Wednesday, December 23, 2009

SDRNR Radio: Christmas Mixtape - Slay bells not reindeer

Last year I compiled a Christmas mixtape article for Time Out Amsterdam. Sadly we never actually made the mixtape - just the list. So I got on the old Sound Studio and made a shonky 33 minute podcast/mixtape thing full of great rock n roll and indie Xmas classics.

All killer no stocking filler
Christmas 09: Slay Bells Not Reindeer by colinrdelaney
Download it by clicking on the arrow below 'info'.
1. Happy Christmas (The War Is Over) - Polyphonic Spree
2. Bizarre Christmas Incident - Ben Folds
3. Christmas Is Going To The Dogs - The Eels
4. Is This Christmas - The Wombats
5. I Wish It Was Christmas Today - Julian Casablancas
6. Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight) - The Ramones
7. Christmas In Hollis - Run DMC
8. Christmas With The Devil - Spinal Tap
9. Fairytale In New York - The Pogues and Kirsty McCall
10. That Was The Worst Christmas Ever! - Sufjan Stevens

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Top 30 albums of the decade

December has hit and for music journalists and bedroom critics alike we start thinking of top albums of the year. I began thinking about some favourites but before I could even form a list for 2009 I noticed the Guardian had put out its top 50 albums of the decade. I gave up at 30. Counting down (I pondered whether to number and I opted for decisiveness) here goes. Do feel free to leave me your list below.

30. Joe Strummer - Streetcore (2003): The final bow for Strummer hears his influences refined: reggae on 'Get Down Moses' and Marley's 'Redemption Song' while the fireside strums of 'Long Shadow' was actually written for Johnny Cash and 'Silver and Gold' a message to the youth not to take life for granted.

29. Dappled Cities Fly - Granddance (2006): A Grand dance indeed, the Sydney band's second record was a joyful, sweeping epic, full of harmonies, melodies and swooning arty guitar pop. Reminds me of good times.

28. Kev Carmody - Cannot Buy My Soul (2007): Granted CD 1 of the double album is his best of, but the covers by artists like Tex Perkins, Dan Sultan, Paul Kelly and Bernard Fanning on CD 2 hopefully opened younger listeners to the brilliance of one of Australia's finest songwriters.

27. Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (2006): Punchy tales of the UK's boozy youth prickly with sarcasm and wacky wordplay, Alex and co were a breath of fresh air.

26. The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday (2005): Punching and poetic, Separation Sunday read like a Catholic sermon on a retalin come-down, a guilt trip about fallen suburban youth (Craig, Holly, Charlemagne and Gideon) and their hedonistic ways, all to the sound of New Jersey inspired punk-infused rock n roll.

25. Loretta Lynn - Van Lear Rose (2004): I doubt I'd have listened to this if Jack White weren't involved, but I'm thankful I did. It's full of busted-up, appalachian (not the no-hair disease) charm straight from the cliches of country music, which is what makes it so perfect - it's by one of the originators.

24. Gorillaz - Demon Days (2005): Those four crazy kids conjured up a sophomore record full of electro hip hop starring fantastic collabs with De La Soul, Shaun Ryder, Bootsy Brown and even Dennis Hopper.

23. Queens Of The Stone Age - Songs For the Deaf (2002): Desert rock driven on hard grooves, a shit load of fuzz, a cocktail of drugs Hommes' macho sleaze and Dave Grohl behind the kit.

22. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver (2007): A great party record baring a relatively negative attitude Sound of Silver is dance music with angst. Real people shake the shit out of their week in a sweaty club, so why gloss it over. Fuck you feel-good Ibiza and fuck you Bob Sinclar.

21. Gomez - In Our Gun (2002): Mixing country, dub, rock and folk Gomez create enough catchy hooks and riffs here to toss them in and out where they please where other artists would've milk them dry, coupled with the three vocalists and you've got a record that keeps you on your ears, so to speak.

20. Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours (2008): Infectious indie-pop from Melbourne's trio who nod to new wave, cheesy house and noise-pop all the while making it a sound of their own ready for the dance floor.

19. Fever Ray - Self titled (2009): A brooding and oozing record that turns electronics into an organic undergrowth, rotting and dank Fever Ray is a slower, more sombre record for Karin Andersson, one part of brother-sister duo, The Knife.

18. TV On The Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain (2006): From the heralding horns of electronic elephants on opener 'I Was A Lover' to the fevered hi-speed hunt of 'Wolf Like Me' and slow chugg of 'Dirtywhirl' this record was class.

17. Dan Auerbach - Keep It Hid (2009): More dynamic than a Black Keys record, Auerbach's solo record Keep It Hid ironically allowed him to bring in more musos. Porch-front blues to Louisiana Voodoo and rolling CCR rock n roll, it gets me a bit closer to his record collection.

16. Postal Service - Give Up (2003): This lo-fi indie-dance record served as the thinking hipster's emo there for a while and remains one of the best records ever recorded for riding a city trains to.

15. The Dears - Gang Of Losers (2006): Bypassing 'Synthro', 'Ticket to Immortality' begins the album with an uplifting charm as the lyrics radiate a certain optimism. The optimism doesn't last long for this gang of losers though, with melancholic yet soulful indie tunes.

14. The National - Boxer (2007): Wandering tinges of rock, indie and country Boxer meanders through lush and spacious instrumentation that finds common ground between Interpol and the Boss, all under cryptic lyrics that even quote Napoleon Dynamite.

13. Calexico - Garden Ruins (2006): The Tex-Mex horns, the el mariachi guitar, Joey Burns' smooth front porch vocals and John Convertino's dusty brush strokes create a sound so geographically precise I can smell the tortillas toasting and taste the cerveca. I miss that country.

12. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002): Tweedy's writing is detailed, idiosyncratic charm, from opener 'I Am Trying To Break Your Heart' to the upbeat 'Heavy Metal Drummer' blending country twang with Steely Dan prog-pop and the melancholic closer 'Reservations' that looms out.

11. White Stripes - Elephant (2003):Opening with Jack's drop D (E maybe?) and Meg's thundering bass drum, the chunky repetition of 'Seven Nation Army' charged this album from the opener. Momentum kept it pushing on with 'Black Math' or 'Hardest Button To Button' with delicately interspersed sweetness from 'You've Got Her In Your Pocket' and 'Little Acorns'.

10. Outkast - Speakerboxx & The Love Below (2003): The double album let the ATL duo stretch their characters and while may have been catalyst for their drifting demise it stands alone as a stunning example of where hip hop can go.

09. MIA - Kala (2007): A banging second record blended electrified world music that punched from every favela and ghetto in the world of Sri Lanka, Africa, outback Australia, Brazil, England, and even Timbaland.

08. Kings of Leon - Because of the Times (2007): Stepping beyond their slack-jawed, spittoon drawl and cow-punk indie (by no means inferior), this layered southern opus let the lads build on their backbone and become a little bit CCR a little bit Pearl Jam.

07. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm (2005): Brit hedonism and 'modern love', Silent Alarm cut jagged shapes through the UK music scene and onto messy indie-club dancefloors so we could both moan and shake it.

06. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible (2007): Some will argue Funeral is better, but to me the Baroque pop meets Jersey shore rock of Neon Bible felt so much more rounded and bold.

05. The Strokes - Is This It (2001): With a touch of snotty slacker Holden Caufield this record re-invigorated indie New York cool at the turn of the century and led the rock revival - thank fuck.

04. Danger Mouse - The Grey Album (2004): An album of the times that optimised the concept of hip hop, Jay Z's Black Album vs The Beatles White Album. It took Brian Burton from the bedroom to Damon and Beck's house, and led the way for others to try it and fail miserably.

03. Kanye West - Late Registration (2005): An upbeat party album full of obvious samples and hollerback lines, it's only downside was that it's success led to the misguided ego of this once genuine genius.

02. Avalanches - Since I Left You (2000): Australian pastiche took elements of hip hop and vintage samples for a mix that would shit on any chill out album that came before or after. This might be controversial but on top of it's 'objective' brilliance, this has much sentimental value and that, friends, proves the noughties just got old.

