Category Archives: all kinds of music

Ill-M-I: Soul-junk, TobyMac and the illuminati…


Today I accidentally stumbled upon a comments page that made me completely scratch my head first, and write this blogpost second…

Tobymac (of DC Talk fame) once covered a rap song from soul-junk called ‘Ill-m-I’ (think ill am I) which uses the word ‘illuminati’ in the chorus. The song was written long before the ‘illuminati’ craze on the internet, but a lot of people seem to see an affirmation in the song that Toby is an agent for ‘the dark side’. (Which already is weird, if I would be an infiltrator I wouldn’t be rapping about it, but as I’ll say more times in this blogpost, nevermind…)

The American band soul-junk is one of my favourite bands. (Click on the name and find all of their albums on bandcamp!! Oh wondrous times we live in that these are available by computer-click now. The effort it took in the nineties and early noughties to get their CD’s to Belgium…) I know I’m in a minority there, but some of their albums are really among my favourites.
It certainly is an interesting and undoubtedly Christian band -if a thing like a Christian band exists- that is completely out of the box, ranging from weird lo-fi worship with straight bible verses as lyrics to completely abstract hiphop that’s pure chaotic association therapy. Glen Galaxay started the band as side-project of Trumans water -an extreme noise rock band- when he became a Christian,  using a unique album naming convention where he started from 1950 and counted up for full albums, and down for EPs. The first albums like 1950 and 1951 which I have listened to a lot over the years are lo-fi guitarnoise worship mostly written from bible verses, interlayered with noisy freejazz chaos interludes. Later he experimented with rock, hiphop, noise, freeform electronica and a lot of other styles, with changing band line-ups too. The only constant factor in soul-junk always was Glen Galaxy as songwriter and singer/rapper. My favourite will always remain the 1942 EP, an incredibly arranged lo-fi record which includes Sufjan Stevens and members of the Danielson famile in the line-up, with a lot of strange instruments and vocals. It probably was one of the main influences on most of my own Contemporary Christian Muzak songs.

The song ill-m-I from 1956 is one of his more poppy efforts in the hiphop department, and one of those forgotten pearls in the history of music. A lot of associative lyrics, a very unique flow and some original but catchy beats. Fun tune that stands out even in his very weird repertoire and if you would analyse the text there actually might be a very Christian message in between all the weird metaphors…
Tobymac must have found the same, because he covered it on his second solo album ‘Welcome to Diverse City’, not that long after the split of the legendary American Christian rap/pop/rock band DC Talk of which he probably was the main brain. I’ve never been that enthusiastic about the cover version, but rap covers are rather rare, and souljunk covers are even rarer, so it’s just an interesting attempt, although rather over-produced. (listen to it on youtube, and don’t forget to read the comment section that partly inspired this post…)

The problem with the song is that Glen in all his associative rhyming use the word ‘illuminati’, a word that didn’t have much airplay then, but certainly does now, even though a lot of people have no idea what it means or where it comes from. The word ‘illuminati’ comes from Latin and literally means ‘enlightened ones’. Enlightenment is a word that is very important in mystical Eastern religions, including Eastern Orthodox Christianity. (And ironically also in a Western philosophical tradition that is as anti-mystical as could be possible…) It means being illuminated by an encounter with God, the Divine, Reality, the Brahman… Glen uses the word rather ironically in the song, talking about people who think they’re so enlightened but act like self-righteous pharisees.

