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Professor P's Rhythm & Soul Revue 72

I Was Out In The Club One Night…

Professor P.’s Rhythm and Soul Revue

The Professor relaxes and dances to the beat and tempo of new works by Noth, Karwendel, Robert Finley, Brent Cobb and The Allergies.

It was last fall when Professor P sought refuge from the cold winds. A chilly gust drove many a person wandering among piles of foliage into an establishment where later that evening, warming sounds would waft through the rafters. In the meantime, however, a seemingly twelve-year-old pop prodigy from Kazakhstan or Finland, I forget which one, was howling weird oddities to beats from the laptop in the converted attic of the building that’s otherwise characterized by labyrinthine architecture. Well, apparently, representatives of the Generation Zed, having just about moved past the baby fat stage by now, consider this kind of stuff to be musical heavyweights. The Professor, on the other hand, was almost crushed by the weight of the question mark above his own head while listening to this Finnish/Kazakhstani avant-garde plang. With one foot already back in the weather, I was then caught up in friendly clouds of sound, so that I was back on the concert floor within a zeptosecond*. A duo was now playing here that, for self-expression on stage or in the studio, likes to transform itself into a sex-, sep- or octet as required. More on that in a moment. In any case, today I would like to devote myself to German indie pop and local singer-songwriter lyrics, i.e. the little man’ Soul Music, a genre which I otherwise tend to neglect for certain reasons. As I said, it was cold, the heart needed warmth. It still does. It always does, to be honest, I don’t know about you. In any case, the band Noth, which I’m about to tell you about, make the right music for this purpose. It is distributed by a small Hamburg label, Backseat is the name. Incidentally, its founder also writes some very fine songs himself – it is here, on paper, the vinyl of the communication world, that I give a shout out to Mr. Król. He also brings these songs to life with melancholic metaphors via his band Karwendel, which flies way below the mainstream radar, which makes me succumb to temptation, throw parity to the wind and make room for two new works from Backseat here. Please hold the line.

*Extra service for amateur mathematicians and part-time researchers: A zeptosecond is one trillionth of a billionth of a second. A particle of light, for example, needs 247 zeptoseconds to pass through a hydrogen molecule. In other words, considerably longer than it took the Professor to walk from the exit of the music club back to the stage where the band Noth started their concert.

Noth – Lieder vom Verschwinden

Professor P's Rhythm & Soul Revue 72

Is this pop? Punk? New poetic territory? The Professor is confused, as he usually walks away the moment artists appear to fall anywhere close to the category “singer/songwriter”. This may sound schizophrenic coming from someone who rushes to every Bob Dylan concert within range of a quick 12-hour flight. But the self-absorbed, affectionate and three octaves higher than necessary susurrations of bearded acoustic guitarists or pre-twenty TikTok influencers who think that their B- in music education plus three chords plus half-baked text metaphors automatically result in something that the world should be expected to listen to – that’s not my cup of tea. Well, Noth is different. And the Professor is not a songwriter fascist who couldn’t let go of his self-righteous principles, at least temporarily. The band essentially consists of two musicians, Luis Schwamm from Cologne and Linus Kleinlosens from Hamburg. They met in lockdown, and because there was nothing else to do, they formed a band in 2020, called together a bassist, drummer, violinist and some horn players during the first lockdowns and released their debut Die Wahrheit über Arndt (‘The Truth about Arndt’) on Backseat in 2022. A – I quote a beautiful description from the depths of the internet – “storytelling concept album straddling the line between psychotic office operetta and acoustic road novel”. It was fun, and so they returned to the studio immediately afterwards. At the end of 2023, the second album, Lieder vom Verschwinden (Songs of Disappearing), was released, the first public performance of which the Professor was able to experience in the roof truss of the music club mentioned above as part of the Reeperbahn Festival. A wonderful album, forgive the worn-out adjective, I can’t think of anything more fitting. Pop, poetry and punk fragments in a balance that is not only alliterative but also stylistically well-balanced. A few personal-professional impressions: “Alles ist vergänglich” (‘Everything is Fleeting’) (brisk rhythm with fast vocals, catchy melody in the chorus, driven by saxophone and trumpet; good lyrics like this almost endless song line: “The North German clouds, the road surface, the temporary rent, the nail in the coffin, the fine arts, the rust on the hood, the pins in the pin board, the green on the arbor, a cynical fortune cookie, the ice cream as a reward – everything is fleeting … “), “Kleines Lied” (‘Little Song’) (sparse drumbeat, delicate acoustic guitar, backed by a softly tuned electric bass and a sleepy voice – that’s all it takes to express the astonishment of a surprising feeling of happiness in the familiar grind of everyday life) and “Große Gefühle” (‘Great Feelings’)(rock thingy between Deichkind oomph, Rio Reiser German punk and subtle free jazz borrowings). And the grandiose “Mitnehmkiste” (‘Take-Away Box’)(melancholy miniature with a delicate flute, in which a two-and-a-half-minute pop song is hidden).

