Archives for posts with tag: LP

Carb on Carb 2018Day 18 of PopLib’s 31 Days of may marathon for New Zealand music month is the epic closing track of the brand new album by Wellington “emo pop-punk” duo Carb on Carb – “Mitimiti”.

“Mitimiti” is a song about NZ, homecoming, travelling, the places you find that re-connect you to life, to friends and family, to the country, to the world. Mitimiti, the place, is a tiny settlement on the wild West Coast of Northland just below the start of 90 Mile Beach, a long drive along winding gravel roads. If there’s a theme to the album “For Ages” its about travel and home-coming and the people and life in between.

Carb on Carb’s take on “emo pop-punk” is not what you may associate with the genre if your only exposure was the hyper-produced blast of US bands. The guitar/ drums duo of Nicole Gaffney and James Stuteley means there’s plenty of space and dynamics in Carb on Carb’s sound. This is just great honest melodic guitar-pop for real lives by real people.  “For Ages” is released on LP and CD on their own label Papaiti Records.

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Suggested Friends.jpgSuggested Friends describe their sound as ‘tweemo’ and, while this is no doubt tongue-in-cheek, it does indeed combine some noisy emotional punk pop with the kind of perfect melodic songcraft that would’ve fitted perfectly on Sarah Records in the 90s. Here’s 1 minute 51 seconds of their perfect melodic songcraft:

Suggested Friends are from London and comprised of Jack McGinn, Kirsty Fife, Faith Taylor, & Christabel Williams.  “I Can’t Roll My Eyes That Far (Back)” is almost impossibly melodic and bounds through so many twists and turns in a short time – including a glorious fuzzy 12-string guitar solo – that it fair takes the breath away.

It’s on their self-titled album, which is out on LP format on Cardiff’s Odd Box Records.  Give it a whirl and while you are there check out the other releases on this enterprising DIY label.

AJ Sharma

“Red is the Colour” is a wonderfully odd, unsettling and dark track from the new album “Tabla Diablo” by Dunedin avant-folk musician AJ Sharma.

If very early Bonnie “Prince” Billy/ Palace Brothers is your thing, or the singular vision of Dunedin’s Alastair Galbraith, step right into the world of AJ Sharma. He’s a fellow traveler in fractured and direct outsider music, played simply, obeying no rules save the ones he makes himself.  Guitar, voice, and the atmosphere created by those sounds vibrating the air in a room, as recorded expertly in its raw honesty by Forbes Williams.

“Red is the Colour” features an additional vocalist adding a kind of ghostly backing vocal. It sounds like a very small child. It’s more unsettling than cute though, possessing the song with an disturbing otherness. Perfect of course for the atmosphere of an AJ Sharma album, described by label CocoMuse Releases as: “An assemblage of real life characters all dealing with death in their own way: Art Teachers, Outsiders, Rock-Gods, Poets, Prophets, Trees, Stars, Tortoise, Bar-Flies, Friends, Family, Cosmic Forces, Visionaries and the Unknown.”

I have a 7″ lathecut by AJ from over 20 years ago, recorded in Invercargill, release 1994. In between times he has been part of the fabulous late 1990s/ early 2000s Dunedin band Jetty and released an album called “Santo” in 2008 “The Road Back” in 2010 and “You are a Traveler” in 2013.  There have been other small run lathe cut singles and tracks on compilations… usually hard to find.

AJ Sharma’s “Tabla Diablo” album (LP) is available in Europe from Zelle Records and in NZ and the rest of the world from CocoMuse Releases.

 

Beaches by Darren Sylvester

BEACHES (photo by Darren Sylvester)

Continuing the heavy psych theme, here’s a blissful Sunday Psych-out fuzzfest called “Arrow” from Melbourne five-piece band BEACHES:

BEACHES have just released (September 2017) a double album of ultra-melodic psychedelic rock called “Second of Spring”. Actually, it’s a bit more than *just* psych rock, as the double LP format allows the band to mix their usual 60s/ 70s psych-rock via German 70s experimental motorik and 80s New Wave goodness with even more shoegaze melodic pop stylings to great effect, as “Arrow” here shows.

Some songs may even remind anyone who has established a long-running relationship with Australian alternative guitar music (guilty here) of the fuzzy melodic power-pop goodness of the likes of 80s/ 90s bands The Hummingbirds or Someloves. To my ears BEACHES more natural propulsive and joyful psychedelic stylings are way more preferable than the over-worked self-indulgent noodling of some of their much more vaunted Australian psych-rock contemporaries. Enough said!

