A new collaborative project from Arabstazy, who explore connections between heritage, identity, culture and digital arts. Under Frustration is the first of a planned three-part compilation series which surveys the contemporary Arabic electronic music scene. Most of the work here is abstract and mercurial, with a few cross-referential touch points – if electronic music has ceased to surprise you, this will reawaken your senses.
A few months ago, I revisited Rabbit Island’s brilliant debut album, 2011’s ‘O God Come Quick’. With no sign of a follow-up, I idly filed it away as a ‘one and done’ moment of genius. In a joyful burst of synchronicity, I received an email about her follow-up the very next day. I can’t say that I willed this album into existence, but something about that timeline makes the dream seem very real. Perth’s Rabbit Island finds a new approach with ‘Deep In The Big’, her near-ASMR vocals and unvarnished story-telling now come layered under luscious reverb and elliptical, delayed piano.
It’s noteworthy when an artist is invisible on the internet, which is probably the point of the exercise, but it’s a risky gamble. Israel’s Fortuna Records up the ante with Moontribe by adding a spurious back story. The album was allegedly submitted on an unmarked two-inch tape – no names, no dates – accompanied only by the cryptic note, that it was “a snake-charming voodoo ritual, in which Moontribe is the Shaman”.
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 below, originally published at the Double J website.
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.
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.
Read on for a review of the festival – I’ll also be playing a few highlights on this week’s Fat Planet program, Wednesday 8pm AEST.
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.
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.
With a bevy of great festival announcements in the past week from Woodford, MOFO and Womadelaide, it can be hard to wade through all the names to find the hidden gems – but I’ve got you covered.
From a Japanese loop pedal ninja to the Tunisian Björk, there’s a wealth of global music talent on this summer’s festival lineups.
Earlier this month, it was reported that there were no Australian artists in the local top 20 singles chart. In the same week, 70 percent of the US Billboard Chart was populated by American artists.
Now, compare that to Japan, the second biggest music market in the world, where 98 percent of all singles, and 76 percent of all albums, are sold are by Japanese artists. In an environment where physical sales are dwindling, Japan still has more record stores than any other country in the world, three times as many as the US.
This week on the Double J website, I spin through a few recent standouts from the Fat Planet program, from punk junk out of the Congo to retro sci-fi from Mumbai. Discover music from Kokoko (Democratic Republic of Congo), Combo Chimbita (Colombia / U.S.), Sid Vashi (India), The Heliocentrics (England / Slovakia) and Diron Animal (Angola).
‘O Superman’ seemed to come at the right time in my life. As a kid, I had just started to understand that music needn’t be guitar, bass, drums and was excitably tuned in to anything with an otherworldly flavour. It was the time of Star Wars and Doctor Who’s golden age, so perhaps that’s no surprise.
‘Big Science’ is Laurie’s debut proper with this wonderful cover shot of an artist caught in the headlights. The photo was taken during one of her performance pieces by video producer Greg Shifrin. It wasn’t intended for an album cover, it was apparently taken by happenstance, grainy and out of focus.
More 90s recall this week as Double J continues its month-long retrospective, asking the question ‘Was the 90s the greatest decade in music?’. This week’s list is my favourite of the three thus far, ‘The 50 most important female artists of the 90s‘;
I was asked to write about a few legends, and I even managed to stop hyperventilating to write something vaguely intelligible about the woman at #1.