Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Exclusive premiere: Mihai Edrisch - Farewell Show (live at Sonic, Lyon 07/2006)

As promised, following the previous interview with Mihai Edrisch is a video premiere of their final show, straight from Johan's archive. It is simply an amazing performance, although rather bittersweet, since we are given a few glimpses of things that were yet to come, sounds which were sadly never recorded in a studio. The final tunes ringing and dying as the video ends, knowing that such an important and iconic band of the genre will never play again... it all weighs heavily on you when you're left alone in silence.

Not much else to add, since you should be watching the recording instead of reading my words anyway, but I just have to say that I am truly beyond excited and proud to be hosting this on the blog. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Interview: Johan (Mihai Edrisch/Celeste)

It is with great pleasure that I'm posting this today, an interview that has been arranged more than a year ago, but was dragged out by the, back then newly encroaching, global pestilence. "Mihai Edrisch" is undoubtedly one of my absolutes and it has been such a thrill to have this conversation with Johan and I thank him once again for his time and willingness to revisit and share his memories of the years spent with this legendary screamo band.
Stay tuned for next week, since this interview will be followed by an exclusive "Mihai Edrisch" video release, the never before seen live video footage from their farewell gig. So, without further ado...

1. I have to start with “Mihai Edrisch” and asking about “his” name.  In the few interviews I’ve read, you guys give different answers to who Mihai is. The most popular version floating around is that he was a Hungarian mathematician, but the research I did doesn’t show this person actually existed. Another version stated that he was a Czech pianist, while another claimed he was a band member’s deceased relative. I guess it would be pointless to ask you the same question, who he is, so instead my question will be: what is your favorite version of the origin of Mihai’s name?

Haha I don’t remember all of them actually, but probably the Hungarian Mathematician, because when Remi answered this one he also set up a whole story behind it which was quite funny.

2. Your first album, “L'un Sans L'autre”, is quite fast and chaotic, but it deals with very intimate and tender subjects. As a musician, how do you manage to successfully fuse these two extreme contrasts together?

There was no fusion to do in my mind because at the time what we were doing was exactly what I loved, what I wanted to hear and what I wanted to tell. There’s no huge reflection behind it, this thing comes from my/our guts and our state of mind during this period.

3. “Un Jour Sans Lendemain” is pretty much a concept album in all respects. How did you come to the idea to create an album that actually represents stages of life?

It’s such a while ago that it’s quite hard for me to remember the whole process and the intentions behind it. I remember how I felt at this period and what I wanted to deal with which is quite personal actually. I for sure felt like that the album as a whole could be more meaningful if there was a story behind it. Since the main topic is about love and suicide, it probably felt quite obvious to me to depict the whole story of a guy who lived in love and pain and who was thinking about giving an end to all of it

5. In a previous interview, you explained that you do not wish to analyze your lyrics and that people should come to their own conclusions. But how do you feel after listening to “Un Jour Sans Lendemain”? Given the fact that the person commits suicide in the end, do you find the album entirely depressing or can you find traces of hope within?

It’s a pretty dark album, but not only. You can feel hope, nostalgia and other feelings here and there which probably help the darkest parts to be even darker I guess. From my side, I can’t be objective about it because that’s an important part of my musical life. I feel a lot of nostalgia and a feeling of un-achievement too because I think that we should have made at least one more album after that one, because the unreleased stuff we had done after « ujsl » was promising in my opinion.

6. You also did the artwork for the band, what was the driving force behind that inspiration? It is a unique art style, did you have any formal education or are you self-taught?

I was self taught. Actually I drew with that style only on that artwork and the repress of « Lun sans L’autre » otherwise I was more a graffiti artist, so I was drawing things totally different than this. I actually never really tried to draw again for CELESTE’s artworks or any other stuff. I was more into photography after that.

7. I’ve always been curious about the meaning of the one red leaf on the white cover of “Un Jour Sans Lendemain”. Any specific secret behind it or was it simply an aesthetical choice?

Sorry to disappoint you but that’s just an aesthetical trick which also reminds of a bit blood, but there’s no deep meaning behind that

8. Was the decision to disband after the second album a conscious one? It seems rather poetic that the end of that album symbolizes the end of the band. Or did something else signal the end?

Unfortunately there’s nothing poetic behind that decision. Our bass player Florian decided to quit the band because he didn’t felt comfortable anymore with this kind of music, and not much later Remi our guitar player decided to leave the band too because he didn’t enjoyed playing guitar anymore. So there was no meaning to continue.

9. You’ve been quite adamant at keeping politics away from “Mihai Edrisch” in the past. Do you think that there’s a trend, so to say, in the scene of making everything and anything political? Even towards the bands that are not political, per se. In contrast, does it irritate you that people immediately assume that you have to be political, just because you are in a hardcore band?

Honestly I don’t give a fuck about the hardcore scene anymore. I have my political opinions but I don’t mix them with my music, I let that aside and I don’t want anybody to blame me for this. I don’t know if there is a trend about getting everything political. I just see a sad trend which tends to kill any freedom of speech and creativity. Now everybody wants to avoid any controversy, because reputation is the most important thing to stay alive as a band. You’re getting judged for any of your moves and people forget how to differentiate art and reality. It’s getting more and more difficult to be subversive without risking to get judged/banned.
It’s not related but from from what I see, bands who are very engaged when they start tend to loosen up things with time.

10. This is different with “Celeste”, yes? Here you tackle political themes, issues that society is facing and difficult subjects of the human psyche. Was this intentional from the start with this band?

Actually it’s not different. It’s not because I talk about the society we live in that it’s political. The intention from the start with the band has nothing to do with my lyrics. We just wanted to make dark and violent music, and I just wrote things that fit to this music

11. Maybe a direct question, but how do you feel about life and the human condition, outside of your music? Is it all as bleak and nihilistic as you  portray in “Celeste” or is there a spark of positivity?

It’s pretty much as bleak as I portray it. And I’m not really helping the thing, because even if I don’t feel like being a bad guy, I can at least say that the more I grow the more selfish I become.

12. Did you enjoy other screamo bands back when “Mihai Edrisch” was active? I read elsewhere that, in regards to “Celeste”, you guys aren’t into black metal, so I’m curious if the same applies to screamo?

Not that many or bands that I consider being more than screamo bands. It’s not because we shared the same drummer, but Daitro was and is still definitely my favorite band in the « genre »

13. If you could turn the clock back, would you do anything different during your time with “Mihai Edrisch”? Do you miss that project?

I missed it a lot for a while. I still do but I miss it less and less, and I also think I wouldn’t feel comfortable to play such music now on. The thing I missed the most are the melodies that we built. That’s something that I would love to hear elsewhere but that I never really found anywhere

14. In contrast to the previous question, for the entire duration of your involvement in music, what has been your most memorable or cherished moment?

For Mihai Edrisch, I would pick 2 events. The first one would be the first time I listened to l’un sans l’autre mastered. I really didn’t imagine that we would’ve done something that great. I felt so proud about it.  And the second time is when we played Sant Feliu Fest. I remembered that I was in the audience a few years before, I didn’t have any bands and I was thinking that being on that stage would be the greatest achievement I could think of. So it was really something to be there for real a few years later
With CELESTE, even if we’re having an amazing career, I lived this story with Mihai’s background so I discovered less things. It’s more an overall thing that I cherish because I’m just enjoying it every time we’re on the road since almost 15 years now.

15. How is your local music scene right now? Is “Celeste” involved much in local happenings or are you just doing your own thing?

