Category Archives: all kinds of music

Derek web – fingers crossed (review)


so if you stop listening now
we can still be friends
if your eyes can see what’s killing me
i’ll need you by the end
but i’ll understand if you stop listening
(Derek webb – stop listening)

I’m not really following the American ‘Christian music’ scene at all (I’m just waiting for a new psalters album…) but Derek Webb is a songwriter and musician that I have been listening to since my late twenties. Especially the ‘mockingbird’ album is a personal favourite, and it will always remain one. I’ve always liked his songwriting, his wrestling with hard questions, his honesty and his voice.

And now there’s a new album, ‘fingers crossed’, an album ‘about 2 divorces’ as he said somewhere on facebook in which he wrestles with losing his marriage and his faith. Musically this might certainly be his best, and his voice has never sounded better, but it’s not really easy listening…

Check it out for yourself here on his website. It’s available on vinyl too, which might be a good idea if you like the album and want to support Derek. It certainly must be music that sounds a lot better from vinyl than from electronic format.

So how’s the album itself? Let me start by saying that Derek Webb proves himself a superb songwriter once again on this album. His semi-electronic arrangements work better than ever here, and the atmosphere he conjures are incredible and in line with what he’s trying to communicate. Unlike his ‘Stockholm syndrome’ album where the experiments with all kind of electronics led to a bit of incoherence on album-level this one works very well as a whole, with a lot of musical consistency.
It’s a really good piece of work, with intelligent songwriting, well-crafted lyrics and interesting arrangements that work well to convey the feelings of what he’s struggling with. The songs are also performed well, Webbs guitar-playing and singing are at a high level here. His voice has never sounded this intense.
A real artist is someone who can channel whatever they want to communicate through their art, and Derek Webb is definitely a good artist here.

i still believe in love
like i believe in just war
i think it’s possible
but maybe just not anymore

so i say goodbye, for now
(Derek Webb, goodbye for now)

But what does he communicate? The ‘double divorce’ aspect of the album is very clear in almost every song. Descriptions of the loss of his faith, and the loss of his marriage, his own infidelity and the world around him that has fallen apart. The painful thing is that it seems that the main thing left from his own former (reformed) Christianity is a deep sense of his own total depravity. To be left with mainly that in the divorce is a very bad bargain I must say.

Some of the songs are really hard to listen to just because he is such a honest and almost exhibitionist songwriter, who shares a very painful reality that he’s living now throughout the songs, while he has separated himself from all things that were central to his life before. It must take some bravery to make a ‘coming out’ album like this in the American scene. I can’t imagine what it must be to do such a thing, it must be very hard to fall out of an entire universe like that. A universe that is completely consistent in itself, and getting increasingly worse I must add. The way parts of American fundamentalism have embraced a man who has no concept of truth at all (after decades of railing against ‘postmodernism) alone would create more cognitive dissonance to me than I might be able to bear if there wasn’t a certain ocean between us. So when it comes to the Christian subculture it might have been a divorce with a partner that’s falling apart and never was what it promised to be. I can understand that such a separation might be the only way to keep your sanity. (see my blog posts The American situation as a crisis for my faith and farewell, online American Christianity here)

And still…  In spite of being a very well-crafted album this is not music I’d listen to much. Quality and artistic excellence isn’t the only reason why one listens to music. There must be some kind of positive reason why I will listen a certain album and song and not another one. There must be a certain resonance… (which is the reason why a lot of people like abominable music that’s happy and easy to digest, and why terrible dumb pop music is always topping the charts.)

“women and whiskey are persuasive
at making me forget you”
(the devil you know, Derek Webb)

It’s not really healthy for me to feed myself energetically too much on secondhand desperations that aren’t mine. I’m married, and far from the American dechristianiation, and I’ve never seen or encountered women as a temptation (I prefer them as friends), and neither do I have his very special relationship with alcohol. There’s not much I gain from listening too much to this album.

Why would I keep listening to a song like ‘the spirit bears the curse’ for example, well-crafted as it is. It’s a very clever song that subverts the whole Christian worship cliché lingo into a song of adoration to alcohol? Yes, it’s smart and witty, and it would have a lot of effect in a live-show, it works as a bit of cabaret even. When you heard it once the surprise is gone. But having this song stuck in my head, with a chorus of adoration directed towards the wondrous deity of alcohol is not what I want.

And here we are with the problem of a piece of art in which someone is very able to channel his demons very successfully…

These are not my demons…

I do have enough demons of my own already… But there’s a lot of people elsewhere who must share these demons, and for those who go through a similar deconversion experience -which will be a lot of people, the dechristianiation of the US is certainly at hand- I suppose an album like this will give a lot of recognition and consolation.

