Thursday, December 26, 2013

Live Reviews: Maya Vik + Scott Walker Tribute

Never underestimate the power of a well-placed press release and complimentary early-evening showcase. When a flyer for Maya Vik wedged its way into the multitude of daily emails received, the sultry image it contained was enough to spark further investigation. One listen (and view) of the video “On It (Kapow!)” convincingly made attendance at this late November event a must do.

Inspired to learn about an artist who was previously a mystery, all efforts were made to scour back catalogues and press history.

Maya as she appeared on stage for the November 20 show at Pianos

Two solo albums had previously been released. 2011’s “Chateau Faux-Coupe” and 2012’s “Bummer Gun.” Both present outstanding collections of driving funk-fueled tracks benefitting from the impressive production and songwriting team of Maya, Basmo Family and Morgan Phalen.

Check out the wonderful “On It (Kapow!)


The live show was just as impressive, and possibly even more so. Maya sings in soft and sensual tones while throttling her bass in true slap-funk style. Filling out her band (and also playing on her records) were virtuoso keyboardist/backing vocalist Haakon-Marius Pettersen and drummer Marius Simonsen. All three of them play at an extremely high skill level that is both passionate and intense.  While her overall sound echoes the late 80's and early 90's work that Minneapolis deity Prince produced, Maya's unique perspective transforms it into something entirely new.

With everything driven along and centered around her dynamic bass playing, keyboardist Pettersen fired off frequent solos that could have easily fit in a prog, fusion or jazz ensemble.

Simonsen's drumming was certainly equal to the task, locking in solidly with Maya's bass, clicktrack timekeeping and quick burst fills.

Prior to the performance, I conducted a spirited face-to-face interview with Maya, who answered every questions with enthusiasm, charm and grace.

Q: You live in Brooklyn now. How is this experience for you?

 A: It’s really great. I’ve been back and forth a lot when I need to do shows and visit, and I love doing both. But living in New York and Brooklyn is a lot of inspiration. We did a New York tour in April, including a residency here at Pianos for a month and a half. Then there were also our CMJ shows here, so I feel like this venue is a second home.

 Q: Do you see yourself as a funk and soul musician?

 A: A funk musician, yes. More towards the funk and R&B side as opposed to what would be called indie music.

 Q: Were you as influenced by the movie “Purple Rain” as one might assume?

 A: I grew up listening to Janet Jackson and Prince and all those bands coming out of that era. So for me it was very natural to make music inspired by what I like to listen to. Without trying to directly copy anything, it’s the sound I love the most.

Q: When you were playing with your first band back in Oslo – Montee, was it of a similar sound as to what you are doing now?

 A: Not really. It was more of a dance/pop sound along the line of Daft Punk.

 Q: In general, do you like electronic music with extended instrumental sections?

 A: I prefer vocal music more. Especially since I started to sing just two years ago.

 Q: You’ve been an out front vocalist for only two years?

 A: Yes. I don’t even call myself a singer, but rather a bass player who also sings. In Montee I didn’t really do any singing at all. Just a bit of background vocals. My purpose there was to play the bass.

Q: Then how did things develop to the point where you are now a lead vocalist?

 A: It started off very casually. Over glasses of wine I agreed with those asking me to do it. It just kind of evolved, but ultimately ended up pretty good. When we made the first album there wasn’t any definite plan or goal to move in this direction. I didn’t really want to play live shows right away as a solo artist. As things progressed, I began to realize that perhaps I could do something like this. There was a feeling of relief in becoming aware of this. I had always been in a band situation from the very beginning, so it was kind of nice to now be in this position.

Q: What exactly is a “bummer gun?”

 A: If you are having a bad day or someone is being mean, you just bring out your bummer gun and you shoot it at them.

 Q: Ah. I see. So it actually is a device that produces good results from bad ones.

 A: Yes, either the trouble is turned into something good, or the bad thing just disappears. It’s about doing good for yourself, because the ‘bummer’ is personal to you, and may not be bothering anyone else.

 Q: Did you come up with this idea? Coin that phrase?

 A: We wrote that song with a guy named Morgan Phalen who co-wrote a lot of songs on the second album. He basically moved into the studio with us and we wrote the second album. He’s a funny guy who comes up with a lot of interesting word combinations. We like things that sound cool, but have an actual meaning as well.

Q: Is there sometimes too much literal analysis placed on song lyrics?

