Friday, December 30, 2016

The Festive Dozen 2016: Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Orchestra - Too Much Information (Laolu Remix Edit)

Contrary to my natural inclination to finish this year's festive countdown with something state-of-the-nation, politically relevant, poignant, and suitably downbeat, it also seems appropriate to help transport you into a NYE party state of mind by posting an edit of one of 2016's biggest club jams. Which, coincidentally, was released almost a year ago to the day ... roll on 2017.

(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 2016) ...


 
 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Albums of 2016

It's time for the annual blog year-end wrap, and a list of 2016's best albums. Or in the case of the way we roll here at everythingsgonegreen, the "best" as in a list of the ten "most listened to" albums in my house this year. The only prerequisite for inclusion here is that I had to purchase a copy during the year. And, of course, I had to like it more than the other 100 or so new (or reissue) albums I picked up in 2016. Streaming doesn't count, and Spotify is dead to me - for OCD reasons that I may one day expand upon in a separate post.

10. The Leers - Are You Curious?

Yet another of the many great recent things to come out of Auckland's Red Bull Studios with Ben Lawson's name affixed to it, The Leers' debut album was a firm favourite across the first half of the year. Are You Curious? was an absorbing radio-ready blend of indie pop hooks and big slabs of bluesy psychedelia. My review can be found here.

9. Crystal Castles - Amnesty (I)

Evidently no longer the critical darling he was when Alice Glass was fronting his unique form of agit-electro-rave on three previous albums, Ethan Kath returned in 2016 alongside a new vocalist, with a new full-length work, and thankfully, more of the same. My review is here.

8. Radikal Guru - Dub Mentalist

Dub Mentalist arrived right at the end of the year so I didn't manage to get a full review up on the blog. But it was nonetheless impressive enough to get more than its share of pod time, and that's all that really matters in terms of where it ultimately stacks up. This is the third straight Radikal Guru album to make the blog's year-end list, so some context here might be that I’m a committed fan of the Polish dub fiend, and therefore, Dub Mentalist, by default, was always guaranteed more ear time. But it still had boxes to tick and expectations to meet, which it did with some aplomb, and Radikal Guru’s signature mix of the deep, the digital, and the rootsy, ensures Dub Mentalist rates just as highly as the other two albums. The tunes given the most room and space to breathe, sans vocalists, take on lives of their own, and those are my favourites here. But that doesn’t mean contributions by guest conspirators like Jay Spaker, Echo Ranks, Solo Banton, and Earl 16, don’t also have their place. This guy keeps on rolling out a wholly unique brand of extra-terrestrial dub at fairly regular intervals, but his genre of choice and area of expertise is so niche, nobody seems to notice.

7. Pacific Heights - The Stillness

Shapeshifter-come-electro-head-bobber Devin Abrams came up with something personal, intimate, and quite raw (in parts) with The Stillness, yet it was also polished, accessible, and everything a successful breakout solo album should be. During a year when local work blasted all preconceived limitations out of view, The Stillness could quite easily have placed much higher on this list. My review is here.

6. The Radio Dept - Running Out of Love

On the surface Running Out of Love appeals as a dose of saccharine Swedish indie pop. Scratch a little beneath that, however, and you’ll find something much darker buried deep within its slightly rotten core. My review is here.

5. Adrian Sherwood/Various - At The Controls Vol.2 1985-1990

This is another one of those pesky compilation albums that has no place on a list such as this (see unwritten blog rule 425, clause 1b). Well it would be, if it wasn’t an On-U Sound compilation, and a collection of prime On-U era archive material, mixed by label guru and occasional world leading mixologist Adrian Sherwood. In defiance of the rule, At The Controls v2, also topped one of the annual lists over at the obviously very learned website, The Quietus. Admittedly it was a list for rogue releases, oddities, and collections that don’t really fit in anywhere else. A little bit like Sherwood himself. My review is here.

4. Underworld - Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future

Aside from the Radikal Guru album, Underworld’s awkwardly-titled BBWFASF (phew) was the only other entry in the ten that I failed to write a full review for during the year. But just like Radikal Guru, Underworld’s place on this list was practically assured as soon as the album arrived in my inbox. As an Underworld fan, I was always bound to give more time to BBWFASF than some others. I even thought their otherwise indifferently-received Barking album of 2010 was one of the best of its year. The thing that makes new Underworld material so hard to resist is the sense that they’re always a few steps ahead of the game, always state-of-the-art, despite massive changes in the rules over the course of the 25-odd years they’ve been doing their thing. And all - for the vast majority of those years - within that most fickle of flighty genres, dance music. In truth, it probably doesn’t hit the giddy or euphoric heights of their first couple of albums, and there’s no ‘Born Slippy’ or an epic ‘Rez’ to be found here, but the music of Underworld has evolved to occupy a different space these days, and there’s still a lot to love on BBWFASF.

3. Pitch Black - Filtered Senses

See all of the above. Add in a local context. Ahead the rest, state-of-the-art, across 20 years. Etc. For me, one of the best Friday mornings of 2016 was the one when I skyped Paddy Free in New York, and he spoke of Pitch Black’s accomplishments and getting to do what he loves every day like it was the most natural thing in the world. Reviewed here for the blog and for NZ Musician magazine. 

2. David Bowie - Blackstar

Only David Bowie could pull this off. What better way to go out than to do so just two days after releasing an album that positively oozed all things life and death? Without giving us so much as a hint in advance. I’m still a little spooked by it. A massive loss, but he left us with an incredible legacy. My review is here.

1. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool

I told anyone that would listen just how good this was. Every listen felt like it was turned up an extra notch. As Radiohead continue to astound and build on an already expansive discography, A Moon Shaped Pool is merely the latest flawless instalment. In reality, daylight was second. My review is here.

Five Honourable Mentions:

The Average Rap Band album, El Sol, very nearly pipped The Leers for a place in the final ten, falling just short in the end. It probably just needs to simmer through another summer.

