I’ve been a big fan of Astrid Williamson for a long time now. First, in her incarnation as the leader of the dark, gothic, romantic band Goya Dress. Next, as her first solo persona, “Astrid”, and finally as the fully fledged “Astrid Williamson”.
I thought her 2006 CD, “Day of the Lone Wolf” had to be her masterpiece. Songs like “True Romance” and “Heaven Only Knows” could hardly be surpassed, and if it lacked the commercial edges of her first two releases, well as far as I’m concerned, so much the better.
But earlier this year, she released “Here come the Vikings”, the title maybe alluding to her Orkney background. And, well, I think it might actually be better than “Lone Wolf”, albeit quite different. This latest collection of songs has a much more upbeat feel, and a more commercial sound, but what it gains over her earlier works is a really strong coherence and consistency. It manages to combine the more pop-oriented (well, relatively speaking) approach of “Boy For You” and “Astrid” with the deeply personal feel of “Lone Wolf”, and the results are outstanding. Astrid’s song writing just keeps getting better - I understand she participates in song writing workshops, which should be quite an experience. It kicks off with the very strong, upbeat “Store” (a complete reversal from Lone Wolf’s “Siamese”) and just keeps going. Highlights, for me, include “Crashing Minis” and “Eve”, and the closing track, “The Stars Are Beautiful”, which vaguely reminds me of the Goya Dress song “The Maritime Waltz”
Sadly, there’s no way that “Here come the Vikings” is going to be heard by anywhere near as many people as it should be, but if you’re one of those that do, prepare to be captivated.
Sometimes in life you just strike gold when least expecting it. This last happened to me last week in Palau, Sardinia, where I was on vacation. Palau is a small port town mainly given over to the tourist trade, and hosting the ferry link to the beautiful La Madalenna archipelago. It really isn’t the sort of place you expect to stumble across a free festival of radical, inventive, wonderful music. But the Isole che Parlano (“islands which speak”) arts festival is just that.
One of several acts which really knocked me sideways was Dodó. Dodó is a trio, composed of Ewa Wikström from Sweden, and Ivo Saint and Maru Di Pace from Argentina, and based in Barcelona. It’s easy to say, but their music honestly sounds like practically nothing else I’ve ever heard. Billed as “immaginary folk music suspended between the warm nostalgia of South America and the introversion of Swedish winters” , their songs are bursts intricately arranged of melody, sudden lush orchestration, and as many unexpected twists and turns as old Barcelona. Tying all this together is Eva Wikström’s gorgeous voice, singing sometimes in English, sometimes Swedish, sometimes (I think) Catalan. The only other artist I can think of who Dodó sort of remind me of is Emma Townshend, who released one, solitary, weird and wonderful CD back in the 90s. But that’s just me.
They’ve recently released their first, self-titled CD. And it’s on iTunes. The amazing thing is that live (with two guest musicians) they manage to recreate the same magic as in the recordings.
Dodó deserve to be huge. Or at the very least a cult hit.
I should also add that the fact that such a festival can work, and work very well, in a tourist seaside town in summer, speaks volumes of the open mindedness towards music so often shown by the Italian people. The atmosphere was just magical.
Read Steve Kilbey’s blog.
on the planet.
Makes me look forward to being 54 :-)
Many, many years ago I bought the first album by Canadian guitarist and atmospherics maestro, Michael Brook. I’ll never forget the rather dismissive description of him as “the electrician” by a friend of mine, when I dragged him along to see Brook supporting a Harold Budd concert in London sometime last century.
The comment was perhaps partially deserved, as Brook’s music did come across as a little synthetic and antiseptic in live performance. But the same thing could not be said of the first solo, non soundtrack releases he has released in over 10 years, RockPaperScissors (2006) and its reworked version with producer / remixer James Hood, Bellcurve (2007). Both are full of beautiful, captivating and incredibly esoteric atmospheres, bringing together Brook with collaborators such as Lisa Germano (on the gorgeous “Want”), Paul Buchanan (of The Blue Nile), and a Bugarian choir and orchestra, not to mention integrating a fantastic reading of Dylan Thomas by Richard Burton.
I’m really not sure which version I prefer, but both are currently on auto-rotation and very highly recommended.
A full collaboration between Michael Brook, James Hood and Lisa Germano would be heaven…
Over a week ago we know, we had the pleasure to see Emiliana Torrini live in Zürich. A great evening: live performance adds a very noticeable edge to her performance, and her banter and humour really won over the audience. The band was pretty special too. Some of the songs, like “Birds” and “Gun” were incredibly powerful, whilst the more intimate stuff was not overwhelmed. Very impressive.