A Tribute to Sir Howard Morrison

Sir Howard Morrison passed away today. His work with the Howard Morrison quartet in the 1950s and 60s was groundbreaking, highly entertaining and sometimes bloody funny.

Songs from The Howard Morrsion Quartet have featured in a number of previous Counting the Beat episodes:
'George The Wilder Colonial Boy' is in True Crime Stories (mp3)
'My Old Man's An All Black' is in Rugby Was The Winner On The Day
'Mori the Hori ' is in What's On The Governor General's Ipod
'The Battle of The Waikato is on I've Been Everywhere Man (Round Hamilton)

And here he is performing with a reunited Quartet only a month ago.

Sir Howard Morrison - a true entertainer



This episode features songs that include the indigenous language of New Zealand - Te Reo Maori.

In the 1950s and 60s Hawaiian music was a big influence on many NZ musicians, most notably some of the Maori show bands who were bringing together waiata and rock'n'roll. One of the first songs in this mode to hit the big time was 'Haka Boogie', written by Lee Westbrook and sung by Morgan Clarke with The Benny's Five in 1955. The song was recently covered by Labretta Suede and the Motel Six on an EP of covers of the band's favourite New Zealand songs, Loon-A-Tiki.

There seems to have been an increase in recent times of the number of songs featuring the Maori language. Jess Chambers' Silver Scroll nominated song 'Island' is one of a bunch I've noticed that feature Te Reo. Chambers has a Kiwi father but an American mother and lived in California until 2002, so it's nice to hear her embrace her NZ roots. 'Island' comes from Jess Chambers and The Firefly Orchestra, an excellent album that has perhaps been overshadowed by her contribution to The Woolshed Sessions.

The Ruby Suns are another kiwi band featuring a Californian, Ryan McPhun, who moved to New Zealand in 2004. The Ruby Suns song 'Tane Mahuta', arguably has taken Te Reo to more listeners around the world than any song other than the National Anthem sung before rugby tests. The song was a big hit in the music blogosphere last year, featuring on many many sites around the world. The version of the song I play in the podcast is recorded live, literally in the streets of Paris, and comes from The Blogotheque, a site featuring videos of bands playing in the French capital. They said of the Ruby Suns, "they came from a land of beaches and barbecues, sandy hair, and old, patch-colored pickups. They were bound to engulf Paris with sunlight". I highly recommend checking out the clips posted on the video page.

Everyone in New Zealand knows Poi-e, the massive hit 1984 hit from The Patea Maori Club. This was a rare occurrence of a Maori language song topping the charts, sitting at number one for four weeks. The song was written by linguist Ngoi Pewhairangi with music by Dalvanius Prime who intended the song to be a way of instilling pride in young Maori. After initially not being able to secure a release Prime eventually formed his own label to get it out - and it went on to be a true kiwi classic. There are a number of remixes of the song about including a live version by 4-Corners and P-Money, a house mix by Soulforce and the one I feature in the podcast by The Beatworms, which you can download here. The original video is on the video page.

To close I have another early amalgamation of Maori music and rock'n'roll. 'Poi Poi Twist was released by Rim D. Paul and The Quin-Tikis in 1964. Rimini Paul was a leading light in the Maori show band scene on the 1960s working with The Quin-tikis, The Hi-Quins, Howard Morrsion and Kiri Te Kanawa. Paul contributed the title track to the 1966 NZ movie Runaway. You can see him perform an excerpt of that on the films trailer which is available on the video page.

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Music Alliance Pact September 09

This month sees the tenth 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 35 contributors. This month Counting The Beat is pleased to be contributing 'The Proximity of Death (Blue Eyed Boy)' from Jordan Reyne's latest album How the Dead Live. For more info on the story behind the album and free downloads from a great and varied back catalogue visit http://www.jordanreyne.com. You can also hear Jordan talk about the album on a National Radio interview (stream).

NEW ZEALAND: Counting The Beat
Jordan Reyne - The Proximity Of Death (Blue Eyed Boy)
The Proximity Of Death is taken from Jordan Reyne's fifth album How The Dead Live. A musician who has combined folk, electronica, soundscapes and industrial, Reyne has gained a strong following in the darkwave scene. How The Dead Live is her most contemplative work. The album was commissioned by the New Zealand Department of Conservation and was written in an artist in residence programme. The album fictionalises the life of an actual pioneer woman Susannah Hawes adding history as a character. Reyne has announced this will be her last album.