BEACHES are Antonia Sellbach on guitar and vocals, Alison Bolger on guitar and vocals, Ali McCann on guitar and vocals, Gill Tucker on bass and vocals and Karla Way on drums and vocals.

They’ve been playing and releasing singles, EPs and albums as BEACHES since 2008. You really ought to dig back into their catalogue for stunning gems like the 2013 release “She Beats” which features even more motorik psych+melodic fuzzrock wonders.

i e crazy 2017In a country where the Prime Minister said “our literary heroes may never challenge the glory and respect given to our All Blacks” our music heroes generally fare worse than our authors.

Claire Duncan, the person behind i.e. crazy, is a literary music hero I’ve respected for several years. I’ve been been waiting for – “Non Compos Mentis” for a while. Waiting in fear and trepidation mostly to be completely honest. And with good reason. Here’s “Closed Case” from the album.

“Closed Case” begins with a recording of the emergency call made by the surviving member of a Dunedin family murderded in 1994 about 500m away from where I’m writing this, looking out across Anderson’s Bay and the trees of Every Street below. It was the scene of “…events so bizarre and abnormal that it was impossible for the human mind to conceive of any logical or reasonable explanation” according the Judge in the original trial of that surviving family member charged with the murder of his two parents and three siblings.

The convicted murderer was later acquitted on a re-trial and freed after 14 years – the case found by a jury to not be proven beyond reasonable doubt (criminal law standard of proof). However a judicial review of his case for compensation for wrongful imprisonment found he was probably not innocent on the balance of probabilities (civil law standard of proof). It’s a case that still divides NZ, and also one that continues to cast a dark shadow, perhaps because of that dark and troubling “impossible for the human mind to conceive” aspect of the now unsolved and eternally unsolvable case; the only other suspect being one of the dead.

“Closed Case” does not seem to be specifically about that case, but a more abstract meditation on the kind of mind capable of conceiving of such an act. The song is brimming with dark Gothic unease, the sound of a scraping shovel adding a further nerve-jangling to the tense and chilly atmosphere. The arrangement shovels further layers of funeral melancholy upon the song, as woodwind and brass add their downbeat textures to the song.

The musical arrangements throughout “Non Compos Mentis” are another unconventional but very effective part of this album’s artistry. Utilising anti-pop collaborators Seth Frigthening and various members of Muzai Records label mates Girls Pissing on Girls Pissing, i. e. crazy finds the perfect off-kilter sea-sick uneasy-listening soundscape for these tales of everyday horror of the human condition.

While “Closed Case” is dark, it’s actually one of the more conventionally listenable songs on “Non Compos Mentis”.  Some of the album projects voices that are deliberately provocative… but the warning is in the i.e. crazy name and the album title (translating from the Latin as “of unsound mind”).  The words, as always, are powerful, rich with imagery, each song like an experimental short story in which reality and fiction are blurred, shifting things depending on the perspective of the narrator and their reliability. In other words, there’s a lot here to unpick, and that will take some time.

It’s a bit of an understatement to say this is a dark turn off the track that Claire Duncan’s previous musical vessel, the literate dream-pop Dear Time’s Waste, was taking. In turning off the track, she’s plunged down a steep bank into tangled undergrowth and a stream bed; the water putrid with dairy farming effluent, the ground littered with rusting discarded shopping trolleys and the odd dead body. Welcome to New Zealand everyone!

“Non Compos Mentis” is a difficult, challenging, sometimes confronting album. The history of music is full of difficult, challenging, confronting albums, the history on NZ music perhaps less so. Music, after all, is entertainment, something to sing – and drink – along to here, before and after another inspiring All Blacks rugby football match recharges our warped sense of national pride. Or shatters it when they lose.

The day before I listened to this album in full I played another difficult album, one I hadn’t played for years. Michael Mantler’s “Silence” is a Harold Pinter play set to music and featuring the voices of Robert Wyatt, Carla Bley and Kevin Coyne. You won’t be playing either record at your next party.  “Non Compos Mentis” and “Silence” share a lot in common – deeply unsettling and unconventional, dialogue between damaged minds, observations on everyday things through a different lens. Both present music as theatre, literature as lyrics, and music as the atmosphere to sustain the world created.

