Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hottest 100 2008

As the largest music poll in the world Triple J's Hottest 100 is a listener-voted roll call of the previous year's stand out players, and this year garnered over 800,000 votes.
Now deeply entrenched in Australia Day celebrations on January 26, parties and BBQs happen all around the country and even overseas, tuned into the nation-wide radio station.
The countdown begins early and so too do the beers as flags are hoisted, singlets welcome a typical summer day and thongs are donned, not too mention bad Australia Day rub-on tattoos and far too many real Southern Cross tats.
Here in Amsterdam I didn't strip down so far.
I shall save you a list of 100 names, but here's the top ten. Can't say I completely agree but it's not bad and as I wasn't one of the 800,000 I shan't complain.
"Sex on Fire" is most definitely a massive tune. That said, The Ting Tings are a piece of shit. Good to see a few Aussie bands got in there, the likes of The Presets, Empire of the Sun, Drapht and Pez. That said, nice also to see that the Australian public have returned to voting for tunes they actually love, rather than the trend of voting for Australian songs just because it's Australia Day.

10. Jimmy Recard - Drapht
9. That's Not My Name - The Tings Tings
8. This Boy's In Love - The Presets
7. The Festival Song - Pez
6. Talk Like That - The Presets
5. Kids - MGMT
4. Walking on a Dream - Empire of the Sun
3. Use Somebody - Kings of Leon
2. Electric Feel - MGMT
1. Sex on Fire - Kings of Leon

Thursday, January 22, 2009

of Montreal review

From: Amsterdam Weekly Blog
Despite of Montreal's support act, Casiokids filling Paradiso's small hall back in December, the Norwegians began playing to a relatively empty room, but soon punters poured in. In the large hall their sound seemed more dense than in the smaller space upstairs and what started a little shaky built into a set with casios pumping out rave riffs, cowbells echoing The Rapture and indecipherable falsettos in their native tongue. They may not have won over the entire crowd but by the end, the hall was near full and moving as the band enjoyed every minute. As of Montreal's support all around Europe throughout January, 2009 could be a great year for Casiokids.

Having not seen of Montreal before, I expected a show not only full of campy flamboyance and grandeur but pomposity and perfectionism that artists like Kevin Barnes can sometimes carry as baggage. Perfectionism where ill-measured tempos are the cause of mid-song stoppages, where fans take too many camera-photos for his liking and "can I have more Guitar Three in Fold-back Four?" can ruin the show. Well to the first two; of flamboyance and grandeur, I say "and then some". But to pedantic on-stage tantrums over trivial shit the average punter won't hear, an apology is in order.

On the contrary, Barnes seemed humble with his stage presence, allowing a chaotic indie-arena spectacular to ensue around him. Admittedly, he's no wallflower, dressed to impress with costume changes and all the while displaying both vocal talents and persona, but the show was indeed bigger than him. With tripped-out animation on the projector screen, Guitarist Bryan Poole carrying the singed wings of the Angel of Death on his back and some pretty sweet white Raybans, a lion for a sound man and the most half-arsed interpretive dance troupe dressed as pigs, ninja mimes and gold Buddhas falling and swaying with piss-take and naff charm, in and out of the band members, there was plenty to look at.

As for rock n roll, the upbeat songs rolled into each other with only the slightest nod between the band, fuzzed out poptastic tunes one after another, most of which came from Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer and latest Skeletal Lamping. There was the indie-disco of "Id Engager" and "Suffer for Fashion" as stand outs that got the crowd moving, and the delightful "Bunny Ain't No Kind of Rider" with its wonderful line 'To me you're just some faggy girl and I need a lover with soul power, you ain't got no soul power'.

In closing, modesty shone through again as, rather than doing their biggest hit, they opted for the biggest hit – a chaotically loud, balls to the wall version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit". While electronic beats took the place of the drum kit for half the show, on "Teen Spirit" the skins thundered down, Poole shredded and even keyboardist Dottie Alexander picked up the axe for a wall of fuzz – four guitars blazing. The audience were sent back to '91, crowd surfing and moshing with teen-abandon to embrace what probably 99% of us never witnessed in real life. While I've heard my unfair share of pub acts crucifying the classic it was the best damn cover band I could imagine, all the way to the final feedback and guitar throwing & catching schtick displayed by both Barnes and Poole (remember when Novoselic forgot to catch at 92s VMAs and it knocked him out, re-lived here by Novoselic himself.)
We’re only 22 days in so I might be counting my chickens'n all that but of Montreal are definitely in the front running for gig of the year.

