Saturday, September 28, 2019

Saba Lou Novum Ovum: An Interview & Show # 794

Novum Ovum is the second full-length album by Saba Lou. Saba Lou is the daughter of garage rock icon King Khan and will release Novum Ovum on the Ernest Jenning Record Co. label in October 2019. This album takes on a different musical approach than its predecessor. While there are some of the same influences, her first album Planet Enigma released in 2017, was more of an acoustic based record mixing elements of folk and 60s rock. What Novum Ovum brings is full band arrangements that mix an early R&B soul influence and elements of jazz and blues.

“Primrose Diner” begins the album with smooth guitar lines, soulful basslines and a laidback groove. Saba Lou sings of a waitress working in a diner and the revolving cast of characters that drift through. The song reveals a character that is willing to do anything to spend some time with the waitress she admires and has fallen for, but is ultimately intimidated by. The chorus takes off with the lines “Please let me take you away/Just for the night if I may” as the song launches into a feeling that casts shadows of romanticism and hope. “Primrose Diner” evokes an Etta James aesthetic mixed in with a bit of garage rock for good measure. The title track is more up tempo with jangly guitar parts and drums and bass that hide behind the beat as Saba Lou sings over top. The song is based on a poem that she wrote after a painful ovulation on stage due to/because of her Endometriosis. Lyrically, the song calls for victory over a personal struggle. “Dirty Blonde” is the third track found on Novum Ovum. With lyrics such as “White blonde/Platinum/Honeycomb you stuck me in/Stay goddamn dirty blonde/We all know where you’re coming from/What you’re running from”, the song portrays a character that seems to be running from themselves by the constant change in their hair colour, while at the same time emphasizing the need to not pretend to be someone that you’re not. “Penny Roll” moves in with its garage/soul dynamics, as “On The Fields” delivers more of a jazz beat, mixed with blues and soul.

“Telepathetic” was the first video released for Novum Ovum. The video features Saba Lou and the band (Osaka Wald guitar, Amit Alcalai-Duvnjak on bass/keyboards and Omri Gondor on drums), in a dimly lit room performing as a spotlight flashes back and forth in a film noir fashion. The song is awash in soulful guitar, bass and keyboards, as Saba Lou croons about two people that fail to read and connect with each other. “Silver Pill” features acoustic guitar, staccato lead guitar lines, descending keyboard patterns and a chorus that hooks the listener in with the lyrics “You got nothing to prove/That you were there on the scene/And I got nothing to say/Drink your silver pill/With more morphine”. “Violet” comes in with a surf influence that floats between the jazz drum beats, with vivid lyrics courtesy of Saba Lou, “Cherie Sherabou” dances with a jazz and blues makeup, featuring finger snaps and lyrics contrasting glamour and sleaze, while “Humpback In Time” ends Novum Ovum. This song was written from the perspective of Gracie, the pregnant whale from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The song travels with an unease and intensity that is portrayed in the building guitar patterns before the other instrumentation swims through in an R&B rave up fashion sounding like a form of futuristic Morse code in the choruses. Despite the lyrical influence of the song, it portrays a destructive world, uncertainty and a need for understanding. All themes of which parallel the ongoing events of our time.

In some reviews of the album comparisons have been made to Nancy Sinatra and Holly Golightly, but there is so much more found in the music. Other influences such as Nina Simone, Etta James, some 60s garage and many others all add to the world that is created within the music and lyrics of Novum Ovum. Throughout Novum Ovum, the listener is sucked into a world that creates a mood and an atmosphere that is filled with visual and at times visceral images that depict multiple meanings. Novum Ovum means “new egg” in Latin. With Novum Ovum, Saba Lou shows a musical and artistic rebirth revealing something new that captivates with each listen.

Continue reading for a Q&A Revolution Rock did with Saba Lou:

RR: You have a new album coming out called Novum Ovum. What is the significance behind the album’s title and when did you first begin working on the songs for this album?

