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Posts Tagged ‘Alessi’s Ark’

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

A Creature I Don't Know

Laura Marling and Alessi’s Ark at The Great Hall in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangSomeday, I don’t know when, but someday, Laura Marling will come to Toronto and play an appropriately-sized venue at a decent point in an album’s promotional cycle. She was already a Mercury Prize shortlister for her debut album Alas I Cannot Swim when she made her local debut at the barely 200-capacity Rivoli in October 2008, and her return engagement in February 2009 was originally booked into the barely-bigger Drake Underground before being sensibly moved to the 500-person Lee’s Palace where it still sold right out. Coming as it did more than a month before her second album I Speak Because I Can – which would again shortlist for the Mercury Prize – was released, it was reasonable to assume that she’d make a return engagement but the closest she came was an appearance at Hillside in Guelph that Summer.

Which leads up to last Friday night, where she made her third local appearance with a show at The Great Hall just a fortnight after the release of album number three, A Creature I Don’t Know. The show was completely sold out, unsurprising considering how high her star has risen and how small the room is; official capacity is no more than 500, and considering the seated balcony was closed off, it was probably even less. Of course, cramming extra people in probably would have been dangerous – not because of any kind if fire hazard but because for its architectural and acoustic qualities, The Great Hall has nothing resembling a working ventilation system and the room was a veritable sauna and more than a few of the less-hardy punters were passing out and needing assistance before the show even began.

Any opener trying to get the attention of the distracted, sweaty masses would have their work cut out for them but Alessi’s Ark was in extra tough. Her latest album Time Travel is a pleasant bit of folk-pop that might have gone over better in quieter environs but in this setting, even backed with an electric guitarist adding a bit of texture, her strummy, languid stylings weren’t nearly forceful enough to grab most peoples’ attention. A couple of numbers where she went to more soulful places cut through a little better, and people definitely paid attention for the one song where she was joined by a cellist and Marling on backing vocals, but largely she was too easily drowned out. It’s odd that someone who’s no stranger to live performance would come across so timidly and frustrating that while she clearly has the talent to do more than she does, doesn’t.

It’s funny that so much discussion around Laura Marling centers around her tender age – still just 21 years old and already on her third critically-acclaimed album – when so much of her appeal comes from the agelessness of her songs. Okay, they’re not completely removed from temporal reference – ’60s and ’70s folk from both sides of the Atlantic figures heavily in her sound and you can tell that prior to writing the new album she’d been spending time with old-school American country records – but combined with her old soul vocals, that’s as close to timeless as you’re going to get. As for the Black Sabbath t-shirt she was sporting when she took the stage… well who doesn’t like a little “Iron Man” now and again?

Playing frontwoman for a six-piece band, she opened with a quartet of older numbers, perhaps cognizant of the fact that Creature was still very new and judging from the number of people clutching vinyl copies (and fanning themselves furiously with them) still unfamiliar to many. It wouldn’t be unfamiliar for much longer, though, as the rest of the set drew heavily from the new record and even included an even newer song – being called “Pray For Me” around the interwebs – when she played solo mid-set. As always, her performance was mesmerizing with this backing band arguably the best she’s had yet – yes, even better than Mumford & Sons – and the richness of the presentation superb; lead Creature single “Sophia” was glorious in its build from winsome to widescreen and the choral vocals on “I Speak Because I Can” were spine-chilling.

Especially pleasing was Marling’s stage presence; back in the day she was shy to the point of catatonia but has gotten progressively more confident as she gains years and experience and while she still apologized for having poor stage banter, she actually evidenced a sharp, dry wit and even effectively targeted and shamed some of the loud talkers by dropping her voice to a whisper mid-song and making their presence very acutely – and embarrassingly – known. But those few aside, most were held rapt by her 70-minute performance which was no mean feat given the stifling atmosphere in the hall. As always, things ended with the “we don’t know if you’ll give us an encore so we’re just going to stay and play our last song” routine which for this evening was a foot-stomping “All My Rage”; of course it was all part of the script, but it was also part of the fun. There wasn’t any way they weren’t getting their encore and there’s definitely the demand to bring Marling and co. back again for another show – but this time if it can’t be in a room that will hold all her fans, can it at least be one with climate control?