In my opinion, the scene is almost dead in our hometown and we’re not helping since we’re only focused on our own « business »

18. What are your favorite music releases in the past few years?

I’m so bad at name dropping. I listen to stuff that is really different from what we’re playing. For example the last things I listened the most are Northlane and Tesseract. Now I’m looking forward to the new Deftones, I liked some songs from Korn, Caspian, Heaven In Her Arms, Newmoon…. Really hard to name more, sorry, I don’t listen to music very often actually.

19. Time for you to ask a question!
Johan : How did you discovered Mihai Edrich and CELESTE? Do you really still listen to us and why?

I discovered ME by accident and there is a funny story behind it. I remember that I stumbled upon some blog (or it was via P2P fileshare, can't remember) which had a huge database of hardcore/screamo bands so I grabbed all of it en masse and started listening. To be completely honest, I recall that I skipped listening to Mihai because I confused the name with one other Spanish band called Enoch Ardon haha and they didn't click with me on the initial listening. Later at some point I was viewing my music folder and realized these are two different bands, so I finally gave Mihai a listen and I was instantly in love. Celeste I discovered more naturally, as I've read online that similar people were involved in the band and I had to check it out.

And yes, I still listen to both bands, a lot in fact. Even though I love both projects, Mihai Edrisch is more dear to me, since it has a certain something that no other band has. As you say, it directly triggers many different feelings, sadness, hope, grief and nostalgia, to which I am quite sensitive to. Even though I don't speak French, the music speaks to me in a peculiar way and listening to it never fails to stir up emotions. 

And if this doesn't answer your question well, two years ago I tattooed my right arm with parts of the cover and the song titles of "Un Jour Sans Lendemain".

20. Thank you so much for doing this interview, on a personal level, this conversation truly means a lot to me. Do you have any final message for the readers?

Just come to our shows if we hopefully can do some again, that’s the best way you can please us.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Derek Piotr - Raj (2013)

After sending out the previously mentioned work-in-progress interviews, I found myself in somewhat of a slump as to what to write about next. Musically, I’m all over the place right now in my free time and I’m also currently working on another writing project which I’ll share sometimes soon, for those interested. So in the end, the good ol’ submission basket saved the day once again.

Derek Piotr - Raj (bandcamp)

Based in New England, US, this Polish-born composer/producer dropped into my view out of nowhere. Back in 2013, I wasn’t too deep into electronic music and noise, so in all honesty I was completely oblivious to his past work even though his repertoire up to that point contained a number of previously released albums. The main focus of his work is centered on samples of the human voice which are then used in various incarnations of electronics, ranging from noise, glitch, industrial and even something that would be considered dream poppy.
Immediately after the first tone of “Raj” kicked in, it grasped me fully. “Spine” manages to create a certain kind of mood within seconds, setting the tone for the rest of the record in a very direct and simplistic way. It easily gears you up for what is coming up ahead and, let me tell you, you should come prepared.
Compared to other electronic noise projects that I’ve listened to, “Raj” is not as dirty and harsh. Sure, even the opening track hosts a considerable amount of static waves and crackling walls of distortion, but it is all executed in a delicate way. In the midst of the noise, you get introduced to small oases of serenity. There’s a weird elegant swinging going on between the violence and the peacefulness, an almost naturally calculated ebb and flow. 
It feels like this edged precision is the main characteristic of the vocal section of “Raj”. One of the interesting things about Derek’s work in general is his previously mentioned focus on using and manipulating vocal samples. On this record specifically, those samples create a thin line which is continually pushing the aforementioned ebb and flow. You would assume that the vocals would bring a certain dose of calm into a noise project, but even though they are peaceful they are also quite eerie in a way, droning and almost mentally violent somehow. The way they are sampled, cut, used and looped, gives a nigh maddening feeling and it ends up seeming like the whole record has a ritualistic theme to it. These samples build such an image in your mind’s eye that they can go towards both ends of the spectrum, soothing and aggressive, but never quite tip over fully. The cacophony of it all is methodical, almost technically precise and even cerebral in many instances. It's an endless dance of contrasts and steep divergences.
Another flavor to all this, despite having this ritualistic and naturally flowing trait, the record seems cold and alien. There’s just something strangely robotic about the entire thing, as if “Raj” was a recorded diary of some rusted and malfunctioned android from an age long forgotten. And it demands that you listen to it.
When I listened to “Raj” a couple of times for this review I then decided to check out some other material from Derek.  There is a whole swarm of recorded material up on his bandcamp profile, so I seriously need some catching up to do. It sincerely warms my heart when I see artists so passionate and active after so many years of working on a project. All the best of luck to Derek in all his future endeavors and I hope all of you decide to give him a chance and check out his work. Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 31, 2020

Wolf Shaped Clouds - Demo (2011)

It’s been a while since I managed to get a submission review on my writing schedule, mostly since I was so focused on working on the “Ghone” showcase and trying to hunt down some names for future interviews. The latter bit is going relatively slow at the moment, but some of the planned interviewees I’ll be extremely proud to host on here. Just have to stay patient and time will tell!

Wolf Shaped Clouds (bandcamp page)

Wolf Shaped Clouds was a 4-piece screamo band from Budapest, Hungary, active from early 2011. up until 2013. These years might not be the most accurate, since bandcamp states 2011. as the year of their conception, while their discography tape lists 2009. as their beginning. In any case, they had a fruitful run in those few years, chugging out a nice selection of works including this demo and a rehearsal room recording, two splits (one with “Black Hourglass” and another with “Oaken”, respectively) and they were also featured on the “Swollen Lungs” 7’’ compilation, which is a selection of artists featuring songs less than 30 seconds. Short, but sweet.
This release was not a blog submission per se, but instead an actual gift from Tomi, the band’s vocalist. Back in 2011 I was staying at a friend’s apartment in Budapest (hi Botond, hope you’re still out there!), a place where Tomi was also living at the time. We didn’t really hang out all that much, but after some music talk the name of his band popped up, which I thought sounded super cool. Turns out it was screamo which made it a complete hit with me, obviously. Long story short, I walked away from that conversation with a neatly packed CD pictured above and I was extremely excited to take a listen.
Apparently, only 50 physical copies of this demo were made, judging by the handwritten number at the back of the case. Aside of the wonderful little black and white booklet with lyrics, the audio contents of this CD are everything you would ever want to hear from a screamo band's demo, a raw, passionate, perfectly imperfect collection of debut songs that just hit hard and ask questions later. Its five songs are fused in such a way that they simply call out to be listened in one sitting, with one breath. It’s a whirlwind sweeping you off your feet with the very first song and carrying you all the way to the end, relentlessly. And it is only when the final song ends that you get a chance to catch your breath and contemplate on what you just heard. I think that is why my favorite song on the demo would probably be the first track, “Rotting Sea”, simply because it sucks you in and sets the tone so well. 
The overall sound of the band is a strongly compressed amalgam of aggressive “Loma Prieta” outbursts, melodic “Raein” strings and at times the pounding beats of chaotic German influences from bands like “Danse Macabre”. Add to the whole mix some very bleak, almost crust-like lyrics performed with an exceptionally haunting wailing scream and you got yourself a package which you shouldn’t avoid.
What I always associated with this band was that pure passionate energy which always seemed to radiate from their releases. You could listen to them regardless of your mood and they would always manage to get your blood flowing. In all honesty, this is something that I severely miss with some of the bands today and that’s why I guess that bands like “Wolf Shaped Clouds” need to be cherished. They popped out of nowhere and brought something great to the table. It saddens me that they didn’t have a longer run at this project, it would have been an absolute pleasure to watch them grow and evolve. 
At the end of the day, this is a great little release and a definitive invitation to listen to the rest of the band’s discography. You can find them in their entirety on the above linked bandcamp page. Hope you give them a listen, they deserve it!

