Monday, December 22, 2014

Blogovision 2014: the official poll results - Greek bloggers vote best albums



Once again it was a fine year. I really enjoyed it - loved it! The discovery process is the best thing of course: finding new music you had missed during the year. And of course the amazing presentations - well done people! Here's to next year. Let's see the final tally below (in parentheses are the points won by each album):



1. War On Drugs – «Lost In The Dream» (753)
2. Röyksopp – «Inevitable End» (725)
3. Future Islands – «Singles» (591)
4. Damon Albarn – «Everyday Robots» (565)
5. Caribou – «Our Love» (558)
6. Wild Beasts – «Present Tense» (537)
7. Swans – «To Be Kind» (430)
8. St. Vincent – «St. Vincent» (416)
9. Antlers – «Familiars» (405)
10. Angel Olsen – «Burn Your Fire For No Witness» (369)
11. Lykke Li – «I Never Learn» (341)
12. Ariel Pink – «Pom Pom» (339)
13. FKA Twigs – «LP1″ (338)
14. Temples – «Sun Structures» (328)
15. Baby Guru – «Marginalia» (322)
16. Perfume Genius – «Too Bright» (318)
17. Ty Segall – «Manipulator» (303)
18. Thom Yorke – «Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes» (294)
19. Banks – «Goddess» (291)
20. Iceage – «Plowing Into The Field Of Love» (264)
= Beyonce – «Beyonce» (264)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Sandman Chronicles on Poplie radio 21/12/2014: my top-20 albums for 2014


Blogovision 2014: My top-20 albums of the year

Here is the list of the top-20 albums of the year for me, and after that, you can see a short video with the photos I made for each album post.

no.01: Röyksopp - The Inevitable End
no.02: SOHN - Tremors
no.03: Future Islands - Singles
no.04: The Preatures - Blue Planet Eyes
no.05: Wild Beasts - Present Tense
no.06: Tori Amos - Unrepentant Geraldines
no.07: Russian Red - Agent Cooper
no.08: Róisín Murphy - Mi Senti
no.09: Caribou - Our Love
no.10: Chinawoman - Let's Part In Style
no.11: Little Dragon - Nabuma Rubberband
no.12: My Brightest Diamond - This Is Your Hand
no.13: Hundred Waters - The Moon Rang Like a Bell
no.14: Hozier - Hozier
no.15: Paolo Nutini - Caustic Love
no.16: Chet Faker - Built On Glass
no.17: Saint Saviour - In The Seams
no.18: Banks - Goddess
no.19: Timber Timbre - Hot Dreams
no.20: Nick Mulvey - First Mind

video

Friday, December 19, 2014

Blogovision/My top-20 albums of the year - no.2: SOHN - Tremors


I died a week ago
There's nothing left
It's caught on video
The very last breath
In time an avalanche
Will cave in on mines
Covering all evidence
The very last time
All this fuss over nothing
Reinventing the wheel
All this searching for something that's not real

Lyrics from The Wheel by SOHN, from his album Tremors

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Blogovision/My top-20 albums of the year - no.3: Future Islands - Singles


Going to the beach was always their favourite thing to do. Even just for a walk, she wearing a cotton print summer dress, he in shorts and shirt, with their panama hats, their books and sunglasses. She knew locals talked a lot about them, "the rich couple at the villa". Some favourably, some not so much. She did not care. As long as they could come in August and stay through mid September. Soak up the sun, enjoy the warmth of the sea and each other, watch endless sunsets come and go, sometimes even stay up till sunrise, with lots of cool wine the colour of white gold. Seasons change, but for her it would always be summer. How did that Future Islands song go (the one from Singles)? "As it breaks, the summer will warm". And it always did.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Blogovision/My top-20 albums of the year - no.4: The Preatures - Blue Planet Eyes


The Australian summer. Endless heat, making one bored even to pick the beach where she'd lay down her lithe body. She'd rather stay in the pool, sip her g&t and listen to music all day long. This new group was fantastic - The Preatures. Her brother was in AIM with most of the band members some years ago. She vaguely remembered them coming to some of the parties she organized around the pool every summer since graduating from high school. Had they played live in any of them? She did not remember, but with this heat, she did not even dare to try. But their album was great. Blue Planet Eyes. Every single song was catchy, spunky, full of life. Like they did not give a fuck what you thought of it. Or them. "Kinda like me" she thought. And smiled. Time for another drink.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Blogovision/My top-20 albums of the year - no.5: Wild Beasts - Present Tense


Monty was happy. He could not believe this was happening! Posing on the cover of an album was something he'd never thought possible, even though his friends all were into the music business, one way or another, either creative or promotion or organizing. But he never thought he looked good enough to be asked to pose for this! It sounded like a cliché but it was indeed a case of "a friend of a friend of a girlfriend who knew...". The funniest thing was that he loved Wild Beasts. He had been listening to their music from their very first album, his best mate knew both singers and they had some beers time and again a while ago. And now this. Wow! They had presented him with a preview so that he was able to listen to the album, called Present Tense, before it was out officially. What a blast. He loved it. That music, those lyrics those voices! He was in favour of the more electronic sound the guys were after and he was so proud that his face would be part of it. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Blogovision/My top-20 albums of the year - no.6: Tori Amos - Unrepentant Geraldines


"I've always been inspired by visual artists of all mediums because, as with music, art is not a job you can go to and leave from, but it is something that defines who and what you are [...] Visual artists shake up our brains and force us to look at everything, from objects we don't normally think twice about to people we might not have cared about. In one image, they can remind us of nature's power to enchant, as well as humankind's fruitless attempt to overpower her or simply second-guess her. Through the visual artist's application of tone, shape, pattern and pigment, I not only begin to see, but I can honestly say I begin to hear". 

