Saturday, December 29, 2007

O-U-T spells "out"

When a wise close friend tells one on Christmas morning, by phone from Australia no less, to take care and to say no if you have any doubts, you should probably heed the advice.

Four hours later I tossed that advice around from one side of my mind to the other as I stood sheltering in the Scoot office on the Sanur beachfront…sheltering from the squalls of rain that were whipping across the grey expanse of the beginnings of the Lombok of the world’s deepest sea channels, and the divide between Bali’s mainland and the usually tranquil Nusa Lembongan. Do we go or do we stay and wait….ahhh, fuck it all, let's go. How bad can it be? After all, Indonesia hasn’t a history of marine disasters, and the weather can’t get that bad, surely. Brigid asks the smiling girl in the green uniform with the clipboard who says, reassuringly, that it might just be “a little bit bumpy”.

So off we go, convincing ourselves that the storm that’s been rocking Sanur all morning is easing, that the big grey blob on the horizon is actually dark blue, and into the smallish Scoot motor launch which I tell myself is well and truly ready for anything, noting the lifejackets, GPS and obvious flares. And the crew, naturally, are very experienced.

a That the captain / driver (I don’t know what one calls these people…it’s a boat, not a ship, but he does seem to have a two man crew) is chain smoking in direct, we are to find out on the return trip, defiance of Scoot rules, should have meant something. But, this is Indonesia and people smoking in confined spaces regardless of the discomfort of others is, like people who have no idea how to drive having full reign over the roads, something you take for granted.

The first few hundred metres, perhaps even kilometre or two, was relatively fine. As the lady said, a little bit bumpy. Aside from the engine stalling before we passed the Sanur reef of course (although the folks we spoke to on the return journey yesterday..which took some courage, mind..said that the day before they’d floated adrift for ¼ an hour before the crew had convinced the outboards to return to life). Then the first squall hit and off we went. Vision, in any direction quickly reducing to about two metres, the captain sent one of his crew, fag in hand, through the front hatch onto the bow, where, unattached to the vessel, he sat, god knows how he managed to…and the fag went out… for the next forty minutes and directed the captain with hand signals. I’m guessing that without his guidance, our next landfall may well have been Flores.

That aside, after the first twenty minutes it all went rather calm again. Of course calm is a relative term when that means the boat is simply crashing from mountainous wave to wave instead of lurching at an almost 90 degree side-wards swivel as we'd been a few moments earlier.

And, so, we thought it was over, in a good way. I guess I should’ve taken rather more notice of the frantic waving from the chap at the front and the nervous toothy grin emanating from the third crewman sitting opposite.

The cause of the frantic waving was, we were shortly to find out, the impending moment when we were to enter the collision zone between the famously brutal currents that rush past the bottom of Lembongan out of the Nusa Cenida / Nusa Penida channel (which is notorious for sucking innocent Korean snorkelers out of the mouth of Crystal Bay and handing them back three days later) and the fast rising gales whipping down the west coast of Lembongan.

And then we thought it was all over, in a really bad way. The waves were now substantially higher than the boat, the frantic man up front was literally holding on for his life as tower block sized waves crashed down on him. And the captain’s eyes bulged as he gunned the engines, which now seemed to be spending more and more time in the air as the nose of our scoot plunged into the wall of water.

And then it was as calm as a Lilly pond (relatively speaking of course) and the captain smiled and said “Ok?” And we all got off. b

The rain pelted down at Tanis Villas and we played 3 handed 500 and our pirated  magnetic Indonesian Monopoly set (includes Train Station of Tokio, Harbour of Sidney and Unio Soviet amongst its properties but pays $20,000 on passing go…however you go around the wrong way and nothing is colour coded correctly, a bit like the country of manufacture).

And had a drink at the local cafe, but avoided the specialty cocktail.

How was your Christmas?

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Hold tight wait till the party's over / Hold tight We're in for nasty weather

Ultimately, all these scenarios have to satisfy the same human urges: What do we need music to do? How do we visit the land in our head and the place in our heart that music takes us to? Can I get a round-trip ticket?

Its getting lot of press pretty much everywhere at the moment, and there isn't much there that hasn't been said many times before but David Byrne's Wired musings on the state of the recording industry as it relates to artists and record companies ties it all together rather well and is well worth the time to read. And the conversation audio snips with Brian Eno are very much worth the extra few minutes if this topic is of interest. These are not minor players.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

on the first day of Christmas.....



the ghost of XMAS past.....lest we forget....Prego 2004 (and suffice to say we were just observers....seriously..)

Say / my god / I say something

And so this is Christmas, and what have you done……..and all that nonsense of course.

Here in our corner of the world you’d be hard pressed to work out that you were slap bang in the middle of the most populous Muslim country on the lord’s (whichever one is yours) planet. Java is perhaps different (although the malls are all decked with fake holly and bells there too), but in Bali they certainly do the holidays well..all of them, be they Christian (bearing in mind there are more Christians in Indonesia than there are people in Australia), Muslim, or, naturally, Hindu.

The serving staff and shops and restaurants are all beaming underneath their Santa hats and fake snow…oh yes. In Ace Hardware, in the always oddly deserted Kuta Istana Mall (right next to the giant fake snow and ice fantasy pavilion that the locals queue year round to enter) the almost life-size nativity diorama (a snip at Rp3,000,000…about US$320) and the 5 metre high fake Chrissie trees (only Rp5million) seem absolutely illogical, but as someone recently said, Indonesia would not be Indonesia if you threw logic into the national mix.

Indonesians are very, very good at celebrating just about anything.

And the Chinese restaurant we went to tonight had all the trimmings including a much better class of fake Santa hats than I’ve ever seen in New Zealand.

When we had The Box and Cause Celebre we enforced a strict no Santa hats policy at this time of the year. We could, of course, have been accused of being grumpy old men. But more likely we just didn’t want the roaming meat-head, office party factor coming down the stairs. A no-Santa hats policy was easier than explaining repeatedly to people: you are drunk and you look like a twat so you are not welcome.....

None of this has anything to do with the main purpose of this post which was to pop up a couple of Kevin Saunderson tracks that have been sitting on my server for about six months waiting for me to remember, and the Box / Santa hat thing twigged my memory, as both of these were monstrous at said club. I’ve a soft spot for Saunderson’s Inner City, what with the soaring Paris Grey vocals, and the happy line they drew between the pure Detroit techno that Kevin was instrumental in pioneering (legend has it he coined the term) and dancefloor anthems. IC are well served by compilations and track appearances here and there, but usually in their OG form, with the raft of rather exceptional remixes generally being MIA. So with that in mind I thought I’d post a couple here:

Firstly, the Dave Clarke mix of Ahnonghay, which may or may not be my favourite single in any genre from the 90s (this came out in 1995) depending on the day. The DC mix is good old fashioned, rush to the floor almost banging tech-house (before there was such a thing) but Inner Citypretty much manages to hint at the searingly beautiful original, tucked away on the flip, next to an equally lovely, though quite different, very purist, Carl Craig mix…..

Inner City- Ahnonghay (Dave Clarke Mix) (6 X 6, 1995).

And then, as is to provide a contrast, from further back, 1989, to be exact, come the rather legendary Def Mix of Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin', which was extraordinarily hard to find new until the recent Defected Def Mix collection came out. Sadly, that collection has it only as part of a rather patchy mixed triple CD (such a wasted opportunity), and it’s still hard to find on its own. So to rectify that, here you go, complete with the classic lush Knuckles / Morales rolling groove and the lovely drop down to a downtempo Move Your Body riff at 4.55.

