Secret Music Info: Snowcat Origins, ’80s and ’90s, And More

We know Gilles Snowcat as the energetic, polyglot creative musical force with roots in Belgium, Vietnam and Japan, for his brilliant lyrics and proficiency on several instruments, including genius level keyboard skills. But before Gilles appended his name with the Snowcat moniker, there was a younger Gilles, founding member of the Brussels-centered European/Vietnamese Hybrid “Awaken.”

Aside from traveling the world collecting experiences to write songs about (beginning in the ’80s with Awaken and culminating in 2015’s “Nama Time”), Gilles is also a sharp critic of rock music and culture. I asked him to comment on his 1989 tune “Memories of a Teenage Cat,” which was just re-released on Bandcamp in its original form, and asked him about the tune’s connection to the origins of the Snowcat persona. I got much more than I bargained for, including a lengthy critique of popular music in the 1980s and ’90s. Check out his provocative thoughts, and the classic tune below!

(Note: The Snowcat’s opinions are his alone. I for one am a big fan of U2!)


Q.  Is this the beginning of your transformation into the Snowcat being?

Gilles writes: “The Snowcat exists since he’s born, though I can locate the explosion, the big-bang that made him come alive for real early, very early 1988. 1987 was when he tried to pop out, and suddenly 1988 came and so did the Snowcat. It was exquisitely exciting, because from that moment on everything became a song. Life was a huge source of inspiration, and in return songs inspired life, and that’s how the early Snowcat grew.”

It was exquisitely exciting, because from that moment on everything became a song. Life was a huge source of inspiration, and in return songs inspired life, and that’s how the early Snowcat grew.” Gilles Snowcat

“And the music was organic, since my understanding of music was rather low, and my ambition was devouring and set up too high, so I had to suck lots of energy from reality to create what I wanted. That’s why the early songs are full of magic, they’re very much libido-driven, that kind of beautiful sadness, romanticism and mixes of alcohol. It had a lot to do with seduction too, and huge buckets of fun and spleen. Strange cocktails. That’s why I still love that early take of “Memories Of A Teenage Cat”. There was a technically much better version [in 1996] but it had lost the spark. F@#%ng ’90s…”

Q.  So what were the ’80s like for you? Please reflect.

Gilles: “The ’80s were the last decade of creativity, musically speaking. It’s the last part of what started in the cotton fields, that led to jazz, evolves into rock, then all the fusional music of the ’70s and then the synthesizers and all that crazy stuff. It was meant to be mostly commercial and still wonderfully out of control, the sounds were out of this world, the Fairlight, the DX7, all those machines created incredible moods. You like it or not, but you can’t deny there was a real substance to it. It’s the best evidence that money and art can work together pretty well.The ’80s were a wonderful boom of excesses, it was all too much but in the most superb way. An elegant decadence, a party that goes too far but if it doesn’t go too far it goes nowhere.”

The ’80s were a wonderful boom of excesses, it was all too much but in the most superb way. An elegant decadence, a party that goes too far but if it doesn’t go too far it goes nowhere.” Gilles Snowcat

“Then the ’90s came and the party was over. Like someone had decided to remove colours and taste from music, as if it was too dangerous. And suddenly safe music was born, and art should never be safe, so it was a very bad move. The ’90s created condom-music.”

“Most of the radio-friendly stuff of the ’90s and beyond are terribly boring. You hear the first chords of anything from Natalie Imbruglia or Oasis and it screams boredom, it pours safety from every note. Or Joan Osborne, you know ‘One Of Us’? Same chords.”

“Sure there was some uneventful music in the ’80s too, Simple Minds or U2 to name a very few, but it wasn’t the rule. In the ’90s, it was. It seems that no one was able to write songs anymore then. Some say the ’90s were a return to the guitars of the ’70s but it’s complete bullsh!#. There’s nothing interesting in the guitars of the ’90s, just dull chords played boringly by some idiots who got a recording contract for reasons that I don’t really get. Even those who seemed to have an attitude and good ingredients were just releasing inoffensive, safe sh!#. Look at Oasis, how come with such a good background and great ideas the result was so annoyingly normal? Yes, that’s the word: music became normal in the ’90s.”

