Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Festive Dozen 2014 Finale: Bass Culture Players ft Payoh Soul Rebel - Forgiveness

I’m not a huge fan of religion. In whatever form it takes. Whether it’s Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, or some other “brand” of worship. I just don’t go there. In so many ways religion has become such a destructive force, it is difficult to view it through anything other than very cynical eyes. I love music, pop culture, books, football, and my family – not necessarily in that order. Those things, while not providing much in the way of rules for living, seldom let me down. On occasion I’ve even been known to become quite precious about that bastard of a game we call cricket. I’m especially passionate about beach cricket and driveway cricket. But not religion.

I believe in science, which may or may not make me a humanist, I’m really not sure. I suppose the closest I’ve ever been to unravelling the mysteries of “spirituality” was many years ago when I was convinced I could become Rastafarian. As you do. For a while I studied what that actually meant, the general “ethos” behind it, and even contemplated visiting Ethiopia in search of further inspiration and/or wisdom. It turned out to be a rather temporary condition. Somewhere along the way the plan was thwarted and binned – probably because I was white, ginger, broke, and way too wasted to make any of it a reality.
But it turns out I’m also a hypocrite because like the vast majority of other heathens in the western world I also celebrate Christmas. I’m not sure how that comes about. Probably just habit, and because it comes with the bonus of a few days of holiday. The chance to spend quality time with the family while they drool over the wonders of materialism, and I lose myself in the delights of long since forgotten about black and white movies on television. There’s also, weather permitting, the distinct possibility of some driveway cricket. But the Christmas break – and by extension, an acknowledgement of Christianity – is the catalyst for all of that. It seems a very odd thing for a non-believer to become a temporary believer when it suits, but there it is.

I often confront a similar dilemma, or condition, when it comes to listening to roots reggae music – so much of it deals with faith and all matters spiritual. Yet I actually love all of that stuff about praising Jah, connecting with the “most high”, and the endless number of biblical references. I’m not quite sure why I enjoy those songs of praise in a musical form, but they resonate, and I connect with them in ways I seldom do with other forms of musical expression … but ask me to sing a hymn? Hmmm.
A few years ago, a friend suggested that "everything happens for a reason" and to be honest I was fairly dismissive of the notion. It reeked of that mysterious “higher power” and I just couldn't grasp the concept. But I totally get it now. It wasn't about not having any control over events or being subjected to some kind of pre-determined destiny, it was about using the experience life was throwing at me in order to understand myself better. Using events to shape personal growth.

And this year, more than ever, I’ve continually been given cause to think a little bit more about that higher power. About what it all means, this thing called life. About mortality. And about those pesky issues such as personal morals. About truth, and dare I get to the point (please do – Ed), about that staple of all faith, that thing called forgiveness. It’s something I've been struggling with - forgiving others for perceived (and real) injustices, while also seeking forgiveness from others. Most importantly, after much soul searching, I came to realise that I couldn’t move on or embrace any of the “personal growth” referred to above, unless I learned to forgive myself and others … even if that meant doing it in my own non-religious arse-about-face kind of way.
So anyway, to stop short of turning my final pre-Christmas post of 2014 into some sort of sermon with loads of new age gobbledegook, and to conclude the Festive Dozen countdown, here’s the Madrid-based Bass Culture Players with the everythingsgonegreen tune of the year – not just for its lyrical significance and personal relevance, but because Payoh Soul Rebel’s Marley-esque vocal blew me away each and every time I heard it … Merry Christmas everythingsgonegreen reader, enjoy the festive break, I’ve just been told it’s my turn to bat ...

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Album Review: Dum Dum Girls - Too True (2014)

If there was any sort of award for the best “short” album of the year, the latest offering from Dum Dum Girls would be hard to resist. Co-produced by veteran New York-based studio wiz Richard Gottehrer (Blondie, Go-Gos, others) alongside Sune Rose Wagner of Danish beat merchants The Raveonettes, and released on Sub Pop, Too True is essentially 30 minutes of garage-infused girl pop that harks back to some sort of golden age for the three-minute pop song.

The album is primarily the work of vocalist/guitarist Dee Dee Penny, who also gets a bass credit, along with help from co-producer Wagner. And while the end result is close to outstanding, the lyrically strong Too True tends to lack the fuller sound more evident on its 2011 predecessor, Only In Dreams, which in my view remains the best Dum Dum Girls outing (of the three albums). And it’s probably no coincidence that particular album was made by a full band line-up.

Too True is practically flawless in its attention to detail, with reference points for the shiny 80s pomp of The Bangles at one end of the pop spectrum, and the raw reverb-driven dark edges of the Jesus And Mary Chain at the other. Somewhere in the middle you’ll find a bit of Ronnie Spector, some Chrissie Hynde, and perhaps even some Patti Smith.

