Thursday, March 31, 2005


"We decided to stop being rappers and become Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young."

Uplifted from Stuff.co.nz cos their archive is crap, but this album is good.
A clean break - 27 March 2005 By Grant Smithies, Sunday Star Times

I'm leaning on a wall outside Auckland venue Studio with bFM diamond geezer Stinky Jim and Breaks Co-Op rapper and beatmaker Hamish Clark. Inside, a slightly off-form Pluto is squeezing out cerebral pop to an appreciative full house. Out here, pissed Westies in dress shirts are queuing to get into the strip bar across the road and a huge Samoan tranny in a short black skirt is pashing a small, well-dressed Asian man as they fall into the back seat of a taxi.

Red-eyed and righteous, their tongues loosened by THC, my two companions are ranting about their favourite subject, and mine - music. The names of inspirational musicians flutter to the dirty pavement alongside the spliff ash: D'Angelo, Freddy Cruger, Lady Sovereign, Nas, The Nextmen, local rappers Dam Native and Tha Feelstyle, Fat Freddy's Drop singer Dallas, the TrinityRoots boys.

As he speaks about the music he loves, Clark cannot keep still. Well over 1.83 metres tall, he weaves and feints like a boxer, punctuating his conversation with his huge dinner-plate hands.

"And what about your own record, mate?" says Jim. "That new single's a pearler." He's referring to "The Otherside", the first radio song lifted from new Breaks Co-Op album The Sound Inside.

It is indeed a pearler - simple yet instantly affecting, its slippery strum and almost gospel harmonies instantly recognisable as Polynesian but also utterly universal. But Clark looks suddenly sheepish. Though he's been talking about other people's albums with all the restraint of a runaway train, analysing his own work is a different proposition entirely. Eventually, he says this: "What can I tell you, bro? We didn't want to make a hip-hop album like the last one. We wanted to try and write some real songs."

He takes another long draw, exhales a pungent cloud. "We decided to stop being rappers and become Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young."

Thank God for that, I say. I wasn't convinced by previous Breaks Co-Op album Roofers from 1997, an album that to my ears tried too hard to be clever, but The Sound Inside got me right from the very first play. Simple and tender, more focussed, with an unpolished home demo quality that's enormously appealing, this album bears witness to Hamish Clark and Zane Lowe, two New Zealanders then living in London, finally finding their rightful sound. And that sound is ballads, me old mate. Love songs, squire. There's barely a rap track on this new album and it's all the better for that.

"To tell the truth, I probably haven't listened to a hip-hop record all the way through since we made Roofers back in 1997," says Clark when I call his Auckland home one night. "Same with Zane, probably. He loves Pavement, Tortoise, Sebadoh and so on, and he's a great guitar player, and I'm a freak for Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Marvin Gaye, Nick Drake, John Martyn and that kind of thing."

Clark followed Lowe to the UK in 1997 with the sole purpose of making a follow-up to Roofers. This wasn't to be. Lowe had just begun the swift ascent to his current position as arguably the most powerful broadcaster in the UK music industry, listened to by millions on his BBC 1 radio show, watched by millions more on his MTV2 show, and so the Breaks Co-Op record languished on the back-burner.

Clark twiddled his thumbs for eight long years. "Life intervened, you might say," he says drily. "I was in a few bands, made tracks with other people, but I've always loved the music me and Zane make together more than anything else. So I waited, and I hassled him, and eventually we started making time to do it. And I think this album has been well worth the wait."

Oh, yes. The best bits of The Sound Inside are very special indeed. "Last Night" takes the chord progression from REM's "Everybody Hurts", adds a few rudimentary bits of vinyl scratching, some subtle dub effects and a fumbling xylophone solo and makes from these unlikely elements one of my favourite songs of the year so far.

Rendered in glorious harmonies, "A Place For You" ponders the importance of creating - both physically and symbolically - a safe area for the person you love to inhabit. "Duet" features the kind of shivering strings and busy bassline that used to back up many a florid '70s ballad, while "Too Easily" is late-'50s west coast cool jazz, rakish and aloof, with its crisp edges eroded by electronics, like Chet Baker adrift in an echo chamber.

Instrumental track "Question Of Freedom" subverts some prog-rock snare-drum and organ noodling with atonal sax blasts, synthesised ray gun sounds and the kind of el cheapo play-by-numbers guitar that might have been lifted from a B52s' record.

Lowe plays most of the instruments on the album, while Clark edits out bad ideas, suggests moods and finds inspirational samples from his sizeable stash of old folk and soul records. New member Andy Lovegrove and good mate Jont Whittington sing on about half the tracks, Lowe the rest.

"This album still has a lot of hip-hop breakbeats on it," continues Clark. "It's just that they're now way in the back, behind the melody. To my mind, there's a strong hip-hop ethos underpinning this record, even though no one would would mistake it for a rap album.

"It's also a record made by men, not teenagers. A lot of records that use breakbeats are made by kids that still have a lot of confusion and aggression to get out of their systems. Me and Zane have both been through that, and now we just want to make some simple music that's beautiful and speaks to you directly." Mission accomplished.

Breaks Co-Op: The Sound Inside (EMI)
'Crosby, Stills, Lowe and Clark' says Mister Smithies. ****
Audio samples at SmokeCDs here.

ADDED
Via Popbitch...
>> No Marley No Cry <<
BBC attempts reggae resurrection

With so many people still surprisingly alive, sometimes it's easy to forget that anyone has actually died. Even the BBC is prone to this problem. One of their researchers contacted the Bob Marley Foundation last week, wanting co-operation in a documentary about the making of No Woman No Cry.

The email says, "... The Story of No Woman No Cry" would obviously only work with some participation from Bob Marley himself. I would be very grateful if you could see whether this is the kind of project that he might be interested in... It would only involve Bob Marley spending one or two days with us to talk about this hit track."

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Some common sense...
Don't blog your boss, from NZ Herald.

"... Defamation and slander aside, where do we stand here in New Zealand? Can you get sacked for posting private thoughts about the office and colleagues on your own website?

Geoff Bevan, a solicitor with Chapman Tripp, says bloggers should be very careful about what they publish. "Although blogs usually take the form of private diaries, as far as the law is concerned they are essentially public documents and bloggers can be sued or face disciplinary action at work if their material causes damage. The law allows employers to dismiss someone if their behaviour (whether at work or after hours) brings the employer into disrepute or undermines the employer's trust and confidence in the employee."

Got beef?
Quote of the last week, from Goldenhorse's singer Kirsten Morell, in the Listener....
Responding to the interviewers suggestion that the band are a terrific bunch of people but intrinsically, compulsively just too darned nice to have a lot of edge to their music, she says "Indie is just so basketed these days. It's a genre I used to really, really like in my teens. Now, it's like, I don't want to be told what to listen to because it's indie. The whole point was that you went and found it. Now it's on TV [she cites Intellectual Property on C4 by way of example] fronted by some minx being as kooky as she can possibly be." Camilla Martin, you kooky - Kirsten says so. Now, will Camilla take it as a diss or a compliment?

And hello person googling for Nathan Haines' girlfriend. Freak.