 A: I think at times, yes. Growing up not speaking English, my focus was on how the words were pronounced and the overall sound of them, rather than their actual meaning.

 Q: I’ve discovered over the years that many artists write this way. Words that might not necessarily have a specific story behind them are fit to a melody. Oftentimes the listener then projects their own feelings on imagery that leaves much to the imagination.

 A: It’s true. Sometimes I find meaning in the songs I’ve written after it’s completed. This comes from being in one particular state of mind while you are composing it. Then listening back to it a couple of months later, you become more aware of what you were feeling at that time.

The artist and writer share a moment post-interview.

Maya has released a new EP titled "Lay Low" that not only features her own wonderful vocal performance, but collaborations with a number of guest vocalists as well.

Listen to her dreamy ambient take, that features rattlesnake ticketty high-hat and muted thudding percussion, angelic vocals and an overall spaciousness punctuated by enveloping synth pulses.

Find out anything else you would like to know about Maya via these links:

* * * * *

Now in his early 70’s, Scott Walker has risen to a near mythical status. Originally emerging on pop music’s landscape in the mid 1960’s with The Walker Brothers, their massive hit “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” shares the same epic qualities as anything Phil Spector ever made.

After leaving the group, Scott recorded four extraordinary solo albums, known simply as Scott, Scott 2, Scott 3 and Scott 4, in the space of three years. He has continued to study many forms of music throughout his life, including intense study of contemporary and classical music and Gregorian chant. He has distinguished himself as a composer, arranger and producer.

On November 26 a digital album "Songs from Montague Terrace (A Tribute To Scott Walker)" was released, featuring many wonderful performances from a variety of noteworthy artists. Sondre Lerche and his psyched-out take on “The Plague,” Coves wonderfully dreamy rendition of “Dutchess,” along with eight more inspired contributions. Another stand-out track is James Levy’s brilliant deep-voiced retelling of “It’s Raining Today,” which not only emulates Walker’s vocal style, but points towards his likely influence on Brendan Perry of Dead Can Dance, Richard Hawley and David Bowie.

You can listen to all the tracks on it streaming here

On December 1 a live concert album release party celebrating those songs was held at New York City’s Le Poisson Rouge.

Both the album and live show were produced by All Souls Music, the nom de plume of promoter (and musician) William Dirickx-Jones.

In addition to the all star cast of local and international performers contributing their voices to this show, a live string section was conducted by classical violinist/orchestrator Gillian Rivers.

Opening the show was Satomi Matsuzaki of Deerhoof, who's distinctive voice immediately set the tone for each sincere and heartfelt performance to follow.

Julia Haltigan appeared early in the night, much to the delight of many in attendance.

No stranger to this blog, Julia's talent and charms have been previously chronicled here

Adam Green (of Moldy Peaches fame) followed, adding a jaunty, lighthearted touch of class to the proceedings.

His performance was animated and energetic, providing an element that was particularly appreciated by the audience.

A notable appearance was made by chanteuse, lyricist, painter, and multimedia artist Little Annie.
There were more than a few solemn moments throughout the night, and this certainly qualified as one.

Eytan Oren brought things back to a somewhat amusing level with the way he went about his performance.

Reading the lyrics from his cell phone, I couldn't help think back to the time I saw Richard Hell do a show at CBGB's reading from a handwritten pad he had in front of him.  Technological advances on this similar issue aside, Eytan's vocal rendition was a good as everything else he's done with his own band.

The duo known as Ex Cops turned in a beautiful rendition of Scott's wistful ode to the city of "Copenhagen."

Gillian's lush string arrangement and Will's gentle piano work provided the perfect accompaniment for Brian and Amalie.

Earlier this year an extensive interview and analysis was conducted with Ex Cops for The Deli Magazine, with expanded coverage here at this blog.

One of the bigger names of the night provided valuable assistance with overall show coordination.

Not only did Nicole Atkins sing brilliantly (as one would expect) but also contributed amusing banter and introduced many of the acts.

Her particular talents have been chronicled here on this blog many times, most recently here.

Invisible Familiars is fronted by Jared Samuels, a noted live and session multi-instrumentalist.

Joining Jared to lend their voices to his performance were none other than Cibo Matto and Sean Lennon.  This provided an unexpected level of charged electricity to the overall proceedings.

