Category Archives: christian 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

Advertisements

‘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

‘Contemporary Christian Muzak 2004​-​2007’ is finally here!


It might be 8 years too late, but here it is: Bram Cools presents ‘Contemporary Christian Muzak’ (2004-2007) is finally available as an album. (digital download only now, but if there is demand a CD-R edition might be produced too!)

So what is ‘Contemporary Christian Muzak’? It is not at all elevator music composed for use in megachurces as the name might suggest, but rather a weird lo-fi/indie project from Bram Cools with spiritually-minded songs for all audiences. The songs here are from the time when it had its live incarnation in the ‘Contemporary Christian Muzak’ collective (2004-2007). Since the band itself has not been recorded the versions here are the original demo-versions with Bram going in extreme multitrack mode sometimes, playing a whole noise-orchestra all by himself!

Weird things are going on indeed on this album. The opener ‘St-John opens’ will probably scare some people away already with its free-form impro, but don’t worry: the rest of the album will mostly contain actual songs and not just freaky soundscapes… The second song and  Bram Cools classic ‘father I am tired’ for example shows some of what can be expected: Bram in excessive multitrack with a lot of instruments, vocals and noise, and a psalm-like cry for help in this dark world. Throughout the rest of the songs we find a musical universe that is far from mainstream and will never be commercial, with very diverse arrangements, compositions to express the spiritual struggle and the search for a life centred on Love.

So give it a listen and if you like it you can download it free or at a chosen price, and share with people who might enjoy it.

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’)

Traclist:

1. St-John opens 01:49
2. Father I’m tired 03:40
3. Elvis has left the building 05:10
4. Qualities 05:06
5. dead end streets 03:19
6. stones cry out 04:17
7. last words to the first Church 03:28
8. Feelings say nothing 05:22
9. the hippie song 04:40
10. Without You I’m nothing 03:46
11. not a tame lion 03:55
12. Yeshua 03:07

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’)

 

Bram Cools Music: ‘Father I am tired’ + more contemporary Christian Muzak to come…


Hi readers,Mangocoffeesepia

Probably not everyone reading my blog is aware that I am also one of the most unknown musicians on the planet, but for those interested in my music, here is an update.

The Bram Cools classic ‘Father I am tired’, can now be heard and downloaded in a previously unheard version here  on my soundclcoud. Or click on the coffee if you like.
(Yes, for those who wonder: all instruments and vocals -including the choir!- are just Bram in this one!)

The rest of the news is that this upload of ‘Father I am tired’ can be also seen as the first ‘single’ announcing a coming electronic release of the old ‘Contemporary Christian Muzak’ songs, finally together on one album! This should have happened 5 years ago, but still it’s better soon than never.

For the 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 for a boring Christian radio station providing safe happy clappy Christioa music for the conservative middleclass as the name might suggest, but raither 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 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, some of which were never finished. Finishing them is what we’re going to do now, so that in the near future everybody can listen to Contemporary Christian Muzak as much as they want…

I hope you all enjoy the song and share it with others who might like it.

peace

Bram

Billy Corgan on Christian rock and more…


BCBilly Corgan, (or is is Willie now?), singer of the grunge band the smashing pumpkins, has done a pretty interesting interview with CNN in Hong Kong earlier this month. The whole transcript is here.

One part from it has been going round, and is about God as the future of rock, and his message to Christian rockers:

RAJPAL: So what are you exploring now?
CORGAN: God. I once did – a big American magazine was doing a thing called, “The Future of Rock”.
RAJPAL: Yes.
CORGAN: And, you know, they asked 50 artists, “What’s the future of rock?” And my answer was, “God”. And they said, “What do you mean?” And I said, “Well, God’s the third rail of -” What is it? “Social security is the third rail of politics in America”. Well, God is the third rail in rock and roll. You’re not supposed to talk about God. Even though most of the world believes in God. It’s sort of like, “Don’t go there”. I think God’s the great, unexplored territory in rock and roll music. And I actually said that. I thought it was perfectly poised. And, of course, they didn’t put it in the interview.
RAJPAL: What would you say to Christian rockers, then?
CORGAN: Make better music. (LAUGHTER) CORGAN: Personally, my opinion – I think Jesus would like better bands, you know? (LAUGHTER) CORGAN: Now I’m going to get a bunch of Christian rock hate mail.
RAJPAL: But that’s interesting –
CORGAN: Just wait, here’s a better quote –
RAJPAL: Yes.
CORGAN: Hey, Christian rock, if you want to be good, stop copying U2. U2 already did it. You know what I mean? There’s a lot of U2-esque Christian rock.
RAJPAL: Sure.
CORGAN: Bono and company created the template for modern Christian rock. And I like to think Jesus would want us all to evolve.

