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Thursday, October 14, 2021

REVIEW: ‘Pansousiance’ – Rob Sinclair and Bevan Revell (Rattle Records)


For the music community the hardest thing about last year’s pandemic had to be the enforcement of performance shut down.  Due to social distancing and restricted congregation rules many creatives were forced into their home studios and practice spaces to reinvent themselves as bloggers and podcasters – or they tried out digital colabs across the internet, or , as in the case of Fat Freddy’s Drop, performed in empty concert halls to record the event for home audiences. It was either that or wither away. 

Plenty found ways to respond, to express their feelings and experiences of the lockdowns.  And this is exactly what we have here.  Just released on Steve Garden’s fabulously independent Rattle Records, ‘Pansousiance’ is a collection of awkward, insecure, unpredictable and challenging modern blues classics that speak to the new normal.  It’s an album of introspective tones and instrumentals (all recorded during the first New Zealand lockdown in 2020) evoking all the imagery that is now familiar in our post-pandemic world, particularly the many challenges artists face as they are forced to negotiate our increasingly uncertain world.

Created by multi-instrumentalists Rob Sinclair (Schtung, Big Sideways, 3 Voices) and Bevan Revell (who was recently working as a session musician in Europe) they have intentionally constructed a number of pieces that feel familiar and disorientating all at the same time.   It has been said that Sonic Youth are capable of writing sweet, commercially comfortable pop songs but they choose to ruin them intentionally in the name of art.  Well, this is what happens here, too.  

The album’s cover is a clue.  Sinclair’s photo of a startled horse in full flee-flight.  A nod to last century’s flu epidemic, when horse and cart was still prominent on the streets, bodies taken away on their backs or in the drays they solemnly pulled through the streets.  Or is it a reference to freedom, speed, power? The photo is blurred, creating an unsettling, out of focus picture of an indeterminate event.  A lack of clarity creates insecurity.  Inside the CD version, there are more blurred images – several taken ‘somewhere in Asia’ – possibly China (a reference to Wuhan, perhaps); a dove in a cage (peace or avian flu?); shaving in a mirror, with a mask close to hand.  These are from trips Sinclair has made, perhaps in better times, observations of a culture that we all are now quick to judge.  

The music is created with all the standard stuff, guitars, drums, piano, an Indian shenai and a bass clarinet (provided by Chrs Watt), but it’s the addition of extra ‘tools’ like pot lids and various handmade instruments that gives an unsettling flavour.  Add to that vocals that are layered in an off-kilter fashion, odd percussion timings and bizarre noodling guitars that remind you of a drunken JJ Cale this is a disturbing listen.  Sonically, this is like Tom Waits, Budgie from the Banshees, NZSO percussionist, the late, great Gary Brain and Blixa Bargeld all got drunk together, had an argument and then had make up sex – all in the same night.  It’s a disturbing listen, for sure!

‘Pansousiance’ is possibly a made-up word.  My dictionary came back with a ‘does not compute!’.  But then everything about this Pandemic is new and odd, so there you are.  The best we can offer is that the word is some form of neologism, a reference to indifference or nonchalance.  A reaction in the face of adversity, perhaps?  A shrug of the shoulders, a new normal is here – get used to it.

Slurry speak on the album’s opening track, ‘From Whence She Came?’, reminds me of the endless parade of experts who speculatively droned on about Covid’s potential impacts in the early days of the event.  These early alarmist headlines appear a misquotes from an inebriated barfly, grasping to find blame: “Lax procedure in a P4 lab, Wuhan university”, “South China live food market/ cages stacked ten by ten high” “He cleared his nose/From where she came/The one who sneezed”.  Shudder indeed!  The opening scenes of the movie ’12 Monkeys’.  