Thanks, Gilles!

Original “MOATC” Lyric sheet:

gilles snowcat teenage cat lyrics

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Sienná’s Q.o.S. : Powerful, Exotic World Beat Psychedelia

There’s something very exciting happening in new music from Oslo, Norway. Sienná, the singer/songwriter/instrumentalist/studio whiz and now DJ has gone solo for her fourth full length release, leaving her band behind, to create a new set of songs in the nu-jazz genre. She immersed herself in the studio for a couple years to create an album that’s difficult to define: jazz is really just the starting point. On Q.o.S. there are various permutations of techno, ambient, world beat, electronic psychedelia and avant-garde, and a powerful experimental impulse that makes it a joy to listen to.

From the first song, the esoteric, ambient “Yes,” Sienná’s masterful composing and mixing skills are evident; next is the electro-psychedelic jazz funk of “World Citizens,” which then leads to a set of synth-driven world beat tunes incorporating  her Japanese heritage in the form of samples of traditional instruments, primal beats and chants, and  top-notch keyboard work. The breathtakingly diverse songs are stunning examples of musical cosmopolitanism, and very unique contributions to the electronica genre.


Much like the tarot card that inspired the title, the release evokes mystical, powerful ideas. I admit I didn’t know what the title meant at first.

“It could be ‘Quality of Service,’ ‘the god of the Edomites,’ hahaha or whatever (your) interpretation  is,” Sienná explains. “But mine comes from an amazing tarot card reader from the UK whom I speak with a few times a year. She said a Queen of Swords represents my personality. And my music is a double edged sword, isn´t it? :)”

“I feel free like a bird and very happy about this. This is a completely new chapter for me. Sienná

Indeed, there is a duality on Q.o.S; many of  the songs have a strong  dance beat along with some trademark Sienná  moves like energetic funky bass and primal chant vocals — all designed to get your feet moving, while a handful of tunes represent Sienná’s reflective side in ambient, down tempo numbers that affect the heart and mind.  Both  varieties feature exotic instrumentation and intriguing samples of vocals and ethnic instruments along with mystical, wordless vocals by Sienná. I asked her if Brian Eno was a conscious influence.

“I guess so,” she says. “ I´ve been listening to Brian Eno occasionally, but I´ve been an eager fan of the next generation (like Ryuichi Sakamoto) who interpreted Brian Eno further  – so, does it make me ‘the third generation?’ I can absolutely notice where the traditional roots are originally coming from, though.”

Under Japanese Influence
As a Japanese expatriate living in Norway, who as a child rebelled against family expectations to become a musician, Sienná returns to her own roots on Q.o.S. with a series of songs that reflect her Japanese heritage. Is this nostalgia for home or an affirmation of her heritage? I asked her.

She explains: “Yes both, and the concept. Somehow I decided to make three songs relating to three major festivals around the major historical shrines around Kyoto (‘Iwashimizu.’ ‘Aoi’ and ‘Kasuga’). But I must admit, the inspiration of ‘Iwashimizu’came originally from a moment when I was in a little town named Lewes in East Essex, UK. But later, after I added some Japanese instruments etc, feeling of the song was something similar to what I feel about the place ‘Iwashimizu’- home (until I moved to Norway in 1995).”

This trilogy of tunes, as well as “Sixth Sense” (with its incorporation of traditional Japanese texts and folk melodies)  and “Eastern Plays” (which features a moving display of  taiko drums along with  vocal chants and cutting edge electronica) combine dance music with traditional Japanese influences, resulting in a long set of electronica that excites one’s dancing impulses and one’s mind at the same time. For example, the playful “Follow My Instructions” is just the kind of avant-garde dance number that’s ideal for club action.

The album is the result of years of experience on the stage and in the studio, to the extent that it represents a synthesis of music theory and performing skills that have become second nature. Sienná explains: “There´s no theory or conscious approach, except an  approach that I feel is good, true and correct for me, even though it wasn´t for most people/musicians. While I spend time with my unborn songs, I make many changes to make myself happy. So I guess you´re just listening to the result of a long process of my self-improving (if it wasn´t my self-centeredness – which I´m allowed to do so only in my music, not in reality.)”