ARGENTINA: Zonaindie
Matilda - Vanidad
Matilda is an electro-pop duo based in Rosario (one of Argentina's largest cities), consisting of Juan Manuel Godoy and Ignacio Espumado. Vanidad is the opening track from Para Ser Movimiento, their second album, which was recently praised by Mexican pop star Julieta Venegas on her Twitter page. It was released by the Planeta X label in a physical format and as a free Creative Commons licensed download (http://bit.ly/kNiJK).

AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
Deep Sea Arcade - Don't Be Sorry
One of the more exciting new bands to come out of Sydney in the past couple of years, Deep Sea Arcade is blessed with a very captivating frontman in Nic McKenzie, who genuinely loses himself in every song they play. Don't Be Sorry is the single they're currently touring but the live shows indicate there's a lot more to come from this Sydney five piece. One to put on your watchlist.

BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
Cidadão Instigado - Doido
Acclaimed by critics, Cidadão Instigado's third album UHUUU! is probably one of the three best Brazilian records of 2009. Their sound is a mixture of vintage 'brega', 70s rock and avant garde. The band is one of the most creative of the contemporary music made in the country and (besides its experimental and complex songs) has a growing fanbase. Doido, which means "crazy", is a bit reminiscent of John Frusciante's solo work with lyrics about paranoid hallucinations.

CANADA: I(Heart)Music
Dan Mangan - Robots
Robots isn't a complex song, but it more than makes up for that by being insanely, incredibly catchy. I'd challenge people to hear it and not walk around with the closing chorus ("Robots need love too / They want to be loved by you") in their head for days afterward... except I'm pretty sure it can't be done.

CHILE: Super 45
Picnic Kibun - Drop Your Panties
If we could define Picnic Kibun in just one word, it would be "party". A party in which a crazy Japanese sings about women getting rid of their underwear, where a couple of electronic musicians start rapping out of the blue and where a bass player with a surfer look makes rock songs. Fiebre Tagadá is the name of their first album and, just like the band, it's a wild party in which you can dance and get drunk.

CHINA: Wooozy
Tang Qie Nong - I Want To Go Through Your Body
In the summer of 2008, the experimental duo Tang Qie Nong was founded by Fangqi and Tangguo in Guangzhou. The single I Want To Go Through Your Body from their self-titled EP is about the long-cherished ambition of a person who faces death. He wants to go back to the origins and purity, but you must be careful what you wish for.

COLOMBIA: Columbia Urbana
Jhonblack - Sola Solita
Hailing from Pereira, Jhonblack is seducing women with his sexy music. His offer is based in electric sounds mixed with hip hop, R'n'B and pop music without forgetting his Pacific roots, to which he is adding a little bit of jazz and soul to create fresh and innovative sounds. Sola Solita is one of his most melodic songs and shows why he is known as one of the greatest urban music artists in Colombia.

DENMARK: All Scandinavian
Slaraffenland - That Great Love Sound (The Raveonettes cover)
This year, legendary Danish label Crunchy Frog - the first home of The Raveonettes among others - celebrate their 15th anniversary. To commemorate the landmark they asked 25 Danish non-Crunchy artists to interpret 25 songs by Crunchy artists and released the results on the double album Saluting The Crunchy Frog-a-logue. Here's Slaraffenland's excellent cover of The Raveonettes' That Great Love Sound.

ENGLAND: The Daily Growl
Beth Jeans Houghton - Golden
Beth Jeans Houghton is a glam folk pixie who injects her sweet acoustic songs with a high-grade dose of pure pop. She has killer tunes, energy, a curious taste in wigs and a certain boldness that's only natural given her Newcastle roots. She rules. She has a new EP coming out this month where "all of of the songs are about a guy who looks like Roger Daltrey circa the deaf, dumb and blind kid days. Apart from I Will Return, which is about Wilson the football floating away from Tom Hanks in Castaway". Golden isn't from that EP but it's still great.

Keramick & Lobo - Brown-Eyed Susan
Producers Jussi Mikkonen and Visa Mäkinen, aka Keramick & Lobo, combine their downbeat electronic layers with a wide array of musicians for a perfect blend of machines and real instruments on their new album The Braille. Nineteen artists, including singers Eeppi Ursin and Teemu Tanner, participate on the duo's compositions and provide a smooth jazz beat with violins, trumpet, saxophone, percussion and a few other instruments. Brown-Eyed Susan is a dark and intriguing track, a real film noir piece of music.

