BY CHRISTOPHER RUSSELL ON JANUARY 31, 2014
Norine Braun has poured ten tons of life experience into Conventus The Eye Of The Heart, her ninth studio album, and come out the other side smiling. Emerging from a battle with near-terminal cancer to finally marry her partner of twenty-five years, she developed the record almost as a form of music therapy, nursing herself back to health one melody at a time.
Her catchy roots-rock references Patti Smith, KD Lang and Joni Mitchell, her distinctive vocal vaulting from creamy lows to Mitchell-inspired falsetto highs against the backdrop of her trusty session band. ‘Lightning Strikes Twice’celebrates a second chance at romance over a chugging, head-nodding guitar riff;‘Boy’ explores the complexity of maternal love in the context of adoption; ‘Take The Sleek Train’ is a trippy, Doors-esque ode to the healing powers of mother nature.
For all its focus on emotional themes, the standout track on Conventus - a barbed blues-rock number called ‘99%’ – sets it sights on the very contemporary political hot-potato of financial inequality. Over an irresistible bar-room piano loop and a funky breakbeat, Norine asks ‘Do we pay for groceries or do we pay the rent? Scrounging in the garbage we’re the 99%’. It’s fresh, it’s relevant and it comes with a sting in its tail.
While at other times the record does have the tendency to stray into romantic mawkishness, it’s always charming and always authentic. You can hear that Norine loves what she does, and passion of this sort is infectious. Most importantly, in an age of over-produced and pre-packaged popstars, Norine Braun is defiantly different.
Thetooners-Rock and Roll Rehab
BY GREG PIPER ON JANUARY 21, 2014
Norine Braun's Conventus, The Eye of the Heart
Being a small part of the music industry in Los Angeles for a very long time I’ve often heard music marketing professionals give the advice that to succeed in the Music Business you should become a “big fish in a small pond” first, before trying to make it in L.A. or New York. In other words, become the biggest drawing band in your home town and the big city A & R types will come to seek you out, you won’t need to go to them. Being from L.A. that advice is meaningless to me as my small pond is in the middle of the entertainment ocean. It is ironic to the extreme that arguably the music entertainment capitol of the world has such a lame local music scene (and it’s been lame since the early 1990s due to “Pay For Play”).
One of those small pond fish that does seem poised to make the jump into the Big Pond is Norine Braun from Hollywood North, or as the Canadians call it, Vancouver. I’ve been to Vancouver a long, long time ago when my parents took me there to get acquainted with the city in case I got drafted. I didn’t since I had a high lottery number so the trip was just for fun, thank God. These days Vancouver is also referred to as Amsterdam West for its lax attitude towards sex and drugs. We in Southern Cali call it Hollywood North since a lot of our television and film production went there for tax purposes. It is from this very interesting and attractive environment that Norine Braun emerges. Born as it were, fully formed, into our consciousness but with years of life and music behind her.
Norine is releasing her ninth studio album titled: “Conventus The Eye of the Heart", with some of Vancouver’s finest musicians joining her such as Adam Popowitz (producer, engineer, guitar and bass), Elliot Polsky on drums and percussion, Alice Fraser on keyboards and Huggybear Leonard on blues harp and penny whistle. As you could probably tell from the instrumentation alone some of the tunes on Norine Braun’s new CD is organically grown blues rock. The lead off track “Lightening Strikes Twice” is a roadhouse blues with honky-tonk piano and that afford mentioned blues harp but with a smooth vocal rather than the rasp one might imagine with Honky-tonk Blues. In fact, her voice is extremely smooth to the point of soothing yet very strong and yes, even quite sexy.
The intimate mixing of the instruments with minimal production gives the CD a real live feel which certainly is to the benefit of a singer who clearly doesn’t need a big production behind which to hide.
Her short attempt at rap on one tune recalls Debbie Harry back in the day and despite the first song being bluesy this CD is really Pop and maybe even what some might call Smooth Jazz. Her voice and style remind me of a Norah Jones singing through fellow Vancouver resident Ann Wilson’s vocal cords.