And whilst Penny hasn’t completely abandoned the angsty post-punk stuff of the very earliest Dum Dum Girls work, the pop flavours evident on Too True tend to complement the more commercial sensibility previously found on Only In Dreams … only in a shorter and slightly sweeter form.

Key tracks: ‘Rimbaud Eyes’, ‘Lost Boys And Girls Club’ (see clip below), and ‘Little Minx’ …

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Festive Dozen 2014: She's So Rad - Levels

Back in early September I spent a weekend up in Auckland, and I managed to take in a couple of live gigs. On the Friday night I went to the ‘Going Global’ showcase at Galatos, which basically meant a number of up and coming young local bands playing short sets in a multi-roomed venue over the course of some three to four hours. Sadly it was impossible to see them all, but the most impressive acts for me on the night were Jesse Sheehan and his band, teen-wiz Race Banyon, and these guys, She’s So Rad … with ‘Levels’ going on to become one of my favourite late-year earworms. Not a bad video clip either …

Friday, December 19, 2014

Shades of Grey: R.I.P. Chris Sheehan

I thought I’d re-post a blogpost from some 18 months ago concerning Chris Sheehan, who sadly lost his long battle with cancer yesterday. This is the closest thing I can offer to a tribute piece on one of New Zealand’s most underrated musicians. Chris was an inspirational figure for me growing up, and one of the reasons I came to love music as much as I do. My thoughts are with his partner Claire and family … R.I.P. Chris


The recent social media coverage given to ex-Palmerston North musician Chris Sheehan’s fundraising campaign has been heartening to observe. Sheehan, aka Chris Starling, is presently based in Spain, and is raising funds for a shot at “one last album”. He’s been diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic nodular melanoma, and the outlook for him is apparently pretty bleak. But there is a lot of love and respect out there for his work, and Sheehan’s fundraising efforts have largely been successful thus far. You can contribute to Sheehan’s cause here. I’m personally looking forward to any new work he can offer us.

Sheehan’s sad news, and a wider collective desire for his fundraising to gain requisite exposure, offered the chance for bloggers and mainstream media alike to profile and pay tribute to someone who’s tended to fly under the radar for long periods. From a number of small independent blogposts to that of Wellington blogger Simon Sweetman, whose recent piece on the mainstream Stuff website generated some good support from Sheehan’s homeland.

So with a few of the more high profile aspects of Sheehan’s career … the Dance Exponents, his move to London, the Starlings, the “solo” career, and stints with acts like Curve, Babylon Zoo, the Sisters of Mercy, and briefly, NZ’s own Mutton Birds … having been well documented elsewhere in recent times, by others far more qualified than myself, I’m going to offer something completely different here, and give you my take on an otherwise very much undocumented stage of Sheehan’s career … let’s call it his “Shades of Grey period”:
Chris Sheehan circa 2000
I first knew him only as Chris, the teenage guitarist in a shit hot covers band called Shades of Grey at the rough-around-the-edges Café de Paris pub in my hometown of Palmerston North. I’m pretty sure it was 1982, perhaps late ‘81 to late ’82. I would have been 17, going on 18, under the legal drinking age of the time, and there I was, every Friday and Saturday night, frothing with excitement, in the back bar of the Café. I soon became friends with a guy named Jim Conlon, a fellow muso who knew Chris well, and despite the significant risk to my person as the son of a well known local cop (the front bar was the haunt of the local “motorcycle club”), I quickly became a Café fixture, albeit a bit of a wallflower.
I wasn’t a big drinker but I craved excitement, the rush of live music, and Shades of Grey with its prodigy guitarist, who I had guessed was even younger than me, was the only game in town.

Shades of Grey played dark pop, punk, and post-punk; covers like ‘London Calling’ (The Clash), ‘Solitary Confinement’ (Members), ‘Rockaway Beach’ (Ramones), and a raft of Cure tunes. They were pretty good, if very raw and occasionally a little too loud for the confines of the small space they occupied. Lead singer Don Stevenson possessed just the right amount of arrogance, and a great punk howl. Drummer Brent Maharey was the epitome of surfer cool, while curly-haired bass player Steve Dodson remained more of a mystery (to me). But the group’s real point of difference was Sheehan, whose sheer unbridled talent propelled the novice band to new heights each and every weekend on tracks like ‘The Fire’ (The Sound), ‘Damaged Goods’ (Gang of Four), and more often than not most spectacularly on the Dead Kennedys’ classic ‘Holiday In Cambodia’. Even something as simple and understated as early Cure b-side ‘Another Journey By Train’ could be transformed into something utterly compelling in Sheehan’s hands.

