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April
April
Price: £12.49

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Power in Poetry, 10 May 2008
This review is from: April (Audio CD)
Don't sing that sad old hymn no more
It resonates inside my soul
It haunts me in my waking dream
- Heron Blue

those who've followed and admired Kozelek's craft throughout his various guises - be it RHP, solo or now as Sun Kil Moon - have stuck around this long (throughout a career spanning just short of two decades) for a shared reason. it's a reason passionately believed in and cherished almost to the point of obsessiveness. Not for a constant sense of inventiveness, the ability to push boundaries or challenge expectations. Simply put, Kozelek remains one of the most hauntingly lyrical, poetical singers of his generation. Hyperbole? I don't think so, in fact i'm convinced not after letting April seep into my conscience for a month or so.

What's really hit me about collection of songs in particular, more so than anything else Kozelek has recorded is how much effort it requires and how much that effort is rewarded tenfold. He's constantly ploughed a slow unwinding path throughout his songs, often spanning over the ten minute mark but there's always been at the least one song with that memorable hook or melody, be it a New Jersey, Byrd Joel, even the sad refraining sighs that mark the fading chorus of Katy Song. That's the first thing you notice the absence of.

Indeed, it's a safe bet that upon hearing it for the first time you'll immediately press play again to make sure you actually did hear something. And herein lies April's greatest strength. it's like a fading polaroid in reverse - the more you expose yourself to it, the more it comes into focus.

Mark Kozelek has stripped his craft right down to the bone, sacrificing just about everything else for that sense of poetry and romantic narrative drive that makes his music so compelling in the first place.

There's a wonderful sense of nostalgia interwoven with melancholy on April...that's one thing that marks Kozelek out from a great deal of other singer/songwriters who bear their hearts on their sleeves - he never resorts to the sadness of self-pity, only the regret of times, memories, loves past and gone. listening to his tales you picture the seasons, the landscapes, the play of light - this is the magic coming through - his ability to take you back to a time and place in your past as he recounts his own.

And the more you listen to April, the more you work at it, the more that magic shines through, the songs become clearer, the images more striking, the emotions more felt. So he's sacrificed that immediacy earlier material (in particular RHP) had and perhaps some fans might feel a bit dissapointed because of that. but what he's sacrificed it for has resulted in his most powerful collection. Stick with it, give it the effort and patience it deserves and you might just feel the same way.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 8, 2009 4:14 PM GMT


Ringer
Ringer
Price: £10.17

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Soul Soothing, 6 May 2008
This review is from: Ringer (Audio CD)
after the joyous explosion that was 'Everything Ecstatic' and various recordings made with jazz drummer Steve Reid, it was a safe bet to say that wherever Kieran took us next it certainly wouldn't be predictable. Hearing this latest ep/mini-album still comes as something of a surprise though...there are unmistakable bursts of that Four Tet sound, in particular the jazz tinged percussions that put you in mind of old Alice Coltrane or Pharoah Sanders albums...but largely 'Ringer' marks a leap back in time by Kieran to an era when IDM was at its peak.
so, how does it sound? rather bloody good actually!! the title track is the standout, building slowly and subtley on ambient waves that take the listener well past the 5 minute mark until it peaks with some heavy drumming. it's a track you lie down to and lose yourself in. after that, there's nothing quite as immediate but it's all still entrancing none the less. Swimmer massages the brain gently and actually puts me in mind of early Seefeel recordings, it has that same lovely chiming vibe to it...Wing Body Wings gurgles blissful beats and manages to make its drums sound wrapped in cotton wool.
all in all well worth £5 of your hard earned cash, and a surprising, interesting and above all enjoyable diversion on the increasingly unpredicatble path Four Tet's traversing!


