Shinji’s Vinyl Picks

Our vinyl collection is now live and available for borrowing and reserving! Come in to the Central library to browse the collection, or search our online

In the second half of the 70s, Shinji lived in Kyoto, Japan and spent a lot of time in jazz cafes where jazz records were always played with gigantic speakers (mostly JBL). Not many Jazz cafes exist now but vinyl brings back those old days.

Duke Ellington & John Coltrane
Took a breath and waited for Coltrane joining in Ellington’s piano in the opening tune ‘In a Sentimental Mood’. Deep and elegant.

Duke Ellington Such sweet thunder
Love the flow of the side-B featuring ‘The Star-Crossed Lovers’.

Charles Mingus Mingus ah um
One of the best and most accessible albums to the addictive Mingus world.

Miles Davis Sketches of Spain
Cool, sophisticated Gil Evans arrangements take you on a magical Spanish tour.

Keith Jarrett The Köln concert
Although some jazz café didn’t play this album by claiming it’s not jazz, this was the most requested album when it came out. Jarrett’s one the highest points.

Donny Hathaway Live
What a performance. What a band. This landmark live album excited jazz fans as will especially the side-A, recorded at The Troubadour in Hollywood.

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Monty’s top vinyl picks

Monty is the library’s music selector, so he sees everything that ends up on our shelves. He also instigated the revival of the library’s vinyl collection, so it’s well worth taking note of his top picks from the collection.

Don’t forget to join us tomorrow for our launch party! Check out all the details here and you can be one of the first to borrow from our new vinyl collection.

Live at Carnegie HallLive at Carnegie Hall.
Bill is personable, cool and soulful at the helm of this 2LP live set from 1973. Songs like ‘Grandma’s Hands,’ and ‘Let me in your life’ are hopeful and touching, ‘I can’t write left handed’ political and angry and ‘Harlem’ and ‘Let us love,’ stomping R&B gospel with audience. An amazing live album from one of the best and housed in grand gatefold package.

After the Gold RushAfter the gold rush.
Remember that distinctive LP cover, and Neil Young walking in trench coat past iron railings? Well, that image perfectly encapsulates the yearning heart of ‘After the gold rush.’ Songs like ‘Oh, lonesome me’ ‘Only love can break your heart,’ and ‘Don’t let it bring you down,’ distil the experience of breaking hearts into music. Ditties like ‘Till the morning comes’ and ‘Cripple creek fairy,’ break that spell a little and ‘Southern Man’ is thumping, angry and awesome.

I can’t ignore Tapestry by Carole King. That LP lingered in almost every bed-sit, bedroom and lounge of suburban New Zealand, and helped herald the 70’s phenomenon of the singer songwriter. So, it’s doubly important as a kind of relic and touchstone, but is also filled with immaculate song-craft and mood.

If You're Feeling SinisterIf you’re feeling sinister.
The second release of Belle and Sebastian is full of distinctive, sophisticated pop and after their first album ‘Tigermilk,’ provides a real sense that they’re an especially talented, unique group. Title track, ‘If you’re feeling sinister’ characterises the ease with which they achieve atmosphere, lyrical poise and is superior, winning chamber pop. The cover image blows up a treat in LP too.

Abbey RoadAbbey Road / The Beatles.
My brother had a very large collection of vinyl and we would play Duran Duran, The Police and other 80’s records, but occasionally we ventured further into the dark past. At the back of his collection were the complete Beatles. Mysterious and in full colour – to browse all the covers, inserts and liner notes just made you more curious – the Beatles were changing before your eyes. I played the long, manic medley on side 2 of Abbey Road often, and it changed my (musical) life.

Mark’s vinyl picks

Our vinyl collection launch party is happening this Saturday! Find us on Facebook or Eventfinda, and make sure to invite your friends. We’ll be popping records on from 12 til 1, then having a discussion with some vinyl professionals from 1–2.30. After that we’ll be spinning tunes til 4pm! Heaps and heaps of prizes to be won, including music and vouchers!

To give you a taste of our upcoming collection, our audio specialist Mark has selected his must-listen recommendations from our (soon-to-be) borrowing collection.

2nd in Shorter’s fabulous run of Blue Note solo albums in the late 60s, ‘Juju’ builds on his debut ‘Night Dreamer’ & the work he was doing as part of Miles’ 2nd Great Quintet. Backed by Coltrane’s famous rhythm section, the key lies in Shorter’s amazing writing that incorporated modal and chordal harmonies, improvisational form, & melodic variation but were still ‘proper’ structured compositions.

Donny Hathaway LiveLive.
Amazing live album, maybe one of the best ever, from the soul genius who would tragically take his own life 7 years later. Recorded at the Troubadour in Hollywood and the Bitter End in New York in 1972, with a top band who played soul with serious Jazz skills. Features great reworking of Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ (still on the charts at the time), John Lennon’s ‘Jealous Guy’ & Carole King’s ‘You’ve Got a Friend’. The fantastic call and response from the crowd tells the story.

Chet is BackChet is back!
‘Chet is back’ is one of Baker’s best albums, voted by ‘Q Magazine’ as 3rd in a list of essential jazz albums to own (after ‘Kind of Blue’ & ‘A Love Supreme’). Busted in Italy for forging drug prescriptions, Baker spent over a year in jail, and returned with the album ‘Chet is Back’ in 1962. Teaming up with the best players in European jazz the newly clean Baker re-established his cred with a harder fluid bop style, as well as a gorgeous reading of the classic ballad ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’.

But We Love Our Brothers and SistersBut we love our brothers and sisters.
More amazing music from Seth Frightening, the first full length album since his 2010 debut The Prince & his Madness. His lovely eerie double-tracked vocals float above sinuous guitar lines and weird odd moments of noise and disquiet.

Time Killed The ClockTime killed the clock.
Expanded from a mini EP Dan Boobyer’s full length LP ‘Time Killed the Clock’ is full of short atmospheric tracks, with his voice multi-tracked for effect. The deliberately lo-fi recording evokes an older style of folky blues songs & singing that doesn’t seem calculated or deliberately nostalgic, just a vehicle for the type of songs he likes to sing..

Axel’s top vinyl picks

With our vinyl collection launch coming up on September 24th (see our event page for more details) we’ve asked some of our library staff about their top picks from our upcoming vinyl collection. Axel puts together Spotify mixes for us, and his taste is varied and eclectic. Here are his recommendations for must-listen records you’ll be able to borrow from us:

Bill Evans – Sunday at the Village Vanguard
Best recorded live jazz EVER!!!

Black Sabbath – Paranoid
CANNOT wait to play that one backwards!

DJ Shadow – Endtroducing
An ode to vinyl right here!

Daft Punk – Discovery
Well, this will be the funkiest and grooviest sounding vinyl for both reference and dance purposes.

