Posts Tagged ‘Mojave 3’

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Oh! Mighty Engine

Neil Halstead at the Drake Underground in Toronto

MySpaceFrank YangIt’s not overstating things to say that three of the four Mojave 3 shows I’ve seen over the years and Neil Halstead’s solo show at the Rivoli in 2002 have been some of my favourite concert memories, ever. The fourth and most recent Mojave 3 show in October 2006 broke that streak, however, or was memorable for the wrong reasons (terrible sound, half the band missing) so I had my fingers crossed going into Saturday night’s show at the Drake that Halstead would be able to renew the streak of memorable performances starring him.

The opener was a local (as of that day, as he mentioned he’d spent the day moving downtown) by the name of Andre Charles Theriault, but who used to ply his trade under the pseudonym “Ghost Hands”. It was as Ghost Hands that I saw him open for Beach House back in November 2006, and while his craft is approximately the same – deft guitarwork paired with detailed and conversational singer-songwriterness – the skill applied has greatly improved, with melodies and turns of phrase that were much more evocative. An impressive little set – now if only he had a more compact and memorable name… like, say, Ghost Hands?

One of the most distinctive things about Mojave 3 as a live band is how powerful and commanding they are, even when their volume is barely more than a whisper. It’s hard to explain, but once experienced, impossible to forget. So it’s remarkable that even without his bandmates and armed just with an acoustic guitar, Neil Halstead still has that sort of effect. Seated alone behind a couple of mics (one for his voice, one for his guitar), Halstead opened the set with a reading of “Martha’s Mantra”, from 2002’s
Sleeping On Roads, that set the tone for the night by absolutely silencing the well-filled room. Halstead’s persona is too low-key and laid-back to fit a descriptor as gaudy as “magician”, but what he creates is most definitely magic.

For a good portion of the set, Halstead was joined by a couple of bandmates on bass and guitar/mandolin who really helped fill out the sound. On a few occasions the lead guitar lost the plot, either in terms of staying on beat or generally over-playing, but for the most part kept things tasteful and more than made up for any transgressions with his spot-on backing vocals. I was somewhat and pleasantly surprised how deeply the set list delved further into the Mojave 3 songbook – given that Halstead had two excellent solo records to work with, the aforementioned Roads and this year’s Oh! Mighty Engine, he could have assembled a perfectly solid set just from those but I suppose he appreciated that there’s no probably no such thing as a Neil Halstead fan who’s not a Mojave 3 fan or vice versa.

It’s difficult to pick a high point since really – the whole gig qualifies – but a peculiar highlight was his inability to remember the final chords to “Sarah”. He tried gamely a few times to find the right one before aborting, and the crowd applauded. You know you’re in a room of devout fans when. And also remarkable was the encore, for the reason that there was one. Early shows at the Drake usually have a hard 11PM curfew and Halstead’s main set ran a full hour and a half to 11. I certainly didn’t expect there to be more. But more there was, as he came back for another three songs despite the house’s preference that we all clear out for a drinkier crowd – at one point they started to turn on the house lights but they were shouted back off by the audience. All told, almost two hours of glorious songs from one of my favourite songwriters ever. Does it get better than that? Maybe, but not by much.

amNY has an interview with Halstead wherein he explains why there’s no Slowdive material in his solo sets – the reason is more mundane than you might think, though I should point out that if I was able to learn to play “Dagger” in 20 minutes, then surely he can jog his memory. Just saying. And also definitely stop by MySpace Transmissions, for which Halstead recorded a beauteous session which is available to watch in video as well as download in high-res MP3 for free.