Jessamine
Jessamine
Price: £13.28

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jessamine, 9 Jan. 2008
This review is from: Jessamine (Audio CD)
whilst browsing through Listmanias one particularly slow and dull night at work, i stumbled across this album and was intrigued by the artwork and description...
so i did a little research, checked out various reviews, interest perked at the mention of Flying Saucer Attack (a criminally under-rated kinda folk-drone-postgazey early nineties brit band) in comparison and then...made the leap.
Wow. whatever i was expecting it wasn't this exactly. okay so first things first - no discernable 'songs', that is to say no melodies, no tunes, no lyrics. if that's not put you off straight away then great! we're on the same wavelength, read on...
it's hard to pinpoint what exactly makes this album dig its claws into your conscience so deep that once its wormed its way in you find it nigh on impossible to remove. the first time i pressed play i was baffled, thrown, totally caught off guard. by the time it had ended the first thing i did was press play again.
Jessamine is all about mood and atmosphere - these are key. it's ambient sure, but it's also as abrasive as hell (especially at the climax to part3)...it sounds organic in a way that you feel you could put your ear to the soil and hear the exact same sounds coming up out of the heart of the earth...it's the sounds you imagine birds would sing when there's no-one round to hear them. Jessamine's just like that, that's how it gets to you.
there are reference points i can call to mind - FSA sure, Talk Talk's 'Laughing Stock', Six Organ's 'River of Transfiguration'...but Jessamine just feels so much looser, unstructured, out-there (that's not to say better though...just...yeah).
that's all i can really say about it. hearing it is like hearing plants growing from bulb to flower. adventurous? go buy it


The Time Has Come
The Time Has Come

29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars flawed but beautiful, 25 Sept. 2007
This review is from: The Time Has Come (Audio CD)
Anne Briggs was reportedly far more comfortable giving impromptu performances in pubs and taverns up and down the country than she ever was stepping into a studio. this is after all, the lady who lived for a number of years in a friends' gypsy caravan and shunned public attention. why then has she achieved such a cult status, respected by fellow folk luminaries such as Bert Jansch (who was also for a brief time her lover)and Sandy Denny (whose vocal style is greatly indebted to her) and even, oddly enough indie art-rocker Thurston Moore?

the answer is simple - her voice. delicate yet arresting, evocative of that particular strand of melancholy unique to english trad-folk, certainly a case could be made for Briggs being the strongest female folk vocalist of her generation.

so why can we say that 'The Time Has Come' is, although a classic, none the less one not without faults? the answer lies not with Briggs herself but with the material chosen. Briggs always shone brightly with traditional material, here the choice of largely contemporary covers for the most part don't give her that opportunity to shine - 'Fire and Wine' nice enough but essentially throwaway, similarly 'Ride Ride' and 'Everytime' both pleasant but unmemorable.

however, where 'The Time Has Come' really comes into its own and what justifies its status as a classic is Briggs own material. the title track you may recognise from The Pentangle's cover version, here the tempo is gentler, more subdued allowing a whistful aching of longing to be wrung from the words. 'Sandman's Song' has beautiful lyrics painting a clear picture of childhood memories, Briggs voice full of nostalgia. 'Wishing Well' is a great collaboration with Jansch. Finally, out of character with the weaker covers Henry McCulloch's 'Step Right Up' is given a great performance, Briggs vocals particularly strong on this track.

chances are if you know your sixties folk then you already own 'The Time Has Come'. certainly if you're a fan of Sandy Denny (both solo and with Fairports) then this is essential. fans of Espers might also find something here to enjoy. in any case, flawed or no, it deserves a place in your collection.


The Complete Poems (Penguin Classics)
The Complete Poems (Penguin Classics)
by Walt Whitman
Edition: Paperback

7 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars all you need to know..., 16 April 2007
it's Walt Whitman! if you're new to Walt...why? redeem yourself NOW!

if you're not then you already know where i'm at.

i'm done.


