Our favourite CDs this month

Our music enthusiasts John and Neil J. select their favourite music over the last few months. Check them out!

John’s picks

Real Estate – In Mind
In a world of constant change predictability can sometimes be a comforting thing and once again, indie hipster heroes, Real Estate, deliver another portion of their gorgeous laid back jangle pop. It is 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 – and the fact that there are no surprises is in this case a definite plus. They may be heading down exactly the same road – but it’s hard not to hope they keep doing so for a while yet.

The Handsome Family – Unseen
Another act that successfully tread a well-honed path are husband and wife alt country duo, The Handsome Family. It would be easy to assume that ten albums in they had exhausted ideas for their dark and entrancing gothic folk country sound, but this would be a mistake as, if anything, the contrary is true, with ‘Unseen’ the best record they have made for a while. The melodies are lovely, their darkly surreal stories as absorbing as ever and the playing as understated and gently off- kilter as to be expected. There was a time when The Handsome Family were a closely guarded secret amongst devout fans, until their title theme for ‘True Detective’ cast them into the spotlight, and the exposure appears to have given them a new confidence.

Grandaddy – Last Place
Well-crafted songs, unpretentious 2000’s indie-rock sensibilities, great hooks – guess what, California’s Grandaddy have made a new record after an 11 year silence! 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. The production is excellent – not trendy lo-fi and not over produced bombast –and gives the guitar, keyboards, occasional strings and electronics room to breathe under Lyttle’s hushed vocals to create a lovely listening experience. Grandaddy were always slightly out of place and now, probably even more so, but their workmanlike song craft and studied carelessness offer a welcome return.

The United States of America – The United States of America
Released in 1968, this was one of the most progressive records released at the time and among the first to feature electronics within a band setup. Grounded in psychedelia but influenced by the New York avant-garde experimental scene, band leader Joe Byrd recruited a group of UCLA students, well versed in John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, to record the group’s lone self-titled LP. The record flopped, but went on to attain cult status and, apart from some of the hippie inspired lyrics such as “Lemonous petals, dissident play/ Tasting of ergot/ Dancing by night, dying by day”, it sounds remarkably contemporary with musique concrete-style tape collages, white noise, tape delay, ring-modulated fade-outs and distorted synthesizers. This re-issue includes 10 extra alternate takes.

Illum Sphere – Glass
The second album on Ninja Tune from UK electronic producer Ryan Hunn finds him ditching the vocals of his debut to present an excellent album of studied electronica. Maintaining a nice balance between abstract and melodic, the tracks wend their way through a variety of styles including minimal four to the floor, sequencer driven grooves, atmospheric ambient and dubbed out chillscapes throughout a confident and beautifully produced immersive listening experience.

Slowdive – Slowdive
It’s always a risk when a band that has attained cult status makes a new album, and the 22 years since Slowdive’s last record is a good case in point. Key figures in the early ‘90’s Shoegaze movement, Neil Halstead’s vast glistening guitar textures and Rachel Goswell’s hushed vocals, last heard on 1995’s ‘Pygmalion’, have been a huge influence on many bands over the past two decades and it is a great pleasure to discover that their 2017 album is a grandiose and spectacular comeback. Everything a fan could hope for is here – deep layers of beautifully textured guitars and lovely plaintive vocals delivering songs, wistful and reflective, within a shimmering production……. and not a guitar solo in earshot.

Gas – Narkopop
In 2000 German electronic maestro Wolfgang Voigt released ‘Pop’, a deeply immersive record, featuring layered loops of orchestral samples to create engrossing electronic ambient music that exhibited all the majesty of classical. Since then he has pretty much created a genre of beatless electronica via his annual Pop Ambient compilations that feature a wide array of electronic artists applying techno production techniques to ambient textures. ‘Narkopop’, his first full release in 17 years, is a follow up to ‘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.

Fazerdaze – Morningside
The latest release from Flying Nun is ‘Morningside’ the debut album by Fazerdaze, an AK band fronted by Wellington born, bedroom pop artist Amelia Murray. Receiving rave reviews worldwide, the album has even been described as ‘generation defining’ on Canadian website ‘The Review’. Since their recent Laneway performance interest in the band has skyrocketed, with their infectious jangly guitar pop finding an audience in a young generation that has been described as the ‘anxious generation’, and if that is true then it is easy to understand how comfort could be found in these simple and stylish songs. Amelia Murray has a sweet voice and her songs hold emotional resonance, revealing a wide range of feelings – anxiety, trepidation, hope, and relief – delivered via confident song structures and diverse arrangements that reveal glimpses of darkness under the apparent innocence.

Fujiya & Miyagi – Fujiya & Miyagi
Six albums in and the Brighton, UK, based band are gradually becoming underground favorites worldwide. Their latest release compiles three eps released over the past year and finds the band fine tuning their sound. They appeared pretty much fully formed back in 2002 and their idiosyncratic sound hasn’t changed a lot since then, but they have grown into a tight band that successfully blends dance floor electro with band sensibilities and their krautrock inspired electro grooves and whispered vocals are presented here with a lot of confidence.

Tycho – Epoch
Another band that bridge electronica and indie rock are Tycho from San Francisco who have developed from the solo IDM project of electronic producer Scott Hansen into one of the best known instrumental electronic bands of this era. ‘Epoch’, their fourth release, received a 2017 Grammy nomination for Best Dance/Electronic Album, which is surprising considering the amount of guitar playing and drums that feature on a record that is, essentially, an instrumental post rock album. Generally it’s a four to the floor excursion with a few tracks rhythms verging on math rock and even drum’n’bass, yet overall the swirling guitars and cascading synths maintain a steady flow of highly enjoyable grooves.

Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble – Finding Me Finding You
The demise of UK post rockers Stereolab left a gap in contemporary music, but some solace can be found in the fact that there are now two bands in Stereolabs place, with Tim Gane’s Cavern of Anti-Matter exploring further into kraut rock while Laetitia Sadier continues to create her surreal sensual pop informed by the harmonies and lush instrumentation of exotica, easy listening and tropicalia. This is her fourth record since Stereolab split in 2010, and she has proven to be an artist with a clear singular vision which she explores consistently, with the addition of subtle twist here and there. Here she presents her warmest record yet, however the beauty is lodged within shifting abstract song structures that demand a listener’s perseverance – but the effort is well rewarded.

Karriem Riggins – Headnod Suite
Not quite a jazz album and not quite a beat tape, Detroit drummer and producer Karriem Riggins’ second album contains 29 tracks, most of them less than two minutes in duration, that run together to create an engrossing listen featuring vocal snippets and instrumental samples all pushed along by very cool beats. Anyone who has enjoyed the contemporary re-invention of Afro-American fusion explored on Robert Glasper’s remix projects, which re-imagine hip-hop, jazz, electronics and soul, should find this an interesting release. Like classic instrumental hip hop releases such as ‘Donuts’ (Karriem Riggins worked with J Dilla) the multitude of sounds dissipate as quickly as they appear entrancing the attentive listener

Jah Wobble & the Invaders of the Heart – Everything Is Nothing
35 years ago it would have been impossible to foresee the bass player from Johnny Rotten’s post punk band Public Image Ltd making an album of spiritual jazz-funk, but times change and Jah Wobbles latest PledgeMusic funded record is an excellent contemporary fusion of afro-beat, jazz and polyrhythmic funk. Producer Youth has described the record as Wobble’s “Miles Davis opus”, which may be an overstatement; however, this predominantly instrumental album features ten tracks delivered by a talented group of virtuosos who never grandstand but play to the funky polyrhythmic grooves, anchored by Wobble’s dub-infused bass and former Fela Kuti drummer, Tony Allen. Featuring muted trumpet, piano, guitar, Rhodes, vibes, synth, blistering sax (courtesy of Hawkwind’s Nik Turner), flute and strings, this is a big and very funky sound that both references and pays homage to the influential afro jazz that has gone before.

