William Goode’s Journal – Bjork: Biophilia – Review

According to Wikipedia Biophelia means this “love of life or living systems.”  “It was first used by Erich Fromm to describe a psychological orientation of being attracted to all that is alive and vital” again according to Wikipedia.

Biophilia is Bjork’s eighth album and what an album. From what I can gather parts of it were recorded on an iPad. It has taken four years for the project to surface and as with all Bjork albums there is a lot to be going on with, both in the making of the album and the concept of the whole accompanying project.

The album is promoted as the world’s first “app album”. It’s a multimedia extravaganza that apart from Apple iPad apps, includes the internet although how this relates to her live show I don’t know. I haven’t been lucky enough to see it yet.

This is an extract from Bjorks website where she describes what the album is all about.

“For me the project is a continuation of volta and whereas volta is more about anthropology, this is kind of without humans and both zooming out like the planets but also zooming in into the atoms and in that way aesthetically sympathising with sound and how sound moves and physics of sound and how notes in a room behave, how they bounce off walls and between objects and its kind of more similar to how planets and microscopic things work”.

bjork.com audio snippet, 2011

There is always a beauty in Bjorks work and the simplest sounding tune plus her vocal style can become almost an orchestral masterpiece.

Is she a singer in the pop world? Well I guess she is but to me her avant garde tendencies leave her pretty squarely at times in that more transient art world where anything can be experimented with.

She crosses the boundaries of folk, classical, electronic dance, jazz etc. It must be very liberating for her to be an artist that is accepted in these different worlds and you have to admire her forward thinking and freshness.

This album involved Bjork, Apple and National Geographic plus a multitude of other helpers. The album apparently is meant to be an educational experience as much as a musical one once you involve yourself with the apps.

The whole project involved so many people (David Attenborough for example) and reviewing this album as a piece of music is only part of the story. She enlisted scientists and musical enthusiasts that made unusual and new instruments for her, a large musical pendulum called a Gravity Harp and a Tesla Coil are just examples plus other very interesting from what I’ve researched instruments. Will they be used again, I hope so.

Bjork’s  Gameleste – a bespoke Gamelan-Celeste hybrid can be viewed from this site.

http://thecultureofme.com/2011/06/video-meet-bjorks-gameleste

The opening track “Moon” starts with a plucking sample, almost childlike in its simplicity, for me a folk element runs through this, is this one of the iPad recordings? certainly could be,

“Cosmogony” is a stand out track with its delicate vocal from Bjork and a lovely choir like backing, the intimacy with which the melody is handled here is typical of what Bjork is known for.

Hollow has a very strong orchestral feel to it, percussion builds and then drops, an adventurous attempt and one that like the whole album is pulled off with phonetic style.

Virus, I reckon has the Gameleste playing. This is a simple song with subtle builds, the song is delicate and at time masterful in its approach. It’s simplicity in structure evokes another world, another time, another place.

How many other acts will start to put out multimedia driven music albums as complex as Bjork’s project? Well only time will tell and not every artists style will lend itself to this form and how much does it all cost to deliver a project such as this? I would love to know some of the details.

Bjorks Biophilia is a wonderful example of her work, go listen and better still get hold of the iPad apps, as long as you have an iPad that is.

 

William Goode’s Journal – Bonnie “Prince” Billy: Wolfroy Goes To Town – Review

Well I always get excited when I know a new Bonnie “Prince” Billy album is about to be released and his latest is Wolfroy Goes to Town

Will Oldham under the moniker Bonnie “Prince” Billy has released his umpteenth album, sixteenth from my reckoning and what a joy it is.

If you are looking for songs such as “Barcelona”, which I feel is one of the best songs ever written by anyone, you’ll be disappointed. However if you are a long time fan of Mr. Bonnie “Prince” Billy you will know that he can be more laid back than a lizard drinking water as it lies peacefully in the sun, this is one of those albums.

It would be too easy to dismiss at times Will Oldham’s laid backness for not trying hard and that would be a mistake. There are times when the acoustic intro to these songs is so quiet that especially listening in the car you wonder if your stereo has turned off and then of course all hearing is normally resumed as he sings with such majesty.

