Friday, December 08, 2006

Keeping it local - 2006 best of...
I’ve been contemplating doing a best of 2006 musical list for a few weeks now, and then I hit on the idea of getting someone else to write it. Ah, guest blogging. I hit up a bunch of folk I know around the place, and they kindly replied, with their favourite local release of 2006, and their predictions for the coming year. It’s some incisive commentary from an all-star cast of musicians, artists, authors, academics, DJs, bloggers, indie label henchmen, and music fans. Enjoy, and add your own thoughts in the comments.

What was your favourite New Zealand release of the year and why?

Greg Churchill: I have two fave NZ releases for the year… Pluto: Long White Cross - I know this is unfashionable, and sadly they sold it to Vodafone, Telecom, whoever it was. BUT I remember the first time hearing this late one night on C4 and being stopped dead in my tracks. I had no idea who the artist was, except that this track had an immediate and emotive response. To be honest I had no idea even who Pluto were (yeah I couldn’t care less about most "NZ" music). Sadly, the album didn’t quite measure up to this single moment and thankfully the powers that be had the foresight to judge this best single at the NZ Music awards over Don McG's pile of typical kiwi dribble. Angela Fisken: Trash Test (Luke Walker Remix) (Cosmonote Blue/Italy) – Okay, not out till January, but as I've been playing this for the last 6 months it must be included. Better than 99% of locally produced music I've heard this year, and once officially released the rest of the world will claim testament to this. As usual NZ electronic and dance music in particular gets NO local funding, focus and support, yet the likelihood of this music making it big on the worldwide stage is a somewhat far greater possibility and realisation than 99.9% of the music gaining NZ On Air $$.

Trevor Reekie: I’ve got a few. All totally indie releases. This wouldn't have happened a few years back cos FMR or someone would have picked em up, But Anji Sami (The El Dorado EP), Reb Fountain (Like Water. The single Hold Hands should be all over radio), Flip Grater (Cage For A Song) and Miriam Clancy (Lucky One) put out great debut self-released albums, all with high songwriting strike-rates. These girls are not shy in coming forward and they eclipsed most of the major releases by far!

At a time when we have seen and heard it all before, the remarkably unique Dudley Benson is one artist who immediately celebrates his point of difference. It will be his meal ticket. Nigel Gavin's album 'Visitation' is a true jewel of an album. This guy plays guitar like a novelist. His music takes you places. Alphabethead's album Electricity. Deconstructivist turntablist. Te Ku Te Whe Remixed (on Rattle). Original music from Hirini Melbourne and Richard Nunns - album of the year.

Russell Brown: My favourite release of the year has to be 'The Dance Reduction Agents' by the Reduction Agents, which I'm still playing regularly. It's hard to believe there can be so many great songs on one album. It's bursting with ideas and there's a sense of the joy of just creating stuff about it. I also liked the sound of the not-a-million-miles distant Lawrence Arabia, and the Samuel Flynn Scott and Luke Buda solo albums. How come we suddenly have so many quirky songwriters? And how could I leave out the Mint Chicks' 'Crazy? Yes. Dumb? No.'?

Andrew Dubber: The New Zealand album that I most want to celebrate in 2006 (aside from the obvious Veils album, which kind of goes without saying) is the superb 'Stolen Paintings' by Salon Kingsadore guitarist Gianmarco Liguori. He's put together a collection of some of my favourite New Zealand jazz artists, invoked the spirit of Morricone and made a really great record, featuring Kim Paterson, Miguel Fuentes, Murray McNabb, and Brian Smith. It will probably be noted in passing as a nice record by the likes of Graham Reid who have at least done it the courtesy of a good listen. But if the right people get their hands on it - it could be just as important and influential a record as the crucial mid-late 70s Dr Tree album, which is seriously overdue for a reissue. It has never been released on CD, for which the New Zealand music business should be ashamed.

Jessie from the Backyard: Choosing a single top release of 2006 is a terrible, terrible task. How to discriminate between all the great local records of the year? Dimmer, Luke Buda, Over the Atlantic, Samuel Flynn Scott, Voom, Shapeshifter, the Mint Chicks, Cassette, Don McGlashan - to name a discrete selection - have all released albums that have been revelatory, revivalist, balloon-goes-pop, sharp as glass-edged punk and as rockingly introspective as I'd care to be. However, to not choose seems cowardly.

