Tickling My Fancy: Armellodie Records annual sampler, Simcock & Goloubev and Dublin’s Girl Band.
Interview: Sean BW Parker interviews Bilge Kosebalaban (Direc-T) and Aysu Çoğur.
Armellodie Records Sampler 2014 – Available Now For Free Via Bandcamp.
On the cusp of what could be a radical break from the unruly neighbors over the boarder, Scotland’s decision on independence, even if it never comes to pass, has certainly concentrated the Caledonian mind. Although it has always been a bastion of cultural activity, with a music scene that’s constantly punched well above its weight, Scotland is flexing its soft power credentials – the ever-gentrified Glasgow, home to massive investment from the BBC alone, is set to host the Commonwealth games this Summer – in the hope of calming fears over what independence will mean for the country.
The spotlight is on and the country’s hive of both congruous and not so congruous independent labels should, if there was any justice, reap some rewards for their endeavors. Well at least draw some attention to the quality of music being created there at least. Cottage industry labels such as Songs, By Toad Records (no strangers to this blog) and the featured Armellodie Records, constantly furnish anyone who’ll listen with the most erudite, charming, and at times, most rambunctious noises and primal tones.
Featured a few months back on the Monolith, Armellodie’s signing, Super Adventure Club both rattled and kicked us in the proverbial bollocks with its perverse brand of fusion jazz and avant-rock. I believe we described them as: ‘…a gangly uncouth creature that flails and jerks between fits of awkward progressive jazz, bombastic heavy mental pomposity, and kitsch rock.’
As a thank you to both those who have already cottoned onto or hope to become future converts, the label is giving away a free download of its annual sampler compilation. Featuring a broad spectrum of diaphanous twinkled instrumentals (The Pure Conjecture), rustic homegrown country poise (The Scottish Enlightenment), disjointed chugging indie guitar (Kill The Captains) and energetic new wave (Chris Devotion & The Expectations). A lovely gesture don’t you think.
Gwilym Simcock & Yuri Goloubev as Duo Art ‘Reverie At Schloss Elmau’ (ACT) – 13th January 2014.
Imbued with references and playful nuanced takes on classical influences way over my head, the attentive duo of Gwilym Simcock & Yuri Goloubev produce a poised fusion of 19th century highbrow compositions (‘Non-Schumann Lied’ a tribute to, and in-joke, about German composers; which Goloubev quips: “…should have really been called ‘Non-Brahms Symphony’), and modernist jazz on their latest venture, Reverie At Schloss Elmau.
Teaming up for an elegant interplay of sharp resonating, but also delicately placed, piano and rebounding reification double bass, the harmonious duo embody the chosen surroundings of the Schloss Elmau hotel – a familiar retreat used as a sort of locational muse by Simcock on his 2011 Mercury Prize nominated solo album, Good Days At Schloss Elmau. The Bavarian location, at the foot of the Wetterstein Mountains, close to Klais, was originally built in 1916 as an artistic retreat. Over the decades, except for a brief period when it was partially destroyed by fire in 2005, it has also played host to a number of performances: the tradition continued here by the adroit jazz composers.
Achingly sophisticated and purposeful, this assiduous suite gently unfurls its scenic charms with the prelude ‘Pastoral’: a simple introduction lightly transformed by a series of harmonic variations.
Continuing to travel a lightly traced panoramic, each instrumental suggests a mood of contemplative reflection; though some are more bouncy and optimistic than others, like the spritely, avant-jazz nursery rhyme ‘Antics’.
Motives and useful pointers are sketched out for each song in the provided composers notes, enlightening the ‘dear’ listener by adding context and back story: we learn ‘Vain’ is a dedication of sorts by the Russian double bassist, Goloubev, to Simcock, and that ‘Lost Romance’ was originally written for the accordion.
A cordial semi-romantic, jazz fused classical soundtrack awaits.
Girl Band ‘France 98’ EP & ‘Lawman’ single (Any Other City Records) Available Now.
