Author Archives: Toi Brownstone

Album of weeks 16-20: GIVEN TO EMPTINESS

Has it ever happened to you that you love something so much is terribly hard to put it into words? Well, I’m nowadays experiencing that feeling lately whenever I listen to Arenna’s last album Given to Emptiness.

Arenna Given to Emptiness

Arenna is a band from Vitoria I discovered 3 years ago when Las Tetis were invited to DJ at Siberia festival in the same city. I already explained here about the high level of the bands, and if I remember well I already mentioned this band very enthusiastic.

Their first album, Beats of Olarizu, was splendid. Very lysergic but focused on powerful riffs. Their style was quickly labelled as stoner rock. To be honest, it’s a definition I don’t completely agree with, because it’s always used to name both bands featuring heavy riffs, and those trying to recreate the Kyuss sound. Whatever! If I had been told these guys came from Germany or Sweden, I would have bought it, because I hadn’t ever listened to something so good here.  Obviously they started to be known abroad not only because of this album but also because of their amazing live act. Really, both shows I’ve attended in the past were life travelling to another dimension. Amazing!

Due to the closeness of some of the members of the band, after the shows and through social networks, when I heard they were recording a new album I proposed them to write a review for RockZone magazine, and of course they accepted.

When I listened to the first single, ‘Butes’, I was completely overwhelmed. The hypnotism, the power of the bass lines leading, the melodies of Txus Dr. Sax really seduced me. Not being really acquainted on mastering and producing stuff, I reckon it sounds terrific. I thought this effect might have been caused by the fact that I was using headphones at that time, but them I’ve realized the sound is incredible.

Given To Emptiness reminds me of the experience of tripping on acid. Your mood and state of mind must be in certain condition, and you have to take some, not exactly precautions, but advantages, to enjoy the experience to the max. As I advanced, it is very hard to define the concept on an albums whose songs are in constant change and seem to be alive. The more you listen to them the different you realize they’re evolving.

‘Butes’ inspiration was the story written by Pascal Quignard, about a guy who didn’t accept getting unchained with Ulysses, and eventually he was irresistibly seduced by the siren songs. This is somehow, the same effect that Given To Emptiness causes. It’s so attractive you just let yourself be embraced by those hypnotic and dreamy tunes not caring about the consequences. Arenna, instead of focusing on the riffs, have become explorers of sound. They can help you to cross the threshold to a wild dimension, unknown and very evocative.

Arenna-®RhythmAndPhotos_061x2048

It’s taken me a month to start writing about this album, no matter how many times I’ve been listening to it ceaselessly on a daily basis. Sometimes I wake up in the morning with ‘Drums for Sitting Bull’ or ‘Move Through Figurehead Lights’ stuck in my head. I’m starting to reckon it’s become some sort of addiction or obsession.  I might be moved by enthusiasm but I reckon at this point Given To Emptiness will be included in my top 10 of 2015.

Trust me, this is something you cannot miss.

25 years of Goodfellas

As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster

With this sentence, Henry Hill starts telling his story of rise and fall inside a mob family. It’s not fictional, Hill was a mobster for real, and passed away not too long ago. As fascinating it is, the responsible for delivering it to the mass on a silver plate was Martin Scorsese, who masterly directed one of his best films, and I dare to say, one of the best films in the history.

godfellas

Believe me if I reckon I’ve watched it more than 20 times, and I still find it awesome. One of those films every time you watch them you discover some details which you didn’t earlier, from actors, to locations, or any tiny detail. I never get tired of Ray Liotta laughing at Joe Pesci at the Bamboo Lounge, and how he scares the shit out of him.

This week it’s been celebrated the 25th anniversary of the release of the movie. It’s nice to see the cast gathering for the celebration of a great project, and it’s sad at the same time because you can see time does not forget anyone.

Is Goodfellas the best Italian mob film? Probably not, if you start thinking of The Godfather or Once Upon a Time in America, but it’s definitely one of the best.