The very personal lyrics of the first and last song make me feel like it’s wrong to stop listening to this one, but that’s just how it is. There is something perverse in our audience/listener system and the asymmetrical pseudo-relationships it gives, especially for the artists that pour out to everyone but may end up alone in the end. But realistically I can’t do anything from here.

I’ll still listen to ‘mockingbird’, and maybe to this one too from time to time.

But I can’t share your demons.

Peace to you Derek.
Shalom to you in all its aspects I mean with that.

Bram

 

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Coming soon: Bram Cools’ ‘Beware of Plato’s cavemen’ album


We interrupt the blog hiatus that is almost over for a musical anouncement:

Hi friends and listeners,

To all 5 of you who are reading this,
which might include email-intercepting agents from the FBI, the Belgian secret service and the Reptilian illuminati.
(Yes, you too! Please read on! Have a listen)

The release of the new Bram Cools album is nigh!
Or in other words, new home-made musical madness from an alternate universe, against all trends and zeitgeist and the laws of logic and Hegelian dialectics and hopefully with a better sound than ever,  will soon be available on the usual bandcamp site.

It should have been finished this summer, but we never control life as much as we’d like to, and time is a strange thing and never reliable.  So with a little correction by reality the new and more realistic date is set somewhere in November… The ‘it’ referred to earlier here is a collection of 20 songs in different styles and even languages that will be called ‘ Beware of Plato’s cavemen’.  It also can be considered the third album in the ‘cyberluddism‘ series, and as such also as a concept album of sorts again. Both musically and lyrically there are some unifying themes hidden somewhere, although rather loosely this time.
While I attempted at first to make some simple songs with primitive electronic arrangements, it seems everything grew over my head again, and I suddenly had a long album full of songs with much more complicated arrangements than I had planned, interlayered with some instrumentals for which no actual instruments were abused. On the other hand seems that folk and pop have regularly won the fight against the bleeps and synths this time. The music as it has become sets the stage for explorations about how our constructed realities and illusions clash with Reality, if there’s even such a thing, and other subjects of faith, despair, world peace and the end of the world… The number of languages is going up again too, most are still in English, with 2 songs in Dutch or Flemish, 1,5 song in toki pona and some lines in Latin.

The current artwork is temporarily, and will get updated at the right moment. This does probably fit with my lo-fi antiprofessional approach though…

Those following soundcloud will find the finished and completely remixed and remastered versions of Welcome outside, Splintering dimensions, Hold on, mi wile e ni, Shadows of shadows, Muggles gonna muggle and Selfmade universe on the album, although not in that order…

So stay tuned!
More soon

peace

Bram

Bram Cools music: new songs & announcement!!


 

Bram CoolsI hope I will be writing some interesting blogpostposts in various usual and unusual subjects this summer, but I also will do some cross-over with my musical project here with the release of a new ‘cyberluddism’ album.  To begin with I’ll give you the first announcement mail:

New Bram Cools songs on soundcloud!

I have been rather silent the last years music-wise, especially when it comes to actual new songs, but that pattern will finally be broken this summer.

To begin with, recently 3 new songs have been posted on Soundcloud:

Selfmade universe: A classic in the Bram Cools live catalogue that has been played live a lot over the years but never had a studio version though, Here it finally is, but re-interpreted in a rather electronic fashion, while keeping a rather relaxed indie-pop style. Might be about the dangers of pragmatic paradigm shifting, although I wouldn’t have used these terms when I wrote it.
Muggles gonna muggle: More electronica and indie-pop with a slightly disorienting chord scheme, and a rather dark defence of both magic and religion against certain totalizing tendencies in modernism.
mi wile e ni: Just a simple relaxed lo-fi pop song in Toki Pona, a minimalist constructed language with a vocabulary of around 132 words.World peace, all people should be friends and stuff like that..

So have a listen, share them with your friends if you like, and use them to scare away alien visitors if needed. And tell me what you think…

But that’s only half of the news, since these songs are by no means standalone songs but part of a bigger project:

New ‘Cyberluddism’ album announcement!

The last months I’ve been working on a collection of songs that will end up as an album (cyberluddism part III, further title to be announced) that will be released in electronic form on bandcamp as soon as it’s finished.

As the working title and it’s inclusion in the ‘cyberluddism’ series indicate, it’s predominantly electronic music with rather dystopian themes to the lyrics. The difference with ‘cyberluddism‘ and probably even ‘Instant pocket apocalypse‘ will be noticeable in a more minimalist approach with a lot less aggression and generally a slower tempo… Less techno and industrial sounds, and more indie-pop with sometimes a rather high dose of triphop. Although some gothic folk, atmospheric drum’n bass and -if I get the arrangement done- even acoustic reggae- may also turn up here and there.
It’s probably not completely a concept album, and still there is an overall theme to both the sounds and the words. There might be a certain influence for example of C.S. Lewis and Plato, apocalyptic pictures of dystopia, splintering dimensions, pragmatic paradigm shifting, and other everyday subjects.

