When old people turn out to be talented musicians from a former age then everybody wins. If there’s one thing the Buena Vista Social Club taught us, it’s not to dismiss the oldies, you just never know. Since then we’ve been blown away by middle aged Balkan dudes (Fanfare Ciorcarlia), and dazzled by poorly amplified thumb pianists from Congo (Konono No 1). The Tango is another story. Not only is it a percussion button on your organ, but also Argentina’s national music, and its sultry sound throbbed through the streets of Buenos Aires in the 40’s until it was curtailed by the military dictatorships that remained in place until the mid 80’s. These days there’s something of a tango revival happening in Buenos Aires and in the DVD Cafe de Los Maestros (Hopscotch), Gustav Santaol, academy award winning composer of Babel and Brokeback Mountain leads a scattered journey through the genre, meeting the maestros and uncovering the history of the unique sound. Early on we see a 70 year old bloke singing acapela at the race track and we know we’re in good hands. “If when you listen to a well played tango you don’t feel your chest trembling, go do something else,” offers one of the aging maestros. There’s some remarkable grainy television footage of old school bandoneon (accordion) bands and plenty of pearls of wisdom from the aging legends, “He who plays silence well can play tango well.” Right. There are tearful reunions after decades apart, footage of the maestros in the recording studio and of course how could this film end but with a triumphant concert hall appearance from the legends themselves. There wasn’t a dry pelvis, I mean eye, in the house.
Julian Williams is from Melbourne. He creates this peculiar kind of outsider pop and has released (maybe) 20 odd albums. His latest is Zhu Zi Dan Ge (From the Same Mother) and it’s inspired by a six month stay in China in 2007. It’s much more poppier than last year’s Liquidamber, comprising of quite simple repetitive organ and guitar chords, occasional metronomic percussion and these lush slightly unhinged Beach Boysesque vocal harmonies. It’s a strange endearing mix, feeling like your subconscious went out to cash convertors bought some cheap outdated music gear and started a lo-fi pop band. By itself. Because Williams who also plays in Melbourne legends The Hi God People and Inevitable Orbit, plays all of the instruments alone. The lyrics are obscure, he sings of ‘forests of dead peat, ‘blisters on the skin of the foghorn,’ and birds ‘underwater.’ At times it’s a little reminiscent of a messier, more spazzed out DIY sounding Panda Bear, yet at others its a random lunatic on the street singing along to his headphones. He’s launching this weirdo melodic opus tonight (Wed 17th) at Stutter at Horse Bazaar alongside the always interesting Justin K Fuller’s (Zond) lucid trance guitar and the uncomfortably named Wet Patch who are apparently a drone duo.
Well it’s Womadelaide time again (March 5-8) and whilst it seems you have to make the trek to Crows territory to see the likes of Ethiopian singer and Ethiopiques recording artist Mahmoud Ahmed and also the Jamaican institution The Skatalites, where sleazy organ genius Jackie Mittoo got his break as a 12 year old, some folks are actually sliding across to Melbourne. Firstly there’s the 90 year old sitar maestro Ravi Shankar on his farewell Australia tour on the 20th of March at Hamer Hall, yet also theatrical French party band Babylon Circus playing the Corner on the 10th of March. Then there’s the inventive Hungarian gypsy ensemble Besh o Drom who steal musical styles from everywhere, including electronic music and create incredibly distinctive sounds at breakneck speeds. They’re reportedly amazing live and they’re stopping by for Karavan, Melbourne’s inaugural Gypsy Music Festival on the 27th of Feb at the Corner Hotel. Also featured are entertaining Russian gangsters Vulvergrad, the gypsy deathcore of Barons of Tang and Unified Geko.
Finally if you’re in the market for free music Beck is hosting a bunch of musicians on his website including Wilco dudes Nels Cline and Jeff Tweedy, Jamie Lidell, and Devandra Banhart all collaborating with a bunch of others. Beck explains it as “an informal meeting of various musicians to record an album in a day. Nothing is rehearsed or arranged ahead of time. The songs are rough renditions, often first takes that document what happened over the course of a day as opposed to a polished rendering.” Some, not all of it is pretty good. http://www.beck.com/record_club.