Posts Tagged ‘New Zealand’

Irving to be precise, a New Yorker currently on the road in New Zealand, just him, a trusty bicycle (a Surly Lone Haul Trucker cycle cross with 27 gears) with a trailer packed with a banjo, bouzouki, shruti box, Jew’s harp, mbira and a toothbrush. Irving’s playing up to 80 performances on the road, covering about 6000km across this magnificent country. He says his music is an “eclectic mix of song, story and illusion, designed to be shared in intimate spaces.” He will be playing in people’s homes all across the South and North islands over four months.

After about three weeks on the road I caught up with Gideon . I asked him first of all how’s he managing to lug all that stuff around:

“I am biking between 20 and 90km a day so far and hauling around about 65 kilos of gear. Aside from everything I need I carry a back-up set of many items in case something should break. People see what I’m doing and they say ‘so how long have you been a cyclist’, I tell them I am not a cyclist. I am just a guy who bought a bike and started pedalling. Maybe by the end of the trip I’ll feel differently. The biking is always very, very challenging for me. And many times I arrive to someone’s home and only have a couple hours before the show starts. It’s a challenge but a wonderful one and I’m loving every minute of it.”

How are you arranging the gigs, homestays?  

“Before I got to NZ I arranged about eight gigs through couchsurfer.org. Then I got some press including an interview with Kirsten Johnstone on Music 101 (on Radio New Zealand) and that brought in about 20 invitations. People providing contacts post-show has probably been the biggest booking tool next to the radio interview. I also put out the word to my network back home for any contacts and that has brought in about five shows. It looks like by the end of May, where I will end with a few shows in Christchurch again, I will play between 50-80 shows. Newspaper articles have helped too.”

I tell some stories that kind of bleed into song. I do some things with a looper. I make some odd and dramatic noises at unexpected moments. There is some backwards singing.

How are the shows being received?

“The shows have been received very, very well. People have seemed quiet and engaged and impressively present. Playing shows in people’s homes lends itself to that kind of atmosphere as well. There isn’t a bar, the music isn’t background. You have an hour where people have come to listen to you. For the most part the audiences have been overwhelmingly warm. They seem to be pretty surprised for the most part.

“My show is a bit on the unusual side. I tell some stories that kind of bleed into song. I do some things with a looper. I make some odd and dramatic noises at unexpected moments. There is some backwards singing. I think people are also struck by some odd instruments they have never seen before. Shruti Box, mbira, Jew’s Harps, bouzouki and even the banjo. Shows are always free, but I put my CD’s out for sale and have my helmet out as well for koha. I tell folks they can pay whatever they like for the CD as I am excited to share it with anyone who would like one, but the suggested price is $20. I also say I am grateful for any donations or koha towards my journey/project/tour. Folks have been very generous.”

What’s the most bizarre one(s) so far?

“Hmmmmm….. they haven’t been that weird, mostly just very lovely. One of my favourites so far was in a kitchen in Dunedin. Nine people cozied in between the sink and the stove and we had ourselves a music show. They were a fantastic bunch. The kitchen turns out to be a great space for performance. The room they were going to do it in was ‘destroyed by cats’.

“Audiences have been between six and 100 (100 was at a school for 8-10 year olds, otherwise between six and 45).  In Ashburton my hosts had been overseas for nine months and used my show as an excuse to have a sort of welcome home party. Played in an artist’s loft in Timaru and my host, with his music mates, did a blues rock excerpt from Romeo and Juliette.”

Irving’s album My Brother Is Isaac is out now, available from his website:


It’s a great album, but I don’t have space here to give it justice so will review in a future post.

More info on it from this site:


and more on the tour here:




Read Full Post »

The Tunnel

The Mt Victoria road tunnel was opened in 1931, an era when cars didn’t have seat belts or indicators, nor passengers really as only the wealthy could afford them.
It is the only real link (other than a couple of circuitous detours) connecting Wellington’s international airport and its populous eastern suburbs, and the city centre and everywhere north of it. It’s usually clogged with traffic and is not a pleasureable drive.

Hell, driving doesn’t compare to walking though. The ageing thoroughfare has a raised walkway along the side, with space enough for two skinny people walking extremely close together. One of them has to be no more than 5′ tall to avoid hitting their head against the slope.

It’s also used by cyclists who just slam past, not giving a toss if a pedestrian’s forced onto the waist-height wall, or thrown into the traffic below.
Walking through is a fucker enough with the pollution and incessant noise of traffic, then you’ve got this bizarre Wellington tradition: tooting the horn in the Mt Vic tunnel. That’s a bit of an ear-bleeder.

No-one can quite say what the reasoning behind this is but most drivers just seem to like the orchestral sound of the horn in this claustrophobic alleyway.
One day I’m going to walk through with a banner saying ‘toot if you’re an arsehole’.

Many people who walk through it, do so every day, the cost of the bus being prohibitive for a short journey to the other side and the only foot alternative being the steep climb over the forested Town Belt, which is a must-avoid at night.
Initial predictions, back in the late 20s, were for 4,000 cars per day. By 1995 it was 33,000 per working day and godknows what it is today.

