Staff Pick CDs – Aug/Sep

Some new Staff Pick CDs, of new releases and older material. We hope you find something to enjoy!

Bon voyage.
The French alt-pop artist’s second album, coming six years after her great debut, is a challenging and rewarding listen. To imagine putting classic French pop, exotica and psych rock into a blender may give some idea of the fertile ideas behind these songs. Driven by standard drums, bass and guitars, the songs evolve and mutate minute by minute, some morphing from what could be a Francoise Hardy pop song, through classic exotica, laden with flutes and strings, to end up as an indie rock out. Somehow it all works in a beguiling and strangely immersive way and fans of imaginative psych pop should be intrigued. (John)

Alterum.
Born and raised in Scottish island North Uist, Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis has well established herself as a leading artist of its kind, and this alluring fifth album would give her international fame. The project began to explore Gaelic songs of the ‘otherworld’ or supernatural and it grew to the idea of reaching out to other world while celebrating her own culture. This album features a couple of English language songs for the first time which sit nicely among Gaelic songs, and everything – the well thought out arrangements, the excellent performance by the band, and above all, her gentle yet effective voice and modern interpretation – hit the right note. Although rooted heavily in tradition, her music has a universal charm, and this album should appeal to a wider audience. (Shinji)

No sounds are out of bounds / The Orb.
Thirty years after their debut, UK electronic chillout stalwarts The Orb, throw a real curveball by releasing an album on Cooking Vinyl featuring a host of guest artists that works so well it’s hard to believe it’s the same band that made 2016’s ambient “Chill Out World”. The driving dub bass lines that propel each track are the only constants over a record that touches so many bases, including female vocalists, dub melodica, ambient piano, house beats, mellow grooves and jazz guitar, all peppered with The Orb’s distinctive humorous vocal samples. It’s a wild ride and, against all odds, is arguably the most commercially accessible and one of the best releases of their long and befuddling career. (John)

A deeper understanding / The War on Drugs.
I absolutely love this album. I didn’t know The War on Drugs and came by them from a various best of 2017 cd. “In chains” and “Pain” are highlights but each song has its own interest. Not in any way innovative or surprising but the songs are full and lush and sometimes long, but are complete. Someone called it Dad rock, but who cares, I’m a dad and it is just lovely. (Martin)

I’m all ears.
The second album by the UK teenage duo is receiving rave reviews worldwide and rightly so. That two 19 year old girls making music for teenagers about being a teenager can have appeal across all age groups is remarkable and this is due to the standard of the song writing, the great instrumentation and the original and creative arrangements. Their vocals can take a bit of getting used to – think early Kate Bush – but, once you are tuned in, the journey through their bold and intense contemporary pop is hard to resist. (John)

We light fire.
I recently went to see Julia Dean’s album release and loved it! She was amazing! I highly recommend her album – a must listen! (Lisa)

 

 

Weather diaries.
Remarkably, almost 30 years on the early ‘90’s UK shoegaze sound appears to be in fine form and, following the excellent recent new release from Slowdive, we now have the first new Ride album in 20 years and, yes, it’s pretty good. Come back albums are challenging when you helped create an entire musical sub-genre, however, Ride fare pretty well. Their vocal harmonies haven’t changed at all, the big guitars are in full force and the song writing is up to scratch – the only nod to a new century is the inclusion of London DJ Erol Alkan on production duties who sharpens their classic jangle pop and shimmering guitars for a new era. Turn it up and party like it’s 1989! (John)

Sassafrass!
At the moment I can’t get enough of Sassafrass! by Tami Neilson. She was amazing in concert and this album rocks just as much! Perfect listening for those who love that old-time country/lounge/touch of rockabilly vibe. A great collection of touching songs about family, and brilliantly getting her own back on those who unashamedly tout judgements and double standards. Available on CD and vinyl, it’s most definitely sassy and frassy. (Belinda)

Knock knock.
The German electronic artist who started out as a DJ/remixer has grown into a respected artist and now runs his own label – Pampa Records. His new release is a good intro to the small unique sub-genre he has helped create that generally features warm bass, gently alluring beats and imaginative use of sampling and electronics underpinning a range of guest vocalists. He has a strong sense of the whimsical but manages to balance this, through this collection of lovely wonky downbeat grooves, with a genuine emotional resonance too often absent from electronic music. (John)

Soar / Catrin Finch, Seckou Keita.
Prominent Welsh classical harpist Catrin Finch and Senegalese kora (often described as Africa harp) player Seckou Keita first collaborated together in 2013 and made an acclaimed album Clychau Dibon which won the best album of 2014 in both Froots and Songlines magazine. Four years down the line, their unique bond gets stronger and this sophomore album finds both artists in sublime form, showcasing the elegant, seamless conversations. Their dazzling virtuosities allow the two string-instruments from Africa and Europe to blend into each other and create beautifully textured, glorious soundscape. Most of the music is original but taking also from African griot’s number and Bach’s Goldberg Variations, they are searching for a new musical language by looking back at their traditions. Brilliant. (Shinji)

Shearwater drift / Al Fraser, Steve Burridge, Neil Johnstone.
The delicacy and sublime power of Taongo Puoro (traditional Maori instrumentation) is explored beautifully on this recent release by three Wellington musicians. What is created here is a fully immersive sonic collage that, over 18 tracks, features Taongo Puoro within soundscapes created by synthesisers, percussion, treated samples and other instruments. Its not an easy listen, at times it can be quite eerie, but the dark and ethereal ambient atmosphere is the perfect vehicle by which the mystery of these ancient instruments can be experienced. The whole thing is beautifully packaged in a thick cardboard case that features evocative art by Neil Johnstone. (John)
This is the voyage of a shearwater as it ventures into enigmatic scenery; familiar yet vague, both disturbing and comforting. Alistair Fraser’s deep connection with taonga pūoro sets the backdrop of this story with great sensibility, establishing the melancholic mood that Māori instruments so readily evoke. Over this panorama you’ll encounter the mysterious electronics of Neil Johnstone piercing through the organic weave, juxtaposing the nature of the ever changing reality with those aspects that belong to the future and the beyond. In the midst of this seamless movement are motifs of humanity embodied by accordions, pianos, and other familiar noises which serve as geographic beacons. At times submerged into deep water, at others flying high and fast through the forest, the shearwater glides with grace, undisturbed by the weather or the metropolitan traffic. There is a cyclical aspect to this album, easily lending itself to sound installations or an environment of discovery and inspiration. The overall tone invites you to slow down and ponder, paying attention to the nuances that crop up from all angles thanks to a high quality production. My recommendation is to let the music permeate your surroundings, allowing yourself to drift into what lies in your depths, waiting to be found. (Axel)

Listening to pictures : pentimento volume one.
The former jazz trumpet player, who initiated the idea of the “Fourth World” alongside Brian Eno on 1980’s ‘Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Musics’, has released, at 81 years old, an incredible record on Ndeya, a sub-label of the UK’s Warp Records. Fusing hi-tech minimalism with world rhythms he has collaged a dream world marked by a flickering, hallucinatory energy and built around stuttering beats through which dense, treated layers of trumpet, synth, piano, and violin edits cascade and undulate. Its a remarkable release from an artist so late in his career, when most others are merely re-treading old ground. This album also features a cover art sampled from Mati Klarwein, the artist responsible for the cover of Miles Davis’ ‘Bitches Brew’. (John)

The dark side of the moon [remaster].
The Dark Side of the Moon is one of the bestselling albums of all time. It was PF’s 8th album, and spent 11 consecutive years in the top 100 and 14 years lodged in the same place. It was recorded at Abby Road studios between May 1972-January 1973, and rather than separate tracks the album is one continuous piece of music. With estimated sales are over 45 million, the themes it explored include greed (Money track) conflict and time. (Max)

Recent favourites: Staff-picked CDs

Superorganism album cover

While we’re not busy with library duties, many of us here at Wellington City Libraries are avid music listeners. Here are a few recent highlights from our extensive CD collection.

Superorganism.
Wellington band The Eversons moved to London in 2015 and have grown into an eight piece collective consisting of members from Lancashire, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Aotearoa, that all now live together in a big house in London. They have created media waves with their fun, kooky and excellently produced debut album, which is loaded with crazy samples, playful beats, fat basslines, swirling synths and great guitar hooks, all underpinned by the oddly deadpan vocals of 17 year old Japanese vocalist Orono Noguchi who they auditioned on Skype. Sounding like the children of The Go Team! and MGMT, this is a technicolor rush of fun and densely layered quirky pop that sounds as though it was made by the band members emailing each other ideas from their rooms in the house – which it actually was! For an idea of where this extremely contemporary band are coming from check out the video for their hit ‘Everybody Wants To Be Famous‘. (John H.)

Mi mundo.
An exciting music by a shining new star – a young Cuban singer and percussionist Brenda Navarrete infuses the traditional Afro-Cuban music with the modern stylish sound, and her debut album Mi Mundo (My World) is full of thrilling moments. Opening with Navarrete’s expressive voice and her percussions, which lead the charge throughout the album, music here is intricate and touches a range of musical styles. However, she and her Cuban all-star band show amazing skills and masterfully treat them, often with jazz idioms, and present smooth yet rich, dynamic sound. The album lasts only 37 minutes but shows Navarrete’s enormous talent and character. Sensational. (Shinji)

Wide awaaaaake!
It’s fitting that Texan indie rockers Parquet Courts are on Rough Trade Records as that label was the prime mover of the original early 80’s UK post punk sound and Parquet Courts arguably continue that tradition better than any other current band. Their sixth album is produced by Danger Mouse, who helps shape their characteristically spiky shambolic sound into a semblance of fun, danceable grooves. The post punk influences are still plentiful but the new album has a gloss of production that manages to expand their musical palette without losing the bands’ angular garage rock stance. With song titles such as ‘Normalisation’ and ‘Before the Water Gets Too High’ it’s reassuring to know that urgent and quizzical music such as this is being made. (John H.)

Rewa / Tania Giannouli, Rob Thorne, Steve Garden.
Rewa fuses the musical cultures of Western Greece, courtesy of Greek classically trained musician Tania Giannouli, and that of traditional Taonga Pūoro instrumentation, courtesy of Rob Thorne. The whole album was improvised over a two day recording session. The resulting album transcends musical boundaries whilst having both a classical and experimental feel. The individual pieces are often dark, brooding and intense with Steve Garden’s treatments, and delicate, thoughtful mixing making this album a rich, complex and rewarding listen. (Neil J)

Top gear.
Wellington based muso Stef Animal took time out from bass playing duties with The Golden Awesome to record this beguiling collection of 15 ‘song-in-a-day writing exercises’, each using sounds from a different piece of cheap or unfashionable musical equipment. The pieces are short – ranging from 30 seconds to 4 minutes – but are equally engaging, gradually drawing the listener deeper in to Stef Animal’s unique and intriguing sound world. The result is an unusual release that stands up as a bold and wholly successful experiment. (John H.)