I thought the Suede album, Night Thoughts, had a lot going for it, in a very insular and retro kind of way, but it also felt a little bit out of step with everything else going on in 2016. I remain a Suede devotee and completist.

The also no-longer-particularly-relevant Primal Scream released something close to an actual synthpop album in the form of Chaosmosis, which had a few cracker tunes on it. But the feeling I got listening to it, given the Scream’s cutting edge past, is that cliché commercial pop, in this instance, might just be the last bastion of the ultimate Nineties scoundrel. Bobby Gillespie has a lot to answer for, and that vocal is now more irritating than ever.

I know Warpaint’s Heads Up got a lot of love elsewhere, with good reason, and I did enjoy it, I just didn’t find myself wanting to go back for fourths, fifths, or a sixth listen. Even though I understand that’s probably exactly what I needed to do.

My guilty pleasure quota was sated by the music of Icelandic blues-rockers Kaleo, and their album A/B, which arrived somewhere out of left field and was an album I wouldn’t *normally* find myself listening to.

Some other end-of-year gongs (“the EGGs”):

EP or short album of the year was Yoko-Zuna’s Luminols, five quite diverse and distinct tunes, with the Tom Scott collab, ‘Orchard St’, going on to become a big pod favourite.

Reissue of the year was Jack White’s Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016, because I’m a big White fan, and cos I like the idea of putting some of this stuff together, where it wouldn’t ordinarily be automatically compatible by default. And because, if for no other reason, the stripped back bluegrass version of The Raconteurs’ ‘Top Yourself’ blows me away every time I hear it. White’s release was pushed closely by two deluxe/expanded releases: the 40th anniversary issue of The Ramones’ 1976 debut, which became a triple disc featuring demos and live takes, and Pure McCartney, which was another scarcely needed yet still strangely compelling post-Beatles career overview from his nibs. There was also the small matter of Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall getting a deluxe makeover.

Freebie or exceptional name-your-price release of the year: as found on Bandcamp, toss a coin and choose between Adi Shankara’s dark and dense Structures, or the Auckland-based Peach Milk, with her delicious Finally EP.

The everythingsgonegreen gig of the year was Tami Neilson’s San Fran (Wellington) set from way back in March. Thoroughly polished and professional, great company, and a brilliant vibe on the night.
 
More generally, 2016 was a year of relentless mourning for pop culture fiends. All of those barely anticipated deaths: from Bowie to Prince to Leonard Cohen to George Michael. And everyone else in between. Farewell to popular artists like Glenn Frey, Sharon Jones, Maurice White, and Pete Burns. To roots and country music stars like Leon Russell and Merle Haggard. To iconic producers like (Sir) George Martin and Prince Buster. To local (NZ) legends such as Ian Watkin, Ray Columbus, and Bunny Walters. To stars of the big and small screens - Gene Wilder, Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher, Alan Rickman, Jean Alexander, and Caroline Aherne. Even beyond the world of music, film, and the arts, transgenerational global figures such as Muhammad Ali and Fidel Castro couldn’t survive the cull. Plus there will be many others of varying importance and influence to you personally (that I simply haven’t covered here). Bottom line: it’s been a rough year …

And while I’m sorely tempted to use the last paragraph of this post to launch into an opinionated rant about global politics - Aleppo, terrorism, the global refugee crisis, Brexit, Trump, and the rise of the xenophobic Right in general - I’ll spare you …

Be gone 2016 ... watch your arse on the way out.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Festive Dozen 2016: James Vincent McMorrow - Get Low

Merry Festivities, boxing day hiccups, and thanks for reading in 2016.

We're nearly there, the penultimate tune of this year's dozen belongs to Irish folkie James Vincent McMorrow, with 'Get Low' ...

"I love the way your heart had no rules, loving what your heart becomes, even when you smile, you're still cruel ..."

(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 2016) ...



Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Festive Dozen 2016: The Radio Dept. - We Got Game

Sometimes it's the simple little things. Understated low key album tracks with cunning hooks. Extracts lifted from otherwise barely noticed albums. In this case, it's 'We Got Game', a stand-out track from Running Out of Love, the rather good 2016 album by Swedish indie-popsters The Radio Dept ... a tune that appears to owe a massive debt to the early Detroit techno stylings of Inner City producer Kevin Saunderson. You decide.

(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 2016) ...


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Album Review: Average Rap Band - El Sol (2016)

I picked up my digital copy of the Average Rap Band debut album, El Sol, as long ago as April, but in typical lazy arse fashion, as a grumpy greybeard and confirmed hip hop sceptic (context is everything), I’ve waited until the year is all but over to share my thoughts about it.

Then again, if you're looking for timeliness and relevance, you'd hardly come to everythingsgonegreen for the good oil, would you?

I hope not ...

So anyway, the 11-track El Sol is the first upsized album release for ex @peaceniks Tom Scott and Lui Tuiasau, as the Average Rap Band. It’s a follow-up to last year’s well-received Stream of Nonsenseness EP, and as you’d expect from this pair, it’s yet another state-of-the-art benchmarking album for the local hip hop scene.
 
I don't think it's too much of a stretch to call this "local"? Even though Scott and Tuiasau are now based in Melbourne, and not Auckland, where they previously made a big noise as part of the critically acclaimed @peace, and prior to that, as part of the wider Home Brew crew.

Those former projects tagged Scott and Tuiasau as massively talented wordsmiths. Masters of rhyme, and students of flow, each man possessing an uncanny ability to turn even the most mundane routine observation into something resembling an existential vision. It isn't just about being clever and wordy, it's also about timing and having the delivery to ensure those words have maximum impact.

El Sol is packed full of such seemingly throwaway (but not really) moments, and the duo's attention to detail when it comes to straight up storytelling is a pivotal element here. As is the sense of place present in each tune - helped by a clear commitment to telling these tales in unashamedly authentic "Kiwi" accents, rather than falling into the common (and often cringeworthy) trap of seeking to imitate our American brethren.