01. Radiohead - In Rainbows (2007): From the off-kilter timing of '15 Step' and ethereal 'Weird Fishes' to the closure, the haunting 'Videotape' this downloadable pay-what-you-like album was far from a throw away record.

Synopsis in five: 1. That took a lot of about 3 weeks to finalise. 2. I listen to a lot of alt-country and tangents of. 3. Dance music didn't quite grab me as much as I thought. 4. I also listen to a lot of indie. 5. My twenties was soundtracked to some great fucking music.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Raveonettes in Amsterdam (now with interview)

Tonight the Melkweg's Oude Zaal is not sold out, not even the balcony is open - a surprise to myself and friends. After enough time to nurse a beer, get a good spot and wall of fuzz from the stage lasting as long as the 'Chicken v Peter Griffin fight', Sune Rose and Sharin of The Raveonettes take the stage and wash the crowd over with distorted white noise and harmonies they've become known for.

Their's is a package that has evolved from a restricted, highly self-aware duo aiming for purity in kitsch with their first two albums (recorded in B-minor and B-major), into a multi-faceted, unrestrained act on more recent records Lust Lust Lust and In And Out Of Control.

Sonically they're star-crossed lovers. A '60s Spector-pop chick coupled with the '50s rock n roller with Rebel Without A Cause disaffection nodding to '80s shoegaze ala Jesus & Mary Chain.

Sune Rose's loose guitar whines and chimes spaciously as the platinum Foo cuts a seductive visage through billows of smoke, the bass rumbles and the floor tom thunders - it's a very Lynchian affair on the slower, moodier songs. None more so than on song of the night 'Aly Walk With Me' (maybe it's just the title reminds me of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me) from Lust Lust Lust, churning out a chugging and hypnotising rhythm until it explodes into wall of noise and the strobes refresh faster than Sonic the Hedgehog, threatening all that don't look away a possible fit. Elsewhere there's the punchy 'Break Up Girls' from fresh album of October,In And Out Of Control.

Electro-rock 'n' roll of 'Love in A Trashcan' from Pretty in Black kicks with surfy, hippy shake and the fuzzed-out twang on 'Dead Sound' from Lust Lust Lust echoes out.

I thought I'd dig up an old (and not so ground-breaking) interview from the archives of travel magazine TNT with Sharin from last year, while she was promoting Lust Lust Lust.

Sharin Foo is in a van on her way to Canada for “work, work, work”. You’d think she had a gruelling job by the tone in her voice but the stunning blonde Dane of The Raveonettes is on her way to Toronto and Montreal to play shows off the back of new record Lust Lust Lust, she’s passing the time watching Twin Peaks.

So who killed Laura Palmer?
“It was her dad, but he was inhabited by an evil spirit,” she says.

The Raveonettes are kinda like the town of Twin Peaks, where clean and innocent 50s rock 'n' roll and 60s pop merges with the darker side of 80s shoegaze sinister. Previous records Whip It On, Chain Gang Of Love and Pretty in Black were influenced by Buddy Holly and The Ronettes with tales of teen rebellion. But on Lust Lust Lust the sinister rises to the surface.
“Lust Lust Lust is probably our darkest album to date. It’s intimate yet noisy and intense.”

Pretty In Black was a homage to ‘50s and ‘60s artists and American, nostalgia. Did you have a theme for this album?

No, not really. I think its theme is more personal, more reflection. I would say it’s a documentary rather than fiction. Even Pretty In Black wasn’t meant to be a homage to the past, it embraced technology which we always do. I guess our inspiration came from people who collaborated with us: Ronnie Spector, Maureen Tucker and Martin Rev (of Velvet Underground), so we were paying tribute to our inspiration.

Your first two albums were recorded entirely in B flat. You broadened your range on Pretty In Black. Do you feel Lust Lust Lust is even more open?

It’s not a conscious decision to do something a specific way. I mean, not for this album, and it wasn’t for Pretty in Black either. I guess Whip It On and Chain Gang of Love had guidelines which were the one key, three chords, stuff like that. For this album there was no specific guidelines but there was a very minimal approach and that’s the very natural approach. That’s just the way it’s turned out.

You have moved from Denmark to the USA. What is it about living in America that fascinates you?

There’s something fascinating about living in a country that is so big, when coming from Denmark. There’s a feeling of space and something spectacular which is unusual when you’re from a small country of five million people in Scandinavia.

You’ve been to Australia before. Did you get to experience the large landmass that is Australia?

The only experience was flying for a long time to Perth, like flying across the US. We were working so hard we didn’t get to embrace the whole travel feeling.

Where was the first place you travelled to without your parents?

I went to China, but with my grandparents when I was 12 years old. My grandfather is Chinese. We went to visit the family.

Any culture shock?

I was still a little girl but I don’t know if I had any culture to get a culture shock. It was very chaotic, but I’ve been to China six or seven times now so I’m used to it.

How do you get a feel for a particular city when you’re travelling?

It depends on what city it is. I like to be able to walk around and get a vibe. Ask people you meet and the people at the hotel where their favourite place to go is.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Flying Dutchmen

Sitting back in Sydney from Holland with some serious jetlag (thought I had dodged that) at 6:00am, I am excited by the prospect of surfing Ballina and Lennox over the next week. So to wait for the rest of the city to wake I figured I may as well finally post this article I wrote some time ago about the Den Haag surfing community.
PhotobucketFrom: Huck Magazine

Expecting a 'you shoulda seen it yesterday,' on my arrival from Amsterdam, Hans is instead straightforward in true Dutch style. "On average we get three to four days of rideable surf per week".

Den Haag's surf beach Scheveningen looks like a lake. Picture perfect for spring tourists walking the promenade at the north end. Beach bars line the sand, carousels carry children and jumpers plunge from the long pier's bungy tower, making it feel decidedly like San Diego.
At the south end, large fishing trawlers are given clear passage by on-guard lighthouses through the hard grey concrete groynes and on the horizon endless ocean liners await access to Rotterdam's harbour, it's the Industrial North Sea, alright. And this is where sandbanks and surfers collect.

With no swell to share a few waves, Hans and I swill a coffee in his mate, Henk's surf shop-come-café, Sublime. Hans, 30, has surfed Scheveningen since he was 12, travelling from inland Holland before moving here when he was of age, to now, raising a young family. He mainly rides longboards, the heavier the better for ploughing through common Dutch slop.

Dedicated to the development of surfing in the Netherlands, he's director of the Holland Surfing Association and pushing the local government for better lifesaver training. He also owns a surf school, not only for beginners but running grom and nose-riding master-classes as well. But when school's out or there's no swell, he hobbies away, rejuvenating old Vespas.

Above him, a mounted poster advertising a local clothing line/surf flick hangs. The main photo is of a set of huge right-handers peeling perfectly. I ask where it is. Possibly to protect it, Hans says it's gone. It was only temporary, caused by pumping sand to reinforce the ever-threatened Dutch coastline. A smaller image within that poster is of Hans. Another image is of a bloke missing an eye. Moments later, in walks that guy. He and his friend have just bought and driven two old VW campers, classic surfmobiles, from Denmark to fix them up. Outside groms clatter about on skateboards – seems every Dutch surfer needs a hobby during the long flat spells.

The following weekend, my third visit to Scheveningen and again Huey is mellow. Not to sound like a bumper sticker, but I'd rather be surfing. It is however a chance for a coffee with Henk.

Surfing for five years, he admits being a committed Dutch surfer means travelling. Two months after a friend introduced him to surfing, he was in Bali. "It's like eating stale bread and then being served a fresh loaf. When guys go away for a month they come back a different surfer."

Hans and about 350 others have taken the Nederlands Kampioenschap Surf Tour to Moliets, France for its second round. Those left behind fill the void of another waveless weekend by popping in for a coffee and a laugh.

