Recent Classical CD additions

This week we highlight three additions to the classical CD collection that bounce from a cornerstone of the Baroque vocal music tradition, the cantata, to 20th century treatments of grand orchestral works, the symphony and the concerto for violin.

Cantata: Yet can I hear…. Performed by Bejun Mehta.
“A selection of solo cantatas, both secular and sacred, from the Italian, German, and English traditions. Including works by Handel, Vivaldi, and Bach in settings large and small, with obligato instruments ranging from oboe to chimes, the magnificent cantatas on this album create a portrait of this intimately transcendent repertoire” (cover).

Symphony No. 5, Symphony No. 6, Vaughan Williams. Performed by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
“Andrew Manze’s interpretations of Vaughan Williams’ symphonies have met with acclaim from audiences and critics alike. This third album in the series contains two masterpieces. The 5th Symphony of 1943, displaying a ‘greatness of soul’, as one commentator at the time wrote, draws on material for The Pilgrim’s Progress from 1906. The 6th Symphony of 1948 stunned the audience at its premiere… The composer, shocked by the nuclear wasteland talk, commented, ‘we can get in words nearest to the substance of my last movement in “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep” from The Tempest’.” (cover).

Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2, Bartók. Performed by Renaud Capuçon and the London Symphony Orchestra.
“Renaud Capuçon expands his wide-ranging concerto discography with Bartók’s two violin concertos. Composed almost three Decades apart, they are highly contrasted, inhabiting very different emotional and musical worlds. Partnering Capuçon is the London Symphony Orchestra under its Principal Guest Conductor, François-Xavier Roth.” (amazon.co.uk).

New CDs from New Zealanders and rock legends

Sex and Food

New CDs in our extensive AV collection feature the new album by Unknown Mortal Orchestra led by our very own Ruban Nielson as well as the fantastic box sets by the rock legends such as Bob Dylan and Frank Zappa. Check them out!

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Sex & food
Sex & Food is a delightfully shapeshifting album that filters real-deal serious themes through a vibrant sonic lens that spans battered drum machine funk, doomy and thrashing rock and pinkhued psychedelic disco.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

David Byrne – American utopia
American Utopia is Byrne’s first solo album since 2004’s Grown Backwards, and fits hand-in-hand with Byrne’s vision for his series ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’ – an ongoing series curated by Byrne of hopeful writings, photos, music, and lectures – named for the song by the late Ian Dury. Over the last year, Byrne has been collecting stories, news, ideas, and other items that all either embody or identify examples of things that inspire optimism, such as a tech breakthrough, a musical act, a new idea in urban planning or transportation.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Moby – Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt
“Following a pair of angsty punk blasts with the Void Pacific Choir, Moby dipped back into what he does best: soulful electronic soundscapes. If the VPC albums were Moby’s outward displays of anger and frustration surrounding the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Everything Was Beautiful, And Nothing Hurt was his depressed and introverted response to the subsequent societal fallout. Despite the overwhelming melancholy that drenches the album, it remains a gorgeous collection that is mostly indebted to trip-hop and his pre-millennial output.” (adapted from fishpond.co.nz)

Yo La Tengo – There’s a riot going on
“While there’s a riot going on, Yo La Tengo will remind you what it’s like to dream. The sound burbles and washes and flows and billows. If records were dedicated to the cardinal elements, this one would be water. They did not rehearse or jam together beforehand; they turned on the recorder and let things coalesce. Songs came together over long stretches, sometimes as much as a year going by between parts. You’d never guess this, since the layers are finessed with such a liquid brush.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Frank Zappa – The Roxy performances
“43 years ago in December 1973, Frank Zappa played a series of legendary concerts at the famed Roxy Theatre on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. Considered a high-water mark of his career, owing to the incredible, virtuosic performances of himself and his stellar band The Mothers, the five shows. The Roxy Performances, a definitive seven-CD box set that collects all four public shows from December 9-10, 1973, and the December 8th film shoot/soundcheck, each presented in their entirety for the first time, along with bonus content featuring rarities from a rehearsal, unreleased tracks and highlights from the Bolic Studios recording session.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Bob Dylan – 1974 tour live
“For Dylan’s first proper tour since 1966, he was joined by his longstanding colleagues The Band. Expectations for both acts ran high, with huge venues swiftly selling out and immense media interest. It was no nostalgia act, though: whilst Dylan performed old material, he did so with considerable attack, as well as showcasing songs from his new Planet Waves LP. The Band also played alone, showing themselves to be arguably the finest group of their sort in the world. This release offers two historic shows from the early part of the tour, both originally broadcast on FM radio.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

