The self titled album from The Eastern, bringing together songs from two earlier EPs with a few new numbers, doesn't break any new ground for the band but that doesn't matter because their road worn Americana is very welcome. The album was recorded in the sitting room with friends and family and that atmosphere of warmth pervades. Acoustic instrumentation including mandolin, banjo, double bass, lapsteel and guitar add to that feeling, but that doesn't mean the album is subdued. The Eastern often play in Lyttleton and they have the passion and energy that a live crowd in a port town demand. Check out an interview on Plains FM in Christchurch and a neat photographic journal of the band (set to their music) on the video page.
David Kilgour has a long line of acclaimed solo albums, not to mention being a member of The Clean. His latest is a collaboration with legendary New Zealand poet Sam Hunt. Originally envisaged as a spoken word and music collaboration instead the album that has emerged, Falling Debris, takes the words of some of Hunt's already published poems and sets them to Kilgour's music. Accompanied by his regular band The Heavy Eights with a mainly acoustic line-up, Kilgour doesn't deliver many music surprises here but combination works well. This isn't Hunt's first musical collaboration - he released a solo single 'Your Body has No Flaw' in 2001, he's appeared on tracks with The Warratahs and he released an album with prog rock band Mammal in 1974 (that album sells for hundreds of dollars, if anyone has a recording of it I would be very grateful to hear it). On David Kilgour's website there are downloads of songs from the album, a background piece by Kilgour and videos for two of the songs (also on the video page). Also check out an interview with Sam Hunt recorded earlier this year on the collaboration.
'Home' is the debut single from Wellington band Stormbird, a four piece centred on songwriter and vocalist Ana Mules. Live they range from folky, country tinged numbers to indie pop-rock. The band has been through a line-up changes with Mules and original bassist Rochelle Berry joined by a new drummer Cyrus Manlunas with the recent addition of lead guitarist Phil Sanders filling out their sound. 'Home' captures the band at the poppier end of their spectrum. There's a video for an earlier song '1, 2, Complain' on the video page.
The new album from An Emerald City, Circa Scaria, is only just out and is already the stuff of legend due to have being recorded in a cave at Whatipu. The music seems well suited to those rugged West Coast beaches, with most of the instrumental songs building into epic soundscapes with the power of the wind and surf that crashes onto the black sands. Remarkably the album has reached the Top 40. Not remarkable because it doesn't deserve to be there, but because it is so unlike the commercial fare which the charts usually consist of. An Emerald City meld Eastern instrumentation like the tablas, lute and sitar with a more customary rock format of guitars and drums. Their songs are all instrumental and build in power and intensity, in a way similar to the great Napier band, Jakob. An Emerald City are unlike anyone else on the local music scene, making music which is epic, thrilling and surprising.
Watch a TV3 story on the band on the video page and check out a live recording from National Radio (stream).
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My recent rediscovery of the Arclife Records catalogue unearthed some amazing female artists, some of whom featured in a recent Counting The Beat episode. However, that wasn't all that deserved an airing so this episode continues the exploration of the Arclife catalogue, the recording offshoot of Dunedin's Arc cafe.
Kitset released the album Testpot on Arclife in 1999. It's guitar based pop in the Dunedin tradition but has an epic, wind down the car window, open road sound that reminds me a bit of the kind of driving drone of Snapper or Bailter Space. Kitset were to release a second album on Archhill Records, but as far as I'm aware it never came about. 'Headlights Gone', a song that was destined for that second album did appear, however, on the 2002 Arclife compilation Arc Beats and follows in the same vein.
Appearing on the same compilation is an otherwise un-released track from Martin Phillipps of the Chills. The song 'I Don't To Live Forever' was performed by both The Chills and Martin Phillips over a long period of time and was demoed for the Chills Sunburnt album. The version on the compilation was initially recorded in 1993 but then given some gussying up for inclusion on the compilation. While the song itself is a good one I'm not so sure about the choice of a fairly dinky sounding keyboard, I would have liked to have heard this given the full band treatment. I once saw Martin Phillips play an Arc Cafe Christmas party to a packed room and finish his set joined by David Kilgour to play some Velvet Underground covers. I've put a clip for a more sedate recent live performance on the video page.