Tori Amos, Rolling Stone magazine, 19 February 2014

"Tash said something to me. She said, 'You know, your albums, I've always seen them as being a certain phase you're going through...' This is my 13-year-old telling me this! And she said, 'I don't see this as a phase. I see moments of all your records. And then things that I've never heard before, that might have come from the musical. You're starting to write certain stories from the perspective of being a mom, and from being 50. Because you've lived.'" 

Tori Amos, press release for Unrepentant Geraldines, March 2014

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Blogovision/My top-20 albums of the year - no.7: Russian Red - Agent Cooper


"A woman in transition". That's what the director had told her when they first discussed the script of her new film. Yeah, right. Agent Cooper. Moving from one country to another, from one continent to another, from being a teacher living in the suburbs of Barcelona with husband and child to working as a hired assassin for those who could afford her extraordinary skills, while at the same time trying to avenge her family's demise. Always wearing Russian Red lipstick.Transition indeed. Who wrote this script? Anyway, she was enjoying doing most of her own stunts, jumping, running, climbing, the works. And the pay-check was so good, she could be filming her own scripts for the next couple of years without any worries. Bring it on.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Blogovision/My top-20 albums of the year - no.8: Róisín Murphy - Mi Senti


Róisín was exhausted but happy. She had spend a few days in Miami with friends she had not seen for a long time, visiting the galleries and spaces full of art, enjoying great food and drinks. She loved the energy and feel of Art Basel Miami, much more than the actual art per se. But it was time to pack up and go. She had to return home, to a family that was waiting her for the holiday season. And then it was time to finish that album. Mi Senti, the Italian covers EP she had released this summer was hard to record but it had paid off in many ways, Now it was the new album's turn. She sipped her martini, silent and content. And happy. Bye bye dear Miami.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Blogovision/My top-20 albums of the year - no.9: Caribou - Our Love


Julia was in a hurry. She was a bit late for dinner with Dan and she did not want to keep her love waiting. It was the rare occasion getting him out of his recording studio and his music instruments, so she did not want to miss a beat. She knew he'd be tickled to see her carrying his latest album release, Our Love (yes, it was inspired by their affair, contrary to what the press was writing - she laughed inside her). And she had taken great care to match her skirt to the album cover's pattern - full of petals and colours. Much like their love was. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Blogovision/My top-20 albums of the year - no.10: Chinawoman - Let's Part In Style


She had put it all behind her. The life, the friends, the family, the home-town, the country. It seemed almost as if some other person had gone through all those experiences, emotions, situations. The only common thread now was dance. She started dancing back at St. Petersburg and had quickly climbed up the strict and unforgiving ballet hierarchy. She knew it would be a ticket far from that life. And it was. Most Western European and American ballet companies had come begging. She chose wisely and moved to New York. She became a star like no other. But there were always the memories. And that music. Chinawoman. But not from China. Russian born in Canada of immigrant parents. It never failed to connect her with that other life, that other person. She had even choreographed some of her songs as they touched her innermost self. And the new record, Let's Part In Style did exactly that. She had to meet her, find out more about her. A woman is still a woman.

Photo inspired by the Russian Interview magazine cover of Angelina Jolie, shot by Sofia Sanchez and Mauro Mongiello.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Blogovision/My top-20 albums of the year - no.11: Little Dragon - Nabuma Rubberband


Liu Juan had grown up since she had last visited her village. Now a famous fashion model and spokesperson for the biggest Chinese cosmetics line, she looked like she had nothing in common with this remote agricultural area in the middle of China. But she had really nice memories of the place, and had wanted to see it again, even though most of her immediate family now lived in some of the big industrial cities by the sea. When she reached the family field, she threw her shoes away and started jumping with joy, her mind full of images from summers gone by. And that weird photo session that started it all. That Swedish group, Little Dragon. with the indomitable Swedish/Japanese singer who liked her so much she had kept contact all these years. And then the trip to Shanghai and Hong Kong, the fashion shows, money and fame. That album, the one that used her on the cover image, with the weird title Nabuma Rubberband, was still her favourite music to listen to. Melancholic music matched her mood when travelling, and that was a thing she did often. She now knew that Scandinavians did melancholia best of all, especially in music.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Blogovision/My top-20 albums of the year - no.12: My Brightest Diamond - This Is Your Hand


