October 21, 2020

Anton Barbeau: Manbird

To call psychedelic power pop singer and multi-instrumentalist Anton Barbeau prolific would be an understatement. He made dozens of albums over the years, got rave reviews for most of them, but he is still an underground artist. His latest is called Manbird, a sprawling 2CD concept album about finding out what "home" means. He looks back to his days in Sacramento, the city in California where he was born, his stays in Spain and the UK, and the farm in Germany that is his current place of residence.

Manbird could be labeled as a summation of his life by ways of ornithological wordplay and imagery. As he gets older he realizes that he never really left Sacramento. he is the "bird" who refuses to leave the nest, fully aware that he will have to in the end. The many "beak" referencing songs serve as linking pieces. A sense of melancholy comes to the fore in Nest of Feathers and the hurt is almost palpable in Oh Dainty Beak, a song he wrote after his friend Janet had passed away. Cowboy John Meets Greensleeves is about a stuffed animal that played that English folk song, coupled with "Cowboy John" his first ever attempt at songwriting as a kid. His love for punk as teenager gets an outing in Featherweight.

October 20, 2020

Justin Douglas: "Well This Sucks: Recording in the Time of Covid"

Audio engineer and producr Justin Douglas, owner of King Electric Recording Co in Austin, TX, wrote an insightful piece for TapeOp. He named it "Well This Sucks: Recording in the Time of Covid", but he is actually quite optimistic about what he can do in these weird times:

Earning a living as an audio engineer is tremendously difficult in the best of times. Somehow you’ve made it work, to some degree at least, so you already possess all the knowledge and resources you need to meet whatever awaits us in the future. All the other stuff, the concrete stuff---like how do I pay studio rent, how can musicians with service industry day jobs afford studio time when those jobs have disappeared---those are very immediate and very real, but they’re also universal. Sure, some people can weather the storm financially better than others, but the reality of the situation has hit us all exactly the same, and no one’s got answers to the questions we're all asking. You and I have a skill and provide a service that brings meaning and beauty into the world and into people's lives. It’s a service people need. So instead of waiting and stressing while fielding home-recording questions from clients, I think we should all be making plans toward safely generating work. I believe doing so responsibly and conscientiously will make professional recording a source of stability and a buttress against uncertainty in our music communities.

The Slanted City: The Slanted City

Swedish musician Erik Nilsson leans heavily on Radiohead's Ok Computer the self-titled debut album by his one-man project The Slanted City. Jagged synths, piano, dry percussion and sligthly distorted guitar underpin his songs about the urge to get away from it all.

Where he wants to go exactly remains unknown, but his sonic trip in itself is very rewarding. Whether he is staring at the sky to follow a flock of wild geese (I Saw the Skein) or contemplates earlier attempts (False Starts), there is always te lure of the horizon and what wonders could be laying ahead. Nilsson wants to go Further and this album is a pretty good start.

October 19, 2020

The Rev: Haunted

Outlaw country rockers The Rev summoned all their fears and false hopes for the recording of the sad rocker Haunted, a love letter to a girl that is no longer among the living. Lead singer Eric Meyers is ware that his mind is playing tricks on him when he sings "I peer outside and my eyes play tricks // As she dances in the mist // Another sip and I feel the burn // Of the lips that I once kissed". Glorious pedal steel can't hide the fact that this is the lament of a broken man, desperately trying to regain his composure.

Jumble Hole Clough: Answers on a Postcard

English avant-garde musician Colin Robinson keeps it short on Answers on a Postcard, the new album by his one-man project Jumble Hole Clough. The instrumentals are explorations of free jazz and Krautrock having a tug of war with West Coast melodies - And The Sea Did Sway sounds like a Brian Wilson demo that would freaked out Mike Love. Robinson's body of work is fiercely idiosyncratic and his ability to pursue each musical whim that comes to his mind.

The lifes of scientists and artists as well as everyday events in his hometown Hebden Bridge and household items can be sources of inspiration. He can write a song about upholstery (Wall-to-wall Moquette) and a straight-faced radio and television presenter (Nicholas Parsons Knows).