Music & Film is back in the CBD at our new Te Awe Library!

Exciting news for Film & Music lovers with large sections of the Wellington Central Library Audio Visual collection now available once again at our newest CBD library, Te Awe, on Panama and Brandon streets.

Some of our DVD collection, as well as a very small CD collection, were previously located in the Arapaki Branch on Manners Street following the closure of the Central Library building. We have added lots of core film titles to the DVDs, greatly expanded the CD collection, and brought them all together in a fresh new location, a cosy corner upstairs at the spacious new Te Awe library.

We have also curated a core collection of ‘Essential Listening’ & ‘Essential Viewing’ titles from our large Central AV collection, many of which are unavailable on streaming services in New Zealand. Watch out for our new blue stickers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

All our ‘Essential Viewing’ & Essential Listening’ titles are taken from titles such as 1001 movies you must see before you die, ‘1001 albums you must hear before you die’ & Nick Bollinger’s 100 essential New Zealand albums. They are also tagged on our catalogue. Just type in ‘Essential Film Viewing’, ‘Essential Television Viewing’ & ‘Essential Listening’ as a search and you can check them out from home, your device, or on our online catalogues in the library.

Details on the library’s location and hours are on the Te Awe branch page. See you there!

Free Radicals: An interview with Ross Harris

Free Radicals were a Wellington-based art music duo active in the early 80s, described by one reviewer as ‘Eno meets industrial punk meets Stockhausen’.

“The music of Free Radicals still, years later, sounds like no other, two experimental classical composers using technology developed primarily for pop music.” – Elizabeth Kerr

Free Radicals is one of four inaugural releases to mark the launch of a new Rattle Records imprint, Rattle Echo. This new label will present New Zealand art-music recordings from the past that have either never been commercially released or made available digitally, or that simply deserve to be more widely known.

Free Radicals were a Wellington-based art music ensemble that offered an outlet for the creative musical sensibilities of Ross Harris and Jonathan Besser in the early 80s. Ross and Jonathan recorded their music together in the electronic music studio at Victoria University of Wellington, which was established and run by Douglas Lilburn. It was a room fitted out with multi-track tape recorders, filters, ring modulators, and a classic reverberation plate mounted in one of the walls. Their initial recordings involved basic sound transforming techniques, such as speed changes, pitch shifts, cutting and splicing tape, and feeding sounds through various effects. They sought to create sounds that were of New Zealand by incorporating and manipulating environmental sounds into their recordings, but they also worked with voltage-controlled synthesizers such as the Putney VCS3 and 2 Synthi A.

In previous years, such machines were clock-synced, but in 1983 a new industry standard called MIDI appeared on the scene, which enabled a sophisticated connection and control of audio technologies that is still in use today. Machines such as the Roland TR-606, TR-303, and JX3P seduced the duo into creating rock-influenced textures and sequences to improvise over. Jonathan added a Roland RS 202 Keyboard, which brought string and organ sounds to their palette. Pre-recorded tapes of voices and industrial sounds were often added, but the creative possibilities increased dramatically in 1985 with the addition of The Drumulator (the most advanced drum machine at that time) and the Ensoniq Mirage, a “sampling” unit that enabled any sound to be recorded then played back at different pitches across the length of a triggering keyboard. In performance, everything (including voices) was processed through AKS synthesizers to produce often barely controllable chaos, which, in essence, was one of the defining characters of the Free Radicals.

Staff Picks – The Best Of 2019: CDs Part 1

While we are looking forward to presenting a larger collection of AV material at our next Pop-up Library, here are some of our Library Staff’s favourite picks from lat year – all of which can be found at our Arapaki Branch on Manners Street.


Neil J’s Picks:
Songs from the bardo / Anderson, Laurie
A deeply Meditative and gorgeous album with Laurie Anderson reading excepts from The Tibetan Book of the Dead over minimalism musical backgrounds some of which are provided by Patti Smith’s daughter Jesse Paris Smith .

