Shelder The Electric Clamfish – Notes Of A Vagabond

Album Review
Shelder The Electric Clamfish – Notes Of A Vagabond
(2016)
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Ebo Weever

E. Weever writes…

I am not merely guessing when I say that of all the musicians in the Canadian underground folk scene who are having a ridiculous amount of fun, Mayne Island native Shelder the Electric Clamfish is probably having the most.

The immaculately conceived love-child of Frank Zappa and Ellen McIlwaine, Shelder lets herself go wherever she wants. And she wants to go a lot of places. And the places are amazing. And, thanks to the miracle of recording technology, you can go too!

Formally trained on trumpet, Shelder quickly set fire to the West Coast music scene with her no-such-thing-as-too-outrageous stage antics as a member of raging carnival group Blackberry Wood. In fact, the last time I caught their act (here on the island – I don’t really get out much because I am a sheep), she didn’t seem to flinch as she leaned down from the pool table she was standing on to stretch her inflatable fun fur panties over the head of a more-than-willing audience member (or shall I call him a devotee?), all while dancing an impressive jig and maintaining a note perfect trumpet solo.

Since moving to Halifax and diving fearlessly into her solo project, Shelder has captured many audiences in her fish net stockings, wowing them with the full range of her creative expression and professional show-womanship. This includes vocal, songwriting and storytelling proficiency as well as accordion, glockenspiel and piano expertise (Shelder moonlights as a professional piano tuner, which may explain the close-up attention to detail on Notes of a Vagabond). Her live show places the audience at the centre of the action (rare these days) and is truly entertaining. In fact one never knows what to expect. Which is good because, as everybody is fully aware nowadays, expectations are the leading cause of poor digestion, spontaneous skin wandering, chronic disappointment, anal warts, mummification, pineal gland calcification and death. Check her out!

The latest offering by Shelder the Electric Clamfish – Notes of A Vagabond – is something I haven’t been able to say about an album in many many sheep years: it is an ADVENTURE. Not only are we treated to instantly classic and immediately recognizable melodies, an orchestra of deliciously off-kilter instrumentation and kegs of uplifting energy, the album also contains a treasure chest full of enjoyable and mythic travel tales, populated by pirates, sea-wenches, squirrel hunters, fisherman and other essential players in any life of movement, freedom and hard-earned survival. The album is truly a journey in a time when the word “journey” is overused and weakly defined. The listener is guided into a colorful wilderness where a life of discovery, while of course dangerous, is instantly recognized as the healing salve to the mundane, safe and predictable nooks and comfy crannies of the modern age.

Forget every folk cliche and overplayed chord progression you’ve ever been distracted by – Shelder the Electric Clamfish has just given the genre a thorough shake down and uplift (yet again) with her relentless imagination and untamed musical curiosity. Her unique brand of Deep Sea Punk Folk (Clam Punk?) is sure to crack open your mind and let in a whole lot of something this world desperately needs: unchartered FUN.

E. WEEVER CONCLUDES.

 

 

Sheet Pope

The Sheet Pope writes…

S  upernatural
H  ymns
nergizing
L  adies
D  udes and
E  veryone
R  eally

orrential
H  yper
E  lation

E  ccentric
L  yrical
E  nergy
C  ontained
T  hrough
R  itualistic
I  ncantation and
C  eremony

C  arnivalesque
L  anterns
A  ppear
M  agically
F  or
lluminating
S  pecific
H  umans
Mad Ewe

Mae Dew writes…

i herd wot it is dis wun. luck trick clamb fish coz she has magik an did yu see dat? i fot it wuz funny her said about dat canoo wich floo roun haha. imajun dat wun weeee!  hor oar storee.

did yu rully wont a marri dat fishrman? he wood be a goood catch. huh uhu. his fingrs smelly fishee.

all ov us togever on dat cold darc road. aint no litin it. keep one luv kno who she is shelter clamfis – you ar rite war yu ar, keep eesy.

did wun hear somefing? dd you play a chord yawn on dere? i luv dat. a chord yon cuz da bell ohs opin like wun big yonn mouf. sleapy leapin frog.

my lammies lik dis wun lectrik lam fish .fish fish fin. means da end.

