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Pseudonymous (Canada)

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Price: 7.15

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Journeying..., 26 May 2010
This review is from: Remixed (Audio CD)
I first heard Mari Boine in 1992, and was entranced by her music and her voice. It was like walking through a door expecting to enter an unexplored room and being confronted with a vast space of tundra, beautiful, deadly and enticing. Albums such as Gula Gula, Goaskinviellja and Leahkastin, whilst imaginatively cosmopolitan in instrumentation and influences, nevertheless seemed to embody a keen sense of place and culture and be inextricably rooted in the Scandinavian north. Remixing the music of Mari Boine to the chill-out tastes of clubbers seems both very risky and potentially a natural fit, and I have been curious about this album for years, but only recently got a copy.

One reason I probably didn't buy a copy sooner was that for a few years I became jaded by the way that ethnic music had become commercialized via electronica, for example Realworld Records, once a favourite label of mine, seemed to have been reduced to churning out techno in various exotic flavours, and in the same way I was concerned that this album would be more of the same.

Remixed turns out to be a mixed bag, some of the artists here have a clear respect for Mari Boine and for the overall feel of her music and are careful not to lose the essence but to build on the emotional impact of the originals, others are more happy to transform the original pieces into different beasts, with varying results.

The danger is that Mari Boine's music might become depleted and take on a new primary role as entertainment in a series of fashionable new straight-jackets. At times the transformations work very well, at others her voice sounds like a picture in a frame when once it was a thing full of motion in a vibrant landscape. Sometimes I am distracted by the mental images of disco-lights and hip people grooving to the beats, which seems at odds with Mari Boine. Saying that, experiments in electronica seem a natural progression for Mari Boine, who had already explored many musical palettes, and who has created some fantastic music that similarly builds hypnotic repetetive forms.

Some of the remixes bring to mind Bjork, Wimme, Rinneradio, Hedningarna, Robbie Robertson's later works and Sorten Muld. I can also draw parallels with Electronico, a remix album along similar lines, but of the work of Madredeus. I recall reading that many long-time Madredeus fans were annoyed about it, and I could understand a similar reaction to this collection by some.

Highlights include Cuovgi Liekkas, Vuolge Mu Mielde Bassivarrai and Gula Gula, in each instance Mari Boine's original vision is still predominant and tastefully enhanced. I don't think any track betters the original, but nor is that a requirement. Another favourite is Biosphere's Alddagasat Ipmilat, this is the one song I am not familiar with in it's original form, but it has a seductive spooky quality setting it apart from much of the album.

Ale Ale Don, to my thinking, has to be the most insensitive track, the original song is desolate and fragile, Mari pleads "don't go, not you..." and it is heart-breaking. Here, however, we have a completely inappropriate funky twittery shuffling thing that sounds like Jamiroquai. It's creator seems to have paid absolutely no attention to the nature of the song and it makes for unpleasant listening.

Possibly my favourite remix is the closing track, Ahccai. My sense was that this song would lend itself perfectly to a spacious, mellow treatment, and indeed it did, but the resulting track is both unexpected and transcendent, a truly magical piece that just samples a fragment of Mari Boine's singing, heavily processing it and repeating it over a slowly shifting minimalist soundscape that strangely has an organic quality missing from much of the rest of the album, which builds, breaths and mutates in subtle ways. It is simply beautiful, and it succeeds in returning Mari Boine from clubland to her vast open landscapes.

Offered by davidmorpurgo
Price: 6.87

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bleak and beautiful, 29 April 2010
This review is from: Mirador (Audio CD)
Back in the mid 90's I was pretty certain about my dislike for country and western music, it probably had something to do with growing up to the docile plod of c&w booming through the wall from the neighbours, and the general notion amongst my peers that c&w was completely naff. In truth I had happily accomodated bits and pieces of music with undertones of c&w almost without realizing it for some time, but then one day I became the owner of the 4AD sampler "Facing The Wrong Way", and suddenly I was confronted with the fantastic The Well by Tarnation. I was confounded: I liked it, but I wasn't supposed to like it, it was the most blatant example of c&w to land in my record collection, and I was drawn irresistably to it. Soon after I owned Gentle Creatures, which, whilst not an instant hit, I warmed to track by track, my confusion amplified.