The dynamism of a story told in 146 minutes is brilliant, separating the most remarkable episodes in the life of Hill. How he started being the kid running errands and grabbing an umbrella to protect one of the big bosses, the time he’s a successful young guy “well positioned” and falls in love with Karen, the Lufthansa Heist planned with Jimmy Conway and Tommy De Vito, and the devastating consequences for most of the people involved, the jail time, the drugs…everything supported by amazing performances by Liotta, DeNiro, Lorraine Bracco, Joe Pesci and Paul Sorvino, among many others, a terrific soundtrack, and many other features a good film analyst would be able to list.

I love the way Scorsese introduces the viewer to the family, as if making us one of them, going through all the Bamboo Lounge greeting everybody. The little man repeats this formula several times, one when Henry takes Karen to Copacabana, and instead of using the front door, they get into the restaurant by the kitchen access until a table is immediately set for them right at the moment they reach the lounge. Everything filmed with a steadicam, and the other at their wedding, when Karen tells about how overwhelmed she was with such a large family, so many people and so many envelopes.

Goodfellas was also the seed for David Chase at the time of creating The Sopranos. Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco were considered as candidates to play the roles of Tony and Carmela, but the idea eventually was turn down, although Bracco became Dr Melfi, Tony’s shrink, proving what an amazing actress she is. Also many actors were hired for the series, from Michael Imperioli as Christopher Moltisanti to Frank Vincent as Phil Leotardo or Tony Sirico, the great Paulie Gualtieri.

I think there’s nothing else to say. If you don’t like Goodfellas you’re missing a hell of a great film.

Chewie, we’re home!

I never wanted Xmas to arrive so badly, but this time THIS TIME it has to be fast, for fuck’s sake!

I’ve just watched the second official trailer of Star Wars episode VII: The Force Awakens six times in a row and now I have two tears about to roll.

I feel so excited about this movie! Very frightened too, to be honest. I’m scared of what Abrams might do, but at the same time that classic sentence “You’re my only hope” is constantly kicking in my head.

The fact that all the ships, the X-Wings, The Tie-Fighters and the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy, The Millennium Falcon, or Chewbacca and R2-D2 appear on the trailer really makes my heart bits fast. And Solo, MY MAN! He’s an old rascal, but it doesn’t matter, damn! I’m near 40 but I feel like a kid again, how can this be possible?

How can this fiction be so essential for many? Whenever I start wondering about it I feel overwhelmed. We were kids, innocent and impressible when we watched this saga for the first time. But it’s been almost 40 years since it started, people have grown up, have their families and responsibilities, and still the world stops when a new trailer is released, and the impact on so many people is so unbelievable it makes me think these are the greatest movies ever made. Not in terms of performing nor even the plot, which I reckon it’s a simple and clear way to understand Jung’s theory of the archetypes (child, father, good, evil, the hero, the journey…), but because what George Lucas achieved to recreate on three films with the passing of timehas become something cultural, I’d dare say, historic, and this makes them simply perfect.

chewie and solo

December, 18th is marked in my calendar. Victory and death are on the table. Am I ready to cope with both options? It can be the greatest disaster or something really big. Who knows?

Hope, friends, hope. We can never surrender to fear, cause fear takes you to the dark side.

Toi VS Mess. First Round.

Basically this weekend I’ve spent my free time doing what i like the most: listening to CDs and vinyls and watching movies. I can’t complain, at least I’ve played 15 different albums, old and new, and watched 4 movies. These weeks I’m quite stressed at work, with people on holidays and being in charge for many additional tasks, with lots of incidences and also feel a bit anxious for upcoming changes and new responsibilities, so I really needed a break, and I’ve disconnected from it a lot, which is good, because on Friday I was mentally exhausted.

And I eventually did some cleaning. I hate it. From the ancient times women are supposed to be tidy and clean but to be honest the more I meet single girls the more I realize this is not a true fact. I used to be the tidy and organized one when living in couple, but nowadays I sometimes feel really lazy about it. It’s not my biggest concern. My main problem is not that I’m a pig, I don’t really get the house dirty being on my own, but the fuckin’ dust is my enemy.