Vortex / Sonar with David Torn.
Swiss jazz-progressive rock quartet (twin guitars, bass and drums) Sonar has established an utterly unique sound – often playing in irregular time and creating a minimal stoic groove which at times is as if 80s king Crimson is playing Steve Reich-ish minimal composition – and with this new album featuring the one-of-a-kind guitarist David Torn, they seem to move to another level. Torn originally worked as a producer but ended up playing on all tunes as well, which is very welcome. Torn brings a sonically inventive soundscape with huge improvisations on some tracks. Their chemistry is fantastic and Sonar has sharpened their trademark polyrhythmic groove, and makes the whole sound even more dynamic. This is risk-taking music and marvellously executed. (Shinji)

Englabörn & variations / Jóhann Jóhannsson.
Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson passed away earlier this year at the early age of 48. His story was a very successful one, growing from the fringes of the electronic / neo-classical world with his early releases on Touch and 4AD to worldwide acclaim providing soundtracks for films such as Arrival and The Theory of Everything. His use of electronics and treated voices within ambient / chamber pieces was radical in 2002 and had become familiar by 2018, but he was a true pioneer. This remastered re-issue of his first record, 2002’s Englaborn remains impressive and features 16 relatively short works of beautiful and stately contemporary ambient music, predominantly featuring strings and delicate electronics, with an accompanying disc of remixes by a range of current ambient musicians. (John H.)

5.
The first release on Prins Thomas Musikk, the new label started by the popular Norwegian electronic producer and remixer, is his fifth album and finds him expanding his by now predictable space disco sound. Apparently inspired by Teenage Fanclub, American jazz guitarist Pat Metheny and UK duo Plaid, he here presents a set of pared down, predominantly downbeat compositions featuring sweet basslines, guitars, bubbling synths and ambient flourishes to create warm and intimate grooves that lovingly reference the IDM sound of the mid ‘90’s. (John H.)

In Paris: the definitive ORTF recording.
Another classic Jazz concert receives it’s first official release, after being previously available in bootleg form. Montgomery hated to fly, so it was a rare opportunity for European audiences to see him perform in 1965 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, featuring an all-star band with pianist Harold Mabern, bassist Arthur Harper and drummer Jimmy Lovelace, & special guest tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin. Montgomery delivers a searing set of tunes with one amazing solo after another, in what is considered one of his best live performances ever, melodic, inventive and endlessly swinging. Listening to this reissue, it’s easy to see why he is still regarded as one of the most influential Jazz guitarists in history. (Mark)

July’s staff picks from our CD collection

Ventriloquism cover

Check out these music picks by some of our staff members. A wide variety of music styles are listed here and you might find something new or intriguing.

7.
Seven albums in and US dream poppers Beach House show no sign of losing their edge as they continue to explore the parameters of their distinctive sound. On their seventh album they’ve replaced their long-time producer with MGMT producer and former Spacemen 3 member Peter Kember. The result is their most immersive, and possibly their most engaging, album to date. In a recent interview vocalist Victoria Legrand said that in creating this work, the band sought to use “bigger canvases, a stronger solid line”, and the sound is perceivably darker and more dramatic, with the usual gentle drum programming replaced by a thunderous live drummer that helps move this record into the deeper realms of dream pop inhabited by bands such as My Bloody Valentine. (John H.)

Singularity.
The London based electronic producer release his follow up to the very well received 2013 release Immunity. Once again the production is perfect – crystal clear tones and beautifully constructed beats throughout an album that, however, probably works best on vinyl, as there are two distinct ‘sides’. The first four tracks (side 1) offer a deeper journey into electronic rhythms with Hopkins’ ambient sensibilities and compositional flair ensuring that the crunchy grooves remain quite removed from most generic dance based electronica being produced. The next five tracks (side 2) are lovingly crafted ambient pieces featuring gentle piano and delicate synths that are about as far removed from the grooves of side 1 as possible. Overall some great sounds but maybe best appreciated in two sittings. (John H.)

My design, on others’ lives.
It must be one of the most difficult gigs a musician can do. Being the warm up act to a huge star who hasn’t toured for ages and has legions of passionate fans. Estere’s support slot for Grace Jones in Queenstown was a stunning success for this new artist. She handled her time with poise and aplomb gaining a fair few fans in the process. Her self-produced debut album is a lush hybrid beast, a unique combination of sonic elements from pop/jazz melodies to sensual electronica and serious rhythmic cores. She also has a beautiful soaring voice and a fine turn in lyrics, and whilst it is definitely a mainstream album it certainly has some experimental leanings too. This album marks the entrance of a vibrant new voice and sounds to this reviewer, like the kind of album a future superstar would release. (Neil J)

Black magic.
Yemi Alade is the African Madonna of Pop. She has a strong sexy African female voice combined with beats to make you shake it. Her song ‘Johnny’ from her debut studio album King of Queens (2014) hit the charts in Africa and in the UK. She won MTV Africa’s Best Female Artist of the Year in 2015 and 2016.
The music videos, mostly directed by Clarence Peters, are a fantastic high production show of contemporary African fashion and dance combined with humorous storylines and female perspectives. The videos also show a side of Africa that doesn’t always make it onto African Pop music videos or Nollywood movies; real backgrounds of village life, the grit of the city, and the African landscape feature here. No million dollar yachts and polished marble – Africa is beautiful, real and alive. We have two of her albums in the library: Mama Africa (2016) & Black Magic (2017). (Zoe)

The final tour : the bootleg series vol. 6 / Miles Davis & John Coltrane.
This entry in the ongoing Bootleg Series features five concerts from the Miles Davis Quintet’s Spring 1960 Jazz at the Philharmonic European tour, the first legitimate release of this material with remastered sound. Coltrane was anxious to leave the group at this point, and was a very reluctant part of the Tour, which results in a dichotomy of styles that provides some fascinating listening. Coltrane plays with an aggressive style that is almost a year ahead in terms of his musical development, while Miles and the remaining members of the group: Wynton Kelly (piano); Paul Chambers (bass) & Jimmy Cobb (drums), try to hold the centre down to a more familiar framework that European audiences & critics were comfortable with. The audience (particularly in the Paris concerts with the whistling and feet stamping – the French version of booing) were scandalized, as were local critics, and these new versions of this material prove the legendary status of these recordings was not overrated. (Mark)

A man I’d rather be (Part I).
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of folk guitarist/vocalist Bert Jansch in not only the early development of the British folk revival, but also in the ensuing development of UK rock, with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page a self-confessed fan (see if you can spot the opening bars of ‘The Waggoner’s Lad’ on Led Zeppelin 3) . Most famous for the jazz/folk band Pentangle, Bert Jansch started out as part of the UK folk scene of the early ‘60’s, which carried the genesis of the ‘60’s counter cultural movement. This box set contains his first four albums (disc 4 with John Renbourn) and is to be followed by Part 2 featuring his other four. The first two albums here were recorded when Jansch was only 21 and his distinctive finger-picking blues style, which incorporated percussive, African and Eastern-influenced tunings, was already well formed. Bert Jansch was an enormous talent who applied his guitar and banjo picking skills and distinctive vocal style to a merging of American blues with the swing of jazz within a very English esoteric folk sensibility and, hopefully, re-releases such as this will help him find a wider audience. (John H.)

Ventriloquism.
From the big names such as Prince, Tina Turner, Janet Jackson and Sade to the typical 80s hit by Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, they are all songs from ‘85 to ‘90 (except TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’ in ‘94). A cover album of the 80s R&B classics is something rare and what Meschell Ndegeocello does with them is totally original. With the minimal arrangements, she and her regular band display superb performances and colour them with a murky textured otherworldly ambience. Ndegeocello debuted with the Grammy-nominated album Plantation Lullabies in 1993 and had a commercial success in her earlier career. The label had kept telling her to make the same sort of albums but she never did. She lost the support from the label, but this uncompromised spirit made her one of the most forward-thinking, singular artists. This is a covert album like no other and one of her best. (Shinji)

Music for installations.
With a gentle nod to the past (Eno’s ground-breaking late ‘70’s ambient releases included Music For Films and Music For Airports), Brian Eno re-affirms his standing as the Grand Master of ambience with a stunning six disc set. The compositions cover over 30 years, from 1985 to 2017 and all feature slightly different approaches to the airy, light world of generative music, designed to create sound that permeates the environment like clouds of incense. Filled with gorgeous washes of bells and drones and unidentifiable luminous shimmers moving across widescreen stereo fields, the pieces are beautiful and always different, yet always the same, and with an accompanying booklet of extensive liner notes, this box set offers an excursion into a deep and mysterious netherworld by a key contemporary artist. (John H.)

The lookout.
The wonderful collaborations with Neko Case and KD Lang (2016’s Case/Lang/Veirs) finally gave her the kind of fame she deserved, and the Portland-based singer-songwriter Laura Veirs continues to impress both new and old fans with this new album. Her thoughtful songs; wistful lyrics and sensitive drifting melodies are as fine as ever, and her husband and the master producer, Tucker Martine, who has worked with The Decemberists, My Morning Jacket and many more, gives another stellar job and envelopes them with warm arrangements. Best of all, they deftly keep everything simple and clear, and make it a neatly-crafted dreamy folk/pop album. Sufjan Stevens and Jim James make cameos. A gem. (Shinji)

Hormone lemonade.
Ex-Stereolab guitarist Tim Gane’s kraut rock inspired project release their third album and this time around their sound is aimed predominantly at the rhythmic end of things with propulsive motorik beats prevailing. Sequencers, drums and drum machines pump out the hypnotic grooves, while synths and guitar provide a measure of melodic injection over ten pieces, avant-garde yet accessible. Taking bits of inspiration from the past, with Neu! and Suicide obvious reference points, the trio build them into a highly futuristic sounding present. And, yes, for long time fans, occasional fleeting traces of Stereolab can be detected here! (John H.)

Recent staff pick CDs

We’ve put together a list of of our favourite CDs from this year’s new releases so far, check out our staff picks below! There’s bit of everything genre wise, so we hope you find something new or something you may have missed when it first came out.