When Mirador came out, I was living in the Outer Hebrides and I heard Tarnation perform 3 pieces live on my tinny pocket-sized radio, the result being that I absolutely had to track down a copy of the album. Mirador, when I received my copy several weeks later, was an instant hit, and remains one of my favourite alt-country albums all these years on.

Paula Frazer sings with a peculiar, singular voice, parched and spent, or wandering aimlessly through the octaves, or sometimes urgent and focused. Her words are often cryptic, and deal with the torments of love, loneliness and insanity. The music has a beautiful clarity to it, and draws together vibrant mariachi styles with alt-rock, Tom Waitsian clatter, and shades of 50s rock'n'roll to create eerie deserted landscapes for the stories to dwell in. A Place Where I Know, one of my favourites, ambles unsteadily along, charming and off-kilter. Your Thoughts And Mine, another highlight, and a great choice for the album's single, moves majestically, brimming with drama, I am reminded of Love's Alone Again Or, but this piece has more depth and richness. Christine is a spooky slow-motion piece with a gothic quality, ghostly lap-steel presides, half-hearted percussion moves along uneasily and distant strings skreek and pine in the background, whilst the tale is an odd one about a glowing doll that drives poor Christine mad. In stark contrast the graceful Destiny sounds like a classic, tragic love-song, popular along the US-Mexico border regions, that everyone knows by heart from frequent plays on the radio... and yet it isn't, unless it belongs in some parallel universe.

We move through ghost-towns in the desert and dying communities stranded in the 1950's and suspicious of the outside world, with their half-derelict main streets, peeling paint and tumbleweed. Whilst I've never travelled in those regions of the southern US and Mexico, I did live in a comparable backwater in the Canadian prairies and the first-hand experience of that as an outsider resonates with the bleakness of this album in an unsettling but compelling way, still Mirador and I have deeper roots and it is also entwined with many happy memories.

New Country and much of mainstream country and cowboy poetry and all that still makes me nauseous, but a fair bit of alternative country on the other hand appeals to me now, and I can thank Tarnation as the catalyst that got me really looking closer at Americana and confronting some self-imposed restraints. I recommend Mirador wholeheartedly, in particular to fans of Calexico, Sixteen Horsepower and Woven Hand.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanted and arcane, 16 April 2010
This review is from: Myrrh (Audio CD)
Myrrh is one of the most exquisite and wierdest of albums. This was the first ISB related album that I heard, and the start of a journey still barely begun. And what an introduction, at first it sounded like nothing I knew, it quickly became apparent I couldn't play it in company, it being too "out there", but I was becoming fascinated by it. At first some of the songs seemed impenetrably outlandish, but I now love each and all of them. Robin weaves magic with every piece, most of the tracks are in a folky, early music vein, whilst others dabble around the verges of popular styles, but all retain a certain unearthly quality.

Many of his songs are rooted in the mystical and folkloric, his intuition for storytelling is revelatory, his singing is eldritch and unfettered, his voice swooping and diving as he leads us into the uncharted territory of his stories. The Dancing Of The Lord Of Weir is one of the album's strongest pieces, a vivid and haunting tale of the fairy-folk that has a strangely authentic, keen-edged and exhilarating power to it that harkens way back beyond the sweetly romantic Victorian sense of fairies that pervades today to something more potent and dangerous. Another favourite is the opener Strings In The Earth And Air, a James Joyce poem set to music by Ivan Pawle of Dr Strangley Strange, covered here in elegant and alluring fashion.

Experiencing this album is at times like standing on the high moor in the shrill fury of a gale, with story-book elementals tugging at your ankles and sleeves. And then, finding shelter in a secluded inn only to discover that the locals are not quite as human as you'd first thought. But in the corner there is a captivating bard plying his trade, and you become spellbound.