FRANCE: ZikNation
Caravan Palace - La Caravane
Three sequence programmers - Charles Delaporte, Arnaud Via and Hugues Payen - with a love of electronic music and swing jazz, together with Toustou, Zoé and Chapi make one hell of a band. They will soon be heard at the famous Paris Olympia - proof that Caravan Palace are becoming rather popular.

GERMANY: Blogpartei
Me Succeeds - My Main Discipline
This Hamburg-based trio is quite Janus-esque since they combine gentle melodies and preppy non-parallel vocals with a highly energetic synth-bass. That might sounds like normal indie-electro but both pillars stand on their own to create a quite unique sound.

GREECE: Mouxlaloulouda
Diafana Krina - Agnos
Diafana Krina is possibly the most brilliant and idiosyncratic band to emerge from Greece in the early 90s. Agnos is taken from Ki Agapi Pali Tha Kalei, an incandescent guitar-oriented album with superb, dark, poetic and heart-bruising lyrics. Long, swelling arrangements are organized cosily around Thanos Anestopoulos' weathered baritone with blankets of keyboard and jarring bursts of exploding drums. Each song blends pure emotion and is expertly crafted, with an amazingly punchy set of melodies delivered by an extremely tight band. Unfortunately, after six records, Diafana Krina disbanded in June 2009.

ICELAND: I Love Icelandic Music
Reykjavík! - Æji, Plís
Reykjavík! is a raw rock band in which most members originate not from Reykjavík but Ísafjörður, the capital of the Westfjords. This is one of the loudest Icelandic bands, a collective of philosophy majors, shopmongers and social workers, with an exclamation mark partly as a reference to the vast amount of hyperbole Iceland's capital receives. Æji, Plís is taken from their second album, The Blood. The song features a surf-rock guitar riff, rhythmic bass, kick-drum percussion and Bóas' vocals fluctuating between grunting, chanting and falsetto.

INDIA: Indiecision
Swarathma - Jamba
Swarathma plays honest, unpretentious folk-rock. This hardworking act from Bangalore was recently given the chance to record with renowned British producer John Leckie (The Stone Roses, Radiohead) and play a mini-tour of the UK. Jamba (meaning "pride") comes from a compilation album produced by Leckie featuring Swarathma and a few other top new Indian acts. Sung entirely in Kannada, the song, like the band, finds its roots in Carnatic music and combines these sensibilities with orchestral pop trappings to create something that's more a new direction than a middle path.

INDONESIA: Deathrockstar
Koil - Aku Lupa Aku Luka
Koil are one of the greatest rock bands in Indonesia, their songs and style influenced by the industrial/darkwave/gothic/metal scene, with lyrics that tell stories about spiritual journeys, nationalism or just personal things which are easy to relate to yet have a deeper meaning.

IRELAND: Nialler9
Nakatomi Towers - Cut Me Out
This is the first real tune from Belfast-based boy/girl duo Nakatomi Towers and what a cool beast of electro-pop it turns out to be. From the "duh-duh-duh" nonsensical yet catchy chorus to the insistent disco bassline, this is promising stuff for all 2 minutes 47 seconds of its duration.

ITALY: Polaroid
Giardini di Mirò - La Vampa 02
Giardini di Mirò is the one of the most important bands in the Italian indie scene. Formed in 1998, notable acts they have toured with include Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Karate, and they have been remixed by Styrofoam and Dntel among others. Their new album is an amazing soundtrack for Il Fuoco, a silent movie from 1915 directed by Giovanni Pastrone. La Vampa 02 ("The Fire") is the second part of the central chapter, when the two lovers surrender to passion and their love burns away.

nhhmbase - 9/8
The latest offering from the Tokyo underground scene is nhhmbase (pronounced "ne-han base"). Formed in 2004, they have complex music frameworks with irregular beats and dramatic code which makes their sound innovative and pop. They have already opened for many foreign acts such as Deerhoof, Tyondai Braxton (Battles) and The Eternals in Japan.

MEXICO: Red Bull PanameriKa
Menuda Coincidencia - Sin Enganche
Hailing from Monterrey, Menuda Coincidencia is a 'rap en Español' trio that made feature appearances on records from some of the genre's top figures - such as Bocafloja and Akil Ammar - before a long overdue but excellent debut EP, Ai Con Permisito. Lead single Sin Enganche is full of crazy and juicy, jumpy jazz hooks with playful swing samples that sustain an existentialist manifesto, ambiguous yet intelligently expressed by its two MCs.

