Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Front 242, Alfa Matrix, and Take Five

Earlier this year, back in July, I blogged about Belgian electro-technocrats Front 242, the Alfa Matrix label, and an appetite-whetting remix competition.

The plan – according to the blurb at the time – was that the winning remix of Front 242’s (track) ‘Take One’ would get a release at the end of August (2015), and be made available as a download on the Alfa Matrix bandcamp page.

Or so I thought … cue electronic tumbleweed floating across the vast cyber plain that separates various arteries of the worldwide information super-highway.

I checked back regularly, re-checked, and triple checked, even, but still nothing appeared.

Until last week, when yet another one of those super impressive ‘Matrix Downloaded’ name-your-price compilation releases appeared on said bandcamp page, and what’s that I spy with my rather beady eye? … included on there is a remix of ‘Take One’ by a producer called Kant Kino. Which I can only presume was the winning remix.

Regardless of that, and more to the point, this is the 5th edition of the Matrix Downloaded series, and once again it’s a very extensive package featuring all of the label’s key artists (61 tracks in total). If you’re unfamiliar with the label – and I’d suggest that the sonic wizardry of Front 242 is a fairly accurate guide – then what have you got to lose by downloading and sampling?

If you’re really keen – or a convert – you can also grab the four previous compilation releases as name-your-price downloads. Don’t be shy …

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Festive Dozen 2015: Of Monsters And Men - I Of The Storm

Back in 2012, Icelandic band Of Monsters And Men released a debut album called My Head Is An Animal, which went on to make the widely coveted (ahem) everythingsgonegreen “albums of the year” list. It was a great little album; bold and bouncy, and packed full of references to the fantastical and the mythical. It was a "happy place", a genuine escape into another world (maritime and nautical themes abound), and I became very familiar with it very quickly.

Fast forward to 2015, and Of Monsters And Men returned with a follow-up, a second album called Beneath The Skin, which, whilst being every bit as compelling as the debut, was a much darker, far more introspective offering. Again though, I loved it, and the band immediately re-established itself as a permanent fixture on my Pod throughout the year.

Beneath The Skin lacks the one really big single (or big hit) that My Head Is An Animal benefitted from (‘Little Talks’) in terms of wider exposure, but I think overall, over the duration, it’s a slightly superior piece of work – some of the songwriting is quite wonderful and the band sacrificed nothing by way of pop hooks in order to achieve a more contemplative, earthier hue. Not so much a happy place but still a destination well worth visiting if you don't mind the occasional lump-in-yer-throat moment.

One of the album’s highlights is ‘I of the Storm’ … check out the clip below:

(The Festive Dozen is a fairly randomly selected year-end collection of clips featuring the tunes which featured most prominently on the (generally pop-loving) iPod playlists of everythingsgonegreen at various stages throughout 2015) ...



 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Fresh Cuts for NZ Musician December 2015/January 2016

The December/January issue of NZ Musician hit the streets this week, and as per usual I managed to sneak a couple of album reviews past the quality control radar of the magazine’s editorial staff …

B2KDA: Rising

Officially, Rising is album number four from the collective previously known as Batucada Sound Machine, or BSM. But it’s also a first for the group while wearing a shiny new B2KDA badge. Such is the fluid nature of this ever-evolving 10-piece-plus ensemble, it’s quite remarkable how many of these tunes stay faithful to the modus operandi and work of all previous BSM line-ups. And that’s a good thing – a proven formula that works. If B2KDA does manage to set out its own stall under the new guise, then pure unadulterated funk remains very much at its heart – see tunes like the single, Can’t Give You (What You’re Asking For), and The Greatest Step. There’s also a crossover into bass and brass-heavy dub territories, with king-size slabs of electro (I’m A Physicist), ska (Same Old Thing), and world music flavours (Por La Noche). Such is the diversity on offer, Rising appeals as being almost completely borderless in its widescreen vision, a hybrid of international sounds blending together in the name of a funky dance party. Which is hardly surprising given that the album was recorded and pieced together at five or six different locations across the globe, places as far flung and diverse as Berlin, Singapore, Dunedin, and umm, Blockhouse Bay. The finishing touches were added in the studio of Sola Rosa’s Andrew Spraggon, with the end result being a light and breezy album crammed full of fresh summery vibes.


Host Club: Gymkhana EP
If the tunes found on this debut EP are anything to go by, then Host Club look set for a big future. Coming to us straight out of Western Springs High School, as recent regional Rockquest finalists and yet veterans of Auckland’s vibrant all-ages scene, Host Club’s most immediate and obvious point of difference is the very distinctive baritone of lead vocalist Finn Dalbeth. It’s a voice that defies his teenage years, underpinned by the type of energetic and quirky indie rock more readily associated with a much older generation. As such, this music should appeal not only to the band’s own demographic, but also to those of us raised on the eccentricities and foibles of ’80s pop. Gymkhana was recorded and mixed by Karl Apao of Soundkard Productions. While each of the four tracks here offer up something slightly different, it’s the brooding tension and heavy vibe found on Miscellania, the closer and single, that showcases the Auckland four-piece at its very best. Whisper it, lest we place a hex, but these guys might deserve some watching.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Festive Dozen 2015: Princess Chelsea - Too Many People

In an ideal world, it would be a case of ... ‘move over Lorde, Princess Chelsea is here to claim the throne as the new Global Queen of Kiwi Pop’.

But, as we know, it’s far from an ideal world, and Princess Chelsea (aka Chelsea Nikkel) remains, for the most part – in a global context, at least – a relatively unknown prospect.

Which is surely only a temporary state of affairs, with the Auckland-based artist’s 2015 album, The Great Cybernetic Depression, growing in stature with each passing week. It certainly deserves its place on the many local year-end "best of" lists it currently features on, being an almost perfect blend of irony-tinged social comment and dreamy space-pop. More of the latter than the former.

