Sunday, 30 November 2008

Record Fair!

So apparently something's wrong with the economy or something. I can't even pretend to understand any of it, and as long as it doesn't effect libraries or second hand bookstore I guess I don't have to worry, but bugger me if records aren't getting expensive. The New Zealand dollar used to be worth almost 80 US cents, and now it's just a little over 50. And to make matters worse everybody seems to be releasing amazing records; as well as the Crystal Stilts and caUSE co-MOTION lps Slumberland keep releasing an irresponsible number of great singles, then Comet Gain have got their new album and single (I don't think the world needs me to rant about their video too, but lets just say I disapprove), and there's the cute little Vivian Girls package. It's almost enough to make me get a real job. Almost.

So maybe I should just stick to New Zealand record shops right? Problem is Real Groovy (which pretty much is New Zealand record shops) have gone into receivership and haven't been buying new stock for a few months now. So you can imagine when I saw flyer for a record fair I was pretty excited. Records! I love those things. And it's just a short walk from my flat. Unfortunately, it was mostly classic rock stuff - but I managed to leave with a half decent haul....

The real find is that 'Folk Music At Moller's', which was actually picked up by my girlfriend. It's a selection of recordings from the Auckland Folk Music Festival in Oratia in 1978. I think she bought it just because she liked the cover, but it's genuinely really great. I've been meaning to convert it to mp3 so I can share some of the songs around, but lets just say for now that Amazing Hoggett are perhaps my new favourite band.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Living Room Dancing

In my last post I made brief mention to one of life's great pastimes, bedroom dancing. However, the truth is I've recently made the leap from thebedroom to living room dancing. One perk of moving back to Auckland is I can have a place of my own, which means I can freely dance around the living room without bumbing in to flatmates or their crap. So what's been my most danced to record of late? Moejadkatebarry!

I don't quite get what why this is officially a Moe Tucker record, rather than being Jad Fair, Kaye Messer or Barry Stock, but that's hardly important. The album's an absolute blast; quickly recorded, with all the enthusiasm and joy you would expect from anything to do with Jad Fair. I bought it quite a while ago and it never excited me too much before, but now it just seems perfect. Plus to make things even more exciting I've recently worked out how to covert vinyl to mp3. It's pretty terrible sound quality but who cares, I've always been more interested in song quality.

So here's Jad Is A Fink, it's basically just a groove rattled along for a minute and a half - but I damn good one.

Moe Tucker fans should also pop over to Fire Escape Talking for an mp3 of Moe and Jonathan Richman playing, 'I'm Sticking With You'.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Mysterious Records

Anyone listening to Auckland's Fleet FM at some point last week may have had the pleasure of hearing me say something along the lines of "okay I'm going to play an great song by Crystal Stilts, which is either called 'The Sinking' or 'Shattered Shine', I'm not really sure." Then later on I say I'm about to play 'Backwards' by The Motifs, only to play 'Yours & Mine' instead. Then do it all over again when I played Henry Dress' 'Zero Zero Zero' instead of 'Hey Allison'. In the space of one radio show I was foiled by three different mysterious records.

My definition of a mysterious record is one whereby it's impossible, or at least difficult, to know side a from side b. The Crystal Stilts has three tracks on each side and there's nothing on the label to tell you which side is which. So I get to know one side as the side with writing on it, and the other as the one with the Woodsist logo - but I've no clue how that relates to the track. Okay so the sides are etched on that bit inbetween the label and the vinyl where hip labels like to leave little messages, but it took me a while to notice that.
The Motif's record has completely blank labels and no etching at all, so they only way to tell side a from b is to count the tracks - 12 on side a, and 11 on b - but who can be bothered counting that high.
But Henry Dress' lone LP 'Bust 'Em Green' is the most confusing of all. On side has 'Stop' on it and the other 'Go' - and despite what you may think the album starts with 'Stop'. But then the track listing is listed in just one big block of text with nothing to distuigish tracks, let along sides. So unless you have some prior knowledge of the songs (from mix tapes and the like) it's truly impossible to work out which side is which.

This is probably also a good time to point out the Crystal Stilts EP and the Motifs LP are two of the best records I've heard this year. The Motifs LP compiles some older singles they've recentyl released, as well as a bunch of new stuff too. There's only 200 being pressed so, if it hasn't sold out already, get to Knock Yr Socks Off's myspace to order yourself a copy. The Crystal Stilts LP has just been released by Slumberland and is pretty awesome, though I think I still prefer this EP. They keep getting compared to New Zealand bands, mostly just because Hamish Kilgour "discovered" them, but that doesn't mke much sense to me. To me they sound like early Felt, only much more dancable - that's bedroom dancing, not the silly club type.

Monday, 30 June 2008


On Saturday Alexis and I went down to the Southbank hoping to catch Momus and his girlfriend Hisae Mizutani conduct their tour of Tokyo by the Thames. You would think a tal,l skinny, Scottish guy with an eye patch and a blond wig with a Japanese female, both wearing white aprons and carrying giant megaphones would stand out. However, we wandered around for about an hour before eventually spotting them. After finding them we had to follow (at a discreet distance) for a while before the finally stopped outside the famous Tsukiji fish market. In the photo here Momus is showing us a cross section of tuna divided up into sections, with each section representing a different meal - starting with the tail for breakfast and so on. Usefully located next to the fish market poster is a handy map of Tokyo.

