Coming soon…Reeperbahnfestival

While Offbeat finds that the summer slump in the music industry does not really exist anymore, it has to be said that individual gigs are giving way to festivals during the summer and releases take place in September – we are getting fed album teasers until then.

Coming soon...Reeperbahnfestival

And yes, Offbeat was having a wee summer slumber as well…time flew by. But soon the posts will be flying out the window again. Before that I would like to draw your attention, if you would be so kind, to one the finest festivals ever: Reeperbahnfestival on Hamburg’s St. Pauli is coming up again, from the 19th till the 22nd of September. It is Germany’s answer to SXSW and just like its counterpart has a two-sided nature: It is a meeting point for the music industry with all that entails – label introductions, new artists being introduced, conferences, workshops and seminars. On the other hand we have the festival side with performances from the arts, movies, theatre and music of course.

Forget about trying to see everything, you can not. Especially since you will not be dragging yourself through a muddy, separate festival ground but will be visiting endless individual venues, differing in size and character. But that of course, is also the beauty of the Reeperbahnfestival. Hope to see you there! Keep your eyes peeled for news on the blog…coming soon.

Perpacity’s new album “The order of Now” – exclusive review

The order of Now - new album by Perpacity

In the blistering heat today, I enjoyed two things that cooled me down and chilled me out even and no, I did not laze about in a pool and no-one was serving me exotic, tongue-tingling cocktails or fanning me air. But close – I went for a great hike along a river and was given an exclusive first listen to The order of Now – new album by Perpacity. At least on the latter journey I can now take you with me.

But let us start at the beginning, way back in time. When I was very young, synth pop came along and found a dedicated follower in me. The extreme angles you could take on the music fascinated me: You could argue that there was true punk spirit to synth pop in as far as anyone could do it because no mastery of a traditional instrument was needed. Or you could marvel at the new sounds and indeed musical worlds opened up by machines that no human or no other instrument could produce. That, in fact, synthesisers, keyboards etc. were machines was what was bugging a lot of people. No heart, no soul, could come out of this music. Oh so wrong. Back to argument one that anyone could use it to express their inner feelings and their ideas perfectly without sheer desperation of not mastering an instrument well enough to do so. Also I found a lot of warmth and feeling, ranging from deep despair to jubilating joy in synth pop.

When I listen to synth pop nowadays, I find myself wondering, if I have gotten to old or maybe the music has not changed with me. In some cases it has. In some cases, artists have managed to retain the contagious spirit and the limitless possibilities, the DIY feeling and at the same time utter musical perfection and also fast-forward their music to the present and beyond.

Enter Perpacity. The British-Danish duo of Ian Harling and Martin Nyrup can rely on impressive musical experience and quite a back catalogue (saying that, it would probably be even bigger, that back catalogue if it was not for their perfectionism!) Long and hard they have been working on their new album and finally Perpacity have revealed the release date of their new œuvre “The order of Now”. September 7th 2018, right after the summer lull for instance via their Bandcamp site:  Thank you very much indeed to Ian and Martin for entrusting Offbeat Music Blog and of course my radio shows with an exclusive early bird listen to the album.

As always, I’d like to say, it can take months to get to know an album properly. Times might have changed. We consume faster and more superficial but it still stands for me: To get to know and love an album, you have to listen often, intensively and in all kind of situations. But I will try my very best to give you an initial impression.

The order of Now - new album by Perpacity

The wait for Perpacity’s new album might have been long but you will now be spoiled with a whopping 13 tracks on “The order of Now”.

With short “Alpha Exordium” the journey begins. Musically the intro already indicates what to expect: A polished production, wide landscapes, headphone moments galore. According to “Alpha Exordium” the album is going to be about the future and indeed new beginnings. Looking forward to silver linings here and no doom and gloom then.

Without spoiling all the surprises awaiting you: “Gone” is a perfectly polished melancholic pop song with hope rendered from a normal failing human lyrically. Followed by the dance floor sexy wonder of “More”.

