Frank Gutch Jr: Alcoholic Faith Mission: Sons & Daughter of Denmark… Plus Notes

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Denmark.  Home of danish pastry.  Kind of.  The Danish, one of the States’ most treasured pastries, might easily have been labeled the Austrian but for the Great Danish Pastry Strike of 1850.  Seems like the strikers told the bakeries to take a flying suck at a rolling donut (or Danish, if you prefer), so the bakeries imported artisans from Austria.  Now that, sports fans, is interesting.  If you like Danishes, anyway.  Or Denmark.

William Shakespeare used Denmark as his setting for Hamlet, one of his plays which has truly stood the test of time.  Oddly enough, ol’ Willie gives us two Hamlets with whom to deal— the King, recently departed, and the King’s son, destined for revenge (though he struggles with his destiny throughout).  Shakespeare fans will remember the context of the line, Something is rotten in the State of Denmark.  Most won’t.  According to shakespeare-online.com:

The quote in context:
hamlet-6Shortly before midnight, Hamlet meets Horatio on the battlements of the castle. They wait together in the darkness. From below they hear the sound of the men in the castle laughing and dancing riotously; the King draining his “draughts of Rhenish down”. Hamlet explains to Horatio his dislike of such behaviour. To Hamlet, drinking to excess has ruined the whole nation, which is known abroad as a land full of drunken swine.

Horatio spots the Ghost of Hamlet’s father approaching. Hamlet calls out to the Ghost and it beckons Hamlet to leave with it. Despite the pleadings of Horatio and Marcellus, who are afraid that the apparition might be an evil entity in disguise, Hamlet agrees to follow the Ghost and the two figures disappear into the dark.

Marcellus, shaken by the many recent disturbing events and no doubt angered (as is Hamlet) by Claudius’s mismanagement of the body politic, astutely notes that Denmark is festering with moral and political corruption. Horatio replies “Heaven will direct it”, meaning heaven will guide the state of Denmark to health and stability.

denmarkhappy

The Ghost is Hamlet’s father, Hamlet is Hamlet, and Marcellus was the one to make the statement.  And to Horatio, not Hamlet.  I asked three people who thought they knew the basics of Shakespeare.  Every one attributed the quote, as spoken in the play, to Hamlet.  One didn’t even recognize Marcellus at all.  I guess my acquaintances are not hep to Denmark as presented by the English.

Can’t handle Shakespeare?  This just in:  Denmark, according to Wikipedia (everyone’s encyclopedia of choice these days), is frequently ranked as the happiest country in the world in cross national studies of happiness.  Hell, if nothing else, this sets Denmark apart!  Did you know that Lars Ulrich (Metallica) is Danish?  (He is, isn’t he?)  Does that make you happy?

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When I went to see Alcoholic Faith Mission,  Denmark’s most notable music export of the past few years, in Portland a couple of years ago, I racked my brain to think of any music I had heard from Danish bands and could only come up with Gasolin and that band’s related group in later years, Kim Larsen & Jungledreams.  Every artist or band outside of those two was from Holland or Norway or Germany or Belgium— everywhere but Denmark.  I did come up with a few by checking Wikipedia recently, but the list— out of more than a hundred bands, I came up with only three besides Gasolin (Burnin’ Red Ivanhoe, Mercyful Fate, and Savage Rose) that I recognized.  The only band AFM‘s guitarist, Thorben Seiero Jensen, could talk about was Gasolin.  Boy, did I feel inadequate.  (That’s what is known as not doing your homework, sports fans)

Ah, but that show…..  Cam Carpenter, who also writes for DBAWIS had contacted me and said he could get me in (along with a hint that I would be sorry to have missed this one), and he did put my name on a list, but I opted to pay rather than wait for the band’s manager to get the list to the door.  I was anxious.  It worked out well, actually, because the band was getting ready and invited me to their dressing room to talk (I have the distinct pleasure of having been thrown out of said room by the lone female member of the band, Kristine Permild).  (Kristine, by the way, is a TV news personality in Copenhagen, I am told)  Right off, I knew these guys were special.

It didn’t take them long to prove it.  Although this was the show-ender, this is what I saw— from that night at the Doug Fir.