If you missed the show catch them at the Tivoli at Utrecht tomorrow night or last night's show on the Fabchannel soon.

And to Matthew, apologies for ruining the surprise ending of the night but you asked for a review. Maybe in Glasgow they'll do "Lithium" or "the Degrassi theme".

of Montreal mySpace
Casiokids mySpace

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

of Montreal preview

From: Amsterdam Weekly Blog
Slinky and camp indie-pop with a schizo-bent and a splash of glam, like Phoenix meets Beck circa Midnight Vultures and Ziggy Stardust, of Montreal are upbeat swingers who treat genres like a game of hopscotch, jumping here, jumping there. From whiney indie, Kevin Barnes and co including his alter-ego Georgie Fruit, will raise you up to chin-stroking baroque pop and dizzy disco before dropping you down to street-level with white-boy funk.

"Id Engager" from 2008's Skeletal Lamping

That said, they have an annoying name. Like you can't say "Have you heard of of Montreal" because your friend replies "Yeah, a city in Canada. PS you're stuttering". It doesn't help that they, like silverchair, mess with their typeset so that "of" is with a lower case "O" and doesn't even look like part of their name when you write it. Even more confusingly, of Montreal are not of Montreal, they are of Athens Georgia, home of R.E.M, of course.

of Montreal play Amsterdam's Paradiso tomorrow, 21 January and Utrecht's Tivoli on Friday 23 January. Support is by Norway's Casiokids so get there for 19.30. Entry is €12.50 + membership.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sixer gets all the gigs

My friend Bobby Six is a journo down in Australia, and while Amsterdam seems to be going through a winter dry spell (excluding the up'coming Of Montreal/Casiokids show), Sydney is awash with gigs, with more rock stars than you can poke a drumstick at.
Between all the New Years Eve parties, the Sydney Festival, Public Enemy and the Days Like This festival, the massive Big Day Out about to kick off, the Nick Cave curated ATP this weekend, it's a musical feast Down Under.

Over at bobbysix.com the Sixer has reviewed the recent Franz Ferdinand show with support by Red Riders and The Temper Trap, a Melbourne band with hype worth it's while. It seems too, that the Glaswegians are back on track.
And he makes me incredibly jealous with a review of the Dr Dog, Ash Grunwald, Gomez and Black Keys show at Luna Park... That's right, Gomez and Black Keys on the one stage – I'd give the Def Leppard drummer's right arm to see that gig. Anyway... have a read. I'll be praying the Pinkpop line up improves – can't say I'm beside myself for Depeche Mode, Placebo or The Kooks, well maybe for Depeche Mode – while hoping the Lowlands line up will be something to rub in those Aussie drongos' collective noses.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Stand Up (bass) and be counted

There's only so long a music critic can sit around in his dressing gown and clog-slippers critiquing other people's work without feeling guilty for not contributing to the world himself... He begins to feel like a hypocrite. So as part of Time Out's January issue – "New Year A New You" theme, I learnt a new instrument – the double bass. I've wanted to have a crack at it for years. From a combined love of rockabilly like Stray Cats and The Living End to hiphop like The Roots and the genre-bending weirdness of Soul Coughing, the double bass has always sparked my interest. I think I should stick to critiquing... I wasn't as cool as Lee Rocker here, that's for sure.

