Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My life as a critic - now in 4D.

One of the last incarnations of non-Internet music press in New Zealand has asked me to begin reviewing albums regularly. The brief is 150 words. That's it. Fucking great!

So four CDs arrived in the mail. Your feedback would be appreciated.


The Price of Gum


Deceptively simple, warm lilting alt-country from the capital city...

Emanating from Wellington and boasting a horn section as well as a swag of guest singers and players, you’d be forgiven for guessing this long player is another pasta meets Rasta capital city offering. The Price of Gum does walk a well worn musical path, that of folk and 1970s country, but thankfully isn’t irritatingly derivative; rather dreamy and reminiscent like that timeless yet instantly recognisable space the Coen Brothers summon. Understated yet impeccable production adds to the charm of this release, with Lee Prebble guiding Jessie Moss’ song writing and James Coyle’s arrangement via a revolving door of talented guest accompaniments. The detached warmth of this debut album is evocative of The Phoenix Foundation, no doubt appealing to purveyors of folk and alt-country, as well as those who are unversed in either genre, but appreciate discovering quality recordings. Ideal listening time: the closing hours of a long summer day.


Spirit in the System

The sophomore offering from bourbon and ecstasy addled Brighton lads Qemists...


Fans of Qemists could do the world at large a favour by carrying around a swab and a wee bottle of Isopropyl Alcohol, such that when greeting them you’re not confronted by a discharge ridden eyebrow piercing. Qemist hail from Brighton, the city where Fatboy Slim produced an imminently better example of testosterone laced electronica, Better Living Through Chemistry, way back in 1996. Drawing obvious comparisons with The Prodigy and Pendulum, the former whose early work totally rates in this genre and the latter modern day heroes of this sound, Spirit in the System manages to maintain zero originality from beginning to end, with frustratingly generic drum and bass loops and paint by numbers ‘dance record’ vocals. If you by some chance missed either, Concord Dawn’s Uprising nails the style of drum and bass attempted in the production here, and The Prodigy’s Experience is a far better example of ‘ardcore.



The Black Seeds remixes and rarities: just in time for summer.


The Black Seeds occupy an interesting space on the musical spectrum in that they’re certainly not brain tearingly vapid commercial radio fodder, though neither are they altogether compelling or progressive. Couple this Ron Howard-esque knack for music with a solid live show, and you’ve got perhaps New Zealand’s greatest pub band. Specials is a compilation of B-sides, remixes, acoustic versions and dub mixes, the stand out of which is the acoustic version of Send a Message. Overall this compilation is best summed up as similar to the band; It’s certainly not offensive, but you probably won’t be going out of your way to get back to it in a hurry either – unless of course you have a mix of family and friends together over summer and are faced with that awkward combination of tastes and ages that makes albums like this so handy to have around.


Lost where I belong

A slightly disappointing debut album from the Ninja Tunes vocalist de-jour...


Having worked with Mr Scruff, Flying Lotus and Bonobo, Lost where I belong is the debut solo album from Andreya Triana. Triana’s vocal quality is without question, exemplified in her being the go-to for Ninja Tunes artists for a few years now, though overall this album never shifts from good to great. In a world seemingly filling by the day with jazz revivalists, Triana is one step of the way to rising above the pack via her involvement with Ninja Tunes, showing nous in comparison to someone with an equally strong voice who might choose to record jazz standards for a major label. But having said that, this is how this album feels – though the tracks are well crafted originals the overall vibe is generic, as is Triana’s vocal delivery - which is a shame as past collaborations have proven her to be otherwise. But still, an enjoyable excursion.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Overfishing... understand?

There is nothing more frustrating than indifference in the face of indignation on issues with massive ramifications for planet Earth as a whole...

Me: "Oh man I watched this film the other day, The End of the Line; it's about overfishing..."

[varied responses, all showing differing degrees of interest]

Me: "Human's have been fishing sustainably for the most part of 40,000 years, but in the past 50 years we've managed to wipe out 90% of the world's big fish population... there's only TEN PERCENT left! Leading scientists in the field have given a precise date that the oceans will be empty if fishing continues at current rates... guess when that is [pause for effect]... 2048!! And what makes it even more frustrating is it's an environmental catastrophe that is actually fixable if we act now! They say all that will be left after 2050 are worms and sand... "

Response A: "2048... will I be around then? Probably not."

Response B: "Mmmmm... Filet-O-Fish...."

Response B: "They edit those documentaries to make whatever point is in their best interests."

Response D: "Oh man really? That's really bad. Hey look at her shoes! Those are really cool shoes."

Now I'm not suggesting my friends and associates are shallow or disinterested types. What is probably a more accurate observation is that the people I generally acquaint myself with suffer from quite the opposite - an oversupply of information and media which seems to lead to some kind of universal shrug - an 'I know that's terrible, but so are the scores of other things I hear about on a daily basis...'