Sunday, January 5, 2020

2019 blog retrospective

During the heyday of the blog, I enjoyed doing the traditional retrospective at the end/start of a year. It was always interesting to look back and revisit the releases/experiences which marked the passing year and which made it so great. 
Let’s start with my favorite recorded material of the past year. Since I didn’t have a chance to cover any of these on the blog, I’ll just sum up my thoughts with a few lines on each of these. So, without further ado...

Top releases of 2019 (in no particular order):
- "Potence - Le Culte Des Bourreaux" - Members of “Daïtro”, “Géraniüm”, and the insanely underrated “I Was A Cosmonaut Hero”, need I say more? Rushing between being melodic and extremely aggressive, they mix and match the best violent pieces of neo/crust and the somber tones of screamo/post-hardcore. Aurelien’s voice gets me every time.
- "Tool - Fear Inoculum" - I’ve been an avid fan ever since I first saw their music videos on a local TV station back in early 2000’s when “Lateralus” got released. The 13-year-wait since their previous recorded material and the patience needed paid off. In my mind this album is a well morphed mix of “Ænima” and “Lateralus”, yet at the same time it shines light on a completely new incarnation of the band. Marvelous and mesmerizing in all aspects.
- "Senza - Even a Worm Will Turn" - I don’t even know where to begin with this one other than saying that it is simply an amazing record and probably some of the most important and outstanding screamo material written in the last 5 or so years. Chaotic, brooding, atmospheric and explosively violent when needed, they take the best parts of bands such as “Jeromes Dream”, “Sailboats” and even some elements of “The Spirit of Versailles”, all the while adding a strong touch of their own magic. Just outstanding across the board and an absolute must. 
- "Mgła - Age of Excuse" - This band has already been covered twice on this blog in the form of concert reviews and if you read those articles then you should have a pretty solid idea about my thoughts on this project. “Mgła” continues to be a remorseless beast, as this album is a perfect descendant of “Exercises In Futility” while bringing so much innovation to the table, completely removing the option of being boring or repetitive. You could zone out and focus on only one instrument at a time and be shocked with the displayed creativity. Listening to this made me feel like I re-discovered the band all over again and is one of the rare albums that I was eagerly anticipating and was genuinely excited for it to finally drop.
- "Jeromes Dream - LP" - The screamo legends are back, what more do you need to know? A perfect amalgam of the “Seeing Means More Than Safety” and “Presents” eras, while also showing signs of musical maturity and evolution. An excellent stroll down memory lane performed by some of the most influential screamo storytellers of all time, adorned with a new incarnation of sound.

Honorable mention: 
- "Alcest - Spiritual Instinct" - I feel like this band is not capable of creating something less than absolutely wonderful and simply by being material with the “Alcest” tag is enough for me to feature it on this top list.

Top performances of 2019 (in no particular order):
- Jeromes Dream (Vienna/AT)
- Cult of Luna (Gothenburg/SE)
- Tool (Firenze Rocks Festival, Florence/IT)
- Ólafur Arnalds (Belgrade/RS)
- Mgła (Belgrade/RS)

The only concert from the list above which I didn’t review was “Tool”, which kinda makes me sad since it has been such a mind blowing experience. This was the second time I got to see them play live, first time being in Serbia in 2007, and I can say that the concert in Italy can easily drop into my top 10 concerts of all time. Now that “Fear Inoculum” is still fresh and a new European tour might be looming on the horizon, I’m absolutely certain that I will make an effort to catch a show wherever it may be and share my thoughts with you afterwards.

Looking back, 2019 was an excellent year for music and at moments it felt quite surreal, especially when it comes to concerts. Some of those show reviews have been the longest I have ever written and it is while writing those that I fully realized how much some of those performances moved me. Thinking about them now, especially JD and CoL, I’m tempted to write a few words about those experiences now, but the reviews have been so extensive (and exhausting) that there really is no need to say anything else. Just scroll down the page and delve into the wall of text, in case you are interested in the specifics. 
The last time I did one of these retrospective posts was 2013 and it is unbelievable to me when I realize that I’m writing this one in 2020, seven years later! Back then there were more “categories” for the top whatever and I remember that it was quite difficult to make the choices, simply because the blog was way richer with content. It is my sincere hope and goal to keep writing and bring back the blog to the post count per year that it once had. To start that journey, after this post I’m planning to cover one old submission release while also currently working on the next interview. Stay tuned!
In the end, I’d just like to thank you all for still visiting and reading. It warmed my heart to see people mentioning and visiting my blog even when it was defunct and now that it is getting back on track with content, the slow and steady increase of visitors has often put a smile on my face. Thanks for sticking with me for all these years and I hope that 2020 will bring an abundance of great music, strength, inspiration, joy and wonderful experiences for all of us.

P.S. If you would like to share your top picks of 2019, feel free to leave a comment, I’d love to read about your thoughts!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Interview: Ghone

"Ghone" live @Cult of the Amps vol. 2 - by Chris Lemonis

1. First off, I'd like to thank you for doing this interview. Nice to have you on the blog! Please introduce yourself to the readers.

Thank you for your interest. Great to hear a site from abroad is curious about your work. So, I’m John from Athens, Greece and Ghone is my personal sonic project with which I’m exploring the abstraction of sound spectrum through noise, produced by both natural and electronic media and manipulated mostly in real time, trying to create gasping and aerie environments.

2. Describe "Ghone" in three words.

That’s a hard one. I think I’ll go for: Party-crashing Noisy Ritual

3.  I discovered your project when I saw you play live in Novi Sad along with Aidan Baker and "Nadja". In our previous conversation you told me that it was one of your favorite shows to date. What made this set so special for you, so much so that you even decided to record it as a proper release?

It was actually my 4th show on this tour -and, in matter of fact, my first ever as Ghone in general- and it was the time my set was coming together. It felt like I had finally tamed my equipment to a satisfying level and felt more confident that I could communicate what I had in my head. I remember the venue was full and the audience was very quiet. This can be stressful and flattering at the same time, a very compelling feeling which I have rarely experienced over the years I’ve been performing with various bands. The venue itself helped a lot as well of course. It was the third time I had the chance to be there and first time as a performer. Such warmth and hospitality always give a substantial boost in general. I was lucky enough to have my set recorded by the sound guy, and it only felt right to share it.

4. Any plans of coming back to Serbia again some day?

I actually played this May as a guest of the legendary Athenian noise-punk band Rita Mosss, along with the mighty Cassilas. They made a great couple. But anyway, I don’t have any solid plans for touring yet since life gets in the way constantly. I do want to come and play the soonest possible, so I’m open to ideas.

5. One of your other releases is the live show in Thessaloniki with "Six Steps Above The Earth", so please give us some more details about that collaboration.

I’ve known Bill and Sakis from the band for quite a while now. In fact, with Bill we have previously collaborated with his solo project The Dandelion Fields ( a couple of times. The guys asked me to open a show of theirs and long story short we ended up playing a seamless show with the middle part having me jamming with the full band as they started entering the stage one by one, and this is the track you hear as “intro” at the release with Six Steps Above The Earth.

6. How does your overall process for live shows look like? Do you go into it with a specific idea in mind or do you just let it flow out of you in the moment? Also, do you record all of your sets or just some of them?

For me it begins toying around with field recordings, feedback loops and new equipment, putting all those together and trying to make some sense out of it and how it can be manipulated to some kind of form of communicating. You can say curiosity is the driving force, I guess. When performing I’m generally trying to follow a skeleton idea but it can always swift to a different direction very easily depending on the moment. I think most of my sets have been recorded in a way or another.

7. You were part of an interesting collaboration recently, the "Spit" wine tasting performance art event where you created live sound-scaping. Could you tell us something more about that event? Are such collaborations/projects common for you?