On the map we could see that located not far from the fish market is the world's largest Muji where you can buy every no brand quality good you've ever needed to live a post-materialist society. Unlike the Mujis I've visited in London this Muji also contains a cafe where you can by clear, durable no brand food. The transparent potato apparently contains all the nutrients of a regular potato, only you don't have to pay a premium for the garish colour. You can also buy a flat pack house that you can conveniently assemble in your living room in an afternoon with the help of a friend.

Alexis filmed Momus discussion on the Japanese summer festival and as I don't have a clue how to edit videos you can also enjoy a short discussion on Japanese religion, life and death.

At Momus and Hisae's recommendation we stopped at a exotic English sandwich chain Eat, which happened to have a branch there in the middle of Japan. After a quick sandwich we searched the Southbank waiting to be taken back to Tokyo. However, Momus and Hisae wandered off somewhere and after about 45 minutes of trying to find them we got tired and bored and decided to head home for a afternoon nap.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

The Andersen Tapes

In an interview with Slumberland Records' Michael Schulman, in the excellent Wrap Yr Troubles in Dreams 'zine, he mentions that his ambition is for the label to reach SLR100. It's these kinds of modest ambitions that make Cloudberry's achievement of over 90 singles in a little over a year seem all the more astonishing. However, one of the problems with such a prolific label is can be easy to get lost among the releases, and often it's the quiet, unassuming releases that get forgotten. I believe part of the reason releases by bands like Manhattan Love Suicides and Pains stand out and are popular is because they are so different from what would be considered the label's 'sound'. Although that theory doesn't really hold water; both those releases also stand out because they're brilliant.

Considering there are so many other bands with a similar sound, The Andersen Tapes' delicately arranged winsome folk-pop is the kind of thing that can be easily overlooked. Although, the difference is they do it better than almost anyone else and they're new single is probably my favourite Cloudberry release so far. I've been thinking recently about what makes the perfect 3" CD single, as opposed to a 7" single or 12" EP, and as I listen to these short subtle pop songs delivered with the most shockingly beautiful voice I've heard in a long time I can't help thinking this is how it should be. It creates a mood and sustaines it for 8 minutes and once it's floated out of my speakers all I want to do is press play again.

The Andersen Tapes - Turn To Speak

off to malta for a couple of weeks this weekend. i doubt i'll find any decent records while i'm there...

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Moscow Olympics

I'm sorry to say I took very little interest when Moscow Olympics' Still 7" was released on Fraction Discs back in December. For some reason I was expecting the kind of 'join the dots' jangle pop that is pleasant enough, but doesn't usually get me that excited. So it came as a huge surprise to find out not only does it sound nothing like Orange Juice, but it's also one of the most exciting debut singles I've heard in yonks. It's got the kind of swirling guitars and atmospheric vocals that suggest more than just a casual interest in early Creation records, plus the kind of euphoric intensity that Asobi Seksu wish they could achieve. I now have to promise myself to never write off a single band ever and listen to every song ever recorded.

In other news the train announcer at West Hampstead station sounds just like Aidan Moffett - it's brilliant.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and The Clientele

Last weekend presented two brilliant, but totally different shows that I can't help but compare. On Friday night The Pains of Being Pure at Heart played to a packed Buffalo Bar and, together with the audience, created a feeling of excitement and euphoria I haven't experienced in a very long time. The band possessed a disarming sincerity as they abandoned any posturing or sense of showbiz that won over seemingly everyone there. No encore or any other rockstar signifier, just half an hour of exuberant fuzzed up guitar pop that reminds me of Black Tambourine or The Primitives as much as The Field Mice. It left me feeling that sure The Pains of Being Pure at Heart is a slightly absurd name, but then so is My Bloody Valentine, and I don't really want to share these kinds of experiences with people who would dismiss a band based on their fey name. The Manhattan Love Suicides played before them and were brilliant too, but I think it was the excitement of the crowd for the Pains and how clearly the band fed off it that made this such a memorable show.

Then on Sunday I wandered along to The Luminaire to catch The Clientele again. Back in New Zealand there are tons of bands people claim to be huge overseas but woefully ignored at home, and it's interesting to see it happens in London too. After three amazing albums, all received to almost unanimous acclaim (I take everything Pitchfork say with a grain of salt, but three albums scoring in the mid 8s is hard to ignore) I think even the most optimistic of optimists would have to accept The Luminaire was half empty. Before the band came on Felt's 'Penelope Tree' was playing, as good a contender as any for my favourite song ever, and it stuck in my head throughout The Clientele's performance. I couldn't help thinking almost every song they played was just as good. As the played through old and new songs, Alasdair dismissing the new songs as "after we started to suck", they destroyed all my old feelings of "they just don't make them like they used to", I feel this is a band I will always love just as much as Galaxie 500 or The Zombies. They manage to create and sustain a mood I find completely arresting, I find myself completely lost in the music in a way Bertolt Brecht would despise but I find so sustaining. The audience patiently sat through the show politely clapping at the end of each song, but it wasn't until the end of the show that I realised almost everyone else there was feeling the same was as me. Yet it seemed such a personal experience, like Yo La Tengo I feel The Clientele were a band formed specifically with me in mind - like they sit around wondering "what type of band does Chris want to exist?"

I guess the two shows present the difference between a collective and an individual experience. When I listen to the Pains I feel a sense of optimism for a sense of a music community that includes the bands they play with and the people who come along as much as the band themselves - then the individualism of The Clientele makes me overjoyed I'm able to see such a singular band.