In such disparate conditions it must be hard to stay motivated. He shrugs it off. "As a surfer, you always want to surf," then offers the alternative. "It could be worse, you could be a German surfer with no coastline," before flashing a grin of great satisfaction.
He points to a picture hanging on the surf shop wall to reassure me they get waves. It's a nice little cover-up taken at De Zuid, Holland's best break. A perfect glassy A-frame with the rock wall in the background, it could be D'Bah on the Gold Coast. The biggest he's seen is smooth two-metre faces though it only happens about ten times a year. Photobucket

Hans had told me earlier that the HSA and locals had to protest to save De Zuid from being banned as a surf spot after a swimmer died there recently. They Paddled from De Zuid via river and canal systems to march dripping wet, steamer-clad and board under arm into City Hall's foyer. It worked. He said "The national news covered our story. It was great, surfers in Holland are still so unique."

Back in Amsterdam without a wave to my name, visiting Scheveningen's webcam I'm surprised to see a score of riders chasing just-surfable chop. Chop this snobby Byron-bred surfer would pay no mind to.
However Scheveningen's surf community seems bound by an enthusiasm that eclipses their waves, and a stoke that rides out the shit for those ten annual days of glassy A-frames. Between the wind chop and road trips, these are the ephemeral moments the locals live for – to down the tools of their hobbies and pick up the tools of a lifestyle.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Tender is the Night - Blur at Hyde Park

This was my review of Blur's brilliant show at Hyde Park just over a month or so ago for Sydney's the Brag.

On a 24-hour stop over in London you could take in the Tate, ride the Eye and hope to the highlight is singing a Beatles song in Trafalgar Square for a mobile phone ad, That would be pretty British. Alternatively, you could time it perfectly and in one sunny London day drink Pimms at Wimbledon with Andy Murray in the semi-final before hitting Hyde Park to experience motherfucking Blur live with 60,000 other frothing revellers.

Tickets to Summer’s most hotly anticipated concert, acquired via a Facebook plea and purchased at retail price, boasted a mini festival line-up that included Deerhoof, Florence & the Machine, Amadou and Mariam and Vampire Weekend to boot – a line-up that felt like the many facets of Blur from the manic indie-guitar to moments of folk and Afro-beat.
Missing Deerhoof and Florence and the Machine I arrive for Amadou and Mariam, grab two beers and work my way to 20 metres from the barrier. From Mali, the duo are backed by a band and dancers that blend afro-beat rhythms with more modern dance beats and salt of the earth soul with surf guitar. The couple, both blind are cool and subdued, so much so I can’t help but feel they’d be more lively if they could witness the 60 thousand pasty-white bodies burning in the sun, trying to get their African booty-shake on.

Vampire Weekend’s Graceland-inspired Afro-beat feels diluted in comparison but the frat boy infused indie-cool makes up for it. Beginning to get suitably drunk, the crowd relish in their rollicking sing-a-long. It’s a right knees-up, wailing ‘Blake’s Got A New Face’ in call and response, air-punching to ‘A-Punk’s’ ‘hey, hey hey heys!’ and no one in the crowd ‘gives a fuck about an Oxford comma’. A riotous bottle fight breaks out with green plastic-to-look-like-glass bottles pinball-bounce across the mosh, striking multiple skulls and splattering punters in stray Tuborg, but it’s all in good fun. ‘Let’s get rowdy!’ shouts singer Ezra Koenig as he feels the audience’s focus slip away. However it returns quickly to the band and they’re brilliant, even managing a few exciting new tracks to prove they aren’t one trick ponies.
As speakers are stacked and mics set up anticipation grows and my dance space becomes cramped, everyone wants in.

Alex then Graham, Dave then Damon take the stage as a massive surge pushes me forward and a cheer rings out across ol’ London Town. They begin how it all did, with first single ‘She’s So High’. ‘Girls and Boys’ next heralds a chorus of confused lyrics. What was the order again, ‘Girls/Boys/Boys/Girls/Girls’? And as we all sing ‘Love in the 90s’ it’s no longer with live-in-the-moment sexual hedonism but rather nostalgia for our youth as we mosh out to regain a little bit of it. ‘There’s No Other Way’ is shouty fun too while ‘Beetlebum’ brings another, yet slower, chorus line. The Coxon-sung ‘Coffee and TV’ that shed light on his future solo direction, while also making an entire country’s youth re-think their hot beverage choice, remains the perfect slacker anthem.

Whether it’s a football chant or a Britpop chorus, England loves a good drunken choral session and while previous songs state it, it’s no more evident than midway through the night for ‘Tender’. To the warm glow of sunset it is the first moment I get a chill up my spine. It begins with Damon on acoustic guitar and builds to all of us, 60 thousand people strong singing ‘C’mon, C’mon, C’mon get through it, C’mon, C’mon, C’mon love’s the greatest thing’. The band drop away and watch their city take over before – we thrive on it. Joining us again, together we build it even higher than before, simple yet epic.

Having already played the night before here and the weekend prior at Glastonbury plus countless practice sessions, they are tight, consummate professionals while still letting loose. Damon is jumping all over the stage and leaning into the crowd, gold tooth grinning in the sun. Graham is lick-focused over his guitar, rocking out. Dave, now a lawyer is slightly more subdued as Alex looks out smiling over his cheese-makers’ gut.

Classic ‘Country House’ is wheeled out to the fans’ joy even though it had fallen off the band’s setlist by 2002 and to the band, an example that time heals wounds. A few songs later the band is joined by Phil Daniels, he of the raucous diatribe from ‘Parklife’. The crowd kick off before a note is struck. They know what’s coming. To experience a song so familiar to my generation in the park it was written about is amazing. As Damon told London’s Time Out, ‘You don’t get a chance to do that very often in life.’ We all pogo and throw our shit around, chanting like dickheads.
There are obvious holes when they leave the stage at the end of the set with ‘This is a Low’. In these days of compulsory encores no one is fooled. The crowd fill the quiet by singing ‘Tender’ before the band come back out for ‘Popscene’, ‘Advert’ and of course the punk rock of ‘Song 2’, an obvious choice to end on for pseudo-fans but the die-hards know there is at least one or two more still.
Again ‘Tender’ erupts over the warm evening air and the song will never be the same to me again. Damon returns and says a few touching words about the park, the city, the fact this show was the first they announced and it sold out in minutes, and about us. Their second and final encore comes with a message in ‘Death of a Party’, ‘For Tomorrow’ and the sentimentally wonderful ‘The Universal’ as we all sing good-bye, ‘If the days they seem to fall through you, well just let them go’.

Blur have given no hint if they will return with an album, just enjoying these days together. But as the crowd dissipates everyone is still singing ‘Tender’, out the Hyde Park gates, on the Underground, all the way to Liverpool Station and hoping for an album, ‘waiting for the feeling, waiting for that feeling to come’.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Interview: Hoofin' it with Deerhoof

I love the correlation between music and travel. The two have gone hand in hand since Pan skipped around Arcadia with his flute. The idea of going on tour is one of the most romantic elements of being in a rock band; where scuzzy kids from a garage get thrown into luxury hotels with exotic fruit platters in the brightest lights of the biggest cities. Of course for a lot of bands it never gets there. Four kids in a mini-van tearing across the country, arriving with only enough time to check in, rock out drink up and move on. I interviewed Deerhoof who've been doing that for 15 years now, for this month's issue of indie music mag Subbacultcha all about their travels to distant lands. I also added my video for SPINearth, when they played at the Melkweg in December 08.
With downloading rampant, a proper indie band their money on the road, living from hotel room to mini-van to backstage, but generally wouldn't have it any other way. Deerhoof are that band. Constantly surprised by the amount of Deerhoof fans around the globe, drummer Greg Saunier talks to Subbacultcha about playing in communist countries, bootlegged t-shirts and a peppercorn banned in all 50 states of the US.

Deerhoof seem to be on the road a lot. Is being in a band your reason for traveling or is traveling your reason for being in a band?
I never had the travel bug personally. I know Satomi always has. But either way traveling in a band is not really the same thing as traveling for pleasure. We don't usually have time for sightseeing etc. The part of a city that we always see is the inside of some rock club, and actually these places are not especially different from one another across the globe. But then again we have an excuse to meet people that the average sightseer doesn't have. People come to our concert and they like to talk to us. So in a way our travel experience is much richer.

What is always in your carry-on luggage?
We always try to carry on guitars but we get dirty looks from the attendants a lot. They aren't really carry-on size.