Keeping up the speed but turning more story-telling and soundscapey now (more than a hint of Depeche Mode here, not a bad thing at all), song “Rule The Day” is a call to break the routing and dedicated to a certain Finn Narp

Calling for true love and honesty and support in the quest are melodious introspective “Love Is The Lie” and “Out Of Nothing” (where we even hear a bit of Danish).

“Telethon” is the second single of the album and already available and presents for me in a nutshell what musically the new album by Perpacity is all about: harmonious and dreamy, danceable at times, a good knack for melodies and loads of little musical gimmicks to discover that do not overload but are each in the right place.

Both “Telethon” and “Creeps Beneath Your Skin” are slightly bitter post-relationship analyses, I would presume, the latter riding along on a lighter poppier note though.

“Dance To Disco” might be misleading…she does not want to dance to disco…another look at the past and moving on with a song that I instantly liked as it sounds as if your slowing down a record ever so slightly, pulling the brakes on.

Perpacity are brimming over with melancholic but hopeful love songs and hooky melodies. The voice never comes too much into foreground but melts perfectly with the rest of the music, yet the lyrics are finding their way.

The final track “Omega Cacumen” is a short almost spiritual instrumental that has an open ending.

So that’s where Perpacity leaves us and I leave you for now. I do recommend warmly to give Perpacity’s abundance of new songs a listen and guarantee they will accompany a long time to come.

 

Recommended: New albums by Elkhorn, Mary Lattimore and Prana Crafter

“Lionfish” by Elkhorn (Eiderdown Records)

Recommended: New albums by Elkhorn, Mary Lattimore and Prana Crafter

Fervent readers of this blog will already be familiar with Elkhorn, the duo of Drew Gardner on electric guitar and Jesse Sheppard and their beautiful release “The Black River” gelling all forms of American guitar music into something wondrously excitingly new and yet heartwarmingly familiar. They are back with a new release called “Lionfish” on Eiderdown Records, an EP that features two very long tracks, not surprisingly named “Lion” and “Fish”. By all means, read the full story of the making of the record. In short: Drew was diving, met a gorgeous lionfish, touched it, got stung, enjoyed the venom. Jesse manufactured the venom into powder with which the duo experimented as an inspiration for the record. Is it true? I honestly don’t know. I do know, that both tracks on the EP hijack you into a long journey that will not bore you, too many exciting things are at the wayside and welcome rests and getaways included.

Prana Crafter: “Enter The Stream” (Sunrise Ocean Bender / Cardinal Fuzz)

Recommended: New albums by Elkhorn, Mary Lattimore and Prana Crafter

Which brings us to the very man who recommended Elkhorn to me in the first place. He goes by the name of Will Sol or musically: Prana Crafter. In the past few years I have been enjoying Prana Crafter’s cathartic mildly psychedelic music from the heart of the Washington woods immensely and am always looking forward to new releases. But this new one is very special indeed. Prana Crafter for the first time made an album that is not just a collection of tracks but is a story in itself, a mystical, unwinding, eye-opening, totally enjoyable one called “Enter The Stream”. I swear you hear that stream and the clear waters. I picture Prana Crafter in the house (for a change, as like me, he draws a lot of energy and life from nature around him), the walls being translucent and nature and music can just float in and these inspirations flow out of him again in the shape of music…for want of a better description: -)

Just like a stream the moods and instrumentation, the whole songs flow and float and take you with Prana Crafter. Something else is new, too, Prana Crafter sings! And that is a wonderful addition to the music which you can check out here:

Mary Lattimore: “Hundreds Of Days” (Ghostly International)

Recommended: New albums by Elkhorn, Mary Lattimore and Prana Crafter

You would assume that owning a harp as an instrument makes your music pretty specific, stuck to a certain genre and yourself pretty isolated (never mind dragging that instrument about). Not so for Mary Lattimore, she has of course played with so many artists now and on her own, that most of you will be well-acquainted with the singular rejuvenating style, with her openness to other music and with the appreciation of both fellow musicians and the listeners. She dared though, so she won! A restless traveller, a lovely person to meet and a musician who crafted a new album called “Hundreds Of Days”. And just like Prana Crafter, there is something very new about Mary Lattimore’s new album: She sings! And she plays other instruments! Both goes very well with trusted and beautiful “Harpie” and Harpie’s sidekick, the loop gadget. This is an intoxicating, floating, feather-light album, warm-hearted album that already gave me days of listening delight and hopefully will be a source for your enjoyment this summer too.