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Three Ewes review Jade Bell and Blind Focus, “War Stained Skin”

Album Review
Jade Bell and Blind Focus – War Stained Skin
(2014)


warstainedskin

Ebo Weever

E. Weever writes…

If all art is born from some kind of limitation, what happens to art when the limitation becomes extreme?

I invite you, my deeply inspired reader, to imagine what you might create if you had known and then lost your eyesight, voice and ability to move (without losing your ability to feel – in fact feeling more deeply than ever)?  What words might pour from you?  What images?  What melodies?

One man – a recent acquaintence of we ewes – has had to answer this question more concretely than most ever will.  That man is Jade Bell of Salt Spring Island, whose music we are very excited (sound of hooves clacking) to review today.

It is true – we ewes have a certain soft and wooly spot for the artists and musicians who share our home here in BC’s Gulf Islands.  And I find no exception with Jade Bell.  In fact he has made that spot all the softer with his courageous and powerful story, which seems inseparable from the art he creates, in the same way that anything of beauty remains forever connected to whatever died giving it life.

In his adolescence Jade overdosed on a ‘speedball’ injection (heroin and cocaine) which left him blind, mute and disabled.  Since then he has made it his mission to promote creativity over drug use, delivering his message (with technological aid) to children and youth as well as establishing ‘Blind Focus’ – a collaborative group of artists/musicians who bring Jade’s music and poetry to life.

Today we give the ‘three ewes treatment’ to Jade’s new album, “War Stained Skin,” which will be released on the 28th of March at Salt Spring Islands’s ArtSpring theatre (https://www.facebook.com/events/520961934688859/).

What fresh expressions have emerged from this man’s life of coping with intense limitation?  Check it out…

The album begins with the song “Hangman” (melody and vocal performance by Ananda Sinclair), painting an image that could be said to encapsulate the paradoxical beauty and sentiment of the entire album:

With a rising sun / There walks a hangman.

In this single image we are invited to feel, simultaneously, a new beginning and a tragic ending.  Writing this review at sunrise here on the farm, I am forced to ponder how loss and gain are interconnected, how the noose, like the sun, makes a complete circle and – maybe most importantly – how my own experiences of tragedy (such as when our lambs are separated from us and then taken away on the noisy truck) might really be fruitful gateways into the total, devastatingly beautiful terrors of inevitable change and grief.

A tale not merely of warning but of hard, careful fact, “Hangman” mozies us in 3/4 time through a provocatively visual, almost cowboy-esque depiction of the lonely and “treacherous” hangman with his “ivory teeth” – that merciless and necessary figure who walks with us always, announcing his presence only when it is our turn to “hang from the sky.”

I can’t help being struck by the connection between the “noose” and Jade’s initial drug overdose, which cut oxygen to his head long enough for injury to occur.   Not to mention the direct reference, “He will hang you high.”  Indeed it seems to often be the case that we are struck down in our moments of greatest distance from the earthiness of our life’s simple ground.  Times of pride, of arrogance, of distance from the signals and messages of our body’s constant voice.

Amidst the ominous reality check is what I interpret to be the secret release within the tightening noose:

Nothing to lose / Just tie the noose
Nothing to gain / Blast off with a bang

Indeed – the precious space between gain and loss is ever-accessible and worth exploring.  I thank Jade for this hard-won reminder.

The album continues with the heartfelt pouring out of “Your Song” (performed by Jackie Doolan) all the grit and soul-flutter of Janis Joplin’s best work.

“Closer” (melody and vocal performance again by Ananda Sinclair) is a bird-like movement from the place you consider desolate (“This concrete sea”) to that place which nourishes and reminds you of your living nature.

Closer to the fire burning in the centre of me

chants the chorus, housed within a contagiously catchy melody.

