereas many past dEUS staples revolve around dialogue and contrast between the vocalists, this time around they achieve a solid uniformity-in-variety. dEUS still contains very different characters with their own unique traits (insert culthero/leadguitarist Mauro Pawlowski), but they’re all thoroughly focused on their collective output. There are hardly any standout bits here that can be attributed to any one member of the group.

a live performance (Berlin Festival 2011) of Ghosts

Keep You Close is a clear statement about dEUS in 2011 BC. It’s one of their most cohesive efforts, with very clear artistic outlining from start to finish. The intimacy they were shooting for is very well represented here. Don’t mistake dEUS for a borderline popact, though. They’ve maintained a proper balance between the catchy sing-alongs and the chorus-free spoken-word bits (End Of Romance) or the long-spanning epic stuff (Easy). Will it please their old school fans? Probably not, but then again most of them made their minds up long ago. The music lovers whom have no problem giving a new dEUS record a spin can feast their ears on an inviting, nine song collection with an appeal that stretches well beyond the first dozen listens.

Interested in the recording process of Keep You Close ? Check out this short documentary below!

Friday Roundup

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Here’s the digital music and media stories capturing BAMM’s attention this week:

– This new iPhone gadget (you might have heard of it) is a great little package … unless you happen to live in the UK.

– Speaking of which, check out this ‘unique’ selection of ‘helpful’ answers from Apple’s new Siri interface.

– The most realistic guitar video game yet hits a stumbling block.

– Google to take on the world of music retail.

– Impassioned nostalgia on the band t-shirt from The Guardian.

– You’ll be able to stream the new album from Florence And The Machine before the official release date. Which is nice.

– New biopic to depict the last days of The Beatles.

– Who exactly are the most overrated lyricists in rock?

Here’s Episode Three Of BAMM’s Global Scene: London

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London is one of the most vibrant and exciting cities on Earth, and that’s why we thought it would be the ideal location for the first season of BAMM’S Global Scene. It’s our ambitious goal (you know us by now, ambitious is what we do best) to connect with the musicians, promoters, organizers and fans sustaining the emerging music scenes in cities around the world, and mould a collection of snapshots of what it’s like to be a musician, inhabiting a unique place and time.

In episode three – which you can see above – we look at the fusion of genres and ideas that create the various ‘sounds’ of London. Enjoy!

The BAMM App – Another Sneak Peek!

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We’ve been teasing you like enigmatic burlesque dancers* regarding our upcoming BAMM App – and with good reason too, as you’re going to want to get your hands on this baby as soon as it drops. We’ll have more concrete details for you soon, but – until then – here’s another sneak peek which should whet your appetite even further. Are you ready for a whole new era of music discovery?

*Please note: this is merely an analogy. Staff have long been banned from burlesque dancing in the BAMM TV office. We know that San Francisco is a free-and-easy kinda place, but we had to draw the line somewhere.

Exclusive BAMM TV Interview: Bocafloja

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It’s not every day a living legend stops by your workplace, so the BAMM crew were understandably thrilled when Mexico City hip-hop icon Bocafloja (along with collaborators Aha, Flavi, and Cambio) treated us to a killer performance recently. That’s not all, however – the guys also took some time out to chat with BAMM’s very own Sonia Pina about the nature of collectivity, the inspirational Quilombo project, artistic evolution and his relocation to the United States. In an age where so much mainstream rap revolves around little more than footwear promotion, Bocafloja’s fusion of musical and political activism is a breath of fresh air. See for yourself.

BAMMsterdam Review: Awkward I – Everything On Wheels

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album cover art

label: Excelsior Recordings

What does it take for a misunderstood, slightly whimsical songwriting genius to be recognised? Following his 2009 debut “I Really Should Whisper”, Awkward I (alias Djurre de Haan) was widely recognised as a talent of sorts that could go a long way in the (global) indiefolk scene. His mix of folk-song craftsmanship with bleak-romantic perspective and a healthy dose of pop sensibilities took him around Northern Europe and the United States, but failed to deliver him mainstream acknowledgement. He is established alright – thanks in part to his association with Alamo Race Track- but only just. For all the admiration he gets from his peers and connaisseurs, the larger audience just doesn’t seem to get his work.

Sophomore release “Everything On Wheels” does nothing to discard Awkward I’s wayward persona and bleak world view, but does so in a grander, more extravert manner. Recorded in several sessions with Excelsior Recordings’ producer-in-residence Frans Hagenaars, the album keeps the spotlight firmly on De Haan’s breathy vocals and crafty guitartunes, while creating a richer musical environment for him to prosper. There’s Beatles-esk string arrangements, hefty drum barrages and plenty of mandolines to go around. Songs such as Let’s Get Ready To Die, Hannah Hung Heavy and leadsingle/titlesong Everything On Wheels are little gems of folk-pop brilliance, striking a perfect balance between accessibility and depth. We also see some first steps towards more experimental songwriting, in the odd pair Your Oxygen Mask I & II. In part I, the drums and guitars duel in rhythmic patterns as De Haan sings of suffocation in a eerily calm voice, while part II seems like a church-hymn mourning a loss… it implies ‘murder’ without saying it in a very Hitchcock-like manner.

“The setting is perfect, but I just don’t belong here” De Haan sings on the title track. This statement seems to point towards to very different things. On one end it’s about inspiration: Awkward I’s sense of displacement and, in some cases, sarcasm towards the world around him fuels his songwriting in a strong way. But, instead of wallowing in sorrow or remorse, Awkward I brings light and comfort to his gloomy songwriting universe. What De Haan probably didn’t mean to say, is about the production of Everyting On Wheels. Perfect settings don’t always make for perfect recordings. One could wonder about the potency of these songs when stripped of their thrills, enrichments and additifs. There are a few sparsely arranged tracks present (Sat Pretty Lips Pursed, The Unknown Character), and they stand out because of it. But overall these songs are less in-your-face than his ealier work, the edges softened to please a larger audience. It seems forced in a way.

Still, there’s no need to be nitty here: Everything On Wheels is a keeper. There are very few albums as uplifting and deeply melancholic at the same time, fusing the immediacy of pop with traditional folk and a depth all its own. Awkward I pulls it off in a grand manner. Here’s to hoping everyone else will have the same realisation, the second time around.

BAMM TV: Lael Neale & Trevor Garrod, ‘Monster’

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We certainly like to mix things up here at BAMM. For every bombastic, balls-to-the-wall extravaganza we present (ever seen HOTTUB?), we’re also fond of heading the other way: showcasing ephemeral, beautiful and intimate acoustic sessions from artists we love. The above video falls squarely in the latter category – the stunning Lael Neale is accompanied by Tea Leaf Green’s Trevor Garrod in a sensational performance of ‘Monster’. Kick back for a few minutes and enjoy – you owe it to yourself.

Want to see these guys live? Course you do. And if you head on over to Jambands you can check out their upcoming November tour dates.