Category Archives: good music

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’)

 

RIP Luc De Vos, Flemish rock icon and more (with tribute-song)


ThLDVe news of the unexpected death of Flemish rock icon Luc De Vos reached me this weekend. He was only 52, and he will be missed much. Since I do not expect any of my international readers to have ever heard of him I do think an introduction to this unique artist might not be a bad idea… I’m aware that it’s impossible to even try to understand a phenomenon like Luc De Vos without being Flemish, but I can try to give a small introduction…

Growing up in Flanders means that you’re always subject to the influence of a lot of different cultures in the media, especially language-wise, more than having your own culture around all the time. Most of the music on the radio and the programs on TV were not in Dutch, but in English, or French, or in the case of TV German or Scandinavian even sometimes, subtitled in Dutch. In such a situation using your own language for art is always a bit strange, and I always has a strange connection with the phenomenon of language myself.  Music in my own language was always a bit weird too. Both standard Dutch and Dutch from the Netherlands sound a bit sterile and foreign, and people who had their own voice in my own language were rare when I was a teenager. Flemish rock in our own language was a very limited phenomenon in the nineties. Most people circumvented the problem completely and sung in English, but there were a few exceptions who did make decent rock music in Flemish, like Stijn Meuris (Noordkaap), Frank Vanderlinden (De mens) and Luc De Vos (Gorki). Together with many other bands in English they were part of the soundtrack of my younger years.

Luc De Vos always was one of the most notorious people in the Flemish scene. He was a unique musician who had found his own voice, and given a platform to do his unique stuff. His way of singing might be completely unorthodox already, but his were the strange minimalist melodies and surreal lyrics that stood out most. He could break all rules of lyric-writing, sing it in a very raw rudimentary melody, and still be played on the radio. Because for some reason it worked. I can remember hearing ‘wie zal er voor de kinderen zorgen‘ for the first time and thinking ‘What on Earth is this song’. Now it’s still one of my favorite songs of all time…

As a songwriter I can’t deny that Gorki did probably have more influence on my songwriting than I’ve always admitted, and probably not just when writing in Dutch. I also sang some of his songs regularly when I was busking with my guitar in Atwerp in you young twentysomething years (primarily to get over my anxiety of being on stage, I never made that much money with it). I can still play and sing most of his hits ‘Mia‘, ‘lieve kleine piranha‘ & ‘Anja‘ if you give me a guitar. Those songs are part of my history.

And then there’s the phenomenon of the song ‘Mia’, about which I wrote already a post some years ago. The very unlikely ‘greatest Flemish song of all times’, which was originally just a B-side. It’ a very unlikely song to be a hit, let alone occupy the first place in a list of timeless classics. And still it happened to pass that this song became the best Flemish song ever. The MIA-awards (Belgian music awards) were even named after that song.

Luc De Vos was more than that one song though. He recorded more than 11 CD’s with Gorki, and some side projects too. He also was a writer, and a thinker, and a very human person, some kind of basic humanist. A very intelligent person with very layered humor, who was constantly mocking himself, as if he couldn’t believe that people liked his music. And on the other hand a very professional musician who knew very well what he was doing on stage. A man with an opinion, and with his own vision.

A man that was way too young too die.

He will be missed.

His legacy will remain.

PS: as a tribute I decided to do one of his songs in English, so that people who don’t understand Dutch can have a glimpse of what Luc De Vos was like. (although his lyrics are untranslatable) I chose ‘wie zal er voor de kinderen zorgen’ and did not try to copy the original, but made my own version in vintage lo-fi Bram Cools style. All rights are owned by Luc and his family. But you better go listen to the original and buy the album ‘ik ben aanwezig’.

 

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)

Musical fridays 2: Charles and the white trash European blues connection.


A while ago I announced a series of ‘musical fridays’, so here’s the second post, with a very obscure song, ‘Americans’ by ‘Charles and the white trash European blues connection’ taken from my ‘song in my head’ posts on facebook…

Hidden somewhere in my CD collection iconnections an obscure CD in a paper case with a picture of the back of some strange guy with the words ‘Charles and the white trash European blues connection’ on it. It’s not at all that clear anywhere whether that’s the name of the band, or the name of the Cd, or both… On the CD if you care to listen to a lot of noise can be found, which is supposed to be music, and that opccupies a niche somewhere in between blues and garage rock, sometimes with a light industrual feel even. There’s not that much information on the case, just the names of band members and stuff like that, and it can be noted that the whole album has been recorded and mixed on one afternoon on april 2nd in 1998. I suspect that it was not the most sober afternoon in those musicians’ lives, but that might just be a prejudice…