One of my own favourite *pop* tunes of 2015 was ‘Too Many People’, a great piece of iPod fodder/commuter fluff … check it out, I really like this clip, it's a bit sad and melancholic, yet at the same time our understated star looks as though she could be performing alone in her bedroom, singing in front of the mirror (hey, we’ve all done it. And what on earth is that cat doing @ 2.20?) ...

(By the way, everythingsgonegreen has no real issue with Lorde’s status as the flagbearer for Kiwi Pop ™ on the international stage. We're just prone to being a little facetious at times. Okay, a lot facetious. And anyway, we all know Kiwi Pop ™ isn’t really a proper “thing”. Beyond these shores. Yet.)

(The Festive Dozen is a fairly randomly selected year-end collection of clips featuring the tunes which featured most prominently on the (generally pop-loving) iPod playlists of everythingsgonegreen at various stages throughout 2015) ...
 


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Whakataurangi Ake

Here’s something brand new from Disjecta Membra, who I’ve blogged about previously (albeit briefly). This is a quite lovely collaboration with another local artist, Rob Thorne, and it feels like something of a major departure from what we’d usually expect from Disjecta Membra. But clearly it’s very personal, and the real beauty here lies in its intimacy.

The thinking behind the release – a free download, no less – is explained further in the following press release:

Wellington’s Disjecta Membra together with acclaimed taonga pūoro artist Rob Thorne have today released a new rendition of ‘Whakataurangi Ake’; an old waiata from Rereahu-Maniapoto, composed by the noted kaumatua, Charles Tauhou ‘Pumi’ Taituha (1930-1993).
‘Whakataurangi Ake’ has been recorded and released with thanks and acknowledgement to Jaqui Taituha, mokopuna of Pumi Taituha. In recognition of Pumi’s whānau, hapū and iwi, an interview with Disjecta Membra on Maniapoto FM’s ‘Pātere’ programme was scheduled to coincide with today’s release. Sadly, due to recent bereavements within the Maniapoto FM whānau, however, the interview has now been postponed to next Wednesday, 23 December.
Normally, Disjecta Membra might be better known for dark, atmospheric, ‘gothic’ music. But in more than twenty years’ evolution the band have ventured beyond the confines of the genre, often drawing from a rich New Zealand cultural heritage in the process of carving out their own unique and distinctive identity.
Similarly, before entering the world of taonga pūoro (traditional Māori instruments), Rob Thorne (Ngāti Tumutumu)’s musical roots lay in the experimental noise and swampy alternative rock scene of late eighties/early nineties Palmerston North. That background in ‘fringe’ music, coupled with Thorne’s emphasis on bringing ancient and modern together, is what led the group to seek out his collaboration on the track.
Disjecta Membra’s treatment of ‘Whakataurangi Ake’ was initially devised as a form of welcome to international performers whom they were playing live support to, inspired by the song’s frequent use on marae throughout the country as a waiata tautoko at pōwhiri.
For bandmates Michel Rowland (Ngāi Tai/Ngāti Tai) and Matthew Tāmati Scott (Waitaha), the piece took on further layers of meaning due to Michel’s grandfather and Matthew’s father having both passed away ahead of their first live performance of the waiata in 2014.
‘Whakataurangi Ake’ is available for free download from disjectamembra.bandcamp.com, accompanied by a pdf booklet containing original artwork and graphic design by bassist and in-house designer, Isobel ‘Izzy’ Te Aho-White (Ngāi Tahu). The track was also recorded and produced by Izzy’s brother-in-law, Bryan Tabuteau for Molière Recording.
The band’s previous release, ‘Madeleine! Madelaine! (Molière Mix)’, appeared on the popular international Bat Conservation Trust fundraiser compilation, ‘For The Bats Volume III’ in October. ‘Madeleine! Madelaine!’ has received extensive airplay from radio stations and specialist broadcasters in the UK, Europe, North and South America, Australia and even in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Ironically, the band still struggle to achieve regular airplay at home.
Rob Thorne’s album, Whāia Te Māramatanga, was released on New Zealand instrumental music label Rattle in 2014, to widespread critical praise. He has since toured New Zealand exhaustively, more than once, and in January/February 2016 will be in Berlin, performing and recording a commissioned piece for the CMT Festival for Adventurous Music & Art.
Thorne and Disjecta Membra meanwhile look forward to several collaborative projects together in the near future.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Festive Dozen 2015: Silk 86 - Dem Curves

I picked this one up as a download from the XLR8R website a few months back, and it probably doesn’t need an explanation, or too many words to accompany it. It is best consumed via headphones and doubtlessly loses something if you attempt to take it in via tinny PC speakers or straight off your phone.

Because it’s ALL about dat bass, and dem curves … a piece of classic old style house music from London-based production duo Silk 86. Grab a free download of the latest Silk 86 EP here.

(The Festive Dozen is a fairly randomly selected year-end collection of clips featuring the tunes which featured most prominently on the (generally pop-loving) iPod playlists of everythingsgonegreen at various stages throughout 2015) ...




Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Festive Dozen 2015: Mel Parsons - Get Out Alive

I listened to a lot more locally produced New Zealand music than ever before in 2015. Not only because of my commitment to writing reviews and articles for NZ Musician, which guaranteed a steady flow of fresh material (and inspiration), but also because I wanted to. Because I sought it out and looked for it at every turn.

I truly believe that 2015 was a bumper year for local stuff, one of the best ever, and when I get around to writing up the annual everythingsgonegreen “albums of the year” list, I already know that around half of those albums will have been made by NZ-based artists.

One such release was the Mel Parsons full-length offering Drylands, a gem of an album which just kept on getting better and better with each and every listen.

