Love Connection – Euphoria (Sensory Projects)

As we’re reluctantly enjoying the last remnants of warm weather and the sunshine increasingly loses its bite, it’s a reminder that winter is lurking and summer is slipping away. It’s an interesting time to release the second album from Melbourne four-piece Love Connection, particularly as their blend of jangly guitar pop really taps into those loose lazy carefree emotions that summer seems to bring. Their music is slight and breezy, brimming with a hazy psychedelic warmth. Hearing it now seems to exacerbate the feelings of loss, imbuing the music with a certain woozy melancholia.

Organ is prominent, and the vocals are democratically mixed back down within the instrumentation. Initially this is off putting as we’ve been conditioned to expect vocals up front, yet it really works for Euphoria, enhancing the feeling of losing connection with your senses that certain days of summer combined with herbal or chemical intervention often bring. Of course deciphering the lyrics is near impossible, and the vocals come off like loose ramshackle wails or inebriated sing-along’s, yet they’re never harsh or ill fitting and in fact often take the role of another instrument, regularly providing the melodic hook to the songs.

These guys are clearly in thrall of 60’s psychedlia, though they seem to separate themselves via a clear love of jamming out a melodic idea to it’s full potential and then perhaps even a little further, and in this sense they bring to mind mid 90’s shoegazers like Ride or Slowdive.

The album’s centrepoint is also its biggest departure, a twenty-minute synth driven ambient electronic piece called Euphoria. It’s what makes this album great, that after 10 tracks of hypnotic jangly pop they unexpectedly launch into an opus that would make Tangerine Dream proud.

From the album cover, to the mix decisions, to the title track to even the release date, Euphoria is a bold artistic statement brimming with joyous pop hooks.

Bob Baker Fish

 

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Fragmented Frequencies Womadelaide 2012 edition

Narasirato

Womadelaide is a four-day feast of cultural music for the soul, where sounds from the world over bask in Adelaide’s glorious Botanical gardens. The beauty is that it’s all up to you, there’s so much going on you can programme your own festival. As you wander amongst the spectacular Morton Bay Figs, relax under the flying foxes, or lie on the hill surrounded by pines, you can be guaranteed that you’ll be transported to new sonic and cultural worlds.

Anda Union

Traditional Mongolian throat singers Anda Union offered a workshop in throat singing first up, tuning the audience’s ears into the overtones in the music hovering above their deep throaty growls. The irony is the best throat singer was wearing a Quicksilver t-shirt, yet that’s a typical Womadelaide moment of cultural exchange. Over the coming days they cooked for us, and performed not only traditional drinking songs, but also a rousing horse fiddle approximation of 10,000 galloping horses.

Shivkumar Sharma

“Music is beyond entertainment, it’s food for the soul, so close your eyes and leave the rest to me,” offered gentle Santoor composer Shivkumar Sharma, a man with the whitest perm in India. The improvised music of his ensemble was hypnotic, stately and almost divine, as Sharma in the drivers seat proved as good as his word.

Later handicapped Congolese ensemble Staff Benda Bilili took to the main stage. Their homemade fiddle raised their traditional rumba sounds to ecstatic heights, and when the guy in a white suite who looked like a cross between Flavour Flav and Boss Hog threw himself off his wheelchair and started dancing on his knees the crowd went wild.

Tinariwen

Two members of Toureg ensemble Tinariwen (including founder Ibrahim Ag Alhabib) were trapped by the instability in Mali, so a four piece took to the stage and they were magnetic. The stripped down version highlighted the electric bass and hitherto unheard funkiness buried within the wispy twang of their desert blues. Joined by French outfit Lo Jo for part of the performance, Tinariwen were majestic, true global superstars, offering the most powerful, compelling and evocative music of the festival, transporting listeners to the bleak beauty of their homeland with the mere flick of guitar.

