Soundtracks of My Life
‘I thought I was into world music but I’m just floating on a rubber mattress in the shallows. What an overflowing cornucopia of stories and unheard-of musical styles you have produced. Absolutely awe-inspiring - your musical knowledge, adventures, friendships, and writing ability. Like the previous two books, Soundtracks of my Life deserves heaps of attention and appreciation, so may the Goddesses let it be so. I am gob-smacked… and actually so envious.’
‘Your trilogy is stunning, amazing, confronting, inspiring, so loving, caring and supportive towards indigenous cultures. I feel I know you now almost more than any of my close friends. Your episodes of sheer resilience, fierce individualism, illuminated obstinacy to live, love and play will always be in my heart.’
Dancing with the Bones
‘Dancing with the Bones is a memoir of the very best sort, a record of a life well lived, consciously, with wry intelligence and insight. Carl writes with lyric sensitivity of the minutiae of family life and his ancestry. It is also a love story, bridging family, the camaraderie of musicians, an unquenchable thirst for adventure and his inevitable meeting with the beautiful Parissa Bouas, musical collaborator and wife. I barely drew breath while reading these pages, so exotic was the imagery and intense the adventure. Yet again, as in Tarab, I marvelled at the fact that he is alive to tell the tale. Of course, there is so much more to the narrative. You must read it for yourself. It is funny, it’s moving, it’s breathtaking, it’s tender. I dare you not to love it.’
Jeni Caffin - ex-director Byron Writers Festival. Byron Bay Echo
Before Twilight Turns to Night
Andy Jans-Brown, musician and film director
‘Carl puts the ‘u’ in to human’ - Andrew Clermont, bluegrass star
Rocktimes, Wolfgang Giese
'Craftsmanship is mastery' is a definition under which the name of Carl Cleves undoubtedly belongs and this sixth solo album is an affirmative proof of this.
Rootstime, Freddy Celis
REVIEW: Audiophile Audition May 28, 2012
Carl Cleves – The House Is Empty – Vitamin Records, 46:03 ****
Carl Cleves has followed an unusual path to a musical career. Born in Belgium, the singer/songwriter migrated to London in the mid-sixties. There he performed in the club scene along with future stars like Paul Simon, Bert Jansch, Al Stewart and C. Frank. Being a bona fide troubadour, Cleves has spent many years traveling the globe (Africa, Middle East, Orient, Pacific Region and South America) and incorporating the diversity of global cultures. He founded The Hottentots with his wife Parissa Bouas in 1991, recording several albums. In 2010, Cleves and Bouas released Out Of Australia on German label Stockfisch Records, produced by Gunter Pauler. The blend of complex, rhythmic structures and travelogue narrative (inspired by his many experiences) garnered critical acclaim.
The House Is Empty, the latest project is an intimate collection of musical sketches. Primarily comprised of voice and guitar with subtle instrumental touches, eleven original compositions and one cover embrace the spirit of this unique singer/songwriter. The opening title track explores the melancholy nature of love (“…If we can’t fly together, let me fly on my own…”). Cleves’ voice is unusual, somewhat like Scottish singer Donovan. Laying down some bluesy folk strumming, he tells a simple tale. The addition of a violin (Cye Wood) and Flugelhorn (John Hoffman) provide suppleness. The final vocal chant with Parissa Bouas and Leigh Carriage is jazzy fun. A weary sense of loss imbues the melancholy “Leaving Byron Bay”. Michael Hollander adds texture on a variety of instruments while Bouas and Carriage engage in an ethereal chorus. Emotional ruminations permeate domesticity on “Lost In Leipzig”. The overall sound has an eerie gypsy quality with unison singing and nuanced play on bandoneon (Marc Constandse) and banjo-bass (Hollander).
Cleves has a distinct feel for traditional folk music. In “Dear Melanie” sentimental context (almost reminiscent of Irish songs) brings a sense of loss. There are many deeply introspective cuts that are personal. “House Of Sorrow” is effective with mere voice and guitar. The refrain “If my tears were dollar bills, I’d own a castle on the hill” is compelling, but wistful. Cleves takes a somber turn on “Prince Of Darkness”, but seeks redemption (“Who can heal you if you don’t want to heal yourself?”). The final song of the album is a haunting version of Jacques Brel’s “La Chanson Des Vieux Amants”.
Carl Cleves is a real troubadour. His musical narratives encompass the complicated themes of global travel and cultural interaction. For those unfamiliar with this artist, The House Is Empty is a succinct introduction.
TrackList: The House Is Empty; Gone Are The Days; Leaving Byron Bay; Lost In Leipzig; Way Down In The Mines; Dear Melanie; When The Going Gets Tough; House Of Sorrow; Martha Please; Prince Of Darkness; Lesson To me; La Chanson des Vieux Amants — Robbie Gerson
REVIEW: Alternative Music Press
Ben Kettlewell - Alternative Music Press
Carl Cleves "The House is Empty"
Vitamin; 2012 www.carlcleves.com
He combines some excellent folk moves with a touch of the blues and even a bit of Jacques Brel (not too hard to detect that as he covers “La Chanson des vieux amants” superbly with a spacey psychedelic tone). “Lost in Leipzig” starts like a nice finger style folk song but adds great lounge elements and some haunting backing vocals. “Way Down in the Mines” starts off the same way but instead stays steady on course as a great folk song like something you would hear from Wizz Jones or Pierre Bensusan. A majority of the songs have this basic acoustic guitar and voice folk formula worked to near perfection.
