Archive for the ‘Music feature’ Category

PBSPublic Service Broadcasting may possess the least non-rock’n’roll name imagineable, but you can’t dispute what it reveals about this London-based act.

Less rock, more information may be the motto as the 21st century music soars and floats, ably supported by predominantly plummy English accents from clips that belong to a bygone age.

The duo’s debut album, Inform – Educate – Entertain, on Test Card recordings, is a sprightly set of tracks, relying heavily on samples, electronics and traditional instruments such as guitars and drums. And a banjo.

One of their earlier singles, Spitfire, is an inspiring burst of shimmering guitars and beats that mingle deftly with samples from the war-based film The First of The Few in which our dandy heroes dish out a jolly good beating to the boche. Kicking off with a burst of sound from the famed aeroplane, it initially features dialogue about how birds fly, before the guitars go a notch higher and the bird metamorphises into the winged weapon that’s most associated with victory in Europe. Nevertheless, any notion that this might by a suitable anthem for the United Kingdom Independence Party is dispensed by the realisation that undercutting these spiffing words of bravery is the influence of Krautrock, particularly Neu! and Kraftwerk.

As their name suggests, there’s a focus on using samples from public service broadcasts of another era, such as Night Mail, a Royal Mail-commissioned education film from 1936, and the Conquest of Everest from the same year Hillary knocked the bastard off. The past meets the present you could say, and PSB follow a fine tradition trawled in the 1980s by Big Audio Dynamite and Barmy Army/ Tackhead, while rap has long incorporated external voices. But, equally, PSB don’t allow the clips to overwhelm the listener and dominate the track. Instead they provide an extra dimension, but also provide an aural link to a time when such broadcasts were essentially propaganda, crude attempts to control the people, or at least encourage them to appreciate the best that Britain could possibly provide – and the necessity of defending it. It isn’t all about Blighty, ROYGBIV contains a banjo, and a voice from the other side of the pond, but somehow it just doesn’t feel right.

Keep Calm and Carry On indeed.

Listen to one half of PBS, J.Willgoose on Radio New Zealand:


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MARIE BOINE is an artist from Norway with an incredible vocal style (watch the video at the bottom of this article) but her background and culture is far away from A-Ha and Eurovision entries that seems to mark the country’s musical identity.

She was raised in a small village in the far north, where the nights draw in quickly in winter, and daylight is sometimes a 24-hour phenomena during summer.

The region to me and you is Lappland, but to Boine (pronounced Boin-ee) and the rest of her people it is Samiland, or Sapmi, and they are distinct from the Norwegians who mainly live in the south.

Marie Boinee, in conversation, at the Pinetum Stage, Womad, New Plymouth(Craig Stephen)

Marie Boinee, in conversation, at the Pinetum Stage, Womad, New Plymouth
(Craig Stephen)

At an Artist in Conversation session at WOMAD in New Plymouth with Nick Bollinger, the singer described Samiland as “an area that was used by my people, the Samis, for thousands of years. Then it was colonised by the Swedes, the Finns, the Russians and the Norwegians, and they divided our land in four.”

It is a vast region, with differing landscapes throughout, and little vegetation, so fishing is a necessity. The language of the indigenous people is diverse with nine dialects recognised, and some are very different to the others; some are still alive, some moribund. Most of the estimated two million people living across the region are from the Nordic countries and Russia and the voices heard there now reflect that influx. Samiland, therefore, shares a sad history with the peoples of many countries in Europe (Ireland, northern Scotland, Euskadi etc) and globally where colonisers repressed the traditions and language of the inhabitants.


Those who tried to continue to speak in their own tongue in Samiland were chided.
“They banned the old Shamanistic religion that we had and the language” Boine said. “In the schools we learned the language of the majority culture. As a child the Sami language was only spoken in my village, at home, but when we came to school we were told that we had to forget the language so of course we were in a way brainwashed to feel bad about our culture.”

Boine left her village as a teenager to attend teacher’s college where she first became aware of her people’s history, and that had a major influence on her.

“I started to sing for myself because I wanted to trigger all these feelings of being inferior and I also understood that a large part of my people felt the same way. So everytime I published a song people would come to me and say ‘you are singing about me’. I understood that it was important to write and sing in my own language. But I was told ‘why are you singing this language, it will disappear’.

“In my home we spoke Sami so I grew up with the language but not with the singing, the traditional singing was banned. My parents became very Christian so they believed all the lies that the missionaries and the priests told about our culture being from the devil. So when I started to care about these songs I not only had to fight against the majority people but also my parents because they were convinced that the old songs were from the devil.”


Boinee says she learned the songs from those families who refused to accept the Christian belief and kept the songs alive. She also went to the archives which were kept, somewhat surprisingly, by the colonisers because “maybe they wanted to keep the devil’s songs for themselves.”

