Exciting new arrival CDs

It’s very good news that more music is available at Arapaki Manners Library. New arrival CDs feature exciting Aotearoa talents, including fantastic new albums by our very own Mermaidens and the veteran David Kilgour. Also, check out Waiata: anthems in which leading NZ artists perform their hit songs in Te Reo. Come down to Arapaki and get them.

New albums

Look me in the eye. / Mermaidens
“Dancing in the lively afterglow of Perfect Body, Mermaiden’s internationally acclaimed Flying Nun debut, a new flame burns. The Wellington-based trio now approach 2019 with an eagerly awaited follow up. Enter the depths of their new album, Look Me In The Eye. Exploring power and control in a confronting new lens, the trio are focused on the gatekeepers and dominators of the world; dissecting their power, one song at a time.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Bobbie’s a girl / Kilgour, David
“It’s moody – as in low, subdued,’ says David Kilgour of his new album, Bobbie’s a girl. David Kilgour’s 11th solo album, Bobbie’s a girl is a quieter affair than fans may associate with the pioneer of New Zealand indie rock. ‘I tended to shy away from too much guitar playing for a point of difference and to mix things up for myself a little,’ Kilgour continues. Largely missing the jangly distortion of Kilgour’s other work, the album’s ten songs exude a hazy warmth, with a light psychedelia that recalls ’60s outfits like The Byrds and The Velvet Underground.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Waiata : anthems.
“WAIATA / ANTHEMS was released to celebrate Māori Language Week / Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori 2019 (Sep 9-13) and to coincide with the 20-year anniversary of Hinewehi Mohi first performing the New Zealand National Anthem in Te Reo Māori at an All Blacks game. 20 years on, she has decided to mark that anniversary not by remembering the controversy, but by celebrating how far we’ve come. The result – 11 of New Zealand’s best loved artists performing their hit songs in Te Reo Māori, as well as an acknowledgement of ‘Aotearoa’ with a vibrant rendition by the renowned Hātea Kapa Haka.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

I, I. / Bon Iver
“‘i,i’ is Bon Iver’s most expansive, joyful and generous album to date. If ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ was the crisp, heart-strung isolation of a northern Winter; ‘Bon Iver’ the rise and whirr of burgeoning Spring; and ‘22, A Million’, a blistering, “crazy energy” Summer record, ‘i,i’ completes the cycle: a fall record; Autumn colored, ruminative, steeped. The autumn of Bon Iver is a celebration of self acceptance and gratitude, bolstered by community and delivering the bounty of an infinite American music.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

The center won’t hold. / Sleater-Kinney
“‘The Center Won’t Hold’ is the tenth studio album by Sleater-Kinney. It addresses transformation as it relates to the corrosion and decomposition of forms. Fractured and frayed by age or by loss, by internecine politics, by trauma or depression, these eleven songs ask what remains of a body, a human spirit, a relationship, a city, a country.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Threads. / Crow, Sheryl
“Sheryl Crow’s album of collaborations. Threads includes ‘Still The Good Old Days’ featuring Joe Walsh. Other tracks include “Redemption Day” featuring Johnny Cash, “Live Wire” featuring Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples and “Prove You Wrong” featuring Stevie Nicks and Maren Morris. Elaborating on the project, Crow reflected, “I became inspired to record an album of musical experiences with the legacy artists who inspired me.” (adapted from realgroovy.co.nz)

Fear inoculum. / Tool
“Fear Inoculum is the long awaited new album from TOOL, and the band’s first new album in 13 years. The album will be available digitally, and in a special Limited Edition physical package that includes a CD in a tri-fold Soft Pack Video Brochure featuring a 4” HD rechargeable screen with exclusive video footage, a USB charging cable, a 2 watt speaker and a 30 page insert book and MP3 download card.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Beneath the eyrie. / Pixies (Musical group)
“Seventh full-length album from the iconic alternative band. Sessions for the album took place at Dreamland Recordings near Woodstock, New York and unusually the band documented every minute of the process, which makes up a 12-part podcast.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Days of the Bagnold summer
“Days of the Bagnold Summer began life as a 2012 award-winning graphic novel by Joff Winterhart, was turned into a feature film and the directorial debut of Simon Bird (The Inbetweeners, Friday Night Dinner), and is now a wonderful, rich, bittersweet, and warmly welcoming original soundtrack album by Belle and Sebastian. The album features eleven brand new Belle and Sebastian songs, as well as re-recorded versions of classics ‘Get Me Away From Here I’m Dying’, originally appearing on 1996’s If You’re Feeling Sinister, and ‘I Know Where The Summer Goes’, from 1998’s This Is Just a Modern Rock Song EP.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Rubberband. / Davis, Miles
“The legendary ‘Lost’ Miles Davis album recorded after signing with Warner Bros. has now been completed by the original producers Randy Hall and Zane Giles, and Davis’ nephew Vince Wilburn Jr.. Miles Davis shocked the music world in 1985 when he left Columbia Records after 30 years to join Warner Bros. Records. In October of that year, he began recording the album Rubberband in Los Angeles. The musical direction Davis was taking during the sessions marked a radical departure, with the inclusion of funk and soul grooves; with plans to feature guest vocalists Al Jarreau and Chaka Khan. Eventually, the album was shelved and Davis went on to record Tutu, leaving the Rubberband songs unheard and untouched for over 30 years.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Box sets

Ágaetis byrjun : a new beginning. / Sigur Rós
“In 1999 Sigur Rós released ‘Ágætis Byrjun’ (‘A Good Start’), which Q magazine deemed ‘the last great record of the 20th century’. By the end of the year, it had won the inaugural US Shortlist Prize for Artistic Achievement in Music. This 20th Anniversary edition of the album features demo and archive versions of the songs, plus never-before-heard newly-unearthed material from the time, rare b-sides and the full 95-minute concert played in Reykjavík on the day the record was released.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Kankyō ongaku : Japanese ambient, environmental & new age music 1980-1990.
“Double CD edition in custom 7″ x 7″ hardbound book. Light In The Attic’s Japan Archival Series continues with Kankyo Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990, an unprecedented overview of the country’s vital minimal, ambient, avant-garde, and New Age music – what can collectively be described as kankyo ongaku, or environmental music. The collection features internationally acclaimed artists such as Haruomi Hosono, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Joe Hisaishi, as well as other pioneers like Hiroshi Yoshimura, Yoshio Ojima and Satoshi Ashikawa, who deserve a place alongside the indisputable giants of these genres.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Afrofuturism in the world of music

Afrofuturism is an intersection of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation. ‘I generally define Afrofuturism as a way of imagining possible futures through a black cultural lens,’ says Ingrid LaFleur, an art curator and Afrofuturist.”

― Ytasha L. Womack, Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture

One of the most exciting genres emerging in science fiction, film, art and music at the moment is Afrofuturism. But whilst this dynamic and rather fabulous genre is having a real explosion of creativity, it’s by no means new. Indeed especially in the world of music Afrofuturism has a long and distinguished past, commonly accepted as emerging in the music world in the 1950s. This blog is a very brief look at some of Afrofuturism’s key musical proponents both old and new.

One of the first musical explorers in this universe was the legendary jazz musician Sun Ra. In the late 1950s Sun Ra created his own new synthesis of jazz, designed to reflect and link both the leading edge of the space age and African culture–especially that of African Egypt.

His ideas were taken up in the 1970s in the funk world by George Clinton’s funk outfits Parliament and Funkadelic. Reggae and hip hop also embraced these ideas, with artists like Lee “Scratch” Perry, Scientist and Afrika Bambaataa. And in the world of rock, Jimi Hendrix was also regarded by some reviewers as an Afrofuturist.

In the 21st century artists as diverse as Solange, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Erykah Badu, Missy Elliott, Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus and the Wu-Tang Clan have been influenced by this movement, with perhaps  Janelle Monáe the best known for embracing the genre. Enjoy!


Flamagra. / Flying Lotus
“Fire’s positive and negative associations are referenced by many of Ellison’s other collaborators here. While the album begins with a crackle and ends with a poetic epilogue about its lasting effects, fire’s role in the album elsewhere is either nonexistent or negligible.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Dirty computer. / Monae, Janelle
“Monáe and her Wondaland partners twist and flip new wave-leaning pop with booming bass drums and rattling percussion. They transmit defiant jubilance in response to those ‘from the traphouse to the White House who make the lives of little brown girls so damn hard.’ Almost every track is densely packed with quotables delivered in approaches that shift from easygoing elegance to hard-fought, triumphant conviction.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Rainford. / Perry, Lee
“‘Inclues Cricket on the moon’, ‘Run evil spirit’, ‘Let it rain’, ‘House of angels’, ‘Makumba rock’, ‘African starship’, ‘Kill them dreams money worshippers’, ‘Children of the light’ and ‘Autobiography of the upsetter’.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Staff Pick CDs: July

Here are some Staff Picks CDs from our collection at our new Arapaki Branch on Manners Street.

