I have enjoyed much of K.One's (Kaleb Vitale) output over the last few years and it is pretty simple. He knows how to create hooks, his music is melodic, not overly repetitive and has dynamics. He has a strong pop sensibility which works well as he crosses it over with his base hip-hop style. His song "So Long" w/ Scribe has been featured on this blog previously. It is a favourite. Kaleb is now Australia-based although he is one of the those illustrious Masterton alumni that include Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and Pip Brown (Ladyhawke). Not bad for a small town in NZ. I have added a link below to an article from www.lumiere.net.nz which should serve as a good introduction if you have not come across his music before.You can buy this single, and his other offerings at the link below.
The Lumiere Reader link:
K.One - All Over Again (Official Video)
Pikachunes (Miles McDougall) has been featured previously on this blog with several of his minimalist electro-indie-pop offerings. Although the recent "Miles" EP retains remnants of that sound, this single (featuring Zowie) is a lush disco-stunner. What stands out for me is how well his vocals work with these production settings. Despite being known for his unconventional electronica, Miles has plenty of musical repertoire to call on, being a formally-trained jazz musician with skills across percussion, piano, guitars and brass. Electronica was something he became enthusiastic about during an extended convalescence. A superb video from Lauren Beck (dir/prod) and Rick Mereki (dir/editing) completes the offering. You can buy the "Miles" EP at the link below.
With an almost Grandmaster-ish early 80s style rap on the futility of chasing 'things', and some gorgeous flashes of lushness (love that sax) against an almost lo-fi straight disco electro-beat, Parallel Dance Ensemble have given us something with recognizable roots, but original...and with a hook that could work on the radio. Parallel Dance Ensemble is the very talented Auckland MC/disco artist Coco Solid (previously on this blog in her Badd Energy incarnation), and Bobbi Sox (Danish LA-based producer Robin Hannibal). First listen didn't grab me but I was hooked by the second. The video was directed by Carthew Neal with "Concept & Creative Inspiration" from Reuben Paterson. Director of Photography was Simon Temple. You can find out more about Coco Solid at the link below.
I would love this song to be an enormous radio success for Great North, but I don't think the structure lends itself to that...though I am pretty sure it will contribute to sales of their album. "Halves" I think is a New Zealand classic. "To Leave Someone" is also one of the best songs I have ever come across. The song's lyrical twists, structure, arrangements, dynamics and production, are all gorgeous. I adore the song. For that reason the song/video has made the NZMusic4U Honour Roll. I have a playlist ("The Beautifully Sad" - song list below) on my iPhone of which this song is one. The playlist reliably generates a dopamine hit way better than any drugs I have ever had. You might enjoy the combination also? Ralph Matthews and Claire Littler have done a good job with this video although the animated segment doesn't quite blend properly. No matter though, it is still quality enough to present the song well. If you want to buy some Great North magic, please go to the link below.
The Beautifully Sad Playlist
Feels Like - Lydia Cole
To Leave Someone - Great North
The Man From Amsterdam - Lips
Fortune - Dear Times Waste
Hibernate - Lydia Cole
Juvenile Love Story - The Impending Adorations
We Don't Have Much Time - Lips
It's a pretty basic video. But it works. And that is thanks to an artist with such charisma I just can't help thinking she could fire in a big way. While Randa might need to escape the small market that is New Zealand, (and get in front of those who will recognize the star quality), it is one of the great things about NZ that it is easy to cut through to get noticed. A career that is not though, and this stairway is long with many landings. But there is definitely enough depth here. Personality, humour, creativity and a sound that belongs only here, I look forward to Randa landing the big fish! You can get hold of a range of Randa's material at the link below.