Norine is created with writing all twelve tracks on “Conventus The Eye of the Heart” and she has an interesting backstory (she’s not a kid and has lived a life) with a definite point of view which is perhaps most obviously in her tune “99%”. The song was just nominated for Best Country/Jazz/Blues/AC Song for the 2013 Rightout TV Music and Video Awards. A link to her animated lyrics video on Youtube is below.
Some of her musical past include –
Being the winner (Female Singer-songwriter of the year Jazz category) for Crystallize 16th Annual Los Angeles Independent International Music Awards and for Artists For Literacy International Songwriting Competition, Songs Inspired by Literature Winner for song Conformity 451. She has performed at the Chilliwack Party in the Park 2013, the Concert on the Wharf Maple Ridge Historical Society 2013, The Music in the Park Metro-Vancouver Parks, 2013, the 2012 International Blues Challenge Contender A Night of Vancouver's Best Blues Bands, the Richmond Concerts in the Park Series, the Cates Park Concert Series, the Richmond Maritime Festival, the Out in the Woods Festival, Greenwich, NY, the Edgewater Casino WAVS Benefit, Vancouver, the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, the Roundhouse Performance Centre, the Wine Ohs Beatniq Jazz and Social Club, Calgary, The Triad, NYC, the Shibuya Hom,e Tokyo, the Seattle Rockrgrl Music Conference Showcase and the Kansai International Music Conference Showcase. So as you can see she has been a very big fish for quite a while.
It will be interesting to see how she thrives in the Big Pond.
I thought blues as a genre had reached a point that
nothing new can be said or expressed musically, but I
guess I was wrong. Vancouver’s prolific Norine Braun is
releasing her ninth album, Conventus the Eye of the
Heart, and Braun continues the tradition of Nick Cave
and Joni Mitchell exploring new musical ideas inherent in
blues and folk. At times gritty, at others, soft and
contemplative, and even a little strange at times,
Conventus the Eye of the Heart is an exciting and fresh
Braun’s versatile voice is like her lyrics: It can be gritty,
sensitive, or even in-between whenever needed. Her
fantastic vocals perfectly support the different emotions
of each individual song, and paired with the range of
sounds explored make it understood well that Braun
isn’t a one trick pony pigeonholed by the term “folk-
blues.” Songs like “Boy” are wonderfully beautiful, while
the song, “99%” is a directly more aggressive, yet
supportive anthem for the Occupy movement. One thing
is clear, no matter what Braun is singing about, she does
it with truth and conviction, and with a stunning
believability." Cody Conard The Big Takeover
WORD KRAPHT Raven Elenah
Braun, is a true eclectic ache in its most pure form. Conventus the Eye of the Heart is for those who have ever dreamed longingly at an electric guitar, a solitary drum stick, or swayed to the rhythm as they glimpsed someone bleed the blues on a bed of white and black keys.
The release of her ninth studio album, Conventus the Eye of the Heart is a full-length CD that conveys passion and heartache with a mix of Blues and Roots Rock and intertwines them with Funk. And it is one more accolade in a tier of accomplishments to Braun’s budding list, including:
- Winner Female Singer-songwriter of the year Jazz category for Crystallize 16th Annual Los Angeles Independent International Music Awards - Artists For Literacy International Songwriting Competition, Songs Inspired by Literature Winner for song “Conformity 451″ - 2012 International Blues Challenge Contender – A Night of Vancouver’s Best Blues Bands
Norine’s passions for her album are best described in her own words, “…born out of life’s unions and struggles. The past couple of years I encountered many unions in different disguises…All of these unions, union of self and body, self and spirit, family union, union of love and marriage are found in the creation of these songs and my new album. This music is not only my story…it’s everybody’s story. We have all known someone who felt lonely, defeated, betrayed, rejected, scared, and yet found the strength to get back up, fight and win. We all know when we find that union with someone, something or within ourselves we can overcome and celebrate and cherish everything. This is whatConventus is about for me. Conventus is a celebration of union and of life.”