Inner City - Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin' (Def Mix)(Ten 1989)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dear lord I sincerely hope you're coming / because you really started something

I’ve blogged a best of the year styled list for quiet some years now and I guess I need to do something similar, if only to satisfy myself. I don’t really like these lists simply because there are so many records I’ve simply not heard, probably more than ever, being, as I am, somewhere to the left of Papua new Guinea these days. Bali is not a great place to acquire music. You can buy a pirated copy of virtually any pop disc with a week of international release. But anything interesting is almost an impossibility. Fortunately I get to travel a bit and, to Brigid’s enduring bemusement, my first stop in almost any city is whatever independent record store I can track down. Some places are better than other. Singapore has nothing of interest..the corporates have strangled it and its record shops are as soulless as its other shopping (unless you want something electrical). On the other hand, if you know where to go, Bangkok, and Jakarta are both absolute goldmines.

Thank god for all the freebies I continue to get in the mail (thank you), and of the course the internet in its various retail and digital forms.

So, rambling ahead, below are the records I heard that I liked a lot this year…

I had a brief love affair with Studio’s pretty album West Coast a month or so ago, but after a week or two it felt a little twee and overly try-hard in places, although their Escape From Chinatown, ledswith Brennan Green is rather lovely. But, to be honest I’m finding much of the Scandinavian nu-Balearica a bit much now, that said however Origin off the album is still an absolute classic, and for that track alone its worth a mention.

And that track is not a million miles away from one of my most played albums of 2007. I’m cheating because The L.E.D.S debut was released in 2006, but I didn’t get it until…I’ve already gone on at length here about how much I loved this album, and suffice to say I’ve been thrashing the unmixed tracks from the unreleased second album that they were kind enough to send to me. Why in gods sake don’t these people have a record deal???

NZ wise, it’s easy to lose touch but I liked the Phoenix Foundation’s Bright Grey, despite that fact that it was resoundingly old fashioned, like a happy warm kiwi rug. It was just a nice song and stood out from the relentless chaff on the Kiwi Hit Discs. I’ve yet to hear the album.

My other NZ moment was the mighty Something Error Happens by The Others Requiem, but hey, I’m biased and rather proud of it.

I got a buzz from the one off supergroup The Good, the Bad and The Queen, mostly because of R-970149-1181744537the lopping bass playing from the long missing in action (musically anyway) Paul Simonen. The former Clash-man is my favourite rock’n’roll bassist ever but it was a wake up call how old and weedy the erstwhile glamour boy now looks (this was the year that Sid Vicious would’ve turned 50 after all..think about that!)

And talking of The Clash, the cover of The Call Up , as reworked by Martin Buttrich with The Far East Band is kinda perfect, mashing my nostalgia with a classic sparse dubby electronic thingy that builds for ten or so minutes with nice swooping synth lines. A huge favourite right now.

Yep, electronic music really is in really good shape, with the tail end of the minimal thing and the thing they call dubstep both turning out future classics. The two genres met in the Ricardo Villalobos mix of Shakletons’ Blood on My Hands, all 19 odd (and I mean that in every sense) minutes of the hypnotic, sparse, repetitive loopingness (new word I think) that only sounds like, ahh, Ricardo Villalobos. His sound is so thoroughly unique and so is he…taking his Fabric album and turning it into an artist album by only using his own productions could’ve failed embarrassingly but was, instead, rather a triumph, especially the middle where it gets quite quirkily nutty.

Other singles or tracks I liked: both sides of the Hercules & Love Affair single; Joakim’s Lonely Hearts; Aeroplane by, uhh, Aeroplane; the DJ Koze mix of The BattlesAtlas (and I truly disliked the original); Rekorder 8; Francois K’s Road of Life as reworked in a very tracky manner by Quiet Village; the almost Planet Rock-ish (which brings it all back to the beginning) remix of Cybotron’s Clear by Cobblestone Jazz; Âme’s Balandine EP; Nard’s by Trusme; Anders Trentemøller’s Djuma Soundsystem mix, and his Evening with Bobi Bros and, god, dozens more…R-997933-1182503937

Both the Burial album and the Pinch album (now out with a bonus disc..doesn’t that piss you off) easily sit in my favourite long players of 2007. I love the fact that dubstep is the bastard child of so many things, not least is the Bristol movement of the late eighties onwards.

And to Carl Craig….his side on the Kings Of Techno double was ruined by his crowd rousing voiceovers (unlike the sublime Laurent Garnier mix), but elsewhere he continued to excel, like the entrancing live remake of At Les on the Paris Live EP; the Angola-ish remix of Tony Allen’s Kilode; his Faze Action re-visit; and the remixes of Inner City, Siobhan Donaghy, the Lazy fat People. His take of LCD Soundsystem’s Sound of Silver was just another highlight in James Murphy’s calendar rather chocka full of them.

Anyway you look at it LCD ruled 2007. The Sound Of Silver album slayed almost everyone ( utterly confused much of America, which is not surprising…middle America has been a Walmart driven musical vacuum for decades, as evidenced by all those god awful post frat bands the likes of Pitchfork so love to tout). And to top it off, the 45.33 Nike thing was finally given an official release. They are this decade’s great band.

It was completely different but the Nomumbah album Love Moves, recommended to me by Cian at Conch, remains the supreme, for want of a better word (and one is needed if we are to avoid all the horrendous connotations of the word), chillout, record. God knows how many afternoons I’ve played this, and I’m playing it as I type.

51BTy6d4ZUL._AA240_Kathy Diamond’s Miss Diamond to You was the torch vocal album of the year…it’s odd how all those faux Amy Winehouses and their ilk get the word when there are records this damned good smouldering away below the radar.

I have to admit a soft spot for the odd noisy band. The Arctic Monkeys, The Klaxons and Justice all found themselves getting played rather loudly in the bale on more than a few occasions. Snotty noise is good.

And on a completely different tangent, I found a place for Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’s Rising Sand and was pleased to see that Plant has decided to put this project ahead of any bloody Zeppelin tour…the idea of which appals me…please, no…the man has soul.

There were lots of worthy reissues and re-releases. Over the years my copy of The Young Marble Giants’ Colossal Youth has almost worn through, but now, of course we have it remastered with two bonus discs, so I can file the vinyl.

The Eddie Kendricks collection, The Thin Man, featuring the second batch of his solo albums at Motown is quite something (even it was officially 2006), as is the recent Aretha outtakes double, and the two albums on Numero Group, Eccentric Soul: The Deep City Label and Good God both of which I discovered this year.

And it wouldn’t, for me at least, be complete without mentioning the remastered Car Crash Set’s not out until 2008 but if I can talk about records released before 2007, surely I can enthuse about one still to come….

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

People who life in Bali.....

Sitting with a friend, a German furniture manufacturer of some reputation here in Bali, a few days back and he was bemoaning the lack of precision in the country. The problem, it seems, comes from the Indonesian adherence to the centimetre as a the smallest unit of distance. The ‘Centi’ as it’s called here is the standard applied to all building and manufacturing processes. In much of the rest of the world (the USA aside, they’re still somewhere in the middle of the British Empire circa 1776, with inches and yards for gods sake) the millimetre is the defining unit, thus allowing for a level of precision that using centis prevents. I guess that explains the gaps in buildings all over the island. Indonesian architects may build fine multi storey malls and towers in Jakarta, the equal of any in Asia, but here in Bali, the builders and architects seem unable to make walls satisfactorily meet floors. Visit the newish Discovery Mall in Tuban (the link is worth a read..if their building skills are as good as their English, or their web design...), which just feels like its falling to pieces, and tell me it ain’t so.