It is a difficult task to single out one solitary track from Drylands for the purposes of this (Festive Dozen) exercise, simply because there are so many choice cuts to pick from. But in the end I’ve opted for the Silver Scroll-nominated ‘Get Out Alive’, the third single culled from the album. The beauty of this one is that it is based on a real-life event, an actual car accident that Parsons survived, so it’s written and sung straight from the heart …

(The Festive Dozen is a fairly randomly selected year-end collection of clips featuring the tunes which featured most prominently on the (generally pop-loving) iPod playlists of everythingsgonegreen at various stages throughout 2015) ...



Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Festive Dozen 2015: Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe - Wehmut

I wouldn’t have known much about Anton Newcombe or his fabulously named psych-rock band, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, if it wasn’t for Dig!, the Sundance Award-winning rock documentary of roughly a decade ago. I was a fairly big Dandy Warhols fan at the time, and Dig!, of course, um, dug deep, into the often fractious relationship between Newcombe’s band and the much more high profile Warhols. Neither band emerged from the documentary unscathed … with inter-band rivalry, petty in-fighting, jealousy, and drug abuse, being the film’s predominant themes.

The Dandy Warhols subsequently struggled to match the highs of a turn of the millennium peak (the band was at its best between 1996 and 2003), while The Brian Jonestown Massacre went on to enjoy a large cult following for many years – quite probably because of the film’s success, and the enhanced profile that came with it.

Which more or less brings us up to date, and to my point … which is to acknowledge what the now apparently clean and sober Newcombe has been doing in 2015. Namely, collaborating with Toronto-based singer-songwriter Tess Parks on an album called I Declare Nothing, which had a mid-2015 release.

I probably could have selected any number of tracks from the album for the sampler I offer here, and I really loved ‘Cocaine Cat’, but none capture the album’s stoner-psych-prog crossover excess quite like ‘Wehmut’. I’m not really sure what Parks was doing before this, but that voice has certainly been lived in, and in Anton Newcombe, she may just have found a perfect muse.

Curiously enough, I’m sensing a fairly strong Dandy Warhols influence here …

(The Festive Dozen is a fairly randomly selected year-end collection of clips featuring the tunes which featured most prominently on the (generally pop-loving) iPod playlists of everythingsgonegreen at various stages throughout 2015) ...



 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Golden Curtain and Hell Is Other People

A few months ago I sat down with Andrew Mckenzie of Golden Curtain for a chat about the band and music in general. The conversation formed the core of an article published in the October/November issue of NZ Musician magazine. I thought I’d put the unedited version online here (the magazine version had a few changes):

It’s the province that gave us Pixie Williams, Johnny Cooper, and Phil Judd. More recently, it’s where Connan Mockasin and Lee Prebble learned their formative music chops. And it is home to the 2015 Taite Music Prize winners, Jakob. I’m talking about that bastion of sun, surf, and vineyard, Hawke’s Bay.

Right now it’s also home base for Andrew Mckenzie, Andrew Gladstone, and Brad Gamble, who collectively go by the name of Golden Curtain. If those names seem familiar it’s because you’ll recognise them from past lives with Grand Prix (Mckenzie), Garageland (Gladstone), and A Twin Moon (Gamble).
 
I’m sitting down to chat with vocalist/guitarist Mckenzie primarily because Golden Curtain has a new album out, the trio’s third full-length effort. It’s called Hell Is Other People, but despite some previous form as a philosophy student in Wellington, Mckenzie is quick to deny any connection the album title might have with one of Jean-Paul Sartre’s most famous lines.

“I’m sure people will listen to the title song and know I’m not being super heavy or dark. It’s a light-hearted chorus, and I wasn’t getting into existential philosophy or anything when I wrote that one.”

Gladstone was initially set to join us, in the immediate wake of a well-received Garageland reunion gig in Auckland. But he was forced to pull the plug after becoming consumed by his very own personal version of hell; the same brutal seven-day cold that clogged up GP waiting rooms right across the land this winter.  

Mckenzie and drummer Gladstone share a couple of different musical projects, and it’s clear the collaboration is as much about embracing a much coveted work/life balance as it is about a mutual love of playing music. Mckenzie explains:

“More and more as time goes on, you start wondering what the game plan is with this whole thing. By the time you get to our incredible old age you start asking yourself about the things you enjoy doing. The most enjoyable thing at the moment is just coming up with new stuff and recording it.

“As a band we’re just trying to go forward and come to terms with the fact that people don’t buy albums anymore.  I think it’s really important to keep on making music, but to also understand that at the same time you’ve got to keep your day job. This is where I grew up. I’m working on the orchard, and I’m doing music.

“Since I came back here and started playing music with Andrew, I decided I needed to pull back on the Americana. There are one or two songs on (the second album) Dream City which have a country flavour, but I had this reinvigoration in terms of English rock and pop music. That’s actually where the title of (debut release) English Tuning came from. We went back to that classic English style.”
 
 L to R: Mckenzie, Gladstone, and Gamble
Hell Is Other People might just about be the band’s most pop-geared effort thus far, yet for all of its hooks – and there are a few – Mckenzie was not shy about keeping things experimental and fresh.

“On this latest album, I came up with this idea that involved re-stringing the guitar as well as re-tuning it. All of those songs are on a guitar where two of the thickest strings are taken off and replaced by thin strings, like you’d find on the other side of the neck. So instead of going across two octaves, there’s one octave, but there’s a lot more notes, and once you realise that, you can hear it in the music. Because we’re a three-piece I can’t be doing anything too involved on the guitar while I’m singing so I was trying to come up with a way I could try to play some more interesting chords, but in an easy way.”

Mckenzie is also keen to assert that the album was very much a team effort, giving recognition to the role played by others.

“Brad is a multi-instrumentalist and a songwriter. He’s about 20 years younger than Andrew and I. His first instrument is the bass, but because he can play everything, he can listen to it from the perspective of a songwriter, a drummer, and a guitarist.

“Andrew had the idea to add some brass and wind to a couple of songs, and there’s a ‘Girl from Ipanema’ feel to some of it. So a friend of ours, Anton Wuts, who is a guitarist, but also an accomplished wind instrument player, came in and helped us out. As did Matt Mear, who originally came in to play trumpet, but helped out on French Horns.