Anoyo. / Hecker, Tim
If you read Carlo Rovelli’s incredible book, ‘The Order of Time’, you will learn that the force that drives the universe is not energy but entropy, and ‘Konoyo’, the ninth record from Canadian electronic artist Tim Hecker, is a sublimely beautiful work that could be heard as a soundtrack to that ever inexorable process of decay. Like lifting a veil to expose atomic and sub atomic processes at work, this grand, complex and absorbing music is quite unlike anything else, including previous Tim Hecker records. The source material is provided by a Japanese Gagaku ensemble playing some of the most ancient instruments known, and it’s highly appropriate that this was recorded in Japan, as, if one closes one’s eyes, it is almost possible to see the cherry blossoms drifting away on the spring breeze. A few months later he released the accompanying ‘Anoyo’. Konoyo translates as ‘this world’ and anoyo as ‘the other world’ and the second release reflects that meaning, featuring six spacious and ambient pieces titled “That World”, “Is But A Simulated Blur”, “Step Away From Konoyo”, “Into the Void”, “Not Alone”, “You Never Were” if you get the drift. (John)

>>>. / Beak>
This is the third record from the krautrock project of Portishead’s Geoff Barrow (the first was ‘>’ and the second ‘>>’) and features music quite unlike any other. Metronomic drumming, ominous synths, glitchy electronics, deep vocals, throbbing basslines, processed strings, sci-fi keyboards and much more all feature in various combinations across ten tracks to create something otherworldly and quite engrossing. (John)

Coltrane ’58 : the Prestige recordings. / Coltrane, John
This release features all 37 tracks (across 5-discs) that saxophonist John Coltrane recorded as a leader or co-leader for the independent Prestige Records label in the twelve months of the year 1958 – which when released would comprise 8 albums in his discography. After finally cleaning up his drug & alcohol addiction in 1957, the period that followed saw him working and recording with pianist Thelonious Monk, whose unique compositions were an influence on Coltrane. Spilling over with new musical ideas and possibilities, Coltrane choose a series of old ballads & standards to see how far his new style and improvisational techniques could push against the traditional structure of existing tunes. The Prestige years are one of the distinctive periods in his career in which he honed a beautifully full & rich style, fast and slashing, yet tender and poignant, which Jazz journalist Ira Gitler would famously dub “sheets of sound”. These tracks are all remastered from the original analog tapes and the box includes extensive liner notes by Grammy-winning American music historian Ashley Kahn. A great box containing some of Coltrane’s most iconic albums. (Mark)

Bitter sweet / Ferry, Bryan
Bryan Ferry is a clever chap and a genuine artist and here he recreates a selection of tunes from his extensive back catalogue in the big band style of the 1920’s. What could too easily be regarded as a gimmick turns out to be anything but as these tunes take on a strange and mysterious new lustre when interpreted via Duke Ellington style trumpets, Sidney Bechet style clarinet and the Kurt Weill homage of the title track that even includes a line in German. Bryan Ferry’s voice has matured into that of a classic crooner and carries this project off perfectly. As the cover notes state: “This art recognises that the past was once our present, even our future, and this moment too shall melt away into the past”. (John)

Double negative. / Low
This really should have made it to the library ‘2018 Best of’ as it featured on pretty much every other best of list, and rightly so. After maintaining cult status for 25 years, the US indie trio appear to have now become famous on the strength of this, their 12th album. Ironically, this is the record on which they have taken things a step beyond, slowing their famous minimalist ‘slowcore’ sound down a notch even further and incorporating glitched out dissonant electronics and loops to produce the distorted, frazzled edges of things dissipating into the ether – an approach that has been recognised by both critics and audiences as highly appropriate for our current times. There are still lovely songs here to be found though within a superb, audacious, and deeply atmospheric contemporary indie record. (John)

Why hasn’t everything already disappeared? / Deerhunter
Bradford Cox leads his band through their eighth album with a collection of thoughtful and confident songs, building on the radio-rock direction of their previous release ‘Fading Frontier’. Co-produced by Cate Le Bon, who contributes some guest vocals and instrumentation, this album finds an excellent balance between the experimental sounds of their early releases and the slightly more user friendly approach of the later albums. The result is an excellent take on, for want of a better word, pop, but a distinctive and mature version of that genre, incorporating all of the elements one may expect from this highly creative band. (John)

Some rap songs. / Sweatshirt, Earl
Among the Tswana people of South Africa, the composition of the “praise poem” in honour of chiefs and important figures has traditionally been a part of the ritual initiation of boys. On Some Rap Songs, Earl Sweatshirt reflects on his recently deceased father, the South African poet Keorapetse Kgositsile. In many ways, this album constitutes the 25 year old Earl’s praise poem to his father. The album is a sprawling journey through Earl’s psyche as he grapples with his recent grief and also his past experiences with anxiety and depression, seemingly finding cathartic closure. Earl’s voice is magnetic and mesmerising with its often simple cadence and bouncing syncopation. The album is built around tightly-looped soul and jazz samples by the likes of Curtis Mayfield. Far from its ironically self-effacing title, Some Rap Songs is an innovative masterwork. (Joseph)

DJ-kicks : Robert Hood.
The Detroit techno veteran, a founding member of Underground Resistance and who pretty much laid down the template for minimal techno with his 1994 release ‘Minimal Nation’, finally gets around to a DJ Kicks entry. Discretely acknowledging that interest in the minimal sub-genre is on the wane, here the sound is bigger and more banging than may be expected as he seamlessly mixes from one well curated driving floor filler to the next, including Berghain favorites such as Truncate and Marcel Fengler, in addition to U.K. techno mainstays like Slam and Mark Broom. Listeners either enjoy techno or they don’t, and for fans this is a solid, focused and satisfying mix, while for the curious this would be a good introduction. (John)

Future ruins. / Swervedriver
The UK band that sat on the rockier edge of the early ‘90’s shoegaze movement made a welcome return in 2015 after an 18 year hiatus, receiving favourable reviews for their fifth album, “I Wasn’t Born To Lose You”. “Future Ruins” is their sixth and the second of their ‘comeback’ albums and finds them in an assured mode, forging their warm, driving, melodic rock with great confidence. Its great hearing a band regaining their stride after such a long break and with this record they could very well find a fresh audience for their lovely harmonies, propulsive rhythms and vast guitar swathes. (John)

Echoes in blue. / City Calm Down
For some odd reason OZ bands rarely bridge the Tasman very well, which is unfortunate because, well, everyone misses out. City Calm Down are pretty big in OZ, headlining festivals and selling out tours, and this, their second album, is a great introduction. They are an obviously ‘80’s influenced band, which is not necessarily a bad thing, paying homage to Ian McCullough’s heartfelt vocals for Echo and the Bunnymen and New Order’s upper register bass lines and brooding synths. Their songs are suitably morose reflections on 21st Century life that potentially offer similar comfort that the early ‘80’s indie bands offered the first wave of indie rockers. (John)

You’re the man. / Gaye, Marvin
Marvin Gaye’s ‘lost album’ between two mega hit masterpieces ‘What’s Going On’ (1971) and ‘Let’s Get It On’ (1973) should excite a lot of music fans. Although some of the songs here have made it out in various forms before, the full album (plus some extra tracks) appears for the first time. He was at his peak after the success of ‘What’s Going On’ but very apprehensive at the same time, and a lack of the cohesion on this CD may show it. However, the quality of the songs and his distinguished vocal style are nothing short of brilliant and timeless. 47 years down the line, “You’re The Man’ can only emphasise how great Marvin Gaye is. (Shinji)

A tree with roots : Fairport Convention & friends and the songs of Bob Dylan. / Fairport Convention
An interesting compilation that gathers all of the cover versions UK folk rockers Fairport Convention performed of Bob Dylan songs. Including live recordings, John Peel Sessions and studio recordings, the songs are all from the ‘70’s and most feature Sandy Denny. The cover notes are comprehensive and clearly illustrate what a surprising influence Bob Dylan had on the UK folk revival. The performances are great and it is fascinating to hear these songs, firmly placed as they are in Americana, performed by a band that were central to the UK folk revival. This not only shows that cultural boundaries are far more fluid than often perceived but is also a keen reminder that the distant roots of Americana were actually folk songs taken to the USA by early settlers from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. What goes around truly does come around. Track 7, “Percy’s Song” is a great illustration of this. (John)
[/booklist]

New Streaming Picks from the Naxos Music Library

New music keeps coming to the Naxos Music Library; the most comprehensive collection of classical music available online. If you haven’t started streaming from them, please check our guide to streaming. Check out our recent picks below and enjoy streaming!