Ghosteen / Cave, Nick
On lots of peoples best of 2019 list and rightly so. This is their / his most personal album subtle , carefully crafted and in some aspects experimental without the joyous veneer of drama found in some of the bands previous albums.

Anima. / Yorke, Thom
His third solo album Anima is another interior electro acoustic work. It is one of his most fully realised works one in which he has totally escaped the long shadow of his Radiohead work. Ever since Radiohead’s giant leap into new musical territory with Kid A, Yorke has been exploring the world of what is loosely described as electro acoustic music Anima continues this trend. This album feels like he has fully found his solo voice free from any Radiohead influences.

Flamagra. / Flying Lotus
This album has a lot of everything guest musicians, styles, approaches to the sound. And in some cases this could sound confused and muddled. Where it really comes together is its creative free formed explosion of sounds it is so immersed in pushing the contributor’s creative boundaries that it is impossible to leave out of any best of 2010 list.

Rainford. / Perry, Lee
U Sound’s the legendary dub outfit are behind the latest release from maverick reggae legend Lee “Scratch” Perry. Rainford contains all of Lee Perry’s unique stylings his wonderful iconic unmistakable vocal drawl and his trade mark free form lyrical style superbly combined with U Sounds musical production. The later dub remixed version Heavy rain is also worth a mention it is weirder and warmer and arguably an even better version of the material in Rainford.

Shinji’s Picks:
Jaime. / Howard, Brittany
Dedicated to her sister Jaime, who taught her piano and poetry but died young, Alabama Shakes’ lead singer Brittany Howard’s solo effort is a triumph. She presents a very personal, deeply emotional world, touching complex subjects such as mixed-race, sexual minority and religion. However, her remarkable voice and the edgy arrangements make it standout pop music of today.

The gospel according to water. / Henry, Joe
Joe Henry found out that he had stage 4 Prostate cancer late 2018, but only a year down the line, he released this marvellous album. This intimate and compelling collection of songs show that he still has a lot of stories to tell, and will be remembered as his masterpiece. Sublime.

Love will find a way. / Bailey, Philip
What a pleasant surprise! One of the founders of Earth, Wind and Fire, Philip Baily’s first solo release in 17 years is a superb jazz soul album. Employing accomplished jazz musicians on the scene, including Robert Glasper and Kamasi Washington, seems to rejuvenate him and he is leading the charge with his signature falsetto voice. Younger than yesterday.

Kiwanuka. / Kiwanuka, Michael
In his music, there are a lot of retro feelings and the shadows of the likes of Marvin Gaye, Terry Callier, Curtis Mayfield, Bob Dylan and above all Bill Withers. The London soul singer excellently updates the musical essences of these legends and makes it organic yet emotional modern music.

Characters on a wall. / Sclavis, Louis
French clarinetist Louis Sclavis has a long association with ECM records, which celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2019. His 13th album for the label is inspired by the paintings of urban artist Ernest Pignon-Eenest. It’s one of the ESM’s most low-key albums in 2019 but exquisitely executed chamber jazz and gets better with every listen, which is very ECM.

Circuits. / Potter, Chris
One of the most prominent jazz musicians of today, the saxophonist Chris Potter’s new album is not from ECM, where he made his home for last few albums, but a brilliant one. Infusing funk, electronica etc., the album abounds in ample creative energy and features vibrant grooves and intense improvisations. Superb.

The undivided five / Winged Victory for the Sullen
Moving to Ninja Tune was surprising but this ambient duo deepened their well-established cinematic, dream-like music world. From the simple yet intricate compositions, they create the soundscape of shimmering beauty, somewhere between post-classical, drone and ambient.

All encores. / Frahm, Nils
German post-classical, electronica artist Nils Frahm nicely compiles his three EP releases; ‘Encores 1’ (featuring solo piano and harmonium),’Encores 2’ (ambient) and ‘Encores 3’ (dub, house-ish). It makes a great pair with the brilliant 2018 album ‘All Melody’, and showcases his exceptional talent as a sound creator.

