Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Diary POST- Sleep Studies, Ozark and Sea-Glass Johnny by Nic Coolidge off the Labrador Album

These next few weeks are going to be a bit crazy. I have to master 5 songs, two of which are not completed yet and am concerned I cannot make it. If the EP has to have only 4 songs on it I am content with that too (not really). I also have been having trouble sleeping and when I do sleep it is restless. Ozark, that great Netflix show will be filming right next to my house soon which will be a trip really and I am supposed to sleep at this sleep study facility so they can see why my sleep is so irratic. To be honest I would love to cancel though and do it next week.

I tend to walk around playing my guitar and writing sometimes when I cannot sleep. Not exactly sleep walking or sleep walking and playing but it seems to help calm me. Not much time or energy for the blog or the podcast so I have to hit those things hard soon. Things will be much clearer at least for a while after December 15th. "December".... just writing it feels wrong. Is it winter already? I cannot believe that this year has soared by. In many ways, personal ways it has been a harsh year.



Listining to the Labrador album by Nic Coolidge lately. What a voice. He is from Providence, Rhode Island but apparently splits his life / time between the US and Prague. He crafts intimate folk songs but to me they feel like stories told on a porch or around a fire.

I am hanging in there and hanging on. Hope you all are too.
Check in with me from time to time-
-
Robb






Thursday, November 16, 2017

Blog Diary: "Golden" Live: An Affirmation Song Pretty Good To Brush Your Teeth To

Oh fuck, I did not want to get up this morning for the normal reasons. Tons of stress at work, behind on those things others are depending on. Those spreadsheets, finding a car so we don't have to rack up bills on the rental, getting to that podcast and mixing and mastering AND finish recording tracks for my EP, AGE OF DINOSAURS that is due out in a month from now.  All that and my heart is full of thoughts about my loved ones some who are nearly 3000 miles away.

It is funny. Some moves in your life don't seem pivotal at the time you are making them but looking back at certain periods you think maybe that those precise decisions were like shifting a Jenga puzzle and those shifts result into things crashing down. Things that effect others. I guess I feel this in a cosmic sense not in a "I am shit an to blame" sort of way.

Heres to building the Jenga puzzle back up with care and compassion and consideration.

Cheers-
Robb


Monday, November 13, 2017

Album Review: Los Doggies : "Ear Op" Proggy Indie Rock Will Move You


























When Los Doggies aren't expounding on their fashion (see Facebook vid) they are crafting proggy indie rock somewhere in New York. The three piece band latest release is called Ear Op available on 12" vinyl and digitally via Bandcamp and is their first studio effort with local producer, Kevin McMahon (Titus Andronicus, Swans) in upstate Gardiner pounding out sounds in a crusty old barnyard of a studio with a "reverb silo" out back. The EP is inspired by / about in large part Evan Stormo's childhood ear tube operations. He plays plays drums and sings in Los Doggies along with brother Jesse who mans guitar / vocals) and Matt Ross who drives the bass. The three have been making music for a decade.

As I listened to Ear Op with it's both frenetic and kinetic style with syncopated edges that seem to intricately shift in and out of beats in a progressive personal way I thought of bands like Pavement and Built to Spill. The sound is dramatic and freewheeling. The track S'Long is intensely jammy. There is a lead section with ride cymbals highlighting the way that is exquisitely tight (as is the entire track). This song like others seems to meander in an improvisational sort of way and it is cool to follow the boys find their way if that is indeed what is happening.

The title track Ear Op has thick jubilant bloodstreams flowing through it and in this case it is fun to know the back story on the EP and this song and put the lyrical puzzle pieces together. The guitar sounds are bright but attacking and just work so well with the vocal performance. Often times the Stormo brothers sing together and it seems to me to be a part of their sound, a really good part. Los Doggies do not go for conventional compositional styles, don't expect verse verse- chorus- verse- chorus bridge yada yada. Their sense of building songs feels more like a trek down a road and they take you on the adventure. Love the fun sense of this track.


The track Baetyl has an almost majestic air. There is a sense of 70's rock twisted into the proggy indie. It is a good time to describe the general sound on this album. It is pretty stark, big but not over produced. The approach is minimalistic which for me is so KEY here. I mean Los Doggies is a three piece band so when Baetyl explodes into a delicious lead break I appreciate just hearing heavy ass bass and drums holding those notes up on display. NO need for an overdubbed rhythm guitar here. Producer Kevin McMahon makes it heavy as hell but bright too. Great sound here.

There is something about As It Were So that feels somber and uplifting too. The vocal melody style like getting words out before someone shuts the door on you in contrast to the mid tempo open beat works so well. Midway the song becomes quiet only to cry out musically deepening any wounds in such a heavy lovely way.  Would love to hear this track live. It would be such an amazing emotional closer as it is on this album.
-
Robb Donker



Thursday, November 9, 2017

Improvisational Songwriting: Dipping Into The Jibberish Of The Creative Mind




















As a songwriter I routinely utilize improvisational sessions to sort of jumpstart the creative process. This always involves sequestering myself away in my basement where I record. I have a busy schedule which for me kind of helps stimulate the ideas that eventually become the fodder for my music. I personally thrive on the urgency of having to create within a fixed time. For me that time is usually late at night during the work week and the fact that I do not have the luxury to write or play for hours and hours seems to distill my creativity into a kind of furious compression of feelings and thoughts. I am someone who needs a reason to do something and oftentimes I will force myself and maybe trick myself into just being able to write a minute of music so I can post an improv on Instagram. This forces my creative hand and usually some piece of music do happen and more times than not results in full fledged songs.