However that said, I’m mightily impressed by the new footpaths that have been going down around the Kuta area over the past two years. They are well built, the stones fit snugly and they seem to be very disabled friendly, which is quite a step forward. In particular they all feature those yellow plastic middle tiles designed to aide blind folks navigate the streets.

However the footpath building spree seems to have ended, as most of the footpaths in the busy areas have been done and now, disabled or blind you can walk the streets of Kuta with increased confidence…..

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Monday, December 10, 2007

To the far side of town / where the thin men stalk the streets / and the sane stay underground

So here we are in the midst of the UN climate talks in Bali, most of which is being held some 20km away from where I’m writing, at the gilded ghetto (that’s what it’s actually often called) of Nusa Dua.

It’s actually not been as bad as we all thought it might have been. 10,000, mostly lower level, functionaries, their spouses, and, by all accounts a swarm of the next generation of snake oil merchants, carbon credit merchants..mostly out of NYC it PC012155seems. The Americans may be the environmental bad boys but they are not adverse to making money out of Kyoto.

Lots of places one may have though would be rather over populated are quite quiet (see Ku de Ta on left last week), although the Queen's Tandoor was pumping a couple of nights back.

The traffic has been the usual quagmire but apart from the odd bus full of spouses being dragged up to the silver shops or the monkey forest, screaming past on the bypass at 90 kmh with flashing police escort as all and sundry dive out of the way, not that much worse than before. Oh and there are guys in cheap plastic shades (all aged circa 17) standing on each corner with submachine guns, almost like Singapore. As Brigid pointed out, if one was to want to execute a very, very important person, a sniper shot to each of these guys first, as obvious as they are (and I really don’t think the guys arranging this are smart enough to have thought about hidden gunmen RI its all about the obvious bravado) would allow an aspiring assassin free reign.

There are Indonesian navy patrol boats off shore too. I guess there is some concern about Al-Qaeda trained Sea Turtles on suicide missions.

My favourite comment so far is from the lady from Uganda who commented on how orderly and well behaved the traffic in Bali was. I’ve made a note to keep out of East Africa.

It’s a conference of contradictions to be sure.

Firstly there is the venue. Nusa Dua, built by the World Bank, in collusion with the Suharto family and assorted buddies has a bit of a taint to it in this part of the world, what with villages having being forced out without compensation, reefs being dynamited and the like. It's a part of Bali's often dark, and still unresolved (or admitted) past. It seems like an odd place for the World to come together to sort out its problems. That coupled with the fact that locals, unless they work there, are really not that welcome within its walled 60 acres (nor would they likely wish to..its a ghastly, horrendously overpriced, sterile sort of place with little soul populated by garish they-could-be-anywhere chain hotels).

Secondly the idea that over 100 jets needed to be parked in the region seems at odds to the whole concept of climate control..haven’t these people heard of plane pooling……

I’m not at all sure about any of this.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Pardon the way that I stare / There's nothing else to compare

It felt like a cross between a National party convention and a Fellini movie. But, ten, not having been to one perhaps that’s what all National party conventions feel like.

I’m talking about the annual Rotary Club of Bali Christmas party to which we were invited last night. We were invited by our friends, S & K, whom we like a lot (although K is the sort of guy I don’t talk politics with..he’s my hard right wing buddy who mused last night that the leftie "wingnut" media makes up all the bad news, Iran needs taking out, and GWB is on a hell of a that point I moved the subject towards their recent African vacation).

The Bull But mostly we laughed. There were, naturally, the speeches and the charity auctions, and raffles (first prize, two tickets to Jakarta on, ummm, Mandala Airlines, and a section of floral nylon sheets), oh and there was a Santa who arrived on a large painted paper maché bull. All good.

And I can deal with the jolly ex-pat Hotelliers..most were rather pleasant and fun. Although too many years in the expat world does funny things to one, and you will never get me in one of those rayon pseudo batik shirts so beloved of aging gents in this part of the work. That I swear.

The whole thought of Rotary or Lions or any of those sorts of blokey (regardless of the actual sex of the devotee) “good works” fellowships make me cringe. They really do have an aura of National Party-ness about them (as do the shirts).

As the night went on we were introduced to a series (two or three, its hard to tell, one looks much the same of the next if I’m honest) shows from Divas.

The Diva concept is a hard one to properly explain to a non-Indonesian resident. You could throw the oft used “all round entertainer” term around but it doesn’t do the “Diva” justice. Imagine Oprah Winfrey with huge hair, overblown, almost grotesque makeup, a pawing public who wants to know your every move (to whom you are happy to have your publicist feed all sorts of personal trivia, giving you an almost goddess status amongst many), a starring role in a series of shockingly awful soaps, the odd movie and a parallel career as a singer of gruesome clichéd pop pap complete with huge live Saturday night shows, all singing and dancing like, and you almost come close.

So, we were, lucky us, treated to three Diva sequences. Only second level Divas mind, as the A list would be unlikely to deign to treat the good folks of the Bali Rotary Club to their Xmas presence. They are strictly Jakarta AAA and Bali is only for the beachside villa and odd open air throng of adoring thousands.

The second Diva (or perhaps it was a second set from the first) opened her show by telling us she was performing for free..and offered to auction herself. Exactly what that meant I didn’t get to find out. But, as she launched into an extended version of Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You, complete with a radio mike as she wandered into the audience looking for singalong, there were few takers. That was probably partially because as she got closer, and the makeup hid fewer flaws, our Diva looked increasingly rough (ok call me sexist, but it was the women in our group who first called that).

Over the next hour or two Diva one, two and three treated us to quite a selection…Feelings is a goodie, no? Never heard that one before, or Simply The Best, or a couple of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s bigger hits…although the aura of Suharto gives anything from Evita a resonance in RI.

The invite threatened a magician but he didn’t show and no-one asked where he was. In Indonesia you don’t complain, a local friend of ours tell us. However the listed dancing troupe most surely did show and took the evening to another level.

Personally, whilst I got a buzz from the two Come Dancing refugees waltzing (or something to do with their feet) out of step with each other whilst dressed as Senorita and Bullfighter, I though the plate dancing (!), and the Can-Can dancers who repeatedly lifted their skirts for extended periods, and bent forward, spreading their legs in slender G-Strings, had a certain something and certainly the local lads in the audience (and their wives too) seemed to agree, with a roar of glee each time (there were a few).

I’d always though the Can-can was about titillation, but like the spirit of Christmas here (the staff at Ace Hardware wearing reindeer antlers for example), some things are reinterpreted in ways we don’t always expect.

Wonder how that anti-porn bill is doing in the legislature at the mo….

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

But killing is really merely scene changer / All men are bored with other men's lives

A few things I came across last night that I found of interest, which I’ll link to with little comment…first up this story on the disappearance of Iraq’s Christians….under the watch of a born again President….

All of the major Republican presidential candidates, echoing the White House, assure us the surge is working, that things are much better in Iraq. They say we're winning, that Iraq is a generational ideological battlefield.

These men believe invading a Muslim country that posed no threat to America was a good idea, but not one of them has explained to their predominantly Christian base that the policies they embraced not only killed or displaced milliions of Muslims but also opened a pandora's box that obliterated a million member Christian community. Someone should ask them about that.