Her parents were singing Christian hymns every night which at least gave her an opportunity to develop her vocal techniques but her parents also sang “in the old way, they were using the whale singing”. But as she delved further into her own culture and history she found new ways of singing. Some people thought her technique and timbre was similar to that of Indigenous Americans.

Despite being shy, Boinee battled her lack of self-confidence to perform on stage at the college she was studying at, and then was invited to do concerts, and, later, to perform for radio and television.
“In social situations I was very shy, but on stage, that was my home. I found the medicine in the music, that’s why I love to share this with my audience.”

She released her first album, Jaskatvuođa maŋŋá, or After the Silence, in 1985 and in 1989 her second album, Gula Gula, was picked up by Peter Gabriel’s Real World label. In all, she has recorded 11 studio albums. It would be easy to label Boine as a traditional folk singer, but there is far more to her and her band. They use a variety of instruments, some of them just implements that they managed to find a way of incorporating into their music, and Boine uses yodelling or yoik.


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World music is the final untapped form, the last genre to be fully developed and explored. There is no limits to its potential, with hitherto unknown musical forms from obscure corners just being discovered by the west, and the ability of traditional forms of music to be welded into other variants.
That can’t be said for what we regard, in our myopic western society, to be traditional genres – rock, hip-hop, indie, folk, punk, country, etc have all drained the well for so long there’s little to sustain it.
Which is part of the reason I have come to WOMAD in New Plymouth. The city, and the region around it, Taranaki, are not renowned for music of any denomination, but the people have warmed to this extravaganza since it was moved from Auckland a decade ago. WOMAD is a world-wide event, and had just come from Adelaide, but the New Zealand version remains distinctive, and this year features the Human Library where ‘readers’ borrow a book, ie a person, and leaf through their internal pages. Books on the shelves included an ex-street kid, a rape victim and a singer with Aspergers.
I will come back to day two, the busiest day for this writer, later, but will start this review, at what was effectively the end of the festival for me, on Sunday lunchtime, due to time constraints.
The Melbourne Ska Orchestra kicked off a rain-soaked afternoon on the main stage which is surrounded by a ‘moat’, that would certainly prevent anyone stage diving. I’m unsure quite what to make of the Orchestra, which comprises at least 24 people on stage at one time. They went down a storm the previous evening and they’re equally popular on Sunday afternoon, with a version of ska that owes more to My Boy Lollipop (which they played) than to Ghost Town. Lead singer/ conductor Nicky Bomba says the band were brought up on the ska revival of The Beat, Madness, The Selecter and, most of all, The Specials, before they launch into Rudi, A Message To You.
All of those bands were heavily political drawing on experiences, both of their own and of the young people in Britain at the time, of unemployment, racism, social tension  and the rise of Thatcherism. The Specials’ Ghost Town is one of the most potent protest songs ever, on the devastating impacts of such monetarist policies. None of that has rubbed off on the orchestra which prefer to be a fun-packed band, the kind you could hire for a wedding.


The Melbourne Ska Orchestra (Craig Stephen)

The rain of the final day was in contrast with the sunshine the large crowds enjoyed on the previous day. Porky’s day began with Nici d’Arac on the main stage. They were mainly dressed in black and, although singing in Italian, gave the impression of being a folk version of Radiohead. I was taken more by VulgarGrad, a Melbourne band doing a very good impression of Russian thieves, and playing some excellent Eastern European style music.
WOMAD is a festival in which it is quite feasible to turn up a few songs in and still get near the stage but that didn’t apply to those performing, or talking, at the Pinetum stage. Due to being elsewhere at the start of Sam Hunt’s show I was unable to get to the start of his performance, and was left trying in vain to listen to his recitals, not even at the back of the crowd, but beyond it. Alas I had to give up, but from what I did catch, this veteran was very much on form.
Often it is the performances you stumble on that are the most pleasing. A brochure can’t always describe an artist fully, and this was the case for Grace Barbe, an artist I was left unsure about from the festival notes. But when I came round the corner to the Shell Gables Stage I heard a glorious fusion of African and Caribbean melodies that reminded me of a Zouk album I bought in 1987 that contained fantastic sounds from mainly Francophone Caribbean islands. Equally, there are artists hyped to the heavens you feel obliged to see, but I didn’t stay long for Salif Keita. While I very much appreciate African music my head has never been able to comprehend the particular sounds of Mali, though this is not clearly a problem thousands of other festival goers had. The feedback from other attendees was that he was brilliant and I trust their judgement.
* If you have a WOMAD festival experience, from any year or location, please tell us about in the comments box.
Keep watching this blog for my interviews with Lau, and Norwegian/ Sami singer Marie Boinee.