From: Time Out
It’s a guilty pleasure, my love for the cartoonish subculture of rockabilly, typified by the Stray Cats with their high hair and brothel creepers and of course the double bass. Undeniably cool, the double bass is at home within soulful hip-hop, smooth jazz, trembling orchestra and, of course, thumping rockabilly. After years of sitting behind a drum kit, it’s time for me to stand up and swing with the object of my affection.
Koen Nutters, Conservatorium van Amsterdam graduate has been exploring the outer limits of the double bass for some 12 years now but, for my benefit, he goes back to the start. A demonstration sees his hand run up and down the neck, his four fingers moving so quickly they blur into eight. The sound is smooth and pure, with an organic resonance that's absent in the more common electric bass.
Alas, what was a noble beast in Koen’s hands is a cumbersome monster in mine. His hundred-year-old instrument stands a foot taller than me; holding it I’m immediately little and lost. My strumming fingers pluck feebly while my left hand has dexterity issues. Koen dispenses tips to rein it in; thumb here, digits wide, ring finger aids the pinky. If I continue with the lessons I can to expect calluses and painful fingertips, especially with the heavy finger-plucking necessary for rockabilly.
Eventually the scales tip in my favour and I find my groove – not the rumbling roll or jazzy cool that my specially selected hat suggests, more like a tightrope walker rushing to complete every step on the wire – but a groove nonetheless.
Mainly it’s bum notes, hissing and whining punctuated with occasional purrs and growls. A Stray Cat I may not yet be, but maybe one day I’ll rock this town, rock it inside out.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Speak n Spell

I stopped using myspace for all the old pedophiles requesting pictures of me nude – "more back hair" they demanded, but nah-huh I wouldn't give it to them. Well I signed in today and something caught my eye, something that turned me on more than old men. A Speak n Spell mix on imeem. What's one more profile/account/presence/thingy after signing up all over the place, so I got me an imeem account. Still don't know what I can do with it but I get to listen to these songs which is nice.
Anyway, Speak n Spell are a label from Australia who's A&R peeps have the best taste in the biz when it comes to indie. I'm talking Midlake, The Walkmen, The Horrors (before some major stole 'em), Dandy Warhols, The Mystery jets, The Datsuns, The Black Lips, The Dears, Lo-Fi Fink, My Latest Novel, The Duke Spirit and the Great Lake Swimmers plus Antipodean acts like Dappled Cities, Cut Off Your Hands, Die Die Die and plenty more. Logging into myspace I discovered they'd put together this little mix. Good for them. I hope you enjoy.

Speak n Spell

Friday, January 9, 2009

What's Diplo up to in '09

I recently got the chance to speak with Diplo backstage at Amsterdam's Paradiso for Spin's new online portal, Spinearth.tv. We chatted about all matter of things; his new project Major Laser, Netherlands ghetto music and 'philanthroperising' among other fascinating topics.

From: Spinearth.tv
Philadelphia party maestro, Diplo’s show at the Paradiso on Friday 5 December was one for the books with support by local Genesis crew the Beesmunt Soundsystem, Roger 72 and The Walk. Occupying the venue’s Grote Zaal when I looked around the hall it felt like an old school rave, a scene the Paradiso was intrinsic in back in the late 80s. But at the same time I got an insight into what Diplo’s infamous Philly Hollertronix parties were all about earlier this century – an eclectic mix of party jams where anything goes with the whole crowd waiting on the edge of their dancing shoes for the next tune – would it make complete sense in the mix or hit you from left field? Teamed with Casiokids and Yacht in the small room earlier and it was the best night out I've had in ages.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Ticketmaster & Slave