The Doors – L.A. Woman
I’ll enjoy this while reading Blake. Thank you Jim!

Jon Hopkins – Immunity
For a late night of dance (and neighbourly complaints!)

Sunday at the Village VanguardParanoidEndtroducing
DiscoveryLA WomanImmunity

John’s Top 5 Vinyl picks

With our vinyl collection launch coming up on September 24th (see our event page for more details) we’ve asked some of our library staff about their top picks from our upcoming vinyl collection. If you’re a follower of our Sound & Vision blog, you may be familiar with John’s in depth music reviews. Here are his recommendations for must-listen records you’ll be able to borrow from us:

It’s very exciting to play a small part in the creation of the relaunch of WCL’s vinyl collection, as far as I know the only such collection in NZ, and very cool to see local music so well represented, with not one, not two, but all three of Orchestra of Spheres records in the collection, alongside albums by the Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Lontalius, the Mantarays, Glass Vaults, Eb & Sparrow – the list goes on.

Local albums aside, to choose five all time favourites is a big call, but these five records have either changed the shape of modern music, or changed me personally in some way!

Music Has The Right To ChildrenMusic has the right to children.
Not many records can be said to have created a genre, but Scottish duo Boards of Canada’s first album did just that. Released in 1998, the album predated the hauntology movement, featuring as it did, a pre-occupation with nostalgia, naivete and childhood memories, all presented within a woozy haze of melodic psychedelic pastoralism generated by submerged samples, distorted electronics and blunted beats. The nostalgic atmosphere, created with the use of samples of children’s voices augmented by simple yearning melodies filtered through electronic gauze, fit the cultural climate perfectly. Released when the end of the 20th Century loomed and with an uncertain future dawning, it is telling that the dusty golden patina of this record is as enticing today as it was almost 20 years ago.

My Life in the Bush of GhostsMy life in the bush of ghosts / Brian Eno + David Byrne.
Originally released in 1981, this pioneering work from Brian Eno & David Byrne is widely recognised as a milestone in sample based music. While not exactly inventing sampling, this was the first time sampled material had been extensively used as lead vocals. Recorded before the advent of digital sequencing, the voices, sampled from radio talk-show hosts, Lebanese mountain singers, preachers, exorcism ceremonies, Muslim chanting and Egyptian pop, were synchronized with the instrumental tracks via trial and error, creating a pan-global jumbled stew, without regard for race, creed, or color. Consequently, this was a prescient record for the cross cultural fertilisation that was to occur in the music of subsequent decades. Eno described the album as a “vision of a psychedelic Africa” and the worldbeat/ funk rock feel of this project bled through into Talking Heads hugely successful ‘Remain In Light’, recorded at the same time.

It’s almost impossible now to imagine just how weird the Pixies seemed on arrival in the late ‘80s. They were well on the outside of the outsiders, writing songs referencing surrealism, Biblical violence, death, suicide, sex and environmental catastrophe. ‘Doolittle’ was their second album and featured a cleaner production than their debut’s raw Steve Albini stylings, courtesy of Gil Norton, who had produced Echo & the Bunnymen. With songs that averaged just over two minutes in duration ‘Doolittle’ is now widely recognised as an album that helped shape 90’s indie rock. It’s no secret that Nirvana were heavily influenced by it, and it even made the Top 10 in Britain, while a 2003 poll of NME writers ranked Doolittle as the second-greatest album of all time.

The EraserThe eraser.
Thom Yorke’s 2006 solo electronic release was nominated for the 2006 Mercury Music Prize and the 2007 Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album. Relying heavily on samples taken from various Radiohead sessions, the album was originally intended to be instrumental, but producer Nigel Godrich encouraged Thom to add vocals. What resulted is a beautiful and compelling observation of the isolated urban life the current neo-liberal reality offers – “an evocative portrait of life made slippery by urban sprawl, murky political alliances and global warming … with the blips and bleeps of Yorke’s laptop excursions coalescing into soulful, politically charged songs.” Yorke said that the album title was inspired by “these huge elephants that we have in the room at the moment, in the West, and people are desperately trying to erase them from public consciousness.” Fans note – the library vinyl collection also includes Radiohead’s In Rainbows, The Bends, OK Computer and their excellent latest – A Moon Shaped Pool.

Hatful of HollowHatful of hollow / The Smiths.
By late 1984 in the UK, the energy generated by the fierce creativity of early ‘80’s post-punk had begun to fade and the miner’s strikes were in full swing as the Thatcher government began to dismantle British society. Out of this ferment The Smiths debut appeared, followed by a string of stunningly good singles offering a real voice for disaffected youth amidst the vapid synth pop that dominated the charts, that, surprisingly, remains relevant today. Morrissey and Marr were like the indie Lennon and McCartney, broadcasting their infectious, morose yet joyous, guitar based pop from a gloomy bedsit, as the reality of life in Thatcher’s Britain hit home. Hatful of Hollow is a compilation album composed of singles, b-sides, and alternative takes to several of their debut album’s tracks that, although released to bridge the gap between their first and second albums, stands as arguably, the essential Smiths record.

Athletics for your mind and body – Sports picks for Winter

Long winter months do not mean we have to curl up in the armchair with no exercise. This selection of books offer a wide range of activities indoors to stimulate the mind as well as the body.

Syndetics book coverThe Sports Book : the sports, the rules, the tactics, the techniques / editorial consultant, Ray Stubbs.
“The ultimate armchair companion to over 200 sports. The 4th edition presents fully up-to-date information covering all sorts of sports, from equestrian sports, athletics and gymnastics to winter sports and extreme sports. Check out the rules, history, players and events for the world’s greatest sports such as football, cricket, basketball and golf.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMathletics : a scientist explains 100 amazing things about the world of sports / John D. Barrow.
“Drawing on vivid, real-life examples, mathematician John D. Barrow entertainingly explores the eye-opening, often counterintuitive, insights into the world of sports that math and physics can give us. For example, we learn that left-handed boxers have a statistical advantage over their right-handed opponents. Through clear, detailed, and fascinating mathematical explanations, Barrow reveals the best techniques and strategies for an incredible range of sports, from soccer and running to cycling, archery, gymnastics, and rowing.” (Book Jacket)

Syndetics book coverSnooker and Billiards : skills, tactics, techniques / Clive Everton.
“In this second edition of Snooker & Billiards – Skills, Tactics Techniques, the history of the game is covered along with the rules of the game; choosing the right equipment and top tips from many of the game’s great players. All the skills and techniques are explained clearly with full-colour sequence photography and detailed table diagrams help explain more advanced tactics such as breakbuilding and safety play.” (Book Jacket)