The slow, sludgy and often eerie ‘Lockdown’ features some creepy multi-tracked vocals.  They play slightly out of synch, with an addition of a guest singer Louise McDonald. “Put a mask on, go outside/ Don’t breath too heavy / keep your distance now / and don’t go too far”.   There is a disturbing observation.  I think back to watching America in the Trump era denying what he called ‘China flu’.  This lone voice can’t believe was they are seeing: “Trumpets blowing in the U.S.A / Who’s blaming who? Big apples falling down / Got the Wuhan flu?” There’s no escaping: “The fever’s getting high / And I / I’m in Lockdown/ Out of sight.” 

Throughout the entire record there is a constant sense of dislocation and isolation.  Those disorientating vocals are like ghosts or head voices, challenging you.  They are often incomprehensible – and that is also unsettling.  The odd and constantly changing time signatures create and the instrumentation create this “selection of snapshots of a world askew”.

There are several instrumental pieces – The oddball ‘Selling Mustard Seed’”, the freakish Sci-fi  number ‘They're Everywhere’; and more weirdness on ‘Nagoya Gogo’ and ‘Washable Pok Dum Blean’ which sounds like Tom Waits has snuck into the gamelan storage room and had a jam after drinking too much malt liquor. That last one features a ‘milk-carton’ shamisen (a type of kabuki guitar) and a potnan (a sort of bell, like a gamelan), both common Chinese street musician’s instruments.


There are references to wet markets, political wastelands and rigged elections, ‘Panspeciel Transmission’ (that’s what scientists do with DNA to manipulate the species) and grandiose philosophies from the ancient world.  That occurs on ‘Grandees Ball’ which talks of a decay of a civilisation and our dead being transported across the Styx river, that boundary that lies between all of us here on Earth and the Underworld.  Clearly a reference to the unnecessary deaths caused by those leaders around the world who spread ‘fake news’ or denied the real impacts of Covid.   

There are also a couple of more ‘typical’ songs here – ‘Poison Pigeons’ and ‘On the Shelf’ – which are almost love songs to the Covid affected.  And there’s a cover.  Made famous by the Seekers, ‘Isa Lei’ is a traditional Fijian Farewell song.  This version is not the light and breezy send-off that tourists to the Islands may have encountered.  It also has a double layered meaning, with Fiji’s infection rates now being so high.  It’s a song with a different departure in mind. 

‘Pansousiance’ is an hour of difficult listening, an artistic response to soundbites from last year’s One O’Clock stand ups.  Listening during a second major pandemic is even more challenging.  It’s a very clever audio document of our unpredictable times.  Proceed with caution. 


Friday, October 08, 2021

#VAXFORLIVE - AOTEAROA'S MUSIC COMMUNITY UNITE TO GET BACK TO THE STAGE


CALLING ALL KIWIS… The Aotearoa live music, entertainment and concert sector needs your help! With the current COVID-19 Delta outbreak, our much-loved traditional summer of music, entertainment and festivals is in danger, and we are urging music fans and those who love going to any form of gigs to go get vaccinated now, so we can all enjoy some awesome live tunes together again asap! Aotearoa has been lucky in the fight against COVID-19 to say the least. 
The first half of 2021 has brought us many small and large-scale events in a time when the rest of the world was still in restriction. Because of our nations hard and fast approach to lockdowns we have been rewarded with the freedoms to socialise and enjoy live music and entertainment together. 

We want that to continue and there is only one way for that to happen... Earlier this week, the New Zealand Government announced the roll-out of vaccination certificates in New Zealand, with a plan to launch in November this year. Commonly used overseas, the certificates would provide proof that individuals have been fully vaccinated, and the Government is likely to make the use of these certificates mandatory for large-scale events.



