Monday, August 25, 2014

Album Review: Various – Hyperdub 10.2 (2014)

Hyperdub 10.2 is the second release in the Hyperdub label’s series of 10th birthday celebration releases. We can expect two more in this series, and everythingsgonegreen cast a beady eye over 10.1 a little earlier in 2014.

Like 10.1, the second album is another sampler collection seeking to showcase a few of the label’s more prominent artists and acts, and label luminaries like Burial, Ikonika, DJ Rashad, Cooly G, and Kode9 feature once again.
But with just 14 tracks on offer this time around, compared to the extended double disc package we got on the first retrospective, 10.2 feels somewhat abbreviated and perhaps even a little lightweight. Not only in terms of the album’s length but also stylistically. Where 10.1 was quite edgy and very club-orientated, 10.2 reflects on some of the label’s more commercial R&B moments. As a result it falls a little short of my (admittedly very high) expectations.
I completely understand what label guru Steve Goodman is trying to achieve by offering a wider overview of the label’s output, but however else I see it, R&B just ain’t my bag, and a lot of this is just too sugar-coated for my own taste; I think there’s an over reliance on chopped up vocals, and/or additional vocal FX, and I definitely prefer my Hyperdub sounds with much more of a focus on the “bass” side of the spectrum.

Highlights are a bit thin on the ground with this one, the Burial track ‘Shell of Light’ is probably the best thing here, but if I’m being kind, the contributions of Morgan Zarate and Jessy Lanza – two tracks each – are not too bad either.

If I wasn’t such an anal collector of Hyperdub compilations I’d probably be tempted to discard 10.2 (but I won’t) …

 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Calling Planet Earth ... Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

I’m not sure what piece of critical information I’m missing regards this ongoing Darren Watson/Planet Key farce, but I really don’t get it. Since when has artistic freedom and the basic human right to express an opinion been so heavily monitored and policed?

As I understand it, not only is mainstream media (TV, radio) broadcast of the song banned, but a request has been made for it to be removed from Vimeo and YouTube altogether. Next step, all sales will be banned (see press release below).
And apparently the “prohibition on broadcasting the song applies as a permanent ban, and not just at election time” … um, what? … the Electoral Commission now has an extended scope and gets to determine what is censored beyond the period leading up to a general election?! Really?

Let’s be clear, there is nothing obscene or offensive in either the lyrics of the song or the video clip, just two men (Watson and video producer Jeremy Jones) expressing a valid opinion on political matters. It is surely as simple as that?
Powertool Records Election EP
Having downloaded the video myself, and having published it on everythingsgonegreen a week ago (in an attempt to offer support to Watson’s position and to raise awareness of Electoral Commission folly), am I now to expect some contact from the Electoral Commission myself for having the audacity to publish a clip so mildly critical of our smarmy Prime Minister?
Is this where things are headed under the current government? And isn’t this what election campaigns are all about – people expressing opinions in the public domain?
Certainly local indie Powertool Records seem to think it’s okay to release an album of politically-motivated songs – by a variety of artists – in the lead up to the election (click here for Bandcamp link).

So what is the difference?
Look, I appreciate I’m only a layman when it comes to these matters, but I really can’t see what the problem is – specifically with regard to ‘Planet Key’ …

… if you can offer any informed insight as to what it is I’m failing to grasp, then I’d appreciate you letting me know in the comments section. Comments along the lines of “that big bad blues musician said naughty things about our humble leader” will not be taken seriously.
Meanwhile, here’s the full press release from a few days ago:

Electoral Commission Censors Musician and Undermines Freedom of Speech
The Electoral Commission has told Darren Watson, a musician, to stop selling or promoting his satirical song "Planet Key" or he may face prosecution.

The song and music video satirises John Key and members of the National Government in a humorous way. The music video has had more than 80,000 hits on video websites, including Vimeo and YouTube http://vimeo.com/102441715

"This is simply a satirical song. I wrote it at home and it's the musical expression of my own personal views", says Mr Watson. Jeremy Jones of Propeller Motion, the maker of the video, says he was motivated to make the amusing Monty Python-style animated clip after hearing the song and seeing an opportunity to work on a creative project with Mr Watson. Neither of the men received any payment for producing the work, but have sold the song through i-Tunes to recoup some of their costs.
However, the Electoral Commission has not seen the funny side and Mr Watson has received a letter saying that the Commission considers the song and associated video are "election advertisements" under the Electoral Act and "election programmes" under the Broadcasting Act.

The Electoral Commission is also threatening that the sale of the song through i-Tunes without a promoter statement is "an apparent breach of section 204F of the Electoral Act", which is an illegal practice punishable by a fine of up to $10,000.
"I object to the suggestion that I am some sort of political promoter. I am a musician and I feel very strongly about this kind of censorship", says Mr Watson. "I believe in artistic freedom."

The Commission has told TV and radio stations they should not broadcast the song outside of news programmes. The prohibition on broadcasting the song applies as a permanent ban, and not just at election time.

 Lawyer for Mr Watson and Mr Jones, Wendy Aldred, says she has asked the Electoral Commission to reconsider its opinion, saying the Commission's letter is incorrect in its approach to the law, fails to take into account Mr Watson's right to freedom of expression under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, and is heavy-handed.
If the Electoral Commission does not revise its opinion the matter is likely to go to Court.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Planet Key

It seems ridiculous that the Electoral Commission has banned broadcast of Darren Watson’s blues/satire crossover track ‘Planet Key’. Rock music, and blues-derived music especially, has long been a vehicle for making political statements, but apparently that’s not allowed during a period leading up to a general election.