Narasirato

Solomon Islands pan pipe ensemble Narasirato were the life of the festival, their infectious pipe music an energetic mix of tribal soul. They were everywhere, breathing new life into an instrument long since delegated into cliché by Peruvian market bands. With every size bamboo pipe you could imagine, they breathed into giant bass pipes, hitting some too big to blow into with thongs, dancing in unison and creating an infectious upbeat soul revue.  This is that rare kind of cultural music that seems to have fallen straight from the sky.  “Unfortunately we brought no women,” they suggestively offered.

Master Drummers Of Burrundi

The Master Drummers of Burundi returned to Womadelide after 20 years, with an ecstatic synchronised percussion onslaught, banging drums on their head, jumping impossibly high, and making a peculiar throat slitting action with their sticks, that we later discovered signals their devotion to their King. Melbourne Bollywood fanatics Bombay Royale theatrically strutted and funked across stage, Korea’s Tori Ensemble created regal court music punctuated by these bizarre moments of freejazz with a piercing female wail that could cut wood, and Palestinian’s Le Trio Joubran’s oud music resonated with centuries of tradition.

Kimmo Pohjonen

Eccentric Finish, mowhaked accordionist Kimmo Pohjonen offered metal machine music from Finland, with surround sound punctuated by avant electronics, where his midi enhanced accordion, with special microphones in its bellows, sounded like an idling motorbike, an electric guitar, or oddly enough a piano accordion.

Shantala Shivalingappa

US roots reggae exponents Groundation played into the piercing heat, seamlessly merging Jamaican beats with jazz solos, funk horns, improvisation and Rastafarian wisdom, whilst Indian dancer Shantala Shivalingappa was like a wind up doll. Or perhaps a deity. Each movement punctuated by her musical ensemble. It was hard to know who was controlling whom. Performing a traditional Southern Indian dance, everything from her hands, fingers and facial expressions were in tune with the music, and as a result we were in tune with her.

Anda Union film

Twenty years of remarkable performances and it feels like we’re only beginning. This festival is a blessing, an opportunity to engage in the global community and break down stereotypes in a joyous and meaningful way.

Congo Tardis #1 Interview

“It’s Dr Who meets democratic of Congo,” laughs Lewis Cancut, one third of cross-cultural sound system Congo Tardis #1. He’s attempting to decode the outfit’s name, which is the easy part. When it comes to defining their sound that’s when the troubles begin. The Tropical Bass tag gets bandied around quite a bit, primarily because the music they’re influenced by seems to come from warmer climates, music like Reggaetron, Baile Funk, Kwaito, Cumbia and all manner of unique hybrids that have sprung up in far flung places. Their music is an electronic dance floor ready melange of these and numerous other styles, acknowledging the influence but incorporating it into their own unique booty shaking vision.

When it comes to appropriating and mixing styles that are not part of their culture, Cancut attempts to be sensitive and non exploitative, though he admits that it can be quite shaky ground.

“The music we’re into is largely cultural and they’re not cultures that we have anything to do with,” admits Cancut. “We’re white middle class people that are in a cultural vacuum. So we have to listen to a lot of stuff, immerse ourselves in it and take something out of that to work with.”

“I guess our reasoning for appropriating it and that being okay,” he continues, is because a lot of the music that we’re referencing, like Baile Funk or Kuduro from Angola or Kwaito from South Africa, they’re all derivative of American music a lot of the time. You know Baile Funk is a rip off of Miami bass, so appropriating is a big part of those styles anyway. Occasionally we hear back some DJ’s in Columbia are playing some Cumbia that we made or something. So that’s a nice ego stroke, that it’s not one-way all of the time. “

The problem of course is economic and Cancut recognises that there’s a fine line.

“This is how we make a living and a lot of the music we play at our gigs comes from third world places.  It’s economically complicated. We’re really benefiting. We’re putting our own thing on top of it but we’re taking something a lot of the time from people who don’t have a lot and really distorting it essentially.”

