Categories
rock

Global Charming – Mediocre, Brutal

What started as a side-project by musicians of various indie bands in Amsterdam, took shape in this debut mini-album. Global Charming is as Dutch as pop music gets: a bit clumsy, raw, uncomfortably comfortable. Mediocre, Brutal also marks a new peak for Subroutine. It turns fifteen this year and with excellent releases by Naive Set, Apneu and Global Charming so far the record label lives op to the expectations.

More about Subroutine’s anniversary soon.

Let’s talk about Global Charming.

Lately, The Netherlands are a goldmine for lovers of quirky indie rock. Global Charming is heavily influenced by Talking Heads and other no wave and postpunk from the late seventies, but sounds typically Dutch. Like Lewsberg, De Avonden, Rats on Rafts and Katafreuffe, the foursome sounds angular and direct. Like the famous Dutch literature in the 1950s and 1960s. There is also this hidden influence of the Dutch Ultra’s from the early 1980s. As Peter Bruyn wrote, echo’s of Dutch bands like The Ex, De Nits, Minny Pops and De Div are also present.

The details make Mediocre, Brutal so memorable: the synthesizer burps in ‘Soft Fruit’, the clumsy guitar solo in ‘Curveball’, Sara Elzinga’s vocals suddenly present in the background, flute in ‘If It Is’.

But it’s the overall vibe that makes this such a good debut. In the best moments, Global Charming sounds confident in letting go and play as loose as possible. ‘No Compromise’ and ‘My Turn To Sleep’, both under two minutes, are examples of this raw, a bit clumsy sounding style. ‘Celebration’ shows the future potential: a 4,5-minute motorik-driven, raw and direct rocker with a killer chorus that encourages to sing along. Reminds me of the best songs of LCD Soundsystem.

On the 16th of October the band, together with Apneu, will play at Patronaat Haarlem to celebrate Subroutine’s 15th birthday. Don’t miss it.

Mediocre, Brutal by Global Charming is released on Subroutine Records.

Categories
rock

Apneu – Silvester

Apneu, my favourite indie rock band from Amsterdam, lost its uncomplicated catchy sound. At least, that’s what the leading Dutch music magazine OOR claims. Don’t believe the hype: Apneu still is catchy and uncomplicated.

Okay, I have to admit: my relationship with Apneu is a special one. During the perfect spring of 2006, I constantly travelled between Köln, Rotterdam and Amsterdam. With cut-up, we shared offices with the largest Dutch online music magazine KindaMuzik in the attic of the Nederlands Pop Instituut (NPI) at the Prins Hendrikkade. I used to be editor-in-chief at KindaMuzik and still worked for them and also worked for OOR, but cut-up definitely was my main occupation. I grounded the webzine for underground culture with a bunch of crazy friends in 2001. Around 2005 we had around 35.000 unique readers, which was a lot since we wrote about underground culture in Dutch.

We had some great writers and were exploring short videos (made by the incredible Maria Cristina Fazecas and Karianne Hylkema) when our new intern arrived. Joeri Joustra studied journalism in Zwolle and wanted to explore his role in contemporary journalism. He made some really cool podcasts for cut-up and wrote a couple of good articles. Near the end of his internship, I got a call from his mentor at university who told me Joeri wanted to quit his study. According to him a bold but stupid move since Joeri only had to write his thesis to graduate. If I could talk to Joeri and try to change his mind.

We talked. Joeri didn’t finish his journalism study (because he wanted to do stuff that we did at cut-up as a real profession) and went on to pursue his other dream: enjoying playing the bass.

He succeeded, made some good albums with Boutros Bubba, worked together with artists like Spoelstra and Kattadreuffe and became a key figure in the Amsterdam new dutch indie scene. With Silvester, he just released the third official studio album of Apneu, the band he co-founded a decade ago. So in a really indirect way, I played a tiny role in the creation of this album.

Trust me, that doesn’t make me biased (nah, maybe just a little). Having said that, Silvester is one of the best indie rock albums I’ve heard in years. My former colleague at OOR John Denekamp is right: this new Apneu album is darker and more coherent than earlier material by the band. The powerful production by Ralv Milberg adds a new layer. The tightness he added to the production of the albums by Die Nerven is also present here. Especially his gift to put the vocals to the background a tiny bit.

That doesn’t make Silvester less catchy. Quite the opposite: Apneu never has been catchier. The songs are more playful than before, the variety between and in songs higher. But it’s the songwriting that makes this album the best Apneu til now. They are a bit less explosive and direct, but the generally more introvert character of the songs, combined with the perfect melodies and catchy riffs makes the album stand out.

In ‘All These Sounds Rewind’, ‘Stay Stupid’ and ‘Porcelain’ the ghost of Evan Dando (The Lemonheads) roams. In his golden years, he wrote extremely catchy indie songs with fuzzy guitars as a contrast. On this album, Erik Schumacher’s vocals even remind me a bit of Evan’s (the desperate singing and murmuring). This is certainly not a lost The Lemonheads albums, but it catches the same playfulness, openness, desperation and melancholy.

That sound culminates in the last song on the album: ’20’. One of the best indie songs I’ve heard in a long time.

What a great record.

Silvester by Apneu is released by Subroutine Records.

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.