Musically, it draws from a relatively broad base and these narratives are underpinned by a variety of funky beats - from 80s style Jam & Lewis-flecked slow-jams to replica G-Funk styles. Even where the subject matter veers toward the serious, the vibe underneath it all seldom deviates from summery and relaxed. It all tends to blend together seamlessly, and in production terms, nothing ever feels out of place or rushed.

Highlights include the sublime 'Pool Side' (a Tuiasau stand-out moment), the humorous 'Pizza Man', and the great-ball-in-the-sky worshipping title track.

Ps. All things considered, I guess that’s a favourable review for someone who struggles with post-1990 hip hop. But I also picked up new work from past heroes like De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and Common, during 2016, and I struggled with each one of those albums. Yet, stuff like El Sol, plus new EPs from the home-schooled likes of Raiza Biza and Yoko-Zuna were impressive this year, and it’s clear, despite a sense of default cynicism, hip hop from this corner of the globe is currently flying a steep upward trajectory …

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Festive Dozen 2016: Radiohead - Burn The Witch

As boring and as cliché as it undoubtedly is, I'm going to find it very difficult to go past Radiohead's A Moon Shaped Pool for everythingsgonegreen's (much coveted!) album of the year. (The album isn't boring but I suspect my selection is predictable). That decision still hangs in the balance, and I'll probably end up making a definitive call while consuming a few too many fizzy drinks over the upcoming festive season. But in the meantime there's this, the strings-heavy 'Burn The Witch', one of two advance singles from back in May, a leftover from the Kid A sessions, and a rather deserving Grammy nominee for Best Rock Song of 2016. Enjoy the slightly disturbing Wicker Man-themed clip:

(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 2016) ...


The Festive Dozen 2016: Earth Wind & Fire - Boogie Wonderland (LNTG Muscle Mix)

I know this is a 2016 list, but it's also a reflection of your blogger's pod activity across the year, and it wouldn't be an honest everythingsgonegreen list unless it contained a large element of all things retro. And so we celebrate a little bit of Earth Wind & Fire and Maurice White (R.I.P.), who we lost to the great Boogie Wonderland in the sky back in February. Presumably for a rendezvous in the Legends Lounge with Bowie, Prince, Ali, and the many others who left us during the year. This clip also gives me the chance to showcase the remix/edit work of Late Nite Tuff Guy, a master of housing up funk flavours from yester-year, and another post-production genius to figure prominently on my playlists throughout 2016:

(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 2016) ...


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Matrix Downloaded 006

In keeping with recent themes, here’s another name-your-price Bandcamp compilation featuring a raft of Euro-centric EBM (and/or EDM), industrial, and electro pop tunes. All at the darker end of the spectrum. Almost a year on since the last volume in this well regarded compilation series was released, Belgium-based label Alfa Matrix has issued Matrix Downloaded volume six. Again, with 45 tracks on offer here, the quality is variable, and a pick’n mix approach is perhaps best advised ... enjoy.

Here’s a snippet from the label’s own online blurb:

“A 200 minute-plus compilation that reflects the label’s music repertoire and impressive artist roster in the full-force of its diversity also reminding us that ALFA MATRIX is one of the very few indie electro labels who still dare to scout new talents and to inject new blood into the scene while others would definitely choose to sleep on their laurels while focusing on their sure values of established bands.

Absolutely the perfect way for ALFA MATRIX to close their 15th year of existence – some 15 years of non-stop heavy sonic propaganda on the underground electronic music front with their impressive army of artists! The ultimate collection of scene famous and established artists featured next to rising new talents and stunning new discoveries… Since 2001, ALFA MATRIX has been offering to you electronic music with attitude… EBM, synth pop, industrial, electronic, indie rock, nu electro, dark elektro, avant-garde, goth metal, wave, techno house: you get it all!”



Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Festive Dozen 2016: Pitch Black - Circuit Bent

Pitch Black occupy a relatively unique place in the wider pantheon of New Zealand electronic music production. Nobody else comes close to matching the duo’s heady brand of electro dub across five flawless albums, and the same can be said about their extraordinary longevity within a genre that tends to date music a hell of a lot quicker than just about any other. 2016 saw Mike Hodgson and Paddy Free celebrate 20 years of working together, and part of that – upcoming extensive tour notwithstanding – was to release yet another state-of-the-art masterpiece in the form of (album) Filtered Senses. The advance single release from that work was the rather aptly-titled ‘Circuit Bent’, which was a firm favourite long before I finally got to hear the whole set.  

(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 2016) ...


 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Festive Dozen 2016: Guts - And The Living Is Easy (RocknRolla Soundsystem Edit)

Released mid-2016, during the northern hemisphere summer, this edit is great on so many levels. French hip hop producer Guts provides the beats that underpin an infectious little vocal loop from (Chess Records legend) Billy Stewart’s 1966 version of the much-covered soul/jazz classic ‘Summertime’. Which is then given a further spit and polish makeover by the prolific RocknRolla Soundsystem ... the end result being something close to genius.

(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 2016) ...


 
 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Face The Beat v4.0

I love a free lunch here at everythingsgonegreen. Which is a bit unfortunate, because I've hardly got any friends to have lunch with, let alone friends with enough money to buy lunch. So instead, I shut myself away in the padded cell that passes for everythingsgonegreen HQ, and try to make do with free stuff off the internet.

Mostly that means music downloads, and this case, it's the 4th edition of (Belgium-based) Side-Line Magazine's Face The Beat compilation series. One that focuses on artists - mostly European, many of them unsigned - of the post-punk, industrial, goth, EBM, and synthpop persuasions.

This edition is a whopper, featuring some 92 tracks, and while not all will appeal, as is to be expected with a release of this nature and expanse, it's well worth having a listen and perhaps adopting a pick’n mix approach to saving and deleting some of these files.