I’m not in touch with the modern commercial Christian rock scene, nor do I live in a country where one can find a Christian rock radio station on a car radio,  but I do think what he’s speaking about, even though I have heard more third-generation Coldplay clones in Christian rock lately than U2-sounds, but whatever.

Maybe that’s indeed the overall idea of Christian rock you get from the radio, but that doesn’t mean that there’s a lot of people, adherents to the Christian religion,, making rock music or something like that which is informed by their faith soemwhere, and who do not sound at all like the mentioned U2 (or coldplay) rip-offs. They might not get as much airplay and sell as much records, but they are musically much more interesting. And Billy Corgan must know that, having Jeff Schroeder in his current band  line-up (who has been part of the Christian indie scene, and played guitars on the violet burning’s selftitled album).

Mr. Corgan himself has been singing about God and other religious themes since the beginning of the Smashing Pumpkins, but does not seem to tie himself down to one religion, even though he appears to be more spiritual than ever.

What also struck me is how he describes his old band, the original line-up of the smashing pumpkins:

we were four strangers who agreed on a musical vision. And we did more harm than good.

And then he identifies one of the problems of that band as ‘false loyalty’:

I would say the key experience for me, from the original version Smashing Pumpkins was, “What is loyalty?” What is loyalty? Because I had a false concept of loyalty and I rode that ship all the way to the bottom. When most people wiser than I, would have jumped off the ship when it was to their benefit.

So people always say, “What’s your greatest career regret?” It’s when the band blew up in ’96, that I didn’t jump off and make a new ship. I rode that ship all the way to the bottom. Like, literally, until it was like the bubbles were coming up and I was sitting there like –

RAJPAL: Is it kind of like, you know, when you’re staying in a bad relationship, that you’re always hoping that something will change. That things will work out in some way, shape, or form.

CORGAN: Yes. I’m sure you’ve only had successful relationships, but I mean, if you’ve ever been there where you’re breaking up with somebody for the ninth time – [..] We did a lot of that. We didn’t really break up so much as we were like, “OK, now it’s going to be like this, or it’s going to be like this”. And then, of course, nothing would change.

Another idea that could be interesting to think about is his rejection of the very well-known dogma that suffering is good for art. I actually have never seen that one questioned before, and it’s even more interesting that he uses an Eastern religion -shintoism- to make that point. I don’t know why he uses shintoism and not Buddhism here, which is based on the elimination of suffering, and does not see a positive role for it.

Makes one wonder if the ‘suffering is good for art’ is born in Christian ideas about suffering. And if it’s indeed as valid as we all suppose…

CORGAN: There’s a long established concept that gets bandied about, which is “Misery makes for great art”. And I actually think this is – if we were asking a Shinto Monk, I think they would laugh at this idea
RAJPAL: Yes.
CORGAN: Because you’re basically saying, “Suffering’s good for business”. And I don’t think suffering’s good for business. Crazy’s good for business, suffering isn’t. I think suffering or the gestalt of, “Here I am, ripping my heart open” – I think that lasts for about two or three albums.
RAJPAL: Yes.
CORGAN: At some point, you have to mature into the deeper work. Most people are living lives of sort of survival. And constantly posing an existential crisis, either through fantasy or oblivion, really has been pretty much explored in rock and roll. At least in the western version of rock and roll. Maybe not over here in Asia, but we’ve sort of, kind of, been through all that.

I wonder if his ‘deeper work’ as he sees it himself will ever be able to reach as much people as ‘mellon collie and the infinite sadness’, which was one of my favorite rock-albums in the nineties, but I must say that his last CD ‘oceania’ is not bad at all and better than most things I’ve heard from him from the nineties!
But it seems like he is not concerned with getting that success back.

Well, if you make repressed, middle class, white, suburban, existential crisis music and a bunch of people just like you buy it, is that success? […]  I mean, yes, it’s success in the form of communication. But is it success in being true? No, it’s not true. It’s true to its corner, but it’s not true.

Maybe it’s just me, but the guy says a lot of things (some of which I’m not even talking about here) that are really worth contemplating.. Rockstars can be interesting sometimes, don’t they?

peace

Bram

(PS: normal blogging schedule might resume somewhere in September)