Hear the opening track off of Solex Ahoy’s Sound Map of the Netherlands and Gemma Ray’s noir opus Down Baby Down right here:
Hot on the heels of her praised album Island Fire, March 4th 2013 is the release date of her next project Down Baby Down, an altogether different prospect.
Island Fire was praised for its grand modus operandi, where she took her sideways blues and reverberating pop-noir to dizzying new sonic and orchestral heights. It included a collaboration with Sparks, won her an appearance on Top of the Pops, and a new occasional backing band in the shape of the 65 member-strong Filmorchester Babelsberg.
Gemma had already recorded Down Baby Down by the time Island Fire was released, but its more sinister and haunting bent is probably less fitting for a summertime unveiling.
Recorded in a few days at Candy Bomber (ensconced in the former CIA headquarters wing of Berlin’s intimidating Tempelhof Airport), with a handful of musicians namely Thomas Wydler (of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds) on drums, Rory More on organ, and Wilhelm Stegmeier on bass, it is 30 minutes of largely instrumental compositions coated with choral enhancement and ominous yet beautiful vocal motifs. Gemma herself takes care of all vocal, guitar, piano, clavioline, glockenspiel, melodica and dulcimer duties.
For want of a better description, Gemma calls them “fantasy soundtracks”, as the music
escapes the trappings or the expectations of the pop or rock song. “It’s probably my most honest and satisfyingly free work to date”, she says. She makes no secret of her love of composers such as Komeda (of Roman Polanski soundtracks fame), Morricone, John Barry, or Jack Nitzsche (see Tarantino’s Death Proof) , and this collection of compositions reveals Gemma’s more darkly musical imaginings. They unfold on their own pictorial journey through deserts, mountains and ghettos, lithely sinking through jazz-noir, gothic folk, fucked-up rock’n’roll, and out into deathly space.
From the ethereal landscape of The Low Rising to the desolate horror of No Star, Down Baby Down is all at once soothing, fragile, sweeping, intense, twisted, sexual, and bad-ass.
Elisabeth Esselink, aka Solex, has always done things her own way. The Dutch sorceress of sound reset the boundaries by blowing them clean away with albums like Pick-Up (released in 1999 on Matador Records) which , 14 years on, is still name-checked by the likes of Annie Clark aka St Vincent, who calls it a huge inspiration. She continues to be beyond comparison in her approach to amalgamating samples, live instruments and her own vocals, creating an incredibly unique pop and electronica.
In 2010 she created a masterpiece in the shape of Amsterdam Throwdown, King Street
Showdown!, which was a supernova of genre-bending delights in a brainiac’s dance party, and gave collaborators Jon Spencer (Blues Explosion) and his wife Cristina Martinez (Boss Hog) a funk soul playground through which they could run free.
What you have here is, well, nothing like the above. This truly unique and special album is the soundtrack to the documentary film of the same name.
During the course of the summer of 2008, Elisabeth (and her partner in sound, Bart van
Poppel) trekked the numerous rivers, lakes and waterways covering the twelve provinces
of the Netherlands by an old motorboat. In each province a different cast of musicians was invited to climb aboard and purely a l’improviste, create a homage to the Dutch landscape. On returning to her home base in Amsterdam, Esselink took the resulting material full of noises, moods, voices and rhythms back to her studio where she set about processing the recordings into twelve separate sound-image compositions, one for each province. Solex Ahoy, or better still, The Sound Map of the Netherlands is a reflection of the perilous route. A homage to the Dutch waterways.
SA01 - Solex Ahoy! The Sound Map of the Netherlands
SA02 - Gemma Ray - Down Baby Down
Further details coming in the new year.