Bruce Blucher

Bruce Blucher's name won't be known to many but to my mind he's a key New Zealand musician, having been in some of the best Dunedin bands of the 80s and 90s. Recently I took a look at Flying Nun releases I would like to see re-released now the label is back under the control of Roger Shepherd. One of those was an EP that features Bruce Blucher - the Alpaca Brothers Legless EP. The Alpaca brothers also included future Snapper and former Clean member Peter Gutteridge and former Look Blue Go Purple member Norma O'Malley. The song 'Hey man' from that EP made it onto the Flying Nun boxset, but the whole EP deserves re-release.

Blucher has played both guitar and drums for any number of other Dunedin and New Zealand acts such as This Kind of Punishment and Sandra Bell but it's for a couple of his own bands that I best remember him.

One is Cyclops a Dunedin super band including Blucher, former another Look Blue Go Purple member Kathy Bull and Peter Jefferies. They were active in the very late eighties and early nineties and released some great singles, mainly on obscure American labels. Cyclops recorded material was collected together on the Goat Volume CD in 1999, sadly it too is now very hard to find.

Following on from Cyclops Blucher formed Trash - a band with a darker heavier sound who released 3 albums Grit and Butts, Not Gate and Mihiwaka.

Trash split in the mid 90s - I was there to witness it as they literally disbanded one night on stage at the Empire Tavern with Blucher throwing down his guitar and about to storm off, until drummer Robbie Yates told him to pick the f***king thing up, plug it in and play.

In 1994 Blucher recorded with Viv Crowe as Brown Velvet Couch on a single called Once in a Very Blue Moon. The single shows the influence of The Renderers also active in Dunedin at the time. I'm not sure but I think Viv may have been the publican at the Empire Tavern.

Later in the 1990s Blucher performed as Pointy Little Stick - unfortunately only a couple of tracks remain on long out of print Arc Records compilations - 'The Walk' appeared on Arc Records comp Flying Way Too High and 'Aha' was on the 1999 Arclife comp.

I'm not sure if Bruce Blucher still makes music - around the turn of the century he took up a career as a stonemason - but I'm a big fan and I hope he's still churning out those dirty chords.

And - there's one particular Blucher project I haven't been able to track down that I'd dearly love to hear. It was a band called Pink Plastic Gods, they released an album called In The lap of the Gods in the 90s. If you can help me out please email or leave a comment.

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Putting NZ on the MAP

Late in 2008 I was emailed by a Scottish guy called Jason who runs a blog called Popcop. He had started up an international project called the Music Alliance Pact. The idea being that music bloggers from around the world would select a song from their country each month to contribute to an international on-line compilation. We each post all of the songs simultaneously on the 15th of each month with info on the artists and a link to their myspace page. The MAP itself has garnered a lot of attention from around the world. The songs are receiving many thousands of downloads, their was a recent write-up in the Guardian newspaper in the UK and I have interviewed by German public radio.

While I mainly try to profile lesser known or new bands, I have also been lucky enough to include some bigger names - most notably The Verlaines. You can find all of the Counting The Beat contributions by using the widget in the sidebar that allows you to find posts on earlier Counting The Beat episodes - just look for Music Alliance Pact or MAP.

This episode compiles the 1st year of Counting The Beat contributions to the Music Alliance Pact.

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Music Alliance Pact Jan 2010

This month marks fourteen 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 34 countries participating and interest is growing. This month Counting The Beat is pleased to be contributing 'Crush', performed by the Mint Chicks from the Chris Knox fundraising album Stroke.

NEW ZEALAND: Counting The Beat
The Mint Chicks - Crush
For three decades, Chris Knox has made some of New Zealand's most exciting music - from the punk of The Enemy, Toy Love, virtually inventing the country's indie music scene with four-track recordings of his band Tall Dwarfs and writing one of the nation's most popular songs. Knox suffered a debilitating stroke last year and to aid his recovery many who have been influenced by him have contributed to an album of covers called Stroke. The roll call includes Jay Reatard, Stephen Merrit, Will Oldham, Lou Barlow and more. Crush, from The Tall Dwarfs' 1984 EP Slug Bucket Hairy Breath Monster, is performed by The Mint Chicks, one of New Zealand's most exciting bands.

