Sunday, March 26, 2017

Album Review: Various - Taranaki Music Sessions (2016)

A very regional collection of tunes reviewed specifically for NZ Musician (website only, in this instance). This CD release was probably not something I’d usually pay a lot of attention to, but like most nice surprises, the devil was in the detail, and there were a couple of gems to be found once I dug a little deeper:

Last year, when those learned types over at Lonely Planet rated our beloved Taranaki as the second best place in the world to visit in 2017, outgoing New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd likened it to a “coming of age” for the region. For those of us rather more unfamiliar with the ‘Naki’s worldly delights, it came as something of a shock. What next? Claims that the province was an epicentre for all manner of homegrown musical brilliance? Well, yes actually, if the thinking behind the Doug Thomas-curated Taranaki Music Sessions is any indication. It goes something like this … when passionate Eltham-born and raised sexagenarian Thomas returned to Taranaki from Auckland in 2014, he set about pulling together all of the disparate strands of the local music scene, both past and present, to compile a CD of music quite unlike any other. In early 2016, the fruits of those efforts saw the light of day in the form of the 18-track Music Sessions release, which features a wide variety of genre (rock, pop, folk, chamber, and um, opera), and artists ranging from the still up-and-coming (Stephanie Piquette), to the long established (Brian Hatcher, Gumboot Tango), to the niche (Hayden Chisholm, Krissy Jackson), and all the way through to the outright legendary – see Midge Marsden, Larry Morris, and Dame Malvina Major, who gives us one of the more unique versions of Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ you’re ever likely to hear. That old standard also happens to be the only non-original tune on the album. In short, there’s a little bit of something for everyone, with your reviewer’s favourites being Hatcher’s fiery opener ‘Pedal To The Floor’, and Chisholm’s jazzy sax groove, ‘Repetition’.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

If You're Born On An Island The Ocean Heals You

While I’m at it – punting local stuff doing the rounds on Bandcamp (see recent posts) – there’s also this little gem, a full-length album from talented multi-instrumentalist Lake South, titled If You're Born On An Island The Ocean Heals You, which was released earlier this week.

I suspect Lake South may be better known as the main dude behind the now defunct electro-popsters Urbantramper, or as Lake Davineer, who forms one half of the popular Wellington Sea Shanty Society. But his tune ‘Good Keen Man’ did receive a fair amount of exposure in the not too distant past when it was nominated as a finalist in the prestigious Silver Scroll songwriting awards.

‘Good Keen Man’ is one of the album’s highlights, but look out too for ‘Renters’, a wry lament on the state of the residential property market here in New Zealand, and ‘Binge Drinking & DH Lawrence’, which features the backing vocals of one Nadia Reid.

There’s some good stuff here – strong lyrics, great hooks, immaculate production, a lovely folky feel, and I especially love that distinctive local vocal twang.

Stream or download below:

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Nestled Between Vast Depressions

Speaking of talented local artists giving stuff away on Bandcamp, here’s something new from the relatively prolific young Wellington producer skymning … rather accurately tagged as “downtempo, electronic, ethereal, instrumental, and textural” … the only thing I can add is “quite beautiful” …

Favourites include, ‘I’m Up’ and ‘Fell Into Place’ … stream or download below:

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Return of Secret Knives ...

I blogged about Secret Knives (aka Ash Smith) as far back as 2013, when I wanted to share an impressive album and a remix EP being given away on the artist’s Bandcamp page. In truth, I knew very little about Smith, other than the fact that he was based in Wellington, a bass player, and clearly something of a perfectionist - the hallmark of both the EP and the album (‘Affection’) being a rare attention to detail in terms of arrangement, production, and polish.

For at least three of the next four years, the mysterious Mr Smith (and Secret Knives) somehow conspired to drop right off the everythingsgonegreen radar - until this week, when I noticed he was about to undertake a 12-date nationwide tour alongside French for Rabbits, as part of that band’s album-promoting ‘The Weight of Melted Snow’ New Zealand tour. The Wellington gig will take place at San Fran on 1 April, but I was even more thrilled to see (what will surely be) a far more intimate set booked for my local, at the Raumati Social Club, on 31 March.