What's the band's favoured mode of transport; mini-van, tour bus, Hitchhiking, personalised Jet, Trans Am?
Well, there is our favoured mode and then there is our usual mode. Favoured mode would be either train, or maybe driving, but taking all side roads and small roads. The rare times we can do this are such beautiful scenic experiences. We are able to take the train some in Japan. And driving from Poland one time we had no choice because the only road was a small road. It was snowing and the countryside and little towns we passed through were stunning.
But usually we are in a rented minivan, and we need to take the main motorways in order to arrive on time.

You recently played Strawberry Festival in China and you found a girl advertising "Bootleg Deerhoof T-shirts" Did you introduce yourselves?
Of course. She was very nice actually. She was a big fan of the band so that was quite a surprise - We didn't know if anyone knew our music there. At the same time, she didn't actually apologize for the shirts. But she did give us some. One design was of "Milk Man", one of our albums, so we got one of those for the original artist who made that image - We knew he would think it was funny,

At the festival you said the Chinese audience seemed new to rock music and they had not yet found their niche as fans - was such naïve openness refreshing?
I think actually it would be condescending to put it that way. I'm not sure that there is any advantage to finding one's niche. That just means that there is more that you don't like. More potential for unhappiness, don't you think? Maybe us over-specialized over-hip subgenre defenders are actually the naive ones.

Tell me about how Chinese food is different to 'Chinese Food' in America?
In the US, Chinese food I've had all tastes pretty similar. Like, if each person in the band orders a different item from the menu, we could still get away with combining them all together. You'd hardly notice. Because basically you either get the "brown sauce" or the "white sauce". For all I know those sauces exist in some region of the enormous of China. But I didn't find anything like that in Beijing. We were treated to a lot of dishes and there is no way you would combine any of them, they tasted so utterly different from each other. And wow, some seriously spicy food. There was this particular peppercorn that apparently has been banned from being imported into the US until recently. I don't remember ever having anything like it. It sort of makes your tongue feel like it is disintegrating.
See full report...
Will you eat anything on tour? Are you confident to immerse yourself and eat what the locals eat?
Well we're impossible because we've got one vegan, two vegetarians and one omnivore. But I always love coming to Europe. (I am writing to you from France). Here, the venue feeds you at every show. Here in France we are treated to the most amazing multi-course meals. All the staff and bands eat all together and everyone says "Bon appetit". We even set up tours to Italy just so we can eat the food. We don't actually have any fans there.

You also just played Moscow and St Petersburg. You mention on your blog you wanted to go via the Trans Siberian Railway, will you return to that some time?
Oh, that would be an adventure. Trouble was it only left twice a week from St Petersburg to Beijing, and the trip was a week long. It didn't leave on the right day for us to be able to make it.

What surprised you about Russia?
That it was real. I always feel that way going to new place that I've always heard about.

How were the crowds there - any different from a normal Deerhoof crowd?
No such thing as a normal Deerhoof crowd! In Russia I would say that people had an emotionless exterior on the train or walking down the street, but man, once the concert was happening they were about as demonstrative as you could imagine. And for every band, all kinds of music, no matter how strange. Lots of interpretive dancing, shouting, smiles.

Do you find it odd to visit these countries that, while growing up in America you had so ingrained into you were bad or Anti-American, poor or dangerous and yet be so welcomed as an American rock n roll band?
Well growing up in America you're brought up to think that EVERY country is anti-American, or at least inferior. I don't find it odd to travel the world, I find it beautiful to have my preconceptions destroyed over and over. It is possible for people to live and organize themselves in all kinds of ways that the American media doesn't want you to know about. In some countries they actually don't want any impoverished class. Or they give themselves health care. Or they don't allow themselves to carry guns.
The fact that we are welcomed is of course a shock, partly because I never expect anyone so far away to know anything about our obscure band. I'm so thankful for the welcome that we get. But I can never figure out if it's a sign of some great universality of our music or just the Americanization of the entire globe.

What does 'home' mean to you?
I was going to say hotel room but actually the place that feels like home to me the most is the stage.

Can you record on the road or get much time to write?
I suppose you could record while touring but we usually take our time and record ourselves, so it's not practical to do that during the rushing around of touring. As for writing, I would guess that every member of the band would give you a different answer. We all write our music in totally different ways. Like John writes on guitar a lot and I hear him noodling around backstage all the time so he might be writing. For me, I often feel like my songs write me rather than the other way around. Ideas just come to me, and they can come whether I'm on tour or not. I just keep my pencil and paper within reach. I have to say though that I don't tend to get as many good ideas on tour. I think it is because the music floating around in my head is just a lot of Deerhoof songs that we are playing every day. They sort of cancel out something new.

I just bought my ticket for Blur in Hyde Park, July 3, and you guys are supporting. Are you guys big Blur fans?
This concert will be my introduction to their music.

Have you played to such a massive crowd as this one will be, and is it daunting knowing they're there for Blur?
Not at all, we love playing to audiences who don't know us. It's a great challenge but kind of free in a way, because no one has any expectations of you. It's when we play a small room of people who really like Deerhoof, now that is really daunting!

Have you got any Paulo Ceolho-styled or Paul Theroux travel inspired words of wisdom?
Who's that?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Review: Jamie Lidell at Melkweg

Still holding that new theatre smell, Melkweg's Rabo Zaal kick started 5DaysOff this evening with British born Berliner and nu-soul/electro man, Jamie Lidell.
Anyone that knows Jamie only via latest album Jim, or track 'Multiply', that made it onto the Grey's Anatomy soundtrack may have been shocked by the night that followed. Gone was the more evident elements of his soul sound, instead enveloping his electronic and experimental funk sides with a vibrant, hectic and eclectic attitude to his songs. The usual smoothness of 'Figured Me Out' gave way to spazzed-out jazz-funk with baritone sax and 'Little Bit Of Feel Good' turned into a fucked up (compliment) off centre rhythm with bone shaking, clunky percussion. It was around 'Green Light' that Jamie explained himself. The 5DaysOff crew had asked for something special, something unique. With just a couple of days to throw that 'something' together he and his band developed a set to keep people guessing, riding on spontaneity and the odd bit of improvisation. Jamie, not set behind a keyboard as such, but more an entire sound desk or work station manipulating keys, laptop, sampler and live overdubs. However through the changes one constant remained - Jamie's soulful voice, clean and crisp in sweet falsetto, gruff and stylistically strained in the rock. It was both the backbone and the centre piece to the show.

Giving the band a break midway through the set he used that voice instead for beat-boxing. What started as a simple boom-bap beat grew as he manipulated more layered vocal patterns; a bass here, a high note there, a sound-bite from a lyric of his, Once the beat was right he came to the front of the stage and began 'When I Come Back Around' before bringing it back to a two-step deal - hard and sharp.Photobucket

These days phones can so often ruin a show - if not for a poorly timed ring than for constant shitty video capturing that ends up on youtube. Jamie instead decided to embrace the technology. 'Take out your phones', tell me you're not making us use them instead of lighters for a ballad, Jamie? Nope. 'Play your ringtone'. A couple of hundred people hold their phones in the air playing their ringtone. Embarrassed by my stock standard Nokia fare I scrolled quickly through my playlist. How the fuck did Guru Josh get on my phone? As Jamie collected a few phones from the front row and recorded them into his mic I played 'Infinity 2008' even receiving an agreeable nod from a fellow 'fan'. Liz, beside me is playing Kanye's 'Touch The Sky', of course. What came about were chirping crickets under the delicate 'All I Wanna Do'.Photobucket'Wait For Me' was dedicated to Dolly Parton as a rocked up gospel number that rose and fell like a revival tent going town to town. Jamie's dance moves came into their own here. Missing the rhythm of a James Brown good foot but with the enthusiasm of a Muppet and possession of a fat southern preacher the lanky lad jittered and jaunted around the stage.

'Multiply' showed the crowd new his older stuff. The 'My Girl'esque bassline was replaced by a deep doo-wop a capella before Jamie and band lead us all through the glorious chorus, 'I'm so tired of repeating myself, beating myself up, wanna take a trip and multiply, least go under with a smile'.