Elise or Shara? Shara or Elise? Trying To recreate Bernd Preiml's photographic oeuvre for My Brightest Diamond's latest album, This Is My Hand (surprisingly showing no hand at all on the cover) was at least a lot of fun for photographer and model alike. They both love the yin-yang mentality of the album, starting with the louder, more upbeat songs and then continuing with the quieter ones. The deceptivly stark atmoshpere, concealing so many hidden pleasures inside it. An artist at the top of her form, showing absolute mastering of her art and craft. She played her hand well.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Blogovision/My top-20 albums of the year - no.13: Hundred Waters - The Moon Rang Like a Bell


Eugenia returned to her office really excited. She had found the perfect music to use for the upcoming commercial. The latest Hundred Waters album, The Moon Rang Like a Bell, was on her playing list on repeat for the last months. She listened to with every chance she got. The mixture of influences she could discern (whether conscious or not), from Cocteau Twins to Bjork to Mum to folk, all stuff she had in her record collection in abundance, made her feel instantly at ease listening to the album - but also it sounded fresh and exciting like nothing else. And last night was the moment she knew she had to use their music for her advertising. Would it detract from their immense appeal? Certainly not!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Blogovision/My top-20 albums of the year - no.14: Hozier - Hozier


He sipped his Guinness and looked again around him. This Dublin pub was his favourite haunt every single time he visited his home country, He was here to shoot some photographs of Hozier, a Bray musician who was now very famous all over the world - he'd even appeared in a Victoria's Secret Angels catwalk show for Christ's sake. Patrick was not usually shooting pop stars - he specialized more in gritty urban portraits of obscure artists and writers, or fashion models. But he had accepted the gig as an excuse to visit Dublin again - that, and the fact that the album had grown on him after a couple of listens only. The first thing that struck him though was the voice - probably the best male voice he had heard all year. This guy had some lungs! The music was not pop at all; instead. the sound was more bluesy, with R&B and soul elements that made it more distinct - and a bit unusual for an Irish mate. He caught a glimpse of Andrew Hozier entering the pub on the huge mirror behind the bar and turned around. He waved him over and then ordered two more pints.

The Sandman Chronicles on Poplie radio 07/12/2014


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Blogovision/My top-20 albums of the year - no.15: Paolo Nutini - Caustic Love


He left the University of Edinburgh Main Library the minute it started raining outside; that stupid useless rain that's more like millions of water droplets infuse the air with water and you feel the need of a set of gills to breathe properly. It was an easy walk towards his favourite scandinavian cafe and bakery. He could taste the cardamom bun even now. He put on his earphones and listened to that new album by Paolo Nutini: Caustic Love. He knew Paolo from St. Andrews, they were in the same class. He loved the music his old school chum was making, but this new album was by far his best yet: R&B and blue-eyes soul at its best. "Way to go Paolo, way to go", he thought. He left Meadows behind him, walking fast towards his destination. He needed that coffee and bun almost as much as the sensual music he was listening to.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Blogovision/My top-20 albums of the year - no.16: Chet Faker - Built On Glass


He could not believe he'd be seeing his favourite artist on-stage live tonight. Chet Faker at last was making an appearance in Jake's home-city and of course, he would not miss it for the world. Built On Glass was on his iPod on heavy rotation for months now, the erratic beats, the jazzy influence, the distinct vocals and atmospheric environment all but swallowing him in their otherworldly dimension. Most of his friends did not like it but Jake did not care. It would be him and Chet tonight. Live.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Blogovision/My top-20 albums of the year - no.17: Saint Saviour - In The Seams


Giselle was still waiting for Becky to arrive at the hotel. Already having her second cup of tea, she looked at the endless array of plates and platters and saucers filled with a variety of delicacies celebrating the venerable tradition of afternoon tea. She did not have much of an apetite. She'd rather hear from her friend all about her new record, how it came along, why she had decided to go down a less commercial but more artistic path and style. How she had eschewed beats and effects in favour of melodies and emotions. But the voice was still brilliant as ever, ready to reach the depths of your heart and mind. "Come on Becky!" she thought. And then a smile brightened her face: her friend had just entered the salon,

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Blogovision/My top-20 albums of the year - no.18: Banks - Goddess


Lilith had left the studio early. She wanted to listen again to the album they had been mixing lately and was ready for release really soon. They were supposed to finish in April but it took them a while longer to finalize it. Jillian was always changing things, usually minute ones but they really made a difference once they listened to the revised track one more time. She kept on joking how she and Lilith were twins: they looked alike a bit, had the same hairstyle and wore similar outfits every single time, as if their minds were fine-tuned to the same wavelength. Even the album cover photographer had taken some shots of Lilith styled like Jillian. Or Banks, as her moniker was now. And naming the album Goddess of all things! Lilith's brother was of course ecstatic; he thought it was perfect, as that's how he called Jillian every time he met her. Lilith laughed silently to herself, put her headphones on and started that atmospheric journey once more.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Blogovision/My top-20 albums of the year - no.19: Timber Timbre - Hot Dreams