From the upcoming album "Delta", Shapeshifter give us the album's third single "Gravity"...not as good as "Diamond Trade" but still easy to like. When I look at a band I try to think whether I could live without their 'sound' in day-to-day life. It is quite an effective test, and you would be amazed what survives! I think that might be an indictment of my taste...but I believe that Shapeshifter is one of those where the body of work is so extensive, and so much part of the New Zealand cultural vernacular, that I would hate to lose them, and for that reason I think they have many years to run. I suspect there are many of us who "feel it" the same way. But at the same time, as their sound has evolved beautifully in the past, they will need to keep evolving, or risk losing relevance. Hearing the saxophone track on this song reminded these are talented musicians that know what they are doing. Fingers crossed. I look forward to the album. To hear just how good Shapeshifter's material is, go to the link below. (Awesome website!).
"Cold Out" is a beautiful, poignant reflection on the journey that Janine Foster has been on over the last year. She is now starting to make a name for herself in New York. I have heard her yet-to-be-released "Dark Mind" EP and was blown away by her song-writing, production and vocal talents. Janine has a visual aesthetic going as well. I do believe artists who want to break through need to have skills across all areas, allowing them to monetize their talent in a variety of ways. Janine's ability to put together quality sketchbook videos allows her to build momentum much better than using visual-less Soundcloud uploads etc. Nik Brinkman of Junica is another example of one of these multi-talents, and others would do well to up-skill as broadly as possible. As for Janine, it has been a hard road in the USA but with support coming through from a wide and growing network, in time I suspect she will find she has strong industry momentum. As an example of the enthusiasm building for Janine and the Mixtape, have a read of the blog-post from "Vibe" at the link below.
I apologize for what I am now about to write. I am no writer despite the fact I try to do it. I was looking for an analogy for why I like this band. It came to me that maybe it's a little like growing up. I hated coffee when I tried it as a five year old. There was no way you could get me to take a second sip. But now of course I love it. Part of that is clearly the narcotic effect, but the complexity of the taste (when done well), and the challenges it throws at the 'obvious' sweet tastes of cakes et al are rewarding. Death in Texas is a similar experience aesthetically. The first time I heard the band, the proximity to 'contrived' worried me. Still, I got over that hump. This is music that is consciously constructed - to be listened to. Unless one is into modern dance (imagine a 48 year old!), it is almost impossible to dance to. But to hear it live, on a cold, damp night in London, in a bar with very little going on (and a mix from hell) I was struck by the complexities Ruth Searle, Kane Power, and departing bassist Terry Blake, were deliberately introducing...which were easily embraced. I found the gig rewarding to listen to. Death in Texas is a very interesting band. They might struggle a bit at the moment because they are so hard to pigeonhole aurally. There is also that proximity to 'contrived'. That, I have left behind now. Mark my words, if this band can keep going, there is longevity, and recognition to be had. It is art. This is their latest single "Oil & the Water". You can buy the band's material at the link below.
Death In Texas - Oil & The Water
I travel a lot and it possibly seems interesting to some. Sometimes it is for me too. But I live with the on-going frustration that I continually miss fantastic New Zealand musicians/bands playing at home. Glass Vaults at the San Francisco Bath House last year was one. The band was one of my discoveries of 2012, and yes there were many (probably because I started writing a blog!). I ended up buying everything that I could find from the guys. There is not enough. I am not going to try and describe it in detail, but it IS perfect balance between ambience, and 'going nowhere', which sometimes 'ambient' is apt to do. There must be something about Wellington that brings these ambient crossover artists into being. Rhian Sheehan, Module, The Impending Adorations et al. Nik Brinkman also in his quieter moments. I am sure Loop Recordings Aot(ear)oa. has more than a little to do with it. This video is beautifully put together with direction by Rowan Pierce and Richard Larsen in collaboration with Georgette Brown. Director of Photography was Matt Henley. You can buy Glass Vaults material at the link below. The new single is a free download.
This song deserved a great video, and "Time" (released second half of 2012), gets what it deserved. Edward de Vere directed, art-directed, styled and edited the video, with most of it filmed in Europe, a small amount in New Zealand. It's not hard to guess which bit. The video was produced by Mike Bielski. This is going to be one of my videos of the year and I am toying (NPI) with putting it on the NZMusic4U Honour Roll. She's So Rad's music has an aesthetic acuity, and it seems they surround themselves with like-minds, such that the overall package they come up with is immensely enjoyable. "Confetti" was a great song/video combination, but this easily betters it. Jeremy Toy and Anji Sami have now released two tracks from their second album, and both are 'driving', but gorgeous slices of 'shoe-gazey' dream-pop. New Zealand seems to do this sort of thing quite well when it wants to. For more on the band, and to buy what they have to offer, please go to the link below.