George Harrison – Concert for George
“On November 29, 2002, one year after the passing of George Harrison, Olivia Harrison and Eric Clapton organized a performance tribute in his honor. Held at London’s Royal Albert Hall, the momentous evening featured George’s songs, and music he loved, performed by a lineup that included Clapton, Jools Holland, Jeff Lynne, Paul McCartney, Monty Python, Tom Petty, Billy Preston, Ravi and Anoushka Shankar, Ringo Starr, Dhani Harrison and more. This new combo package comprises 2-CDs and 2-DVDs.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Joni Mitchell – Transmission impossible : legendary broadcasts from the 1960s-1990s
“This three CD boxed set features a number of live recordings of Joni from concerts and sessions recorded for FM Broadcast in the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s. Starting with a number of live cuts from shows she performed in the mid to late 1960s, her full set from the Newport Folk Festival in 1968, and a couple more cuts recorded in the early 1970s.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – Transmission impossible : legendary radio broadcasts from the 1970s & 1990s
“This 3 CD Set contains broadcast recordings from CSNY’s heyday, which together form a majestic collection of their live work. Kicking off with an early show recorded at the Fillmore East in New York, in June 1970, the set continues with a fine gig from the group’s 1974 reunion tour, at the Roosevelt Raceway on Long Island, also in New York. Completing this collection is a set the foursome performed at the Bill Graham Memorial Concert, held in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco in 1991.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Some recent classical CD additions

Image from amazon.co.uk

We’ve added to our chamber music (marked with a yellow dot) CD collection recently with some interesting small ensemble combinations; here we spotlight a couple of Dvořák works. Also noteworthy are a new Jóhann Jóhannsson album, and the debut album of rising star Pretty Yende.

String Quintet, op. 97, String Sextet, op. 48, Antonin Dvořák. Performed by the Jerusalem Quartet.
“The Jerusalem Quartet explores two aspects of Dvořák’s chamber music: one of the first big successes in the genre of a Bohemian composer who now enjoyed a well-established reputation in Europe (op. 48), and one of the masterpieces from the years of American exile which brought him worldwide fame (op. 97). A chance to discover two places, two periods, but always the same depth of expression in this indefatigable composer endowed with remarkable creative faculties.” (back cover)

Englabörn & Variations, Jóhann Jóhannsson. Various performers.
First released in 2002, Englabörn – a remastered version here – appears with variations and reworkings of many of its pieces, one on each of two discs. His untimely death in February this year makes this a somewhat melancholic addition to the collection. If you enjoy the music of Max Richter or Olafur Arnalds, or if you enjoyed the film Arrival for its soundtrack, then perhaps listen to this.

A Journey. Performed by Pretty Yende.
“Born in the small town of Piet Retief, South African soprano Pretty Yende has risen to the top of the opera world with unparalleled speed. Yende’s début album celebrates the milestones of her sublime musical journey; starting at the age of 16, when she first discovered opera by hearing Delibes’s ‘Flower Duet’ on a television advertisement, to her début at La Scala and her international breakthrough at New York’s Metropolitan Opera.” (back cover)

Recent staff pick CDs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading “Recent staff pick CDs”

Recent classical music additions

This week in classical music we have three new CDs featuring a wealth of well-loved composers, from Tchaikovsky through Rameau to Schumann, and Piazzolla and Scott Joplin for good measure.