Photos: Neil Halstead, Andre Charles Theriault @ The Drake Underground – November 8, 2008
MP3: Neil Halstead – “Paint A Face”
MP3: Neil Halstead – “Witless Or Wise” (live on MySpace Transmissions)
MP3: Neil Halstead – “Martha’s Mantra (For The Pain)” (live on MySpace Transmissions)
Video: Neil Halstead – “Paint A Face”
Video: Neil Halstead – “Queen Bee”

A Ride “where are they now”… Andy Bell is in Oasis and cashing large paycheques. Mark Gardener is in Mark Gardener but not seemingly up to too much at the moment. Loz Colbert is in the newly-reformed Jesus & Mary Chain and also International Jetsetters (unremarkable band, sample below). But whither Steve Queralt? One Salient Oversight tracked down the Ride bassman for an interview wherein they cover his start in music, where Ride went right and where they went wrong, what he’s up to now and, of course, the chances of a reunion (slim to none). Good reading.

MP3: International Jetsetters – “Inside Yourself”

Cheers to Muzzle Of Bees for pointing out this blog entry from Belle & Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch pointing out that a new set of recordings entitled God Help The Girl are recorded and in the process of being mastered. But as I point out in the comments, this is not a proper Belle & Sebastian release, but the soundtrack to a musical film that Murdoch has been working on and set to start filming in Spring of next year – you can hear samples from it at both iMeem and MySpace. And though any number of band members will make an appearance on said soundtrack, Belle & Sebastian the band are currently on an indefinite hiatus. Fans will have to make do with the release of the BBC Sessions collection due out on November 18 and which contains four unreleased songs.

Those sessions all hail from early part of the band’s career, from 1996 through 2001, and those four new songs are the final ones to feature then-cellist/vocalist Isobel Campbell. She’ll also be appearing on another release coming out on November 18 – Sunday At Devil Dirt, the second album from Campbell and Mark Lanegan. The follow-up to 2005’s Ballad Of The Broken Seas, it was released in the UK in the Spring but will now be available domestically in North America with a half-dozen bonus tracks to sweeten the deal.

MP3: Isobel Campbell & Mark Langean – “Trouble”

Johnny Marr has submitted himself to an interview wherein he talks about the process of revisiting and remastering the material that’s gone into the latest Smiths compilation, The Sound Of The Smiths, out Tuesday. There’s also a conversation with Frank Arkwright, the mastering engineer on the reissue. Via The Music Slut.

Here’s something that certainly caught me by surprise – a Daytrotter session… featuring Wire.

Tech question – anyone running a NAS system, either via a router or a drive enclosure? My Apple Airport Extreme, after being flaky ever since I got it last Summer, finally appears to have died (Extreme POS, more like). I’m probably going to replace it with a non-NAS router, but that then leaves all my iTunes music – which I’d gotten used to being able to stream wirelessly – stuck being tethered to my laptop. And I was looking at getting a big-ass (1TB or so) external drive for backups and archiving so if you want to suggest something along those lines with an ethernet connection and which is reliable, please do so.

I hate technology.

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Baby, I Grew You A Beard

CONTEST – Neil Halstead @ The Drake Underground – November 8, 2008

MySpaceMySpaceThe arc of Neil Halstead’s long and storied musical career taken him many places. He was both an architect of sonic cathedrals at the dawn of Slowdive’s career and a pioneer of electronic ambiance at its end, then with Mojave 3 he played the roles of country-rock and power-pop songsmith with equal facility. With his first solo album Sleeping On Roads in 2002, he took the soft-spoken folk balladeer that’s lain at the heart of his songwriting throughout it all and brought it to the fore, a place he revisits once again with the long-awaited and long-delayed follow-up, Oh! Mighty Engine.

And even though six years have elapsed between records, Halstead picks up largely where he left off. The spectre of a failed relationship that hung overhead during the making of Roads isn’t present here, which perhaps explains why the new record is brighter in tone than its predecessor. Even so, Engine is still spare and homespun, built in rich melody on a sturdy framework built of voice and acoustic guitar with gentle percussion, piano and electric or steel guitar accouterments where appropriate. It’s a format that suits Halstead well, as for all the soundscapes that he’s surrounded himself with over the years, he’s always been at his best when conveying a quiet, thoughtful intimacy. And for showcasing his strengths as a singer-songwriter, Engine is Halstead at his best.