Music that has the power to evoke an emotional response is something rare and special. Although I'd been aware of this band for a good number of their eight-year history, my first purchase was earlier this year when I spotted a 7" in the bins of Real Groovy, Wellington, with such a title that I couldn't leave it behind: 'The Diffusion Of Our Inherent Situation,' by Jakob. I am quite fond of song titles that offer a bit of history (this is a factor in my enduring love for Phelps and Munro's 'Horse Winning Without Rider' and 'Ex-Sports Star Turned Commentator'), and this was entirely appropriate to my circumstances at the time. Later in the year, Jakob's third album Solace was released on Midium. I liked it well enough, but it wasn't until I saw them live recently that I grasped a bit of what this band are about. Within minutes of the set starting, I was open-mouthed and enthralled, in the grip of an emotional response that seemed to go so deep as to be unfeeling - cerebellar, perhaps. Their instrumental songs have the power to draw in, carry along, chew up and leave the listener changed. I went home and ordered the entire back catalogue. What more?!

Simon Grigg: Having lived abroad for all of 2006 I'm a little out of touch with the day to day NZ music scene. That said, I've been kept well supplied by some, and the Kiwi Hit Discs arrive regularly, and I listen to them with some interest.

Perhaps it’s me though, but I don't think that 2006 was a vintage year for NZ's homegrown sounds. I wish it was. But the whole industry, hampered by its small size, has suffered the backlash of the post-airplay and post-Fat Freddies booms. I'm sure there are interesting things at the grassroots level, there always is - it just hasn't filtered through to me yet.

So having said that, my favourite NZ release of 2006 is, at the time of typing, the mighty Flying Nun Box set. How can anything compete. As Bob Dakatari said on his blog, it’s best seen now as more of a wake than anything else since FN doesn't (despite the trademarked name still being used), exist in any real sense, and hasn't for some years. But what a wake. Very cool.

Gareth Shute: Well, I'd be tempted to say the albums by Lawrence Arabia/Reduction Agents, but it seems inappropriate to talk up Lil Chief albums since I'm involved with the label. Therefore, my favourite release would be "Isolation Loops" by Bachelorette. The tunes are thick with synthesizer-induced atmospheric layers and endless expanses of delay. Her voice is like an angel lost in a huge cluster of stars...

Chad Taylor: Minuit - The Guards Themselves - By taking a small step sideways into 70s melodies and Bunnymen lyrics, the trio have delivered a tuneful, sexy and emotional breakthrough. This is better than dance: it's industrial pop right up there with D.A.F, the first Sneaker Pimps LP and Les Liaisons Dangereuses. It sounds like it matters and you feel like you're the first to discover it. My most played album of the year.

Rob Warner: Miriam Clancy's debut album 'Lucky One'. It's a sultry collection of proper songs with a quirky, fun vibe and some outstanding song-writing. It's a great lazy afternoon listen from start to finish - how an album should be.

Fraser, The Joint: Pig Out "Club Poems" LP (Pinacolada). Hard to believe that Pig Out only played their first gig in March. It was totally improvised and was possibly the best gig of the year at the legendary Dux de Lux. Saying that, each of their gigs has been very, very special. Mixing up the spirit of Detroit techno and Madchester, Pig Out achieved the impossible task of getting the indie kids, the emo kids, the music lovers, and the hardened music cynics of Christchurch dancing in public. MC Kit Lawrence is the bastard child of Shaun Ryder and Bobby Gillespie. Marie Celeste provides the synth and the glamour. Kris Taylor could have played drums for Joy Division. And "Club Poems" is brilliant. Bleeps, beats, cheekiness, and emotion. My personal favourite track is "Jules on X" which reminds me so much of Underworld's "Born slippy" - it's epic and I want to listen to it over and over again until my CD player dies.

Robyn Gallagher: You Really Got Me – Boyband. New Zealand has always had an uneasy relationship with openly manufactured pop, and never really managed to get on the boy band bandwagon of the '90s. But a local radio station decided it wanted to party like it's 1999, and got some lads together to form a group called Boyband. The group's debut single, an adequate cover of the Kinks' "You really got me", entered the charts at number one, a testimony more to the power of radio than any degree of poptasticness. But this may be a good thing - having hit the bottom of the barrel, practically any other pop act is going to look talented and artistic in comparison.

Nabeel Zuberi: Been in Auckland for almost a decade (!) and now a citizen of this fair settlement, but I don't really think about music representing or belonging to a nation so have little time for the idea of 'NZ music' or 'Kiwi music'. To my imported ears, most local hits sound like middlebrow, polite versions of stuff from elsewhere, but I’ve no axe to grind about any particular artist. Still this may be one of the best times and places for music I’ve experienced in my 44 years. I’m listening to more music than ever before and learning so much from so many people here, as well as through the www. Local highlights include Fat Freddy’s Drop remixes (Submariner, Digital Mystikz etc.).