I watched a recent video of Robin performing Through The Horned Clouds, and he was fantastic, all these years later his mastery of nuance and detail in the telling of the tale remains simply breath-taking and my respect for him grows.

Old Wine, New Skins
Old Wine, New Skins
Offered by positivenoise
Price: 8.24

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disparate paths converging, 11 April 2010
This review is from: Old Wine, New Skins (Audio CD)
Folk music is a living breathing thing that refuses to be contained, and drawing lines around it to create some kind of pure core is ultimately futile, music is always on the move. This collection illustrates that ever-shifting state nicely by showcasing a varied selection of musicians whose journeys converged on folk-song but, coming from different generations and paths, are all bringing diverse elements into the mix. The overall effect is organic, and much more cohesive than it might look on paper - you might not see Serefina Steer or Circulus on the same disc as Shirley Collins again, but why ever not, I'm all for it. If something is missing, the compilers could have provided a few surprises in terms of the actual performances, there being nothing particularly outlandish or unexpected here. Saying that, most of the artists add something special to their songs, often in subtle ways. A couple of pieces are a touch hum-drum, but still pleasant enough.

Many of the performances have an intimate quality, we could be sat in some remote inn, just a handful of people. And it doesn't seem to matter that some of the singing here and there is a little wavery (I've only heard Robin Williamson as a young man, before his voice dropped(!), so I was initially taken off guard, but really it is a charming, playful and honest performance). Highlights of the set include a gorgeous rendering of The Unquiet Grave by the ever wonderful Circulus (a previously unreleased piece); Long Lankin, an excellent choice from The Devil's Interval's one album; James Raynard's spartan take on The Outlandish Knight, putting it to a medieval tune; and an impeccable A Blacksmith Courted Me, sung beguilingly by Lisa Knapp (I'm reminded a little of Bjork). Seven tracks were recorded specially for this collection, (Lucy Wainwright Roche's Barbara Allen is the finest of these, very nicely sung) further adding to the collectability of this set.

The music is enhanced by the inclusion of a page of the booklet devoted to each song, giving background along with the artists' description of their personal connection to their chosen piece. The Devil's Interval depict themselves practicing the creepy Long Lankin in the pitch darkness in a crypt and scaring themselves out of their minds.

This is a very nice collection, maybe if we're lucky the makers will consider creating a second one!

Songs for the Gentle Man
Songs for the Gentle Man
Price: 10.15

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Songs For The Gentle Man review, 7 April 2010
Hearing the song Autumn Lullaby not long ago and really liking it, I decided I should check out more music by Bridget St John, and this became my starting point.

Songs For The Gentle Man is a very mellow album, that reads like a love-letter. Bridget's voice is slightly husky and has a dulcet calm about it, her lyrics are heartfelt, playful and sometimes sad, whilst the instrumentation is generally soft, lots of guitar accompanied by assorted textures, with occasional lively detours utilising sprightly strings, splutters of oboe and florets of flute, that elaborate upon tunes that might otherwise be very similar-sounding. At her best, when she sings nothing else matters, as on Early Morning Song, a fleeting song that simply portrays waking up and anticipating the day. Now and then my mind wanders, I know that she was highly regarded and I wish I could feel the enthusiasm other people do more consistently, but keeping that in context there are several tracks that I like a lot, such as Song For The Laird Of Connaught Hall - Part Two, while others that initially didn't stand out are now growing on me. My favourite track on the album is Making Losing Better, simply gorgeous and sad, with lulling shadowed Spanish-inflected guitar-work. The cover of John Martyn's Back To Stay is really nice too and unusually employs celestial organ, adding to the calm.

I see the influence of Donovan and Leonard Cohen, not to mention Joni Mitchell (especially on the lively Seagull-Sunday, which takes more than a sneak-peek at Joni's blueprints, and the unusual The Lady And The Gentle Man, made peculiar by a brass band who sound like they were playing in slow motion and had their minds on other things). I can appreciate that the ideas and input of Ron Geesin are integral to the whole. I also have a recurring feeling I'm listening to June Tabor, which I have to snap myself out of periodically.