“Crowded House were truly blessed to play shows in Aotearoa NZ in March. Live concerts bring joy and freedom that lift the spirits of audience and artists alike. This summer NZ will be open again for concerts but you will need to be vaccinated against Covid. Come on everyone, we’ve had the vaccine, it's safe and it's keeping the ones we love safe” Neil Finn CROWDED HOUSE

“For me getting the vaccine is all about protection - protecting the people who I love who cannot get vaccinated because they’re immunocompromised. Or because they’re ineligible, like my daughter who’s just about to turn 4. And after almost two years of not being able to tour internationally the vaccine gives me the best protection to be able to do the job that I love. I cannot wait to be on stage playing music again here in Aotearoa, and the best way for us to get to that summer of gigs and dancing is to be vaccinated. For our whanau, for our communities, and for ourselves.” LADYHAWKE

Kiwis know that nothing beats live music… except, maybe, COVID. Get vaccinated for gigs now so we can have an epic summer in the sun with some of the best live music and entertainment that Aotearoa has to offer. So, c’mon Aotearoa Vax Together, Stay Together #vaxforlive LET’S GET BACK TO LIVE!!!


Be part of the crowd and book now at www.bookmyvaccine.nz to help us unite against COVID-19 and bring back live entertainment!

Monday, September 06, 2021

Unite against Covid - Update

Covid-19 Update

Other countries (including our neighbors) ridiculed Aoteoroa/NZ for going into a hard lockdown and continuing our elimination strategy with just one case but after a few days daily cases were hitting the 100 mark. Now, only 3 weeks later, we're down to 20 new cases a day whereas New South Wales alone is still close to 1500 cases after being in a slightly more relaxed lockdown for 2 1/2 months. Whose approach is better?

For most of the year we've had almost no restrictions at all (no masks, no gathering limits, no social distancing etc) and it looks like we'll be back to that soon.

All of NZ apart from Auckland drops to Level 2 this Tuesday night (11.59pm 7/9/21) with Auckland remaining in Level 4 a bit longer. Don't take it for granted though. Remember to stick to the Level 2 rules here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Lockdown Level 4

After more than 5 months of no cases of Covid-19 in the community, New Zealand has discovered a case in Auckland. As a result, the entire country goes into Level 4 lockdown as of 11.59pm tonight (Tuesday 17/8/21). For the Auckland and Coromandel regions, this will be for a period of 7 days. For the rest of the country, it will be reviewed after an initial period of 3 days. We are now arguably the most successful country in the world at dealing with the pandemic and successfully eradicated it 'in the wild'. It makes me proud that with even just 1 case the team of 5 million pulls together to do what's needed and the approach of 'Going hard and going early' by Prime Minister Jacinda and the Government has proven to work every time. 

This is just another one of those times, so time to play 'Go home - Stay home' again unless we are essential workers. If you can work from home, you must. If you can't, you get to have a break...at home. If you are unsure of what you can and can't do at Level 4, check the official word here, and yes, Groove FM will be broadcasting from our homes too.

For the full details on the NZ Covid-19 situation, see the government website.

Be Kind

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

2021 APRA Jazz Award Winners Lucien Johnson and The Jac

This evening we celebrate the winners of the APRA Best Jazz Composition and the Recorded Music NZ Te Kaipuoro Tautito Toa | Best Jazz Artist announced at the opening powhiri of the 2021 Wellington Jazz Festival.  

Diverse composer and saxophonist Lucien Johnson was recognised as the APRA Best Jazz Composition for his song ‘Blue Rain’ while Wellington-jazz octet The Jac received the Tūī for Recorded Music NZ Te Kaipuoro Tautito Toa | Best Jazz Artist for their album ‘A Gathering’. 
‘Blue Rain’ showcases Lucien’s mastery of jazz composition as a standout track from the album Wax//Wane.  

After a decade performing together, A Gathering showcases The Jac’s tight, intricate compositions and strong improvision. 

APRA AMCOS Head of New Zealand Operations Ant Healey says: “There’s a lot of experimentation and barrier-pushing in the compositions we’re seeing created by musicians like Lucien and the other finalists. It’s an exciting time to be a fan of Kiwi jazz.”  

