Friday, April 30, 2004

Republika was fun last week - and despite kind of dreading as i always do these late sets, it didn't feel like a slog, although i could have done without being asked to play an extra hour until 7am. Still, when a place is heaving like that and you're on top of things - instead of falling flat and spending the night on the back foot, struggling to think of ways to play music people might react to - it passes quite pleasantly.
Not, perhaps, as pleasantly as saturday morning had passed, sitting in front of the fire down the coast, drinking tea, reading the papers, listening to the wind in the tea-tree and cooking breakfast, but you take what you can get.
I hadn't thought to go down to Rob's place at Blair Gowrie with him, Matty and Houng on account of having to work Saturday night and the weather having gone from unseasonably warm to filthy over the course of the previous night, but was talked into it by Matt without much trouble and was glad he bothered. As he commented at some point in the wee hours while chucking another log on the fire and getting another beer from the fridge, "i dunno what we'd be doing right now if we'd stayed in the city, but it's a pretty safe bet it wouldn't be nothing." If 'nothing' can involve roasting a chook with your friends, walking out over the dunes to the sea before retiring to the fireside for an evening spent talking shit and listening to music, then one really should do it more often.


Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Oo err ..
Despite being amongst my favourite djs, i want to like Kyoto Jazz Massive's recorded music a lot more than i usually do. That said, the projects they align themselves with are almost without exception excellent. Case in point being Hajime Yoshizawa's Sleepwalker. Don't take my word for it though. In this [beyondjazz.net] interview with Shuya Okino, he mentions a song they just cut with Pharaoh: "When we knew Pharoah was coming to Japan, we offered this recording to his management. But we got the answer (ok) 4 days before the day for recording. Sleep Walker made a song for this recording during this 4 days. Every member stayed at Hajime's house. When recording, Pharoah asked us the image of this song. Hajime answered that this image is the feeling from father and children met again after long time no seeing. So we decided to call this song “Chichi to ko (means Father and children in english)”. When Masa played tenor sax, Pharoah shouted "Masa"! It was very impressing. And when Pharoah started his solo, I couldn’t stop crying. It was so beautiful! Our dreams came true..."

Friday, April 23, 2004

Rode home pondering whether i was enjoying the weather (unseasonnably sultry nights) still or whether i'd had enough heat for another half year, and was cooking dinner and entertaining Shepthedog when Pru came home to announce her crazy cousin from Sydney had just called to tell her there was a launch party for some magazine in Melbourne and he'd decided to get on a plane and go to it, and see you in an hour can i crash at yours please.
Having been convinced of said cousin's craziness by said housemate, and not needing any prompting to go out anyway (it being afterall, unseasonably warm), we headed off to the Public Office on the assumption that any party worth getting on an aeroplane at short notice for was at least worthy of our looksee.
Turns out it wasn't. Said cousin wasn't crazy, either, which was unfortunate, but he's a nice chap, and i wobbled into the kitchen this morning to find him playing Langquidity, a serendipitous piece of anorak happenstance enabling us to have a most illuminating (it being The Morning, after all) conversation about Mr Ra, Mr Sanders and Evidence, which released both Lanquidity and Journey to the One.

I had to feel sorry for the poor bugger - maybe he thinks nothing of dropping a cool couple hundred on a last minute plane ticket to attend a party in another state, but if you did that and turned up only to find a couple dozen people sitting on the floor watching video artists do whatever it is they do with their dubious talents, you'd be a mite put out, one would think.
This indeed being the case I cut my losses and went to Honkytonks to say hello to Nik Weston, which was similarly a bit of a bust. Not that going to Ennio and Kano's night is ever wasted time, they being purveyours of the finest music played regularly in an Australian club (a claim i refuse to qualify even if you can think of a better regular night; which you can't, because their isn't one), but the crowd was scant, at best.

Annie, the promoter, was really bummed as she'd done a lot of postering and flyering for last night and was feeling embarrassed that a decent crowd had utterly failed to turn out for 'an international'. I didn't say so, but being international doesn't mean a great deal if nobody in the country bar the djs you're playing with know who you are.

Actually, that wasn't quite true.
Was baled-up by two drunken English backpackers (from Chiswick, if memory serves) who decided i was an ideal candidate for Third Person on Otherwise Deserted Dancefloor, and, powerless to resist, was pulled floorward from enthuiastic conversations about various recent records to shuffle bemusedly while they flailed about, intermittently heckling Kaman for not playing DnB. Being a lovely chap, he got around to obliging the lasses with some ace hospital/drummagic-type business, and i was able to make good my escape.
To be fair, they'd left a pub crawl with their mates specifically to come and hear Nik W, so i'd feel exceedingly churlish for, say, calling them slappers or making some similar bigoted generalisation on drunk English tourists.