Drift series 1 : sampler edition. / Underworld
In November 2018, Underworld set out on a project called ‘Drift’ and released music, videos, essays etc. every week for a year. Now this ambitious project has been completed and published in various mediums. This sampler shows that this veteran duo is still in a top form and offers a joyous listen.

Losst and founnd. / Nilsson, Harry
The wait is over. Harry Nilsson died in 1994 at the age of 52 just after finishing recording new materials, which was never released. This lost gem has finally come out thanks to producer Mark Hudson who did a great job to make it a complete album. The result is a wonderful pop album showcasing ‘classic’ Nilsson world; strong melodies and unique humour. Wish you were here, Harry!

Jonathan’s Picks:
Ghosteen / Cave, Nick
All mirrors. / Olsen, Angel
Designer. / Harding, Aldous
Magdalene. / FKA twigs
Anima. / Yorke, Thom

Introducing the Kanopy Film Festival!

Welcome to Wellington City Libraries’ Kanopy Film Festival! If you haven’t come across it yet, Kanopy is our recently-launched film streaming platform, with a fantastic range of free-to-borrow films to suit every taste and member of the family–it even has its own kids section! To get started with Kanopy, check out our handy guide, or click here to jump straight in!

To celebrate Kanopy’s launch, and highlight its range and diversity, we’re running our first ever free film festival in libraries throughout Wellington! We’ve handpicked the movies, including modern Kiwi classics such as Hunt for the Wilderpeople, vintage Hollywood golden oldies like Charade and family favourites and award-winning animations such as A Cat in Paris. Full details of the screenings are below, and in the weeks leading up to the festival we’ll be running featurettes on individual titles. We can’t wait to see you there!

 

Full Programme:


Kilbirnie: Thursday, 14 November

This Beautiful Fantastic (92 Minutes) Comedy
Time: 6pm-7.30pm
A young woman who dreams of being a children’s author makes an unlikely friendship with a cantankerous, rich old widower.


Newtown: Friday, 15 November

Jasper Jones (103 minutes) Family
Time: 6pm-7.45pm
Jasper Jones is a coming of age story about Charlie Bucktin, a bookish boy of 14.


Tawa: Thursday, 21 November

A Cat in Paris (62 Minutes) Family
Time: 5.30pm-6.30pm
A family-oriented animated movie about a cat who lives a secret life as a cat burglar’s aide.


Johnsonville: Friday, 22 November

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (102 Minutes) NZ
Time: 5.30pm-7.30pm
In this unmissable modern Kiwi classic a rebellious kid and his foster uncle who go missing in the wild New Zealand bush.


Karori: Thursday, 28 November

Paper Planes (93 Minutes) Family
Time: 6pm-7.30pm
An imaginative children’s film about a young Australian boy’s passion for flight and his challenge to compete in the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan.


Cummings Park (Ngaio) Library: Friday, 29 November

Tracks (112 minutes) Biographical
Time: 10.30am–12.30pm
The tale of a young woman’s treks across the deserts of West Australia with four camels.


Wadestown: Thursday, 5 December

Charade (1h 53min) Classic
Time: 5.45pm-7.45pm
Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn and Walter Matthau star in this classic Hollywood romantic spy thriller.

Staff Pick DVDs: July Part One

With the closure of the Cemtral Library our AV loving staff haven’t been sitting idly by. Our first pop up at Arapaki has been open a couple of months and we have been digging into the DVD collection there, watching some old favourites and checking out some new releases. There is a bit of everything here, from modern classics to new docos and TV shows, as well as some brand new titles hot off the processing trolley. Our staff have been watching so much that we’ve had to split it into two lists!