Record.
Tracey Thorn’s ageless voice returns with another album of mature pop, her first solo album of entirely original material for seven years. Her female worldview informs the 9 songs on this short album. The beats are back for the dance jam ‘Sister’, with Warpaint’s rhythm section and BVs from Corinne Bailey Rae, and closing track ‘Dancefloor’, but have a more sombre feel on tracks like ‘Face’. Topics include the on-going struggle for female equality (Sister), her musical beginnings (Guitar), motherhood (Babies) & the impact on Social Media of failed relationships (Face). (Mark)

Wallflower.
Born in New Zealand, grew up in Australia and a London resident now, neo-soul singer Jordan Rakei first grabbed the spotlight by working with Disclosure in 2015. His sophomore album ‘Wallflower’ is surprisingly released from Nnija Tune, and is a delicately crafted, beautiful work, featuring his quality songs and silky voice. In comparison with other new-generation soul artists such as The Internet, Hiatus Kaiyote and Nick Hakim, he seems to be a more personal, introspective singer-songwriter, and it’s showcased here. (Shinji)

Singles 1978-2016 / The Fall.
Made especially relevant by Mark E Smith’s recent sad demise, this excellent box set compiles, over seven discs, every single – both A and B sides – from one of the greatest indie bands ever – The Fall. Mark E Smith was a true legend and, unlike artists like Keith Richards who similarly defied established health beliefs, Mark E Smith maintained a high artistic credibility, continuing to produce great, challenging music for close to 40 years – and there are not many artists who can lay such a claim. This set lays it all out, from 1978’s ‘Bingo Master’s Breakout’ to 2016’s ‘Wise Ole Man’. For those less in need of completism there is also a smaller box-set – ‘A-Sides 1978-2016’ which, over three discs, omits the B-Sides. (John)

Scorn of Creation.
An outstanding 8-track self-titled debut album from Wellington death metal outfit Scorn of Creation. The band pay tribute to traditional old-school death metal without compromising on a modern, fresh sound. Energetic and raw. I loved it start to finish! (Theresa)

Part 2 / Brix & The Extricated.
Fall fans who are especially fond of the slightly more rock oriented ‘Brix era’ albums will be pleased to learn that Brix Smith has got together with ex long term Fall members Steve Hanley (bass guitar), his brother Paul Hanley (drums) and Steve Trafford (guitar and vocals) to make a record that is anything but the cash-in one may dread. Featuring mostly originals plus new versions of three Fall songs, this is a great hard rocking indie record, surprisingly so from a bunch of musos in their fifties, that was described by Drowned In Sound as “One of the great indie-rock releases of 2017”. (John)

Woodland echoes.
It’s very good news that he is still making music. Out of the blue, Nick Heyward, the former 80s pop sensation Haircut 100’s front man, released an album for the first time in 18 years and it’s a charmer. His genius songwriting is still up there with the best, such as Paul McCartney, offering dazzling breezy pop music. It’s perfect music for a lazy afternoon. (Shinji)

World wide funk.
Since the ‘60’s, US bass player Bootsy Collins has defined funk bass. Starting out as James Brown’s bass player, playing bass on “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine”, he went on to form Parliament / Funkadelic with George Clinton, collaborated with Deee-Lite on “Groove Is in the Heart”, and in 2010 formed ‘Bootsy Collins’ Funk University’, on online music school. His first album in six years features the 67-year-old laying down grooves as cool and funky as anything he has ever done with guest appearances including Doug E. Fresh, Buckethead, Snoop Dogg, Stanley Clarke, Big Daddy Kane and Chuck D. (John)

Ponguru / Al Fraser, Phil Boniface.
Ponguru is a truly unique album fusing seamlessly the sonic worlds of acclaimed jazz bassist Phil Boniface and leading Nga Taonga Puoro player Al Fraser . The resulting album has many faces and facets its Jazz tinged rather than Jazz, ambient in places and like a complex sonic landscape in others, throughout all its pieces it’s always fiercely original , rewarding and hugely atmospheric. Phil’s bass work is of the highest calibre imbuing the whole piece with a core of beautiful rhythmic structure. And Al’s emotive, nuanced playing shows that he is rightfully regarded as one of the finest musicians working in NZ today. (Neil J.)

Black sea.
This re-release of UK post punkers XTC’s 1980 follow up to their chart breaking ‘Drums & Wires’ album gains a lot from Steven Wilson’s remastering. In fact it sounds like a different record from the muddy original with lovely crisp drums and excellent deep bass which allow the songs to fully breathe. The album captures the band in full flight as they played over 150 live gigs in 1980, a couple of years before they stopped playing live altogether to become a strictly studio based band. Consequently the musos are very tight, playing with real precision and fire throughout what is an excellent example of ‘80’s post punk / new wave power pop. (John)

Shadow of the sword.
Wellington based speed metal maniacs Stalker deliver a debut full-length of pure, unadulterated speed metal in all its thrashing, shrieking, shredding glory! A great listen – guaranteed. (Theresa)

Continue reading “Recent staff pick CDs”

Staff Picks CDs: The Best of 2017 Part 2

From our very own Wellington bands to Kendrick Lamar and soundtracks, check out more of our best music picks of 2017!

Mark’s Picks

Patriotic grooves. [VINYL]
Awesome anarcho-punk feminist diatribe against everything from Trump to neo-liberal politics, capitalism, misogyny, patriarchal violence, oppression, misogyny, transmisogyny, sexism, and cissexism. If this sounds didactic it’s not. It’s just relevant and timely. Also has great tunes that channel all the best elements of the classic Riot grrrl aesthetic.

Miles Calder & the Rumours.
Following on from their 2013 EP ‘The Crossing Over’, which was nominated for the 2014 NZ Taite Music Prize, Miles Calder & The Rumours deliver their eponymous debut 5 years after forming as a band. The culmination of a couple of years work, the self-produced album was engineered by Lee Prebble but mixed by Grammy-award winning engineer Trina Shoemaker, and features a large array of local talent (Lisa Tomlins, Ed Zuccollo, Dayle Jellyman, Finn Johansson, Chris Winter, Matthew Benton and Lucien Johnson) who add musical shadings from piano to horns to organ on various tracks. From the first track it’s easy to see just how much the songs benefit from the richness of sound the studio environment provides, and there’s a consistent calibre of songwriting across the whole album.

Dark arts / The Nudge. [VINYL]
The 2nd album from The Nudge only has 3 tracks, one of which clocks in at 13 minutes, the other at 24. The four minute opening title track (and single) is just a hint of the genre mashing that is about happen, but provides a basic reference point for the bands diverse sound. If you’re not enamoured with anything vaguely ‘prog’ and hate tracks that are basically longer that 3 and half minutes, be prepared to have your opinion changed by this addictive record. With relatively few vocal interludes, it’s all about the structure of the sound here and they manage to weave in out of different styles and atmospheres within the same track with nothing feeling overly laboured or obvious. All the tonal shifts seem like smaller songs within the larger canvas of the track and by the end of 13 or 24 minutes they leave you wanting more not less.

The weight of melted snow.
Lovely new meditative album from French For Rabbits based around the dissolution of the romantic relationship of band members Brooke Singer and John Fitzgerald. Male vocals provide a counterpoint to Singer’s softly lilting voice, and the dreamy atmospheric ambient sounds that the fully fleshed out band provides. Previous albums have drawn inspiration from nature and the physical, but ‘The Weight of Melted Snow’ while not short of imagery of the natural world is all about the internal, the dynamics of the heart and how to keep it beating when you lose part of it.

If you’re born on an island the ocean heals you.
With the exception of bass and drums on a few tracks and backing vocals everything is played by Lake, along with all the writing and arrangements. The synthy pop structure of a lot of the tracks enfold the layered vocals (and lovely backing voices of Seamus Maguire, Penelope Esplin, Felicity Herbertson and Nadia Reid) with a sense of warmth rather than cold beats. He uses a distinctively ‘kiwi’ voice on the brilliant ‘Good Keen Man’ that cleverly updates a series of iconic NZ images with the realities of the now. A mini-album exits within the larger work, with ‘Renters’ & ‘The Cost of Living’ addressing what he sees as the social crises’ facing people in NZ today. A love of nature, the land and the beauty that surrounds us pervades against the avarice and capitalism of modern life.

Teeth.
When you heard that Luke Buda & Tom Callwood (Phoenix Foundation) were teaming up with David Long (The Mutton Birds), & Anthony Donaldson (The Labcoats) you could be forgiven for thinking that the result would be more along the experimental spectrum. But Teeth turn up the indie guitar dynamics to just rock out, in a straight ahead way that differs from its members previous bands. You get the feeling that the entirety of Teeth is a great palette cleanser for everyone involved. Trippy guitars, riffy bass lines, shimmery reverby vocals, songs that bounce from the cosmic to the angsty to tongue in cheek and back. Every song is so catch & melodic it’s hard to pick highlights but ‘Glass Ceiling’ & the wry ‘Looking Good, Feeling Great’ are both super fun.

Harmonies.
Super funky new album from Lord Echo. A melange of analogue dance floor grooves that take in everything from ‘Rebirth of the Cool’ Acid Jazz, Caribbean disco vibe, African funk, classic American R&B and back. The ever awesome Mara TK takes vocal duties on 4 tracks, with Lisa Tomlins on 2, and Toby Laing & Echo himself on one each. Lucien Johnson’s sax & flute float around the beats with Daniel Hayes synth’s. It all somehow meshes into a groove that becomes more than the sum of its parts and the funky retro-ness always seems genuine and never a deliberate pastiche.

Unearthing.
As with listening to Into Orbit’s debut album ‘Caverns’ it still seems amazing that the group just consists of two people, guitarist Paul Stewart and drummer Ian Moir, as their immersive soundscapes sound so epic. The hybrid post-rock/metal/experimental template of the first album is expanded on. Elements shift up against each other, heavy guitar riffs meld into moments of calm and delicate playing, only to explode into crushing drums. But it’s not just a series of loud/quiet/loud moments tied together as ‘tracks’. Into Orbit never seem to be welded into a particular set definition of what each track should be in terms of sound and atmospherics, and the subtle layering of complex patterns & textures make each track a unique experience.

Morningside.
Fantastic new album from Auckland based Amelia Murray (AKA Fazerdaze). Fuzzy guitars, programmed drum patterns and the odd sinewy keyboard line make up the sonic palette of most tracks, but her sweet airy vocals soar over all of it. The shimmery reverby guitars invoke a summery sense of well being, but the ‘poppy’ musical framework hides a lyrical disillusionment and uncertainty. A pervading sense of anxiety permeates nearly every track, inhabiting every relationship and interaction, and hovering cloudlike over the future itself.