It confounds me how so few people turn out for that night. Kaman's radio show is hugely respected and widely listened to, so how can you go down to their night and not find it heaving, week in, week out? Sure, seeing him drop the odd interminable jazz-fusion dirge to a packed floor he has eating out of his hand can seem somewhat perverse, but generally, he and Kano play such fantastically ace music it seems a crime their weekly doesn't do better.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Listening to Pharoah Sanders' 'Journey to the One', an album i've needed all my life, but only purchased today, when Discurio (bless their opera-loving socks) got a copy in for me.
The last time I played Open Sesame, Ennio Styles, who followed immidiately after, went bananas with the jazz-dance classics, playing a cut from this record that made me wonder how i could have slept on most of Sanders' post-Impulse output.
I haven't really tried to get into Ornette Coleman or Archie Shepp or even Sun Ra that much, and find myself losing patience with a lot of free-jazz. Like most folks i guess it's just too demanding, but there's something so affirming about Pharoah's noise.
It makes my heart want to burst.

Where are the rock gods? 

Good article in today's Age, reprinted from somewhere else, natch (in this case the Guardian; by Alexis Petridis, but I've been meaning to write a letter to the Age for some time asking why so much of their content isn't written locally) on the homogenisation of rock, among other things.

"The Sex Pistols and Throbbing Gristle appeared to indicate that the age of the self-mythologising rock artist was coming to an end: in future, mythic status would be something bands had conferred on them by others at a later date. The arrival of the video, however, gave pop artists a new medium in which to construct their own mythology ... But it soon became apparent that anyone, even Dire Straits, could make a visually appealing short film. Since then, pop has become increasingly prosaic. The discovery of dance music in Ibiza and the second "summer of love" produced no mythic stars, just ordinary blokes: the audience were taking the same drugs and, what's more, usually looked more glamorous than the DJs and performers on stage.

Likewise, Britpop was presented as a democratisation of rock: everyday, decent lads who wore the same clothes as you, who could have been you were it not for their way with a melody.

Yet audiences still want their rock stars to be touched with novelty and exoticism. That is one of the reasons dance music withered. It is why Robbie Williams, with his lurid tales of drug addiction, bed-hopping and mental anguish, became a star and Gary Barlow didn't. It is why the everyday lads of Britpop - Echobelly, Ocean Colour Scene, Space, Sleeper - were quickly forgotten and everybody remembers Jarvis Cocker. And it's why the White Stripes' Jack White keeps up the ludicrous pretence on stage that he is an aw-shucks backwoodsman having some kind of incestuous relationship with his sister, when everyone knows that he's a former upholsterer from Detroit and that's his ex-wife on drums."

Nice one.
Why don't more mainstream, widely read music writers aim this high?

*end of workaday postscript, re. comments from D&R
Dewi - word. But that doesn't mean it should go uncommented on. The fact almost every article in the Saturday Age is taken off the wires or reprinted from the Boston Globe, The LA Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Times etc etc etc, should not go un-remarked. It goes without say we have writers who are capable of pieces like these, and kicking them in the teeth because you don't have a budget might be how it is, but it's just not right, dammit.
Interesting point about AFX, Rolly - I don't agree with everything Alexis says, but wanted to highlight her piece (and not just because she got Throbbing Gristle a mention in a daily broadsheet) as it seems as good a recent effort as any to explain people's ... i'm thinking about the word disillusionment but it's not really what i'm after, and neither is cynicism ... dispassionate (?) approach towards the music business, and said business' abject and continuing panic as their business-model fails to continue to provide them with the profit to which they're accustomed. Something i'm slowly getting around to writing is a piece on the hoodwinking we've recieved over the reasons for this panic. Music sales haven't tailed off in anything like the dramatic fashion major labels would have us believe, and whether it's got anything to do with file sharing or not ... is something on which everyone has an opinion, i guess.
Interesting to see that online music stores like Apple's itunes are actually doing quite okay, tho'.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Playing back to back with Tamas for the first time in a while at Republika for Nick(lm)'s night this Saturday. On from 2am till 6 - come down if you're in Fitzroy, or you feel like a few cold ones in honour of our diggers before hitting the dawn service.

It isn't easy being green 

So this chap Kid Koala wasn't the most technically proficient, deepest, or even funnest dj i've ever heard, but for so many reasons he was the best.
There are a few scratch djs, turntablists, who can throw down on four decks, and some of them even do it without headphones. There are even more djs who can't do either of those things, but slay dancefloors week in, week out. The number of djs i've seen who can do both i can count on one finger of one hand.
Happy to take it up with you, but you can make a general rule about turntablists not being able to rock a party. They might leave you bedazzled as they juggle the shit out of battle records for 20 minutes, but it doesn't make you want to go crazy and act the fool on the dancefloor.
Folks like Cash Money, MM Mike and particularly Jazzy Jeff do, and are mind-bendingly precise while still playing a set chock full of party rocking hip hop, and maybe DJ Krush is still the only person i'd cross borders to catch.
But Eric Koala mounts the most convincing case for turntablist as master musician, and he did it with so much class, wizardry and fun it left you dazed.
As Tamas commented later, he makes you ashamed to call yourself a dj.
No headphones, four decks for an hour, playing the perfect balance between the goofy, wonky jazz of tracks like Drunk Trumpet - which i'd always assumed he'd built in the studio, but which he re-created live, and more soundscapey abstractions, beat-juggling Bjork and just going about the business of being poster boy for post-mondernism in the best possible way.
The Wire probably has more to say, the rest of us just thought he rocked it.