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The organisers of WOMAD have an ear for some truly invigorating music from the four corners, and an act I am particularly delighted to see playing in New Plymouth this year is Lau. It is rare, but not entirely unknown, for Scottish artists to make a breakthrough beyond Berwick-on-Tweed, a perplexing conundrum that doesn’t seem to afflict indigenous acts, or those who claim to be, from the island to the left of Scotland. It is largely to do with commercialism of course and a generic bag of positivity and melancholy isn’t to everyone’s taste.

But Lau seem to bucking the trend. They are a three-piece from northern Scotland, comprising Kris Drever, Martin Green and Aidan O’Rourke, who have so far released three studio albums and a live album. They are named, not as might think after Andy Lau, the Hong Kong singer and actor, but from the Orcadian word meaning ‘natural light’.

I recently saw them on BBC’s Later with … Jools Holland, where they shone among a group of never-wills with their tribute-band brand format. Great bands make fine albums but sound even better playing live, and Lau were intriguing and adventurous despite just the standard two songs being aired, playing a style that mixes traditional influences with virtuoso musicianship, improvisational skills and a sense of the unexpected. Find your Celtic roots by all means but Lau have broader appeal.


Much of the attention this year is likely to fall on reggae legend, Jimmy Cliff, Mali’s Salif Keita and South Africa’s Hugh Masekala, among other heavyweights of the ‘traditional’ music world like The Correspondents, Abigail Washburn and Kai Welch, Peru’s Novalima and our own Fly My Pretties.

Personally I’d be inclined to skip where the hordes are heading and find someone you won’t hear being played in a bar in Coroglen. Such as Nidi d’Arac, a quartet bringing a new perspective to southern Italian folk music. “We simply interpret the Meditteranean traditions for how young Italians living in metropolitan realities perceive the culture now”, says singer Alessandro Copolla.

I’d also recommend Newtown Rock Steady from the esoteric suburn of the same name in Wellington, Aoteoroa. With a line-up of 89 people, give or take a dozen either way, the stage is gonna get mighty crowded. Their name doesn’t lie, they do play rocksteady, and if you don’t know what that is, why are you reading this column. And, finally, time should be afforded for Mari Boine, from what most folk know as Lappland, but the locals prefer to be known as the Sami people, a group that transcends borders in the freezing, inhospitable regions of northern Norway, Sweden and Finland. Boine is a pioneer, in the sense that she explored her own culture, a culture that had been kicked under the table for decades. Now, far from being oppressed, Boine’s appearance comes with the support of both the Finnish and Norwegian governments.

* Womad takes place in new Plymouth, Tarankai, March 15-17, go to  http://www.taft.co.nz/womad/tickets.html?gclid=CLmhofCS3bUCFcgdpQodhw0AHg for line-up details and ticket info.

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It’s been a long time coming. Guy Chadwick and his merry men have hardly been seen or heard since 2005’s Days Run Way album. Now they have an album and UK tour in the pipeline, and Porky is somewhat pleased, to put it mildly. If you don’t know why the pig is slavering, check our feature https://craighaggis.wordpress.com/2009/11/18/legends-of-indie-house-of-love/

She Paints Words In Red will be released via Cherry Red on Monday, April 1. HoL Paints

“We recorded the songs for She Paints Words In Red in ten days in November 2012,” said Chadwick.

“It was great to be recording again, and everything went to plan and gelled from the onset. Terry and I have got back to our original working relationship, with a few healthy quarrels thrown in!”

All the songs are new but there is a reworking of Purple Killer Rose, which first appeared as a b-side on The Girl With The Loneliest Eyes in 1991, and now renamed simply PKR. Chadwick regards it as one of the best songs he’s ever written, but felt they hadn’t done it justice first time around.

The album will be preceded by a single on March 25 on digital, A Baby Got Back on Its Feet, which has a bit of history as you will find a version on YouTube from a gig in Lima, Peru in 2008. It will be released on 7” vinyl a month later. The bonus track, Plans is available on the red vinyl version only.

Full track listing

4. PKR

* Meanwhile, the House of Love’s self-titled debut album from 1988 has also been released on Cherry Red as a three-CD extravaganza, featuring demos, unreleased tracks, b-sides and other goodies.