This album in all its quiet subtly has after many listens a multitude of nuances that surface each time you play the album. You listen and hear something, some build up in the song that never quite seemed to be there before, but obviously was.

Bonnie “Prince” Billy Performs “Quail and Dumplings” at the 2011 Calgary Folk Music Festival

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5LKuz7WL_k

The band consisting of superb singer Angel Olsen adds untold dimension to these delicate wonderful songs.

I’ve always had to listen carefully to what Will Oldham sings about and for awhile I’m not always sure of what he means and it takes a few listenings here too, but it comes and do we really always have to know anyways?

The God / religious theme appears from time to time and I’ve also been puzzled as to whether Oldham is religious or not. There are times when I think I have it pegged, and this includes past albums, and then he will sing a line that throws me, still that’s his business but it’s an interesting aspect that lies behind the man and his music.

The first track “No Match’ is very laid back with a slight country feel. There are lovely harmonies from Angel Olsen along with electric guitar and bass. Oldham sings of being no match, “I’m no match for those who love the Lord and they are no match for me”

“New Whaling” has a lovely acoustic intro, a reminder to me of a Crosby, Stills and Nash acoustic guitar style. Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s vocals are excellent here as they are on the whole album. He matures like a nicely stored bottle of red. The backing vocals echo the tune with “so far and here we are”. Quite a repetitive melody but done beautifully.

“Time To Be Clear” a reflective song where Will Oldham sings “got news of his passing” “God isn’t listening or else he is too late”. Another line that evokes religion but what a line. Angel Olsen’s vocal on this is exceptional and she is almost the solo instrument of the song, a nice touch where a guitar part would have been put in by another artist.

“New Tibet” has the opening lyric “as boys we fucked each other as men we lie and smile” well there is a line. This is what I love about Oldham. You are sitting comfortably listening to a subtle acoustic intro and then a line like this comes out straight from left of centre, he is never scared to stretch the thinking. This is another reflective tune “you think we don’t fight, birds fight birds hate” another remarkable song.

This album has enough of the clever lyrics that Will Oldham is known for and has made him one of America’s great storytellers. After repeated listens the album matures into a piece of work up there with many of the classic Will Oldham albums.

Throughout his career Oldham has immersed himself in that peculiar to America, not surprisingly as he is American, a folk and country style that reveals stories with characters that may be dark, may be joyful but at the same time have a peculiarity about them. There is always an interest for the listener, a world for you to enter and take on board if just for a short while.

The band is made up of what are at present his regular touring musicians, guitarist Emmett Kelly, a man of many instruments Shahzad Ismaily and the beautiful vocals of Angel Olsen plus Ben Boye, Van Campbell.

They bring a sparse presence to the album that is never overdone but at the same time is full of ideas amongst what at a first listening appears to be one of the quietest of the Bonnie “Prince” Billy albums.

There is an almost a theatrical sense of era to the songs which possibly is no surprise as Will Oldham also dabbles in acting. This is definitely a Bonnie “Prince” Billy album in the gist that there are no new directions, it’s what we have come to expect from an artist as great as Will Oldham.

Within the confinements of a song he has still managed to creek out with such subtly breaths of fresh air, stories to keep your interest for the whole journey.

Long live the “Prince” he lives another day.

 

William Goode’s Journal – 2 Things I Know About Song Writing

Where do you start?  – Well where do you finish? That could be a better question. Do I have song writing tips? Not really, I know we all find our own way eventually but there are techniques that you find useful and these are worth passing on which I will do from time to time.

Is it easier to start with the lyrics or the music? Would you be better writing on your own or with someone else? If you are attempting to make a million writing the latest hit what style do you write in? Are you making it all so complicated that the enjoyment can disappear and you actually dry up?

Well as is with a lot of artistic endeavours in life there is the old, by now cliché, no rules.

I personally don’t write to sell a hit (although I have had my share of this type of writing, hitless though). For me it is an artistic endeavour that is quite a selfish act and if other people enjoy what I do then that is fine, I’m glad and humble. I do this because I have a need to write songs, I like to experiment with lyrics and music but not particularly following a set pattern.