Neil J’s picks

Jesca Hoop – Memories are now
The supremely talented Jesca’s latest release is another subtle, melodic, sophisticated outing. Building on her previous releases it as the cliché says “ rewards repeated listening’s”. Bound to be in many peoples best of 2017 lists when that time comes. A rather beautiful wee album.

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

Bonobo – Migration
Bonobo aka Simon Green’s latest work is a sonically rich , dreamy and downbeat piece of electronica with the odd vocal sprinkled through. Its easily his most listenable work to date.

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.

Librarians’ favourite DVDs of the month

A wide range of movies & TV shows curated by our avid AV fans on staff for the first half of the year. We hope you find something new to enjoy.

Beauty and the beast.
Belle (Emma Watson), a bright, beautiful and independent young woman, is taken prisoner by a beast (Dan Stevens) in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the beast’s hideous exterior, recognising the kind heart and soul of the true prince that hides on the inside. Overall it was an interesting revamp of the original animated 1992 classic. I found there was more depth to the characters: Belle and the beast, and perhaps more of a back story as to how their background, experiences and personalities shaped the people that they came to be. As always, the story encourages viewers to look beyond the superficial and to be compassionate, curious, humble, and generous. This movie is a must see and has been worth the long wait. A film that the entire family can enjoy on a night out on the town– especially on a Saturday night! 9/10 all the way! (Katie)

The girl on the train.
Rachel (Emily Blunt), devastated by her recent divorce, spends her daily commute fantasising about the seemingly perfect couple who live in a house that her train passes every day, until one morning she sees something shocking happen there and becomes entangled in the mystery that unfolds. Solid adaptation of Paula Hawkins novel which, given it largely consisted of the main characters internal monologue, must have proven difficult to adapt. The location is changed to the States like High Fidelity, and like a spate of recent adaptations would probably have benefitted from being a BBC or ITV mini-series rather than a feature film. Probably, as with Gone Girl, more enjoyable if you haven’t yet read the book, but if you have it’s still an entertaining watch. (Mark)

I, Daniel Blake.
Always defending the socially vulnerable, Ken Loach’s career has spanned five decades and at the age of 80, he delivers one of his finest works. Obviously he is furious about the British welfare state and the heartless bureaucracy but with as little drama as possible, masterfully depicts the struggles of widowed carpenter Daniel Blake who has suffered a heart attack and a young single mother of two Katie. With the help of the excellent screenplay by his long-time collaborator Paul Laverty, there are lovely moments of humour and warmth in this harsh social realism drama and makes it even more memorable. A small triumph. (Shinji)

Finding Dory.
This movie is in a word, FANTASTIC! Finding Dory reunites the friendly but forgetful blue tang fish, Dory, along with her friends, Marlin and Nemo on an epic quest to find Dory’s family. The questions that hangs on everyone’s lips are what does she remember? Who are her parents? And where did she learn to speak whale? Even the Pixar short film, Piper that was released alongside Finding Dory is beautiful and heart-warming. Two movies for the price of one, you can’t go wrong. Overall, I loved the film! It will make you laugh, it will make you cry and it will make you want to watch it over and over again. It is truly unforgettable. A well-deserved 9/10. (Katie)

Sully.
Clint Eastwood helms this adaptation of the events of January 15, 2009, the Miracle on the Hudson, when Captain “Sully” Sullenberger (played by Tom Hanks) glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 aboard. It would be easy to downplay this as ‘solid’ or ‘straight-forward’ but after a recent span of bloated and overly arty biographical adaptations this 96 minutes is a perfect example of solid Hollywood film-making. If it seems underplayed or lacks that ‘larger than life’ factor of most biopics it’s a deliberate move, the no-nonsense storytelling a perfect match for the cool, collected nature of its subject. (Mark)

Captain Fantastic.
Ben, a father of 6, is raising his kids “off grid” and teaching them how to survive in the wild as well as feeding their amazing minds with his own home schooling techniques. Each child is unique and the viewer sees how Ben has tailored their learning to incorporate each one as well as “the whole”. When tragedy strikes he is forced to take them away from their known environment into the frightening modern world. The children’s grandparents disagree with the way he is raising his children and arguments ensue and lead him to question his beliefs. This movie made me laugh and cry and gave insights into modern child rearing and how it can be scary no matter where you bring your children up. 5 out of 5 stars. (Raewyn)

The man from U.N.C.L.E..
Set in the 60’s and at the height of the Cold War, a mysterious criminal organization plans to use nuclear weapons and technology to upset the fragile balance of power between the United States and Soviet Union. So in typical Superhero style, CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) are forced to put aside their hostilities and work together to stop the bad guys in their tracks. The duo’s only lead is the daughter of a missing German scientist, Gabby (Alicia Vikander), whom they must find soon to prevent a global catastrophe. In typical Ritchie fashion, there is plenty of fast moving (and perhaps violent) action sequences, memorable one liners, cameos by very famous actors and sporting figures (infamous cameo from David Beckham! – Whoohoo!), plenty of twists and turns that you don’t see coming. Overall a great film filled with action, comedy, romance and suspense. (Katie)

Arrival.
When mysterious spacecraft’s touch down across the globe, an elite team, led by expert codebreaker Louise Banks (Amy Adams), is brought together to investigate. As various countries respond differently to the situation an ‘attack’ on the new invaders seems immanent, as Banks and the team (Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker) race against time to crack a way of communicating with the aliens to learn just what their purpose in coming to Earth is. Marketed as a sci-fi film, it’s more philosophical in nature, similar to Jodie Foster’s ‘Contact’, Solaris or the recent wave of films like Ex-Machina or Coherence that focus more on the cerebral rather than spectacle. Perhaps not for everyone, but definitely different than the usual Hollywood approach. (Mark)

Indignation.
This directorial debut of James Schamus, who is well known as a producer particularly for Ang Lee’s works, is a faithful adaptation of Philip Roth’s late novel of the same title. Set in the 50s, it’s a bitter coming of age tale about the intelligent but complex Jewish student Marcus (Logan Lerman). Schamus transformed it into a solid, sophisticated work which features some impressive acting, including a16-minute-long verbal spar scene between Dean and Marcus. Apparently Roth was pleased with the film. It’s a relief for the director and the audience alike. (Shinji) Continue reading “Librarians’ favourite DVDs of the month”

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 DVDs – Best of 2016

We’ve been watching a wide variety of films & TV shows so here are some of our favourites from last year. Plenty of different genres, so hopefully you will find something to enjoy that you may have missed the first time around.

Katie’s Picks:
Cover imageBlindspot. The complete first season.
A new crime/drama/thriller TV series that focuses on a mysterious tattooed woman dubbed Jane Doe who has lost her memory and possesses unique hand to hand combat skills. She then works with the FBI when they realize her tattoos hold the key to solving certain crimes that take place throughout the series. However the question on everyone’s lips throughout the series, is who is Jane Doe and whose side is she on. I think she is the most mysterious, unique and captivating character I have ever encountered. Just when she learns something new about herself and her identity, and you think you have her figured out, something new always arises and leaves you wondering. This is an amazing series that will have you glued to the screen, that will keep you on the edge from start to finish, with a gripping season finale that will encourage you to watch season two.