The Café had a tiny raised “dancefloor” directly in front of what passed for a stage, and when I wasn’t hugging the walls of said dancefloor, I could be found standing directly in front of Sheehan, looking up slightly, mesmerised not only by his expansive repertoire of fretwork and riffery, but by his stance, his posture, and his nonchalant mastery of the instrument he bore. That, and the look of apparent contempt he offered me whenever I caught his eye. With that slight frame, and the shock mop of jet black hair, Chris appeared nothing if not very cool, and his understanding of that seemed absolute. There was certainly something extraordinary about him at that age, and we all knew he’d go a long way. And we knew he’d have to go a long way away from Palmy.    
Dance Exponent
That time, and that band, rates as a period of genuine discovery for me, and I’d often spend the weekday lunch breaks seeking out the originals for many of the covers I’d heard the previous Friday or Saturday night. It became a labour of love, and often involved hours on end trekking about Palmy’s limited record shops. The Record Hunter outlet on Broadway did imports, so all was not lost if I couldn’t find what I coveted any particular week. Suffice to say, no covers band since has had quite the same impact on my music collection. And the thrill of those nights at the Café remains with me to this day, the picture I have in my mind’s eye of Sheehan on that poxy little stage is crystal clear. And for my sins, all these years on, I remain friends with a good number of the fellow wastrels I met in that godforsaken excuse for a “lounge bar”.

An early incarnation of the band had a female keyboardist who may or may not have been called Christine, and this was the version I witnessed the first couple of times I saw them. A much later version – one that eventually moved away from the Café to the more expansive Lion Tavern – saw drummer Brent move on, to be replaced by a Turkish stickman called Nihat, who’d previously starred in Snatch, Palmy’s other “new wave” covers band of choice during the era … (and everythingsgonegreen might just indulge itself with a piece on Snatch at some point in the future).

But it all ended just as quickly as it began, and I probably only ever had a handful of conversations with Chris, awkwardly snatched between sets at the Café, before he got the call to join the Dance Exponents, one of New Zealand’s premier pop groups of the time. Chris added a harder, more experimental edge to the Exponents’ work for a period of time, and I was a little disappointed when the recent otherwise definitive documentary on the band tended to race through or gloss over the Sheehan years.

It hasn’t always been easy for Sheehan, and while his work has often attracted a decent level of critical acclaim, it hasn’t always hit the commercial heights lesser talented individuals have frequently achieved.

But I’d be a liar if I said I knew Chris Sheehan very well at all. I’ve just followed his career from afar, and I was merely lucky enough to observe him as a supremely talented work-in-progress, a young guy taking his first formative career steps. I count myself pretty fortunate for that experience, and the chance to add this small story to a much greater whole. I look forward to getting updates on his progress via social media and I wish you all the very best Chris if you read this …

I’d love to be able to offer you a clip of Shades of Grey, but here’s the next best thing – not the best quality clip, but one that showcases some great axemanship from Chris Sheehan:



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Festive Dozen 2014: The Analogue Fakir - The Forms

The music of Muhammad Hamzah (aka Celt Islam, the Analogue Fakir, Nine Invisibles) has been highlighted a fair few times already on everythingsgonegreen. While it would probably be pushing it to suggest that the genre of Sufi dub wouldn’t exist without him, Hamzah is surely the current master of its form. 2014 was another busy year for the man in question with several new Celt Islam releases, including an album called Generation Bass.

However it was while wearing his Analogue Fakir moniker back in 2013 that he released an album called Worlds We Know, a barely noticed electronic/psydub gem, which eventually made its way to my pod late last year. That meant it was prime listening material for me throughout the early part of 2014, pretty much providing the roadtrip soundtrack to most of last summer. Here’s ‘The Forms’ … 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Album Review: Various - Hyperdub 10.4 (2014)

The final instalment of the Hyperdub '10' series is an expansive 2-disc 28-track set that merely confirms what most of us already knew: when it comes to innovation and state-of-the-art bass music, the Hyperdub label pretty much leads the way - in terms of output and longevity.

The fourth release presents some new material, along with what amounts to a collection of the label's "greatest hits", and it includes a previously unreleased Burial track called 'Lambeth', which opens proceedings. It then goes on to cover all of the requisite bases and sub-genre types, with highlights coming from the usual suspects - four tracks from Cooly G, including some lovely retro-style housey goodness (see clip below), four from relative latecomer DVA, another classic from the Burial archives ('Street Halo'), and the obligatory but no less essential contribution from label guru Kode9 (with two tracks).

If you're reading this, I'm just as likely preaching to the already converted, so I'll leave it there. Suffice to say the Hyperdub '10' series has been one of the genuine highlights of my music-listening year in 2014 … here's to another ten years.

