Merry Christmas from Counting The Beat

Merry Christmas.

There's a new kiwi Christmas compilation out called Merry Christmas Baby. It features the likes of Jordan Luck, Jackie Clarke and Shona Laing and I won't be playing any of it in this Christmas episode of Counting the Beat (I do, however, support the cause it's raising money for - Plunket - and I suggest you make a donation). Instead I've dug around to find some my favourite, more interesting and obscure kiwi Christmas tracks.

Sorry, I simply don't have the time to write a blog post about the songs and artists featured in this episode. You can download The Sing Songs Christmas song here.
Take a listen to last years Christmas episode.

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Jordan Reyne

Jordan Reyne has few peers in the New Zealand music scene. She brings together folk, sound collage, electronica and industrial noise in unique and haunting music that she describes as experimental folk/noir. Reyne's music has garnered her Creative New Zealand support for five albums and three New Zealand music award nominations.

Reyne's first release was the 1997 solo album Birds of Prey. Coming out in the same year as Bic Runga's Drive many had expectations that Reyne would also fit the mold of sweet singer-songwriter. And while she certainly had songwriting talent and a great voice her recorded songs also featured mechanical and sounds and textures that frightened off a more mainstream audience. The album Birds of Prey is regarded by some as her most accessible album, although she perhaps gained wider recognition with later work that went further down the industrial path.

To throw off any singer-songwriter expectations Reyne adopted a name that was intended to clearly indicate she was no cliched girl with a guitar. That name, Dr Kevorkian and the Suicide Machine after the American right-to-die activist certainly did that. The new moniker along with the harder, more industrial sound of her second album The Ironman started to garner Reyne a following in the darkwave scene.

The Ironman was followed by another Dr Kevorkian and the Suicide Machine release in 2002, The Loneliest of Creatures, an experimental electronic concept EP about a space probe sent out in search of intelligent life. The EP is synthesiser based and features radio recordings and the historic sounds of Sputnik. The EP boast it's own mini website explaining the concept and process of recording it can be accessed from Reyne's Dr Kevorkian site.

A trip to Germany in 2003 provided the inspiration and the field recordings of the sounds of trains and public transport that formed 2004 album The Passenger. This album also marked a return to releasing material as Jordan Reyne. The Passenger is a remarkable album - experimental but musically and emotionally engaging.

Upon her return to New Zealand in 2004 Reyne started a Department of Conservation artists residency at Karamea, at the top of the West Coast of the South Island. There she wrote the album How the Dead Live, which has finally reached release in 2009. This album is something different again with the field recordings of industrial sounds of previous releases being replaced by the sounds of the West Coast shore. How the Dead Live is a concept album, an imagining based around a real life historical figure from Karamea, Susannah Hawes. The album has received rave reviews but Reyne has said that it's release marks the end of her musical career. Living again in Germany she intends to concentrate on writing and visual arts.

Her musical legacy is unique and deserves far greater recognition than it has received to date. For a good overview check out this piece on The Lumiere Reader. As usual there are also a bunch of videos on the video page.

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Music Alliance Pact Dec 09

This month marks thirteen months of Counting The Beat contributions 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. There are now 33 countries participating and interest is growing - this month there will be a feature on the MAP in the Guardian newspaper in the UK. This month Counting The Beat is pleased to be contributing '+Kicks and Kicks' from Wellington artist Signer .

NEW ZEALAND: Counting The Beat
Signer - +Kicks And Kicks
Bevan Smith is the musician who records as Signer. Smith started out as an indie-guitar fan but gave that up for psychedelic electronica and synths. His latest album, Next We Bring You The Fire, has a more ambient sound than earlier records, toning down some of the more leftfield noise elements. +Kicks And Kicks isn't that typical of the album - it's poppier and more rhythmic - but gives a good introduction to Signer's ability to create music which is accessible but slightly unsettling.