Intuition. Performed by Gautier Capuçon.
Intuition, a captivating album of short pieces for solo cello with piano or orchestra, has been conceived by Gautier Capuçon to ‘reflect the story of my life and follow the various stages in my emotional development’. It brings together much-loved numbers by composers such as Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Massenet, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Elgar with newer music by Astor Piazzolla, the Italian cellist Giovanni Sollima and the pianist Jérôme Ducros, who also appears on the album. As Gautier Capuçon says: ‘In music,in life, communication is the essence of everything and of anything … You share something.'” (amazon.co.uk).

Quartets Nos. 2 & 3, Schumann. Performed by the Elias Quartet.
“‘We have always had a special affection for Robert Schumann’s Third Quartet. It’s one of the first works we played together. Since then we have often come back to it, as if to a splendid and familiar region that we think we know thoroughly, but which yields up new secrets with each visit. The Second Quartet, on the other hand, was a much later and more complicated discovery for us. The writing is so personal, so unidiomatic for the instruments, so full of nuances, that to begin with we found it hard to come up with a unanimous voice for this work. The enthusiasm of the first movement can easily turn into anxiety if you push it a bit too far. In the slow movement, the texture is sometimes so bare that to convey its tenderness you have to sustain it with great fervour. The capricious Scherzo is bristling with rhythmic pitfalls and requires a diabolical mastery of the instruments,while the Finale is an endless explosion of joy!'” (Elias Quartet via amazon.co.uk)

Enfers: Famous Opera Scenes & Pygmalion, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Christoph Willibald von Gluck, Raphaël Pichon. Performed by Stéphane Degout.
“Raphaël Pichon has invited Stéphane Degout to make his recording debut for Harmonia Mundi in a multifaceted exploration of the underworld. The French baritone reincarnates the figure of Henri Larrivée, the famous tragedian of Rameau and Gluck. Around a reconstruction of an imaginary Mass of the Dead, sacred and secular merge, revealing some of the most extraordinary pieces from the operatic repertory of the enlightenment. Music of death and mourning on an epic scale that inspires Pygmalion to overwhelming heights of pathos.” (cover).

New CDs in our AV collection

Check out some of these newly catalogued CDs in our AV collection including the new albums by Franz Ferdinand and Calexico. The fantastic 3 CD box set How is the Air Up There? offers 80 recordings from more than 50 New Zealand’s artists in the 60s and should not be missed.

Nils Frahm – All melody
“For the past two years, Nils Frahm has been building a brand new studio in Berlin to make his 7th studio album titled All Melody. Since the day Nils first encountered the impressive studio of a family friend, he had envisioned to create one of his own at such a large scale. It is here where he has spent most of his time deconstructing and reconstructing the entire space from the cabling and electricity to the woodwork, before moving on to the finer elements; building a pipe organ and creating a mixing desk all from scratch. All Melody is, in fact, proof that music is limitless, timeless, and reflects that of Nils’ own capabilities. From a boy’s dream to resetting the parameters of music itself.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Calexico – The thread that keeps us
“The ninth studio album from Calexico, The Thread That Keeps Us is a timely snapshot of the Arizona-bred band: a family portrait capturing their stylistic variety and unpredictability while still finding solace in limitless creativity. In bringing the album to life, vocalist/guitarist Joey Burns and drummer John Convertino found a spiritual home in unusual surroundings—not in Arizona, but on the Northern California coast in a home-turned-studio called the Panoramic House.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Justin Timberlake – Man of the woods
“The fifth studio album by pop superstar Justin Timberlake. Man Of The Woods was produced by Timberlake, The Neptunes, Timbaland, Danja, Eric Hudson, and Rob Knox. As with FutureSex/LoveSounds, recording sessions for the album were loose and had multiple studios open for work.” (adapted from realgroovy.co.nz)

Franz Ferdinand – Always ascending
“Franz Ferdinand present the new album Always Ascending. Nothing short of a rebirth, the album’s 10 songs are a triumphant recasting of the group, bursting with fresh ideas and vigorous sonic experimentation. Always Ascending was recorded at RAK Studios, London and Motorbass in Paris, with the help of French producer extraordinaire Philippe Zdar (Cassius, Phoenix, The Beastie Boys), the mutual affection between band and producer seeping into every dazzling groove.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

