The KT Fellowship
Before The Dawn
Half-Life Music may be approaching its fifth anniversary, but this is the first chance I’ve had to say something about a new Kate Bush release. I’m lucky. I might easily have had to wait another five years before I got the chance. Anyway, the occasion has clearly gotten to me, because instead of the usual beautifully crafted review, here are five more or less random thoughts on the magnificent Before The Dawn:
- It’s emotional. It’s emotional for Kate. It’s emotional for the crowd. It’s just emotional. It’s not like I’m one of those people who’s switched from Christmas to Katemas (30 July), but it means a lot to hear her sing a song like ‘And Dream Of Sheep’ after all these years. Truly, it’s an emotional experience.
- More than ever, it makes me crave a Director’s Cut 2. As her voice deepens, new textures emerge in all of the older songs. It would have been lovely to have heard one or two more, but at least we’re treated to a version of ‘Never Be Mine’ that was never performed in the live set.
- There’s still an unmistakeable ’80s vibe to the playing particularly on Act One. It’s the unforgiving percussion and the bass that does it. But even the newer songs sound like they could have been premiered on Wogan. And that’s just fine.
- Individual songs on The Ninth Wave can be just as transcendent as the album versions, but here the whole is a little less than the sum of the parts. The BBC Drama-style dialogue is mainly to blame. But there’s a sense that the story has been told a little too literally and that the some of the wonderful mystery has been lost. What it all means is that for Act Two, you really had to be there.
- Actually, it’s Aerial that’ll end up being remembered as her classic album. Here, there’s not even room for such sublime tracks as ‘Pi’, ‘Mrs. Bartolozzi’, and ‘A Coral Room’. Even so, the versions of ‘Joanni’ and ‘King of the Mountain’ stand out. And it’s almost impossible to imagine that a live version of ‘A Sky of Honey’ could outshine the original, but it does. It’s more coherent. Slightly funkier. And there’s no sign of Rolf Harris.
Before The Dawn has helped make a horrible 2016 just that little bit better. That’s recommendation enough. Oh, and it comes with a lovely little booklet too.
John Statz – The Fire Sermon
I’m happy to announce that the legendary John Statz has a new album in the works. It’s his eighth album. His last album was called Tulsa. It was totally great. In fact, it was reviewed more than favourably on this very blog, making an end-of-year list no less. Anyway, the new album is called The Fire Sermon and it’s scheduled for March 2017. But … John Statz needs your help. The songs are in the can, but to fund everything from the mixing, to the mastering, to the pressing of the physical copies, to the artwork, to the publicity, and more, he needs some financial help. So, he’s launched a Kickstarter campaign. His two previous albums benefited from a similar campaign. Hopefully, this one will be just as successful. I’ve made a small donation. I’m encouraging you to do the same. It’ll be worth it. The clips from the new songs sound really good and upbeat. Like all good Kickstarter campaigns, the benefits you receive increase as the amount you pledge increases. My favourite is the $500 or more pledge. With this, you get all the music. Yeah, yeah. More importantly, you get a special 20-page paper written by Professor Statz, arguing for or against the success of any US president up to and including Andrew Johnson. As a bit of a presidential buff myself, this one really appealed to me. I think I’d have gone for William Henry Harrison, just to make the challenge extra special. Anyway, if you like good music and have a little money to spare, head over to the John Statz Kickstarter page and make that pledge.
Pixie Geldof – I’m Yours
Be willing to suspend disbelief. For Pixie Geldof is the most revelatory new artist of the autumn. Her debut album instantly invokes ideas of pop schlock. But this is no exercise in anonymous auto-tune. No collection of sub-standard Eurovision song contest entries. This is a really coherent set of moody, mid-tempo ballads. The jumping off point is unquestionably Lana del Rey. But it’s not the Lana of Blue Jeans or Video Games. It’s the Lana of Ultraviolence and Honeymoon. The mature Lana. The Lana who’s taken control of her output. And that’s what’s so impressive about I’m Yours. It feels like the work of someone who’s exercised agency and made her own musical choices. And they’re good choices too. ‘Sweet Thing’ is built around a wonderful chorus. The title track has a lovely trippy quality. And ‘Escape Route’ builds up tension just nicely. For sure, Pixie’s not sitting next to the phone waiting for a call from the Committee for the Nobel Prize for Literature. “I lost myself in California, ‘Cos darling you’re so beautiful, aren’t cha?”. But on ‘Twin Thing’ she still manages to deliver a more than poignant send off to her late sister, Peaches. “Thought I would know at the first sign, That you’d started giving in, Always the first in the water, Now you were just too tired to swim”. There’s nothing better than a nice musical surprise. And this autumn, this most miserable of all autumns, Pixie Geldof has delivered a really fine surprise.
Jim James – Eternally Even
“If you don’t vote, it’s on you not me”, says Jim James on ‘Same Old Lie’. It’s an appropriate sentiment for the day that’s in it. And his Instagram account shows that he clearly endorses the message. But this is no campaign communiqué from Kentucky. This is a stunningly rich solo set from someone who has typically seemed more at home in a band setting, whether it’s My Morning Jacket, New Multitudes, or Monsters of Folk. Eternally Even, his second solo outing, is more grounded than its predecessor, Regions of Light and Sound of God. The spirit still moves within, but here the sentiments are expressed a little more plainly. “If you don’t speak out”, we’re told, “We can’t hear it”. But the music is the revelation. There’s a change of tempo so woozy on ‘In The Moment’ that you almost start to lose your balance. A vinyl sample so egregious on ‘The World’s Smiling Now’ that you can keep time to the scratches from the original. And an outro so outrageous on ‘Same Old Lie’ that it could go on for at least twice as long and still leave you wanting more. This is someone who’s in total command of his craft. And it sounds just great. “They say we can’t live together, but we know that’s a lie”, we’re told, “‘Cause we know in our heart we can make it if we try”. Uplifting thoughts for today of all days. This is Half-Life Music and we endorse this album.