Friday, November 27, 2015

New within the last three months

gretchen's art blog: koru art

A minor hiatus in Music Club over the last three months meant we were just keen to hear a selection of the most exciting new entries to hit our play lists this spring.


My theme within a theme, I guess turned out to be throwback, 80's-vibe rock-and-roll metal. I discovered both bands quite recently on the Angry Metal Guy review blog and both surprised the heck out of me, and have provided me with much aural pleasure over the last couple of months. Get ready to air guitar, like you've never air guitarred since last year...

The Night Flight Orchestra - Siberian Queen
The Night Flight Orchestra combine members of longtime Swedish melodic death metal heavyweights Soilwork and Arch Enemy. They formed the band and released the album Internal Affairs in 2012 after spending time touring and recording as part of the main bands, while reminiscing together about the vocal, synth and epic driven rock of yesteryear. Something had to be done to revive this, they thought, and plans for the NFO and Internal Affairs were formed. The album didn't fare particularly well, and only came to my attention after I discovered a review of their latest album, Skyline Whispers in 2015. I think the earlier album is better, and the track I've chosen from it is the opener, Siberian Queen, which covers all the hallmarks of classic rock, including the mega-solo.

Gloryhammer - Rise of the Chaos Wizards
Despite my enjoyment of most forms of metal, I do not like power metal one bit. Sure, I've flirted with DragonForce a little bit, downloading their free tracks from when they were DragonHeart (circa 2002) and saw them live here in Wellington earlier this year. But that's not something I readily admit, and was the extent of my PM interest until I gave Gloryhammer a go when they got album of the month on aforementioned Angry Metal Guy (Sept. 2015). Since then, I've really enjoyed the tracks they've released, re-listening to them regularly and sharing them about where possible. But I haven't totally turned a corner as I've resisted buying the album for fear the novelty will wear thin.
The band are, again an amalgamation of members of other bands, and originate from Scotland and Switzerland. Each member has a character they portray; Prince and Heir, Dark Sorcerer, Grand Master, Barbarian Warrior and Mysterious Hermit (that so makes me want to break out Golden Axe on my MegaDrive!), and I'm guessing they don't take themselves too seriously. Again they have two albums, and I've gone for one from their latest, Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards.


Spending a few months travelling around Europe, going to the odd festival and a few gigs, provided a heap of great opportunities to discover new music. These are the two that have been the surprise standout acts that are on regular rotation:

Ghostpoet - X Marks the Spot.
I went to WOMAD in the UK with my bro and family. The lineup was impressive yet there were a lot of acts that I hadn't previously heard of. Thankfully, I was strongly recommended to check out Mr Ghostpoet, who has been mercilessly Spotified back at home base. He turned out to be the best live act I saw over the weekend. The man really owned the performance, owned his songs and owned the lyrics. He put heaps of emotional energy into the delivery and you could tell the whole band was feeding off him, which, in turn, mesmerised the crowd.

I've been regularly listening to all three albums but decided to take a track from his most recent, Shedding Skin. He deployed a band for this recording, which seems to provide a broader sonic pallet, maturing from the already awesome Massive Attack meets a melancholy Roots Manuva vibe. The key attribute to Mr Ghostpoet is his laconic lyrics that poetically drip across lush and moody arrangements. He has a really interesting inflection to each sentence that I thought might become a distraction, but it ends up being a key ingredient that makes his output something special. His back catalogue already speaks volumes about his talent; this whole album is full of great tracks but I just love the female refrain, general moodiness and outro on this - the Ghostpoet really does hit the spot.

Sleaford Mods - Tweet Tweet Tweet.
On a train from Berlin to Warsaw I sat in a carriage with a middle aged English couple who were keen to talk. Friendly. I got the guy sitting next to them to join in, who turned out to be a lecturer in political science at Warsaw University. The couple turned out to be oblivious that their blinkered support of obnoxious, xenophobic, little England UKIP policies was an interesting debating position with an academic expert on the subject when holidaying in Poland.