Syndetics book coverTai Chi : 37 steps to happiness : with an introduction to aqua tai chi / Peter Chin Kean Choy.
“As the physical body flows more easily, Choy demonstrates, it is able to tune in to its own internal chi, and to the positive chi energy in the world around. In addition to the 37 movements of the traditional T’ai Chi form, the book contains a section of exercises to be done with a partner and some specially devised movements to be performed in water. The step-by-step color photography and accessible writing style make this a must for beginners, while the greater insights and unique new sequences will also appeal to the more experienced student or teacher.” (Book Jacket)

Syndetics book coverKrav Maga for Beginners : a step-by-step guide to the world’s easiest-to-learn, most-effective fitness and fighting program / Darren Levine, John Whitman, Ryan Hoover ; photographs by Andy Mogg.
“In Israel, Krav Maga is the official system used to teach self-defense. The no-holds-barred techniques–including cardio, strength training, and fight moves–are easy to learn, require a minimal amount of strength, and, most importantly, are designed to immobilize an attacker.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTraining Fencing / Barth/Barth [i.e. Berndt Barth & Katrin Barth].
“Building on the book Learning Fencing, this book explains how to train for technique and tactics in fencing and shows why fencers must improve their endurance, strength, and speed. Young fencers learn to go beyond practice bouts and enrich their training with exercises that may seem at first to have nothing at all to do with fencing. With the help of this book, young fencers learn to manage their own development and to take responsibility for their own behavior.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAikido :The Basics : techniques, principles, concept / Bodo Roedel in collaboration with Nadja Gaertel and Susen Werner.
“Aikido is a highly developed martial art form based on standardized principles which the book explains by numerous examples of movements. The basics of the foot and hand movements are also covered. The details of the basic techniques of Aikido are not merely described; the reader also learns their implementation. A closer look is further taken on the roles of the defender and the attacker.” (Book Jacket)

Syndetics book coverRock & Wall Climbing / Garth Hattingh.
“A colorful, clear, comprehensive reference for climbers of all skill levels. Here in one volume is a basic guide to the equipment and techniques for rock and wall climbing, training the mind and body, and the vitally important skills of safety and first aid. A chapter on where and when to climb highlights some of the best sites around the world, with detailed maps and locations of climbing gyms.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDancing with the Stars / written by Guy Phillips and Tasha Brown ; exercise routines by Cal Pozo.
“Part fitness guide and part scrapbook, this official guide to the hit television show features an easy-to-follow exercise plan that will help readers samba, salsa, and rumba their way to the best shape of their lives.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks : an epic quest for reality among role players, online gamers, and other dwellers of imaginary realms / Ethan Gilsdorf.
“In an enthralling blend of travelogue, pop-culture analysis, and memoir, former role-player Gilsdorf asks gaming and fantasy geeks how they balance their escapist urges with the kingdom of adulthood.” (Syndetics summary)

Latest Staff Picks DVDs

Some staff DVD picks for June with a bit of everything from financial dramas, mysteries, foreign thrillers, and book adaptations…

Cover imageThe bridge. The complete series three.
Saga Noren (Sofia Helin) returns in the third season of The Bridge investigating a series of strangely posed murders all seemingly linked to a right wing vlogger. Assigned a new Danish partner, Henrik (Thure Lindhardt), whose private life seems murky, she also has to deal with the sudden appearance in her life of her estranged mother. While the plot of the third season of the super popular Danish/Swedish crime show is as convoluted as previous seasons, it is perhaps somewhat pulpier and not as consistent. However on the other hand, Saga’s new work partner is more enigmatic and interesting than Martin (now in jail following the events in Season 2) and his backstory plays out quite cleverly throughout the episodes, paving the way for perhaps the next season. As for Saga, Sofia Helin’s performance continues to amaze, with the return of her mother and some more of her history revealed she is able to shape her character with a deeper emotional palette. Recommended. (Mark)

Cover imageWinter. Season 1 ; + The killing field.
The peace of small town, Rocky Point, a beautiful seaside fishing town off Sydney, is disturbed when a young mother, Karly Johansson is found murdered and it’s up to Detective Sergeant Eve Winter (Rebecca Gibney) and her taskforce to solve the case. While there, she reunites with Detective Sergeant Lachlan McKenzie (Peter O’Brien), who has feelings towards Eve. Lachlan suspects that Karly’s murder has a connection to a murder case 8 years ago where another woman was found dead. The key solving the case lies with unlocking the memory of Karly’s best friend/foster sister, Indiana Hope, (Sara West), a troubled former prostitute and a key witness that could bring down an underground drug and human trafficking ring. As the season unfolds, everyone’s pasts are revealed. You also find out that there is more to Karly, or should I say her family, than meets the eye. As for the true identity of the killer, well you won’t see it coming. Overall I enjoyed this series. Once the first episode locks you in, you have to watch it to the very end to get an understanding of how everything connects, who done it and why. If you are a fan of crime series like Broadchurch, The Killing and The Bridge, then Winter is a must see series. Also check out the telemovie ‘The Killing Field’, that sets the whole series in motion. (Katie)

StaffPicksDVDs399 homes.
Well acted but depressing drama focusing on the speculative property market that arose as part of the 2008 financial crisis. Andrew Garfield plays a single father evicted from his family home along with his mother by ruthless local property kingpin (Michael Shannon). Forced into living in a motel, Garfield’s character needs money & is forced to parlay his construction skills into doing odd jobs for Shannon. Soon, rising in the ranks, he is leading Shannon’s eviction crew and spiralling into a moral abyss of hard cash & speculation, centring on a massive land deal that can only be secured if they acquire the titular ’99 homes’. Shannon is great. Much to admire here, but hard to enjoy. (Mark)

Cover imageWitnesses.
‘Witnesses’ is a 6 part French thriller made for TV in the Scandinavian Noir style, set in Le Treport, Normandy. It has been likened to The Bridge and The Killing. Although people have said it was grisly, I didn’t find it so, and in fact it was less grim and creepy than some of the Scandi thrillers. The main character of Sandra Winckler is an interesting woman, as is Paul Maisonneuve a suave retired cop who is hauled out of retirement to solve the case, (which turns out to be two cases). The tension between the two leads dates back to when Paul was training new recruits including Sandra. Le Treport is bleak and atmospheric. ‘Witnesses’ is stylish and well worth a look. Hopefully there will be Series 2. (Marilyn)