SL: The meaning of the title is connected to a very personal struggle of mine. Novum Ovum means 'a new egg' in Latin and is based on this furious poem I wrote after a very very painful ovulation on stage. Endometriosis - patches of uterean lining that have gone astray between my uterus' muscle tissue - causes extreme cramping during periods and ovulations. I'm much better now, in treatment and under a strict diet, but for a while there it was extremely difficult to cope. This song is one way I worked through it creatively. I don't remember which song was the first or exactly when, but it must have been somewhere around late 2017. I don't really strive towards 'finishing albums' but just see how and when an idea comes to me, then sometimes I explode and write three in one night. That happened twice for Novum Ovum.

RR: The first single made available online was “Primrose Diner”. Your lyrics are very visual, what inspires you lyrically and where did you draw inspiration for this song?

SL: Primrose Diner is one of my more direct 'odes'. I sort of feel like all of my songs are meant to celebrate something and in this I thought about many friends - one lovely lady, Karen Thompson of GYM Tonic, in specific (I don't think I ever told her...) - who work in cafés, bars and restaurants, something many can relate to. It's not based on a real situation where I've sat at the window trying to muster up the courage to ask a dame out, it's a poetic expression of an admiration I have for those who work in that kind of service. Blended with the romanticized image of the fifties diner waitress. Always on their feet, rushing around, all-smiles in the job description, it's really tough.

Usually it's impressions that inspire me, the feeling left behind after an encounter with someone, a place, anything really. Things that peak my interest that way automatically become something I could write about, lyrics, poems or creative writing alike. With this song especially I felt like I could have gone on forever, written a hundred verses.

Maybe someday I will.

RR: How would you compare the music on Novum Ovum to your first album, Planet Enigma and what do you feel the similarities or differences are between them?

SL: Planet Enigma was a very different phase, the first songs I ever wrote. I'm glad it exists as a witness of time, I will never write or sound like that again. Lyrically I feel much more free on Novum Ovum while I was sort of 'trying things out' with the first. A natural development. And then there's the most obvious difference, the band. I enjoy the versatility of the set, the ability to play solo gives it an acoustic, soft charm, the duo with an added interaction between us two and the band unfolds a whole new level, a grandeur only one, couldn't achieve. I intend on recording a stripped down version of Novum Ovum in the style of the first, solo, as well, to keep it all versatile and not make it seem like the band was the 'improvement'. It's an alternative, enhanced in many ways, but I do still value the other approaches equally.

I guess a similarity would be that both albums document the adolescence of the same person thus completing and complimenting each other, two branches of the same tree.

RR: Who currently plays in your live band and do the same people play on Novum Ovum? Are there any special guests as on Planet Enigma?

SL: The three of them, Oska Wald of Chuckamuck on lead guitar and back up vocals, Amit Alcalai-Duvnjak of the Gondors and Chuckamuck on synth-bass and keys and Omri Gondor of the Gondors on drums, they add so very much to all of it. We are all friends with many connections. Everybody's known each other for several years, I met Oska for the first time when he was fourteen and I was five. We got to know each other about ten years later and are very close friends now. The other two, Amit and Omri, go way back, they started off in the Tel-Aviv jazz scene in their teens. As you can see above, everyone plays with everyone else in many combinations, which gives us all a very comfortable, familiar feeling. When you have good relationships with your bandmates any stage will feel like home.

They are the special addition to Novum Ovum, and what an egg we've all hatched.

RR: What is the typical songwriting process like for you and what would you say some of your musical influences are for your music?

SL: It really depends, sometimes I write a poem and leave it be for a while, rediscover it and add music (I have bags and piles of scrap paper all over my apartment). Sometimes I note chord progressions first, but mostly I do both at the same time. I sing the line, find the chord and progress little by little. I feel very inspired by many types of music, usually I go through phases of a few similar songs and listen to them on repeat for weeks. Then the next song I write is usually connected to that style. I don't want to say that my music is in any way similar, but just to name a few of my favourites, just things that I really enjoy listening to: early Nina Simone, early Eartha Kitt, early Marvin Gaye, Astrud Gilberto (not so much her English singing), Dolly Parton, Asha Bhosle, Ennio Morricone.

