Cool Pop Thursday : This Woman’s Work – Kate Bush

41yXHeTcCXL._SY355_Does Kate Bush actually make music that can be simply categorised as pop? Although it is an idea that has been levelled at many artists, normally out of some act of promotional hyperbole, Kate Bush is one of those few who makes music that only ever sounds like herself. With the exception of a few acolytes in later years, most notably the exquisite Bat For Lashes, Kate Bush conjures songs which are so original, so of the artist herself as to defy generic pigeon-holing. But pop will do as good as any.

This Woman’s Work is a masterclass in emotion, in space, in atmosphere and anticipation, of how so much can be done with so little. The art, of course, is editing just the right bits of “so little” and that was always been where she left everyone else behind.

 

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The Songs of Chantitown (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

28576657_155410868490908_7154192027187769019_nThere is a grace at the heart of Chantitown’s music which has rarely been seen amongst modern artists. It harks back to the likes of Joni Mitchell, Carol King and a small number of artists who were part of that wave of rootsy pop and folk-revivalists who are still seen as the golden age of the art. But, thankfully, she is also well aware that mere pastiche or copy-cat plagiarism doesn’t cut it in the modern age either and the skill she employs to fashion her songs means that although they beat with a quietly nostalgic heart, they also sparkle with modern sass and deftly wander all points in between.

The real charm is this seamless blend of an ambient acoustic vibe with seeping electronica, of majestic but distant atmospherics, of intrigue and anticipation, of restraint and understatement. Even when the textures and sonic layers are writ large they are done so in a water-colour style application rather seeking to make their point through vibrant, thick oils. (Not the best of analogies but I’m sure you understand the point I’m making.) The result is a series of windswept and gossamer like sounds hanging around the lead lines rather than anything more intrusive or bombastic.

Truth immediately draws comparison with Natasha Khan’s gorgeous electronic balladry, the same ethereality meets electronica, emotive ancient sentiments evoked through cutting edge musical technology. And Bat For Lashes is not a bad reference point, sharing the same eclectic approach, the same blend of past and present, the same genre-hopping, musical gene-splicing and, in the case of this track in particular, the same exotic blend of eastern spice and western bite, of occident meeting orient.

At the opposite end of the dynamic spectrum Prince of Pain is the most dominant of the four songs presented here, but even then it still works more in an ambient surrounding than a pop one, yet like all of Chantitown’s songs it walks a fine line between the cool and cultish, and the accessible and commercial, and that is a trick that most artists never master. But here it is done so skilfully that you could almost use this as a template as to how to blur the lines of those two, often conflicting, worlds.

But it isn’t just the music which is tantalising and enticing here, Cause and The Cure in particular is spacious enough to showcase what an astonishing voice she has, weaving narratives which take in the personal and the poetic, which shift from direct, almost spoken word deliveries to the harmonious and cinematic, a style which runs through all of her songs but which for my money is epitomised best here. The final song found in this showcase of music is Mother of Sun, an epic, slow burning thing of haunting beauty, though, to be honest, that is a phrase which could apply to anything which has gone before.

In Chantitown I think we have found someone truly important, someone game changing, someone who sits on a line that links Joni Mitchell to Kate Bush to Portishead to Natasha Khan and who shows that music can be accessible, infectious and beguiling and also (fingers crossed) commercially successful, without being obvious and cliched.

New Music of the Day – L : Laura – Jay-Jay Johanson and Robin Guthrie

image001Here at DAA we normally stick to our brief of unknown and underground, original music, but when your radar picks up a blip that turns out to be a cover of Bat For Lashes by Jay-Jay Johanson and Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie, you have to take notice, so for this, our 50th new music post, we have bent the rules a little.

After the release of his wondrous 4 track EP, ‘Moonshine’, Swedish producer, songwriter and avant-garde extraordinaire Jay-Jay Johanson returns with his 10th studio album ‘Opium’, out 8th June on Kwaidan Records. With masterful musicianship and soulful, melancholic vocals, Johanson takes us down a dreamlike road, telling 10 stories through 10 songs, inviting us into his dark and all-encompassing world.

