|Rockbites was updated 5 November 2003|
From Red House Painters to Sun Kil Moon
5 November 2003
In the summer of 1982, Moon married 4,150 of his followers, popularly known as 'moonies,' in a single ceremony at New York city’s Madison Square Garden arena. He had personally arranged most of the pairings.
Four months later, previously-undefeated South Korean boxer Duk Koo Kim—whose name adorns track eight of Kozelek’s new LP—wrote 'Kill or be killed' on a mirror in his Las Vegas hotel room. He then went to Caesar’s Palace to fight WBA lightweight champion Ray Mancini. Kim lost spectacularly and then died from brain injuries a few days later. The fight’s referee and Kim’s mother each committed suicide the following year.
So what do Korea, 1982, arranged marriages, and tragedy have to do with San Francisco-based Mark Kozelek’s new, Americana-centered album? Fuck if I know.
Ghosts Of The Great Highway, self-produced by Kozelek, contains a delicious mix of the gentle and the noisy—ranging from tracks Glenn Tipton and Floating, with nothing but acoustic guitar and Kozelek’s buttery voice, to Salvador Sanchez (and its alternate version, Pancho Villa) and Lily And Parrots, where the band do their best high-energy Neil Young And Crazy Horse impressions. The 58-minute LP bears a bit of similarity, in fact, in feel and in sound (minus Young’s harmonica and Crazy Horse’s backing vocals), to the 1979 classic Rust Never Sleeps.
Kozelek didn’t, apparently, try to create a Songs For A Blue Guitar for 2003. This is not a collection of sparkling, heartbreakingly beautiful love songs. That’s fine—you can still slip Songs For A Blue Guitar into your CD player whenever you want to. Rather, Ghosts Of The Great Highway is an unassuming collection of timeless, post-modern Americana about the passage of time and about the value of life as revealed through loss and death.
Sun Kil Moon, the studio band, consists of Kozelek along with ex-Red House Painters drummer Anthony Koutsos and ex-American Music Club drummer Tim Mooney, plus ex-Black Lab bassist Geoff Stanfield. Mark Kozelek starts a short, solo US tour, sure to feature many of his new songs, on 5 December in Chicago. Here are the dates:
5 - Chicago (Schubas)
7 - Boston (Middle East Upstairs)
9 - New York city (Fez)
17 - Seattle (Crocodile Cafe)
17 - Los Angeles (The Troubadour)
22 - San Francisco (Great American Music Hall)
| Sun Kil Moon on Jetset Records | | Mark Kozelek | | Sun Myung Moon on family | | CD from Amazon.com | | top of page |
Maximilian Hecker's second dose of fragile
5 November 2003
But Hecker’s current world tour along with fellow Berliner Barbara Morgenstern, sponsored by the Goethe Institute, might just lead to a North American release for his hyper-romantic, fragile but stormy music.
Hecker’s first album was so boldly stylized with his wispy falsetto voice, acoustic guitar, fresh electronics, and just the perfect spice of extreme noise, that I couldn’t picture a follow up that matched its idiosyncratic beauty and avoided self caricature. But he’s managed to do that and more.
On Rose, there’s less guitar and more piano. Hecker’s voice has matured and he’s turned it into a fairly magnificent instrument. In terms of his lyrics and vocal delivery, there’s some loss of innocence as he’s grown, in its place definition and clarity… but these songs are still wonderfully hyper-romantic.
Rose begins with a track called Kate Moss—some impressionistic solo piano under white spotlight on a black stage, immaculately recorded, soon finds itself in the company of synthetic strings as we close our eyes. Hecker’s falsetto, reminiscent of Freddie Mercury here, cries “Seven days and not one glance from her/ Seven days are a thousand years… Girl I love you/ But Don’t call back, she said.”
The theme of unrequited love continues, masterfully executed, throughout this record, with heartfelt, sweet lyrics and sweet but high-contrast arrangements. I Am Falling Now features a lovely, soft beginning that gradually crescendos, with Hecker’s “Hold me now/ Heal my wounds” turning from a plea to a demand. My Friends is this record’s version of the last one’s Cold Wind Blowing, in which the music goes way, way over the top as extreme noise sits alongside childlike gentleness.
As on Infinite Love Songs, and reminiscent of Momus (Nick Currie) before him, Hecker plays all the instruments, with the exception here of bass on some of the tracks courtesy of Norman Nitzsche (of Berlin post-disco quartet Mina).
If you have a taste for the quirky over the conventional, and know something about the pleasure to be found in wallowing in unrequited love, here’s your record of the year.
By the way: North American fans can pick up Rose at a sane price by ordering directly from Amazon.co.uk—check our link. | Maximilian Hecker on Kitty-Yo | | My Love For You Is Insane (full length MP3) | | world tour info | | CD from Amazon.co.uk | | top of page |
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