BlogTO and Exclaim also have writeups of the show while The Globe & Mail and Edmonton Journal have profile pieces.

Photos: Laura Marling, Alessi’s Ark @ The Great Hall – September 23, 2011
MP3: Laura Marling – “Ghosts”
MP3: Alessi’s Ark – “The Robot”
Video: Laura Marling – “Sophia”
Video: Laura Marling – “The Needle & The Damage Done”
Video: Laura Marling – “Rambling Man”
Video: Laura Marling – “Devil’s Spoke”
Video: Laura Marling – “Night Terror”
Video: Laura Marling – “New Romantic”
Video: Laura Marling – “Ghosts”
Video: Laura Marling – “My Manic & I”
Video: Laura Marling – “Cross Your Fingers”
Video: Alessi’s Ark – “On The Plains”
Video: Alessi’s Ark – “Maybe I Know”
Video: Alessi’s Ark – “The Wire”
Video: Alessi’s Ark – “The Horse”
Video: Alessi’s Ark – “Birdsong”
Video: Alessi’s Ark – “The Asteroids Collide”

Blurt talks to PJ Harvey.

American Songwriter puts aside the first half of their mandate in declaring Emmy The Great their songwriter of the week.

Summer Camp has gone off and made a zine to go with the upcoming release of their debut Welcome To Condale, out November 8.

Bjork has released another video from the forthcoming Biophilia, due out October 11.

Video: Bjork – “Moon”

The Jezabels show up at The Fly and play an acoustic session; The Australian also has a feature on the band. They’re at The Phoenix on November 23 opening up for Hey Rosetta!.

NPR talks to Dominique Durand of Ivy while Magnet has a Q&A with her and Andy Chase in advance of making the band guest editors of their website this week; they’ve also got a new MP3 from their album All Hours to share.

MP3: Ivy – “Make It So Hard”

NOW previewed last night’s tUnE-yArDs with an interview and Metro also has a short piece. There’s also a new video from WHOKILL to gawk at.

Video: tUnE-yArDs – “Gangsta”

DIY, Billboard and Pitchfork all have features on Dum Dum Girls on the occasion of the release of Only In Dreams. There’s also a new video from said record. Dum Dum Girls are at Lee’s Palace on October 16.

Video: Dum Dum Girls – “Bedroom Eyes”

The AV Club and NPR have feature interviews with Wild Flag. They’re at Lee’s Palace on October 12.

Interview talks to Theresa Wayman of Warpaint.

Filter collects a number of random thoughts and observations from Annie Clark of St. Vincent.

Daytrotter has posted a session with Ume.

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Come On Over

Tour North America? Veronica Falls don’t mind if they do

Photo By Robin SilasRobin SilasThrowback-style pop is nothing new – sounding old is really kind of the point – but there’s something special in the way English quartet Veronica Falls goes about it. It’s like they’ve got a foot in 1970’s New York, with no small amount of Velvet Underground goodness in the mix as well as echoes of their followers and the other in swinging 1960’s London with the irresistible catchiness of the British invasion. Taken together and you’ve got a brew that’s buoyant, yet somehow sinister and wholly memorable.

Their set was one of my highlights of SXSW this year, so I’m excited that they’re going to be undertaking a Fall tour in support of their self-titled debut which is out September 20 in North America. Somewhat less excited that said dates are in support of The Drums, whom I’m mostly indifferent to, but I’ll still likely be at their show at The Mod Club on October 1.

BrooklynVegan has some details about the record and full tour dates and a new song from the album was just made available to stream this week, to go along with a couple preview MP3s which have already been circulating.