Q.o.S . is a true solo album: Sienná is responsible for every aspect of its creation, a departure from the ensemble she had worked with on previous albums and in live performances. “Only me now,” she explains.  “We are all good friends. But the circumstances around us changed dramatically. It doesn´t make sense for me to be a part of the team anymore. I did all the work (songwriting, performing, producing, mixing, mastering and designing album cover) by myself alone. I feel free like a bird and very happy about this. This is a completely new chapter for me.”

Sienná’s setup includes heavy use of the Roland D-50, both for its sounds and as a MIDI controller connected to Logic Pro X software on a MacBook (which she also uses in her role as a DJ).  Her favorite plug-ins for Logic Pro X are the ES2 and Alchemy soft synths, and the Drum Machine Designer. Lots of samples abound. For example, the incredible taiko drums on “Eastern Plays” were achieved by using a blend of sounds from Drum Machine Designer and actual taiko samples Sienná recorded in Kyoto from 2005 to 2009.

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The Analog Girl Featured At PSF

Over the past decade, I’ve had three articles published at Perfect Sound Forever. It’s one of the longest running zines on the web dedicated to rock journalism, and an excellent place to find  info about indie artists,  unusual acts, and interesting perspectives on all things musical.

My most recent article on PSF is an in-depth profile of Singapore’s The Analog Girl, whose new album I reviewed here in February.  Be sure to check it out at: The Analog Girl’s Minimalist Electronic Pop: Future Nostalgia.

Enjoy!

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KONTRADIKSHN Achieves Immortality In New Video For “027”

As Slovenian electro-rock trio Kontradikshn embark on a European tour, the group releases a new video for the song “027” from their debut album, “Reframing.” From the song’s rousing refrain:

“Time. Endless. Check your code.
Time. Endless. Start Again!”

I asked vocalist/keyboardist/songwriter Petar Stojanovíc, who is 27, if the song is a reference to that mythical age at which the music world lost many icons, including Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse.

“You are really close,” Stojanovíc told me. “The song is about avoiding death. It’s about my fast living a few years ago, actually long gone now. So a few years ago I wrote this song in a wish to survive 27.”

Congrats to Petar for turning his life around. The video features lots of eye candy in the form of odd camera angles, digital displays of synthesizers zeroing in on the number “027,” a mysterious star logo, and enticing glimpses of the band in action. Stojanovic describes the experience of shooting the video:

“The creative team was brought together in a day or two, and it took us one day to record the video,” he says. “We played live underneath the song, because we wanted to capture the ‘true’ feeling of us looking exactly the same as in concert. Much fun, but we were exhausted after shooting, as it took us more than 30 takes of the same song over and over again.”

The band, a self-proclaimed “touring machine,” will hit stages in Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Ukraine, Poland and Croatia over the next five weeks. If you’re fortunate enough to be in Europe, check them out!

In the meantime, check out the video for “027” below:

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The Analog Girl’s Sweet, Elegant “Golden Sugar Crystals”

The Analog Girl returns after a five year silence with her most elegant set of songs yet. Titled “Golden Sugar Crystals,” the album features ethereal textures, sultry vocalizations, and tripped out beats, all coming together in a futuristic unity built upon synthetic foundations. There’s a unique brand of magic at work here, as The Analog Girl, aka Singapore’s Mei Wong, coaxes sonic bliss out of her Ableton-equipped Apple laptop and her microphone, using the studio as an instrument.

The one-woman band behind all this accomplishes an ethereal, moody mystique employing minimalist beats, dreamy analog melodic structures, and delicate, half-whispered vocals that leave room for the listeners’ interpretations. Elements of trance, ambient, 8-bit, lo-fi, and techno pop mingle in a sweet mix that sparks the listener’s imagination, prompting cinematic visions in the mind’s eye.