The crowd reaction was universally delerious but i can't help thinking about how easily hip hop djs can throw a crowd off-side by reminding people what hip hop is.
Watching Madlib wrongfoot a crowd last month by just being a hip hop dj (ie. playing disco, and funk, and dancehall made before Sean Paul was born), but not just wrong foot them, have them grow restless and turn off ... you can't help but wonder why they were there. Having had a rave about Madlib's set with Dexter a few days on, i bumped into a girl later who said he was shit because he "just wasn't hip hop."
I'm learning to hold my tongue, which is admittedly getting easier - i mean, if you hate on Peanut Butter Wolf for having the bottle to open his set with Stereolab, i don't know if we're giong to have anything to talk about anyway - but it does give you cause to ponder why these kids go to such shows, and what they expect to get from them.
What hip hop are they listening to?

post-script on Hammy and De's comments ...
Because this blog is mine *mwaaaa ha ha ha* i've got more than 1000 characters to comment on your comments.
Replying to Dewi:

It's not the crowd's fault, it's not the DJ's fault. There's no fault and I wasn't inferring there was one. The devil is in the assumption. As a punter/crowd member, you go to a club, you want the dj to help you get your groove on, as it were. You want them to play stuff that makes it a nice place to have a dance, or chat with your mates.
You pay $40 to see a dj in a venue like the Prince on the other hand, and you're paying for a performance. You're entitled to expect the DJ to respond to the crowd, but a band wouldn't (they have setlists), and if a dj you've paid to see perform doesn't, then that's okay too. International DJs have a hard time reading crowds. Even if they're there early and are listening to the support dj and watching the crowd before they play, they have no idea what people in Melbourne will react to. If the support dj is inappropriate, they may have very little to build on. I see good djs having two options here. They can try to guess what the crowd will be into, or they can trust that people have paid money to hear them do their own thing, and just do that. This is what Madlib and Peanut Butter Wolf did. I don't think they were paying homage to anyone, they were just trying to present good music in a way that was faithful to their own beliefs about what that should be, and unfortunately it didn't work out for most of the people there. It was no-one's fault, it was just a thing that happened, and I found it interesting.

To Hammy: word. On any given night there are lots of djs capable of being the best you've ever seen. IMHO (and with my memory probably not serving me as best as could be reasonably hoped for) KK was better than the other DJs i've said were the best i've ever seen, because he was the most well rounded. Equal parts depth, funk, technical wizardy and fun.

Thanks to both of you though. See you at DJ Marky?

Thursday, April 15, 2004

it's a small world, by jingoes 

People know this. You live in a city, even a big one like Melbourne (nudging 4 million, they reckon) for a little while, the degrees of seperation get whittled down so fast it leaves you dazed. For me and most people i know, it's around two. Like, when was the last time you met anyone, anywhere, who you honestly and truly don't have a connection with through any other aquaintances? I very rarely meet anyone, outside of work, who isn't a friend of a friend. I guess it's not that it's a small city, it's just that the circles you move in are.
None of this guff has to be negative.
Last night Interviewed Nik Weston, London dj/promoter/compilation compiler and japanophile extraoirdinaire from his office in London, for an Australian tour he's doing. He did press for Cisco, the Japanese distro i worked for in London. He has a residency with a dj called Koh Umura, who now works for Cisco, and who i met completely seperately from both job and Nik, when a friend of his started going out with an evil young man who moved into a house i moved out of in Kilburn.
Interviewing Igor from Skalpel, new Polish signings to Ninja Tune, was much more exciting. I don't know many people in Poland, and their album is ace. Ninja is a good home for them, they sound like the Cinematic Orchestra; no bad thing.
More ninja madness tomorrow with Kid Koala at First Floor, the venue i love to hate (hate: dishonest management, dithering booking staff. love: knowing most of the staff [free drinks], the layout generally, the old school tabletop pacman games and the always on point projections).
For ten bucks, too! You'd be somewhat put out if you'd forked out quadruple that to see him and RJD2 last week at the POW.

There is THE NICEST sunset outside right now. RIGHT NOW. No wait, it's gone.
Damn you, Autumn.
no really, De, all is forgiven
Review i wrote of the James Brown show published today in InPress. Marginally more considered than that written below.
email me if you can't be arsed looking for a copy.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

You have to start somewhere. Pharaoh Sanders at the Prince last night is a good start. A better start than 'Hello Folks'. Or than James Brown last, when, Thursday? As soulless as a Soul Man gets. But then he's 70. So is Pharoah, and he can still make The Truth come out the end of a saxophone like James Brown can't.
I don't know what I expected for my $100. Maybe the problem was it was exactly as expected. The crowd full of ... well, they weren't nature's winners. A curious, queer strata of folk I found uncategorisable, at best. Watching a bandleader going through ropes he's gone through so many times that you're sure he can't remember the real reason he tied them in the first place. With a band who were just tired. And wearing white slacks.

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