Enjoy your summer with these very special musical moments!

An interview with Mick Flannery

Mick Flannery hails from Blarney, Co. Cork, Ireland. For reasons that he reveals at his concerts, he has not kissed the Blarney Stone and might not have gained the gift of the gab, i.e. would not call himself talkative. Still, I can prove he can talk because here it is: An interview with Mick Flannery. Generally though, thankfully he pours all his wordsmithery into his songs that are acutely observed and razor-sharply worded held up by an uncanny talent for the melancholic and sometimes angry tune. The songs at times make you forget to breathe and they wrench your little heart.

He has released five albums so far, the lastest being “I Own You” (Universal). Currently he is on tour where you can catch him next week in Germany, followed by tour dates in the UK and later in summer in the US and Canada. Listening to Mick Flannery on record is the one thing, seeing him perform live the other. Not thinking he is a natural performer himself, he nonetheless has everybody’s attention not only through his music and his mastery of guitar and piano as well as owning a very soothing, yet rough voice (cannot explain it very well) that still can get shockingly loud – no, the banter in-between the songs is so deadpan and self-deprecating, it has the audience in tears, either with empathy or mirth or both.

Offbeat Music Blog had the fortune to see him perform at the beginning of April at Little Waves in Genk, Belgium and now again at the Poppodium Nieuwe Nor’s Kloostersessies in Heerlen, Netherlands. Indeed the gig took place in the chapel of an abbey, slap-bang in the middle of town and it is a very atmospheric place. Good sound, appreciative audience, a very friendly welcome. As usual, a big thank you to the Nieuwe Nor team for doing such a great job. Also thank you so much to Sheena and Susan at Blue Grace Music and of course Mick Flannery himself for making this interview possible!

Offbeat Music Blog: Thank you so much, Mick, for taking the time.

Mick Flannery: Yes, of course.

OMB: Let us start at the very beginning. You grew up outside a small place in Ireland and started doing music there as a teenager.

MF: I grew up outside the village of Blarney, a tourist town in Ireland. Music was a big part of my mother’s family. All of them, my aunts and uncles and my grandfather sang. They would have get-togethers at the pub sometimes and they would sing. A guitar would be passed around and people would take their turn. I got in to like the music they were singing, the different people like Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman and Bob Dylan. Then I started to want to be involved, so I started to play the guitar a bit. I had been doing some piano lessons as well which I didn’t really enjoy so much, so I gave up. I just concentrated on the guitar and then later went back to the piano. 

OMB: Did you take guitar lessons as well or are you self-trained?

MF: Self-trained but I had some chord books. The chord books were written vertically. For a while I didn’t know I was playing the guitar upside down. 

OMB: Because you are left-handed.

MF: I am left-handed but I was playing a right-handed guitar. But it hasn’t really affected me that much. But I guess it is a little strange for people to see, especially guitar players that can’t tell which chords I am playing. My hands look odd to them.

OMB: Does it put a strain on your hands?

MF: No, it doesn’t really affect much. I guess it is not the best method for doing solos like Slash or someone like that because the high strings are on the other side of the guitar. They are not so much available to you. But that’s okay, I get away with it. 

An interview with Mick Flannery

OMB: You are sort of dismissive of your earlier work, finding it not so original. I do hear more original Mick Flannery in your newer albums. Have you found the real Mick Flannery?

MF: I don’t know if I have. With the earlier stuff I can hear the definite influences of Tom Waits. And I can hear myself emulating his voice too much. It kind of annoys me and embarrasses me now. I still use americanisms when I write. I find it hard to get away from using American phrases. It’s just seems to be the language of songwriting in the English language. It seems to use americanisms like the word “ain’t” appears a lot in songs but it doesn’t appear in common parlance, especially on this side of the Atlantic. For that reason I don’t know if I’ve actually found any Mick Flannery voice as yet. Maybe when I am older. I am still a stew of influences at the moment. 