These are the unthinking twats that the Sleaford Mods direct their piss and vinegar towards. And they do it with venerable amounts of attitude, wit and astute observation. If the austere subjects of the UK weren't brainwashed and beaten into submission by the Establishment, they'd have the 'mods' as the soundtrack to the change they should demand. I chose this song off of the album Divide and Exit because it cites the nationalistic morons that vote for short sighted corporate career politicians.

I first came across them in a Prodigy song about Ibiza, which aroused curiosity, even though I thought the song actually atrocious. I then heard about their performance on Jools Holland, which hilariously divides opinion. Refreshingly uncompromising, they play a short-loop backing track, drink larger and then release their frustration and amusement with post punk vocals over the top. It's honest, it's brutal, it's fun and it deserves your attention.


Both of these releases are both 'new to me' and 'new to the world', though the second was recorded more than 40 years ago. 

'Joust and Jostle', Wire, 'Wire' (2015).
Punk wasn't really part of my life in the late 70s. How could it be for a suburban kid at a fancy American prep school with every material need met and no concern whatever about the future. But I really loved a lot of the records coming out of (and following) the brief UK punk explosion. One of my favourite records of that time was Wire's 'Pink Flag', which I played to death between 1977 and 1982. Kinda lost touch with them after the '154' album, so when the band put out a new release this year it came as a complete surprise to me.

The album is lyrically contemporary; the first track 'Blogging' is filled with words that didn't exist when the band first formed. Probably the catchiest ditty is 'In Manchester', though I have no idea what it's about aside from not clearly having anything to do with Manchester at all. Most of the sound is twisted psych, with occasional jagged almost-punky guitars on top. Vocals sound richer but as disconnected (?) as they used to. 'Joust and Jostle' is straight ahead pop, except with riffs instead of choruses and a delightfully premature ending.

Turns out they've put out quite a bit over their long career, so now I have some research to do.

'T'mershi Duween/Dog/Meat' medley, Zappa/Mothers, 'Roxy The Movie' (2015).

Frank Zappa's music is an acquired taste that I understand why people would not acquire. Crazy lead guitar, often scatological lyrics, 'serious' music that turns silly with zero notice. One thing that was consistent throughout his career was that every Zappa band was tighter than tight... practically a finishing school for amazing players like Terry Bozzio, Adrian Belew, Steve Vai, etc.

The 1974 Roxy band has long been my favourite one... both funkier and jazzier than most Zappa bands. Having George Duke along surely helped, but the three percussionists really brought a smoothness to playing some very challenging pieces. 'Roxy & Elsewhere' is the FZ record I usually give to curious listeners to introduce them to FZ.

This concert film was taken from a four-show run. It's been part of fan lore for ages, with only small teases released from time to time. Apparently the footage was unusable until technology matured enough to do some miraculous media recovery. Which has been performed, apart from being able to reclaim the fashion choices made 
back then.


For many years, I have relied on pitchfork to dictate my tastes to me. The site seems to have a sometimes uncomfortable relationship with past eras, given that so much contemporary music merely recreates old musical and cultural forms. As a tastemaker, pitchfork seems to base their pitch for credibility at least partly on a clear view of which bygone musical tastes are worth recreating and why, and which are best left forgotten.

With a recent transition to spotify as my primary platform for musical consumption, I have gained readier access to old forms than in the past. I have been enjoying some exploration of musics unsanctioned by pitchfork, musics largely outside the gestalt of current youth culture. I expect this will be one of a number of steps that transforms me from too-old-laneway-attender to too-young-womad-attender. 

My first choice was for a song far too earnest to be socially acceptable to a person of my generation (borderline gen-x/gen-y), but that nonetheless was part of a powerful zeitgeist for many in my parents' generation. It was September Wine by Dando Shaft, one of the lesser bands in the british folk revival of the 1960s.

September Wine

My second choice was from the same era, but a very different scene. Village of the Pharoahs by Pharoah Sanders blends psychadelica, jazz and world music in a way much pleasing to my ears, even if most people I play the track to describe it as obnoxious, tiresome, or both.