I have had my share of writing –Verse-Chorus-Verse-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus type songs and a good majority of smash hits follow this formula if not close to it, there may be a key change towards the end to add more interest. Now when I’m writing I do not even consider the format of the song, I can’t remember when I last wrote a bridge, the chorus just comes and sometimes it doesn’t, that’s the way I enjoy it.

The interest for me is in the flow of what comes and a lot of what I do now would never fit into standard radio formats but they do fit into an album format, just no real singles (although I could pick the odd one out of my tunes if radio came a calling and it is quite easy these days to have your songs played at an online radio music station).

Now I’m not knocking top 40 hit songs because there is a lot of satisfaction to be gained from listening to that perfect little pop song and I love them, always have but writing them is not for me anymore, but never say never (another clichéd line, but true).

There are a lot of cheap books online that may give you a few pointers and I may review one or two of these at some stage. You may find a dictionary thesaurus online which can prompt you for a direction, but it’s something I rarely use. I found a thesaurus hindered my natural flow of words and made what I wrote seem stilted, but everyone to their own method.

There are two things I would recommend if you wish to become a songwriter:

1.Write about what you know.

A songs lyric should mean something even if it is a 3 minute pop tune. I am however partial to progressive rock bands and who knows what those lyrics mean at times, but they have a feel and intention that goes with the music and because of this they are an important style of writing.

Read a lot of books, talk to a lot of people and as you go through life the stories will come, they will almost jump out at you at times. Find a relaxing spot, or write about your teen/middle aged angst but it has to mean something to you. You can’t expect someone else to connect with your lyric if you don’t find your own connection within what you are writing, write genuinely with purpose.

2.Give yourself time.

My best lyrics come at all times of the day, when I’m tired, when I’m wide awake, when I least feel like writing a song. I guess what I’m saying is if you sit down to write a song and nothing comes then the time is possibly not right. Don’t lose sleep, hey even in the middle of the night, things can come (keep that writing pad and pen by the side of the bed)

Learn guitar chords,as many new ones as possible, tune your guitar differently, there are endless ways to stimulate the brain, try them all.

I very rarely sit down to especially write a song anymore but I still write many songs. When the words present themselves the music quite often follows close behind, or it may be the other way around however I write when it comes, unforced.

Try writing poetry, write in a different way, make the mind twist a little and you’ll be surprised at the results.

 

 

 

 

 

 

William Goode’s Journal – John Lennon and Yoko Ono – A listen to the Wedding Album once again – Reviewed

In July 1964 John Lennon bought a house in the St George’s Hill estate in Weybridge,Surreynamed “Kenwood”.

In an earlier post of mine I talked about his home based recording setup which was put together for John Lennon by Paul McCartney. McCartney had set up John Lennon’s tape recorders so that he could overdub tracks, essentially mono / stereophonic tape recorders joined so that an overdub could be done and this was done in the houses attic area.

This set off John recording and demoing future Beatles songs but also a series of avant garde music which didn’t sell well at all but are of great interest to Beatles fans.

I’m going to review all three of John Lennons avant garde albums in release order this is the third and last:

This album was not recorded at Kenwood but the whole Kenwood idea of avant garde was continued on here.

 

Wedding Album – Released 7/11/69. Recorded March and April 1969

calum macdonald john lennon wedding album review

Front cover of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Wedding Album

calum macdonald review of Lennon and Ono's Wedding Album

Back cover and inserts of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Wedding Album

This album was the final in what is now a series of three avant garde albums recorded by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the late 1960’s.

The album has two tracks, one on each side and the CD re-release has three bonus tracks.

Track one “John and Yoko” consists of John Lennon and Yoko Ono repeating their names to each other over the sound of I would imagine their own heartbeats. They instill a different emotion each time they name call each other. Effective avant garde.

“Amsterdam” track 2 on side 2 was recorded as you would guess in Amsterdam at their now very famous bed in. They were married earlier in the year and this piece has Yoko singing of peace and a journalist interviewing them with John and Yoko answering as they always did with understanding of how the world needs peace. There are various other sounds underpinning the track and I enjoyed this.

The CD bonus tracks are:

“Who Has Seen The Wind” sung by Yoko Ono with a really nice backing. The song was Lennons “B” side for single Instant Karma in 1970.