Ill-M-I, Ill-M-I, Ill-M-I, Ill-M-I and you
Illuminati comin’ through (X2)

All of this would go completely unnoticed as a mediocre track from a solo-album of one of the DC talk guys, covered from an obscure band (whose version is less ‘commercial’ but much better, at least to me), if not for a craze around that word ‘illuminati’, and a supposed conspiracy against the world that goes by that name about which the craziest stories go around on the internet. (google is your friend if you don’t know by now what I mean. Here’s an interesting article on its influence on hiphop.)
Most of it seems to come straight from a series of weird fiction books called the illuminatus trilogy, and a lot of the rest is even more unbelievable (reptilian shapeshifters control the governments of the world and stuff like that) and certainly less coherent. Sometimes it’s mixed with very weird Christian endtimes theories, other times it’s more mixed with weird new-age stuff about the Annunaki (the gods as ancient aliens) and Nibiru or with Islam.  Just the word -whatever it means- is enough to scare a lot of people and make them stop all critical thinking, and run for their electronic pitchforks to go on a witchhunt…

And a song from a Christian artist that uses the word illuminati must clearly be a sign that he is not actually a Christian but a member of the secret society of the illuminati. Also note that he uses eyes in his artwork! See!!!

Here’s someone trying to interpret the lyrics, seeming not aware that it’s a cover. The illuminati-hunters do populate the comment section though…

Toby even had to address the whole thing in the FAQ on his website:

WHAT IS THE SONG “ILL-M-I” ABOUT?

TobyMac answers: “‘Ill-M-I’ was originally done by an artist called Soul-Junk. I talked to Glenn Galaxy (the songwriter) a lot before I put that song on the record because I wanted to know exactly what he was writing about. It’s the only song I’ve really ever covered … I just loved the feel and the flow of it so much—it’s just raw hip hop. What people should know about this lyric is that ‘ill am I’ actually means “broken am I.” The next line says ‘and you, illuminati coming through’ … illuminati is defined as persons possessing, or claiming to possess, superior enlightenment. So when I talked to Glenn, he confirmed that the song was really speaking out against a Pharisee-type attitude, like, ‘holier than thou.’ So the chorus is saying, ‘broken am I, and you, those who claim to possess superior enlightenment, are coming through,’ as in, ‘you’re spiritually enlightened, you have it all together.’ [sarcasm implied] But of course, they really don’t, and the song stands to remind us that we’re all broken.

Obviously I’ve been made aware that there’s supposedly a secret society called “the Illuminati” that dates back for years … but I don’t know much about it beyond that. I know I’m a follower of Jesus Christ and that neither the song ‘Ill-M-I’ nor the album artwork was intended to refer to that usage of the word illuminati. It just has nothing to do with my world, or following Jesus, or raising my kids and loving my wife.”

(Note that Toby certainly had the chance to talk with Glen, having Glen as a guest musician/co-writer on his first solo album Momentum on the song ‘in the air’. He knew whom he was covering! -even though it’s hard for me to fit them both in the same musical universe…-)

The real believer won’t believe that though. Like I said, coherence is not needed. Just look for eyes and triangles and you’re sure that you can find devil-worshippers. No matter that freemasons and Satanism are completely different things, and that the eye-in-a-triangle is also a Catholic symbol for God. Nevermind. One sign of the illuminati and Satan is there… Because the illuminati control the world, and the showbizz, and everyone who has money and fame has sold their soul to them, and they want to sway all people to the dark side, and that’s why they’re hiding ‘occult’ symbols in music videos. It doesn’t really matter what occult tradition, they’re all the same. Be it chaos magick or Catholicism… Yes, the first thing I think about when I see an eye in a triangle is a catholic plate than hangs in a lot of old houses here in Flanders. ‘God sees me, one does not curse here’, with the all-seeing eye of the trinity in the middle…

So all of this is why I ended up reading the weirdest stuff on comment feeds today about a song written by Glen Galaxy, the least likely person to ever join an antichristian secret society that wants to control the world. Nevermind that he never had much fame and is not the person to ever sell his soul, didn’t lead any showbizz, and that half of his albums have lyrics taken straight from the bible. (What few people know is that he rapped the complete bible books of genesis and exodus some years ago in sometimes fascinating avant-hop impro).  If there’s any actual Christian present in the American Christian music industry at all it will be him, even though some of his raps are indeed free-form stream of consciousness.

But yeah, whatever… I’m too old to understand the world as some of my students would say… So reptilians it is for the commenting masses…

peace

Bram

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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

 

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’)