The song Avalanche (melody and vocal performance by Gen Katagiri) contains one of those moments much-savoured by music lovers, when the thread of feeling spools out unimpeded over rich, emotional waters.  I’m speaking here of the chorus resolution when Gen sings the word, “tonight” with such stark conviction.

One of the more complex pieces in terms of rhythm and melody is the album’s title track, “War Stained Skin” (Ananda Sinclair) which features one of my favorite phrases on the album, “Whisky-soaked feathers.”

The song brings folk elements into a tribal, ancestral direction, imbued with ancient world lore as references to “ravens,” “witch doctors” and “grey wolf spirits” soar and weave in powerful melodic phrasing over drums that pound like thunder in a cast-iron sky.  How’s that for a metaphor!  Well done Weever…and well done Blind Focus!

The pulse and ache of a tremendous soul, under pressure of the heart’s limited number of beats comes through in the evocative, “In The Silence” (melody written and performed by Sara Brudner), which – surprise! – Jade wrote as a love song to himself (lending unexpected intimacy to lines such as,

No matter what we become
Or where we are going
I will always hear the drum
And the sound
Of your heart beating

If that isn’t beauty then Mae Dew doesn’t roll in her own dung.  (editor’s note: Mae Dew rolls in her own dung).

I am mesmerized by the broad range of style and feeling represented in Jade’s work, partially due to the variety of vocalists and collaborators featured on the album.  Each voice seems perfectly suited to its track, providing the listener with a kind of ‘landscape of characters’ to engage with.  In this sense the album plays more like the soundtrack to a fully populated musical than a typical album.  Each character bridges struggle and release through his or her own vocal pathway, making the album an exciting feast for any spirit wishing to journey farther than 43 minutes might usually allow.

The theme of ‘memory’ is evident on the record, but not in the usual sense.  Here we find particular focus on remembering, more than anything, that we belong to love.

Just remember the love that lives forever in my heart

(“Forever” – melody/performance by Gen Katagiri)

A simple (read ‘uncomplicated’) and potent invitation to recall ourselves, not in the fever-soaked alcoves of times past, but in the living sensations of this open field we call our awareness.  I could use a barn analogy here but nevermind – it would really only make sense to those of us living in barns: sheep, livestock and hobos.  Sadly, barnyard literacy rates are declining since the influx of large, corporate ‘agro-biz’ companies who have cut spending to our library programs.  But I digress, dig the rest…

Special mention to the singer of “Endlessly” (Ananda Sinclair) who brightens the rhythmic pocket so delightfully, spinning every word like a freely-twirling coin inside a slightly-larger-than-coin-shaped hole.  The percussive singing style satisfies like hooves grinding fresh mud:

Thoughts-get-stopped,
Are running coun-ter-clock-wise
To feel the con-tours
Of a love-lost-in-time so endlessly

The mix of vocals and groove on this track is just fun.  Those who like to dance nude in the forest wearing masks of former prime ministers (a custom we sheep have never fully understood but have always enjoyed) can skip directly to this track and let your haunches do the raunchin’.

If your skull suddenly opened up and outwards in the shape of a slice of pie, only to be illuminated by a swirl of turqoise and crimson light, what would you do?  You would write the song, “Night Dove” (melody/performance by Gen Katagiri).

The album closes with Paul Gill singing the melody he composed for “25th Hour” (think ‘Alice In Chains meets William Blake on a canoe trip over a 900 ft. waterfall’) followed by “Paper Balloons” (melody/vocals: Ananda) – a gentle but trembling finale that feels as it says…”Let the power of love fly free.”  A soul-swooner whose 4 minutes and 47 seconds always seem to go by far too quickly.  The piano riff alone could cycle for days without growing old – a true portal through and beyond the thread-bare fabric of time.

I have a bold assertion.   It is that this beautiful man – Jade Bell – despite or perhaps because of his hardships, has discovered a soul secret that can never be fully told, because it is endless.  It is a secret we can only glimpse and hint towards, again and again, in the sharing of our deepest pain, our most genuine warmth and our ongoing surprise and discovery: through the expression of our utter and total surrender, which could only be our Art.