Cover from Naxos SHOSTAKOVICH, D.: Symphonies Nos. 6 and 7 / Korol’ Lir (King Lear) Suite (Hudgins, Boston Symphony, A. Nelsons)
Performed by: Boston Symphony Orchestra; Hudgins, William R.; Nelsons, Andris
Andris Nelsons is the Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and new Gewandhauskapellmeister of the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. With both appointments, and in leading a pioneering alliance between these two esteemed institutions, he is firmly underlined as one of the most renowned, exciting and innovative conductors on the international scene today. Nelsons and the BSO continue the acclaimed cycle with the ‘Symphonies Nos. 6 & 7’.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Cover from Naxos BUXTEHUDE, D.: Membra Jesu nostri / Gott hilf mir (Ricercar Consort, Pierlot)
Performed by: Bayodi, Hanna; Keohane, Maria; Mena, Carlos; Pierlot, Philippe; Ricercar Consort; Thompson, Jeffrey; Vieweg, Matthias
“In 1680, Dietrich Buxtehude sent his friend Gustav Düben the score of ‘Membra Jesu Nostri’. In this perfectly balanced work, he addresses the senses directly, immersing us in the sufferings of Christ: we feel the hammer blows, the heart that stops beating. Through the genius of his music Buxtehude succeeds in moving us, enlightening us and instructing us in the profound meaning of the text.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Cover from Naxos RACHMANINOV, S.: Préludes, Op. 3, No. 2, Opp. 23 and 32 (Giltburg)
Performed by: Giltburg, Boris
“Written over a period of 18 years, Rachmaninov’s sets of Préludes are a mirror and a record of his compositional development. With so rich a variety of character, colour, texture and mood, no two préludes are fully alike, and differentiation of tempo and register ensures that each prélude’s character is clearly defined. The first eleven pieces were conceived by Rachmaninov as a single cycle, and their full-hearted Romanticism contrasts with the significantly more angular, modernistic Op. 32. Whether evoking ballad or bell toll, the exotic or folk influences, the Préludes stand in the great tradition of works by Bach and Chopin written in all 24 major and minor keys.” (Naxos Summary)

Cover from Naxos HANDEL, G.F.: Acis and Galatea (1718 original version) [Opera] (Crowe, A. Clayton, Hulett, N. Davies, Budd, Curnyn)
Performed by: Budd, Jeremy; Clayton, Allan; Crowe, Lucy; Curnyn, Christian; Davies, Neal; Early Opera Company Orchestra; Hulett, Benjamin; Pierce, Rowan
“The award-winning Early Opera Company under the direction of founder Christian Curnyn celebrates the 300th anniversary of the premiere of one of Handels most sublime creations: Acis and Galatea. This unique interpretation is performed as Handel himself specified in the manuscript: supported by fourteen period instruments, the outstanding cast of singers takes on the solo parts as well as the magnificent choruses. This is Handel writing at his highest levels of intimacy and intensity; the music superbly supports the libretto’s evocative portrayal of the story, simultaneously restrained, economical, and deeply moving.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Cover from Naxos DUBHLINN GARDENS (THE) (Besson, Van Mechelen, A Nocte Temporis)
Performed by: A Nocte Temporis; Besson, Anna; Van Mechelen, Werner
“The Dubhlinn Gardens: an evening in the high society of 18th century Dublin, where traditional music was civilizing itself for the salon This programme was inspired by the passion for traditional Irish music that flautist Anna Besson has felt since she was a child. Surprising as it may seem, it was playing the Irish flute that led her to study the baroque instrument For the past few years Reinoud Van Mechelen too has begun to train himself in the traditional Irish song. This twofold practice of early as well as traditional music has led the ensemble A Nocte Temporis to offer a programme that is both vivacious and extremely touching.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Cover from Naxos TRISTANO, F.: Tokyo Stories (Tristano)
Performed by: Guti; Portal, Michel; Shibuya, Keiichiro; Tristano, Francesco; U-zhaan, ; Watanabe, Hiroshi
“Born and raised in Luxembourg, Francisco Tristano is one of the most innovative pianists of today, performing from baroque to avant-garde. He has issued unique recordings from Deutsche Grammophon including the acclaimed ‘Bach Cage’, which can be listened from Naxos Music Library. He is a musician more like Ryuichi Sakamoto or Nils Frahm than a traditional classical pianist, and his new album is inspired by the city of Tokyo that he loves and has visited so many times. It’s another intriguing music; somewhere between classical, techcho and ambient, by the unconventional artist.” (Shinji)

Riverside Records on the Naxos Jazz Library

One of the most important and beloved labels of all time in jazz history, Riverside Records was founded by Orrin Keepnews and Bill Grauer in 1953, and produced many masterpieces by jazz giants such as Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk and Wes Montgomery. Although no physical CDs are available from our libraries at the moment, you can stream some of their finest albums on the Naxos Jazz Library. Riverside Records was short-lived and all their masters were acquired by Fantasy Records, making them difficult to locate in the Naxos Jazz Library. Instead, click the link to go straight to their discography and search the artists or titles. Check our picks below and start streaming now!

Cover from Naxos WYNTON KELLY TRIO AND SEXTET: KELLY BLUE
Performed by: Kelly, Wynton; Wynton Kelly Sextet; Wynton Kelly Trio
“Kelly was an original stylist, who had a lyrical and economical approach and a way of insinuating the blues into everything he touched. You can feel it here in the moving “Willow Weep for Me” and the bright takes on “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise” and “On Green Dolphin Street,” just getting established as standards in the jazz repertoire and getting distinctive treatments here.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Cover from Naxos THELONIOUS MONK: BRILLIANT CORNERS
Performed by: Henry, Ernie; Monk, Thelonious; Pettiford, Oscar; Roach, Max; Rollins, Sonny
Brilliant Corners is regarded as one of the finest albums in Thelonius Monks catalogue. The supporting musicians include Paul Chambers (better known for his work with Miles Davis), Max Roach, Clark Terry and Sonny Rollins, but it is Monks own work on piano that dominates the proceedings. An important and vital album, not just for Thelonius Monk, but for any serious jazz collector.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Cover from Naxos BILL EVANS TRIO: WALTZ FOR DEBBY
Performed by: Bill Evans Trio
“The legendary last recording of Evans’ brilliant trio (with Paul Motian and Scott LaFaro, who died days after this was taped at the Village Vanguard). Invigorating freedom and deep emotion meet and cast a powerful spell.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Cover from Naxos WES MONTGOMERY: FULL HOUSE
Performed by: Chambers, Paul; Cobb, Jimmy; Griffin, Johnny; Kelly, Wynton; Montgomery, Wes
“Recorded live at the the Tsubo in Berkeley, California, the back of the original album proudly proclaims ‘the top jazz guitarist, recorded in actual performance.’ It’s a rather undertstated introduction to an album that showcases to perfection Wes Montgomery’s abilities, a talent that no other jazz guitarist has come even close to matching.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Cover from Naxos KENNY DREW TRIO: KENNY DREW TRIO
Performed by: Kenny Drew Trio
“Kenny Drew brings a pure bop angularity to this 1956 session, with driving single-note lines that clamber over one another to get at a new rhythmic detail, along with splashing chords that find the joy in the blues. He’s joined by a rhythm section that virtually defined the mid-1950s ethos: bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Cover from Naxos CANNONBALL ADDERLEY SEXTET: IN NEW YORK
Performed by: Cannonball Adderley Sextet
“This excellent live date from the Village Vanguard was the recording debut of the Adderley sextet, with Cannonball waxing eloquently and swingingly on alto, brother Nat charging ahead on cornet, and the versatile Yusef Lateef adding a bit of an edge on tenor, flute, and unusually for a jazz wind player, oboe on the odd. Also, this was the first recorded appearance of pianist Joe Zawinul in Cannonball’s band.” (adapted from fishpond.co.nz)

Cover from Naxos RANDY WESTON: SOLO, DUO AND TRIO
Performed by: Blakey, Art; Gill, Sam; Weston, Randy
“Randy Weston’s distinctive compositions and pianism have long mined the music’s African sources to enrich the idiom. This CD presents Weston at the very beginnings of his recording career, combining his first two LPs. The earliest is a selection of eight Cole Porter tunes from 1954, played in duet with his regular partner, Sam Gill, a little-known bassist who provides solid and sympathetic foundations. The second combines a 1955 trio session, with Gill and Art Blakey on drums, and a series of solos from 1956.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Cover from Naxos BLUE MITCHELL SEXTET: BLUE SOUL
Performed by: Blue Mitchell Sextet
“A session from 1959, BLUE SOUL finds Mitchell cooking in front of a band including bop aces Curtis Fuller, Jimmy Heath, and Philly Joe Jones, and Wynton Kelly of Miles Davis fame. The program mostly consists of bright, earthy originals with plenty of hearty soloing. A delight for classic bop supporters.” (adapted from fishpond.co.nz)

Cover from Naxos NAT ADDERLEY: WORK SONG
Performed by: Adderley, Nat; Betts, Keter; Hayes, Louis; Heath, Percy; Jones, Sam; Montgomery, Wes; Timmons, Bobby
“Released in 1960, Work Song finds cornetist Nat Adderley at his artistic peak with this bluesy, hard-bop gem. Numerous critics throughout the years have praised Adderley’s lyrical work on this album, which includes his own writing (his biggest hit, ‘Work Song’ and ‘Fallout’).” (adapted from amazon.com)

Cover from Naxos ART BLAKEY AND THE JAZZ MESSENGERS: CARAVAN
Performed by: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers
“One of the great Jazz Messengers recordings, Blakey’s 1962 debut for Riverside featured Wayne Shorter, Curtis Fuller, Reggie Workman, Freddie Hubbard and Cedar Walton.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Monochrome Masterpieces

In this post we take a look at some of the iconic albums and hidden gems in our CD and vinyl collection. All of these titles have black and white photographs as album art. Check out these excellent and eclectic albums.