“We had access to some really great gear, great mics and a lot of really old German equipment owned by sound engineer Brett Stanton, another friend of ours. We set things up at my home in a way that gave us a much better sound quality than we’d been used to. I came up with a rough mix and tracking, but Brett tidied up the mix and mastered it.”

Plans are already in place for another album, and it’s likely to feature a song-writing collaboration with San Francisco-based writer Alex Green, who edits and writes for a website called Stereo Embers.

Bit on the side: there'll be a load of compromisin' ...
“Alex put out a book called Emergency Anthems, a collection of his prose. I did an interview with him about a year ago, and learned of some stuff culled from his book that the publishers didn’t want to use. He sent some through, and I read it and saw how it could be turned into songs. So he gave me free rein to do what I like (with the words). We’re actually seven songs into it; he’s sending through lyrics and we’re coming up with the music.”

Although it’s not quite a return to the halcyon heyday of yester-year, the live scene in the Bay has flourished since the return of the storied Cabana venue in Napier in 2008. More recently there has been the emergence of a venue called the Common Room (in Hastings). It hosts regular jazz nights, and generally acts as a hub for all manner of creative revelry. In addition to playing live with Golden Curtain, Mckenzie and Gladstone partner up as country “side-project” Michael Rhinestone Cowboy.

“It’s really just guitar, drums, and unrecorded old Grand Prix country songs. Andrew’s got this really old drum kit, older than us, and I play acoustic guitar. It’s really good for parties and we’ve done a few gigs at the Cabana as well. It’s light-hearted and fun.

“The beauty of this is that none of us need Golden Curtain to be any sort of money-making thing. I know some musicians who have gone down the road where they want their career in music to be their living so they get into all sorts of stuff, including chasing government funding, and playing gigs that most of the time you wouldn’t really want to do. If you don’t need music for your income then you’re free to play the music you want to play.”
 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Festive Dozen 2015: Courtney Barnett - Depreston

I have to admit, when I first heard the music of Courtney Barnett, I didn't quite get it. I couldn't quite see the attraction, or grasp what it was everyone else seemed to be raving about. And there is no question that an awful lot of people saw an awful lot of something - if indie rock had an "It Girl" in 2015, it was surely the Melbourne-based 28-year-old.

Then about halfway through the year I heard 'Depreston', a track off her debut album, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, and it all just instantly clicked ... it was the simplicity of her kitchen-sink lyrics, and the immediate accessibility of her girl-next-door DIY charm.

I was gutted that a series of unavoidable events forced me to miss her November Wellington gig (at Bodega) and - even worse - her Slow Boat Records in-store. Next time!

'Depreston' was a tune I kept returning to, and it appeals as an ideal cut to showcase what you'll find on Sometimes I Sit, an album which wound up going Top 5 in Oz, and Top 20 in the UK, the US, and New Zealand.

They say you should always write about what you know, and it's a modus operandi that serves Barnett well on this low key irony-fuelled slice-of-life journey into every day suburban living ... Preston being an actual suburb, a short drive north of Melbourne’s CBD.

(The Festive Dozen is a fairly randomly selected year-end collection of clips featuring the tunes which featured most prominently on the (generally pop-loving) iPod playlists of everythingsgonegreen at various stages throughout 2015) ...


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Festive Dozen 2015: Paul Hardcastle - '19' (30th Anniversary Remix Collection)

I do hate to go on, but one of the most timely and poignant reissues of 2015 was the 30th anniversary release of Paul Hardcastle’s ‘19’. A deluxe compilation containing 14 different mixes of ‘19’.

For me, it’s a track that never ages – despite its surface aesthetic and reliance on old technology making it an almost-certain-to-become-dated type of tune.

And of course, how could it possibly age when its anti-war message remains unheeded and just as relevant all these years on?

No, we haven’t learned the lessons of history. Yes, we still send boys to war.

Only these days the enemy we fight is harder to define, harder to locate, and hides behind the facade of religion. It sits stagnant for long periods, in our cities, and in our communities, just waiting to pounce. It is almost impossible to detect. And the truth is, it has very little to do with religion. It remains an indiscriminate killer.

Worst of all, how can you fight against an enemy who values death and martyrdom above all other things?

Well, it’s simple. You can’t fight that enemy. Certainly not in the way we’ve been fighting it so far. It’s clear we (a collective “we”, and I think I’m referring to “the west”, although I’m not entirely sure anymore) need a change of tack. The traditional “bomb the living bejaysus out of everything that moves” approach clearly hasn’t worked. And it will never work.

Just as it didn’t work in Vietnam.

(The Festive Dozen is a fairly randomly selected year-end collection of clips featuring the tunes which featured most prominently on the (generally pop-loving) iPod playlists of everythingsgonegreen at various stages throughout 2015) ...



Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Festive Dozen 2015: Ryan Adams - My Wrecking Ball

I was something of a late-comer to the self-titled 2014 Ryan Adams album. So much so, it was well into 2015 before I really started to digest just how good the slow-burning album was. I listened to it fairly religiously during the build up to his Wellington show in July – along with his 2015 Live at Carnegie Hall release – so it’s fair to say it was a fixture on my Pod for much of the first half of the year.

I thought the album had a nice “retro” feel about it, and it ticked a number of genre boxes (Americana/country-rock, indie and classic rock), but it was a throwback to the old fashioned singer-songwriter era of yester-year that gave us ‘My Wrecking Ball’, one of the album’s genuine highlights.

For that special someone in your life who turns up unannounced, unexpectedly, and then proceeds to take a wrecking ball to all the walls and barriers you'd spent a lifetime building. Whether they be perceived or real. The person who calls into question everything you’ve ever believed in, or believed about yourself ...

(The Festive Dozen is a fairly randomly selected year-end collection of clips featuring the tunes which featured most prominently on the (generally pop-loving) iPod playlists of everythingsgonegreen at various stages throughout 2015) ...
 