“I discovered that there is more to life than what’s harboring inside our minds. I was reminded that this universe is huge, and it gives us so much, and there is so much to be thankful for.” The Analog Girl

Building on the techno pop forms of her previous three albums, GSC adds more complex polyphony and richer, more sonorous textures without abandoning the charming style she is known for. The familiar minimalism that became her calling card is still there, as are the  mysterious vocal stylings and abstract lyric poetry, this time centered on themes of hope and discovery.

Mei explains: “For some of the more recent tracks on the album I turned to immersing myself in songwriting once again when I was living through some dark times, and in the process, I discovered that there is more to life than what’s harboring inside our minds. I was reminded that this universe is huge, and it gives us so much, and there is so much to be thankful for.”

While previous albums addressed love and friendship, gender politics, and the ever-important caffeine, GSC features songs portraying admiration for nature and appreciation of aesthetic experiences. The melancholy “Wonder,” and “Run,”  and the haunting “Monolith” flirt with disillusionment, but these songs are the exceptions. As demonstrated in a majority of its tracks, GSC is The Analog Girl’s most hopeful album, reflecting a move from despair to optimism. A big part of this journey is letting go of fear.

From “Mountains”
“As the sun begins to shine upon the earth you’ll start to know
The world beyond you
We can fly across the universe and wave our fears goodbye
If you know how to.”

The album is imbued with this sense of possibility. As The Analog Girl, Mei has traveled the world performing, and now has more than a decade behind her releasing music, and before that as a producer at MTV Asia. She’s been places. Perhaps that’s reason enough to pay attention when she shares her philosophy of appreciating the cyclical nature of change, of moving through heartache with no regrets and changing one’s perspective to change one’s life. She describes the following lyrics as “accepting life for what it is, and for whatever it may present.”

From “A Circle”
“And it’s moving out in pieces
As it goes through all the phases
Past and present in the future
Does it feel like it’s a circle?
No time for regrets
It’s starting to feel a part of me.”

Mei’s use of surreal lyrics and vocals that are nearly a whisper are captivating features of The Analog Girl’s music. Combined with the layered instrumental harmonies of her songs, the result is a mesmerizing,  hypnotic effect. “I think it’s because I am always writing from an organic place,” she writes, “trying to do as much with my voice as with the instrumentation. And I just like singing in repetitive phrases which creates that sense of hypnotism.”

The chant-like repetition interplays with the layered textures of the music and pulsing rhythms, portraying a musical union of the primal and technological. Questions are raised about the role of technology in society, and the union of woman and machine, as Mei’s seemingly vulnerable stage persona is contradicted by her expert control of the studio and its electronic devices. The answer: there’s a strong personality in command at the center of the elegantly harmonious structure of The Analog Girl brand.

“Happiness Is Precious”
Before The Analog Girl, there was Mei Wong. Before that there was Pamela Wong, music student, who as a child was inspired by her parents’ ’70s vinyl collection and the TV show Solid Gold, along with artists as diverse as ABBA, the Bee Gees, the Beatles and Olivia Newton-John. A piano student at 5, Pamela became fascinated by the possibilities of electronic music technology, experimenting with a Casio sampling keyboard and a portable synthesizer that allowed her to construct complete songs. At the age of 7, Pamela created her first “single,” a one-off cassette featuring the tune “Happiness Is Precious.” It even had a B-side; her dad contributed the artwork. As she grew, the charms of music continued to compel her. After graduating from university with a degree in business, Pamela landed a job as producer at MTV Asia.

By the early 2000s, inspired by the computer revolution and what it meant for electronic musicians, she embarked on her career as singer/songwriter, releasing her first album in 2005. Since then The Analog Girl brought her act to New York, Tokyo, and Paris, to name a few. As demonstrated by the uplifting nature of GSC, The Analog Girl hasn’t let the world get her down. And she still knows a good party when she sees one. The album’s quirkiest offering is the anti-anthem, “Weekends” with its melodic and thematic strangeness and upbeat tempo.

From “Weekends”
“Come and stay until the weekend’s gone
Stay until you are born
Come and stay until the weekend’s gone
Stay until you belong.”