Cover imageEye in the sky.
A unique and heartbreaking thriller that provides insight into the moral implications and the cost of modern warfare. What should sound like a walk in the park for the military minds in the US and the UK when they together to capture terrorists in Nairobi goes pear shaped when a girl enters the kill zone. This then triggers an international dispute over the implications of modern warfare over whether the girl should be sacrificed to save the lives of many and prevent imminent disaster. This film will leave you crying tears of frustration and agony, as well as hanging in moral knots and pondering over questions such as “Does conscience still figure in modern warfare?”, and perhaps make you think twice about people working in military roles. I was particularly by the late Alan Rickman’s performance, especially during the last scene where he gives a touched by a passionate and moving declaration about what a military man really knows of war, that will also get you thinking. Overall, a fantastic film worth watching!

Mark’s Picks:
Cover imageBillions. Season one.
In this Showtime drama about power politics in the world of New York high finance Damian Lewis is hedge fund king Bobby “Axe” Axelrod, while Paul Giamatti is the shrewd & ruthless U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades who is out to bring him down – a task made more complicated by the fact that Rhodes’ wife (Maggie Siff) works for Axelrod’s company as an in-house therapist. Rhodes believes that Axelrod & his Wall Street associates are nothing but criminals who are destroying America and and soon the two alpha-males are on an explosive collision course, with each using all of his considerable smarts, power and influence to outmanoeuvre the other. Fast paced and full of complex shady financial & political dealings and fantastic performances from the three main leads.

Cover imageMr. Robot. Season 1.
‘Mr. Robot’ stars Rami Malek as Elliot a socially-awkward cyber-security engineer by day and vigilante hacker by night, who finds himself approached by the enigmatic ‘Mr. Robot’ (Christian Slater), the mysterious head of an underground hacker collective who want to bring down the major corporation that Elliot’s company provides security for. However Elliot is also a very troubled young man with a ‘history’ of breakdowns, is currently undergoing court-mandated therapy, & has recently stopped taking his medication. ‘Mr. Robot’ pushes zeitgeist buttons on everything from wealth inequality, the power & control of corporations, social media, data breaches & hackers in new & interesting ways. The cast is uniformly excellent, especially Malek & Slater.

Cover imageOccupied. Series 1.
Set in the near future, where a catastrophic hurricane fuelled by climate change, has led to the rise of the Norwegian Green Party into political power. Idealistic Prime Minister Jesper Berg, has plans for thorium-based nuclear energy, and cuts off all fossil fuel production. With the Middle East in turmoil, Europe is suffering an energy crisis, and in retaliation the EU asks Russia to initiate a ‘velvet glove’ invasion of Norway. Russian special forces kidnap Berg, insisting that he submit to EU demands or face a full-scale invasion. What follows is told from the perspective of several characters as the effects of a ‘non-violent’ occupation begin to insidiously colour the lives and undercut the political processes of the Norwegian people.

Cover imageThe night of.
Critically acclaimed HBO drama starring John Turturro and Riz Ahmed. New York student Naz (Ahmed) embarks on a wild night of drugs and sex with a mysterious woman after picking her up in his father’s cab. The next morning he wakes to find her stabbed to death in her bed. With no recollection of the previous night’s events, Naz flees the scene but is quickly brought in by the city’s police and identified as the main suspect for the murder. Scuffling precinct- crawling defence lawyer John Stone (Turturro) finds himself in the right place at the right time to take Naz’s case, and after initially thinking of it as a way to lift his own fortunes, he comes to believe in his clients innocence. Based on the UK series Criminal Justice.

Cover imageThe night manager. The complete series.
British-American television miniseries adaptation of the 1993 novel of the same name by John le Carré, adapted to the present day starring Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, and Olivia Colman. Hiddleston is the titular ‘Night-Manager’, a loner and former soldier who crosses paths with the beautiful mistress of a powerful man in the Cairo hotel where he works. After she passes some documents to him for safe keeping, he in turn passes them onto a contact in the British Embassy & thus on to British Intelligence. A leak ensues, and blaming himself after she is killed, he drifts through several courtiers, eventually ending up 4 years later in a small hotel in Zurich. One night he learns a guest is coming to stay, an English arms dealer (Laurie) whom he believes was one of the people responsible for the death of the woman years ago. Seeing a chance for revenge he re-instigates a contact at British Intelligence (Coleman) and thus begins a plan to infiltrate Laurie’s organisation.

Shinji’s Picks:
Cover imageTehran taxi.
Iranian master director and activist Jafar Panahi has been banned from making films since 2010. However, he is somehow still doing what he is genius at. In this film, the director himself drives a taxi through the city of Tehran and picks up various passengers, and cleverly turns the taxi into a mirror of Iranian society, social morals and politics. The message implied in the film is powerful and serious but he does it with a droll, playful manner. Ingenious.

Cover imageCarol.
In the painting of Edward Hopper’s like milieu, Douglas Sirk-esque gorgeous melodrama unfolds. Adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt, Todd Haynes weaves an impeccable love story of two women in the 50s. The milieu of the era is exquisitely recreated and every element shapes the film, such as cinematography, art design, wardrobe and music, contribute marvellously to this forbidden but distained encounter. Divine. (Shinji)

Cover imageThe assassin.
This meticulously crafted film is better to be watched on a big screen, but Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s first wuxia (martial hero) film in his long career is a sublime, breathtakingly beautiful film in which every scene is a work of art. The story is told in ‘read between the lines’ style and it may be a good idea to go into the film with some prior knowledge of the plot. Nevertheless, it’s a bliss. (Shinji)

Cover imageOur little sister.
With the exquisite tempo and the graceful camera work, Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda crafts an intimate, slowly savoured family drama about four Japanese sisters, one of whom has been adopted by the other three. One of the most consistent filmmakers of today, Kore-eda offers beautiful tenderness and emotion though successive small moments of everyday life. Maybe everything is too nice and a little soppy, but this ‘sweet and loveliness’ is hard to resist. (Shinji)

Sandy’s Pick:
Cover imageSoundbreaking : stories from the cutting edge of recorded music.
This is an 8-part documentary series about the evolution of music production and recording, mainly in the form of interviews with people from the industry – artists, writers, and producers (the unsung heroes!). Fascinating and informative, it tells how various innovations led from one recording method to the next and covers genres from disco to hiphop to rock – a trip down memory lane for us older music lovers and for the younger ones, a real eye-opener, I would imagine. I particularly enjoyed listening to well-known musicians talking about the artists who influenced them.

Brigid’s Picks:
Cover imageOutlander. Season two.

CoverimageLondon has fallen.

Cover imageThe BFG.

cover imageStar wars. The Force awakens.

Axel’s Picks:
Cover imageThe witch: a New-England folktale.

cover imageGreen room.

Cover imageKubo and the two strings.

Cover imageThe jungle book.

Cover imageHail, Caesar!

Cover imageHunt for the Wilderpeople.

Cover imageSausage party.

Cover imageTickled.

Cover imageMr. Robot. Season 1.

Cover imageThe big short.

Cover imageThe revenant.

Cover imageVictoria.

Monty’s Picks:
Cover imageHail, Caesar!

Cover imageThe returned. Series two.

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 DVDs – Dec/Jan

Some staff DVD picks to round out the year- an acclaimed HBO drama, Italian comedy, Japanese animation, German horror, and an in depth examination of the Cimemax oeuvre. We will be back early next year with the picks of our favourite DVDs of 2016.