ARGENTINA: Zonaindie
Catalina Vin - Caleidoscope
Catalina Vin is an Argentine-American singer and songwriter who started learning music at the age of seven. Genuine is her first album, in which her roots are reflected through eight indie-pop songs sung in both English and Spanish, with soft string and piano arrangements. Caleidoscope is one of our favourite tracks.

AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
Seekae - Void
Ever since FBi Radio started broadcasting regularly some five years ago, Sydney's independent music scene has flourished from the much-needed lifeblood and community support that the station provides. A lot of young musicians now have an alternative to Triple J to supplement their listening habits and this has encouraged the more experimental writers to pursue their own distinct sounds, knowing they will be played and heard. Seekae is the clear breakout band out of Sydney's resurging experimental electronic music. With their abstract vocals and dreamy atmosphere they have earned their place as leaders of the city's 2010 sound.

BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
Curumin - Vem Menina
Curumin is one of the biggest names of the contemporary independent music scene in Brazil. A drummer and singer, besides his solo work, he plays with artists such as Otto, Céu and Guizado. Vem Menina is a samba from his debut album, Achados e Perdidos, released in 2003. His latest album, Japan Pop Show, was released last year and shows his talent to compose funk, samba, rock and electronic songs.

CANADA: I(Heart)Music
Leif Vollebekk - Quebec
Some people hear Patrick Watson in Leif Vollebekk's vocals. Others have compared his music to that of Owen Pallett/Final Fantasy. I'm not sure about the comparisons, but I know this: Vollebekk is an incredibly gifted performer and artist, and when his debut album, Inland, gets re-released in a few weeks on hot new Toronto label Nevado Records, all of Canada is going to find out just how talented he is.

CHILE: Super 45
De Janeiros - Montreal
Milton Mahan and Pablo Munoz are De Janeiros, one of the most interesting projects in the Chilean experimental scene. In the trend of bands such as Health or Fuck Buttons - that kind of plastic and colorful noise - their sound goes beyond by adding a more playful and "tropical" feeling to it. Chilean net-label Michita Rex have made their sophomore album Plateado available to downloaded for free here.

CHINA: Wooozy
PK14 - Cuo Guo Le
PK14 is the best post-punk band in China. Formed in 1997, they have released five albums. Currently, they are preparing a new album to be release this year and they will attend SXSW in March.

DENMARK: All Scandinavian
Cours Lapin - Cache Cache
Cours Lapin is what happens when four movie score composers (Louise Alenius, Asger Baden, Peder and Jonas Struck) get together to do pop. Their name is French (translated as "bunny run"), their lyrics are in French (of course) and the French chanson is at the root of their mellow, melancholic pop that makes me think of black and white movies (and yes, they're French).

ENGLAND: The Daily Growl
Thomas Western - Your Front Door
Last month I picked an Italian musician based in England for MAP - this time it's the turn of an Englishman currently living in Scotland. Thomas Western's bluesy/folky approach to songwriting is reminiscent of Elliott Smith or Bob Dylan, while his exquisite vocal range is pitched halfway between Tim and Jeff Buckley. Western moved from Derbyshire to Edinburgh last year to complete his university studies and Your Front Door is his masterpiece.

UNCANDY - Lovecool
UNCANDY (and yes, it's important to write it in capital letters) is multi-talented Maria Juur from Tallinn. Her home recordings have already created quite a buzz in the Estonian indie scene and rumour has it we won't have to wait long for a debut album. She also records under the name Maria Minerva. Lovecool is featured on new Estonian indie compilation album, Kohalik Ja Kohatu 3.

Vishnudata - Silver Falls feat. Suho Superstar (radio edit)
Established in 2003, Vishnudata is a project by electronic dance music guru Ville Lankinen which explores the artist's techno and house influences. Silver Falls is the closing track of his self-titled sophomore album and progressively it introduces the listener into a shiny ethereal atmosphere and psychedelic soundscape. This radio edit version, which features Suho Superstar on vocals, is included in a recently released EP along with three more remixes.

FRANCE: ZikNation
Ibrahim Maalouf - Souma Hia
Born in Lebanon, Ibrahim Maalouf grew up in Paris and began studying the trumped at the age of seven. Ten years later he met Maurice André, who advised him to give up his mathematics studies to dedicate himself to music. Maalouf also had the opportunity to record a song with French singer Matthieu Chedid and this collaboration can be found in the very good Diachronism album. The track Souma Hia carries a great deal of energy.

