Ólafur Arnalds: Bath Forum

26.09.18: Ólafur Arnalds world is one of travel, he informs the audience in between one of the songs he performs tonight. When not touring he takes a break from his career by travelling more. The places he visits often influence the music he makes and on this occasion it was Nyepi the Balinese “Day of Silence.” He informs the audience that he found it amusing today when he found himself having a hot bath, on Hot Bath Street, while in Bath. On another occasion, he talks about his first visit to Bath around 2007 when he was the drummer in the hardcore punk band Fighting Shit.

It takes a leap of faith to imagine the guy in front of us who tonight is playing beautiful, fragile and evocative music once thrashed out punk in a small pub in Bath, but he also informs the audience that his grandmother was the greatest musical influence on the young Ólafur. The metal-loving Ólafur would sit with his grandmother to listen to Chopin’s work whenever they had visited one another. At her deathbed, Arnalds said “She was just lying there, old and sick, but very happy and proud. Listening to a Chopin sonata. Then I kissed her goodbye and left. She passed away a few hours later.” The final song tonight is Lag Fyrir Ömmu (Song for Grandma) and it all makes sense now.

 

Michael Nau & The Mighty Thread: Louisiana, Bristol

24.09.18: I inadvertently stumbled across Michael Nau in his early days when fronting Cotton Jones whose album Paranoid Cocoon (2009) remains a favourite and contains the majestic track I Am the Changer (seriously track it down!). His style is casual, an appearance of not being fazed, but what lays beneath his calm exterior is a musician and songwriter of the highest order. I’m at the Louie tonight and Nau is with his band The Mighty Thread promoting their self-titled new album. Uplifting beautiful stuff. Check out the link below.

They Might Be Giants: SWX Bristol

23.09.18: There have been many attempts over the years to categorise They Might Be Giants, a task akin to balancing on a set of shakey decorating ladders while attempting to nail jelly to a ceiling, so I’m not going to even attempt it here. All I can say is that if you take St. Peppers era Beatles, a bit of Beach Boys, some Liza Minnelli, Deep Purple riffs, Motown backbeats and the brass section from Earth Wind and Fire, place them in a tumble drier several times over a bright summers weekend. You might (just might) be lucky enough on one occasion to get the ingredients right and that is without the arduous challenge of blending in some of the wittiest lyrics being set to music today. Getting this right, of course, is a challenge for the musician. One slip, either way, can project the material into a smug self-righteous mess.

TMBG have found an odd relationship with my music collection. I adore their 1990 album Flood with its quirky set of songs, including the perfect pop tune Birdhouse in your Soul, sitting along the track Your Racist Friend, which coming from an American band seems quite an aptly timed anthem for their 45th President. Their music has popped up on TV shows like Malcolm In the Middle. They’ve written music for the Spongebob Square Pants, as well as winning two Grammy Award and nominated for a Tony Award for Best Original Score.

With 4 million records sales to their name, I’ve dipped into their catalogue along the way and I now find myself at the SWX venue Bristol to finally see Brooklyn’s very own and self-titled ambassadors of love perform live for the first time. TMBG are providing two sets tonight covering material from their back catalogue and forthcoming album. The evening is a storming success, full of humour, amazing musicians who are simply on top of their game and at ease with one another. The dubbing of Aerosmith/Run DMC’s video to Walk This Way is a particular fun treat! Check out dates for their remaining tour dates here as well as accessing band information, free downloads, etc. I heartly recommend you go see them live. If you don’t come out with a rye smile on your face and a spring in your step the next morning then you are in need of professional help.

 

Rough Grain

Dramatic clouds, seagrass bending too the breeze. The warm ceramic cup between the tips of fingers, I took a sip of black coffee. The melancholic mood of Sunday morning’s interrupted by the reality of life. The noise of parents seeking desperately to control their offspring, making demands, they surrender, and staff behind a makeshift counter rapidly took orders, shouting them through to a small kitchen where a large lady made a note.

Driftwood retrieved from the sea on display, clumsy art, the smell of fried food. Through the window, I’d noticed she had been stood there for quite a while. On the sand dunes, still, just staring out across the waters, motionless. Her silhouette set against the sky. Is she playing with memories? Looking down at my coffee, I take another sip and a trail of old cup stains ground into the rough grain of the bench. Each cup mark representing somebody, who sat here and no doubt pondered the universe.

Aasma was her name. She had explained in struggled, broken English,  She asked “please time” as she sat on the nearby bench alone. Her demeanor, as if waiting for a train, flight or ferry. “Have a nice day” I said as she exited the beach cafe. “Thank you” she replied, before making her way up the sand path to the water’s edge. A silent sadness followed her steps. An intense sense of solitude.

I had noticed she had bent down as if to tie shoelaces, then standing upright, she calmly placed her hands on her face, turned and made her way back down the path and passed the cafe window, which I sat behind. A small nod of acknowledgment from each other and she was gone.

Leaving the cafe, inhaling the sea air, the sound of waves in the near distance and seagulls screaming their constant hunger I made my way up the sand path to where she had stood. Looking across the seas, no lands were in view to these naked eyes. Nestled in the sand, where she stood, 3  separate pebbles lay on the stems of 3 carnation flowers.

Tom Waits & Marc Ribot: Bella Ciao (Goodbye Beautiful)

Tom Waits awakes from his hibernation with a collaboration with Marc Ribot. An anti-fascist folk song with an accompanying video, which also has a very strong anti-Trump theme. The track is taken from Robot’s album Songs of Resistance 1948-2018, which is due for release on 14th September 2018 via ANTI-.

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