 
 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gig Review: Fleetwood Mac, Mt Smart, Auckland, 21 November 2015

The wind swirled and the rain fell relentlessly at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland last Saturday night. But it didn't really matter too much, as the age-defying Fleetwood Mac thrilled the near 40,000 in attendance with the band's 119th show of 2015.

Even one or two serious production issues along the way – intermittent big screen failures being an obvious one – couldn't dampen the spirits as the band reeled off one big hit after another over the course of nearly two and a half hours.
 
The bulk of those hits came from the band’s trilogy of late Seventies albums, with Rumours dominating the set-list throughout; after opening with 'The Chain', the concert was four songs old before we strayed from the Rumours path (with 'Rhiannon' off the eponymous 1975 effort). The "regular" set peaked and closed with 'Go Your Own Way', while the four-song encore included 'Don't Stop', before the gig closed with Christine McVie's 'Songbird' … and to think I was fretting a little beforehand that Rumours might perhaps be overlooked.

In between, we got the best of the rest, including 'Everywhere', 'Tusk', 'Sara', 'Little Lies', and a terrific take on 'Big Love', which was testimony to the genius of Lindsey Buckingham, and one of the night’s highlights.

Each member of the group took a moment to shine individually, Stevie Nicks in particular lapping up the adulation with ‘Landslide’ (gratuitously dedicated to the All Blacks), and the pure magic that is ‘Gold Dust Woman’, which was none the worse, and quite probably all the more dramatic, for arriving amid one of the night’s heaviest downpours.

Mick Fleetwood surpassed himself during the encore, with the long-time live favourite ‘World Turning’ including his obligatory lengthy drum solo, and before we knew it, after the ‘Songbird’ torch moment, the band was gone, having covered some 20-plus favourites.
 
Early Doors: Calm before the Storm
Grump time: Some of the production (big screen/sound) was poor, and I’m not sure how much of that can be attributed to the quickly deteriorating weather conditions. The support set of (Australian brother/sister duo/band) Angus and Julia Stone was also not without issues, in much calmer conditions.

Grump time 2: Don’t sing loudly in my ear. No matter how much you believe you’re Stevie Nicks “drowning in the sea of love”, you’re actually not. You’re annoying and you have a poor grasp of the words. I paid money to listen to Stevie, not your lame fog-horn attempts to replicate her. She’s a boho-goddess with velvet tones, and you’re the exact opposite of that. Okay. Got that? Ta.

Otherwise, all things considered, Fleetwood Mac at Mt Smart was pretty special, and I’m pleased I made the effort – which was, just quietly, considerable.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Festive Dozen 2015: Rodrigo y Gabriela - Torito

The 2014 album, 9 Dead Alive, was the fourth full-length outing from Mexican acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. Fans and critics alike rated the album the duo’s most accessible and pop-orientated effort yet, something which was underlined by the fact that sales of the album propelled it into the Top 40 on both sides of the Atlantic.

This tune, ‘Torito’, lifted from 9 Dead Alive, is perhaps the best example of that, blending as it does the duo’s latin influences, or natural flamenco flair, with an infectious and rather compelling pop aesthetic. ‘Torito’ enjoyed high rotation on my Pod throughout the closing weeks of last year, and had become a firm favourite by the start of 2015.
(The Festive Dozen is a fairly randomly selected year-end collection of clips featuring the tunes which featured most prominently on the (generally pop-loving) iPod playlists of everythingsgonegreen at various stages throughout 2015) ...
 
 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Festive Dozen 2015: Nicolas Haelg - Seduction Magnet

I really love it when old musical genres are given fancy new threads to wear. Especially when it results in something of a minor rebirth within that genre. In the last few years, that last bastion of the nightclub scoundrel, disco, has to one extent or another been given a new lease of life thanks to the emergence in clubs of a sub-genre called deep house.

It has a slower tempo (in terms of bpm) than house and most forms of what we might loosely call techno, but it’s bass-driven and usually relies on a funky guitar hook or riff to make those knees twitch. That’s a classic disco trick, as perfected over time by funk guitarists like Nile Rodgers, Bobby Womack, and Eddie Hazel, among many others. It’s the sound of Chic, Sister Sledge, Parliament, and more recently, Daft Punk. I think it’s something most people just feel, rather than hear, so please excuse my rather awkward attempt to describe it.

It’s also something that featured a lot in the work of a guy called Nicolas Haelg, a Switzerland-based producer who was prolific in his output and commitment to deep house throughout 2015. It seemed like every six weeks or so throughout the year, Haelg had a brand new track up on his Soundcloud page – usually free to download – either collaboratively or under his own name in a solo guise.

This is really just disco under another name, produced by a young guy whose parents would barely have been old enough to embrace the original sound the first time around. It’s the sound of New York 1975-1979, of mirror-balls, of glitter, and of sequin smoking jackets. Haelg’s brand of funk is so much of a throwback you can practically smell the amyl nitrate as it gets passed across the dancefloor ... okay, so I’m getting a little bit carried away, but you get the picture.

In short, and to get to my typically long-winded point, Nicolas Haelg might just about be the funkiest white guy on the planet right now, and one of his earliest bangers of 2015 was ‘Seduction Magnet’ … check it out:

(The Festive Dozen is a fairly randomly selected year-end collection of clips featuring the tunes which featured most prominently on the (generally pop-loving) iPod playlists of everythingsgonegreen at various stages throughout 2015) ...


 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Classic Album Review: Fleetwood Mac - Rumours (1977)

So much has been written about Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours over the years, it feels almost redundant adding my own two cents worth here. But I’m revisiting the album at present, because in a couple of days I’ll be amongst a heaving throng of thousands at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium, watching Fleetwood Mac perform the second of three (2015) concerts in New Zealand … the band’s ‘On With The Show’ tour. I’m quite excited about that, and right now, Rumours seems like the most natural thing in the world to be listening to.