Cover imageThe lobster.
We don’t usually post negative reviews on this site, as we are here to recommend movies that you will actually like. However this is a wildly diverging film which has as many 1 star reviews as 5 stars on Amazon, so here are 2 different takes on this film for you to decide…
The first English language feature from Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth) is a satire on modern relationships. In this dystopian future people live in The City where if they suddenly find themselves single they are taken to The Hotel, where they must find a romantic partner in forty-five days or be transformed into an animal of their choice. Guests at the hotel can gain extra days by hunting and capturing any of the non-conformist ‘loners’ who live in the forest. David (Colin Farrell) arrives at the hotel after his wife has left him, but soon falls in with the Loners, who are led by the sadistic Léa Seydoux. Amongst the Loners he meets the quirky Rachel Weisz, but the Loners have many rules, one of which being that you can never fall in love…Not really a ‘comedy’ or ‘romance’ as such, but there are many hilariously deadpan moments. Definitely not for everyone. (Mark)
We recently watched the Lobster. It is a dog. We were completely sucked in by the blurb on the case. The cast of Colin Farrell and Rachael Weisz looked promising but alas it is total rubbish. We watched to the bitter end hoping something would happen but nothing does. I think they were trying to be quirky but it is just weird nothingness. (Pru)

Cover imageCarol.
In the painting of Edward Hopper’s like milieu, Douglas Sirk-esque gorgeous melodrama unfolds. Todd Haynes’ adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s love story of two women (The Price of Salt published in 1952) is a tender, immaculately executed drama. Under Haynes’ direction, the milieu of the era is exquisitely recreated and every element shapes the film; cinematography, art design, wardrobe, music (particularly ‘No Other Love’ sung by Jo Stafford), contribute marvellously to this story of two women’s forbidden but distained encounter. Obviously it’s about the rich, unhappily married woman Carol (played by stunning Cate Blanchett) but it is told from the young Therese’s point of view, and we also witness Therese’s growth, from the weak-minded girl to the woman who has her own identity. This process is superbly performed by Rooney Mara. It’s a beauty of underplayed moments. Divine. (Shinji)

Cover imageUnforgotten. Series one.
Classy UK crime drama sees the excellent Nicola Walker (Spooks) as a DCI in charge of investigating the cold case of a young man’s body discovered in a derelict building. The key to this series is the focus on the step by step, painstaking investigative methods used by the squad to identify the body, discovered to be that of a homeless boy murdered in 1976 when the building was a hostel, and the focus on the realistic characters involved, from the grieving mother to the suspects the case throws up. Everyone, from the victim to the suspects is portrayed as a complex character, neither all good or all bad, and the shows quiet rhythm gradually peels away the psychological damage that festers in the past. (Mark)

Cover imageOur zoo.
This DVD series is highly recommended. Our Zoo is a six part series that is based on the true story about George Mottershead, his dreams of creating a cage-free zoo, his family, of both humans and animals, and how their lives changed when they embarked on the creation of Chester Zoo, despite opposition from the local community. Overall, a fantastic and heartwarming series that the whole family can watch together and enjoy, especially during winter. Moments of highlights include Mottershead saving a camel, parrot and a monkey from certain doom AKA being put down, a flock of Humboldt penguins being lead to on foot to the zoo after the van breaks down and the birth of two bear cubs. It’s a shame that this programme wasn’t renewed for another season. (Katie)

Cover imageThe invitation.
Excellent low-key indie thriller sees the protagonist Will (Logan Marshall-Green), still mired in grief after the loss of his young son young son in a tragic accident, attend a dinner party at his old house with a group of old friends, hosted by his ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her new partner David (Michiel Huisman from ‘Game of Thrones’), who have returned to town after being away for some time. As the night progresses, Will begins to suspect that things are not as they seem, but is his disquiet and burgeoning paranoia just a reflection of his unresolved grief and anger that his ex-wife seems to have moved past their son’s death, or is something else going on…’The Invitation’ shows just what you can do with a bunch of relatively unfamiliar actors, a tense script, and a small location. (Mark)

Cover imageThe assassin.
Taiwanese master director Hou Hsiao-Hsien tackles a wuxia (martial hero) film for the first time in his long career but it’s not a usual film of its kind. ‘The Assassin’ is a sublime, breathtakingly beautiful film in which every scene is a work of art. The story is told in typical Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s ‘read between the lines’ style and it’s a little difficult to understand the relationships among the characters. It may be better to go into the film with some prior knowledge of the plot. Hsieo-Hsien has a no-rehearsal policy and waits for actors to be ready for the scene. Amazingly, he sticks with this policy in this film which includes action scenes and that requires intense but subtle nuanced acting (the only exception was the dance sequence to allow actors to memorize the choreography). It took seven years for him to complete but his perseverance paid off. This meticulously crafted film should be watched on a big screen to appreciate every detail. Regardless, it’s bliss. (Shinji)

Cover imageThe absent one.
The next instalment in the on-going series of adaptations of Danish crime writer Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Department Q novels, follows on from 2014’s The keeper of lost causes. When the policeman father of twins murdered 20 years ago approaches Carl Mørck he turns him away, however when he commits suicide shortly after he becomes obsessed with the exacting justice. His investigation leads away from the then young man originally convicted and towards a group of young students from a nearby boarding school. ‘The Absent One’ has every trope we’ve now come to expect from our Scandi-noir: socially awkward detectives in long raincoats, corrupt rich people, lurid crimes, kinky sex, and dollops of brutal violence and it’s a testament to the talents of the actors involved, the tight screenplay & high production values, that it is all still so gripping. (Mark)

StaffPicksDVDs4Grantchester. Series 2.
This series had me on edge from start to finish. An unspeakable crime, the death of a pregnant 15 year old girl, has been committed that shakes the local community to its core and where no one is unable to find peace. Worse, this is a crime that threatens to tear crime fighting partners, Geordie and Sidney, apart. Poor Sidney suffers a crisis of faith, hence leading to more drinking and smoking as usual, and Geordie finds that there is a huge price to pay for doing his job and has to reassess what is defined as justice. The questions remains on everyone’s lips – both characters and audience, What is defined as justice? Does the cycle of hate, vengeance and taking life end? And will all parties, both guilty and innocent find peace? Sadly, you won’t get any spoilers out of this review, except to say that if you thought Season One was good, then Season Two is even better. This is the best British detective series I have seen since Sherlock Holmes. (Katie)

Cover imageThe night manager. The complete series.
Fairly faithful 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. Shades of 007 abound in this stylish global thriller. Excellent cast, particularly Coleman, and Laurie who is excellent as the morally bankrupt Dicky Ropher. No surprise that Hiddleston is being tipped as the next Bond. (Mark)