Kurt Vile, Dust Bunnies
The past few months have seen the release of new material by some of my favourite artists, including the Mountain Goats, Craig Finn, a live album from Phosphorescent, Kurt Vile, and Titus Andronicus. Vile's new album, B'lieve I'm Goin Down, sees him continuing in the same vein of groove driven, guitar-oriented, laconic rock. The tone is darker than the 2013 record, Wakin on a Pretty Daze, with themes of detachment, introspection and resignation weaving together throughout a spacious and textured album. In many ways its more Kurt Vile, a slightly different take on the same direction, but as a whole the darkness of B'lieve takes on a power all its own. The individual track I chose, Dust Bunnies, is one of the more humourous numbers, as it balances the contradictions between the pleasures and costs of the kind of behaviours that lead to hangovers.

Titus Andronicus, Fired Up
The second track I chose is from Titus Andronicus' 4th album The Most Lamentable Tragedy. In the wake of a lukewarm reception to 2012's Local Business, frontman Patrick Stickles announced presales of a three disc rock opera. I'm not sure anyone took him seriously until early 2015, when the release of The Most Lamentable Tragedy was confirmed. True to his word, TMLT is a 29 track, 90 minute rock opera describing the arc of manic depression. The protagonist begins in a depressed state until, about a third of the way into the record, he encounters a doppelgänger who leads him into a joyful, creative and ultimately wrenching mania. Fired Up is set at the beginning of this upswing, as the narrator begins to cast of the shackles of a repressive society. It is a small part of a long, difficult, brilliant album.



Monday, June 29, 2015


... set The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin , as described on its insert


I came up with this theme, quite naturally, at work in my open plan office in Thorndon. Work, for me, is a white-collar affair, dominated by report writing, meetings, and quality assurance processes. I like my job, and had intended to find songs that reflect in some way on office life, and perhaps even put it in a positive light.

Probably those songs exist, but I couldn't think of them. Musicians, by and large, are not a people experienced in quasi-corporate environments. That doesn’t mean that there isn't music about work, of course. Much of the great popular music of the twentieth century comes out the working class, finds its audience in the working class, and is about the working class. Bruce Springsteen has over his career captured the American worker's experience through the long decline of the working class over the last third of the twentieth century, as factories shut down, small towns died, and ports atrophied. His 1980 double album The River deals in themes of working life, from the dashed dreams of characters in the title track to the dashed dreams of characters in Point Blank, the characters on this album are victims of an ailing economy. Out in the Street, by contrast, is a celebration of working life, the dignity of work and the self-possession of the worker in the world beyond his workplace.

At the end of the twentieth century, the recording industry received a major shock as digital technology made music transferable amongst consumers for free. Over the first decades of the 2000s a raft of justifications for music piracy -- a corrupt and out of touch industry was ripping off artists and fans alike, the industry needed to adapt to new technology and piracy would be a catalyst for change, artists could make money from selling t-shirts, etc. In the end, it's difficult to get away from the fact that, for the musician, music is work, and that large scale piracy undermines the dignity of that work.

Gillian Welch makes this point in Everything is Free, from 2001's Time (The Revelator). Everything Is Free asserts the value of Welch's music, not in abstract terms as art, but as a commodity. The artist is driven to do what she does, "is gonna do it anyway," but like Springsteen, Welch sees the dignity in work and in getting paid. "I've never minded working hard," she sings, "it's who I'm working for." In a final fuck you to those fans who don't see fit to pay for her work, Welch puts us on notice that "if there's something that you wanna hear, you can sing it yourself." Welch will always have her music, but if you want it, it's got to be worth something.

I think in the end it was this song that persuaded me against music piracy. I never stopped paying for music but it is fair to say that for a while I was developing a music library that was worth more than I was spending. This haunting, oblique statement is a reminder of what music means to its fans, the music is work.


For many, work is a hand to mouth process that provides the bare essentials of life. For others, an addictive endorphin rush of remuneration, consumption and status anxiety. At either end of the scale we have dystopian views: One of marginalised beings in tattered rags recovering toxic metals from land fills, and the other; Fat cats planning the next financial instrument which will bamboozle economic fundamentals and collateralise the worlds remaining assets. Somewhere in the middle, an illusion of social mobility exists, where the masses are hypnotised by David Guetta's banal musical abilities while he sonically lobotomises the populace into servitude.  And, yes, there are also a lot of people providing essential and beneficial services, products and knowledge that truly enjoy what they do. So work in music has plenty of scope.