Then a rather pragmatic Salon piece about the Surge from Professor Juan Cole…

What the recent publicity about the "success" of the troop surge has ignored is this: The Bush administration has downplayed the collapsing political situation in Iraq by directing the public's attention to fluctuating numbers of civilians killed. While there have been some relative gains in security recently, even there the picture remains dubious. The Iraqi ministry of health, long known for cooking the books, says that a few hundred Iraqis were killed in political violence in November. However, independent observers such as Iraq Body Count cite a much higher number -- some 1,100 civilians killed in Iraq in November. They reported that bombings and assassinations accounted for 63 persons on Saturday, the first day of December, alone.

Then, in the aftermath of the rather shocking (for those who want yet more blood in the Middle East) US NIE report comes this timeline from Digby illustrating how the US hard right have made it up to suit their agendas for years: and from Arms Control Wonk, who argue that none of this is really a surprise to anyone who’d actually thought about it..or of course if you’d listened to Mohamed ElBaradei, this is pretty much what he and his agency have been saying for a hell of long time.

“Despite repeated smear campaigns, the I.A.E.A. has stood its ground and concluded time and again that since 2002 there was no evidence of an undeclared nuclear weapons program in Iran,” a senior agency official said. “It also validates the assessment of the director general that what the I.A.E.A. inspectors have seen in Iran represented no imminent danger.”

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

If you try, you'll find me / where the sky meets the sea

It’s another beautiful day here in paradise. The sun is up, its thirty odd degrees, the rooster next door is crowing away as it does on and off all day (I thought these things were supposed to make daybreak noise..this lazy bugger doesn’t get going until 9 or so).

Yes, it’s a wonderful day, and the local folks outside are gate are smiling as they do all over Indonesia. I’m feeling great…and then, via email, this arrives:

The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has today updated its travel advice for Indonesia. Full text below.


….. Bali high risk

Our advice against all tourist and other non-essential travel extends to Bali…..(the whole thing is here)

I dunno what to say about this really but I’ll give it a go. I’m aware (more than most gustuofferingI’d say) of the bombings, the aftermath to those bombings and the threat to we non-Indonesians here in Bali. And I’m also aware that our government has a responsibility to warn its citizens of any real threat to their safety whilst abroad.

And therein lies my problem with these warnings, and, I think, pretty much every other New Zealander I’ve discussed this with agrees, as do Australians and Americans here.

We live day to day here, we encounter Indonesians of all religious and political colours and we don’t ever (and I don't use that word lightly) feel threatened. To be honest, as I go about my life here, the personal threat to myself and my family not only feels substantially like its less than much of the rest of the planet, but, if one is to believe the stats here, it actually is.

So lets toss a few things into the mix….you are warned against visiting Bali because you are at threat. Non essential travel is a big no no. But this page places New Zealand near the top of the global per-capita figures for crime. And the US and Australia, the UK and the United States all hang around the upper rungs. Have a wander through all the stats and you’ll find Indonesia strangely absent from the top of the lists. And Bali is substantially more relaxed than the rest of Indonesia.

Remember, this is an island New Zealanders are being warned not to go to because of the extreme personal danger.

Cast your mind back a few years and think of the multitude of attacks, muggings, rapes and murders of tourists in New Zealand over that time. They still happen and are not uncommon. In contrast last year ago Japanese tourist was robbed in a villa in Ubud. This was a very, very big was the first such attack in 25 years and the offender was tracked to Lombok and then returned here with some noise, to face a very unhappy judiciary. A Swedish woman was raped here earlier this year… the first tourist raped on record I’m reliably told. The offender was Australian.

Walking through downtown Denpasar, or most other Indonesian cities late on a Saturday night is a damn sight less threatening than the Auckland viaduct on a Weekend late night. There is no culture of violence in Indonesia, nor anywhere else in South East Asia, unlike the nations that are warning their citizens not to visit. When it exists, it happens often for other reasons than the repeated randomness found in NZ or Australia. Crimes against women in Indonesia, based on UN & NGO figures, are 22 times lower than they are in the USA. I’ve seen more violence on the average night in High Street than I’ve encountered in Bali over three years.

Of course the terror attacks happened, but they also happened in New York City, with deaths ten times the Bali toll. And yes, it could happen again. But only a fool thinks it couldn’t happen again in London, or for that matter Sydney (although probably not Auckland, to be honest, no-one actually knows where it is, let alone planning an attack there). And day to day, all those places are, if you remove the extraordinarily unlikely chance that the aberation of a terror attack will hit you, substantially more dangerous to visit than poor slighted Bali where the only real danger comes from the lunatics on the road.

So what does the NZ government say about a trip to the US? That there is some risk but it’s more pointed advice warns you about, ummm, your visa….. Forget the fact that you are seven times more likely to die violently in NYC or LA than Indonesia.

I’m really not sure where this warning comes it ignorance or confusion, or perhaps both, tinged with a little good old fashioned racial boysindpsprejudice. I’m leaning towards the latter mix of all three, simply because the warnings of visits to other countries where tourists are shot, or mugged far more frequently are missing from the NZ Safetravel website. Or perhaps its just an aping of the US website (and we all know how bang on their intel has been in recent years, and how non-xenophobic they are), via Australia (who will follow the US without question), since the UK and other European counties, whilst warning strongly about Aceh and Sulawesi, offer the advice that caution is required in Bali.

That makes sense. It is anywhere.

And it looks like much of the rest of the world agrees, as 10,000 delegates from 190 nations arrive today and tomorrow for the largest climate conference ever, most, quite clearly unconcerned that their delegates may find themselves in little pieces after a trip to Kuta beach or Seminyak.

Makes one a little ashamed to be a New Zealander.

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I couldn't get enough / so I had to self destruct

No, you can’t have that insert in your sleeve, and your video budget is strictly limited (and 100% recoupable)……….

Guy Hands, the new chairman of the record group, has sent a confidential document to potential investors detailing the spending under the former head Eric Nicoli. This included £5.6m on a three-bedroom townhouse for Mr Nicoli in Park Lane, central London, that he was said to visit as infrequently as once a fortnight………….

……..£20,000 was once spent decorating a Los Angeles apartment used to entertain artists and hangers-on, while £200,000 is spent every year on fruit and flowers for EMI's London offices.

Burn, baby, burn….

I do remember, no so long ago, one major record company in New Zealand flying their whole staff  (some thirty) to Tahiti for a conference, a week after one of their acts was told there was no money for a remix, despite some success with the current release.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

i've heard it al before / yes I've heard it all before

At their 'final' show in 1978 Lydon addressed the crowd with a sneer of, "Ever got the feeling you've been cheated?" Just under 30 years later,
in a room smelling mainly of trump, my heart sighed the same sentiment.

The NME gets all moody (and gets it right) about the Sex Pistols. And it's pretty much the same way I felt when I saw them in 1996 on the first reunion tour. It's all bit sad.

Why bother..which is the way I feel about just about almost every reunion tour or show I've seen....why...well we all know why, its the dosh....

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

We got to plead the fifth, we can investigate / don't need to wait, get the record straight

Things are all abuzz here in Bali. For many restaurateurs and bar owners these are increasingly happy times. There, is of course, the current tourist boom, there are tourists by the thousands everywhere, in record numbers, and have been for most of the year. And, unlike the swathes of Bintang swilling and T-shirt wearing, hair platted, pirate DVD buying (ok there is still that) ocker masses who plagued parts of central Kuta in those pre-bomb days these are a different demographic….lets be snobby about this…a little more sophisticated. So, the better restaurants and hotels are roaring whereas the low end is still staggering a little, and probably always will from here on in as they fail to recognise that the market has changed forever.

But try and get a restaurant seat in half the places in Jalan Laksmana…..