Braun is hemmed in by an overwhelming capacity of talent. Adam Popowitz produced and engineered the newly released album as well as performed guitar and bass. Elliot Polsky rocks the drums and percussion, while Alice Fraser strikes a chord on keys and Huggybear Leonard oozes the blues on the blues harp and penny whistle.
The seventh track on the album, “99%”, is three minutes and forty four seconds of rare grit. Adding to Braun’s accolades is the songs recent nomination for Best Country/Jazz/Blues/AC Song for the 2013 RighoutTV Music and Video Awards. The poetic lyrics lead listeners down a road of social and economic inequality and offer up a plate of honesty in regards to the Occupy Movement. It implores the listener to open their eyes to realize the struggles of the “99%”. Mama’s in the kitchen
Papa hit the sack Up all night he’s looking But no one calls him back Do we pay for groceries? Or do we pay the rent? Scrounging in the garbage We’re the 99%
The lyrics are twisted around piano chords and shaken with the rhythmic blues of a slick electric guitar and a striking blues harp. “99%” is unafraid to examine the arduous truth of these struggles. A reality most are afraid to admit.
In times when many songs are written to help us forget the harsh reality, Braun’s hearty vocals and unabashed song writing on Conventus lead us through the heart of the pain, despair, isolation, and torment of our inner demons. Braun’s fearless vocals encounter the adult child burrowed in the corner oppressed with misery. Her songs confirm to them there is a pathway out of the demon’s lair and into the bulbous sunlight.
Many can learn from Braun’s story. Her vocals are pierced with the passion of a new union, the freedom of glaring death in its ugly black eye, to new beginnings and to disabling grief. In a time when many are afraid to speak of the white elephant in the room, Norine Braun’s gritty lyrics and loving vocals convey hope and inspiration while helping the listener discover the light even if they had not realized they had sought it.
NOV 25, 2013
Norine Braun’s New Roots Album Has Many Branches
Conventus The Eye Of The Heart is Norine Braun’s ninth studio album. This award-winning artist hails from Vancouver and has assembled musicians from her home city to make this roots blues/rock release. Norine’s lyrics on this latest album (released 8th November 2013) reflect what life has thrown at her during the previous two years, including a life-threatening disease (followed by a cure), marriage to her partner and family bereavement. She describes her recent life events as “unions and struggles”, with making music a healing activity. So we know from the off that this album is a personal one born out of both pain and celebration.
Musically, other influences come into play to supplement rocking the blues. I imagine her record collection is vast and eclectic. Beginning with Lightning Strikes Twice, it’s the perfect opener, with dirty blues harp and pulsing bass line. I don’t really know why, but all that talk of the Devil made me think of voodoo. How Would We Know has great percussive work and a reggae beat that surprised me, delivering a feel-good declaration of love. Dizzy is a pop/funk track with a spoken part communicating very bawdy sentiments! No More Reprise has a funky groove; this time, a lover is getting his marching orders. Boy has heart-breaking lyrics about giving a baby boy away, building into choruses that reminded me of the anthemic 1980s. The best part of Today is that blues harp – gets me every time.
For me, 99% is the standout track, with powerful words and arrangement meshing perfectly. The 99% are the struggling masses trying to survive and pay the bills. Norine and the band are at their most soulful and there’s that blues harp again. Take the Sleek Train shows off Norine’s extensive vocal range, from husky low register to sweet high notes, as she vocalizes the poetry in wanting to escape on that train, a mournful presence felt in more soulful blues harp. Fire Flames has an interesting fusion of Latin rhythms and rock guitar. Jazzy keyboards and jazz-infused guitar give The Perfect Love Affair a sophisticated, sitting in a cocktail lounge kind of feel. There’s another declaration of love on I Found You, a country style ballad with sweetly melancholic guitar. Conventus ends the album, with a sparse arrangement on the intro’s catchy, simple melody until the band kicks in with a slick pop production. I looked up the meaning of the word, “conventus”; apparently, it’s from the Latin, meaning to convene or assemble.