Angel Brothers, Bending and Picking:

My first selection is a moody marvel that aims squarely at the the downtrodden proletariat that slave away at menial tasks, trapped in a world of back breaking work for little recompense. These people are found in outsourced clothing and electronics factories, they are found on farms, they are found on road and construction sites, they are an exploitable underclass of hopefuls. The Angel Brothers hail from Yorkshire (Bradford, I think) and deal in a really nice mix of world music styles, covering Indian rhythms, flamenco guitar and some contemporary English folk (their first album being From Punjab to Pit Top). This track is from their opus, Forbidden Fruit, and is called Bending and Picking. And don't forget, '....the pay is crap'.

Watermelon Slim, Newspaper Reporter:

The second track is from Watermelon Slim. A workaholic musician who has probably indulged in other 'holic tendencies on his journey. He was a truck driver and named his most successful album The Wheel Man. Goddammit! his backing band are even called the Workers. It's a rollicking album of upbeat blues tunes where his distinctive Oklahoma drawl is matched by excellent slide guitar and even more dynamic mouthorgan playing. I have seen him twice in Wellington over the last few years and he is a absolute marvel live. The track I selected is an ode to a time when he took a career right turn into the soulless world of news media. Newspaper Reporter sees Mr Slim do what any normal being would do given the circumstance, and drink. However, drinking problems aside, it appears that old guy sure still has what it takes.


'Pussy Willow'. Jethro Tull, 'Broadsword and the Beast' (1982).

When this came out I had a really shitty part time job, so I empathised with the subject of this song. You can dream all you want about winning the lottery, hooking up with someone rich, or running away from it all. But what you'll really do is scramble when the alarm clock rings so you don't miss your train. (I am blessed to have had very few shitty jobs in my life, so the empathy was actually too precious, and the lyrics are hardly prize-winning.)

This is from the band's brief synth-heavy run of albums, which I think are underappreciated. ('A' is superb, imo.) Catchy melody, simple story, flute embellishments that complement the melody. I'm rather a fan of the clunky, heavy piano breaks too, though judging from giggles in the room it seems I might have been the only one! Instrumentation and arrangement also preserve a bit of the English folk music base from their earlier records.

'Artists Only'. Talking Heads, 'More Songs about Buildings and Food' (1978).

Does making art count as work? Long ago this came up in a wine-driven chat to an artist I knew. According to him, it isn't art if the artist doesn't work at it. Suffering not required, contrary to the tortured artist myth, but it doesn't happen by magic. I had thought the yelping vocals on this song were a bit of a joke, but thought about them differently after this chat.

Almost a funk groove underneath, with the rhythm section front and centre in the mix. Toe tapping for sure, strong pulse that doesn't rush, concise and frenetic guitar solo. Yum. The version on their live record is also excellent, and has even wackier vocal tics. Guess I should have played that one, but you can find it here:


I work in Justice, which theme infuses Kendrick Lamar's latest album To Pimp A Butterfly. It is a terrific distillate of much of black America's finest musical and political history, as if Malcolm X, Tupac, John Coltrane, Prince and George Clinton had made an album together.

Kendrick has clearly thought long about what it takes to act justly as someone living in a society that treats you unjustly. There is a terrific moral urgency to the entire work. I chose his song These Walls, which is a very public act of revenge on a man serving a life sentence for killing one of Kendrick Lamar's friends. In the third verse Kendrick asks the prisoner to reflect on the first two verses, which detail Kendrick's relationship with the mother of the prisoner's child, 'fucking on a famous rapper'. In the context of the album, this song is also filled with conflicting emotions about his choice to seek that revenge, a choice that those of us fortunate enough not to have grown up in Compton or its global equivalents hardly ever have to make.

The arc of To Pimp a Butterfly ends in Kendrick's embrace of afro-positivism, and a call to a radical rejection of the materialism of mainstream rap and ghetto culture that Kendrick feels serves only to further the injustices of black America. This theme resonates for me in the Justice sector, where there are often debates about the corrosive effects of gang culture on young Maori, the power of which I observed first hand as a young social work assistant in a youth justice team. Afro-positivism is not the same as tikanga of course, but the need to reinforce positive cultural alternatives to gang culture is no less urgent for many young Maori than it is for many young black Americans.