This is a refreshing folk album with enough variety to appeal to those seeking some creative arrangements, while providing some original high quality folk music. I am so happy to have discovered this ‘missing link’ to the classic UK folk scene from the 1960s. Folkworld readers should read his biography at his website and take in some of this excellent music.
© David Hintz Folkworld
The Byron Shire Echo, September 2012
THE HOUSE IS EMPTY BUT THE HEART IS FULL
WORLD MUSICIAN, CONTEMPORARY OF PAUL SIMON AND ONE HALF OF THE HOTTENTOTS, CARL CLEVES, HAS CREATED A VERY SPECIAL NEW ALBUM ENTITLED THE HOUSE IS EMPTY. HE SPOKE WITH THE ECHO ABOUT HIS UPCOMING LAUNCH
What inspired you to create The House is Empty?
How would you describe the genre of this album and the songs contained within?
What is to you the essence of a great song?
When you are crafting your music, what are the traps or obstacles that you try and avoid?
Do you recognise a great song when you write it, or does that come in the playing?
Who are the people who have influenced you the most on your creative path?
You are such a traveller as well...how does this reflect in your songwriting and storytelling?
What should we expect from your Byron show?
Review by Mandy Nolan
SMH Jan 7-8 Jan 2012
In his latest manifestation, he describes himself and vocalist Parissa bouas as “Australia’s definitive coffee house couple”, which is much better than the usual genres of “folk duo” or singer-songwriters”. The problem is that Cleves and Bouas’s music is genuinely genre-busting. Sure, it is crafted out of folk-roots but somehow Bouas’s vocals, which are sweet, rich and soaring, actually reach beyond the usual folk styles.
This is one album worth owning simply because there are a number of amazing songs. The Bethlehem Bell Ringer is a powerful political cry for some kind of humanity and sanity to return to the violence between Israel and Palestine. Set against the killing of a Christian bellringer in Bethlehem (true story), this song has the resonant chorus, “Oh Jesus, please help Palestine? Turn all that blood back into wine”.
No less powerful is Cleves’s stark account of the Coniston Massacre, the last mayor aboriginal massacre in the Northern Territory, and his melancholy story about black goldminers in south Africa, Way Down in the Mines. This is an original variation on folk and world music.
Carl Cleves & Parissa Bouas – Out Of Australia – Stockfisch
Parissa Bouas – vocals, guitar, shruti box, percussion, cachichi; Carl Cleves – vocals, guitar; Lea Morris – backing vocals; Peter Funk – dobro, guitar; Dominik Jung – guitar; Lucile Chaubard – violoncello; Christian Struck – cor anglais; Beo Brockhausen – tambura, jew’s harp, swarmandal, mbira, hulusi; Lars Hansen – fretless bass, electric bass, upright bass.
Flemish born singer/songwriter Carl Cleves and Greek-Australian vocalist Parissa Bouas have captured the hearts of folk enthusiasts in Australia. They are celebrated for their unique acuity for global storytelling, reflected in relevant social and political narratives. Together since 1991, as members of the Cleves-formed band, The Hottentots, the duo continue to perform and record together. In the tradition of authentic folk music, they travel extensively, integrating different cultures and auditory influences into original compositions. Cleves, who holds degrees in Law, African Music and Contemporary Composition, inhabits the aura of an international beat poet. Influenced by a collage of inspirational artists like Bob Marley, Abdullah Ibrahim, Arthur Rimbaud, Townes Van Zandt, and Kurt Weill, passion and conscience become recurrent contexts.
Out Of Australia, consisting of twelve original songs, is a ruminating perspective on worldwide society. Coalesced by folk-based guitar constructs and emotional vocals, each track has a unique feel. A centerpiece, “The Bethlehem Bell Ringer” examines the plight of innocent victims in the Palestinian struggle. Parissa Bousa’s incandescent voice is heartfelt, and the hymnal chorus, no less than exultant. The use of a tambura (string drone instrument) adds a somber Middle Eastern tone. The plights of diamond mine workers (“Way Down In The Mines”) in Johannesburg, and ethnic genocide (The Coniston Massacre”), are recounted without overindulgence. Framed by the steady guitar of Cleves, and his idiosyncratic baritone (not unlike Scottish troubadour Donovan), there is a consistent lyrical aesthetic.
Not all of
the serious minded themes find a proper elucidation. “Graceful”
attempts to juxtapose a breezy tenor and HIV reference, with incongruous
anthology captures the pathos of the human condition with originality
TrackList: Into The Light; Eclipse Of The Sun; Don’t Flowers Grow; Way Down In The Mines; House Of Sorrow; Mother’s Song; The Coniston Massacre; Graceful; Zeco; Sharpening A Knife; Carmen.