Norine Braun – Conventus The Eye Of The Heart
The highest of highs and lowest of lows can bring out the best in us when we remain open to it. Vancouver singer/songwriter Norine Braun certainly can’t be accused of letting life keep her down and her newest and ninth release, Conventus The Eye Of The Heart is a testament to the will of the human spirit that keeps moving forward even in the face of life’s pitfalls and circumstance.
Written on the back of battling (and beating) cancer, marrying her long term partner, and watching her mother in law fade into deaths embrace, Braun had plenty of inspiration and learning to draw from. But this is not a poor me sob story with happy endings disguised in sadness, rather Conventus is a celebration and an empowering call to grace.
Norine Braun hits on notes of folk, jazz, and country roots but her best moments come simply through her voice, which is strong and soulful, easily slipping from gritty to sweet and then straight into a belting force that cannot be ignored. I can envision her empowering folkies at a political rally just as well as singing a child to sleep, her range is that dynamic.
“How Would We Know” is a neat one in that it injects a bit of a reggae vibe gone folk in the vein of Jack Johnson and is quite clearly an ode to the partner she has chosen to spend her life with, while “99%” is a chunky political look at the occupy movement and the ills of a population that is in need and not going anywhere until they are acknowledged. Folk rocky and heavy handed, this number has an excellent understated but solid muscle driving it forward, and a message worth paying mind to.
Conventus takes a bit of time to settle in but it is full of rich musicianship, words that matter, and an intention behind it that is truly admirable. Braun has taken some of life’s turns and turned them on their ear, and in the process recorded an album that is deeply personal yet empowering for all.
~ Nathan Pike
Norine Braun—Conventus The Eye Of The Heart album review
One of the many good things about Norine Braun’s Conventus The Eye Of The Heart is it’s heartfelt lyrics which you can hear on each track of the Canadian singer/songwriter’s latest album. An artist of much acclaim, Norine Braun gives us a good mix of blues, rock, and jazz on Conventus The Eye Of The Heart, which will absolutely be a hit with old and new school audiences alike.
It’s opening track, the honky tonk inspired “Lightening Strikes Twice” immediately captures your attention, long enough to steer you to the funky, danceable “Dizzy.” The sharp guitar riffs on “No More Reprise” will have your fingers playing air guitar before continuing onto the reflective, powerful “Boy” where Norine’s lyrical prowess is at its best.
This versatile artist, already a veteran of the stage and road, is bound for a big breakthrough with Conventus The Eye Of The Heart.
Author: Rob Perez
NORINE BRAUN “COVENTUS THE EYE OF THE HEART” REVIEW
Born and raised in Vancouver, Norine Bruan gives you a sound that bridges that gap between singer-songwriter and rock and roll with her latest release “Conventus The Eye Of The Heart.” Its something that almost anyone could enjoy in any occasion.
Songs like “Dizzy” have a laid back grove that you could just sit back and nod you head to. On the the hand tracks like “Today” hand out a more country rock or blues feel with the steady acoustic guitar and the subtle sounds of the harmonica.
It seems like Norine knows her way around a multitude of instruments and has a strong backing of strong musicians to support her. Braun is also able to blend country, blues, rock and roll, and singer-songwriter styles all into one that kind of gives her, her own voice.
Norine’s diverse approach to songwriting and her prowess as a heartfelt performer are the fundaments of her solid reputation within her local scene, and beyond: This talented artist received recognition from events such as L.A. Music Awards, The Best Female Musicians Magazine and many more. Coxillah YOUR SOURCE FOR TODAYS ENTERTAINMENT NEWS
Norine Braun has firmly planted herself within the Occupy Wall Street movement with her anthem “99%.” The rallying cry from Braun has been one of the formidable voices at the center of the movement throughout Canada as well as the U.S.
Norine Braun’s ‘Conventus Eye of the Heart’ Soars
Her latest album, Conventus Eye of the Heart, is a testament to her drive and skillset as a songwriter and music maker.
Braun’s distinctive voice and razor sharp lyrics have provided a pointed message to the haves. “Do not screw with us.”
Braun uses her storytelling skills to draw us in while making the message float on a bed of finely honed guitars, strings, keys and percussion.