The theme of afro-positivism is shared by Kamasi Washington, who played sax on To Pimp a Butterfly. For my second track I chose Final Thought, one of the instrumental tracks on Kamasi's recent album The Epic, which is introducing a new generation to the rich vein of jazz as an alternative cultural focus to the fairly nihilistic, misogynistic, gangsterish mainstream of rap.


Both my choices didn't have maybe the most direct link to work in the general sense, but I made them work, I think!

Working in IT, and coming across this band while working, I was baffled as to why a band would call their album after two elements of programming I deal with on a daily basis, Source Tags and Codes. Despite the fact I thought the band had a stupid name and was baffled by the album name, this Austin, Texas band really grew on me and the album stayed with me for years. If it wasn't for our Club host on the night, Jake, I might never have thought more about where the album title came from - he reckons it's potentially related to the metadata attributes associated to digital music files, which were becoming very prevalent when the album was released in 2002. I chose the title track from Source Tag and Codes.

Similarly, my second choice is from a programming-related album title - one could wonder if I got the theme wrong entirely! if_then_else by The Netherland's The Gathering is one of many great albums by this female-fronted rock group. Despite what many of these type of bands are link, The Gathering are definitely a song-writing and performing powerhouse as they're fronted by an incredible lady in Anneke Van Giersbergen. if_then_else is a programming fundamental construct-type with underscores being regularly used to separate words. And furthermore, Wikipedia tells us that the song I've chosen, Colorado Incident, is also work-related - about the band having to cancel a gig in Colorado due to overbooking and exhaustion.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


"Basically the idea is to choose two songs that evoke a 3am insomniac kind of vibe, two songs that blur the distinction between real and unreal, sleep and wakefulness, earth and space, fire and air etc. I for one will be consulting my psychedelic folk and melty electronica playlists. The theme could equally well have been 'fireside soundscapes', 'magical realism', 'flaming psychedelica', etc. Bonus points if you choose songs from an album with a picture of the moon on it.

You get the picture, anyway. We will be getting our hippy on."


The stars were out. The hypnotic flames of the fire provided warmth and ambiance against the backdrop of a typical howling Wellington southerly. On a par with 'eating with your eyes', environmentals definitely add a great deal to musical appreciation and the memorability of a Music Club gathering.

I jumped straight in with a recent find that for me is nachtmusik personified. Grandiose beta-wave inducing piano arpeggios supporting a dramatic chord progression crescendo. To my easily suggestible mind, the marvellously composed melody evokes more than a hint of Soft Cell. Lush loops, sustain and reverb build, moving from soothing to rousing, which on the version I played also erupts into excited, spontaneous applause at the end. Nils Frahm is from Berlin and crafts some excellent piano based electronica. This version of Says is from his live album, Spaces, but I also have it on another recent gem: Nick Warren, Soundgarden. I've listened to it heaps on both albums and aren't tiring of it. I seem to be very happy being repeatedly be taken on this glorious eight minute journey. Here's a nine minute version...

I had three options for my second selection. Utterly frozen by procrastination, yet not the wind, I let the Music Clubbers decide between Chanteuse, Sleeplessness or Ambience. Sleeplessness prevailed. That's the name of a track on a great album by Keeno called Life Cycle. I broke the drum and bass duck! Oi oi!! People define this sub-genre as 'liquid' or even 'intelligent', neither of which monikas really do anything to helpfully explain things further. Keeno oozes craftmanship and is obviously on a crusade for drum and bass quality. He references a glorious past but delivers very well produced tunes that go beyond the basics of cut and paste pastiche. He develops ideas fully and complements them with soulful and intelligent (but not liquid!!) flourishes and vocals. It also redresses the balance that is a slightly maligned and cheesy Hospital Records output over the last few years. Med School makes perfect sense to these ears. The whole album is killer and I was nearly on the verge of taking two songs from the same. Invoking the majesty of a clear night sky, the track can easily straddle different moods, accompanying: pensive relaxation, animated brazier conversation and throwing some moody shapes in the moving shadow of the moon.