Cover imageThe night of.
Critically acclaimed HBO drama starring John Turturro and Riz Ahmed. New York student Naz (Ahmed) embarks on a wild night of drugs and sex with a mysterious woman after picking her up in his father’s cab. The next morning he wakes to find her stabbed to death in her bed. With no recollection of the previous night’s events, Naz flees the scene but is quickly brought in by the city’s police and identified as the main suspect for the murder. Scuffling precinct- crawling defence lawyer John Stone (Turturro) finds himself in the right place at the right time to take Naz’s case, and after initially thinking of it as a way to lift his own fortunes, he comes to believe in his clients innocence. Based on the UK series Criminal Justice, it had initially been a passion project of James Gandolfini, who was to play the part of lawyer Jack Stone before his untimely death. However Turturro steps up instead and delivers a knockout performance. Scripted by novelist Richard Price, it succeeds on every level. Recommended. (Mark)

Cover imageOur kind of traitor.
A civilian couple (Ewan McGregor & Naomie Harris) on vacation in Marrakesh to work on their marriage befriend a flamboyant and charismatic Russian named Dima (Stellan Skarsgard), who, unbeknownst to them, is a financial wizard/money launderer for the Russian mafia. When Dima confides to his new friends that he plans to escape from the mob, they agree to be the go-between for him with MI6. He promises the accounts and names of prominent British Politicians receiving bribes to open a new London based bank that will be a front for Russian Mob money, in exchange for asylum for himself and his family. But with MI6 officer Damien Lewis running an operation unsanctioned & opposed by his political bosses, how can they get Dima and his family out? While it perhaps lacks the gravitas of The Constant Gardener, or A Most Wanted Man, this is a solid adaptation of the John Le Carré novel from 2010. McGregor & Harris are good as the ordinary couple, Skarsgard chews scenery as the larger than life Dima, and Damien Lewis is excellent as the clinical upper-crust MI6 agent. Definitely worth a watch. Perhaps the main issue it has, is that it had the misfortune to be made/released around the same time as the excellent The Night Manager, which showed just how much Le Carre’s tales benefit from a longer running time and a more detailed approach. (Mark)

Cover imageMy Mother = Mia madre.
Margherita is a renowned film director but struggling to complete her latest film. She’s broken up with her partner and doesn’t have the slightest idea what her daughter has been up to. Her life is in tatters, and furthermore and most importantly, her beloved mother is dying. Italy’s leading film maker Nanni Moretti (The Son’s Room, We have a Pope)’s new film is about facing mortality. The theme is naturally sombre but Moretti, who is one of the unique auteurs of today, shows his flair of comedy and ingenious skill to make it a tender, charming family drama. It’s a perfectly constructed film in which every detail is in the right order, and has a beautiful balance of melodrama and comedy. Before we know it, we share the story rather than watching it. After all, we are all someone’s children. (Shinji)

Cover imageGoodnight mommy.
Eerie German ‘horror’ film sees 9 year old twins Lukas & Elias living in an idyllic isolated summer cottage waiting for their Mother to return from having plastic surgery. When she returns her face is covered in bandages, and slowly little things emerge about her seem that seem off. Gradually their suspicions increase… Is that really their mother under the bandages? Some have criticised that the twist is telegraphed far too early & easy to guess. Maybe so, but the film isn’t really about the twist, it’s about the insular nature of the world of ‘childhood’ , the slow build of tension & atmosphere. More for those who are into the new ‘wave’ of non-slasher horror films as represented by films like It Follows, Babadook & Under The Skin. (Mark)

Cover imageGreen room.
Down-on-their-luck punk rockers ‘The Ain’t Rights’ agree to a last-minute gig in a backwoods Oregon roadhouse. The gig soon takes a sinister turn as the band members stumble upon a grisly murder scene and find themselves trapped in the Roadhouse, targeted by a ruthless club owner and his associates, determined to eliminate all witnesses. Effective indie thriller sees the talented Anton Yelchin in one of his final roles, and a nasty turn from Patrick Stewart as the leader of a bunch of Neo-Nazi’s. Makes the most of its claustrophobic setting. Definitely worth a watch. (Mark)

Cover imageThe tale of the Princess Kaguya.
Watching at home last week, I found ‘The Tale of the Princess Kaguya’ to be an absolute revelation. The film retells one of the earliest recorded Japanese folk-tales, a story of love and obligation which plays out between humans and the denizens of other realms. It blends the fantastic with the everyday, and handles both with deftness and great emotional charge. Coming from the famous Ghibli studios, its elegant design and thoughtful storytelling are a cut above even its famous stable-mates; the animation style is particularly striking, drawing on traditional modes of brush painting and contemporary digital techniques to produce some startlingly expressionistic and charged moments. The sound design is likewise exceptional, building an elegiac mood of dreamlike fantasy around the film’s stunning images. I have rarely been more moved by any film than by ‘The Tale of the Princess Kaguya’, which manages to draw memorable moments of great lightness, sublimity and humour, and weighty human realities, into one perfectly formed whole. Due to the film’s length, I wouldn’t recommend it for the smallest people, but it’s excellent for the thoughtful older child who loves a strong story, as well as adults of all ages. (Alex)

Currently riding high with the success of the adaptation of Max Allan Collins’ gritty Quarry crime novels which is getting favourable comparisons to the first season of True Detective, the following reviews are a look at the guilty pleasure of some of Cinemax’s (or ‘Skinemax’ as it is better known) attempts at legitimate TV programming…
CoverimageHunted.[Series one].
Melissa George helms this Spy drama, created by X-Files alumni Frank Spotnitz, a joint production between the BBC & Cinemax. George plays Sam Hunter an operative for a private Intelligence/Security firm called ‘Byzantium’, who is ambushed after a rescue operation in Tangiers. Barely managing to survive she recuperates for a year in secret before returning to Byzantium, where her new assignment is to infiltrate the family of a wealthy British criminal who has leveraged his entire fortune into winning the bid on a Dam construction project in Upper Khyber. Paralleling this, Sam attempts to uncover which of her Byzantium colleagues was behind her assassination attempt, and why it seems to tie into a traumatic incident from her childhood. At only 8 episodes this slick spy show throws in a lot of plot, sometimes becoming overly convoluted, and most of the secondary characters don’t make much impact. However it’s entertaining enough if you’re looking for a post-Spooks spy fix with plenty of action. Dropped by the BBC after this series.

Cover imageStrike back. Cinemax season one.
Two things are clear from then first moments of Cinemax’s ‘Strike Back’ Season 1. The first is that it has incredibly high production values, and the second is that it has almost zero intellectual content. The Cinemax series is technically Season 2 of this show, as it was originally a BBC Sky 2010 UK mini-series entitled Chris Ryan’s Strike Back (Reviewed here) which starred Richard Armitage in the lead role as John Porter, a member of Section 20 a secretive branch of the British Defence Intelligence service. Supposedly envisioned as a continuing role, that idea came to an end when Armitage left to work on the Hobbit movies. However American channel Cinemax decided to continue the series, rebooting it as a joint US/UK production with two new leads, Philip Winchester (an American playing a Brit) & Sullivan Stapleton (an Australian playing an American – who would later turn up as the lead in Blindspot). When Porter is kidnapped & killed by mysterious Pakistani terrorist Latif, who is masterminding a upcoming terror plot, Michael Stonebridge (Winchester) is tasked to find dishonourably discharged Delta Force operative Damian Scott (Stapleton), who is the only other person who can positively identify Latif. Scott is soon recruited into Section 20, and the five stories (10 episodes) are essentially stand alone, but all connected by the unifying search to find Latif. Sort of 24 minus the moral questions & hand-wringing, and with more gun fights & gratuitous sex scenes. Strike back would go on for 3 more Cinemax seasons: Cinemax Season Two, Cinemax Season Three & Cinemax Season Four before wrapping up.