2006 highlights: radio with Nick on The Basement; the support and generosity of sisters & brothers at BASE 107.3 FM (in particular Manaia Toa, Manuel Bundy, Simon, Addison, Dylan C, Peter M, Bridge, Sophie); Cian & Conch; audioblog skooling, esp. Moistworks, Locust Street, 20 Jazz Funk Greats, Funky 16 Corners; YouTube; iPod; Yeti; Wax Poetics; The Wire; Simon Reynolds; Kerry Buchanan’s columns; Component’s techno-fetishism; Real Groovy’s reshape; Brazilian wax [vinyl]; 1960s Europop; 7” singles; Bollywood samples; psychedelia; honky tonk; New Orleans funk; Revenant; Stone’s Throw; Honest Jon’s; Soul Jazz; Hi; Warp; Rhythm & Sound; Hyperdub; Dave Kelly; Ce’cile & Lady Saw; Lady Sovereign; DJ /Rupture & Islamopop; re-edit remix mash-up cover overdrive; Kompakt; Isolee; electronic music to fall asleep; Joanna Newsom; Devendra Banhart; Coldcut live; Animal Collective live; and making people dance at the Quay Street Social Club [DJ Nabeel on the wheels of steel!].

James Guthrie (aka Noizyboy): Far and away my favourite NZ release of 2006 has been Over the Atlantic's 'Junica'. Quite minimal in style - essentially just Nik Brinkman's voice and guitar over an electronic rhythm (and noise) section supplied by Bevan Smith (Skallander, Aspen, Signer) - it's one of those rare albums that just grows on you with each listening, there's no dud tracks, and the album actually works as an 'album' as opposed to bunch of songs thrown together to make up numbers. Other people have compared it to various 80s artists like OMD and New Order, but Over the Atlantic take that sort of synth/pop/rock sensibility and take it somewhere quite new and unique. The final track 'Fly to the States' is worth the price of admission alone: a slow-building epic that builds to the most blissful of guitar-noise white-outs you'd ever hope to hear. Awesome.

Paul Stowers: Shaft - Down At Your Life (Lil Chief). Still great no matter how many times the line-up changes. Warwick Blair - Accordian ( Intriguing and minimalist. Listed as being "the perfect soundtrack for modern rail transport" but I'm not sure why.

Renee Jones: Hard to pick one as there were a few goodies...I'm going to be greedy and pick 2 I really liked for various reasons as I can't decide which one I like best. Flip Grater 'Cage for a Song' is an assured debut, a bit harder edged than people might expect from the one-woman-and-a-guitar setup which is fine by me. Grayson Glimour's 'Phantom Limbs' is a great, angular album full of unpredictable instrumentation, and some great tunes. Big ups also to Humphreys and Keen, Shapeshifter, Cassette...and too many others to mention.

Peter McLennan: Open Souls present Tyra and the Tornadoes – You got me thinkin’/Hui hui (seven inch single).The Open Souls kick it up with their side project (how many bands are these cats in?), delivering the meanest-sounding local recording of the year. They played at the NZ Music Awards and had their performance cut from the televised version of the show – hands up who made that lousy call?

Other fave release was Fat Freddy’s Drop – Flashback (Jazzanova Mashed Bag remix). Even though Fat Freddys didn’t release a new album this year, they still walked away as the big winners at the 2006 NZ Music Awards. Why? They put out consistently strong vinyl remixes for the past year, keeping their profile up with DJs in Europe and around the globe. Check em out on iTunes NZ – there’s 43 tunes of theirs for download, including a stack of previously vinyl-only releases, like this one, which cleverly reimagines Fat Freddys as an indie-rock band. Genius.

What’s your your predictions for the local music scene for 2007?
Who will hit big, what’s the next big trend/idea?

Greg Churchill: It’s not a question of it happening, but just when it will happen for NZ dance music on the world stage. And the big question I want someone else to ask is "what the f^ck happened to NZ hiphop?"

Trevor Reekie: Until the industry creates a business that is responsive to the needs of artists, and not the industry , it will be every man for himself . If I was in a young band right now I’d get the f^ck out of here and live in East Berlin. Musicians, singers, songwriters have to realise that they are not in the record business, they are in the artist business. What's the next big trend/idea? Reality drug shows. Dealer cam.

Russell Brown: More songs. I think the Lil Chief/Brunettes crowd are on a roll and we'll be hearing more good stuff from that quarter. I'm gaggin' to hear the Checks' debut album, because the advance reports are good. And I hope that second Scribe album will be worth the wait - if it is, I think it'll kick along the local hip hop scene again. I hope that some of the finalists in the bNet Awards will be the finalists in the grown-up Music Awards next year, because the Tuis were a little underwhelming this year.