“Listen The Snow Is Falling” once again sung by Yoko Ono and this was the B side to John Lennons “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” from 1971. Once again a nice track.

I really quite like that period of Lennon and Ono working together with her child like vocal style to his musical backing, this track also features session musicians.

“Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking For Her Hand In The Snow)” is another Yoko Ono track with Lennon backing her on acoustic guitar. This appears to be a demo recording and from my research possibly recorded on cassette at Queen Charlotte’s hospital, London in November 68. It is quite a rough recording but quite magical too.

Interestingly enough the CD re-releases of the John Lennon Yoko Ono avant garde albums seem to come with bonus Yoko Ono tracks, not a bad thing just interesting as I’m sure there were many Lennon tracks that could have been added to the collection. Maybe contractual licencing issues were a reason for this.

The album sold somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000 copies. It came as a box set with many inserts such as a copy of Lennon and Ono’s wedding certificate, press clippings and a picture of their wedding cake.

As per the other two avant garde albums they didn’t dent the charts and were possibly a mystery to Lennons Beatle fans at the time.

I for one am glad they did them, they were unusual and apart from the recordings themselves represented a period were one of the musical greats of history decided to change course and as we all now know leave The Beatles behind him. He was to take on a more political stance with his music in the future and he moved styles away from the “She loves You” type tracks.

I’m sure these recordings, that seem an aberration in the middle of Lennon’s other work, were necessary to him and in some ways propelled him in into his later styles more than maybe The Beatles tunes ever could. Being an artist to me should be an evolving process and Lennon showed that through his lifes work.

At the end of the day we have albums that love or hate them, make you think, and that can’t be a bad thing.

Track Listing

Side one

  1. John & Yoko – 22:44

Side two

1.  Amsterdam– 25:00

CD bonus tracks

  1. Who Has Seen the Wind? – 2:05
  2. Listen, The Snow Is Falling – 3:25
  3. Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow) – 2:35

 

William Goode’s Journal – John Lennon – Life With The Lions – 41 years later – Reviewed

In July 1964 John Lennon bought a house in the St George’s Hill estate in Weybridge, Surrey named “Kenwood”.

In an earlier post of mine I talked about his home based recording setup which was put together for John Lennon by Paul McCartney. McCartney had set up John Lennon’s tape recorders so that he could overdub tracks, essentially mono / stereophonic tape recorders joined so that an overdub could be done and this was done in the houses attic area.

This set off John recording and demoing future Beatles songs but also a series of avant garde music which didn’t sell well at all but are of great interest to Beatles fans.

I’m going to review all three of John Lennons avant garde albums in release order this is the second:

This album was not recorded at Kenwood but the whole Kenwood idea of avant garde was continued on here.

Unfinished Music No.2: Life with the Lions-released May 9th 1969-recorded 11/68 to 3/69

 

calum macdonald john lennon life with the lions front cover

John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Unfinished Music No 2: Life With The Lions front cover

 

 
calum macdonald john lennon life with the lions

John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s back cover of Unfinished music No 2: Life With The Lions

This album was the follow up to the Unfinished Music No 1 – Two virgins release from 1968.

Track one was recorded live on the 2/3/69 at Cambridge University. The recording has Yoko Ono improvising to John Lennons guitar sounds. The couple were joined by a saxophonist and percussionist during the piece.

If you are not a Yoko Ono fan and I wouldn’t say I am but I find her interesting then this shrill track of Yoko Ono backed by John Lennon using feedback won’t appeal. The track lasts for 26:30 minutes and takes some patience to listen to but again as in the “Two Virgins” album this is historical and that may not mean you have to like it but it does add an interest and a feel to what is being produced.

Yoko Ono went on to endure three miscarriages, one can only imagine how traumatic that must have been for the couple. The rest of the recordings are done on cassette tape and were made at Queen Charlotte’s hospital in London in November 1968 were Yoko Ono was admitted.

“No Bed for Beatle John” is a recording of John and Yoko singing or chanting, take your pick, words from press clippings that were written about them. Yoko’s voice seems to be more to the front here.

The track “Baby’s Heartbeat” is as it says a recording of the baby’s abnormal heartbeat and that is what it is for the whole track.

