Tag Archive: Dutch indie


Photo by Roelien (roelien.com)

So, I have one tiny, insignificant piece of news (if you can even call it news) to get out before we get down to business tonight. It’s not even important, really, but I figure if I make it public, people will be more likely to make sure I actually go through with it. Ready? I have decided to start a record label. (Oh, the irony…) And it’s just me on this one. Kristin has a life and stuff, but I don’t…no friends, no girlfriend, or much of anything cool like that. All I’ve got is time. So, for those of you who actually like the music we talk about here, well, I am going to do what I can to make it at least a bit more easily accessible. And if you’re an artist with some recordings you might be interested in releasing as a limited run EP on CDR, well, we’ll see…

Now, for music:

I have to say, I think Holland may be the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I wasn’t sure about that until this morning. Sure, In A Cabin With, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, and my friend Deborah are pretty amazing, but for some reason, I wasn’t convinced. But today, I had email from Matthijs van der Ven, who heads up a project called Onder Invloed (it’s bloody brilliant, and sometime in January, I will explain why). Anyway, as I was exploring Onder Invloed, I came across The Secret Love Parade. And I fell in love.

They’re two girls (Aino Vehmasto and Janna Coomans). They’re from Amsterdam. So far, so perfect. And they write “postmodern romantic pop” with synths and organs and guitars, blips and beeps and beats, charming melodies, perfectly executed Camera Obscura-ed vocals, and Philip Glass-y arpeggios. And as for the listening experience, I have to agree with the Onder Invloed analysis: “you’ll instantly feel better than you were before. Worries fade away, no more thoughts on all the things you still have to do before the end of the week….It’s the complete combination of the dreamy songs, instruments and voices which will get you careless in less than fifteen minutes”. I really couldn’t have put it any better. I’ve listened through their MySpace four times now, and I am ridiculously giddy.

Check out “My Secret Love Parade”, “Free at Last”, and “Always You”, then the other two tracks, then buy their album. (Don’t fight it. You know you want to. I want to. I also want to be their friend, but I am reasonably convinced that I will never be cool enough.) So maybe my affinity for this band isn’t so secret. But why should it be? I think we could all do with a little Love Parade every now and again.

Here’s a live video from the Amsterdam Songwriters Guild:

And here they are covering Midlake’s “Roscoe” as part of the Onder Invloed project.

is there anybody out there?

I did not draw this but somebody did.  (Its the EP cover!)

I did not draw this but somebody did. (It's the EP cover!)

I am not a poet, really, but I at least consider myself to be a writer, so I’m capable, you know, just not like freaking Tennyson or anything.  I actually have only written two poems I’ve ever liked because I have very high standards, and one of them was last October (which by the way was almost a year ago), and one of them was a couple nights ago as I was listening to the Subhuman’s new 7″, Sur la Route. (now THAT is French…please tell me I’m right this time…)  I already had a special corner of my heart reserved for the Subhuman after listening during Dutch Week, but with Sur la Route and my brand new little poem which I will not be posting out of insecurity, I am expanding his corner to … something else that’s better than a corner.

Sur la Route = five lovely, sort-of-sad songs.  What I love about the Subhuman is Stefan’s ability to craft his songs –he knows how to piece together beautiful layers of melody & harmony, of guitar & vocals & casio, rising and falling in all the right places.  Also, if you know me, you know how I don’t like sad things very much because they make me depressed, so I hesitate to call these songs sad (hence the “sort-of-sad”).  They are sort of sad, but they are mostly the kind of sad that comforts you, especially when it’s late or raining and you’re looking for something to connect with and warm you up.  Like Damien Rice, or Jaymay, or hot chocolate.  Plus, the lyrics are fantastic– vulnerable, which let’s be honest, we could all use a little more of, and not at all manufactured–as are Stefan’s vocals.  Add some cracks from the vinyl and you’ve got yourself an EP of raw/ethereal perfection.  The perfect combination.  My only complaint…is that it ends too soon.   And, in case you’re wondering, my favorites are “Arrows” which happens to be only 50 seconds of loveliness, and “The Lake” which you can hear on the Subhuman’s myspace page. Check out Snowstar Records’ website for purchasing info.

P.S. The Subhuman is also part of Lost Bear, another Dutch band I hope to review ASAP…as soon as I get the file to transfer!

P.P.S.  Watch this video!  Looks a bit like Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords on the right, doesn’t it?