Otherness.
Fantastic next level sophomore album from Grayson Gilmour, filled with superbly textured sounds and catchy melodies. His voice is moved up in the mix so it floats upon the layers of often dichotomous sound he builds into the tracks. There is an almost academic level of focus on the soundscapes & chord structures but it is more an organic exploration rather than fussy cleverness, and moulded around the album’s overarching themes of growth and acceptance.

Ennui.
The songs on ‘Ennui’ form themselves through shifting styles, overriding an easy definition or pigeon-holing, subsuming genres, metres, keys, & vocal styles into the original narratives of each of the songs rather than being in service of them. With 3 vocalists at play and elements of everything really from post-hardcore/sludge, psych Rock, post-Rock, stoner riffs, desert rock, doom layers it’s impossible to delineate the trajectory of each track adequately, suffice to say that each is challenging and complex and overall it’s an alum that reveals its musical and emotional layers after repeated immersion.

Perfect body.
Vibrant second album from the Mermaidens trio scored a flurry of great reviews upon its release, and rightly so. The tracks wind in and out of indie rock influences (newer bands like Warpaint, and older classic exponents like Sleater Kinney), elements of shoegaze , brighter Britpop, & echoy layers of early Cure’s goth. As a whole the album sounds fantastic, the breathy vocals merging perfectly with the dense drum patterns and creeping sinuous guitar lines, creating a cavernous sound that builds and releases. The precision of the music is aligned with the murky melodicism of the vocals which shift between an intense attack and detached emotion, as they dissect the juxtaposition of animalistic physicality and the sensory experience of the natural, with the pressure of the modern digital world of social media, fractured relationships and uncertain interactions. Bold and accomplished, enigmatic and intense at the same time. Continue reading “Staff Picks CDs: The Best of 2017 Part 2”

Staff Picks CDs: The Best of 2017, Part 1

John, Neil J., Jackson and Alex select their favourite CDs of 2017 from our collection. There is a wide variety of music here and you might find something interesting or missed. Part 2 is coming soon so keep checking.

John’s Picks:

Real Estate – In Mind
Indie hipster heroes, Real Estate, deliver another portion of their gorgeous laid back jangle pop and it’s exactly what fans will expect –tremolo heavy guitars, lovely harmonies and bitter sweet songs, all delivered at a relaxed pace by musicians so tight as to appear telepathic.

Grandaddy – Last Place
Granddaddy were always singer/songwriter Jason Lyttle’s band and it’s great to hear his esoteric, slightly melancholic slacker take on existentialist angst once again.

 

Gas – Narkopop
Wolfgang Voigt follows up his 2000 ambient masterpiece ‘Pop’ and dives deeper into the original template, focusing on texture and reverberation and introducing sub bass pulses to create stunning symphonic electronic chamber music that is as meditative as it is unsettling.

Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble – Find Me Finding You
The demise of UK post rockers Stereolab left a gap in contemporary music, but vocalist Laetitia Sadier continues to create her surreal sensual pop informed by the harmonies and lush instrumentation of exotica, easy listening and tropicalia.

 

Laurel Halo – Dust
On ‘Dust’ her music remains as unclassifiable as ever and, as much jazz as electronica, has attained a new found warmth and softness with her treated vocals woven through absorbing and often playful sound textures and beats to create a collection of tracks as original and beguiling as anything you will hear this year.

Thurston Moore – Rock ‘n’ Roll Consciousness
Sonic Youth fans are in for a treat here as that legendary NY band’s guitarist, Thurston Moore, explores five lengthy, textural, guitar centred songs that are reminiscent of his playing on the groundbreaking Sonic Youth album, Daydream Nation.

 

Shirley Collins – Lodestar
84 year old Shirley Collins, the “faerie queen” of UK psych folk, was finally coaxed back to a microphone by devoted fans and recorded live to laptop in her rural cottage accompanied by members of the next generation of folk musicians.

 

Dauwd – Theory of Colours
Electronic producers often find it difficult to maintain an entire album and it is nice to be able to report that UK artist Dauwd, bucks that trend with most of the seven tracks here maintaining a lovely rolling chilled rhythm with deep bass lines and skittering hi-hats pushing it all along.

LCD Sound System – American Dream
Seven years after they disbanded, we get the fourth LCD album and it’s as good as anything they have done. Anything but a cynical cash-in this album confirms James Murphy as a major artist.

 

Kraftwerk – 3D: The Catalogue – Box Set
German electronica pioneers, Kraftwerk, release their entire catalogue of eight discs once again, but the difference is that these are all recently recorded live versions, capturing the band using modern state of the art equipment with pristine clarity.

 

Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins
The highly anticipated follow up to 2012’s ‘Shields’ from the darlings of the NY hipster scene doesn’t disappoint featuring all of the band’s distinctive touches – excellent musicianship, great arrangements, gorgeous melodies and inscrutable lyrics. They are here in Wellington for the NZ Festival in March.

Grayson Gilmour – Otherness
Wellington based multi-instrumentalist Grayson Gilmour plays everything but the drums and strings on this sophisticated, beautifully composed album that brims with heart while avoiding sentimentality.

 

Peaking Lights – The Fifth State of Consciousness
US husband and wife duo, Peaking Lights, gain more confidence with each release and with this, their fifth album, they effortlessly explore their relatively unique world of ‘80’s influenced cosmic dub/synth pop.

 

Washed Out – Mister Mellow
Released on the US Stone’s Throw label, Ernest Greene’s third record is an intoxicating blend of downbeat, free jazz, hip hop and lounge with spoken word samples thrown in to keep things interesting.

 

Kate Tempest – Let Them Eat Chaos
This is an intensely political record that harks back to the early days of hip-hop as the fiery UK poet directs her fine honed literary tirades at capitalism, gentrification, climate change, war, disconnectedness, isolation and more.

 

Machinedrum – Human Energy
Inspired by the California new age movement, Human Energy finds US electronic producer Travis Stewart, coming as close as he has come to the popular arena, featuring very catchy tunes, a range of guest r’n’b vocalists, great beats and excellent production to create a summer record of euphoric glitch pop.

Roman Flugel – All the Right Noises
Roman Flugel’s third album is “about the solitary time in hotel rooms between gigs, and that strange mixture of peace and isolation”, and he has created a collection of pieces that lie between ambient and dancefloor in the wonderful world of electronic listening music.

Brian Eno – Reflection
Brian Eno has finally created a piece of infinite music, via an iOS app, that generates music indefinitely without ever repeating itself. In these anxious times, this hour long excerpt is a welcome respite, presenting a peaceful and calming virtual river to sit beside.

 

The XX – I See You
The London trio’s third release in seven years finds The XX creating their gorgeous and beautifully produced take on pop throughout, arguably, their best record yet.

 

Lana Del Rey – Lust For Life
LA songstress Lana Del Rey matures into a true artist with her excellent fifth album that expands her sound palette and makes real her fascination with modern pop culture via guest appearances from Sean Lennon, Stevie Nicks, the Weeknd and A$AP Rocky.

 

Neil J’s Picks:

David Long, Richard Nunns and Natalia Mann – Utterance
This is a truly remarkable album, it is what great music sounds like, this is a major work in any sphere of artistic endeavour and it’s what many musicians strive their entire lives to achieve and is one of the finest albums in any genre from anywhere I have heard in a very long time . It is the culmination of a lifetime for Richard Nunns who knew from the start of the albums production it would be his last work and it sounds as if he has placed some deep aspect of his very being into the piece. It is a modern beautiful abstract work that is very aware of the deep spiritual and cultural traditions from which it springs and embraces these roots whilst being totally unique and new and timeless. Its powerful, emotional, challenging, spiritual and simultaneously personal and universal.

Blade runner 2049 : original motion picture soundtrack
Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack to Blade Runner 2049 is a startling, original and stunning work that ranges from faint melodic echoes of the original to dark, bleak, unsettling, industrial howls and cries, it’s a fantastic piece. Whilst many soundtracks are just designed as audio cues for events in the film, only the very best create atmosphere and add to a film rather than just compliment it. Wallfisch and Zimmer’s soundtrack joins the esteemed ranks of people like Ennio Morricone or Bernard Herrmann in creating a classic soundtrack that stands up on its own right even when its stripped away from the films visuals.

Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
I love the Fleet foxes first two albums and was intrigued to hear that Crack up their third outing starts exactly where the last track of their second album Helplessness blues ends. No band is attempting to do what they do with their sound. It’s really hard to describe their work but here goes experimental, orchestral, modern folk music with a close affection for music from late 1960s American West coast Scene. People like Crosby, Stills and Nash or Joni Mitchell. Its lush, its gorgeous, its seductive and it has serious intent too one of my favourites of the year.

Perfume genius – No Shape
Perfume genius’s fourth album No shape is a lush, elaborate, decadent shape shifting album of contrasts. Moving effortlessly from haunting delicate fragile melodies that still somehow sound slightly damaged or decayed to uplifting euphoric rapturous elements often in the same piece of music.

Ross Harris – Requiem for the fallen
Ross Harris has had a very busy 2017 and for me this was his finest release and also the best new classical work I heard all year. A deeply emotional melancholic work, that drains the listener with its intensity (as a piece on this subject matter should) Its melodically subtle and is powerfully moving a piece that touches the heart in the saddest of ways. Its beautifully recorded and performed a stunning work in every way and my favourite classical work of 2017. Words by Vincent O’Sullivan.

Jackson’s Picks:

Kendrick Lamar – Damn

 

 

 

Aldous Harding – Party

 

 

 

Jay Z – 4:44

 

 

 

Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love!

 

 

 

Alex’s Picks:

Kendrick Lamar – Damn

 

 

 

Kelela – Take Me Apart

 

 

 

Staff Picks CDs: Feb-May

A wide range of music styles and artists curated by our avid music fans on staff over the last few months. We hope you find something new to enjoy.