I live near a market which has been under restructuring for 4 years, and I open the windows very often, so dust is more welcome than a vampire into a house. Moreover, it’s a mixture of dust and sand particles. On the other hand I have lots of stuff. lots of crap which tend to attract dust: vinyls, CDs, books, toys, figures… any kind of shit you can imagine which is terribly hard to keep completely clean. In fact, I think it’s impossible.

too much stuff

Sometimes I dream of being a minimalist person, with one of those white furniture living rooms with just a couple of things in an attempt to become livid, but that’s an utopia. I love things. I still buy books, even though I don’t read as much as I used to, CDs and vinyls. More or less one year ago I decided not to get more movies, just the essential. I’ve always had lots of stuff with me. when I was at my parents’ I used to have lots of book and magazines. At my granny’s I started having CDs and toys. In London I had to sell and give stuff for free. And I moved to Barcelona with 1 baggage, which means that I still have plenty of things at my parents’ packed in boxes. I even lost all my furniture and lots of CDs and figures when I split with my ex. If I have gathered now all my belongings definitely I would  need a bigger flat.

patrick bateman living room

I need to see things I like around, but sometimes the limit seems a bit blurry for me, so when you visit The Hellhouse the living room is full of all this stuff everywhere.

Been trying to tidy up an area of shelves which was very bad organized. When I started cleaning I realized there was plenty of useless crap I should have got rid of long time ago. And this was just a small part of the living room. No need to say dust was the king too.

This has made me wonder about the Diogenes syndrome. Is it inheritable? Is it only referred to senile people or my mess might mean I’m a potential victim of this disease? At least at the moment I’m not interested in picking up objects from the streets, which makes me feel sort of relieved, but what if?

I don’t know. I’ve been designing a “plan” to have certain things more under control and improve the space for storing, and of course, get rid of useless stuff. I don’t wanna think what a nightmare moving in the future can be, when I have to.

Now that I’m focused on this, it’s time to take the actions. Will I be able to do that? wish me luck, dudes.

Flashback Friday: London 2015

Argh! It’s been two weeks already since I don’t update this site and I feel like shit about it, but honestly I wasn’t in the mood nor didn’t find the right time to do so, and the past days have been so weird my mind was to stressed to write. I hate when I have this shitty writer’s block. One of the reasons I keep this blog alive it’s because it usually works as some sort of funnel.

On this day two weeks ago I was having a veggie burger and a tasty spicy Turkish salad with my friend Veronica near Old Street in London. We came back to this beloved city again to attend a Ryan Adams show at Hammersmith Apollo on Friday 27th and the trip was amazing. Now there’s no point in talking about  the show, which was a blast, nor how great was to meet friends who were also spending the weekend there for the same reason, so instead I’m posting some pix of that wonderful time .

tetis

apollo

foreros

ryan4

setlist ryan adams

ryan5

crobar

vero

pints and postcards

Thanks to all the people who contributed to a weekend of laughs, lots of pints of beer, friendship and happiness. Now it seems to be ages ago, but it was fantastic.I love you! <3

The day he quit, the rocket took off.

There are some bands you create such a bond with that, no matter that they almost copy one set to the previous one, every time they come to your city on tour, you’ll attend their performance regardless. For 10 years I’ve never failed to my appointment with Jonny Kaplan since the first time I saw him in Lleida, and last Thursday was not to be an exception. It’s not a problem either that his last albums are not as brilliant as earlier ones, because he never fails, singing and playing with such groove everything is good vibes, and songs such as ‘Damaged’, ‘Seasons’ and ‘Ride Free’, will always be played for us.

