Author Archives: Denis

Trash Monday XXIX

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First of all: I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing here. Second: if you want to send me complaints or threatening mails, this Trash Monday contribution was kindly submitted by @PitWenkin via Twitter. Third: we really have to organise a garage party any time soon.

Holy Mountain – Earth Measures LP

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A little more than 30 minutes of power, that’s what Holy Mountain created with their first full length Earth Measures LP.

Power can be released in different ways or appear in various shapes. Gunner, the opener, assumes a fast and dirty rock party right from the beginning, but the three Scotsmen curb the speed without losing a single bit of thrust, which results in a very doomy way of playing stoner rock.

Although slightly underproduced, the drums do a good job, however, it is the brutal bass and the merciless guitar who give a soul to this work. Very classic riffs refine the overall listening experience – it is difficult to classify Earth Measures, who powers our ears with 8 minute doom eruptions, with short stoner rock flashes or with 70s riffs. Vigorous atmosphere guaranteed.

There are in fact many bands nowadays that sound, or that want to sound like the classic formations of the 70s. The challenge is to stay fresh and authentic; a very dangerous balancing act while trying to climb this holy mountain, but this trio succeeds.

Vocals sometimes aren’t needed at all, but the moment they appear, you should be ready for really trashy and still stoner cawing from hell. Missing comparisons to other bands? Here we go: this is like Kyuss meeting Black Sabbath meeting The Melvins, and the other way round. Boredom? No chance!

Did I forget something? Oh yeah, you may also find sludgy, psychedelic and groovy parts in this half an hour mustang trip. It’s getting deeper and deeper the more you listen to it, unfortunately a bit monotone from time to time. Forgivable! This is nothing “new”, though there also is no intention to be “new”. The rocket is fueled, let’s go to Scotland!

Recommendations: Gunner, Kegs, Silent Hawk


Interview with Jan Kerscher

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Jan Kerscher is a young and ambitious musician and the founder of Ghost City Recordings, a recording studio in Bavaria. In our little interview he told us about his work and his view of creating music nowadays.

El Gore: There are probably not many young men nowadays who start a production company, can you tell us how you came up with the idea?

Jan Kerscher: To me – as probably for most of the artists I work with – music is the most personal and fragile thing I can imagine. Dealing with emotions in such a way is only possible in a private space that comforts and suits a creative team. Back when I started recording with bands, we were always hiding out in my parents’ basement or attic or somewhere. One of my recent hideouts was – as you might know – ‘The Fiction’ in Luxembourg, where we recorded most of the Dirty Crows album. Thus, the basic idea behind Ghost City Recordings was (and still is) to provide a permanent hideout right in the middle of nothing where any artist can stay for weeks in order to create. So there it is. We just needed that hideout. We had no other option than come up with a plan and build it.

EG: How much subjectivity (from the producer’s side) do you think ends up in an album or single?

JK: That depends on the individual producer, really. In my case – I think, I add a lot of my own personality to the records I make. When I work with artists, most of the time I focus on where the “sound” comes from rather than indulging in the technical side of recording it. Obviously to me, it’s more important for the musical expression than having a bad/wrong guitar part being recorded brilliantly.

But in the end there is always a level of ‘subjectivity’ with every producer. If you look at it from this side of the glass, not giving yourself too deeply into the recording process is also a very personal decision and can be an argument to work with a specific producer if the band or artist has a very distinct vision of their sound.

EG: You’re said to be very happy to try new and unconventional things while recording, can you give us examples and do you think that experiments are more important than ever before in music history?

JK: Weird methods are the best methods. It frees the artist’s mind from thinking too much about what exactly he’s doing and playfully distracts the whole crew from the sometimes intimidating studio situation. Very recently, I did a vocal recording session in the forest. I clearly remember the moment where I proposed the idea to the band. Everyone was smiling instantly – the sheer idea filled everyone with euphoria in just a second. In creative terms – this is the one perfect working condition. And when we finally got to track – between all those trees and birds chirping – it was golden. Everyone was feeling light and not at all overly focused – just letting it happen. The result is a bunch of wonderfully natural vocal takes – also we kept the birds in the background and separately miked up the distant ambient of the woods and everything. It added a really nice ambiance to the whole record!