That said, there's some really great stuff to be found here, and highlights include tracks by Elektroklange, Chrysanth, Psy’Aviah, Novo, Antibody, Charlie Jackson, ARS, Omnivar, and Electrogenic. Which is more than enough to be getting on with.

Oh, and where I say (up there) that it's "free", please consider offering a small donation if you do decide to grab a download, as all proceeds from this series go to charity projects - on this occasion, money is being raised specifically to assist a hospital in Mexico. You might also wish to have a scout around the magazine's Bandcamp page, or check out earlier volumes in the series, dating back some five years.

You're welcome ... let's catch up for lunch soon, huh?



Friday, December 2, 2016

The Festive Dozen 2016: Luxxury - Breathe

Everyone is partial to the odd morsel of delicious disco on occasion, right?

Whether it’s under the guise of deep house, nu disco, or an even more distant cousin like melodic techno, it’s essentially the same thing – music to buckle the knees and have you involuntarily gravitating towards the dancefloor. You know it’s wrong, but it just feels right. Well, sort of. It may seem less “right” to any innocent on-looker. Or perhaps that’s just me, still afflicted with an irrepressible side effect from ‘70s childhood conditioning.

A firm current favourite under the disco ball lights and on the kitchen tiles here at Chez everythingsgonegreen is funked-up throwback producer Luxxury, or the artist formerly known as Baron Von Luxxury, a purveyor of some of the finest retro sounds out there. ‘Breathe’ is one such 2016 trip, a tune to take you somewhere far away from the daily grind, even though it doesn’t really go anywhere in particular …

(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 2016) ...
 
 

 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Festive Dozen 2016: The Chemical Brothers feat. Beck - Wide Open

Late 2015 saw the return of Nineties techno stalwarts the Chemical Brothers, with the release of an album called Born In The Echoes. The album included several notable collaborations, including this one, which features vocals from Beck. 'Wide Open' is one of the more radio-friendly or "commercial" releases of the duo's entire career, and it gave the Chemical Brothers fresh momentum across early 2016 when a freshly released innovative promo clip, featuring dancer Sonoya Mizuno, proved to be a big hit across social media ...

(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 2016) ...


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Festive Dozen 2016: Fazerdaze - Little Uneasy

2016 was something of a breakthrough year for Red Bull Music Academy scholarship winner Amelia Murray, who not only got to hang with some of the industry’s key movers and shakers while attending the academy in Montreal, but was also able to perform and tour extensively across the UK, the USA, and Australia, as the key protagonist behind self-proclaimed “bedroom project”, Fazerdaze. The band also managed to pick up some great local (NZ) support slots as the year progressed. And although Fazerdaze’s discography is currently limited to the eponymous EP release from 2014 (here), plus this late 2015 single, ‘Little Uneasy’, it seems certain we’ll be hearing a lot more from Murray and friends during 2017, and well beyond. In fact, just a few days ago Murray’s bandmate and fellow Red Bull Academy attendee Merk (aka Mark Perkins) released a “solo” album of his own, Swordfish (here).

Not only was ‘Little Uneasy’ an infectious little vibe that my pod involuntarily kept defaulting to throughout the second half of the year, it also sported this pretty decent promo clip …

(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 2016) ...
 


Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Festive Dozen 2016: The Raveonettes - Junko Ozawa

Every month throughout 2016, Danish indie rock duo The Raveonettes released a new download single in an exercise dubbed “the anti-album” … rather fittingly, given their own commitment to using internet-based technology, one of those tunes was a tribute to Japanese game/arcade music composer Junko Ozawa. Here’s what The Raveonettes had in mind when releasing ‘Junko Ozawa’:

“This tune is dedicated to Junko Ozawa the great female game composer of such classics as Rolling Thunder, The Tower Of Druaga, etc. We wanted to keep all the instrumentation in the 8-12 bit range, only using low bit synths and sounds. Even the guitars have been re-sampled and played on a synth. Cool, uptempo shit!”

Rave on!

(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 2016) ...
 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Future's Knocking


I was lucky enough to interview one of my musical heroes, Pitch Black’s Paddy Free, for the October/November edition of NZ Musician magazine. Having followed the duo’s work for something close to 20 years, it’s fair to say I may have been in fanboy mode at the time ...

Click on the link below to read Future’s Knocking: 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Festive Dozen 2016: David Bowie - Lazarus

As we look forward to the end of 2016 – and events this year have been so surreal it truly is a case of wanting to see the back of it as quickly as possible – it seems appropriate to commence the countdown of the annual everythingsgonegreen Festive Dozen with something from David Bowie and the album he left us with. There isn’t really much more I can add to accompany this particular clip, but the words “tragedy” and “genius” would tend to cover it …

(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 2016) ...
 
 
 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Week That Was ...

There’s that bit in the blog subtitle or page description thingy (above) where I threaten to post random words about “life as we know it” … yet mostly I stick to boring stuff like album reviews and music-related snippets for blogpost material. Well, not today … I’m pretty exhausted by a number of things happening around me, and I’m hoping a wee rant might just prove cathartic.

This past week has been a fairly momentous one in many ways. Not only for the wider world and all of the barely anticipated political upheaval, but also for the small dot at the bottom of the South Pacific where everythingsgonegreen resides … aka The Shaky Isles, Aotearoa, New Zealand, which unfortunately, over the past 48 hours, has very much lived up to its former moniker after being rocked by a series of fairly large earthquakes. The largest of those measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale (or 7.8, depending on where you look), claiming two lives, cutting off a large chunk of the upper South Island, and causing major disruption to the nation’s capital. The more than 1,500-plus aftershocks continue as I type this.
 
Train to Doomsville
 
This kind of thing – seismic activity where you’re simply at the mercy of Mother Nature – certainly helps to provide perspective on all of those other rather insignificant issues in our daily lives, things we often deem to be important beyond all proportion. When in fact, in light of continually feeling unsafe and under threat from a power none of us has any real understanding of, those things aren’t really all that important at all.

