It’s the second day of my countdown. For those who read this the first time: I have asked some of my favourite artists of this year to write me a list with their favourite albums. I tried to reach artists and bands from different countries, genres, ages and backgrounds. With the second musician I have someone who is someone I adore for his music and beyond. It is the musician I have seen very often, probably I haven’t seen anyone more often in concert in my life: Elyas Khan. This year I have seen him on his own, with his drummer Romain and with Sxip Shirey and Romain as the force of nature that Gentlemen & Assassins is. There will be more words about him in my own list, so now read on and enjoy his list.
Best of 2012 music by Elyas Khan
I jotted down artists in the order that they came to mind. I find listing a top ten nearly impossible: it’s mostly done for marketing music anyway and that is not my intention here. This article is more a series of impressions that certain recorded music and artists had on me this year…Some I mention may not have even been released this year but were artists that I listened to frequently.
I was turned onto Alt J by a drummer friend of mine from London. These young musicians from Cambridge England seem like informed, educated people: they delve into musical forms both from within and without their immediate surroundings. Their sound resonates the influence of a culturally diverse population …like Vampire Weekend before them this means taping into vocal, rhythmic and melodic aspects African music combined with the now almost ubiquitous Asian flavor in Britain. Make no mistake though these lads are British through and through. I find them much more interesting than Vampire Weekend and I hope they continue to really explore and dig deep in the future. Great promise.
Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean seem cut from the same cloth.…Good songs all pretty much vibing on a heavy R&B, hip hop angle with a confessional, humble, story telling lilt lyrically. … Makes for an easeful yet grooving listening experience…I hope they get to mature with broader perspectives on the human experience and even more experimentation musically.
Tom Waits, Bad As Me is another solid record by the old bard. He’s got great grooves and sticky licks going on as usual and there are some wonderful lines to the stories in there: “Everybody knows umbrellas cost more than the rain”.
Ramshackle recording environments with stellar musicianship and state of the art engineering. I’m a sucker for this stuff.
Must say I was happily surprised by this one. The newly found sheen of production by Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) has done wonders for the representation of this New Orleans legend. So much good stuff working here: Ethiopique influences, fat ass funk lines, the horn section kills it with that Baritone sax, political uprightness, social commentary…This is a sampler’s wet dream
Bobby Womack. “The Bravest Man in the Universe” His voice was the best thing at the Gorillaz gig I went to in Berlin. This record digs deep and discovers the heart of the man. Only tiny bit of critisism is that it could have done without the stoner fiddling with gadgety sounds and gone more for a richer atitiude in parts. That being said I’ll be listening to this record for some to come.
Liane La Havas has a lovely, rich voice and interesting arrangements that capture the attention immediately. These are pretty much relationship songs but perhaps it’s the crystal clear tone of her voice and the silky, languid vibrato that gets me. She has the Zadie Smith (author of White Teeth) vibe of London with a carefully cultivated and trained persona built to impress. I smell a major diva in the making. I’ve been asked to by several people to cover her stuff, they mention similarities.
I just hope she roughs it up a bit in future, such is my own personal taste.
Odd future/Tyler the Creator/DeathGrips/Earl Sweatshirt. Four artists that I have rudely lumped together. At the same time I’m sure these guys couldn’t give a fuck anyways. They are smack in the face brilliant, truly nasty and get the fuck out my face irritating. I like all sides.
Siriusmo Doctor Beak’s Rantanplant (2012) The most interesting music in Berlin for my taste. Visual artist and mind blowing electronic musician/producer. Next level beats indeed.
Conny Bauer The single best soloist I have seen in this country. Great Trombone master from the former DDR.
Budzillus. Because they are my friends and I want to shamelessly promote their music even though I think it’s shit. Just kidding my homies.
Gentlemen & Assassins: ditto except for the shit part…it’s a one off unique collectors item…a time capsule for me.
I had the idea and a booked a tour was booked before we even had a name or songs. Managing to recruit great New York Composer Sxip Shirey and legendary Dresden Dolls drummer Brian Viglione was a stroke of very good fortune. We made two six country tours and this record.
Grizzly Bear “Shields”…feels like a real, full album not just a collection of singles. There are bands like Johnny Society that imbue this very particular American pathos and vocalization though I feel this band is emotionally evocative, inventive and rememberable in a way that is very rare.
Anything by Deerhoof or new film score by Mark Mothersbaugh for a Wes Anderson film is always welcome.
Arvo Pärt: Ilove watching this clip of him working on arrangements for “My heart is in the highlands”.
My favorite rao free styler of the year is Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire hands down
Why rap?…Stories..I want stories.
Ratatat: Anything they produce I’ll be listening to.
