Weekly Digs: Exuma (Artist/Album Review)

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Hey there. My name’s Jamie, and each week I’m going to introduce you to an album or artist you’ve (probably) never heard before. To start things off we’ll take a look at the debut, self titled album from the Bahamian musician Exuma.

Exuma began his career like many other greats of his era, playing in small clubs around Greenwich Village, but the sound he developed was entirely his own. Exuma’s music is a fantastic concoction of freak-folk, calypso, and all around instrumental furor, paired with his half singing, half groaning voice ringing out mythical and sorcerous lyrics inspired by the spiritual tradition of Obeah. In 1970 he put together a group of musicians and recorded his first album, Exuma.

While only seven tracks long, the album is so dynamic and powerful that it never feels lacking. In the opening song “Exuma, The Obeah Man”, the singer introduces himself in impressive fashion: “Exuma was my name when I lived in the stars/Exuma was a planet that once lit Mars/I’ve got the voice of many in my throat/The teeth of a frog and the tail of a goat”. The lyrics shine throughout the album and are brought alive by Exuma’s rough voice, at times verging on hysteria and at others rising softly above the music.

The second track “Dambala” is a stunningly beautiful tune, built around a simple chord progression that starts gently and slowly rises into a hectic, chanting call for the coming of Dambala, the God of the Sky and creator of all life in the Vodou tradition. The best song from the B-side has to be “You Don’t Know What’s Going On”. This gem contains perhaps my favorite verse from the album: “You can’t change the night into day/And you can’t take the milk/From the milky way./You can’t take the sun from the sky/And you can’t put the light/In Ray Charles eyes”. Once again the melody is simple but with a slightly more jovial rhythm than will be found on the rest of the album.

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Exuma would continue to record and tour into the 80s, following up his debut with the excellent Exuma II in the 1970. If you have any interest in the freak folk genre or in world music, then Exuma is an absolute must. His music toes the line of being out of control like almost no one else, and the result is spectacular.

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Jamie Coughlin

Hungary, Hungry Huskies – One Night in Paris with Sondre Lerche

Heilman’s set sits absent while Lerche performers (Photo by Eric Sandoval)

Jesse Marchant created soundscapes right off the bat – his looping pedal catching every articulation and reverberation of his electric guitar. Slowly and softly, he approached the mic and the room quieted to the tune of Marchant’s serious smirk. The tiny room echoed with Jesse’s voice, the quitter never ceasing beneath. While his left hand fluttered, his right played effortlessly. As he blatantly switched guitars, the roomed murmured – the lights breaking through Marchant’s mess of unkempt hair and tattered instrument. His lyrics swallowed and swayed between dynamic shifts of instrumentation. On his own, Jesse’s guitar supported him beautifully as the stage shook in tandem.

He spoke to us in French, telling us how magnificent of an experience it was to play for the first time at this bar in Paris. The Montreal native grabbed his electric guitar once again and led himself to the drum set on the right of the stage. He played the two instruments in a syncopated manner, driving the rhythm forward with the bass and cymbals – his guitar building as he sang. We bobbed our heads in response the pain and passion of Marchant’s lyricism pulling us forward. Take a listen to his new album below to get a feel for this man’s heart and soul:

http://jbm-music.com/music

Calmly and carefully, he moved through his set, allowing the voice of his various instruments to shine through the darkness of his lyrics and the stage itself. Employing various techniques to repeat and reverberate his guitar, Marchant’s lyrics flew magnificently above the bass and treble. Nothing could limit the ardent performer as he tuned his guitar to the hum of his harmonica. Jesse stared intently into the audience, listening to our reactions to his humble voice.

Marchant’s set built up charmingly, lifting our heads into the air with love and acceptance. At the end of his set, Jesse spoke to us – struggling with the word “grateful” and the crowd translated in a chorus of a language I didn’t understand. They cheered in response to his beautifully fluid French. His last song was a fury of fingerpicking, exposing the expertise of this magical musician. He smiled at us between moments of intense focus and we nodded to the resounding rhythm in response.

