Another Ball of Wax is behind us, which means yet another Ball of Wax is in front of us. To wit: Volume 49, which will have no theme but be full of wonderful music. Send us some wonderful music for it, why don’t you? Have a new album out or coming out? I’m totally open to previously released or just-about-to-be-released material.
Deadline: July 15th
And hey, why not roll out two calls for submissions at once? Ball of Wax 50 (!) will be comprised entirely of songs by women or women-led projects. This does not mean that if you are a woman you should wait until Volume 50 to submit – why not both? – just that you have more options and you should please keep it in mind and spread the word. I’m co-curating this one with the wonderful Sharlese Metcalf, and I couldn’t be more excited.
Deadline: Not set in stone yet, but mid-to-late-Septemberish? Watch this space or send me an e-mail for updates.
“French Song” plays like sweet bossa nova. Perhaps Gilberto or Getz. But it harkens deeper then that to me. The delivery and style remind me of the softer quieter moments of Tom Ze. It plays like “A Felicidade” by Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes. It rambles on in a similar way. Reminiscing, philosophizing. The flute has as much to say as the vocals do. Spelunker’s Darryl Blood shows how so much can be done with so little: A guitar, finger snaps, flute and some vocals. Speaking of the vocals, so soft and subtle like a whisper. Such delivery. And after the first refrain, “ahhhh.” So expertly placed! Darryl’s execution is perfection in this song. This song soothes and sends one into a reverie. And the song exits so beautifully, with some dah dah dah recap of the melodies and some mysterious woman’s voice duoed with the singers. I cannot say enough about this song.
I love this song. North American bands don’t write songs like this. North American bands don’t use rhythms like these. North Americans don’t speak the language like this. “Disfruto Todo” gets you bobbing your head and dancing to the off beat the second the song starts out. The guitar licks sound foreign and are a welcome divergence from the typical sounds floating across the airwaves these days. And this song has layers. Loads of seamlessly well placed layers. Percussive layers, horn layers, keyboard layers. The singer’s nonchalant delivery and subtle accents tie the piece together. “Disfruto Todo” is a very catchy, wonderful addition to Ball of Wax 48. It is a song that’s been executed brilliantly!
Yas/Whetzel is the project of local Seattle producer James Whetzel and French rapper Yas. I presume “Wonder Arc en Ciel” is about a rainbow (wonder arc in the sky), though you wouldn’t guess that by the nervous, driving pace of the track. There’s a real Act II tension in the song, enhanced by Yas’s serious, more-spoken-than-rapped performance. There’s something particularly cinematic about the song, even the way the production expands and contracts, layering in drums and bass to heighten the drama then pulling back to sparse guitar and what sounds like a click track to catch a breath.
This song – whose Arabic title is pronounced “Tethekrooni,” and loosely translates as “Remember Me” – is the result of an impressive, heartfelt collaboration across generations, cultures, and the great divide between the dead and the living. The primary vocal was recorded by Moe Provencher during a conversation with her sister’s mother-in-law, Thuraya Ahmad Hasan Ghannam. “I was interviewing her about her journeys,” writes Moe, “and this song suddenly poured out of her. It’s about exile, and love, and family, and god.” Moe recorded the interview in late 2014, and Thuraya passed away in the spring of 2015. The subtle instrumentation and vocals that Moe added to flesh out the song complement the power and beauty of the original spontaneous performance beautifully – never overpowering, only supporting. I can’t express what an honor it is to have Ball of Wax be the place where people feel they can share this kind of deep, personal, experimental music. Infinite thanks to Moe, to the Ghannam family, and to everyone listening for making this possible.
Moe and friends will open up the Ball of Wax 48 release show this Saturday night – of course the original vocalist can’t be there, but I do hope they’ll find a way to bring this powerful song to our live audience. Either way, Moe’s performances are always worth showing up for. I’m glad we finally got her on a BoW.
“¿Quieres Hacer el Favor de Callarte, Por Favor?” is the Spanish title of a collection of short stories by Raymond Carver – Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? in English. Hailing from Madrid, Spain, Ju. seems to dwell in that golden realm of introspective dream pop, like the great Migala or as if the Delgados had hailed from the Iberian Peninsula. Ju.’s contribution to Ball of Wax volume 48 is melancholy, sparse and gorgeous. I don’t understand a word of the lyrics, but Bárbara Bañuelos’s vocals are beautiful and filled with wonderful sadness. Highly, highly recommended.
This is a very honest take of Rosa Balistreri’s “Buttana di To Mà.” A quick google of the title will inform you that it translates to ‘mother fucker,’ or more literally ‘whore of your mother’. This version is arguably more dramatic then even Rosa’s versions of the song. The singer, Giacomo Sferlazzo, immediately lets you in on the fact that this song is about betrayal. And the agony is ever apparent in his voice throughout. When the call went out for Ball of Wax 48 for songs in languages other then English, Sicilian was not a language which I imagined would get taken up. For us Americans whose culture is often caught up in itself, this Ball of Wax has helped to shine the spotlight away from ourselves. And with “Puttana di Tu Mà.” Katacomb Trio does so brilliantly, highlighting an island known for violence and tenderness all at the same time.
I’m not sure that German Grunge Rock was ever a bona fide genre like, say, Brazilian Psych, but it certainly seems like it should have been. Odd Couple are decidedly German and, per “Flügge,” devotees of dirty, fuzzed-out rock and roll. It starts with a chugging distorted bass vamp and layers in all sorts of overdriven guitars and squeaks before a bellowing snarl sings something angsty in German. There’s a rad little riff breakdown before a classic rock turnaround brings us to some sort of electric sitar-driven breakdown. If a song can be the aural equivalent of a tattoo of a skull with a snake slithering through its empty eye sockets, the first three-quarters of “Flügge” takes the cake. The final bit is a nice, spacey Tyrannosaurus Rex / Pretty Things interlude.
You’ll have to work out El Topo amongst yourselves.
Despite their name, Die Geister Beschwören appears to hail from greater Cascadia, from parts of Oregon and Northern California. And despite adopting a spectral name in German, their contribution to Ball of Wax 48 is in Spanish. “Cerro de la Muerte,” translating to “Hill of the Dead,” is a brief, feverish, Lynchian dream of a Mississippi blues song that serves as more interlude than fully-formed song. It’s evocative and atmospheric, like if “Dueling Banjos” from Deliverance was somehow dropped into El Topo.
See if Die Geister Beschwören can recreate their dusty magick live on June 3rd at the Ball of Wax 48 Release show at Conor Byrne.
A while back, longtime Ball of Wax contributor Ainara LeGardon told me the album she was working on was going to be sung in Spanish – a first for her. Of course I immediately suggested she send me a song from that album for this special non-English Ball of Wax, and she did me one better. Working with producer Xabier Erkizia, she created a new, unique version of a song specifically for us! I haven’t heard the album version yet, but this deconstructed arrangement for voice, oscillators, prepared guitar, and feedback is spare, dark, strange, and beautiful. And apparently this is the first time Ainara has released a song in Spanish to the world, which is an incredible honor for Ball of Wax. I don’t think the new album sounds anything like this, but as a longtime fan I am incredibly excited for it; make sure to follow Ainara so you know as soon as it’s released.