There also is a sticker on it with a single name, ‘Arno’, probably a later addiction from the record company to clarify a bit about the CD so they could be able to sell at least a few copies of this record. I’m not sure much copies of it were ever sold, and I even suspect it is out of print now. It’s one of those records that went forgotten in the history of rock’n roll…

All of this doesn’t mean that the ‘Arno’ guy isn’t a big name in the wonderous world of Belgian rock’n roll. The so-called Arno, full name Arno Hintjens, is a well-known Belgian rock-singer, who was the frontman of a band called TC Matic in the seventies/eighties, a noisy band whose greatest hits are called putain putain and oh la la la. But he is also known for his solo music, which is quite variable. He’s the kind of rockstar with a broken voice that sounds like he’s always drunk (or worse) and who sometimes can sound quite inspired on one song, and in the next song just makes plain dumb music. (I thik of a song like bathroom singer, and yes I am a madness fan and still I find this very dumb music) A lot of his songs are in French, and in a surreal twist of weirdness the guy has even been given the knighthood (the title of “Knight in the Arts and Literature” actually) for what he has done for the French language by the French government. Don’t ask me… Europe can be a pretty weird place sometimes if you think about it..

Back to that CD… I don’t like everything Arno has recorded, but I’ve always liked that ‘Charles and the white trash European blues connection’ album a lot, and not only because it’s a good CD to scare guests with… It is one of the albums that brought me alive through my twentysomething years… A very pure form of very basic rock’n roll with a heavy groove and a very raw form of the blues… And still a CD to put on very loudly, as loudly as possible, when my wife isn’t home… but it’s so obscure now I can’t find any of it on youtube except for this Kinks cover ‘death of a clown‘. 6 out of 10 songs are here on grooveshark though…

A song that always stood out for me is the last song, called ‘Americans’, which is a simple tune about the things Americans gave us (Europeans), a subject I’ve been thinking about lately. The music is raw and the vocals are tormented, and very pure, and the lyrics are a bit random and filled with ‘explicit content’ of the type we have been importing from the US a lot…

And now that we’re here, just listen to their version of the old delta blues classic ‘you got to move‘. It won’t get more industrial and garage than this, but then there’s that really incredible harmonica solo, wow…

So, am I the only one who likes Charles and the white trash European blues connection?

peace

Bram

musical interlude: dissapointed in the sun (dEUS)


When I was a teenager, I didn’t try much to rebel with music at first. As a young teenager I kinda liked the music my parents were listening (a CD collection that included U2 and Bob Dylan) and I always tried to find decent music on the radio, which was harder than it seemed, since the commercial radio here in Belgium in the nineties seemed to mostly play euro-house and boysbands at that time. every rocksong, every song with  real instruments even, was a pearl between the trash for me…

Later on I got more interested in ‘alternative’ music, and one of the biggest names in althernative music at the moment here in Belgium was dEUS, a then quite weird band from Antwerp. Rock’n roll and arty-fart weirdness went together with strange sounds and a lot of different musical styles that were mangled together. Their biggest hits are songs like suds and soda, roses, and theme from turnpike, which are very unlikely hits, but even now they still have 4 songs of that era in the timeless list of stubru, the alternative radio station. The first albums ‘worst case scenario’ and ‘in a bar, under the sea’ remain unique and unlike anything I’ve ever heard before or afterwards.

They still make music, but for me thy lost most of the vibe around the time of their third album, and became a more regular band afterwards. Which does not mean that their later hit ‘nothing really ends‘ is not a good candidate for the best slow ever written in Belgium.

Todays song is a title-song in disguise, for their second album ‘in a bar, under the sea’. Unlike most songs on the album it’s not experimental or weird, and neither are the lyrics completely weird and cryptic. It’s a song about escapism, running away from all life’s problems in a bar under the sea.  It is alleged to be inspired by Captain Beefheart who commented after visiting an exhibition of Vincent Van Gogh, remarked that he was disappointed in the sun.

dissapointed in the sun (written by Tom Barman and Piet Jorens)

Who could tell the story better
About the things that I went through
Some were great but most were terrifying
And so spooky too

Had to get out of there, to hide away
Had to get out of there, to find my way
I troubled everything too soon
Now where I want to be is…

Need I say my only wish was
To escape my earthly life
High skies were no option whereas
Diving deep in oceans wide

Was the way for me, to hide away
A possibility, to leave today
I troubled everything too soon
Now where I want to be is…