Yes, the formerly glum business men and women of Seminyak, Sanur, Ubud and the like are smiling. But what is really raising smiles is the expectation of 10,000 delegates to the UN sponsored Climate Change conference here in December. I say 10,000 delegates but what I really mean is 10,000 untethered expense accounts. The idea that 10,000 hungry souls on the state sponsored gravy train will be marauding around great Expatria looking to spend all of our money on wine, food and anything else they can hide from the accountants (which I’m sure many are quite good at doing) is almost too much for some to deal with.

I went to a restaurant in Jalan Seminyak, one that I’ve been to so much that I’ve got to know all the staff fairly well, who greet us one by one (seriously impressing the seated tourists who must thing I’m actually someone of importance here), and am the proud owner of a plastic VIP card, last night and noted that not only was this place seriously overstaffed but aside from two, we knew none of them.

Nervously, thinking that all my well trained (no capsicum in the lamb curry please) staff had been culled in a massive cleanout and it was back to square one, I asked one I knew what exactly was going on. Climate Change conference we were told…and a massive influx of new staff being urgently trained.

So, all well and good there, assuming of course that I can actually get in over the next few weeks. It is a worry. I need my Chilli Pakoras…

And that‘s not my only point of apprehension. There are cops everywhere, in brand new, teched up vehicles. That can only be a good thing. The early 90s Toyotas, full of rust with bald tyres, collapsed suspension and broken headlights were about due for replacement (although one wonders if they’ll be back in late Dec when the flash SUVs head back to Jabotek). The cops I understand, all those VIPs etc, but I get the feeling that this place is going to grind to even more of a standstill as the convoys (SBY usually has about 30 cars, bikes, SUVs, army vehicles etc most of which I assume serve no real purpose beyond the fact the he needs to feel important..George Bush doesn't have that many) trek up and down the island for two weeks, expense accounts at the ready.  Those convoys, full of Mercs and armoured cars, must be good for the environment, no? In these wired days, could much of this be done without 10,000 airline tickets and all those cars?

Be ready for some delays they say….oh shit…

New Zealanders love to tell you they have traffic problems (the only problem I could see were those stupid one light, one car traffic signals on on-ramps to usually rather empty motorways, causing back ups) but try Kuta or Denpasar on a normal Saturday afternoon or evening…and that’s before we are told to expect delays…

All that aside the other thing I’m having trouble getting my head around is the rubbish everywhere.


Surely someone though that since this is an environmental conference it may have been an excuse to clean up the trash that litters the rivers and roadsides.

But on visual evidence, I guess not….

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Searching for the truth among the lying/ And answered when you've learned the art of dying

You can almost hear an audible cry of relief in this part of the world at the expulsion from Canberra of John Howard and Alexander Downer. Behind the required diplomatic smiles they were little liked anywhere in South East Asia, and here in Indonesia, Howard's long championing and support for Suharto, who he once hailed for his "great contribution" is not forgotten, nor Downer's arrogant, quite racist, paternalism (and if you really want vileness, witness the reliably loathsome Greg Sheridan in The Australian, hailing the greatness of the man who was named by the UN as the most corrupt dictator of the 20th Century, with the blood of at least a million Indonesians and Timorese on his hands).

So, with Howard gone, Kyoto will get signed, one of the region's wealthiest nations will back into the region instead as being, and being perceived as, little more than a shallow apologist for little liked US foreign policy in recent years. Even Singapore, the most US aligned country in ASEAN, was quite obviously increasing uncomfortable with Howard's Australia.

And Howard's legacy will be as the first sitting Australian PM in 80 years to lose his own seat. Good riddance....


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music / with that r'n'b flavour to get it across

I arrived back in Bali last week rather laden down with luggage. I’d managed to exceed my weight limit quite substantially both in check-in and carry-on. The woman at the Malaysian Airlines counter at Auckland Airport looked at my excessively heavy bag, paused and then smilingly said, it’s not a very full flight, you’ll be fine.

The next hurdle was the journey through the immigration area and past those ladies in their red frocks and funny hats who insist on weighing your carry-on, and writing down offenders’ names on a sheet. I guess you go into a database and may end up as a serial over-7kg offender, and ones name passed on to the Department of Homeland Security, or its Wellington equivalent.

From experience, there are reliable ways to slip excess (we are always way above that dreaded 7kg…our bag along is almost 5kg..toss in a copy of The NZ Herald and a toothbrush and you are stuffed) weight past these people but even applying those sneaky fixes, I was worried that my main carry on was going to be a problem.

Fortunately as I tried to merge into a much larger group of Japanese tourists somebody caused a kerfuffle elsewhere (one too many tubes of toothpaste or some other affront to the War on Terror) and I was able to use the distraction to rush past.

Of course once past the carry-on Nazis, carry -on is not a problem…nobody else in the world beyond Auckland gives a toss and you won’t find your carry-on weighed again.

Yep, as said, we always push the weight boundaries and Brigid has been seen extracting large steel cooking pots and printers from a bag at check-in to keep them happy.

This time, however, it wasn’t computers (although I had two laptops…in my carry-on) or kitchen hardware, or glassware that offended, but simple round plastic laser-read audio discs…CDs.

I’m happy enough with my digital bits and pieces but weaning myself from the physical format is hard. If I’d had the space there would have been several thousand bits of black plastic in there as well.

I’d had to put my CDs (a wall of them no less, but you get that I guess) into storage as we moved out of our NZ studio space and felt driven, nay obsessed, to go through them one by one. I ended up with some 200 I felt I could no longer live without, and looked longingly at these. I knew my 20kgs wouldn’t stretch quite this far. So I edited again, and then I edited again…into must-take, must-take if-there-is-any-room and, finally into next-time.

And so it was I ended up with a large red suitcase with six shirts, a few socks, a book or three, and a mass of compact discs.

fb1 I staggered across three borders with this and had nightmares about burst bags. I also looked at the Indonesian customs forms. Whilst the kids are absolutely on to it here, the generation before and those that write many of these bits of paper and the regulations that they attempt to enforce, seem to be in a no-mans land circa 1988. So, the form asks whether I have any records…no I don’t. And any laser discs? Good god…now that’s a format living somewhere in DCC and 8 track hell. So, no I don’t…and I hope that the technology that peruses all bags arriving in Bali hasn’t led to a big white chalk X on my bag. The guys at customs, hands out waiting, love those.

But no, no chalk, and as with Auckland, someone called out, distracting the guy, as I rushed past the green desk and I tossed my form at him. They always seem bemused that I don’t smoke..what male doesn’t smoke, or at least try and smuggle cigarettes. It’s a point of much bemusement here in Bali….

Hence I managed to get almost 100 bits of my musical past to Sanur.

It’s funny how you crave these things when you don’t have access to them. There are things here I probably will only play once or twice, but at leaset can now if I do want to. Not that its enough, but I do have my Nuggets box, and my Joy Division box (which I’ll likely not play but at least I can look at it), and my various impenetrable live Miles Davis albums from the early seventies, which I can listen to forever but no-one else gets..they’re not friend friendly; and my much loved Dr. Alimantado album; a Carl Craig set that I listened to over and over for at least a year; an LKJ anthology; Joey Jay’s fab old school Trojan selection; Coltrane’s Crescent; the Andy Weatherall Fabric mix; a killer double Fatback and god knows how many more.vl

I was like a kid in a lolly shop..touching, looking, shuffling..all that…

And playing too of course. I played the Miles things several times until Isabella opined that I had shocking taste in music, and had likely lost touch. I sat and thought about the generation gap for a moment or two and they decided, firstly, to scoff at her, and then, thinking better of it, let it go and delved into the rather good Ricardo Villalobos Fabric 36 mix which in its minimal, stuttering and almost, dare I say it, world music-ish way, is maybe my album of the year..this week anyway. Not, of course that I’ve heard them all, but in my year. And then there is the Nomumbah album, Love Moves, which a current daytime repeat, and is very much that lovely thing that we used to call deep house in those slightly messy Calibre 98 days, the sort of thing labels like the once great Guidance used to toss out with such ease. Warm, a little bit slight, moody and quite cosy.