Unforgotten. Series 3.
When human remains are found on the central reservation of a motorway near London, DCI Cassie Stuart (Nicola Walker), DI Suni Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar) and their team of detectives are assigned the case. A doctor, a television presenter, a failing salesman, and an artist are a close-knit group of old school friends who hold the key to what happened. (Mark)

First man
First Man is a film centred round the build up to the Apollo moon landings and in particular Neil Armstrong. It is a film that both aims to show simultaneously how we touched the stars through these missions and also be a close examination of Armstrong’s personal life. These two cleverly interwoven threads show that his domestic life and his historic role as first man on the moon are in fact part of the same thing. (Neil J)

Wildlife
“I feel like I need to wake up, but I don’t know what from or to”, a housewife named Jeanette, played by Carey Mulligan who is the anchor of the film, tells her son. The actor Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood) has turned director, and his debut feature ‘Wildlife’ is a quiet portrait of the painful process of an idyllic young family gradually falling apart. (Shinji)

Broken
This is based on an early Maori story from the 1800’s when a young girl was murdered by a marauding tribe. The girl always carried the gospel of Luke with her and the book was stolen by the murderer, who read it and was then filled with remorse. Our story starts in present day New Zealand with an ex-gang leader who has pulled out to raise his daughter after the death of his wife. (Brigid)

Lady Bird
Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is a marvellously sensitive portrait of teenage-hood, self-discovery, friendship and family. Saoirse Ronan performs excellently in the lead role of a disaffected high-schooler who dreams of going to college in New York. One of the greatest coming of age films to be made, whilst never falling into the traps and tropes of the genre. The dialogue is true; believable, relatable and piercing. (Joseph)

Counterpart. Season one.
Howard Silk is a low-level bureaucrat in a Berlin-based UN agency called the Office of Interchange, where he works exchanging coded call-and-response messages with another agent. However one day all this changes, as he is drafted into an urgent meeting… and finds himself face to face with his double. The ‘other’ Howard now needs this worlds Howard to help with a new mission. (Mark)

The breaker upperers
This is a funny New Zealand movie starring Madeleine Sami and Jackie Van Beek. It is set in Auckland and features many cameos of famous New Zealand actors. The two ladies in question discover they are being two timed by a man, but instead of getting bitter they become friends and set up a company which helps people break up with each other. Great for a laugh. (Brigid)

Vice
If there was ever a movie award for the most perfectly named film then Vice must be a strong candidate to take that prize. It is the story of the unassuming Vice president Dick Cheney and his terrifying and amoral pursuit of power, money and influence ably assisted by his wife Lynne Cheney (the Lady Macbeth of the piece). It is described as a comedy and if you like the darkest type of satire that holds but for many people it will watch as a shocking indictment of American politics. (Neil J)

Summer 1993
Watching the Catalan writer-director Carla Simon’s debut feature ‘Summer 1993’ is like watching the most exquisite home video; very personal yet universal. Based on Simon’s childhood experience, it follows 6-year-old Frida who is moved from Barcelona to Catalan countryside to live with her aunt and uncle after her mother’s death. Avoiding dramatization, it’s a sensitively crafted, beautiful filmic memoir. (Shinji)

Searching
After David Kim’s (John Cho) 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a local investigation is opened. 37 hours later and without a single lead, David decides to search the one place no one has looked yet…online. A thriller told exclusively via screen shots seems like a total bore, but this hyper-modern thriller utilises character dialogue recorded through webcams, apps, security camera footage, as well as key moments portrayed through YouTube clips to generate as much suspense as a traditional narrative. (Mark)

Finding your feet
Great movie with a superb cast including Celia Imrie, Imelda Staunton, Timothy Spall, Joanna Lumley. When Lady Sandra Abbot discovers that her husband has been having a long term affair with her best friend she leaves and renews her friendship with her sister (Celia Imrie). These two make an unlikely pair and with time, love and lots of laughs Lady Sandra starts to discover herself and life and love again. It is a funny movie but does have some sad and poignant moments in it. (Brigid)

Ryuichi Sakamoto : CODA
How do great artists face their own mortality? These huge questions rather than a career overview is what you get in this poignant documentary about the iconic Japanese musician, Ryuichi Sakamoto. This film is almost a meditation on Ryuichi Sakamoto’s current creativity, a powerful and moving piece delivered in a gentle and sad way. (Neil J)

