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) ...