Back from the Zappanale for exactly two months now, here are some words and, more important, the photos! For an introduction to what I’m talking about, please see Zappanale! In short, the Zappanale is an annual festival in Bad Doberan, former GDR, devoted to Frank Zappa’s Music. As such, most of the bands show some either musical or ideological overlap with…either the music or the idea behind the works of Frank Zappa and his accompanying bands such as the Mothers of Invention.
However, in the recent years it also became customary to have some more progressive or avantgarde bands such as Doctor Nerve, Magma, Gargantua etc. – brought to you by the great Freakshow’s Charly (for last year’s pictures please see Zappanale 2012)! However, after hosting a huge festival with Magma, Motorpsycho, DeWolff and others plus the Heavy Guitar Days including a show of No-more-Mr-Niceguy Cooper leading to high financial risks, the idea of this years festival was to go back to being more earthy again and not to include heavy names like the ones listed above.
Apart from the traditional festival opening in the center of Bad Doberan on Thursday, this years opening act on the actual festival side, the Galopprennbahn, was one of the stunning highlights, vaguely related to Zappa in a musical sense! Ladies and gentleman, this is from the Swiss mountains Anton and the Headcleaners:
Next on the second stage, called “Mystery Stage”, an original collaborator of Frank entered the Zappanale and kind of started the more retrospective side of the event: the award-winning (Deutscher Filmpreis 2008 for best film score) Ali N. Askin, who was Frank’s musical assistant on his orchestral record The Yellow Shark. Since then he composed mainly Music for theatres and movies and obviously had great fun rocking the Zappa-fans:
…and on with the first real Zappa-Tribute band, Dangerous Kitchen from the Ruhr area in Germany! Arranged for a rich variety of wind instruments, Marimba- and Vibraphone and the “standard” rock Instrumentation, they covered Zappa music which they describe as “Rock, soul, jazz, dodgy, satiric and sometimes wonderfully giggly”.
The next day I started with Coogans Bluff, named after an ancient Clint Eastwood movie. They presented a heavily 70s influenced Grunge-Riff-Stoner-Rock somewhere between Grateful Dead, Can, Pearl Jam and Monster Magnet. Last year they released their 3rd and latest record on which they tend to more complex structures and enriched their Instrumentation by wind instruments. And damn, they rocked – straight, jammed – great start for the day!
Then my personal highlight of the festival: known from the 80s recording “Live at Moers Festival”, Kazutoki Umezu, formerly known as Doctor Umezu, sax-mate of John Zorn and Tom Cora and one of the most influential Jazz musicians in Japan over the last decades returned to Germany and fucking rocked the damn house. The band, blendly named Kazutoki Umezu Kiki band is a four piece, three japanese plus the american drum badass Joe Trump (yeah, he’s the billionaire!! call him and ask for it – he loves it! ;-)) played a heavily rocking jazz set, constantly pushed forward by the never giving-in rhythm section Joe and the funky and probably tightest bass player in Japan! Add the crazy guitar solos by Natsuki Kido who you might recognize from Bondage Fruit or Yoshida’s Project Korekyojin and the free jazz sax by the Doctor and you’ll end up with something hard to categorize: Avantgarde, funk, free jazz, progressive rock, folk, traditional jazz…maybe just call it damn tight complex Jazzrock…?!
Anyway, they recently released a new record and as one could see after the gig, I was not the only one digging it: all their CDs sold out within minutes…
I let the the day sink away watching the long-term Zappa veteran band “Banned from Utopia” consisting of the alumni Robert Martin, Ray White, Ed Mann, Tom Fowler, Albert Quon Wing, Mike Miller and Ralph Humphrey! Of course, they played Zappa songs and of course, they know how to play them. Though, somehow they couldn’t really ignite the audience and the reception was warm but cold…however, after the concert they where personally honored as honorary members of the Arf Society for keeping the heritage of Frank alive!
…and, since Ike Willis didn’t make it to good ol’europe and to his gig with the Pojama People since his name is not his real name but Isaac is, I closed the festival with the show of the stand-alone artist Chato Segerer, who gained attention and great fame in playing with just that Ike Willis on the Yellow Snow Festival Zappa Festival in Norway in 2012. Faithful followers of Charly’s Freakshow Festival may also remember the multi-Instrumentalist by his spontaneous performance in Würzburg in 2012!
