It appears I have a thing for Subroutine(s)

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.

Pien Feith, In A Cabin With…how do you say “part four” in Dutch?

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.

Dutch Week, Part the Third: Ember

Today, Kristin and I heard from one kind reader offering to answer any questions we may have about the Dutch. Admittedly, my knowledge of the Netherlands is limited by the fact that: a) I am not Dutch and b) I have never been there. I would like to invite any of you Dutch folks reading this (and I know there are some of you) to share with us anything you think we ought to know, though I can’t think of any specific questions at the moment. For now, here is a short list of a few things I do know about the Dutch:

1) They are tall.

2) They speak better English than most Americans I know.

3) They are, consistently and without exception, among the most excruciatingly beautiful people in the world.

4) Tulips.

5) They have a killer football team with a relentless and potent attack style offense and an luminous orange kit that can surely be scene from the moon who, ultimately, did not live up to my expectations in the last European Cup.

6) Yes, Kristin, Dutch is a language.

7) The music scene is, apparently, perfect.

Take, for example, Ember, a five piece from Haarlem/Amsterdam. No pretentious, abstract descriptions are necessary to categorize Ember, and apparently the band agrees, content with a one word description. They are a rock band. That is all they are. And that is all they ever need be. It’s like Letters to Cleo as Josie and the Pussycats, slightly tousled, with a flair for the dramatic, and Dutch.

But don’t take my word for it. Please, please, please go listen for yourself (I say please because I know that most of you have still not downloaded The Very Sexuals’ Post-Apocalyptic Love like I told you to). There are three tracks up on their MySpace. I would love to describe them to you, but my internet connection has gone wonky on me and I can’t even begin to think about streaming anything. But I was really digging it this afternoon.

Coincidentally, I found these guys through a link on We Swim You Jump‘s MySpace (yes, in fact there is a bit of an incestuous streak running through The Indie Handbook). So, if you have failed to stay current on our Dutch Week festivities thus far, I suggest you get caught up. Come Saturday, you’ll wish you had.

Now that I think of it, I do have one question for you all:

Do you know my Dutch friend? She lives in Amsterdam.

Dutch Week, volume 1

I have heard so much good news today (e.g. new albums from Regina Spektor, Stuart Murdoch, A Camp, and the Rumble Strips) that I just want to gush about it, but I won’t because IT’S DUTCH WEEK! Wednesday is also tax day, but not in the Netherlands (I don’t think) so we will forget about that. (We’ll get to the those others later.)

To kick off Dutch Week, I suppose I’ll start off with the band that made me want to do this in the first place: The Very Sexuals from Eindhoven, Noord-Brabant. (Before I go any further, let me say that you can download this album for free in it’s entirety from the band’s website.)

With every subsequent listen, The Very Sexuals’ Post-Apocalyptic Love does more to cement itself as one of the most pleasant discoveries I have made in a very, very long time. The tracks drift effortlessly from the fuzzy quasi-synth pop of “Bowie Eyes” to the straight up indie sound of “Wrecked This Century”. It’s all very New Pornographers. But the best finds are those in-between tracks like “Can You Promise Me the Sky Won’t Fall On Us” with it’s handclaps, half-sung/half-chanted vocals, and more than a touch of the Kills’ “U.R.A. Fever”. Then there is my personal favorite, “Anti-Valentine”, where the band’s characteristic male/female vocals combine to lend the track a sort of epic sweetness while channeling shades of Harry Nillson and even The Mamas & the Papas (if you think about it long enough, you’ll get there), and is a welcome departure from just about everything I’ve been hearing lately. Like I said, download the album at theverysexuals.com.

Check out their MySpace as well. There is one extra track there, “Dennis Hopper”, from the “Carla” single, as well as links to download the single and the album it comes from. The band is beginning to get radio airplay throughout Europe and Great Britain (including BBC Radio 6), as well as a small handful of stations Stateside. This would be a good time to get in on the ground floor.

Also, I assure you, you will be hearing more from The Very Sexuals as Dutch Week progresses.

In the meantime, download Post-Apocalyptic Love.