Under the sea, is where I’ll be
No talking ’bout the rain no more
I wonder what thunder will mean, when only in my dream
The lightning comes before the roar

Circumstancial situations, now I know what people meant
Beware of the implications, God I’ve had enough of them

Decided to be brave and hide away
Just picking out a wave and slide away
I troubled everything too soon
Now where I want to be is…

Maybe taking it another hour then taking away the pain
I troubled everything too soon, now where I want to be is…

Under the sea, is where I’ll be
No talking ’bout the rain no more
I wonder what thunder will mean, when only in my dream
The lightning comes before the roar
Under the sea, down here with me I find I’m not the only one
Who ponders what life would mean if we hadn’t been
So disappointed in the sun

And that’s why we’re thinking,
That’s why we’re drinking in a bar under the sea

enjoy

Bram

PS: more about Belgian music can be found here, in this post about the Gorky song ‘Mia’ which some have considered the best song ever.

musical interlude: She = like meeting Jesus (Zita Swoon)


This musical interlude is a nineties oldie from one of the more weird Belgian bands, the good special bands like Antwerp used to have in the good old days… Zita Swoon, currently renamed as ‘Zita Swoon group’, and at moments mostly a project of Stef Kamil Carlens, had some minor hits in over the years, and a big fanbase in more alternative corners. This song is the first song of the ‘I paint pictures on a wedding dress’ album (1998). In spite of the reference to Jesus in the title, it is not a Christian band at all, but I like the spiritual content of the bridge and the last verse in this song.

Maybe some people find the music quite weird, and indeed I can’t deny that some songs on the album (including this one) are overproduced in a not very commercial way… But there are some really strong songs on this album. (The biggest hit was ‘my bond with you and your planet: disco‘, but my favorite song is ‘our daily reminders‘, one of my favorite Belgian rocksongs from the nineties, which was good decade for rock in Antwerp…

She = like meeting Jesus (Zita Swoon)

Once I was mistaken for a different fool
And I could never tell If they were wrong or true
Until now
I see the light shining in my home
A better man in me is born
I know now that I can cope the storm

She walks /  My room in
I am on my own / We are greeting
She talks / I am heeding
What she´s shown / Is truth

The jailman says I am caught
Between the lies & the races
But the key to the cell he guards
Is in the hand of my saviour

She walks /  My room in
I am on my own / We are greeting
She talks / I am heeding
What she´s shown / Is truth

Oh my lord I must admit
I do not know how to live my life
I am trapped inside its mystery
I am tangled up in its delight
The warnings you´ve given
And the choices that you did provide
Make complicated situations
How can we tell what´s wrong or right?
Can´t you offer some assistance?
Can´t you clue on what to do?
I lost my lust for life
And now I am slowly loosing faith in you

She walks /  My room in
I am on my own / We are greeting
She talks / I am heeding
What she´s shown / Is truth

The lord says listen boy
Come see the lines on my faces
You are thinking I am too old
To see what is going on
But I know your story

She walks /  My room in
I am on my own / We are greeting
She talks / I am heeding
What she´s shown / Is truth

enjoy

Bram

cannot keep You, cannot contain You (Gungor)


I’ll let this beautiful gungor song speak for itself… A lot of Truth in there, and the music is quite beautiful too… He can use words better in this song than I could in a blogpost or even a book I’m affraid!

Gungor – Cannot Keep You

They tried to keep you in a tent
They could not keep you in a temple
Or any of their idols, to see and understand

We cannot keep you in a church
We cannot keep you in a Bible
Or it’s just another idol to box you in

They could not keep you in their walls
We cannot keep you in ours either
For you are so much greater

Who is like the Lord
The maker of the heavens
Who dwells with the poor
He lifts them from the ashes
And He seats them among princes
Who is like the Lord

We’ve tried to keep you in our tents
We’ve tried to keep you in our temples
We’ve worshiped all our idols
We want all that to end

So we will find you in the streets
And we will find you in the prisons
And even in our Bibles and churches

Who is like the Lord
The maker of the heavens
Who dwells with the poor
He lifts them from the ashes
And He seats them among princes
Who is like the Lord

We cannot contain, cannot contain
The glory of your name
We cannot contain, cannot contain
The glory of your name

We cannot contain, cannot contain
The glory of your name

Who is like the Lord
You took me from the ashes
And you healed me from my blindness
Who is like the Lord

(Their album ‘beautiful things’ can be bought here, do it and you won’t regret it. The new one ‘ghosts upon the earth’ is also very impressive!)

What do you think?

Shalom

Bram