Northern Thorns

Dance Rock | Seattle

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Bonfire Video Up Now

I Realize No One But Me Finds This Exciting

But I found a new image of Orchestre Kiam that I’d not seen before. Also I read that both guitarists are now dead, as are a lot of the musicians from the golden era in Kinshasa. I guess there wasn’t much hope of a reunion anyway.

Orchestre Kiam Band

There was also a Kiam song on YouTube that I hadn’t heard, posted a couple of weeks ago. Mayika is the name, and now I’m only missing two songs: Yule and Niamaraley(sp?)

This is a great song, classic sebene riffs and a very nice ensemble vocal call. See what you think:

Syllables, cont.

I should add to the thoughts from last entry, I love the sound of the syllables in the Lingala language. Tons of vowels, super round sounding and sung warmly. And the Congolese/Belgian pronunciation of French is also really beautiful, strong and smooth and not as slippery as French spoken in France itself. They occasionally sing in other languages, English and Spanish, though not often.

My own lyrical ideas almost always originate in syllabic sounds. The words and sometimes even the entire subject matter follow from that. I hear a melody, decide if it’s better suited to guitar or voice, and if it’s a vocal melody the next thing I hear is the sounds of the words. Filler or nonsense words, initially.

The other thing I wanted to mention today is that a single fiery Orchestre Viva La Musica song that I discovered (it’s in the blog post from the 14th) has got me on a new music kick again, and for that I’m grateful. Time to write and record some new stuff, very soon.

Viva La Musica

How many more of my undiscovered favorite records is DJ Moos hiding over at Global Groove? Great post, great bands. Never heard Orchestra Viva la Musica before this (though I’d certainly heard of them), and now I’m hooked. This Cherie Lipasa song really burns, and the rabbit hole goes deeper.l'Afrique Danse 360.126

Modular Band

Next up is April 1st at The Royal Room, with Maracuj√°. We’ll have several subs for this show: Sam Esecson from Maracuj√° on percussion, Scott Teske on bass and Whitney Lyman on vocals and possibly some more percussion. Writing the charts has paid off in this respect; I can have a modular collective band made up of people who read music, and not ask too much of anyone’s time. Scott showed up to rehearsal a few days ago and sight read all the music without even hearing it, and it sounded perfectly great.

I had struggled for months after deciding to start a band, trying to find people who could really be in the group, and that’s gotten impossible as I get older. The days of having a band that rehearses twice or even once a week are over, that’s a game for people in their 20’s. And I play in too many projects to even make that work for myself much of the time. So, the charts were the answer. They’ve paid off big, allowing me to have talented people like those mentioned above in Northern Thorns. I just wonder if it will eventually coalesce into a constant lineup. The guitar parts are more demanding than the other instruments, hence harder to sub out, and I haven’t had to yet thankfully. And I also have to wonder sometimes whether viewing the band modularly comes off as disrespectful to the people involved. I hope not. I got the idea from Mike Sparks (who played bass and sang wonderfully at the Vermillion show), who approaches his project Noonmoon in a similar way. A show gets booked, then he sends out an email and sees who is available and wants to join him to play the music. My band is more particular than his, but I really liked the concept and so I’ve copied it.

In any case, I’m excited to share the stage with all these folks on April 1st.

Workflow and Ideas

It’s been a little while since I’ve written any music, but I have a ton of new ideas sitting in voice memos on my iPhone. Voice memos are crucial to my general workflow: listen to music -> hear things based on said music -> whistle or sing them into my phone -> weeks or months later do an intensive when I can set aside a big chunk of time -> make demos in Logic and sequence the voice memo ideas into songs. Some songs have been entirely linear senquences of my voice memo ideas (Bonfire, specifically, was constructed from like seven different unrelated ideas from over the course of 18 months). They percolate in my head once I have them down so I know I won’t forget them, and they combine with each other and become verses and choruses and calls.

I have my favorites likes everyone else within the genres I prefer, but I always treasure the first listen to something because a lot of new ideas seem to come out of that. Something about not being familiar with a song, not knowing where it’s going to go next because you’ve never heard it before, causes my brain to create the other places where I might have taken a phrase or song structure, the other notes I might have played over the chords. And that in turn leads to my own ideas, melodies that are only vaguely related to what I was listening to. Not that I haven’t been guilty of unconsciously lifting lines from old soukous records, I catch myself doing that from time to time. Sometimes I change it to fix it, and sometimes I just leave it. But the blank slate of the first listen often leads to my own new ideas, in ways that hearing old favorites probably never will.

– Adam

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