How is the air up there? : 80 mod, soul, RnB & freakbeat nuggets from Down Under
“Inspired by The Looking Series collections on RPM of UK 60s Nuggets, we now look in the world mirror at New Zealand. For the latest in the RPM/Frenzy Music collaborations, following sets from Larry’s Rebels, The Fourmyula, Ray Columbus, The Dave Miller Set, and the Girl Group Sound down-under on Come and See Me, we explore the mid 60’s club scene and the various classic singles tailored for that scene.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Revolutionary spirit : the sound of Liverpool 1976-1988
“Features classics, rarities, album tracks and previously unreleased gems from Echo And The Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, OMD, The La’s, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Dead Or Alive, China Crisis, A Flock Of Seagulls, Wild Swans, Big In Japan and many more.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Woody Guthrie : the tribute concerts
“Exclusive 3-CD set accompanied by two beautifully illustrated books containing historic liner notes and Guthrie biography, original concert reviews and photographs, attendees interviews and artists bios, and concert ephemera. Two ”Tribute to Woody Guthrie” concerts were planned after Woody Guthrie’s death on October 3, 1967: at New York City’s Carnegie Hall on January 20th, 1968, and at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on September 12, 1970. Appearing at the January concert were Judy Collins, Bob Dylan with members of The Band, Richie Havens, Tom Paxton. Appearing in Los Angeles were Joan Baez, Jack Elliott, Arlo Guthrie, Odetta, Country Joe McDonald, Richie Havens, Earl Robinson and Pete Seeger.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Jethro Tull – Heavy horses : new shoes edition
“Disc 1 contains the Steven Wilson stereo remix of the original album plus previously unreleased material (CD). Discs 2 and 3 contain Jethro Tull’s live performance in Berne, Switzerland, May 1978, remixed in stereo by Jacko Jakszyk (CD). Disc 4 contains the DVD audio of the full Heavy Horses album, with 7 additonal tracks, mixed in 5.1 DTS & DD surround sound and 96/24 LPCM stereo (DVD). Disc 5 contains the DVD audio of Jethro Tull live at The Festhalle, Berne, Switzerland.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Some new Classical music picks for March

There is a pleasing cultural diversity to our new classical music additions for March: here’s a selection!

Inspiration. Performed by Sheku Kanneh-Mason.
“When Sheku Kanneh-Mason won the BBC Young Musician competition in 2016, aged seventeen, his playing entranced innumerable music-lovers around the UK. So did his story: not only is he the first black winner in the competition’s history, but he is also one of seven exceptionally gifted musical siblings” (programme notes). In Inspiration, Sheku Kanneh-Mason performs an eclectic repertoire, ranging from Saint-Saëns to Leonard Cohen.

Dreams. Performed by Pretty Yende.
“Through the eyes of young opera heroines, Pretty Yende slips into the world of dreams with arias from the bel canto and Romantic repertoires. With this album, she also refers to her very own fairytale, which continues to this day. From a girl in a remote town in South Africa she turned into one of today’s most sought-after sopranos, living her dream on the world’s opera stages” (cover).

The Verdi Album. Performed by Sonya Yoncheva.
“One might say that Verdi’s works contributed to the success of the very paradigms of operatic art that he had set out to revolutionize. Born of Sonya Yoncheva’s musical curiosity, this project combines earlier gems such as Stiffelio, Luisa Miller, and Attila with eternally beloved masterpieces such as Il trocatore or Otello to show us a composer in perpetual quest of the innovation and transformation of his art” (programme notes).

New CDs in our AV collection

More new CDs, including fantastic box sets from The Fall and Wilco, have been added in our popular CD collection. Check also the exciting newcomers such as Moses Sumney and Sunflower Bean.