Cover imageMaleficent.
This is Sleeping Beauty as you have never seen it before. The story of Walt Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” is different from its predecessor. But more importantly this story focuses on the evil fairy/villain in the original story, Maleficent. In this version, Maleficent, (Angelina Jolie), who was originally a good fairy and protector of the fairy lands called the Moors, becomes a vengeful, bad fairy, (or ‘turns to the dark side’ in tradition Darth Vader style), after she is betrayed by King Stefan. To pay him back, she curses his daughter, the infant princess Aurora to a ‘sleep like death’ which she can only awaken from by ‘true love’s kiss’. However things become complicated when Maleficent realizes that Aurora holds the key to peace in the kingdom – and perhaps to Maleficent’s true happiness as well. To add more complication to the mix, Maleficent, acting as a surrogate mother, becomes fond of Aurora! Throughout the film, Maleficent experiences conflict, similar to iconic Star Wars villain, Darth Vader, whether being trapped in the dark side is permanent or whether there is still good in her… and she will save the day. Overall I found the film very entertaining and without question, does it’s predecessor justice. Lots of things you can expect from a Disney movie: Excitement, adventure, action and… a happy ending! I rate this movie: 7/10 (Katie)

Cover imageThe big short.
Based on the book of the same name by journalist Michael Lewis, the doc-style film follows eccentric financial analyst Michael Burry (Christian Bale) as he uncovers an impending crash in the housing market and puts together a plan to profit from it. As Burry’s predictions are spread by those who believe he is crazy, a small number of people, including Jarred Bennett (Ryan Gosling), Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) and Mark Baum (Steve Carell), begin to follow his lead. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Bale), winning for Best Adapted Screenplay. The film also won the BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Fascinating and hugely entertaining ‘The Big Short’ is also an incredibly unconventional, using fourth wall techniques where the actors speak to the screen to facilitate plot points, and cut-away’s to other celebrities and actresses (not in the actual film) who explain the complexities behind subprime mortgages and collateralized debt. Recommended. (Mark)

Cover imageSpotlight.
This one of the most heart breaking and shocking of all movies I have ever seen. However it is a movie worth seeing that really opens your eyes and will shake you to the core. Spotlight is based on the true story of how in 2001, a team of investigative journalists from the Boston Globe uncovered and published a massive scandal of child molestation, spanning over 20 years where unfrocked priests were molesting children in the poorer areas of Boston. As if perverting the course of justice for these children weren’t enough, the reporters uncover further scandal within the local Catholic Archdiocese, where, (MASSIVE SPOILER), not only were they were aware the abuse, they moved the offending priests to other parishes leading more children being abused, as well as dishing out cash payments to the families in exchange for their silence. However in true vigilante style, the reporters make it their mission to provide proof of a cover-up of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church and publish it to raise public awareness within the community of an ongoing universal problem/issue. (Katie)

Staff Picks CDs for June

New Staff Picks for June include plenty of variety from synth pop to electronica, shoegaze to ambient, singer-songwriter to Jazz. We hope you find something new you like, or a new genre to explore…

Cover imageEdition 1.
King Midas Sound is the crossover project of Kevin Martin (aka The Bug), London/Trinidad poet Roger Robinson and Japanese artist and singer Kiki Hitomi. It has been seven years since their excellent Hyperdub release, Waiting For You and here, the addition of ambient electronic guitar washes courtesy of Fennesz adds an even deeper phantasmal, immersive air to the deep and soulful lyrical excursions, which could only just be called songs. When beats appear they are slow and shrouded in a smoky gauze, yet there is an odd serenity to this music, something approaching a dubbed out, blissful yet wounded resignation, which could be described as post-apocalyptic lover’s rock. A welcome alternative is the inclusion of a second disc featuring instrumental only versions. (John)

Cover imageStill in a dream : 1988-1995 : a story of shoegaze.
This well curated collection features five discs and a booklet that pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the early ‘90’s UK guitar based genre. The term ‘shoegaze’ arose as these bands tended to look down at their vast banks of effects pedals, so it is to be expected that the sounds here are big, complemented by characteristically fey, melodic vocals. My Bloody Valentine, who arguably started the movement, are mysteriously absent, however, with a strict one track per band policy, 87 bands are featured in loosely chronological order. The first three discs feature expected bands such as ‘The House of Love’, ‘Spacemen 3’, ‘Lush’, ‘Ride’ and ‘Slowdive’, while the last two include international bands such as ‘The Flaming Lips’ and even NZ’s own ‘Bailter Space’. (John)

Cover imageIII.
The ongoing collaborative project of Modeselektor, the German electronic duo, and Sascha Ring aka Apparat, vocalist and electronic producer, has proven more popular than either of those separate ventures, and on their third record they excel, forging a link between underground electronic dance music and pop. While the immaculate production has cleaned up some of the appealing rougher edges of their previous releases, it takes nothing away, creating a rich, luxurious sound that is by turns moody, wistful and celebratory, reconfiguring the trio’s techno origins into a pristine and confident electro-soul. (John)

Cover imageArrangingtime.
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 is back 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. (Mark)

Cover imageI’ll forget 17.
Wellington based muso Eddie Johnston, aka Lontalius, aka Race Banyon, has quietly built up an international following over the seven years he has been regularly posting music on his Bandcamp page and now, at 20 years old, he has his first CD released on NY based Partisan Records. Sounding far more world weary than one may expect from someone just out of their teens, he has confidently produced an excellent album of fine and gentle indie-pop. The production is pristine and the arrangements are beautiful, perfectly complementing this sweet and melancholy homage to the emotional turmoil of youth. (John)

Cover imageWhy choose.
Fans of early 80’s post-punk are in for a treat here, as this London based trio breathe new life into a sound template now over 30 years old. Their sound is sparse with driving bass, itchy spiky guitar, primitive drumming and half shouted female vocals that comes across like ‘The Slits’, ‘Gang of Four’ and the ‘Delta 5’ put into a blender and poured out of the staff room teapot of the Rough Trade shop. No surprises then that this is actually released on Rough Trade. These 12 songs, average length 2.5 mins, 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. (John)

Cover imageThe ship.
Brian Eno’s 25th solo release, and his first vocal one since 2005’s Another Day On Earth, contains only four tracks, two of which at around 20 mins each, take up most of the disc’s 47min duration. Over the four tracks vocals are used in a variety of ways – from diffused electronically treated murmurings within glacial ambience to half sung, half spoken poems (one about war, generated by a computer algorithm), through vocoded and totally manipulated utterings barely recognisable as a human voice, to the albums closer, a lovely version of Lou Reed’s ‘I’m Set Free’ complete with lush vocal harmonies. It’s a strange, captivating and enthralling journey that stands as a highlight of Brian Eno’s later career. (John)

Cover imageThe first quartet.
Berklee College of Music’s alumni super group, the guitarist John Abercrombie’s First Quartet (with the pianist Richie Beirach, the bassist George Mraz, and the drummer Peter Donald) left 3 albums – Arcade (1978), Abercrombie Quartet (1979) and M (1980) – but they have long been out of print until now (Arcade was once released on CD in Japan). The rumor goes that ECM label owner Manfred Eicher had suspended them because Richie Beirach had a feud with him. In any case, they are essential recordings for both ECM and Abercrombie’s catalogues. Although there are some patchy moments in these 3 albums, music generally remains beautifully refined while taking risks, and their interplays are masterful. Abercrombie’s unique mandolin guitar stands out particularly on Arcade. This is a very welcome reissue from ECM’s ‘Old and New Masters’ series. (Shinji)