Hammock – Everything and Nothing
After experimenting with post-classical sound, the ambient, post-rock duo from Nashville seems to enter a new phase. This 16-songs-76-minutes-suite is their most pop album, featuring several singers and some rhythmical tunes. However, their distinguished musical world; mesmerising, gradually sublimated emotional sound scape, remains beautifully and enthrals you. Somewhere in the mixture of Cocteau Twins, Sigur Ross and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, this album should appeal to a wider audience. (Shinji)

Ingrid and Christine Jensen – Infinitude
Canadian sister jazz musicians Ingrid and Christine Jensen (trumpeter and saxophonist respectively) have played together over the years, but making a collaboration album is something new for them. Born and raised on Vancouver Island where surrounded by an abundance of nature, their Nordic roots is strongly embedded in the music here, and blends wonderfully into modern sonic jazz which shows the shadows of the late 60s’ Miles Davis. The communication among the players is so fluid, and the guest guitarist Ben Monder adds rich textures. Infinitude is a beautiful, sublime album. (Shinji)

Craig Taborn – Daylight Ghosts
One of the most innovative and versatile jazz pianists of today Craig Taborn has found ECM label as his home and this third effort for the label is a sheer magic. Assembled from his long-time friends and master musicians, the quartet shows amazing interplays and integrates Taborn’s enigmatic compositions into the highly skilful group improvisations. It’s a hybrid chamber jazz infused with subtle electronica, post rock, complex rhythm etc. This group is probably more avant-garde on stage but this is an ECM production. Their radicalness is slightly reduced and beautified. However, it worked out fantastically. A masterpiece is born. (Shinji)

Ross Harris – The Kugels play Klezmer
Ross Harris is perhaps better known as the leading composer of the New Zealand classical world or perhaps his pioneering electronic pieces with the Free Radicals. However his latest works are a revelation, the album comprises traditional Jewish Klezmer pieces. Melancholic, lyrical, delicate and beautiful , the music is played with grace and finesse by the Kugels who are the Wellington based quartet to which he belongs . The album pulls off that rare feat of sounding both vibrant and fresh whilst being firmly rooted in the tradition to which the music belongs .
Highly recommended. (Neil J)

Relative Abundance – Golden Pavilion
Golden Pavilion is an ambitions, experimental, emotionally engaging album . A modern classical piece with deep roots in modern electronic ambient works. If you like Steve Reich or Brian Eno or indeed cutting edge modern electronica then this will be right up your street.
The band describes the piece as being like music from a long lost fictional civilisation that might have borne some similarity to Japan, Tibet, Nepal or Indonesia: a work of fictional anthropological field recording. relativeabundance.bandcamp.com/album/kinkaku-ji (Neil J)

Alt-J – An Awesome Wave
Their music creates a dreamy soundscape punctuated by clicks and snares, overlaid with intriguing lyrics suggesting themes such as the suffering of a Matador in the bull ring, to relationship breakup aftermath, even alluding to Maurice Sendaks “Where the wild things Are”. For me, it is the perfect music to distract from the dreary windy rainy Autumn weather. (Lisa)

Kate Tempest – Let Them Eat Chaos
The award winning British poet/rapper excels on her second album which is something quite spectacular. The grooves are fat, the tunes are great, and the lyrics, while cutting and acerbic, are drawn from a deeply humane perspective. This is an intensely political record that harks back to the early days of hip-hop as she directs her fine honed literary tirades at capitalism, gentrification, climate change, war, disconnectedness, isolation and more. Yet, surprisingly, the total does not come across as preachy or over wrought, and this is largely due to Kate Tempest’s impassioned delivery and the quality of the music. She obviously cares very much and really wants you to as well. (John)

Machinedrum– Human Energy
US electronic producer Travis Stewart, aka Machinedrum, has slowly built a worldwide profile with his workman like approach, consistently releasing excellent records and his latest is no exception. Last year’s “Vapor City”, his first for the esteemed Ninja Tune label, was a standout, merging genres including dubstep, r’n’b, jungle, footwork and ambient to create something original and very cool. “Human Energy”, inspired by the California new age movement, finds him coming as close as he has come to the popular arena, featuring very catchy tunes, a range of guest r’n’b vocalists, great beats and excellent production to create a summer record of euphoric glitch pop. (John)

Pink Floyd – The Early Years 1967-1972
This double cd features a relatively small selection of tracks from “The Early Years 1967-1972”- the mammoth 27 disc box set released earlier this year. Unless you are a dedicated fan, this selection should satisfy curiosity concerning Pink Floyd’s early time as an arty underground band before Dark Side of the Moon” launched them into the stratosphere. Nicely contextualized by a well-informed booklet included here are their first singles, some early BBC Sessions, previously unreleased soundtrack works, early live recordings and, intriguingly, 2016 remixes of three tracks from “Obscured By Clouds”. (John)

Nicolas Jaar – Sirens
The Chilean producer made a big splash with his 2011 release “Space Is Only Noise” and “Sirens”, experimental releases aside, is his follow up. Difficult to pin down, Nicolas Jaar is a fiercely creative producer who doesn’t simply merge genres; he throws them up in the air and creates something new and fresh with what falls down. His Discogs page tags him as “Electronic, Ambient, Downtempo, Modern Classical, Techno” which gives some indication. Using all manner of instruments, field recordings, lovely vocals, discreet electronics and a range of moods from ambient through downbeat to driving rock he has created not so much a record as a world to explore. (John)

The Radio Dept – Running Out of Love
This Swedish band have gradually built a loyal international following since the release of their 2003 debut “Lesser Matters”. Capturing everything that is appealing about the classic indie sound – gentle vocals, sweet melodies, driving grooves and meaningful lyrics – they deviate only slightly from their distinctive sound on this, their fourth release, by including more electronica in the mix and also incorporating a political awareness into some of their lyrics. Simultaneously nostalgic and forward looking, this is probably their most consistent album that comes as a friendly reminder of what a lovely thing it can be to have warm, intelligent music in your life. (John)

Shirley Collins – Lodestar
A real event within the folk world, 84 year old Shirley Collins, the “faerie queen” of UK psych folk who turned her back on singing and has lived in relative obscurity for almost 40 years, was finally coaxed back to a microphone by devoted fans. Recorded live to laptop in her rural cottage and accompanied by members of the next generation of folk musicians, this is a beautiful document, capturing her moving renditions of traditional British and American songs in a pure and humble fashion that enables times past to live again. (John)

Roman Flugel – All the Right Noises
In these beat saturated EDM times its refreshing to discover an electronic producer exploring more abstract regions yet still creating accessible sounds. Roman Flugel’s third album is “about the solitary time in hotel rooms between gigs, and that strange mixture of peace and isolation”, and he has created a collection of pieces that lie between ambient and dancefloor in the wonderful world of electronic listening music. It’s an imaginative and diverse ride, beautifully produced with sparkling highs and throbbing lows, that moves between a variety of styles and while the whole thing has a slightly unsettling feel, that is part of its charm. (John)

The Clean – Getaway(reissue)
Since their surprise 1981 hit “Tally-Ho” hit the charts, launching the ‘Dunedin sound’ into worldwide consciousness, The Clean have only released five albums and this re-issue of their fourth, 2001’s ‘Getaway’, with great artwork and an accompanying second disc featuring the rare tour-only live eps – “Syd’s Pink Wiring System” and “Slush Fund”, sits well in their scant but highly influential discography. The album sees the band in mature song writer mode and these well produced tracks cover a wide range of styles from the characteristic motorik chug of their early days to slower compositions featuring a range of instruments and a quieter mood. (John)

Kate Bush – Before the Dawn
In 2014 Kate Bush returned to the stage with a series of twenty-two shows and this three disc set is a recording of that show. Surprisingly, the set doesn’t focus on Kate’s hits, featuring only “Hounds of Love”, “Running Up That Hill” and “Cloudbusting”. Instead the focus is on two of her more ambitious works – “The Ninth Wave” (side two of Hounds of Love) and “A Sky of Honey” (side two of Aerial). With the album proudly stating “nothing on the record was re-recorded or overdubbed”, the performances are wonderful – her voice magnificent, with the accompanying musicians supplying sensitive and finely tuned performances. While it is a little frustrating to be missing the visuals of the stage show (with no DVD included) this is a treat for fans and not to be missed. (John)

VA – Jon Savage’s 1966: The Year the Decade Exploded
British writer Jon Savage’s new book explores how the year 1966 unfolded in music, taking one key song from each month and expanding on a theme. It’s a great book, well researched, and strongly recommended for those interested in the history of contemporary music and cultural development over the past 50 years. This two disc compilation is a companion to that book, featuring many of the key tracks discussed by Savage. The 48 tracks represent a wide snapshot of the times, from The Who’s ‘Substitute’ through Love’s ‘7 and 7 Is’ to Lee Dorsey’s ‘Working In a Coalmine”, and there is even a track from the very first David Bowie album! It’s a fascinating journey and a great listen if you have read the book or not. (John)

Romare – Love Songs Part Two
Romare’s debut album, last year’s ‘Projections’ was one of the years’ best electronic releases, featuring a great collection of sample laden smooth and funky grooves that always stayed engaging, edgy and interesting. His follow up, again on London’s Ninja Tune label, is essentially more of the same – and that is a very good thing. Nothing is too frantic and the grooves keep rolling, created from expertly selected samples from classic jazz, funk, house and soul that steer the tracks unfailingly into expertly layered excursions, some quiet and beguiling, some as seductive and funky as one could hope for. It’s a very cool ride from a talented producer that holds together nicely as an album rather than just a collection of tracks. (John)

Bonobo – Migration
Migration is Simon Green, aka Bonobo’s, sixth release since his 2000 debut, the gorgeous ‘Animal Magic’, and over that time he has become one of the most respected and successful electronic producers on the planet. His last album, 2013’s ‘The North Borders’ was his breakthrough and was toured, with an ensemble of live musos, across 30 countries on four continents to a total audience of around 2 million. His sound has evolved into a gorgeous form of electronic soul that features pianos, guitars, woodwind, strings and guest vocalists interlaced with found sounds and Green’s expertly crafted drum and keyboard programming. By turns melancholic, majestic and celebratory this is music that invites you into its own world. (John)

Brian Eno – Reflection
Brian Eno follows up ‘The Ship’, his 2017 vocals based release, with an hour long piece of generative music that continues on from his wispy 1991 work – ‘Neroli’. These generative pieces are delicate minimal electronic works that represent Eno’s strivings to create music that floats on the air like perfume, that doesn’t seem like music so much as pleasurable sounds that drift by your ears – always different, always the same – like a river. Generative music is created by putting together systems that generate the sounds in random patterns and with ‘Reflection’ comes the option to purchase an iOS app that presents a simple visual that gradually changes colors as the music itself slowly shifts, generating music indefinitely without ever repeating itself. So it seems that Eno has finally created a piece of infinite music. In these anxious times ambient works like this are a welcome respite, representing as they do, a peaceful and calming virtual river to sit beside. (John)