And if we couldn't be uplifted anymore he played 'Another Day' straight, admittedly with some relief. Such a perfectly crafted song altered could have left the crowd on less of a high note. But the relatively direct version sent a warm glow throughout the crowd. The Motown swing somehow reminds me of watching New York through Sesame Street, of a carefree summer day in Central Park, kids running through sprinklers. As with Multiply, the band dropped out, leaving it to the fans, there may have even been some swaying from the audience. The band lined up and took as couple of bows as a few determined punters tried to build it up one last time but to no avail. As we left the hall and moved down the stairs it seemed everyone was hooked on the hook, singing loud, singing proud; 'Another day, another way, for me to, open up to you' before trying to perfect Jim's wail… One guy hit it. The rest of us were shit.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Article: Amsterdamned - is the party over?

Tell your mates you’re off to Amsterdam, and it’ll no doubt set off a bout of high-fives and pantomime joint-toking (depending on how stupid your mates are). But new laws and regulations are putting the city’s famous tolerance levels under the spotlight. So is the party really over?PhotobucketFrom JMAG

The idea of tolerance has been at the heart of the Dutch well before philosopher Baruch Spinoza preached about it in 17th century Amsterdam. Now in the 21st century, inquisitive travellers and pilgrims of vice seek out the old city's infamous Red Light District of De Wallen (The Walls), synonymous with legal weed and pot-smoking coffeeshops, shroom-tripping and prostitution to experience pragmatism in practice first hand. Whether they indulge or not, tourists can't deny the Dutch line of thinking has built a society that allows a few more freedoms than most other countries, while still maintaining the safety of its peoples.

However, concurrently Amsterdam and The Netherlands are going through periods of change and many fear the nation's unique characteristics are getting bent and stripped towards conservatism, with some brothels and coffeeshops forced to close and the magic mushroom trade outlawed entirely. "Tolerance and freedom do not imply indifference," says Bas Bruijn, press officer for the City of Amsterdam.

At a municipal level, Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen and City Hall believe over the last few years "an imbalance has evolved between the various activities" within the Red Light District. Says Bruijn "low-level economic activities and crime-sensitive sectors have become over-represented. The concentration has attracted criminal elements, and had an adverse effect on the city's living conditions and economic climate."

In response the municipality created Project 1012 in an effort to wipe out the crime and re-establish a balance in the neighbourhood to a mix of "shady and chic"; inviting for businesses, residents and tourists alike, with upmarket bars and boutiques, culture and cuisine alongside brothels and coffee shops.

"By reducing the number of coffee shops and prostitution windows the City takes a firmer control over the sector in order to put an end to unacceptable practices, such as money laundering and women-trafficking," says Bruijn.

The Project documents state "prostitution will be reduced and zoned to two well-organised areas. As such, half of the supply will continue to exist. Approximately 243 of the original 482 windows will remain. One quarter have already been sold to housing corporations over the last year."
PhotobucketBut won't the ladies start working the streets, where prostitution is illegal? "We will closely monitor the consequences of the current plans. A couple of years ago the City closed an extended prostitution area," say Bruijn. "At that time the same question came up. We managed to close this prostitution area without an increase in underground activities."

Mariska Majoor, an ex-prostitute who runs the Prostitute Information Centre in the Red Light District for 15 years disagrees. She says the most recent closures did push a small group to the streets. "When it gets busier in the summertime we can see the effects better". So does she agree the district needs a clean up? "For a part. We see the problems on the street with drugs and girls with pimps behind some of the windows as well. But the government makes it sound worse than it really is. I think that they simply don’t like the Red Light District at all and they use trafficking as an excuse."

The other avenue to cut out the criminal stronghold on the Red Light District is a reduction of up to 50% of its coffee shops to leave 26 in total, that translates to a 17% reduction across all of Amsterdam.

To quote Pulp Fiction's Vincent Vega, "it's legal, but it ain't a hundred percent legal…It breaks down like this." The Dutch Government's drug policy guide cites the USA's Institute of Medicine findings that "there is no persuasive evidence that the pharmacological properties of cannabis can provoke the switch to hard drugs," and thus cannabis is only a 'gateway drug' via its sociological properties. So the aim of the coffeeshop according to the guide is to "keep cannabis separate from hard drugs in order to protect cannabis users from exposure to hard drugs and the criminal elements who traffic in them." Ironically, while the retail is legal, the backdoor wholesale of marijuana to coffeeshops is illegal and is run by organised crime, the same 'criminal elements' controlling the hard drugs.PhotobucketHowever, some within the government want to dam up the illegal revenue streams by flowing the weed via their own channels, much like their canals. During last year's 'cannabis summit', involving 33 Mayors from across the nation discussing issues of drug tourism and smuggling on border towns and the strong link to organised crime, Eindhoven mayor Rob de Gizjel told Dutch newspaper Volkskrant of the need to develop a government-sponsored grow-op.

"Authorities must get a grip on the supply of drugs to coffeeshops. It's time that we experiment with a system of regulated plantations so we can have strict guidelines and controls on the quality and price." Mayor de Gizjel said.

It's not only municipalities that are eager to pass the Dutch laws. The federal government last year made news around the world by snuffing out tobacco-spun joints in coffeeshops, leaving smokers to toke only pure weed indoors or buy mixed pre-rolled joints to take-away. They also decided that "municipalities should develop and implement additional rules regarding the distance (250 meters) of coffeeshops to secondary schools," states Saskia Hommes, spokesperson for the ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. The regulation would mean closure of another 43 coffee shops within Amsterdam by 2011.

And it's not only reefer madness for drug lovers. The most recent national law change saw the sale of magic mushrooms outlawed as of December 1, 2008. Known locally as 'paddos', magic mushies were available for sale at so called 'Smartshops' to customers 18 years and over, on the proviso that the fungi was accompanied by adequate information about use and abuse of the drug, what not to take in conjunction with the shrooms (alcohol), and how to have a safe and enjoyable high. From the government's point of view it kept that buffer between hard drug dealer and user. However, Hommes says that the message wasn't getting to some users.

"Looking at recent incidents concerning the misuse of mushrooms by certain individuals, the Dutch Minister of Health felt he had to ban the sale of mushrooms because the control and information were not preventing foresaid incidents." One such high profile incident was the 2007 death of a French tourist who jumped from a prominent building rooftop while tripping on shrooms, falling to the traffic below. The 17-year-old's parents blamed the Dutch state even though the sale was to her of-age friend and not to the minor herself.

The stores do sell weaker highs like Ayahuasca, similar to a low dose of psilocybin – the alkaloid in shrooms that makes one trip – but the tourists want the real deal. This pushes the market to the streets where dealers don't have the time or responsibility to give tourists the spiel, and closes the gap between soft and hard drugs. Hommes says, however "there are no signals that the trade has gone underground, that people are dealing mushrooms on the streets." It has however left smartshop proprietors to rely on the sale of weaker highs, and worse, paraphernalia of aliens saying 'take me to your dealer'.
PhotobucketNevertheless, while changes take place tolerance remains the keystone to Dutch society and Amsterdam's bright red beacon of De Wallen. The pragmatic lawmakers and politicians believe the system is working. Bruijn urges, "This is not a 'crackdown' on the Red Light District and coffeeshops. It is a realistic approach towards prostitution and soft drugs." So foreign travellers, you needn't worry you'll miss out on the novelty of girls in the windows or puffing legal weed, there might just be fewer but a lot more than you're used to. On top of that, they only last year outlawed bestiality, but the Dutch national animal is the lion so it's probably for the best.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Review: The Temper Trap at Melkweg

Meeting at 8.30 I thought would give us plenty of time to see the start of Silversun Pickup's Australian support The Temper Trap however when we got there they'd already started.
A great band who've made their mark on the Australian indie scene already and are now sifting through the shit of cracking the UK and Europe, The Temper Trap can create a rather large sonic boom given the chance. However being the support act I couldn't help but feel Silversun Pickup's sound guy had turned them down a wee bit, especially once Brian Aubert's guitars began to wail… But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Thankfully, as it turned out, we still caught the majority of their set, a set that was filled with lots of new material and slight directional change since we last saw them.