“I like to think that we’re pretty discerning in what we use in our sets,” he continues, “because there’s a lot of stuff that’s derivative in a really bad way that takes from the source material without really understanding the key elements of it, without representing it very well. Often people are wanting to take from it more for aesthetic purposes so they can call it African forest or something. “

With two members working at the same inner city record store, Congo Tardis have been juicing up exotic beats for about two years now. Ms Butt, Cancut and Paz are all experienced DJ’s around town and it was through repeatedly appearing on the same bills that the trio realised they were increasingly drawn to club music from places other than the US. They started doing nights together and before long had evolved into the sound system that is Congo Tardis #1.

Earlier in the year they released their debut 7” on lime coloured vinyl, a three track slab of exotic dance floor electronics including Drink the Lime with vocals from Marawa Amazing and a Faux Pas remix.

“It’s always such a fun process the three of us working in the studio, no doubt there’ll be heaps more of that. It feels good when we do our show as a sound system to incorporate our own tracks and edits.”

Recently they’ve been working on a remix from former RadioClit producers The French South African group The Very Best.

“They’d been heroes of ours over the last few years” admits Cancut, an outfit that has successfully managed to straddle that fine line between homage, and appropriation while continuing to progress the genre. This is something that continues to be the goal of Congo Tardis # 1 to “stay the right side of the line, but it’s a line that needs to be walked.”

Steve Reich Interview

In 1965 Steve Reich, then a young newly graduated US composer created a tape piece entitled Come Out from a recording he had made of a black preacher In San Francisco. He then spliced it up to create a short loop and ran it simultaneously on two different tape recorders. At first the loops remained in time yet gradually over the course of the next thirteen odd minutes the second player ran faster, revealing gradually increasing reverb as the piece fell out of phase with itself. This technique, which he dubbed phasing launched his much lauded career, in which he has continued to experiment with sound, musicians and structure over the last five decades.

Bob: What continues to interest you about music?

Steve: I can’t possibly answer that. I love music and I compose music, next question.

Bob: Well can you tell me about when you realised you wanted to be a composer?

Steve: I took piano lessons as a child but up until the age of 14 I never heard any music prior to 1750. Never heard any Bach, never heard any music after Wagner, never heard any Stravinsky or so on and I never heard any real jazz. I’d heard hit parade and top 40 and Broadway shows. At the age of 14 in rapid succession I heard the Rites of Spring, the 5th Brandenburg concerto and bebop, Charlie Parker Miles Davis and the drummer Kenny Parks. It was if someone said well you’ve lived in this house for 14 years and there’s this one room you haven’t seen. And I went in that room and I’m still living in that room today. That’s when I started taking lessons in percussion, that led eventually led to studying music at university and studying western music history and beginning to write a little bit and then with the encouragement of a musicologist and pianist William Austin I went to Julliard school of music in New York started to write a lot of music and get them played and then I went out to the West Coast and studied with Luciano Perio who was part of the whole serial music establishment along with Stockhausen and Boulez and in a sense Cage too. I did that until 1963 and then that was the end of my training.

I would say that my real work as a composer only really became clear when I was done with my student work. The first work that I keep and haven’t thrown away is It’s Going To Rain, which is a tape piece from 1965. It came out and that led to me transferring the technique from tape recorders of playing little cannons going in and out of phase with each other to live instruments. So piano phase 1967 was the first piece of instrumental music using this technique, which is still an important piece today.

Things have changed quite enormously since then, which I think you will hear.

Bob: Speaking of It’s Going to Rain to what extent do you find accident, happy accidents to be an important compositional tool?

Steve: Rarely, but when it happens you have to be there and hear it. The most recent case of that was in a piece called 2×5, which was performed by Bang on a Can and it uses rock instruments, two electric guitars, electric bass, piano and drum set. I use a composition program called Sibelius, and I use a sampler called Reason.  When you write for the guitar often your notation sounds an octave lower than the way you have written it.  But when I started working on this piece and hearing what I’d written it sounded to me these beautiful high chords and I thought gee this sounds too high, but it’s beautiful. So I sent it to Mark Stewart who is one of the guitarists with Bang on a Can who is a very amazing musician because on the one hand he is a trained cellist, an avant-garde guitarist who also reads, and the music director for Paul Simon. So he’s a genuine rock and roll musician and a genuine classical musician all into one. So I sent it to him and he said this is beautiful keep it.  And I said that it would be too hard to play. He said don’t worry, and he suggested and we ended up using an octave transposer where a guitarist plays the notes through this pedal and it shoots the music up an octave above where its actually played. So we got these beautiful high ringing chords, which were in a sense an accident but I felt too were worth keeping.