The XX – I See You
The London trio’s third release in seven years finds them continuing their moody brooding indie pop trajectory, however their sound palette has evolved, appearing to have incorporated production ideas from trio member, Jamie XX’s very successful solo electronic venture “In Colour”. This shift is evident from the get go with the first track, ‘Dangerous’, built on a bass groove and skittering hi hats. The lyrics are, as always, yearning, bittersweet love songs, and when Romy Madley Croft sings “I’ve been a romantic for so long” it’s easy to hope that never changes as The XX create their gorgeous and beautifully produced take on pop throughout, arguably, their best record yet. (John)

Sun Ra – Singles: The Definitive Collection 1952 – 1991
This impressive three disc set contains all of Sun Ra’s singles presented in chronological order. The first question one may ask is why did Sun Ra even bother releasing singles? The visionary outer space jazz maestro could hardly have been aiming for top 40 air play and, according to the liner notes, the mystery remains unexplained. Over his career Sun Ra simply decided that certain tunes needed to exist as 45s and he went ahead and pressed them, sometimes in runs as small as 50. Consequently, several are rare collectors’ items now, but thanks to the current media we are able to hear them all in remastered splendour. Beginning with his poem “I Am An Instrument” the listener is taken through the entire of Sun Ra’s career from big band jazz through be-bop to doo-wop to experimental and beyond. It’s a fascinating journey and these short compositions offer a great road into Sun Ra’s universe. (John)

William Basinski – A Shadow In Time
New York sound artist William Basinski made waves in the ambient world fifteen years ago with the first instalment of his astounding work, ‘The Disintegration Loops’. Since then he has regularly released his strange and hypnotically repetitive ambient sound projects and these two 20 minute pieces compare well with the best in his canon of work. The first piece, ‘For David Robert Jones’, a tribute to David Bowie, is oddly moving, and features, as a nod to Bowie’s own saxophone honking on ‘Subterraneans,’ a saxophone loop slowly mutating over the decaying extract from a heavenly choir, while the second piece ‘A Shadow In Time’ is a work of austere beauty, composed for an archaic Voyetra 8 synthesizer. (John)

The All Seeing Hand – Sand To Glass
Three years on from the excellent ‘Mechatronics’, Wellington trio, The All Seeing Hand return with their fourth album, which finds them refining their electronics driven sound into a subtly more reflective mode without sacrificing any of their characteristic intensity, having said that, there are still all out bangers like the excellent ’Silicon & Synapse’. Imaginative, exciting and powerful, this is a band brimming with confidence pouring their energy into well produced and well-constructed arrangements that make full use of Jonny Marks’ ecstatic throat singing, three guest vocalists and Alphabethead’s grungy electronics, all driven by B. Michael Knight’s excellent drumming. It’s a captivating sound, not quite electronica, not quite punk, not quite metal, not quite experimental and not quite rock and it would be fair to say that no-one else anywhere is making music quite like this at the moment. (John)

Johann Johannsson – Original Soundtrack – Arrival
Since his debut release in 2002, Icelandic ambient composer, Johann Johannsson, has been making consistently excellent music and it was inevitable that he would eventually make film soundtracks, as his composition style is especially evocative, conjuring up complex worlds of the imagination. His latest project was the soundtrack to the excellent sci-fi film “Arrival”, for which he provides a score that is suitably mysterious, spooky and tense, making full use of treated voices that perfectly complement the overall eeriness of the film, and to his credit, the music works equally well as a stand-alone work. (John)

Thievery Corporation – The Temple of I & I
Thievery Corporation have released a record every three or four years since their 1996 debut “Sounds From The Thievery Hi-Fi”, and their sound hasn’t changed a lot in that time, however, that may not be a bad thing. They perfectly nailed the sound of dubby downbeat early on, and even though this music is more likely to be played in cafes these days than anywhere else, that doesn’t detract from the quality of the music, which has remains consistently high. Their last record, 2014’s ‘Saudade’, explored Latino rhythms and this time around they turn their attention to dub and have made their most roots oriented album yet. Featuring a great horn section, and a different guest vocalist on each track, comprised of male and female toasters, songsters and rappers, the grooves roll on in a beautifully produced bass heavy treat. (John)

Traffic – Five Classic Albums
On his path from vocalist/keyboard player with the Spencer Davis Group as a 14 year old musical prodigy with a voice like Ray Charles, to FM blue-eyed soulboy, Stevie Winwood spent seven years from 1967-74 as core member of the loosely labelled prog rock group, Traffic. Contained here are five of the six Traffic albums that span a range of styles. Their first two releases, ‘Mr Fantasy’ and ‘Traffic 2’ strongly reflect the psychedelic influence of those times, featuring songs by turn enigmatic, playful and moody accompanied by saxophone, flute, keyboards and electric and acoustic guitar. The later records find the group evolving into a cross genre jam band with the fifth album, ‘Shootout At the Fantasy Factory’ featuring the Muscle Shoals rhythm section. It’s good to be able to hear these records back to back, but anyone who wants a shortcut is directed to the double disc set ‘Smiling Phases’ which features highlights across their six albums plus their early singles and includes a booklet that places this music within a historical context. (John)

Matthew Dear – DJ Kicks
US electronic producer Mathew Dear’s excellent contribution to the ongoing DJ Kicks series features his distinctive take on dance music, mixing excerpts from a wide range of tracks over an hour. The slinky minimal grooves roll out seamlessly, featuring vocal snippets, hypnotic bass lines and four to the floor house and techno rhythms which slowly build to the last four tracks, three of which are from Mathew Dear’s dance floor alter ego, Audion. (John)

Howe Gelb – Future Standards
Howe Gelb’s first band ‘Giant Sand’, who’s rhythm section would eventually become Calexico, helped kickstart the alt country movement back in 1985. He has created a vast back catalogue over three decades, breaking style now and again to indulge his love of low key cocktail jazz. Recorded at his home, ‘Future Standards’ is his most overt exploration of that style so far, complete with a classic cocktail jazz trio of tinkly piano, walking bass and soft brush drums. Gelb’s low key crooning is accompanied by guest vocalist Lonna Kelley and between them they offer a languid and dreamlike take on twelve original love songs that are so perfectly rendered that any potential irony is surpassed. (John)

The Bats – The Deep Set
2017 marks the 30th anniversary of the Bats debut “Daddy’s Highway” and their ninth album, “The Deep Set”, is remarkable in that neither their lineup nor their sound has significantly changed in that time. What is even more remarkable is how their jangly guitars, gentle vocals and songs of quiet hope have not dated in any way, still offering a welcome respite for the world weary. The Bats are telepathically tight after all this time and this new batch of songs, that keeps a true indie flag flying, are as good as anything they have done.

Staff Pick CDs – More ‘Best of 2016’ selections

2016 was a bumper year for new music (although we admit we might say that every year) so we have some more choice top picks for you to browse. Most genres are covered here, so there should be something for everyone!

Cover imageArrangingtime. Pete Yorn
Pete Yorn was one of those artists that never seemed to live up to the potential of his fantastic first album. His second was a solid follow-up, but the next couple were patchy, and his last effort, 2010′s ‘PY’ with Frank Black was a total misfire. After that he seemed to disappear, popping up briefly as part of ‘The Olms’ in 2013 whose very short Beatles-esque album had some Ok tracks. However Yorn was back in 2016 with his first solo album in 6 years on a new label. ‘Arrangingtime’ shifts the guitar sound to a wash of synths on some tracks but he still hews close to the sonic template of his first couple of albums. Sounding invigorated by the break, this collection of melodic synthy rockers is his most consistent and enjoyable for a long time.

Cover imageSwan song series. Tanya Donelly
One of the most influential female figures in the 90s music scene returned with a 3-Disc collection that rounded up the 5 EPs she released on Bandcamp between 2013-14. Co-founding Throwing Muses with stepsister Kristen Hersh, which she played in from 1983-1991, she then co-formed The Breeders with Kim Deal of The Pixies, before founding her own group Belly. After ‘Belly’ folded she released 2 indie pop albums followed by 2 more introspective acoustic albums before essentially stepping away from music; so it was a surprise when 7 years later she began to release a series of EPs on Bandcamp. Each release featured songs co-written with friends, musicians and previous collaborators, including noted authors. American Laundromat Records collected up all the EPs and some extra tracks for a richly diverse compilation that wandered through a number of genres all anchored by a sense of experience and wisdom, in addition to her lovely voice which sounds as good as it ever was.

Cover imageGive up on your health. Teeth & Tongue
Teeth & Tongue is the moniker of Melbourne based, Wellington raised songwriter and musician Jess Cornelius. Her family moved to Wellington when she was 11, and music was the one constant, her parent’s record collection played a huge role in fuelling her desire to make music. She entered a couple of local “battle of the bands” comps while at school, but it wasn’t until a move to Melbourne at 19 that she fully tapped into her musical potential. Latest album ‘Give up on your health’ is a swirl of Giorgio Moroder 80s synths, but underneath the fantastic production is a set of serious songs that focus on fracturing relationships, isolation, and past regrets. Electro-pop tends to veer towards cool beats, hip choruses and emotional detachment, but Cornelius and her backing band plunder the digital sounds to record the messy analogue organics of real human interaction.

Cover imageThe 11th sky. Electric Wire Hustle
Just when you think Electric Wire Hustle can’t get any better they (or rather Mara TK, the last man left of the original three piece band) up their game yet again. His fantastic voice sits comfortably in that late period Marvin Gaye/Leon Ware pocket, but the sound of ‘The 11th Sky’ is harder and fuller. Moving away from the patented psychedelic Neo-soul of the last 2 albums they move into a sonic realm of darker, heavier, beats that envelop Mara TK’s analogies to Maori mythology, and metaphysical concerns on the pressures of money, love and expectations that weigh down peoples journey towards a better place within themselves. A real sense of searching for meaning pervades the album.

Cover imageAce & Gab’s honeymoon. Maple Syrup
We really liked Vera Ellen’s solo album Monte Casino, and now she is part of Maple Syrup, a new 4 piece that melds a grungy garage 90s alt-rock aspect with the pop sensibilities that were on display on Monte Casino. Riffy guitar lines, catchy melodies, rocking tracks. Makes you remember why you like new bands. The vibrancy and sense of purpose. The adherence to old forms, yet that energy and discovery.