I think a good set of unconventional methods help you to widen the scope of your artist. It gives them the space to unfold in any direction they want to go. It feels free yet earthed. Also, it keeps studio work thrilling and inspiring. I love it.

EG: In a portrait you say that you have no master plan considering neither recording nor your own life. Have you ever had the feeling that things won’t work out in the end, be it in a recording session or in life?

JK: Definitely so. It can be awfully hard at times – not knowing if you’ll bring your business through the next months. It makes me doubt about myself and confronts all of my projects with essential questions. But I consider that a significant part of being creative and self-determined and I have found my peace with it. Actually, it can be really healthy. It makes you rethink everything you do on a regular basis.

And even sometimes it would not work out at all. But failing means learning at the same time which is no bad thing at all.

Basically, life’s a matter of decisions. The “it won’t work out” feeling is just a reminder to go over your decisions again.

EG: Ghost City Recordings offers workshops this August, can you tell us what this project is all about?

JK: I am always motivated to educate future sound engineers / producers and share my experience and philosophy with them.

The upcoming workshops in August deal with the regrettably popular misconception that one can record in almost every space and a good mixing work would fix the quality of your recording. I want to teach young and ambitious recording engineers to get their technique right in a way that they can get a good signal out of everything, everywhere they happen to do a record.

Also I don’t want kids to send their mixes away to the big foreign names – thinking their music will be sounding like their big idols. That doesn’t make sense. They’re making money out of the kids and abuse their function as role models. It makes me sick seeing all those kids, spending tons of money into something that their alleged idols won’t put the adequate amount of love into. If you want it to sound like yourself – do it yourself. Or go find someone who is really trying to understand you. That’s much better.

Find out more about the Ghost City Recordings workshops:

Pictures taken from the video made by Rocksofa.

Interview with Plankton Waves

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Last May, the electronic duo Plankton Waves released their first single called Cloud Caravan. Their sound combines familiar electro-beats, poetry, songwriting and mysteries. In our interview we talked about the path from rock to electronic music, about nature and the 80s.

El Gore: One of those questions you can read again and again (but which I like to ask anyways) is about the change from loud guitars to the synthesizer. Is this always due to a broad taste or were there other reasons in your case?
Plankton Waves: Not using guitars anymore in fact wasn’t a conscious decision but the result of an unexpected and, at the same time, natural process. Guitar and bass always were important elements in our former bands and the songwriting was based on those instruments. We had our first electronic experiences with Minipli, but still the guitars stayed very dominant. With Plankton Waves, and after becoming a duo, we experienced many musical changes but we continued with the setup we were used to.

Our first record Unduriel released in 2010 was an important first step indeed, but it didn’t feel 100% right in a certain way. We felt like heading into a dead end and we realized that we had to change something to let our visions become true and find the right sound. So we decided to backtrack for a while in order to find new ways and learn the technical and creative know-how that would let us implement our ideas. During that process we built up a little studio and fell in love with analogue synths after having only worked with digital or softsynths until then, mainly because they were very easy to operate.

We knew that the analogue stuff was the right deal for us after having used one for the first time. It animated our sound and gave it the right depth we had been missing. On the one hand, old devices have natural and warm aura in their sound. On the other hand, their handling is way more intuitive. This is why the guitars had to stand back more and more, because new worlds opened for us, paving the ways for our visions.

We’re still using instruments like pianos, accordions or shakers, but every time we tried to integrate a guitar in one of the songs it just didn’t feel right anymore. Of course we won’t exclude the possibility of using guitars again one day. We don’t want to limit ourselves in any way, neither do we want to force our sound in one direction. We try to find out what a song needs, and at the moment none needs any guitars.

EG: What are the challenges in this musical style, especially when not being mainstream?
PW: Our ambition is the music in itself, so we don’t think too much about challenges. For us, the important thing is to get our sound close to what we hear inside our heads and to make our songs distill into their essence. That’s why we experiment a lot while recording, both creatively and technically. During our live performances, we try to underline the essence and the atmosphere of the music by wearing special clothing or make-up. We want to extend this in the future by adapted light shows, projections etc…

Being not mainstream and a small band in general, the biggest challenge probably is about marketing and promotion. This means a lot of work but it is an essential part of spreading one’s music. We have a very lively music scene in Luxembourg, but it is also important to get abroad on a permanent basis, especially if you are more ambitious and don’t see your music as being only a hobby. And this means patience, work and endurance. But first of all there is the creative aspect.