It was an incredible experience! The location, the performance, the wine. Could do this again any time given. I was invited by the curator Eleni Tranouli to create the soundscape that Despina Charitonidi and Panos Profitis have prepared. They even created a number of incredible ceramic spittoons and laser cut “exoskeleton” suits for the waiters. An event of high aesthetics and great wine. What else can someone ask for?
The closest I can remember I’ve been a part of something similar was when I played a two-day live soundtrack for a live painting performance of Friki Krux back in 2014. You can’t say it’s pretty common then, but it’s definitely an area I’d like to explore further.

8. With all the relatively frequent live performances happening, does that mean there is an active noise/drone crowd in Greece?

Experimental music (and arts in general) community is quite active actually, mainly in the biggest cities though, but there are probably more stuff happening nowadays than ever. Small shows are taking place more and more often, and more people are curious to explore this side of the music spectrum. There are some really interesting artists that rarely have the chance to present their work abroad like Dead Gum, Savvas Metaxas, Georgios Karamanolakis, Acte Vide, Panos Alexiadis just to name a few, which is a real shame.

9. Are there any other music projects from Greece which you would recommend?

I think I answered this one above :)

10. What do you think of the overall state of the music scene in the world? Do you consider noise/drone to be a relevant genre in the "big picture"?
"Sram Schet" cover by EviKarastamati

It sure is. Just in the form of constant TV static-like pattern in the background.

11. A somewhat similar question asked above, what is your process for recording studio material? Does it differ from live performances?

I don’t think I have an answer for that. So far I didn’t felt the need to go through the labor of preparing a “studio album”, carefully layering noises and crackles. I’m focusing on live performance and presenting a coherent piece and if it still sounds like it stands as a recording as well, that’s great and it’s out there with no further ado.

12. "Ghone" had yearly gaps between recent recorded releases, any particular reason for that?

Mostly life just got in the way and had to focus on things other than playing. Looks like this is changing though.

13. What inspires you the most to create music like this?

Surely the grey period we are living through is great inspiration for anyone to create dark art in general. Trying to avoid getting psychoanalytic here, I’d say that I’ve always been drawn by darker themes in general. Horror movies, anatomy, insects, worn out patterns, abandoned buildings, history of crime and naturally that extends to my taste in music I suppose.

14. When working on a split release, how much do you get inspired by your split partners? I'm under the impression that there is a kind of symbiosis between Ghone and its collaborators.

It's pretty different when it's a split release from a collaborative wort, but you get it right about the symbiosis part. When it comes to split releases, personally I want to keep some kind of flow from one side to the other, meaning that for example I'd try to avoid giving a harsh noise piece for a split release with an ambient artist. I don't consider myself to have a standard approach when it comes to experimental music (it's all an ongoing experiment after all), and I enjoy this challenge to create something that resonates with me personally and in the same time keeps a release from being incoherent. On collaborations on a same track now, it's a whole different procedure. It feels more like a dialogue or dance if you prefer. The dynamics between the participants have great impact on the direction the improv. session will take.

15. What was it like to collaborate with Frans De Waard/Modelbau? I actually didn't know who he was, but seems like he's quite an influential figure in the Dutch/global music scene. How did you guys get in touch?

Frans part from being some kind of legend in the scene, also used to publish the now cult Vital Weekly zine from late 80s to mid 90s. Nowadays he has switched online of course and you should check it out: We got in touch with Coherent States to review our new releases back then and one thing lead to the other and we agreed on releasing something for him. I had this recording in the vault already and thought I suggest to put it out there as a split release, and there you have it.

16. From the perspective of the listener, even though there are no lyrics it still feels like all your records are trying to speak to the audience. Is there actually a message that your music is trying to convey?

If we were in the 60s I’d encourage you to play my records backwards and find out yourself. But no, there are no intended hidden messages. Maybe what you are hearing is my inner world trying to find its own language.

17. Out of all your recorded material, what is your favorite release and why?

To be honest I like them all equally, each one for its own reasons. For me they double as bookmarks for life events too. The part you can hear plays like a soundtrack for these periods in my head. I’m always more satisfied and at the same time challenged by every last one. A pretty weird sentiment.

18. If you could do a collaboration record with any other artist/project, who would it be?

I tend to observe that people with no musical education or those who are not even aware that this side of music exists at all, tend to have the most interesting and genuinely curious approach when it comes to experiment with it. Or maybe, playing with it. That’s a more proper word for it. I’d work with everyone if I could! Including you reading this right now.

19. What gear do you use to create music? Do you have a favorite piece or a specific gadget which you deem essential?

This is a question that will get you multiple answers depending on when it’s asked. For a while it was an electric upright bass through distortions and loop pedals. Later it was a thrashed snare wire with contact mics. Right now I’m having TONS of fun with Stereo Fields by Landscape which gives a whole new way of expression with it’s unique haptic interface. I’m also waiting on the new Dreadbox Antiphon monophonic synth to be assembled. My anticipation vein is pumping hard!

20.  What are some of your other interests/projects/hobbies outside of Ghone?

I’m working as a freelance graphic designer, concert promoter and production manager. I’m also run Coherent States -a small experimental music label- with my friend Manolis. We have just released an amazing new vinyl record, for the French artist Gaël Segalen, for which I’m really excited to be finally out! You can safely say that Ghone is an extension of my everyday activities.

21. Time for you to ask a question!
Any drone/noise/experimental acts from Serbia to recommend? Pretty lame question, I know, but I’m genuinely curious.

To be brutally honest, aside of a handful of noise/drone projects, I'm not too deep into the genre, so I don't really know of any such bands from these parts. There is an ambient project that I would recommend though, called "Paleowolf". It's an amazing dark tribal ambient inspired by prehistoric ages when humans were still hunter-gatherers. 

21. 2019 is coming to an end, what have been your favorite music releases so far? Any guilty pleasures?

Pleasure shouldn’t go with guilt whatsoever. Having said that I really liked Tyler, The Creator’s new album “Igor” and from the experimental-esque side of music I can’t stop listening to Gaël Segalen’s album we released. But don’t take this as a plug. I’d still be playing this album non stop regardless of the label. It’s just so good! 2019 was a very good year in general. So many interesting new releases. The list would be pretty big and I’m sure I’d leave a bunch titles out, so I’d prefer to restrain myself.

22. Do you have any book/movie recommendations?

I’m not much of a reader nor a cinefile. I really enjoy flipping through my most recent photography book purchase though which is a documentation of the African Ndebele tribe murals. A tradition going back hundreds of years among the women of the tribe with great vibrant colours and forms.

23. What does the future hold for "Ghone"?

Looks like it holds more performances and more traveling. And hopefully new recorded material and collaborations as well. But life is a curious path with many crossroads, so I try not to make long term plans.

24. Do you have any final message to the readers?

I miss Serbia! Hope to have the chance to return sooner than later. I often recall my visits there fondly.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Showcase: Ghone

"Ghone" live @Place by Manos Chrysovergis

"Ghone" is a rather peculiar entity. It is a native of Athens, Greece, found in the dark corners of the city, brooding and composing its tunes in the shadows cast by the ancient temples of the Hellenic pantheon and high-rise buildings of the urban sprawl. It is an extraordinarily rare being, only one of its kind known to exist, currently residing in the body of a musical maestro known as John Kontandreopoulos. John has been a powerhouse for creating a mesmerizing concoction of experimentally ambient noise. Proof of this is that since 2011 he has amassed twelve releases under the “Ghone” tag and has no apparent intention to stop.
Personally, I was exposed to this music by mere accident back in 2012 when “Ghone” opened a show for “Nadja” and Aidan Baker in Novi Sad, Serbia. The epilogue of this concert was phenomenal and all of my thoughts about it back then were summarized in a gig review which I wrote here. I think I wasn’t as nearly as descriptive (edit: annoying) with describing the experience in that article, but the bottom line is that I was severely impressed, both from the audial and the visual perspective. It was stunning to see one person creating such a vast and abundant soundscape, especially considering that the way he performed was completely new to me. Using drumsticks as a tool for playing bass, what? Creating such a massive wall of sound with so little equipment? If I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t believe it. Back then such creative insanity was a whole new dimension of music to me and I never saw someone play music live in such a way. All of this immediately made me want to delve deeper into the rest of the music made under the name of “Ghone”. However, in 2012 there was only one other record available on his bandcamp page.