The essence of their original sound still remains, from Dougy's falcetto to Lorenzo's guitar noodling, the chugging bass and jagged dancing of Toby and Jonathon's solid drumming backbone but an additional keyboardist/guitarist adds the expansive sonic breadth that no doubt came from time in the studio with Jim Abbiss (Arctic Monkeys, UNKLE). That time produced debut album Conditions, released this week in Australia but won't be out in Europe or the UK until August.
Beyond the jagged post punk indie they began at, their journey has taken them into a much more layered territory, when experimental cues of Tv on The Radio or Mogwai, when commercial - Bloc Party or early U2 - but you get the picture. They're aiming for a big sound, but let's not call it 'stadium' just yet. Speaking to Lorenzo after the show he said it was moving 'maybe a bit dancy'. Not a rock guitarist's favourite realisation. However, on lead single, 'Sweet Disposition' you hear Lorenzo invoking hook-God, Edge's echoing guitar work that brings about that big sound. 'Down River' sounds like a Dappled Cities tune while 'Fader', that live draws a sing-a-long and handclap over heads, is pure pop.
Possibly playing their album right through, celebrating the fact it went on sale in Australia early that day, both show and record build moment towards the end. 'Resurrection' rises from Dougy's ethereal falsetto into a balls-out wall of sound, all instruments forming the barricade while 'Science of Fear' comes out with the melodic live dance of New Order. Last track of the album (unless you score bonus track 'Hearts') is Instrumental 'Drum Song'. It's one of the few I recall from their early live shows. Beginning aptly with a concussive percussion by Jonathon and Dougy on an extra floor tom, echoey Gang Of Four-like guitar chimes in before long it's a thundering maelstrom.
The crowd, here to see Silversun Pickups seem suitably blown away. After the show, Girlfriend Liz overhears a local say to his friend that Brian Aubert (Green?) and co. better watch out or they'll be opening for Temper Trap next time 'round. My friend Aris thought they were, as usual 'bloody amazing'.

Temper Trap mySpace

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Review: Dan Deacon live at Paradiso

PhotobucketAnd what a master stroke it was to let the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart lead off, lulling the crowd into a false sense of security, in harmonies and melodies before Dan Deacon takes the helm and tears everyone new eardrums.
DIY in his set up (pink gaffer tape, a green skull-strobe, an epileptic traffic light and some keyboards on a table) and hilarious in his introduction, Dan Deacon is all about crowd participation. Set off the stage and on the floor in an inclusive manner, he makes requests of his audience, not demands. Before the music gets going he sets the mood with a lesson in crowd participation that sees almost all the audience squat on the floor before, with a raised arm and pointed finger embarrassing those too cool to do as he asks. And then he begins. Like a schizophonic ringtone version of Ministry's "Jesus Built My Hotrod", Deacon's music is intense yet playful, serious yet pisstake, ear piercing and bowel trembling - if there is a funky smell in the hall, it's 'cos he found people's brown notes. He wails into the microphone as effects distorts his voice so he's speaking in tongues. His arm raised to the skies, he is a man possessed like, if you'll pardon it, a fallen deacon. Crowd surfers and moshers rage in the old church, almost falling on his desk as he nearly loses the skull-strobe.

Intermittently, when the crowd needs a break from the intensity, he plays games. Whether it's everyone with their hands on their neighbours heads, or dance offs with the lights on, Deacon keeps it interesting. The most amazing however comes when he pushes everyone to one side of the hall. To an infectious yet repetitive beat, like a sped-up version of the congo-line song he takes two 'volunteers' to form an arc with their arms before another couple move through the arc to form the beginnings of a tunnel. Nearly the entire audience play along and the tunnel worms from his DJ desk out the doors of the main hall, into the foyer, on to the street, around the building, up the wheelchair ramp and back into the hall finishing at the DJ desk. Ridiculous yet amazing.

So amazing is it, we bother not to risk being disappointed by seeing Hatchem Social play in the small hall, and call it a night 'cos Dan Fuckin' Deacon throws parties harder than Kenny Fuckin' Powers throws a fastball.

Review: Pains of Being Pure At Heart live at Paradiso

A little treasure is The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's debut album. They're indie-pop New Yorkers who sway from moments of My Bloody Valentine to the early upbeat riffing of Ash or Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins. Both catchy and naively sexy - kinda like mono - it makes you pine for your youth, especially if you grew up listening to Siamese Dream or Brisbane's Screamfeeder boy-girl harmonies. And if they didn't spell it out with their name, tracks like "Young Adult Friction", "A Teenager in Love" and "This Love is Fucking Right" make it pretty obvious this young band are wearing their indie-hearts on their sleeves, captured it in three-chord pop and harmonies.

But if you grew up listening to Screamfeeder you'll recall both Tim and Kelly had decent voices. These days you can do a lot in the studio with vocal layering but live you're on your own. And with the Internet sweeping kids too quickly from the garage to the main hall of Amsterdam's Paradiso, they haven't a lot of time to refine their chops - let alone let them stew. Accepting success before maturity is just one of the Pains of Being Pure At Heart. Singer Kip Berman (aka Jason Biggs) lacks the vocal umph on stage, crackling on notes as if his 'taco fell in the fryer'. Likewise keyboardist/singer Peggy Wang's voice can't seem to sing through with her Joey Ramone bangs. It's almost charming in that shy teen thing they go for, but a bum note stinks.
Musically though I really enjoy it. I can't stop my left leg from doing that cool, one legged wobble while right leg stays strong. And if my arm isn't around my baby, then as I've seen the kids do, my right hand is on left elbow in front of torso, lost in the moment, head slightly tilted with a sympathetic nod to their pains... and voices.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Review: Gringo Star

Gringo Star "All Y'all" from on Vimeo.

But for their terrible name (and to think they were formerly called A Fir-Ju Well) I knew very little of Gringo Star.
Live, their first song is not promising, to my virgin ears it hints of dull Oasis three chord ballads. I lean over to Steven and say 'don't hang around on my account - if you need to catch your train to Almere that's fine.'

But he sticks it out for a few more songs and I'm thankful I stick around with him. A quick shuffle of instruments introduce organs that give a distinct wandering garage-blues feel like the Animals or to the younger kids, fellow Atlanta locals The Black Lips. Jangly and loose they swaggered through retro-infused rock. At times jaunty and upbeat as on 'All Y'all' with hand claps and staggered riffing or 'Don't Go', a piano-ladden knees-up. At other times slow and contemplative with tinges of lonesome cowboy on 'Transmission' and 'All Day Long'. The constant re-shuffle of instruments sees plenty of rattling tamborines, and reverberating kazoo enter the routine and vocal turn-taking by all four members keeps the live set-list interesting.

Prompted by a darn fun, leg shaking gig and the fact I didn't pay to get into the Paradiso I feel obliged to pick up the album. Helmed by Ben H. Allen who has produced for the likes of Animal Collective, MGMT and Gnarls Barkley and released on their own label, All Y'all resurrects that crackling vintage sound perfectly. If you can't buy it off the merchdesk from chaps themselves at a gig near you, All Y'all is on iTunes and I recommend buying it.

Preview: Yo La Tengo

In March of 2009 covers band Condo Fucks released the record Fuckbook - a collection of skuzzy, stonkin' garage tunes from the likes of The Troggs, The Kinks, Slade and Richard Hell. They executed it with pin-point accuracy for sound and atmosphere of the era. Yo La Tengo fans, will know the Condo Fucks are just a wise-ass side project thingy for the Hoboken, New Jersey trio that have been around for 25 years or so. Fuckbook has been the fans only respite since 06's I Am Not Afraid And I Will Beat Your Ass, an exceptional album that made numerous music media's top albums list. They did however record the score to Adventureland... I guess that counts.

Popular Songs
However good news folks. A leaked song "Periodically Double or Triple", a slinky little ditty that sounds like a Meters or Booker T tune, precedes the just announced new album, Popular Songs to be expected September 8. By all accounts it's quite diverse, as you'd expect from YLT – more at Matador Records HQ.