Stream: Veronica Falls – “Bad Feeling”
MP3: Veronica Falls – “Come On Over”
MP3: Veronica Falls – “Found Love In A Graveyard”
Video: Veronica Falls – “Come On Over”
Video: Veronica Falls – “Beachy Head”
Video: Veronica Falls – “Found Love In A Graveyard”

Also notable in the support department – English folk singer Alessi’s Ark will be opening up for English folk singer Laura Marling at The Great Hall on September 23. Her new record Time Travel is out September 27 in the US but available to stream at her Facebook now.

MP3: Alessi’s Ark – “The Robot”
Stream: Alessi’s Ark / Time Travel

Stereogum talks influences with Yuck. Some is exactly what you’d expect, some not. Yuck play The Horseshoe on September 25.

DIY and Contact Music talk with Still Corners about their full-length debut Creatures Of An Hour, due out October 11. They play The Drake Underground on October 25.

Clash talks to Dev Hynes of Blood Orange. His Coastal Grooves arrives August 30.

The Guardian interviews Faris Badwan and Rachel Zeffira of Cat’s Eyes about music and home decor.

The Quietus, Tourdates UK and DIY get re-acquainted with the no-longer-on-hiatus-at-least-for-the-moment Electrelane. They also recently recorded a Black Cab Session.

Producer Paul Epworth reports that the new Florence & The Machine record is finished – details and quotes at NME.

Spin has a video of Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison performing a cover of current tourmates Death Cab For Cutie.

Spinner discusses the art of war with PJ Harvey.

Drowned In Sound and Sunshine Coast Daily check in with Mogwai.

Brett Anderson tells XFM that Suede will indeed be going back into the studio to record new material, but will only be releasing it if it’s worthwhile. All that after he’s done promoting his new solo record Black Rainbows, out September 26. He’s just released a video from said record.

Video: Brett Anderson – “Brittle Heart”

Proving that post-Oasis bickering and name-calling need not be a strictly family affair, Beady Eye guitarist Andy Bell offered up some choice thoughts about former boss Noel Gallagher and his version of how their former band ended to Japan Times.

Consequence Of Sound reports that the Inni video teaser that Sigur Ros posted to their website last week is a live film recorded by director Vincent Morriset at a series of London shows in 2009 that will make its debut at the Venice Film Festival at the end of the month. So no, not a new album but maybe there’ll be an accompanying soundtrack…? Update: The Audio Perv reports the soundtrack will be a double-disc set plus film DVD out in November. Sweet.

Trailer: Sigur Ros: Inni

Currently celebrating their fifteenth anniversary, Pitchfork talks to Bjork about her last decade and a half. Her new album Biophilia is out September 27. Update: Pitchfork also has the album art for Biophilia. It’s very Bjork.

Australia’s Howling Bells will be back with their third album The Loudest Engine on September 12; they’ve released a video for the first single.

Video: Howling Bells – “Into The Sky”

Empire Of The Sun’s Luke Steele confirms to NME that creative partner Nick Littlemore is back in the fold and together they’re working on a new album. Empire Of The Sun play Toronto’s Echo Beach on September 13.

The Naked & Famous have released another new video from Passive Me, Aggressive You; they play The Phoenix on October 6.

Video: The Naked & Famous – “The Sun”

Monday, March 28th, 2011

SxSW 2011 Day One A/V

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangFull writeup of the day’s activities over here.

Ringo Deathstarr
– Austin-based shoegazing revivalists who released their debut full-length Colour Trip earlier this month. Cheers for using the Canadian/British spelling despite being an American band. Spoonfed has an interview.
Photos: Ringo Deathstarr @ Annie’s West – March 16, 2011
MP3: Ringo Deathstarr – “Imagine Hearts”
MP3: Ringo Deathstarr – “So High”
Video: Ringo Deathstarr – “Two Girls”
Video: Ringo Deathstarr – “So High”
Video: Ringo Deathstarr – “Imagine Hearts”
Video: Ringo Deathstarr – “Some Kind Of Sad”

Ume
– Austin rock machine led by Lauren Larson of the whipping hair and shredding guitar are finally preparing to release their new full-length album later this year.
Photos: Ume @ Lustre Pearl – March 16, 2011
MP3: Ume – “The Conductor”
MP3: Ume – “Pendulum”
MP3: Ume – “Wake”
Video: Ume – “The Conductor”

