Archive for January, 2009

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Flying high

January 18, 2009

air france

Another act that takes me back to the late 90s is the Swedish electro-pop duo Air France.  Not that they were blessing the airwaves back then – simply that they capture a lot of what was good about those days.

Their second EP, No Way Down, was released last year and it’s a promising sign of things to come.  Their music is mostly-wordless, sample-based ambient house music, perfect for lazy summer days and beach parties.  A heaps of turn-of-the-century artists come to mind.  “No Excuses”, my favourite song on the EP, sounds like Daft Punk’s “Digital Love” mashed-up with The Avalanches’ “Since I Left You” in sound as much as bittersweet emotion.  Traces of the Thievery Corporation, Air and a host of little-remembered house anthems can be found elsewhere.

At less than half an hour, it’s over far too quickly, but they’re not fobbing us off so much as whetting our appetite for more substantial fare.  After this, the main course will be really something.

Air France – “No Excuses”

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SNAP

January 15, 2009

Remember the late 90s when electronic music was at its popular peak and the “chill out” craze that killed downbeat music was just around the corner?  I LOVED those days.  This was before a million “Cafe Del Mar” and “Best Chillout Album EVER” compilations sucked the life and soul out of dubby, liquid trip-hop and replaced it with Zero 7 remixes of Coldplay songs.  Good times, good times.

Among the best of them was the UK’s Red Snapper – a trio that played smooth drum ‘n’ bass with all the musicianship of a “proper” jazz outfit.  Their landmark album, 1998’s Making Bones, hasn’t dated perfectly.  The vocal tracks are a little bit too late-90s in their coffeehouse acid jazziness.  But the instrumentals?  They still kill me every time.

After a hiatus that’s lasted most of the decade, they’re back with a mini album called Pale Blue Dot.  It’s received minimal coverage and everything about the packaging and promotion suggests that it’s not their attempt at cracking the market again.  This is more a taster – a reward to their old fans for still caring and a signal of what’s to come.

This time the vocals are gone and it’s all fused-up jazzy electro rock of a kind that Miles Davis would probably have made if he was still around now.  Let’s hope it’s the beginning of a fantastic second era.

Red Snapper – “Clam”

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We’re here for the souls

January 14, 2009

maeshi

I’m going to play catch up this month, covering off some of the songs and albums that I didn’t find time to cover in 2008 – or I discovered too late.

First cab off the rank is Los Angeles noisepunk group The Mae Shi. I only came across their 2008 release HLLLYH a few days prior to Christmas, but it’s an album that grabs you immediately.  “Grab” being the operative word, because The Mae Shi’s modus operandi is to bash down your door, drag you out of bed kicking and screaming down to your living room where they proceed to play a blistering hour-long set in which they trash your place and leave you to clean up the mess.

It’s that crazy.

There are van-loads of crazy synthesizers, cymbal-tormenting drum beats and ear-splitting guitars.  The vocals are almost universally shouted and concern an even more bloody version of the Apocalypse than the Left Behind books could have imagined.  It’s sort of Rapture of the Living Dead.  The funny thing?  It’s catchy.  It’s crammed to bursting with melodies, harmonies and singalongs.  Ever wanted to crank up a song in the car and shout about coming judgement?  Here’s your chance.

The Mae Shi – “The Melody”

The Mae Shi – “Young Marks”

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Jamie Lidell at The Forum, Friday 9 January

January 12, 2009

It might be too early to call this the “Best Gig of 2009” when the only competition from my end was Mystery Jets last Sunday and my performance of “Even Flow” on Guitar Hero the other night, but it’s tempting.

I’d heard good reports of Jamie Lidell’s live shows and the promise of a “5-piece band” got me all excited. There was a good feeling the moment I entered the venue. It turns out that Jamie Lidell has quite a following here in Sydney – much more so that I had realised. In fact, the place was jam-packed and I haven’t seen a more enthusiastic crowd in a long while, or one that knew the song lyrics better.

The main support act was Ray Mann 3, a local trio spinning out charismatic soul jazz jams that went on for about 10 minutes each but never got dull. But as is usually the case, the crowd was there for the main show and they were treated from the moment the band entered the stage. Here’s a quick summary of their costume style for the evening:

– 70s porn star drummer with aviators and mo
– Keyboardist looking like Keith Richards’ eccentric brother
– Guitarist/bassist in 70s motor racing gear
– Saxophonist/vocoder looking like Seth Rogen in a Billy Ray Cyrus t-shirt and all-white tracksuit

The show started off well but occasionally got lost in the quirks. The vocal vs vocoder battle in one song went on a bit too long and Lidell’s self-sampling in “The City” was a little bit indulgent. But then it all kicked into a higher gear mid-way, with energetic versions of “Another Day” (a crowd favourite), “Wait For Me” and others.

The most enduring impression is of Lidell’s amazing charisma and energy. The guy didn’t stop – bouncing, dancing, emoting. He gave it his all and his live vocals were nearly flawless. For someone who loves technology, he doesn’t need any artificial enhancement in that department.

Sydney loved him and we like to think he loved us back. He certainly gave us something to remember.

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Anticipation

January 3, 2009

It’s a new year and the possibilities are pretty much endless.  2008 saw the unthinkable happen with the release of a new album from Portishead and, even more unexpectedly, Chinese Democracy.  What forthcoming albums are getting you all excited?  Here’s the Goodnight Believer guide to artists that will (hopefully) be gracing these pages in coming months:

Dates confirmed

Thursday – Common Existence (February 17)

Asobi Seksu – Hush (February 17)

Bishop Allen – Grrr… (mid-February)

Decemberists – The Hazards Of Love (March 24)

Some point in 2009

Institut Polaire – Make Your Own Mayflower

The Radio Dept. – Clinging To A Scheme

Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus

Mastodon – Crack The Skye

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone – Vs Children

De La Soul – You’re Welcome

Mew – TBA

Mute Math – TBA

You can always dream

My Bloody Valentine – TBA

Sufjan Stevens – I’m calling this one Colorado Democracy