ARGENTINA: Zonaindie
Coiffeur - Humedad
Coiffeur is not the name of a band, but the alias of a young folk singer and songwriter from Morón, a city in the greater Buenos Aires area). Humedad is one of the finest songs from his third album, El Tonel De Las Danaides, which was released this year by Estamos Felices (Argentina's coolest independent label, you should check them out).

AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
Toecutter - Best Party Ever (Jordan Lightyear & Jimmy2sox remix)
Best Party Ever pretty much sums up Toecutter, a man called David Harris from Milano, New South Wales who creates dancefloor-friendly progressive house music. Apparently, Toecutter has been sitting on this song since 1984 when he recorded the hook onto a cassette and then spent 25 years deliberating on its merits.

CANADA: I(Heart)Music
The Property Line - The Start
The Property Line have only been around a few months but they've been building quite a local following with their brand of psychedelia-tinged country-rock. Their EP (which is available for free download on their site) is pretty strong, and nowhere is it stronger than on The Start, in which the band infuses a little Sufjan into their sound, with absolutely stunning results.

CHILE: Super 45
Gen - ¿Qué Le Pasó A Mi Rap
Es is the latest album by Gen (Freddy Olguin). Putting together amazing beats, social critique rhymes and sounds from another dimension, the Chilean rapper has taken the experience of listening to hip hop to a whole new level. An army of producers has helped him develop a very distinctive personality for his record, which can be compared to the sound of Flying Lotus, Subtle or even The RZA, with the result something nothing short of future-like music. It's refreshing, experimental and highly exciting.

CHINA: Wooozy
Today - Before Ending
Before Ending is taken from Today's debut album which was released last year. They are searching for hope and happiness by watching everyone's love life as a third person. You won't feel lonely after listening to their songs. The band's new album, Live The Life, will be out soon.

COLOMBIA: Colombia Urbana
Miss Muffin - Bways 'n' Gyals
What happens if you put together Juan Valdez and Bob Marley? Well, the answer to this experiment can be given by Isabella Escobar aka Miss Muffin, the known name for this promising talent of Colombian reggae. Originating from Antioquia, with Caribbean blood, Miss Muffin has released Hear This, an album that explores in a curious manner the various possibilities of reggae.

DENMARK: All Scandinavian
Eumig & Chinon - This Fang
The last Danish track of 2009 is also a MAP exclusive. Eumig & Chinon aka Christian Kastbjerg has kindly provided this kickass piece of funky housetronica titled This Fang, which will be on his debut EP coming out sometime next year. You've got to groove.

ENGLAND: The Daily Growl
Banjo Or Freakout - Upside Down
I'm bending the rules a little this month because Alessio Natalizia, who trades under the name Banjo Or Freakout, is Italian - but he's based in London so we can claim him as our own. Just as well because his awesome soundtracks, all wrapped up in a dreamy melodious electronic haze, are worth breaking down national boundaries for.

Malcolm Lincoln - Me Iz Loaded With Zoul
Malcolm Lincoln has been active only for about a month so there's not much of a biography yet. The band is the brainchild of Robin Juhkental, who is joined by Madis Kubu aka Fretless Rämbu for live shows. Five more songs are downloadable here.

Rex Willer - My Girl
Rex Willer is a five-piece indie band who recorded the excellent Inner Moray Scenes EP at their home studio earlier this year. Influenced by My Morning Jacket, Steely Dan and Death Cab For Cutie, they are driven by groovy bass lines and old-school keyboard sounds, without forgetting good guitar licks. Let yourself be caught by the irresistible melody of My Girl while Rex Willer finishes some new material due out early next year.

FRANCE: ZikNation
Michael Wookey - Songs About Snow
At the age of 15, Michael Wookey was given a portable pump organ which belonged to his grandfather, who was an organist during World War II. This instrument inspired Michael to write some songs and start collecting obscure instruments. Now 26, he has released three albums and by using a portable studio, he has recorded in various sheds, basements and meat lockers. He now lives in the red light district of Paris. The French describe his music as folk baroque.

