New Releases August 09

Batrider originated in Wellington but are now based in London, following a stint in Melbourne. They've just released their second album Why We Can't Be Together. It's got a lot of good things going for it - it's strident and raucous, without being too much of either and it reminds me of all those early nineties female fronted grunge bands I liked so much, like L7, Babes in Toyland and Hole. There's also something about the sound of the whole album, it stretches and shifts. Imagine a music box that's been dropped, or got water in it. Afterwards it still plays the tunes but they sound a bit ... wonky. There are a few Batrider clips on the video page.

There's a new site selling downloads of a small but carefully selected range of local music called Sellmates. They also have a few free downloads and they've made some out-of-print limited releases available again. Amongst those are the early EPs from synth/guitar indie band So So Modern, some of which like 0000 EP originally only came out in a release of 100 mail order copies. It's nice to have this music available and affordable. Until this site came along the only other way to get your hands on them was to buy a Japanese only compilation which sold for around $50. Check out So So Modern on the video page and interviewed on National Radio (stream).

Street Chant's three members together bring their respective enthusiasm for alternative guitar bands, experimental noise and country to their music but it's the former that wins out in their loud, catchy as hell, guitar pop. They've recently released 'Scream Walk', a great primer for an album due in October. There's some nice live in the studio videos of Street Chant recorded in the Red Bull Studio - while you're there check out what is an extensive repository of live performances by local acts.

A couple of months ago I featured Urbantramper on the Music Alliance Pact. I described them as producing introspective pop songs that reflect an endearing, naive angst about their place in the world and wrote of their experimentation with making music available through creative commons licensing and pay-what-you-want pricing. It must be working to at least a small degree because after that I got reports back from overseas about people buying their last album Tokon And the Colours. The band have now released a new song 'Olympic Theme 2012' on their website,

Only one band could write a song about TV journalist John Campbell pressuring the Prime Minister to change the law to allow people to adopt pandas - and that band is Bear Cat. They've been singing about pandas, and I've been singing their praises, since 2007. Bear Cat have finally recorded an album of their extremely silly, infectious and endearing songs, Xiong Mao (Chinese for Bear Cat or Panda), which will come out in September.

Liam Finn and his musical partner Eliza-Jane Barnes appear to be workaholics. They've been touring the United States almost solidly for two years promoting Finn's first solo album I'll Be Lightning. That tour included live performances on America's National Public Radio (listen to that here) and the David Letterman show (you can hear the pair talk about that with Kim Hill on National Radio here - mp3 and see the performance on the video page). Liam participated in the recording of the second 7 World's Collide project with his father Neil in January and he has just released an EP with Eliza Jane titled Champagne in Seashells. As if that's not enough both have just recorded an album with Connon Mockasin and Lawrence Arabia called Having A Baby. The four are about to tour NZ and hope to release the album in the new year.

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Giddy Up

In the past I've featured songs about Rugby on Counting The Beat, but there's another sport which is just as, if not more, strongly represented in the kiwi songbook and that's horse racing. It seems there's something about the gee-gees that stirs songwriters to pen paeans to the sport and it's heroes in a way not even the national sport can do. Racing has long been an important part of NZ culture, it's the only sport to be have it's own government minister, and it's only in relatively recent times that racing has fallen from the great NZ cultural triptytch, as expressed by Danny McGirr, of 'Rugby, Racing and Beer.'

In the late 1990's Palmerston North duo Andrew Carey and Regan O'Brien, formerly of The Livids, formed Trough and released their debut single, a limited edition of 27 lathe cut acetate discs called Sturdy – that single included a frenetic instrumental that expresses some of the excitement and pace of a horse race as it follows the cadence of the race caller from Avondale racecourse calling Race 10 from start to finish.

Over the years there have been a number of songs produced about champion horses such as Phar Lap, Sunline, Bonecrusher and Cardigan Bay. Cardigan Bay was born in Mataura, near Gore, but did much of his racing overseas. He was the first Standardbred horse to win a million US dollars and when he achieved that feat he appeared on US TV on the Ed Sullivan show. When Cardigan Bay died his obituary appeared in the New York Times. He's been toasted in song by Dusty Spittle, a NZ country veteran who has been inducted into the Australian Country Music hall of Fame and the American old time country hall of fame. He still performs around Otago today and I've put a clip of a recent performance on the video page.