Andrew Dubber: Prediction for 2007? Sax player Lewis McCallum will be rich and famous at last - and Che Fu will learn to delegate far more to Godfrey de Grut (please). The forthcoming Cairo Knife Fight album will make Nick Gaffaney a household name, spanning the difficult bridge between enthusiastic critical acclaim and popular success. The new SJD album will be surprising and wonderful, but we don't even have to hear it to know that. I'm looking forward to a dark experimental collaboration between Shane Carter, Jordan Reyne and Paul Casserly. Double 10" vinyl only. Possibly with traces of dubstep and with dashes of outrageously infringing samples. Side 3's a Dub Asylum remix. Trevor Reekie will release it and it will turn out to be the international pot of gold we have always expected lay at the end of his particular rainbow.

And finally, rollout of fibreoptic cable broadband of 32Mbps speeds across New Zealand, commercial-free digital telly channels, and Digital Rights Management will be the punchline of some 'You know you're a child of the 90s when you remember...' jokes.

Jessie from the Backyard: As for what's to be large 2007, I would have mentioned the ability to use one's iPod for its god-given purpose, but that's yesterday's news. Probably our out-of-date copyright legislation will limp into the digital age, doubtless barely a nose ahead of obsolescence. And musically? I have no idea, and that's okay with me.

Simon Grigg: Next year… well it has to be The Others. Their debut, half available on CD and half online, is incredible. To me it finally gives a NZ hip-hop a voice of its own that isn't trying to be somewhere and something else. I'm biased and I've had the album for a month or two now but its stands head and shoulders above virtually anything else I've heard out of NZ in recent times.

Gareth Shute: As far as guitar music goes, off-kilter rhythms seem to the next angle. Post-punk sixteenth notes were one thing, but there's a lot more that can be done with dropping a beat from a bar or switching time signatures, as long as the singer can follow it. The Mint Chicks (and possibly the Shaky Hands) could break through with hooky melodies and off-kilter rhythms if they can get their music heard more widely before some overseas band clocks the idea. Hell, even indie pop bands like us Ruby Suns are toying with switches between 3/4 and 4/4, etc...

As far as local hip hop, the hype has all passed and the hard work is ahead - sales aint what they used to be (not in this country, anyway). The scene will have to look at itself, and someone will have to come through with a new take on things. Time for Scribe & P-Money to stand up? Cyphanetik & 22? Mareko/Deceptikonz? With no more Disrupt Gallery, no more Holla Hour, and no more Hip Hop Summit, it's gonna take some action to keep the scene from returning to the underground.

Chad Taylor: 80s easy listening is going to hit hard. And after pogo-ing in an age of treble (Sony, MP3), superior AAC compression will reintroduce the young ones to what their parents called "mid range". I predict prog-rock soundscapes and folk sensibilities over a Beefheart base but nothing, hopefully, will ever be "big" again.

Rob Warner: Definitely NZ funky-house/electro producers have had great success in recent years. I can see producers in the more edgy or fringe genres starting to make a few more waves overseas, especially techno and chill/lounge styles.

A trend in electronic music, which I can already see happening in forward-thinking labels/artists overseas, is the blending of genres more and more - South American influenced techno; the return of classic garage-house but with a futuristic twist to it etc.

Fraser, The Joint: I am the last person you should ask for predictions. I have no idea who will hit big. As far as trends go, maybe, because it seems to be an older crowd who listen to BBQ reggae (eg The Black Seeds, Fat Freddys Drop, Kora etc) the kids will want something quite different and not what their parents are listening to? But I guess that's been happening for the last few years anyway.

Robyn Gallagher: Now that the New Zealand iTunes Store has opened, I expect that downloading music will finally become less teenage/geek and more mainstream. But this will mean that people can buy one song without having to buy the whole album. So to help steer people back to albums, I reckon we'll see more concept albums, with bands (and record companies) trying to convince us that all the album tracks are equally important, and, like, we must respect their artistic vision and go on a musical journey.

Nabeel Zuberi: copyright wars; Timbaland produces Radiohead; ringtone virus becomes a global hit; Now That’s What I Call Music For Torture compilation series launched; Borat starts label to build on fad for Balkan, Turkish & Central Asian sounds; U2 play Africa; Jay-Z retires & makes comeback; More stadium rock in NZ.