Alessi’s Ark
– English folksinger Alessi Laurent-Marke recently signed to Bella Union for the release of the follow-up to 2009’s Notes From The Treehouse.
Photos: Alessi’s Ark @ The French Legation Hill Stage – March 16, 2011
MP3: Alessi’s Ark – “The Robot”
Video: Alessi’s Ark – “Birdsong”
Video: Alessi’s Ark – “The Asteroids Collide”

The Jezabels
– Co-ed Australian quartet led by the dramatic vocals of Hayley Mary released their debut Dark Storm at the start of 2010. Blast has an interview.
Photos: The Jezabels @ The Mohawk – March 16, 2011
MP3: The Jezabels – “Mace Spray”
Video: The Jezabels – “Mace Spray”
Video: The Jezabels – “Easy To Love”
Video: The Jezabels – “Hurt Me”

Mark Eitzel
– Legendary (and legendarily underappreciated) frontman for American Music Club put out two solo records – Klamath and Brannan St. – in 2009 and AMC are currently working on the follow-up to 2008’s The Golden Age.
Photos: Mark Eitzel @ Red-Eyed Fly – March 16, 2011
MP3: American Music Club – “Only Love Can Set You Free”
MP3: American Music Club – “All The Lost Souls Welcome You To San Francisco”
Video: American Music Club – “All The Lost Souls Welcome You To San Francisco”
Video: American Music Club – “Rise”
Video: American Music Club – “Wish The World Away”
Video: American Music Club – “Electric Light”

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

SxSW 2011 Day One

Mark Eitzel, The Jezabels, Ringo Deathstarr and more at SxSW

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangInformation is king when it comes to SxSW and scheduling, and inevitably there’s a lot of bad info floating around. This I was reminded of on the very first morning of the 2011 edition of the festival when I headed down 6th St to try and start things off with English atmospheric-pop outfit Still Corners at Peckerheads, only to discover that the show I was looking for was either happening in 12 hours (the old AM vs PM gag), in 48 hours (according to some unofficial guides) or not at all (my own gut feeling). But what was certain is that it wasn’t happening now. So for plan B – and you always need a plan B – was to about face and head to the west end of downtown for Austin’s own Ringo Deathstarr.

The trio had been getting some attention for their clever name and debut album Colour Trip, which makes no secret of their love of My Bloody Valentine. And while the record is loud, fuzzy and fun enough to make up for its general lack of originality, their live show wasn’t able to get over that hump. Granted, no one is at the top of their game at noon on a Wednesday, but you didn’t get the sense they were off, necessarily – the general lack of presence and charisma was probably a consistent thing. But still they were loud, the tunes were alright and bassist/guitarist Alex Gehring does a pretty decent Belinda Butcher impersonation so it’s okay. And there’s nothing quite like watching ear-bleeding shoegaze at lunchtime in the back of an empty restaurant to remind you that yes, it’s SxSW time again.

I then headed clear across downtown to Lustre Pearl for another Austin trio, though one that’s pretty much a Sx tradition for me and a guaranteed good show – Ume. They were one of the great fest discoveries back in 2009 and I always make it a point, now, to catch one of their shows. Though this show was similar in structure and selection as ones past – the band have a new record in the can but weren’t showing off too much of it yet – it was different in one key point with new drummer Rachel Fuhrer behind the kit, replacing Jeff Barrera. She proved more than up to the job, though, teaming with bassist Eric Larson to lay down the foundation for Lauren Larson’s guitar and vocal pyrotechnics. Seeing her play never gets old, though I will say that I am anxious for the new album – the Sunshower EP was and is great, but they’ve gotten about all the mileage out of it that they can.

After a stop-in for some free food and drink at the Canadian Blast BBQ – hey now, we all know why we’re here – I headed to Red 7 to see Lower Dens, only to find I’d beaten them to the venue… by a day or so. The band’s van had broken down somewhere around Tennessee and thus their Wednesday shows were scotched. But, as already said, that’s why you have backups. And mine was just across the I-35 at the French Legation museum for the already once-missed Still Corners. They would not evade me.