Unlike most of the rest of the world’s music obsessives, I’ve never seen Fleetwood Mac live before. And I’m breaking some rules to get there. I usually get pretty hung up on the idea of seeing bands well after their prime. Hung up, as in precious and anal. I’ve blogged about that before. About my refusal to attend gigs based purely on a sense of nostalgia.

With Fleetwood Mac though, it feels different. It feels like I’ve got nothing to lose by seeing them at this stage of their career, well after their peak years. I guess that’s mainly because my relationship with Fleetwood Mac has always been based on a large helping of nostalgia. And because Rumours itself represents a comforting feeling of warmth and familiarity, carried forward from my childhood. You see, my Mum had this album when I was growing up. And Fleetwood Mac represent her generation, not mine. I’m going not because the band is precious to me, but because I’ll probably never get another chance to honour that formative (very early) period of my life in quite the same way.

My older sister and I thrashed Rumours while both in our early teens. She was probably a much bigger Fleetwood Mac fan than I was at the time, but I’m quite sure I adored Stevie Nicks every bit as much as she did … even if it was for a different reason.
 
Teenage Kicks/Stevie Nicks

More than that, as much as I’ve always loved Rumours, I’ve never been a massive fan of Fleetwood Mac in a widescreen sense. It was Rumours or bust, Rumours or nothing. If you can appreciate the difference. I’m a Rumours fan, Fleetwood Mac is merely the vehicle to deliver it. Mac albums like Tusk (1979), or Mirage (1982), say, I couldn’t care less about … but Rumours is special.

Fleetwood Mac and Rumours always felt like a guilty pleasure for me. Not a love I’d share openly with too many people. It wasn’t punk, “new wave”, alternative, or fresh enough to be considered a band I’d admit to liking. The band was a commercial radio staple. They were everywhere. It was mainstream, and beyond saturation point. So I kept it close, and it took years for me to be honest with anyone about just how much I love the huge-selling Rumours.

Rumours is an album with a little bit of everything.

The back story; two sets of couples, one British, one American, one recently divorced, and the other going through a process of breaking up while the album was being made. And the odd man out, a drummer trying desperately to hold it all together. You’ve heard it all before, or at the very least, you’ve read about it all before. And there was an undeniable chemistry there. Like some sort of demented unwashed Transatlantic rock version of Abba (plus one) gone badly wrong.

And what about those songs?

Beautiful songs about fading and failed relationships. Songs about intimacy and infidelity. Songs about hope. Songs about despair. Songs about trying to hold it all together. Even the odd song about nothing very much at all really.

Musically the album is a hybrid of styles; from straight-up pop, to ballads, to hippy folkie stuff, to hard driving rock. It had singles that charted, and album tracks that became iconic simply because they were epic album tracks off Rumours.

Fleetwood Mac had a few different incarnations over the years, and as such the band will mean different things to different people (see the Peter Green or Bob Welch years), but the five individuals who made Rumours represent the ultimate in Fleetwood Mac line-ups … the perfect core. And it’s the line-up I’ll see in Auckland.

I do hope they remember to play something from Rumours.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Festive Dozen 2015: Yoko-Zuna - This Place Here

It’s taking pleasure from the small things in life that keeps us smiling, isn’t it?

One of the biggest buzzes – from the smallest of treats – I got during the year happened every second month or so, when discovering a freshly wrapped bulging CD-sized package safely stowed away in my letter box, courtesy of NZ Musician magazine. Upon discovery, sometimes before I’d even made it all the way up the driveway, I’d excitedly open said package, completely blind to the delights (or otherwise) of the music the magazine had sent me to review. And who doesn’t like getting new music (in physical form) and a nice surprise in the post?

More often than not it was something I was vaguely familiar with, so I might have already formed some kind of opinion. But on the occasion back in September, when the debut album/CD of young Auckland jazz-hoppers Yoko-Zuna turned up there, I simply stared blankly back at it, scratching my head. That release, This Place Here, would quickly go on to become one of my most thrashed albums of the past few months … pretty much locking itself in as one of the blog’s albums of the year.

Here’s the title track for that work:

(The Festive Dozen is a fairly randomly selected year-end collection of clips featuring the tunes which featured most prominently on the (generally pop-loving) iPod playlists of everythingsgonegreen at various stages throughout 2015) ...




Thursday, November 12, 2015

Playing It Strange

I’ve been following the work of the Play It Strange Trust for a few years now as it seeks to showcase talented young musicians from secondary schools across New Zealand. Each year the Trust runs a songwriting competition in conjunction with the Lion Foundation, NZ on Air, the Rock Shop, and a number of other key supporters. And each year the best of the entrants are able to have their compositions professionally recorded and produced, before that work is then released in a digital format on an annual compilation album (there were CDs released a few years ago, I’m not sure whether or not that remains the case).

That though is really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the Trust achieves – there are other competitions and a whole range of support functions as it seeks to nurture and promote the country’s best up-and-coming young musical talent. The Trust’s CEO is one Mike Chunn (ex-Split Enz, Citizen Band, former head of Mushroom Records) and its Board of Trustees includes the heavyweight likes Brendan Smyth (NZ on Air), actor Sam Neill, and ex-All Black captain Sean Fitzpatrick … so it’s fair to say it has some clout and reach.

We live in an age where so many aspiring young musicians and/or singers are easily distracted or sidetracked by the prospect of instant fame, or offered one dimensional profiles via glorified talent quests like X-Factor and Idol. Those shows amount to little more than throwaway entertainment fare for the masses, so it’s heartening to see long-haul organisations like Play It Strange providing alternative paths and frameworks for genuine talent to prosper.