From: Amsterdam Weekly
Recently trip-hop pioneer Tricky played at Paradiso. His recently released album had reinvigorated my interest, so I rushed to an outlet and bought two tickets. Somehow I'd spent $64.90 (without beer or T-shirt) before he took the stage. How's that? Well, two times tickets ($52), two times service costs ($6.90), two times Paradiso monthly memberships ($6). Simply gig-going is getting more expensive, and it's not due to egotistical rock stars or diminishing record sales. The add-on costs are spiralling out of control.
The quickest add-on to excuse is the membership both Paradiso and Melkweg require; either $3 monthly or $18 annually (which allows discounts and deals that a monthly member doesn't get). Melkweg's Marketing Manager Jon Heemsbergen explains, 'It's a multi-disciplinary, cultural centre. Melkweg theatre, cinema, gallery and media room are small-sized rooms. It's not possible to gain profit here. A small part of our income, nine per cent, is subsidised by the municipality of Amsterdam. Because of the membership regulation, Melkweg is able to do what we do for all our customers.'
Service charges are more complicated. 'If you buy a ticket on the night of the show we don't charge any service costs,' says Heemsbergen. 'In advance at Melkweg box office, we charge $1.50-$2.50 per ticket. If you buy a ticket [through Ticket Service] it will cost you a little more, but you actually pay for the guarantee to get in.' But shouldn't the purchase of a ticket be guarantee enough? Is it a chargeable privilege to buy your ticket in advance?
Event companies and venues like Paradiso and Melkweg pay leading ticketing distributor Ticket Service (Ticketmaster internationally) to sell their tickets. Ticket Service also takes a fee from the customer on a sliding scale based on the purchase amount, rather than its processing cost, because, as Peter van Ruijven, General Manager of Ticket Service Netherlands says, 'You can't put our standard fee on low prices, so we invented the relation with the ticket price.'
Had I bought my $26 ticket online I'd have paid a $4.15 service charge instead of $3.45 from the outlet. I'd also have paid $1.06 to receive my ticket as a PDF document in my inbox, or in the post. However, a ticket to the delightfully named Fuck Buttons this week for $12.50 will have a $3.55 online service charge and $0.56 delivery fee. This sliding rate in delivery fee, Van Ruijven says, is due to 'dealing with software licensing costs'.
Why do I pay two service charges by Ticket Service when I buy the two tickets as one service? 'All our costs are related to one sold ticket.' And why can't I buy tickets to more than one event in one purchase, thus reducing charges? Van Ruijven says they're working on it. 'Perhaps in time.'
'When we chose Ticket Service they were the biggest and best distribution network physically and that was important to us,' says Jeanine Albronda, Head of Publicity and Marketing at Paradiso. 'Both Melkweg and Paradiso are experimenting with online companies that are cheaper than Ticket Service for e-ticketing. They offer different ways of charging the customers. The fee systems are very important because that affects our customers, and that's who we work for.' So should Ticket Service be worried? 'They didn't have competition and now they do. It's easy to see that they should be worried. We're watching what they'll do and how they'll respond.'
A relatively new avenue for event companies and venues such as Sugar Factory is Paylogic. Commercial Director Jan Willen van der Meer says, 'We charge a fee of $1.95 per transaction to the event company, not the consumer. This is our sole income. It's up to the event company what they want to do with that fee. They might include it in the ticket price, add it as a service charge or even inflate that service charge.' The big difference to consumers is only one booking fee whether you buy one or multiple tickets, and there's no charge for sending a PDF. Should you fear the internet, you can buy tickets from Primera, with a $3 booking fee.
So should we boycott Ticketmaster over service charges like Pearl Jam did in 1994? The effort by the band was appreciated but resulted in few gigs in the US over the next three years, and we'd like to see a show before 2011.
There are no great alternatives-- at least while online companies fight for position in the market. To see a band whose ticket is available through Ticket Service, van Ruijven says the best way is via an outlet store, paying cash. Otherwise you could pin your hopes on lastminuteticketshop.nl for half-price tickets on the day, or hope it doesn't sell out and buy your tickets on the door. But that's risky, and you may face a scalper's wrath. It's a tricky business.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Backstage with Casiokids

A few weeks ago I chatted with Norway's fun-lovin' Casiokids backstage at the Paradiso for SPIN Magazine's new online community, Spin Earth – check it out, with correspondents all over the world, it's a global network of exclusive music videos, interviews, performances and general band shenanigans. Fully sick.
Casiokids return to the Paradiso on January 21 and Utrecht’s Tivoli on January 23 supporting Of Montreal.