OMB: I do find that in your later albums there is less a mix of genres and it becomes a more definite style. But in Ireland there would be a strong tradition of being connected to the US anyway, also musically, rather than to England?

MF: That’s who my family were interested in. That’s true of Ireland in a lot of ways. We import and seem to have some affinity with country music as well. Like Johnny Cash is big in Ireland. And I guess because of our history with England, we feel less obliged to follow their musicians (laughs) even though we follow their soccer teams religiously…a strange thing. For me anyway, there is a lot of American influence. Which is fine, there’s been a lot of very good music coming from America.

OMB: Absolutely nothing wrong with it. You were signed at a young age to a major label in Ireland. Was that luck or is it also because Ireland has such a low population?

MF: It was a mixture of things, I guess. The last point is definitely true. It is a low population. It is a small market for the music industry. So a big label – I mean there’s only a few labels in Ireland, I think, there might be only two left really. People would have their own small labels but they would be only for individual work really.  And lucky? I guess so. Even though the timing would seem to be bad, considering the changes in the industry. By two years into my contract, the industry was having a panic attack due to the technology’s influence. Not long afterwards, EMI itself, the company who’d signed me, was sold to Universal. So I found myself in a move from one stable to another without really…I guess what sometimes artists really need is a champion on the business side, someone who has some type of emotional bond or pride attached to you doing well. That may have slightly disappeared once I moved from EMI to Universal because it wasn’t Universal’s idea to sign me really. I was just moved over. Not that they haven’t worked but it is just: I am not their baby. Yeah, Ireland is a small market, so it’s possible if I were more forward thinking and ambitious, I would have tried to go abroad and get a record deal. Then I’d have been more likely to have a worldwide record deal rather than just an Irish one which is a little bit restrictive. 

OMB: Did you ever think of self-promoting or self-releasing or would that not be your thing at all?

MF: Well, back to lucky. I have been lucky enough not to have to do it too much. And that makes me really bad at it. I have always been bad at self-promotion and I don’t really see myself getting better at it. I got spoiled, I think. 

OMB: When you wrote your albums, did you have a goal in mind, something that you wanted to achieve in particular with the album?

MF:  Yeah, sometimes. The album that is the most cohesive is the last one before the new one (“I Own You”, 2016, Universal) “By The Rule” (2014, Universal) which was all done in a small time with live takes. It gives it a sound of itself. Then to listen to it, I sometimes feel it feels longer, that there are too many songs on it or that it sounds all too the same. The last album was more of a departure into different types of production. Some of it sounds more aggressive. A friend of mine said to me that it seems to him that, me included, but a lot of other artists as well, seem to have reactions to their previous work. So they create a work and it is, say, missionless or blind as to what it is going to be and it is just a bunch of songs. And then have a reaction to this. “I don’t want to do that anymore, I want to do something else”. So you just do the other. And then you move on to another again. I can see what he meant. I see it in myself as well. I guess if there was any arc or progression, it would be from the topics, the subject matters of the songs. When I was younger, a lot of them were personally based, personal experience. As I get older…I think as people get older they think less of themselves as individual and their feelings so unique, they start to view the world a little more broadly. So rather than writing about your condition, you tend to write about the human condition a bit more. 

OMB: I saw you play at Little Waves festival in Genk, two women were sitting behind me and they kept exclaiming: “Oh dear, oh dear, aaaaaw, the poor man. Oh dear. Such heartbreak. Too much for an individual person to bear.” I found your announcements actually very funny because they are so deadpan but I would agree: Too much for one person. Are these all your experiences or do you abstract it too and use other people’s experiences?