Luceum Sequimur”, recorded and released near the end of 2011, is  the “Ghone” first-born. Consisting of only one song (keep in mind that this is something you’ll notice to be a trend with this artist), a 17 minute long eerie ambient crawl, slowly sucking you in with droning vibrations and tubular resonances. It takes you on a space-like voyage filled with vastness and nostalgia, later on replaced with a much more claustrophobic sounds sprinkled with tiny sporadic tingling noises, as if you just landed on some strange alien planet. The song builds up towards a climactic anti-climax ending, which sounds like a paradox, but it makes sense in a strange way. On one hand, the aforementioned tingling kept hinting that there was going to be something horrific waiting at the end but finishes on such a note that it leaves you hanging and wanting more. Yet on the other hand, to me this represents the branching evolutionary path for future work, which can be visible as such once you view the entire discography as a whole. “Ghone” has just begun playing with your senses and this is simply saying that he will be back and more will follow.
Published as a 3’’ CDr, “Luceum Sequimur” was made to be a limited tour release and has been sold out since then. Worth noting is that it seems like the 3’’ medium has been a favorite of “Ghone”, something that I’m really loving actually, as I am a huge fan of these less popular formats.

A while after I attended the show in Novi Sad I went back to the bandcamp page and I was pleasantly surprised to see the gig recording offered to people as a proper release. Another surprise came in the form of more material, namely “Untitled”, recorded straight to a cassette without further editing. It consists of two songs, together ramping up to 40 minutes in duration. The first track immediately hooks you in with melancholic tones periodically layered with a distant spoken word. The monophonic synthesizer used to perform this provides such a fragile tune which leaves a strong impression on the listener. Some minutes into the song you get thrown into a whirlwind of crazy sounds being generated by a loop station. The whole mid-section of the song is so weirdly layered, sounding like a straight up LSD trip in a room full of twirling memories. Eventually it starts calming down, as if the trip is wearing off, and drifts off into a droning tone.
The second “Untitled” song is my favorite, as it manages to quickly set the overall mood and keeps it strong until the very end. Right from the start you’re faced with vibrating tones building up with intensity, so much so that you are feeling like they are going to lash out at you all of a sudden. The entire song keeps a steady momentum with one specific wave-length of sound, but then along the way it introduces a different pitch or a single note that completely changes the moment, as if you’re discovering a whole new chapter of some unknown story. I got some exceptionally strong cyberpunk vibes from this one, painting images of bleak, rain-soaked dystopian cities in my head.
This release came in an extremely limited physical format consisting of only 10 cassettes, each with a unique handmade collage cover. As you will see, stuff like this is a bit of a “Ghone” signature when it comes to physical releases, as it seems to me that most of them are true works of art by themselves.

To be absolutely honest, after this release I somewhat drifted away from “Ghone” and I failed to come back to it for quite some years. It is only now in 2019. while in the process of resuscitating the blog that I returned to it. During my hibernation “Ghone” was tireless, so once I came back there were nine (9!) new releases waiting for my ears, oh the pleasure!

I decided to listen chronologically, so “Amen.Ophis” was first on the list. Similarly to “Untitled”, this is another two song release and on this occasion it is on the shorter side as far as “Ghone” standards go, consisting of “only” 15-ish minutes of music. Let me tell you immediately, this one could very well be a soundtrack of a mind-bending horror movie.
The first song, “Amen” oozes with dread, a tension-filled composition which provides superb background ambiance for a persistent mantric singing sample. The way it builds up, it truly feels like you’re walking into a cave and stumbling upon an eldritch ritual performed by a cult worshiping some unknown entity. Add to this the fact that throughout the song you can periodically hear some kind of squeaky noise, as if made by a rocking chair, superbly adding eeriness to the already horrific scene.
“Ophis” does not lack in horror either, only this time it takes on a wholly different form, as if the sleeping god was successfully awakened by the previously mentioned ritual. There are these unexpected thumping and explosive electrical shocks which don’t fail to make you feel unnerved somehow. The squeaky noise is present again, this time in the final moments of the song, making the whole release somehow come full circle.
It was fascinating how some of these subtle tones weaved together manage to create certain images in your mind. Who knows what kind of image or inspiration was in John’s head while creating this and maybe I’m completely off with what the “aim” of his music is, but whatever the background and whatever the message, something manages to get across to the listener in a successful way.
To put it mildly, I was impressed. So immediately after I finished listening, I knew that it would be amazing to talk to the person behind “Ghone” and to help spread the word about the music via an interview.

While writing the initial message to get in touch, I put “10.6.2012” as background music. This release comes along with an interesting “one day” concept, meaning that the entire thing was written and recorded within a single day. It is an initiative from “Somehow Ecstatic Records” based in Greece, where they invite numerous artists to have a take on this recording concept. Most of these releases are available for free download on their bandcamp page found here, while the physical format is always limited to 30 hand-numbered copies. Give them a listen.
The contribution to this initiative done by “Ghone” are two surprisingly contrasting pieces. The first track is filled with calming noise, droning you into serenity. It starts off in an aggressive fashion and being exceptionally loud around the 4 minute mark, but the more the song goes on the more it shifts in dynamic and eventually it begins emitting a lulling bass tune. Even the buzzing and crackling of static near the end seems to be calming in a way and the vocal samples bursting through are somewhat assuring.
The second one, to me, was not so relaxing and is somehow a stark difference to the first part of the release. The whole song is infested with some sort of static-induced high pitched wail, which truly tickles the nerves. This crackling noise also permits a deeply low, rumbling growl to vibrate along, which in unity makes you feel like you’re standing in the midst of some lightning-charged electric maelstrom. It certainly gets its point across, whatever that point may be, but I feel like this is not pleasant for every day listening, or at least it isn’t as peaceful as its predecessor.
Ultimately, when you take into account that these two songs are roughly 40 minutes in length, the “one day” thing mentioned above becomes truly impressive.

Varstatg Arre” is by far the shortest “Ghone” track, but the background is interesting. The song is actually a part of a compilation called “Protos Orofos - 4” which includes 13 artists in total. “First Floor”, as the two words translate from Greek, is a group of people who organize concerts for experimental bands, which take place at 1ος Όροφος (“on the first floor”), in Thessaloniki. And thus, a new compilation comes out each year (currently ramping up to issue #11), featuring artists who played the year before. I actually ended up picking the whole #4 compilation from a guy in Serbia and it is worth the listen for every single performer. Highly recommended that you check it out, you can easily find the CD on Discogs for cheap.
As far as “Ghone” goes, the contributed song is short and direct. A slow four minute long drive through static noise enhanced with deep rumbling wobbles and barely noticeable electric tingling.