The message isn’t leaden and is entwined with her signature funky blues and song twang, evoking a little K.D. Lang along the way.
A bit of a songbird, a bit of a soul master, Braun’s Conventus Eye of the Heart is worth a blast or many. You pick the occasion.
Norine Braun “Coventus The Eye Of The Heart” | Music Profile
Artist: Norine Braun
Location: Vancouver BC
Styles: Roots Rock, Blues Rock, Adult Album Alternative, Funk influenced
Similar to: Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, KD Lang, City and Colour, Grace Slick, Sade
CD: Conventus The Eye of the Heart (Advance)
Members/Instruments: Norine Braun vocals and guitar Adam Popowitz lead guitar and bass, Elliot Polsky drums and percussion Alice Fraser keys and Huggybear Leonard blues harp and penny whistle
Production: Adam Popowitz produced and engineered at Rear Window Song and Sound Coquitlam BC
Canadian artist Norine Braun bridges the gap between a singer-songwriter and a rock and roll performer with her new release Conventus The Eye of the Heart. Norine Braun’s music falls somewhere in between the intimate, heartfelt approach of folk and the energy of pop, roots rock, just as if Joni Mitchell, kd lang and Colin James would join Patti Smith and Prince for a jam, somewhere in the vast wilderness of the Canadian landscape.
Her music blinks an eye to the past, while firmly looking forward, blending timeless elements such as blues, rock, funk and country and presenting them to the audience with a freshness and balance that are in tune with today’s sensibilities.
Norine’s diverse approach to songwriting and her prowess as a heartfelt performer are the fundaments of her solid reputation within her local scene, and beyond: This talented artist received recognition from events such as L.A. Music Awards, The Best Female Musicians Magazine and many more.
Ever the chameleon, hardworking DIY Norine Braun is set to release her ninth studio album, adding to her impressive and prolific catalogue. “Conventus The Eye of the Heart”, an inspired piece of music centered around the concept of “unions”, something that affected Norine’s life in several disguises. Vancouver’s finest musicians have joined her again on the musical journey for Conventus. Adam Popowitz has produced, engineered and performed guitar and bass on Conventus, Elliot Polsky performs on drums and percussion, Alice Fraser performs on keys and Huggybear Leonard performs on blues harp and penny whistle.
Emotional, heartfelt and eclectic: Norine Braun in 3 words. “Her voice has the viscosity of a jazz crooner, the elegance of a gospel singer, and the heart of a folk or blues artist.” Bryan Rogers
About her latest release, Norine says “Conventus The Eye of the Heart is my new and ninth album born out of life’s unions and struggles. The past couple of years I encountered many unions in different disguises. I was diagnosed and cured of colon cancer. As I lay in my hospital bed last January, I listened to my roughly recorded demos of these songs and I let them show me the way to health. Music was a healing activity that held my interest and focus in my recovery.
This past year I also embraced a most magnificent union. I married my partner of 25 years on Halloween 2012 the anniversary of our first meeting. I watched my partner’s mother dementia advance and witnessed a great love and strength as we moved through this life transition. I looked at the union in my own family of origin relationship and how my life’s journey as an adoptee has greatly shaped who I am. All of these unions, union of self and body, self and spirit, family union, union of love and marriage are found in the creation of these songs and my new album.
This music is not only my story, it’s also your story in fact it’s our story, it’s everybody’s story. We have all known someone who felt lonely, defeated, betrayed, rejected, scared, and yet found the strength to get back up, fight and win. We all know when we find that union with someone, something or within ourselves we can overcome and celebrate and cherish everything. This is what Conventus is about for me. Conventus is a celebration of union and of life”
BIG TAKEOVER http://www.bigtakeover.com/recordings/norine-braun-coventus-the-eye-of-the-heart-self-released
I thought blues as a genre had reached a point that nothing new can be said or expressed musically, but I guess I was wrong. Vancouver’s prolific Norine Braun is releasing her ninth album November 8th, Coventus the Eye of the Heart, and Braun continues the tradition of Nick Cave and Joni Mitchell exploring new musical ideas inherent in blues and folk. At times gritty, at others, soft and contemplative, and even a little strange at times, Coventus the Eye of the Heart is an exciting and fresh new album.