GERMANY: Blogpartei
Dobré - The Melody Is A Stranger
Sometimes you realise within minutes what creative potential a musician has, and Dobré comes into that category. Usually found playing eclectic indie-folk with his mates Sepp Kennedy, he just released a 'best of' solo record called Tools 'n' Toys which you can download here. The Melody Is A Stranger is a downtempo piece of indie which strongly reminds me of early Peter Gabriel.

GREECE: Mouxlaloulouda
2-L8 - Excuse Me, But I Just Have To Explode (Part II)
2-L8's second release - He & She, Angry Enough To Keep Loving In The Dark Ages (download it for free here) - is a masterpiece of avant-garde music that truly haunts the mind. It's a passionate experience, leading the listener into excruciating catharsis - you look into the eyes of two lovers and see nothing but painful regret. It's exhilarating and rare to hear such florid arrangements based on sharp stringed instruments and theremin, trembling, frantically passionate vocals, desperate and bleak lyrics coupled with a sense of hope and all of them laced with uncompromising experimentation, true emotional resonance and weight. A total seductive triumph.

ICELAND: I Love Icelandic Music
Morðingjarnir - Manvisa
Punk-rock trio Morðingjarnir ("The Murderers") play fast and sharp three-to-four chord songs, often with some dark humour. Atli, Haukur and Helgi are influenced by Dead Kennedys and local punk heroes Fræbbblarnir. Manvisa is a song featured on their third album, Flóttinn Mikli, with guest vocals from Kata of the band Mammút.

INDIA: Indiecision
The Mavyns - Greener Than The Sea
The Mavyns (pronounced "May-wins") are a rock act from Mumbai. Their music is a particularly refreshing take on the new British post-punk revival. Powered by piano-driven melodies and a charming disposition, the recently-formed quartet already look set for greater things. Greener Than The Sea makes no bones about its Beatles affectations culminating in a dizzying guitar romp. This live recording from an excellent recent set in the city is a definite sign of a career path that looks to be going only one way - up!

INDONESIA: Deathrockstar
Tika & The Dissidents - Waltz Muram
Known as the diva from the indie scene in Indonesia, Tika has a beautiful voice and smart lyrics with influences ranging from swing and lounge music mashed with eclectic orchestration. I chose her and her band this month because I also want to promote Bahasa Indonesia, the official language of the country.

IRELAND: Nialler9
O Emperor - Po
After an impressive appearance on Irish TV and some blog love from The Torture Garden, Cork band O Emperor are definitely on the 'ones to watch' list. Especially, though, after repeated plays of their debut single, Po, an unassuming number that reveals itself on multiple listens thanks to its snaking ephemeral guitar lick and a vocal that lodges in your brain for 24 hours at a time.

ITALY: Polaroid
The Calorifer Is Very Hot! - Evolution On Stand-By
Italy is well known for its Prime Minister's various conflicts of interest. For this month's MAP I decided to act in a diplomatic way and promote a band and record that I helped to release. I could tell you that I believe these guys play some of the best indie-pop in this country. I could tell you that their lo-fi punk attitude to songwriting deserves worldwide attention. I could beg you to go to see them live and promise that you will have fun. But these would be all lies. They're here just because I put my money in their new album - buy it!

Sonic Attack Blaster - 20000Volt
Sonic Attack Blaster, an alternative band from Tokyo's underground scene, call their music 'samurai rock'. Their songs actually have Japanese retro melody lines that give them an early-90s feel. Interesting and really rather weird. Their new album will be released in January.