Cover imageI’ll forget 17. Lontalius
‘Lontalius’ is one of the stage names of 19 year old underground Wellington sensation Eddie Johnston, who also records under the moniker ‘Race Banyon’, and has been an active participant in the local live scene since his early teens. After a slew of independent releases on Bandcamp he came to prominence in 2013 via a collection of Casiotone rap covers, which soon found endorsement from Lorde and Ryan Hemsworth. He signed to New York label Partisan Records for full length debut ‘I’ll Forget 17′ and moved away from R&B covers and the Hip-Hop of alter ego ‘Race Banyon’, to deliver an album of intimate alt-pop tinged with melancholy & a lyrical maturity beyond his years.

Cover imageBrothers and sisters of the black lagoon. Orchestra of Spheres
More experimental rock madness from this cult Welly band who are breaking big overseas, signed to Fire Records out of the UK, featuring as The Guardian’s Band of the week, and getting glowing reviews for this latest album. A funky melange of shifting music styles.

Cover imageThe death of all things. Beastwars
More beautifully sludgy metal from Wellington’s premiere purveyors of ‘The Riff’. Internal band dynamics made this the most difficult (and for lyricist Hyde the most personal album yet). Anger and unease seethes beneath every song, but the tension results in what may be their best album yet. On hiatus after a brief tour, one can only hope they return at some point for another chapter in their music.

Cover imageHumid nights. Eva Prowse
Great new album from Eva Prowse, that forsakes the violin country/folk of her first album I can’t Keep Secrets and jumps right into the electro-pop world of bubbly midi’s, bouncy pop tunes, and fond musical memories of growing up in the 80s. Sits comfortably alongside any of the many international artist’s working within this retro synthy sound. Definitely one of the best ‘Wellington’ Releases of the year.

Cover imageBrown girl. Aaradhna
Aaradhna’s albums always have a retro feel which highlights her love of older musical styles, whether it’s 50s doowop, 60s Motown or 70s soul, however she always surrounds those styles with plenty of contemporary sounds & flourishes, and more importantly always brings her unique sense of integrity & emotion to everything she does, as well as the incredible power of her soulful voice. ‘Brown Girl’ is her most personal album yet, directly addressing the racism she experienced growing up and the breakdown of a long term relationship.

Shinji’s Picks:
Cover imageThe Thompson fields/Maria Schneider Orchestra.
Leading jazz orchestra is no easy task both artistically and financially, but that is what Maria Schneider has been doing marvellously for more than two decades. Drawing her influence from modern classical masters such as Ravel and Hindemith, and above all her mentor Gil Evans, she has invented a watercolor-like transparent sound. She seems to hit the top with this landmark album, offering a glorious lyricism as well as a superb dynamism featuring the fantastic soloists. Sublime.

BestOf2016CDs60Aziza/Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Lionel Loueke, Eric Harland.
Legendary jazz bassist Dave Holland formed another suppergroup with Lionel Loueke (guitar), Chris Potter (saxphone) and Eric Harland (drums) and they superbly unite and present a bouncing funk-jazz with an African twist. Every member contributes two compositions each and they are rather complex which often in irregular time, but these master musicians play effortlessly and groove hard. Holland has been active in the front line for five decades but shows no sign of slowing down. Brilliant.

Cover imageMonoswezi Yanga. Monoswezi
Monoswezi, whose name is taken from the names of the members’ birth countries (Mozambique, Norway, Sweden and Zimbabwe), offers subtle hybrid music of African, jazz and minimal music, centring around Zimbabwean singer Hope Masike’s voice and mbira (thumb piano). It’s a low-key affair but their less-is-more approach somehow gives you a rich musical journey, like some good ECM albums do.

Cover imageApe in pink marble. Devendra Banhart
He has been busy as a visual artist in recent years (had exhibitions at several places around the world) but the ‘freak-folk’ singer songwriter Devendra Banhart is back with another stellar album. It’s an airy effortless music which enigmatic experimental sprits within. There is nothing particularly new here and he probably doesn’t need any changes, but everything; songs, arrangements, performances, come nicely together more than ever.

Cover imageA moon shaped pool. Radiohead
Evolving into something much larger than just a rock band, Radiohead shows tremendous presence and the supergroup aura. They seem to be heading somewhere no one ever got before.

Neil’s Picks:
Cover imageNothing more to say/The Frightnrs.

Cover imageVoid beats/invocation trex. Cavern of Anti-Matter

Cover imageWildflower/The Avalanches.

Cover imageEarth into aether. Bill Baird

Cover imageBloodline. Xixa

Cover imageEyes on the lines. Steve Gunn

Cover imageWe got it from here… thank you 4 your service/A Tribe Called Quest.

Cover imageInner journey out. Psychic Ills

Cover imageThe heavy entertainment show. Robbie Williams

Cover imagePhase zero. Morgan Delt

Cover imageNonagon infinity. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

Monty’s Picks:
Cover imageLemonade. Beyonce

Cover imageFlotus. Lambchop

Cover imageBlood bitch. Jenny Hval

Bridget’s Pick:
Cover imageIsland songs/Ólafur Arnalds.

Staff Pick CDs – Best of 2016

John, Axel & Jonathan weigh in with their favourite library CDs from last year…Lots of different genres here so hopefully a bit of something for everyone, and the possibility of discovering something new from last year that you missed at the time.

John’s Picks
Cover imageThe catastrophist. Tortoise
Featuring characteristically complex, shifting arrangements, not quite jazz and not quite rock, it is a pleasure to hear these precise and playful musos creating such compelling music 20 years into their career.

Cover imageWhy choose. Shopping
This post punk inspired London trio present 12 songs, average length 2.5 mins which, while danceable, have an edgy urgency about them, and dealing with consumerism, confusion and post-modern relationships, as they do, offer a taut, smart and refreshingly familiar take on indie-pop.

Cover imageHuman performance. Parquet Courts
Despite the obvious influences of The Fall and Wire, it’s a relief to know that bands are making smart, spiky slacker rock like this in our troubled post-millennial times and this may well be the perfect soundtrack.

Cover imageBig black coat. Junior Boys
Junior Boys bring the romantic institution of the suave, lovelorn playboy firmly into the 21st Century with their fifth album, which extends their sleek, minimal electro pop onto the dancefloor.

Cover imageIs the is are. Diiv
New York based Diiv have an obvious love for indie rock and make music that has the ability to remind keen listeners of the power, beauty and pure pleasure that the simple line-up of bass, drums and guitars can summon.

Cover imageThe ship. Brian Eno
Brian Eno’s 25th solo release is a strange, captivating and enthralling journey that stands as a highlight of his later career.

Cover imageVoid beats/invocation trex. Cavern of Anti-Matter
Former Stereolab main man, guitarist and synth boffin Tim Gane, and his long term drummer, Joe Dilworth, have a new band, and offer an absorbing journey into a range of contemporary krautrock and experimental compositions.

Cover imageGood luck and do your best.Gold Panda 
Electronic producers such as Gold Panda from the UK do a great job of keeping the IDM flag flying and on his fourth album he excels with an off-beat but very catchy work, great for both the dancefloor and the armchair, and that’s no small achievement.

Cover imageLife of pause. Wild Nothing
While the sound of a talented outsider finally getting his turn in a state of the art studio can often take a few listens to get used to, here the effort is rewarded, as lurking within the highly polished arrangements featuring grand pianos, marimbas, backing vocals, and saxophones surrounding Tatum’s plaintive vocals, the songs are as good as ever, they just require a little more perseverance to reveal themselves.

Cover imageA moon shaped pool. Radiohead
Featuring outstanding production, dense and detailed arrangements, electronics, strings, grand pianos and acoustic and electric guitars swirling around Thom Yorke’s vocals that sound better than ever, this is an immersive listening experience capturing a band that has matured yet continues to explore and expand. Continue reading “Staff Pick CDs – Best of 2016”

Staff Pick CDs for the holiday season

Some new CD picks from our staff. Plenty of different genres, and lots of local music, to give you something new to explore over the holiday season. We will be back in January next year with a roundup of our favourite music from 2016.

Cover imageC87.
On the cover notes to this three disc set, NME’s Neil Taylor confesses that he always wished that NME had done a follow up to the wildly popular C86 cassette that helped spawn an entire future genre. This lovingly compiled collection represents that compilation that never was, assembling 74 tracks from as many bands, some of whom, such as the Shamen and PWEI, went on to greater things, but most of whom never made it past a couple of singles. In 1987, at the tail end of Post-punk, before Britpop, before Baggy and before the term ‘indie’ went mainstream, there was a fervent underground scene in the UK comprised of disaffected young musicians armed with guitars, drums and songs of love and naïve aspiration and this collection captures that time perfectly. (John)

Cover imageRadio gnome invisible trilogy.
Australian poet, muso and visionary, Daevid Allen, passed over to that great teapot in the sky last year leaving behind an intriguing and inspiring body of work. A key member of the original Soft Machine, he formed Gong with local French musicians after becoming stranded in France in 1967. They quickly gained a reputation for their highly original sound and commune based lifestyle. Daevid Allen was committed to keeping the playful aspects of the ‘60’s alive through the ever more serious ‘70’s, and this trilogy of Gong albums, originally released in 1970-71 and now available as a 4-disc box set, fully capture that playful spirit. Featuring the Pot Head Pixies who run a telepathic pirate radio station broadcasting from a flying teapot, it would be easy to dismiss these albums as whimsical novelty records, but these highly accomplished musicians, who mix up everything from free jazz, rock, pop, prog and electronics through cabaret and poetry to full blown psychedelic trance, create a bewildering and seductive sound that is quite unlike anything before or since. (John)

Cover imageGive up on your health.
Teeth & Tongue is the moniker of Melbourne based, Wellington raised songwriter and musician Jess Cornelius. Her family moved to Wellington when she was 11, and music was the one constant, her parent’s record collection played a huge role in fuelling her desire to make music. She entered a couple of local “battle of the bands” comps while at school, but it wasn’t until a move to Melbourne at 19 that she fully tapped into her musical potential. 2008 debut record Monobasic received critical acclaim from Australian media, and her 3rd album Grids led to three The Age Music Victoria Award nominations, for Best Band, Best Album and Best Female Artist. Latest album ‘Give up on your health’ is a swirl of Giorgio Moroder 80s synths, but underneath the fantastic production is a set of serious songs that focus on fracturing relationships, isolation, and past regrets. Electro-pop tends to veer towards cool beats, hip choruses and emotional detachment, but Cornelius and her backing band plunder the digital sounds to record the messy analogue organics of real human interaction. (Mark)