Those of you who kept up with The Indie Handbook during Dutch Week may remember my post about the IN A CABIN WITH international recording project.  If you don’t remember, well, here it is again. And of course you can find a more official description on the IN A CABIN WITH official website.

And now that you’re up to speed on the project, a new album was recorded in January and just released!  I downloaded it today (because there’s a free download available!) and have been simultaneously listening and reading the collaboration’s blog.  This particular project’s name is We’ll Make It Right and is made up of several Dutch musicians I’ve never heard of (because let’s be honest, the Dutch musicians I know are mostly the ones we covered during Dutch Week).  The instrumentation, as described on the blog, is “amongst arp, vibes, piano, banjo, and flute the strange duck in the bite!”  I’m not sure what it means to be the strange duck in the bite, but I’m pretty sure by listening that it’s a good thing.  On a whole, the collaboration is quite fantastic.

Within the first five seconds of the first track, “Stop Trying So Hard,” I couldn’t help thinking of Sondre Lerche, along the lines of “Everyone’s Rooting Just For You”.  Dominant chords and flute motifs bring a definite jazz feel to this track as well as to others, the most notable being the sassy “Just Like A Man.”  If I could swing dance, I would.  Eric can.   Songs like “It Ain’t All Good, “For The Sleeping,” and “We’ll Make  It Bright” are incredibly lovely and sad, and the end of “For The Sleeping” is especially ethereal.  If any of you care about my own personal favorite track (I know, I’m shameless), I think for now it is “Some Day,” which is one of the most playful and moving (literally, not emotionally) songs on the album; however, as with most truly great albums, my favorite is likely to change with more listens.

Reading the blog alongside of listening has added, I think, a new dimension to my comprehending the collaboration as a whole.  This makes sense, as a person’s understanding of an artwork can only increase with their understanding of the artist and the environment under which the art was created.  Can you appreciate Shostakovich without a cognizant acknowledgement of his life in Soviet Russia?  Sure.  But this acknowledgement will take you much deeper into his music than a surface-level listen or chord analysis.  So, I’d like to share a few thoughts I have upon reading the IN A CABIN WITH We’ll Make It Right blog.

The bloggers in the band not only sleep in one hotel room, but “we all sleep in 1 big 8-person bed, and DJ Extraa talks in his sleep. He shouted: ‘Which asshole does this!’. Later on he murmered: ‘Slackers.'”  This is so funny and so imaginably difficult at the same time!  It puts a whole new spin on the second track, “My Best Friend”– “when you bother me/i’ll bother you/and we’ll both know/i wanna make you my best friend.”  They describe their overall feeling as “one of intense, vulnerable sweet people spending day and night in a chalet.  We show each other movies, play each other songs we’ve made or songs by others, have dinner together, sleep together…Definitely not rock’n’roll!”  I don’t know, I guess they’re right.  Maybe it isn’t particularly rock’n’roll.  Later they admit they’ve pretty much lost touch with reality.  That’s natural, I guess!  But don’t you freaking love it?  It’s so artistic and wonderful, and the effect it has on their music is inimitable.  “Sweet with balls,” they call it.  Brilliant.

My favorite is their second-to-last blog post; the implications of this excerpt are fascinating:

“Each person in the band contributed several scetches for a song. And we wanted everybody to at least make 1 song out 1 of their scetches, and we’ve acheived that. So everyone ‘s got his “own” song now, except for Extraa. We will do his tomorrow.”

I think the reason this interests me so much is that despite everyone having their own song, and despite an earlier post saying the only music they all liked was Phoenix’s, all the songs on the album flow beautifully.  There is a definite and distinct sound to this collaboration, which can only come, I suppose, from spending every waking hour together in a tiny hotel room, and perhaps drinking lots of whiskey, and pushing through all those annoying idiosyncrasies that literally every person has, and knowing in the end, you have to produce, and whatever you produce has to be beautiful and it has to be art.

And it is beautiful, and it is art.  So I would say that In A Cabin With We’ll Make It Right is an enormous success.

I can’t embed it, so watch this video.


So here’s the thing: I was going to post about Pien Feith tonight, but Kristin beat me to it. I thought about taking on NEONBELLE instead, a band that has really won me over in the past ten days, but they’ve had two mentions already this week (make that three). I have decided instead to break away from the Pien Feith/Very Sexuals bloodline (so no Sugarettes either, though I do quite like them). But don’t worry too much, we are still keeping it in the family with another band from Subroutine Records (I can’t help that they are a good label with a taste similar to mine. So back off.)