Braun’s versatile voice is like her lyrics: It can be gritty, sensitive, or even in-between whenever needed. Her fantastic vocals perfectly support the different emotions of each individual song, and paired with the range of sounds explored make it understood well that Braun isn’t a one trick pony pigeonholed by the term “folk-blues.” Songs like “Boy” are wonderfully beautiful, while the song, “99%” is a directly more aggressive, yet supportive anthem for the Occupy movement. One thing is clear, no matter what Braun is singing about, she does it with truth and conviction, and with a stunning believability.
Occasionally, yes, the lyrics do veer towards the cliché, but she pulls it off because it’s sung with a rare conviction, and the ideas musically manage to mask any flaws because they are often so interesting. Although there’s a root of blues and folk throughout the entire album, there are hints of psychedelic on “Take the Sleek Train,” and jazz on “The Perfect Love Affair.” The distortion on songs like “Today,” even hint at punk, but it’s great because it doesn’t stick to one genre or the other. It’s an extremely diverse album that has its roots in one or two genres, but explores many more successfully as well.
This reviewer is personally surprised that Braun has released nine albums and I’m just hearing about her. If Coventus is any indication of her earlier work, I cannot wait to check it out. Braun possesses a combination of strong vocals, great lyrics, and fantastic, new ideas. The definition says “blues,” but her music is anything but tied down to that appellation, even featuring a pennywhistle! Coventus the Eye of the Heart will be released early next month, and it is not an album to miss. You can currently stream the entire album on her Bandcamp page, and I highly recommend checking out.
Bmans Blues Seport Ellis James
I just received the newest release,Coventus, The Eye Of The Heart, from Norine Braun. The opening track, Lightning Strikes Twice displays an nterplay between smooth guitar, keyboard and wonderfully comforting and well trained voice elicit memories and best relaxing elements of “It’s a Beautiful Day”, Brian Auger with restrained hints of Santana and touches of techno-digital drumming courtesy of Adam Popowitz result in a what I’d call background for the perfect love affair. On How Would We Know, a reggae beat mixed with an almost Smooth Jazz guitar foundation provide foundation for Braun’s voice and fun lyrics. Playful change-up in the pace makes this tune more fun than cruising in a convertible on an ideal first day of Spring. Dizzy is a pleasant up-tempo tune. What strikes me is that Ms. Braun’s voice is a comforting treat to the ear. This listener was naturally relaxed yet not bored while listening to this set of songs. Just as the listener can pigeon-hole the genre of this collection into a “Smooth Jazz” ready for airplay box, Nadine B throws us off balance with a Blondie/‘Rapture’-esque playful rap at the break and snaps us back into active listening mode. Well structured- nicely executed but happily left me off-balance if not… Dizzy. On No More Reprise Harmonica by Huggybear Leonard and Elliot Polsky percussion, basic electric guitar hooks bring out the Bluesy Rock in this set. Sexy and intentional vocals remind us why we came, make us want to stick around as the lyrics tell us that we are being kicked to the curb and need new place to live. Killer guitar feature at the break punctuates the drive and sassy of this soulful cut. This one makes me want to hit the repeat and listen to it again in total conflict with the song’s title. Boy is musings concerning the unique relationship between Mothers and Sons over a soaring electric guitar and vocals. Nice enough lyrics yet I’d love to hear another verse or a destination to the intended thoughts. A present that’s missing the bow. Today shows nice drum rhythm and acoustic guitar kicking off the layering of great harp playing, lead electric (guitar) fills and flute. The vocals in “Boy” and “Today” evoke punctuations of restrained early Grace Slick in pitch, tone, attitude and delivery. “Today” is more of a declarative statement of the singer’s intentions and direction in life. Listened to during several sittings this set of songs give a feel of a subtle Nuevo-Psychedelic San Francisco genre. Braun and company may be on to something! 