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Accented articulations flow from the opener’s instrumentations (Photo by ES)

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Marchant slams on an electronic bass pedal

With a thunderous boom, the drums hit so hard my beer moved swiftly across the stage. Sondre Lerche’s voice rung out over a distorted guitar. A visceral performer, Lerche touched his telecaster delicately – his body moving in violent spouts of celebration. He danced behind his guitar and looked up occasionally to take in the screams of the fan girls (and boys) in the audience. “You wanna dance?” he yelled to joyous acclaim, the floor shaking to the beat of the drums. As our bodies swayed to the newest single, “Bad Law”, his hands moved as if he was directing a choir. He truly did as we sang along with him, clapping in tandem and smiling as we mirrored his emotions.

Sondre flipped his hair back and forth, dancing to his tunes as if he was in the audience himself. His complex chords did everything but phase him, yet they rang beautifully through the little speakers that blasted within the venue of Divan du Monde – a bar in the heart of Paris’ club district. Bassist Chris Holm echoed the choruses, allowing us to be drawn to the lyrical trance that Lerche had undoubtedly put us under.

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Lerche and Holm create a syncopated symphony

With each solo, the guitar became more distorted until, after the first two songs, he took the time to introduce himself and the tour – reliving the past of his “pre-intercourse phase” to “see what the hell was going on” during that period of time. The old guitar resounded the classic Lerche, his playing in this concert building upon the past of his Faces Down and Dan in Real Life days. The riffs of his first albums rang out clearly from the classic cutaway Gibson – the drums amplifying their fever and juxtaposing today’s sound with the sound of the artist’s past. The stream below gives you a listen at the early Sondre Lerche:

His voice lower than before, Sondre’s vibratos remained powerful over the fluttering bass and flirtatious guitar. The crowd jumped in jubilation, our screams sometimes louder than the performer’s voice as we sang along to songs like “Say It All” and “No One’s Gonna Come”. He quieted us down to hear us sing with him, his voice and guitar escalating to empowering heights – rocking out with Dave Heilman on the drums until our ears had finally adjusted to the new interpretations of his oldest albums.

He spoke frequently of his past performances in Paris. At one point he referenced a bar that has since burned down – according to one audience member who seemed to know a lot about the current state of the city’s club scene. After apologizing for our loss, he entered into a reflection of those tours, his guitar fiercer than ever before. Jazzy yet incomprehensibly intense, the band played the old songs anew and the crowd relived their experiences of when they first heard Sondre’s voice – whether in the clubs of Paris’ past or in the comfort of their own homes.

Strobes blazed as blue notes blew from the speakers and the rest of the band left the stage. Sondre stepped away from the mic and he let the room carry his voice. As our singing finally faded away, he yelled over his electric guitar – the close-cut walls intensifying the performer’s unamplified melodies. “My Hands Our Shaking” came to a close, unaccompanied. Unexpectedly, Lerche began to sing “Like Lazenby” at the request of an audience member – apologizing to the sound crew in the back for not telling them he would play it before-hand.

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Sondre looks longingly into the audience (Photo by ES)

To the tune of our synchronous claps, the band returned to the stage – reviving the scene’s intensity. As the drums joined in, we all realized just how coordinated the whole performance really was. “Sleep On Needles” was played in sync, Sondre’s sweat dripping from his brow. The crowd began to shout more requests than they could handle and his only response remained, “So many hits!” he exclaimed.

As he introduced the merchandise, Lerche advertised his opener and the passion in his eyes burst forward with every word. During the entire performance, Sondre remained as thoughtful of a person as he was off the stage. After the show, I got a chance to speak with him, to ask what the difference was between the recent album, PLEASE, and the rest of his repertoire. “Time,” he responded, “It was 15 years – 32, actually, depending on how you count.” He smiled.

“My style changed gradually as time went on, but also I looked at other artists and was inspired by their music. The way they sounded, there was no way that the way I was writing could sound like that. So, for PLEASE, I decided to look at other ways to design a song – with a desire to shake things up.”

He went on to say how much respect he had for Jesse Marchant and other artists as they helped him find a new way to create. This inspired creativity showed strongly as the lights lit up the stage to “Sentimentalist” – one of the tracks off of the new album. As the guitar became ever-more complicated, Sondre’s movements became more and more terse and tense – until solo breaks and bass build released enough energy to allow for him to relax.