Another horse heralded in song was Bonecrusher. In 1986, just before Bonecrusher's greatest win in the Cox Plate Ellerslie builder Wayne Cann, Gordon Evans and John Scull formed The Squires and released what turned out to be a hit 'Bonecrusher – Tribute to a Champion' – suprising considering the prominent use of a harpsichord. The song was originally a charity fundraiser but is now available for free download at

In the early part of this decade Phelps and Munro was producing critically acclaimed electronic music combining the warmth of sampled guitar with jittery glitches and beats. Phelps and Munro was actually the solo project of bedroom laptop musician Gerald Phillips. He released just one album, Slowpoke, on Round Trip Mars Records. That album included a song that received massive amounts of student radio airplay – a gentle but captivating instrumental based around an acoustic guitar sample with electronic stutter and starts called 'Horse Winning without Rider'.

The final song in this episode is another from Danny McGirr, another performer still going strong after 50 years in the industry. I've put a video of a 50 yr anniversary performance by Danny on the video page. 'The Jockey's Last Ride' is apparently based on a true story about a young jockey's first cup race, although as you can tell from the title all does not end well. A kiwi country/folk classic that ticks all the boxes including the heroes ascent to heaven.

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Music Alliance Pact August 09

This month sees the ninth 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. The Music Alliance pact is ever expanding - this month there are 31 contributors. This month Counting The Beat is pleased to be contributing 'Hello Big Sky' from Sora Shima. For more material from them check out

NEW ZEALAND: Counting The Beat
Sora Shima - Hello Big Sky (Radio 909 remix)
Sora Shima are a four-piece instrumental group from Hamilton who specialise in the kind of start quiet, end apocalyptic epics that you hear from the likes of Explosions In The Sky or fellow countrymen Jakob. Hello Big Sky is from their third EP, Destroy Electronica. You'll find links to free downloads of the previous two releases on their MySpace. The five tracks on Destroy Electronica see the band experiment more with the form, adding variety but losing none of the power.

ARGENTINA: Zonaindie
Baby Scream - Ups And Downs
Baby Scream is a musical project led by Juan Mazzola, with the ocassional collaboration of friends such as Cristian Basualdo, Sebastián Rubin and even Gilby Clarke's bassist Muddy Stardust. Mazzola writes pop songs with a strong influence from classics like The Byrds, The Beatles and The Replacements. This beautiful acoustic ballad was taken from the album with the same name, released last year in the US by Recording Records.

AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
The Frowning Clouds - Time Wastin' Woman
Geelong boys The Frowning Clouds are so 60s and very fun. Lead vocalist Nick (a dead ringer for George Harrison) and his poncho-wielding counterpart Zack rotate between singing and rhythm guitar duties. The coarse vocals of Zack lend backbone to Time Wastin' Woman, oozing with the sounds of the Stones' early catalogue.

BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
Copacabana Club - Just Do It
They're pretty, uber-cool and hyped. Justin Timberlake likes them. Channel Fox uses their song in a commercial. Do you want more or is that enough to make you see that Copacabana Club are a band to pay attention to? Last year the five-piece band (two women and three men) released their first EP, King Of The Night, from which Just Do It is taken. It's dance and kinda new-rave style make people think about CSS, but it's better to listen and judge for yourself.

CANADA: I(Heart)Music
Centretown Cripplers - Eat The Bee
Centretown Cripplers are a seven-piece. I only mention this because they're a garage rock band, and bands in that genre typically have a much more minimalistic approach to line-ups. As Eat The Bee shows, however, in this case size doesn't matter. Centretown Cripplers are loud, raucous, primal... and awesome.