In a recent interview Claire described the new direction as a chance to agitate and pick at a scab. Disillusionment with the ‘industry’ and the over-riding value placed by NZ society on commercial potential of music and seeking solace in artistic expression instead is one aspect. Personal mental health challenges and the unhealthy state of NZ society at present for the young and poor is another.

I started this talking about heroes. Let’s not forget another musical hero – Muzai Records. Any label releasing All Seeing Hand, Girls Pissing on Girls Pissing and i.e. crazy is taking courage to a whole new level as a New Zealand record label (even if it is now based in Leeds, UK).

The LP of “Non Compos Mentis” can be ordered here. 

 

the-clean_getaway“Sometimes I’m all on my own” sings David Kilgour in “Stars”, the first song on The Clean’s 2001 album, the punningly titled “Getaway”, soon to be re-issued on vinyl for the first time by US label Merge Records on 2 December 2012.

After that sublime 1980s run of EPs and 7″ singles The Clean released their first – and best – album in 1990. “Vehicle” was from that era when vinyl was still king, and although subsequent albums “Modern Rock” (1994) and “Unknown Country” (1996) also had a limited release in LP format these were (and still are) hard to find in NZ. “Getaway” – originally released in 2001 – was exclusively a CD release.

It took The Clean another 8 years to follow up “Getaway” with the even-better “Mister Pop” which had some of their strongest songs since “Vehicle”. Whether or not “Mister Pop” will be their final chapter is anyone’s guess. In the meantime, there’s still “Getaway” to explore all over again.

“Getaway” comes with a bonus of live recordings from two rare NZ-only releases “Slush Fund” (Arclife, 2001) and “Syd’s Pink Wiring System” (Cleano, 2003).

Part of the enduring appeal of The Clean as a live band has been their singular ability to re-interpret their back catalogue in their live shows, bringing an improv jazz mindset and approach to exploring their psychedelic garage rock, making each song performance a unique event. The full track-listing of Merge Records’ “Getaway” re-issue can be viewed here.

the-clean_2live-cds

These are the two original CD only tour merch live albums from 2000/2001 which are included with the “Getaway” re-issue as digital and CD bonus tracks. The bonus CDs are also included with the double vinyl version.

Ela Orleans 2016 “You Go Through Me” is the second track on Ela Orleans‘ new album “Circles of Upper and Lower Hell” – a 73 minute album loosely based on Dante’s Inferno but infused with deep personal experience.

It’s the perfect song to introduce an immersive concept album from the Glasgow-based electronic sound art composer and performer. Dark as the subject matter is, there is something sublime and surreal in hearing the voices of The Pastels’ Stephen and Katrina joining with Ela to sing lines like “abandon all hope, you who enter here.”  

That mix of breathtaking moments of beauty with soul-crushing darkness is the heart of a sometimes confronting, but rewarding album. Having now repeatedly abandoned hope upon entry to this album, hope is the one quality most restored by completion of this epic journey.

By unwelcome coincidence of recent events in the UK, the album’s hell-on-earth theme represents a perfectly dark melancholia for the times.

In Dante’s Inferno hell is depicted as nine circles of suffering located within the Earth; it is the “realm…of those who have rejected spiritual values by yielding to bestial appetites or violence, or by perverting their human intellect to fraud or malice against their fellowmen” according to American poet John Ciardi. Well, that pretty much sums up the current neo-liberal political and economic agenda, as well as post-‘BREXIT’/ ‘post-factual’ division in the no longer quite so United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, doesn’t it?

Unlike Ela’s previous (and excellent) album “Tumult in Clouds”  which often re-assembled and re-shaped samples into new music, “Circles of Upper and Lower Hell” is built upon the performance of synths drums, percussion and voices mostly, merging synth-pop, electronica, and experimental ambient sound art into an ambitious masterpiece.

There’s a lot to take in, and it’s an album that needs repeated headphone listens with concentrated effort.  The instrumentals have film soundtrack quality. Some are quiet, minimal and eery, suggesting ‘incidental music’ soundscapes, infused with a rumbling dread behind the beauty. Others are more grand adventures in sound textures and atmosphere.

The album may be ghostly, creepy, and claustrophobic at times, but ultimately the uplifting beauty of the melodies and Ela’s voice (singing and spoken/ whispered word) which accompany the listener throughout this turbulent journey inspire hope of redemption.