Cover imageHuman performance.
Brooklyn, NY, based Parquet Courts make smart, spiky slacker rock following a course set by US bands such as ‘Television’, ‘Pavement’ and even Jonathon Richman, and their third album finds them fine tuning their sound with a collection of highly articulate acrid songs, possibly their most accessible yet, but still loaded with suitable post-punk angst. Despite the obvious influences of ‘The Fall’ and ‘Wire’, it’s a relief to know that bands are still making music like this in our troubled post-millennial times and this may well be the perfect soundtrack. (John)

Cover imageThe Hope Six demolition project.
Following on from her first ‘political’ album, 2011’s Let England Shake, which focused on the first World War, PJ Harvey continues the trend with her ninth record, turning her attention to our war-torn and inequality-ridden world. Written after visiting Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Washington D.C, a primal pulse moves through these songs, which feature vocal, brass and string arrangements, within which her voice sounds better than ever. Whether the criticisms levelled at the album for its ‘poverty tourism’ stance are valid or not, it’s great to hear PJ Harvey in such fine form and still socially committed and rocking hard 24 years on from her 1992 debut. (John)

Cover imageBuild it.
Wellington based Brockaflower have built up a good local following from their live shows over the past couple of years and they do not disappoint with their debut CD. This collection of deep and soulful bass driven grooves, some sultry, some rocking, breathes confidence, and the extended length of many of the tracks (half are over 7 mins) give the compositions time to unwind in splendour. They are a nine piece band, with the musicians uncredited on the sleeve, but featured are excellent soulful male and female vocals, rapping, brass arrangements, keyboards, guitar and electronics, with a couple of tracks such as ‘Arched’ making excellent use of hypnotic loops. These cool and self-assured compositions deserve a wide audience. (John)

Cover imageFever dream.
Ben Watt’s Hendra from 2014 was his first solo album in 30+ years, the majority of his musical career being spent as one half of the band ETBG. Guitarist Bernard Butler remains an integral part of Watt’s sound on this latest album, the last 2 years playing together having forged a deeper musical connection. A shorter set of songs this time around, built around a classicist 70s singer-songwriter sound, with dark hued tales of aging & the changing nature of relationships. Features guest vocal cameos from Boston’s dream-folk singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler and Hiss Golden Messenger’s M.C. Taylor. (Mark)

Originally released as a digital file, ‘Sleep’, Max Richter’s “eight hour lullaby” is now also available in a neat nine disc box set. For listeners that choose to follow the project’s original intent and play the entire work while they actually sleep, a Blu-Ray disc is included that will play all eight hours in one go. Those that choose to listen while awake will find over the eight CDs a selection of truly gorgeous ambient tracks that never wander into sugar coated New Age music territory. Dipping at random, for instance, into Disc 3 can be found two tracks of almost half an hour in length, a 7min track and a 16min piece that variously employ piano, strings, electronics and human voices to truly mesmerising effect. Max Richter has produced an ambient masterpiece featuring 31 pieces, each fully immersive yet uncomplicated, which lull the willing listener into an ethereal trance like state. Welcome to Richter’s “manifesto for a slower pace of existence”. (John)

Cover imageBig black coat.
Junior Boys bring the romantic institution of the suave, lovelorn playboy, which extends down through bands including ‘Roxy Music’, ‘Spandau Ballet’, ‘Pet Shop Boys’ and ‘Hot Chip’, firmly into the 21st Century with their fifth album, which extends their sleek, minimal electro pop onto the dancefloor. The production is immaculate and the pristine and sparkling Detroit techno inspired grooves create an uber contemporary complement to Jeremy Greenspan’s songs of love and longing that are difficult not to be seduced by. (John)

Cover imageIs the is are.
Brooklyn, NY, based label, Captured Tracks, have re-issued several classic Flying Nun titles and the bands on their roster have an obvious love for indie rock, none more so than ‘Diiv’, who 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. The 17 tracks of their second CD feature reverb drenched hushed vocals over guitars that either wail in squalls of overdriven splendour or chime in glistening cascades, while the bass thunders in melodic harmony driven by metronomic drumming. It is excellent no frills indie rock, some tracks fast and some slow, and is highly recommended for those who love unpretentious music made by musicians who are in love with sound. (John)

Cover imageSongs from a decade : the best of Beady Belle.
Lead by the lovely singer Beate S. Lech (who sings in English), Norwegian jazz/pop band Beady Belle formed in 1999 and since then they have been well loved by fans and critics alike. They have constantly issued their albums with the wonderful Norwegian jazz-and-beyond label Jazzland, and the tour with Jamie Cullum made them an international act. Songs from their first ‘very best’ album are selected with the help of fans, and nicely presents their music; a subtle mixture of pop, soul, house etc. centring around jazz. Although the tracks are not entirely in chronologically order the album shows their development as a band and disc two which is slightly darker and artistically deeper, suggests that they are the real deal. The third disc captures their fantastic live performance and indicates that they are best suited to a cosy club. Enchanting. (Shinji)

Cover imageA mineral love.
Bibio’s sixth album on UK label Warp, finds him celebrating his characteristic pastiche of, ’70s and ’80s R&B, funk, electronica and pop all rolled up into an original funky folktronica quite unlike anything else one is likely to hear. He is creating his own personal summer of love here with a cheerful, candy-colored falsetto funk that seems to be giving warm and fluffy day-glo fingers to any ideas of gloom that may be prevalent in a post austerity UK. It’s not a dance album or indie-pop, nor is it jazz, lounge, folk or electronica; it’s actually all of these things, existing across multiple genres while belonging to one of Bibio’s own creation. (John)

Cover imageAtomic : a soundtrack.
To mark the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima, director Mark Cousins made the doco “Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise” for the BBC, featuring archive footage intended to provide a comprehensive, visual history of atomic power. Scottish post-rockers, Mogwai, were commissioned to create the soundtrack and this CD finds them reworking the original material into a standout addition to their discography. The soundscapes are grand, beautiful and intense, featuring the bands’ signifying soaring guitars alongside piano and electronics as they move between blistering crescendos and more sombre, haunting passages that create an overall otherworldly sonic experience. (John)

Staff Picks DVDs – March/April

Some Staff picks of some of the DVDs that were released over the last couple of months. Lots of French stuff for some reason. Anyway we hope you enjoy these…