Mestar seemed indicative of a change in the Dunedin music scene from a determinedly alternative outlook to a more pop focus. While on Arclife the group released two albums, Mestar (1998) and Porcupine (2002) and an E.P. Steamer (2000). The song 'Turtle Control', a great noisy melodic pop song, comes from that E.P.. Mestar later made the move to Archhill Records for their latest album Shut the Squizwot Factories Down.
My memories of seeing Suka live were of a maelstrom of guitar. Matthew Thornicroft, the guitarist always seemed to end up with bleeding fingers and he would have specks of blood splattered over the front of his shirt. Listening now to 'Dancing To Tibet', the title track from Suka's 2001 E.P. you would never pick that. This is jaunty little number with a Velvet Underground chug, some 'ahh, ooh's' and even harmonica. If it is the noisy Suka you're after try and track down their 1995 album Nimrodiaboligue.
Finally in this run down of Arclife releases is a track from Pointy Little Stick featuring Bruce Blucher, formerly of two great Dunedin bands Cyclops and Trash. The music is a relentless guitar grind of the kind Blucher specialises in, while the lyrics tell the tale of some one with nothing to do walking the streets of Dunedin waiting for something to happen, disappointed but all the time knowing that nothing will. Blucher later gave up on music ot follow a career s a stonemason. If you're lucky you might still find some material by Cyclops here and Trash here and here courtesy of kiwitapes.blogspot.com
Picture credit: Arclights: Mestar 29-10-98 by James Dignan, http://www.grutness.co.nz
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This month sees the fifth Counting The Beat contribution to an exciting international initiative, the Music Alliance Pact. On a monthly basis music bloggers from around the globe select a track from their own country which is then posted collectively and simultaneously on those blogs - giving each nation's track international exposure. This month's Counting The Beat is thrilled to be contributing a song from our home town - Waiheke's Three Legged Horse. Their album Down is stunning and is available for purchase now.
NEW ZEALAND: Counting The Beat
Three Legged Horse – Red
Red is the opening track on Down, the debut album of Three Legged Horse, a trio from Waiheke Island, around 20km offshore from Auckland. The band bring together the grungy dark introspection of lyricist/vocalist Bede Taylor, the smooth powerful vocals of Gina Higham and the musicality of Aaron Carpenter into a combination much greater than the sum of its parts. Red is a good intro to an extraordinary album that melds acoustic country blues with dirty guitar and vocal grit and growls.
AMERICA: I Guess I'm Floating
Thing One – Mop Yards
New Jersey's Thing One have been on my radar since last year when I first heard a few tracks from their debut album You'll Be Fine. Mop Yards brings traces of The Smiths and ELO into the new millennium with strange electronic warbles and dancey synth patches. Singer Joey Palestina creates a veritable summer anthem with the repeated line, "The heat is non-stop, hide the women in cop cars". Whatever that means, Joey, I feel ya.
Chau Fan – Boletos De Tren
Chau Fan is a boy-girl indie folk (or anti-folk?) duo from Buenos Aires, starring Micaela Quinteros and Marcelo Lares. They both sing and play acoustic guitar, and in this particular song Micaela does a charming harmonica solo. Boletos De Tren will be part of Zonaindie's new compilation which features five songs from artists who have never had the chance to record in a professional studio (we invited them to the studio and helped them record). So consider this a MAP exclusive premiere.
AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
Lisa Mitchell – Coin Laundry
So, yeah, this could easily be an iPod Nano commercial, but catchy accessibility is hardly a terrible quality for a song to have. Who really expected a former Australian Idol finalist to produce anything of worth? This is a lovely song and I hope it gets overplayed.
Hurtmold – Música Política Para Maradona Cantar
There is no other band like Hurtmold. You have to listen and feel it. It's more than music, it's an experience.
Dinosaur Bones – NYE
Dinosaur Bones are currently attracting all sorts of interest on the back of their debut EP, and this song makes it easy to see why. They blend together The National's world-weariness and a very English-sounding pop sensibility, with the end result something that's entirely their own.