This year’s songwriting competition was won by Grace Wood of St Kentigern College in Auckland for ‘Young, Naïve, and Reckless’ (oh how we wish!) …

Grab a free download of the 2015 compilation from the Play It Strange Bandcamp page:


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Home Alone/Autumn

Home Alone is a Wellington-based label, and Autumn is a collection of b-sides, rarities, and live songs from local artists released earlier this year. I’ve been meaning to share the link to the name-your-price download for quite a while now.

I think I probably downloaded the digital album sometime back in late May or June, when it was released, and many of the tracks on it have subsequently gone on to become firm favourites of mine as the year has progressed.
None of the songs are particularly bold, brassy, poppy, or “in-your-face great”, but at its best some of this music is quite beautiful – crafted, delicate, fragile, and defined by its simplicity. I reckon you’ll need to have a listen to grasp exactly what I mean.
It isn’t quite perfect – there are a couple of tracks here that don’t really work for me – but I’d say 70% of it is top drawer in terms of 2015 local product.

Highlights include the tunes from Lake South, French For Rabbits, and Eb & Sparrow.

Check it out …

Monday, November 9, 2015

Blog Update: Taking Stock ...

Okay, so once again I've broken The Golden Rule of Blogging by failing to come up with regular fresh content. Not even a short post or two to keep things ticking over. No surprise then, that page hits and views have fallen right away. It's the way things go when you've lost your blogging mojo – or to put it another way, when you've been unrepentantly lazy.

Only that's probably not true. Lazy is such a cruel and unforgiving word ;-)

It's actually been somewhat chaotic up here on the top floor of everythingsgonegreen towers in recent weeks, and for one reason or another, I just haven't been able to post very much. There was a rather pressing deadline to meet with the day-job, there’s been a lot of family-related travel, and a whole raft of other real life matters to contend with.

I have actually been writing – there’s a feature and two album reviews in the latest issue of NZ Musician, and I’ve just completed a major project on early Nineties Wellington band Emulsifier, which involved a lot of research, and I plan to submit that work for publication on AudioCulture. I’ve also got a couple of other little AudioCulture fires on the backburner, which I hope to get back to eventually.

But mostly I’ve been going out and enjoying life, rather than sitting in front of the PC. Not just in terms of emerging from the obligatory winter hibernation, with summer just around the corner, but also in terms of trying to achieve that much coveted work/life balance thing that all the experts tell us is one of the keys to happiness in life (ya what? - Ed).

In terms of music and nights out (my default discretionary leisure time activities), I’ve been learning to go out and enjoy gigs sober (gasp); something I would not have dared to imagine five years ago, and in fact, something I would not have thought possible, even as recently as two years ago.

Last Saturday I attended Bodega’s celebration of all things UK ’79 – with cover bands Splintered In Her Head (who had an old friend of mine making his debut on drums), Wazzo Clash, and Permanence, each giving us their own take on tunes from The Cure, The Clash, and Joy Division respectively. I had one beer the entire night, and while I might not have been the life of the party exactly, I still caught up with a number of old friends, and felt all that much better (for my sobriety) the following morning. I mean, who knew it could be that easy?

I’ve also been getting to wear my “proud Dad” hat quite a bit over the past few weeks – as we approach the end of the 2015 academic/school year. My eldest daughter has just graduated high school (year 13, or 7th form, as my generation knew it) as the recipient of her college’s major music prize, The Kapiti Cup, for her “outstanding contribution to music composition”. Next year she’ll attend Victoria University in Wellington, to commence a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Psychology and Music Composition. Meanwhile my youngest daughter completed her year (year 11) with a first place in Dance, and a second successive (invite-only) appearance at “the Nationals” (a workshop/dance scholarship awards weekend). To say I’m proud of their achievements in the arts is something of an understatement.

So blogging has tended to take a back seat for a while, and everythingsgonegreen has been rather neglected. I suppose if I’m being truthful, it could have been a lot worse. At one point a month or so ago, I seriously considered taking the blog offline altogether. I felt like taking a long break from all forms of social media, but worried about losing momentum – or whatever little blogging momentum I had! … while in terms of my other vices, Facebook and Twitter, well, let’s just say my “fear of missing out” got the better of me again.

So here I am. Feeling refreshed and ready to resume semi-regular posts again. I think. Partly motivated (possibly only temporarily motivated) by some unexpected positive feedback I received last week, when a complete stranger contacted me via email to say how much she enjoyed a blogpost I originally wrote some three years ago. It was one of those self-indulgent grassroots scene/nostalgia-type posts I enjoy writing so much, one where I was really just documenting something low key and niche, mainly for my own benefit. Which made the feedback all the more surprising (and special). It was exactly the positive reinforcement I needed at a time when I’d all but given up on the idea that my writing was actually reaching anybody.

Sometimes it's just the little things. Yes, it’s true that I write this stuff for me, as a form of catharsis in many cases (like this post), but it’s always good to know that others are getting something from it as well. So thanks Melody, you rock!

Right, back to the music …

Over the coming weeks – as a lead up to the end of the year, when everythingsgonegreen will highlight its “albums of 2015” – I plan to post some clips, a dozen or so, of the biggest or most-listened-to tunes of my year. The songs that meant the most to me over the calendar year. Songs that helped shape my year. An annual “festive dozen”, if you will. I’ll try to mix things up a little with that, to cover off the various genres I enjoy.

See you again soon (but no promises!) …

Monday, October 26, 2015

Fresh Cuts for NZ Musician October/November 2015

I had a couple of album reviews included in the latest edition of NZ Musician magazine (see below). I’m pretty certain the Yoko-Zuna album is among the very best things – local or international – I’ve heard all year, and I’ll be very surprised if we don’t end up hearing a lot more from these super-talented young Aucklanders.
 