And to add some modern stuff: I love The Frowning Clouds from Australia, I want to shout out to them whenever I can. I hope they record some more... I'm a big Flight of the Conchords fan. Also my very dear friend Jeff Clarke and all of his past, present and future projects melt me (Demon's Claws, Hellshovel, Milk Lines, Strawberry Sun). One song on the new album is (secretly) dedicated to him and another inspired by his hair.

RR: Growing up as the daughter of King Khan must have been a unique experience. What is one of your earliest musical memories and what types of music was present when you were growing up?

SL: You could say that, haha, though I've never been anyone else's child and lack the comparison.

My earliest memory is a yellow Buddy Holly Greatest Hits record, that I ADORED as a baby. It still does and always will touch my heart in the place that still drools and wears diapers. The thing I am most grateful for in terms of the artistic exposure my parents gave me (my mother was just as much an important influence, since their shared love of the same things gave birth to what we now call 'The Vortex', our family apARTment) is the love for the history of music and the discovery of new things. We listened to mostly fifties to seventies stuff when we were small, Chuck Berry, Ike and Tina, Bo Diddley, The Miracles, The Ronettes, The Beatles, Screaming Lord Sutch, Nuggets, Pebbles, 60s Bollywood soundtracks, etc. That taught us to understand how these things influenced my father and his friends. The ability to spot commonalities is ultimately what will teach you how to understand musical history and how to approach creation without fear, because it's all connections, references.

My dad played me GG Allin's 'Drink, Fight and Fuck' for the first time when I was eleven. I hated it and I was mad at how amusing he found my torture. Then, when I started to get into it a few years later I was surprised and glad I could reconstruct that development within myself. So in the long run I was taught to understand change and always stay curious.

I don't listen to stuff like that at all now. I've actually been getting into a lot of traditional Japanese koto music, Nanae Yoshimura and Kimio Eto for example, and also a bunch of Indian classical like Ustad Vilayaat Khan. It gives me a wonderful foundation of peace and meditative calm on which to base my thoughts. Who knows what I might write next...

RR: Your first release was a 7 inch EP released when you were only 6 years old. What do you remember of making these recordings that wound up on the First Day of School EP?

SL: I do not remember anything, but wearing very large headphones, that I had to hold onto constantly. Memories from that time are very vague. I know we were always playing with instruments, the best toy in the world if you ask me, Papa was always showing us stuff and let us play with everything. A little off-topic, but I do remember clearly how my little sister Amabelle and I would construct complicated space crafts on the living room floor using the fourtrack, theremin and all other devices around with buttons and nobs to play space travel. (I might note that I'm the deepest trekkie and these instruments may have paved the way there.)

RR: What’s next for you musically?

SL: At the moment I really want to take it easy, I'm focusing more on visual art and creative writing, I just finished a short story I might be printing soon. I love music, but I don't plan on it being the main focus of my life, I'm very attracted to the sciences.

So for now there are now grand plans aside from this alternate version of Novum Ovum.

I will let whatever comes come. Let me finish with a tiny little dream I've been cultivating in the very back corner of my mind: fifties/sixties sci-fi soundtrack meets Ennio Morricone meets Jackson Five.

Get a copy of Saba Lou's Novum Ovum here.

Show 794 (Originally Aired On September 28th, 2019)(Saba Lou, The Replacements, The Mummies):

1. Mudhoney - Creeps Are Everywhere
2. Vivian Girls - Memory
3. Girl Band - Couch Combover
4. Not Of - Truck
5. Cellos - Head to Stone
6. Psychic Void - Drug Surface
7. Psychic Void - Day Dreamer
8. Trout - Laika (CJAM Session)
9. The Replacements - Achin’ To Be (Matt Wallace Mix)
10. The Replacements - Portland (Alternate Mix)(Bearsville Version)
11. Randy Newman - Mama Told Me Not to Come
12. Eamon Mcgrath - Guts
13. Jom Comyn - Mountain
14. Scott Walker - Amsterdam
15. Belle and Sebastian - Get Me Away from Here I'm Dying
16. Julie Dorian - Lovers of the World
17. Patti Smith - Space Monkey
18. Brittany Howard - 13th Century Metal
19. Mount Eerie & Jule Dorian - Who?
20. Saba Lou - Waiting for the Bus
21. Saba Lou - Primrose Diner
22. The New Pornographers - The Surprise Knock
23. Matana Roberts - Fit to be Tied
24. The Mummies - Land of 1000 Dances
25. The Mummies - Victim of Circumstances
26. The Mummies - Justine
27. TV Freaks - Knife
28. Uncontrollable Urge - Pep Talk
29. Chunder Buffet - Goosebumps
30. Fugazi - Nice New Outfit