MF: Part of it would be personal. Then there are other ones that are, not so much stolen but I kind of attach myself a little bit or something. There are songs which aren’t autobiographical but you can’t help but have some piece of yourself seep in. So I do pretend to be other people sometimes. When I hear them speak or hear them use some turn of phrase that kind of encapsulates their whole life at that point for me, then I take that and put it in. I take on characters sometimes. I get to the melodies first and the melodies kind of ask you to write a certain thing because the melody won’t support any different subject matter. If the melody sounds pining, then you write towards it. If you buck away from it and the melody is pining but wrote something really angry, then that is not going to really work. 

OMB: Your songs are more on the, well, not negative scale, but on the angrier, more melancholic side. There are not too many happy songs about in works. As much as I would wish someone well and to be happy, would you still be able to write songs? Are you at your most creative when you are not happy?

MF: I would think so, possibly, yeah, because it stirs your brain up. It makes you uncomfortable, it makes you kind of different to what you normally are. It throws a storm around in your head as you consciously try to figure it out. That is probably a good time to be creative. I found in the past that when things are going badly or someone wrongs me or if I am angry, in some situations that can be useful. 

OMB: Do you find it cathartic?

MF: Yeah, it would help. If you are getting back at someone especially. (Lots of laughter). “Can’t wait for them to hear this! Bastards!” (More laughter).

OMB: When you perform older songs, does this transport you back in time or do you find the songs get a new meaning?

MF: You have to kind of apply it elsewhere, I think. Because the feelings of the time are gone, pretty much, beyond you. If the songs is good enough, the audience members will be able to attach themselves to it as well. If the song is able to do that for them, it should be able to do it for you as well. You should be able to apply different meanings to it as you moved on from the original one. That’s why people don’t use specific names and specific incidents or sometimes they do. In that sense the songs don’t really last. 

An interview with Mick Flannery

OMB: You spent some time in Berlin to get out. Why out of all places Berlin? I would have probably seen you choosing the US more like.

MF: I don’t know really. A friend of mine had been to Berlin. He said it was a great place to go with a lot of art happening there, a melting pot of different nationalities. That was true. I like my time in Berlin even though it was a little bit kind of solitary. I just wanted to move somewhere I think. There was a promotions company interested in working with me around Germany. One of the albums had been picked up by the EMI branch of Germany. So I thought, if there is going to be a bit of work around, I might as well be there rather than go to America and have to cross the Atlantic. I just wanted to get away from my comfort zone. I’d been knocking around Cork City in Ireland for ten years, leaving away from home, drinking too much in the same places, not really doing anything new. I got sick of myself.

OBM: How long did you spend there?

MF: I was there for three months the first time I went. And then, I think it was a year and a half the second time. 

OBM: You spent some time in New York too.

MF: I spent three months in New York when I was twenty-one. Knocking around singer-songwriter nights and stuff like that. That was my first delve into ambition. But I didn’t really believe in myself that much. I didn’t have enough songs anyway and I shied away from it and went back home. 

OBM: You were very young though.

MF: Yeah, it’s hard to know. Sometimes I give myself a hard time for not sticking it out in New York and say to myself, oh, you should have stayed there and gone properly ambitious and met the right people. But I don’t know. It’s hard to say. Maybe I have a bit of a home bird instinct in me. Or maybe I just like a quiet life. 

OBM: Well, New York is hectic.

MF: Yeah, I just don’t know. What I enjoy most is writing songs and it seems to take me quite a while to ferment stuff. I can’t rush myself. My brain works as fast as it works. It seems a have a certain gearbox in my head and I am stuck in one of them (laughs) and I can churn out maybe sixteen songs every two years, maybe a little bit more. Then twelve of them will be worth being on an album. I am okay with that. I am kind of okay with the level of ambition I have had as well, the level of success which has been good. It hasn’t been astronomical but it has given me my own space to do what I really like to do.

OBM: And you can live on it.

MF: I am not rich, so I am not detached from society.

OBM: Still grounded, yeah. 

MF: Yeah and I am not super famous, you know, it’s fine.

OBM: You also work or maybe not so often now as a stonemason. A lot of people see a contradiction between working as a stonemason and as a musician. It is not really, is it? Both being creative professions.