This edition is very attractively packaged with detailed liner notes, archive photos and lyrics, helping to set the scene for those of us new to this gently alluring album.

Out of the Blue
Out of the Blue
Price: 13.02

4.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerised by the pipes, haunted by the songs..., 1 April 2010
This review is from: Out of the Blue (Audio CD)
I first heard Anna Murray on the various artists collection Calanais when I was backpacking around the Outer Hebrides in 1995. Her piece, mixing electronica and the tradition in beguiling fashion, was one of the standout tracks on a strong album, and on returning to the An Lanntair arts centre in Stornaway later during my travels that summer I was delighted to find this album for sale. I bought it on cassette so I could experience it then and there, and as a result this album brings images flooding back of the island chain. My first thoughts on playing it even now are of camping by the cockle sands of Traigh Mhor on Barra, watching the long slow dusk and listening to Out Of The Blue on headphones.

Out Of The Blue is bristling with energy, Anna has deep roots in the tradition but she is also pulling in ideas from further afield, and the result is a work of sharp clarity, with light and shade and drama in abundance, and her choice of material is just great. The album alternates between fleet-footed, sure-footed, catchy instrumentals expertly led by Anna on small pipes or highland pipes, and gentler, frequently melancholy songs sung in Gaelic, of which the closing track Tir Nan Og is a stand-out, sung with a clear, pristine voice over a simple keyboard drone and harp. Other instrumentation includes citern, guitar, various flutes and whistles, bass, percussion and button box. Am Breacan Uallach, one of the highlights for me, is a surprising and very cool exception amongst the songs, with a quirky upbeat feel boosted along by some very funky and slinky percussion courtesy of Macumba. It could have been a hit! Elsewhere Macumba add prominent and inventive percussion to some of the instrumentals, playing an integral part in the overall feel of the album. A couple of years later I saw her on tv showcasing a later album and by that point she was pulling in disparate influences and creating some very interesting music, this was just a beginning.

Having this album on cassette was a good thing for the length of the summer whilst I travelled the islands, but once home a cd would have been just the thing. The tape was well loved and somewhat worse for wear, but I didn't expect to ever see a cd outside of Scotland and had accepted that, so I was surprised to find one in a record shop in Calgary, Canada a couple of years ago, which naturally I snapped up. Good to see it available and in stock here at Amazon.

Offered by neil_anderson1967
Price: 10.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, 23 Mar 2010
This review is from: Trisan (Audio CD)
Being a great admirer of Passion by Peter Gabriel, I took a big interest in Realworld Records at its outset and kept abreast of what was going on there for several years, collecting a fair few of their releases. The lone album by Trisan ranks as one of my favourites. Trisan were Pol Brennan (formerly of Clannad) on keyboards, whistle and vocals, Guo Yue on bamboo flute and vocals, and Joji Hirota on percussion, shaku-hachi and vocals, and here they fused elements of their respective traditions with subtle electronica to create a truly beautiful fusion album.

The music has a lovely clarity and flow, evoking wide open spaces, high plateaus, pure snowmelt rushing in shallow rivers. The opener, Triangle, drifts in like clouds, there are strangely meditative bustling voices on a radio, and bamboo flute playing above icy electronics, elegant, slow and serene. I'm reminded of Brian Eno, or Plight And Premonition by David Sylvian and Holger Czukay. It is an unusual choice for the first track perhaps, there being several more immediate pieces, but it works its wonders. This first track drifts away and suddenly we are whisked up into a swirling vortex on Big Trouble In Old Ballymore E, this was always my least favourite track, it seemed out of place surrounded by the breath-taking tranquility and spare feel of the rest of the album. Later, on Mother And Son, bamboo flute dances above crystaline keyboards and bursts of percussion. Wintermoon, upon which Pol sings lead in English, is the track that harkens back the most strongly to the style that he developed in Clannad, but here he is joined by Oriental voices and instrumentation, and the song develops into something else, whilst unusually remaining tightly structured like a pop song. River Of Life opens with a plaintive and lonely penny whistle, which is soon accompanied by shaku hachi and warm keyboards, and then meditative vocals, before bursting into colour, with bamboo flute, percussion and keyboards reminiscent of Clannad's sound.