Recorded Music NZ Kaiwhakahaere o Ngā Tohu Puoro o Aotearoa Sarah Owen congratulates The Jac for a well-deserved win.  

“How lucky are we to live in a country that has a thriving jazz scene is made up of ringapuoro tautito | jazz musicians like The Jac who craft soulful compositions and albums of such a high calibre.”   

Other finalists for the  APRA Best Jazz Composition award were Anita Schwabe for ‘August Augmentation’, Callum Allardice for ‘Dark Love’ while the finalists for Recorded Music NZ Best Jazz Artist were Lucien Johnson and Unwind.

Finalists for APRA Best Jazz Composition 
WINNER: Lucien Johnson – ‘Blue Rain’ 
Anita Schwabe – ‘August Augmentation’ 
Callum Allardice – ‘Dark Love’  

Finalists for Recorded Music NZ Te Kaipuoro Tautito Toa | Best Jazz Music Artist 
WINNER: 
The Jac – A Gathering 
Lucien Johnson - Wax//Wane 
Unwind – Saffron 


Renowned taonga pūoro musician Richard Nunns dies

Taonga pūoro master player and historian Richard Nunns has been described as one of New Zealand’s most remarkable instrumentalists, has died. He was 76.

Nunns, Māori musician Hirini Melbourne and artist Brian Flintoff were renowned for reviving interest in traditional Māori instruments or taonga pūoro.

Together they researched and recorded instruments held in museum collections, many of which had not been played for over a century, rediscovering their unique sounds and techniques to play them.

Groove listeners will know Nunns through his recordings with Rattle Records and collaborations with local jazz artists such as the Chris Mason-Battley Group.
He has also performed with musicians as diverse as classical orchestras and drum and bass. He's composed and toured with Whiramako Black and Gareth Farr. He contributed to sound tracks for 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Whale Rider'. 

As a long term practitioner Nunns was pivotal to the restoration and education of taonga pūoro.

After Nunns was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2005, he rarely appeared in public but used music as a healing therapy.

He collected numerous awards for his work. He was an arts laureate and honorary life member of the New Zealand Flute Association; received an honorary doctorate of music from Victoria University and a Queens Service Medal for services to taonga pūoro.

A lifetime contribution to Māori music prize was awarded to Nunns at the Waiata Maori  Music Awards in 2012.

Monday, May 31, 2021

National Library: Flying Nun poster collection

As part of Music Month 2021, the label's 40th Anniversary and their huge project to correctly catalog their Flying Nun collection The National Library has selected, framed ad displayed 7 unique posters supporting band gigs and albums from the 1980s. 
Posters include Look Blue Go Purple, The Alpaca Brothers, The Clean, The Bats and the Outnumbered by Sheep bfm student radio compilation.
These are displayed in the downstairs public entrance and are a magnificent document to one of our most memorable and significant periods of music and recording.
for more info go to www.natlib.govt.nz

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

WOMAD RETURNS IN 2022

Photo: Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar

WOMAD, the world’s festival, is delighted that following New Plymouth District Council’s announcement of a host city agreement with WOMAD International, New Zealand’s premier international festival will return to its home of the last 18 years in the stunning Brooklands Park in Taranaki in 2022. The festival dates of March 18-20 have been confirmed.

After a year off in 2021 due to the global pandemic, 2022 will be an extra special year with all the features that have made WOMAD NZ an award-winning festival along with a raft of new ideas and exciting developments to celebrate its return.
Getting WOMAD NZ back up and happening has been a priority for Director of WOMAD International, Chris Smith.

Smith, who has been in New Plymouth for the festival for the last 14 years comments, “2021 was such a difficult year around the world, but this partnership agreement has been central to the decision to bring the festival back in 2022.  WOMAD means so much to the people of New Plymouth who welcome our artists into their community and the festival brings a significant investment into the regional economy – We simply can’t wait to be back here in March.