…and of course, every single visitor remembers her – at least I remember seeing you guys dreaming:
Thanks for your interest, please leave your comments and hope to see you next year, folks, at this unique, colourful, peaceful and most relaxed festival on this planet! Actually, I already know the line-up for 2014 in bits and pieces…and bands they’re considering…it’s gonna be great!!
On first listen Nooumena’s (not to be confused with the finnish Melodic Death Metal band Noumena) debut album Argument with Eagerness surely comes as a double-edged sword: unquestionable one can hear great talent and potential but on the other hand it denies to ignite the listener on the first go – well, the sensed potential dictates a second, third and forth round…and, as it turns out then, many more! But before diving into the music, let’s do some background research in the meantime.
Nooumena is a band from Caen, France, who doubtlessly adopted their name from the Greek νοούμενον, which in philosophy denotes the antipode of a phenomenon. Actually, as always in philosophy, notions undergo a certain change or fluctuation in meaning such that precision is blurred over the centuries. For example, Kant connoted noumenon with “the thing itself” whereas Plato, who’s definition in my opinion fits the idea of the band better, describes it as “what is to be seen (or understood) by the mind” in contrast to a phenomenon, which is something to be experienced by the senses.
The band recorded their first demo In Memory of a Next World in 2006 (free download by clicking on the link!) and after that, concentrated on getting other projects going (Les Yeux De La Tête, Rhùn) before in 2011 they finally came together to record this debut. Though their demo carried more metal influences with growling vocals and brutal, direct riffs they couldn’t deny their weakness for more complex structures and psychodelic postrock passages (e.g. Hail to the anomist).
However, having refined their idea of music and widened their pool of instruments over the years, the second and third and fourth spin reveals the enormous musical finesse presented here. The opener Nameless Reward quietly comes up with a threatening atmosphere built up by shimmering percussions, a minimalistic sawing strins and a voice like Toby Driver’s, heavily reminding of Kayo Dot! Bouncing guitars speed up the track and drums join in before ultimately wind instruments turn it into a disharmonious bombast best listened (very!) aloud. Actually, the vast variety of instruments allow for quick changes of styles, from claustrophobic avant to jazzy licks, from rolling drums to monolithic choirs in Decadence, from typical repetitive Zeuhl passages to Uli Jon Roth guitar licks to lunatic laughter in Le Plouc or the quiet, repetitive and oppressive Somehow this record contains every possible facet of avantgarde music without ever losing its incredible flow and intensity. The dominating depressive atmosphere is supported by lyrics such as “Boredom is no more a problem but reality” or “”How to reach harmony when bleeding to death…” to cite only a few lines. To include some more references, one may think of Time of Orchids, some more refined Opeth tracks or even King Crimson.
One of the highlights of this record besides the extremely tight Le Plouc is definitvely the closing track Taedium Vitae, a name which refers most likely to its usage in philosophy meaning vaguely distaste for life or in Freudian psychoanalysis where it is used for the abatement in lust for life in the context of a depression. Well, this feeling is perfectly transported by returning to the close similarity in atmosphere to Kayo Dot, which opens the track. Percussions, organically scratching sounds and again, a claustrophobic singing a la Coyote which ascends to monolithic, intense and disruptive disharmony.
All in all, what Nooumena present here is a tight, multilayer, complex record where one can completely immerse oneself in. Its pocketing atmosphere is certainly dark but not depressing. Its sheer opulence in ideas is overwhelming and after several runs the listener is convinced this is one of the best records discovered long since! But be aware, there’s always a blank spot you didn’t discover yet. Fabulous! Get it, dive in!
P.S.: the record was released by Antithetic Records in an digipack edition of 250 which are sold out as far as I know (there are some copies left at Wayside, though)! The digital version may be ordered on the band’s bandcamp site for only 4 $ (or more)!
Crazy stuff: ten years after the Iraq war we will have another anniversary tied to another American invasion next week:
Doctor Nerve will celebrate the 30th anniversary of Jazz assimilates Metal…or was it Humor? So, Jazz assimilates Fun? Freely improvised Metal? Modern classical arrangements meet a drum set and a Mr. Didkovsky? Anyway, boundaries annihilated for 30 years and that needs some special celebration day, not just a series of some 5 shows at some of New York’s underground club, they will spill over Europe, they will find you at your homes, crush your ears, thoroughly chew your eardrum and spit it back at you!