Thank you Jade and all who contributed to this remarkable masterpiece, “War Stained Skin.”  May its songs be carried far, like pollen on the winds of Cascadia.

E. WEEVER CONCLUDES.

 

 

Sheet Pope

The Sheet Pope writes…

J oyful
A ppreciation
D ancing
E ternally

B ehind
E xcruciating
L ife
L imitations

 

 

Mad Ewe

Mae Dew writes…

i put it on an itz so motch food.  cud i chew dadt?  i reelly liking on dis one part song call’d “hAva lunch” is soo tazy!  ” babee you make me … la la… hAva lunch …. ”  an dressing on som deviled egg i tink dat man say its.  i can bee reelee hungry wen i listen to dis digit tail down low cd !

i wondr wich banjo is on der ?  my unkl gut hunged by iz hoof by a hangman tho his teef wer 1 mosstly yello not so much ‘ivery.’

i lik jade “beell” cuz iz allways ringang like ‘wake up an taze sumfin gross or grand you stinkie folks’ !  lik maybe sumfing tast good or may bee awful but you had bettr taze sumfinn cuz dat is wot yer tongue got for, riye?

any wase did u reed dat?  i rote dis on my babee goat not on a paper buloon lik you did on dat song mister “paper balons.”
did u pop dat?  i think itz a pop song.

an so much “bline fokus” you shud pay tension on dat name peepll cuz is somfing in dat wot halps like all tha lights wen off so now you ar fine ally get to see (cuz in da lite all this things  an shadowz taking u a way frum juss yer plain ol dark nest.  didn u tell dat tha darknest iz   ware all yer littl eggs iz hatch’d ??  ker CHUGN!  i shut bofe i balls so i cud stop seeing so much yusterday an dis tues today – wont’d to get dark an hatch em eggs !  i won der wot i sed.  hi babee gote !

Three Ewes Review Hutch: “Happy Nights & Lonely Days”

Album Review
Hutch – Happy Nights & Lonely Days
(2013)


Hutch - Happy Nights & Lonely Days

Ebo Weever

E. Weever writes…

As the sun goes down on another cloudy spring day here on the farm, I rest my freshly shorn legs in the cool grass, toss a few last crawling ants from my nose and nestle in to receive the sounds of “Happy Nights & Lonely Days” – the first offering by Victoria B.C. Canada’s up & coming band Hutch (Lucas and Jesse Henderson plus Colin Nealis).

Album Cover: A grey, desolate daytime scene atop a snow-covered mountain. Small specks of blue sky are visible through a turbulence of encroaching cloud.  One would not starve in this environment however as it becomes clear throughout the record that we are being invited to venture past our empty stomachs, into emptiness itself.

Title: “Happy Nights & Lonely Days” is a reversal of the expected, but more honestly describes the day-to-day reality many experience. Night is the time for artists, lovers and dreamers – when the invisible, vibrational cage of conventional reality opens its bars wide, letting us out into broader pastures to graze, mew, mourn and orgasm. The title describes an experience of life that can be hard to admit. Hence I already feel a sense of intimacy, of trustworthiness. And from there I agree to go along for the beautiful journey…

Themes on the album: growing old, pleas to certain females that they try and understand, depression, escape, positions of the sun as they relate to the human capacity to reflect, mourn, regret and rejoice.
The lyrical voice is one of a man who deeply yearns for his own forgiveness; the album’s journey assists the listener in completing this very task. It is a road fraught with heartache, sadness and poetic revery. Anyone who thought they were alone in their struggle to look death square in the face and sigh will find good, friendly company throughout.

