Categories
rock

Avery Plains + We Are Joiners

Groningen is the Seattle of The Netherlands.

The city is known for its alternative music culture. Vera is one of the oldest and probably the coolest Dutch music club. In the 1980s and 1990s, it was a haven for indie culture. All the cool national and international bands played shows there for all the cool kids. Double cool. Although it suffered from the changing live concert policies by MOJO (part of Clear Channel) in the early 2000s to only program one or two shows by international bands preferably in the Amsterdam region, Vera managed to stay relevant.

It is not a coincidence that Subroutine Records, the leading Dutch indie label, was founded in Groningen. The label gave a face to the rising New Dutch Indie scene. With pioneers The Sugarettes and Nikoo, both from Eindhoven, the scene skyrocketed in the late 2000s. In the 2010s it established a network of independent labels like Narrominded, Geertruida, Snowstar, Smikkelbaard and more. New exciting bands emerged from Maastricht to Groningen, and from Goes to Enschede.

In January 2017 indie culture took over pop club Paradiso in Amsterdam for 24 hours and over a 100 Dutch indie acts. The festival’s name was Van Onderen: from the bottom (up). Traditional media like Vice’s Noisey had a hard time dissing the festival (writing about a cult, sect and church of indie) and failed miserably.

Back to Groningen.

Two acts from the local indie scene just released new material. Avery Plains is a so-called supergroup: its members used to play in bands like Dandruff, Moonlizards, Meindert Talma and Audiotransparant. The band debuted on Subroutine, made a first album and were the support act for Dinosaur Jr. Their second SoOn has just been released on Flat Plastix. In the press sheet, the band mentions Swervedriver and Wipers and driving a rusty Ford Mustang in search of lost love.

Great metaphor and pretty accurate. SoOn is the soundtrack for an alternative reality where time doesn’t exist. Dusty roads and rusty muscle cars are everywhere and love is only an excuse to keep on driving. Interrupted for a half-warm beer in a shady truckstop. I could wander there forever.

Musically Avery Plains is a colourful blend of all edges of indie rock from the late 1980s and early 1990s. A bit of early Screaming Trees, Swervedriver, The Feelies, Kitchens of Distinction and The Afghan Whigs. Absolutely love the noisy guitars and crusty vocals. The twin guitars (and flanger) in ‘A Song of my Own Rising’ are magical. Reminds me of, well, drinking a half-warm beer in a shady truckstop.

In many ways, the debut ep Carriers is the opposite of SoOn. We Are Joiners are two lads recording their songs in the bedroom with just a Boss BR1180 recorder, cheap microphone and guitar with nylon strings. Sounds like early 1990s Sabadoh and has that typical slacker atmosphere. No Ford Mustang here, but a bicycle with a flat tire. And it’s beautiful. Three out of four tracks are under two minutes and sound raw, fresh and lively. Love it.

Funny detail: the duo is now working on their second ep that will be mastered by Pim van Werken, who wrote the underground diss in Noisey. Luckily he is a better producer than a writer ;- )

SoOn by Avery Plains is released by Flat Plastix, Carriers by We Are Joiners is released independently.

Categories
pop rock

Lemon – Love Can Take You Places

For me, Manchester and Amsterdam are connected since the mid-1990s. I used to purposeless walk the city with my walkman. I taped the Second Coming album by Stones Roses and loved every second of it. Extremely underrated album. In ‘Straight to the Man’, Ian Brown sings ‘Amsterdam is Sodom and Gomorrah’. Don’t know why but since the first time I always heard ‘Amsterdam in summertime’.

Odd, right?

But, for me, that vocal line connected Manchester and Amsterdam. By that time I travelled a lot to London, Manchester and Birmingham. As a rising music journalist, I tried to experience pop culture from where I thought it happened. I was extremely Britain oriented. Well, let’s be honest: the first part of the 1990s is dominated by British pop culture. Right?

Long story short: Amsterdam felt like a bit like Manchester. I know, also back then, the cities where each other’s opposites: neoliberal, rich, a bit fake versus working class, recovering from economic and social depression, honest. But feelings don’t mind facts.

Since that moment in 1994, the two cites were connected.

In early 1990 there were a couple of Dutch bands that embraced the new exciting sound from Manchester (Charming Children, Pearls For Swains, Eton Crop), but by 2000 focus shifted to the new emerging post-punk scene in New York.

Except for Lemon.

Four lads from Amsterdam madly in love with Manchester.

On their debut album, Lemon took the early 1990s sound and transformed it into something new. Same like Kasabian, The Music en Viva Stereo also did around that time.