CHILE: Super 45
Mostro - Moha Moha
Mostro, one of the cornerstones of the Chilean indie music scene, are Carlos and Jaime Reinoso, two mutant brothers who deliver an intense and creative musical experience. Playing, in their own words, "evil pop" with a guitar, drum and small keyboard, they attack you (yes, literally attack you) with a mix of minimal electronica and raw, intense rock that simply knocks you down, just like American duo High Places were when both bands recently shared a stage. Moha Moha, taken from their second LP Consumido Por Pájaros ("Eaten By Birds") is a small appetizer of their genius insanity while we await their third album.

CHINA: Wooozy
Sonnet - A Nice Song
Sonnet are a disco/indie rock band from Shanghai. As one of the few third rock generation in Shanghai, they've just independently released their second demo S-File. One of the band members is now helping the SOMA indie label host live shows at the Dream Factory venue in their native city.

DENMARK: All Scandinavian
Jong Pang - Liar Liar
Jong Pang aka Anders Rhedin released his lauded debut solo album Bright White Light just last year and already he's got the follow-up ready and out. It's titled Love and it is a magnificent alternative pop-rock effort from which I'm happy to present irresistible first single Liar Liar.

ENGLAND: The Daily Growl
The xx - Crystalised
Although they went to the same school as Four Tet and Burial, don't go making too many assumptions about The xx, a group of four teenagers from South London currently making waves in the UK ahead of the release of their debut album later this month. They may share similar influences (dub, R'n'B) but they take their songs in another direction with magnificently minimal production, all of which is done by themselves.

Astrid Swan - Unrelated
Earlier this year singer Astrid Swan dumped the piano (and along with it, the dramatically adorned songs) and took the guitar to compose simple, but sincere and personal pop songs that she recorded with a new band, The Drunk Lovers, for her soon-to-be released third album Better Than Wages. There we can find this synth-pop gem about erroneous encounters.

FRANCE: ZikNation
Mama's Mule - Globe Trotter
The Mule and Venom met during a studio session in 2007 and they immediatly clicked. For about a year, they kept seeing each other every now and then between concerts, studio sessions, taking the dog out, vacations and soccer games. Meanwhile, Jessy Rakotomanga and Sylvain Moreau pledged allegiance to the secret society. January 2009: tadaaaam. First demo. Three tracks. Viagra for your ears. Just listen.

GERMANY: Blogpartei
Timid Tiger - Are You Gonna Go My Way (feat. Ludacris & The Notorious B.I.G.)
Perhaps Timid Tiger are globally more famous for their remixes than for their regular songs. And hell yeah, this Lenny Kravitz cover does indeed kick ass. So enjoy it - but don't forget that this band from Cologne is creative and inspired in their own work, both on record and live.

GREECE: Mouxlaloulouda
Film - Filter
After a two-year period of experimentation in the studio, Film are releasing their third album. Persona is a dizzyingly beautiful set of delicate atmospheric songs with cinematic aesthetics and a detailed production. It signifies a different, more inviting musical direction that is influenced by the compositions of Vangelis Papathanasiou and summons lush combined voices, pop melodies, electronics, sparse strings and brasses. An album that is best taken from start to finish, where the songs will uncover its manifold delights, endear and impress.

ICELAND: I Love Icelandic Music
Agent Fresco - Above These City Lights
Agent Fresco formed in early 2008 with the goal of competing in the Músíktilraunir contest, a sort of Battle of the Bands, which they subsequently won. The quartet write complex songs with lots of rhythm changes and received the Brightest Hope (Best Newcomer) Award at the 2008 Icelandic Music Awards. The band, who released a five-song EP called Lightbulb Universe last December, are currently working on their debut album.

INDIA: Indiecision
Sridhar/Thayil - Bring Me Rain
The project of theatre actor and singer Suman Sridhar and poet Jeet Thayil, Sridhar/Thayil's lyrical pop takes thematic Indian music sensibilities and combines them with an urban swagger in the vein of early Björk and, occasionally, Tom Waits. Bring Me Rain is a perfect example of their dirty-sexy feel, taking traditional Indian sounds and cooking up something that could work equally well at a nu-jazz club or a grimy bar. Sridhar/Thayil have been around since 2007 and they're currently working on releasing their debut album.