As the Toki Ponan title ‘mi wile e ni’ of one of the 3 preview songs already indicates, not all of the songs will be in English (or purely instrumental) this time. Apart from a whole song and some fragments in Toki Pona and 3 words in Latin there might be 2 songs in Dutch too.

(Like the other ‘cyberluddism’ collections this is music I cannot play live in this form, but most of the songs can be played on just a guitar or piano and don’t need the arrangement to stand as a song. This makes it easier to adapt them to a minimalist live approach should I start playing live again.)

Stay tuned for further news…

peace

Bram Cools

Listen to my music at my bandcamp page and for random non-album music and new updates at soundcloud. Like me at facebook and follow met at twitter. And tell me what you think…

‘Sell everything you have and give it to the poor’ bandcamp single


The electronic 2-song Bram Cools bandcamp single ‘Sell everything you have and give it to the poor’sell everything has been released today. It features an unheard version of a live sing-along classic that has no definitive recorded version to date, and a semi-instrumental B-side called “Stephen, they’re gonna stone you to death!”

If you like the song you can download it, share it, or very easily learn to play it yourself (the whole song is based on different combinations of G, C and D).

The single was originally supposed to be the fore-runner of the never-finished album ‘Happy Christian Music for the Conservative Middleclass’ from the late ’00’s which is still unfinished at the moment but might resurface one day. Other songs from that album are the rather scary ‘I was hungry‘, a different version of ‘gentiles‘, and this ouverture.

Sell everything you have and give it to the poor (Bram Cools)

G C D G

a rich young man came to Jesus Christ and asked
what should I do to get life, life eternal
you know the commandments Jesus replied
do not steal, do not kill do not commit adultery
yes I do know them he said I followed them all, all of my life
Jesus said well then there’s one more thing that you have to do

G
sell everything you have
C
and give it to the poor
G
yeah everything you have
D
get rid of it
G
sell everything you have
C
and give it to the poor
G   D     G
and you shall live

Jesus said do this and follow me
and you’ll have a great treasure in heaven
but the rich young man became very sad
for he did posses great wealth on earth
and he preferred it over the life
over the life eternal

G                   C
easier it is for a camel
G                         D
to go through the eye of the needle
G                C
than for a rich man to enter
G    D      G
the kingdom of heaven

sell everything…

and if Jesus Christ would be here today
and preach the same words as he did back then in Galilee
we probably would kill him and lay him i a grave again
like good old woody sung years ago
we still don’t want to near those words
and explain them away if we read then…

sell everything…

(the chord placements are lost in this lay-out, you’ll figure out easily by listening…)

Enjoy!

Bram

PS: Find more Bram Cools music for download at bandcamp.com. (All music is currently ‘choose your price’)

Bram Cools Christmas song (or something like that…)


Good news for the few sparse Terrans who enjoy the sounds that I make under the misguiding umbrella term of ‘music’ from time to time. 2015 had seen a no really new Bram Cools music thusfar, only a release of my older Contemporary Christian Muzak, and some other old songs (like this remake of ‘last fish in the sea’, previously unheard by all except 3 or 3 humans) but no actual new songs.

badsantaDTL

The good news is that just before the new year I can proudly announce you that at least one new song from 2015 will be on my musical CV.  It even is my first attempt at something that could be seen as a Christmas song (although in the broadest sense possible of that term probably)
To make long weird explanations short: the Bram Cools song Why Should She Care (this alien feast) (also on soundcloud) is featured on the new Down The Line 2015 Christmas compilation (the bad santa edition). It might be a bit dark for a Christmas song though…

More from the Down The Line collective in the zine here.

Have a listen to all the songs, scare your grandma with them  and tell me what you thing… (yes, there’s even a krampus song in it!)

peace and happy holidays!

Bram

Bram Cools Music: new song ‘last fish’ & news about ‘Contemporary Christian Muzak 2004-2007’


(This is an adapted version of the Bram Cools Music newsletter. You can subscribe here if you want.)

A new Bram Cools song: ‘last fish’fish

A new Bram Cools song called ‘last fish’ can be listened on soundcloud now. it is actually a remake of a very old song from my early twenties, that originally appeared on a ‘limited edition’ cassette which was restricted to one copy. Even I don’t have it anymore, but this song nonetheless survived, and it kept playing in my head from time to time unlike most of the songs that I recorded once and never played live. So I decided to re-record it and I’m glad that I did.

The original was just me playing a keyboard with 2 sounds, singing a cryptic and dark text to a very repetitive xylophone-loop and some strings recorded in one session on minidisk in my usual manner at that time. I have recreated those 2 lines and added some more arrangement to fill it up some more. It’s still not the typical Bram Cools song (if such a a thing exists) but I do like the outcome a lot.