Nadja banged the door behind her, threw her bag on the floor and went straight to the kitchen corner where the liquor was stashed. She picked the gin bottle and went over to the counter to make a huge gin and tonic. As if it wasn't enough that she was working as a stripper in that seedy nightclub, she had to meet the perfect guy right when she was gyrating on a pole. He had come over to film a video clip for his latest album - oh yes, he was a singer/songwriter this one. With a deep, sexy voice that tingled her spine and almost gave her an orgasm. And that music of his... oh my! It was as if each and every one of the songs in that damned album of his was written for her. She closed her eyes and tried to forget him. No such luck. Not with that funny nickname of his. Timber Timbre, huh! Nadja sure wanted to give him some Hot Dreams too.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Blogovision/My top-20 albums of the year - no.20: Nick Mulvey - First Mind


Remi was so happy he had finally his hands on Nick Mulvey's solo album, First Mind. He had loved Portico Quarteτ and was eager to see what their former percussionist would do on his own. He was not disappointed. It had a definitely folksier sound but it was also more personal and idiosyncratic, a brilliant work with varying influences and his distinctive voice highlighting the lovely songs. "Way to go Nick" he smiled as he drove away in his vespa.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Blogovision 2014 – A fine mess

Yes, it is this time of the year again - Markos is calling out again for entry into the blogovision countdown for the best albums of the year. This year's call for blogger friends is as upside down as our era: a fine mess. The time has come for # blogovision2014, the eighth in the series. Markos mentions a need for it to be renewed from the roots up and examine the motivation behind it: a true passion for music. So this year the blogovision 2014 focus should again be on what seemed to momentarily be overshadowed by the social nature of the event: the music and the passion with which we listen to it. So this year there should be a limit to entrants (only 100), so as to attract only people who really put their time, energy and emotions in the music they are listening to.


As Markos says, if you feel that you do it compulsively, don't do it. If you enter for the sex appeal, don't do it. If you play for appearances only, you're not ready. If you're addicted to grumbling and disputing, don't do it. If the whole thing seems to you to be elitist, systemic or trivial, keep out. If you have listened to 20 albums that you liked, we want you to tell us about them and make them known to us. Even those which e have already listened to. Because you listened to them in quite a different way than we did.

You know the drill.

How to enroll?

- In a comment on the respective post of Markos' blog, write:

1. your nickname
2. the blog where you will be voting (or one that will be hosting you as guest) and
3. last year's No.1 album for you.

When 100 participations are complete, that's it. Until November 30th.

What albums can you vote?

- Albums of 2014 or from December 2013 (as deadline you have their European release date according to Amazon.co.uk, from  01.12.2013 onwards and a US release according to Amazon.com or the Allmusic.com from 12.01.2013 onwards). Here you get a glimpse of what was released per month in 2014.

- Albums with original recorded material from the same artist. Cover versions albums and tribute albums count too, as long as they are from one artist (no compilations).

- Albums (LPs, mini LPs, EPs) with a total duration of at least 30 minutes and a total of at least six tracks. If the album is over 40 minutes long, the rule of six tracks is invalidated. An album eg with 4 songs of 11 minutes each counts as normal.

- It goes without saying that anyone who wants to vote for something other than the aforementioned regulations is free to do so. However, this entry will not be counted in the overall score and its points are invalid.

What's the process?

- Voting starts on  December 1st with your No.20 favourite albums for 2014. On December 2nd, your No. 19. Thus it goes forth until December 20th when we vte our  No. 1 album. The countdown is evaluative and not random. And please do not be late to post your entries each day.

- The 20 albums are the minimum. One may not be vote for less. Only the first 20 will get points (from December 1st). Those who vote less than 20 discs, will not count in the final vote ... (as they alter the overall result of the top 20 coming in terms of a top 20). Those who want to vote more than 20 albums, would be advised to have it done by 30 November (the 21st downwards).

The winners:
- The points every album gets from No.20 to No.1 to make up the final ranking shall be as follows:

No.01 = 35
No.02 = 29
No.03 = 24
No.04 = 20
No.05 = 17
No.06 = 15
No.07 = 14
No.08 = 13
No.09 = 12
No.10 = 11
No.11 = 10
No.12 = 09
No.13 = 08
No.14 = 07
No.15 = 06
No.16 = 05
No.17 = 04
No.18 = 03
No.19 = 02
No.20 = 01

- It is therefore very important to vote for merit and not randomly. Especially the top five gets an enhanced vote share and plays an important role in the overall score.

Let's enjoy this once again!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Sandman Chronicles on Poplie radio, 4th of October 2014 - season 6 première

Season première for The Sandman Chronicles on Poplie radio - it's my sixth year in the amazing Poplie family, again on Sunday noon Greek time (GMT+2). Hope you join us again this year. Below is the poster I made for the show plus the mixcloud player so that you can enjoy it again.


 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Kate Bush: Before The Dawn - a lifetime experience comes true

When Kate Bush announced back in March 2014 that she was returning on stage, after 35 years of not touring, to perform a series of concerts in London's Eventim Apollo (once Hammersmith Apollo, the last venue she played on her 1979 Tour Of Life), fans worldwide entered a state of shock, Initial disbelief segued into joy, then anxiety about securing a ticket or sorrow because it seemed impossible to. The fact that all gigs would only be performed in that venue made people start planning way ahead about the possibility of seeing her on stage, live, at last.


