Saturday, April 19, 2008

it is the language of the earth / the language of the beast

I’ve been listening to a lot of newish music recently, I’m feeling passionately excited by a few things. But before I get into that I’m going to post this rather lovely movie of the grand old gentleman of southern soul, Allen Toussaint, performing Southern Nights last year. The song is of course best known for the shallow bashing it received by Glen Campbell (although I’d image Allen liked the cheque) but the original comes from Toussaint’s 75 classic album of the same name.

Ok and since I’m on a roll, here’s the same man doing a Longhair-ish rolling take of Lipstick Traces, a song he wrote in the early sixties, charted first by Benny Spellman, in a version produced by Toussaint, and later in 1965, produced, as I recall, by H.B. Barnham on Imperial, by The O’Jays in their pre-PIR days.

And one more, an encore from the Allen Toussaint / Elvis Costello tour in 2006 (to promote the sadly patchy River In Reverse), wherein Toussaint takes Elvis’ I Want You and places it squarely in the Mississippi Delta

So onwards…

Jose JamesThe Dreamer (Brownswood)

josejames  I’ve seen this guy compared by the odd reviewer to the likes of Michael Franks and Al Jarreau. Nothing could be further from the’s a little like the infamous description of Gregory Isaacs in Q some years back as a Maxi Priest soundalike.

Signed to Gilles Peterson’s (often hit and miss) label, the name I’d be happier drawing a tangent from is the late, rather great ,but almost forgotten, Johnny Hartman, albeit a dirtier, more expansive and at times noisier version. Recorded, it seems, almost live, with his band in New York City, The Dreamer is an extraordinarily gritty, haunting, soulful fuck-me-that-makes-me-shiver sort of record in a classic style. You almost find yourself almost waiting for the tragedy to hit. Because it always does…

Carl CraigSessions (!K7)

I was pretty reserved about this initially. Not about the contents…well yes maybe..I didn’t need Carl Craig’s career overview as a two CD mixed album. I’ve got many of these tracks on various mixed albums and I wanted just, well, the songs…from beginning to end. Long have I craved a full length digital version of Clear & Present for example, rather than the edited version on the Paperclip People CD (and transferring large chunks of my vinyl to digital is just too much of an overwhelming concept).

Digital Booklet - The C2 Sessions_Page_1And then, lo and behold I discovered the iTunes version of this. Somebody, somewhere is thinking. Someone somewhere has gone beyond the pointless whinging about how downloading is killing music and done the sensible thing. The album, in its CD form retails for about US$18. The digital download, also on Amazon, Emusic (although that seems only to include the unmixed tracks) and Beatport, is about US$9 (or, predictably, gouged, in NZ the CD / MP3 differential is NZ$35 / NZ$25…what the hell is with that?).

The greatest electronic artist of the past 25 years offers a career retrospect, and even with obvious gaps (where the hell is the standalone track of Angola? It's in the mixed version) what else is there to say?

Francoise KMasterpiece (MOS)

I’m always wanting a mix album to put on, often rather loudly, whilst I do the interesting things in life, like the tax, or working on the endless screeds of paperwork that seem to come my way. Right now, Francois fits the bill quite well. Three discs of electronic sounds all with the trademark dubby (remember, the man virtually invented the modern electronic dub, and was a part of the small group who defined the form of the ‘remix’ as we now know it) techno tinge, the three being in order: big room, contemporary and heritage. One of the truly great producers, disc jockeys, and musical visionaries of the last two decades of the last century (his live in Japan in 91 set with Larry Levan is one amongst many on Deephousepages worth tracking down), much of this simply pulses and tugs the listener along.

The place where King Tubby meets Stockhausen.

Prosumer & Murat TepeliSerenity (OstGut Tonrager)

Electronic torch ballads from Germany. This one crept up on me. I own a 12” by these guys, The Craze, included here in a live form, from about 2005, which I played to death at the time. A rather reverent homage to late eighties Chicago House, complete with the almost clumsy vocals that were such a trademark or the era, and I’ve always found rather appealing, it points the way for the rest of this utterly charming and disarmingly beautiful deep house long player. There is a kind of purity in a record like this, almost everything is intentionally underplayed, nothing overpowers anything and space is the essential instrument.

Ok that sounds nicely pretentious, that’ll do…

c'mon little butterfly / try and fly

One last word on China....from The Bulletin:

The Australian may be immoral, and very often is, but the Chinaman must be....
He has no alternative, for the utter lack of ennobling purpose and elevating ideal confines his every thought to the pleasures of his body. ...

from September 1, 1886.

Looking at this page and the comments below the main piece, in 130 years not much has changed.....