Except that they would. The Legation is a wonderfully laid back outside venue, all hills and lawns for lounging and lolling. The fact that there was no security at the door, nor at the beer tent – just buckets of beer for the taking by anyone which I’m sure, even in the land of the free, is all kinds of illegal – should have been my first hint that this was not going to be a tightly-run ship. The second hint was when Alessi’s Ark, who’d been scheduled for 2:20PM, got on stage at almost 4PM. How you fall 90 minutes behind just a couple hours into the day is a mystery to me, but the Legation had managed to do it. And while Alessi’s languid solo acoustic folk was nice enough and well-matched to the pastoral setting, the cumulative agitation of the day was really distracting me and I can’t say I paid a whole lot of attention.

Deciding that waiting around for Still Corners to finally come on in a couple hours would be a waste of the day, it was back down across the highway to The Mohawk where Australia’s Jezabels were already underway. I’d missed a few of their Toronto appearances, including last week during Canadian Musicfest, but was glad we’d finally found a way to meet up as their nicely dramatic rock – clearly intended for larger stages than the inside of the Mohawk – began redeeming the day. They had a balance of attack and atmosphere that was certainly pleasing to these ears and delivered with a level of polish that showed this was a band who’d been honing their craft for some time.

Abandoned schedules did work to my favour by the afternoon’s end, though, as the party at Red-Eyed Fly had fallen behind sufficiently that I was able to get in to see Mark Eitzel play. He was at the festival in both a solo capacity and as frontman for American Music Club and though this was the former, his set drew heavily on material from the latter, particularly their excellent reunion record Love Songs For Patriots, but the configuration of Eitzel and a keyboardist gave it a very different cabaret-like feel. It was actually very fitting that he was performing as people were clearing out of the back room following the Dodos’ set as it was as though he was a sideshow performer desperately trying to get their attention. Those who kept walking definitely missed out, though, as Eitzel was in fine sardonic form and huge voice, his lyrics taking on a free form poetry feel in the setting. “Patriot’s Heart”, “Windows On The World” and “The Decibels And The Little Pills” all felt as though you were hearing them for the first time and following a reading of “I Left My Heart I San Francisco”, he bounded off stage and strode out of the club, simply done with it all. Mark Eitzel had left the building.

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Halifax Pop Explosion 2010 Day Three

Basia Bulat with Symphony Nova Scotia at Halifax Pop Explosion

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThe “see something new” mandate largely fell apart on the third night of Halifax Pop Explosion, but with good reason; when you get the opportunity to see Basia Bulat perform with a symphony, you take it. Bulat was the third artist to be brought together with Symphony Nova Scotia as part of the Pop Explosion, Ron Sexsmith and Owen Pallett had done so in past years, and it was Pallett who crafted the orchestral arrangements of Bulat’s songs for this performance which took place in the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium on the Dalhousie campus.

The evening was structured more like a symphony concert than a pop one, split into two halves and opening with the symphony performing a piece by Toronto composer Jordan Pal before being joined by Bulat and bandmates Holly Coish on vocals and taropatch and Bobby Bulat on drums. Bulat’s songs have often been called orchestral-pop and often come out of the box lovingly adorned with strings, brass and woodwinds, but the strength of her work comes from the emotional directness of their simple folk hearts. So to hear them with their sonic dressings increased tenfold (or so) was fascinating to witness. Pallett’s treatments took those supporting elements and gave them a new level of animation, sometimes taking hues that were muted and enhancing them to technocolour levels or simply adding all-new shapes and colours and in doing so, inverting the tone of the song completely. The symphony emphasized the shadows lurking on “Heart Of My Own” and practically inverted the usually-joyous “I Was A Daughter” into an elegiac sort of farewell.