GERMANY: Blogpartei
Get Well Soon - 5 Steps / 7 Swords
Get Well Soon is the solo project of Konstantin Gropper, a classically trained singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Berlin. His soulful and sophisticated songs take the same path as the likes of Sufjan Stevens or Zach Condon. 5 Steps / 7 Swords is the first single release from second album Vexations.

GREECE: Mouxlaloulouda
Exposed By Observers - In My Skin
Exposed By Observers aim to rape the listeners' ears, yet are less faithfully wed to punk and more interested in dance-derived rhythms, deploying more tightly coiled riffs and distinctive beats than most screamo bands. Secondhand Youth EP, which was given away for free on their website, sounds like everything they'd ever heard, spewed out and rewired for a different type of moshpit etiquette, a brand new teenage riot. They frantically blend cheap samples, beatbox rhythms, clicks, bleeps, fringes, beeps and guitars with manic electro buzz and raw, squawking vocals. Unsurprisingly, there's also a noticeable undercurrent of emo here too, but actually feels charged and compelling in the momentary tantrums of In My Skin. Listen loud!

ICELAND: I Love Icelandic Music
Bloodgroup - My Arms
Bloodgroup was formed in 2006 by Halez, Lilja, Raggi and Janus during some boring winter days on the east coast of Iceland and they make catchy electronic dance-pop. Debut album Sticky Situation was released on the band's own label, Sild Ehf, and got excellent reviews. Its follow-up, Dry Land, was released on the Record Records label last month. My Arms is their latest single.

INDIA: Indiecision
Seven Degrees - Shadows In The Dark
Seven Degrees is a boy-girl punk duo from New Delhi. This irreverent twosome produce angular, infectious punk that's largely bare-boned yet crashy enough to cause a decent racket. Shadows In The Dark is part of a free compilation album called Stupid Stupid Stupid available on Indiecision. The song is a spiralling, old-school punk tribute that leaves you with the distinct feeling of wanting to get up and not be lazy anymore.

INDONESIA: Deathrockstar
Seringai - Mengadili Persepsi (Bermain Tuhan)
Seringai are one of the finest Indonesian metal bands, often described as a blend of Motorhead and Black Sabbath. Their brilliant lyrics are a social critique of religious extremism, policies, domestic violence and sometimes just about stupid people.

IRELAND: Nialler9
I Am The Cosmos - Remembering You
Remembering You is a beautiful slice of broody 80s-inspired electronica buttressed on creaking synth stabs and high-pitched melodies. Its creator, Ross Turner, is known for his work behind the drum kit with various Irish bands but stepping out on his own here as I Am The Cosmos, he shows us what he can do in sole producer mode.

ITALY: Polaroid
Port-Royal - The Photoshopped Prince
There was a blizzard here last week and I found myself listening again to this third album by Port-Royal. It was the perfect soundtrack. Shoegaze, IDM, electro and ambient influences blend together to build an epic soundscape. The Genoa-based quartet used to be on the renowned Resonant label and have worked with Ulrich Schnauss and made remixes for Ladytron and Felix Da Housecat. Now they're back with a throbbing, intense, unpredictable, brimful of life new record.

Green Blossoms - Hana Akari
Green Blossoms are folky duo Aiko Koga and Anthony Guerra. Aiko sings and plays ukulele, Anthony plays the other instruments. They released their second album, Whiskey Leaves, on US-based Digitalis Recordings last summer. Hana Akari is beautiful, softly-intoned songwriting and its ghostly incantations will stick in the back of your mind.

MEXICO: Red Bull PanameriKa
The Hong Kong Blood Opera - Cansei De Ser Gangsta
The Mexican alternative scene recently witnessed the rise of a synthetic yet raw punk generation raiding the underground. A frenetic quintet from desertic Hermosillo stood out - The Hong Kong Blood Opera. A bloody opera? More like straight hardcore screaming evil and rough beats. The HKBO got sweaty teenagers shaking their guts and also blew the critics away when they won a nationwide competition sponsored by a monopolic corporation a few years ago. Instead of vanishing like every band from those schemes usually does, they reappeared with a remarkable album titled Not For The Faint Of Heart. The record breaks the rock-band-contest cliché and at the same time mocks the whole mediatic circus and abusive music industry models with killer singles like Cansei De Ser Gangsta.

