Sylvan Esso interview: non stop beautiful answers

It’s the first time at the Berghain for me, after roughly 3 ½ years I finally succumbed to the suction of this hotspot of Berlin nightlife and can marvel at the interior, a rather beautiful and large-scale wall painting and the admittedly great acoustics of the place that I boycotted for having face-controll at their weekly parties. I don’t do that. Elitism at the club entrance is gross.

The reason for my first visit had to be a good one to abandon my standpoint on these sorts of clubs and it sure was – Sylvan Esso were playing and if you want to dance till you melt into the ground, get a little nostalgic and enjoy a very energetic live act then this is your jam.

Sylvan Esso, aka Amelia and Nick, met at a show where both of their previous bands Mountain Man and Megafaun played and hit it off immediately. After a long email-exchange, they suddenly had their own song in their hands – “Play it Right”.

Amelia is one of my favourite onstage-dancers.There’s no self-consciousness just moving to the music.

They continued their mailing but soon realized that it would probably save a lot of time to live in the same city, so they both decided on Durham, USA, an apparently growing second coming of Portland – watch out Portlanders!

If you want to describe Sylvan Esso – named after the game “Swords and Sworcery” (that’s not a typo) – with very broad strokes, you could go along with a somewhat 90s inspired dance-pop. But if you have a few more seconds left, you could also add that they dabble with 40s folk-music and harmonies (mainly because Mountain Man were all about all the beautiful lady-harmonies). The first song on their self-titled debut therefore doesn’t start with any beat, just Amelia’s voice layered slowly easing us into the band’s knack for creating rhythm purely through vocals and then suddenly throwing in a heavy bassline and turning this beautiful a cappella song into a glimmering disco-miracle.

Oh, and there is so much beauty in this and all the following songs that are either right in your face (‘HSKT’ sweeps you off) or slowly reel you in like this super cool dancemove from the 90s. Do you know what I mean? The lasso and catch-dance-move. Classic.

Where was I? Ah yes, before I ventured into the Berghain that night, I met with the band for an interview and had a blast which I want to share. So let’s do this! Continue reading

Favourite Song: Trampled by Turtles ‘Repition’ – or maybe déjà vu?

Trampled by Turtles have released a new album, a gorgeous autumn-fest called “Wild Animal” and two songs* specifically make my heart bleed metaphorically like a flower. The weird thing is that when I listen to both songs I feel like I know them since ages. Some music does that when it’s especially boring and repetitive but even if the title of today’s pick would suggest that, it’s not the case. It’s a beautifully drunken hymn that would make bands like O’Death weep with empathy.

I love that the melody is pretty straight-forward and on that account there is a certain repetition in the waves of rhythm which you could – but shouldn’t – “schunkeln” to as we say in Germany. But the instruments surrounding are crashing into this brave little ship and push it dangerously close to a cacophony. It’s the perfect song for this time of year and as I fill up my MP3-player with folksy/neo-folk-artists, Trampled by Turtles definitely fit in there.

*By the way, the other song is ‘Are you behind the shining star‘ which is a lot less rowdy.



Lazy Sunday: Printer Cell and the Internet of homicidal things

I think my office printer is planing to overthrow humanity one day…

homicidal office printer

Which isn’t even as far-fetched as it was a few years ago. Because of the Internet of Things – which is a concept of networks between gadgets that transfer and receive information and therefore make life easier and more transparent – there is an actual possibility to have a group of machines communicate with each other. That would mean – and this is basically the thought behind the IoT – that they don’t need any input or information by a human being to do their work. Let’s say you buy a super fancy IoT-alarm clock. It will not only do what every normal lame and boring alarm clock does, it will also check your online calendar and see when you are on holidays, so it can turn off its usual early alarm during those days. It could also check in with the traffic news and wake you earlier if there’s a delay on the train tracks/motorway. Or it could check in with your coffee machine and make sure that there’s a nice pot of coffee ready as soon as you roll out of bed.

So that’s the nice example that they like to use to make this idea look cool (and it is, it has endless incredible possibilities to make this world a better place). BUT that also means that groups of robots could learn all by themselves and given that they need a sort of implemented reasoning (albeit it probably would be very basic and based on certain man-made-rules) there is a possibility that they could change their behaviour in unexpected ways because they learned something that led to logical but not necessarily benevolent reasoning. But that’s just my inner Philip K. Dick talking.

