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.