Now in a five-year direct partnership with the New Plymouth District Council, the three-day WOMAD festival will continue to be produced by TAFT (Taranaki Arts Festival Trust) who have presented the festival in New Plymouth since 2003.

Chairman of the TAFT Board Charles Wilkinson adds, “TAFT is thrilled to continue to deliver WOMAD to the thousands of people who attend each year.  2022 will see the WOMAD NZ festival carry on business as usual for our festival teams and volunteers. We are looking forward to welcoming back WOMAD audiences for our 17th anniversary year.

New Plymouth District Mayor, Neil Holdom said, “This is awesome news for music lovers, local business and visitors as the country emerges from our Covid bubble. WOMAD is part of our district’s DNA.

Smith adds, “We are intending to deliver the international line-up that WOMAD NZ fans expect, through the richly diverse talent already here in New Zealand and hopefully supported by a number of artists from overseas if circumstances allow.”

WOMAD NZ 2022  is set to be a glittering celebration of our Aotearoa/New Zealand cultures and the diversity of our magnificent world as always.

www.womad.co.nz 
www.facebook.com/WomadNZ 

www.twitter.com/WomadNZ 
www.instagram.com/womadnz 
www.youtube.com/channel/WOMADNZ 
https://open.spotify.com/user/womadnz 

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

The Art Of The Record Exhibition



The NZ Music Commission are presenting, an exhibition of album artwork by NZ artists and musicians to celebrate the art of recorded music, coinciding with the 21st anniversary of NZ Music Month. This exhibition’s purpose is to celebrate the Art of the Record - the album format itself, and the insight its design provides to the artist and the music. 

The exhibition is touring to four centres and open free to the public during May 2021. To be eligible, both the album cover art and music needed to be by New Zealanders, and from albums released over the 21 years since NZ Music Month launched.  

The exhibition was initially conceived to be displayed in parliaments Bowen House gallery space. This space has since closed and the exhibition was refocused on getting the works to more places and people. As an organisation the NZ Music Commission embrace the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and strive to create a diverse and equitable environment for the creation and sustainability of the New Zealand music industry and associated business. 

As such the artworks chosen have been curated from many sources, including Tui finalists and winners of Aotearoa Music Awards as well as potentially lesser known artists and acts. These are a stunning visual representation of music and album art that speaks to the viewer about where we are from. 

With the works only spanning since the year 2000 the NZ Music Commission have endeavoured to find something for everyone to enjoy through either the genre of music, to the art style of the pieces. 

 The NZ Music Commission have gathered many original paintings, photographs and sculpture, which are on loan for the duration of the tour. 

The tour starts in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland at Monster Valley on Karangahape Road 1 May.  The show then travels to Te Auaha Gallery on Pōneke Wellington’s Dixon Street for 10 May; the 17 of May sees us open in The Pūmanawa Gallery in Ōtautahi Christchurch’s historic Arts Centre and finishes the month in Ōtepoti Dunedin in the Golden Centre.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Te Marama Pouro o Aotearoa | NZ Music Month - May 2021

NZ Music Month’s Rodney Fisher commented: “With a focus on bringing great music from Aotearoa to all New Zealanders, we look forward to highlighting stories from across the country, along with the reminder to support our musicians by getting out and catching live gigs, streaming local, following local acts online, and buying local music and merch.”

To mark 21 years of NZ Music Month | Te Marama Puoro o Aotearoa, the NZ Music Commission are proud to present Art of the Record, a travelling exhibition to showcase 21 iconic album covers. The exhibition will open in Auckland on May 1st, before travelling to Wellington for May 10th, followed Christchurch on May 17th and Dunedin on May 24th.

Art of the Record’s curator Willa Cameron from NZ Music Month commented: “We’ve compiled a beautiful collection of artworks across various musical genres, including Fat Freddy’s Drop’s Boondigga from Otis Frizzell, and The Mint Chicks’ Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No! from Ruban Nielson. We think there’s something for everyone in our collection of 21 pieces.”