As if that isn’t enough to be getting excited about, there’s also new content from Secret Knives on Bandcamp - offered as a free download - in the form of a five track EP, My Capriccio, which features Smith’s reconfiguration and reworking of tunes by Shocking Pinks, The Mint Chicks, Yumi Zouma, and Glass Vaults. As well as the title track, which is a Secret Knives original, and perhaps the best track of a thoroughly captivating set.

File under: shoegaze, electro, and carefully crafted pop.

Stream or download below:

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Album Review: T2 Trainspotting (Soundtrack) (2017)

I initially intended to pick up a copy of the Trainspotting 2 soundtrack via an online download, but then I realised it was far more fitting to grab a CD version of the album – something that pays homage to the era of the original (movie and OST) and the inherent sense of nostalgia that comes with a cult movie sequel of this nature.

Nothing screams “the 1990s” louder than a CD, and of course, buying the CD meant I could also satisfy my collector/OCD tendencies by stacking the latest version on a shelf alongside CD copies of the two previous Trainspotting soundtrack albums (reviews here). It’s the little things, right?

That sort of attention to detail wouldn’t be lost on the Trainspotting 2 soundtrack compilers, and there’s real synergy (ugh, sorry) between the 1996/1997 albums and this new edition, including returns for Iggy Pop, with a beefy Prodigy-mixed ‘Lust For Life’, Blondie, with ‘Dreaming’, and a couple of tracks from Underworld, with the epic ‘Born Slippy’ getting a ‘Slow Slippy’ makeover this time around.

And just like the original(s), T2 contains an absorbing blend of the “old” and the “new”: in addition to the aforementioned grizzled campaigners, The Clash (‘White Man’), Frankie (‘Relax’), Queen (‘Radio Gaga’), and Run DMC (‘It’s Like That’), all sit comfortably alongside next generation notables like Wolf Alice (‘Silk’), High Contrast (‘Shotgun Mouthwash’), and the Mercury Prize-winning Edinburgh hip hop crew, Young Fathers, who offer up three tracks including ‘Only God Knows’, which gets the benefit of some backing from the Leith Congregational Choir.

As ever, the litmus test for a successful soundtrack is not just about whether or not it accurately represents the mood and sounds of the movie, but how it pieces together or flows when removed from the context of that cinema experience. Does it stand-up as a compelling listen in its own right?

In the case of the T2 OST, despite what might normally be considered a potentially disastrous pick n’ mix magpie approach, a tracklisting that spans some five decades, I think it stacks up well.

And that’s not just because the album has, like the movie itself, a massive slab of nostalgia right at its core, it’s also because it acknowledges that life moves on, and because it celebrates the present every bit as much as it clings to the past. Which is not something we can say every day of the week up here on the distinctly retro-fitted top floor of everythingsgonegreen towers.

Highly recommended, and if you like a bit of street violence with your black comedy/drama, then the movie is not a bad watch either. As with the original movie, many of the best scenes involve a toilet of some description (ahem) ...

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Disturbing The Comfortable, Comforting The Disturbed ...

I’ve recently been indulging my still-not-relenting near-30-year obsession with all things to do with the On-U Sound label by posting a handful of archive videos/classic On-U clips on the blog’s Facebook page.

It initially started out as an attempt to convert a confirmed naysayer friend of mine to the label’s many delights, but ultimately it became an exercise in wanton self-indulgence, and merely another excuse for me to revisit some of my favourite tunes from the distant past.

That series of posts – unbeknown to me – coincided with the label’s rather belated arrival on the ever popular Bandcamp platform (see here), and with that, a number of serious discounts on digital copies of albums from the label’s extensive back catalogue.

I strongly recommend you have an explore … if I’m not already preaching to the converted, that is.

Also see Bandcamp Daily’s interview with label guru Adrian Sherwood and current sidekick, Pinch, here.