After a couple choruses the tune derives into an electro-psychedelic dance tune that may be one of the most deliberate attempts ever to explode the dance music form. Fans of The Analog Girl’s quirkier numbers like “Caffeine” and “Hey Mr. G” will love it. Fun as it is, the tune is an outlier on an album packed with lush beauty and life lessons.

GSC features lovely textures and richer atmospherics than any of The Analog Girl’s previous three offerings, as the sense of hope that bubbles up from the mysterious sonic poetry works its entrancing, inspiring spell. It’s no surprise really, that this innovative techno pop artist should return to songwriting as a way to get through less than ideal times, and emerge from the darkness with a message of hope – hope for a sweet, golden future.

“Golden Sugar Crystals” is available now at iTunes, Amazon Music, Bandcamp, and Spotify.

The Analog Girl At Bandcamp.com
http://www.analog-girl.net/

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Gilles Snowcat’s Fun, Bewitching Mardi Gras Spell

Gilles Snowcat’s  involvement in voodoo is more than a passing interest — it’s a powerful obsession. His new single “Mardi Gras Station,” released to celebrate Mardi Gras Day (Feb 28th) features “Love Spells,”  a 10-minute funk rock groove that finds the tormented Snowcat waxing poetic about witches, voodoo dolls, and rock and roll.

This obsession is no coincidence. Gilles was born on Mardi Gras Day, several decades ago (exact details are hard to come by), a fact that explains his magical musical mojo, which can be seen as both a blessing and a curse.

He explains: “The day of birth influences one’s whole life, let alone a special day like that one. My music would have been different if I had been born another day, or might simply never have existed. Who knows?”

Snowcat tries to pass off his voodoo fixation as merely “fun,” but he’s clearly really into it.  “It’s a fun branch of psychology,” he says. “It’s to psychology like what Chinese medicine is to the pharmaceutical industry.”

Yeah, right. To wit:

“I was born on Mardi Gras Day,
Yes, I was born on Mardi Gras Day,
Nine witches brought me wine
Amazing charms and luck
Gris-gris, love and evil spells.
Loa loa loa loa loa…..”

The x-rated track features powerful live drums by Sebastien Bournier (of Sousbock), who also contributes acoustic guitar, ukulele and background vocals. Gilles’ “Continental Breakfast” co-writer Renato Ronchetti (from Cinnamon Lilly)  also contributes background vocals. It’s a quirky, funky rock track that finds Gilles calling on voodoo spirits (“Loa loa loa loa loa”) over an energetic groove that features his expert keyboard work. In a perfect world, every holiday would have its own theme song — and a less explicit version of”Love Spells” would be a good choice for Mardi Gras.

“It’s impossible not to be influenced by the Stones, since they’re the ones who mixed the looseness of dirty rock and the trickiness of funk.” Gilles Snowcat

One finds a strong resemblance here to the music of the Rolling Stones. Gilles explains: “It’s impossible not to be influenced by the Stones, since they’re the ones who mixed the looseness of dirty rock and the trickiness of funk. But more than the Stones, it’s the New Barbarians, who did the trick the best. It was an impromptu band with members of the Stones, the New Orleans funk masters The Meters, The Faces, and Stanley Clarke.”

The b-side of “Mardi Gras Station” is an odd instrumental that features synths, electronic and live drums, and an entrancing, funky vibe. The whole affair is a glimpse into a fascinating world of forbidden love and strange magic. Yet the cost of admission is just a couple bucks. Get these tunes at: Gilles Snowcat’s Mardi Gras Station.

www.gilles-snowcat.com
www.gillessnowcat.com

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Slovenia’s KONTRADIKSHN: Hope, Cynicism, And The Eternal Drama

Thanks to technology,  the world is a smaller place today than ever before. A couple years ago I had a chance that wouldn’t have been available even 10 years ago, to report on a band called Karmakoma who are from Slovenia, a place many people hadn’t heard of (until they asked “where?” regarding U.S. first lady Melania Trump).  I loved the experience, and now I find myself with the extraordinary luck to report on another band from Slovenia – the electro-rock trio Kontradikshn, who are friends and stagemates with Karmakoma.