Of course not only die-hard fans scrambled to get a ticket when they finally became available. It seemed the whole world did. 15 minutes later, all were gone, all 22 gigs sold out. And despite the strict rules and conditions of getting a ticket and also securing the entrance (with photo ID), scalpers begun selling them on eBay and elsewhere in prices reaching £1500 (the most expensive tickets on regular sale, excluding hospitality packages, were £135).  People who were already subscribed to her website, got a special pre-sale code and secured tickets two days before the general sale. I was one of that happy lot.


Suffice to say, I could not believe that I would be able to see her live, be in the same room with her, when I secured the ticket and made all necessary arrangements for the London trip. It all became much more real when I arrived in the UK on the 10th of September and much more when the 13th dawned. Starting the day with a climb up on the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral seemed fitting: Her Top Of The City song featured in the set list and kept going through my mind as I enjoyed the incredible vistas of the city below me. Soon I would be listening to her singing it live.


Photo by Ken McKay/REX Kate Bush: Before The Dawn live at The Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, London, Britain - 26 Aug 2014

Getting to the Apollo was easy and quick, just a trip on Hammersmith, getting off at the same name station and there I was. Sporting an Aerial original t-shirt, it was easy to be spotted by other fans getting there. The camaraderie and sense of common cause of strangers meeting for the first time to see a favourite artist on stage was something I have never felt before in my life in any similar circumstance. But how can any circumstance be similar to seeing Kate Bush live?


Photo by Noble & Bright/REX Kate Bush: Before The Dawn live at The Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, London, Britain - 26 Aug 2014

Although  I had arrived relatively late, only 15 minutes before doors opening, getting inside was quick despite the huge queue unravelling outside Apollo. Even the ticket and ID checks were breezy and it seemed I barely had time to have the obligatory photo of me outside the venue. But what was more interesting was still ahead of us.


Me outside Eventim Apollo, giddy with anticipation. Photo taken by a lovely Norwegian chap I met on the Tube, who was attending for the second day in a row.

The venue was spectacular - an old art deco 1930s cinema that had been turned into a concert hall, Apollo had been in the last stages of refurbishing when Kate reached out to them to see if it would suit her needs. Happily it did and now we were inside, ready to be transported to the unique worlds of her imagination. But not before we made a dash for the official merchandise stands that were set up inside, ready to sell mementos to the fans. Must say that the program is one of the best ever: a veritable book, printed in great quality paper, with fantastic art and layout. Kate herself wrote the notes, telling the story of how all we would see and hear came to pass.


Before The Dawn stage, photo by Stratos Bacalis. 13th of September 2014

The stage was bathed in blue light. After snapping some quick photos of the theatre and the stage, some with me near it (yeay), I settled on my seat in the rear stalls and tried to make time go quickly by reading the notes in the program. Minutes before starting time (19:45) everyone was in their seats, waiting with bated breath.


Photo by Ken McKay/REX Kate Bush: Before The Dawn live at The Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, London, Britain - 26 Aug 2014

The first thing we heard was the intro/prayer to Lily, her song from The Red Shoes. The way she entered, barefoot, beaming that beatific smile of hers, accompanied by the line of her back up singers (son Bertie in tow) under the thunderous applause and cheers of the audience did not, could not, prepare anyone for what would later follow. Seguing immediately into the song, her voice, a bit rough during the first line but immediately finding its proper volume and tone, made us feel all warm and fuzzy and giddy. We were there. She was here. We wee together in the same room and she was smiling and singing to us. All was finally right with the world.


Photo by Noble & Bright/REX Kate Bush: Before The Dawn live at The Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, London, Britain - 26 Aug 2014

As she kept on singing song after song, in gorgeous renditions, greatly faithful to the album originals but embellished just that much to make them sound even better on stage, she prepared us for what was coming next: a theatrical production of The 9th Wave, her suite of songs from her 1985 Hounds Of Love album (of which she sang all but two songs). Ending King Of The Mountain (in its best form yet) with thundering music and two canons shooting golden yellow confetti towards stage and audience alike, some reaching even the circle seats, we were treated to a filmed sequence of an astronomer notifying the coast guard of a ship wreck called "The Celtic Deep".


Photo by Ken McKay/REX Kate Bush: Before The Dawn live at The Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, London, Britain - 26 Aug 2014

Then it was her, in the water, on a projection screen, all alone in the water, singing And Dream Of Sheep. Even having already read about it and having seen official photos, it still sent shivers down my spine. Even the theatrical bits inserted, with Bertie as her son, in a dialogue with his stage father about everyday things, blissfully unaware that their mother is in danger of dying, were not able to shake the sense of gloom and doom the rest of the set up lead us to.