MF: Yes, it is and I liked it. I still like it. I don’t do as much as I used to. It is creative and it is kind of calming. If I go on holidays, I have to bring a guitar because I don’t play the guitar. It calms me down. Building is probably a bit harder physically than playing the guitar but it calms me down. It’s relaxing – as long as it is not snowing on you. (Laughs).

OBM: Is there any other artist you would like to work together with? Maybe in Ireland which has such a huge music scene for a relatively small place?

MF: Sometimes, yeah. I don’t know, look, I don’t know I could work with anyone else because I am kind of such a solo artist, I guess. It’s nice to meet the other people in the business and be on a gig with them or have a chat about what it’s been like for them. Maybe have a singsong somewhere – that’s always fun. I have been doing a few more bits of co-writing recently which is interesting. It is never the same. Whatever comes out is always a little bit scary for me, because it’s not really mine and there are things about it I would change and avenues I wouldn’t have gone down maybe. We’ll see. The Irish music scene is good. It seems it’s always been healthy. I guess there’s just a lot of people around. The younger generation is always going to see someone is doing it, someone getting somewhere with it. They can see the bigger examples of it like, I dunno, U2, Phil Lynott or Van Morrison. Big examples of people who have gone far in that industry. I guess they just believe they can do it to.

OBM: I found that in Ireland people, especially young people, still attend gigs a lot and go to record stores and play themselves rather than just listening to a list of what’s offered to them on the charts or by the music industry. There is more of a go out and get it, a looking for it attitude, I reckon.

MF: The Irish are good music fans as well and they pride themselves of having a good knowledge of music, not just pop music.

OBM: You do record with a band. I suppose, you perform with the band in Ireland but you did not bring them with you abroad?

MF: It is a financial restriction, you know. The gigs aren’t big enough in Europe at the moment to be able to afford to bring a band. I would like to even though it is so unhealthy. Too much fun.

OBM: Too much partying?

MF: It is impossible to avoid. It is just a circus. It is a pity because it so much fun when the guys and girls do come.  They have all such fun and I really enjoy the fact that all this fun is slightly because of me. It makes me feel good. I kind of regret that I can’t always have that party going on.

OBM: Stating that what you like most is writing the songs, would you call yourself a natural performer?

MF: No, I wouldn’t have been but I am getting better at it the more comfortable I get. I am just more experienced now. I kind of know what will work at various times. I think I can get a feel for the audience when they are getting bored. I don’t really have a setlist. I am long enough in the tooth as well – I have five albums worth of stuff. So I don’t really have to get bored myself. I can pick stuff from here and there. I always have to play more upbeat songs to break the rhythm of the evening but that’s okay. 

OBM: At present you are not only on tour, you are also writing new songs. What direction are the new songs going in?

MF: There’s a lot to do with desire and ambition actually and the internal battle that people have with their dreams and their goals, the level of pride you might attach to your status in whichever field you are striving in. So that’s kind of a buddhist album (laughs). It is a little bit of a brain exploration, I guess, in parts. So more of the human condition stuff again. 

OBM: Are you ambitious?

MF: Not really, no. I dunno, pride does peak its head up now and again. (Long thinking pause.) I guess if you work a lot at something and the quality is good and you felt that you had worked hard at getting lyrics right…It’s hard to think about it. There is some ambition lurking around at the back of my head alright. I don’t know where I’d like to be. But I know when I get there, I won’t be happy (laughs). I think I’d like to meet some of the people that I like in the business like Tom Waits or Bruce Springsteen. But that’s true for a lot of people. A lot of people would like to meet them (bursts out laughing). Maybe there’s some part of me that would like to play a song to Bruce Springsteen and have him say that it’s good. That’s an ambition of mine. I dunno, I sometimes think does acknowledgement become addictive? Do you get addicted to positive appraisals? This is part of the unhealthy stuff…maybe not healthiest stuff to have in your head. It’s important to be happy to be just happy yourself with what you have done. There is a guy I really like in Ireland. His name is Blindboy Boatclub. He’s from a band called The Rubber Bandits. He talks a lot about self-evalutation and self-actualisation, having an internal locus of evaluation rather than exporting it to somebody else which I think is wise. I must try and keep that up.