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

He's ever so good / he's Ebeneezer Goode


You have to ask what Martha really learnt during that spell behind bars

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

There's a thousand variations / every witness has a smile


China is a huge and seductive practical joke which defeated the westerners who tried to modernise it, the Japanese who tried to conquer it, the Americans who tried to democratise and unify it…and Chiang and Mao John Paton Davies

It was a long slow trek from Hong Kong to Denpasar…some 12 hours including a four brunei hour stop-over in Brunei which we filled with a gratis tour of the city. Brunei seems  pleasant enough but less than exciting.

Our tour guide, after telling us that there is absolutely no alcohol there, smilingly let slip that many young people slip across the border on a Saturday night for a quick lager. He also showed us the massive Sultan’s place and gorgeous mosque as well as the brand new parliament building which seems to serve no purpose beyond window dressing given as the Sultan is one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchs in this rather dull, oil rich state.



mao2 And I thought of the double standards in the we tolerate political ugliness in Saudi Arabia but not in China. Then I guess Saudi Arabia plays a compliant game and offers no real threat to a US dominance. China on the other hand not only threatens but increasingly dominates and controls the game. And that is very obvious when you are there, or in Hong Kong, which, despite it’s friendly face is very much a part of the People’s Republic.

I may, to those that have been there many times, sound hopelessly naïve, but here are a few more thoughts and comments about China.

· Even for a resident of Indonesia, with some experience of mega cities like Jakarta, the vastness and enormity of the country when you are there really hits and almost overwhelms one but as much as that, as per John Davies above, ultimately seduces you.

· There is something about the stream of container trucks transporting goods along the six lane highway carved into the mountainsides into Hong Kong that is very Silk bannerRoad and that is accentuated by the fact that the three biggest container gateway ports in the work are in servicing South Eastern China.

· Simple numbers like the fact that I'm told that there are more PhD students in Chinese Universities than students in the whole US tertiary system, or that China consumes almost two billion pairs of jeans a year, before, it exports any. Or that there are allegedly some 200 million people in the country not listed in official census numbers by virtue of those that slipped through the system because of the one child policy

· I was surprised in Guangzhou as to how many non-Chinese looking residents I saw. My friend from Hong Kong who does extensive business in the city tells me these are as likely folk from the western provinces. The oft quoted restrictions on internal travel no longer exist, the only restriction is that one cannot take ones social benefits from province to province. In other words, if you need the dole you need to come home.

· The Shanghai to Ningbo sea bridge is the longest in the world, and has been built exclusively by Chinese companies and engineers. Whilst the west was smugly sitting around, China caught up. And nowhere was that more evident than in the Tianhe area of Guangzhou, where vast tree lined boulevards around massive modern structures, often architecturally inspiring, looking like some immense sci-fi set, sit where I’m told dirt roads existed ten years ago.

· Whilst the old central train station looks like a Mao-ist relic virtually every other public facility we entered was absolute state of the art, and mostly at least partially privately owned. Make no mistake this is a market driven economy

· Both Brigid and I agreed that the people we encountered in China were, as a generalisation, the most friendly, considerate and open we've encountered anywhere on our travels, west or east. We were repeatedly amazed at how helpful and polite complete strangers could be and there was none of the pushiness we'd been led to believe was the norm.

· The term ‘one party’ state is a subjective one. One could reasonably argue that there is perhaps a wider raft of opinions in a huge party such as exists in China than the current please-tell-me-the-difference between them UK Tory / Labour split.

· I abhor capital punishment in any form and don't believe any nation that kills it's own can claim to be civilized but several people pointed out to me that on a per capita basis China is way behind 'friendly' nations like Singapore and Saudi Arabia. And the family paying for the bullet thing is a long past thing.  That said, it still revolts me and I can find no excuses to justify it in any form. When there the former Shanghai head guy was convicted of substantial fraud and sentenced to life in jail. There was much comment that such a crime would have meant a needle (as that is how its done now) a year or three back.

· At the back of one’s mind the whole time of course you have Tiananmen Square, although that was 20 years ago, and a raft of other questions but you can only hope that China, which has had a truly horrific past century is coming out of something. I beijinglufound myself looking at old people over and over and wondering just what they had seen. The Chinese history I've been reading recently means something altogether more when you look at the faces. But, the simple fact that the modern urban China of today, and the wonder that is Hong Kong are happily tolerated speaks volumes about the future I would hope.


After close to a week in China, we then went to Hong Kong.

I’d not been to Hong Kong as an adult and it simply blew me away. We were lucky enough to be guided by good local friends so had a step up. But sitting in the legendary Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club drinking NZ wines felt rather good. As did dinner at the Peak may be a tourist trap, but it too had a hell of wine list.


I’d always imagined it was a little like Singapore, but, no, this city, even with a PLA regiment sitting on the island, has soul.

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