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:

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:


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.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Album Review: The Radio Dept. - Running Out of Love (2016)

One of the first posts on this blog, dating back to March 2011, was a review for an album called Clinging To A Scheme by Swedish indie pop merchants The Radio Dept. I wound up loving that album, and I wanted to let the world know a little bit about it. Of course, at that time, everythingsgonegreen’s “world” or readership consisted of myself and very occasionally, my Mum, so letting “the world know about it” is a very subjective way of putting it. The blog’s readership has at least doubled since then to now include extended family members and the odd (very odd) stalker. But the point remains – Clinging To A Scheme was one of my most loved albums of that time, and it probably rivalled The National’s High Violet as my favourite release of 2010, even if not very many people seemed to be aware of it.

Fast forward a handful of years and it’s been a long time between albums for The Radio Dept., but they’re back in 2016 with another quite beautifully crafted full-length work called Running Out of Love, the band’s fourth album overall, and quite possibly one of the best “contractual obligation” albums ever made. You see, one of the reasons for the long break between albums, has been the band’s protracted, ultimately unsuccessful, legal dispute with its label, Labrador Records. From all accounts, this work will be the final release on Labrador for The Radio Dept.

But they got there in the end, and if there was a sunnier disposition and hints at a wider optimism on past releases, then Running Out of Love has a degree of sadness and weary resignation about it. This album is essentially a bittersweet, outwardly bright, inwardly morbid, set of tunes that deal with much darker subject matter this time out – from global politics and the arms trade, to societal violence, racism, and other not so joyous developments rather reflecting the present age of mankind – see the complete folly and real horror of the seemingly endless current US presidential campaign(s) for any proof, if it was needed, that things are taking a (right) turn for the worse, or even entering the realm of the utterly surreal on a global level.

Yet somehow The Radio Dept. manage to dress up these otherwise ominous looking clouds with a distinctly silver lining – the message is stark and worrying, but the delivery hints at a certain level of discretionary or voluntary denial. In other words: sure, this is serious stuff, but hey, let’s just dance like it’s 1990 again, and to hell with any of the rest of it. And while the band retain all of the key elements of prototype indie pop – jangly guitars, a hushed shoegaze-type approach to vocals, and dreamy synth-pop textures – there’s also a massive nod to the all pervasive influence of disco, house, and Detroit techno on some of these tracks. In fact, one key tune on the album, ‘We Got Game’, blatantly apes the inescapable dancefloor rhythms of Inner City’s ‘Good Life’, without so much as a hint of shame, nor irony. Well, okay, perhaps there’s a touch of irony there, but The Radio Dept. are fairly nonchalant and carefree about it all.

Whatever else there is, there’s a genuine depth to Running Out of Love which is almost impossible to ignore. It makes me want to dance a little, to slide/glide around the kitchen in nothing but my socks, even, but all the way through I find myself listening for those portentous little signs, the important bits which inform me that all is not as it seems. That all is not as it should be. Not as it once was. I want to tune into these lyrics, to remember them, to lock them away in a corner of my mind so that when the apocalypse does finally arrive, I can’t say I wasn’t warned …

Highlights include: ‘Swedish Guns’, ‘We Got Game’, ‘Occupied’, the title track, and the closer, ‘Teach Me To Forget’ …

But enough from me, here’s what the band itself had to say about the album upon its completion:

"We have just finished our 4th full-length album, Running Out of Love. An album about life in Sweden in 2016 and how our society seems to be in regression on so many levels. Politically, intellectually, morally...It’s an album about all the things that are moving in the wrong direction. It’s about the impatience that turns into anger, hate and ultimately withdrawal and apathy when love for the world and our existence begins to falter.

"For the third time in a row we have made two albums instead of one. After constant touring for a couple of years after our latest release, Clinging to a Scheme, we started writing and recording an album that we later decided to scrap. As some of you might be aware, we have been caught up in a lengthy legal battle with our record label and publisher. We took a pause from releasing singles and EP’s and instead spent our time hanging out with friends, working odd jobs and just loafing around. Ultimately we lost the court case but still managed to reach an agreement with the record company that gave us the motivation to create music again.
"In the summer of 2014, ideas and a concept for Running Out of Love started to come together and the single “Death to Fascism”, now too old to be included, was the first effort towards the new album. Later, more new songs started to appear. The court case is taken care of in “Occupied”, the Swedish weapon and arms industry in “Swedish Guns” and “We Got Game” is about the proud police tradition of protecting nazis and racists, whilst at the same time using brutal violence against opposing groups of protesters.
"Running Out of Love has moulded itself into a rather dystopian album, mainly because it was created in a sense of deep frustration over the reactionary currents which characterize our time."
Here’s ‘Running Out of Love’ …


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Classic Album Review: Bob Dylan - Slow Train Coming (1979)