There was a remarkable addition to the band, which was quite appealing for many, and that was the presence of Dave Krusen on drums. You might wonder, who the fuck is Krusen? Well, he’s a guy who happened to record all the drum parts of the debut album of Pearl Jam, as he was in the band.

pearl jam early days

The handover of drummers, from Krusen to Abbruzzese (from Dave to David) in the band was something which remained unknown for some time, and it was something weird in the day. Krusen had played the first shows and had recorded the album. He appears on the cover picture, and there were few promo pictures with him as member of the band. In fact the video of their first single, ‘Alive’, features him on the drums. Apparently what happened was that Krusen, right after the Ten recording, checking into rehab, due to personal issues and alcohol abuse.

How could he deal with the success of Pearl Jam as one of the bands able to be on top for more than 25 years knowing he stepped outside right before they rose like a rocket? What would have happened if he hadn’t quit? Perhaps his life would be sorted out by now, not worrying about which band to play with next, financially secure (even though I’m sure he get royalties for Ten, being properly credited). Or he could have been fired after the second album, considering the main problem of Pearl Jam has to do with the drummers all the time.

I try to figure out how is to wake up every day having this constant ‘What if’ in your head. Probably he overcame this issue time ago, but it must be really hard to cope with a past decision which was so meaningful and decisive for the rest of your life.

He’s been playing all the time since then, being involved in several projects as Candlebox or Unified Theory and playing with established artists, but it was really weird to see him in front of 100 people at a tiny club as Rocksound is, with Jonny Kaplan, who’s a terrific artist, but very low profile in the rock scene.

krusen

So right after the show I went to greet him, not to ask him to sign any stuff nor praise him just for being a member of Pearl Jam, but to thank him for his work in one album that really made such a marking point in my life, being a teenager and so, as to be what I am nowadays: a rock freak. Very humble and polite, Krusen received the compliment in the best manner, and thank me back for expressing such feelings to him.

I understand you cannot harass every musician who has made an impact in your life, and we create this respectful and elevated halo around the musicians up to such point we forget they’re also human beings, and have feelings. But I think if approaching the artist in the right way, not bothering nor interrupting or being impatient, and with politeness, is not a bad thing, but the opposite. Musicians appreciate receiving a feedback on their work, not only in terms of charts and record sales, but also in a more personal and emotional field, and probably this side of the recognition is still the most rewarding.  At least I will keep on doing it the same way. Wish I was able to make an emotional impact on people the way that some have made and still are making on me up to day.

krusen toi

 

The first time I listened to Black Sabbath

What a shitty week, ugh! Since my last post I’ve been embraced by a huge attack of flu which has finished off all my energy, forcing me to spend the week sleeping and vegetating basically, not being able to focus nor getting concentrated for long periods of time on reading, listening to music or watching TV. Really I haven’t been so fucked up in years. As if I’ve wasted my life and time this week, being non productive at all. Moreover because this fuckin’ virus was so tough and contagious, you can imagine I haven’t seen anyone these days. All the time on my fuckin’ own. What a horrible penitence. I NEED BEER ASAP!

Seems that I’m feeling better today, Friday 13th (UUUH), and leaving aside the birthday of a legend, Jason Voorhees, there’s something more relevant to celebrate: the 45th anniversary of the debut album of Black Sabbath.

black sabbath vinyl

Just few months ago I recovered this album to talk about the bells in rock, remembering the intro of ‘Black Sabbath’, with the storm and the bells, as one of the most sinister and overwhelming record openings in the history of rock/metal. Those bells make me think of the end of the hippie era, together with Vietnam (Nixon era) and the Manson family crimes. As if all related, all these facts created the portrait of a dark future ahead.

45 years after its release, this album is still mindblowing, with the same intensity as back in the day. I cannot recall of those days, but at least I have fresh in my memory the first time I listened to this album, followed by Paranoid, 20 ½ years ago.