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for September 28.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Ric Ocasek, Daniel Johnston, David Berman & Shows # 790, 791, 793

Ric Ocasek:

Primarily known as being a songwriter/singer/guitarist in The Cars, Ric Ocasek had a background in music for many years prior to forming The Cars. He met future Cars bassist Ben Orr in 1965 and a few years later they would form a band in Cleveland, Ohio. They performed in different bands together around the Columbus area and around Ann Arbor, Michigan before finally relocating to Boston. In the early 1970s, Ocasek and Orr formed a band called Milkwood that would also feature Greg Hawkes who would go on to play with them in The Cars. Milkwood were not a rock band, but a folk band that played music in the style of Crosby, Stills & Nash. They even recorded and released an album on Paramount Records entitled How’s The Weather that was released in 1972. The album failed to chart and the band was dropped from the label. Ocasek and Orr would team up with Elliot Easton (future Cars guitarist) in his band Cap’n Swing. The band’s demo got airplay on WBCN in Boston, but the band were rejected by several labels. The band was reorganized with a different drummer and bassist to better fit Ocasek’s style of songwriting. Ben Orr took over on bass and David Robinson, best known as being drummer in The Modern Lovers took over on drums. Ocasek played rhythm guitar and sang lead vocals on several tracks, Orr took lead vocals on the others. Elliot Easton played lead guitar while Greg Hawkes joined on Keyboards.

Renaming themselves The Cars, their music, written primarily by Ric Ocasek was extremely catchy. In addition to this, underneath the music there was a 50’s rock influence that ran deep, amongst other influences such as Roxy Music, The Velvet Underground and power pop. This all combined with a punk/new wave aesthetic and after having their 1976 demo played on WCBN repeatedly, the band signed to Elektra Records. The Cars first album featured several hit singles (“Just What I Needed”, “My Best Friends Girl”, “Good Times Roll”), as well as other songs that would receive a lot of attention such as “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight”, and “Moving In Stereo”. The Cars remained on the charts for 139 weeks. It is one of the strongest debut albums from that time period. Along with the music, lyrically, Ocasek and The Cars explored the subject matter differently. While they may seem to be happy pop songs, many of the lyrics are not what they seem at first glance. The Cars early albums were all produced by Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker. He added a slick element to the production of their songs. They went on to play and record albums until 1988. Ocasek released several solo albums starting with Beatitude in 1982. The music often experimented with technology and song structures, this is apparent on some later Cars albums and Ocasek’s solo albums. In addition to all this, Ocasek also took on a producer role following his time with The Cars. He would go on to produce Weezer’s debut album, Guided By Voices Do The Collapse, Bad Brains Rock For Light, Jonathan Richman’s I’m So Confused and many others. Ric Ocasek left a lasting imprint on the music he created and helped to produce.

Daniel Johnston:

Daniel Johnston is known for his lo-fi cassette recordings. During the 80s and 90s he recorded a large majority of his best-known work on cassette tapes on a boom box recorder and would hand them out the friends/fans around Austin, Texas. His music is often folk based and he has been called an outsider folk artist by many. As stated on his website “Daniel Johnston has spent the last 20 or so years exposing his heartrending tales of unrequited love, cosmic mishaps, and existential torment to an ever-growing international cult audience.” Throughout his life Johnston also battled mental health issues that caused him to be in and out of institutions, but in the end he triumphed over his illnesses with his art. He created music prolifically and art. He would often draw characters that would wind up on his album covers. Perhaps his best-known album was, Hi, How Are You, which was his sixth album. Originally released in 1983, the album varied in its content from his earlier albums. Johnston also experimented with tape and noise collages on this album. This album would receive a wider distribution when it was reissued in 1988 on vinyl via the Homestead record label.