Things rose to an even more dynamic level when South African born composer Ella Joyce Buckley and her band delivered a thrilling avant-garde rendition of "Farmer in the City."

With the most dramatic lighting of the evening, Ella and her band took one of Scott's most experimental compositions into a uniquely psyched-out direction.

Many in the audience appeared mesmerized by the sights and sounds.

Visually there were moments that shared similarities with classic New York psych-rockers like A Place To Bury Strangers.

The whole experience was thrilling and much respect has to be given for this grand performance.

Find out more about this artist here.

For the nights final performance, string conductor and orchestra leader Gillian Rivers stepped out front to sing as Will provided piano accompaniment.

As it turns out Gillian is more than instrumental arrangements, and has a quite lovely voice.

So we can certainly add that to a resume that includes classical violinist, string arranger, in-demand live and studio session artist that has collaborated with Sonic Boom, MGMT, TV on the Radio, The Wordless Music Orchestra, Sigur ros, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Nicole Atkins and The Pierces.

Gillian and this reporter during the evening festivities

Find out more about Gillian Rivers here.

An initial preview of this show was originally published here.


Misty said...

excellent interview with Maya! I like the intimate flow to the conversation, yet it still informs. the Scott Walker tribute show coverage is rather epic too. lots to digest here.

DaveCromwell said...

Great to hear you say that, Misty. My interview style IS very conversational. You should see what I leave out! (Mostly my long-winded questions ;-) )
Glad to hear you like the Scott Walker live show feature too. There was a lot to cover!

Anonymous said...

I quite like the Maya On It (Kapow!) song!

The Midnite Rambler said...

Very nice Dave -thanks. Lots to digest indeed. You sure get around!

DaveCromwell said...

"On It (Kapow!)" is an awesome song, Anouk! Midnite Rambler, as much as it seems like I (as you say) "get around" - I feel like I miss so much. The truth is - you just can't go to everything. But I went to both of these events because I thought they were important.

Mr Smork said...


nice feature.
even though maya reminds me more of mixture of madonna and kylie minogue, now i know that this isn't true. means i got poor musical education. :)

and i was enjoying the interview as well. as for only singing for two year - she kicks-ass!

also enjoying to see what other musicians was on stage that night, and i assume you know my favorites. :)

...oh! almost forgot - sweet arm-charm, man. ;)

DaveCromwell said...

I can see a visual similarity between Maya, Madonna and Kylie. They are all blonde and pretty. Maya is actually a bit taller than those other two. In fact, she's closer to Sophie Ellis Bextor in that regard. The music is completely different, however. Glad to hear you liked the interview, Mr. Smork.

As for the others that I know you like - well, Nicole Atkins seems to be frequently on your playlist.

Patricia Mena said...

Great interview Dave! Maya is a very nice singer, reminds me Kylie too. I really like Kapow song! :D

DaveCromwell said...

That song is so catchy, Paty. It really sticks in your head! She has a lot of great tracks.

Mirror said...

Jared Samuel wrote: Nice one, Will. thanks for the kind words, Dave Cromwell!

William said...

Sweet blog Croms! Maya sounds like a fun time - that Scott Walker show sounds like it was pretty awesome- that Will guy must be pretty cool!

DaveCromwell said...

Ha, ha. Yeah, I hear that Will fellow is talented - but what an egomaniac! ;-)

Thanks for reading and enjoying the feature, Jared Samuel. Your performance was excellent!

Mirror said...

Steve Goodman wrote: How cool is it to see Will get Cromwelled! I think you captured the high points of the Scott Walker event quite nicely, and the first part is also a good read.!/pages/DaveCromwellWrites/177473145600932

DaveCromwell said...

It's been a long time coming for Will to get Cromwelled, Steve. Him putting out this record and having that event made certain it would happen! Glad to hear you enjoyed both parts of this feature.

Ivanka said...

ah this is cool!!! She's pretty awesome!! Can't really say it's my sound but still it's pretty cool!

NYCDreamin said...

I agree about the interview style you have developed Dave - your line of questioning always seem to pull great answers and opinions from the artists you interview making for interesting and very "real" reading. Do you film your interviews or just digital audio record and then transcribe them? Looking forward to your Patti Smith live review some time soon!

The Grim Reefer said...

It takes a lot to drag me from football on a Sunday Afternoon in December, but you did it here my Friend. I'm intrigued by Maya and will certainly explore her oeuvre further.