Having said all of that, it would be remiss of me not to reflect on the fact that, despite those birthday celebrations, the year hasn't necessarily been a particularly upbeat or an easy one for the label, or for those directly connected with it, with the sad loss of two of its key conspirators ...

R.I.P. DJ Rashad and R.I.P. The Spaceape.

Here’s Cooly G with ‘Him Da Biz’ (off 10.4):

The Festive Dozen 2014: Koncrete Roots - Guns Don't Argue

I blogged earlier about the Dub-O-Phonic Netlabel when I included Sunjaman in the Festive Dozen, and this mid-year release on the same imprint was another to feature heavily on the various playlists bouncing around my pod. It’s a cut from Rudie Duplates, a wicked little EP containing five previously unreleased Koncrete Roots dubplates … and ‘Guns Don’t Argue’ is a reconfiguring of something from way back, something special and a little crooked …

Thursday, December 11, 2014

XLR8R's Top 100 Downloads of 2014

Those year-end countdowns are now in full swing, and since the generally pretty excellent XLR8R website has long been one of my “go to” sites for all things of an electronic/dance bent, I was keen to see what that site was going to throw at us for 2014.

As per previous years, XLR8R has generously and conveniently packaged up its Top 100 downloads of 2014 in a free fully downloadable zip package. Navigate to near the foot of page linked below, and fill yer boots …

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Festive Dozen 2014: Tackhead - For The Love of Money

This year also saw the return of industrial funk supergroup Tackhead. In 2014 terms, that meant a new album, For The Love of Money, and bunch of senior statesmen doing what they do best, what they love … keeping it simple, with no pretensions about reinventing the wheel.

For The Love of Money was to all intents and purposes a covers album, with new versions of past work included, but it also proved to be an exceptional piece of work from perhaps the most underrated group of my lifetime.

The title track is no less relevant today than it was all those years ago when the O’Jays first released it, aided unquestionably by Tackhead’s spectacularly unique take on it …

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Album Review: The War on Drugs - Lost In The Dream (2014)

Lost In The Dream is the third full-length release from Philadelphia-based indie rockers The War On Drugs.

Such was the level of critical acclaim during the weeks and months following its March 2014 release, Lost In The Dream is almost certain to feature on many of those upcoming end-of-year “best album” lists. And when it does, those plaudits will certainly be well deserved. In fact, despite the departure of the influential Kurt Vile after the release of its 2008 debut album, The War On Drugs is a band on the rise.
With its Eighties-style sheen and glossy pop production, Lost In The Dream was almost instantly familiar to my ears. In a warm and comforting way. It was like I’d heard it before, but I kept having to remind myself that I couldn’t possibly have – it was brand spanking new. It was like an old friend whose face I recognised but couldn’t quite place … I knew this music, but where the hell did I know it from?
It turns out that I knew it from the hybrid of Eighties reference points that feature heavily throughout its hour long duration. Such touchstones are everywhere on Lost In The Dream – from the dark Americana feel of Bruce Springsteen, to Fleetwood Mac, to The Blue Nile, to the “big” sound of The Waterboys … and beyond, well beyond. Derivative yet still unique, new, and original to The War On Drugs.
Then there’s the cinematic imagery: a vast open space, somewhere like the Arizona desert maybe, a road trip, top down in a ’56 Cadillac convertible. It’s dreamy pop music with a slightly shadowy hue, uplifting yet also a little paranoid, disturbing, claustrophobic ... calming, and liberating … all at the same time.

I’m pretty sure some will call it a masterpiece … and they probably won’t be too far wrong.
Highlights: ‘Under The Pressure’, ‘Red Eyes’, and the title track, but generally there’s no filler and this is a “no skip” album …

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Festive Dozen 2014: The Nomad - Brok Out (featuring Lotek)

It would be impossible for everythingsgonegreen to reflect back on 2014 without including at least a snippet of something from The Nomad. The year under review was a huge one for the artist concerned; he released a top notch album (7), toured extensively, and reminded everyone of his standing as one of the country’s most prominent electronic/bass music producers with the release of a “best of” package.

His gig at Wellington’s Boat Café back in September was quite probably the best gig I went to all year (and there were a few goodies to choose from).
I was also lucky enough to sit down with him to chat about his music, where he’s been, and where he’s headed, something that led to a feature piece being published in NZ Musician magazine (click here).

I thought 7 was a fantastic piece of work, and included on that album was a grimey gem called ‘Brok Out’, which featured Melbourne-based Londoner Lotek …

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Festive Dozen 2014: Paolo Nutini - Scream (Funk My Life Up)

Paolo Nutini is an artist to defy those pesky stereotypes.

Firstly, that wonderful Italian name – he’s from Milan right?
Nope, he’s from Glasgow.