“Two Minutes Silence” is actually two minutes of silence and reminds me of the John cage 4’33 piece that he did, which was 4’33 minutes of silence. Apparently this was meant to be in memory for the baby and a reminder to us all that violence and death are not the way we should go.

“Radio Play” which lasts for 12’35 is apparently John Lennon moving through a radio, flipping between channels with at one stage John Lennon involved in a phone call. This track for me was annoying, I guess as a piece of avant garde it may appeal to some but once John Lennon was on the phone as well as the radio dialing, the piece lost it really for me. Once again though interesting in a historical sense.

The CD re-release comes with two bonus tracks. The first is “Song For john” which is a song sung by Yoko with Lennon on a tinny acoustic guitar. I quite liked this, maybe after “Radio Play” it felt good but you wouldn’t have heard this on the original album and this type of track is what Lennon and Yoko did well.

The other bonus track is “Mulberry” a piece with John lennon playing fairly wild acoustic guitar and Yoko Ono vocalizing over this. As a piece of avant garde I like this as well, once again not on the original album.

The front cover of the album shows Yoko Ono lying in bed at Queen Charlotte’s hospital next to her is Lennon lying on what appears to be two bean bags. A very hard time for the couple and you can see this clearly in their faces.

The back cover is a shot of Lennon and Ono leaving Marleybone police station after having been arrested for drugs in October 1968.

I think listening to these tracks, 41 years later is immensely interesting. There has always been a fascination for many many people regarding the Beatles but not so much these uncommercial Lennon and Ono albums. For me they are essential listening and throw in the fact that the pieces provide you with gripping memories as well as sonic interest, I am very glad i made the effort.

“Radio Play” not so much but hey that’s just me. The album according to Lennon went on to sell around 60.000 copies, quite a few more sales than “Two Virgins”. Maybe the new avant garde style of John Lennon and Yoko Ono was starting to catch on.

Track Listing

Side one

  1. Cambridge 1969  (26:31)

Side two

  1. No Bed For Beatle John  (4:41)
  2. Baby’s Heartbeat  (5:10)
  3. Two Minutes Silence  (2:00)
  4. Radio Play  (12:35)

CD bonus tracks

  1. Song For John  (1:29)
  2. Mulberry  (8:47)

 

 

 

 

 

 

William Goode’s Journal – John Lennon and Yoko Ono – Unfinished Music No 1: Two Virgins – 42 years later – Reviewed

In July 1964 John Lennon bought a house in the St George’s Hill estate in Weybridge, Surrey named “Kenwood”.

In an earlier post of mine I talked about his home based recording setup which was put together for John Lennon by Paul McCartney. McCartney had set up John Lennon’s tape recorders so that he could overdub tracks, essentially mono / stereophonic tape recorders joined so that an overdub could be done and this was done in the houses attic area.

This set off John recording and demoing future Beatles songs but also a series of avant garde music which didn’t sell well at all but are of great interest to Beatles fans.

I’m going to review all three of John Lennons avant garde albums in release order this is the first:

Unfinished Music No 1: Two Virgins – released Nov. 29, 1968

calum macdonald review of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Two Virgins album

Pictures of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Two Virgins controversial front cover

calum macdonald review of john lennon and yoko ono two virgins album

Pictures of John Lennon and Yoko Ono from the back cover of their Two Virgins album

The recording was the result of one all night session between John Lennon and Yoko Ono (possibly 19th May 1968). The music is definitely avant garde and if as a Beatles fan you expected melody and a form of coherence then the result was far far from this and possibly shocked those who were mop top fans. There are no John Lennon songs or John Lennon lyrics here unless you count vocal adlibs.

The cover of the album possibly became more controversial than the recording itself. The front cover had a full frontal picture of John Lennon and Yoko Ono and the back cover a full rear picture of the couple. This caused the distributors to sell the album in a brown paper cover.

There are many drum, organ, piano, vocal edits and tape looped sounds that John had recorded himself with Yoko in monophonic and overdubbed onto other tape recorders creating an ensemble type sound, if you will.

I must say I do enjoy avant garde music and produce some of it myself so this album I enjoyed listening to. It would be fair to say that once every few years I will probably get this out and listen again, maybe finding more sounds and new parts. It is quite hard to listen to and not an album I would put on too many times in a row, but nevertheless fascinating in terms of it’s origin and as a peice of art.