But let’s be honest, so far as criticism of Prime Minister John Key is concerned, Watson’s track is a fairly mild mannered affair, and is this really an appropriate level of censorship for a democratic country in 2014?
Personally, I think it stinks (on one level) and it does seem very odd that newly released biographies of Key, and that of political nemesis Winston Peters, can boldly sit (and be heavily promoted) on the shelves of bookshops throughout the land. Surely these books amount to little more than extended promotional blurbs? What is the real difference between extended statements of that ilk, and a short burst of humour from an otherwise fairly low profile local (Wellington-based) blues musician?
On the other hand, such madness often leads to curiosity among the masses, and Watson must be quietly chuffed that his track has caused such a stir. News coverage on national television and plenty of ongoing radio publicity (if not actual radio play) has seen ‘Planet Key’ racing up the iTunes chart, and there’s real irony in the Electoral Commission inadvertently giving the track a much higher profile than it might otherwise have received.
Thinking back to the 2011 general election, I can recall tracks from the likes of The Eversons and Home Brew making a small (actually minimal) impact on the campaign trail, and of course there was my own personal favourite from fellow Wellingtonians Gold Medal Famous, who released multiple versions of ‘John Key Is A Dick’ to very little fanfare or fuss.

In fact, 2014 has seen a Gold Medal Famous sequel to that release called ‘John Key Is STILL A Dick’ … pick up a free and uncensored version of that track at the GMF bandcamp page here.
Meanwhile, here’s the vastly underrated Darren Watson with ‘Planet Key’ …


video


 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Album Review: Vorn – More Songs About Girls And The Apocalypse (2014)

Wellingtonian Vorn Colgan and his team of merry pranksters always leave the impression that they’re so full of clever ideas there’s never quite enough room or time to get them all down on one album. As is the case once again with album number seven, More Songs About Girls And The Apocalypse, which is fair brimming with wry observational humour, smart social commentary, and the usual Vorn-sized portions of self deprecation.

Out on Powertool Records, and recorded at You Call That A Studio studio in Newtown - which I suspect is something akin to Colgan’s bedroom - More Songs is yet another example of Vorn’s predilection for thumbing a nose in the face of convention.

This time out we get a little bit of everything and a whole lot more; from the Sgt Pepper-esque chamber pop of the opener ‘Flint And Tinder’, to the warped synthpop of ‘Drowning Kittens’ (featuring Anna Edgington), all the way across multiple styles to the Celtic flavours of ‘This Is What’.

We even get a variation on Hip hop, and some plain old fashioned guitar-driven pop. You never quite know what’s coming next - and that’s a pretty cool thing. There’s plenty of violin, there’s trumpet, double bass, and that wonderful piece of technology we call the Kaossilator, yet somehow the music almost feels peripheral at times, such is the dizzying appeal of the lyric sheet.

And while the very funny and hopefully-not-autobiographical ‘The Story of My Fucking Life’ perhaps offers us the best illustration of that, I find it hard to go past ‘Repentance Song’, which coughs up this little gem:
“I have strayed and I have sinned, I can’t even touch myself because I don’t know where I’ve been … my straight and narrow’s bent and stretched beyond repair ..."

(an edited version of this review originally appeared in the June/July edition of NZ Musician)

Album Review: Bonjah - Beautiful Wild (2014)

Coming to us out of Tauranga by way of Melbourne, where they’re currently based, hard rocking four-piece Bonjah return with studio album number three, Beautiful Wild.

This is a young band with a great back story; high school friends who left the bosom of home for the bright lights of Oz back in 2006, they honed their craft busking, initially out of pure necessity, before then hitting the road – touring extensively, not only in Australia, but right across the globe. They’ve done their time as a support act, as occasional headliners, and more recently as firm festival favourites.

All of that nous and experience is immediately apparent on Beautiful Wild, an album that positively bristles with the sort of self-assurance that only comes from time spent playing together. This is garage-meets-blues rock, of the harder variety, eleven solid tunes running the course of some 37 minutes.

Brooding opener ‘Bullet In The Barrel’ sets the tone, with the raspy vocal of Glenn Mossop well equipped to complement the slow burning tension at play in the music. ‘Evolution’ and ‘Honey’ were put out there as tasters well in advance of the album’s release, and they’re among the highlights, but the title track has to be the best thing here. It works as a slightly menacing centrepiece, with soulful harmonies, and a terrific vocal cameo from Ella Hooper.
Recorded at two locations in Melbourne and produced by Jan Skubiszewski, Beautiful Wild is all about possessing a certain type of swagger - let’s call it a rock’n’roll thing - and it’s something these guys have in spades.

(an edited version of this review originally appeared in the June/July edition of NZ Musician)

Friday, August 8, 2014

List-mania

We all love a good list right?

Something to pore over, ponder, and debate … something to find fault with even?
As you’ll know if you’ve been paying any attention to the classic album posts on here, everythingsgonegreen is a big fan of Eighties music, and a pretty big fan of New Order. So here’s a couple of lists that have been floating around cyberspace over the past week or so:

And from the Guardian Music Blog – New Order: 10 of the best

As these sorts of definitive lists go, I thought these were quite decent.