One of my favourite pastimes at my home in Kingston is to sit out in the evening on the terrace I built myself, enjoying the stars and the moonlit hills across the valley as I sit in front of a fire, listen to music and sip whiskey. For this music club version of the experience, I chose two songs to fit the mood, one minimalist, one maximalist.

The first was White Fire by Angel Olsen, a desert dream of heartbreak, simple noodling on electric guitar with spectral lyrics over the top. 

The second was Hearts and Daggers by Espers, a goblin forest nightmare, a psychedelic mix of flute, electric guitar and pythonesque folk. 


Noise Gust - Perple Invisibility

Thinking about the theme, rather than a chilled, tripping-at-one-with-nature selection, I felt compelled to make my first choice a representation of my kind of ideal, and regular night out. My mind gravitated to a frenetic, drawn-out, city-wide par-tay.

While perusing various record shops in Osaka, Japan, I happened across the genre of dark psychedelic trance. I spent a good hour having the owner introduce me to tracks reaching above 160 beats per minute (or "BPM" for the uninitiated), sending my brain into a dizzying spin. I picked up two or three albums, and the one that this track is taken from, Psychedelic Navigator, has stayed with me as a perfect head-fuck 6 years on. I delved little further into the genre, and can't find much online about the album or Mr. Gust, at least not in English. But I love what these guys do, steering dangerously close to over-repetition, even closer to the brink of madness, all at breakneck speeds and with maddening creativity.

Flower Travellin' Band - Satori Part 2

My second choice is of a chilled, tripping-at-one-with-nature night under the stars. I came across Flower Travellin' Band when Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth mentioned the passing of an influential member of the band in a Facebook post. Their back-catalog is more miss than hit, but this album, Satori, is a real, lasting gem. Thom Jurek of All Music describes the album better than I ever could, so I'll quote him here:
From power chords to Eastern-tinged, North African, six-string freakouts, to crashing tom toms, to basses blasting into the red zone, Satori is a journey to the center of someplace that seems familiar but has never before been visited. It is a new sonic universe constructed from cast-off elements of the popular culture of the LSD generation. ... It's monolithic, expansive, flipped to wig city, and full of a beach blanket bong-out muscularity.


Dr John is a mainstay of New Orleans. Since the 1950s he has made his mark as an intrepeter of NOLA standards, a proponent of funk, and as a practicioner of voodoo. His first album, Gris-Gris, captures the feel of Louisana in a haze of psychedelic r&b. The final track, I Walk on Guilded Splinters, is based on a voodoo church song. The pulsing rhythm section and sparse guitar and horns, along with the chant-like backing vocals give this track the feel of a ritual performed deep in the swamp where the light of the moon doesn't reach. I've been to New Orleans a couple of time but never participated in a voodoo ritual or been to the swamp. But Gris-Gris, for me, is an album for late on a Saturday evening when things are feeling a little dangerous.

On a Sunday night, when I'm relaxing after dinner, contemplating another week in the office, and guiltily neglecting to iron my shirts, I tend to fall into a certain mood. Let us call it "chilled." When I'm chilling on a Sunday night there are three records I turn to. They are Coltrane's A Love Supreme, Kurt Vile's
Smoke Ring For My Halo, and Van Morrison's Astral Weeks. I'm saving Kurt Vile up for when we do the songs-you-thought-were-about-drugs-but-actually-aren't theme (and actually there's a Van Morrison track for that one too) and no track on A Love Supreme makes sense without the rest of A Love Supreme, so here is Van Morrison's Madame George, a meandering dream that may or may not concern a drag queen wandering the streets of Belfast.


Track one: Bohren & Der Club of Gore - Ganz Leise Kommt Die Nacht

This selection will be remembered primarily because I unwittingly duplicated a selection from the same band made by Christian at a previous music club. Had I recovered from the ignominy of this music club faux pas in time,  I would have drawn an elegant comparison between the languorous velvet-cloaked jazz of 'the Gore' and the darkly unfurling dream logic of David Lynch's films. As it turned out, i just threw another log on the fire and burned with shame...