Maybe that’s my album of the year right now, since it’s on as I type.

It’s all about the now anyway.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Surrounded by indifference / I had to let it out

Around twenty years ago (or maybe it was more..make that 24) The Car Crash Set created what can only be described as a gentle buzz around Auckland. I was always a bit of a fan but missed some of it, as I was living in London for a couple of years in the middle of it. My connection to CCS came from both my very close buddy Trevor Reekie, producer, sometime guitarist and mentor to the band; and from Nigel Russell, who was not only a long standing friend, but half of the band (with Dave Bulog, whom I’d didn’t know well at the time but ended up sitting nights talking our mutual obsession with early house music a couple of year later..and we’ve stayed friends too).

ccsI released the first CCS track on a compilation of mine, We’ll Do Our Best, in early 1983 and at the time there was a real groundswell around the inner city for early, post-punk, post Class of 81 era, electronica. Centred around clubs like A Certain Bar and Cream, there were dozens of bands playing, or attempting to play, this sort of stuff in garages across the city, and if any sound could be said to have been the sound of our inner city in early late 82, early 83, it was this raw, early (often cheap although CCS had an advantage as Nigel worked at Kingsley Smith's gear shop)synth-punk. Early Human League, Mute releases, Wellington’s Body Electric, and Gary Numan were at least as influential as Toy Love and The Velvet Underground in the Queen City. Probably much more so. The feeding frenzy on the imported electronic 12”s down there at Sounds Unlimited in Queen Street each week was something to witness. It was exciting stuff.

Most of the acts never made it to a recording studio (although the mighty Ballaré, featuring Eric Roulston, now a chef in Melbourne, also made it onto the We’ll Do Our Best album) and the era has largely overlooked in the rush to incorrectly hail Flying Nun as the sound of independent NZ in the eighties (although The Skeptics, Children’s Hour, and Jed Town’s Fetus / ICU bands, all of whom were seen as out  of step with their label at the time, sat somewhere in the middle..and its not unfair to say all those bands had their more traditionally minded vocal detractors).

Those of us around at the time are aware of an obvious, perhaps unintended, but lazy nevertheless, rewriting of history in recent years.

All of which is worth noting, but it’s rather fine to have witnessed a slow growth in the stature and reputation of The Crash Set in recent years. B-Net stations have started playing the increasingly rare CCS 12”s, and Roger Perry is remixing The Outsider for release in the near future. Those 12"s command increasingly large sums.

The music, well its of its of it's time but it works, still, after all these decades, and indeed, there is quite an international fan club of sorts out there. People beyond NZ’s shores are rather obsessed with The Car Crash Set, so much so, that they’ve paid to remaster the catalogue, or at least parts of it and an ccs2album is out later this year in Germany, on vinyl, and, later, CD.

Waiting for that, I’ve done my MP3 blog thing again and decided to post a couple of tracks.

Firstly there is the original Toys, from We’ll Do Our Best, sounding very raw (it was) and still stunningly lovely 24 years on.

That’s followed by the slightly more sophisticated Another Day, from 1986, which has Nigel’s voice in fine form.


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Monday, November 12, 2007

Everybody had a hard year / everybody had a wet dream

I don’t normally pay much attention to those silly best dressed type lists on E! or in the magazines. Really, who gives a toss and who in gods name are these people?

But I had the recent NZ best and worst dressed list pushed in front of my nose last week, primarily because a friend of mine found himself on the worst dressed list. Look, my friends said, and then I had to deal with his long face…

I found myself rather bemused by the compiler of said lists in New Zealand. Surely it was an arbiter of high fashion, a designer, a style guru, Francis or Denise from World, or someone vaguely credible, or at least with a suitably contemporary eye.

nicenurlichBut, sadly no, who does the NZ Woman’s Weekly ask to supply such a list, sad old David Hartnell, whose own dress sense makes him look like some sort of reject from Liberace’s museum, and a person who must attract his own smirks each time he swaggers his bow-tie down the road. The best dressed list was almost enough. It includes men that our David has clearly placed there because of some sort of self obsessed fantasy about their ill fitting tight shirts. Parts of it are very, shall we say, buffed….

But the one that drove me to keyboard, was our very own Peter Urlich, and his placement by the wannbe noter in the worst dressed list. Now, I have my issues with Peter’s style at times (actually only once, it was the Warriors uniform he worn on stage with Nice’n’Urlich once…no, no, no Luigi…..) but, having known the man well since about 1975, its fair to say that once he got out of those tight Dudes jeans, he’s been perhaps the best dressed male I know. And for many of those years he was seen, and perhaps still is (I’m not there) as a minor fashion icon. I've always looked at his ability to look incredible with rather a green eye.

And as Mr. Hartnell continues to mumble on about a bunch of “celebrities” who have little idea who he actually is, if they ever have, Peter continues to understand more about street style than David ever will and has every year in the 26 odd years that the bizarre best and worst dressed list in NZ has gone to print.

Not sure why I’m wasting my effort on this but Peter’s a buddy…..

life is very different / when you are in a crowd

Its exhilarating being back in Asia again after almost a month in Auckland and simply getting off the aircraft at KL International was enough to feel the rush…the faces, the languages, the mass of it all.

A month in New Zealand is almost enough to dull my senses but you never lose the feeling there that something is missing. I love Auckland, and had a total ball, of which more sometime soon, but all it feels so damned mono-cultural. Not as mono-cultural as Australia, a land in which the non-whites seem only to be allowed entry so the elite can proclaim, self righteously, how cosmopolitan they all are, forgetting that there is an ongoing reason why it’s indigenous souls are in such a sorry state…you, as a people, suffer two centuries of murder, displacement, abuse, and the wholesale theft of virtually everything you sit on of value (or have given birth to) and see how dysfunctional your society would be. A couple of us mused recently that if John Howard announced compulsory protective camps for all Aboriginals “for their own good”, there would be an overwhelming murmur of ascent in the great southern land.

But NZ feels mono-cultural only a little less. For all its Pacifica and Te Reo, New Zealand is a very white, and increasingly so, if not in skin colour but attitude, society, with the common target for almost all races being that perfect white ideal as portrayed by the magazines and the TV. And for all the derisive comments made about the average (who does, of course, not exist) American’s global ignorance, many “kiwis” are, despite still having some way to go, aspiring to the same level of ill-informed xenophobia. Listen to any talkback, or watch TV news and tell me it ain’t so.

Try telling folks you live in Bali and watch the reaction. The world view is perceivably getting narrower in these TV2 times. After a brief, rather exhilarating burst of global curiosity a few years back, the retreat is obvious when you jump back in for short bursts.

All the fuss about terrorism in the Bay of Plenty, whatever the substance of the charges (and lets be real, NZ’s police force has not had a terrifically good record in recent years for being open and even handed..that mono-cultural focus mentioned above often is even more focused, and coupled with narrow bigotry in a force like that, by it’s very nature) was an eye opener, if I needed one.