A year long break followed for “Ghone” only for it to come back better than ever with “Imnissel Mill Dinja”, featuring an hour long monster of a song. The bandcamp page linked below actually has this track split in two, but the CD version features the original full-length. Worth mentioning is that this was recorded as part of a rehearsal for the first “Fresh Music Festival” in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
This release brings me back into “this should be a soundtrack” territory, as this is some unbelievably good ambiance work. “Part 1” features excellent usage of the electric double bass, at times sounding sophisticated and classical, yet at others it seems broken and mad. The deep vibrations of the instrument take you on a 19 minute voyage through some truly desolate soundscapes, pierced by high pitched screeching and feedback that could wake the dead.
“Part 2” continues with this same clash on a much grander scale and it is actually no surprise that these two parts were originally one song. It simply does not let you rest. Every tone produced here is at its maximum, be it in the form of the resonant moaning taking you to new ever-lower depths, of the bass feedback tormented to the point of screaming or even in the form of both these extremes clashing together to form a cacophony of sound.
This second part, at times, reminds me of the soundtrack (surprise, surprise) of the “S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Shadow of Chernobyl” video game, as you continually feel unnerved and on edge during all these twists and turns. Especially near the end when certain smashing sounds are heard and you feel like it’s someone bashing on your door trying to murder you. Superb release and probably one of my favorites!

Half a year later we come to witness the birth of something very interesting. A new chapter of sorts in the history of “Ghone”, the start of collaborative split work with other musicians. Symbolically, the premier one is called “The First Harvest”, a split with Greek experimental post-rock act known as “The Dandelion Fields”. I won’t go too far into reviewing their part of the split, but in short they deliver a grim, bleak and even existentially nihilistic sound. For the most part the songs are peacefully brooding, yet deeply melancholic and sad, especially when you delve deeper into the lyrics.
On the other end of the spectrum, “Ghone” did an excellent job in following up with that specific tone set by the other collaborator. John opted to present a less noisy version of “Ghone”, focusing more on a compressed soundscape. The sounds burst towards you in a rippling motion, as if their full power is contained in an endlessly moving bubble and only snippets of volume come to attack your ears. For the most part it seems like the bubble you’re facing is filled with scratching noises or chains being dragged across a huge hallway made of metal. Near the end of the track there is a bass-infused rumbling sound, reminiscent of the one displayed in “10.6.2012”, but in a calmer tone and thus tying up with the melancholy created by “The Dandelion Fields” part.

Not even a full month after the split “Rushing for Coal” was released. I’m not a 100% sure why, but just by looking at the cover of this one I got excited and I had a clear feeling that this was going to be something different. Writing this now I can say that the feeling was weirdly accurate.
This release has been cut into three songs, all clocking out at around 30 minutes total.  “Somm” is the opening track and it perfectly sets the tone for the entire thing. A somber mix of gloomy synths and soft electrical currents produce a strange feeling of listening to some long forgotten voice message noise decaying in a loop stretched out to infinity. This is continued and expanded upon in “Naam”, which greatly expands the pensive mood, especially in moments when guitar tones are introduced. It paints such a bleak picture in your head, reminding me at times of some works produced by “Earth” on their more dark jazzy albums. The guitar creates excellent dark jazz/folk sounds, completely overtaking the song and taking it into its own direction. This mutates to a whole different level on the final song called “Ruum”, as the guitar takes an aggressive turn creating an echoing wall of distortion. This violent burst of sound is only brief and it seems like it was placed as a cutting point to let more calm notes back in. The synthesizer is back in the spotlight from this spot onward and it somehow takes the sounds from the first song and morphs them into a gentle, almost hopeful and cheery tune.

A hibernation period ensued and roughly two years passed until a new release appeared. Next in line was another split and this time a live one at that! Recorded live at Ypogeio, Thessaloniki on 21st May, 2017, when “Ghone” performed along/with “Six Steps Above The Earth”.
There’s a big contrast when comparing this and “The First Harvest” split. There we saw “The Dandelion Fields” opening and setting the tone which “Ghone” gradually took and morphed, while sticking to the mood previously established. Here, however, the roles swapped and it feels like “Ghone” is building the setting. Opening up with a sample of some beautiful music by Astrud Gilberto (the song “Trains and Boats and Planes”, to be exact), “Ghone” starts slowly piercing the melody with clean, sharp noises. He gradually adds more and more elements, the low growling bass, static showers, gentle folkish guitar tunes changing into resonant feedback. By the end of the 20 minute track you come to a conclusion that this seems like a perfectly condensed showcase of what “Ghone” is. This seems to be an excellent comeback piece after such a long wait.
The second song is actually an introductory jam between “Ghone” and “Six Steps Above The Earth”, which is a really eerie, yet madly entertaining track. They somehow layered the tones well, the former providing consistent shifting ambiance while the latter introduces creepy string plucking melodies. Great improvisational skills on all sides as you feel both contribute with their own tones, sounding broken and perfectly aligned at the same time.
The final part of the split/live is reserved for the split partner, who bring out a slow and noisy drone-inspired doom. A tongue twister for sure, but worth checking out, as I find them to be a solid stage partner for “Ghone”.

Our showcase artist goes to sleep for another two years and comes back with a new split release in 2017, this time with a project called “Modelbau”. Full name of the entire collaboration is “Zagtel Jaar Mileit / Pulse/Phases”.
“Ghone” has been absolutely superb on this one, simply because you can sense the evolution of the project which has been gifted by these yearly breaks. The titular song possesses a sublime note to it, presenting a clean cut amount of noise that is highly technical and accurate. He plays with only a handful of electrical notes, but the culmination of those is no longer a cacophony of harshness, but is instead a precise purring of a well-oiled machine. It oozes with a sense of minimalism that is rich with various elements at the same time.
Same can be said for “Modelbau”, the experimental electronic act of Frans De Waard. The seven tracks that make up “Pulse/Phases” are hitting the ceiling of minimalism with droning ambient tunes which are borderline meditative.

By now it is safe to say that this “two year hibernation” experiment has been an absolute benefit for “Ghone”, as all these releases have been some of my favorites. The same applies to the final addition called “Sram Schet” which saw the light of day in 2019 as a live recording of a show done in April of the same year.
We’re back in soundtrack land and I honestly believe that this is peak “Ghone” material in those regards. This brilliantly horrific track takes you on a 23 minute deep dive into a decaying rust-covered haunted (mad) house. Or post-apocalyptic ruins of a once vastly populated city. Or a thick, vast forest filled with shadows and moving eyes or whichever other scenario gets your spine tingling.  It’s creepy. It’s chilling. It gives you goosebumps. And it’s done perfectly. You hear how “Ghone” plays with sounds, keeping the overall mood at an edge, but adding layers, melding them together, breaking the pattern with unexpected high pitched samples and then putting it back together, but never stopping. It is times like these where I wish the tracks had lyrics, as I imagine that they would have quite a story to tell. Then again, the music paints a far better picture than words ever could.

There you have it ladies and gentlemen, “Ghone” in the smallest of nutshells. Each of the above listed releases is worthy of a longer, proper review. It feels like each of them successfully manages to transfer a unique feeling, which I think a lot of noise artists can’t always achieve.

To sum this whole showcase up, if I had to rank my top 3 “Ghone” releases, my list would look something like this:
#1 - Sram Schet
#2 - Rushing For Coal
#3 - Imnissel Mill Dinja
#honorable mention - split w/ Modelbau (as the #1 split release)

Overall, as mentioned at the start of the showcase, I’m impressed by “Ghone” and have been captivated by it ever since I heard the first tone. Objectively, there are areas where it excels at and some which might be room for improvement. Some tracks are intimidatingly long and they could be a bit shorter while still managing to get the feels across to the listener. This is why I would love to see John exploring some shorter song formats, as I think some of these already existing briefer tracks are surprisingly impactful. Similarly, at times I much more prefer “Ghone” in the clean cut, more minimalistic and technical incarnation, compared to the harsh noise variant simply because I feel like the cleaner ones manage to send a stronger message.
And yet, whatever kind of opinion you have regarding “Ghone”, one thing is for certain. It is a passion project in constant motion and evolution, ever-growing and forever changing. It is a machine fueled by creativity, a thing which it doesn’t seem to run out of, and thus you never truly know what will another release bring. “Ghone” can slow down, but it will never stop.
I hope these little snippets of my thoughts are enough to inspire you to check out this wondrous noise from Greece. You can find the entire discography up on bandcamp found here, some selected works on youtube here and you can also follow “Ghone” on the official facebook page found here.