I remember the year and the month, end of June 1994. Any given summer night, sitting in the copilot seat of my boyfriend’s car, actually his parents’, parked anywhere. You could go to a park or wherever, but the car has the stereo and we could listen to tapes. He asked me if I had ever listened to Black Sabbath, and I felt very ashamed when admitting I hadn’t yet, even though I knew it was one of these classic 70’s band I HAD TO listen. You know how things work when you are a teenager. It’s a constant struggle trying to show the world you know things, you’re an adult already, and you’re worthy of respect.  Thus, at this point someone asks you about a band or something you don’t really know, you can cheat assuring you know, putting your status into risk, or you can admit you don’t know, swallowing the shame and trying to recover your status the soonest. I chose the second option, as I knew he could catch me in a lie, especially related to music, very easily.

So more or less, the conversation was as follows:

-Hey Toi! Which band you prefer, Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath? (this is the equivalent question to “are you studying or working?”, huh?)

-Eeeer! I love Led Zeppelin, but I can’t really say about Black Sabbath. Never got the chance to listen to them, and I don’t know anyone who can tape me any stuff. (shit! I’ve fucked it up!)

-Oh, wow! So you haven’t ever listened to BLACK SABBATH!!! (Dude, don’t stare at me as if I was a fuckin’ freak)

-No, man, I haven’t yet. (Toi sinking in shame. SHEEEEEIT!)

-You want to listen to them RIGHT NOW? I got a tape here!

-I’d love to if you feel like, sure. (feeling better?)

– I really feel VERY JEALOUS OF YOU RIGHT NOW. You’re about to listen to BLACK SABBATH!!! for the first time in your life! That is AWESOME!

-Yeah, man. Seem so. (Uuuf! He’s not gonna dump me…yet! Great!)

 

After searching for a tape, the moment of truth arrived. Not only I was to discover Black Sabbath, but also at the same time I was being tested by a guy I liked a lot, and I couldn’t disappoint him. Not that I had to be a yes girl saying the band was absolutely incredible, and blahblahblah, which in some way I had to pretend in case I didn’t like the tape, but the real trick was managing to sound convincing.

The tape started rolling, but no music sounded. He told me to “wait”, so I was staring at nothing focusing all my senses to something it was about to start. And then rain pouring, thunder, a church bell tolling coming closer, to introduce the scariest and most wicked intro I’ve ever listened  to up to date. Fuuuuuck! What the hell was THAT? First lines of the lyrics could perfectly define what I was thinking at that very moment “What is this that stands before me / figure in black which points at me”. Holy shit! I had listened to Megadeth, Iron Maiden or Slayer, but that, that was a way on top different league. Guitar riffs were terrific and threatening, drums and bass super heavy, Ozzy’s voice was that of an evil wizard…I was overwhelmed.

At some point I realized I wasn’t alone inside that car and tried to pull myself together, noticing I had been observed all those 6minutes and something, so when I lifted my head and turn my face to the left to him, my mouth was open in amazement, half smiling, and the only word I could articulate was, of course “FUCK!”. No need to say I passed the test, and brought the cassette home to copy it, with Paranoid on the other side, and a couple of songs of Masters of Reality.

sabbath 1970

This old story works for explaining what this album means to me at all levels. It’s not my favorite Black Sabbath album even though I’d include it in a top 5 list of the band, however I reckon it’s one of the most influential records in my life. I’m not a musician, so I won’t tell you stories about how much it inspired me to write lyrics, and I don’t consider myself a metalhead either, being this album probably the milestone of heavy metal. But listening to those 7 songs, one after the other, ‘The Wizard’, ‘Behind the Wall of Sleep’ (oh man, the drum break at the end, I could listen to it nostop for hours!), ‘N.I.B’, ‘Evil Woman’, ‘Sleeping Village’ and ‘Warning’ blew my mind completely, and opened the gates to another musical dimension, heavier, darker and more powerful, and the word riff came to my life to stay for good. How awesome is that, huh?

45 years since Black Sabbath shocked world, and 20 ½ years since it overwhelmed me, and I reckon there will be lots of other teenagers who will hear this album for the first time in their lives and will get crazy about it in the same way I did, because the power of this masterpiece remains intact, thanks to the timeless magic it was created with.

Satan bless Black Sabbath!