Cover imageBanshee. The complete first season.
Of the Cinemax series’ before Quarry ‘Banshee’ was the most critically & commercially successful. Created by writer Jonathan Tropper & produced by Alan Ball (creator/EP of True Blood) ‘Banshee’ is, if anything, more lurid and violent than ‘Strike Back’. It begins with a thief (Kiwi Antony Starr) just released from jail after serving fifteen years of hard time. He persuades his foul mouthed drag queen/computer expert friend (a hilarious Hoon Lee) to track down his ex-flame and partner-in-crime Anna (Ivana Milicevic), and the diamonds she got away with. Arriving in a crooked Pennsylvania town called Banshee he soon finds her living under an assumed name and married with 2 children, one of which could be his. Seeking solace in a bar on the outskirts of town he and bartender and ex-con Sugar (Frankie Faison) witness the brutal death of Banshee’s incoming sheriff Lucas Hood, whom no one in town knows. He then decides, while burying the body, that assuming Hood’s identify is this best way to disappear off the grid and stay near his ex-girlfriend [No spoilers, as this all takes place within the first 30 minutes]. This pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the show: in that it’s somewhat preposterous, but also addictive & incredibly intense. Each episodes is stuffed full of action, with brutally realistic fight scenes, gratuitous sex and intense character interactions. The arrival of ‘Hood’ causes decidedly mixed feelings in Milicevic’s Anna (now married to the local D.A) in that she still harbours feelings for him but is scared his presence will cause the mysterious Mr. Rabbit, the Ukrainian mob boss whose diamonds they stole, to find her. In turn Hood finds that the corrupt town, controlled by Amish overlord Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen) is the perfect vehicle to dilute his barely contained anger, and proceeds to dispense some distinctly non-by-the-book Policing. Starr is excellent as Hood, his wounded countenance the perfect balance to the American Gothic hardboiled noir of the story. The hidden secrets, relationships, shifting alliances between the characters, Hoods Deputies, the local Indian Tribe, the Amish community & criminal factions all provide enough backdrop & character arcs for Banshee Season Two, Three & Four.
For more Cinemax see also The Knick Season 1 & Season 2, and the upcoming release of Robert Kirkman’s Outcast. (Mark)

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)

Staff Picks DVDs for October

Featuring rom-coms, thrillers, recent film festival entries, highly regarded tv series and a film by a blacklisted director, this month’s picks should contain something for everyone.

Cover image10 Cloverfield Lane.
Tense thriller that takes place in the ‘Cloverfield’ universe but is not a sequel to that film from 2008. The film opens with Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in a car leaving her boyfriend. When the car is hit in an accident she crashes and blacks out, only to wake up in a bunker chained to the wall. She soon discovers that she was pulled from the car wreck by Howard (John Goodman), a survivalist who has built a shelter meant to withstand any apocalyptic event. He tells her that the world is in chaos above ground due to some sort of chemical or nuclear attack, and that he has saved her and Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), the other bunker-mate. Certain things happen to lead credence to his story, and the three settle in to their confined surroundings. After a while however she begins to think that Howard might not have been entirely truthful about who he is & why he made the bunker in the first place…Fantastically claustrophobic, and full of plot twists, the film proves that you can still make edgy entertaining films with just small locations and a minimum of players. Some may feel the end sequence a little over the top, but it doesn’t really take away from what has come before. (Mark)

Cover imageMahana.
Adapted from Witi Ihimaera’s novel, Bulibasha and set in Gisborne in the 1950’s, Mahana tells a beautifully, haunting and tragic story of two warring families, The Mahanas and the Poatas, who are forever at each throats and competing for work, sport and engaging in the odd thrilling car chase. However the dynamic shifts when Simeon, idealistic, optimistic and bent on change, starts to question family expectations; uncover hidden secrets and even starts to make peace with sworn enemies, which threatens the tyrannical rule of patriarch Tamihana (a fine performance by Temuera Morrison), who rules the Mahana whanau with an iron and militant fist; and who will not be challenged in anyway. So a battle of wills irrupts between grandfather and grandson, where on the odd occasion the unquiet spirit of Jake the Muss is awakened. Overall I thought the film was beautiful and brought tears to my eyes, especially with regard to the on-going, but silent struggle that the grandmother, Ramona, (Nancy Brunning) goes through until the truth is finally revealed near the end. Both Temuera Morrison and Nancy Brunning owned and brought justice to the roles of the grandparents, Tamihana and Ramona. This film does indeed does justice to Ihimaera’s novel and beautifully showcases Aotearoa in its essence and culture. (Katie)

Cover imageParks and recreation. Season seven, the farewell season.
While the last season is perhaps not as consistent as what has come before, and perhaps a bit rushed in places given the need to round out the characters arcs and relationships, it is still a great wrap up to what was one of the most consistently funny comedy shows on TV. The show may be over but the wisdom of Ron Swanson will live forever. (Mark)

Cover image2 guns.
This is an action/thriller starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. This is a movie where the 2 men go undercover to try and get into a Mexican drug Lord’s cartel. Unbeknown to the other they both work for different crime fighting organisations (Denzel for the DEA) and Mark for (Naval Intelligence). They both get disowned by their own agencies and have everyone after them. Great pace and lots of action. Keeps you guessing. Not as violent as ‘Man on Fire’. (Brigid)

Cover imageBosch. Season two.
Season 2 of the adaptation of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series if a lot more consistent than the first season. All the rough edges have been smoothed over, all the actors now seem far more comfortable in their characters, the writing is a lot more consistent, and the changes in some of the characters in updating the show to a more modern period seem less jarring. Season 2 takes inspiration from Connelly’s novels Trunk Music, The Drop, and The Last Coyote, and while the plot line of ‘The Last Coyote’ is the most truncated and differs from the book, the rest of the story draws enough of Connelly’s plotlines to satisfy fans of the books. Renewed for a third season which will supposedly adapt Connelly’s novel The Black Echo and elements of A Darkness More Than Night. (Mark)

Cover imageLove, Rosie.
‘Love Rosie’ tells the story over the course of twelve years, through letters, emails and instant messaging about the ever changing relationship between the two main characters Rosie Dunne and Alex Stewart. The question that will hang on your lips throughout the film is are they always meant to be more than friends or will they risk everything including their friendship on love? This question can only be answered by watching the film. This movie is an enjoyable romantic comedy that is suitable for a girls night in. It has everything you can expect: laughter, tears and a little romance. I’m not usually a fan of chick flick movies, but I think this has been a great chick flick and romantic comedy movie I have seen since Love Actually. (Katie)

Cover imageOccupied. Series 1.
Excellent new Norwegian TV series, apparently the most expensive (and most watched) in the history of Norwegian television. Based on an idea by popular Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbo the show is set in the near future, where a catastrophic hurricane fuelled by climate change, has led to the rise of the Norwegian Green Party into political power. Idealistic Prime Minister Jesper Berg, has plans for thorium-based nuclear energy, and cuts off all fossil fuel production. With the Middle East in turmoil, Europe is suffering an energy crisis, and in retaliation the EU asks Russia to initiate a ‘velvet glove’ invasion of Norway. Russian special forces kidnap Berg, insisting that he submit to EU demands or face a full-scale invasion. What follows is told from the perspective of several characters as the effects of a ‘non-violent’ occupation begin to insidiously colour the lives and undercut the political processes of the Norwegian people. Recommended. (Mark)

