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.
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.
In this episode of Fat Planet, I talk to violinist, vocalist and producer Sudan Archives about the journey of discovery that led to her unique blend of African classical sounds, cutting-edge R&B and freewheeling electronics. We also hear an unreleased live recording of her Kendrick Lamar cover, ‘Queen Kunta’. Her debut self-titled EP is out now via Stones Throw.
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.
Double J’s all-month-long 90s retrospective continues this week with another ‘Best Of’ list, sure to have a few of you wailing at both the inclusions and exclusions. ‘The 50 most overlooked songs of the 90s‘ includes a few contributions from me, including tunes from 808 State, Cibo Matto (pictured), Transglobal Underground, The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu and GusGus.
Was the 90s the greatest decade in music?
That’s the question Double J is asking all throughout June, as they go deep on the decade that shaped so many of us musically. There are charts galore as part of the 90s celebration, starting with ‘The 50 best Australian songs of the 90s’. Despite growing up in Scotland during the 90s, I wasn’t entirely oblivious to the Australian music scene. There were a few choice acts that made their way up and over the crest of the globe, but only one of my favourites has made its way into this particular ‘Best Of…’ list.