The impact of the major earthquake was further exacerbated over the following 48 hours by a fairly large storm – torrential rain and 140kmph winds – which resulted in flooding, land slips (as the earth continued to move), road closures, and yet more mayhem. Without wanting to overstate it, or appear overly dramatic, it offered a (hopefully) brief glimpse into what it must feel like to live in a war zone, when you’re trying to go about your daily business and live life as “normally” as possible, but never quite know what to expect next. Nerves are frayed, loved ones are traumatised, and more significantly, all of the major emergency services are stretched in ways they’re never really fully designed to be. And people end up – by default – operating on very little sleep, which can become a serious issue in itself.

With the heavens opening from above, and the earth moving beneath our feet, it is a little bit like living inside an automatic washing machine permanently set on endlessly repeating the rinse and spin cycles.

None of that is meant to undermine or trivialise the real horror of life for people in places like Aleppo or Mosul, nor indeed the many hundreds of other war zones or hotspots across the globe, where serious loss of life is a daily reality. That, of course, is much worse. Natural disasters tend to come and go (fingers crossed), yet man’s own capacity to destroy his fellow man isn’t ever quite so relenting or forgiving … *waves fist at the sky*.

Which brings me to Donald Trump and the climate of fear he managed to successfully exploit in order to become the most improbable President of the USA we’ve ever seen.

The first thing we must acknowledge is that democracy – or at least a form of it – had its day, and if you believe in democracy, then you must accept that Trump was fairly elected. In the same way we would have accepted it if the flawed but not nearly as dangerous Hillary Clinton had been deemed worthy. Whether I think that was a wise move by the evidently hard-of-thinking wider American populace is irrelevant, but putting on my rather ill-fitting feminist hat, it’s hard to fathom that the most qualified woman in history missed out on the top job to a 70-year-old man with an orange face, unfeasibly bad hair, and absolutely no previous experience.
 
It's this big ... his job experience, that is
 
A lot has been made of the media’s role in the election and how a vote for Trump was not only a vote for change, not only a vote against the political “establishment”, but also a vote against the mainstream media, which, just as with the insular-looking Brexit debacle earlier this year, completely misread the mood of the people. There’s a school of thought that the media was biased in favour of Clinton and the status quo, and that’s actually difficult to argue with. The notion that people rallied against that is understandable, but Trump gave the media so much source material to work with he became “buffoon-by-numbers” and a walking talking parody who just kept on giving.

It’s easy to point to the media and snigger, but they put no words into Trump’s mouth when he suggested that Obama and Clinton founded ISIS, that climate change was “invented” by the Chinese, when he laughed in the face of the ordinary worker by suggesting it was smart to pay no tax – good luck with that one, with the welfare system, and with the much promised infrastructure investment. It wasn’t the media who promised to build a really rather improbable wall, who “joked” about grabbing women by the "pussy" (sic), who mocked the disabled, or accused minorities of being criminals. It’s not the media promising to ban vast swathes of world’s population from entering the USA based on little more than their choice of faith.

So good luck America, democracy has spoken, you bought the rhetoric, and the bigotry that came with it, so you’ll now get the President you deserve. I can’t add much more, other than to sincerely wish you all the very best with the much demanded “change” that you’re apparently so desperate to achieve. The signs so far don’t look good – he’s already starting to shift his position on a number of things, and clearly if Trump reneges on key election promises, it makes a complete lie of the notion that he's the breath of fresh air out to change our vision of the establishment or established political practices. It'll merely be a case of “new boss, same as the old boss" ... all of those who voted for "change" will end up getting exactly the same thing they voted against. If not something a hell of a lot worse.

Finally, one last thing. The media aren’t going to get off lightly here. This grumble is a little regional and any overseas reader (probably only a couple, to be fair) might not grasp the full context (click here if you must) but when a so-called current affairs programme like (Australia’s) 60 Minutes deems it appropriate to pay a certified creep like Gable Tostee some $150,000 for a “tell all” interview while a family grieves for their daughter, something is seriously wrong with our world.

Surely “all” was already “told” in great painful detail during the widely covered court case which cleared Tostee of blame for Warriena Wright’s death? What kind of world is it where a man can profit so handsomely from the tragic death of a young woman? A death he had – court verdict or no court verdict – some very real direct involvement with. All the while being given the oxygen to lament how traumatised HE is by her death? Poor little Gable. While a family grieves and is forced to fend off even more requests to make comment.

Shame on 60 Minutes, and shame on those who allow this to happen by supporting the sort of tabloid television which seeks to turn creeps into minor celebrities.

Isn’t it already bad enough that we now have a celebrity pretending to know how to run the free world?

Right, that’s me, rant over, moving right along, thank God or Elvis or Ms Deborah Harry that we still have music in our lives …

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Album Review: Pitch Black - Filtered Senses (2016)

Here's my review of Pitch Black's Filtered Senses for NZ Musician magazine. I also interviewed Paddy Free for the mag and will link to that at a later date. What a great album this is ...