INDONESIA: Deathrockstar
The Wispy Hummers - My Love
The Wispy Hummers is a singer-songwriter who is much influenced by The Zombies, Bright Eyes, Destroyer, Death Cab For Cutie and, above all, Bob Dylan. She has released two EPs, both recorded at home, creating a signature lo-fi quality that makes the songs more honest, heartfelt and nostalgic.

IRELAND: Nialler9
The Dying Seconds - The Ladder Drops
"To some people electronic music is impersonal. It's just an orgy of numbers, dancing together and doing as they're told. But have you ever wondered what would happen if you took apart the machine and tried to replace the motherboard with a human heart?" The Dying Seconds' own description says it better than I could. This is taken from their 2009 EP Some Grand Romantic Gesture. Lovely stuff. Download their album here.

ITALY: Polaroid
Fitness Forever - Vacanze a Settembre
It's August, everyone down here is on holiday and Fitness Forever are the perfect soundtrack, with their glamorous sound inspired by Burt Bacharach, Armando Trovajoli and classic 60s lounge-pop. They recently released their first album on the Spanish label Elefant Records and played a joyful set at the Indietracks Festival in the UK, making Derbyshire feel warm like a Mediterranean spot.

Nuito - NeKoMaJiN vs
Nuito are a post-rock experimental trio who formed in Kyoto in 2004. With tapping guitar, slap bass and hard drum, Nuito rapidly change beat and rhythm while they play, and make an immediate impression. Their experimental attitude is not about musical destruction or collaboration, but reconstruction.

MEXICO: Club Fonograma
Selma Oxor - Abrazame Demonio
Selma Oxor are the vindication of a youth spent having fun exploring rock, techno and pop, an all-in-one distorted vision that according to their MySpace sounds like "a cow giving birth". From their self-titled debut album comes Abrazame Demonio, a moment of useless exertion perhaps, but it's one of the few perfect songs we'll get to hear this year. It effectively transforms noisy punk into some kind of urban uprising.

NORWAY: Eardrums
Casa Murilo - 19th Floor
Casa Murilo are the perfect band to present on a global project like MAP. They are based in Norway, originally from England and started making music together in Brazil. Two Englishmen, Chris Winfield and Dan Hesketh, met, lived and worked in Brazil for two years. They fell in love with two Norwegian girls. They moved to Oslo and started a band, Casa Murilo, with two Norwegian friends. They are currently in the studio recording their debut EP, The Waldemar Thranes Debacle.

Serpentina Satelite - Nothing To Say
Serpentina Satelite formed at the end of 2003 in Lima. Their sound oscillates among calm, violence and ecstasy, in the spirit of space-rock and Krautrock. Their second record Nothing To Say, released on the Trip In Time label, is an extended five-track epic in which Serpentina Satelite bring us a turbulent and more powerful, rough sound. For the title track Nothing To Say, you better fasten your seatbelts - this is a high energy rock 'n' roll freak-out!

PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco?
Ölga - It's Alright
Ölga formed in 2001, as a quartet, from the ashes of another band. In 2003, they won an alternative rock contest and were invited by an indie label to release their first EP, Ö, in 2004. Their cello player left the band and their sound, as a trio, became more rock oriented. Their first LP, What Is, was released in early 2005. In 2007, they started recording their new record, La Resistance, which will be released in September. It's Alright is the first single and it is, at this time, only free and legally downloadable through the Music Alliance Pact.

ROMANIA: Babylon Noise
The :Egocentrics - Mystic Initiation
Loose jams, goosebumps, trance and therapy. These are the reasons why the three-piece instrumental band formed in Timisoara in early 2007. Combining stoner-rock vibes, 60s psychedelic, 70s rock 'n' roll with hints of old prog rock and post-metal - along with colourful, hypnotising visuals in a live setting - the band take an almost shamanic approach to music, acting like an intermediary between the listener and that mysterious and far away realm behind your eyelids.