Lean on Pete
This film is about a 15-year-old boy, Charlie, who lives in poverty and runs away with a racehorse he takes care of to save it from the slaughterhouse. Blending a human-animal special bond story with a road movie and a coming of age tale, the movie shows a harsh slice of America; a dysfunctional family, poverty, placelessness etc., and a lot of events – mostly unfortunate, tormenting ones – unfold. (Shinji)

Sorry to bother you
This is an unusual story set in an alternative reality version of Oakland, where a poor but ambitious salesman starts working as a telemarketer. Cassius Green finds he has a real gift for sales and has a meteoric rise in the company. However, Cassius discovers his workplace is not what he thinks it is when he accidentally enters the wrong door. A very unusual story. (Brigid)

Frances Ha
Greta Gerwig stars as the loveable and exasperating Frances as she rambles through New York, facing technical homelessness and creative frustration. A tale of optimism in the face of adversity. The black and white cinematography is virtuosic and deeply satisfying. (Joseph)

The guilty
Alarm dispatcher and sidelined police officer, Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren) answers an emergency call from a woman, that he soon ascertains has been kidnapped. When the call is suddenly disconnected, the search for the woman begins. With the phone as his only tool, Asger enters a race against time to save the endangered woman, but soon realises that there is more to the situation that first appears. (Mark)

Staff Pick CDs: July

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eavesdropping Underwater: an Interview with Olivia Price!

Why do scientists eavesdrop on whales and dolphins? What can recordings of whale and dolphin sounds tell us? How do you even record the sound that these creatures make? And what’s it like to go to Antarctica?

Join us on Saturday, May 25 at Te Papa for a FREE talk by NIWA scientists Dr Giacomo Giorli and Olivia Price to hear the answers!

As part of the build-up to Eavesdropping Underwater, we interviewed Olivia Price about her role as a Marine Physics Technician for NIWA.

Can you tell us a bit about your role at NIWA?

I work within a team of physical oceanography technicians to maintain, deploy and recover science equipment that records information about our oceans’ physical properties (i.e. temperature, salinity, oxygen). These properties can tell us a lot about ocean currents and features which provide food and the right kind of conditions for marine life to thrive.

You’re a Qualified PADI Dive Master. What does that entail? How deep have you dived?

I started with a PADI Open Water course in 2014 and have been hooked ever since! A Divemaster certification allows me to act as an assistant to a Dive Instructor and has taught me rescue diving skills. My Divemaster assessment was in Milford Sound, which was the best diving I have ever done! We dived alongside sheer underwater cliffs to 38m (PADI limits are 40m) and saw a very special black coral – that underwater looks white. These corals have been building their underwater forests in Milford for 200 million years.

You were part of a recent journey to the Antarctic onboard a NIWA research vessel. Can you tell us what living on board was like in those conditions?

NIWA’s flagship vessel, the Tangaroa is a multi-purpose research vessel designed to investigate New Zealand’s marine resources and environment. Inside the accommodation, you would never know you’re in Antarctica until you look out the window. It is toasty warm and the cooks aboard are known for their epic meals. With very limited internet/phone access and not seeing another ship for six weeks, it felt like our crew were completely isolated from the rest of the world. This isolation and extreme cold conditions meant we needed to prepare for any kind of emergency- so there was plenty of survival training before we left port and plenty of drills aboard. As we steamed south, each day got longer until we were experiencing 23 hours of daylight. Even then the sun didn’t fully set, instead skimming the horizon. This meant plenty of hours for whale watching and spotting icebergs!

As well as passive acoustic moorings, the “whale listening posts”, you also use physical oceanographic moorings & an ASL echosounder. Can you tell us the difference between these, what they measure and what you hope to achieve from the data recovered?

Passive acoustic moorings (PAM) take a bit of explaining, which will be easier to convey with pictures on Saturday. The physical oceanography moorings have a set of instrumentation on them recording physical properties (i.e. temperature, oxygen and salinity) that will help give an insight into how fresh water coming off the Ross Ice Shelf is interacting with our deep oceans. On the mooring is also some current meters that measure the strength and direction of water flow. The Ross Ice Shelf is particularly important as it is the largest freshwater reserve in Antarctica!
The ASL is an acoustic sounder that measures the amount of Antarctic krill in the water by sending and listening out for sound pings. These krill are a key food source for the Adelie Penguins that live on Cape Adare.