Cover image45 years.
A letter arrives a week before Geoff and Kate’s 45th wedding anniversary party and makes their long, harmonious marriage no longer the same. The England’s latest auteur, Andrew Haigh’s third feature ’45 years’ is a low-keyed, chamber piece but deeply affecting. It’s a simple setting drama like his breakthrough film Weekend, which portraits the devastating love affair of two young men, and subtly yet sharply exposes how fragile our love and relationships are. The film is shot in order from the first scene, and natural, wonderfully nuanced performances by Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay make every detail meaningful. They reach the height at the ending scene with the memorable song ‘Smoke gets in your Eyes’. A quiet triumph. (Shinji)

Cover imageKill your friends.
Mostly good adaptation of John Niven’s hilariously nihilistic satire set amongst dodgy A&R record men at the height of UK ‘Britpop’ madness. A&R man Steven Stelfox (Nicholas Hoult) is slashing and burning his way through the music business, a world where ‘no one knows anything’ and where careers are made and broken by chance and the fickle tastes of the general public. Fuelled by greed, ambition and inhuman quantities of drugs, Stelfox searches for his next hit record, but a couple of bad missteps make it look like his career is all but done. Just how far will he go to get to the top…Stelfox is surely one of the most appalling Fictional creations ever put on paper, yet his narration makes the novels sordid nastiness so funny that you can’t help laughing. This, however, is a more difficult task to put over on film and while some of it works, other scenes could perhaps have used more of Hoult’s narration to undercut all the grim bits that hew a little too close to American Psycho. (Mark)

Cover imageLondon has fallen.
Starring Aaron Eckhart, Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman This movie is a sequel to Olympus has fallen. Many World Leaders have gathered in London for a Meeting and the Terrorists start to attack. Lots of explosions. If you enjoyed ‘Olympus has Fallen’ you should enjoy this one too. (Brigid)

CoverOrphan black. Series four.
After the somewhat convoluted third season ‘Orphan Black’ decided to do a bit of a ‘back to basics’ reset for the series, so the fourth season goes back to the beginning and follows the story of Beth, whose suicide set the whole story in motion for Sarah in Season one. Definitely an improvement over the previous season, which had gotten a little caught up in the complications of its mythology. (Mark)

Cover imageWhen Marnie was there.
This movie was screened at last week at the Thursday Night Film screening at the Central Library. This film tells the story of Anna, an introverted orphaned girl and a bit of a lost soul, who feels abandoned, unwanted and unlovable. However, while on holiday, a chance encounter with a mysterious blonde girl, Marnie, who in many ways is a reflection of Anna, changes Anna’s life forever. As the summer progresses, Anna spends more time with Marnie, and eventually Anna learns the truth about her family and foster care, which allows her to open up to possibilities all around her, mainly meaningful relationships with friends and her surrogate family. This film is hauntingly beautiful and truly captures the essence and beauty, you would in find in most Japanese animated films produced by the Company, Studio Ghibli, who also brought such Japanese animated films to life, such as Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro. Overall a great film that young girls will enjoy, that explores the true meaning of friendship and finding yourself. (Katie)

Cover imageThe nice guys.
Engagingly funny crime flick written & directed by buddy-movie maestro Shane Black. Set in Los Angeles in the late 70s, the film opens with a boy witnesses fading porn star Misty Mountains die in a car crash. Later that week, down-on-his-luck private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is approached by the aunt of Misty Mountains who claims to have seen her niece alive. March is sceptical of her claim, but realizes that a missing girl named Amelia is somehow involved. However, Amelia does not wish to be found and hires enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) to intimidate March into staying away from her. Later that night, Healy is attacked at his home by two thugs who attempt to interrogate him about Amelia’s whereabouts. After escaping he then teams up with a reluctant March to find Amelia before the thugs do. Gosling & Crowe make a good pairing, and while it is not as sharp or consistent as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, nevertheless it’s an enjoyable melange of Black’s favourite techniques, dialogue and style. (Mark)

Cover imageA pigeon sat on a branch reflecting on existence.
Swedish one-of-a-kind auteur, Roy Andersson has a huge studio in Stockholm to build every kind of set for his works. It’s his holy ground where he established his idiosyncratic style; every scene is a single shot from a fixed camera position, meticulously composed painting-like milieu, deadpan style acting by non-professional actors, and so on. This latest work, the final chapter of ‘the living trilogy’, which explores what it means to be a human being, is no exception. It’s an utterly unique, absurd black comedy, which is dominated by a strange milky white colour, and slightly darker and heavier than its predecessors (Songs from the Second Floor and You, the Living). This peculiar taste may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but no one makes films like Roy Andersson. That’s for sure. (Shinji)

Cover imageMidnight special.
A great little ‘Sci-Fi’ movie from writer/director Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Mud). The story revolves around Roy (Nichols regular Michael Shannon) and his biological son who are on the run from a cult that he has kidnapped the boy from, and also from some Government agencies who have an interest in the mysterious powers the boy apparently has. Shannon and his friend hook up with the boy’s biological mother (Kirsten Dunst) and together the four of them try to get the boy to a special place he feels he needs to go to to discover his purpose while trying to evade the forces after them. Endlessly intriguing, at times ‘Midnight Special’ feels somewhat retro, a homage to early Speilberg or Stephen King, and proves you need few CGI effects to create a modern ‘Sci-Fi’ film, just some good old fashioned character based story telling. (Mark)

Cover imageThe lady in the van.
Very unusual movie about an incident in the Author Alan Bennet’s life. He meets an eccentric lady (Maggie Smith) who lives in an old Van and moves from place to place in her Van. It is very sensitive in parts. ‘The Lady in the Van’ decides to live in his driveway for a period of time. It is a story about their interaction. Not a Comedy. (Brigid)

Cover imageBeauty and the beast.
A Walt Disney movie about a tough no nonsense heroine, named Belle (French word for Beauty), who offers herself in exchange for her father, who has been imprisoned by the Beast, and discovers that her captor is an enchanted prince in disguise. While the situation is anything than ideal, this Beauty and the Beast must learn, in very Pride and Prejudice-like to overcome their pride and stubbornness, in the hopes of falling in love and breaking the beast’s enchantment. This film is beautifully constructed and made! Filled with lots of quirky characters, in the form of Lumiere (a candle stick), Cogsworth (a cynical clock), Mrs Potts (a mother-hen teapot) and many musical numbers. A film that the entire family can enjoy – especially on a Saturday night! (Katie)

Cover imageTehran taxi.
In 2010, Iranian master director Jafar Panahi (This is not a Film, Crimson Gold) was baselessly convicted of crimes against national security and banned from making films. However, he is somehow still making films and ‘Tehran Taxi’ is his third feature since his conviction. This time, the director himself drives a taxi through the city of Tehran and picks up various passengers. At first, this simple set-up gives an impression similar to documentary shot by iPhone, but Pnahi’s ingenious hands turn the taxi into a mirror of Iranian society, social morals and politics. The message implied in the film is powerful and serious but he does it with a droll, playful manner. This film won the Golden Bear (best film) at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2015, and Panahi’s niece, who appears in the film and is adorable, received the honour on his behalf because he has been banned from travelling. A genius work. (Shinji)