Label: Backseat
Format: LP, DL 24/44

Karwendel – Geteiltes Herz

Professor P's Rhythm & Soul Revue 72

Noth ended with the flute, Karwendel continues with the clarinet. Sebastian Król, co-founder of the artist agency and record label Backseat, took the liberty of recording his own EP last year in between all his support commitments for other artists (already discussed here on these pages from the Backseat portfolio: the Norwegian minimalist funk big band Fieh, the Australian folk rock trio Sons Of The East and the musician Ian Fisher, who escaped from the USA). Six songs, friends, that will give you a little unplanned melancholy rush. Delicate melodies, austere instrumental arrangements and profound lyrics … As the Professor was enjoying a quiet hour with the work Geteiltes Herz (Split Heart), a little daughter, otherwise traveling the infinite expanses of the parallel universe called puberty, leaned in from the neighboring room and whispered the unfathomable cascade of words: “What is that? Sounds beautiful.” Well, anyway, lying on the sofa, I dreamed myself into the strangest spheres. As a seven-piece band, Król and his musical comrades-in-arms recorded it all live in the studio, somewhere between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea in a village called Galmsbüll, after the songs had previously been composed in a one-man retreat in a hut in the Tyrolean Karwendel mountains (hence the name of the band). Van Morrison influenced him, the artist writes, and this is obviously not in terms of blues pipes or conspiracy theories, but in terms of “the open form” of the sound design. Folk and jazz elements dance all around gentle poetic soul in wide landscapes, so that the resulting creation doesn’t actually sound low-key depressive, but rather familiar and comforting. Reduced rhythms, the trinity of the sparsest instrumentation of piano, bass and drums, a cautious acoustic guitar, a touch of Elliott Smith, the sparse clarinet: The Professor recommends taking your time for Geteiltes Herz and giving yourself over completely to associative feeling, a tried and tested discipline of self-healing that I have just invented.

The EP has so far only been released digitally and is available on the usual streaming and download portals. A full album with four more songs will be released in the middle of the year, then also on CD.