EG: Your lyrics used to be always sung (at least as far as I remember it from John McAsskill) in different languages. Was this a cultural or a substantial, artistic decision?
PW: We use English most of the time. It just emerges like this. English is a good language to sing in considering its flow, and it still is the international music language, so to speak. But there are a bunch of songs who demand another intonation. This often becomes clear during the first jam or lyrical improvisation. In the past, we had songs that were sung in pseudo-Spanish or in a fantasy language. On our new single, there is a song in German, namely Cloud Caravan, where we used a part of a poem written by Jakob van Hoddis. Both, language and poem, just perfectly fitted for that song. We tried an English translation but it just totally changed the whole flow. This wasn’t a bad thing in itself, but in the end we decided to go with the original language. Language, in this sense, seems to be more an artistic decision, but of course it is a big chance that we’re able to speak different languages due to our cultural background.

EG: Your sound is like a composition of a strong relationship with nature and with music from the 80s (at least in my ears, correct me if I’m getting lunatic). Do such mixtures arise automatically or is this something you wanted to be a part of your style?
PW: We know what you mean. Actually, we don’t think too much about a song when we start writing it. One idea leads to another or just totally changes the original idea. It often is an intuitive and also very long process, which we don’t always control and after which we’re often surprised about the output. There are of course conscious decisions, but they’re subordinate to the creative aspects and mostly they concern technical things.

We understand your feeling about nature and the 80s. We always preferred the countryside. Of course we often love to be in cities, they can be very inspiring, but in the length of time they feel too bright and loud, like an anthill in which everyone falls over everyone else and in which you can’t hear yourself anymore. That’s why we prefer living and working outside cities, where it is calm and where we are more surrounded by woods than by cement. On a musical level this state of mind probably results in a warm, natural and organic sound.

And, of course, we both grew up in the 80s and 90s, that’s were our musical origins lie, and that’s what shaped us, if we like it or not. It becomes obvious in songs like We Are while it’s less obvious in other ones. We rather don’t have any inhibitions to create such references, but we don’t do it purposely, so in the end, it is just an half-conscious process.

EG: Is a more pessimistic undertone inevitable or rather an unwanted side effect?
PW: We don’t necessarily hear a pessimistic undertone in the songs, rather a kind of melancholy or a form of gloominess, which is nothing pessimistic for us. Our songs don’t have a negative basic statement, even if they seem gloomy. You can find a glimmer of hope in each of our songs, or at least the hope of finding hope. In all of our songs we’re looking for a kind of beauty, and every beauty has a certain melancholy and gloom inside. This may not be obvious at first sight but you may feel them at certain moments. In this sense a kind of darkness is unavoidable for us. We think that this is more fascinating than the‘sunny side’, because the sombre part is the one giving the beauty its depth, being hidden under the surface.

EG: Which are your main influences?
PW: Spontaneously, we can’t name musical influences. We have a pretty eclectic taste and there are lots of interesting artists in many different genres who probably influenced us more or less consciously. Just to name a few ones that influenced Natalie and me (Michel): Sonic Youth, early PJ Harvey, Diamanda Galas, Sergio Leone, Portishead, Tocotronic, Soap & Skin, Verdi, Le Tigre, Kyuss, Gorgoroth, Vangelis, DAF, Nirvana, The Knife, Fever Ray, A Silver Mt. Zion, Beethoven, 2 Unlimited. My (Michel) personal main influences are my dreams. I dream a lot and very intensively. When I work on a song, I often have one of my dreams in my head and I try to orient myself by it or to capture its mood.

EG: One question that immediately came to my mind when I read the news: how did you get in contact with an Australian merchandise agency that used your single as their video soundtrack?
PW: We coincidentally “met” on Facebook a few months ago. Boa Campbell liked our sounds and she asked us if she may could use our single when we released it. She may also found us because of Belle Sauvage, a fashion label from London for which we already had done soundtracks for two of their promotion films. This is definitely one of those internet stories for which we just love social networking.