MEXICO: Red Bull PanameriKa
Rana Santacruz - Cajita De Barro
Rana Santacruz's richness lies deep in Mexican soil: a buried treasure of plundered Celtic tunes, ranchera-song lamentations and magical-realistic folktales that could have been part of a lost chapter from a rural cuento written by Juan Rulfo. Chicavasco is his debut album - a delicate collection of bohemian vignettes permeated by a true sensorial feel of rain, leather and mezcal. Watch him come up the hills and down the slopes as he slowly claims his place among one of our favourite singer-songwriters.

NETHERLANDS: Amsterdam Event Guide
The Very Sexuals - Bowie Eyes
Hallo from Holland! This is our first submission and we're happy to introduce The Very Sexuals. Starting out as a project between three or four other bands, this act have come together to produce an impressive, emotive and totally free album which has left listeners in dreamy shoegaze heaven since its release earlier this year. Be sure to download Bowie Eyes and look out for album number two in 2010.

NORWAY: Eardrums
Moddi - A Sense Of Grey
Moddi is a unique artist from the northern parts of Norway who will release his debut album Floriography on February 8. His music is poetic and dreamy, but at the same time there is a roughness in his sound. I often think of the rugged northern nature when I listen to his music, which is full of beauty but also darkness and sudden changes.

El Hombre Misterioso - 80 Veces 80
The four members of El Hombre Misterioso are so versatile they would sound completely different if separated. They are always willing to experiment with rock and their second album, Inside The Corporation, narrates national historical stories. 80 Veces 80 remembers the worst days of Peruvian history, when the 1980s crisis was worsened by car bombs in a civil war that nearly destroyed the country.

PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco?
Noiserv - Melody Pops
Noiserv is one-man band David Santos, a very talented multi-instrumentalist from Lisbon. His self-released 2008 debut LP, One Hundred Miles From Thoughtlessness, was highly acclaimed by the mainstream Portuguese press. In May, Noiserv released a single through the Scottish label Autumn Ferment Records.

ROMANIA: Babylon Noise
Byron - King Of Clowns
Releasing their third album this year (A Kind Of Alchemy), alternative rock act Byron has already developed a unique sound, an alchemy of Jeff Buckley's lyricism and Porcupine Tree's neo-prog escapism. Dan's voice goes from soft and warm to almost tormented, all the way spiced with wild-on-the-verge-of-insanity harmonies. The keyboard work shines with brilliant prog-inspired interventions, the guitar-playing is rock-solid (pun intended) and the use of flute on several tracks also works miracles, bringing a certain distinctness to the whole. Did I say Jethro Tull? Well, you get the picture.

The Kays Lavelle - Aftermath
If any film directors are reading, do yourself a favour and download this song. With its eerily mesmeric piano refrain and increasingly intense, impassioned vocals, Aftermath is just begging to be played during an emotionally-wrought scene or at the end of the movie as the credits run. A studio version of Aftermath featuring the full band will appear on The Kays Lavelle's debut album due out early next year.

SINGAPORE: I'm Waking Up To...
For This Cycle - For What It's Worth
Sixteen-year-old Weiwen Seah has a lot to be proud of. Performing under the persona For This Cycle, he has released a five-track EP this year and is currently recording his full-length album due next year. Weiwen brings a welcome breath of pop goodness in a music scene better known for its underground subculture with shades of Jason Mraz and Dashboard Confessional. In fact, it's easy to forget that someone so young sings with as much conviction on this month's selection, For What It's Worth.

SOUTH AFRICA: Musical Mover & Shaker!
Van Coke Kartel - Voor Ons Stof Word
Van Coke Kartel is an Afrikaans rock band. Francois Van Coke and Wynand Myburgh were previously in Fokofpolisiekar, who revolutionised Afrikaans rock music by challenging and shifting rigid mindsets. Van Coke Kartel proceeded to explode onto the SA music scene with sold-out shows and rave reviews. The group has been busy working on their new album, Skop, Skiet En Donner, which will be out in early 2010. Look out for it, it's sure to blow your mind.