Photo by Ken McKay/REX Kate Bush: Before The Dawn live at The Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, London, Britain - 26 Aug 2014

The staging and performance of this suite of songs kept everyone on the edge of our seats, going through the story of a woman drowning in the cold wild sea, even including a helicopter out on a rescue mission for her (a special light/speaker rigging travelling above the audience almost felt like the real thing). We felt like being there, in the sea, in the dark and cold of the night, living the moment along with Kate. Dancers dressed like Fish People ominously tried to take her into the deep - and seemingly at the end of Hello Earth managing to do so, taking her seemingly dead, on their hands, off-stage and through the audience,


Photo by Ken McKay/REX Kate Bush: Before The Dawn live at The Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, London, Britain - 26 Aug 2014

But then the screen became alight with her hand grasping a rescuer's hand and all was right again, seguing into a very happy, joyous celebration of The Morning Fog, the song closing the suite. Kate, the band, the backing singers and the dancers all on stage simply enjoying the moment (like they did throughout I must say), the audience clapping along with the rhythm. Kate was beaming with appreciation, like we were too. And then it struck me: she felt like a mother to us, full of pride and joy and unconditional love and respect that was beaming back and forth between her and the audience. She left us with the promise to return soon after a small intermission.


Before The Dawn, intermission. Photo by Stratos Bacalis, 13th of September 2014

The interval was needed - we had to gather our wits and out jaws from the floor, try to take in and comprehend what we had just witnessed before going forth with the next part. So after we were all refreshed and replenished, we took our seats again for the next part of our Kate journey. This time around it was another suite of songs that was elaborately staged by Kate and team (The KT Fellowship, ha!): Aerial's A Sky Of Honey. A journey through a day's end, from dusk till dawn, through birds and an artist (Bertie again as The Painter) with special quest Tesoro (Treasure in Italian) the puppet. 


Photo by Ken McKay/REX Kate Bush: Before The Dawn live at The Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, London, Britain - 26 Aug 2014

It is a completely different beast than The 9th Wave. Less literal as a story, with the surreal touches of the puppet and bird song (Kate performs Aerial Tal's birdsong even better than in the album recording), at times it gives away the difficulty of making it worthy of staging - bar the brilliant music. But Kate being Bush, she pulls it through superbly, with her excellent band and singers and dancers (mostly actors in this part) more than able to match her talent and prowess. My only pet peeve throughout this part is her son. Bertie may be the one who prodded his mum to return to stage after all these years (and be artistic director too), but his presence on stage does not match the rest of the cast neither physically (movement, acting) nor musically (his singing voice is probably not yet fully matured). Inserting the only new song of the performance, Tawny Moon, before Nocturne, for him to perform, Kate thrusts him squarely in the spotlight. He is only a teen yet, 16 years old, and it shows. But again, along with other minor imperfections, this makes this experience only more human and warm. She is a doting mother after all. And again, there is that feeling of unconditional love coming from her, this time more profoundly displayed in her affections for the puppet, which is continuously threatened by Bertie and the birds.


Photo by Ken McKay/REX Kate Bush: Before The Dawn live at The Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, London, Britain - 26 Aug 2014

Of course, this being Kate, and this being a journey from dusk till dawn, it is not all lovey-dovey (pun intended). The fear of birds displayed by the puppet, combined with Kate's slow transformation into a blackbird gives a sinister feel at some points, making the whole experience even more surreal. The magnificent lighting and projection effects enhance and support this, as well as the feeling of passing from an afternoon through the night towards the sunrise. There are moments when the stage looks like a literal reproduction of a renaissance painting.


The climax of course is Aerial, with its thundering beat and Kate shouting "I want to go up up on the top", and all that after Tesoro seemingly murdered a bird on stage. The puppet even comes "alive", walking through the stage unsupported by its puppeteer at the end, having broken the ties to whatever kept it down (coming of age?). Huge trees fall from above stage - one goes right through her piano. And Kate? She does become a bird, after going through the song wearing a black feathered wing on her arm while the band dons Venetian-like bird masks: at the very end, the scene is immersed in darkness, then a spotlight hits the huge Moorish double doors on-stage and Kate flies through them briefly towards the audience, having donned two huge black wings. It's only a moment - blink and you missed it. But it stays indelible in your mind, etched permanently there like all of this fantastic, otherworldly experience.


Photo by Ken McKay/REX Kate Bush: Before The Dawn live at The Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, London, Britain - 26 Aug 2014

Is it over? Of course not. She wouldn't end it all just like that. After thanking us again (she has thanked us so many times as we have given her standing ovations - a lot), everyone goes away, the stage goes dark and, after a few moments, she comes out again to rapturous applause and sits at the piano. If, even after this whole performance, one thought of her bursting into one of her more well known ballads, she has none of it. The song she performs is Among Angels, from 50 Words For Snow, her 2011 album (and last one to date). Brilliant, sublime, it becomes even better than the original studio recording. She gets up after it ends, again thanking us all and bringing the band, the singers and dancers on stage to take part in our admiration of her. She even jokes about "Who put this tree here?". And then rewards us again, this time with a brilliant version of Cloudbusting, the audience clapping along and singing along like a big happy family. And then, it is really over. We have to go home - "Travel safe" she bids us farewell.


