This week’s Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alvo Noto’s show at Sydney Opera House was challenging yet beautiful, and the perfect music for our times. Read my review at the Double J website.
In response to the endless war with the algorithm, I am deploying an old-school newsletter – and the first edition dropped today. It’s called ‘accents’ and it includes new discoveries, would-be modern classics and old school raves, culled from research for my Double J radio show, Fat Planet, and scouting for my record label, Provenance. Test drive ‘accents’ here + subscribe to future editions here.
Led by renowned jazz musician, clarinetist, saxophonist and composer Shabaka Hutchings, this is one of my favourite records of the year thus far. Your Queen Is A Reptile digs into the African roots of jazz, and meshes it with afrobeat heat, UK club culture and relentless Afro-Caribbean rhythms. Featuring players who have worked withMulatu Astatke and The Heliocentrics, this Mercury-shortlisted album is a must for fans of Kamasi Washington or Fela Kuti.
What do you think music is going to sound like in 50 or 60 years time? ‘Black Noise 2084’ is Italian producer Khalab‘s postcard from a world yet to come – a mercurial, afro-futurist journey, imagining music from a liberated, future state. It strides along with ingenious beat production, rife with future bass and jazz. Highly recommended, out now on On The Corner Records, artwork by Victoria Topping.
On Thursday 24 May, I’ll be at Semi Permanent on the ‘Future Of Music’ panel. It’s part of the event’s ‘Future State’ series which cover “everything from realistic expectations to imaginative speculations, across three cultural pillars: Sport, Music and Food”.
I’m on the panel with musician Dan Stricker and Danielle Krettek, the Founder and Principal of Google’s Empathy Lab, which was established to “design more emotionally-attuned and human-kind experiences” (which sounds like a great concept).
Marks Of Provenance II is the second annual compilation from my label, Provenance, and features nine exclusive, unreleased tracks from Aphir, KAIAR, Medicine Voice, Arrom, Lortica, Kris Keogh, Shoeb Ahmad and Brute Canon.
It was originally released on Bandcamp at the tail end of 2017; but this week finds itself newly nestled in every other music service; the Spotifys and Apples of the world.
This music recommendation is from close to home – the latest release from my Provenance label. It comes from Melbourne producer Arrom, and is a collection of reworks from her debut album Take My Lymphs. Each new variation draws on the experimental pop, ethereal choral vocals and dark, organic electronics of the original album, and moves it, with a great fluidity, into new spaces. It’s a miscellany of avant electronics – dark pop, abstract, minimal and even a momentary slice of breakcore.
I was at WOMADelaide last weekend, interviewing a few artists for upcoming episodes of Fat Planet. Over 500 different acts – featuring musicians from 30 countries – were represented at the festival, delivering sounds from disparate places such as Ghana, Syria, Cameroon, Iceland and China.
Writer Amanda Kaye has asked me to contribute to a series of imaginary albums, culled from the creative wellspring of Blue Mountains writers and artists, to be exhibited at the Platform Gallery in Katoomba.
“These imaginary albums are the missed opportunities, the albums we wish existed. They are the uncanny cultural signifiers of our collective vinyl-addled fancies,” says Amanda.
As one of the artists anointed by David Lynch to provide music for the recent #TwinPeaks series, Johnny Jewel wrote a number of works for the score and played with his band Chromatics in two episodes. He also runs the Italians Do It Better label, home to similar strains of cinematic electronics, slow-mo disco and records full of aching electro love songs. I think you can tell I’m a fan. Just as Twin Peaks S3 was described as ‘mainlining pure Lynch’, this record is 100% pure Johnny Jewel, bringing his full bag of tricks to bear on a pulsing electronic soundtrack to an imaginary film.
‘Nightclubbing’ is this week’s Classic Album on Double J and I’m using it as a jumping off point to play a couple of other Grace Jones tracks on this week’s Fat Planet. The album was one of three that Grace recorded between 1980 and 1982 with the studio band The Compass Point All Stars, led by Sly & Robbie. Between this record, ‘Warm Leatherette’ and ‘Living My Life’, Grace delivers exquisite takes on post-punk and electro pop songs of the era, including covers of Iggy Pop, The Pretenders, Roxy Music, Smokey Robinson, Joy Division and Gary Numan.
Jóhann Jóhannsson’s solo album ‘Orphee’ was one of my most played records last year; a beautiful suite of works that soundtracked quiet moments at home; contemplative moments staring out of train windows, and moments of much-needed respite on cross-city excursions. It’s heartbreaking to hear of his passing, as he was an artist with so much more to give; although actively making music for 15 years, he was clearly in the middle of an incredible creative stride.
I love the cover artwork on this reissued 1980 Japanese cosmic dub from producer and percussionist Pecker (aka Masahito Hashida) titled ‘Pecker Power’. The album features dub heavyweights Sly & Robbie and Augustus Pablo along with members of The Wailers and vocalist Minako Yoshida. Given the players, it’s a curious take on classic dub from the era, with two Japanese Bob Marley covers thrown into the mix.
Last April I started a new playlist on Spotify – ‘Degrees Of Provenance’’ – music that has inspired the artist on my record label, Provenance. Since then, the playlist has been constantly morphing, with a different member of the Provenance family curating the playlist each month (currently featuring selections by Medicine Voice).
To launch the series, I curated my own playlist, which I’ve recreated on my Spotify account @StuBuchanan.
Fat Planet is finishing 2017 in fine style this week, running through our Albums Of The Year. Getting them to fit in one program has been a herculean task, and the final contenders represent some of most innovative and original tracks being made around the world this year. Listen to tracks from each of these outstanding international albums on this week’s program and via the Spotify playlist below. See you in 2018!
FAT PLANET ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
(in alphabetical order…)
Other than ‘Games Without Frontiers’, the only thing I knew about Peter Gabriel’s early work was that his album covers were weird and bizarre. The covers of his first four albums all seem to riff off 70s and 80s horror tropes – all disconnected, indistinct faces in one form or another. I’ve only recently started listening to these records, appreciating them for something other than the artwork.
Björk’s latest album Utopia is a collaboration between the Icelandic artist and Venezuelan producer Alejandro Ghersi, also known as Arca. All of the 14 album tracks are credited solely to Björk and Ghersi, with one exception: the track ‘Features Creatures’ has a writing credit for Australian artist Sarah Hopkins.
Hopkins is a Queensland-based composer-performer, most well known for her work Past Life Melodies.
Björk’s voluminous catalogue contains thousands of curios for playlist fanatics. I am one those fanatics, an obsessive Bjork collector, endlessly shuffling my thirty-year compendium of Bjork-related tracks into various combinations, or stacking my complete collection of physical releases into increasingly idiosyncratic order.
In doing so, I know only too well that her discography can be sequenced in such a way to make any argument whatsoever about her work as a composer and producer. Bjork as studio genius, classical composer, dancefloor junkie, folk singer, remix devotee.
To celebrate the release of Utopia, I’ve created a unique Björk playlist, one that takes an intentionally subjective slice though her career.
When the good people at Double J asked me if I was interested in interviewing Björk, I thought they were having a laugh. The dismissive flick I gave them soon turned into a week of abject anxiety when it turned out they were for real. Last Friday, I got on the phone to Björk in Reykjavik and spoke to her for 30 minutes about Utopia, love and slapstick comedy. And you can hear that interview this Wednesday, 29 November, on Double J from 8pm AEST.