All in all, the whole idea and concept in itself is way too fascinating for me to be against it, even though the whole issue of Big Data (all the information about us and our environment that these gadgets would need to amass – and already do – to function properly) and privacy is very creepy. But as long as I can kind of choose whether I want to buy and activate this gadget or rather stick to that old alarm clock with the really loud ticking noise that drives me insane at night, I am fine – maybe. Hopefully.

Favourite Song: Dan Mangan and Blacksmith ‘Vessel’ – it’s just me screaming with glee

One of the greatest things as a music geek is stumbling over a new song by an artist when you didn’t expect it and then this song turns out to be the greatest thing you’ve heard in ages.

Dan Mangan is a musician I usually convert people to. It’s the Canadian Gospel of great songwriter-ship and no one has ever denied its brilliance.

After a few years somewhat off the grid (but not really, he was touring quite frequently) and apparently a rearranging of the band (and rearranging in his life, he’s a dad now), he returns as Dan Mangan & Blacksmith with the song “Vessel” which features on Simon Pegg’s new movie about a guy who wants to find some meaning in his life, well, it’s the Walter Mitty-scenario. BUT Dan Mangan wrote the score to that movie together with Jesse Zubot who is a virtuoso at the violin and played for basically every single amazing Canadian artist (he even played for Raffi, holy mother!).

I do hope that the Blacksmith-outfit does involve a certain Mr. Grdina (press texts indicate, that the band stayed the same, only the name changed, pew) because he is one of the greatest guitar players ever and is such an integral part to Mangan’s sound (I would say he is in the band though, given that the guitar sound on the song “Vessel” hints at genius).

(Apparently, Dave Grohl is somewhere in the backing vocals, just fyi)

Ok, to the song: YES! Dan Mangan goes somewhat Peter Gabriel-ish (ha, called it, he confirmed it in an interview) in the chorus and sheds a little the folky rock to take on a spacey voice of community and epicness. It’s absolutely gorgeous how the song evolves, how elements flow over each other, creating a big beautiful mess of sound which fits the best line of the song “it takes a village to raise a fool” – and this village apparently comes together in this song to create music. Mangan not only changes his musical style but uses his voice differently as well and when I listened to the first two seconds, I wasn’t even sure it was him singing – it’s one of the things that I love so much about songwriters like him, this want to not only create great music but also to see how far they can go with their vocal abilities and how much these can differ to change the sound accordingly.

It’s a thing of beauty and I already listened to it a dozen times even though it basically was released today. I can’t wait for the album. (that’s supposed to come out in Fall).

Dan Mangan’s new website is amazingly frustrating when it comes to orientation but I appreciate a good joke that sees itself through.

Editor’s note: The single is being released with another song which reels back on the epos and plays more with the space of sadness.

Favourite Song: Little Dragon ‘Pretty Girls’ – Prince probably whisper-sings this song to his ladies

Usually, this late 80s/90s bedroom soul music a la Sade and Prince is really not my cup of tea and I blame the music video to this song for really liking it despite all that Prince-ish vibe because it has zombies in it. For the first half I thought that this is one hell of a boring song and then suddenly it got really interesting and somewhat mesmerizing and immediately after the first listen I wanted to hear it again. Well done Little Dragon. Or curse you? I am not sure.

Shelby Earl: In the depths of my playlists, I found you

Sometimes I have to shuffle through my old playlists because the amount of great artists that get buried in my life’s tumultuous ups and downs is staggering and I would miss out so much. Take Shelby Earl whose song “Sea of Glass” (a modern take on Dusty Springfield if there ever was one) delighted me so much that it ended up in the highly elitist list “I love you song, I really do”. I might have never gotten back to her, heck, I don’t even remember when and under which circumstances I added her back then but her recent album “Swift Arrows” is such a beautiful mix of oldschool country and prom dance pomp from the 50s that you seriously consider buying that poodle-skirt after all (oh, they were all the rage back then, those poodle-skirts).

But then she gets all moody and melancholic and you think that that oversized straw hat and the boots with the gleaming spurs might be even better – or would they look good with the poodle skirt, what do you think?

It’s a darn good album is all I’m saying.