It’s quite gothic, and completely different from the songs I’m writing at the moment, but still too good not to share, and as a very atypical track it’s perfect to end a long period of silence without new Bram Cools song… I hope you all enjoy the song and share it with others who might like it.

But that’s not the big news. The big news is the following:

“Contemporary ChristianMuzak 2004-2007′ to be released soon

I did already announce in my last mail a coming electronic release of my old ‘Contemporary Christian Muzak’ songs, finally together on one album. Now I tell you that it will be released very soon, in the beginning of september.

For those still uninitiated: Years ago now I had a band called the Contemporary Christian Muzak collective (or CCMC). We tried to play some kind of experimental Christian music that did both connect to the Creator and make some interesting sounds that haven’t been used 100 times before already. Most of it was not exactly elevator music fit for a boring Christian radio station providing safe happy clappy Christian music for the conservative middleclass as the name might suggest, but rather some kind of rough folky indierock, mixed with very weird free-from noise and experimental impro-parts as well from time to time…

We only did a few concerts throughout the years (around 2004-2007) but we did have a lot of fun, and I really miss those days! But time passes and things change, and the bandmembers had families and other bands and other stuff going on, so it all sort of fell apart. Unfortunately We never did any studio-recordings as a band, and no real CD-worthy live recordings have been made either. So all that’s left is my own home-recorded multitrack-versions with mostly myself on a lot of instruments and Bram Beels on digeridoo in some of the songs. Some of these songs needed to be finished, and that has finally happened.

So stay tuned!

peace

Bram

(And thank you for clicking!)

PS: Find more Bram Cools music for download at bandcamp.com. (All music is currently ‘choose your price’)

 

A prayer in C to an absent God (Lilly Wood and the Prick)


There’s a song that’s been playing on the radio a lot here in Belgium, and that is actually a big hit in this part of Europe at the moment. It has an irritating electronic beat and a looped guitar-riff that would be okay if it wouldn’t be repeated endlessly to go on on beyond forever. It also has the capacity to stay in your head until the seas will cover land and man will be no more.

Since the lyrics had something weird (like repeating something about not forgiving someone) and since I was just curious what the bleep this song was that I heard everywhere I went to google for an answer. I found out that the song in question was called ‘prayer in C’ (Robin Schulz remix) and made by some French folkband called Lilly Wood and the Prick. (not that you hear that much folk in the remix…)Lilly_wood_the_prick_and_robin_schulz-prayer_in_c_(robin_schulz_remix)_s
So I looked up the lyrics, and it turns out to be indeed some kind of prayer, but one to an absent, or maybe even non-existent God that lets evil happen. In the first verse the addressed one is blamed by the singer for ‘never saying a word nor sending a letter’ and will not be forgiven for that. The rest of the song gets more apocalyptic about life ending (both individual lives as human life and all life on Earth), and the addressed one will not be forgiven, not by the singer and not by starving children whose houses are destroyed. And when men and later even life will be over, it will not even be able to forgive itself.

I’d say that this is quite a bitter prayer, not? There’s a lot of anger directed to some god of sorts, for not letting anything know, for not saving this world, for the coming demise of humanity and life on Earth… It seems like the addressed one is either absent or disinterested as some deistic deity that put the world together and then took off its hands, or even completely non-existent.

I always found it strange how some people talk to a (to them) nonexistent God and get very angry with it sometimes. As if they would have wanted some kind of God to exist, that isn’t there.

(Another song in that category would be XTC’s ‘dear God’, which is both musically and conceptually more sophisticated, but misses the bitter apocalyptic dimension of this otherwise happy dance tune…)

Edit: Several people including Adam in the comments have been pointing out that the first word of the song is actually ‘Jah’, a short version of the biblical divine name JHWH. Very popular with rastafarians and bands like POD as the preferred name to address God. It’s also used as such in the never translated Hebrew sentence ‘Hallelujah’, which means ‘praise Jah!’.  I can’t even believe that I missed that.

Prayer in C (Lilly Wood and the Prick)
Written by Benjamin Cotto & Nili Hadida

Jah, you never said a word
You didn’t send me no letter
Don’t think I could forgive you

See our world is slowly dying
I’m not wasting no more time
Don’t think I could believe you

Jah, our hands will get more wrinkled
And our hair will be grey
Don’t think I could forgive you

And see the children are starving
And their houses were destroyed
Don’t think they could forgive you

Hey, when seas will cover lands
And when men will be no more
Don’t think you can forgive you

Jah, when there’ll just be silence
And when life will be over
Don’t think you will forgive you

(If you hear this older live version of the original folksong you’ll hear that the first word actually does sound more like ‘God’ than like the vague ‘ya’. Also keep in mind that the people who made this song probably do have French and not English as their first language.)

What do you people hear in this song?