Oh My Melodies - I Like It All
Oh My Melodies is the US-based solo project of Jiyoung Lee, vocalist of I Love JH. She now offers home-recorded electronic pop with sweet lyrics on the recently released EP So Lazy, which can be downloaded here. I Like It All is a catchy tune with a bit of synth that makes doing the chores seem like the most delightful task.

SWEDEN: Swedesplease
Symfoniorkestern - Tänd Eld På Dig Själv (För Det Du Tror På)
Wow, it was a no-brainer this month. Symfoniorkestern are a uniquely Swedish group. They are like an indie-rock band but with a grab-bag of unusual orchestration, lyrics in Swedish and lovely harmonies. The new EP, Tänd Eld På Dig Själv (För Det Du Tror På), is available here for free in its awesome, spellbinding entirety. The band spent a year and a half recording it - I only wish I could somehow give this review the same amount of care.

UNITED STATES: I Guess I'm Floating
Chll Pll - Dick Moves
Sacramento, CA's Zach Hill has a new project, Chll Pll - a slice of the rather raucous, noisy, blunt force corner of the electro-pop world. Dick Moves is from the upcoming debut Aggressively Humble, out now on Porter Records.

VENEZUELA: Barquisimento
Fordelucs - No Queda Mas
Alternative rock band Fordelucs have been winning over fans and critics alike and building up a name for themselves in Venezuela's music scene. Now the boys are about to start a tour that will take them beyond the borders of their country. No Queda Mas is taken from their first release, Mundo.

To download all 33 songs in one file click here


New and Recent Releases Dec 09

More new and recent releases from kiwi artists.

Following the great Happy Ending album and solo albums from almost all of the band, and ahead of a much-anticipated new album in 2010, the Phoenix Foundation have released a "not really anything to do with" Christmas EP titled Merry Kriskmas. The EP was recorded during the album sessions and sounds like the band wanted to loosen up and have some fun. Buy the CD or downloads from Amplifier and apparently there will be limited edition 12' vinyl version available soon.

Bachelorette (Annabel Alpers) has been creating great music right from her first EP but her last album My Electric Family was the album I had always hoped she would make, she brought in other musicians which gave more richness and a more organic feel to her songs. Six months after that album her American label has released a limited edition single of a song that doesn't appear on the album, 'The Circuit'. On this single Bachelorette is back to the solo vocal, synth and drum machine approach - writing performing, mixing and producing the songs with only a co-mixing credit on one song going to Dale Cotton. The song is infectious with a warm sound and la-la-la choruses and, of course, her great voice.

I've been a fan of Urbantramper since I heard the line 'I'm 24 and all I've got is this crochet hat and a shitty flat" on a A Low Hum compilation a few years back. Urbantrampers third album Tokon and The Colours is a real gem and highly recommended. Now comes Rise and Ride Toward - sounding a little happier than the shitty flat days but still whimsical. You can find out the Urbantramper story at

I've featured New Zealand music that has been posted on the Free Music Archive in an earlier episode of Counting The Beat but a recent kiwi addition to that collection is a set performed live on new York freeform radio station WFMU by The Axemen, a band in their 28th year of indie, punk mayhem. Forming to play protest gigs against the Springbok tour the core trio have seen off dozens of band mates and on the strengh of this recording as vital as they were back in the day.

Young noisy Auckland four piece Nevernudes have just released a four track EP for free download from The EP was recorded by ex Mint Chick Michael Logie and you can hear a similar interest in angular jerky song structures.

An Emerald City released a self titled four track EP and then a magnificent album Circa Scaria, which became a thing of legend because of having been recorded in a cave. Even without that back story it is memorable for it's huge Eastern influenced swelling noisescapes. Shortly after the albums release the band took off to Berlin but now they're back in New Zealand and they've have released a new song 'Seizuretron'. Like past numbers the song builds in scale and grandeur although the the Eastern instrumentation is less to the fore. A welcome return.

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