As promised, this showcase will be shortly followed by an interview I did with John, which will be up on the blog this upcoming Thursday. Great conversation, truly can’t wait to share it with you all. Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Gig review: Ólafur Arnalds

I knew for quite some time that I would be attending this concert, but I wasn't entirely sure if I'll end up writing my thoughts about it afterwards, especially during this period when I've been actively working on the "Jeromes Dream" review (which made me quite exhausted) and the huge showcase/interview that I'll be posting next week. However, the performance was such that it would be a complete loss not to host here. 

Ólafur Arnalds, an Icelandic multi-instrumentalist, needs no introduction, simply because he has been sprouting his roots throughout various corners of the music world. He played drums in “Fighting Shit” and “Celestine”, Icelandic hardcore and post-metal bands respectively, and has contributed various material for “Heaven Shall Burn”. Both bands being quite superb, I might add. He is also part of an experimental techno duo along with Janus Rasmussen of “Bloodgroup”, their joint project called “Kiasmos” which I’m really enjoying lately. During the years he has touched many genres with his solo project, ranging from post-rock, experimental ambient and neoclassicism. Along the way, he has worked with many notable artists, such as “Sigur Rós” and Nils Frahm, to name a few, and has also contributed vastly in the soundtrack world where he eventually won the BAFTA Best Original Music award for the show “Broadchurch” in 2014.
He is also considered a music pioneer along with Icelandic audio developer Halldor Eldjarn, with whom he worked for two years to develop a custom-designed software called “Stratus”. Essentially, a musical system focused on a central piano which, while being played, triggers two different notes on two other self-playing pianos, creating unbelievable melodies and harmonies.
This is all just a brief, condensed background, but it boils down to Ólafur being an exceptionally talented artist making some truly wonderful music, a prodigy only Iceland is capable of raising.
The event took place at “Sava Centar” in Belgrade on 20th of November 2019. It’s a really old place, but one with a rather cult-like status for grandiose events like this and it has been a place of some fond memories for me. The most recent event which I attended here was the “Dead Can Dance” concert a few months back and I was blown away by how exquisite the acoustics of the concert hall were. Truth be told, I was a little skeptical for that gig because the venue is so old and with a bit of a rusty appearance, but the whole event just pushed all those doubts aside and I was actually quite happy that Ólafur will have his performance there. As he mentioned when addressing the crowd during the opening of the show, this was their 142nd (out of 143) concert on the “Re:member” tour which has been spanning for 18 months.
To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect from the concert and I somewhat went blind into it, as I haven’t really listened to his music all that much. I mostly knew some of his background and have heard a few songs here and there, so in my mind it would be just an enjoyable evening.  
Right from the get go, the concert was a sight to behold. Ólafur came out alone and sat at his piano, a single beam of light high from above focusing on him. Soon enough, he was joined by five other band members, a cellist, a drummer and three violinists, all walking into the darkness and taking their positions. Slowly, each of them began playing, one by one, each note making another ray of light coming down and illuminating them. 
Immediately I have to talk about the lights which were such a key element to the entire performance, as if they were the final member on stage making this group a septet. I have literally never attended an event where the lighting was utilized in such an astounding way. Not only was it beautiful aesthetically, but there was a real artistic merit to it, being perfectly synchronized with the music, constantly adapting to almost every created tone. It played such a pivotal part in establishing and enhancing the atmosphere that you cannot take it away from the music.
The music itself was divine. “Þú ert jörðin”, “re:member”, “Verses”, “Ypsilon”, “Ekki Hugsa” and “Near Light” are just some of the songs which spread through the concert hall that evening. The audience was grasped and taken on a hundred minute otherworldly journey. Collectively, we even actively participated in the said journey, when Ólafur asked the crowd to sing so that he can record it and add it to a song. For the most part, everyone in the crowd was stunned by the spectacle and there would always be dead silence near the end of a given song, everybody patiently waiting for the very last tone to go mute so that we could all burst into applause and cheer. There were moments where the piano would be so very quiet, almost as if it was not playing at all, and you could sense the electricity in the air as hundreds of people sit on the edges of their seats, so deeply focused and absorbing the moment.
There’s a pure lack of words when trying to describe music like this. It was so mesmerizing to literally see and hear all these beautifully weaved melodies playing with and rearranging your momentary emotions. So many perfectly clear, gentle, somber,  melancholic, uplifting and epic tones, but all together so very powerful and moving. You simply can’t sum that up in writing. I like to explain this to myself in a way that such music is created by not only genuinely talented individuals, but by those who are also able to tap into something deep down in their soul, a thing so pure and primordial, and transfer it into music.
The last, but absolutely not the least, song which Ólafur performed alone during an encore was “Lag fyrir ömmu”, which he explained was a song he dedicated to his late grandmother. So pure and wonderful, as he has also been while previously addressing the audience, the last tones echoing that evening in Belgrade were deeply moving. 

In the end, this was an evening blessed with truly magical music. It is one of those events which you experience and then you go home with your soul feeling warm and comfortable. It’s an experience which doesn’t hit you hard, but instead it lingers on you for the days to come and makes you smile because somewhere in the back of your mind you still hear some of those beautiful piano melodies playing. It doesn’t blow your mind, but it does take your breath away.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Gig review: Jeromes Dream

I was trying to do my best to have this review (and one other planned post) crammed into October, but writing the previous wall of text and gathering my thoughts on this one was an endeavor. Sitting here now in front of my laptop and trying to believe that I'm ready to spill out my emotions about the concert, I'm honestly still not sure if the thoughts have all settled down.

Thanks to a work related trip I managed to see "Cult of Luna" play in Gothenburg, but the maddening thing about the whole thing was that the trip got booked literally on the same evening when JD announced their European tour. Initially I saw the dates and most places where I usually travel for concerts were during my stay in Sweden and this was disheartening, to say the least. There was absolutely no chance that I would miss them and somehow I managed to come up with a plan, so a handful of hours after the announcement I bought tickets for the show in Vienna and tickets for a connected flight scheduled for some hours after "Cult of Luna" which would first land me in Berlin and then into the Austrian capital. Mad 24 hours, that's for sure.
Wien Arena is located in a sort of industrial section of the city close to the Danube river, on its western bank. As much as I have managed to understand the location, Arena is actually a group of multiple venues of different shapes and sizes. This concert in particular took place in the Kleine Halle (small hall) which is divided into three connected rooms, featuring a bar, a room with a merch table and the stage space, aesthetically perfect for a hardcore show with lots of cool posters and interesting names up on the walls.
Already we slowly creep to the part of the review where I have to stop and start thinking about how am I going to structure the rest of the text. In reality, this whole thing was written backwards somehow, since I first wrote the more heartfelt second half of the review and then I scrolled back to the start to compile the more technical part. I completely spilled the emotional beans, but then I realized this will end up looking more like a diary entry than a concert review, so the cold technicalities simply needed to be done.