Nite flights by the Walker Brothers (1978)
The Walker Brothers were the three non-biologically-related kings of baroque pop in the 1960s, best known for their moody hits The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore and Make it Easy on Yourself. In the late 60s, Scott Walker, the group’s most acclaimed member, went solo and released a series of heavily orchestrated albums filled with ennui and references to art-house movies. Scott is cited as one of David Bowie’s foremost influences, and it shows. On this 1978 album The Walker Brothers explored uncharted territory. This project was apparently inspired by Bowie’s Heroes, and that also shows.

The album’s opening track Shutout is a masterpiece: the hauntingly avant garde vocal harmonies pare well with the raw propulsion of the incandescent guitar solo. The song is distinguished by a driving baseline that sounds like it came from an alternate universe where disco was a dark and nihilistic genre. Then the Electrician turns the dread up to unprecedented heights before breaking into an overture of blissful strings. The first four songs are effectively a Scott Walker solo EP and stand together as a monumental statement. The production on the other tracks is certainly worth perusing, but those first four songs ShutoutFat Mama KickNite Flights and The Electrician are incomparable. This album can also be considered somewhat rare, and it isn’t available on Spotify, so make sure to pick it up next time you come into the library!

TA1300 by Denzel Curry (2018)
Denzel Curry’s most ambitious project to date is full of aggressive SoundCloud anthems, including Sumo and Clout Cobain. On this album Curry has clearly carved out his own corner of the hip-hop world. Curry generally raps forcefully on lo-fi trap influenced beats, but still leaves some space for r&b tinged instrumentation whether of the soulful or synth-pop variety on tracks Black Balloons and Cash Maniac respectively. Standout track, Vengeance, is a terrifying vision featuring an extremely malicious verse from avant-garde rapper JPEGMAFIA and a visceral shouted feature from trap-metal rapper Zillakami.

If you still need convincing of Denzel Curry’s merit and skill, check out his pumping cover of Rage Against the Machine’s Bulls on Parade.

Party by Aldous Harding (2017)
Gothic tones and the misty port hills linger over Harding’s spellbinding sophomore effort. Harding’s lyrical subject matter is every bit as entrancing as her folk guitar. Unique song titles like What if Birds Aren’t Singing, They’re Screaming punctuate a superb New Zealand album. Another underrated highlight is the album closer, Swell Does the Skull. Harding’s distinctive voice is memorable, cohesive and enchanting. With Harding’s upcoming Designer album due for release shortly, now’s the perfect time to catch up with her discography.

Songs for Drella by Lou Reed and John Cale (1990)
Upon the death of Andy Warhol, two illustrious alumni of the Velvet Underground reunited to produce this sublime record amidst a temporary detente in their relationship. The production is excellent, the biographical subject matter is engaging and the album stands up as a testament to two incandescent chemistry of two of the greatest musical minds of the 20th century. Recommended tracks include Open House and Style it Takes.

Rest by Charlotte Gainsbourg (2017)
Gainsbourg weaves together traditional French pop sounds with contemporary palettes to create a grand statement. The drums, pianos and synthesizers summon dark and foreboding dirges on tracks like Lying With You and Ring-A-Ring O’ Roses. Federico Garcia Lorca once wrote “I am the elephantine shadow of my own tears.” Similarly, Rest appears to be an immense product of Gainsbourg’s own grief, as Pitchfork writer Olivia Horn notes. The album highlight is Deadly Valentine, a dreamy pop song punctuated by a funky baseline and a richly arranged chorus.

Staff Picks CDs: Best of 2018 -Part 2

Some more of our favourite sounds from last year. Hopefully you will find a new artist to explore, or something you missed the first time around.

Neil J’s Picks:
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.

Tranquility Base hotel + casino.
Sometimes bands find it difficult to stay fresh and new musically especially after initial massive success. This however has never been a problem for the Artic Monkeys. And Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino there sixth album is easily their densest, most experimental and carefully crafted release to date. In this work they’ve invented their own brand of psychedelia. It’s like the bands own musical reaction to 60’s and 70’s science fiction films like Silent Running or 2001 a space Odyssey in places it does sound like an Alex Turner solo album. All in all it’s a brave and interesting and in places an exhilarating new direction for a band who have never sat on their laurels and are constantly in search of somewhere else to go.

Future me hates me / The Beths.
The Beths are at the moment the hottest band in New Zealand. No less than The Rolling stone magazine listed them in their top 100 bands to watch out for and described their album The future me hates me as a “ power pop monument’ . So what’s all the fuss about? It’s true that the power pop format is a tried and tested formula that has been done many times before, but the Beths bring a joyous ear worm infectiousness and exuberance to the party making The future me hates me sound not only new and fresh but fun and bright and it’s this attitude and approach to the music that’s carrying all before them.

Singularity.
Singularity is defined in the Oxford English dictionary as: “A point at which a function takes an infinite value, especially in space–time when matter is infinitely dense, such as at the centre of a black hole.” Now that’s a big concept to get your head round but it does serve as a superb road into Singularity the fifth album by Jon Hopkins. Singularity the album is a vast self-visualised glacial electronic landscape or even cosmos of an album. There’s ambient elements in it, there’s acid house elements in it , there’s certainly beats in there but through it all is a singular unique vision and a real feeling that Hopkin’s is on a trace like sonic journey of discovery that reaches inwards and outwards at the same time.

I can feel you creep into my private life.
For this reviewer one of the most interesting and important releases of 2018 was I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life by tUnE-yArDs (aka Merrill Garbus).The album is an extension of her previous works which at its core fuses solid rhythmic structure, influenced in places by dance music with lyrics that are simultaneously personal and global and definitely contain a radical political overtone. In many ways for this reviewer it was the album that summarised the spirit of our age its Zeitgeist.

Here if you listen / David Crosby, Becca Stevens, Michelle Willis, Michael League.
In 1982 David Cosby had fallen far, his personal life and finances were in ruin. He was struggling with very serious drug and alcohol abuse problems and was to spent nine months of that year in a Texas prison on cocaine and heroin charges. Yet in the late 60s and early 70’s he had been one of the brightest and biggest creative forces in the hippie folk rock movement. Since then he has had a liver transplant that was paid for by Phil Collins and slowly and gradually rebuilt his life and career welding these dark moments of his life as all true artists do into his work. His 2014 solo album Croz was amongst his finest work. And just recently he released Here If You Listen. It’s a beautiful piece of work, melodic, contemplative, and melancholic at times, uplifting at times occasionally touching the darkness of his past sometimes the light it finds Crosby meditating on his own death . For me this is one of David Crosby’s essential works and ranks up there with his 1971 death of the hippy dream album If I Could Only Remember My Name.

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.

Aviary.
Julia Holter’s fifth studio Aviary is a dazzling nonlinear joyous sprawl of a work. She says she was inspired to create it from a line in a book by Lebanese-American writer Etel Adnan—“I found myself in an aviary full of shrieking birds”. It simultaneously exudes chaos and calm, structure and randomness there is occasionally the slightest hint of the more experimental Kate Bush about it. It’s a menagerie of sonically beautiful moments swarming and swirling around in some sort of abstract obtuse sonic prayer conceived and created by the artist.

The gristle of knuckles.
Eve de Castro-Robinson is one of New Zealand’s foremost composers and performers amongst her numerous prizes and awards she won The 2018 Best Classical Artist/ Te Kaipuoro Inamata Toa at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards. The award was in part a recognition of her most recent work The Gristle of Knuckles .However The Gristle of Knuckles is far from a solo creative work it features a whole raft of collaborators who took Eve’s original compositions as their starting point and reimagined the pieces in their own way. There’s a real diversity to the range of pieces, yet the finished album sounds totally unified and cohesive thanks in no small part to the fabulous production work of Steve Garden. It’s a work classified as classical but in reality it defies genre categories. The pieces range sonically from powerful and muscular to intimate and vulnerable yet thought out the whole piece there’s a real air of exuberant, free spirited experimentation.