Cover imageThe last panthers.
UK electronic artist, Chris Clark, has become one of Warp Records leading electronic producers, alongside Aphex Twin, Autechre and Plaid. A fiercely creative artist, each of his seven albums since 2001 have displayed a clear musical development, while fine tuning his excellent production skills. His latest project is a fully ambient work, being the soundtrack to the moody UK crime mini-series – The Last Panthers. The sound designs he creates, using piano, strings and electronics are suitably sparse and foreboding, yet possess a strange beauty, complementing the film perfectly. For this CD Clark teased out and reworked the incidental soundtrack music into complete tracks for a stand-alone album and has created an excellent immersive ambient experience. (John)

Cover imageLevitate.
Young UK producer Matt Cutler, aka Lone, is representative of a new generation of electronic producers who have grown up on dance music and ‘Levitate’ is his seventh album in as many years. His last two releases, 2014’s Reality Testing and 2012’s Galaxy Garden received high critical praise and here he shifts focus slightly, paying tribute to the early ‘90’s rave scene, exploring a breaks based sound to drive his subtle and intelligent take on dance. His distinctive ambient flourishes and synth pads and patches are still evident alongside classic ‘90’s snare rolls which combine to create 33 mins of beautifully produced uplifting electronica. (John)

Cover imageGolden sings that have been sung.
He has only two albums under his belt but Ryley Walker has already gained quite a reputation as a singer and a guitarist. His jazzy folk sound, based around his acoustic guitar- playing and characteristic voice, reminds us of Tim Buckley and John Martyn, and with this third album, produced by former Wilco’s Leroy Bach, he made great stride. Walker was born in Illinois but began his career in Chicago playing everything from punk to experimental music, and takes the sonic milieu of Chicago’s post rock band, such as Gastr Del Sol, Isotope 217 and Tortoise, into his music, which makes his music very unique. Showing tremendous confidence and originality, this could be his first masterpiece. (Shinji)

Cover imageSummer 08.
The fifth Metronomy album finds the project reverting back to the solo venture of UK synth obsessive Joe Mount’s debut album. Using old skool drum machines, post acid house synths and irresistibly funky bass lines to accompany his ironic hipster lyrics, Mount creates a cool seductive electro funk pop that sits comfortably alongside other left of centre UK funksters like Hot Chip and Fujiya and Miyagi. Sounding at times like a white, post millennial version of Prince, the earnestness of the songs, the quality of the production and the sheer confidence of delivery serve to frame the retro influences as homage to rather than imitation of music that recaptures the fun of dancing. (John)

Cover imageHeads up.
The third album from the LA based female quartet finds them further exploring their downtempo art-rock, influenced this time around, in the bands own words, by artists like Q-Tip, Erykah Badu, OutKast, and Kendrick Lamar. The result is moody, atmospheric, densely layered post rock that features their distinctive sound loosely presented within the bruised modern pop idiom of bands like the XX. With surprising grooves lurking beneath the reverb drenched harmonies and distorted guitars and electronics, the sound of Warpaint is tight and confident as they successfully incorporate several styles into an original sound that rewards deeper listening. (John)

Cover imageHumid nights.
Great new album from Eva Prowse, that forsakes the violin country/folk of her first album I can’t Keep Secrets and jumps right into the electro-pop world of bubbly midi’s, bouncy pop tunes, and fond musical memories of growing up in the 80s. She first explored this territory in 2013 with Henry Marks as the duo ‘H & Eva’ and the EP Crazy Eyes but this time it’s her voice & songs that are at the forefront, and that EP now sounds like a tentative stab in a new direction that is now fully formed with ‘Humid Nights’. Sits comfortably alongside any of the many international artist’s working within this retro synthy sound. Definitely one of the best ‘Wellington Releases of the year. (Mark)

Cover imageEmerson, Lake & Palmer.
This double disc version of the first album from the ‘supergroup’ formed in 1970 that unfairly gets blamed for all the excesses of prog rock , features a remastered original and an ‘alternate’ mix by Steven Wilson. With Keith Emerson’s recent death it only seems fair that his works become fairly appraised and this stands up well. The sounds he created with the moog synthesiser were state of the art at the time and still impress, his classically trained piano playing is beautiful and, backed by the very sharp rhythm section of Greg Lake on bass and vocals and Carl Palmer on drums, this is a great snapshot of an exciting time in music when musicians were actively tearing down genre barriers. (John)

Cover imageCheetah EP.
Richard James, aka Aphex Twin, continues his return after a ten year hiatus with a 7 track ep, made with, and named after, one of his favourite instruments – the Cheetah MS800 Synthesiser, that has been described as “one of the most unfathomable instruments ever made.”. Following the experimental Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments Pt2 EP and the frenetic Orphaned Deejay Selek (2006-2008) EP , yet another facet of this prolific electronic producer is featured here – the tunes being relatively slow paced, the beats simple and the sounds surprisingly warm and user friendly. Throughout these instrumental pieces his exploration into rich timbres and woozy frequencies creates pretty much perfect electronic listening music. (John)

Cover imageEast west moon / Jonathan Crayford, Ben Street, Dan Weiss.
The previous album Dark Light (2014) was a fantastic achievement by the jazz pianist Jonathan Crayford who was born and raised in Wellington. Teaming up once again with New York’s top-notch rhythm section; Ben Street (Bass) and Dan Weiss (drums), he presents another stellar album. Like its predecessor, all music is composed by Crayford, and the trio seems to dig deeper and evolve larger artistically. It’s a melancholic, akin to ECM, ambient jazz, and the shadow of the likes of Bill Evans and Bobo Stenson is evident, but Crayford seems to just stay true to himself. There is no showing off here. He simply crafts his music from his heart and this dark lyricism is something rare. Exquisite. (Shinji)

Cover imageVarmints.
The looped brass fanfare that begins this CD is a fitting introduction to this strikingly original work by Scottish composer Anna Meredith which finds her entering the world of pop and electronica after 20 years in the classical world. Using acoustic instruments, electronics, guitars, drums and vocals she moves through a range of styles from indie pop to gorgeous strings based instrumentals to sweet electro pop to wildly deranged sequencer driven grooves. Her classical commissions have included making music inspired by MRI scanners and performing body percussion pieces at the BBC Proms and ‘Varmints’, her first attempt at contemporary popular music is, while like nothing you have ever heard before, quite accessible and oddly satisfying. (John)

Cover imageLa araña es la vida.
Those lucky enough to have seen this band play in Wellington recently will need no convincing to check out the latest release from Kid Congo Powers, who is, arguably, the coolest dude on the planet. Veteran guitarist of legendary bands, The Cramps, The Gun Club and The Bad Seeds, Kid Congo now tours the world keeping the lo-fi, trashy surf guitar, garage rock, Chicano punk flag flying. On the fifth album with his latest band, The Pink Monkeybirds, they have really hit their stride, incorporating electronics alongside the reverb drenched guitars and primal drums to deliver a wildly varied raucous, joyous noise that has to be played loud to be really appreciated. (John)

Cover imageThe 11th sky.
Just when you think Electric Wire Hustle can’t get any better they (or rather Mara TK, the last man left of the original three piece band) up their game yet again. His fantastic voice sits comfortably in that late period Marvin Gaye/Leon Ware pocket, but the sound of ‘The 11th Sky’ is harder and fuller. Moving away from the patented psychedelic Neo-soul of the last 2 albums they move into a sonic realm of darker, heavier, beats that envelop Mara TK’s analogies to Maori mythology, and metaphysical concerns on the pressures of money, love and expectations that weigh down peoples journey towards a better place within themselves. A real sense of searching for meaning pervades the album, and the benefits of being a one man band include the freedom to add whatever you want into the final mix, such as a harpist on ‘Golden Ladder’, lovely strings on ‘I Light A Candle’, and vocalist Deva Mahal (the sister of Ahmed Mahal aka. Imon Star of Olmecha Supreme, who is now based in New York) on ‘March’. (Mark)

Cover imageXiu Xiu plays the music of Twin peaks.
In 2015 Californian experimental noise group Xiu Xiu were invited by The Queensland Gallery of Modern Art to perform a series of Twin Peaks soundtrack covers for a David Lynch exhibition. The marriage of Xiu Xiu’s experimental sound with original composer Angelo Badalamenti’s unsettlingly surreal noir soundtrack works perfectly, bringing an uber contemporary slant to a now classic suite of music. The arrangements incorporate the feel of the originals and actually manage to enhance them using ambient industrial noise, xylophone, guitar pulses, synths and keyboards to not merely create a darkly surreal and engaging homage, but, paradoxically, also a strikingly original work. (John)

Cover imageI, Gemini.
There’s no need for UK duo ‘Let’s Eat Grandma’ to put on sweet little girl vocals because these two 17 year olds really are not much more than sweet little girls! Playing all instruments, including saxophone, glockenspiel, synthesisers, bass, ukelele and keyboards, they weave sweet harmonies around their dark, fragmented hallucinatory songs that can be sickeningly sweet and disarmingly dissonant at the same time. Sounding a bit like Bjork’s gothic love children, they have been described as ‘somewhere in between the child-like innocence of Hansel and Gretel and the spectral qualities of the twins from The Shining’ but despite their youth these teenagers have created a unique take on electro pop that is unusual and occasionally bewildering – they even rap on one track. An interview and video can be found here. (John)

Cover imageFrom patterns to details.
The second album from Wellington electronic producer Oliver Peryman, aka Fis, has been released worldwide on Bristol label, Subtext. Inspired by the organic patterns that occur in nature, Peryman explores a similar textural soundworld to artists such as Tim Hecker and Ben Frost, who, although not using beats, create dramatic and, at times, unsettling music that cannot be described as ambient, demanding the listener’s full attention. With little room for melody and at times a difficult listen that could be compared to sharing the room with a wild animal, this is nevertheless an impressive work of powerful and visceral electronic sound production. (John)

Cover imageSoft Hair.
‘Soft Hair’ is the self-titled collaboration (long in the making apparently) of Connan Mockasin and Sam Dust (La Priest, Late of the Pier), with the album cover making a pretty good motif for the music within. If Prince’s early 80s backing band crashed on a deserted island populated by decadent, slinky, long haired natives who liked to get down & dirty, this is the kind of music that would probably result. Proto-Indian rhythms, cheesy synths, burbling electronic noodling, pervy lyrics. Is it all a knowing pastiche? A sly nod at the homo-erotica of tough guy rock bands? It’s hard to tell if they’re serious about any of it, from the sometimes deliberately creepy lyrics to the 80s PC game music, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a hell of a lot of fun to be had in listening to all the weirdness. Hailed as part of a wave of New-Bromantic bands. (Mark)