I played this album a lot in the early 90's. On the strength of this album I also bought Red Ribbon by Guo Yue and Joji Hirota when it came out, and I highly recommend it too. I always hoped that they would get together again as Trisan, and record more beautiful music like this.


4.0 out of 5 stars Under-rated British folk-rock., 21 Mar 2010
This review is from: Fire (Audio CD)
I saw these guys in Berlin back in 1995. They put on a great show, with lots of presence and power once they met their stride. By the third song the audience loved them. As a result I bought a copy of their then current album Fire from the nice man with the merchandise. Still buzzing from the vibe of the show I played the cd only to find they almost sounded like a different band on disc. In comparison to the show the cd sounded squeaky clean and a little tame, but this initial confusion quickly passed as I got into the album.

Fire is a set comprised predominantly of traditional songs given a bounding, boisterous rocked-up re-vamp, but with every track there is much more than that to them. Pressgang were drawing inspiration from folk-rockers of times passed, for sure, but were also looking around and ahead for ideas, and pull some surprises along the way, hints of Red Hot Chilli Peppers for example. All four band-members sing, whilst accordian, guitars, whistles and percussion make up the instrumentation.

There is a sense when listening to this album that Pressgang sound a bit forced in their singing, the grit and grime aren't the real deal. Perhaps it's just the artificial environment of the recording studio, without an audience to bounce off, but it goes against them here and there. Damian Clarke, (who sings most of the lead parts and appears to be the main orchestrator behind what's going on) gives the lyrics punch and urgency, yet sings with a wholesome rounded delivery that brings to mind John Kirkpatrick more than say, Shane McGowan, but I get the feeling he's aiming for a Shane-shaped target. In the back we get periodic yells and yelps from the handsome one, drummer Tony Lyons. As I recall from the show my girlfriend at the time was rather enamoured of him!

I listen to a fair bit of folk, folk-rock and folk-with-numerous-other-added-flavours, but not so much from this particular neck of the woods, I don't gravitate towards the rabble-rousing good-time folk-rock that this might be (possibly erroneously) pidgeon-holed with, but saying that I like a fair chunk of this album, and I thoroughly respect the fact that Pressgang had plenty of good ideas and were giving it their best. I remember bouncing around in glee to the catchy likes of Rebel Soldier, Sherrif's Ride and Take A Jump back then (and skipping the instrumental Sussex Medley, which bounded across the thresh-hold into territory I wasn't prepared to enter). New South Wales is another highlight, but I think my favourite track has to be Merrily Merrily, the epic and outrageous finale. It's an ambitious piece, almost prog-rock in its breadth, full of tension, with suitably atmospheric accordian playing by George Whitfield. And it gets particularly cool when Cliff Eastabrook the hairy bass player sings his section with quiet menace, building to spectacular theatrical ferocity. Of the four of them, his vocals sound the most convincing and natural and it would have been nice for him to sing lead elsewhere on the album.

I recall getting rather annoyed whenever I read about Pressgang in the folk magazines, because it was usually negative, and I felt they deserved better than snide put-downs by grumpy journalists. Pressgang were hardworking, creative and experimental in their approach, and I gather crowd favourites across Europe. I was just taking a gander around the web and was pleased to see the Fire line-up are back after all these years with a new album, tour, and features in magazines. Good luck to them!