James Guthrie (aka Noizyboy): Well, I'm thinking that Little Bushman's 'The Onus of Sand' and Connan and the Mockasins' 'Uuuu, It's Teasy' are signalling a return to a late 60s/early 70s psychedelic rock sound. This will see one or the other of those bands (or someone on their coat-tails) make a splash on the world stage at some point. Probably Connan is front-runner to get 'big' in the near future - he's definitely got the X factor, and seems to be generating the right sort of buzz over in the UK, where the band is currently based.

If I had my way, Coco Solid's old-skool hip-hop stylez would go ballistic on the back of their latest album 'Gentlemen Prefer Bombz', but I suspect the 'mainstream' listening public just isn't ready for their particular brand of music to crossover quite yet. More's the pity...

Paul Stowers: Be sure and listen to the self-titled debut album by The Broken Heartbreakers, due around March/April in the 2007 Continuum.

Renee Jones: With quite a number of NZ bands and labels picking up attention in various parts of the world, it's hard to say who might make the most impact. Fat Freddy's Drop will continue to win fans around the globe for sure. There are many others making an impact too...Die! Die! Die!, the Phoenix Foundation, Connan and the Mockasins, Concord Dawn, Like a Storm (who I've just heard about, doing big things in Canada) etc - I think we'll continue to see lots of artists and labels forging their own paths in an increasingly diverse arena.

Peter McLennan: A year from now, the Open Souls will be as big internationally as Fat Freddy’s Drop. Their latest singles are selling more copies in England than in Aotearoa. Itunes will not save the local industry. John Keys will appear onstage with the Deceptikonz at the next NZ Music Awards, doing Stop, Drop and Vote. Jordan Luck will stumble onstage and mistake him for Winston Peters.

Barbecue reggae will wake up and finally throw down some conscious lyrics, recalling great NZ reggae bands such as Herbs, Aotearoa, and Dread Beat and Blood. On the same tip, people will stop calling Kora a reggae band and realise they are Bob Marley crossed with Metallica – this results in the band’s next single shooting to number one with no radio play, as every Marley and Metallica fan in the country buys the single. And Helen Clark will come up with an original speech at the Music Awards. Yeah, right.


nabeel said...

Thanks Peter to you and all the others for lots of 'NZ' music to catch up on including some names I should I have heard but haven't yet. Onward the local/global. Sod the national.

pollywog said...

watch this space...

pollywog said...

BTW don't you know any cool young brown people to ask what their best of 06 and future predictions are ???

truth is, crusty old fucks like us are no longer the tastemakers nor is our preference even the norm...

...and neither is crap indy guitar bands or whiteboy dub the measure of kiwi music anymore

Anonymous said...

Tastemakers, or not, we still buy and listen to music. That what's a'happenin' thing fades a little as you get older like many of those teen mindsets. Looking back is also valuable, it adds depth to culture, validates overlooked or under appreciated music and musicians. Music happens on many levels and it's the quality that ultimately counts not the race or colour of the performer. I echo Andrew Dubber's praise of Gianmarco Liguori's Stolen Paintings. It's a real sleeper. An Auckland summer record if ever I've heard one. A latin jazz psych-pop masterpiece. references Love`s Forever Changes,

Simon said...

Dubber, you're not wrong about Dr Tree. I saw them several times at the old Globe in Wakefield St. That album is a lost NZ classic. I think EMI own the masters, and I'm suprised its not been issued in their NZbudget line..but then I think they may have other things on their minds right now!

Bob Daktari said...

awesome! Cheers for taking the effort

I do hope we aren't relying on Scribe to reinvent pop hop... I enjoyed Cyphanetik and Mr Sicc's albums in that realm this year, heaps (though I don't consider myself knowledgable on that genre) :)

noizy said...

peter - good work on putting all this together. Saw a few things I think I'll further explore.

Wish I'd known I could have sneaked some extra releases in there (like everyone else, cheats).

And, likewise, managed to submit something without a typo. Ah well...

Hot Wookie said...

Hi Peter, hope you are well.Predictions for 2007....well, I'd suggest that people keep an eye on Chch based groups Pig Out and the Tigertones. Pig Out's 'Club Poems' album (out now on Pinacolada Records) is killer.

Hot Wookie said...

Oh, and BBQ Reggae will implode in a huge fireball resulting in some good music actually seeing the light of day. Check out The backlash is ON!

Anonymous said...

excellent! it surprises me that no one has mentioned Trillion, the stuff i've heard from him in the last few years has been fantastic - world class. i'd be looking out for him this year.

Anonymous said...

Peter, I don't know nuthin' about nuthin. All I know is the music you play me, your sweet sweet tunes on your ukelele. Peace out my Hub of Dub.

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