Slightly Sorry
Slightly Sorry
Price: £13.36

4.0 out of 5 stars Slighty Beautiful, 15 April 2007
This review is from: Slightly Sorry (Audio CD)
that last statement by the other reviewer is not entirely unjustified - certainly 'The Dance' stands head and shoulders above every other track on Slightly Sorry but that's not to say that Pat Gubler witholds anything coming close to approaching aforementioned track's gentle, lazy hazy beauty. The opening instrumental 'Untitled Micro-Mini' has a lovely Jansch, Renbourn type feel to it (which is evident throughout and on other albums) and sets things off on the right foot. 'The End of Winter' feauturing the gorgeous vocals of Helen Rush is a definite highlight, 'I've Been Travelling' posseses a breezy sunshine filled West Coast vibe and a cover of folk trad number 'Lily of the West' has a lovely frailty, conjuring a poetic sadness in this listener's mind.

It doesn't quiet merit five stars for me either though. perhaps it's unfair to measure it against his previous 'Well of Memory' but i found that it didn't draw me in and captivate me in quiet the same way. Slightly Sorry is a beautiful collection of songs and Gubler has always displayed a tendency to experiment within the confines of the conventional (he's certainly not 'out there' like say Devendra or Joanna but none the worse either) so one can't begrudge him spreading his wings and stretching a little with styles but whereas Well of Memory was infused with a celtic, smoky misty vibe throughout, Slightly Sorry hops around a bit and feels less like a cohesive whole. when PG Six hit those high notes though, it more than makes up for any shortcomings.


Cripple Crow
Cripple Crow
Price: £6.42

40 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Viva la Kaftan!, 24 Sept. 2005
This review is from: Cripple Crow (Audio CD)
I want to tell you a story (bare with me here)...several years ago I found myself in a record shop in Amsterdam, I forget the name (I'll leave you to figure out why) holding two cds in my hand with only enough cash for one. The first was The Dandy Warhols Welcome to the Monkey House, a band I know quite well and enjoy, in other words the safe option. The second was Banhart's Oh Me Oh My.. of which I'd only read a few scant reviews (all of which praised its charm). Unfortunatly (or perhaps fortunatly) the only listening station was knackered. In the end, after much prolonged and fuddled wondering I chose the latter.
Now I'm used to lo-fi but this dude took the biscuit, the majority of songs recorded on knackered dictaphones or his answering machine, background noise hiss and static all audible in the mix - yes it was rough. But his unique voice wove its charm and pretty soon I was entranced. Songs like Cosmos and Demos sounded like they were beamed in from some far flung corner of Lewis Carroll's brain, on Nice People, hell, I haven't heard anyone sound that demented since Syd Barrett on The Madcap Laughter - here, I thought to myself, we are witnessing the musical birth of a true maverick.
Two equally glorious albums later (man this guy's prolific!) and now we are blessed with Cripple Crow, delivered with love all the way from Woodstock. The front cover artwork alone speaks volumes, reminiscent of The Incredible String Band's 'The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter' (by the by, if you're a Devendra fan already check them out - they're a fitting reference point for the music he makes).
So to the songs, and what joyous little ditties they are! Devendra showed signs of expanding his range on its predecessor Nino Rojo with the shambling rock shanty romp of Be Kind and the kazoo freak-out that closed We All Know. However, on Cripple Crow he's really set sail. Fans of his earlier spectral-like folk shouldn't be disheartened though, some of the strongest ones on the album follow this vein, in particular the title track (my personal fave) and the charming Hey Mama Wolf.
What gives this album its colour though is its sense of playfulness and warping of other styles - the psychotic doo-wop of Little Boys (with its rather unsettling lyrics), the way The Beatles starts as quite conventional folk and is suddenly sidetracked by a mariarchi samba band, Chinese Children's spangly glam rock I could go on and on. The tracks in Spanish are equally fantastic, he gave us a taster on Rejoicing in the Hands with one of its strongest tracks Todos los Dolores and I'm glad to report he follows it up here. Despite the fact I have an extremely limited (ie. no) understanding of the language, the way the words trip off his tongue, his whole pronunciation is a joy to hear and makes my lack of comprehension irrelevant.
Right, I've probably bored you now for long enough, you either walked away shaking your head thinking 'wot's that nutter on about eh?' long ago or you're busy putting the album in your basket. Either way makes no difference to me - I already know he's great!