Offered by groove_temple
Price: 33.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes wayward Scandinavian folk-jazz, 18 Mar 2010
This review is from: Salta (Audio CD)
I bought a copy of this album when it was new in 1997, during the ascent of my enthusiasm for Scandinavian folk and folk-fusions. It was a rich time, with fantastic music coming in thick and fast by the likes of Garmarna, Nordan, Vasen and Hedningarna. Salta was a new name to me and I was intrigued to hear them. First impressions were good, the first couple of tracks seeming not that far removed from my favourite band on the scene, Garmarna. Then the feel of the album began to shift, until it was careening off on unexpected tangents and my initial positive feelings were going down the drain as things became jazzier and more abstract (as on the rather pointless doodling on prepared piano that is Gem). At the time I had little love of jazz (or so I thought, in reality there had always been bits and pieces of jazz that I was very comfortable with). Further into the album things veered back towards Scandinavian folk and on to folk fusions that were more like what I was into, though with a decidedly jumpier, jazzier flavour. By the end of that first listen I wasn't sure where I was at!

Ulrika Boden has a pretty and clear voice, and often her presence over the restless, choppy, angular music seems the only point of familiarity. The album opens and closes however with some haunting, powerful kulning, and some almost maniacal and gloriously agile singing. The musicians show daring in their edgy arrangements, and immaginative, playful playing, and perform their parts with precision. My favourite piece is Konung Erik Och Spakvinnan, the longest track at nearly six minutes, where the instrumentation simmers along, with droning viola and percussion snapping and crackling like a hearth-fire, while Ulrika tells the tale of a king who commands a fortune-teller to tell his future, and hears some disturbing news as a result. I also really like De Roser Och De Blader, a moment of tranquility with some sweet violin playing atop thumb-piano and piano, and by the tone of Ulrika's voice all seems well with the world. For two songs things get very traditional, God Afton Flicka Lila Van is unaccompanied voice, and Sammeles Annas Brudpolska is solo fiddle playing a tune by Timas Hans, both are also highlights of the set.

For years I listened to maybe half of the album with genuine pleasure and avoided the rest, but listening to it now I find much more to like, though it still feels a bit high-brow in places. Garmarna was my closest reference point back then, but in many crucial ways the two groups are miles apart, and there is more common ground with some of the projects that Lena Willemark and Ale Moller have been involved in. Also, particularly on the lovely De Rosor Och De Blader, and some passages of Cyber Schottis, Salta sound like Gjallarhorn.

It's a fine album, and years later I am appreciating it much more than I did in the 90's.

Swaddling Songs ~ Remastered and repackaged
Swaddling Songs ~ Remastered and repackaged
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 12.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic folk-prog-rock..., 5 Mar 2010
This is one of those albums that I could have been swept away by at any point in the last 20 years, had I heard it. I had heard positive rumours about Swaddling Songs for a while, and now at long last, I have become one of those lucky people that have a copy. As another reviewer said, take note fans of The Trees and Kate Bush, because this one fits right in. In fact it feels like a link back to the early days of my love of the music of those artists, as if it was there all along, which is rather intriguing.

The first three tracks are my favourites: Heaven Heath with it's harpsichord and intricate tune; Sheep Season - which was my introduction to the band on Early Morning Hush - with it's gorgeous extended instrumental section; and the melancholy Silversong. The three of them are simply breathtaking examples of folk-rock, the singers captured by the stories they weave, they are brimming with the imagery and intrigue of bygone days, epic and elegant. Then the album picks up the pace and the girls really belt out the lyrics on the finest of the up-tempo tracks, the pounding, rampaging The Poet And The Witch, with its screaming gulls and shimmering crashes of cymbals like waves exploding on the cliffs. A highlight of the album, which comes in marked contrast to the tracks surrounding it, is the delicate, heartbreakingly beautiful Reverend Sisters. Buy Or Beware reminds me strongly of Fool by The Trees, but at the same it has quite a pop feel that takes it off in another direction. At the albums close they go out like a raging storm with Boulders On My Grave, this piece doesn't have the special magic of the best tracks on the album, and I do find myself wishing they'd ended with something more akin to Sheep Season, but this is a small complaint.

There are more than enough truly great songs on here to call it a classic, and it is good to see all the glowing reviews here and across the web. It deserves to be considered amongst the very finest albums of the genre. We can only wonder what might have been had Mellow Candle been given the chance to record more albums.

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