Filtered Senses is studio album number five for the pioneering flag bearers of Aotearoa’s rapidly evolving electronica scene, Pitch Black. It’s the duo’s first full-length release for nine years, made primarily by sending sound files back and forth across the globe while its protagonists got on with life in different parts of the world. Eventually Mike Hodgson (London) and Paddy Free (Piha, New York) got together to add the spit and polish final touches at Hodgson’s home studio, with the requisite trademark attention to detail which ensures the end product doesn’t disappoint. More than that, it works as a timely reminder of just how much Hodgson and Free still have to offer, and just how cutting edge the pair’s work has been across two full decades of working together. If anything, Filtered Senses takes things to a different level; while Pitch Black’s signature dubby dancefloor textures remain firmly intact, this feels somewhat darker and denser than anything they’ve done in the past. There’s a claustrophobic, paranoid, almost post-apocalyptic energy buried somewhere deep in this mix, and the 8-track album is all the better for the way it rather perfectly represents the worrying state of our planet as we approach the end of 2016. Looking forward to the remix version already – if we make it far, that is.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Album Review: The Droids - The Droids (2016)

This expansive 22-track self-titled set from the husband and wife duo collectively known as The Droids is one of my most loved name-your-price Bandcamp downloads of 2016. Not to be confused with the hard rocking Las Vegas covers band of the same name, nor indeed, the Seventies French space rock freaks, these guys are DIY home studio merchants from North Carolina … and I’m not even sure we can accurately label this collection an official album. The Droids make a variation on post-punk, or alt-rock as it’s probably called in their neck of the woods, with duelling synths enjoying pride of place alongside fuzzy guitars, a big drum sound, and solid vocal chops from Mrs Droid, who occasionally prompts recall of a prime-period Beth Ditto. Some of it can get a little familiar or same-y across the entire set – particularly that vocal – and if that’s a criticism, it’s one that could easily have been resolved by a more ruthless culling of what they’ve put online. But then, I guess, we’d potentially get less bang for our invisible buck and it seems somewhat churlish to moan about something offered free of charge. There’s at least one extremely good album in amongst this very generous download package, with the most obvious highlights for me being ‘Runaway’, and the instrumental ‘Divide By Zero’ … check it out below:


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Album Review: Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)

I’m a little late getting this review over the line, but feel I need to post it now regardless, before the end of 2016, while the album still has some semblance of currency or relevance, at least …

It's coming up for nearly 20 years since Radiohead released its masterpiece*, OK Computer. Which means that for the best part of two decades the band has been continuously striving to match or better that landmark work. Not to reproduce or replicate the formula, but to expand or develop upon it. The result of that quest for long-form excellence has been a series of albums ranging from the good, to the great, to the quite magical. A Moon Shaped Pool is merely the latest instalment in that remarkable flop-free run.

In some respects, along the way, Radiohead has become post-millennium rock’s equivalent of what Pink Floyd was to Seventies rock – a genuine master of the album art form. During a period when that art form has been slowing dying. Or so we’ve been told.

And of course, just like Floyd, a large degree of innovation is right at the very heart of everything Radiohead does – whether it comes to embracing new production values, breaking down genre prejudices, mixing up release formats, or in the case of A Moon Shaped Pool, releasing the album on the back of zero pre-release publicity or hype. Radiohead just like to do things a little differently.

With a few other projects on the go (solo albums, Atoms for Peace) there was a school of thought that Thom Yorke may be, in a creative sense at least, in danger of spreading himself too thinly. The same might be said for guitarist Jonny Greenwood (film scores and other composition work), or indeed, producer Nigel Godrich (various, also Atoms for Peace), but on the evidence offered here, we need not be concerned with such folly. Radiohead is back, and clearly, all component parts are fully engaged.

In fact, I’ll go further: Radiohead, as a unit, is better than it has been for a long time. Each time I play A Moon Shaped Pool, everything else I've been listening to immediately pales into insignificance. It feels like the album is a cut above everything else out there at the moment. It’s a bit like that mythical "next level" status so loved by those of us who like to deal in hyperbole.

Next level, progressive, moving forward, and yet still able to draw upon many of the best features of the band’s past output. So we get the beautifully crafted symphonic rock (‘The Numbers’), the darker, dense, flashes of paranoia (‘Ful Stop’), and the softer, more melancholic acoustic moments (‘Desert Island Disk’). There’s strings, glitchy electronica, dreamy prog flourishes, and rather more straightforward or orthodox pop elements. And if there’s an album this year with a better one-two knockout opening combo of tracks – ‘Burn The Witch’ and ‘Daydreaming’ – then I certainly haven’t heard it.

A Moon Shaped Pool clocks in at a perfectly manageable 52 minutes (11 tracks), and where I might once have enjoyed the band’s music in much shorter doses, there’s not a single moment on this album where I feel bored or disengaged – it’s utterly captivating from start to finish. Even my long-suffering partner – a Radiohead sceptic, if ever there was one – owned up to (unexpectedly) enjoying this album. There can be no higher praise that that.

* Many will argue The Bends, or Kid A, might be a better fit for this description, but I’d argue more vociferously on behalf of OK Computer, as that album specifically marked the moment when pretty much the whole world – give or take a few naysayers in remote Amazonian blackspots – woke up and took note of the band’s existence.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Album Review: Pacific Heights - The Stillness (2016)

Quite a few years ago, nearly a decade ago, I suppose, I heard a great track on one of those fabulous post-millennium Loop (label) compilation CDs. I can’t be sure of its title, but I can recall that the tune in question was an impressive slice of soulful electronica by an artist called Pacific Heights. I was told it was local. "Local" as in New Zealand-made, but I knew nothing of Pacific Heights, and could scarcely believe an artist this good, one from my own neighbourhood, no less, had somehow passed me by completely. Then ... tumbleweed, zilch, nada … I heard nothing more from Pacific Heights.

Until earlier this year, that is, when Pacific Heights appeared back on my radar with a brand new album called The Stillness, an equally remarkable full-length offering which has subsequently gone on to become one of my most-listened-to albums of 2016.

Had I known back in the day that Pacific Heights was the solo guise for foundation Shapeshifter and fellow Wellingtonian Devin Abrams, it would all have made so much more sense. The long sabbatical between releases being a result of Abrams’ commitment to making music with Shapeshifter, which is, of course, a veritable giant within Aotearoa’s (admittedly niche) drum’n bass scene.

I note that The Stillness is touted in some places as being a debut album, yet according to the usually-reliable Discogs, it may in fact be the fifth Pacific Heights album, if you include the 2004 “mix” CD, Borne Together, and the rarely sighted self-titled six-track mini-album of 2002. The point, I guess, is that Abrams has been around the traps for quite a while, and it might just be that The Stillness represents something of a belated coming of age for its multi-talented key protagonist. Certainly from a “solo” perspective, at least.

