The Eclectic Stylings of Norine Braun in 'Now & Zen'
"My message or philosophy is a sort of Buddhist idea. Accept yourself as you are wherever you are even if in a painful and dark place. That accounts for such diversity in styles on the album, I try and tap into all emotional states."
Nobody could ever accuse Norine Braun of being stuck in a rut. Her fifth CD, Now & Zen, is a highly eclectic mix of spoken word and rap, industrial beats, and classical arrangements featuring piano and exquisite strings. In fact, her music touches on just about every genre, flowing seamlessly from one musical style to the other with each track somehow fitting against the next comfortably.
"I have loved listening to music since childhood," says Norine Braun of her eclectic tastes. "I enjoy all styles of music. I think I began composing at an early age, around 12 or so." While neither of Braun's parents were professional musicians, they did try to foster a love of music in their daughter through their own example. "We had a large record collection, and music played a lot at home," she says. "I also had an older brother who played guitar and taught me rhythm when I was 10."
Streaming MP3: "Now & Zen"
This love of music definitely comes through on Now & Zen. Throughout the album, Braun (www.norinebraun.com) sounds comfortable with whatever she's doing, whether it's singing or reciting poetry. The album itself sounds important, as though the composer had an actual message she was trying to get across. And, in a way, she did.
"My message or philosophy is a sort of Buddhist idea," says Braun of her album. "Accept yourself as you are wherever you are even if in a painful and dark place. That accounts for such diversity in styles on the album, I try and tap into all emotional states. Now & Zen is really about my personal spiritual journey. For me, spirituality is complex. Sometimes it is about knowing myself, healing myself, going through my life rather than around it, feeling all my feelings, owning all my parts the good and the bad, the absurdities of religion and the peace I long for and well mostly just being in the moment."
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She goes on to explain, "The song 'Jade' was inspired by the novel The Jade Peony, which for me is about family and secrets and culture and how that affects who we are. Now and Zen is self explanatory. 'Intimate Hour' is about therapy (healing or self exploration or desire for wholeness), while 'Buffalo Nights' is about the desire to escape and have fun and find my place. 'J'en Suis Desolee' is about movement as spiritual practice."
Streaming MP3: "Jade"
The rest of the album tracks cover ideas as powerful as the reflection of ego, sexuality, divinity, and the importance of love. "'Be Brave' was a song I wrote a couple of weeks after my father's death, 2 years ago," she adds. "I was trying to make sense and be brave of losing someone I love and of my own immortality…. the impermanence of life, how we must say goodbye to everyone and everything, that nothing is forever. Likewise, 'Move the Clouds' is written from a naive child part wanting to control the clouds, control nature, to be angry about saying farewell, but in the end learning that maybe I can move the clouds after all."
While the subject matter may be heady, the album is extremely catchy and even danceable at times. A big reason for this is the excellent cast of musicians Braun has surrounded herself with for this project.
Streaming MP3: "Intimate Hour"
"James [Jamie] Bowers and I have recorded over 70 songs and 4 albums together in the last 10 years," says Braun. "We have a synergistic and synchronistic creative union. We met through an ad he had placed looking for talent to produce stating he was a songwriter's dream and indeed he is. Jamie is a phenomenal world class musician. He can play just about any instrument with a little time and has virtually mastered the guitar and his piano ain't half bad either! Truly remarkable. I feel blessed to have crossed paths with talent such as his. He has played and produced many well known Canadian bands and some in the US like blues artist John Lee Hooker and Paul Shaffer (David Letterman's sidekick). He is a composer as well and writes for film and tv primarily. Our local and national news themes are his as are many other shows and documentaries. We have become good friends.
"Corbin Keep, the cellist, for the song 'Jade' was someone I hired through our local music directory. He claimed to be a 'wild cellist' so I had to find out. And he was!"
Streaming MP3: "J'en Suis Desolee"
While Now & Zen has been receiving much attention from the indie community in Braun's neighborhood of Vancouver, Canada, and even here in the U.S., don't expect her to sign to anyone else's label anytime soon.
"I am an indie because for me it is the easiest way," says Braun. "I have absolute creative control because I release my own records, and for me, it is about the music and not the money - though money is always nice! I write from the heart. I do this because I love it. When you release on another's label the big push is for touring, touring and more touring, and well, let's just say I am not a tourer. Writing and recording is what I like best and what I would rather do."
Look for this album and more of Norine Braun's music on her label's web site at Braun and Brains Music.