Kontradikshn’s debut album, Reframing, features intense, powerful electronic music worthy of attention. It’s industrial electronic rock, with an energetic sound that is at times macho, other times quirky, with aggressive synth riffs, pulsing synth bass, techno break beats, live drums, and fiery vocals. Kontradikshn is essentially a rock band with progressive drum n’ bass leanings that uses synths instead of guitars (at least in the studio), to create an effusive, passionate mix that’s as irresistible as it is danceable.

According to all sources, they’re a powerhouse trio live – their setup features the efforts of vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Petar Stojanović and guitarist/bass synthesist/computer whiz Matej Plešej, lots of live and sequenced synths, as well as live drums by Anže Kump that drive the beat. Their on stage setup features prominent use of the electric guitar, including amplification by the notorious Marshall Stack, while computer support is provided by a MacBook Pro sending and receiving MIDI data to and from Ableton Live.

“I have a small project studio in my home town, recording bands and artists around the country, with which we started to kinda get noticed, like a local scene that (got more and more attention) from other parts of the country. It’s kinda cool to work with different people and feel the cumulative spirit.” Petar Stojanović 

Since their 2010 debut playing clubs in and around Slovenia, their reputation grew and in 2016 they completed a tour through a number of former Yugoslavian states. The group has enjoyed radio airplay on Slovenian National Radio Program 2, including of the single “Memory Dump” as well as frequent airplay on smaller stations. Currently Kontradikshn is touring Slovenia and beyond, promoting the new disc. And wherever they go, they bring a party and lots of noise. These guys like to have fun.


Doubt and Discovery
Themes of cynicism are present on the album, but the underlying idea is one of hope, along with the irony you might expect from self-aware artists living in the shadow of political change.

From “Neverland”:
Slow down, think for a bit
World ain’t moving so fast, just listen.
Don’t you dare, leave her alone.
‘Cause you know how it feels in the dark, now.
Sit down boy, take a sip
Universe doesn’t need another prick like me
Work hard, do good, work hard do good
But be good to yourself (in the morning).

Stojanović’s life changed dramatically at the age of 11, when his father passed away. Friends, family and music were available to help ease the pain and doubt. Channeling the forces of loss and change in his life, Stojanović  found inspiration and hope in the study of various instruments, and found that the way out, as they say, is through.

“Music was forever a part of my life,” he says. “Although no one in my family was a musician, they kinda liked the idea of me playing an instrument. So I started playing clarinet when I was 7 years old. A bit of music school and orchestra until I was 13 or so. Then I quit the whole classical thing and went for the guitar – yeah, the guitar and a bit of piano. Started my first band when I was 15 and played in numerous bands until now. Then I quit university and concentrated only on making music and music production. Kinda went my way, rebellious in a way.”

In the song “027” Stojanović, who is 27, gets confessional:
Holding on, wanting my special line,
That keeps me back on track.
Keep it on, realizing, life is never ending,
So let’s keep sharing, baby.
When I hit the bottom, I miss that peak.
Must confess, that it makes me weak.

A journey of self-discovery is a frequent theme of rock artists (usually spread out over several albums) and it’s true here, as Stojanović  wrestles with hedonism to seek relief from pessimism and cyncism. Yet the album’s elements of hope and faith in human nature and in oneself and the importance of friendship dominate.

From “Free”
Inside of me, there’s a storm again
So I seek for release
Inside of me, I still believe,
That inside of me there’s no shame ‘cause I feel again
Inside of me the only one that lives, Inside of me.

That storm inside comes across in a very definite way, lyrically, vocally, and melodically. One particularly intense moment comes at the end of Evacuation, when the vocals and lyrics veer into decidedly frightening Trent Reznor territory. Stojanović’s favorite synth is another indicator. “My favorite piece of gear is actually an analog mono-synth (the Novation Bass Station II) that arpeggios and bass-lines are played on. And tweaking its filter section really gets the grit.”