Bob: It’s interesting too that initially it was the technology that assisted you with the idea for phasing and now it’s the technology that is assisting you to achieve your aims.

Steve: I have lots of pieces that don’t use any more technology than a microphone, like Music For 8 musicians or Drumming or the Desert Music, most of the pieces don’t uses these. I suppose Different Trains uses pre recorded voices along with live musical instruments, and of course that technique was used again in the most recent piece WTC 9/11, that’s recorded by Kronos and uses voices from 9/11, NYC police dept, the fire dept and friends and neighbours who all like me lived very close to Ground Zero. So if the shoe fits wear it. If you need technology to realise an idea then great, but very often musical instruments will do just fine.

Bob: You have used voice repeatedly in the past, what is it about the human voice that interests you?

Steve: Well there are many uses of voice. In Drumming and Music for 18 Musicians the voices are what’s called Vocalese, imitating the sounds of the instrument. So in Drumming you have singers imitating the sound of marimba and in Music For 18 Musicians you have singers imitating the sound of violin. And a lot of times in those pieces people listening say ‘I think I can hear singers,’ they think maybe they are hallucinating because the singers are mixed very low in the live performance, so they’re there and without them you’d think something was missing but, they’re not singing out the front.

But on the other hand after those pieces in 1981 I wrote a very important piece called Tehillim, which is a setting of some of the songs in ancient Hebrew, and there I have people singing words, just like people have been singing for thousands of years. Those singers can be heard, they are doubled with instruments, which is a very old technique, J S Bach doubles his voices with instruments, it makes the singers feel good. There’s an instrument they’re supporting the pitch, but also it colours the sound of their voice, so you get a blend. The first movement is clarinet and voice and the second movement is French oboe and English horn and voice. It almost sounds like they’re different singers it’s really just the instruments doubling them. So that’s a more normal use of voice that’s also present in Desert Music and Proverb and in Daniel Variations and You Are Variations. So there’s a lot of vocal music where there’s just people singing. That’s become a very important part of what I do. You have voices used pre recorded (It’s Going to Rain and Come Out), then you have voices pre recorded and mixed with live instruments (Different Trains and WTC 9/11) and then you have people singing such as Tehillim and the other pieces I’ve mentioned. So I’m very interested in the voice and very interested in drastically different ways of using the voice.

Bob: To what extent is the technique you use important to demonstrate to the audience and to what extent do you like them to be undercover so people have a purely emotional response?

Steve: I don’t ever try to demonstrate anything. I try to write good music. I try to write the best music I possibly can. As I’m the only one in the room as I’m writing, as I’m writing I tend to reject a lot. I’ve rejected quite a few things today before you called. My trashcan runneth over. There’s always more in the trash than there is in the music. I‘m very self critical and I want get the best possible piece I can. But the final principle is very simple. If I love it maybe you will too.

Bob: So some of the techniques you’ve utilised like phasing? They’re something for you to use, to develop the idea, and see where it goes?

Steve: You know everyone talks about phasing, that was 1971. 41 years ago was the last time I used phasing and I have no plans to ever use it again. So lets talk about what’s really going on. Phasing is just a technocrat word used to hide the real word, which is canon. Or round as in Frarajaka or Row Row Row Your Boat. Only instead of a certain point coming in with the second voice the two parts start together and they slide out of phase. Well after Drumming I said ‘enough of this, I’m not going to do this,’ but I still used cannon or round in most of the pieces I’ve ever written. You’ll hear it in Music for 18 musicians. Basically my music is filled with canons and rounds which is a very very old western technique, but because I used it in a new way, people talk about phasing, but phasing is long gone and is really only used in 4 or 5 pieces and that’s the end of it. What’s really going on in all the other pieces is canon or round of sometimes short patterns like Music for 18 Musicians or sometimes very long full blown melodies liked Tehillim or a lot of the vocal pieces.