NORWAY: Eardrums
Sirkus Bjøver - Heavy Metal
The song is called Heavy Metal, but it's as far away from heavy and metal as you can get. This is nice, happy and friendly pop music with a big heart. The members of the duo, Vegard Markhus and Bjørnar Sangolt, grew up as neighbours in a forest in western Norway. They held regular circus shows for their families as kids and called their performances "Sirkus Bjøver". Now, 15 years later, the two have become neighbours in Bergen, and the old circus is revitalized as a band.

Plug-Plug - Tambores
The sound of Plug-Plug falls outside any conventional tag. Some people call them garage, others hardcore - the truth is that when you hear any description it is never enough. Plug-Plug makes acid songs which sometimes sound melancholic, but this band from Lima is more than a style, they're a mixture of sensations.

PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco?
Iconoclasts - Anything Will Do
Iconoclasts are a six-piece from Lisbon with Diogo and Pipa singing and screaming (not at the same time), Pedro doing freaky dances while playing bass, Ricardo hammering away on the drums like his life depends on it, Vitor playing guitar while pounding on every effects pedal imaginable, and Sérgio doing the same with every annoying thing he lays his hands on. They have a debut EP freely downloadable from here.

ROMANIA: Babylon Noise
Sunday People - Win Your Face Back
The story of this particular band is not what you might call ordinary. It all started in the bedroom of very young Abu Dhabi-born brothers Sultan and Hasan. As they grew older, the bedroom became a recording studio where their dreams, influences and ideas were born. Two actors/musicians joined them later - Cristi Rigman (drums) and Ana Ularu (vocals) - and they found their sound: a mixture of riot, love and intensity.

The Xcerts - Crisis In The Slow Lane
The Xcerts are the real deal - a rock band who come fully formed with an album of songs to believe in and a pop sensibility that will, at the very least, have you air-drumming to their choruses. Crisis In The Slow Lane perfectly sums up what they and their debut album In The Cold Wind We Smile are all about - every dial is set to 'epic' as it gradually builds to a soaring conclusion. If you're a fan of Biffy Clyro, or good music in general, you'll love The Xcerts.

SINGAPORE: I'm Waking Up To...
MUON - Cylons Dream Of Electric Sheep
Can cold, heartless, surgical machines ever have souls? Well, experimental dark electronica group MUON thinks they can. If the computer is dreaming inside, it dreams in ones and zeros, harsh squelches and inane beeps, each a little exegesis looking for proof of life. MUON have put together a creepy Frankenstein of deeply resonating drum loops, bleating sheep and what could pass as the theme from the Zelda videogame.

SOUTH AFRICA: Musical Mover & Shaker!
Jax Panik - Talking To Myself
A crazy, outrageous mix of electro-pop and a dash of rock 'n' roll is what Jax Panik's music is all about. He started out as an 'online only' artist but the success generated from his activity soon led to a full-length album release. The album was named Cigarettes And Cinnamon from which Talking To Myself is taken. The song artfully showcases Jax's winning formula which consists of catchy beats, meticulous production and lyrics that reveal a slightly dark edge upon closer listen. With a new album out in March, Jax Panik is set to become an even bigger hit, both locally and abroad.

Plastic People - B/W Picture
Folk-rock duo Plastic People has been around for many years, all the while successfully trying out various musical directions. On their most recent album Snap, released in July, the selection of songs is more diverse than ever with modern folk, some rock tracks, a bit of psyche-pop and C86-inspired twee. Choosing just one song when they're all amazing in their own way proved a difficult task, but it had to be done so here's the captivating slow-paced rock piece B/W Picture that inspired the snap-shot theme of the album.

SWEDEN: Swedesplease
Vikta Fåglar - Walk Along
Vikta Fåglar literally means "folded bird" in English. Loosely, I think it translates into the term origami. Musically, the band combines elements of the Swedish folk tradition with some classical and even experimental noise - such as when the cymbals come crashing in towards the end of Walk Along.

TURKEY: Reset!
Solardip - Paralyze Me
Solardip is an electro-indie three-piece formed in Istanbul. After a couple of years successfully performing on the local scene, the band has just released their first EP, Dip Inside, and are about to make a big comeback with their new sound and concept. Solardip, often compared to The Presets, offers laser-like synths, danceable tunes and arousing vocals.