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I was initially going to write purely about John Peel, and in particular his immense influence and his legacy, centred around a fantastic boxset compilation of records he played and bands’ sessions on his BBC show.
But, on listening to the final track (of 74). I thought that this in itself merited a mention, largely because of a line about the Hillsborough criminal act of 1989 in which 96 innocent football fans.
Peel, who hailed from Liverpool, would become somewhat emotional when he played Does This Train Stop On Merseyside? by the little-known Liverpool band, Amsterdam, and apparently had to play another record straight after.
Which is understandable – it’s a beautiful, uplifting ditty that tears at the heartstrings and would make any man emotional.
The song originally appeared on the 2002 studio album The Curse, and three years later as a single and on the part compilation, part new album, The Journey. Fittingly, Peel was honoured with a train bearing his name, more than three years after he died … in Merseyside.Kat's Karavan
The basis for the song is an unusual monument in Liverpool, but the story behind it delves deep into the city’s history, beginning with a shadowy figure on a cobbled road late at night. The full, fascinating tale is unravelled in detail at Prowse’s wonderful explanation on the band’s website: http://amsterdam-music.com/discography/does-this-train-stop-on-merseyside.
The song also mentions the Hillsborough criminal act, carried out by South Yorkshire Police against innocent Liverpool football fans. It is only now that the full truth of the level of collusion and deception by the Tory government, the police and a tabloid newspaper has fully come to light.
The 1989 disaster killed 96 Liverpool football fans. Police failed to divert fans to empty pens and refused to help them escape the crush. Then the cops covered up their role in the deaths.
“Yorkshire policemen standed with folded arms while people try to save their fellow fans,” almost brought me to tears as it evoked memories of watching that fateful day on television.
It’s one of a few random thoughts that Prowse throws in but he could have revolved a whole song around the subject.


Amsterdam were one of many acts Peel chanced upon or who badgered him or his producer until they took notice, and most of these acts would never have received airplay without their open-mindeness. The posthumous compilation, Kat’s Karavan (Universal) is four CDs of random tracks – recorded or from an in-house session – that featured on his show, and most of the material has been forgotten in the mists of time.
It is, as all compilations are, a very mixed bag, with the fourth disk, covering 2000-2005, being largely forgettable with odd mixes of country, drum ‘n’ bass, all-out-rock (Datsuns, The Hellacopters) and cold indie.
The beginning of the first CD, of the 60s and early 1970s is equally humdrum, as the industry went through a stangatory period following the electricity of the era of love, peace and harmony. There’s Thin Lizzy, folk drone Sandy Denny and the dire Free. But once reggae band Aswad kicks in, safety is reached. There’s a fantastic track by dub-poet Linton Kwesi Johnson and a contribution by Steel Pulse, but the real delights are the new wave and punk classics delivered by the likes of The Slits and The Cure, while the curator has unearthed long forgotten acts such as Nick Haeffner, the Funboy Five (yes five!), …. And The Native Hipsters, and The Bodies. Surprisingly, but pleasingly, there is no Teenage Kicks by The Undertones, Peel’s favourite ever single and on every other Peel-related compilation.

Jarvis Cocker, second from right, with the line-up that recorded for John Peel in November 1981.

Jarvis Cocker, second from right, with the line-up that recorded for John Peel in November 1981.

Few of this is familiar other than to collectors, but it’s all worthwhile, especially a Pulp session track from 1981 when Jarvis Cocker and co were still at school. It sounds nothing like what they would do for the next ten years.
The third disk, the 1990s, is more varied than the previous disks, with The Orb and Thievery Corporation nestling with Brit hip-hoppers Marxman, and typical indie acts like The Delgados and Tiger. But I am stumped by the omission of any African tracks in the boxset, given Peel was instrumental in bringing music from thrughout the continent into the consciousness of the nation. Nor is there anything that resembles ‘world’ music, alas.
The final disk, as already said, is the weakest, but that’s not to say it isn’t without it’s pleasures. And finally I reach the last track, Does This Train Stop on Merseyside?, a very fitting end to finish a paen to music that was all about heart and soul.

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A long time ago, a wet-behind-the-ears Porky would have run a mile from someone playing a Sonic Youth record: those eerie sounds reminded me of a trip to the ear doctor; while titles like Expressway To Yr Skull would have made me wonder what kind of weirdos were making this kind of stuff. The Youth were corrosive and sinister, part of a burgeoning scene in America that had appropriated hardcore punk and welded it into something almost as unlistenable.

A quarter of a century on, Sonic Youth are more accessible but I would harbour serious doubts about playing Smart Bar, Chicago 85 (Goofin Records) while the piglet was still awake. Sonic Youth

This resurrection from the Reagan era takes us back to Bad Moon Rising which had just been released, and the evolution towards EVOL. Recorded on a four-track cassette the sound is remarkably clear, and you can detect heckles and comments from the crowd. There’s some tinkering, of course, and a recording from another tape had to be spliced onto the original due to a ‘pause button faux pas’. While bulked up with Bad Moon Rising tracks there are previews of a couple of EVOL tracks including, at that point, their most accessible tune, Expressway To Yr Skull, and bits and bobs like the never released Kat ‘n’ Hat that will keep collectors enthralled.

As for the casual listener Smart Bar is an intriguing insight into a scene that seeped out from the underground, eventually, I guess, mutating into the rock monster that was grunge. It feels like a gig at which the initiated or the plain curious would have gone, and would have left with either a feeling that something big was going to take place, or that they would have been just as keeping that appointment at the Ear, Nose and Throat department.


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