I walked through the tunnel today, with my iPod playing Massive Attack at near full volume and I still could barely hear Morningson. My lungs need a good airing now.
Just thought I’d let you know, should you ever drive through.

Read Full Post »


Who? Novalima

Title: Coba Coba

Label: Cumbancha

Tell me more: Latin rhythms from Peru. Peru? As a Scottish football fan the very word strikes fear into my heart, 31 years after the calamity in Argentina. I’ll say no more other than 3-1 defeat, when we were supposed to win the bloody World Cup, as Ally MacLeod told us often enough. Based in Lima (the clue’s in the band’s name), this four-piece, and their expansive guest-list of singers and musicians, have delved into the origins of the nation’s music, brought over by slaves, and introduced a fresh, modern shine.

Why the fek should I listen to this? Latin music is not the sole preserve of Cuba and Brazil, so free hugs to Novalima for highlighting what kind of music can come from the smaller Latin American countries. It’s laced with reggae, hip hop and folk to create a real melting pot of hot tunes.  The package provides background notes to each track and there’s an intriguing tale of how the debut album was recorded in 2002.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? The desire to appeal to fans of rootsier music and also to those who like dance music means that, sometimes, the true spirit of the music is lost in a soiree of dance beats and production.


Who? Taniwha

Title: Snap Happy

Label: Jayrem records

Tell me more: Taniwha, the Maori name for a fabulous monster that resides in deep water, is Hinemoana Baker and Christine White, two renowned singers in their own right, in New Zealand.

Why the fek should I listen to this? For two individual performers, Baker and White work well on Snap Happy, which is a cohesive body of folk, pop tunes, and ballads with some tunes sung in Maori. I’d buy just for a track called Dumb White Girl and there’s a remarkable use of a Casiotone keyboard on Rest Home.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? If you get to the end of this column, you will appreciate why I personally have trouble coming to grips with this type of music.

Trivia: They use instruments acquired from a recycling station, including a cheese grater and steel wine rack, though the Casiotone keyboard cost $NZ1.


Who? Corey Harris

Title: Zion Crossroads

Label: Telarc

Tell me more: Build me a spliff and get me a tri-coloured beanie. Real reggae is back. Once the domain of Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Big Youth et al, it’s now mutated  into the odious dancehall and played at the same pace as Usain Bolt runs. Zion Crossroads was first released in 2007 and has been given a new lease of life, presumably on account it was given bugger all publicity first time round.

Why the fek should I listen to this? Like the reggae of the 1970s, Harris turns to subjects close to his heart – the modern day slavery in a Sweatshop, the necessity of keeping an identity going to prevent the vultures “swooping down” (Keep Your Culture) and hailing an old rights campaigner, Walter Rodney. That flavoured smoke feels so nice with Crossroads playing in the background.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? That question doesn’t even merit an answer.


Who? Drive-By Truckers

Title: Brighter than Creation’s Dark

Label: New West records

Tell me more: Double-cd of Americana, split into four ‘sides’ a la an old vinyl record.

Why the fek should I listen to this? Country-tinged but with a feel of the Rolling Stones  (3 Dimes Down) and Neil Young (The Righteous Path). The tracks are stories. Daddy Needs a Drink hardly needs an explanation from me.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? I can’t fault the writing process: Poignant lyrics and beautifully-crafted words. But musically it’s crashed into that black hole called country music.

Attic dweller



Who? Motorhead

Title: Ace of Spades

Label: Sanctuary

Tell me more: I only have one heavy metal album: this. Though they have a fanbase of unwashed, long-haired rockers I would be reluctant to pigeon-hole them strictly as greasy metallers, as their appeal crosses over to punks and people who just like the amps cranked up to 11.

Why the fek should I listen to this? Ace of Spades was released in 1980 at the height of the band’s – and heavy metal’s – success. Screachy title track hit No.4 in the UK charts there’s other corkers in (We Are) The Road Crew, and Love Me Like a Reptile. Those two titles are fairly explanatory, but there’s subtelty, if a lack of seriousness therein. The CD version I have came out in 2005 and has a second disk of alternative versions, the b-side to …Spades and a session recorded for the BBC’s David ‘Kid’ Jensen at the time.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? The best of the bunch they might be, but Motorhead could also be predictable, the crash, bang, wallop sound sometimes becoming tedious.

Trivia: Roadies, the bottom-feeders of rock’n’roll tours,  are usually berated by the band, while living off their cast-off drugs. The sleeve dedicates  (We Are) The Road Crew to various people who “helped, got drunk, humped gear, girls etc.” possibly the first ever paen to the proles who keep the tour rolling, with little reward in return, except the drugs, booze, chicks etc etc etc

Read Full Post »



Who? Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band

Title: The Mountain

Label: New West

Tell me more: His name is Earle and he’s an American legend, who once wanted to get it on with Condi Rice, but put the revolution first. The McCoury Band ….. man, you need to look up Wikipedia for that.

Why the fek should I listen to this? Earle takes a punt on bluegrass, and surprisingly comes up smelling up of dew instead of a dead croc. The man is a genius, end of story.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? Bluegrass is still bluegrass. Dolly Parton once did it and ended up with the worst review in the Nairnshire Telegraph in the history of that weekly’s music column.