"Jeromes Dream" truly needs no introduction. For those unfortunate enough to not be familiar with the name, they are a 3-piece screamo band formed in Connecticut, USA way back in 1997, and being extensively active up until 2001 when they broke up. Those four fruitful years gave birth to numerous releases, most of which were splits with other notable projects such as "Amalgamation", "Usurp Synapse" and "Orchid", to name a few. They went above and beyond with the way they played, exploding on the music scene with an extremely violent incarnation of screamo, masterfully using screeching guitar feedback and unexpected outbursts of melodically melancholic tempo drops. By far the definite thing that sets them apart from any other band is the decision to not use a microphone for live performances and most of their recorded material. Hearing the raw power of the vocals, grasping the idea and the message behind it, realizing the passion needed to perform in such a way, is truly mind blowing. This "style" of screaming was a perfect clash of destructive energy, an almost painfully aggressive wail, but so pure and sincere at the same time. Truly a one of a kind characteristic which can't be found anywhere else. 
Without any kind of exaggeration, they are one of the most influential bands of the genre and their legacy has lived on to this day, almost two decades later. We all woke up from the dream back in 2001, but since then we fell asleep and the dream came back in 2018 when it was announced that they are recording new music. So here we are now, one year and one new "LP" later.
The show was everything that I have hoped for and so much more beyond that. They were fast, chaotic and remorseless, but above everything else they radiated with pure, unbridled passion. It's worth noting that the latest release was somewhat done as a culmination of pre-"Presents" and "Presents" era, combined with two decades worth of musical evolution of the band members. The most controversial thing about it, again, are the vocals, since the band still keeps generating the hate of some of the listeners due to the so called "robo-voice" which initially showed up in their final 2001 record. Not to get too deep into it (not like this review will lack in length), but I fall on the bandwagon of people who love the vocal changes, despite the fact that I absolutely adored the no-microphone act and consider it the "Jeromes Dream" signature. Personally, "Double Who? Double You!" is in my top 5 JD songs for sure, so to me it came almost natural that they continue with a similar style on the "LP".
Again worth noting is that similarly to how I think the new record is a amalgamation of all their collected work and growth into an album, so did their performance feel the same way. Jeff sounded insanely good, as if he was performing in all his recorded styles all at once. The aggression, the passion, screaming into the microphone in a way that did sound "robotic" yet fragile and genuinely human at the same time. The instruments were poised to collapse the venue with the sheer force released, the constant beating, rending and maniacal rhythm bursts and shifts. Their setlist was composed of mostly new material, but they managed to nudge in a few oldies, most notably "It's More Like A Message To You" which hit me like a truck since it is one of my favorite songs overall.
30 minutes and one broken guitar string later, they finished. After so much chaos and rushed heart beats it was done. Silence. I felt like I was drifting, physically I was present, but the mind was stunned. So much so that it didn't even occur to me that the band is still there at the small venue and that the chances to bump into one of them was high. I moved a bit into the room where the merch desk was, trying to just get a grip of myself, and then I accidentally notice Jeff walking past me. My initial response was null, I didn't want to disturb him and somehow I felt like I was lacking the trigger which I always had previously on shows where I would almost always say hi to band members and thank them for the gig. Guess I'm getting old.
Despite this, almost instinctively in a second I was close to him, tapping him on the shoulder. And it was... such a weird encounter for me. There I am, just some random person from the crowd, and there he was, also just some random person playing some music. But it just so happens that this specific music and this particular band means something to me, without me knowing why and what exactly. It has simply existed in my life for so many years, rooted in a particularly special place in my heart. The music that was present through love and loss, hope and tragedy, through inspiration and depression, invoking so many different emotions that I can't even begin to describe all of them.
My memories of this band aren't as vivid as those of "Cult of Luna" in the previous review. I can't remember the first song I heard or when and where I heard it. I can't recall how and why they stuck with me. Discovering screamo back in the day was a chaotic experience for me, I fell into the genre and I was flooded by the amount of bands which were so damn superb. There is only the memory of "Saetia" being the absolutely first screamo tune which echoed in my ears, but after them the sheer number of amazing projects just overwhelmed me.
At some unknown spot in time, somewhere deep in that ever-turbulent vortex of music, two bands emerged. "Mihai Edrisch" and "Jeromes Dream", the names which rose up and stood tall as my absolutes, not just within the screamo genre, but overall. And even to this day, so many years later, they are still there for me and still I don't know why.
"Jeromes Dream" has been the band. Where swarms of bands came and went, their music stuck with me, maybe simply because they truly did succeed in stirring up emotions. Among many of those sensations were feelings of nostalgia and melancholy in the tunes, which were always highlighted by the fact that they were a band from the 90's who broke up by the time I discovered them and I would never see them perform. They were a youthful trio doing something unbelievably unique and powerful, there were awe-inspiring stories to their name and horribly recorded live shows which, even despite the bad quality, were nothing short of groundbreaking. Many bands of that era have been long dead by the time I discovered them, but somehow the death of "Jeromes Dream" disturbed me.
It's so hard writing this without being too emotional. It's hard writing this at all, in fact. I'm inexplicably happy that I managed to see them play live and actually thankful that I even got a chance to do so... yet, at the same time, I feel extremely sad. The same way that their music can make you feel uplifted and alive, but also cause depressive feelings to erupt, so too did this concert make me feel. I was there with them, witnessing the full spectacle of the chaos they created, but somehow I can't shake the melancholic feeling of sadness that I wasn't present near them some 20 years ago when they initially hit the scene, in the "golden age" so to speak. Not there at the Munoz Gym in Bakersfield, not there for the "Chased by Bees" tour with "Orchid" or not there for some random house show. Especially when I think about the fact that at the time I was a kid living in the war torn part of the European continent, in a country that was bombed for months in 1999, completely displaced from a part of the world where some other kids were focused on creating music and where something truly magical was happening. I was displaced and unable to physically be there on shows to support them. I don't know why, but all these thoughts weigh heavily on me.
But maybe all this was what made seeing them so surreal to me. They were a cherished possession which got lost in the past, even though I never actually owned it, yet felt tremendously connected to. I finally had my chance to be a part of that experience and I would be lying if I said that it didn't change something in me. I'm sitting now at my laptop (at work actually), listening to the "Completed" CD and my heart is just rushing with invigorated passion. It feels as if I'm hearing them for the first time again and it's hard to suppress tears in my eyes. I am again that kid in the 90's discovering screamo for the first time, so ardent and full of energy. This is pure proof of timelessness of the music, always invoking something in you, no matter how, when and where you hear it. And for a short, 30 minute glimpse I finally had a chance to be a part of something that has always been my dream.
And it is such a strange phenomenon, not just in and through music, but in and through life as well, that we might touch, inspire, move or change other people, without even being, or in fact ever being, aware of this. And I believe I saw genuine surprise and amazement in Jeff's eyes when I approached him and said "thanks". Himself, Erik and Nick do something they love, for themselves, but that love spreads through all the speakers playing their music and it does touch other people.
Some minutes later, I was off home. I simply couldn't stay. I saw Erik standing at the merch desk, but I was just so emotionally exhausted, completely lost in all these thoughts and feelings. I also couldn't bring myself to conceptualize the fact that "Jeromes Dream" would be an opening act for some other band, no matter which band it was. To "Daughters", I am sorry. I'm fully aware that you deserved my attendance and I'm certain that I'll respect that on some other occasion, but just not now.
At the start of the review I wrote that I'm not sure if my thoughts have settled and even though there are many words in this text I don't think they have. I don't think they ever will, at least not enough to express them verbally. I simply feel like crying out of joy, nostalgia or whatever third thing that is charging through my mind as I write this, again literally holding back tears even as I'm done writing everything and am just editing the review. It is that kind of experience, one that I have been trying to materialize in writing for numerous days after the gig and I could continue trying, but I'll never truly manage to explain to someone why this meant so much to me. I guess the bottom line and the point of all this is the same very first thing I said to Jeff after I tapped him on the shoulder, "thank you for everything".