The voyage also focused on some of the tiniest organisms in the ocean – the phytoplankton and bacteria. Can you talk about how data on these is collected, and what it is for?

These amazing little organisms are collected using a CTD Rosette which has a bunch of bottles on it that allows us to collect water samples at different water depths. Several scientists worked hard to analyse phytoplankton and bacteria community structure across the Ross Sea. Although these organisms aren’t visible to our eyes, there are ridiculous amounts of them in the ocean and they are incredibly important. Phytoplankton produce around 70% of the air we breathe, I like to call them the humble trees of the ocean!

What was your favourite wildlife memory from your journey on the Tangaroa?

It is so hard to pick one as we saw a lot of beautiful animals! A moment I will never forget is when we reached the edge of the sea ice at dusk and saw multiple groups of Adelie penguins swimming and leaping into the ice for the night. I felt like I had jumped into a David Attenborough scene.

For more insights into Olivia’s work, join us at Eavesdropping Underwater: the Sounds of Whales and Dolphins on Saturday, May 25 at Te Papa!

Staff Picks DVDs: Best of 2018

Some more of our favourite Films & TV Shows from last year. Hopefully you will something you missed the first time around.

Shinji’s Picks:
Faces places.
This is a celebration of people and places as well as creativity. A legend of French new wave cinema, 88 year old Agnes Varda teams up with a photographer and muralist JR, who is 55 years her junior, to hit the road on a tour of rural France. On the way, they learn the histories of communities, some of which are long abandoned, and of people they encounter, and bring new lives to them with gigantic mural photos. This odd couple makes a great team and their friendship, curiosity and vision make it wonderfully charming. Life is beautiful.

Leave no trace.
A remarkable new film from an American indie filmmaker Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone), ‘Leave No Trace’ is a subtle but powerful portrait of a post-traumatic-stress-disorder father and his teenage daughter, who cut themselves off from the world and have been living in the forests. Featuring the superb performances by Ben Forster and our very own Thomasin Mckenzie as the father and the daughter, Granik carefully presents just enough information and gracefully brings out deep emotions between them. This haunting tale will be remembered one of the best father-daughter relationship films in years to come.

The other side of hope
Seeing just one frame of a film, you can tell whose work it is. It doesn’t happen very often but Finnish veteran auteur Aki Kaurismaki is such a filmmaker. ‘The Other Side of Hope’, which nicely integrates stories of a Syrian refugee and a Finnish restaurateur, is his response to the humanitarian crisis in Europe. It treats the serious topic with warm humanism; it’s presented with his distinctive style; deadpan characters, droll humours, unique texture and hue based on blue, bluesy nostalgic rock played by old men etc. This is another memorable work but what is believed to be his final film. What a shame.

Sweet country.
The new Australian auteur Warwick Thornton’s marvellous ‘Sweet Country’ dominated the Australian Academy Awards (AACTA) of 2018, winning 6 awards including the best film, director, cinematography and actor. In the typical western-like setting, this manhunt drama exposes the dark side of Australian history; racism. It’s uneasy to watch at times but taking the majestic outback scenery as a part of narrative, it offers lyrical, mesmerising moments as well. Unique flash-forwards are also very effective. Poignant.

Lady Bird.
Actress-turned-writer/director Greta Gerwig’s first feature is a lovely adolescent tale.
With the mother-daughter relationship as its core, it’s about a17-year-old Christine ‘Lady Bird’ (dazzling Saoirse Ronan) who is eager for an escape to a big city after graduating from a Catholic school. Gerwig’s smart screenplay and unique aesthetic make it a charming, beautifully layered coming-of-age drama. It’s sweet, funny and affecting.