If superman dug electro-pop he’d probably chill at his icey pad, the Fortress of Solitude to Norway’s Casiokids. The chiming, synth-soaked tunes, sparse and echoed, would sound great amongst his acoustics of ice and crystal. The ethereal vocals, all in Norwegian, would shimmer and dance on every icicle.
At Amsterdam’s Paradiso, these five boys from Bergen entertained a dancing crowd in the kleine zaal with plenty of instrument-swapping and DIY abandon, a fun mix of electro-pop and afro-beat, like Royksopp meets Vampire Weekend, Cut Copy and Liquid Liquid, all with a Scandinavian charm and a touch of innocence through tunes like “Gront lys i alle ledd”, "Fot i hose” and “Verdens storste land”.
Chatting to the band afterwards their charm isn’t just in their music, happy to share stories, laughs and beers as we move through the maze of Paradiso’s backstage corridors.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Sounds of Science

In this month's issue of Time Out Amsterdam I wrote a piece on the city's experimental music scene and the international artists it attracts. Below is a video from concert series DNK Amsterdam featuring Paul Hubweber and DJ Sniff.

From: Time Out
Amsterdam’s musical underbelly is full of sonic surprises, but can Colin Delaney decipher the sounds from the silence?

There’s an old episode of The Muppet Show where guest Whoopi Goldberg plays pitch-perfect music by striking glass water bottles filled to different levels, explaining to Kermit she was taught by experimental musician Philip Glass—or ‘Fill up Glass’, as she pronounced it. Experimental music, like the joke, makes sense in performance, but it’s kind of lost in translation.
So for the new year I decided to push myself past the hook-laden melodies that soundtrack my everyday life and venture into Amsterdam’s experimental music world.
Compared to other music scenes in town, to say the experimental scene is bustling might be a stretch but Seamus Cater, co-founder of DNK Amsterdam, a weekly experimental concert series held Monday nights at the SMART Project Space, says the scene compares well on the world experimental stage while DNK is the city’s main live platform for artists to perform their work.
My visit to the SMART sees Dutch flutist/composer Antoine Beuger perform his classical minimalist piece ‘Meinong nonets, 2005’ comprising of quiet, intermittent drones from various instruments. Tonight they are Beuger’s flute and members from the DNK Ensemble on double bass, trombone, harmonica, cello, a second flute and a clarinet.
After 45 minutes of the musical equivalent of a staring competition and a solo from an inconsiderate audience-member’s polyphonic ringtone the only word I can muster is ‘intense’. So I ask for emotional guidance from Cater, harmonica player in the DNK Ensemble.
‘It depends how you’re feeling on the night,’ he says. ‘It could be anything from profoundly moving and relaxing to a prison sentence of extreme discomfort, both of which would have been a lift from the everyday. I haven’t played music where I was so conscious of my breath before. It was a very meditative work.’
The late John Cage coined the term ‘experimental music’ in 1955, defining it as music with an unforseen outcome. His famous piece, 4’33”, which consists of three movements of silence, is often held up as the quintessential example of the genre: not a single note is played by any instrument, but the time allotted for the piece, four minutes and 33 seconds, is filled by chance sounds from outside the performance area… likely to include someone yelling ‘get on with it’.
To continue down Cage’s silent path 54 years on wouldn’t be too experimental. DNK aims to demonstrate the limitless nature of music while nurturing the local scene through artists-in-residence at Amsterdam’s STEIM (Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music) and students of the Den Haag Royal Conservatory of Music’s Sonology Institute; both of which explore techniques and tools of electronic and art music.
DNK also host sound installations, international performers and open nights for locals who’ve been twiddling away in bedrooms.
‘Often we have performers who play found or self-made objects,’ says Cater.
Building home-made instruments to create leftfield music in studios they call ‘labs’, sonology students and the experimental scene may be deemed impenetrably nerdy by mainstream pop, the musical control that’s equally scientific: studied, calculated yet cultured in a petri dish.
However, as Cater says, ‘while the experimental often feeds the mainstream’ – scenes like DNK and artists like Cage, Glass, Yoko Ono and Velvet Underground’s John Cale feeding Kraftwerk, The Avalanches and Radiohead, in turn influencing chart toppers like Timbaland and Coldplay – ‘it doesn’t have to lose its original integrity or intention.’
Still, you wonder if they’ve ever let it all go to simply, ‘Blame It On The Boogie’. Whatever the answer, experimental music doesn’t translate on paper but makes sense with a beer in hand and equally inquisitive music fans eager to talk shop. Best to experience it yourself.