My Cousin I Bid You Farewell - What We Are Eating Tonight
If this song is anything to go by, My Cousin I Bid You Farewell are cooking up something rather tasty. As a statement of intent for a band who have been around for less than a year, it reveals the scale of the ambition from within. It is big and it is clever. The Kate Bush-style piano melody, the brooding guitars and Jonathan Sellar’s haunting vocals - which resemble Win Butler’s - propel What We Are Eating Tonight into an anthem for the restless. Cracking song, cracking band.

SINGAPORE: I'm Waking Up To...
Jonathan Chan - Water Line
Taking a step back from the catchy power-punk of his band Plainsunset, Jonathan Chan comes forward with a more intimate and soulful musical offering with his EP, Pencil Tracings. An illustrator in his own right, Jonathan perhaps did not find it uncomfortable to show a more earnest, intricate side to his music. With Water Line, he seems right at home sketching out a brief outline of the world going by, with a guitar in hand and a somber voice, singing of life's constant love.

SOUTH AFRICA: Musical Mover & Shaker!
LAN - In The City
Head-bopping, dance-inducing beats are what LAN are about. LAN (Local Area Network) are the live representation of two DJs (CodecVSTheSound). The band formed in late 2008 and are made up of Gerald and Raffael (who are Codec and TheSound) on synths, percussion, vocals and samplers with Chris Slabber on drums. They call their music a mix of anything from 70s funk to booty bass all dropped over the latest electro tunes. With their song In The City showcasing their many influences and what they have to offer, their new material is sure to set the dancefloors alight.

Sunkyeol - I'll Write When I'm There
Kyoungmo Kim of Especially When has a new band and their name is Sunkyeol. Equipped with great melodies and a bit of experimentation that leaves a warm, fuzzy feeling, Sunkyeol are currently looking for a label to release their first single. I'll Write When I'm There was co-written and recorded with Joe Hollick of Wolf People in a joint project that never took off.

SWEDEN: Swedesplease
Erik de Vahl - Running
Erik de Vahl describes his new record as "the straightest pop songs I've ever done but also some more experimental pieces". You can hear both influences on the single song Running. It has a Memphis slow jam feel with instrumentation that reminds me of a classic Ann Peebles track, but it's layered in such a way with so many found sounds and samples that it does sound truly experimental.

UNITED STATES: I Guess I'm Floating
Happy Family - Cups
Baltimore's Happy Family, sandwiched somewhere between Panda Bear and Atlas Sound, are the latest in a group of like-minded lo-fi psych-pop outfits (Memory Cassette, Neon Indian, Washed Out) to be picking up buzz around the blogosphere. Cups is one of my favorite jams of the summer, taken from the recently-released Sound Farm EP which you can grab as a free download here.

VENEZUELA: Barquisimeto Musical
Mr. Swing & The Bongo Clan - Mi Camino
Mr. Swing & The Bongo Clan are a new band that gathers nine talented musicians from the Conservatory of the City of Barquisimeto, the same place where the famous music director Gustavo Dudamel came from. After almost 10 years of work, these guys released their debut album Ska*Jazz Venezolano, merging two musical genres with a wonderful result. Mi Camino shows the real soul of this band.

To download all 31 songs in one file click here


It Was a Dark & Stormy Night

The inspiration for this episode was a crazy record I picked up recently in Wellington - The New Zealand Weather Forecast as sung by The St Mary's Cathedral Choir. That reminded me of a more famous weather forecast song, 'Outlook For Thursday' from Dave Dobbyn's band DD Smash. To be honest I'm not a great fan of that song but there is an interesting cover version of it recorded by Dark Tower, the Christchurch kiwiana hip-hop outfit fronted by Jody Lloyd, who went on to form Trillion.

There are lots of songs written about the weather of course. And because this is New Zealand most of them are about rain. As former Prime Minister Geoff Palmer once said, "New Zealand is an indubitably pluvial country". So there's no shortage of depressing grey odes to drizzle such as 'Rain' which closes A Maze and Amazement, the 2007 album from Counting The Beat favourites The Enright House. The track is a beautiful instrumental perfectly suited to a grey wet day.