And if you really don’t know nothing, here’s a brief introductory summary entitled “hey DOCTOR, my NERVE is twitching”:
In 1983, just after finishing his studies on contemporary and electronic music under the composers Christian Wolff, Pauline Oliveros and Gerald Shapiro, Nick Didkovsky founded the Avant-Metal-Jazz band this article is about. Already in the first year, they recorded their first record Out to bomb fresh kings, which was released on Recommended Records / No Man’s Land (a label from Würzburg, Germany so it makes some sense to start this year’s tour there) in 1984. No less than 17 musicians were involved in the recording sessions, mostly providing guest parts. However, composed with less than any need for harmony, this record with its erratic wind instrument explosions and spiced with erruptive guitar riffs definitively proves the name well chosen. And maybe one or an other remembers the prominent Peter Bäder cover…
Their second output, Armed Observation, followed three years later on the by that time aspiring Rock-In-Opposition label Cuneiform. Being co-produced by no less than RIO legend Fred Frith and recorded by a boiled down line-up, the music does not substantially differ from its predecessor Out to bomb fresh kings: heavy guitar riffs, dadaistic jazzy wind fanfares and improvised mind-blowing complex rock…actually, it even claims that “diese Platte ist keine Jazzplatte” (to be pronounced with a Viennoise accent). Being fraternal on the musical side, these two records were accordingly released by Cuneiform on a single CD in the early 90s.
Several times Europe was taken over in these days, before a live record, entitled Did Sprinting Die? and recorded at one of New York’s legendary clubs, the Knitting Factory, followed in 1990, which contained mainly material stemming from their first two records. Complementary to the free jazz program, this release for the first time also contains three pieces called Computer Generated Piece which according to the booklet are composed by a program called DrNerve.hmsl – a program designed by bandleader Nick Didkovsky using the theory and techniques of random walks and Markov chains.
This program was also used to partly compose the pieces for the third regular studio record Beta 14 ok, which as a result of this rather experimental technique sounds more sterile than their earlier outputs, even if contrary to the mentioned Computer Generated Piece on the previous live record the computer-composed music was played by real instruments this time. Two other extra special ideas were realized on this record on the edge between free jazz and electronic music: Fast Fourier Fugue, a computer generated vibraphone piece which composed itself while being played and 44 so-called Nerve Events, with which the listener can program his own Doctor Nerve piece with a little help from the programming function of his / her CD player (a trick which obviously would not have worked in good old vinyl days…)
Also the next record Skin was recorded under the influence of DrNerve.hmsl (where hmsl actually means Hierarchical Music Specification Language), the second live record Every Screaming Ear was released in 1997, before in 2000 the to date last Doctor Nerve record was spilled over music industry. This again was special. During the 90s Doctor Nerve played some concerts together with string instruments, called conducted improvisations, which brought up the idea of recording a whole record with such a line up. As soon as money dripped in, this idea was realized and led to a record somewhere in between free jazz and…chamber prog a la Art Zoyd.
And then? Well, it became quite quiet with Doctor Nerve in the last years. Some gigs were played, two of them at 2011’s Zappanale, where their trip to Europe for these gigs was crowdfunded by a kickstarter project, Nick’s 100 $ guitar project surely consumed a lot of time and now
Don’t miss it…in their rucksacks they carried smuggle rereleases of some out-of-print records so go out to see them at one of the following dates (click on them to see the details or visit the official tour homepage):
Wow, another quite legendary avantgarde band from New York visits Europe this Spring: Zs! After cleaning up their sextett years by releasing the beautiful 4CD box “Score” last September, they doubled with the recent EP “Grain” which is nothing like cliffy or ragged jazz at all.
This trio line-up, presenting more electronically distorted sounds, mixed with drumming which slightly reminded the author of Chris Cutler’s fly over the drum set, showed up at the Bad Bonn in Düdingen, Switzerland (yeah, out in the woods where the famous Kilbi takes place) and played a set for roughly 3 (in words: three!) people in the audience! Or as they said: “part of the game, man!”
Well, caught between two stools as “Jazz dude goes to Conservatory – disillusionment”!
Thanks for showing up, great guys, great concert.