Music editor Jacob Haagsma is busy with pop music and wider surroundings. What did he notice this week?
And, Jacob, ready for the weekend again?
Man, I still got my legs last weekend. Then I walked around for four days at Le Guess Who? in Utrecht, one of the two most beautiful festivals in the country (next to Roadburn in Tilburg, then).
O? What’s so special about that?
Le Guess Who? not only goes very wide, but also very deep. Basically all niches together. And now I’m quite a lover of niches, but I also found many unknowns and surprises here. From South African piano jazz (Abdullah Ibrahim) to lightning-fast Ugandan electronics, from raw drone metal ( Gnod from Manchester!) to avant-garde soul (Liv.e), from raw hip-hop (Clipping) to activist secular gospel (Mourning [A] BLKstar), from extremely raw and abstract electronics (Supersilent) to, well fill it in. All very uplifting. This is how I would like to break every weekend.
And of course there were beautiful pictures waiting for you at home.
What you say. Nowadays we discuss most albums on the basis of streams, which is fine, but sometimes it’s nice to have a physical copy in your hands. So there was the new Weyes Blood gleaming, with a beautifully lit portrait of the lady in question on the cardboard sleeve.
Weyes Blood? Wasn’t that a movie?
Almost right, you’ll get there. Weyes Blood is the stage name of Natalie Mering, an American, which she borrowed from the novel Wise Blood , by Flannery O’Connor. About a veteran who came back from World War II not completely unscathed and profiled himself in the sweltering, charged South of the United States as an anti-religious preacher. Indeed it is filmed by John Huston of all places.
Mering has a past in various experimental groups, with sometimes beautiful names such as Jackie-O Motherfucker – a special band by the way. I wonder if the guitarist I’m with this concert found, or maybe she was.
Does her music under the name Weyes Blood also sound so strange?
No, not exactly. It is beautiful, orchestral pop where the dark edges almost fall off, with some abrasive splashes of avant-garde here and there. Mering grew up as the daughter of hippie parents who converted to the faith, and distanced herself from it – as far as that was possible, that is. That ambiguity is in her stage name and also very beautiful in her music. Highly recommended, this one.
So. Other fun things?
We have an album review from rapper RBDJan , from Amsterdam. I found Puri among the producers, and indeed, that is Akshe Puri from Sneek, formerly DJ Puri and quite successful, also abroad. I had him in the newspaper four years ago because of his big and extremely catchy international hit and for the translation Google Translate is not enough.
Have you been killed yet?
I’d rather not make a habit of that, commemorating the dead in this section, but sometimes you can’t avoid it. For example, guitarist Keith Levene, only 65, died of liver cancer.
Keith Levene? From The Clash right?
Yes, yes, in some in memoriams you read more about that illustrious punk band than about the actual importance of that man. He was only in that band for a while, which he wanted to have on the synthesizer, by the way, and then set up Public Image Limited. Together with John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten, of the infamous punk band Sex Pistols.
Somehow PiL was the first post-punk band, a kind of anti-rock band actually. Al synth and sympho fan Levene wasn’t embarrassed by a run by symphonic rock group Yes in the song poptones . Levene’s free guitar frills, with a piercing, echoing sound, were very defining for the first few PiL records.
Take their first single, for example, which is still rocking hard Public Image . U2 has built an entire career on that guitar sound, let’s face it. Unfortunately, Levene’s soon perished from the heroin. He was once nominated to produce the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ third album, but the record company still had a hard time with him and guitarist Hillel Slovak wasting part of the studio budget on drugs. Slovak is long gone, by the way: overdose. That’s what you get. Liver cancer too, apparently.