The show is brilliant in every possible way and then some. It begins as a simple rock gig but turns into a theatrical extravaganza, like a West End musical mixed in a concert. It is immediately obvious why she picked this type of venue. As is the choice of material, especially after seeing the third act (if we consider the first six songs as Act I, The 9th Wave is Act II and A Sky Of Honey is Act III). Her voice in that is exactly like listening to the album. Same goes for the songs from Director's Cut like Lilly, which are more recent recordings. She cannot perform her older stuff with the voice she had back then, which is of course only natural. The 9th Wave and the rest of the Hounds Of Love songs do sound different than what one has been accustomed to listening. And they sure do - it is 29 years since they were recorded. But I like them even more now - having the experience of seeing them performed live makes them even more poignant, more coherent, making them take a life of their own. As is the case with the rest of the songs from these performances as well. And this is just one of her gifts.


I still have not quite properly comprehended what went on that night - just hope that the DVD coming out soon, after two of the concerts were filmed, will help with repeat viewings. What I do know is that this was the best concert/performance/show I have ever been too and it is highly unlikely that it will be surpassed for the rest of my life. Thank you Kate Bush - and all of the many talented people making up the KT Fellowship. Hope "it's only just begun" indeed.

Photos as credited above. All uncredited photos were taken from various Kate Bush pages in Facebook - if you recognize your photo and want it credited/taken down, please contact me.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Ciao Italia! The Sandman Chronicles on Poplie radio, 8/6/2014


I was inspired by the latest EP from Roisin Murphy, Mi Senti, to make an entire show dedicated to Italian song. Along with the five original versions of the songs she used for the EP, the show includes many familiar or no Italian songs by artists such as Mina, Lucio Dalla, Milva etc. I made the poster with a Monica Vitti image as she is one of my favourite actresses ever, plus you can hear her unique raspy voice in one of the songs included. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

10 reasons why Kate Bush's return is the most important thing

This article was written by esteemed Greek music writer Markos Fragkos for jumpingfish.gr and I decided to translate it to English so that it gets the much wider audience it deserves. So here it goes hoping I do both Kate and Markos justice.

Kate Bush announced 15 appearances at London's Eventim Apollo (Hammersmith Apollo for us older ones), in August and September of 2014. One can feel the global blood pressure of her audience making internet vibrate like a woofer. Ten Reasons to make your ehart beats rise even more with her return to the world :

 
1. Kate Bush is a living art legend. In the 55 years of her life she has won the status of an absolute guru of the postwar British music scene, not in the ways and practices commonly used by other successful artists but by doing exactly the opposite. Instead  of being overexposed, she practises selective secrecy and has a low profile. Instead of using marketing, she treats her public honestly. Instead of creating artificial needs for the public, she respects their real and current needs. Instead of bombarding media with images, she prefers subtraction. Instead of doing publicity at every opportunity, she choses hermetic secrecy. Appearing only when she needs to say something. Invaluable. Her only counterpart in my opinion comes from the world of film: Meryl Streep is a vibrant, artistic myth, with absolutely no "fat".


2. Kate Bush is probably the only artist in history that without even going out on tour, without even giving concerts, has her every album nailed at the top 5 of the charts in its week of release. She is the only one that has No.1 albums in five different decades. The most commercially successful British female artist of all time. In various online forums, her fanatical admirers (many, oh so many, and so disparate ethnically and culturally), for 35 years have been exchanging views and ideas about her mythical absence from the concert scene. They cry, complain, get angry, beg. You hear their sobs and a stuffy sense of wrongdoing come off their screens. You often feel they exaggerate. You justify them. You smile when the announcement of her appearances changes the rota of their conversation.


3. Kate Bush never did conquer America (thankfully so, because she wisely avoided the possibility of alienation) despite the best efforts of EMI to impose her there. The refusal of the American public, of course, has not only to do with aesthetic or cultural reasons but mainly with the fact that Kate Bush does not give concerts. Americans have their cultural experience by being into contact with their artists, they need to see them live before they make them a part of their lives.  They never saw her. Thus, only "Running Up That Hill" in 1985 licked the top 40 of Billboard. The cultural gap between the music of Kate Bush and the way Americans have learned to consume contemporary music is of course a chapter unto itself .


4. Kate Bush is the greatest storyteller I've ever heard. Her narrative ability is innate. It lives in her cells, she was born with it. The most important occasion of firing the imagination of people - receivers is recounting the narrative plot and adventures that can stimulate projections of everyone on them. Kate Bush tells stories that are bold, meaningful, shocking, artistically excellent in every respect . Essays and tales in a single framework. She has the balance of mental, emotional, philosophical, stylistic and melodic clarity that gives birth to important artistic works, although in our case we are talking about the form of pop. Artistic, embroidered pop. Insightful, progressive rock. Evocative, electric and electronic music. Post-classical. Whatever. Impossible to fit her into a frame.


5. Kate Bush is a musical genre unto herself . When she first appeared on stage with the great "Wuthering Heights", at 16 years of age when David Gilmour of Pink Floyd played her demo to EMI, punk was boiling in the atmosphere, times were changing , the music industry with them and the air of the era incriminated any suspicion of artistic dexterity as old and unfriendly. When Bush went to No.1 in Britain with this song in 1978, the great priestessess of punk but also the respected ones of the old order had already created unbeatable standards in their audience. On one hand there was Stevie Nicks and Joni Mitchell, on the other Siouxsie and Debbie Harry. In between came Kate Bush, a charismatic teenager who did not fit into any of those two camps, gave lessons of a different rivalry with the status quo. I remember the embarrassment of music critics having to rank the debut of "The Kick Inside" in some form. Some - ridiculously - lumped her in progressive rock as the aesthetics of the album cover refered semantically to dragons and otherwordly creatures with which progressive rock had been identified.