“Mary Dear” conjures an unusual scene rarely witnessed: A man leaves his bar stool at closing and, instead of passing out in a ditch or heading home to shout slurred obscenities at his lawn gnomes, quietly makes for the beach just in time for sunrise and staggers – drunk but joyously broken – down the long stretch of sand. The tide foams the shore like an overflowing glass of beer and the listener is suddenly forced to consider whether there may be a kind of purity in self-destruction: a definite and deep happiness in aloneness and even in dissonance.

In “Take These Chains,” we hear banjo elegantly dancing and bouncing on the surface of the guitar, as though eve and the snake have finally learned to two-step in the river. There is a unique and elated way in which these fellows slide across their instruments, the feeling of not just fingers passing between frets but of spirits passing from one world to the next.

The song is a poignant and relevant depiction of what those with wisdom know as mankind’s deeper and typically untapped freedom: to be free of even that which seems to set one free. To set down the chains of optimism, of hope, of dreams, of safety and – maybe foremost – of past glory.

“Straight From the Tree” explores the ancient but ever-new hunch that death, or impermanence, is the mother of not just beauty, but enjoyment, love and genuine appreciation for the china-doll forms of this world.  We are treated to a delightful, memorable bass line swooping round like a carousel in 3/4 time.  No ponies or unicorns on this carousel though – just tigers.

I find myself thoroughly enjoying the double meaning of one line in particular: “cut me loose, friend” and “cut me loose friend,” the former a plea for freedom, the second a masochistic challenge (“cut me”) spoken to a shallow or “loose” friendship. The listener is here greeted with one of the deeper ongoing themes of the record – that of the pain of freedom. One is lead to consider the question, “is there such a thing as being too free?

“Between Bottles”
The title of this ‘world-weary miniature’ eludes not just to a drinking habit, but also to a moment of lucid clarity – the brief space between enactments of addiction when one may reflect with free and honest agency, from a place of sincere power.
Within this ‘holy moment’ the song’s central character intimates a paradoxical life of numb pleasure-seeking, aware of passing the days with liquor and sex as a way to escape the pain of responding genuinely to one’s own heart.
It is a haunting and honest portrayal of modern human narcissism: leeching away one’s own brief life, missing altogether the joy and deep relief that comes with choosing to live for others rather than for one’s self. As an admission of this essentially adolescent mode of being, the song delivers one of my favorite lines on the record: “maybe we’re younger than we oughta be.”

One of the more anthemic sing-a-longs on the record, “Devil Take Tomorrow” feels like a beautiful slow dive into all the things I am scared to admit I have set utterly free. Riffing on the topic of limited or ‘selective’ vision, there is an adorable surrender on this track that leaves incredible peace in its wake. Handing tomorrow over to the devil communicates to me a willingness to face the worst – to welcome more than simply what might bring comfort. Let the devil take tomorrow – and he can have that horribly bland hay our caretaker keeps dishing out as well. But not the oats. I’ll keep the oats. And some of the hay.

“Shed a Tear”
Ethereal banjo lines and junkyard-esque percussion section.
“We can see everything a new born babe can see.”  Need I say more?

“Kneel Down”
The journey takes a turn with this dreamlike piano waltz through coiled brass alleyways that would give even Leonard Cohen cause to pause and wonder what he’s forgotten in the heart-side inner pocket of his dark trench coat. Some of my favorite lines of the album appear here:
“Split your heart into fragments / float each piece out to sea / north, south, east and west / everywhere in between / that way you’ll be sure / to find me.”

The song “Woke Up” induces a feeling similar to that I imagine young human children have when they ring doorbells and then quickly dart into the bushes to hide. Only here I see, in place of children, 1930s dwarves in over-sized wetsuits or those cynical, futuristic still-life human/statue hybrids that bleed but somehow live forever – the kind you think you see in early morning shop windows when the sun hits at just the right angle and your own reflection blurs together with the mannequin’s face just behind the glass. It’s a creepy-but-elated feeling that has you looking forward to your next batch of beautiful regrets.

It’s a two step, and it’ll get you out of bed to be sure.