Here’s some decent dirge-bending noise from Ireland. Dublin’s Girl Band moniker is not only misleading as the band is in fact bereft of any feminine touch; instead the boyish four-piece plow through No Age, Pissed Jeans and Shellac to produce a rambunctious mooning wall of sound.
Their debut Fifa world cup named EP, France 98, and brand new single, ‘Lawman’, can be appreciatively heard here.
Guest: Sean BW Parker.
Broadcasting his commentary, musings and observations all the way from the Bosphorus, Sean BW Parker, haranguer of all those who hold the Pet Shop Boys and David Bowie as sacrosanct, guest writes for the Monolith Cocktail.
Bilge Kösebalaban Interview
Bilge Kosebalaban is frontman of acclaimed Istanbul-based grunge/pop trio Direc-T. Kosebalaban spoke to Sean Bw Parker about the Turkish and LA music industry, being a cartoon character, Lou Reed, and his philosophy of life.
In the world of Turkish alternative music, Direc-t exemplify a sound collision of Jane’s Addiction, Placebo and a super-energised Duman. Would you agree with this, and if so, how would you expand upon it?
I agree with that..I love Perry Farrel’s singing, Brian as well and we have same grunge roots Duman have…we also sound like POUSA in my opinion…The energy and fun.
From a commercial peak with tracks such as ‘Ama Sen Varsin’ (But You Exist) and ‘Hasret’ (Longing) in the mid- noughties, how has the Turkish music industry changed – and in particular affected the band?
Well I was expecting rock to be more like “rock”…but the geography we live in kinda reversed that rock movement back to Arabesque roots and the products sounded so much more local, so much dipped in the eastern violins and eastern vocals…I cant call these songs rock…”Brilliant commercial arabesque rock” tracks they are…and it’s sad for the industry and listeners…they don’t give chance for real rock tracks to be on TV, radio or in the papers.
You received a lot of attention for the animated video for ‘Ama Sen Varsin’. How did you feel about becoming a two-dimensional media avatar?
That was like a childhood dream coming true…I was 24 and it was a breaking news item on the most popular news channel NTV in 2004…
Was a weird feeling being known as a debut hit as a 2D celebrity!
But then we managed to be real with the upcoming videos.
Direc-t have played with artists such as Pulp and David Byrne, amongst many others. As people, who are the best and worst you’ve met or worked with, and why?
That festival we opened up was in 2001, and the first album came up in 2004…since then we’ve played with dozens of big names.
Well the best was Slovakia I think…we were gonna play before Asian Dub Foundation sound system but they couldn’t make it as they had a trouble at the airport. So was announced on stage that their time was also added to our time…so we played double and we danced with Asian Dub by the sunrise as they played at, like, 5 AM!
What would you say are the biggest challenges facing an ambitious, original band in Turkey, or abroad, in 2013? What should these bands do, in your opinion?
It is easier compared to our era as they have a river of Internet to fish…they can send their songs to anybody anywhere anytime…
And they can reach producers, artists, any music person they want…opportunities are endless.
So all I can say is don’t be late as I am 33 now, and do all you can to promote your art from that flowing river…
In general, how do you consume music these days? Spotify has just arrived in Turkey – what do you think of it?
I was in LA last month and everyone uses Spotify; I discovered it there and found out our albums are also there. Well CD is dead, vinyl is back and everyone loves to stream music…so long live Spotify!
What can I say?
How did you feel when a) Lou Reed died, and b) Nelson Mandela died recently?
Hope they rest in peace…two big men…over the last 5 years the world and Turkey have been losing really big names…
How did the Gezi protests of summer 2013 affect you personally and as a writer?
I couldn’t write anything at that time – watching the news.
What are you working on at the moment? Any sneak previews for us?
Well I rehearsed with Direc-t recently, a fourth album might come out and I’m doing some solo stuff to be released soon. And we have also collaborated on a song with Yakup. I wrote from Istanbul and he wrote from Seattle. He mixed it too – I had no idea about the chorus he came up with or how he used my vocals on the chorus parts. And he sent me the song/sounds (great!)…we’ll soon shoot a video for it.