I like music that is campy and over-the-top and ridiculously indulgent, probably more than most people. There is definitely a place for the flamboyant in this industry and it is a place where I often spend hours bathed in the lush pageantry of artists like Rufus Wainwright. I think AC Berkheimer saw a movie about it once, because, in their music, you can definitely detect an awareness of it’s existence. But there is nothing flashy or self-indulgent about this music, and that is what is so attention grabbing. The vocal is so simple, so straightforward, that it is brilliant and you begin to wonder why more people don’t do it. Then you realize that most people would sound like idiots with no chance of winning American Idol or X Factor or whatever they call it where you live. Check out “For He’s Not There” (probably my favorite track available on MySpace). It is this kind of relaxed, matter of fact singing-that-almost-feels-like-speaking (like Piney Gir or the Poems) that makes AC Berkheimer such a joy to listen to.

They are a band that is hard to pin down. Comparisons have been drawn to My Bloody Valentine or The Organ and the band acknowledges influences like the Smiths, the Pixies, and the Cure. They are not afraid of an extended instrumental break, though said breaks tend more toward the meditation side of things rather than in the jam session direction, see “Isah”. Perhaps deliberate is a good word for it–a good word for the music of AC Berkheimer in general. More than anything, they seem a band with one eye on the aethereal at all times.

Their MySpace page sums it up best, however: “…who knows what might have been the biggest influence, we just like playing music and this is what it sounds like when we do…so listen to it and make up your own mind”. That is the sort of thing that we at The Indie Handbook like to hear. And I have listened. And I have made up my mind about one thing.

I like it.

One last thing: contrary to what their Last.fm profile says, this is not available at my local record store, not that I could afford it anyway.

I freaking love the Netherlands!  What a fantastic week this week is–every day I have like 17 more reasons to love the Dutch and to love life!  I have hope for tomorrow!  I am reflecting on my childhood trip to Dutch Wonderland with such nostalgia (oh, the Amish!)!

I am so with Eric when he talks about the incestuous streak running through The Indie Handbook.  Except hold on to your belt buckles kids, because this incestuous streak is not just running through The Indie Handbook–oh no, it also seems to be running through the Dutch music scene itself!

Before listening to The Very Sexuals ( I know we keep harassing you, but you don’t know what you’re missing, just download it!), I was listening to Pien Feith on myspace and loving her.  She has an album called The Wilderness Sound which came out in 2007 on Badmintone records, and you can find three of those songs on her myspace, a couple more on her personal website, and the rest on itunes.  Her sound is pretty experimental, and I’ll bet you ten bucks you can’t tell where each song is going–but not in a bad way!  No, she’s honed her craft, and she knows how to do experimental music in a way that makes sense and is accessible without compromising her talent.  GENIUS.  You may hear a bit of Cat Power or Fiona Apple (especially “Extraordinary Machine”) in her voice and style, and some of her songs even remind me a bit of Bloc Party.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a little beat poet influence in there somewhere…a little Allen Ginsberg in her lyrics and flow.

But!  While I was listening to Pien Feith, I noticed that she has been a part of some other collaborations–most relevant to our previous posts, she is a member of The Very Sexuals!  Eric also mentioned NEONBELLE in his first Dutch Week post, another band of which Pien Feith is proud to be a member.  And!  With NEONBELLE, she is a part of the In A Cabin With international recording project.  More on NEONBELLE later from one or both of us, but I have got to tell you about the In A Cabin With project and why it has made me love Dutch people even more.  In one short paragraph.  Because this is getting long and I am getting distracted.

Basically, the In A Cabin With international recording project is where this recording studio in Netherlands called The Green Motel decided hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we invited some musicians to cabins in awesome locations to have jam sessions and record incredible music?  [Answer, in case they were looking for one, or in case you are: HECK YES THAT WOULD BE COOL]  So they did–they tried to create collaborations between local musicians and Dutch musicians, many of which had never worked together before, and the result has been several full length albums.  Now this is what I call art.  What a fantastic concept!  I also love that all of these are available for free download on the In A Cabin With website.  Since I’ve been listening to Pien Feith and The Very Sexuals, I’m going to recommend the In A Cabin With NEONBELLE, but why not check them all out? Best part: they aren’t done!

Thank you, the Netherlands, for rocking all of us like a hurricane, and showing us what art can be.  I love you.

Here is a video of the In A Cabin With in Tonatico Mexico (featuring artist Stan Diego):

IN A CABIN WITH in Tonatico Mexico | February 2009 from inacabinwith on Vimeo.

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