From their second Hey… (2006) on they moved towards a more laidback sound, honouring Madchester pioneers Happy Mondays, Stereo MC’s and The Charlatans. They called one of their later albums Nedchester (2011).

And now Lemon is back with an awesome new song.

‘Love Can Take You Places’ is a monument for both Nedchester and Madchester. It embodies the essence of the sound, the blend of northern soul and indie rock, the idea that maybe life isn’t fair but that we still have our music. The ultimate escape.

Scene icon Cath Coffey of Stereo MC’s is present as a guest vocalist and takes the song to a higher level, but it is the excellent songwriting that makes ‘Love Can Take You Places’ stand out.

There is only one possible improvement.

Well, actually two.

We need a way much longer dance version of the song. Like eight minutes with an Andrew Weatherall like touch.

It’s also time for a sixth Lemon album and I want to suggest a couple of new collaborations, including New Order and Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream. Maybe Eton Crop (back together again) also want to jam.

That’s it.

For now, I’ll enjoy the excellent quality of ‘Love Can Take You Places’.

Love Can Take You Places by Lemon is self-released.

Categories
pop rock

My Friend Peter – Speak

The first thing I thought when I heard ‘Whitening’, the first single from Speak? This is the best pop song in years! And after I tried to put my emotions into intelligent words (I’m a former snobby music journalist after all): ‘Whitening’ is the hybrid baby of early 80s Rush and Talk Talk. Okay, with a little bit of 70s prog rock during the break. And a bit of Gary Numan.

Well, that sounds great, doesn’t it? The best period of Rush meets Talk Talk, one of the best pop gems ever. And it really sounds like that, won’t you agree?

Meet Benedikt Brands from Graz in Austria. A multi-instrumentalist and musical talent on so many levels. He plays in the High Brain, a psychedelic rock band. My Friend Peter is his solo project. He debuted in 2014 with Take A Look On The Other Side, a psychedelic pop album influenced by the 60s. Pink Floyd and Beatles aren’t far away on his second effort Entre les Trous de la Mémoire (2015) and the third one Is It Severe? (2016).

Nice albums, but the first weird pop tunes – blending different styles, taking influences from all kind of genres – are present on In Between (2017). The brilliant ‘Kraut in the Kitchen’ for example, where Benedikt blends krautrock with 60s beat, groovy funk-jazz and popcorn. Absolutely mental.

But Speak is on a different level. Because of a lot of different things. The sound of the bass, being one of them. That could be the most important, because it holds this album together. Benedikt searches for so many different takes on psychedelic pop music on this album that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of common ground. But then there is the bass. There is always the bass. Groovy, a bit funky. Always there. The bass.

That isn’t a surprise. His father is a double-bass player in a symphonic orchestra, his mother is a violin teacher. Benedikt plays nearly all instruments on Speak, recorded the album in his home studio, mixed it in Rio Studios, Vienna. Robert Neubauer did the mastering at Robotonstudio in Vienna. I was talking about a lot of different things that make this album brilliant? The warm, fuzzy production is also one of them.

Then there are the insane songs, their structure, melody, breaks. Single ‘Whitening’ isn’t the only jawbreaking song. ‘Intermission/Transition’ could have easily been an ultracool Stereolab song. The 10-minute pop song ‘Music to Go Anywhere’ is funky as hell (that bass!) and reminds me of the more psychedelic side of Blur.

Excellent tunes. Great album. Please make ‘Whitening’ the summer pop hit of 2020.

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Speak by My Friend Peter is released by Numavi Records.

Categories
rock

Lewsberg – In This House

The indie-rock scene in The Netherlands is thriving, especially near the west coast of Holland. The Rotterdam based band Lewsberg debuted in 2018 on Subroutine. This second long-player is self-released. Things didn’t change much. In This House is an uncomfortable collection of minimalistic indie songs. And I love it.

The band is named after Robert Loesberg, a Dutch poet and writer that was part of De Zestigers, a group of artists coming of age in the late sixties. Loesberg wrote poems for the magazine Bijster, columns for the infamous Propria Cures (a radical Amsterdam student magazine) and published one novel – Enige Defecten. Loesberg was highly talented but struggled with addiction, anti-social behaviour and life in general. He died at 46 in his house in The Hague.

The music of Lewsberg sounds like to soundtrack to Loesberg’s life. It’s minimalistic, a tiny bit out-of-tune, rushed and in way unfinished. The lyrics are tiny masterpieces, more spoken than sung with a deliberate accent, about the ordinary things in life. Musically Lewsberg draws from Velvet Underground, early The Modern Lovers, Television and Japan.