NETHERLANDS: Amsterdam Event Guide
The Wooden Constructions - No No (Hip Hop)
Happy New Year from the Netherlands crew. We'll kickstart 2010 with one of the most talked-about Amsterdam acts, The Wooden Constructions. Their tribal disco with punk-infused lyrics (which harness the confidence of Mark E. Smith) sit alongside their own blend of twangy guitars and driving rhythms. Their unique musical stylings and great live shows have got the city rather excited about what 2010 might offer for this band and the Amsterdam scene itself. Watch this space.

NORWAY: Eardrums
Sacred Harp - Next Time Too
Sacred Harp are a trio from Oslo who recently released their beautiful self-titled debut EP on the small Norwegian label The Perfect Hoax. Their music is quite difficult to describe because it's so in the middle of everything. It's dark, but there's also a lot of light and colour in there. It's experimental, but it's also full of pop structures and lovely melodies. It's sacral and calm, other times almost brutal. It's music you just have to listen to. The members are from Norway, Finland and Holland, so they really fit the spirit of the Music Alliance Pact.

La Mente - La Problema
In its wonderful fusion of tropical rhythms, reggae and psychedelic electronic models, La Mente has uncovered an inexhaustible source of energy and dynamism which beckons you onto the dancefloor. La Problema is a feast of total madness and one of the strongest songs from La Mente's new album, Para Los Muertos Y Los Vivientes.

PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco?
Malcontent - Aggressive
Malcontent are a quartet from Oporto led by Sérgio Costa. When you listen to them you know their influences (The Jesus And Mary Chain, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Sonic Youth, Joy Division, Nine Inch Nails) and they don't deny them. They started playing in 2007 and released several promo singles. Finally, they have their first full LP out, called Love The Gun, which the band self-released.

ROMANIA: Babylon Noise
Aievea - Joy Of Life
Vlaicu Golcea and Electric Brother are two incredibly talented multi-instrument players. They combine conventional music with electronic beats and the creative rhythms of Tavi Scurtu, the drummer who juggles with sound. To an already great recipe, we add Marta Hristea's incredible voice for the perfect nu-jazz experience. After a six-year pause, they've just released their second album, Cinema, which can be fully downloaded here.

Galleries - Underground Overground
Galleries have only been in existence for a matter of months, yet the quality of the songs on their MySpace page can't help but mark them out as a band whose reach is sure to extend much wider than the blogosphere. The Glasgow group is made up of three students and, interestingly, BBC political reporter Andrew Black on drums. The lush sounds of Underground Overground beautifully hints at their The National and Jimmy Eat World influences and is taken from Galleries' forthcoming debut EP. It's a MAP exclusive download so feel privileged that you're getting to own it first.

SINGAPORE: I'm Waking Up To...
Sherene's Closet - Stereo Loud
Have we got a classic for you this month! Though now defunct, Sherene's Closet is still very much celebrated in the Singaporean music scene. You might say it all started with this demo recorded during the now legendary Green Room Sessions, and I hear it's a bit rarer than the LP version. This should be considered one of the best local songs ever recorded, owing to Gerald Stahlman's stellar vocal delivery and the raw energy of the rest of the band.

SOUTH AFRICA: Musical Mover & Shaker!
Ashtray Electric - Lia
"A quaint mixture consisting of three parts suburb and two parts platteland" make up the phenomenon that is Ashtray Electric. They combine delicate beats, heartfelt lyrics and catchy melodies that lead to a rather fresh, unconventional sound, albeit one that gets your feet tapping. Lia has been compared to Editors and Interpol but Ashtray Electric bring a fresh new sound that has them at the forefront of the indie scene, and rightly so.

Apollo 18 - Warm
Last year Apollo 18 established themselves as one of the very best rock acts of Korea. Starting with a marvellous post-rock-oriented EP, an amazing album followed in which they experimented with hardcore, shoegaze and psychedelic elements. An international version of the first EP has just been released and before the end of the month it'll be followed by instrumental rock pieces of a more playful kind. Re-recorded to magically sound even better than before, Warm is a stunningly beautiful post-rock piece of epic proportions best played as loud as possible.

