Monday, July 30, 2007

Like a search for murder clues / in dead men's eyes

I went to New Zealand and came back swamped in music, both new and old. After nine months away my wall of CDs in Auckland became a treasure trove. I looked, I touched and I pulled out a bunch to bring back here to Bali (quite a stack actually, but later trimmed by weight constraints).

My vinyl is another matter. God I miss it, but without ready access to a turntable, or the time to set mine up, all I could do was look and rub my hands and fingers across the spines. I spent a good half a day doing just that in my storage space…it’s an issue I need to resolve soon to stay sane. But that said, simply looking at them gives me real joy.

Yes I know its odd, but there are others out there who understand..not least of those being the staff at Conch Records and the swarm of disreputables (DJs) that I felt the need to gather outside with.

And going into Conch and pulling out kilos of vinyl (my shoulder tells me vinyl should be measured thus) I want but having to tell myself that I need to wait.

fania But, despite that, I came back to this isle with quite a haul. As I type I’m listening to some thumping Roy Haynes, and I’ve got myself a bunch of old Elvis Costello, a bunch of New Order, Carl Craig, Sinatra, John Cale, a couple of those wonderful Miles Davis boxed sets (including the Gil Evans sessions), old NZ garage thingies from the sixties, various early Atlantic collections, and a whole lot more, and now, for a spell, I’m happy again.

And even more so because I did quite well in the need-new-music I’ve not heard before stakes. From Conch came two retrospectively aimed collections that are really doing the trick. Firstly Good God, a collection of very bloody obscure (and I like obscure as much as I like in yer face pop more often than not) soulful gospel and funk tracks, some of which are so relentlessly tough you suspect Satan didn’t let go altogether.

And then there is the Gilles Peterson Fania collection. Somebody at V2 was smart enough to buy the legendary NY Latin label and we can expect a raft of reissues of this glorious stuff in the forthcoming months, to follow those already out. I hate pseudo Latino funk or most Latin rhythms in house, but Fania is the biz and this is so steamy afternoon Bali…worth the price for Willie Rosario’s street grinding take onwillie Rosario that guide to the uses of butter (that Fonterra would rather you didn’t know about), the Theme To Last Tango In Paris.

And then there is the brand spanking new. Well, new to me at least. I love the Justice album….yes I know in pop terms its two months old now, but I’ve mumbled on the single D.A.N.C.E for months now, a blessed mashup best described as Daft Chic, so give me a break please. And there we have it, the inevitable Daft Punk reference, but that’s just daft…this ain’t Musique, this is good old fashioned wave yer hands in the air, hoover rave. For half an hour no prisoners are taken in the cerebral sense…this is nasty synth loud noise for a bunch of kids that are a hell of a lot younger than myself, and aging ravers like me. But who the hell cares. I drove around Auckland with this very, very loud in the borrowed battered Range Rover. It’s fantastic. My peers think I’m odd listening to this one too.

But they might kind of understand The L.E.D.s. Their album came out last year, via a home pressing in Christchurch, in New Zealand’s almost deserted South Island (the isolation helps add the necessary eccentricity to give this its alt-pop glitter), and a lot of people I respected talked about it over the months. But, could I get it in Auckland…nobody had heard of it. Instead I got NZ on Air’s Kiwi Hit Disc 95 in the mail. It was shockingly, gruesomely, awful, and I wondered what had happened to the edge in  NZ’s local industry (nobody is buying NZ records anymore…after tens of millions of dollars spent over the last decade by government agencies, it’s the terrifying truth that no-one will publicly admit to, although they are all saying it in private), until I finally found, via Smoke CDs The LEDsin Wellington, a copy of …we are The L.E.D.s .

I’m in love. I love this album more than I can possibly say, or at least, put into words. This is legacy stuff. I understand this. Any album which references so well early NZ electronica (Car Crash Set and Body Electric), jangly almost early Flying Nun-ish, (although slightly more McGuinn-ish than that) guitar sheen, and yet sounds so absolutely, but simply, contemporary, works well for me. Soft, resigned, melodic and yet, at times, it’s gets resolutely noisy as well. It’s the first perfectly formed pop album I’ve heard from New Zealand this decade. Another album, I understand, is due soon and I’m craving it already.

The L.E.D.S are a garage band, they do it all themselves and almost nobody notices them in the establishment. And then I note that most of those awful records on that Kiwi Hit Disc are getting full signed releases by someone and I understand exactly why, at it's most obvious level, NZ’s recording industry is in such dire trouble, and yet if you dig deeper, it most assuredly is not.


Russell Brown said...

Choice! Join the L.E.D.s fan club. I really can't understand why that album has had such a struggle getting traction, because it's great. Is it because they live in Christchurch and aren't pushy?

Anyway, Public Address is bringing them to Wellington and Auckland at the end of this month. Stay tuned.

Blair said...

hi Simon
wow- I am blown away by what you've said..a bit lost for words. Thankyou so much.
blair, the l.e.d.s

Tom said...

Maybe with this post and Public Address traffic they will sell more. I just bought one at Smoke. Better be that good, Simon :-)