For me, the real test would be “The Shore”, which was pretty much perfect in its austere presentation on Heart Of My Own and was even more stunning in its live solo arrangement. The rearranged version pretty much came out of it a draw, with the timpani and percussion giving it a stirring, tidal rumble but the trilling woodwinds distracting from the song’s emotional heft. And that would largely sum up how the collaborative pieces went – a lot of embellishment and some distraction. When they played together, it could feel trepidatious, particularly rhythmically, as though songs that were used to flitting freely in light Summer dresses were now having to move with heavy, fancy formal wear on. But even so, in the end the pieces were always made winners not by the massive orchestra or Pallett’s contributions, but by Bulat and her songs.

In addition to the eight orchestral pieces, Bulat played a number of selections either with Coish and her brother or solo, and those performances – aided by the theatre’s stunning acoustics – were just as much highlights of the night as those with the symphony. In particular, one of two new songs – “It Can’t Be You” – featured a vocal performance from Bulat that was just jaw-dropping, and the encore-closing unamplified stomp-and-clap of “Death Come Creeping” on the fancy auditorium stage in front of the orchestra, was as wonderful as it was incongruous. More, actually.

I won’t say that the symphonic treatments improved Bulat’s songs – I think they’re “right” the way they were originally conceived and presented – but that wasn’t the intention in the first place. Rather, it was an artistic and musical experiment for everyone involved that yielded interesting and frequently beautiful results, and one that I still feel privileged to have gotten to see. Here’s hoping that more orchestral collaborations are in the cards for the future so that others can share that privilege and the works can evolve further as their own entities.

This ended up being the only thing I attended on the third night of HPX – partly because Rebecca Cohn was far enough from any other venue that it would have required a whole lot of effort to get anywhere else, partly because the idea of going to a little club after this show and getting blasted in the face with some punk rock wasn’t very palatable and partly because it was going to be more fun to just kick back and hang out with friends afterwards. I’d make up for it the next night.

The Halifax Chronicle-Herald also has a review of the show. She now opens up a series of cross-Canada shows for Josh Ritter, including tomorrow night at The Phoenix.

Photos: Basia Bulat with Symphony Nova Scotia @ Rebecca Cohn Auditorium – October 22, 2010
MP3: Basia Bulat – “Go On”
MP3: Basia Bulat – “Gold Rush”
MP3: Basia Bulat – “In The Night”
MP3: Basia Bulat – “Snakes & Ladders”
Video: Basia Bulat – “The Pilgriming Vine”
Video: Basia Bulat – “In The Night”
MySpace: Basia Bulat

Rae Spoon rolled out a couple more videos from Love Is A Hunter over the last while.

Video: Rae Spoon – “There is a Light (but it’s not for everyone)”
Video: Rae Spoon – “Joan”

Sufjan Stevens talks about some of the personal issues that informed and delayed The Age Of Adz with Exclaim.

The Vancouver Sun talks to Matt Ward of She & Him.

The Asheville Citizen-Times chats with Band Of Horses’ Bill Reynolds and Tyler Ramsey.

NPR interviews School Of Seven Bells.

The video for Johnny Flynn’s new single is out, featuring a live performance in a garden with Laura Marling covering her parts as she does on the studio version on Been Listening. Flynn will be at Lee’s Palace on November 14.

Video: Johnny Flynn with Laura Marling – “The Water”

A couple of interesting international bands are on the Nu Music Nite bill at The Horseshoe tomorrow night (October 26). From the UK there’s folk singer Alessi’s Ark and all the way from Australia, The Jezebels. Easier for you to give the samples a listen, than for me to try and describe a couple of acts I’m only a little familiar with, but the combination of both on one bill and it being free makes it hard for me to stay cooped up at home, as much as I’d like to.

MP3: The Jezebels – “Mace Spray”
MP3: Alessi’s Ark – “Hands In The Sink”

The Dumbing Of America and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer interview Sky Larkin, who are in town at the Horseshoe on Wednesday night.

Under The Radar talks to Rose Elinor Dougall.

Lykke Li has put out a new single – mainly digital but also as a 7″ for collectors – and you can download the a-side below and the b-side at her website. A new album should be out in the early part of next year.

MP3: Lykke Li – “Get Some”