In 1985, Johnston was featured on an episode of The Cutting Edge on MTV. His live performances combined with his unique way of recording/delivering his music generated great interest in Daniel Johnston. In 1988, he travelled to New York to record 1990 in a proper studio with producer Mark Kramer. The album was originally intended to be made up of all studio recordings, but due to his mental health conditions during the making of this album, he was not able to complete the planned album studio sessions. As a result, 1990 is a collection of studio recordings, live recordings and home recordings. Johnston signed to Atlantic Records in 1994 following further surges of interest in his music after Kurt Cobain was seen wearing a t-shirt of Johnston’s Hi, How Are You album cover on TV. The resulting album on Atlantic was entitled Fun. It was not a commercial success and Johnston was dropped from the label in 1996. Johnston continued to make music despite this collaborating with artists such as Yo La Tengo, Jad Fair, Okkerevil River and many others. He was the subject of the documentary film The Devil and Daniel Johnston in 2005. In 2010, Johnston released Beam Me Up! In 2012 he released a comic book called Space Ducks and it also featured a corresponding soundtrack featuring music from Johnston and other artists. Jeremiah The Innocent is the name of the frog drawing that graces 1983’s Hi, How Are You. In 1993, Johnston was commissioned to paint this image on the wall outside of the then record store Sound Exchange. The mural remains and is a part of Austin, Texas for anyone to discover, much like Johnston, his music and influence.

David Berman:

David Berman is perhaps best known for the music that he created with indie rock band Silver Jews. Prior to forming Silver Jews, Berman formed a band while at studying at University of Virginia. The band called Ectoslavia, featured Stephen Malkmus (who he would often collaborate with) and Bob Nastanovich (of Pavement). Ectoslavia would often feature a lot of noise and static beneath their melodic pop songs. After graduating the group relocated to Hoboken, New Jersey. They would adopt the name Sliver Jews to make tapes in their apartment. It was around this time that Malkmus formed another band Pavement. As Pavement began to take off, people began to think that Silver Jews was a side project of the band, despite proceeding them and being led by Berman. Their first single was 1992’s “Dime Map of the Reef”, which featured ultra lo-fi aesthetic. It was released on Drag City records. The first Silver Jews album was 1994’s Starlite Walker. They went on to much acclaim releasing The Natural Bridge in 1996, American Water (1998), Bright Flight (2001), Tanglewood Numbers (2005), Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea (2008). Their 2008 release proved to be their last. In 2005, Silver Jews embarked on their first ever tour. The lineup of the band would feature a rotating cast of musicians throughout their existence with Berman remaining as the only constant member. In addition to this, Berman released a book of poetry in 1999 entitled Actual Air. In 2009, he released another book. This time it was a collection of drawings/cartoons entitled The Portable February.

In 2019, after not releasing any music for eleven years, Berman announced a new band and album called, Purple Mountains. The lyrics drew on themes of the strains of depression and his marriage, among other topics. Released in July 2019, Berman was set to go on tour in August 2019, but it was cut short when he was found dead three days before the tour was to begin. Berman would battle with depression throughout his life. In the mid 2000’s he dealt with drug abuse. He would address many issues in his lyrics. He famously said that he worked on his words more because he “couldn’t rock out harder than everybody, or overcome people with mastery like Jack White of the White Stripes”. As a result, the music that Berman created with these lyrics were layered in multiple possible meanings and embodied indie rock often with a striking poignancy and with a sense of humour and wit in a great literary sense. He received critical acclaim for his abilities as a lyricist, which connected with fans on many levels. The music is something you have to experience to fully understand, but a recent article in the New Yorker may have said it best. They said that David Berman “had a gift for articulating profound loneliness in ways that felt deeply familiar, which in turn made you feel less alone.”