Blackkklansman.
Ironically the current state of the divided America seems to get Spike Lee; arguably the most important African-American filmmakers of our time, back in top form. This, his finest film in years, tells the incredible true story of the first black detective in the Colorado Spring, who infiltrated the KKK in the early 70s. This is heavy stuff and not surprisingly, it contains chilling moments, but Lee masterfully put them into a comedic narrative, and makes it a gripping yet entertaining drama. Denzel Washington’s son John David Washington shines as the detective. Invigorating.

Twin Peaks: a limited event series.
David Lynch’s ground-breaking series is back after 25 years’ absence, and it’s a much larger scaled extraordinary journey, which offers everything Lynch has made for cinema. At times it’s almost impossible to comprehend and mysteries bring more mysteries, but there are always humours. This nearly 1000-hours marathon epic can be challenging and demanding to consume, but gives you a joyous, rewarding watch. It’s another landmark work by this one-and-only filmmaker.

Neil J’s Picks:
Lucky.
Lucky was Harry Dean Stanton’s last work, it’s a wry and very deceptive piece. On the surface nothing that much happens it’s just a couple of days in the life of a fictional Harry Dean Stanton; true they are quirky, laconic and slightly strange days . However whilst the film is slender in narrative it is large in underlying meaning and through this strange domesticity of the main characters life the movie becomes a poignant meditation on life, memory, loss, accepting fate and coming to terms with one’s impending demise, all done in a light offbeat fashion. It is a truly marvellous performance by Harry Dean Stanton it might even just be his career best and all made the more remarkable since he was aware that this would probably be his last film. Which it turned out to be.

Lady Bird.

 

 

 

The death of Stalin.
Caustic, pitch black humour of the highest calibre is delivered in Armando Iannucci latest comedy. Set around the events and chaos surrounding the death of Stalin this star studded movie was so controversial that the Russian government banned it. Its wicked, hilarious, merciless and definitely not for the faint hearted. However if you enjoy satire of the very darkest and blackest in nature then this movie is a must watch. And the ever wonderful Jason Isaacs is mercurial as Field Marshal Zhukov.

Three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.
The starting point and in a strange way the catalyst for all the action in the film are three billboards by a road put up by a grieving mother with messages demanding justice for her murdered daughter. This multi award winning movie is occasionally funny, but more often it’s a bleak, raw look at loss, grief and vengeance. It boasts several fantastic performances from the lead Frances McDormand as well as Woody Harrelson, Peter Dinklage and several other cast members. It doesn’t take the easy path plot wise and contains several unexpected twists and turns. All in all the plaudits that have been heaped on it are well deserved.

Faces places.

 

 

 

McQueen.
McQueen is a career spanning but intimate documentary exploring the life and work of the iconic British fashion designer Alexander McQueen. Mc Queen rose from humble beginnings to become the enfant terrible of the fashion world his initial rise was I through hard work, native ability, desire to shock and raw talent. ( Though he did get more formal training as he went along ). He was the bright burning super star of the fashion world creating his own fashion house and courting controversy everywhere he showed, His fashion work was often closely inter linked with his own inner demons which were eventually rise up and tragically destroy him. The documentary makes for a fascinating, riveting watch and is a real insight into what drove and created one of the most important and controversial fashion designers of our time.

She shears
It goes without saying that in some areas of New Zealand sheep searing is an obsession, but historically this obsession has always been a very male dominated one. She Sears is a fabulous compelling documentary about a very small group of women shearers trying to break that mould. However what really makes this film work is the fact that it transcends its subject matter the film is far more than just a look at female shearers, it’s more about the shearers as complex individuals, as fully rounded people who shear for a whole range of different reasons, their back stories, their motivations, their drivers both as shears and beyond and the reasons they do what they do. It’s a great watch, a really well-crafted film and like any good documentary less about shearing and more the individuals involved.