I gave you Suren Unka's latest gem "Alice" a few days ago. Here is a video from May 2012 which uses the skills of another director, Fergus Burnett. In both videos there is a clear and simple vision which works very well. Not sure what is going on in this one, but I love the look of it. Clearly a nice vibe going down in West Auckland, although not enough to keep this little "red-eye" awake/alive! Suren Unka is the drummer from Auckland band The Beach Pigs, but has now released enough solo material to be recognized as a stand-alone electronic artist. Vocals on this track are by Dahnu Graham, who is vocalist with The Beach Pigs.You can download all Suren Unka's music for free at the link below. Another one of those musicians who shouldn't be giving it away.
Although ironically, being almost unwatchable as a result of the frame-staggering, this video for "Alice" is for me one of those little masterpieces where vision wins over budget. Congratulations to Alexander Hoyles for bringing what is a simple, elegant piece of electronica to life. I only post music I like on NZMusic4U, and the dopamine kicked in pretty strongly after the first couple of minutes of this song. Suren Unka is the drummer from the Beach Pigs but already has a reasonable body of work as a solo electronic artist available at the Bandcamp link below. I'm loving it. And its all free! I will be downloading it all. Someone to watch.
I have always liked Sola Rosa. A little disappointed with a live performance last year, but maybe that was just me. I had very high expectations, and pretty much everyone else seemed to like the performance. This is a band that creates some great grooves, layering rhythmic textures upon each other. The emphasis is on riff and hook over melody, which is sometimes a challenge for me, but when they deliver like they do with "Promise", the second single off the album "Low and Behold, High and Beyond", then the absence of melodic variation is of little issue. Andrew Spraggon is the main man in the group but he seems to have built a stable team around him, including Cherie Mathieson, Spikey Tee, Ben White, Matt Short and Julien Dyne. Olivier Daysoul was worked with remotely on "Promise", the bulk of the recording done in New Zealand, but the vocals being laid down in London. The track was mixed by Yaron Fuchs, someone with a resume of some repute, with mastering by Ricardo Gutierrez who has previously done work for Justin Timberlake and Just Blaze. The video was a UK/NZ co-production directed by Mikey Rockwell of Rockwell Music in London, the New Zealand segment being photographed by Shae Sterling. A great video, which benefits from London wearing a touch of winter icing sugar. You can buy the single and album at the link below. There's plenty more to buy there as well. I will be buying the album for sure.
Promise Ft. Olivier Daysoul - Sola Rosa (Official Video)
In a challenging and rapidly changing market environment, it is important that bands adapt to the evolution of their target market. It is from that perspective that The Naked and Famous (TNAF), who have always, and deliberately, targeted the optimal brand settings for "their" demographic, went one step further and employed global brand consultants "Demogra". It was a challenging process, and one that enormously well-endowed talent, Thom Powers, found it difficult to adapt to, principally in terms of changes to the "look" of the band. The rest of the band has had no issue with the consultants' proposed changes, these changes being where they had wanted to take the brand identity of the band for some time. Integrity has always been important to the band. For that reason they have decided to "release" Alisa Xayalith from her contract. She was happy to move on, being an enthusiast for the new direction, principally as a groupie. She is a traditionalist apparently. "Brand transition" is always a complex process, thus in order to continue to sell TNAF back catalogue, they decided to go with a small evolution of their identity. And so the band has become "Kings". The bands first single and video "Living Like Kings, Acting Like Queens" is exciting, edgy, and a bit rebellious, following their recent touring activity as a new all-male group. A natural progression for a talented bunch of guys who have found an aesthetic "home" for the next 12 months or so.