Cover imageEye in the sky.
Extremely tense ‘real-time’ thriller about a drone mission. Helen Mirren, a UK-based Colonel is in command of a top-secret drone operation to capture a high level English target in Kenya. Through remote surveillance and on-the-ground intel, Powell discovers the targets are planning a suicide bombing and the mission escalates from “capture” to “kill.” But as an American pilot (Aaron Paul) is about to engage, a nine-year old girl enters the kill zone, triggering an international dispute reaching the highest levels of US and British government as to the moral & political implications of ‘collateral damage’. Gripping, intelligent film-making that is entertaining without shying away from posing some difficult questions. Features one of the last performances from the greatly missed Alan Rickman. (Mark)

Cover imageINXS : never tear us apart.
“I was standing. You were there. Two worlds collided and they can never tear us apart.” It’s amazing how sixteen simple worlds can have such a huge impact and really touch your soul. While it’s been two years exactly since this mini-series aired on television in New Zealand, in my opinion it’s still a goodie and is worth watching, especially as the 16th of August is band member’s (and unofficial leader of the band), Tim Farris’ birthday and INXS is hosting an event called Platinum Award Success… in Sydney that marks their achievement, success and contribution to the Australian and international music industry! “Never Tear Us Apart” is a two-part, 4 hour television event that tells the uncensored story of Australia’s most successful 80’s Rock band – INXS. It’s a story of mateship, success and excess. It’s the ultimate sex, drugs and rock’n’roll story that ends in tragedy. This movie portrays an honest and raw account of the rise and fall of one of my favourite bands, who decided to take an innovative approach to breaking the international music market overseas which paid off, at the price of alienating the Australian music industry. In watching this movie, you will get insight and details of their personal lives, their rise to fame from Australian pubs to stadiums around the world- Wembley as a major impact of their career! Features famous chart breaking songs such as New Sensation, Original Sin, What You Need, Need You Tonight and the chilling, heart breaking love ballad: Never Tear Us Apart. Also shows some archived footage of the original concerts and earlier tracks of their greatest hits – MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!, near the end you will here an earlier recording that Michael Hutchence made of ‘Never Tear Us Apart’. Overall this mini-series is in a word –AWESOME! Luke Arnold owned the role of Michael Hutchence and pretty much stole the limelight. This miniseries made me laugh, made me cry and entertained me from start to finish. (Katie)

Cover imageWhat we did on our holiday.
Starring David Tennant, Billy Connelly Rosamond Pike, Annette Crosby and Celia Imrie. This was a really good movie. Watched it with three generations and they all enjoyed it. The story starts with a family which is going through a separation process and they are going back to Scotland to see their Father (Billy Connelly)/Grandfather. Who is having a big 75th birthday which is possibly his last. They are trying to keep the separation from the rest of the family but the process is rocky. They give the kids a list of lies they have to tell. Some very moving and funny parts to this movie as the young children have to cope with the eccentric extended family. Really worth a watch. It is a Comedy and very funny in parts. (Brigid)

Latest Staff Picks from our CD collection

Our staff picks are always a varied lot, and this selection continues that theme. Genres vary from synth to psychedelia, dark noise to pop covers and everything in between. Have a browse!

Cover imageDay of the dead.
Released on the esteemed UK label 4AD, this beautifully packaged five disc tribute to mark the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead features 49 tracks by a wealth of artists including The War On Drugs, The National, Bonnie Prince Billy, Kurt Vile, Tim Hecker, The Flaming Lips and Real Estate with NZ’s Unknown Mortal Orchestra even getting a look in. From the Dead’s psychedelic beginnings to their mellow latter day songs, all bases are covered, so the collection spans full blown guitar freakouts through to sweet singalongs. The quality throughout is very high (pun intended), and though not all styles will appeal to everyone, within six hours of music it’s pretty certain that everyone will be thrilled by something. (John)

Cover imagesVoid beats/invocation trex.
Former Stereolab main man, guitarist and synth boffin Tim Gane, and his long term drummer, Joe Dilworth, have a new band, and while ex-Stereolab singer, Laetitia Sadier keeps that defunct band’s chanteuse elements flying with her solo releases, this project finds Stereolab’s retro-futurist motorik rhythms being mined far deeper. The first track, a 13 min. hypnotic groove sets the tone, introducing a predominantly instrumental journey into a range of contemporary krautrock and experimental compositions. Guest appearances from Bradford Cox of Deerhunter and Jan St. Werner of Mouse On Mars, help make this an absorbing listen. (John)

Cover imageIt’s hard for me to say I’m sorry / Christian Fennesz & Jim O’Rourke.
Two prominent names of experimental music, Christian Fennesz and Jim O’Rourke are long-time friends but have teamed up to make new music as a duo for the first time. It is intriguing and surely will excite some people. The album contains two lengthy pieces and probably pleases fans of both musicians, as offering the profound sonic collage with the graceful noise. Both tunes seem to be spontaneously developed based around perhaps Fennesz’s lyrical, ambient compositions, and super versatile, chameleon-like O’Rourke responds with subtle but edgy play. They are genius at colouring sound and make this electronic improvisation a rewarding listen. (Shinji)

Cover imageGood luck and do your best.
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. Inspired by a trip to Japan, this is Gold Panda’s warmest, sunniest release featuring lush acoustic samples from scratchy old vinyl, simple yet funky drumbeats, looped vocal snippets and a wide array of instruments, all arranged with a clear love of both house music and hip-hop. An off-beat but very catchy work, great for both the dancefloor and the armchair, and that’s no small achievement. (John)

Cover imageEverything’s beautiful / Miles Davis & Robert Glasper.
One interesting possibility offered by recent technology is that of a CD being co-credited to two musicians – one alive and one dead! Rather than oversee yet another remix project, US pianist Robert Glasper chose to combine original master tapes of Miles Davis with new input by a host of contemporary jazz, r’n’b and hip hop artists, resulting in what could be considered Black Radio Vol 3. Each track has a different story attached to it, outlined on the liner notes, and, well removed from any ‘novelty value’, what stands is another excellent milestone in the continued evolution of black American music. (John)

Cover imageEyewitness ; Modern times ; Casa loco.
In the 70s, Steve Khan was the most in-demand guitarist crossing over from Jazz to pop and rock, working for Freddie Hubbard, David Sanborn, Steely Dan and Billy Joel, to name but some. He was also a band leader and had a few acclaimed fusion albums under his belt. Turning into the 80s when fusion boom faded away, he made a radical progress and deepened his artistry with this super group, featuring bassist Anthony Jackson, drummer Steve Jordan and percussionist Manolo Badrena, all of whom were also sought after session musicians. This band left three albums – Eyewitness (1981, the title became the band’s name), Modern Times (1982, amazing live performance in Tokyo) and Casa Loco (1983). These largely unavailable albums got digitally remastered and are put in two discs, and showcase Khan’s remarkable talent as a guitarist, composer and bandleader. The superb chemistry of the band allows these recordings to be memorable achievements of jazz/rock music. (Shinji)

Cover imageLife of pause.
US singer/guitarist Jack Tatum’s development over three records and six years has been significant. From the home recorded coy indie kid of 2010’s ‘Gemini’, through the Top Alternative Album awards for the dream-pop of 2012’s ‘Nocturne’ he has progressed to the rich complex arrangements of ‘Life of Pause’. 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. (John)

Cover imageA moon shaped pool.
A new Radiohead album is always highly anticipated and yet again, there are no disappointments. The strident pizzicato strings that kickoff the chamber pop of the opening track set the tone for another deep cinematic plunge into Radiohead’s elegant sound world. 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. Our Thom doesn’t seem any happier but when you can make gloomy sound this cool, who cares? (John)