Ratatat has incredible production value and actual musicianship. Their last two efforts were recorded at Old Soul in Catskill, New York. A place dear to my heart and where I made two Nervous Cabaret records.
The XX just trips me back to my clove smoking mopey days, waiting in line for all ages shows, scribbling away my first attempts at being an artist in my note book…In the same way that The Cocteau Twins did except that was 25 years ago when this genre of music in pop was first created. Interpol’s1st record has the same effect for me also.
Godspeed you Black Emperor-Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
Animal Collective - Centipede HZ
Diplo: I’m a big fan. I really like this song by one of his projects Major Lazer. It features the alluring voice of Dirty Projectors memberAmber.
Tuneyards…I will listen to anything by her. Brilliant. What a voice.
(Editor’s note: Today, 21. December 2012, Elyas and Romain Vicente will play at the Trans Glam Christmas Bash, Südblock, Berlin. I can just highly recommend them over and over again. For further information: https://www.facebook.com/events/515531555137778/)
Another month is over and this means I have been to another Clusterfuck at White Trash Fast Food in Berlin. This time Elyas Kahn played two sets with “a band” and this was one of the best shows I have seen of him. He had two drummers on stage and just like everyone else who has been there I want him to have two drummers at every single show he plays from now on. I am not saying this because I love a lot of drums (and bass) in general. I just haven’t realized until this evening how much his music demands a lot of percussions. And he also had Peter D’Elia (The Beez) on Banjo and once on Bass when he swapped instruments with Elyas…well, actually Elyas played guitar most of the time, once banjo and then drums once as well and bass. And he had invited Chris Lastelle for bass. Eric Durso (Budzillus) who played more often with Elyas took over one of the drums and the other one was in the hands of Romain Vicente. Romain pretty much just moved to Berlin and Elyas and him had one rehearsal. It was amazing. I feel like repeating myself. I am not sure how often I have tried to put Elyas music and the way he sings in words and it feels like failing every single time. It feels like a fusion of his roots - New York, London and India or something like this. Maybe this helps:
And on Saturday I was at Erik Penny's Sofa Sessions - an slightly different environment but again friends sharing the “stage”. I think in UK everyone would call it a house show. Well, this time it was more about the wonderful Miss Kenichi and Earl Harvin. She makes beautiful sad music and has such a beautiful voice and plays guitar. And Earl plays a bit of drums, harmonica and such a little casio thing. What was the most fascinating for me was how Earl played. He played very gentle, he made this almost silent little sound to underline the mood. And then when he touched his instrument he always seemed to be so respectful to them. After they played I overheard* Katrin Hahner talking to others saying how she writes her music with space in it to leave room for the listener and also her band mates, just not to overload a song with lyrics. When I sat there on the couch, listening and watching her for the first time it felt like a perfect balance. And I remember to think of something thick like honey but warm during the concert.
Katrin Hahner studied stage acting and art, is doing exhibitions with her painting every once in a while and has already released two albums “Collision Time” and “Fox”. I think she is currently working on the third one. I need to get my hands on these and see Miss Kenichi again (which is not difficult because they are from Berlin and will play here in August again).
Erik played a few new songs before and after Miss Kenichi and that made me well excited about his new album even though he is still writing for it and we will have to wait quite a bit for it. He is a singer-songwriter and I think he is in this Americana genre. To make this waiting time shorter I bought his newest live album from last years sofa session. I have been at one of the dates and it was amazing. He played with his band (incl. cello), showed how awesome his music is and also how funny he is. I think the more often I see Erik the more I fall in love with his music. I am not sure when “Live at the Sofa Sessions” is going to be released officially (it should be soon) but I’m well happy to have a physical copy at home since it is going to be digitally release. The only problem is that I want to see Erik playing a full set again - missed a few opportunities in the last months (stupid me).
A photo from the first Sofa Session I have been to in August 2010:
Thank you for reading,
*For some strange reason I have been even more shy than usual and didn’t say much and I was just agreeing/listening.
There are no words, no pictures, no videos that could describe the last Thursday. I can’t think of any. It was a Clusterfuck.
The last 1,5 days I was walking through the streets of Berlin, smiling while remembering what happened and keep on thinking when I saw someone else who wasn’t there “You have missed out so badly you poor soul!”. This time it was even more special than usual. Elyas Khan played two sets (instead of a band he usually invides) and he invited a lot of his friends (= musicians), so it was amazing. And amazing doesn’t cover it at all. People were going on stage and joining Elyas and Eric D’Urso (BudZillus, on drums through the whole thing). I can’t even start to name everyone who was there. Every single one seemed to be so excited to get on stage and do something there, play their instruments or sing. And it was fascinating to watch them at the beginning of the song focusing on each other, watching each other and then after a little bit a smile flashing over their face when everything fell into place. They all seemed to be happy and enjoyed what was going on. It was like a big public jam and its backbone were Elyas Khans (Nervous Cabaret) songs like “Mel Gibson”. And a cover of Tears for Fears “Shout” with Kitty Solaris on vocals, Dom Bouffard sang one of his songs and a couple of people played and song together on “Alabama Song” and so on.