Mark’s Picks:
Record.
Tracey Thorn returns with another album of mature pop, her female worldview taking on the on-going struggle for equality (Sister), musical beginnings (Guitar), motherhood (Babies) & the impact of Social Media (Face). Beats merge with the sombre, and her ageless voice never loses its warmth.

Honey.
The Queen of melancholy dance beats returns with her first proper album in 8 years. Repeated plays reveal the interlocking layers of the tracks with overlapping lyrics, melodies and themes. Motivated by the tragic death of friend and collaborator, producer Christian Falk, the breakup of a relationship and several years of intense therapy, this release sees her following her own path once again.

Best local CD & Vinyl releases:
A quiet divide.
Rhian Sheehan returns with a cinematic album that melds post-rock soundscapes with lush ambient warmth, creating an emotional journey in a cascading series of beautiful and reflective moods. Lovely.

 

Mirror.
A wonderful combination of strange Jazz sounds, funky guitar, Swirling vocals, weird noises.

 

 

My design, on others’ lives.

 

 

 

Raconteur / The Frank Burkitt Band.
A musical-meld of influences from both continents – UK folk meets American bluegrass/Western Swing, with touches of his early Jazz influences. From toe tapping workouts to sincere ballads, all the seemingly disparate elements combine into a thoroughly enjoyable set of melodic narratives. It all seems effortless and simple but that belies the skill of his tight backing band, the consistently high levels of song writing and the sophisticated arrangements. No surprise it picked up a Tui for Best Folk album.

Too many millionaires.
The first all-acoustic album for Darren Watson is an artistic triumph on every level. Watson has always been a champion of the underdog, whether in the context of love or social commentary, and his authentic, pointed and gritty songs traverse the songwriting spectrum from the personal to the political.

We light fire.
Six years is a long time in the ever shifting music world and the catchy guitar pop of her last album Modern Fables has shifted into a heavier synth based sound with more layers of production on the tracks. But all the flourishes don’t detract from another set of great songs and that amazingly powerful voice, with its crystal clear range. Beginning with a slow ballad ‘Clandestine’ the album builds up, as gentle guitar strings alternate with washes of synth and grungier beats. Most albums taper off but all the best tracks are stacked towards the end.

Nine centuries.
Third album from Wgtn’s top Metallers marks Bulletbelt’s final album with vocalist Jolene Tempest and guitarist Seth Jackson, who left after the album had been recorded. Guests include Midnight’s Vanik, (solo on Cloak the Night), and Massacre vocalist Kam Lee (vocals on ‘Show Me Your Throat). Lyrically the album focuses on the witch trials of the Dark Ages, the examination of such brutal & violent themes paying off with some intense and aggressive tracks. A punk energy in a Metal framework, raw and powerful.

Seeing things.
Most bands first albums are the result of many years hard work, often resulting in the pinnacle of their sound – which subsequent albums then try to recapture. It’s a rare band that grows better with each release, but Eb & Sparrow were in that category. ‘Seeing things’ shifts their sound from Country/Americana of the first few releases into a more sophisticated lush soundscape. The lap steels are replaced with a more shimmery guitar sound that evokes the languid lines of The Cowboy Junkies or Mazzy Star, all focused around Ebony Lamb’s burnished vocals. A beautiful collection of songs that finds you reaching for the repeat button as soon as the last track fades out.

The hill temple.VINYL
Awesome new album from the ‘witches’ of Hex, with new cohort Jason Erskine. Beautifully soaring harmonies, delicious melodies, crunching guitar lines. All the best elements of indie rock surrounded by a fierce female empowerment aesthetic. Bewitching.

 

Like splitting the head from the body.VINYL
The debut full length album from the fabulous Womb. Every track swirls in and out of beautiful dreamy vocals and layers of languid guitar and synth lines. Music with a sense of grandeur that uplifts the listener on swelling waves of lush sound. Completely sublime.

 

Axels’s Picks:
How to solve our human problems.
Melancholic. Intimate. Pop.

 

 

Jassbusters.
Groovy. Soulful. Eccentric.

 

 

Tell me how you really feel.
Genuine. Stoner. Raucous.

 

 

Sex & food.
Vintage. Mind-altered. Catchy.

 

 

Marble skies.
Melody. Harmony. Energy.

 

 

Nothing is still.
Emotional. Ambient. Deep.

 

 

All melody.
Experimental. Gentle. Sentimental.

 

 

Snow bound/ The Chills.
Uplifting. Bright. Easy peasy.

 

 

Isle of dogs : original soundtrack / music composed by Alexandre Desplat.
Instrumental. Rhythmic. Quirky.

 

 

Suspiria : music for the Luca Guadagnino film.
Ominous. Atmospheric. Hypnotic.

 

 

Make way for love.
Sensitive. Bittersweet. Mellow. Continue reading “Staff Picks CDs: Best of 2018 -Part 2”

Staff Picks CDs: Best of 2018 -Part 1

A round-up of our favourite sounds from last year. Hopefully you will find a new artist to explore, or something you missed the first time around.

John’s Picks:
Konoyo.
The ninth record from Canadian electronic artist Tim Hecker is a sublimely beautiful work that sounds like lifting a veil to expose atomic and sub atomic processes at work, and is quite unlike anything else, including the previous Tim Hecker records.

 

Brainfeeder X : a 36-track compilation showcasing the past, present and future of the label.
With influences ranging across jazz, hip-hop, r ’n’ b, house, and electronica, the Brainfeeder sound is genuinely ground-breaking and this tenth anniversary double disc set shows why the label has grown from a small L.A. based underdog into a global cult phenomenon.

Wide awaaaaake!
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.

 

7.
Their most immersive, and possibly their most engaging, album to date 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.

 

Music for installations.
Brian Eno re-affirms his standing as the Grand Master of ambience with a stunning six disc set filled with gorgeous washes of bells and drones and unidentifiable luminous shimmers moving across widescreen stereo fields, beautiful, always different, yet always the same.

 

No sounds are out of bounds / The Orb.
The driving dub bass lines that propel each track are the only constants over a record that touches many bases, all peppered with The Orb’s distinctive humorous vocal samples, to create, arguably, the most commercially accessible and one of the best releases of their long and befuddling career.

 

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 ‘Possible Musics’, has released, at 81 years old, a remarkable record when most others so long into their career are merely re-treading old ground.

 

The loneliest girl.
Difficult to pin down, AK pop chanteuse Chelsea Nikkel confounds with her fourth album of thoughtfully produced bitter sweet songs within which lurks a deceptively subversive baroque take on the pop format that is entertaining from start to finish.

 

The animal spirits / James Holden & the Animal Spirits.
UK electronic producer James Holden has been pushing the boundaries of electronica for most of his career and his most recent album, recorded live in the studio, treads a path far more akin to the wild transcendence of free jazz greats such as Pharaoh Sanders than any current electronic artists.

 

Infinite moment / The Field.
Swedish electronic producer Axel Willner, aka The Field, continues his musical pilgrimage chasing endless repetitive loops to an infinite beyond, creating a masterful album by one of the most original electronic producers active today.

 

Bottle it in.
Kurt Vile’s highly characteristic slacker Americana has by now become expertly crafted and, via the unusual sense of intimacy he is able to create, he maintains interest throughout this long album, which validates his cultural niche as the new millennium’s equivalent of artists such as R.E.M and Neil Young.

Suspiria : music for the Luca Guadagnino film.
This is definitely not sunday bar-b-que music, but the fine orchestral and choral arrangements, the creepy electronica and the gentle, sad, guitar based songs make for some great late night uneasy listening.

 

Toitū te pūoro.
Al Fraser, the Wellington musician and instrument maker takes the listener on a deep, dreamlike and evocative journey into the mysterious, mystical and unique sound worlds created by the ancient taonga puoro.

 

Shearwater drift / Al Fraser, Steve Burridge, Neil Johnstone.
A fully immersive sonic collage that, over 18 tracks, features Taongo Puoro within soundscapes created by synthesisers, percussion, treated samples and other instruments that is 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.

Collapse.
This five track ep is the latest in a series of EPs that have followed Aphex Twin’s triumphant 2014 return with the album ‘Syro’ and is his most familiar so far, bearing all of the hallmarks of classic Aphex Twin electronica – frantic stuttered beats, rubbery bass lines, beautiful submerged melodies, evocative vocal samples and complex shifting arrangements.

Switched on volumes 1-3.
The UK post-rock pioneers, who have been on indefinite hiatus since 2010, are well on the way to becoming a cult band, with a worldwide dedicated fan base who refuse to accept that they are no more and re-releases like this help keep their myth alive, collecting the band’s three ‘90’s compilations of singles and rarities in one nifty box set.