Track two: Jeff Mills - The Bells

Simple explanation for this one - the best nights of my late adolescence were spent getting twatted to precisely this kind of stripped back rhythmic techno. This probably accounts for my short term memory loss (see above)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Barry asked us to 'bring the funk'! So we did.... (kinda)


As a white, married, suburban, middle-aged father of two very little funk runs through my veins, so I made two funk-lite choices. Both were from the early 90s, a time when as a tweenage boy my musical consciousness was just beginning to emerge. My first song choice I had actually heard at the time, when it made no sense to me in the context of the heavy diet of classic rock I enjoyed courtesy of my father's musical taste. Every now and again he would bring something a little different home, such as the New Groove collection of acid jazz numbers, just to confuse us. I chose Nathan Haines' Lady J from this collection, mostly because it is inherently amusing hearing kiwi-accented rapping.

Lady J 

Unfortunately, this song was pretty bad at the time and the subsequent 20 years have done it no favours. So for my second song I chose a much better example of the same kind of thing, Jettin' by Digable Planets, from their album Blowout Comb. Even a white boy like me could tell this song was funky because the group repeatedly say so in the lyrics. This is the funk-influenced blend of jazz and rap that my father should have introduced me to as a boy. I was 30 before I found this most classic of albums, and suddenly the early 90s made sense in a way they never had to me before.



Funk is the insidious infection that has pervaded nearly every genre known to man. What the hell mankind did before its inception, goodness only knows. I assume the world was a slowly rotating mass of introspection and gloom (which we have already covered) with the odd soaring ode and inflected melody that merely hinted at happiness (tierce di picardie being an unsatisfactory case in point). Funk brings happiness and joy with such confident force that even when it only raises its head for a brief down stroke it invokes involuntary glee and merry movement. Funk is a key ingredient of soul, afrobeat, hip hop, break beat, quite a bit of 70's psychedelia, is abundant in the hallowed halls of acid jazz, and we even have to acknowledge its use in 90's rock, for historical completeness. So, it is with unrestrained excitement that I selected the following fellas from the UK who carry the eternal flame of funk forever forwards:

Smoove and Turrell are a duo on their third platter that knock out un-flappably consistent funky content. They hail from the North East and move between deep funk and up-beat soul revue with ease. Mr Turrell has a fantastic, powerful, velvet voice that confidently handles range, depth and pace that complements Smoove's knowledge of how to execute a deep groove. The song, Slow Down from the second album, Eccentric Audio, is a real barn-stormer.  Opening with a jaunty statement of intent; introducing a groovy verse, an energetic bridge and a rousing chorus. Release. Build. Cut. Copy. Repeat.

Slow Down

The Sound Stylistics provide a serious workout - hailing from the traditionalist side of the funky tracks. They comprise members that have been around the traps with other UK based funk infused outfits (JTQ, New Master Sounds, Galliano, Brand New Heavies, Incognito etc) so know there way around the perfectly positioned Amen break; A fully syncopated beat; Using flutes, organs, horns, and a full range of funky instrumentation to deliver some killer tunes. Knucklehead, from their 2009 offering Greasin' The Wheels has cool brass crescendo's and blasts, with a guitar and keys dual doing the most of the hard yards. Get your strut on!



The topic of 'Funk' is and was pretty wide. I focused on New Orleans just to keep things sane, NoLa being one of the funkiest places on the planet. This includes the fabulous (Funky) Meters, of course, but goes back to a series of Caribbean migrations and the slave trade of two centuries ago, and continues today with bounce and its distinctive take on hip-hop. "Gumbo' really just means 'stew', and the musical stew from New Orleans is really funky. I chose instrumentals, not that vocals can't be funky (The Godfather!) but lack of vocals means you need a stronger groove to stay engaged. The funk isn't the groove... but it does demand a groove, and a toe-tapping listen.

Warm-up music:
Robert Walter's 20th Congress - 'Shemp Time' from 'Money Shot'
Classic B3 organ as rhythmic driver. Smooth but not Muzak(tm) at all. Trio (keys+drums+guitar) with heavy rhythm, strong beats, and changing melodies. Really crisp production as a bonus. He was also one part of the Greyboy Allstars, a socal funk group that continues to perform today.