99% is back to the grungy Blues vibe shooting and hits the wider target with a moody tale fit for a future Quentin Tarantino drama. This is the bow that I was looking for. This cut is as lyrically tight as the others in this set yet more successfully paints a mental image while matching the mood of the instrumental performances. Processed vocals, with the Shirley Massey “Garbage” feel, is pushed along with tasty keyboards by Alice Fraser, dirty Bass, fine drumming and Huggybear’s wonderfully nasty harmonica. This one is a keeper! Take the Sleek Train shows nicely crafted songwriting and musicianship carrying the train on this trip. Fire Flames kindles the playful dancing and fleeting spirituality of David LaFlamme. No bad pun intended the style and pace of this piece again brings out the lighter hippy vibe. Nicely done. Braun’s vocal range more comfortably fits and enhances the score. The Perfect Love Affair, a happy tune is uplifting showcase for deserving interplay between drum kit, jazzy electric guitar and Braun’s lovely voice. Again, the keyboard fills are tasteful and well placed. A musical braid between drum, keys, voice and guitar provide reason for this song’s title. Did I mention the nice drumming? I Found You brings harmonious female duet with acoustic strumming and processed electric accent reassuring and loving lyrics. Short and sweet yet meant for always. On Conventus a playful introduction leads to an unexpected change-up which leads into a pop tune fitting for a Euro-dance club. This song is a stylistic departure from the rest of the set list but is fun and enjoyable.
Norine Braun: Conventus The Eye of the Heart Review: Catchy Grass Roots Rock Patrick Hickey Jr.
Channeling a variety of different tones and managing lyrics that tread in a plethora of emotional themes, Norine Braun’s “Conventus The Eye of the Heart” is a deep musical experience that requires multiple listens to truly appreciate.
Although you’ll often be drawn to the guitar and bass work of Adam Popowitz, at the essence of this album is Braun, who is comfortable in a variety of roles. Sometimes she writes of the parental experience, at others, she’s a political crusader. This makes “Conventus The Eye of the Heart” the type of journey that may not strike everyone’s musical fancy, but don’t mistake that for fault. There will be a track or two everyone can relate to on this album. Her comfortable and soul-filled voice screams of the past, with easily identifiable influences to Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Patti Smith play a part in her sound, but Braun’s band is so much more.
If Braun were a member of the X-Men, she’d be Mystique. Her often sexy voice is able to shift into whatever she wants, almost forcing a listener to give her a few more seconds to make an impression.
The hypnotic feeling goes further than just the vocals. Aside from the normal accompaniment of guitar, bass and percussion, a blues harp, keyboards, harmonica and penny whistle find their way into the sound. Simply put, this album shows off all the flavors Braun and her band bring to the table. There are plenty. In “99%.” Braun becomes an activist. Her thoughts on the occupy movement are interesting ones and if you’re from the same mind as her, you’ll enjoy the song and the lyrics. An animated musical video for the track also adds another level of appeal to the politically charged track.
“Lightening Strikes Twice” is a catchy track that will immediately remind country pop fans of a slightly more macabre version of KT Tunstall’s “Black Horse & The Cherry Tree.” A cool harmonica and bass intro sets the scene perfectly. Although a tad on the repetitive side, Braun’s slightly throaty but charismatic vocal performance will get you to slap your knee.
“Boy” is a different type of track that has Braun take the role of a parent. It’s easy to imagine her sitting on a child’s bed, flipping through a children’s book and reminiscing while singing. This track may be the best example of Braun’s vocal prowess as well. The held notes, the soft verses are captivating. Part jazz singer with tinges of gospel and even country, “Boy” is the song new listeners may be drawn to the most.
Through the sometimes challenging emotional content, combined with solid musicianship and Braun’s often dark yet silky vocals, ““Conventus The Eye of the Heart” is an album that is nearly impossible to classify by genre, but is something that quickly steals your ears.
Up From the Underground: Norine Braun "Conventus the Eye of the Heart
While we have covered the revival of goth , with hipster kids shaving their heads into death hawks and trying to emulate Joy Division, there are artists who can capture the feel without all the window dressing. I would have never guessed this singer songwriter out of Vancouver ,Canada would open up her new album "Coventus the Eye of the Heart" with a song that sounds like a female version of Nick Cave , with vocal inflections that leap into her upper register like Siouxsie Sioux, all without the aid of Halloweenish theatrics.