Show 793 (Originally Aired On September 21st, 2019)(Ric Ocasek, The Cars & Daniel Johnston Tribute):

1. The Cars - My Best Friend's Girl (1977 Demo)
2. The Cars - Don't Cha Stop
3. The Cars - Night Spots
4. Milkwood - With You With Me
5. Daniel Johnston - True Love Will Find You in the End
6. Daniel Johnston - Casper
7. Daniel Johnston - Lennon
8. Daniel Johnston - Walking the Cow
9. Vivian Girls - Sick
10 Amyl & the Sniffers - Control
11. B Boys - Pressure Inside
12. Pottery - Lifeline Costume
13. Mark Sultan - Filthy Rat
14. (Sandy) Alex G - Southern Sky
15. Rick White - Tomorrow
16. Leonard Cohen - The Goal
17. Brittany Howard - History Repeats
18. Iggy Pop - Love Missing
19. Pixies - Los Surfer Muertos
20. Sprinters - Ending
21. Jale - All Ready
22. Deke Dickerson w/ Bloodshot Bill - Bad Biscuit
23. Bloodshot Bill - Shark Tank
24. The Sadies - Lay Down Your Arms
25. The Sadies - Venison Creek
26. Paul Jacobs - Waiting for the Grave
27. Foggy Tapes - Can't Stay in Bed All Day
28. Shotgun Jimmie - Blues Riffs
29. Fontaines DC - Big

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for September 21.

Show 791 (Originally Aired On September 7th, 2019)(Ann Arbor Blues Festival 1969, Frankie Cosmos, Animal Collective, Lou Reed, Supergrass):

1. Mississippi Fred McDowell - John Henry (Ann Arbor Blues Festival 1969)
2. Big Mama Thornton - Ball and Chain (Ann Arbor Blues Festival 1969)
3. South River Slim - Grinnin in Your Face
4. Necking - No Playtime
5. Fontaines DC - Hurricane Laughter
6. Otoboke Beaver - S'vll vous plait
7. Frankie Cosmos - Windows
8. The Glow - Lose
9. Animal Collective - Ballad of Reverend War Character
10. David Bowie - Dollar Days
11. Orville Peck - Dead of Night
12. Nap Eyes - Roll It
13. No Museums - Fangs That Once Were Teeth
14. Heavy Trash - Dark Hair'd Rider
15. Demon’s Claws - Hunting on the 49
16. The Gruesomes - Unchain My Heart
17. Lou Reed - Kill Your Sons
18. D.O.A. - Rent a Riot (1978 Demo)
19. Pointed Sticks - Out of Luck
20. The Danks - What We're Doing
21. The Jackets - Be Myself
22. Miles Davis - Carnival Time
23. Pekoe Cat - My Baby
24. A Savage - Untitled
25. Those Pretty Wrongs - Ain't Nobody But Me
26. The Scenics - Gotta Come Back Here
27. Supergrass - Mansize Rooster

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for September 7.

Show 790 (Originally Aired On August 31st, 2019) (Ann Arbor Blues Festival 1969, Jonathan Richman, Shotgun Jimmie, Protomartyr, David Burman Tribute):

1. Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers - That Summer Feeling
2. Klaus Nomi - Lightning Strikes
3. The Flaming Lips - Feedaloodum Beedle Dot
4. Black Midi - Bmbmbm
5. Nots - Built Environment
6. Butchers - Golden Sugar
7. Silver Jews - Living Waters
8. Silver Jews - The Frontier Index
9. Silver Jews - Smith & Jones Forever
10. Silver Jews - Transylvania Blues
11. Silver Jews - Sometimes a Pony Gets Depressed
12. Silver Jews - Aloysius, Bluesgrass Drummer
13. Purple Mountains - That's Just the way That I Feel
14. Red Mass - Crooked
15. Red Mass - Bored
16. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Chicken Dog
17. R.L. Burnside - Miss Maybelle
18. Muddy Waters - Long Distance Operator (Ann Arbor Blues Festival 1969)
19. Bloodshot Bill - It'll Be You
20. Catl. - Waiting List
21. Mac DeMarco - Little Dogs March
22. The Vondells - 2 Tone Blue
23. Shotgun Jimmie - Sappy Slogans
24. Shotgun Jimmie - One Trick Pony
25. Louder Than Death - Baby Huey
26. 3ft - Evening Song
27. Protomartyr - Principalities
28. Protomartyr - King Boots

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for August 31.

Show 792 was a repeat of an episode that originally aired in August 2019. Download/stream this episode here and find the playlist here