Please understand that the sound was strong enough to plant most of us against our seats— a true wall of sound.  It was a show I will never forget.

For one thing, I am always amazed that Europeans— well, mainly Europeans— sing with perfect American accents while speaking broken English, at best.  So when the band started the show with Alaska, not only was I taken aback by the subject matter or location (I mean, Barrow, Alaska?) but their vocal presentation.

There was also something about their melding of ideas which bordered on prog with melodic choral tinges which I found fascinating.  More than once during the night, they hit peaks which made me shiver.  As in the case of the ending of Throw Us To the Wolves:

They weren’t a;ways a full-fledged band, you know.  They started out as two— Thorben Jensen and Sune Solund— two friends who, while out drinking one night in New York, walked past a church sporting a sign which read “Apostolic Faith Mission.”  Looking at each other in their inebriated states, they epiphanized a band called Alcoholic Faith Mission and the seed of the band was planted.  When they returned to Denmark, they set about making it happen.  Sure, they had been friends for awhile and had played in various bands together.  This one, though, was to be a band of consequence.

From their press kit….

Solund and Jensen met at school, initially in rival bands where “we each thought the other was a dickhead” before Jensen’s band needed a last-minute bassist for a national talent contest. “Sune was a funk bassist and I thought anyone who didn’t play grunge was an idiot,” Jensen laughed. “My musical world was very narrow but once we got talking I learned to appreciate the skills of other musicians while Sune learned about grunge and songs about heartache from me. We can have screaming fits at each other and Sune is great dealing with my diva-ness! I mainly do lyrics, he’s got a keen ear for producing and tweaking songs. We complement each other very well.”

afmmanchester

Their songwriting has evolved from early Dogma-style experiments that saw their album 421 Wythe Avenue recorded with various strictures such as only recording by candlelight and then only using the instruments in the room, leading to two dictionaries bashed together acting as a bass drum sound. “We made those rules because we had no idea what the fuck we were doing,” Jensen says now. “It was just something fun to do, because we were kids messing around, but those restrictions helped us become better in the studio.”

They may have been kids but they aren’t anymore.  With each project came growth and by the time I saw them, they were riding a monster of an album (Ask Me This) around the world (well, through Canada and the States, at least) and making fans one at a time.

afmorbitor

They have a new album, you know.  Orbitor was released just this past week and it is a step in a different direction.  While they have kept their sound and songwriting intact, they have moved toward more of a synth-pop sound.  Again, from the press kit:

Although Jensen and Solund are the songwriters, the band’s other members are hardly mere adjuncts. Jensen and Permild each sang the whole album before deciding who should take lead on which song, with the lyrics tailored accordingly afterwards. “Kristine isn’t trained, but she’s an amazing performer,” Jensen enthuses. “She’s the band’s comedian, and more than capable of fending for herself.”

Drummer Magnus Hylander Friis re-tooled much of the beats from the original demos, while classically-trained keyboardist Anders Hjort is a core component of establishing Orbitor in concert. “Anders is a freak,” smiles Jensen. “He’s the best musician in the band and he can play everything. We could pretty much put Anders on stage on his own to perform the music while the rest of us hit the bar.”

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The new album is a socially political call to arms, but its message is wrapped in the most instantly appealing sugar-rush pop. Its immediacy is largely down to Jensen and the five-piece’s co-writer, bassist Sune Solund, creating the songs in just two weeks.

Orbitor was produced by Solund with Brian Batz, mainman of fellow Danish dreamers Sleep Party People. Both acts are part of Denmark’s rising pop collective Copenhagen Collaboration. The songs were written in an intense hive of activity in New York, where Jensen and Solund have traveled to write since naming their band Alcoholic Faith Mission after seeing a sign in Williamsburg for the Apostolic Faith Mission religious retreat while discussing alcoholism.

“Everybody wants to be part of a pool of ingenuity in New York,” says Jensen. “There’s an air in the streets that anything is possible. But Williamsburg is too hip for us now. We keep moving further north in New York to write as the hipsters come after us! We wrote Orbitor in Greenpoint, which feels the place to be now— not too touristy and not somewhere nothing is going on.”

Here’s a taste….