Can I get you a drink?
Of course mate…
You’re more than welcome Sean.
Aysu Cogur Interview
Australian-Turk Aysu Çoğur is Turkey’s most brilliant rising musical star. Çoğur spoke to Sean Bw Parker about her partner Frank, future sound music, and how forcing yourself to write songs is, ‘like forcing yourself to eat meat when you’re a vegetarian’.
Could you give us a brief history of how you ended up in Istanbul?
Well, my parents are Turkish and I’m a born and bread Melbournian. I guess it all started when I wanted to explore my roots especially the musical side of it. My aim was to learn more about makam and then create a sort of fusion between makam music and jazz. My initial plan was to stay here for a year, its almost been four!
When not playing with your group, The 4th World, how do you find being a solo female artist in Turkey, with regards to social rights and respect?
I feel that most of the time people are very supportive of a female musician who is performing solo. It does however feel a little degrading when men are ‘surprised’ at the fact that I can use my loop station very well. ‘Better than a man’ as some have said. Why can’t a woman use a loop station as well as a man can?? Sometimes I even wonder why that is a question.
How did the Gezi protests over the summer affect your writing and general outlook?
Gezi was a tough time for all mentally and physically. During occupy Gezi I was trying to compose a song about the events and of course I didn’t succeed because as you also know, the process of creating a new song involves having it come naturally. It’s like forcing yourself to eat meat when you’re a vegetarian. I have however composed some new tunes since the events. I don’t think my writing has changed I just had a block during Gezi and now I’m back on track again.
What is your opinion on how social networking and more broadly technology in general have affected the music industry?
I think that sites such as myspace and facebook are a great way to get our music out there and also to connect with other musicians. Now that myspace is out of date, facebook has taken its place. I think that these days it’s more effective to have an fb music page (fan page – I really don’t like saying ‘fan’ page) rather than a website to get your music out there and build an audience and connect with listeners.
You are well known for your remarkable use of vocal loops in recording and on stage, provided by your partner ‘Frank’. How did you discover such a box could be a conduit to genius sound making?
Genius sound making? Thanks J Well before Frank there was aki, my akai loop pedal, which my very dear friend Kate from Australia got for me back in 2007. I used to tell her how I wanted to loop vocals and make dream like soundscapes and that’s why she got aki as a birthday present for me. I had troubles at first, really I just couldn’t get the timing of the loops right whatever I would do plus there was this constant buzzing coming from aki. Then in 2011 I stumble upon frank in Istanbul at music store in Tünel. He changed my life. I practiced day and night for about a month and it was just so simple and easy to work him, he is truly frank and fabulous. Now I have upgraded I bought the latest boss vocal pedal with five channels from Australia. I haven’t named it yet but I’ve got to tell you, understanding this new loopie is going to take a while unfortunately. It’s much more complicated than Frank!
You are also famous for not showing any ‘diva’-like qualities, amidst a scene legendary for it. How do you manage that?
Well that’s nice to hear that people feel that way…don’t you think the whole ‘diva’ concept is very outdated and cliché now? I’ve met a few female singers in my life who have called themselves ‘divas’ and I just can’t help but giggle. We as musicians, as artists, first need to focus on our art not our egos. That should be the number one priority focusing on the real side of music-making, recording, performing but unfortunately there are many singers around who put their ego first and base it on image. I think it’s very sad because those people will be left behind. Right now is such an exciting time for music. There is a new sound haunting our souls called ‘future sound music’ and this type of music is so honest. Lyrically and musically it really has no room for ‘ego’. Some examples are: Hiatus Kiayote, Thundercat and James Blake.
What are you working on at the moment?
I just released a single ‘Nuri’ and my first video clip along with it. I plan to release singles and making video clip every four months and spreading it out on social media. We’re also gigging with my band once a month and I will have some solo performances with Frank mostly overseas in Canada, Spain and Australia
What are you drinking?
Raki is the only way J
Otherwise, on special occasions French Pastis or Spanish Anise…I’ve been having a very long-term relationship with aniseed based alcoholic beverages it seems…