Bimhuis and fine wine
If all goes to plan I will be interviewing them (daunting? Yes. Awesome? Also) when they stop in to Amsterdam to play the Bimhuis. An odd destination for an indie band but obviously Yo La Tengo aren't just an indie band. Improv is a great part in the performance of bassplayer/organ player James McNew, guitar player Ira Kaplan and drummer (and Kaplan's wife) Georgia Hubley. Their show at the Bimhuis will see an intimate, mostly acoustic reworking of original songs from their 25-year history and maybe a few cheeky samples from Popular Songs. As music website Pitchforkmedia said. 'Fine wines wish they could age as well as Yo La Tengo'.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Review: Bad Wives meaning Good Wives

PhotobucketThe Ladies of Bad Wives have been hard at it like Kathleen Turner in War of the Roses. They're DJing all over the shop.
In fact they are probably knocking back straight fingers of gin as I type in preparation for their set supporting the much hyped N.A.S.A at Sydney's Oxford Arts Factory. What other gigs do they have coming up? Shit man, tomorrow it's Kit n Kaboodle, then on Thursday 11 June it's Go Font Yourself at the Peer Gallery, followed later in the night back at the Oxford Arts Factory before playing FBi's all important fundraiser at Luna Park - will Richard Branson be there? You'll have to go and find out.

In the interim you should really down load Bad Wives mega amazing mixtape two. Mixtape 1 was good but to quote the kids, mixtape two is ill. And at the news that a third 'slow jamz' mix is in the works – Ladies, if you're reading this - do a fanboy a favour and drop Janet and Missy's 'Son of a Gun'. Tune.

Review: Bell Orchestre at the Paradiso

I went to see the lovely Bell Orchestre at Paradiso last night - below the video to 'throw it in the fire' is my review.

'We make art music, we're instrumental,' double bass player for Bell Orchestre, Richard Parry announces on their last song of the night with quotation fingers and mock-denial to the crowd who opt for a rock song over a love song, a choice put forward by violinist Sarah Neufeld.

For Parry and Neufeld, Bell Orchestre plays second fiddle to their busier, bigger band, Arcade Fire. However with Bell Orchestre, signed to Canada's flagship indie label Arts & Crafts, accompanied by fellow members Pietro Amato (French horn), Kaveh Nabatian (trumpet), Stefan Schneider (drums) and Mike Feuerstack (lap steel guitar) they incorporate the chamber pop elements of Arcade Fire while going beyond. Avant garde folk and jazz, moments of dub, el mariachi horns and yes, rock all get a look in to As Seen Through Windows their album released in march.

Live, admittedly at first I thought it would to be rough going. Their first song, a scattered collection of horns and strings. But as they settle in, or as I do, the experimentation with off-timings and shrill notes feel more cohesive, as grooves slide their way in and a momentum builds.
Possibly an 'art' outlet or a breeding ground for ideas, they swing from sweeping strings delicate, to the elephant-triumphant blows of the french horn and bass saxophone, onwards to shaking staccato rhythms. Parry's pulsing double bass pulls sounds from his quiver beyond his bow with drumsticks on strings, hand-drumming on the body, effects pedals building on Schneider's flexible percussive backbone. On top of the violins and brass, once they get going melodicas, keyboards and tricky overdubs all lend themselves to the cacophonic brink of the indie-orchestra before bringing it back down to simple 'oohs and aahs' of a distant choral group. It's the closest we got to actual singing - but it isn't missed.

The band themselves are upbeat. Not only were they on the last gig of their European tour but also extremely relieved to see more than one person in the Paradiso's kliene zaal – as was the case last time they played here. Instead it was 3/4 full and all very appreciative – and no doubt more next time.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Lucky Dragons at Subbacultcha

Lucky Dragons at Subbacultcha
More recently we've had ol' Rhys Jones and his brother Gareth stay with us. We went to the Subbacultcha magazine party at De Nieuwe Anita to see LA-based Lucky Dragons supported by locals The Wolf, Death and the Acorn who carried a hypnotising, reverberating rhythm, from folky elements to build a sound, at times, similar to Animal Collective and will definitely be worth keeping an eye out for in the future around town.
At first duo Lucky Dragons, crouched over a computer, some bongos and a mess of cords were a shitty noise of loops and self indulgence that didn't know the crap they were making in their bedroom would not actually translate to a live audience.
That's until they began getting the audience involved. On one side punters were invited to wave rocks over geiger counter-looking device while on the other side kneeling audience members were given various rods covered in material that emitted and/or prevented noise outputs to hold hands, covered hands, waved finger tips, all varying pitch and tone. All of a sudden Lucky Dragons weren't making self-indulgent art wank, but community-based soundscaping, literally bridging the gap between musician and audience to build one mass, sonic orgy experiment that Benjamin Franklin, Aphex Twin and Alfred Kinsey could appreciate, okay not so much Kinsey. The video above will explain more.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Update: A little bit country.

Interview Andrew Bird from Editor I Amsterdam on Vimeo.

It's always a shame to get paid to work and realise you don't have any time to write for fun - but 'Say La V' as the Italians would say. This past week was a great week for music at Paradiso, not that I took in all of it but it's a sure sign that bands are wanting to tour this part of the world as the weather improves. This week we had Great Lake Swimmers, Shearwater and Easy Star Allstars all in one night, Andrew Bird, Phosphorescent and Laura Marling another.

Great Lake Swimmers were fantastic - the Canadians dressed in national costume of plaid shirts, beards and easy temperament. I don't know their latest album but have Ongaria and it was a delight to hear those songs - bred on Neil Young - played live not to mention "Concrete Heart" about 1950s-60s architecture in Toronto and its line - "like the tallest self-supporting tower - at least for a little while anyway" Oh the woes of a City's proud monument becoming eclipsed by something more impressive.

Shearwater I had heard about but nothing of. I had high hopes knowing the Okkervil River lineage. Nevertheless that dude is annoying, wailing about. We left halfway through - like Nick Hornby said 'never be afraid to walk out of a gig'. The music was interesting and the drummer, who looked like one of the film crew metal heads from Wayne's World - Terry I believe it was, was 80s awesome. But the rest didn't strike me none.

We lost our tickets to Beirut which was a complete shit considering it was sold out so we couldn't buy more. Mixed reviews from those that went from 'really great' to 'meh'. Later upstairs I got wind from Steven that Health were amazing. He couldn't stop going on about them. He also said Metric split the crowd.

Thursday night saw Andrew Bird and support. I had no idea who the supports were to be but was pleasantly surprised to discover it was Laura Marling and Phosphorescent.

Phosphorescent main man Matthew Houck looks something like the Spin Doctors guy but with a lonesome country glum. With recent album To Willy dedicated to Mr Nelson, there's tinges of folk, bluegrass and gospel not to mention some good ol' fashion honky tonk music. A delight. I'll be Glasgow later this month, sadly I miss them by 5 days, May 31 - Check them out at Captain's Rest.

Laura Marling, blessed with a maturity beyond her years, opened with debut single "ghosts" which is a little different from the rest of her songs, in a deeper melancholy drenched with English folk. Sterling stuff, 'cept for it being so delicate the Paradiso kind of overwhelmed her voice.

Andrew Bird is a scientist. Truly. He can predict the future via his multi-layered looping, putting down a guitar and picking up a violin, then a guitar sounds strums from nowhere. An invention behind him is some sort of pedal activated, double barrel grammaphone, whirly-gig. Dosh his drummer is equally brilliant.
He wanders in and out through improvised meanderings but I was thankful that he stuck to the script for "Plasticities". He had the sold out audience wrapped up and far more self-assured on stage than when I interviewed him.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Feature: Fever Ray from Huck

The new issue of Huck (with Ben Harper on the cover) is out now. If you don't know Huck, it's done by a lot of the guys that contributed to Adrenalin (R.I.P) like Vince Medeiros, Jamie Brisick, Phil Hebblethwaite, Michael Fordham, Jay Riggio and Zoe Oksanen – all top writers in their fields of surfing, skating, snowboarding and music. So it's a pleasure to get my words in this issue with a few more stories to come on Surfing in Holland and OT301: Amsterdam's former squat turned arts centre. Anyway, here is my story with Karin of Fever Ray.