Mark’s Picks:
The Good Place. The complete first season.
What actually happens when you die? For Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) she finds the afterlife is a shiny happy friendly neighbourhood of frozen yogurt shops, amazingly accomplished people and pre-determined soulmates, all run by the super nice immortal architect Michael (Ted Danson). However the only problem is that she is the wrong Eleanor Shellstrop, and is in fact a very bad person, who scammed old people for a living and generally lived a completely reprehensible life. As she struggles to hide her true self from all around her and cope with her ‘soulmate’, university ethics professor Chidi, her true nature starts to affect the cosmic balance at play. Currently the funniest show on TV. Just genius.

Radius.
A man (Diego Klattenhoff, Homeland, The Blacklist) wakes from a car crash with no memory. Seeking help he soon discovers that anyone who comes within a certain radius of him instantly drops dead. Retreating to his home he attempts to avoid all contact until a woman (also suffering from amnesia) finds him. She is immune to what is happening and they soon realize that she can nullify the effect he has on others – but ONLY if she remains within 50 feet from him at all times. Together they attempt to get help and find out what has happened to them. The best indie Sci-Fi of the year proves that all you need is a really intriguing idea and a good script. Continue reading “Staff Picks DVDs: Best of 2018”

Staff Picks CDs: Best of 2018 -Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

My design, on others’ lives.

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Jassbusters.
Groovy. Soulful. Eccentric.

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

Marble skies.
Melody. Harmony. Energy.

 

 

Nothing is still.
Emotional. Ambient. Deep.

 

 

All melody.
Experimental. Gentle. Sentimental.

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

Staff Picks CDs: Best of 2018 -Part 1

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

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

 

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

Wide awaaaaake!
The post punk influences are still plentiful, but the new album has a gloss of production that manages to expand their musical palette without losing the bands’ angular garage rock stance.

 

7.
Their most immersive, and possibly their most engaging, album to date with the usual gentle drum programming replaced by a thunderous live drummer that helps move this record into the deeper realms of dream pop inhabited by bands such as My Bloody Valentine.

 

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

 

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

 

Listening to pictures : pentimento volume one.
The former jazz trumpet player, who initiated the idea of the “Fourth World” alongside Brian Eno on 1980’s ‘Possible Musics’, has released, at 81 years old, a remarkable record when most others so long into their career are merely re-treading old ground.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Shearwater drift / Al Fraser, Steve Burridge, Neil Johnstone.
A fully immersive sonic collage that, over 18 tracks, features Taongo Puoro within soundscapes created by synthesisers, percussion, treated samples and other instruments that is not an easy listen, at times it can be quite eerie, but the dark and ethereal ambient atmosphere is the perfect vehicle by which the mystery of these ancient instruments can be experienced.

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

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

Singles 1978-2016 / The Fall.
Made especially relevant by Mark E Smith’s 2018 demise, this excellent box set compiles, over seven discs, every single – both A and B sides – from one of the greatest indie bands ever – The Fall.

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Ventriloquism.
From the big names such as Prince, Tina Turner and Sade to the typical 80s hit by Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, they are all songs from ‘85 to ‘90 (except TLC’s Waterfalls in ‘94). A cover album of the 80s R&B classics is rare and what Meschell Ndegeocello does with them is totally original. With the minimal arrangements, she and her band display superb performances and colour them with a murky textured otherworldly ambience. This is an exceptional cover album by the extraordinary artist.

Vortex / Sonar with David Torn.
Swiss jazz-progressive rock quartet Sonar has established an utterly unique sound – often playing in irregular time and creating a minimal stoic groove – and with this album featuring the one-of-a-kind guitarist David Torn, they seem to move to another level. Torn originally worked as a producer but ended up playing on all tunes as well, and brings a sonically inventive soundscape with huge improvisations on some tracks. It’s stoic yet dynamic, a marvellous risk-taking music.

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

Mi mundo.
Cuban shining new star Brenda Navarrete infuses the traditional Afro-Cuban music with the modern stylish sound, and her debut album ‘Mi Mundo’ (My World) is full of thrilling moments. Navarrete’s expressive voice and her percussions lead the charge throughout, and the Cuban all-star supporting band shows amazing skills, creating smooth yet rich, dynamic grooves. Sensational.

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

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