“Last Night’s Red Wine” is what Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright” would have been without the reassurance of his song title’s last two words. Instead of consoling ourselves with “it’s all good” affirmations, we are to “man up” and face the inevitability of total loss and what can seem like the ‘infinitely all-wrongness’ of life in modern times. One of my favorite things about Lucas’ writing is that he challenges the listener not to cheer up. To be sad – to feel the low: to let life hurt. A rare message in a culture where almost every human attempts to squish herself into the giant sling that will suspend her just out of reach of the croc’s jaws, but which hangs from a branch ready to snap.

“In the City” is a farewell to the ‘obvious pleasure’ of modernity, an embrace of “deep caves,” “dark forests” and places undiscovered. The singer is clearly more at home once the sun goes down and all is dark and hidden but for lamp light.
I am reminded of a ewe we once had here on the farm who spent her days in the barn and her nights outside grazing. We thought she may have been undead, or at least a kind of vampire. But it turned out she was simply a clandestine vandal who spent her daylight hours in the barn’s wooden stalls carving out socio-political images that cast clever commentary on the inequalities and injustices of the post-Kantian fascist world order. We knew her as ‘Sheepsy,’ but she later escaped to London where she became known as ‘Baa Baa Baanksy.’ I wish this were just a bad joke.

As the album nears its close we are treated with some gorgeous slide guitar as well as some Doors-like organ play. Set that beneath a journey to a Mexican town, grave-dig-dating and some unapologetic commitment to aimless travel and we have Hutch’s “Coldest Part of Town.” As one of many tracks on the album that clock in around the 3 minute mark in length, the song contributes to the ‘travel vignette’ feel of the offering, the listener being ushered on a journey of brief encounters mixed with deep sorrows and satisfying ‘coming to terms’ type redemptions.

“Tonight”
The last song on the album, “Tonight” starts by calling out the hidden desires of a would-be love. In honest fashion, the singer owns up to what a hard-luck man might still have to offer a lady of the world – an allowance and even welcoming of all her fear and suffering. A woman far too disillusioned to bother with the club scene or ‘plenty-o-fish’ may find solace in this catch: a man with equal yearning to disappear inside the delightful heart of sadness.
With characteristic simplicity, poignancy and empathy, the song contains what is probably my favorite line on the record: “I only care about what’s really there.”

Well done Hutch – a real treasure for all those who are too world-wise to bother with treasure hunting. The album finishes and I am left sitting in the paradoxically deep silence that headphone cushions provide once the music has ceased. As the album reverberates through memory I give pause for one final reflection.

Despite a familiar central lineup of guitar, banjo, upright bass and drum kit, one should not make the mistake of categorizing Hutch’s music as “traditional.” Though evidently inspired by old timey folk songs, durges and spirituals, Hutch successfully emerges from this cage wielding original songs that brim with life and lyrical colour all their own. Many surprises, insights and breakthroughs await the listener who takes the time to enjoy “Happy Nights & Lonely Days.”

E. WEEVER CONCLUDES.

 

 

 

Sheet Pope

The Sheet Pope writes…

H usky
U ntamed
T ragic
C ompassionate
H appening

 

 

 

Mad Ewe

Mae Dew writes…

i untucked a napkin that i wrot it on. a hutch is a animal box what has mesh for rabbits i think. i woner who let it out ? an making music but sortuv like real hard times rabbid music i thot cuz may be in that hutch wishin an hoping.  i thot its also has one tall guy placing strings and may be bass i saw him hes with curly hair an the music curls in on you too evry which way.

i think its a rabbit wot places guitar and i heard that guy plaCE drums i wonder if its a snare snares can trap rabbitts too.

did you start that song? i liked it and when pianos came i thot a tugboats. thanks for some tugboats too.

i like the sing ‘stars on rout again stars a rout again’ cause no wun ever thinks on stars an what rout they may take twards findin you in tha dark ? an im prey sure he songs it twice on row so that is clever right. did u record dat album?

i thot i am going to write dat view tomorrow but devil takes tomorro an so here i spose let the angel have today and thar you go what doo ya know 1