UNITED STATES: I Guess I'm Floating
Holiday Shores - Phones Don't Feud
Holiday Shores, Twosyllable Records' latest discovery, continue to diversify the label's output by creating equally messy and melodic indie rock that's about as addictive as anything else of the same vein coming out this year. Their new album Columbus'd The Whim is available for consumption - sink your teeth in before the hipsters do.

VENEZUELA: Barquisimeto Musical
Nana Cadavieco - No Hay
Nana Cadavieco is a young Venezuelan singer full of energy and hype, which she reflects in each and every one of her performances. Exposé, her latest record, is undeniably influenced by rock, pop, indie and disco-punk and a few world music and electronic elements. Nana says of the song, No Hay: "It portrays a human reality, very close to Latin America. The message I want to send with it is the process I went through with my new CD. After all, I still smile, albeit with a little sarcasm."

To download all 33 songs in one file click here


7" Singles

There's been lots in the media lately about the return of vinyl and while there are elements of the usual media beat-up there is some local activity that backs up the hype. The Kingsland Vinyl Appreciation Society and Midium Records are two labels that have been releasing albums on vinyl and now NZ music website and promotion company Cheese on Toast has just broadened their activity venturing into the release of music with the launch of a 7” singles club. Each month Cheese on Toast will launch a split 7” featuring two up and coming local acts. The singles are launched at a live event with most of the limited release singles being sold at the gig. The first in the series featured poet/MC Tourettes backed with The Drab Doo Riffs – a band fronted by Karl Stevens, formerly of Supergroove. Tourettes has released two albums and The Drab Doo Riffs have an EP coming soon.

Motivated by the arrival in the letterbox of my very newest 7" single I went rummaging for a few of my old 7" vinyl faves. One I dug out was 'Simpleton' by Cyclops, a Dunedin superband of sorts from the early 1990s. The band featured Bruce Blucher formerly of The Alpaca Brothers, Kathy Bull of Look Blue Go Purple and Peter Jefferies of Nocturnal Projections and This Kind of Punishment along with Ande Richardson. During their brief career they produced some devastating live shows, a couple of singles on American labels and a collection of most of their recorded work, Goat Volume.

Sandra Bell started her musical career in Auckland in the early 80s melding poetry and music but after a shift to Dunedin in 87 she became immersed in that city's music scene. She formed a relationship with Peter Jefferies, who was the drummer in Cyclops. Following the break-up of that relationship Bell released a dark collection of songs on a double 7” single Chord backed by a collection of some of Dunedin's best like Alastair Galbraith, Look Blue Go Purple's Norma O'Malley and Sean O'Reilly.

A single with a strange back story is The Flakeheads' 'Anaesthetic in my Head'. It was recorded on a single microphone straight to cassette, lathe cut on acetate and released in a limited edition of less than a hundred, yet it ended up being named Single of the Week in high profile UK music magazine Melody Maker in January 1997. The guest reviewer, Crispin Mills of Kula Shaker' said "this is good, it's real".

King Loser are one of the great NZ bands, always a risky prospect live they could be phenomenal or a train wreck, but they released a clutch of classic NZ albums. Given the precarious nature of some of the personalities and relationships in King Loser frequent break-ups were inevitable. King Loser guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Chris Heazlewood had songs spilling from him so in the breaks he recorded a handful of singles as Heazlewood and Cash Guitar. In 1995 Heazlewood released a single on Flying Nun that is one of my favourite kiwi singles – 'Badge or Medallion'. Chris Heazlewood's solo work was later compiled on a CD titled Cash Guitar.

The Coolies were a three piece all-female punk rock outfit came from Manurewa in South Auckland who seemed to define the term Riot Grrl. They played short, sharp chaotic sets with everything turned up to 10, an approach pretty well captured on a late nineties single released on Girl Alliance. The band returned in the new century releasing a a still raucous, but more dance orientated album in 2002, and returning to the Auckland live scene. They are reportedly working on a new album.

Shayne Carter's band Dimmer has just released a new album, Degrees of Existence and it's one of that bands best. The origins of Dimmer lie in the mid nineties when Carter was casting around trying to find musical direction after the break-up of the Straitjacket Fits. One of the early incarnations of the band featured Chris Heazlewood and they were incredible live. However it wasn't until 2001 that a Dimmer album was released meaning much of that early music never saw the light of day. However in 1995 Dimmer did release a debut single that I would rate as my favourite NZ single of all time. Still a highlight of the Dimmer live show that single is 'Crystalator'.

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