Who? Oumou Sangare

Title: Seya

Label: World Circuit

Tell me more: Mali’s most female singer, from a country whose obscurity is due to a lack of its football team having never made the World Cup finals. It’s also produced Salif Keita, Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabete. Sangare is a UN ambassador, campaigning against world hunger.

Why the fek should I listen to this? I’m gonna give my stereo a break from all that indie, punk and reggae I constantly subject it to for the day. It’s telling me it loves Wassoulou music, the music of an area of Mali.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? You can take a horse to water ….

You may not know: Wassoulou music, traditionally played on a six-strong harp, is believed to possess magical powers that can protect hunters and tame the most dangerous of animals.




Who? Lay Low

Title: Farewell Good Night’s Sleep

Label: Nettwerk

Tell me more: London-born country music-influenced singer with an Icelandic mother and Sri Lankan father who grew up in Reykjavik. Real name Lovisa Elisabet Sigrunardottir. Best she be called Lay Low.

Why the fek should I listen to this? Doesn’t sound a bit like Bjork nor for that matter outlandishly country. I can imagine this on the soundtrack to a Jim Jarmusch movie.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? You really need to be in the mood for 11 tracks of beautifully engaging, yet morose tracks.

Some history: Debut album Please Hate Me, released in Iceland in 2006. Recorded music for an Icelandic play, that included eight Dolly Parton covers.




Who? Angie Palmer

Title: Meanwhile, as night falls …

Label: Akrasia records

Tell me more: As close as to an English take on Americana that could be possible.

Why the fek should I listen to this? Rough, but beautifully sounding voice.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? Erm, there’s not a thing I haven’t heard before in a million and twelve female troubadours before.

Best line: Too bland for anything out of the ordinary.


Attic dweller


Who? Only An Excuse?

Title: The Real History of Scottish Football

Label: BBC (1988)

Tell me more: I found this cassette in a box and it’s about the most obscure thing I could find to review. I wouldn’t even try looking at eBay for this one.

Are you on drugs Craig? Only the contraceptive pill. I’m putting this in because it made me laugh so hard I brought up a hairball when I listened to it for the first time since Aberdeen FC won a trophy. On-the-button piss-takes of everyone involved in Scottish football … two decades ago.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? No-one’s ever gonna buy it anyway so there’s no point being negative. Or postive for that matter. But, hell, I’ll do that anyway.

Read Full Post »


Who? Franz Ferdinand

Title: Tonight

Label: Domino records

Tell Me More: First album from Scotland’s finest exponents of everything that is 1981, since You Could Have it So Much Better from the end of 2005.

Artwork: The constructivist artwork has gone, replaced by a staged image of the band. Really, they oughta should bring back those sharp shapes and bright colours. The cover you see is from the special edition that includes a disk of dub tracks.

Why the fek should I listen to this? They are the most exciting new band of this decade, and though it can’t beat the epochal debut, it marks a return to form, especially in Ulysses, after the hurriedness of You Can … The double cd is a must-have if you can get it.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? More funk, not enough Fire Engines.

Best line: “I typed your number into my calculator/ Where it spelt a dirty word, when you turned it upside down…”


Who? The Whispertown 2000

Title: Swim

Label: Acony

Tell me more: The sound of college kids on a trip out of town and singing around a campfire, thinking of sex and drinking moonshine cider.

Artwork: Maybe they could have obscured the two guys, one of whom is wearing a hat in the wrong manner and the other has a decidely amateur moustache. Beautiful wee booklet inside with close-up shots of the girls, and thankfully, an abscured shot of the guys, with all the lyrics.

Why should I listen to this? Gillian Welch likes them. Jenny Lewis also appears. A kooky album, with many twists and turns. In many ways a traditional American album.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? See above

Best line: “Ahh ooo, when you got the blues/ Doo wah na na na/ Don’t get caught with your hands in the pot.”


Who? Judith Owen

Title: Mopping Up Karma

Label: Courgette records

Tell me more: Like Alanis Morrisette has gotten older and wiser. Folk music played on piano.

Artwork: Owen’s in a Joan of Arc-style pose, holding a mop in a bucket. Why the fek should I listen to this? Beautiful melodies sung with passion and consideration.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? Even such a lame comparison to Alanis Morrisette would have put most people off.

Lest we forget


Who? Easterhouse

Title: Waiting for the Redbird (1989)

Label: Rough Trade

Tell me more: The world’s shit and we need a communist revolution to sort it out white boy’s soul.

Artwork: Andy Perry’s sepia-tinted face

Why the fek should I listen to this? Largely ignored on its release, Redbird is erratic but does contain angst-cum-action’s-needed-now anthems like Come Out Fighting, You’re Gonna Miss it (When It’s Gone) and the title track. Andy Perry was a flag-bearer for the now defunct Revolutionary Communist Party.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? Perry had lost the band that had recorded the brilliant Contenders in 1986 and it may be argued that raw anger was missing. America is a predictable and cliche-ridden track.

Best line: “There never was anything in my life/ that I got just for asking.”

Read Full Post »