I say “solo”, but Abrams is the beneficiary of a little help from his friends on this release, and the album features collaborative efforts with the likes of Deanne Krieg (on three tracks), Shaan Singh (of Drax Project), Jen Turner, and Louis Baker, all serious talents in their own right.

Naturally, production comes courtesy of Abrams himself, and it is immaculate all the way through. There’s a sense that Abrams is able to craft the absolute best out of each track – most of them being a variation on soulful (if occasionally dark) electronic forms – simply because he wrote the material. There’s a certain intimacy and lightness of touch evident for the duration, whether it be his careful use of percussion, soft keys, or even the odd, slightly new-age-centric sample.

This has appealed (so far) mostly as a winter album – if there is such a thing – so it’ll be interesting to see how it fares (at the everythingsgonegreen mansion, at least) during the long hazy days of summer ahead. Whatever else happens, you can stick your mortgage on this one making the shortlist for the (highly coveted!) everythingsgonegreen New Zealand album of the year …

Highlights include the Shaan Singh collab, 'So Love', the sublime Jen Turner track, 'Drained', plus Louis Baker's contribution on 'Buried By The Burden'. All of that said, the video clip for 'Breath and Bone', featuring Deanne Krieg, is also rather terrific (see below) ...


 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Album Review: Miloux - EP 1 (2016)

Miloux is classically trained Auckland-based artist Rebecca Melrose, and EP 1 is a well-received Ben Lawson-produced debut, released back in April of this year. Tracks like ‘Pocket’ and ‘Beaches’ (there’s two versions here) have subsequently benefitted from a good amount of airtime on radio and exposure on various social media platforms. Those tracks, along with the three remaining tunes on the EP, serve to highlight exactly what Miloux is able to bring to the table – lovely vocals, rich in variety and texture, set against a light electronic backdrop, to create an absorbing blend of easily digestible synthpop. But it’s also more than just straightforward pop – this isn’t really about hooks; there’s an element of subtle experimentation lurking just beneath the surface, a chilly ambience, perhaps even a sense of unease, or a darkness that isn’t always immediately obvious. As debut releases go, this one is full of depth and promise.
 
You can buy (it is “name your price”) or stream the EP on Bandcamp below, and check out the Remixes release which followed in August.




Album Review: Snake Salvador - All-Star Resort (2016)

If you thought the sub-genre of trip hop was long since dead and buried, or that it never really existed in any local context, then you clearly haven’t heard the work of Auckland-based duo Darryl Hocking and Kevin Tutt, who collectively make music under the guise of Snake Salvador. Released on their own Punchywah Records label, All-Star Resort is the act’s third full-length release, with 10 breezy dancefloor-geared grooves clocking in at just a few ticks over 40 minutes. And while much of that Café del Mar-driven chill-out scene lost favour with the wider masses the best part of two decades ago, Snake Salvador expand on that early template to bring things right back up to date. So much so, it feels a little awkward even attempting to stick any sort of label on some of this stuff, with highlight tracks like ‘Come Follow Me’ veering towards unashamed nu disco, and the likes of the closer, ‘All You People’, being far too up-tempo to be tarred by any downbeat brush. So perhaps it’s best if we simply cast all of these pesky prejudices aside, and call All-Star Resort a twilight album, something close to an ideal appendage for those long summer evenings hanging out on the back deck with the cool kids. At least you’ll know where to find us.

This review originally appeared on the NZ Musician Website:

http://www.nzmusician.com/2016/10/26/snake-salvador-all-star-resort/

Monday, October 24, 2016

Classic Album Review: Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison (1968 / 2006)

I’m no great fan of country and western music but there’s something about Johnny Cash’s landmark 1968 album, At Folsom Prison, that transcends genres, labels, and prejudices. It’s a compelling live snapshot of a man and his music, at a time and place, and it ranks as one of the most significant American “roots” albums of the Sixties.

For all of the peaks and troughs endured throughout his extraordinary career, it’s difficult to believe that Johnny Cash (and band, the Tennessee Three) could possibly ever sound better than this. From the moment he introduces himself to the expectant audience and launches into ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, right through to the closing track ‘Greystone Chapel’ – written by one of the incarcerated men present, and rehearsed for the first time the previous day – Cash has the 2,000-odd inmates in attendance eating out of the palm of his hand.

June & Johnny
At Folsom Prison is all the better for its unedited qualities; Cash’s uncensored exchanges with his audience, the public address announcements calling for prisoners who have “reception” during the gig, all of the background noises, and not least because of the absence of note-perfect renditions of the classic tracks included.

This is a genuine, largely unscripted performance, a remastered* yet unpolished slice of history. At Folsom Prison is the Real Deal.

Highlights include the two aforementioned tracks plus: ‘Cocaine Blues’, ‘25 Minutes To Go’, ‘Jackson’ (featuring wife and fellow country music legend June Carter), and ‘The Legend Of John Henry’s Hammer’*.

*The version of the album being reviewed here is the 2006 Sony/BMG remastered edition which includes three previously unreleased tracks.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Planet Key Part 964 ...

I just wanted to post an update on the long running ‘Planet Key’ saga. Regular readers of the blog through 2014 and 2015 will be aware of how it all unfolded, but finally we have what should ultimately amount to satisfactory closure on the matter, with this week’s release of the Court of Appeal decision.


I include below last Thursday’s press release from songwriter Darren Watson and video designer Jeremy Jones in the wake of the Court of Appeal judgment (made in their favour), but firstly, here’s a quick refresher on roughly what happened … it went something like this:

The Electoral Commission banned Watson’s ‘Planet Key’ single in the lead-up to, and following on from, the 2014 General Election, effectively labelling it political advertising. Rather than the straightforward no-holds-barred slice of political comment it quite clearly was. Watson and Jones then took the matter to the High Court, with Justice Clifford eventually ruling in their favour, and more crucially, in favour of the principle of freedom of artistic expression. The Electoral Commission – in its infinite flawed wisdom – then decided to appeal the High Court ruling, which took it into the realm of (the surreal) the Court of Appeal, and this week’s final judgment, some two years after the controversy began.