Sunflower Bean – Human ceremony
“Drawing inspiration from a vast pool of influences such as Black Sabbath and The Cure, Sunflower Bean refine their sound and take it to the next level on Human Ceremony. It is a crystalline, bright, sparkling record, tipping its cap to the likes of The Vaselines, The Velvet Underground, The Feelies, and more, loaded with an innate artfulness that belies the band’s young age: all three members are under 21.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Eminem – Revival
“Eminem releases his new album and it features collaborations with Beyonce, Ed Sheeran, Alicia Keys, Pink, Kehlani, Skylar Grey, X Ambassadors and Phresher.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Moses Sumney – Aromanticism
Aromanticism is a concept album about lovelessness as a sonic dreamscape. It seeks to interrogate the social constructions around romance. The debut includes single “Doomed,” as well as new versions of standouts “Lonely World” and “Plastic.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

The Fall – Singles 1978-2016
“The band is noted for its prolific output: as of autumn 2017 they have released over 32 studio albums, and more than triple that counting live albums and other releases. This is the first collection of all The Fall singles recorded across a multitude of labels and this edited 3-CD set features all of the A-Sides.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Wilco – Being There [bonus tracks]
“The DELUXE EDITION builds on the original with 15 bonus tracks released for the first time, including alternate versions of tracks “I Got You” and “Say You Miss Me”. It also features Wilco’s 20-song performance at the Troubadour from November 12, 1996, combining songs from A.M.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

The Residents – 80 aching orphans
“Extended, 4CD anthology set chronicling the career of the legendary San Francisco experimentalists and curated with the band themselves, from the debut 1972 single to the band’s most recent album, The Ghost Of Hope. •Singles, fan favourites, album highlights, live recordings and material never before available on CD.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

INXS – Kick 30
“4-Disc 30th Anniversary Edition featuring the remastered original album, B-Sides, rare mixes & more across 3CDs plus a Blu-ray disc with the full Kick album mixed in Dolby Atmos immersive surround sound by Giles Martin & all the music videos. Housed within DVD sized ‘fan-deluxe’ packaging including 48-page booklet with interviews, essays & rare photos.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Jam – 1977
“40th anniversary five-disc box set (4CD/1DVD), celebrating the Jam’s debut year when they released two albums and three hit singles. Features ‘In The City’ & ‘This Is The Modern World’ – original albums re-mastered as well as unreleased demos and live recordings. The DVD features TV appearances and promo videos from 1977.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Dr. John – The Atco albums collection
“All seven studio albums included in the collection have been remastered for the first time. The set features: Gris-Gris (1968), Babylon (1969), Remedies (1970), The Sun, Moon & Herbs (1971), Dr. John’s Gumbo (1972), In The Right Place (1973), and Desitive.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Staff Picks CDs: The Best of 2017 Part 2

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

Mark’s Picks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classical CD additions

This week, on receiving the album The Cello in Wartime, we were very interested to read about trench cellos (and pianos, and other such) – instruments stored and played by soldiers in the trenches – and sometimes fashioned by them from found materials. You can hear and see an example here. In other new selections, we have Classical and post-Romantic heavyweights to enjoy.

The Cello in Wartime. Performed by Steven Isserlis and Connie Shih.
Performed on the ‘Marquis de Corberon’ Stradivarius, and a trench cello, W.E. Hill and Sons, c. 1900. “War has an infinite, and frequently polarised, variety of effects on composers. Some feel impelled to depict its horrors in their music; some, on the contrary, escape into an idyllic world in order to block out the events surrounding them… No surprise, then, that the pieces on this disc explore and inhabit such a breadth of emotions, languages and atmospheres” (insert).

Piano Concertos 25 & 27, Mozart. Performed by Piotr Anderszewski with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
“…Mozart is the composer of ambiguity par excellence – the most luminous moments can be interwoven with such darkness. Where is the light, where is the shadow? Sometimes, I don’t really know. And yet this is music of such evident limpidity. It is a miracle” (Piotr Anderszewski, cover).

Chant Funèbre, Le Sacre du Printemps, Stravinsky. Performed by the Lucerne Festival Orchestra.
A compilation of early Stravinsky works (opus numbers in single digits), plus the Rite of Spring. This is the world premiere recording of the previously lost Chant Funèbre. “A dazzling programme of Stravinsky. A new era has well and truly begun for the Lucerne Festival Orchestra” (The Times, reproduced on the back cover).