6. H Kate Bush created an archetype of an artist, so influential on the generations that followed, that you can comfortably talk about a "sweeping" phenomenon. Almost every artist of a particular aesthetic that emerges based on the essential, narrative word, has stepped on the precedent set by Kate Bush. All "narrators" that have hatched since the late 70s onward have a touch of the world of Kate Bush, often without positive results (Cocorosie, Joanna Newsom) - it is very difficult to reconstruct her overall artistic edifice. Remember Toyah. Tori Amos. Bjork. PJ Harvey. Bat For Lashes. Joan As Police Woman. Liz Fraser. Kate Nash. My Brightest Diamond. St. Vincent. Florence. The girl from London Grammar. Antony Hegarty. Brett Anderson. Rufus Wainwright. Patrick Wolf. Ed Harcourt. Hayden Thorpe... Remember whomever you prefer listening stories from their mouth set to music. Behind that is a small or larger nugget of Kate Bush. For thirty or so years, pop returns and takes prisoners from an everlasting artistic mark. Tricky said, " I do not believe in God, but if I did, my Bible would be the music of Kate Bush". And Ariel Pink dedicated to her "For Kate I Wait". 


7. As Kate Bush ages, she sounds more modern. Challenging every definition of pop music as a triumph of the ephemeral, Kate Bush has the magical ability to make music that as it gets old it simultaneously finds its place in history and sounds continuously, steadily and consistently timely and relevant, contemporary and of tomorrow. Kinda like having to always beat the banal. Her albums are the greatest example of what in discography is called "repertoire list". Consumed without a deadline. Listen, for example, today "Lionheart" from 1978. It could be a dark aesthetic current album being released by Secretly Canadian or Domino and no one would get wind that it came out 36 years ago.


8. Kate Bush writes songs to take with you to a desert island after a nuclear disaster. Songs you dance to, that you can hum. Songs that mean something to your life, that symbolize moments and feelings you have lived . Songs with exceptional heroes, with wise storylines , with impressive backgrounds. Songs that sound pop in your ears but sit like classical music inside you. Tracks that will never betray you under any circumstances. Tracks that are bold, shocking for the conservative listener (her lyrics are shockingly sharp). Tracks with ambitious orchestration, sublime synthetics, evocative in their sense. I still remember the bewildered look when I first entered the world of "Lily" from the "Red Shoes"... It starts with the ancient prayer Gayatri (an ode to the truth and the one-way of personal fullfillment) over and above pagan or theological clichés. Then, the interactive dynamics of the two heroines compose this truth into a fabulous plot: feel the 4 leading archangels to protect you from danger -Gabriel, Raphael, Michael, Uriel- around "a circle of fire and a pinch of salt "... All of this simple, understandable, mundane, into your heart, with the symbolism working every time you fear something...


9. Kate Bush is a complete artist, not only musically (composer - producer - multi-instrumentalist) and in the performing arts (actor - dancer - performer). Her muse is fully armed with the tools of literature (narrative - suspense - subversion - catharsis - atmosphere), but also the multitude of historical and cultural references with which she has enriched her music From Kathy and Heathcliff in Emily Brontë's "Wuthering Heights", to the linguistic controversies about the numerous words used by Eskimos for snow, Kate Bush is an artist inspired by the timeless dramas and thoughts that trouble humans eternally. As such, she tells stories that are not about insignificant human relationships, but the ones having to do with the depth and the true essence of emotions. Kate Bush has an open ticket to greatness.


10. Kate Bush is the connecting link between all the diversities of this world. I think of all who will flock to see her in her live appearances: Fans in their forties who follow her devotedly over the years but do not feel part of any particular social group. Fifty-somethings who have not cut their ties with rock and civilisation. The bourgeoisie who feel the compulsion to be all they "must" be and will go (without necessarily having ever listened to her music). Students of humanitarian and artistic studies that have done at least one project about her. Hipsters who behave like they dive into the chromosomes of their fairytale world before they were even fertilised eggs in their mothers' wombs. Civilized progressive rockers. Metamorphic post punks who have discovered the inspiration to Florence & The Machine. Artists of all kinds (if only just for the tearful slow clapping in the encore...). Dissenters who want to have arguments afterwards to strengthen their view that "Patti Smith is the thing - no Kate Bush" (they will return to their homes with flopped ears privy to the Bush experience). Feminists. Leftists who believe in a European perspective. Rightists who believe only in the value of the "old blood" (and not new money). Aristocrats. Copywriters of any kind (advertisers and writers). Curious who want to get a hint of what this fuss is all about on social networks. Obama. The whole of the New York-based intelligentsia. People who start their sentences with "I think ...". People who start their sentences with "I feel ... ". Perhaps visitors from Alpha Centauri...