The entire album is not her camped out in the batcave. "How Would We Know" takes a leisurely stroll into more Joni Mitchell territory. But her smoky alto will appeal to fans of Concrete Blonde on the song "Dizzy" which drifts into Blondie 70's pop at the chorus. The instrumentation is organic without dipping Birkenstocks clad feet into granola, like other singer songwriters do when relying too heavily on acoustic guitars.
There's a blue vibe through out the album, but rather than the frat boy Mumford and Sons type of thing, its somewhere in-between Ani Difranco's more beat moments and a less alt-rock crunch of Concrete Blonde. The lead playing on "No More Reprise" is pretty impressive, it has a 60's funk feel. So many bases are being covered here, but in a way not unlike how a Joni Mitchell or Kate Bush uses many sonic colors on the canvas of their songs.
The Johnette Napolitano feel returns on the more straight forward alternative rock number "Boy". I like the movement in the bass line on this one . The playing here convinces you that Norine could craft an entire album of this sort of thing if she wanted to. "Today" shifts into a slightly darker groove that at times recalls Alanis Morrisette 's hey day. The inflections in her phrasing really accent this fact. The Occupy Movement takes the spot light as the lyrical inspiration to "99%" which returns her back into the dark alleys of Nick Cave's back yard.
A darker acoustic vibe unfolds on "Take the Sleek Train". It is no wonder she fared so well on the festival circuit, even the languid dreamy nature of this song would translate well live. The sultry Siouxsie tingle creeps back over your ears on "Fire Flames". It almost carries a tango beat as guitar crawls out from the corners of the song.
There's a retro feel to "The Perfect Love Affair" that doesn't play to all of her strengths, despite the Doors like keyboards that bubble up from under. The album however as a whole has little filler, despite some of the abrupt stylistic shifts, like the dip into country on " I Found You". It's very competent song writing and production, and when I say country it has more in common with the Cowboy Junkies than Barbara Mandrell.
The title track that closes out the album starts as an ethereal lullaby and bursts into an upbeat dream pop , that would have a wink towards house music if it wasn't for the organic nature of the instrumentation. It falls some between Imogen Heap and the Cocteau Twins, to my ears.
Braun has carved an interesting niche for her self, as being billed as a folk-blues artist, only encompasses elements of what she does, which strikes me a being darker than either. If you are like me and your musical tastes lean towards the dark side, your ears might be trained to seek that out. This album is highly recommended for those us who are fans of 80's New Wave but opened minded enough to embrace it through the filter of a more modern and organic approach. This is not a swampy as the Bad Seeds , and might owe more to Marianne Faithful but a worthwhile listen all the same.
As the weather gets colder heading into November, you’re going to want to warm yourself up with some of the most unique sounds coming out of Vancouver. High on that list is VanCity’s own Norine Braun, with her signature funky folk-blues sound that simply cannot be matched.
Conventus The Eye Of The Heart, Norine’s forthcoming album, to be released independently on Nov 8th 2013, will build up an already solid base of support, after impressive festival showing over the last two years which saw her in front of audiences everywhere from the glitz and glam of Tokyo to the decidedly opposite fields of Chilliwack, B.C. The album tells of the singer/songwriter’s life, her ups and downs, of love, of betrayal, with heavy undertones of political events that touch everyone today.
Best listened to as loud as your neighbours will tolerate, Conventus is an incredibly strong offering from front to back. Strong and passionate, you are able to feel the artists soul, and that of the musicians playing with her. It’s immediately clear in “No More Reprise” a mere four songs into the album that her players believe in the message as much as she does, a feeling captured throughout the entirety of the album. It’s like Norine is able channel both KD Lang and Joni Mitchell concurrently, which in itself should say something. The power and soulfulness she offers up just has to be experienced.
Follow Norine at the following social media links to stay up to date on her upcoming release, you will be glad that you did.
By Scott Alexander ABORT MAGAZINE