Cover image1989.
Whereas Taylor’s own songs are much more bright and poppy both in tone and how she tells her stories, Ryan interprets them in a much more solemn, romantic and low key way with the country rock style he brings to songs. So Taylor’s are up and Ryan’s are down. His versions are much more heart felt and filled with yearning, loss, desire and the whole feel of the album is much more melancholic, compared to Taylor’s upbeat renditions. It’s worth listening to both albums to hear the same songs treated so differently but both working as self-contained works. Stand outs for me are Out of the Woods and Wildest Dreams which are vastly different in mood to Taylor’s and make them seem thin by comparison. (Martin)

cover imageTwentyears.
French electronic duo Air ushered in a new wave of laid back Gallic uber cool back in 1995 with their cinematic future-retro lounge music and this compilation, to commemorate their 20th anniversary, is an excellent reminder of what a great band they continue to be. They have made just six albums in that time, but their discography is loaded with EPs, collaborations and soundtracks, and this collection draws from their entire catalogue. Nothing moves very fast in Air’s world, and they have always managed to sound innovative and captivating, employing vintage synths, vocoded voices, vibraphones, smoky saxophones, strings, vocal harmonies and great basslines to create their vintage pop influenced sounds. Disc one is a collection of highlights chosen by the duo themselves and disc two features a collection of session tracks, b-sides and rarities. Lovely stuff. (John)

Cover imageIn a moment : Ghost Box.
UK label Ghost Box has only released around 30 albums from a small roster of artists over their ten year history, but so well formed is the overarching label ethos that each release is like a different view into the same world. This double disc compilation celebrates the 10th anniversary of the label that pioneered the concept of ‘hauntology’ – the idea that music can act as a gateway to a world of subconscious echoes and archived references. Consequently, label founders – musician, Jim Jupp and graphic designer, Julian House – relentlessly reference the cultural landfill and psychic mulch of the mid-60’s to early 80’s to create an entire parallel world. The sounds brim with scientific optimism and the promise of a better world, but there is also poignancy, because something went horribly wrong with the plan. Ghost Box evokes feelings of both childhood innocence and the disappointment of promises unfulfilled, the reassuring authority of the adult world exposed as a sham – no one’s in control after all and the space age is held together with sellotape and velcro. (John)

Cover imagecase/lang/viers.
Although they didn’t really know each other until k.d. lang emailed the others a few years ago, three leading female singer-song writers; Nico Case, k.d. lang and Laura Veirs became a wonderful joint force. They seem to effortlessly harmonise and relish making music together, and it’s evident in this album. All three singers take solo turns and share the spotlight. It’s not surprising that lang shows great presence on medium/slow numbers and Case shines on country-infused songs, but pleasantly the least known Veirs often takes a lead and bring a freshness. With the help of the master producer Tucker Martine, who has worked with The Decemberists, My Morning Jacket and many more, a timeless album is born. (Shinji)

Cover imageLove streams.
Over 15 years and seven albums, sound manipulator Tim Hecker has explored and refined a highly distinctive style of grand, textured compositions, constructed of highly processed and manipulated sound sculptings layered in a haze of static. His most recent release finds him subtly shifting focus as he works with human voices for the first time, using software to translate medieval choral music to digital synthesis. The listener won’t find any ‘songs’ here, but a deeply melodic and moving music that explores the details of distortion, timbre, tone and harmony. (John)

Cover imageThe digging remedy.
Plaid, the electronic duo that helped define melodic IDM back in the ‘90’s, continue their unwavering path of creativity twenty years on with their ninth record. While their sound is highly distinctive and relatively predictable, no-one ever yawns at another Plaid release, and that is because these two musicians consistently tread an endlessly fascinating and captivating path through the terrain of electronica, albeit aided by glistening guitars and even a recorder. By turns, gorgeous, moody, wistful, majestic and exciting, these complex instrumental compositions are easy to get lost in and are able to remind the listener just why electronic music remains cutting edge and so cool. (John)

Cover imageSwan song series.
One of the most influential female figures in the 90s music scene returns with a 3-Disc collection that rounds 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 collects 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. (Mark)

Cover imageDJ-kicks : Dam-Funk.
The latest instalment of the popular DJ Kicks series is from LA funkster Dam-Funk and pretty much stands as an introduction for the uninitiated as to where modern funk has currently progressed to. Damon Riddick, aka Dām-Funk, has been running a club night called ‘Funkmosphere’ for the past decade, helping in the evolution of modern funk from it’s ‘70’s origins. Modern funk asserts that synthetic percussion and synthesizer wriggles are as much a part of funk’s evolution as a chicken-scratch guitar line or James Brown grunt; consequently this disc comprises a great selection from across the spectrum of contemporary funk, with most tracks playing out in full – be warned – have your dancing shoes close at hand. (John)

Cover imageHopelessness.
The artist formerly known as Antony and the Johnsons returns under her new alias Anonhi, which comprises a stellar lineup of herself plus critically acclaimed electronic producers Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never. Sure, some of the beats are a bit crunchy, but considering the experimental status of the producers, this is a surprisingly accessible and user friendly project, the heartfelt politically charged songs breathing fully within rousing and muscular electronics that complement the vocals with precise elegance and power. What results is a meticulously crafted, epic and glorious thinking person’s record that reconfigures electronic pop as a set of beautiful and bitter protest songs. (John)

Cover imageStrange little birds.
Of all the older 90s bands that reformed within the last few years after long lay-offs (Mazzy Star, MBV, Lush etc) the Garbage reunion was perhaps the least interesting musically. 4 years later they have returned with another new album. ‘Strange Little Birds’ is more akin to their early sound, endlessly compressed and distorted guitars with Shirley Manson’s voice battling the layers of dark noise. Moving away from the more anthemic pop of their later albums, there are none of the big ‘singles’ here that dominated the last few records, instead it’s an album for people who still like ‘albums’, all slow burn. Eschewing nostalgia, they prove you can still make an album that incorporates all the old elements while still sounding fresh. (Mark)

StaffPicksCDs14Wolf party : New Zealand werewolf sounds from Stink Magnetic / compiled by D. Thomas Herkes.
The title suggests a novelty record but this compilation from Whanganui (!?) label Stink Magnetic Record Co., is a treat for lo-fi garage rock fans and a refreshing diversion from the high production times we live in. Label manager D. Thomas Herkes compiled these tracks from his label’s roster that covers genres including “NZ garage, surf, Hawaiian industrial, experimental country disco, Spaghetti Western, esoteric trash, rap and stone-age punk bands”. The production is appropriately raw with the songs loosely adhering to a lo-fi voodoo rockabilly ethos pioneered by bands like the Cramps and Suicide. This is available to loan on both CD and vinyl so if you want to tear up your speakers and annoy your neighbours then borrow this and TURN IT UP! (John)

Cover imageWarm leatherette.
Grace Jones reinvented herself in 1980, from the disco diva of her first three albums to the sleek, designer ‘80’s icon of the first of her legendary ‘Compass Point trilogy’, ‘Warm Leatherette’ (followed by ‘Nightclubbing’ and ‘Living My Life’). Producer Chris Blackwell, who owned both Island Records and the Bahamas situated recording studio, was the maestro behind the transformation, carefully choosing the songs to cover, the musicians and the image. Grace Jones modified her vocals to her, now characteristic, half spoken half sung style and took the new reggae crossover sound supplied by the Sly and Robbie rhythm section into a new world of mysterious subterranean funk reggae that helped define the ‘80’s. This re-release includes a second disc of long dub versions, singles and remixes. (John)