Bob: What is it about Canons that continues to interest you?

Steve: What’s interesting about Canons is that a lot of the techniques of the Middle Ages are like empty vessels, they’re like a glass, you’ve got a glass in front of you.  Well what are you going to pour into the glass? You can pour water into the glass, you can pour coke you can pour bourbon into the glass, you can pour gin into the glass, you can put whatever you like. It’s an empty vessel. What does a canon sound like? Well I have no idea.  A canon is simply a sound, followed by itself at some rhythmic interval. That sound could be a recorded voice. That sound could be a piano, that sound can be whatever you like. So in other words it’s a very open vessel into which I can put very personal content, so that’s what fascinates me about that.

Bob: So when you listen back you your music do you hear what was happening around you at the time?

Steve: No I hear the music. And most of the pieces I really enjoy and I hope you will too.

A rare experience with America’s greatest living composer. The erudite, witty and frank Steve Reich will be joined by members of eighth blackbird for a bracing discussion as a prelude to an all-Reich concert featuring SteveReicheighth blackbird, Eugene UghettiSpeak Percussion and members of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

30th of April 2012.

Program
Reich Clapping Music
Reich Vermont Counterpoint
Reich Different Trains
Reich Drumming – Part One

Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, Melbourne Recital Centre
31 Sturt Street, Southbank. 

 

Interview with Daniel Nettheim (Director of The Hunter)

The last known Tasmanian Tiger died in captivity in a Hobart zoo in 1936.  Since then there have been numerous expeditions into the wilds of Tasmania searching for the animal and reports of sightings as far away as New South Wales.  Despite all the activity, nothing has ever been substantiated. Yet for many the dream still holds weight. The notion of one or two thylacines wandering around in the bush is just too tantalising to let go of.

It’s not a surprise to Sydney based director Daniel Nettheim, who’s recent film The Hunter taps squarely into this notion.

“I’ve always seen it as a bit of a national myth,” he explains, kind’ve like the Loch Ness monster.”

Nettheim’s film puts Willem Defoe into the wilds of Tasmania searching for the elusive creature at the behest of a shady multinational drug company. Despite most people outside Australia having no notion of the Tiger, Nettheim felt that the film was still able to resonate with international audiences.

“In a way each culture has parallel myths, an elusive or missing creature,” he offers.

“It’s also thematically rich on many levels, speaking on the complex relationship between man and the environment, which as you know is fraught, and nowhere is it more fraught than Tasmania in the frontline to save the forests.

The film took 8 years to be made, though signing the internationally renowned Willem Defoe made a significant contribution to getting finance.

“Because the character was written as a foreigner we always thought we’re not restricted to local actors, so lets make a list of any actor in the world that we’d like to work with that we think would be good in the part,” explains Nettheim.

Defoe was at the top of their list and signed on quickly, attracted to the idea of shooting on location and playing a character unlike previous roles, though he was also keen to contribute to the development of the character. The result is a spare character who offers little in the way of dialogue, yet is able to communicate with a rare kind of subtlety

“I like sparse films,” laughs Nettheim, “I like these existential films with loner characters like the Conversation or Le Samurai, and I think this character was in this tradition.”

To make it as authentic as possible Defoe was taught by a wilderness advisor how to make the incredible traps we see in the film.

“I’d never been a fan of hunting before,” Nettheim offers, “but I can see an incredible beauty in it now.”

“It is a noble and ancient art,” he continues, “and the people who do it well and professionally with pride do it with a lot of respect for the animal. You’re not a good hunter if the animal suffers in any way. It’s got to be a clean kill. When it’s done with a respect for nature it can be really beautiful.”