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Beyoncé Leads the 63rd Grammys Awards With 4 Wins


It was Beyoncé’s night at the Grammys yesterday. The singer won four awards last night and is now winner of the most Grammys ever. This is her 28th win (plus one for daughter Blue Ivy Carter) 

Taylor Swift picked up Best album, and Billie Eilish scored Record of the Year. 

The Black Lives Matter movement was honored with a performance by Lil Baby and a film about Beyoncé’s 'Black Parade'. Megan Thee Stallion was left speechless by her Best New Artist win. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

2021 GRAMMYs Awards Show: Jazz Nominees

The 63rd GRAMMY Awards are airing Sunday, March 14, 2021. And we have the nominees for this year's Jazz Category 

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah

Best Improvised Jazz Solo
For an instrumental jazz solo performance. Two equal performers on one recording may be eligible as one entry. If the soloist listed appears on a recording billed to another artist, the latter's name is in parenthesis for identification. Singles or Tracks only.

  • GUINNEVERE
    Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, soloist
    Track from: Axiom
  • PACHAMAMA
    Regina Carter, soloist
    Track from: Ona (Thana Alexa)
  • CELIA
    Gerald Clayton, soloist
  • ALL BLUES
    Chick Corea, soloist
    Track from: Trilogy 2 (Chick Corea, Christian McBride & Brian Blade) 
  • MOE HONK
    Joshua Redman, soloist
    Track from: RoundAgain (Redman Mehldau McBride Blade)

Thana Alexa

Best Jazz Vocal Album
For albums containing at least 51% playing time of new vocal jazz recordings.

  • ONA
    Thana Alexa
  • SECRETS ARE THE BEST STORIES
    Kurt Elling Featuring Danilo Pérez 
  • MODERN ANCESTORS
    Carmen Lundy 
  • HOLY ROOM: LIVE AT ALTE OPER
    Somi With Frankfurt Radio Big Band Conducted By John Beasley 
  • WHAT'S THE HURRY
    Kenny Washington

Ambrose Akinmusire

Best Jazz Instrumental Album
For albums containing at least 51% playing time of new instrumental jazz recordings.

  • ON THE TENDER SPOT OF EVERY CALLOUSED MOMENT
    Ambrose Akinmusire
  • WAITING GAME
    Terri Lyne Carrington + Social Science
  • HAPPENING: LIVE AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD
    Gerald Clayton 
  • TRILOGY 2
    Chick Corea, Christian McBride & Brian Blade 
  • ROUNDAGAIN
    Redman Mehldau McBride Blade

Gregg August

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album
For albums containing at least 51% playing time of new ensemble jazz recordings.

  • DIALOGUES ON RACE
    Gregg August 
  • MONK'ESTRA PLAYS JOHN BEASLEY
    John Beasley’s MONK’estra 
  • THE INTANGIBLE BETWEEN
    Orrin Evans And The Captain Black Big Band 
  • SONGS YOU LIKE A LOT
    John Hollenbeck With Theo Bleckmann, Kate McGarry, Gary Versace And The Frankfurt Radio Big Band 
  • DATA LORDS
    Maria Schneider Orchestra

Afro-Peruvian Jazz Orchestra 

Best Latin Jazz Album
For vocal or instrumental albums containing at least 51% playing time of newly recorded material. The intent of this category is to recognize recordings that represent the blending of jazz with Latin, Iberian-American, Brazilian, and Argentinian tango music.

  • TRADICIONES
    Afro-Peruvian Jazz Orchestra 
  • FOUR QUESTIONS
    Arturo O'Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra 
  • CITY OF DREAMS
    Chico Pinheiro 
  • VIENTO Y TIEMPO - LIVE AT BLUE NOTE TOKYO
    Gonzalo Rubalcaba & Aymée Nuviola 
  • TRANE'S DELIGHT
    Poncho Sanchez

Find out who is nominated in each of the 83 categories in the full nominees here