As solid and enjoyable as Halstead’s solo output is, it’s not a substitute for the chemistry and magic that is Mojave 3. So it’s good to know that even with drummer Ian McCutcheon busy with his solo project The Loose Salute and Rachel Goswell continuing to recover from the ear-related illness that kept her from playing a larger role on Puzzles Like You, in this interview with AgitReader Halstead says that he hopes to begin work on a new Mojave 3 record before the year is out.

Halstead is currently on tour across North America – finally Jack Johnson-free – and will be at the Drake Underground on Saturday night, November 8, for an early show (9:30 start). Anyone who saw him play at the Rivoli back in 2002 in support of Roads surely remembers how utterly magical that performance was and if this show even comes close to measuring up to that one, it’s going to be a special one indeed. Courtesy of Against The Grain, I’ve got two pairs of passes to give away to the show – to enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to see Neil Halstead” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Contest closes at midnight, November 6.

Apparently as part of this tour, Halstead has an agenda to visit NPR as many times as possible. Currently there’s two sessions available to stream – one at the World Cafe and one at KEXP.

MP3: Neil Halstead – “Paint A Face”
Video: Neil Halstead – “Paint A Face”
Video: Neil Halstead – “Queen Bee”

Drowned In Sound reconsiders the musical oeuvre of Swervedriver, still isn’t overly impressed. The three albums in question will be re-released in North America on January 6.

Pitchfork has details on the debut album from head Swervie Adam Franklin’s current project, Magnetic Morning. A.M. will be out January 27.

Simon Jones of The Verve talks to Chart about why guitarist Simon Tong wasn’t invited to the reunion party.

Another Tong – Matt, of Bloc Party, gives an interview to Virgin Music. Bandmate Kele Okereke talks to Metro and The Edmonton Journal.

I wouldn’t normally bother noting anything that Norman Cook of Fatboy Slim gets up to, but when the second single from his new project The Brighton Port Authority features Emmy The Great front and centre, you have my attention. You can stream it at their MySpace or better yet, watch the video. Via Stereogum.

Video: The Brighton Port Authority featuring Emmy The Great – “Seattle”
MySpace: The Brighton Port Authority

EDP24 interviews Matt Urby of Noah & The Whale and Erockstar has a video interview with the band. They’re at the El Mocambo on December 9.

Scottish quartet Glasvegas, first considered in these pages last December, will begin their attempt to conquer North America the way they have the UK with the release of their self-titled debut on January 6. I picked up a copy on import a little while back, thoughts forthcoming. They’ll also be doing some touring over here in the new year, but no Toronto date as yet. They’ve also recorded a Christmas EP, which they talk to The Daily Record about.

Anyone see Wilco on The Colbert Report last week? I didn’t. Thankfully it’s viewable online in Canada on CTV and in the US at Comedy Central. Or you can just watch the clip of the new song they played.

Video: Wilco – “Wilco, The Song” (live on The Colbert Report)

Fleet Foxes are the subject of features at Rolling Stone and Filter.

Gotham Acme talks to Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste about the US election… which is today. How about that.

Speaking of election day, Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers has made available for free a new song written just after Bush II was re-elected. Hood has never been one to shy away from political statements, wearing his opinions on his sleeve… or his guitar.

JAM finds out why The Hold Steady always seem so dang happy. The Hold Steady and the Drive-By Truckers are at the Phoenix next Tuesday night.

Couple shows announced for the new year… on the same day. First you’ve got Annuals at the El Mocambo on January 24, tickets $10.

MP3: Annuals – “Confessor”
Video: Annuals – “Confessor”

And down Spadina at the Horseshoe, you’ve got buzzy band du jour, Passion Pit – tickets for that one are also $10.

MP3: Passion Pit – “Sleeyphead”
Video: Passion Pit – “Sleeyphead”