Oh, he must make downbeat twee indie rock right?
Nope, he makes the sort of sassy funk that Prince once specialised in.

Oh, he must be a black Glaswegian right?
Er, nope, Paolo Nutini is a master of that genre we once called “blue-eyed soul” …

Oh, man, that sounds a bit dodgy, a white Glaswegian making funk music, and why haven’t I even heard of him before, he must be pretty crap right?
Um, actually he’s a three-time BRIT nominee, a firm favourite at festivals around the globe, a guy who performed at the 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony, and someone who released what was quite probably the best album of his career (Caustic Love) in 2014 … but hey, don’t take my word for it, decide for yourself …

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Guest Post: The Stones at Mt Smart ...

And so it was that the rock n roll juggernaut known as the Rolling Stones hit these shores last week. For the final stop on the relatively expansive eight-leg Australia/NZ ‘On Fire’ tour. Friend of everythingsgonegreen, Tony ‘Soul Man’ Murdoch, was at the gig at Auckland’s Mt Smart stadium, along with nearly 40,000 others, and what a vivid picture his words paint for us (tail feathers and all) …

Yeah, it was a wicked nite ... rain kinda threatened but never really entrenched itself. Three towering video screens covering the back of the stage captured every pulse of the bands collective heartbeat ...
Started Up
Jagger the focal point really, flicking his hips 'n pouting his lips to every funky snare drum shimmer from that metronomic master of rhythm Mr Watts, 'n Charlie's partner in crime on thumping/pumping bass guitar, Darryl Jones. Oh yeah … Ronnie 'Faces' Wood resplendent in body hugging red leather jacket, just keeping it all so tight and funky for his mate Keef to take centre stage and carve it all up.

Lisa Fischer on backing vocals was a real highlight ... Soul Sista #1 in the house all nite long, just adding that groove to every song ... a cameo appearance from Mick Taylor on 'Midnight Rambler', an extended blues workout that incorporated part of their famous cover of Muddy Waters 'I'm A Man'.

The NZ National Youth Choir on 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' was another highlight, which I thought was a nice touch from the band, then 'Miss You' turned into an extended disco/funk workout … man, I was in 7th heaven when that happened.

Way too much fun for one night really and yep, I'd do it all again at the shake of a phunky tail feather ...!!!!!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Festive Dozen 2014: Noah Pred - Devil's Quadrant (Tomas Jirku Remix)

Canadian producer Noah Pred has tended to fly under the mainstream radar, but over the past couple of years he’s steadily started to forge a solid reputation within techno circles, not only as a profilic ‘working’ DJ, but also as the main man behind the Thoughtless Music imprint.

Noah Pred’s 2013 album, Third Culture, gained some wider traction as a nominee for best electronic album at the annual Juno awards, but it was a track from a remixed version of that album (available on Beatport here) that made me sit up and take notice this year, a mid tempo Tomas Jirku-mixed gem called ‘Devil’s Quadrant’ … (best appreciated via headphones):

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Festive Dozen 2014: Joris Voorn - Ringo

I’m not sure exactly how a dance music purist would categorise Joris Voorn’s ‘Ringo’ … what genre it fits into – is it minimal techno, or melodic techno, or some other form of up-tempo electronica?

It probably doesn’t really matter, whatever else it is, the track became a firm pod favourite for me throughout the early part of 2014, after being released as a single late in 2013. I just couldn’t get enough of its warm textures and subtle trippy vibe.
‘Ringo’ prods and teases but never really quite takes off into full-on euphoric banger mode, and that’s what makes it special: it’s a club at 5am, a morning-after groove, something to smooth the rough edges from the sharp peaks of the night before.

The Amsterdam-based Voorn had a busy 2014, with a couple of North American tours, club and festival gigs right across Europe – from the UK to Ibiza and beyond – yet he still found time (on November 17) to release album number three, Nobody Knows, his first full-length effort for seven years … and yes, it includes ‘Ringo’.

Joris Voorn is on Facebook (here) and Nobody Knows is on iTunes (here)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Prophet Motive ... and other stuff

The Prophet Motive - photo: Storm Ryan
Here’s my most recent piece published in NZ Musician (see link below). Due to space constraints the magazine edited it quite heavily from the original version I submitted, but that’s the way it goes, and it’s one of the reasons I like blogging here – there’s nobody to rein me in, which may or may not be a good thing!