Cover imageA girl walks home alone at night.
Receiving a fervent reception at Sundance film festival in 2014, the Iranian-American filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ is a scintillating work. Shot in California, but set in a fictional Iranian town and spoken Farsi, it’s often described as ‘the Iranian feminist vampire western’. In the black-and-white, early Jim Jarmusch-like milieu, the beautiful girl with her chador (fabulous presence by Arash Marandi) skateboards at night for the mission of punishing men who abuse women. After she meets the nice boy it becomes more like a boy-meets-girl story but the question, whether she kisses or kills him, remains until the end. Obviously Amirpour is a cinephile. Taking cinematic essences from the likes of David Lynch, Tarantino, Wong Kar-wai, Sergio Leone and Jarmusch, she brilliantly displays her own aesthetic. This is a fresh addition to the history of vampire films. (Shinji)

Cover imageMr. Robot. Season 1.
Winning a Golden Globe for best drama series and named Best Show of The Year by Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly & TV Guide (US), ‘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. Substituting his meds with morphine & pills from his drug dealer with benefits, he is growing even more paranoid about the world around him and beginning to wonder if what he thinks is happening is actually real or all just in his mind… While pulling together a bunch of influences from Fight Club & Taxi Driver, to Dexter & The Matrix, ‘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. Recommended. (Mark)

Cover imageThe voices.
I saw a movie called ‘The Voices’ recently that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s a black comedy/thriller starring Ryan Reynolds about a man suffering from severe hallucinations who, through some unexpected twists, becomes a serial killer. A very unusual look into the mind of a killer with mental health issues. (Ingrid)

Cover imageEden.
Loosely based on the experience of the director Mia Hansen-Love’s brother, who was the leading DJ of the French house music movement, Eden shows an intriguing insight into the rave culture. Following the DJ Paul for two decades from the early 90s, music is the driving force but it also tells of the painful fact that we can only grow up by failing or losing. Drifty yet stylish, Hansen-Love (Father of My Children, Goodbye First Love) subtly presents us a naïve period of life that everyone goes through; innocent but avoiding facing reality; always wanting more but not knowing what to do, and leaves us in a melancholy mood. Captivating. (Shinji)

Cover imageThe connection.
This 70s French crime drama works as a counterpart to William Friedkin’s classic The French Connection. Jean Dujardin (The Artist, The Wolf of Wall Street) is Pierre Michel, a crusading magistrate reassigned to a Marseille Police department, the city that in the 70’s and early 80’s was the major port for shipments of heroin moving overseas, specifically New York City. Michel attempts to disrupt the organization (a group of Italians, Corsicans, and French who were dubbed ‘The French Connection’), and becomes obsessed with bringing down its leader (in this film) a charismatic gangster called Zampa ( Gilles Lellouche). Gritty & stylish. (Mark)

Cover imageRango.
This isn’t a new film, but I watched ‘Rango’ over the weekend and absolutely loved it!
It’s an animation/comedy/adventure about a wannabe-hero chameleon (voiced by Johnny Depp) that gets stranded in the desert and accidentally ends up as the new sheriff in a town called ‘Dirt’. It was such a laugh and had some great adult jokes throughout it, so it would appeal to a wide range of ages and would be perfect for family movie night. The animation was amazing, and the movie also broke the fourth wall with ‘Rango’ himself addressing the audience at times, which I found really interesting. (Ingrid)

Cover imageGirlhood.
The up-and-coming French female director Celine Sciamma’s previous work Tomboy, which centres a 10-year-old girl who is confused with her gender, was a little gem, and she is back with a 15-year-old girl. Girlhood tells a story about a black teen girl and her ‘co-gangs’ who come from the lower class of society, and their day by day survivals in the violence abounding environment. It’s a kind of often-told coming of age tale, but exhilarating performances by non-professional casts and graceful camera work prove Sciamma’s exceptional talent as a director. Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’ is effectively used here. The scene that the four girls are singing and dancing with the song in the hotel room is gorgeous to watch, and makes this movie even more memorable. (Shinji)

Cover imageThe returned. Series two.
The enigmatic French ‘supernatural’ series returns for a second season. Some time has passed since the events of the first season’s finale, and the mountain town is now partially flooded. Most of the population has fled and the army has arrived to investigate what’s going on, while the Returned (and a few living allies) are living in a suburb cut off from the rest of the town by floodwaters. A second batch of older ‘Returned’ have begun to appear, some of whom are directly linked to the original town’s flooding 35 years ago, revealing more secrets about the connections between the characters and the mysterious young boy Victor. While the first episodes of Season 1 hooked you immediately, Season 2 initially seems to be going nowhere with a lots of new characters and nothing much happening, but it’s worth persevering as the last 4 episodes bring plenty of intriguing flashbacks to 35 years ago and brings everything to a conclusion…or does it? (Mark)

Staff Picks CDs – for March/April

Some new music reviews from us. From the old, to the new, to the repackaged…

Cover imageFragile : definitive edition CD.
1971’s ‘Fragile’ was the first to feature Rick Wakeman and was also the first to feature Roger Dean’s distinctive artwork. The album predated the days when Yes tracks occupied entire sides of a record and features only four new band compositions, fleshed out with short solo pieces from each band member, however, despite the brevity, tracks such as ‘Heart of the Sunrise’ and ‘Roundabout’ are high among many fans’ all-time favourite Yes tracks. They are presented here on a CD/DVD set re-mastered by Steven Wilson whose 5.1 Surround Sound Mix is included on the DVD. In addition, for hardcore fans, six early versions of several tracks are included. (John)

Cover imageChorus
The band ‘Lush’ was perhaps the most successful – commercially & critically – proponent of the type of late 80s alternative rock that became known as Shoegaze. Formed in the late 80s around the twin vocals & guitars of Miki Berenyi & Emma Anderson, they soon signed to the 4AD label and released a series of critically hailed EPs. Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins) would produce their first album 1992’s ‘Spooky’, which was followed in 1994 by ‘Split’. There was always a strong melodic current running through the bands work & this came to the forefront in 1996’s ‘Lovelife’ which, lumped into the nascent ‘Britpop’ scene, became their most successful album. However their management & label had been continually pushing them to break the illusive ‘American’ market (the aim of many UK bands of that era). Tensions with the label & within the band as to the music’s direction came to the fore as they considered their post ‘Lovelife’ future, but it all came apart with the suicide of drummer Chris Accland in late 1996. Devastated they never played together again. Berenyi disappeared from music altogether, Anderson formed the short lived ‘Sing-Sing’ who released a couple of albums before disbanding, and Lush became one of those cult-ish bands that no one thought they would ever hear again. Offers came & went to reform as Anderson discussed in a 2012 interview, but she deemed the financial & practical logistics unworkable without label support, so it came as a surprise late last year when it was announced on the bands Facebook page that they were reforming with the addition of Justin Welch (ex-Elastica) as the new drummer. A reunion gig in May 2016 was scheduled, followed by a North American tour, and even more surprisingly a new EP Blindspot for release in mid-April. The bands old label 4AD, followed their reunion announcement by re-releasing their best-of compilation Ciao! Best of Lush on vinyl, followed by this Box-set gathering up all the albums & EPs along with some rarities from their 4AD years. While the Box-set reveals the many strengths that still make the band’s music relevant (especially given the recent shoegaze & general 90s revival) along with a number of great B-Sides, and eclectic covers of everyone from Wire to Dennis Wilson & The Magnetic Fields, it is a bit of a bare bones affair without an essay or liners notes of any kind and a lot of the bonus material is crammed onto the discs in a non-sequential way. Still an essential listen for fans and a great way for newcomers to discover one of the most important bands in the shoegaze genre. (Mark)