Are we becoming increasingly apathetic as a result of the clouds of information we now live in? It's an interesting question; but for now I'm far more worried about our oceans...

Thousands of pounds of Jack Mackerel

This image is one boat in one ocean on one day. I have more than once wondered how we could fish to the sort of levels illustrated above. It turns out we can't. Once again our own technological advancements have got the better of us. We have fished for tens of thousands of years, but only had the technology to empty our great oceans in the past half a decade.

Consider just a few of the myriad of facts about how we currently treat our oceans. These facts are incredibly frustrating, seeing as if we act now we can actually reverse a lot of the damage that has already been done:

- 60% of fish caught by trawlers in the North Sea are thrown back, a very small percentage of which swim on, the rest of which sink to the bottom (never mind the turtles, dolphins, whales & sea birds caught in the process).

- The looming collapse of fisheries (in 2048, if fishing continues at today's levels) will affect the one billion people who rely on fish as a source of protein.

- Around NINETY PERCENT (!!) of the world large fish have been fished out.

- As is often typical of these scenarios, the greed of a few affects the welfare of many. One percent of the world's fishing fleets account for 50% of all fish caught across all oceans. These boats are certainly not owned by the nations most reliant on fish for basic diet, though these boats often fish in these impoverished nations waters.

- Often marketed as an 'environmental solution', fish that are farmed are fed on wild fish stocks. Growing a pound of salmon destined for the high street requires three to five pounds of perfectly edible wild fish, again to the detriment of those who fish for basic dietary requirements.

- The global fishing fleets are 250% larger than the oceans can sustainably support (and then there's the illegal overfishing on top of these fleets quotas).

Lastly, the general consensus of marine experts is that we, as a planet, need to set aside forty percent of our oceans as marine reserves, leaving a still whopping 60 percent for fishing. At present only 0.6% of waters are reserves, and these small reserves have proven extremely successful. If we act NOW we've got a fairly good chance of reversing our fate, unlike attempting a puncture repair on the ozone layer.

Somehow, and I don't know how other than to raise my voice about this for now, we have to act as a concerned collective called the human race and put an end to this. If the information available now is not acted upon, we are in fact not the smartest race on the planet, but far from it... it will be in our lifetime that we have to tell our grandchildren stories as fanciful and exciting as those we were told about dinosaurs. Though in the same breath we will have to admit that we could have saved the incredible underwater world we have only pictures and memories of.

Children being children, the next thing said will be "why didn't you?"

Stay indifferent and apathetic. You have 38 years to think of a good answer.

"How we wrecked the ocean:"

"The End of the Line" trailer. Watch this film.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Summer (Part Two) I Heart The Gathering!!

Alright I have been slack, but it is due to the fact I am now in full-time post graduate study, which essentially dictates a masters level of insight and output. Just what this restless brain needs...

In terms of "Summer Part Two", I've had a number of gems float in and out of my head over the past two months, but I'm feeling lazy so I'll just cover the main one: my love of festivals.

Working Coromandel Gold over New Years (as bar staff rather than a performer) got me thinking...

First up, props to the organisers of Coromadel Gold.For a first year venture I thought the event was brilliant on every level, and I reckon if common (and business) sense prevail, then we''ll see one stage become two, X amount of tickets become Y... you get where I am going with this.

For those of you interested in the business and promotion side of things, a very reliable bird told me the Shapeshifter lads bankrolled a percentage of putting on the party in exchange for a relative slice of the profits. Bar and tickets combined and I'm told they walked away with $200K in their skyrocket. Feel free to tell me I live in the clouds on this one... as I say reliable gossip, but gossip none the less.

Festivals are pretty much summed up for me by my Gathering experiences. Whether you were there or not I suggest taking the time to listen to the following. It's a documentary produced by Radio New Zealand that I'm probably allowed to post here. But with all the hysteria surrounding RNZ and funding at the moment, I figure they best get their isht out there wherever possible. Playing something once and then shelving it does nobody any favours, especially when rocking on the public's dime....

I posted the following about The Gathering on Facebook a couple of years ago, linking to an interesting article that looks behind the scenes:

"I've always meant to post this somewhere since first reading it a couple of years ago.

The four Gatherings I attended up to and including 2000 represented hands down some of the best times i have had in my life to date, and I'm sure I'm not alone in making that statement. From a performers point of view, they also represented the most inspired, enjoyable and most well received DJ sets I have ever played.

But from the point of view of someone involved in the business end of music and event promotion, I did wonder how some kind of equilibrium could exist between a festival created [and run] on a volunteer ethos and what was becoming a potentially hugely lucrative business venture.

To all the volunteers who were on site for weeks and weeks longer than someone like myself, who had the easy job of dancing and spinning a few tunes, I salute you."