“The great crooner of the electronica era, the Swedish singer is known for his evocative and melancholic voice that’s reminiscent of romantic singers from days gone by.” – Time Out

 “A rich bedrock of composition; the static waves of ambient noise that give way to stilted beats and some gorgeously restrained keys.” – GoldFlakePaint 

 “Jay-Jay Johanson knows when to head out to left field – but he also knows when to take centre stage. An electronic crooner, the Swedish artist’s material veers from pole to pole” – Clash Magazine

Cosmic – Nathassia Devine (Inter-dimensional Recordings) Reviewed by Dave Franklin

10380921_319569401541487_7647161662058554333_nWell, it worked for Natasha Khan, mixing pop, electronica and mood altering subtexts. But whereas Khan as Bat For Lashes reinvented Kate Bush for the late night, post-clubbing come down, Cosmic is Kate Bush remade for the club experience itself. Tapping into her cultural roots,  half Dutch, half Indian, has resulted in a mix of clinical euro dance beats tinged with something less tangible,  more mystical wandering through the spaces between.

It is Tori Amos for the Kiss fm generation, PJ Harvey  for the club environment. On the outset it may seem as if you have heard it all before but successive listens reveal hidden depths, mesmerising musical layers that demand examination beyond the hedonistic and throwaway nature of the environment they have been created for.

The new face of dance culture? A beat fusion of orient and occident? Pop with a music degree? It’s all that and more.

Reclaimed – Louise Latham

26989_origIt is far too easy to label singer-songwriters as folk artists just because of the often laid back nature of their music and the fact that they perform solo and that there is a lack of any obvious pigeonhole to put them in. And whilst Louise Latham does cite the obviously folk based Cara Dillon as a big influence, it is probably the broader ranging style of another red haired keyboard chantress, Tori Amos, which informs her debut album.

Although lead tracks such as the country-esque Melt Me Down Like Chocolate are the obvious door into the mainstream consciousness, it is the less commercial tracks that deliver the albums defining moments. Together Tonight almost sums up in one songbite what Reclaimed is all about, graceful, ethereal vocals, heart on the sleeve sentiment, atmospheric spaces hemmed in by gentle strings and wonderful production. And with that as the underlying template the songs then branch off in myriad wonderful directions.

Gilded Bird takes this to its most sweeping and grand conclusion creating an exotic musical backdrop and imagery that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Bat For Lashes album, never a bad place to share common ground with. The title track that provides the albums swansong is a gloriously stripped back slice of the artists’ soul set to piano and Erase Me pushing into soaring alternative pop territory and throughout everything the layering and production is spot on providing the right blend of space and grandeur and the key to this may lay in the nature of the albums conception.

Having created a bohemian studio environment in the producer Arno Guveau’s flat, the pair then lived and breathed the recording process for two months and it was this intimacy with the environment that probably lead to a channelling of the songs rather than the usual and more formal work ethic. The result is a set of songs imbued with the personality of those involved, which seem natural extensions of the artist rather than a separate creation that exists away from them.

But the heart of the matter is that away from clever production, deft playing and well-crafted songs, you believe in the lyrics. Heartfelt and honest, the selling point is that you can relate to both the romanticism and the cold emotions that she lays bare before you. When she sings “I can see it in your eyes” or talks of shattered hopes and dreams, of lies, love and loss, you can stand in her shoes and relate to the songs messages and recall those moments in your own life. The fact that she can talk about such difficult and dark emotions without falling into self-pity or melancholy indulgence is what makes the songs work of using a soaring optimism or at least reflective wistfulness to turn the message around.

As debut albums go it is an outstanding creation and will take some following, such is the benchmark that she has set herself but like anyone who has heard these songs, I look forward to what ever comes next with eager anticipation. So to return to my opening consideration, is Louise Latham folk, pop, rock, acoustica? Actually, she is all and more, in fact she is anything she damn well chooses to be.

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