To mix things up a bit I've also included a sunny song from Cool Rainbows, 'Southern Summer Sun'. the song has been out since February but I haven't picked up on it til now. As you'd expect it's a wistful gentle poppy song remembering a summer love affair. Cool Rainbows are headed up by Djeisan Suskov (pictured), who used to be part of Trees Climbing Trees, who played a farewell gig to about 6 people (including me) on Waiheke back in January this year. I've posted a Cool Rainbows clip on the video page.

When it comes to weather, there's something about a good storm. They also seem to lend themselves well to music. I once lived on a cliff top looking right into the prevailing wind. The perfect music for a stormy night was The Renderers album I Dream of the Sea but is I was back there now another album I might choose on a windy night would be Circa Scaria by An Emerald City. Their epic instrumentals blend rock with the exotic eastern sounds of lute and sitar and they have the grandeur of a storm -they sound like they could fill the sky and sweep you away. The podcast features the closing cut from Circa Scaria 'As The Storm Comes In'.
There are An Emerald City clips on the video page and you can hear a live session recorded by National Radio (stream).

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The Art of Noise

Some of New Zealand's most acclaimed musicians are virtually unknown at home. The music they produce appeals to such a niche audience that it is only on the international stage that there are sufficient numbers of people interested that they can make a mark. This is particularly true of artists producing what could be described as post-rock, experimental, avant-garde punk. Take for instance The Dead C. Hardly a household name in New Zealand a couple of years ago they played at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival in a line up that went The Stooges, Sonic Youth, The Dead C.

Another artist garnering attention overseas is Campbell Kneale, a prolific musician who has released many albums as Birchville Cat Motel, has a "metal" side project Black Boned Angel, and has just re-launched himself as Our Love Will Destroy The World. When I say he's prolific I mean it. This new project has already released two albums, two 7" singles, a CDR and two cassettes. One of the Our Love . . . singles he has released is 'Sadnessfinalamen', a split single with Bark Haze, a group including Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, a Campbell Kneale fan. The song is a glistening, powerful and entrancing wall of noise that achieves Kneale's mission throughout his various musical incarnations of achieving "total sensory and spiritual overload". For more info check out an excellent interview with Kneale on The Lumiere Reader and more explanation of the retirement of Birchville Cat Motel on Foxy Digitalis. There are Black Boned Angel and Our Love Will Destroy The World clips on the video page.

Another musician exploring the edges of contemporary rock is Stefan Neville, who as well as drumming for the likes of Chris Knox's The Nothing, has a long-standing solo pysch/noise/folk/rock project called Pumice. With over three dozen releases since 1994 he's also very prolific although if you're looking for a starting point I would recommend the excellent 2007 album Pebbles. Pumic has released his material over the years on a variety of small labels, nearly all of them based out of New Zealand. His latest release is 7" single called Persevere on Soft Abuse records. The single has three tracks, an original titled 'The Dawn Chorus of Kina' plus two acoustic covers, including one of NZ band The Axemen.

Better known in New Zealand is Tristan Dingeman of HDU. HDU's 2008 album Metamathics was the band's first since 2001. In between Dingeman was performing solo as Kahu. One of the songs he released as Kahu was 'Mountaineater' which has now become the name of his new three piece band. The band's name gives you a sense of Mountaineater's sound which, in an interview with the Dominion Post's Simon Sweetman, Dingeman describes as "hav[ing] aspects of punk and metal, we have the noise thing going on and pop with melodies too". The band have released a debut single 'Mata'/'Sunfired' which is available through Under The Radar.

There's been a lot of anticipation for the debut album from Kerretta, Vilayer. The three piece band have previously been show-cased on a 7" and 12" single and they have gained a loyal live following. They have a massive driving instrumental sound that has seen them hold their own on stage with the likes of New Zealand's Jakob and Americans Explosions in the Sky, but that sound has gotten even bigger on Vilayer. The first single from the album is 'The Square Outside'. There is a Kerretta clip on the video page.

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