Yoko-Zuna: This Place Here

One of the best things about the jazz and hip hop genres is the capacity each has for embracing the concept of collaboration. The nature of hip hop in particular – with its emphasis on sampling and production – makes it ripe for a cross pollination of musical ideas, and many of the genre’s seminal moments have been born from this pick and mix approach. And so it is with ‘This Place Here’, the debut release from Auckland four-piece Yoko-Zuna. It’s an album which features lyrical/vocal star turns from local luminaries such as David Dallas, Spycc, Team Dynamite, Bailey Wiley, Melodownz from Third3ye and Goodshirt’s Rodney Fisher. Throw in a variety of instrumentation from the group’s core members – keys/synth, sax, flute – plus terrific recording and mastering from Cam Duncan, and the result is a wonderfully eclectic mix across the album’s nine tracks. So much so, it feels plain wrong to file this hybrid concoction exclusively under the hip hop banner. The album’s roots are deeply embedded in the genre, there’s no question about that, but above ground, given the air and room to breathe, these soul and jazz-infused tunes take on a life of their own; boundaries are breached, horizons are expanded and ultimately ‘This Place Here’ is guaranteed a much wider reach than might have been expected. One or two tracks appeal as glorious half-formed ideas that could perhaps be developed further, but there are no duds. The RnB-styled One’s Cycle, topped with a delicious soul-drenched Bailey Wiley vocal, is a sumptuous stand out.

http://www.nzmusician.co.nz/index.php/ps_pagename/album/pi_albumid/2569

Greg Fleming And The Working Poor: Stranger In My Own Hometown

Fleming’s second outing with The Working Poor, and alongside the evident irony, the road-worn Auckland songsmith has perfected the art of what might be called working man’s blues rock. An edgy country-tinged blues rock, with a gruff lived-in vocal to both die for and rally behind. The sort of voice you might get if you crossed Dylan with Knopfler, or Petty, or Waits, or any combination thereof. Produced by the band’s drummer Wayne Bell, Fleming’s vocals sit atop beautifully crafted compositions and songs about things that matter. Songs about important things like bad politics, cruel cities, and matters of the heart – not necessarily in that order. Songs like Corporate Hill, Night Country Blues, the lovely piano ballad Autumn Auckland, and the intimate Heart’s a Wreck. But more than that, more than the voice, more than those lyrics, what really makes ‘Stranger in My Own Hometown’ work is the sense that each member of the six-piece band knows exactly what their job is, and as a unit they execute it to perfection. And you can’t really ask for much more than that.

http://www.nzmusician.co.nz/index.php/pi_pageid/10/pi_albumid/2588

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Spiritual Father

We love a little bit of melodica here at Chez everythingsgonegreen. We're also a wee bit partial to all things dub in digital forms. And as you surely already know, we're no stranger to the concept of "name your price" or "free download" ... so when all of those elements combine in the form of a tribute to Melodica King Augustus Pablo by French producer Art-X over at the Original Dub Gathering website/label, we feel compelled to tell you about it. Even if we are a little late arriving at the party - it was released in early September. It's a great listen. Grab yourself a copy of Spiritual Father here at ODG, or here at the Art-X Bandcamp page.

And here’s a little taste of 'Java' ...

 
 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Album Review: New Order - Music Complete (2015)

The majority of online reviews so far have been positive, but comments on my social media feed over the past fortnight would suggest the early reaction to Music Complete has been rather mixed. I’ve seen it called “a return to form”, and I’ve seen it described as “shit”. As ever with these things, I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

I'm not even sure what we should realistically expect from a New Order album in 2015. I certainly don't think we should be looking for anything too revolutionary or progressive, or anything game-changing. My own starting point for Music Complete was an appreciative "wow, great, more New Order after all this time"... which is not to say I wasn’t really looking forward to it.

Music Complete is the band’s tenth full-length studio album, and the first set of brand new material in ten years. It’s the band’s first album as a five-piece, and the first album without Peter Hook. Not that any of those things stand out as being overly obvious when listening to it, and the album has a comforting “old” New Order vibe all the way through. Which is just how I like it.

If anything, the album feels heavily front-loaded. Virtually all of the real gems arrive within the first 35 minutes – from opener and advance single ‘Restless’, through a half dozen tunes to the Iggy Pop-voiced ‘Stray Dog’, the band doesn’t miss a beat. The Tom Rowlands-produced ‘Singularity’, the bouncy disco of ‘Plastic’, and the unrepentant pop of ‘Tutti Frutti’ (clip below) are all as good as anything the post-Technique New Order has done.

From there, things taper off a little, quickly moving from the sublime to the ordinary, before the truly awful ‘Superheated’ – a regrettable Brandon Flowers collaboration – closes the album on a massively cheesy note. The only real dud here, ‘Superheated’ might better have been called ‘Overcooked’, in deference to the type of music the vocalist’s own band usually coughs up.

The other collaborations work well enough; Iggy’s cameo appearance is an unexpected bonus, Chemical Brother Rowlands offers a deft hand as co-producer on a couple of tracks, while vocals from La Roux, Denise Johnson, and Dawn Zee all add texture on tunes where Barney might otherwise lack the requisite vocal chops.

Old Order, not unlike New Order

Mostly though, this is archetypal New Order, classic guitar lines blended with driving high-bpm electronica/techno. Hook’s absence isn’t obvious, and I no longer buy the idea – as I once did – that if you don’t have Hook, you don’t have New Order. Tom Chapman proves to be a more than adequate replacement here. And naturally the whole thing is stylishly packaged up in a fetching Peter Saville sleeve design.

I’m not sure Music Complete is the ubiquitous “return to form” if form is assessed by 1981-1989 standards, but neither is it “shit”. If pressed to place Music Complete into some sort of historical context, where Power Corruption and Lies or Technique sit at a notional summit, where Movement is the black sheep, and Brotherhood a dark horse, this album is a mid-ranking effort, something akin to a Republic or a Low Life. It’s better than any of the other post millennium releases, but not quite a masterpiece in its own right. Which, when you stop to think about it from a 2015 perspective, is still a rather marvellous thing to be.

A week or so ago The Guardian’s Miranda Sawyer wrote a great interview piece about the band’s return (click here).