In terms of writing magazine features – or at least sitting down to chat with artists and musicians – I’m a genuine novice and have no formal training, just a passion for music and words. I’m learning all the time, and one of the things I learned from chatting with the guys from The Prophet Motive is that sometimes it’s best just to shut up and let the artist(s)/subject speak. I recorded our conversation on my iPhone and when I played it back I was quite surprised with how much I rambled on myself, when actually, I needed to try and shape a feature from their words, not mine. I also needed to consider that some of it would be edited out, so ultimately I was a little disappointed with this particular piece. Although I didn’t let the guys down with what was eventually published, I felt it could have been so much better if only I’d let them do more of the talking. Because I know they had much more to say …

More recently I interviewed local blues and soul legend Darren Watson for the next issue of the magazine, and it was like chalk and cheese. Watson is so experienced in all matters media, he just took control, even in a crowded café environment where a lot of other peripheral distractions could quite easily have side-tracked us from the task at hand – right down to sorting out my coffee order for me! It probably helped that our paths had crossed a few times before, and that we had mutual friends from way back, but the key thing was I wound up with a lot more quotes than I needed. The end result was an article that was much easier to write, presumably easier to read, and the majority of words in the piece came directly from him. Which is how it should be.

Anyway, that’s for another post sometime in the future … in the meantime click below to learn a little bit about The Prophet Motive, a couple of very cool cats from Rotorua ...

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Festive Dozen 2014: Hercules & Love Affair - Blind (Frankie Knuckles Remix 2008)

As is so often the way when a legend passes, the weeks and months following the death of house music pioneer Frankie Knuckles back at the end of March saw fresh life return to a lot of the man’s music. With three decades worth of original and remix work out there to be mined and celebrated for years to come, Knuckles’ legacy as the “godfather of house” is well and truly secure.

Of the multitude of remixes to resurface, one of my own favourites, and a track on high rotation during the mid-2014 period was the sublime Knuckles remix of Hercules and Love Affair’s ‘Blind’, which originally surfaced as far back as 2008, but it’s a tune that remains as irresistible today as it was back then …
R.I.P Frankie Knuckles

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Album Review: Various - Hyperdub 10.3 (2014)

Hyperdub 10.3 is the third chapter in the series of 2014 compilation albums released to celebrate the Hyperdub label's tenth birthday in 2014. I looked at the previous couple here and here.

Again the tracklisting reads like a virtual who's who of the label's roster, with all of the main players being present and accounted for - see Burial, Kode9, Ikonika, and Darkstar to name only the most obvious. This time though, the focus is placed firmly on music residing at the more ambient end of the label's output.

A generous 23 tracks are showcased, and the most striking thing - aside from the ethereal and atmospheric nature of the music - is the almost complete absence of orthodox vocals. For example, we wait until track 12 - Cooly G's 'Mind' - before there's anything resembling a fully decipherable non-chopped up or sampled vocal.
Which is all well and good, but the effect can be a little disorientating, and there's perhaps a tendency for a lot of the tracks to blend together, forming an almost borderless sonic mash. Which means that although it remains an enjoyable enough listen - mostly mellow and downbeat, but not always - it's difficult not to get a little lost in it.

The two Burial tracks, the eerie 'In McDonald's', and the slightly spookier 'Night Bus', are welcome additions, but each one feels like a snapshot of what might be, and there's disappointment that neither track really goes anywhere. Having said that, I do appreciate that sometimes less is more, and even half-formed Burial ideas can take innovation to a level more conventional artists can only ever dream about.

Overall 10.3 offers yet more impressive evidence that music released by Hyperdub is practically impossible to categorise (as much as I’ve repeatedly tried to do exactly that over the course of three reviews!). If the '10' series is proving anything at all, it's that the label actually transcends orthodox genre descriptions, and surely that’s got to be a good thing.

I've just listened to a copy of the very expansive 2-disc series finale, Hyperdub 10.4 … so watch this space for a final review to complete the full set.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Festive Dozen 2014: Sunjaman - Heavyweight Sound

Sunjaman is a bass music/dub producer from Athens, Greece, and in March of 2014 he released an EP called Outta Here, a red-eyed concoction of spiritual roots in a contemporary dub/steppa-style. As much as I was taken by the title track and the different versions of ‘Witness The Day’ on the seven-track EP, I’ve chosen the melodica-drenched opener ‘Heavyweight Sound’ to represent Sunjaman as one of my surprise pod-favourites during the year.

‘Heavyweight Sound’ features vocals from fellow Greek dub identity Northical, and it offers firm evidence – if any was needed – that you don’t need to live in deepest Trenchtown to vibe out on Jamaican roots. Outta Here, and a whole lot of other wicked dub and dub-related goodness is available (for free) on the Dub-O-Phonic Netlabel blog (here).