Fever Ray Tour 2009 from Fever Ray on Vimeo.

"I started from where I ended with The Knife." States Karin Dreijer Andersson, vocalist and one half of the Swedish brother/sister electro outfit The Knife, whose record Silent Shout was named the best album of 2006 by indie-elitists Pitchforkmedia.

"We were very definite about us having a break. We had been sitting in each other's laps for seven years so we both needed the time off."
So while brother Olof was on a field-recording trek to the Amazon, documenting the sounds of the jungle for the soundtrack to an opera about Charles Darwin The Knife had been commissioned to produce, Karin found herself back in the studio.

"I didn't know it was going to be an album," she says of solo project, Fever Ray. "I just wanted to work with some ideas I had been collecting. I did not have an overall sound in mind but I did have an overall idea of the tempo; slower, thicker."

Through the collected ideas and the minutiae, Fever Ray took shape, contemplative in its direction and certain of its evocation. Where The Knife bubbles with popping techno, Fever Ray stews like a primordial ooze, brooding through thick, droning, almost trip-hop tempos. And while The Knife stabs with sharp beats, Fever Ray weeps through unique timbres, building from trembling and fragile into strong, vengeful haunts. Karin's distinctive voice, like a siren, enchants the listener into an unknown world full of mossy darkness and decay.

"I have my own studio just south of Stockholm where I have mostly keyboard, computer and guitar and I've also got a new voice machine. I have been listening to a lot of Tomahawk and their Anonymous album inspired by Native Americans. It's very primal, making beats out of vocals."
Immediately you can hear that influence, via her new voice machine, on opening track and first single "If I Had A Heart" as well as "Concrete Walls", her voice alters and drop to looming chants over slow, prowling trance, creating an ominous tension.

She admits the album is intense, and that even she'd need a break from its heavy themes. However, "in [my] melodies you can find a lot more romantic aspects from the '80s like Alphaville which I listened to a lot a long time ago." She says with a guilty, kiddish grin. Certainly there's more than a touch of the new wave, synth-pop from "Forever Young" and "A Victory of Love" in songs like "Seven" and "Dry and Dusty".

Recorded after giving birth to her second child, inspiration inconveniently struck in those child-rearing, sleepless hours where the conscious and subconscious, the REM and restlessness, all dance.
"I think it's interesting to capture the moment while in that state of mind. It's not like you have an alternative - it's what's there. I don't sit and wait for inspiration. I definitely think you can write out of that perspective or state.
"Half of what the songs are about is the subconscious," she states in her bio. "Ideas of things happening. A lot of it is like daydreaming, dreaming when you’re awake, but tired; a lot of stories come from that world." As a result her lyrics are often cryptic, walking a thin line between mixed metaphors and just-decipherable details. It's no surprise she finds stimulus in the dream-like films of David Lynch.

Helping to bring a surreal cinematic feel to the Fever Ray project is Andreas Nilsson, who has collaborated with The Knife over the years on videos, live performances and DVDs. The video to "If I Had a Heart" is a voodoo trip down a bayou, spot lit with horror creeping in from the darkness.
"I've known Andreas for a very long time, even before The Knife," says Karin. "We have quite similar musical references but he also has his own interpretations of what we are doing, which I think is great."
The two have also collaborated on the visuals for Fever Ray's live shows, to be "five people on stage including myself playing different things," says Karin. "I think what makes sense to do live is percussion and some more noise elements. At first I was thinking about playing to a standing audience but now I'm thinking maybe it would be good to sit down and listen to it."

Whether live or recorded, immersing yourself into the muck and the mire of Fever Ray, seduced by Karin's vocals, pure or layered, mixed with the thick primordial tempo and foggy darkness you'll find there's a lot to unearth.

Fever Ray
Fever Ray myspace

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fact: Janet is better than Michael

Okay, maybe a stretch but indeed Janet is prolific from the 80s through to the nows where as MJ was only decent in the in the 80s. Thanks to Clare's Facebook status about being thrilled by "All For You" I spent this morning getting down to Janet slow jams like this

And this with J.Lo
And with Missy
And with Luther Vandross

Other great things I've been curing my hangover today.
this guy
Pharcyde's "Drop"
Diss tunes

Tune: Like a Boss

"Shit on Debra's desk"

also by The Lonely Island.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Review: Slim Cessna, Cameo, Legendary Tiger Man

Jello Biafra described Slim Cessna's Auto Club as "the country band that plays the bar at the end of the world." On Biafra's Alternative Tentacles label, the Denver boys sound like The Dead Kennedy's bumpkin brothers blending rockabilly, gospel, bluegrass yodeling and straight out rock n roll into the best dang knees-up since the last Appalachian Father-Daughter Hay Roll Championships.
As suggested the band is fronted by Slim Cessna – a sort of fallen Baptist turned truck-enthusiast cowboy and his sidekick Munly Munly, the skeletal, slack jawed yokel and backed by a rockabilly band of bastards that mix double bass, banjo, lapsteel, organs and rolling drums.
Possessing the old Church hall that is Paradiso's kliene zaal it felt like Beelzebub's Revival Sermon. They rumble through tunes like "Jesus Let Me Down", "Red Pirate of the Prairie", "Children of the Lord" and "This is How We Do Things in the Country". Theirs are stories of murderers, divorcees, heathens and penniless souls that engaged the audience with sadness and black comedy - if there was ever a time for depression-era melodrama its heading into another depression and entertaining the beer-swilling masses.

Sadly not enough people were watching Slim Cessna. They were all too busy in the main hall waiting for Cameo to play "Word Up" who assumedly have seen better times themselves. The great thing about the Paradiso is once you pay for one show you can move around between the halls. Their posters boasted "Word Up" to jog people's memories and no prizes for guessing it wouldn't appear until the final bow. The singer was bedazzled in a shimmering shirt, the hype-man dressed like a Funkadelic-Parliament backbencher, a guitarist wore Kiss-styled boots and rocked a hub-cap guitar, the Keyboardist smart in a blazer while the drummer was a man mountain - similar to Ice-T's drummer, Body Count era. I couldn't bring myself to stay for "Word Up", especially as something seemed a brewing back in the small hall.

Slim Cessna had made way for The Legendary Tiger Man, a one-man rhythm and blues machine with a heavy bass drum and kick snare walking through every song as he played stripped back blues on a couple of elegant old guitars. Portuguese, sunglasses still wrapped across his eyes 'cos the light was shining hard in his face (admitedly he set the lighting himself), he crunched throw mourning blues. He played originals as well as a Cramps cover and "(Get your kicks on) Route 66". Visuals were clips of old 8 and 16 mm film, most produced especially for each song - the Route 66 one especially beautiful, driving the course of the famous American road. When needed, his backing band was an old record player, helping to build an atmosphere of authentic roots rock, sparse, cool and dirty.

A good night all round.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Podcast: SDRNRfm #2 - The Clash

SDRNRfm is back on your wireless. Last time I put together a mixtape it was a Bo Diddley beat kinda deal This time it's The Clash - songs by either The Clash themselves, acts that have sampled them or songs you can hear a direct influence. Don't expect balls-out guitar though, This is The Clash doing dub, gospel, and funk. It's annoyingly short as Garageband doesn't like songs over 34mins, Obviously Phish don't use this program. So I think this is just part 1 of a 2 part special courtesy of Zshare records. Anyway, I hope you enjoy.

SDRNRfm - The Clash
1. Intro to Lightning Strikes (not once but twice) - The Clash (Sandanista)
2. Straight to Hell – The Clash (Combat Rock)
3. Paperplanes - MIA (KALA)
4. History Song - The Good, The Bad, The Queen (Self-titled)
5. Dub Be Good To Me - Beats International
6. Guns of Brixton - The Clash (London Calling)
7. Dirty Harry – The Clash (Golden Bullets)
8. Welcome to the Third World - Dandy Warhols (Earth to Dandy Warhols)
9. You Were The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve - Johnnyboy (self-titled)
10. Hitsville UK – The Clash (Sandanista)
11. The Sound of Sinners - The Clash (Sandanista)

And don't forget, you can still download SDRNRfm #1