I think listening back knowing the history of John Lennons home studio and The Beatles and Yoko Ono there is an almost surreal feeling that you get whilst hearing the sounds and the vocal add libs that Lennon put together, this definitely added to the overall impact of the album listening to it after it’s initial release 42 years ago.

There will be listeners that will say it is utter nonsence, well I know where they are coming from but John Lennon in my opinion was always genuine about his work and this is as genuine a work as any of his Beatle tracks just not as commercial. Not commercial at all in fact it sold around 5000 copies.

If I had put together an album such as this it would have gained little interest. Massively successful identities in our society almost demand you listen to them and you can’t help but see more maybe than what is there, as a species we are what we are and well known people do make us listen and see things in a different way.

People like John Lennon were creating musical history and this strange as it may be to some, is part of that.

The CD re-release on Rykodisc has a bonus track. “Remember Love” sung by Yoko Ono with John Lennon on acoustic guitar backing her.

I liked this, Yoko Ono’s voice is almost child like and the Lennon guitar backing is reminiscent of something he would do on the white album. The track has a folky quality to it and really is a melodic musical piece whereas “Two Virgins” isn’t.

If you are a Beatles, John Lennon or Yoko Ono fan listen to this album even if it is only once and take it all in as an interesting piece of avant garde history, a time now well in the past.

Track Listing:

Side one

  1. Two Virgins Side One – 14:14
  • Two Virgins No. 1
  • Together
  • Two Virgins No. 2
  • Two Virgins No. 3
  • Two Virgins No. 4
  • Two Virgins No. 5

Side two

  1. Two Virgins Side Two – 15:13
  • Two Virgins No. 6
  • Hushabye Hushabye
  • Two Virgins No. 7
  • Two Virgins No. 8
  • Two Virgins No. 9
  • Two Virgins No. 10

Rykodisc CD bonus track Remember Love  (Yoko Ono)

 

 

 

William Goode’s Journal – RMIT Melbourne-Snatches review-Kaleide theatre-Wednesday 5/10/11-The Fringe Festival (Melbourne)

Snatches a theatre night put on by RMIT Melbourne (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) Australia was in it’s 12th year this year.

I had the pleasure of providing one poem for the evening which was always going to be a surprise as to how it would be delivered as the RMIT students as part of the brief are given the OK by the writers to do what they like with the work.  As it turned out my poem was sung, a first for me as I’m used to poetry readings where I do the reading. Maybe I should sing my next one, although I do find writing poetry a nice breather from writing songs and singing so it was a little ironic.

The opportunity for writers to have their work performed isn’t always easy and this is a great opportunity for writers and students to stretch their artistic capabilities. The crowd was very enthusiastic and the students were very polished, well rehearsed and appeared to quite enjoy themselves.

The student actors perform all the works with quite elaborate stage props and I would imagine their theatre skills are put to quite a test. I personally would like to have seen the stage a little sparser at times as it did look quite busy with props but that was my taste. On the other hand I liked the chaoticness of it as well so sparseness at times would have enhanced this.

The works are poetry, prose and plays. As the promotion material from RMIT Melbourne says “Snatches is a celebration of diversity of expression” and it certainly is. There is a good selection of all works and although it can make quite a long evening the students give it their all and perform excellently.

The show is put on as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival each year and a great way for writers to see their work performed, in my case anyways, by people completely new to my form of Australian poetry.

The shows ran on Wednesday night and on Friday night.

Next year if you get a chance or if you are a writer, get some work to them, but get along to RMIT Melbourne for the variety that Snatches brings to the fringe festival of Melbourne.

Here are a selection of shots from the night:

Calum macdonald picture of Kaleide Theatre RMIT Melbourne

Kaleide Theatre RMIT Melbourne

calum macdonald picture of RMIT Melbourne

RMIT Melbourne

calum macdonlad picture of RMIT snatches writers and performers

RMIT Melbourne Snatches-writers and performers leaflet

calum macdonald picture of RMIT Melbourne Snarches performers

Performers at the Melbourne Fringe Festival 2011 show put on by RMIT Melbourne