Label: Backseat
Format: digital

Robert Finley – Black Bayou

Professor P's Rhythm & Soul Revue 72

I’m writing these lines on January 5, Anno Domino-Vanilla-Waffle-Ice-Cream-With-Chocolate-Icing 2024, and I can already state with conviction: this is the Professor’s album of the year (even though it was released in the waning days of 2023). Robert Finley may still be familiar to the most attentive readers, I already introduced the soul funk blues grandfather who appeared out of nowhere in issue 38 of your favorite soul & funk compendium FIDELITY. Since then, however, a lot of water has flowed down the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico and a lot has happened. After Dan Auerbach, known from the congenial rumbling blues duo and now multi-headed multipurpose venue phenomenon Black Keys, produced Robert Finley’s second album, Goin’ Platinum, the latter then took an extra round on the stage of America’s Got Talent and, surrounded by the usual casting show crowd, sensationally advanced to the semi-finals in a black leather suit, bright red stage shirt and an expansive cowboy hat in Extra Large as well as with self-composed soul hits. As a result, Finley was awarded two city keys from his home state of Louisiana, in his birthplace of Bernice and in his current adopted home of Winnsboro, where a new public holiday was also introduced, “Robert Finley Fun Day” on August 10. How the former helicopter mechanic and carpenter, who went blind in old age due to glaucoma and became a musician through third-chance education, alternates between blues bass and soul falsetto, singing postmodern gospel grooves and repeating short stories surrounded by funk (“I was out in the club one night…”) on his fourth album – friends, we can still experience that. Black Bayou is once again produced by Auerbach, and this time Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney is also on board. In addition, guitarist Kenny Brown, the same age as Robert Finley at 70 years old, and a legend in the North Mississippi Hill County, where Brown roamed the juke joints for decades alongside R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, celebrating the blending of soul and blues as groove-heavy “Hill Country Blues” and “Hypnotic Boogie” characterized by just a few chord changes. Well, I could go on for hours … but I’ve run out of space. Listen to Black Bayou, an insane work between fat seventies retro soul, sparse delta funk and subtle punk rock aesthetics. Listen!

Label: Easy Eye Sound
Format: CD, LP, DL 24/48

Brent Cobb – Southern Star

Professor P's Rhythm & Soul Revue 72

Never trust the first song! That’s one of the life lessons the Professor has taken with him from the 95 years of the first half of his life. Southern Star, Brent Cobb’s sixth studio album, gets off to an extremely relaxed start with the title track. Somewhere between a moderate Kenny Rogers sound and rippling Jack Johnson nonchalance. You drift off discreetly into the nirvana of incoherent streams of thought, especially as song number two on the record, “It’s A Start”, then comes shuffling out of the speakers in an almost even more deeply relaxed manner. But, watch out! This is followed by “Livin’ The Dream”, a mix of the Professor’s favorite styles of New Orleans funk, Tulsa groove and Memphis soul, plus subtle gospel rap vocals reminiscent of the postmodern blues groove of the Philadelphia band G. Love and Special Sauce. And shortly afterwards: “Devil Ain’t Done”, a rare testimony to the actually non-existent genre of country funk, oscillating between Americana atmo, Memphis funk and Mississippi harmonica. So, to sum up: Brent Cobb, in his late thirties from the southern state of Georgia with a decade of Nashville in his bones and representative of the so-called blue collar country music style, in which southern soul is mixed with western American western fragments and old-school bluegrass bits, is a good man.

Label: Ol’ Buddy Records/Thirty Tigers
Format: CD, LP, DL 24/96


The Allergies – Tear The Place Up

Professor P's Rhythm & Soul Revue 72

A freshly sampled soul shouter’s voice, funky grooves from the secret can, eighties vinyl scratch sounds, brass crescendo, and then Andy Cooper, once front rapper of the nineties legend Ugly Ducking from Los Angeles, announces on the microphone: “Let’s start the show!” Yes, that’s how it can start, and that’s how it does start on Tear The Place Up, the sixth album in seven years by British sample artists Rackabeat and DJ Moneyshot aka The Allergies. “Green Light Go!” is the opening of a colossal dance party. Electrifying electro beats, blues samples, soul fragments – it sounds as if a lost record project from the late phase of the Beastie Boys has been discovered and marinated overnight in Tabasco and turkey gravy. The duo hail from Bristol in southern England and have been touring the globe for years as a hip-hop DJ project with an extensive vinyl collection in their luggage. In the process, they have discovered that they can also compose some scorching hot shit themselves, in this case an absolutely magical blend of shaft soul, seventies funk and electro house blues. Listen to “Mash Up The Sound” (driving jazz trumpet competing with disco-funk guitar, sounds like Miles Davis lost on the dance floor of Saturday Night Fever), “Hypnotise” (dance number with samples from Afrobeat legend Dele Sosimi) and “Sometimes I Wonder” (widescreen soundtrack for not-yet-shot  Tarantino flicks with dominant drums, blues samples and well-placed Wurlitzer organ).

Label: Jalapeno Records
Format: CD, LP, DL 16/44

The stated retail price of the reviewed device is valid as of the time of the review and is subject to change.