I took a lot of photos while dancing and watching and enjoying all this hoping to get a single one which could show what clusterfuck is but it didn’t really work out (I can forget about filming it straight away because the sound is just too bad in the end and it wouldn’t help at all). Here are some of those photos (in no specific order) - I am sorry for mediocre quality of them.
The beginning - only Elyas (and Eric who is not on the photo but would be on the right) and an empty stage:
This is Elyas and Kitty Solaris:
Lots (= 3) of members of BudZillus (Thomas Prestine, Robert Kondorosi, Eric D’Urso) and Elyas (and the heads of people in front of me):
Watching and playing:
Hm….maybe this could give you an idea…
Dom Bouffard - not playing his some but some time later back on stage:
Young & not that young anymore on drums:
Not sure who the first person is, Saudia Young (beautiful voice, so deep), Uwe Langer (17 Hippies, trombone, it was interesting to watch him - he stood there with his eyes closed to hear what everyone was playing and then smiled and played), Dom, Elyas….
Nino Ruggieri (Berlin Sling), Saudia Young during the Alabama Song:
Dom Bouffard playing his song:
At the beginning. Someone (Thomas Prestin) is unpacking his saxophone:
I won’t be on the next Clusterfuck since it is on the 17. February and Tubelord are in town - everything good always comes in clusters (and bad as well but who cares about that anyway?).
Thanks for reading
Sometimes the whole week is just calm and I thought mine was - not really. Had the chance to go to two concerts but since my current situation I just allow myself one or less concerts a week - I don’t like it, probably no one would. The first one would have been Elyas Khan acoustic supporting Israeli singer Avital Raz and the second one was this month Clusterfuck presented by Elyas Khan and with a One-Man-Rock Band called Fredovitch. He is also a member of King Khan and the Shrines. It’s never an easy decision when you think beforehand that both things must be great but in very different ways and can never be compared.
My first thought was to go to Avital. I have listened to her music on her myspace and thought it was so beautiful. Her voice is very interesting and so are her melodies. You can definitely hear her roots. I am currently (mostly, not all the time) in more of an acoustic mood or less loud rock music. It must be the winter I guess. And then came the snow on the evening of the concert. It’s a bit of a pain to leave the house when you have been there all day and take like an hour trip to a concert (at least) when it just started to snow heavy. And I read that she will be playing in Berlin on the 17. Dec (Heroes) and 15. Feb (Madame Claude), so I can and will see her at a later point. I’ve heard from people who were there that she and her partner were really good.
The next day it was Clusterfuck time. Expect the unexpected. Not long ago I saw Will Samson (Himalaya) playing in his “musical cage” (read here) and creating sounds. Fredovitch build a cage around himself as well but it was certainly a very different one. A zebra print drum set, guitar, organ (probably) and quite a few other things. (Again SO sorry for bad photos, forgot my memory card and some are made with my cell phone/mobile but they give a better impression of the “cage”.)
Don’t you just have to love zebra print drums and a plush tiger head on top of it? He made what I would like to call pure loud Rock. He had to make a short first set due to technical problems but it was nevertheless good. And trust me when I say he didn’t sound like one man for a second. I think that is beyond great! The second set was much better, less technical problems, more dancing! And of course the thing Clusterfuck is about. By the end of Fredovitch’s set, Elyas came back on stage, played a song and then musicians who are in the audience were free to participate them on stage. This time it saw two members of Budzillus (drums, saxophone, Budzillus is a German band who describe themselves as oriental swing punk and just give them a listen-it’s fascinating!), a member of the stuff of White Trash (some electric thing of Fredovitch) and Tomi Simatupang (singing, guitar, his music is somewhere between Pop and Jazz and everything in between). Tomi “replaced” Elyas on guitar and sang a bit. It was amazing. I tried to hear every single one of them when they played together and all together. I usually don’t watch what everyone is doing and playing on stage but I thought I try and see what every one is doing and hear things like the saxophone or when Tomi sang during the last part. And see how they all concentrate, watch each other, listen to each other and as well enjoy each other.
It’s really difficult to tell in words how them made a great sound playing together for the first time. But it was enjoyable, danceable and pure, pure fun! I wish it just wouldn’t stop so fast or what feels like being too fast. It’s not a lie when I say I could watch this for an hour. :)
Thanks for reading and if you’re in Berlin during the next Clusterfuck, just go there. It is so much fun!