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The No Problemos

Some local product. And when I say some “local” product I do mean very local. Actually neighbours … like practically next door. Young Kapiti Coasters making their way in the world. I’m not saying this is a world-beater, and anyone who knows me will appreciate that I’m not really hip hop’s biggest fan, but I think The No Problemos have made a bloody good album, rapping in a straight-up nu zild accent, against a backdrop of cool vibes and funky beats, occasionally even getting a little existential on my good neighbourly arse. This is from earlier in 2014, the collective’s third album since the start of 2013 … name-your-price, take a listen, and if you dig, work backwards … Somethin’ Real to keep it real.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Festive Dozen 2014: James Blake - Limit To Your Love (Kygo Remix)

With just six weeks until the end of the year, it’s time to start thinking about those essential end-of-year lists … I always do some sort of album wrap for everythingsgonegreen so I’ll get to that at some stage.

I’ve actually got a number of half completed album reviews for “new release” 2014 albums, so I should probably get on with completing one or two of those as well. So many albums, so little time. I may end up lumping quite a few short reviews together in one or two posts just to get them up while they still have some semblance of relevance.
Last year I looked at what had been hot on my pod through the year by listing a ‘Random 30’ (tracks) and posting related youtube links for my most-listened-to “tunes of the year”. But that was way too hard and this year I’ll cut that back to a nice even dozen. Let’s call it a Festive Dozen. An everythingsgonegreen equivalent of the 12 days of Christmas … or something.

Let’s start with one of my absolute favourite remixes of the year. James Blake’s ‘Limit To Your Love’ has been around a lot longer and has been subjected to many different reconfigurations over the course of its hipster life, but none captured my attention quite like this version.
This was hot pod fodder for me during some bleak winter months; so warm and lush, if this doesn’t get your hips swaying, even just a teeny bit, I humbly suggest you might need to check for a pulse …

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Super Narco Man

Following on from a similar theme where I posted about Tauranga’s Here Comes Alice (here), and where I reviewed the Rotorua-based Prophet Motive’s album Manifest Density for NZ Musician (here), there’s some ridiculously good independent music coming out of the Bay of Plenty region at present.

Good, as in straightforward no-holds-barred punk, and/or noise pop with a political bent.

In a week or two I will upload a feature I wrote on The Prophet Motive for NZ Musician (I’d like the magazine to have some sort of exclusivity for now, for whatever that’s worth) but in the meantime I want to draw your attention to a self-titled debut album for Super Narco Man, another Tauranga-based band, and another name-your-price Bandcamp release.
But where regular (and current) tour-mates The Prophet Motive make music that sits firmly in the folk-punk category, with an obvious left-leaning political allegiance in plain view for all, the music of Super Narco Man is a little more ambiguous – both stylistically and politically.

Sure, they’re angry as hell about something, and they take great delight in letting us know that, it’s just that these riffs chug and churn, and Super Narco Man’s big three-piece sound ticks far more formula-bound boxes. If this is a form of punk rock, and I think it is, then it’s a version which remains resolutely indebted to classic rock’s trademark touchstones. Not an altogether bad thing.

Super Narco Man won’t appeal to all, and it’s certainly very different to the sort of stuff usually covered on everythingsgonegreen. I’m more than a couple of listens into it now, and I’m still digesting how ferocious and raw it can be in parts. But I want to stop short of tagging it with the dreaded “acquired taste” label, because it’s far more deserving than that.

The key thing here is attitude, the keen sense of unrepentant DIY at play; this is hard-edged rock n roll from provincial New Zealand’s heartland, and the album has a certain rough-round-the-edges appeal that in many respects harks back to a bygone era long since lost. Grab a copy, take a listen, and decide for yourself …

Super Narco Man on Facebook

The Prophet Motive on Facebook

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

R.I.P. John Holt

Reggae music lost another one of its true greats over the weekend with the death of John Holt.

Holt was the lead vocalist and a formidable wordsmith for The Paragons in the Sixties – writing many hits, including ‘The Tide Is High’, which eventually became a monster smash for Blondie.

He then went on to enjoy a relatively successful solo career, and became respected for his many cover versions as much as he was for recordings of his own original material.

Holt died in London after a short illness, some reports suggest he was 69, others say 67, and after checking with Wiki and applying some basic math - using fingers - I'm inclined to go with the latter.

Here’s my favourite Holt moment, ‘Ali Baba’ …

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Gig Review: The Selecter at Bodega, Wellington, 10 October 2014

I went to see The Selecter at Bodega in Wellington last weekend, and while it won’t rate as the best gig I’ve seen all year, it was certainly one to help restore my otherwise ragged faith in the concept of the "nostalgia circuit".

Fronted by originals Pauline Black and Arthur 'Gaps' Hendrickson, The Selecter offered the not-quite-sold-out venue a highly polished performance; the band was professional, tight, and as sharp as ever. There were new (ish) songs near the end, but for the most part the gig was all about giving the punters exactly what they came to see – old stuff from the Too Much Pressure album, and other tunes from the band's 1979-1981 pomp.