CHILE: Super 45
The Same Sky – We Sleep Under The Same Sky
The Same Sky is the music project of Joseph Simon, a 15-year-old Chilean who was born in Canada. It is precisely this biographic fact that can define his music – warm guitar sounds of slow rhythm alongside a smooth voice heavily influenced by bands such as Beirut, Arcade Fire and The National. The recent release of his first album (Two Hearts / Apart Under The Same Sky) supports this feeling of songs as a perfect soundtrack for winter days spent at home, enjoying the natural melancholy.
DENMARK: All Scandinavian
Ruhan Daisy – We Know You
There's quite a bit of post-rock going on in Scandinavia these days, one brilliant act being this Danish quintet. It's grandiose, funky with bits of (acid) jazz thrown into the mix and sports an equilibristic sense of detail. Ruhan Daisy's crowning achievement, however, is their catchy pop sensibility driving the complex compositions out of nerd-country into the mainstream. At least that's how it should be.
ENGLAND: The Daily Growl
Alessi's Ark – The Horse
Alessi's Ark is west London teenage sensation Alessi Laurent-Marke and here is the single version of The Horse from the Mike Mogis-produced new album, out next month.
Palma – Ride Around
After a couple of years in the making, Helsinki band Palma recently released their debut album Be Bold And Mighty Forces Will Come To Your Aid. Palma refers to an old soda drink in Finland and the band, indeed, produce some refreshing indie-pop songs, rooted in the classic sounds of the 70s, and with a danceable groove. It's retro and modern. For fans of The Soundtrack Of Our Lives and Supergrass.
Sundogs – So Close
Sundogs are a French band who live in London but play in both England and France. The group is made up of two guys - bassist Jeff ("le petit blond") and Pierre on guitar. The other musicians are French or English guests, depending on where they are playing.
Lali Puna – Nin-Com-Pop
Lali Puna is another band from the great Weilheim circle led by Valerie Trebeljahr. Established in 1998, I consider them to have a higher creative potential than recently featured The Notwist, where her boyfriend and Lali Puna fellow Markus Acher is playing. Nin-Com-Pop is a song from their second album Scary World Theory. A new record will be released later this year.
ICELAND: I Love Icelandic Music
Lay Low – Last Time Around
Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir is a 26-year-old half-Sri Lankan, half-Icelandic singer, born in London. She sings under the name Lay Low and her music is a combination of blues, folk and country. This year, Lovísa has already supported Emiliana Torrini on tour and signed a record deal with Nettwerk. Last Time Around is on her third solo album, Farewell Good Night's Sleep.
202s – Ease My Mind
There was a general air of being caught unaware in the Irish media and bloggers when this duo's debut landed on their desks. Without any gigs and already signed to French label Le Son Du Maquis, their charming Primal Scream and Broadcast-indebted indie-pop has skipped a few hurdles without skipping on the tunes.
Gazebo Penguins – Wallabees
A punk band that quotes Alfred Korzybski? Yes, please. The Name Is Not The Named is the title of Gazebo Penguins' new album and it's full of powerful hardcore in the style of At The Drive-In, with a nod to Motorpsycho. Sharp guitars, heavy rhythms, driving choruses and smart attitude.
MEXICO: Club Fonograma
Mexican Institute Of Sound – Reventon
Mexican Institute of Sound is a solo project by the multi-talented Camilo Lara. He just released his third album Soy Sauce, another celebration of Mexico's traditional music fused with funky tunes, electronica and the genre that's getting ready to shake the world again, cumbia. MIS is an explosive adventurous musical ride of our rich culture. They are preparing to perform at this year's Coachella festival and with songs like Reventon, it is sure to get the fiesta up in wild spirit.
Dylan Mondegreen – Animal (Hiawata! cover)
For this month's MAP I will present not one Norwegian act, but two. The performing artist here is Dylan Mondegreen, one of my absolute favourites in Norway. He is currently working on his second album, which should be released later this year. The song he sings is written by another favourite of mine, an indie-pop band from Oslo called Hiawata!. Mondegreen's cover of their song Animal was a b-side on Valley Boys, the first single from their second album, These Boys And This Band Is All I Know, due out soon on SellOut! Music.
Autobus – Volver
Autobus formed in Lima in 2006 and released their debut album last year. Although they have a clear rock essence, they have electronic influences and a pop touch which sets them apart from their peers, so much so that many people are surprised by where they come from. They have made a good impression abroad, achieving their aim of drawing attention to the local scene.
PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco?
The Clits – Lay Low
If there was a such a genre as electro-psychic-punk-rock-pop, The Clits would be the kings. It all started in 2006 when Carlos (guitars, keyboards and backing vocals) invited Ana Leorne (vocals) to form an electro-punk project, influenced by the riot grrrl movement and some of their favourite artists such as Joy Division, Bauhaus, Nina Hagen and Suspicious (another Portuguese electro-punk project). Their first record, The World Is A Mess But My Hair Is Perfect EP, was released in December 2007.
ROMANIA: Babylon Noise
Persona – Momentary Lack Of Passion
Inspired by Ingmar Bergman's movie Persona, this band belongs to the new generation of Romanian musicians that bloomed after the anti-communist revolution of December 1989. The group's members have been involved in the music scene since then, playing in several acts before forming Persona. Their music is, indeed, one of British influence but cannot be strictly labelled – the musical background and influences of each of the members, refined by experience and artistic maturity, blend together in the Persona genre.
SCOTLAND: The Pop Cop
There Will Be Fireworks – Foreign Thoughts
Bands of the calibre of There Will Be Fireworks are far too rare, but that's not a bad thing because you'll end up appreciating them all the more. Although TWBF seem like the perfect new students in Scotland's renowned post-rock school, their take on the genre is far more moving and lyrically impassioned than anything that has gone before them. Foreign Thoughts, taken from the Glaswegians' forthcoming eponymous debut album, has the beautiful intensity of a Band Of Horses classic and will stay with you long after its three-and-a-half minutes are up.
SINGAPORE: I'm Waking Up To...
Astreal – Snowflake
Some may say that when you're in love, the stars align. For Astreal, love is more of a cosmic collision course between stars and planetary bodies. In the unassumingly titled Snowflake, there lies so much destructive potential in a love so intense that, yes, even "the stars, they burn for you". Taken from their second album Fragments Of The Same Dead Star, the song combines the melodic infatuations of shoegaze with the aural impudence of noise-rock for a blistering and haunting love song that almost borders on maniacal obsession. Is this love? That's for you to decide.
SOUTH KOREA: Indieful ROK
Toxicbiasfleurivy – Parallel Assembly
GDM duo Toxicbiasfleurivy might not be the obvious choice for MAP but their latest album, Particles, provided an interesting exception from my usual listening when it was released late March. Electronic, experimental and pretty much the opposite of easy listening, the listener is advised to enjoy astral emotions while digesting this music inspired by quantum physics.
SPAIN: El Blog De La Nadadora
Anntona – Nunca Es Tarde
Apart from his membership in the band Los Punsetes, Manu has a solo project called Anntona, in which he makes the best pop songs imaginable. He has just released his second album, En La Cama Con Anntona ("In Bed With Anntona") which contains 10 fizzy and addictive pop pearls such as opening track Nunca Es Tarde.
The Late Call – Linnea
The Late Call is really just one guy (and friends) from Stockholm named Johannes Maye. His debut album, Leaving Notes, chronicles the long distance relationship he had with his girlfriend. The record and this song has an organic feel on account of the mostly acoustic instrumentation. Linnea is a perfect example of the gorgeous pop you can expect from The Late Call.
To download all 25 songs in one file click here.
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Arclife was the recording and distribution arm of a Dunedin not-for-profit community organisation run by a charitable trust as an adjunct to their cafe and performance space, Arc Cafe. From 1997 until the mid 2000s the label released a number of albums and compilations, mainly from artists that performed at the cafe itself. I recently had a listen to some of the recordings that came out on this label and I was really taken by the strength of the female artists on the label's catalogue.
Demarnia Lloyd started her musical career with Dunedin indie-poppers Munky Kramp and went on to feature in Mink with George Henderson of the Puddle before forming Cloudboy, whose 2001 album of ethereal trip hop Down At The End Of The Garden had critics gushing. Also well worth hearing is Dermania Lloyd's even more delicate solo E.P. from the following year, Set Upon A Curve. There are a small number of Cloudboy remixes, alternate versions and unreleased tracks available on their myspace page.