Audiophile Audition Published on September 24, 2010 Robbie Gerson
OF AUSTRALIA' CD
Not only do they cull all these influences together, they are able to focus this into their sound, rather than issue out a haphazard cultural stew. “Way Down in the Mines” could be snuck onto a compilation with Raven & Mills, Pererin, and the Watersons.
The lyrics are strong and the music is constantly involving, with some intriguing bass playing and sounds. This is a gem and moves to the top of my listening pile. If you enjoy classic folk duos and like the psychedelic influences on folk from the seventies, then you are certain to enjoy this.
Review by David Hintz
After four CDs with the Hottentots his debut 2007 release "All Alone" bears this out in a myriad of subtle ways. One can talk about the multicultural influences, the pensive quality of the title track which owes a debt to Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso, the homage to Sudanese oud player Abdel Gadir Salim "The Rose Of Kordofan" or the Caribbean, African and Brazilian rhythms that flow to the dictates of some of the songs, as these are natural things that come from Carl's travels.
I suppose you could call this release acoustic folk with touches of blues, country and jazz, but that doesn't really describe it either. Carl never ever tries to sound like anybody else. He has managed to absorb these other influences while retaining his own muse. As a result he is an uncompromising artist with a personal vision that is both whimsical and wise and yet he's not averse to injecting a bit of hokey fun into the proceedings. His melodies are memorable and moving. The supporting cast, including the remaining Hottentot Parissa Bouas on vocals, provides subtle and occasionally exuberant colourings on oud, viola, violin, electric guitar, saxes, trumpet, bass and percussion.
It would be remiss to omit mention of Carl's acoustic guitar playing that provides eloquent commentary in all 11 songs. It is utterly captivating and pregnant with unexpected nuance. In fact Carl is the only acoustic guitarist in Australia whose work I can detect after two notes ... his sound is that singular. Yet he never grandstands. To me that speaks volumes.
The songs themselves seem to be observations from some unwritten autobiography and are sung with the complete lack of pretense that is the singer's trademark. "All Alone" was awarded Best Lyrics 2007 by the Australian songwriters Association, which I hope gives some impetus to this excellent album. I know that Carl doesn't really like to consider himself as a world music artist, but the real litmus test is to blot out the meaning of the lyrics in one's mind as if they were in a foreign language and listen to the textures, rhythms and melodies. Well ... "All Alone" passes with flying colours.
Richard Jasiutowicz - Diaspora World Beat
'Tarab, travels with my guitar'
This is a lush CD. It is an amazingly rich tapestry of sound, an aural landscape that surges from Zimbabwe to Brazil, originating from Belgium and nestling in Byron Bay. It is instrumentally and lyrically diverse, borrowing heavily from the cultures of Africa and South America, expertly played and beautifully recorded. Cleves has distinguished himself with his compositions, having won Music Oz and Australian Songwriters Association awards, and this ability is reflected in the ten tracks on the CD (eight songs and two instrumentals).
For the most part, Cleves' lyrics are extremely well crafted and bursting with imagery: "From the Valley of the Moon to Corioco/Through the might magic jungle" (from "To Corioco"), "With the sound of the railway tracks/Only a tambourine is missing" (from "The Minas Train"), and "Xango, Exu, Yemanja/Were the mighty Orixa/Who travelled from Nigeria/To Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica" (from Party at my house"). We have an abundance of delicious syllables, words and phrases, highly evocative and redolent with the magic and mystery of far away places. "Trem Mineiro" is sung in Portuguese, and there is a dash of French in "Zimbabwe Zimbabwe" which add their own spices to this dish. Perversely, though, the strength of "The fire of liberty's blazing/In township and mines" is diminished by the somewhat pedestrian "I donÕt know why/My friend had to die" (from "Penkele") and the almost unbearably kitsch "TashiÕs song". The latter, though, is a bit of fun with his daughter, so I guess we can forgive that.
As alluded to earlier, the musicianship on this CD is first class, and songs are arranged with a skill that preserves the heritage underpinning each track, giving each its own particular flavour. They are cleverly layered, dynamically and rhythmically vigorous, with intricate harmony work, all resting on the solid foundation provided by Cleves' deft and resonant guitar work. A particular highlight for me is "Zimbabwe Zimbabwe". Running at over eight minutes, a song length most likely to tax my powers of concentration, we travel the length and breadth of the country in sonic textures, and there is musical interest in every bar. Of note is the rhythmic change at about three minutes which injects even more excitement, especially with the clever vocal interchanges and the keyboard punctuation marks.
Did I achieve Tarab on listening to this collection? Perhaps not quite. Nevertheless this CD is a delightful cornucopia of sound, imagery and life and forms a highly credible journal of Cleves' travels across this planet. It is worthy addition to anyone's CD collection.
Reviewed by Laurel Cohn - Byron Shire Echo July 8, 2008
Travels with my guitar
Reviewed by Bruce Elder – Sydney Morning Herald –August 2-3 2008