XIV
XIV
Offered by Qoolist
Price: £0.96

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars recognise!, 23 Jun. 2005
This review is from: XIV (Audio CD)
The year 2000 saw the likes of modern american psychedelia after having threatened for quite a while to, go supernova - The Flaming Lips 'Soft Bulletin' and Mercury Rev's 'Deserter's Songs' finally achieving them much-deserved recognition, Grandaddy managing to achieve it with their 2nd 'The Sophtware Slump'. So, along came Home with XIV, yup their fourteenth album (a great deal of them having been recorded on tape and distributed @ gigs, amongst fans etc)! Produced by Dave Fridmann (ex-Mercury Rev)this album is a lively maelstrom of Van Dyke Parks arrangements - 3 - jangly spangly rock - So Much Love - and awesome gems exuberating joy upon every listen - Chicago, The Fable of Salty Water. Opening with Aguirre (shelter) XIV grows and grows and grows on you, burrowing its way into your heart like an old friend. They're on something like album XIX now, still searching for the sadly elusive recognition


The Poems of Wilfred Owen
The Poems of Wilfred Owen
by Jon Stallworthy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'no greater love', 30 Dec. 2003
Wilford Owen was a poet of vast immense talent, a talent that really came to the fore during his experiences on the western front. Whilst he is by no means ignored, his work sadly tends to be underrated due to his continual placing besides Siegfried Sassoon. Although Sassoon was undoubtedly a great poet, he doesn't quite compare to Owen's ability to affect the reader at the deepest and most profound levels.
'Dulce et decorum est' is quite simply the greatest poem ever written in the English language and it is nigh on impossible not to be moved to tears upon first reading. 'No greater love' is incredibly harrowing with its description of a soldier torn apart by enemy fire yet manages to convey a sense of poetic beauty in said soldiers sacrifice that avoids any triteness. 'The parable of the old man and the young' uses a simple biblical allegory to devestating affect and is yet again a perfect example of Owen's talent to affect the reader on such a deep level.
Remarkable too is that his poetry is extremely accessable yet in being so loses none of its ability to say so much. He can not be recommended highly enough


Rosemary Lane
Rosemary Lane
Price: £5.99

29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Guitar genuis lets the songs do the speaking, 8 Aug. 2003
This review is from: Rosemary Lane (Audio CD)
Anyone already familiar to Bert Jansch will know exactly how important he was to the english folk scene of the early sixties - basically, he did for the acoustic guitar what Jimi did for the electric. Hearing his versatility with the old piece of wood is a wonder - noone had played like this before (it also made Dylan quite envious, which is no bad thing)! whereas other folksters treated their instrument with respect, Jansch abused his, strumming with fierce verocity and producing highly original interpretations of folk standards as a result.
Rosemary Lane is the first album in which the focus is not entirely placed on guitar. Whilst song was never sacrificed by Burt for lightning string picking, sometimes it was obscured a little as the listener sat back and gasped 'wow' at yet another incredibly inventive use of scaling or chord progression. On this album the songs shine just as brightly as the talent displayed with guitar. And what songs they are! 'Tell me what is true love' is a request from a child to his father, stunningly evocative and quite (sniff) touching. 'Silly woman' despite the rather unfortunate title is no misogynistic rant ala 'Stupid girl' but rather a remonition on the uselessness of words in a relationship that transcends understanding. 'Reynardine' is quite simply, a gorgeous interpretation of an old standard based on a medieval comedy of sorts. I could go on and on but I'll wind up with saying that this without doubt the most affecting (and argueably best) Jansch album you'll hear. Right, I'm off to fall in love with it all over again!


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