Singles 1978-2016 / The Fall.
Made especially relevant by Mark E Smith’s 2018 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.

 

 

 

 

Enclosures 2011-2016.
South Island electronic composer Clinton Williams, aka Omit, is considered by many to be the perfect reclusive genius and this beautifully presented five disc box set, with a written intro from Bruce Russell, contains Omit’s most recent output, previously released as limited run CDRs all hand made by the artist.

The dreaming [2018].
‘The Dreaming’ was her fourth record sitting right in the middle of her transition from ‘pop star’ to ‘serious artist’ and both audiences and critics were slightly baffled at the time (it is referred to as her ‘mad’ album); she suffered nervous exhaustion after the year it took to make, but she produced an unrecognised masterpiece.

Shinji’s Picks:
Snow bound/ The Chills.
Thankfully Martin Phillipps’s health seems better now. Only 3 years after the widely acclaimed ‘Silver Bullets’, the Chills provides another stellar album. A quirky mysteriousness is still there but Phillipps is more mature and optimistic. He keeps his pop-craftmanship in great form and offers the melancholic yet bouncy sound with glorious melodies. It’s The Chills as good as it gets. Brilliant.

Lean on me.
Hello like before : the songs of Bill Withers.
To celebrate Bill Withers’ 80th birthday, two fantastic tribute albums came out late 2018 and they both offer wonderful listens. A star artist of Blue Note Records, Jose James has been performing Withers’ songs on stage, and the album ‘Lean on Me’ features his stoic vocal with deep, slow grooves created by his band. A neo-soul singer, Anthony David, who is often compared with Withers, takes a more straight forward approach, showing full love and respect to Withers. It’s been more than 3 decades since Withers walked away from the music industry, but his honest, caring-for-others songs may be something we need in the state of the world today.

Ventriloquism.
From the big names such as Prince, Tina Turner 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 rare and what Meschell Ndegeocello does with them is totally original. With the minimal arrangements, she and her band display superb performances and colour them with a murky textured otherworldly ambience. This is an exceptional cover album by the extraordinary artist.

Vortex / Sonar with David Torn.
Swiss jazz-progressive rock quartet Sonar has established an utterly unique sound – often playing in irregular time and creating a minimal stoic groove – and with this 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, and brings a sonically inventive soundscape with huge improvisations on some tracks. It’s stoic yet dynamic, a marvellous risk-taking music.

Contra la indecisión / Bobo Stenson Trio.
This album was released in January 2018 but remains one of the best jazz recordings of the year. Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson is now in his 70s but his graceful lyricism shines more than ever and provides one of his finest albums. The trio shows a great cohesion and versatility and weaves beautiful stories. It’s music that grows inside of you like a good wine. Exquisite.

Mi mundo.
Cuban shining new star 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. Navarrete’s expressive voice and her percussions lead the charge throughout, and the Cuban all-star supporting band shows amazing skills, creating smooth yet rich, dynamic grooves. Sensational.

All melody.
Plus.
German composer/pianist Nils Frahm has been a prominent post-classical music artist, and ‘All Melody’, which started with building his new studio, shows his exceptional talent as a producer as well as a player, exquisitely assembling a great variety of musical elements. Somewhere between techno, ambient and classical, it’s a beautifully executed, kaleidoscopic music. Frahm also joined the Danish electronica trio System with graceful keyboard plays. This is a wonderful collaboration, and System masterfully blends Frahm’s organic tones with their minimal yet rich soundscape, and makes it a mesmerising, ambient album.

Johann Sebastian Bach / Vikingur Olafsson.
As if making an ultimate Bach playlist, a young Icelandic pianist Vikingur Olafsson excellently juxtaposes Bach’s compositions, and tackles them from a variety of angles with fresh ideas. His pianism is sophisticated and refreshing, and brings out astonishingly colourful faces of Bach. This incredible Bach should reach beyond the classical music lovers like Glenn Gould did.

Staff Pick CDs for Nov/Dec: Part 2

Toitu Te Puoro album cover

The second part of the last round-up of Staff Picks for the year features an eclectic mix of recommendations from Electronica to NZ, to Box-set reissues, and Indie.

Hot burritos! : the Flying Burrito Brothers anthology, 1969-1972.
The outlandishly titled Flying Burrito Brothers are the quintessential country-rock experimenters. Led by the legendary Gram Parsons, the group created a distinctive style of “cosmic American music” that fused country music with R&B, rock, gospel and vaguely psychedelic production. The heart-wrenching pinnacle of the collection is Parson’s stunning, strained and immensely emotive performance on the track ‘Hot Burrito #1’. The Burrito’s influenced everyone from the Rolling Stones to Wilco and left a musical legacy well worth exploring. (Joe)

Switched on volumes 1-3.
The UK post-rock pioneers, who have been on indefinite hiatus since 2010, are well on the way to becoming a cult band, with a worldwide dedicated fan base who refuse to accept that they are no more. Re-releases like this help keep their myth alive, collecting the band’s three ‘90’s compilations of singles and rarities in one nifty box set. This is a great opportunity for the curious to explore this unique band, as it runs from their very first 45 – Super Electric – through to their later more experimental phase on the third double disc compilation – Aluminium Tunes – originally released by Warp Records. The odd marriage of krautrock, exotica and electronics that created their sound has never been equaled (or even attempted for that matter) by anyone else and this collection is an excellent introduction. (John)

The animal spirits / James Holden & the Animal Spirits.
UK electronic producer James Holden has been pushing the boundaries of electronica for most of his career via his aptly named Border Community label and here, on his third record since 2006’s excellent ‘The Idiots Are Winning’, he has finally broken free of any constraints and has made a record far closer to jazz than electronica, playing his wonky synthesiser in a real live band with a drummer and free blowing saxophones and woodwind instruments. The whole thing was recorded live in the studio with no edits or overdubs (on a full moon according to the sleeve notes) and treads a path far more akin to the wild transcendence of free jazz greats such as Pharaoh Sanders than any current electronic artists. Brave and genre defying this is an exultant, joyous album and is highly recommended. (John)

Honey.
The Queen of melancholy dance beats returns with her first proper album in 8 years. Previous album Body Talk was compiled from a number of E.Ps and was almost like a mini-best of. ‘Honey’ moves away from an electronic-pop sound towards a more languid sensual vibe, featuring collaborations with Joseph Mount of Metronomy, Klas Åhlund, & Adam Bainbridge of Kindness. It’s one of those albums that doesn’t really impress on first listen. However repeated plays reveal the interlocking layers of the tracks, which function in many ways as an entire suite with overlapping lyrics, melodies and themes, revealing a more vulnerable state of mind following the tragic death of friend and collaborator, producer Christian Falk, the breakup of a relationship, and several years of intense therapy. Robyn has always seemed a pop star unlike any other, her music never in service to trends, producers du jour, or relentless cross marketing, and this release sees her following her own path once more. (Mark)

Greatest hits vol. 1 : deluxe edition.
The US experimental psychedelic alt-rockers, The Flaming Lips, over 20 albums and countless singles and side projects have become an institution by sheer persistence if nothing else. This three disc set, with excellent cover art, spans the 25 years of their Warners career from 1992 to 2017 with discs one and two featuring highlights chronologically and disc three assembling rare tracks and b-sides. The very fact that such an avowedly weird band can attain the festival headlining status they have enjoyed is remarkable in itself, and this collection includes all sides of their creative impulses from sweet sing along indie anthems to raucous freakouts. Taken in one sitting like this, the stylistic tangents the band have taken make more sense with it all hanging together remarkably well and this collection offers a great chance for the curious to delve into one of the most eccentric and creative acts of the past few years. (John)

Dance on the blacktop.
The shoegaze revival has been underway for long enough now for the style to become more than a nod to the past and a recognised contemporary sub-genre, and US band Nothing have the sound perfected. The production is crytalline and presents the huge guitar swathes in all their harmonic glory, with the half spoken vocals perfectly placed in the mix. This is the Philadelphia band’s third record and they have built a sizeable reputation over their short career as “the world’s unluckiest band” after a saga involving incarceration, a pharmaceutical sadist and permanent brain damage. “Dance On a Blacktop” is prison slang for fighting and here they appear use it to mean riding the chaos of existence with grace – which is a good way to describe their loud, dense and melodic take on indie rock. (John)

Treasure hiding : the Fontana years.
If there was ever a band seduced by beauty it was The Cocteau Twins. Their music is a heavenly ethereal sonic wash but the question that plagued the band pretty much from their formation is, was there more to their music than beauty alone? And perhaps is beauty enough? Well Treasure Hiding The Fontana Years goes some considerable way to answering these questions, sure their trademark ethereal sound is there but this box set contains some of their most experimental, progressive and at times personal works. It’s no secret that the band were suffering from personal difficulties and Elizabeth Fraser uses this as creative fuel bearing her heart in some of the lyrics. Other pieces are much more abstract and obtuse. The fantastic Otherness EP sees the band in an ambient, dubby impressionistic mode very different from their previous works but sumptuous none the less and with grit buried in the strange eeriness of the music. In these pieces you can clearly hear a rich new direction the band could have gone in if their internal problems hadn’t ripped them apart. (Neil J)