Sola Monday was another regular performer at Arc Cafe. In 2002 she released a solo album on Arclife titled The Swing Festival. The album took many years to complete and ended up featuring a large cast of musicians, including many from Cloudboy and other bands that frequented the Arc stage, as well as some from further afield like Julia Deans from Fur Patrol. For some reason however, it's the drumming that always stands out to me when I hear this album, they're played in brilliantly expressive style by Stefan Neville. At it's best this album includes some cleverly constructed catchy pop songs with intriguing surrealistic lyrics that like Renee Louise Carafice's album from last year, Tells You To Fight, seems to describe Sola Mondays journey through a breakdown - "Kate was out on daily leave, floating out amid the weave. Somehow caffeine's just the same before and after going insane".
The Arclife catalogue includes a number of great compilations. On the 2002 compilation Arc Beats the track 'Sleep To Dream' starts with synths and keys before a a hypnotic mid-tempo beat kicks in, only making room for another smattering of synths at the mid-way point before coming to a close at around the six minute mark. Rather than sending you to sleep as the title suggests the beat makes you sit up and take notice and I've often found that this number is so catchy it stays with me for days after listening. The track is by Magnolia, made up of Lou Kewene and Stephen Smalls who went on to change their name to Magnolia Corporation, and have released an album electronic music, The Sundowner Sessions.
The title track of earlier compilation, Flying Way Too High is by Jay Clarkson. Jay has been on the music scene since the early 198os, first with The Playthings, then They Were Expendable. She had solo work released on Flying Nun and in 1999 released an acclaimed solo album, Kindle on ArcLife. There's a video of a one of her Flying Nun era tracks, 'The Boy With The Sad Hands' on the video page.
On the same compilation is 'Postcards' by Beckoning South. The song is simple but what carries it is the singing of Ana Boelima and Reb Fountain. Reb has gone on to have a burgeoning solo career with two great albums Like Water (sharing it's name with another of her early groups) and Holster. It's a great shame that Beckoning South didn't produce more music although as well as Reb's success, songwriter and guitarist Pete Hobbs went on to Kitset and later to compose music for television. I've added a video from Reb Fountain's Like Water album to the video page.
Keep tuned for another feature on Arclife soon, as there's a lot more great material in their catalogue that deserves exposure.
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The music scene on Waiheke used to be dominated by older white guys playing the blues but in more recent times that's changed with some great new and recent releases from Waiheke musicians.
Three Legged Horse (pictured above) are a trio that are greater than their constituent parts. Bede Taylor writes deep self-searching dark lyrics which are balanced by the musicality and instrumental prowess of Aaron Carpenter (also a popular solo act on the island) and Gina Higham's amazingly talented vocals. The bill themselves as alt-country grunge blues and all of these elements can be heard on their debut album Down. The full album is available to listen to online and can be purchased on the same site. I recommend taking a listen to an in-depth interview with Bede Taylor recorded by Waiheke Radio and you can also watch the video for album track 'The Roses Song' on the video page.
Selina Tusitala Marsh is a poet, an academic, and the first person of Pacific descent of graduate with a PhD in English from Auckland University. She also lives on Waiheke Island and there is a track from Fast Talking PI, the Book and CD she has just released, that is all about our island. It's called Chant From Matiatia to Orapiu, a lyrical tour of Waiheke with Tusitala Marsh accompanied by musical backing by Tim Page. You can hear that piece on the podcast and the via the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre a recording of the the title track is available for download (mp3). There is an in-depth interview (mp3) with Selina available from National Radio.
Optimus Gryme is the latest musical incarnation of Waiheke musician Charlie Brown. Charlie has been making music for over a decade, dabbling in hip-hop, breakbeat, drum and bass, and now, as Optimus Gryme, dubstep. He released a four track E.P. titled Annihilation of the Ego late last year and the track Immortal received quite a bit of airplay around the country. The E.P. is diverse with some tracks heading more in a dub direction, and others the dance floor, with the diversity adding to it's appeal. It has also been released on vinyl. There are videos from Optimus Gryme on the video page.
So, there you go. A little taster of the some of the latest musical talent from the home of Counting The Beat, Waiheke Island.
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