Here’s the press release in full:

COURT OF APPEAL UPHOLDS PLANET KEY RULING

The Court of Appeal has found that the release of the satirical "Planet Key" song and music video made by musician Darren Watson and video designer Jeremy Jones before the 2014 general election did not breach the Electoral Act or the Broadcasting Act, contrary to the view of the Electoral Commission. The Commission had advised Watson and Jones to remove their works from the internet and had told broadcasters that they could not play "Planet Key" on air. Non-compliance could result in a referral of the matter to Police.

Watson and Jones are happy with the result, which they hope will bring an end to their lengthy struggle with the Commission, saying that they welcome the Court's view that "the Commission's interpretation of the legislation limits the right to free expression more than is necessary to achieve the legislative purpose and more than can be justified in a free and democratic society."

There is also a sense of frustration at this point, as while the judgment vindicates the men's actions in 2014, it cannot reverse the fact that the Commission's actions prevented their works from being broadcast at the time they were most relevant. Ultimately though, they are hopeful that the decision might mean that other artists seeking to express their political views will receive more liberal treatment that they did, or even that the outcome might compel much-needed reform of the electoral law.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Summer Hurts

I just want to offer a quick shout out to local newcomers Cricket Farm, who returned to my inbox last week, offering up another quirky slice of acoustic indie pop in the form of their latest release, 'Summer Hurts'. And just like the last Cricket Farm tune to feature on everythingsgonegreen - the band's debut release - this one arrives well served by the requisite dose of wry humour, and another charming Hayley Robertson vocal delivery. I know very little about Cricket Farm, but I'm really liking what I hear. What's more, I'll take heed of the warning offered on 'Summer Hurts', with sensible shoes and sunscreen going right to the top of my shopping list ...

Monday, October 17, 2016

Album Review: Disjecta Membra - The Infancy Gospels EP (2016)

I’m a little reluctant to call it goth, or even stick the ubiquitous “deathrock” tag on it, because neither of those labels do the music of Disjecta Membra any justice whatsoever. In fact, the sounds found on the band’s latest release, a five track EP called The Infancy Gospels, suggest that the Wellington-based masters of the dark arts are keen to expand the band’s palette, and this EP appears to represent a genuine cross-pollination of ideas and genres.

Yes, things remain at the darker end of the spectrum, and sure, there’s the requisite quota of drama for full effect, but each of the five tracks on The Infancy Gospels offer something a little different, and the EP is all the better for the diversity on show.

Last year’s collaboration with Rob Thorne, the incredibly powerful ‘Whakataurangi Ake’, which was released as a single, benefits from another outing to open proceedings in dramatic fashion. Only this time we get an alternative mix, which is exclusive to the EP. It really is a quite extraordinary piece, combining traditional Maori elements (instrumentation and Te Reo), with cold electronics, and state-of-the-art production which showcases vocalist (and band founder) Michel Rowland’s voice in a wholly unique and rather special way.

That track morphs straight into the EP’s title track, which turns out to be a heavy slab of sludgy blues rock dressed entirely in black threads. In contrast to the spiritual beauty of the opener, this one rolls along quite menacingly, while unrepentantly mining all manner of feedback and riffage from a bygone era. It’s a veritable monster of a tune.

If that’s a throwback, or a nod to the classic rock strains of a distant past, then the next track, ‘Lititu’, brings us forward at least a decade to the Eighties, and the spiky angular guitar-driven textures of what we might otherwise call post-punk. This is probably the most generic “darkwave/goth” track on the EP, or at the very least it’s the tune that most obviously wears its influences on its sleeve. But then who doesn’t love a little taste of Peter Murphy and/or Bauhaus on a dark winter’s night? … and that’s exactly where this one takes me.

Up next is the almost unclassifiable ‘Cernunnos’, which I think, three or four listens into it, is probably my favourite track on the EP. Not least because of its mix of styles, a wider ambiguity, and another great vocal take by Rowland. ‘Cernunnos’ mixes both acoustic and electric flavours to give us an intriguing blend of folk rock and Celtic strands, with a little bit of western – without the country baggage – thrown in for good measure. After belatedly consulting Mr Google, I’m informed that Cernunnos is the (horned) Celtic God of fertility, life, animals, wealth, and the underworld. But you already knew that, right?

Regular followers of Disjecta Membra will probably be familiar with the EP closer, ‘Madeleine! Madelaine!’, but on this occasion the slightly dated synthpop-flecked tune is the beneficiary of a new vocal mix which hadn’t previously seen the light of day. This track is the closest we come to a “pop” tune on the EP, and it works as an ideal closer to what is otherwise an incredibly eclectic set of songs.

For those who aren’t regular followers, or overly familiar with the music of Disjecta Membra, The Infancy Gospels EP appeals as an ideal place to start. The band has been at the forefront of Aotearoa’s “deathrock” scene (for all that I have issues with that description) since 1993, with Michel Rowland being the mainstay of its many different line-ups across the years. The version of the band featuring on The Infancy Gospels EP includes Rowland, Kane Davey, Matthew Tamati Scott, and Isobel Joy Te Aho-White. With a deft production hand coming courtesy of Bryan Tabuteau.

Check the Bandcamp link (below) for presales (the official release date is 17 November 2016) and purchase online, bearing in mind that the physical CD version of the album is limited to just 100 individually numbered copies, so you may need to be quick. While you’re there, I can recommend the 1997 (reissued 2008) album Achromaticia, and I’m also a bit of a fan of last year’s Death By Discotheque Remixes EP.