SPAIN: Oscuro Magazine
2 Minuts d'Odi - Cuidad De Dios
2 Minuts d'Odi ("2 Minutes Of Hate") are part of the "Brave Coast Punk-Rockers" movement which extends throughout the Costa Brava. Cuidad De Dios ("City Of God") is a song against religion which speaks of the Palestinian problem and the bad influences that hatred and violence can have on a kid growing thirst for revenge.

SWEDEN: Swedesplease
Jenny Björkqvist - To Heal Your Wounds
To Heal Your Wounds by Jenny Björkqvist is a song that successfully straddles the worlds of indie and folk - it would be as comfortable hanging out with Nick Drake or Jose Gonzalez as it would be spending time with Dylan or Guthrie. Friend and fellow neo-folkie Tim Schmidt contributes vocals on this track.

UNITED STATES: I Guess I'm Floating
Vikesh Kapoor - Mack The Knife
Vikesh Kapoor is an up-and-coming acoustic artist, currently based near Boston, who writes ballads which draw their strength from storytelling-type lyricism. After making appearances in Billboard and The Boston Globe, Kapoor is releasing his Newspress Scare 7" featuring this great rendition of the Kurt Weill-composed Mack The Knife.

VENEZUELA: Barquisimento
El Pacto - Hyperdance En La Curva De San Pablo
El Pacto are music legends in the city of Barquisimeto. Since 1992, they have been devoted to merging rock, pop, jazz, ska and folk music in a sound so original and vanguardist, they have even influenced famous national bands like Amigos Invisibles. Their shows ususally include circus-like performances with actors and acrobats. Hyperdance En La Curva De San Pablo is taken from the album of the same name.

To download all 34 songs in one file click here


The Nun Flies Home

I was pleased to hear that Flying Nun founder Roger Shepherd has recently bought back the label from Warners Music who acquired it in 2005 from Festival Mushroom, who Shepherd originally sold it to in 1999. Under Warners the label has languished. There have been a handful of new bands released under the label such as the Mint Chicks and a pretty impressive 5 CD boxset but the rich back catalogue has been largely ignored.

I'm hopeful that with Shepherd back at the helm some of the great music recorded and released, often in pretty short runs, will again see the light of day so I put my mind to some of the Flying Nun releases, long unavailable, that I'd like to see re-released hopefully with some nice quality vinyl collectors releases as well as digitally. Of course there's the 1982 Who Killed Colonel Mustard EP from Shayne Carters first band Bored Games. The song 'Joe 90' is reasonably well known, and 'Bridesmaid' featured on a Flying Nun video comp DVD a few years back, but the whole EP is great and deserves to be heard.

In 1986 The Alpaca Brothers released the Legless EP on Flying Nun. The band featured members who had been and would be incredibly important on the NZ alternative music scene - Norma O'Malley who had been in Look Blue Go Purple and Bruce Blucher who also played with O'Malley in Cyclops and went onto Trash.

The Stones were one of four bands to appear on the EP that gave Flying Nun bands the "Dunedin Sound"label they then tried so hard to shake, the Dunedin Double EP. Unlike the others on the EP - the Chills, the Verlaines, and Sneaky Feelings - The Stones have been somewhat forgotten, which is great shame as their songs on the Dunedin Double and their own EP attest.

Flying Nun took a lot of risks, releasing music a lot more experimental than the more well known material from the likes of the Chills and The Bats and so on. One of those experimental acts were Marie and the Atom, a duo of Sara Westwood and Gill Civil. They released 2 EPs of scratchy fiercely independent sounds - Yellow Read Aloud and Spit It Out

I'm pretty excited about the 3Ds forthcoming reunion shows. David Mitchell, guitarist for the 3Ds, started in an Auckland Band The Exploding Budgies. They released just one EP complied by Flying Nun with Mitchell's next band Goblin Mix. That compilation can still be found but is getting harder and harder to track down.

On Flying Nun album I would love to see have a proper release is from the 1991 10th anniversary of Flying Nun. It's a limited release cassette of Flying Nun bands covering other Flying Nun acts. It was called Roger Sings the Hits and included the Straitjacket Fits covering JPSE's Flex, the Bats covering Look Blue Go Purple and more.

Let's hope the Flying Nun label and back catalogue will now receive the attention it deserves. I've posted a clip from a doco on Flying Nun on the video page.

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