Infinite moment / The Field.
Swedish electronic producer Axel Willner, aka The Field, continues his musical pilgrimage chasing endless repetitive loops to an infinite beyond. His distinctive compositional style is either loved or loathed by listeners who willingly enter the hypnotic zones generated by The Field’s everlasting loops or find the very idea claustrophobic and relentlessly boring. Here, six albums in, Axel Willner shows just how finely he has mastered his craft – there are still no breaks, no drops and barely any key changes, instead, the tracks are a little longer, the 4/4 a little slower and the harmonics, melodies and variations that lurk within are a little more subtle; all in all a masterful achievement by one of the most original electronic producers active today. (John)

Bottle it in.
Kurt Vile has, over seven albums, gradually moved from the fringes of alt-rock to inhabit a central place. His latest album consolidates that position, as he applies his distinctive laconic stance to a collection of well written and produced songs, performed with the Violators as his backing band. His highly characteristic slacker Americana has by now become expertly crafted and via the unusual sense of intimacy he is able to create he maintains interest throughout this long album, taken at a very relaxed pace, and which includes several tracks over ten minutes long. Overall, this imaginative and curiously engrossing record ably validates his cultural niche as the new millennium’s equivalent of artists such as R.E.M and Neil Young. (John)

Aquemini.
Best known for their smash hits ‘Ms. Jackson’ (2000) and ‘Hey Ya!’ (2003), Outkast’s magnum opus arrived in 1998. Aquemini captures the pure alchemy of Big Boi and Andre 3000 at their finest, rapping over funky and futuristic beats. Big Boi grounds the group with his streetwise perspective and braggadocious charm while Andre 3000 reaches for the stars with his unique extra-terrestrial philosophy. Blaring horns, a pounding bassline and quirky storytelling make ‘SpottieOttieDopaliscious’ a highlight. Other standout tracks include the anthemic ‘Skew It on the Bar-B’, the iconoclastic ‘Return of the G’ and the catchy head-nodder ‘Rosa Parks’. (Joe)

Suspiria : music for the Luca Guadagnino film.
Thom Yorke’s soundtrack for the remake of the 1977 Italian supernatural horror film Suspiria is a surprise because, within the 25 tracks of the expected doom laden strings, suspense laden tinkly piano and creepy ambient electronics, are featured six new songs, which makes it considerably more than a mere soundtrack. In fact, if the two discs were edited down it would make a very fine Thom Yorke solo album. The context of a horror film allows Yorke to fully indulge his ever present melancholia and the results are very satisfying. This is definitely not sunday bar-b-que music, but the fine orchestral and choral arrangements, the creepy electronica and the gentle, sad, guitar based songs make for some great late night uneasy listening. (John)

Toitū te pūoro.
The perfect sound recordings made possible by modern state of the art studio technology is allowing contemporary listeners the privilege of being able to hear traditional Maori instrumentation as it has never been heard before. Al Fraser, the Wellington musician and instrument maker dedicated to the preservation and ongoing enhancement of this rich musical heritage, here, on his fifth CD release, takes the listener on a deep, dreamlike and evocative journey into the mysterious, mystical and unique sound worlds created by the ancient taonga puoro. Many of the sounds here are so fine and subtle as to be almost inaudible, but that is just the point, because in stretching the hearing of the listener, they are then drawn further in to ‘Te Korekore – the realm between being and non-being’. Take some time out to listen yourself. (John)

Solo anthology : the best of Lindsey Buckingham.
The now ex-Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham’s solo albums have always seemed to be overlooked amongst the hype and turmoil of Fleetwood Mac, many of their later albums being structured around a bulk of songs he had set aside for solo projects. This 3-disc compilation includes material from his 6 studio albums, live albums, the collaboration with Christine McVie, tracks from 80s soundtracks, and a couple of unreleased songs. A nice mix of music from the catchy pop of his debut solo album Out of the Cradle to the more acoustic and layered works of later albums. What emerges is a portrait of a great guitarist (the fantastic classical styled playing on his first album still amazes) and songwriter, in search of something deeper than the music he was making in a hugely successful commercial band. Recommended if you’re a fan. (Mark)

Lageos / Actress x London Contemporary Orchestra.
Not an easy listen, but rewarding for the curious, is the recent collaboration between Actress, the London based electronic producer, and the modern classical ensemble, The London Contemporary Orchestra. It is an, at times, wild ride, veering from abstract noise to modern classical drones and treated piano, fractured beats to gamelan style rhythms and finally settling down a little for the last four tracks which have a lovely haunting beauty. The unlikely pairing works overall, creating a work that is intriguing and unsettling in equal measure. (John)

Bunny.
Difficult to stylistically pin down, Mathew Dear has been following a singular path of hybrid electro pop since 2003 across six albums under his own name, as well as producing dance floor techno under a variety of aliases. Since his predominantly instrumental 2003 debut, Leave Luck To Heaven, his solo albums have gradually become more songs based, culminating in his latest, which is as close to pop as he has ever strayed. However, it is a version of pop quite like no other, featuring his gravelly baritone voice amidst an array of funky, wobbly and expansive beats and sounds, mainly electronic, which turn these songs into what one could imagine hearing from an FM station broadcasting, possibly, from Venus. (John)

Vanished gardens / Charles Lloyd & The Marvels + Lucinda Williams.
Some say that this collaboration pioneers a new genre of ‘Americana Jazz’ and it’s a very good description of this music. For their second album, the legendary jazz saxophonist Charles Lloyd and the Marvels invite one-of-a-kind singer Lucinda Williams, and present a wonderful music, bringing together jazz, country, blues and gospel. Not only Lloyd and Williams but The Marvels is also a group of master musicians – Bill Frisell (guitar), Greg Leisz (pedal steel), Reuben Rogers (bass) and Eric Harland (drums) – and everyone here marvellously displays their unique genius; unmistakable dusty Williams’ voice, Frisell’s texturized guitar, versatile Lloyd’s rich tone etc., to make a great band sound. Most of the songs are originals by Lloyd or Williams but the album closes with two glorious covers; Thelonious Monk’s ‘Monk’s Mood’ and Jimi Hendrix’s masterpiece ‘Angel’. Sublime. (Shinji)

Staff Pick CDs for Nov/Dec: Part 1

GAS CD Cover

The first part of the latest round-up of Staff Picks features an eclectic mix of recommendations from Electronica to NZ, to Box-set reissues, and Indie. Keep an eye out for part two coming soon!

Suffuse.
Christchurch based guitarist Roy Montgomery’s first band were the Pin Group whose 7” single ‘Ambivalence’ was the very first Flying Nun release back in 1981. Almost 40 years later Roy Montgomery continues to push the edges and his latest release finds him creating six deeply layered shimmering soundscapes, each featuring a different guest female vocalist including Liz Harris, aka Grouper, and Julianna Barwick. These beautifully produced ambient experimental drones are deeply hypnotic and are given an added edge by the vocal component that humanizes the sounds without detracting from their transcendental properties. Overall a very successful project that, in a perfect world, would find cult guitar legend Roy Montgomery a wider audience. (John)

DJ-kicks : DJ Seinfeld.
It’s a sure sign that a new electronic sub-genre has been validated when a leading DJ of the style is asked to submit a mix to the long running DJ Kicks series. Number 64 in the series is from Swedish producer, Armand Jakobsson, aka, DJ Seinfeld, a leading light in the fresh Lo-Fi House sub-genre. Confusingly, Lo-Fi House appears to be an attitude rather than an actual sound – predicated on a deliberately rough around the edges production style and a can-do, outsider attitude. Here we have a cool selection of contemporary electronica, light and groovy, that moves very smoothly through deep house, breakbeats, electro, downbeat and more with, interestingly, eight of the 21 tracks coming from Melbourne producers. (John)

Loving the alien [1983-1988].
There has been a few great David Bowie releases in 2018 including Welcome to the Blackout (live London 78) and December saw the first DVD release of his seminal Glastonbury performance from 2000, often cited as the greatest Glastonbury headline performance ever. There is also the continuation of the fabulous box set releases of his back catalogue, this one entitled Loving the alien (1983-1988), an eleven disc outing that covers his most commercial period. In late 60s Kenneth Pitt, one of Bowies early managers, tried to turn David Bowie into an all-round mass market entertainer and in the 80’s under his own steam that’s exactly what he became. And I guess that’s the only way you can view these releases. They just don’t inhabit the same worlds as his 70’s output- these albums are more Chic, or Michael Jackson, than Ziggy Stardust. However if you listen to them with your 80’s disco ears on there is a lot to be enjoyed! The remastered version of Lets Dance has many pleasures. The Loving the Alien album has one or two fine tracks but the most interesting aspect of this release is the new version of Never Let Me Down. This 2018 version has been totally reworked with many of the classic 80’s elements removed and replaced with completely new elements. This new version is certainly a vast improvement on the original release and free of the 80s bombastic production; it gains a new life with songs being given the space to breathe and so becomes subtle and complex in tone. (Neil J)