But in essence, Lewsberg embodies a typical Dutch feeling that is also manifest in a lot of Dutch literature, from Slauerhoff to W.F. Hermand and early Joost Zwagermans to Thomas van Aalten: having absolutely no fucking clue what you are (supposed to be) doing.

I love Lewsberg.

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Categories
electronic pop rock

Deutsche Ashram – Whisper Om

In the early 1970s, kosmische rock acts like Ash Ra Temple and Amon Duül organized their own ashrams, modelled after Indian examples, in the rural areas of West Germany. The ashrams were ascetic and spiritual places that offer room for meditation, yoga, experimentations with music and drugs. By creating an open space, they offered a way out of western society,

Are Merinde Verbeek and Ajay Saggar referring to these havens of consciousness with the name of their Deutsche Ashram project? Fact is that the music on their two albums sounds like a soundtrack of a world that is embracing the blend of the individual and the cosmic body. The basis is the shoegaze like indie pop that Verbeek already experimented with in her former band Mineral Beings. Sagger, of King Champion Sounds, adds deeper layers of psychedelic and cosmic instrumentation, without drifting too far from the shoegaze sound.

The combination of Verbeek’s airy vocals and Sagger’s walls of sounds works well. On second album Whisper Om the duo is drifting from Cocteau Twins like shoegaze over Ummagumma Pink Floyd to early 1990s Madchester meets My Bloody Valentine in the excellent ‘Slackjaw’.

Oh, and don’t forget to admire the beautiful artwork. An extra reason to buy the vinyl (the other being able to use your pitch and play the songs on all kinds of different speeds).

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Whisper Om by Deutsche Ashram is out now on Wormer Bos Records.

Categories
rock

Pink Cigs – Pink Cigs

Riffs. Beards. Nostalgia.

That’s Pink Cigs from Sheffield. The self-titled debut sounds like it has been recorded in 1971, but the album definitely doesn’t sound retro or pastiche.

Yes, the influence of early heavy rock is crystal clear.

Black Sabbath. Blue Cheer. A bit of early Purple.

But there is more. The production of Pink Cigs is raw and direct. Then there is the intensity of the records. Reminds a bit of Monster Magnet’s Spine of God: this is a band that doesn’t hold back and goes all the way. Like this is the last thing they’ll ever do.

In Exposed Magazine Pink Cigs describes themselves as “Picture the toilet bowl after Sabbath, Deep Purple and James Gang went for a big stinking curry at Balti King… That’s us!”

Classic riff rock and Indian food? Does it get any better?

This debut is a must for lovers of the classic riffs, early New Wave of Heavy Metal and raw psychedelic and early stoner rock.

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Pink Cigs by Pink Cigs is out now.

Categories
pop rock

We Are The City – RIP

One of the most intense pop albums of the last decade was Violent by We Are The City. The music of the Canadian trio sounded like a blend of Coldplay, Mogwai and MGMT. Sounds like nothing else, right? Make sure to check the accompanying Norwegian-language feature film.

Their fifth album, just released on the Vienna based label Sinnbus (for Europe), is a bit more introvert and poppy, but as intense. The trio went back to Kelowna – where Cayne McKenzie, Andrew Huculiak and David Menzel spent their youth and started the band – and recorded the album.

RIP is probably style-wise their broadest album. ‘You’re so Clean’ sounds like a blend between a power-pop song and, melody-wise, a seventies Thin Lizzy song. First single ‘Killer B-Side Music’ starts out like an Elton John ballad but explodes in the middle. Make sure to check the beautiful video that accompanies the song.

In February and March, We Are The City is touring through Europe. Dates are over here.

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RIP by We Are The City is released by Sinnbus.

Categories
rock

Dead Neanderthals – Mankind

The leaders of the New Wave of Dutch Heavy Jazz (NWoDHJ) movement released a couple of tracks on Bandcamp in 2019.

‘Mankind’ is the last one. Dead Neanderthals sound there like those psychedelic drone bands at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s. Think Loop’s A Gilded Eternity meets Monster Magnet’s Tab.

The White Noise Studio in Winterswijk must have looked like a desert when Ethan Bokma, Otto Kokke and René Aquarius recorded this nearly 14-minute masterpiece.

Maybe because I’m re-reading the work of Timothy Morton, I find ‘Mankind’ to be an excellent soundtrack for the alienating effect that thinking of nature as the strange stranger has on me.

‘While crossing the desert by night, the neon lights of decades of psychedelic history catch up and try to seduce us with lush dancing and promises of alternative realities to strange to comprehend. The strange stranger is here.’

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