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Laughing and singing, the man dances behind the mic (Photo by ES)

As Lerche bathed in the almost-transparent light of the stage, the crowd went wild as the drums introduced songs like “Lucifer” and other hits from PLEASE. Heilman’s break beats – along with Holm’s funky rhythms – provided the powerful foundation to frontman’s lyrics, allowing us to dance to the sultry sounds that described the newfound Sondre Lerche.

He joked with his limited knowledge of French before introducing a track off of his self-titled record, “Private Caller.” To much acclaim from the audience, Lerche performed the music which he played on his last European tour – this time, Paris would be his first stop in a series of many more performances to come. As quickly as he put it down, the telecaster flew from Sondre’s shoulders – only to be replaced, once again, by the Gibson guitar.

A familiar riff rang out and “Two Way Monologue” had begun, one of the artist’s most successfully singles. Chris’ “ooh”s and “ahh”s only added to the amplifying intensity as Dave and Sondre riled us up throughout the song. At the end, Lerche taught us the chorus and made us sing a solo for him in response to the already brilliant performances that the band had just spent the last few minutes “showing off”.

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Lyrics flow from a man of many words

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Lerche’s old guitar marked the movements of his past (Photos by ES)

With a smile on his face, the sweat-drenched performer played one of his latest tracks, “Legends” – leading us in cheers of “Oh”s and “Whoa”s. After a brief remission to the back of the stage, Heilman returned to the stage with an overpowering “Merci Paris!” And, as the lights went up, the Bergen, Norway natives – Lerche and Holm – appeared in their rightful places.

After a track that packed us in and made the floor shift and shake, the band left Sondre on stage – standing alone and asking for one final request. We sang with him to the final song of the Dan in Real Life soundtrack (featuring Steve Carrell, Dane Cook, and guest-artist Regina Spektor), “Modern Nature”. The crowd swayed and swooned as the lights faded on the stage before us.

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DJ Desman

Outlander in the Emerald City: King Tuff at Neumo’s (Show Review)

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Despite the brutish nature of their name and their look, King Tuff were anything but at Neumo’s Crystal Ball Reading Room this past Wednesday, October 22. 

Front man Kyle Thomas, bassist Magic Jake and drummer Old Gary Goddard burst onto the stage with cut-off, patched up jean jackets and a positivism that permeated the entire room.  For their opening song, a wall of distortion and feedback transformed into the title track of their latest album, Black Moon Spell.  In the interim between the first few tracks, Thomas and Magic Jake continued a banter infused with good vibes, at one point mentioning how honored they were to be performing in Seattle, the “home of so many influential artists”. 


Magic Jake and Kyle Thomas rock with attitude

The love flowed throughout the night, with all members of King Tuff beaming permanent grins at their ecstatic fans song after sloppy song.  As the crowd got rowdier and the mosh pit’s circumference increased, King Tuff’s energy skyrocketed, climaxing during the supremely-catchy “Bad Thing”.  Although the musicality wasn’t much to be amazed at, the constant upbeat energy and no-holds-barred attitude of its members allowed King Tuff’s performance to shine with grungey, shredding, lo-fi mastery.  

Take a listen to their new album (embedded below):

(Photo credits to Alex Ostenberg)

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Katie Hanford

LT’s Choice: 360 Degrees

Hi. My name is Lauren-Taylor and I guess I am writing a blog now. I figure that having a tangible aspect to the radio station is a good idea, and so I will be putting together a short weekly playlist of whatever bands I am listening to at the time. My music skips around quite a bit, so we will see where things take me. 
For my first playlist, seeing as it is Fall, and the rain and snow are eminent, the music I picked is pretty representative of the changing of the season. The Spotify playlist 360 Degrees is embedded below.  

OX4 – Ride
Crank Resolutions – Meursault
Weird Honey – Elvis Depressedly
Sleeping In – Dead Folk
Memory Pools – Foxes in Fiction
Riot Grrrls – Advance Base
David – The Radio Dept.
Montreal Rock Band Somewhere – Happyness

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Lauren-Taylor Mansfield