StaffPicksCDs3The revenant / original music by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto ; additional music by Bryce Dessner.
Ryuichi Sakomoto and Carsten Nikolai (aka Alva Noto) are two accomplished electronic musicians who have been releasing regular collaborative albums since 2002’s ‘Vrioon’, voted Wire Magazine’s Electronic Album of the Year. This is their first soundtrack and, aided by Bryce Dessner, guitarist with The National, and Icelandic cellist, Hildur Gutnadottir, they have created a deeply beautiful work. This is ambient/neo classical music, featuring 23 tracks, some only one minute long, that, however, morph into each other, as the sounds unfold at a glacial pace. Evocative and mesmerising, it made me want to see the movie just to experience the music. (John)

Cover imageWe are King.
They have been praised effusively by the likes of Prince, Erykah Badu and Questlove, and featured in numerous sessions including Robert Glasper’s brilliant album ‘Black Radio’. The girls trio from L.A., King has been a much-talked-about artist since issuing their EP in 2011, and their first full-length album has finally arrived. The album consists of mostly medium / slow numbers, and their ‘sweet and lovely’ harmony is an instant allure. The up-to-date electric sound production is carefully applied to their organic presence, and embraces you with dreamy grooves. This retro-futuristic sound; smart sonic arrangements come nicely together with a traditional R&B group style, seems to be the key of their music. Amazingly this is an almost self-made album but the quality is exceptional. A star is born. (Shinji)

Cover imageCentral belters.
As part of their 20th year anniversary, Scottish post-rockers, Mogwai, have released a three disc compilation. Discs 1 & 2 span their discography, loosely chronologically, finishing with ‘Teenage Exorcists’ from their most recent EP, while Disc 3 comprises B-sides, EP tracks and other obscurities. For fans it is a real treat to hear Mogwai’s sound evolve via tracks curated by the band themselves and, for the curious, this collection presents the perfect introduction to the band who are “an instrumental band, except when they’re not; are noise-loving sonic sadists, except when they’re being tenderly delicate; are slowcore saddos, except when they’re making motorik synth-pop. They’re a band you think you know, until you realize you don’t recognize them anymore”. (John)

Cover imageSolo : songs and collaborations 1982-2015.
EBTG singer Tracey Thorn is one of those artists whose voice seems equally confident and comfortable surround by electronic beats as well as soft acoustics, and this cleverly curated collection does just that. Each disc represents a different side of her solo recordings, the first disc is her more acoustic, singer-songwriter work and the second her more electronic, dance-orientated material. Perhaps most well-known to casual listeners through her work with Massive Attack, this compilation offers a great overview of her solo career so far for those not overly familiar with her solo albums, and some nice rare collaborations & remixes for those who are already fans. (Mark)

Cover imageTo those of earth… and other worlds / Gilles Peterson presents Sun Ra and his Arkestra.
To call Sun Ra’s sound strange is like calling water wet – the visionary musician, who maintained he was from Jupiter and dressed accordingly – was one of the most prolific recording artists of the 20th century and is now recognised as a pioneer of free improvisation, modal jazz and for his early use of electronic keyboards. His exploratory music touched on virtually the entire history of jazz, from ragtime to swing, from bebop to free jazz and from the mid-50’s until his death in 1993 he led the Arkestra, an ensemble comprised of a flexible line-up of musicians and dancers who performed in costumes inspired by a space age ancient Egyptian. There are a few Sun Ra compilations already, but this new one, compiled by BBC DJ Giles Peterson, who chose his personal favourites from the dozens of singles and over 125 full-length albums Sun Ra recorded, is being celebrated as the best introduction to Sun Ra’s parallel universe yet. (John)

Cover imageThe Thompson fields / Maria Schneider Orchestra.
The composer and the big-band leader Maria Schneider is one of David Bowie’s last collaborators (‘Sue’ in the 3-discs compilation album Nothing Has Changed) and the saxophonist Donny McCaslin, whose group backed Bowie in his memorable last album ★, is a key member of her orchestra. Unfortunately there will be no more collaboration with Bowie, but she presents a marvelous album. Leading jazz orchestra is no easy task both artistically and financially, but drawing her influences from modern classical masters such as Ravel and Hindemith to Duke Ellington, but above all her mentor Gil Evans, she has invented a watercolor-like transparent sound and received numerous awards. Inspired by her hometown Minnesota’s landscape and her love for nature and native birds, this album offers a glorious lyricism with delicate, intricate arrangements. However, it also has as a superb dynamism as the soloists are given great freedoms to explode. This is a beautifully executed, sublime album which gives you a rewarding listen each time. (Shinji)

Cover imageA Coliseum complex museum / The Besnard Lakes.
Canadian band The Besnard Lakes have a very big sound. Dense, layered vocal arrangements are carried by panoramic, sweeping guitars, banks of keyboards and crashing drums to create a sound that rivals the symphonic grandeur of Phil Spector. Their fourth album finds them confidently expanding the unique vision established on their previous releases, one that draws from prog, indie pop and even the reverb driven guitar sound of alt country. Guitarist Jace Lasek owns the studio where these densely multi-tracked creations are recorded, so cost is not a problem, consequently, the sounds are fine-tuned and mixed to perfectly reflect the musicians’ sweeping vision of a music that is grand yet still rocks.(John)

Cover imageThe catastrophist.
The band from Chicago that ushered in the genre called ‘Post Rock’ way back in 1994, release their first album since 2009’s ‘Beacons of Ancestorship’. A new Tortoise album is always an event and they don’t disappoint. While possibly missing the overall cohesion of their best work, nevertheless, the standout tracks are on a par with anything they have done. This album finds them featuring vocals for the first time, on an excellent cover of the 1973 Davis Essex hit ‘Rock On’ (should that be renamed ‘Post-Rock On’?!) and also on a track co-written by Yo La Tengo vocalist, Georgia Hubley. 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, despite the fact that Tortoise may no longer sound like the future because the future happened. (John)