The swathe of Maori-phobic comments I encountered from middle class New Zealanders, of all races, really shocked me when I arrived a few days after the arrests. The only recent parallel I could draw on was the aftermath of Don Brash’s speech in Orewa, a ramble that could really have been distilled down to two words, for the same effect: “Fucking Maoris”. And of course as a mass, many New Zealanders, good keen men and women all, rose up and screamed “Yeah! Fucking Maoris”. Of course for Mr Brash to couch his rallying cry in the cloak of a “political” speech gave it some mass legitimacy, especially from the media.

But, all that ranting aside, It’s quite a buzz to step back into the world again.

KLs a funny place..caught somewhere between it’s past and trying to figure out what it’s future is. On one hand there are monster malls, hi-tech parks, hi-speed trains and swathes of free hi-speed internet connections; and on the other it’s tear gassing its citizens for daring to have an opinion and actively discriminating against its racially Chinese citizens (many of whom have been there longer than time is able to record) because they control the nation’s wealth. And just to confuse matters more, it now offers its youth, completely free, income assisted education anywhere in the world. It can't quite decide what it wants to be.

And the, even free, cutting edge and absolutely everywhere…which brings me back to Auckland again.

What seems increasingly obvious though is that the pace the planet is changing at is increasing. You can apply Moore’s law to far more than processing power these days. And what is also hits you when one returns is that NZ, as buffeted as it is by its enormous established wealth (only four million people, almost no natural resources and you are moaning about that standard of living???) is slowly but obliviously slipping behind the rest of the developed world (and make no mistake, many of those so-called “3rd World” nations define developed now) as they gallop along doing the Moore multiplication every 18 months or so. You have to ask how Singapore and Malaysia can both offer free public access Wi-Fi almost everywhere when you can't even pay for a decent connection in much of Auckland. New Zealand has gone from decidedly first world to being a technological backwater in less than decade, and it’s quite noticeable…slow internet, no hotspots, ludicrously expensive 3G and GPRS, a real lack of tech retailers, etc.

Lots of nice expensive cars though…..

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

more songs about fru-jus and elephants.....

 I think its been over two years since I wrote about The Others. I don’t have the time or the energy to plough though back posts on this blog, so I’ll have to take my word for it, as will you.Something-Error-Front Suffice to say that like the old shaver ads on TV, I liked them so much I, to paraphrase, bought the company. In other words, shortly after I asked How good are The Others? I, and my label partner, Alan Jansson, put our money where my question was, and signed the band to our Joy label.

So, that was two years ago and a bit has happened in between. Firstly the band changed names, not once, but twice, firstly to Los Otros, and then to The Others Requiem..the issue of course being the raft of other Others out there. So, that is the nome d’disque hereon. Secondly, in the interim, unless you are a low rent Feelers soundalike, or Brooke Fraser, who no-one outside radio seems to even really notice, the chances of getting a NZ single on commercial radio in 2007 is about nil. NZ radio, once you remove Brooke and Kiwi FM (which is not exactly, ah, listened to sadly despite Karen’s fine work) has NZ playlist percentages not much higher than they were a decade back.

Thirdly, in the past two years that thing called Kiwi Hip Hop, as it was, has largely gone down the gurgler. You can’t give it away. Outside the small niche that still grabs their groins and struts with fake bling, its over. Scribe isn’t doing much very different to that which sold 100,000 albums four years back, but now nobody wants to know and I guess he can’t work out why. Market’s gone, bro…and it ain’t coming back.

Fortunately the wind was turning towards a more alternative hip-hop movement…and as with the pronunciations from naysayers pronouncing the death of dance and rock in recent times, hip-hops’ obituary seems to be rather premature. Genes like that don’t ever die, they simply mutate and evolve. And such it inevitably is with hip-hop or whatever it will become. And what these guys were and are doing is quite a leap ahead. Mannaseh, who constructs their audio textures doesn't seem constrained by the rules that bind so much hip-hop and the rhymes are delivered in their own voices.

So with that in mind we took our time. We released a limited edition 7” and the band played around (quite some actually) and gathered a following.

Oh, and they recorded an album. Not just an album, but much fact we ended up with a double album. The obvious thing would be to trim it down of course..nobody releases a double album for a debut, even less so in 2007 when the music business is facing the abyss. But, seriously, despite requests from SonyBMG, who put up their hand quite some time back to license the CD rights, neither the band, or ourselves were able to cut it down..we even tossed around the concept of putting half of it online. But eventually we decided to go with the double, and to compound things, put it in a gatefold digpak, with a booklet.

There has been quite an industry buzz over these guys in recent months and I’ve had to batter back quite some requests for the album, but no finished sleeve (till next week) so no samples...well not that many.

So anyway, The Others Requiem’s album, Something Error Happens is finally about to hit the streets, in New Zealand, on the 19th of this month, and I can't think of a more perfectly appropriate way to relaunch the infrequent MP3s I was posting on my Extended Play blog….so

The Others Requiem – Wishing Well (Joy Records 2007)

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Monday, October 01, 2007

don't you / forget about me


Irish rocker Bono is having sleepless nights over the crisis in Burma and is praying the campaign against its military rulers will triumph.

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hear that sound / the hammers pound and pound

And the world jumps ahead, just a little bit more, this morning…Radiohead of course dismissed the countdown site leading to their new album in the last day or so, but rather conveniently (and co-incidentally?) it have them a fairly large bump in publicity leading to today’s announcement of their new album.

Of course this news is gonna be everywhere later today, but the thing is, like the Amazon site, Radiohead have converged the digital and the tactile worlds together. Their new album is available on their site from the 10th of the month...and you pay what you want. The stampede is predicable..Radiohead fans are obsessive. The thing is, that the terrestrial version is not out until December and then with fancy packaging and a bonus disc.  So everyone wins, the fans and the artist, and everyone thinks Radiohead are well cool.....and I agree (I like them again now..I have ever since I fell for Tom Yorke's album last year)

Whilst the big record companies wander around formlessly wondering how it should be done, and suing their customers (could any commercial organisation be perceived any more negatively than RIAA, or those it represents?), Radiohead, who are now label free, have shown how it could be done (not should…those possibilities are too wide, to make that much of a definitive statement) by using the digital world to pull everything along. Who cares if they make zip out of the downloads in the very short term..look at the bigger picture, and watch it roll out.

I tried to suggest a similar thing a while back…releasing a single on Limewire and Soulseek. Blank stares moving towards clear hostility was the result. Giving a lead single away in large quantities adds to your long term currency, not detracts.

Ok, that’ll do….

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sound of silver talk to me / makes you want to feel like a teenager

So, in one quick bump of a mouse button, taking it live, the new AmazonMP3 store has relegated the iTunes store to the antiquated, to the clunky, to the potentially almost irrelevant class, although clearly that has got a long way to go with Americans who are far more subservient to Apple than the rest of the world (it’s the US, increasingly out of step, where iPod rules, whereas in much of the rest of the world it plays a distant second fiddle to the simple MP3 enabled phone)..if you want evidence of that read this head-in-the-sandism from US PC World.

I have to be honest, I’ve never been an iTunes store fan. Its interface is ridiculously slow, unresponsive, difficult to navigate, and less than intuitive. I click on a title and wait, and wait, for the obviously clogged dedicated servers to load my page.

And it never seems to offer me anything that I might want to buy. Even the tracks I know I’d probably like, look somehow less enticing than they should. It’s like one of those grim, dank record shops in small town New Zealand, full of records you don’t want which having faded full price stickers even when you know the label dropped it to mid price some time back.