All that reckoning.
It was 1986 that the Canadian band Cowboy Junkies played a key part in creating the template for alt-country with their classic Lo-Fi album The Trinity Session. Exactly 30 years on, it’s great to hear, on their first record in six years, that these musos in their 50’s are still creating their beautiful, fiery, fragile sound world. This collection of dark, existentialist songs that deal with political, social and personal situations are beautifully delivered by vocalist Margo Timmins, accompanied by her brothers on guitar and drums, with bass player, Alan Anton. The often delicate songs are frequently shot through with discordant noise and a blurry psychedelic edge, sometimes subtle, other times harsh, to create atmospheres haunting, tender and tense. (John)

Body / The Necks.
Back to the Chris Cutler (Henry Cow/Art Bears)’s ReR label, the world famous Australian cult trio, The Necks’ 20th album finds them a superb form. Once again, it’s a 60 minutes-long improvisation affair, opening and closing with the beautifully executed piano-led ambient sound. However, the chunk of middle part is a frantic electric guitar riff like a storm. This definitely comes as a shock for many but probably not so surprising, if you remember that they have been one of the most forward-thinking, push-the-boundary bands. It’s been almost three decades since they started performing together but they still have fresh ideas and keep evolving. This is one of their bests and confirms again that they are truly original. Phenomenal. (Shinji)

Loop-finding-jazz-records.
Originally released in 2001, Loop Finding Jazz Records was groundbreaking in the, then, new domain of minimal electronica, featuring subtle use of micro samples and flickering glitch generated rhythms to create music that was oddly mesmerizing. This record has become a cult favorite and has aged surprisingly well, the languorous textures and sub-sonic bass creating a timeless sound world, somewhere between ambient and sub-aquatic minimal house. Despite being created with micro-samples taken from jazz records, this album bears no resemblance to that genre, presenting more a strange and dreamlike soundtrack for an imaginary, removed and flawless post-human existence, perfect for home listening. (John)

Re:member.
Its hard to credit that Icelandic composer Olafur Arnalds started out as drummer for a hardcore band, as this collection of incredibly delicate and achingly beautiful pieces for piano, cello, orchestra and electronics are about as far from hardcore drumming as can be imagined. Recognized as one of the leading figures in the modern classical genre, Arnalds here applies subtle electronic algorithms to his compositions via the use of software he developed that generates alternate notes on two other pianos from the notes he is playing. The results are gorgeous harmonics that add complexity to the deceptively simple and beautifully restrained compositions which straddle modern classical, ambient and electronica. (John)

Negro swan.
A deeply sensitive and resonant album, Blood Orange delivers beautiful production and emotive vocal performances. Pitchfork reviewer Jason King put it best when he described the album as capturing “the scattershot, jittery, anxious, blissed-out-depressive feeling of what it’s like to be a marginalized person at a toxic and retrograde moment in global culture and politics.” Recommended tracks are ‘Orlando’ and ‘Charcoal Baby’. (Joe)

Searching for the spark.
Special mention must go to the Steve Hillage Box Set – if only for its sheer magnitude – so make sure you are feeling fit if you decide to access this item, as just carrying the weighty box home presents a challenge. Contained within are 22 CDs and four books which encapsulate the UK psych-rock guitarist’s entire career. While not exactly a household name, Steve Hillage is probably most famous for his role as guitarist on Gong’s cult Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy, after which he went on to a solo career – as documented in this box set. Of particular interest are the recordings of and writings about the early Canterbury scene, which he was a formative part of as guitarist for the bands Uriel and Khan. Also included is the first System 7 album, his, still current, techno based project, featuring guest artists such as Derek May, Alex Paterson and Paul Oakenfold. (John)

Rausch.
German electronic producer Wolfgang Voigt has been running his Gas project since 1996 and his music has taken a darker turn for this, his sixth release. His compositions feature processed orchestral samples densely layered, frequently over a deeply submerged 4/4 rhythm, that evoke, if anything, a warm, timeless cocoon. Here, however, the atmosphere has become foreboding with dissonance and anxiety entering into a world that once seemed welcoming. ‘Rausch’ translates as an ecstatic state or fever dream, and this music, which contains bright and beautiful moments emerging from an often imposing and dense gloom, while not for the faint-hearted, offers a rewarding deep listening experience. (John)

Everybody else is doing it, so why can’t we? : 25th anniversary edition.
With Dolores O’Riordan’s distinctive voice, The Cranberries were one of those bands you either loved or hated, but there was no denying the success and pervasiveness of their first 2 albums in the early 90s. Last year the band came together to plan a 25th Anniversary Box Set release of their debut album, and following O’Riordan’s untimely death in January, the remaining band members have decided to go ahead with the 25th Anniversary Box Set as a tribute to her. As well as the original album, it includes a plethora of recordings from that era spread across 3 discs, including some rare tracks sourced from their early cassette releases as ‘The Cranberry Saw Us’. It also includes a 52-page hardback book that details the creation of the record and the history of the bands ‘rags to riches’ journey, which is itself a fascinating look back at a Music Industry that doesn’t exist anymore. A fitting tribute to one of the most iconic voices of popular music. (Mark)

The loneliest girl.
Difficult to pin down, AK pop chanteuse Chelsea Nikkel confounds with her fourth album, which extends her previous synth-pop arrangements into a wide array of new areas, with each of the 12 tracks pretty much inhabiting a different pop arena. Produced by alt-pop maestro Jonathon Bree, this is pop, but pop with a distinctly Lynchian feel, as within the sweet vocals and pink ribbons beats a dark heart delivering these thoughtfully produced bitter sweet songs. It all hangs together remarkably well, and beneath the la-la-las there lurks a deceptively subversive baroque take on the pop format that is entertaining from start to finish. (John)

Strictly rhythm : underground ’90-’97.
The latest edition in Cherry Red’s expertly curated re-issue series features a three disc collection of standout tracks from NY based Strictly Rhythm, the label that played a vital role in creating the dance genre known as House. Home to artists such as Roger Sanchez, Todd Terry, Louie Vega and Armand Van Helden, Strictly Rhythm was the leading US house music label throughout the ‘90’s. This retrospective is almost a history of NY underground house music itself, with the biggest hits deliberately overlooked in favor of club classics, hidden treasures and tracks never before released on CD. With all tracks fully restored and remastered this is a great peek into the roots of contemporary dance music. (John)

Anthem of the sun.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead’s second album. Their spacey, sun-tanned San Francisco rock is on form for these groovy and psychedelic tunes. The album is grounded in folk-rock and blues, but takes cues from free-jazz. Keith Richards once said of the Grateful Dead that they were “just poodling about for hours and hours. Jerry Garcia, boring s—, man. Sorry, Jerry.” But on this album, the Dead are tighter than ever. Standout songs include New Potato Caboose and That’s it for the Other One. The anniversary edition includes the 1968 version and 1971 remix of the original album and previously unreleased live recordings. (Joe)

The nature of imitation.
The new album by Oliver Johnson, AKA Dorian Concept, is on Brainfeeder, the LA experimental hip-hop label, which makes sense for a musician who played keyboards in Flying Lotus’s touring band and worked on Cosmogramma…  and the experience shows. This is music “meant to play on our short attention spans” and the live instrumentation inspired by jazz, fusion, prog and funk and subject to an intense process of digital editing, creates surprisingly listenable stuttered, chopped up shapeshifting music comparable to other Brainfeeder artists such as Flying Lotus and Thundercat with a solid nod to Squarepusher. With the fleeting appearance of soulful vocals and untreated piano to mellow things out, this is an intriguing musical ride. (John)

Collapse.
The appearance of cryptic 3D posters on the walls of the London Underground network bearing the Aphex Twin logo was a sure sign that something was brewing and when the video for a new track called Collapse was banned, as it failed the test for TV image sequences that would provoke photosensitive epilepsy, it became clear that Richard James aka Aphex Twin was in the area once again. This five track ep is the latest in a series of EPs that have followed Aphex Twin’s triumphant 2014 return with the album Syro and is his most familiar so far, bearing all of the hallmarks of classic Aphex Twin electronica – frantic stuttered beats, rubbery bass lines, beautiful submerged melodies, evocative vocal samples and complex shifting arrangements. (John)