An Emerging Kontradikshn
The members grew up in a medium-sized suburb of about 20,000 people on the outskirts of Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, not too far from the similar suburb where Karmakoma’s members were raised. In 2010, Stojanović and Plešej, friends since the age of 15 (they’re both 27 in 2017) formed a few bands until they settled on the current name and approach, playing 20 shows or so. With the addition of Kump as a permanent member on drums, things began to get serious.

“With previous members, we joined numerous competitions and battles of bands, just to get some gigs and our name out there,” Stojanović  says. “Then we got more and more known and made a tour with Karmakoma. After Anže came into the band,  things got more serious and better. He really brought fresh wind into the band.”

Around the same time the band was formed, Stojanović built a recording studio, the same studio where Karmakoma’s debut was recorded. He explains: “I have a small project studio in my home town, recording bands and artists around the country, with which we started to kinda get noticed, like a local scene that (got more and more attention) from other parts of the country. It’s kinda cool to work with different people and feel the cumulative spirit.”

The band’s sound was developed both in the studio and by participating in the robust club scene in and around Slovenia, including at Klub Kocka in Croatia, DemoFest in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the ChannelZero venue in Ljubljana, and others. The band’s diverse influences point to a cosmopolitan array of sounds, from Stojanović’s faves: TransAM, Cabaret Voltaire, Skinny Puppy, Turing Machine, Justice, Aphex Twin, to those of Plešej: Korn, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, Linkin Park and Marilyn Manson, to Kump’s influences: early on they were: Korn, Slipknot and Nightwish, and more recently Taylor Swift, Robbie Williams, and Prince. At 20, Kump is the youngest member of the band.

Clearly, Stojanović, Plešej and Kump relish their roles as musicians; perhaps it is necessary to overlook the few unfortunate drug references on their debut album to enjoy it. Still, the music is all one needs. For both audience and artist, music can combat depression and apathy; we’ve all experienced the lift in mood a familiar song can bring. Multiply that by 1,000 when hearing a band you admire play live, in an arena with a powerful PA and pulsing lights, along with other fans.

Musical tools are now readily available virtually anywhere. In a world ruled by capital, we are called to make projects of ourselves.  Self cultivation is a reasonable response to the challenges of an imperfect world. In times like these, artists are left to cultivate hope and optimism, in spite of adversity. For example, even on a relatively dark album like Reframing, Stojanović’s optimism overwhelms.

From the moody and mysterious “108 Hours”:
There’s no mistake from your past that you’ll forget, 
But why would you want to? Embrace the human in yourself.
There’s no absolute value when you feel, and you feel
The eternal drama is here to heal you. Just say:
‘I – I’m gonna be okay, I’m gonna be okay
It feels, it feels right.’”

There’s no denying that musical technology has been a positive force in giving a voice to artists around the world. Contrary to the dark dystopian view of machines taking over, the sonic art of Kontradikshn demonstrates that in the midst of loss, pain, frustration, nihilism (fill in the blank), electronic musical tools are empowering people. Writing, performing, listening and dancing to music and poetry is healing and cathartic. After all, music is an important feature of the eternal drama.

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The Analog Girl’s Hypnotic “Fantasy” A Darkly Sweet Confection

The Analog Girl welcomes 2017 with an elegantly ethereal new tune. “What You are Showing Me Is A Fantasy” shuns convention with its ABCBB  structure, along with Analog Girl’s trademark delay-drenched synths,  futuristic beats, and mysterious, sultry vocals. It’s a  synthpop lover’s dream, a darkly sweet confection packed with lots of melancholy beauty and a mystique that draws the listener in.

This tripped-out electronic ditty is only the beginning; The Singapore-based singer/songwriter/studio whiz is playing live and just put the finishing touches on her new studio album, “Golden Sugar Crystals,” coming in February. The much anticipated disc is her first in five years, and a follow up to 2011’s “Tonight Your Love.” Far Out!