Amazon, on the other hand, provides a clean, much faster, cheaper, DRM free, and visually enticing user front-end that, like my other favourite, eMusic, takes me off in a direction that I might not know I want to go it, but am often pleased I’m heading (although I’m not sure if Pink Floyd’s The Wall really sits that well in the Techno listings). It mightn't have al the bells and whistles yet but I believe the granddaddy of net commerce has much on the can bet your Bezos on that.

And there is no need to download a fairly large slab of software which often needs updating. Instead, you work directly from the place you likely are already at: your browser. Even if you do have iTunes, Amazon provides a free, tiny, bit of software, that links Amazon’s shop to that device rather seamlessly.

Yep, it’s a whizz and indicative of the way the future actually lies. In the same way the Mp3 player is converging with the phone (and not the iPhone, which is a blip, albeit a pretty one, but the vasty more widely held Nokias and Motorolas and the like, which sell more units daily than the iPhone has in it’s whole retail history), the purchasing device has to operate from the browser. Retail is about removing barriers, not adding to them and the whole idea that you need a program designated purely for music purchase and playback is increasingly ludicrous. AmazonMP3 (smart name too) simply nails that.

And ain’t it funny how quickly the parameters of the ballpark have changed in the past few months, from the iPhone buzz where the Jobs’ disciples went completely ga-ga, hailing the future as cometh, angrily slapping doen any who dared to question the oracle, to this, some five months later, where that device now smells so very yesterday, no matter how cutsie the things might be. The iPhone was as much of a threat to Nokia as the iMac is to Microsoft...actually that's not's much much less. It's like Fiji declaring war on China.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love my iPod and I think many will do so for a long time, but I know a) how I’m going to fill it (and it ain’t from Mr. Job’s store), and b) what direction I’m going to go in when it’s time to replace it.

As an update: as of this morning Amazon have blocked any non-US purchases..prior to that, putting 90210 down as one's code did the trick. Royalty stuff, easily offended majors and the like of course, but for virtually every other transaction in the world, its now a global market. I do wonder when the record companies will wake up to that. Technology could take care of royalty issues in a snip, but I guess there needs to be a will.


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Saturday, September 22, 2007

saturday / saturday / saturday

Sheeit, Elton John wants to close down the Internet

I do think it would be an incredible experiment to shut down the whole internet for five years and see what sort of art is produced over that span.

Don't let the sun go down on me? I think it already has, old chap....

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Friday, September 21, 2007

its Sunday at the laundry / and you're looking out the window

Peter McLennan has a bit of a stab at the worst NZ album covers of the past year. My favorite is the Young Sid comment:

"Young Sid forlornly stares out from behind a chain-link fence, like it's 1988. See, he is from the streets. He is from South Auckland, where you gots to be packin'. In fact, he is so dangerous that the chain-link fence from which he looks *might* be jail. Or he might just be in a local school playground."

I'd not seen that one, but it truly is a shocker anyway you look at it. Most of the time, when New Zealand tries to be urban American it just makes me grimace, and this is just another bloody example of the same, slightly embarrassing cartoon street that inhabits the world of the likes of Savage (who of course the Australians quite liked...but if you've heard the Hilltop Hoods then its fairly clear that Australians don't, and never have, got hip-hop beyond the most grimace inducing level.

 Talking of shocking artwork...I've had a few moments over the years when I've been less than satisfied with, uhhh, the cover (and some which I'm rather proud of). But it's funny how time smoothes things. I had an email from some guy in the UK going ainsworthsspare (in a positive way) over my terrible (yes I did it) Doobie Do Disc album cover from 1982. Apparently it was a positive affirmation of the rawness found on the record....uh, no, it was a rather quickly knocked out thing, using the first image I could find, which happened to be a drawing a photographer called Mike had done in the far corner of our office, and the rawness...well despite our best efforts that may have been something to do with they way they were recorded.

But, to the point, what I have done is upgraded my old label pages (Propeller..hence the photo of The Ainsworths who appeared on Class of 81) into an overview, a 7" page, a 12" page and an album page. But, being several thousand kilometres away from my storage space, I'm missing a few sleeves on the album and 12" pages, so if anyone ancient out there, reading this (Chad?) happens to have a copy of any of the missing sleeves, well I'd be keen on a scan.....simon.grigg at gmail dot com dos the trick. You'll get a nice credit....


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

talking loud / and sayin' nothin'

Now to American politics….

My friend Harry, writes from NYC that Alan Greenspan has been making quite a week of it, not only is there the much talked about slagging of Bush, but almost as interesting was his appraisals of the various presidents he’d served under or worked with. Harry’s opinion was that it was fairly clear that old Al, like most sane people, despises GWB’s White House and all it stands for, as is made rather clear if you read between these lines:

I looked forward to at least four years of working collegially with many of government's best and brightest, men with whom I had shared many memorable experiences [Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, among others]. And on a personal basis, that is how it worked out. But on policy matters, I was soon to see my old friends veer off in unexpected directions ...


The Republicans in Congress lost their way. They swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither. They deserved to lose [the 2006 elections]

But the Nixon comments too raised some eyebrows. Not Nixon per se, we all know he was, and will historically always be treated (despite his undeservingly sometimes overlooked repartee with China and Russia, for which he deserves credit) as a scumbag of the worst order.

But rather his potty mouth.

Greenspan confirms this ‘president’ managed to turn every second word into the f word...oh, ok…fuck (but my daughter has told me not to use it some much I didn’t say it). Plumbers, builders, rock’n’roll musisicans...even me…we can curse as often as we like, but ‘Presidents’ are supposed to, y’know, conduct themselves in a certain way that becomes their elected status leading the land of the free (note to Americans..none Americans never, ever see the POTUS as "The Leader of the Free World"..its your fantasy, but that's ok, you say it, we'll just smile). Take GWB, he can murder, invade, and leave a stream of blood across the globe, but he still conducts himself like a president (although he doesn't deserve a capital P). But then again, maybe that’s because he has the lawd on his side. Which brings us back to good old Alan G, who has now joined the ever growing list of Bush ship jumpers who have flipped. I can’t wait for scuzzy old Rumsfeld’s it wasn’t my idea honestly tell-all. This was after all a man who said:

Nonsense. It just isn’t. There—there—there are certain…………. things like that, myths that are floating around. I’m glad you asked. I—it has nothing to do with oil, literally nothing to do with oil.

Now, it seems, Greenspan says it was all about the oil….somebody is lying again. He, of course has an ulterior motive in that his time to meet his maker is fast approaching and the best guess is that he’s freaking out (now that he too has the lawd) that St. Peter is gonna say look Al, I can't let you in,  George W. Bush is actually working for the other side, down there ..... because deep down Alan knows that’s the god given truth.

So Alan thinks its time to quickly make amends, although as many are pointing out, he doesn’t get off that easily. I mean, he was the man who pushed so many buttons and had the power to say no. It all feels a little gutless.

But even more so when, after, you can imagine some very threatening calls (you ain’t the man anymore type of thing) over the weekend, he does a three sixty. You mean, that it had nothing to with Saddam’s threat to move to the Euro, Al? The only threat to the flow of oil came from an illegal invasion to protect the flow to one country…of course it was about oil. If there was no oil, would anyone in the White House actually care. The invasion, as is glaringly obvious, did nothing to reduce the violence and turbulence in the region as Greenspan claims was the intent. It was, amongst other things, a simple oil grab. And still is.

I guess Mr Greenspan won’t be chatting to the lord any time soon.

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