Yesterday's news that Bob Dylan is the first singer-songwriter recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature had me lamenting the unfathomable notion that I’ve yet to even mention him (or his work) on everythingsgonegreen. A truth made all the more awkward by the fact that my review for his Slow Train Coming album was one of the first album reviews I had published on the web (in fact, it was my first review of any album not made by The Cure). I’ve now got a healthy stash of Dylan albums, so perhaps one day I’ll get around to reviewing them as well. In the meantime, I’ll dig deep into the archives for something I wrote way back in October 2005:

It’s Saturday morning, and I don’t know about heaven and I know even less of hell, but Bob’s on the stereo and he’s grooving out with his unique gospel-tinged variation of the blues. Slow Train Coming has always been an album a long way down on my wish-list of ‘must haves’, but last night I was lurking near a bargain bin, as you do - call it a Friday night thing - and the recent upsurge in “Dylanmania” prompted me to splash the cash to the tune of some $10 to pick up a CD copy of this spiritual gem.

Back at the time of its ‘79 release I was but a mere novice in terms of understanding the rich tapestry that is the history of Rock, and Dylan seemed oh so yesterday to a teenager entering his own period of personal post-punk angst. This was apparently Dylan’s religious phase and I wasn’t having a bar of it - for all that I was secretly wooed by the infectious seduction of ‘Man Gave Names To All The Animals’ and ‘Gotta Serve Somebody‘, the two tracks that were receiving widespread airplay on commercial radio at the time; both of which are on here.

So 26 years later I finally get around to buying it, and it still sounds relevant and fresh, timeless even - it perhaps would have been wasted on me back then anyway. The album is a lovely mix of quality musicianship and Bob baring his soul on all matters heaven and hell. There’s a genuine gospel feel to the whole thing, with very little, if any, filler. The title track ‘Slow Train’ positively throbs with trademark bluesy guitar work, ‘Do Right To Me Baby’ is all brooding understated keyboard, while ‘When You Gonna Wake Up’ funks out with the boldness of brass. While Dylan’s voice had - even at that point - seen better days, it is hard to fault his performance too much on this.

The Seventies hadn’t been especially kind to Dylan but this album - very much a comeback release at the time - proved he’d lived through that decade of decadence and come out the other side, as much as any of us ever do. It is to a large extent a concept piece, no longer protest-Bob, no more folk-Bob, now we had acceptance-Bob, and this was his statement regards all things Christianity. It might be for some however, that its one-dimensional aspect is both its strength and its greatest flaw. Highway 61 Revisited it is not, but whatever it is, it works for me on a slow-time Saturday morn … and it was a bloody bargain to boot.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Classic Album Review: David Bowie – Pin Ups (1973)

It is difficult to know quite what David Bowie was thinking at the time; Pop’s ultimate chameleon, flush with his first sustained brush with real global fame (post-Ziggy), decided to release a patchy covers album.

Looking back, it must surely have been considered an act of extreme self-indulgence given that it discarded the very thing that appealed most about Bowie in the first place – his originality.

But then again, back in 1973, as the new overlord of glam, Bowie had a special dispensation to do whatever the hell he pleased, I suppose, and the public would doubtlessly lap it up regardless. I’m pretty sure that’s how RCA Records would have seen it.

Pose alongside the gorgeous Twiggy on the album sleeve, and sales were pretty much guaranteed, but this won’t go down – by its very nature – as a must-have Bowie outing, despite that classic album sleeve, or the fact that it’s the release that gave us ‘Sorrow’.

Pin Ups also includes versions of The Who’s ‘I Can’t Explain’ and ‘Anyway Anyhow Anywhere’, plus Pink Floyd’s ‘See Emily Play’, among its 14-tracks (including the two bonus tracks of later issues), and while several of the covers here do significantly re-work the originals to give them a unique Bowie spin, there really isn’t all that much on Pin Ups to get overly excited about ...

Except maybe the cover itself?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Album Review: Various - Two Tongues (2016)

As published in the August/September edition of NZ Musician magazine

Things don't get much more regional and grassroots than this ... and the album was all the better for that. One of a kind:

This 16-track compilation album of music from Whanganui provides a snapshot of some of that region’s creative talent, as produced and curated by local AV production guru Sacha Keating of Te Aio Productions. Part funded by the Whanganui District Creative Communities Scheme and limited to a CD run of just 150 copies, it reflects Whanganui’s rich multi-culturalism, with a blend of styles and hybrid influences present across the album’s hour-long duration. There’s naturally a heavy emphasis on local history and Maoritanga – with both Rihi’s 'He Pai Noa' and MoKu Whanau’s 'Whanau Ora' sung entirely in Te Reo Maori – and also a strong roots reggae and hip hop presence throughout. With helpings of old fashioned funk and soulful harmonies from Keating’s own group RedBack Villain, and even some orthodox rock from Wicca Bees, some of this material starts to feel almost borderless. Sure, it’s a celebration of language and all things Whanganui first and foremost, but right at its core, the album’s wider themes of identity, empowerment, unity and whanau are wholly universal. It’s a positive message from a community that hasn’t had its problems to seek in recent years, and it comes packaged in some great – and suitably challenging – cover photography from local artist Tia Ranginui.