Galactic - 'Ha Di Ka' from 'Carnivale Electricos'
Theme of the album is Mardi Gras a/k/a Carnival. This song features a classic call-and-response, a strong guest vocalist, and groove to burn. They've been true to their roots as a party band (Galactic Prophylactic) but have honoured their NoLa history as well as being open to new musical styles.


Guest tuneage from Barry's brother:
Stanton Moore Trio. Stanton is Galactic's drummer, who has also played with Robert Walter over the years. : Stanton plays funk

Primus, Tommy the cat. Les Claypool of Primus might be the world's funkiest bass player: and Tommy is one funky cat


What the funk? Being new to this I decided to play it safe. Keep it simple and all that. So I thought I’d stick to the dictionary definition of funk: ‘a strong offensive smell’ or ‘a state of paralysing fear’ or ‘music that combines elements of rhythm and blues and soul music and that is characterized by a percussive vocal style, static harmonies, and a strong bass line with heavy downbeats’. I chose the latter. Or rather, my first song saw me choosing the latter - on speed! (‘a related stimulant drug and especially an amphetamine’). The second track from The Time’s album, ‘What Time Is it?’ and first single release, it’s a song written by Prince, produced by Prince and every instrument is performed by Prince, (not at the same time, silly), and debates abound as to whether the impossible drum beat is man or machine. The shoulder jiggling bass however, is real.

My second choice officially outed me as a Prince fan and for that I blame my brother. In other news, I chose what any true purple pixie fan should, ‘Let’s work’.  The sixth track from Prince’s fourth album treats the polite listener to a plucky- randomised and low down dirty bass line, guaranteeing shoulder and hip jiggles (an improvement on my first selection..). You could argue that most of Prince’s stuff deals in some kind of oversharing of bass. You’d be right. But how delightful it is when the bassline can leave the rest of the instrumentation redundant. Here’s a live version in place of an unavailable album clip:


This theme had me thinking the lyrics "slam dunk the funk, put it up, if you got that feelin'" way too much over the last week. Luckily I got past that to select...

Charles Bradley - "Love Bug Blues"

While not the most talented song writer or singer in the world, Charles definitely personifies "the funk" through his on-stage presence, and veracious love of intimate love with a lady or ladies. He performed here in Wellington as part of the NZ Arts Festival a year or so ago and everyone left smiling and feeling loved. Discovered by a Daptone Records producer in 2003 while performing as a James Brown tribute singer, the gravel-voiced star has since recorded two albums and his against-all-odds success has been documented in the film Soul of America. This is from his second album, Victim of Love, released in 2013 to generally positive reviews.

Paddy Casey feat. The Dublin Gospel Choir - Grandma's hands/ No diggity

This track is taken from the second Even Better Than The Real Thing compilation compiled from Irish radio station Today FM's Ray D'arcy morning show. The albums feature Irish musicians covering well-known tracks. This is the most funky I reckon.

Having been managed by U2's management company and supporting U2 and REM, Paddy Casey has had mixed but generally good success in Ireland without breaking into the international scene. This medley of Granma's Hands and No Diggity is souled up nicely with the Dublin Gospel Choir.
Grandma's hands 


Donald Byrd: The cerebral musicality of jazz mixed with the visceral groove of funk.

"Dominoes" by Donald Bird delves into one of the many sub-genres of funk – Jazz funk. It’s a fusion that induces delight or despair in most listeners, as this Mighty Boosh clip humorously illustrates. The song itself is sunny, groovesome and understated, and never fails to put me in a good mood.


The Story of the Funk

In a rather funkalicious coincidence, I, too, came bearing Mighty Booshian gifts, blind as I was in a funk trance. In the Story of the Funk, Old Gregg (he who lives on the bottom of the sea and has a Mangina), treats us to a rousing tale of The Funk, ‘a living creature about the size of a medicine ball but covered in teats which came from another planet and landed on Boostsy Collins' house’. To relive this wholesome story, in which finding the Funk – that ‘funky ball of tits from outer space’ – raises Collins up from a simple farmer to a high priest of slap base, and back again, watch on …  Mighty Boosh funk clip 2