EG: Considering the future, what are your short-dated plans and do you already have long-dated ones?
PW: We’re playing a concert at the opening of the “op den 3 Eechelen” museum on the 15th of July and on the 21st we’re playing at the “Graffiti Jam” in Lorentzweiler. After this we’re going to shut ourselves away again in order to finish our record. We’re also planning a few concerts in Luxembourg in autumn and winter, but we mainly want to organise concerts abroad starting in late 2012. There will also be another video and some other audiovisual stuff.


Trash Monday XXIV

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Everyone knows those videos with white background and so-called musicians, that are on at least 17 different sorts of drugs when shooting it, and use a melody that every blockhead knows from his childhood. Well here is one you might haven’t known yet.

Dirty Crows – Got No Chance Against Rock’N’Roll

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A sludgy and pretty threatening intro already hints at what the boys from Dirty Crows have aimed at over the last month: a step away from classical rock’n’roll and towards a doomier and more stoner way of blowing our socks off.

A newer and more monstrous version of The Kalashnikov Blues then raids you right away without any further warning. This crow has become a really dirty one; it behaves like an insidious rabid snake. You never know how and when it will attack. Unexpected breaks, pauses, changes of direction make this work unpredictable and distances itself from a classic 90s stoner record. The influences from that time are nevertheless obvious.

Producer Jan Kerscher did a great job in changing the band’s sound, developing it like into some serious and dark business. The gloomy but driving main elements are somewhere in-between Fu Manchu, Kyuss and early Queens of the Stone Age. The drums have been tuned down, the vocals vary between sexy, clean and rough parts. The guitars bring us back to the crazy crow; they simply go totally wild sometimes, giving us an Era Vulgaris atmosphere at some points, together with other sound gimmickry and experiments. The desert picture is completed by a bass play that sounds like someone used rusty wires to play with.

Towards the middle of Got No Chance Against Rock’N’Roll you can witness a certain back to the roots feeling, meeting old songs in a more or less old arrangement, but deeper due to the new sound. Let’s refer one last time to our stoned crow: it sometimes seems that this crazy bird overdoes when running amok. Well, you might say this must be part of its nature. I agree with that. But at some points you might expect kind of a “less is more” approach in-between abrupt breaks and drum driven doom parts. Great riffs nevertheless compensate some mentally disordered derailments. A good example would be It Ain’t easy, for which I really tried but couldn’t find the right words to describe its awesomeness, whereas the new Hit The Road may become a doubtful case.

The last points to mention would be the guest appearances (which I won’t name because not everything must be revealed yet) and a very mature bouncer song. One thing is for sure, this record is meant to be played aloud! Let’s see how this is going to sound live.

Recommendations: The Kalashnikov Blues, It Ain’t Easy, Mean Thing.
If you have become curious and want to grab your copy of this debut: Dirty Crows will release it this Saturday at 5.30 pm at the Food For Your Senses Festival. See you there.

Heartbeat Parade – Burning Nantucket! EP

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Well, what do we have here? Is it Postrock? Posthardcore? Instrumental Mathrock? Or everything together?

Heartbeat Parade have been causing some noise for over two years now in the Luxembourgish music scene. Their Burning Nantucket! EP gives us a preview of what’s about to happen on their first long player scheduled for later this year. Postrock seems to be fading slowly but surely but this could be declared as one possible logical progression of this style. In fact it combines pretty much everything mentioned above without ever losing its focus.

The good thing is: just like in ‘classic’ Postrock it lets you build up your own world around the song even if the band targets you in a certain direction by using vocal samples from documentary films. Still, the spoken word can mean everything you want in the end, especially because the musical direction leads to different feelings.

The skeptical and aggressive voice is never lost though due to the steady hard- and postcore outbreaks. Electro elements and a solid Mathrock fundament complete this complex tableau. Heartbeat Parade seem to have found a definite line and you can hear that those guys are no newbies in any way, in case you haven’t already known it looking at their portfolio.

Check their homepage for further concert dates.