Once I start playing and set myself on a chord structure and tempo my self imposed rules are simple: power through with melody and words or sounds even and just keep going from verse to chorus to verse and if I feel adventurous a bridge as well. It is a funny and tenuous exercise that feels as much as making up a spur of the moment story like I used to do when my kids were small or telling an entertaining thing that happened over a weekend to friends. The music dictates the atmosphere which in turn dictates the emotional tone of the melody and improv lyrics and when successful wonderfully builds on itself.

If the made up words moves in one direction those words trigger the path of the lyrical content in my mind and because I want it to make melodic sense and lyrical sense and I am recording the live performance there is that sense of instant creation of kind of bullshitting too in that "I meant to do that" sort of way. By the way, in improvisational songwriting you must, MUST, record at all times because the creations are so fleeting that you can easily lose them. I also try to shoot them on video if possible because more than once I have written and recorded songs that I cannot figure out weeks later. I am not one to write chord structures down and simply recording the improv with a camera can save you hours and hours of frustration later.

Songwriting and Live performing on the fly results in a fair amount of jibberish too. I am fine with that as the melody and sounds of words made up or not is what fuels the emotional edges of the song. Once the song is created and whether it contains musical deadends or sentences or words that make no sense whatsoever it can serve as a template for a finished composition. It is funny how the jibberish contained in some of my improvs sound like a foreign language. I have to admit that part of me wants to create an album of improv songs with no editing whatsoever. The jibberish will become part of the art form.

 In the song "Pieces" which I improved back in October the fervent pace of the guitar progression to me lent itself to a kind of internal dialog like someone talking to one self, an introspection that could veer into neurosis. The resulting improv flowed the whole way through. Sometimes this is not the case and I will stop and jot down the lyrics as I go. The cadence like a train just kept going and one passage of words or sounds built on itself.

One of the constants in my songwriting seems to be finding oneself, emotional and passionate connections and battling ordeals in life, overcoming pain and such so it is no wonder that the first line "You said you caught a scientific mind" would be followed by "of the romantic kind" as the edgy guitar dictated the tone and romance and passion and the vocal cadence of "scientific" and "romantic" seemed to fit like puzzle pieces.

"You're coming in a controversy" exited my lips without thinking and to be quite honest, "coming" at the time in my mind was sexual as in "cumming" and the following passage, "the look cannot shake a modest thing" inexpicably followed without thought. The sense of opposites, the explicitness of cumming bookended with modesty is interesting. The nature of saying all these words on the fly makes me wonder about the subconscious and conscious mind.

I could venture a guess on where the direction and words come from but something are too private to share. Nevertheless improvisational writing can feel at times like laying on a therapist's couch and spilling your guts. Sometimes the song can move and out run the mind and this is where the jibberish part of improv enters the picture. When words will not do, fake words, sounds have to stand in for the real actors to play the parts later. Also, syntax and grammar take a back seat and in the same way that I will trade dead on on key singing for passiong and feeling, grammar is less important to me then the tonal sounds of words and phrases and how those sounds may (or may not) convey emotional feeling and more importantly emotional cues. My ultimate goal in songwriting is not to display my emotions as much as pushing buttons in those who listen to my songs and making them feel things.

The improved song can exist as an exercise to fuel creativity or to fuel the end product itself. The lyrics and melodies can be massaged and honed. The jibberish can be turned into real poetry or can stand as an advante garde structure itself. Even a foreign word or set of words can make you feel something.

Below you can listen to a live raw performance of "Pieces". The short song is a rare example of a totally improved piece of music from start to finish with not one word or phrase jotted down prior to the performance. Totally off the cuff full of flaws, sounds and made up words, bad grammar and all. It is quite possibly a little car wreck of a song that I hope you will feel the need to crane your neck and check out as you drive by. I haven't decided if it is one of my improvs that I will dress up with real words and such or if I will track record with the jibberish intact. I may not even track record or develop. Maybe it is what it is and nothing more.

The EP - AGE OF DINOSAURS by Donker
Drops on December 15th.

-
Robb Donker






Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Big Changes Ahead For Bülow : Hear Her Debut Single "Not A Love Song"






















Megan Bülow, a 17 year old singer from the Netherlands has just released her first single Not A Love Song from her EP "Damaged Vol. 1"-  

2018 will herald a year of change. Graduating from highschool. Moving to Canada and fully devoting herself to music. She posseses a disarming voice, pop smarts and besides Not A Love Song I am really liking the track Lines. The melody (to me) feels like driving down the California coastline with the top down. 

https://www.bulowmusic.com/

-
Robb Donker



Clip of Lines on Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/BulowOfficial/videos/298790723940037/

Monday, November 6, 2017

Larry David on SNL: "I consistently strive to be a good Jewish representative."






















At one point during his SNL monologue Larry David says "I consistently strive to be a good Jewish representative" and then adding "When people see me I want them to say 'Oh there goes a FINE Jew for you!" His brilliant jab at racism was a series of punchlines related to the Weinstein sexual abuse and rape charges and Larry noticing at his utter shock and dismay that many of the predators were Jewish.

The monologue which some people are calling offensive is text book Davide, offensive, daring and funny if you get it. If you are a Larry David fan. I am. You may not be but the criticism out there seems to me to be misplaced. David's humor hinges on the uncomfortable and the nature of the male psyche. A lot of the criticism being leveled at David relates to his so called "concentration camp" joke and it occurs to me that more words on social media will be spilled on decrying this comedic bit than actual Holocaust deniers.
-
Robb Donker