Now you know more about Alcoholic Faith Mission than your next door neighbor and probably any of your friends.  I can’t think of a better way to end this than to give you their recent Christmas video.  Watch and listen closely.  It’s one freaking oddball Christmas song.  Should have been a hit.

Time For an Update….

Lots of good music floating around out there.  I’m a little miffed that I didn’t know until a couple of weeks ago that Tommy Talton has a new album out.  I’ve been a Cowboy freak since hearing their first two albums back in ’71, after getting out of the Army and finding the House of Records in Eugene, Oregon.  That store was a mecca for everything good.  Between them and Music Millennium in Portland, I was covered.  Cowboy was one of many many records I found at those stores.

Anyway, Tommy has been working the circuit in the South since returning from Europe a handful of years ago, sometimes with Cowboy partner Scott Boyer and a few of the other musicians he had worked with during the old Capricorn Records days.  He’ still got the chops.  The new album is titled Until After Ten and it is loaded with new and outstanding Talton tunes.  Here are a couple of examples.

You can file this, again, under nobody-tells-me-anything.  I just stumbled on this video plugging a Talton album from 2012.  WTF?  I love this guy!  Oh, well.  I know it’s available now.  Called Let’s Get Outta Here.

And just for the fun of it, here’s Tommy and band doing the Allman’s Dreams:

Tommy, you put anything else out, you better let me know.  Remember, I know where your cat lives!

Time for a little Pi….

Pi Jacobs, that is.  Goddamn, there isn’t anything I love better than a lady handling a guitar— an electric guitar!!!  Pi does just fine with it.  She has a number of albums out no one ever told me about.  There is no justice in this world, I tell you!  Dig this!

You may have to sign in to YouTube to watch this (for some reason, it is age-restricted), but it’s worth it.  From Pi’s latest EP, Hi-Rise Ranch:

That’s enough for now.  Next week, barring act of god or congress, reissue labels worth checking out!  It is going to be a fun one to write and hopefully for you to read.  But right now, let’s head over to the…..

NotesNotes…..  I cannot say enough about the talent of musician Carl Anderson, who is presently calling East Nashville home.  His new album, Risk of Loss, is as good a sophomore album as I’ve heard in some time (it bumps right up against his first album Wolftown in terms of writing, performance and production).  I’ve followed Carl since he surfaced on Carleigh Nesbit‘s Flower to the Bee album back in 2008 and followed him closely.  Wolftown, in fact, easily made it onto my Best of 2013 list.  I am sure that Risk of Loss will end up on my Best of 2015 list as well.  Just so you can hear what Carl (and, in this case, band) can do, allow me to toss this little video your way.  The dude has a touch.

And while I know Carl is going to chastise me for this, here is a live jam from his CD release party for Wolftown.  He looks at it as his past.  I look at it as one hell of a good live performance.  Forgive me, Carl.  I can’t resist.  I only wish I could have been there.

<iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/5nCjX7PkaV8&#8243; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe

Segarini has been blowing steam ever since discovering Rumer awhile back.  Maybe it is time for me to take a listen.  I just found a notification in my mailbox (I subscribed to her updates on Seg’s recommendation) that has me impressed and intrigued.  For one thing, she is touring the States.  The closest she will come to me is Portland at Mississippi Studios, pretty much a top venue to play in that city.  For another, she has released not only an album of B-sides and rarities (which you can purchase here) but a couple of projects from her earlier bands.  Here is what she said:

Rumer“In the store you will see a few of my other bands, La Honda and Stereo Venus. La Honda was my first band, when I was 19 and Stereo Venus is a collaboration between myself and my organist friend Rory More. They are both sonically different to what I normally do but they nice parts of my musical story.”

Stereo Venus.  The name alone makes me want to buy it.  But take a listen to this beauty!  After hearing it, I really want to buy it.  Retro-fantastico!

So I decide to check out what she does now and what do I find?  More excellence!  I love this lady’s voice and style.

And, just because Seg is a huge Daryl Hall freak, I’m including this.  Live at Daryl’s house…..

And because I love that song…..

See how much fun this is?

Remember…  Next week is Reissue Label Week!  I have some beauties for you via four of the best reissue labels around.

=FGJ=

Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonFrank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”

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