And here is a link to that article. It's extremely well written, and very interesting.

xx Class of '96 to '00...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Summer (Part One)

What had already occured to me about living in Auckland was most definitely solidified over the Christmas / New Year period. Having been here nearly three years, I'm often at a loss as to, well, what on earth I'm doing here. Not in a philisophical way by any means - more in an "everything is covered in a thin layer of grime, there's no decent public transport, and ha'penny and threepence isn't a wage I'm used to" kind of a way.

Living in Auckland is about getting OUT of Auckland, in any direction (as this topographic map of Auckland and surrounds illustrates). I've spent nearly two weeks on and off in the Coromandel since late December, and it certainly lives up to it's reputation...

The first week was the one that surrounded Christmas Day, and was spent with family at my folks recently acquired bach in Whiritoa. A few people I've told this have said "oh god, how was a whole week with the family?" or words to that effect.

It was one of the best weeks I've had in a very long time.

I, like those who expressed the sentiments above, do not live in a perfect world. But surely it's the imperfections in life that make the good bits even betterer? All the planets seem to be in alignment at the moment with my family, which just sat perfectly against the backdrop of the peninsula...

I even lifted the kanga on my fishing rod, having believed someone or something must have given it the big fatwa in the sports shop I bought it in back in 2006. The abundance of life in the Coromandel proved otherwise, as my rod bought in it's first ever fish (a fairly decent Kahawai) followed by a relative Scrappy-Doo Kahawai, a Gurnard, and two more "one's that got away" due to my keen yet inexperienced fishing technique.

They should write a Country & Western song about the Gurnard.

"How can something so ugly taste so good? (Ode to my sister Lyndy.)"

So with Phase One of Summer in the Coromandel, I returned to the hole-in-the-middle of the donut to wile a few quiet days away in the inner-city sunshine before heading back for Phase Two - the inagrual Coromandel Gold festival, this time in Whitianga...


Friday, December 18, 2009

A saucy bit of sauce from the source.

OK. I & I will keep this brief.

Here's a mix I cobbled together in 2003, which I stumbled across on my hard drive today.

It'd be an honour for me to accompany you on your holiday drive this summer...

The view from the louge room window for all of next week...

It aint half too bad. Myself on the ones and twos - it's a 320KPS file - so kinda big but worth the wait if you want a CD length mix of bassline pressure for the summer stereo...

Tunes from RJ-D2, Hype, Hospital Recordings, Neneh Cherry, Rockers Hi-Fi, Zinc, Rodney P, Dawn Penn, Skibadee, Zed Bias, Yami Bolo, Morgan Heritage + a bunch of (at the time) fresh isht I was buying that I didn't really have a name for. The press & your little brother have since started calling it Dubstep...

Let us know if you're feeling it...

Merry Christmas xx LT

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Don't stop 'til you get enough (tasty greens).

So everwhere I've lived in the world you've just got to slide a little sideways from your Pack'n'Worths/Countup/No World to find an Asian grocery...

So how much do you reckon the above swag of healthy greens cost me ?

At the local Foodtown I'd say it would have been around around $15 dollars.

At my local Asian supermarket I dropped a cool $6.30 on the following:

1 x Cauliflower
1 x Brocolli
1 x Bag of Mushrooms
1 x Asparagus bunch
1 x Gai Choy bunch
1 x Bag of baby spuds
1 x Spinach bunch

And the produce is all high grade gear. It tastes and looks excellent. PLUS I'm not supporting the insane duopoly that is the mainstream supermarkets.

The exploratory foodie in me loves wandering around foreign buying lands too. It's precisely how and why I've ended up getting to know the wider Choi family. It all started with Bok, and up until this latest purchase I'd never heard of Gai. It's freekin delicious in a Horseradish meets Spinach uptown kind of a way.

While I'm enjoying these tasty greens, I may or may not be listening to
MJ getting the Reggae treatment...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mission Mashing.

Here at Itchy Quill HQ, the royal we don't just write.

For those of you whom don't know anything about me, I'm fairly fanatical about music, having Dee Jayed fairly rigurously for the most part since around 1994 or five. I was even lucky enough to be one of 60 people from around the world to be sent to the Red Bull Music Academy...

I'm also told I do good radio shows.

So it is with some frustration of late that I find myself neither on the radio or behind the one's and two's down at your local. With that thought in mind I thought I'd offer up a couple of cheeky little mash-ups I sewed together a few years back.

If you're feeling either of them and you call (or pour) the shots somewhere with a couple of turntables, by all means get in touch. If you're feeling either of them and decide to right click and save and pour the shots privately, then all I ask is you leave a wee shout below.

Ty's "Oh You Want More?" meets KRS-One's "Hip Hop vs Rap", with a touch of Soul II Soul in the mix... KRStelTY

Overstand that the following is a mash of two complete tracks. I had no acappella or instrumental. The result is kinda dope - the beats from both tracks fight each other the whole way through, essentially making this sound like an epic-length live mix.

Cecile's "Hot Like We" meets P-Money's "The Xpedition"... Hot Like P

So, err, boop there they are.