And so we took a trip back in time, from ‘Three Minute Hero’ second song in, to ‘Missing Words’, ‘Black and Blue’, ‘Celebrate the Bullet’, a superb ‘Train To Skaville’ cover, plus many others, right on through to stand-outs ‘James Bond’ and ‘On My Radio’, which closed the set after more than an hour of whirlwind energy. We then got another 20 minutes in the form of an encore, which included ‘Too Much Pressure’, the ubiquitous title track from the album we were there to celebrate the 35th anniversary of.

Pretty darned impressive, recommended even.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Frankie's Run Down To Philly

As I’ve been doing the Bandcamp download links thing a little bit lately, and since I’ve also started noting the passing of a few musical heroes (I’m all euphoria and light, me), I thought I may as well send some love the way of Frankie Knuckles, another lost earlier this year. I haven’t seen this about very much elsewhere, but it’s a cool funky-arse tribute to the House Music God himself, by a guy called Phil Pagan, and I’m loving it right now … grab it, free etc blah:

Minuit - Happy

Fresh from splitting up, here’s a um, new release, from Wellington indietronica giants Minuit … available as a Bandcamp name-your-price download … as is the Serpico remix, which is arguably better than the original mix (both below):

This song has been lost for nine years, sung on the Rode on the road while touring 'The 88'. It never made it to any of the albums, and now it has come back to us. But we don't need it anymore. You can have it, it's yours.

“You always said that the memory, is better than the reality, I don't care just come back for me.

Things are lost the most before they're found, the memory of never seeing you around, he doesn't know that I'm happy.

He says he sees the way to get me on my knees. He said he'd make her pay, but she'd do it for free. He doesn't know that I'm happy.”

Released 07 October 2014

Album Review: J.Bird Taylor – The EP (2014)

Wellington artist J.Bird Taylor certainly can't be faulted for any lack of commitment, drive, or passion. Taylor’s been around the traps for more than a decade now, having released two previous EP-length albums, touring regularly, and fronting various bands as a lead vocalist. Yet she’s never really broken through or crossed the mainstream radar to any great extent. But her drive and her passion compel her to keep fronting up, and she’s back again, pushing the boundaries on release number three, a mini-album simply called The EP.

The release consists of seven tracks on one disc, plus an additional four-clip DVD containing some older video material. As a package it’s professional and impressive, with each disc showcasing Taylor’s unique take on 80’s-inspired theatrical rock. Some of this is experimental and almost genre-less, with shades of Nina Hagen at one end of the spectrum, and rather more low key or conventional acoustic forms at the other.

The EP probably won’t appeal to everyone, and some of the production feels as though its not all it could be, with Taylor’s vocal seemingly a little lost in the mix at times. A few of these tracks would definitely translate a lot better in a live setting, and the clips highlighted on the DVD would tend to confirm as much. Taylor’s art at its best is clearly just as much about the visual as it is about the aural, and as a two-disc set, The EP provides for a good overview of her talents.

(an edited version of this review appeared in the August/September edition of NZ Musician magazine)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

From the Doctor to the DMC - the rise of Wellington clubland in the 80s

I wrote a little bit about the AudioCulture website when it was first launched back in June 2013. Since then the "noisy library" has taken on a life of its own to become an incredible resource. Not only is it archiving information about all of the key bands, people, and events that make up the rich and vibrant history of music and pop culture in New Zealand, it's also digging deeper to look at some of the more regional and peripheral scenes. The sort of pre-internet era stuff that is otherwise in danger of falling between the cracks. And that's where history nuts like me come in.

Having already documented (for the blog) the strange phenomenon that was the early Eighties nightclubbing scene in little old Palmerston North - a blogpost that is fast closing in on 4,000 individual page hits (go figure) - I always intended to do something similar to cover off the Wellington scene of the same era (having moved to the capital mid decade). An approach from AudioCulture to do just that was the proverbial rocket I needed to get the project beyond the "great idea" stage and turn it into something rather more tangible - safe in the knowledge that anything published on AudioCulture will reach a far bigger readership than the blog itself can attract.

One of the main problems with attempting to provide an overview of events - a full decade's worth - all these years on is that stuff gets missed. Or gets lost in the mist. Important stuff. And everyone who was there at the time will recall things differently. For the AudioCulture piece, which amounted to some 4000 words, I stopped short of interviewing key personalities within the scene. Had I decided to colour in the framework and source quotes, I would have ended up with a book, or at least 30,000 words. So it reads as one man's perspective only and I left out far more than I was able to include - for a variety of reasons. Anyway, have a read (link below) or just enjoy some photos and flyers ...