 

It’s ideas like this that makes The Hunter such a morally complex film; there are no easy answers or resolutions. Yet that’s what makes it so fascinating. Then of course there’s the one burning question that haunts the film throughout.

“We wanted the driving dramatic question to be will he find it or will he not. I didn’t want to tip the scales too early either way.”

 

 

 

Fragmented Films April 2012

When the lunatic who makes a film called Human Centipede (Monster) promises that its sequel will make the original look like ‘My Little Pony,’ then it’s time to have fear. When said film is banned in Australia, then that fear is only reinforced. When the clearly unhinged director, who writes this filth with his sister no less, laughs gleefully in the extra features about the Schindler’s List moment in this sadistic black and white (and during one moment brown) monstrosity, well that’s when you lose your lunch.

The Human Centipede II (Monster) is appallingly gruesome, unrelentingly bloodthirsty and sickeningly twisted. Sure you can hide behind the notion that it’s a comment on copycat movie violence, yet the filmmakers are enjoying delving into the taboo and the extremity way too much to remain credible. So when our short, fat, mentally challenged hero watches the original film for the umpteenth time and begins to construct his own 12 person human centipede, with, yes, ass to mouth staples and laxative injections, it’s over the top barbaric coprophilia on a scale you have never seen before no matter how perverted you are. The problem is that despite its vile unrepentant desire to shock, it’s extremely well shot, cleverly scripted with a bleak pitch black humour and looks amazing, particularly on Blue Ray. Believe the hype, this film, which takes extremity too far, is disgusting and not fit for human consumption.

Gantz (Eastern Eye) is Manga nerdom heaven, with two super cool Japanese guys in skin-tight leathers and improbable comic book guns on the cover. A live action adaptation, it’s both high concept and high octane. When our two cover stars die after being hit by a train they find themselves in an empty apartment with a giant black orb. It’s from here that things start to get interesting, and to delve any further into the plot would be disingenuous, as the filmmakers excel in the slow reveal between over the top bouts of almost video game action. Just trust me when I say they’re saving the world. From the producers of the similarly great Death Note, both Gantz and its sequel Gantz: Perfect Answer (Eastern Eye) builds the interpersonal relationships between the protagonists within this strange new world into a quite shocking and unexpected conclusion.

If you think about drug baron films, they’re all like Blow and Scareface, i.e. about cocaine. Why? Because nose candy turns ugly things sexy, making it tolerable to live in the US. But where are all the uplifting stories about a regular guy who makes his fortune slinging crack or pushing heroin? Nowhere, because those films focus on the street hustlers, your Drugstore Cowboy’s or Panic In Needle Park. Then of course there’s marijuana, and whilst Weeds gets an honourable mention, you couldn’t exactly accuse Mary Louise Parker of being a drug baroness. Mr Nice (Eagle) is the tale of Oxford educated Howard Marks who made a fortune importing and dealing cannabis during the 80’s. At the height of his powers he was importing consignments of up to 30 tonnes. Played impeccably by Rhys Ifans, you know the trajectory. It’s the same as all drug baron films. Up with fun and debauchery, then down down down, where he realises amidst the sweet pungent haze of greed, he’s lost the most important things in life. All that’s left is to enjoy the ride.

 

 

 

Radio Valerie

Under my freakishly devious non de plume Bob Baker Funk, myself and Elrong Mancini are presenting a fortnightly show on Radio Valerie. Radio Valerie is internet radio that runs out of the Gasometer Hotel in Collingwood.

Our show is called Duelling Badness. The central idea is the Elrong will play something terrible then I will play something worse. Neither of use have any idea of what the other will play. The results are frequently underwhelming, but mostly wrong.

Thus far we’ve focussed on Christian Aerobics, racist children’s stories, pygmy yodelling, and Serbian advertisements for washing powder. Expect the worst and you’ll still be disappointed.

http://radiovalerie.org/residents/duelling-badness/