Archives for posts with tag: David Bowie

Ersatz Savant mirrorTimaru, a city of 44,000 people, situated midway down the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, half way between Christchurch and Dunedin, is world famous for absolutely bloody nothing. The last record shop in Timaru closed last century. Even the claim that a member of the Jean Paul Sartre Experience came from Timaru turned out to be a lie, played for laughs. But Timaru has news for you: Ersatz Savant. Have a listen to “Improvement” from Ersatz Savant’s second album, ambitiously named “II”:

In a world of fakes and imitations, the name chosen for this musical project is self-deprecating, signifying an inferior substitute for a learned person. But this is actually a pretty classy, and ultimately original album. There’s nothing inferior about “II” at all. It is quite wonderful.

The album sounds like a sometimes sinister New Wave/ Goth corruption of Bowie’s “Hunky Dory” era proto-Glam style. What the self-recorded album lacks in studio sheen it more than makes up for in strong songwriting as well as sounds and arrangements capturing the essence of early 70s Glam as well as early 80s Gothic post-punk.

But the crowning jewel is Ersatz Savant’s extraordinary voice which walks a line between Bowie’s early 70s hammy music-hall poshness and Pete Murphy’s sinister undertaker purr.  Added all together “II” is an intriguing and hugely enjoyable album. Who would have guessed it, Timaru?

Nhung Nguyen

Playing David Bowie’s “Low” last week I got lost again in that second side of sweeping cinematic instrumentals. Those paths lead me back to Brian Eno’s “Music For Films” and the Fripp & Eno album “Evening Star” – but also started me off exploring forward to an ever-expanding universe of imaginary worlds created by new generations of musicians working with ambient music, combining instrument sounds, field recordings and textures. Here’s one stellar recent example of that universe from Hanoi, Vietnam musician/ sound artist Nhung Nguyen.

It is almost impossible to pick just one track, but “Evergreen” – hinting as much of early Tangerine Dream as much as ambient Eno – is as good an entry point as any.

Continue on to listen to the whole collection, particularly “For June (Forever Summer)” with its glorious combination of field recordings of birdsong mingling with other-worldly hypnotic chiming.

Her latest release “Music For Quiet Souls” is different again, taking a minimal piano composition approach, like an experimental Erik Satie ‘Gymnopedies’ collection, but mixing field recordings with the delay-effect piano.

So impressed by these works I’ve just bought the full digital discography.




The Clean Oddities

“So David Bowie, where did you go?/ David Bowie, I want to know…”

Despite the video above featuring the cover art the the “Oddities 2” cassette, this song was in fact on the first “Oddities” cassette from 1983 which had a 2nd life in recent years as a fine “Oddities” double LP on US label Chaos in Tejas.

The Clean David Bowie.jpg

So why would The Clean be asking “David Bowie, where did you go?” in 1983?

After his ubiquitous influence over the 1970s he had a string of 5 albums which were hugely influential on New Wave (and in New Zealand in particular) – “Station to Station” (1976), the “Berlin-triptych” of “Low” and “Heroes” (1977), then “Lodger” (1979), and finally “Scary Monsters” in 1980. After such a spectacular run of albums each year until 1980, this quiet period for new music (a few singles, but he was busy with various acting roles mainly) prior to the commercial pop of “Let’s Dance” in 1983 possibly did look like he had disappeared from music at least.

Kelsey Lu_Video still

Morning After Coffee was certainly required today, waking up after trying to sleep off the shock and then sorrow last night after learning of David Bowie’s death.

In the spirit of post-Bowie discovery of mavericks operating at the edges of contemporary music, here’s a young Brooklyn, New York musician, Kelsey Lu, stumbled upon by internet happenstance today in amongst all the Bowie eulogising.

I’m not sure if “Morning After Coffee” is folk, jazz, blues or pop. Maybe it’s all of these things. She may channel some of his same uncompromising and adventurous spirit if this song and the other utterly different track on her Soundcloud profile is any indication.

“Morning After Coffee” is a hauntingly minimal song – just cello and voice. It was a good non-Bowie thing to hear today. The video is also an evocative piece of minimal and intriguing visual art in its own right.

I don’t know much about Kelsey Lu, other than she plays the cello, makes dark weird electronica as well and has collaborated with Dev Hynes/ Bloodorange and also Empress Of (she’s one of the backing singer in this video).

Bowie was unique in that he produced what was essentially pop, but which so often blurred lines between not only chart pop of different styles over the year, but also avant-garde/experimental music, pop culture, storytelling, theater, art, film and video, fashion, philosophy & goodness knows what else. And often all in the service of that chart pop song too.

He meant a lot to so many different types of people, over so many generations. The peerless music – what songs they were – re-drew boundaries over many stylistic changes. His multiple identities over the years, particularly his gender-ambiguous 1970s identity and outlandish outsider persona, made a lot of people feel better about being different; being ‘freaks’; being themselves.

There was a lot of the usual “we’ll never see his likes again” stuff too. Which may well be true – particularly if we give up looking and give up believing in others. It’s not that his type of musical genius isn’t still among us. It’s just that it’s not channeled to us now as easily as it was  when Bowie hit his stride in the 1970s and 1980s.

For example, I’d put Bjork in the same company, even though she’s not as widely known. But she’s also had a remarkable longevity as a vital and uncompromising music artist operating both within and beyond mainstream pop, and continues to explore new ways of making her art and has ‘re-invented’ her identity through her music, characters and visuals several times already.

Given the amount of music available to us today – new and old – the stratification of music into so many genres and sub-genres and the diversity of spaces for music to exist and be discovered through today, we’ve got to look harder for the Bowies of today and tomorrow

Don’t give up on the future of music. The possibilities are still endless. It just needs us to believe in that, believe in those still taking music places, and to support them with our attention and interest. It’s what Bowie would want.