Check out the official video below:

www.analog-girl.net

https://twitter.com/theanaloggirl

 

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Synthpop Diva Stacey Q Goes Hawaiian On Enchanting New Duet With Scott Larson

Fans of classic ’80s electronic music know Stacey Q for her charming pop hits “Two of Hearts” and “We Connect.” Yet there’s another side to Ms. Q:  Her 1997 release “Boomerang” features backing by a standard rock band, playing a mix of rock, folk and pop . (It’s a great disc, and rare — you can find one on eBay if you’re lucky.)

Fast forward to 2016: Stacey’s love for acoustic music has led to recording sessions with her longtime pal and former flame Scott Larson. The latest is the sweet and lovely “You Are Hawaii To Me,” an enchanting island getaway that’s perfect for lovers of mellow pop and classic rock — and fans of Stacey Q, of course. Four songs by Larson and Q are available for download on iTunes and Google Play. Check ’em out!

 

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From The Bogtrotters to The Beatles: Ed Ward’s “History Of Rock & Roll, Volume One”

It’s a truism that technology can (and should) liberate. The history of rock music demonstrates this axiom quite well, as shown in Ed Ward’s new book “The History of Rock and Roll, Volume One –1920 to 1963” (Flatiron Books, 390 pages, $35). Beginning with folk music and what was called race music, first recorded on phonographic discs in the 1920s, to the birth of the radio and the electric guitar, through the electrifying of the blues, to jukeboxes, early TV broadcasts, and Hollywood films,  the book is packed with info about the personalities that created rock and roll, and the technologies that made the genre possible.

Decades ago, long before techno-pop artists adopted popular music forms, filling stadiums with shows featuring banks of electronics,  laser lights and towers of amplified speakers, a rip-roaring night on the town may have consisted of heading down the road to hear a simple unamplified guitar, banjo or fiddle accompanied by a vocalist. Folk, country and western, blues, gospel, rhythm and blues, pop and rock all come into play, across the decades in Ward’s detail-rich book. It’s a page turner, ideally next to your computer, smartphone or tablet (YouTube has pretty much all the tracks he mentions), so you can follow along while listening. All the characters that transformed a diverse array of genres into the world’s (arguably) most influential music genre are presented, and Ward doesn’t disappoint those who prefer their music history served with a side dish of gossip (Colonel Parker was an illegal immigrant, Chuck Berry went to jail for violating the Mann Act, John Lennon was a popper of pep pills, etc.). Oh My! 

Decades ago, long before techno-pop artists adopted popular music forms, filling stadiums with shows featuring banks of electronics, laser lights and towers of amplified speakers, a rip-roaring night on the town may have consisted of heading down the road to hear a simple unamplified guitar, banjo or fiddle accompanied by a vocalist.

As the resident rock and roll historian for NPR’s Fresh Air, Ward’s encyclopedic knowledge serves him well here, and offers up more than mere gossip. Along the way he covers the clubs, the rise of the labels, the record stores, the DJs, the managers, and the stars they created, along with Billboard stats of hundreds of songs making it convenient to listen as you read. There’s an emphasis on the United States, with a few chapters devoted to Britain, which reacted to this uniquely American creation in a variety of interesting ways.

It starts with the music presented in traveling medicine shows, which allowed new sounds to spread from town to town, and eventually, when radio caught on, it spread even faster. When things really start to take off in the ’50s, the book goes deeply into vocal groups, the beginning of Motown, pop groups and rock groups, as well as the role of the electric guitar, mentioning the Fender Stratocaster at least four times (Fullerton shout out!) as well as continuing to follow the second and third careers of those who started out in the ’30s and ’40s. Lots of background info here, along with the wonderful songs that are still staples on oldies stations today (and many others that should be).

Ward’s book ends in January of 1964, just as the Beatles are set to take the United States by storm. Ward spends more than 50 pages on the Beatles and Rolling Stones, and a good number of pages to the beginning of Elvis’ career as well, but only after setting up these pop/rock phenomena in the context of the decades of blues, gospel, and folk artists and others who started it all. Highly recommended.

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Thanks To Steven Boriak at Flatiron Books for the review copy. Get yours at: “The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 1” by Ed Ward at Amazon.com

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