May 29, 2006

Rant about chicken ports, hip-hop and and other things

Those who know me well will know that I have a thing for Brazilian music. And for Brazil. Not sure which came first, the music or the country, or how the one affects the other (I still remember fondly a drunken night in an outdoor bar in Porto de Galinhas when I asked a guy "who's that Chico Science who's on your t-shirt?" upon which he got very excited, ran off somewhere and came back with a cassette with what turned out to be some amazing music, to which the entire crowd listened and grooved the remainder of the night... and how it started raining at one point and everyone had to huddle under a narrow strip of thatched roof by the bar... and I could hardly speak a word of Portuguese and they couldn't speak a word of English but everyone was happy and smiling and that and a German guy who translated bits and pieces was all we needed to communicate perfectly...but I digress), not that it matters; it is in any event handy to know someone down there who can keep me updated on current sounds.

So, recently did a payment-in-kind type of job for Andy's club thing; I design him a poster and flyers, and in return get some new music. Resulting in me recently receiving a bunch of CDs in the mail, two of them among the best Brazilian albums I've heard in ages.

Quinto Andar | Piratão

Quinto Andar's 'Piratão' (Tomba) had been on my want-list for almost a year; I'd heard some tracks, loved them, but hadn't been able to locate a copy. So that being in Andy's package was wonderful. And so is the album. Mostly based around summery, jazzy grooves (well, Brazil...), very playful, a bit of dub thrown in for great effect, experimental use of samples, a bit of baile funk, rapping I don't understand but which sounds cool; this might end up being my favourite hip-hop album of the year. (Not that I hear all that many... and those who know me will tell you I like very few... and those I do are usually pretty far removed from mainstream hip-hop anyway... Edan, Prefuse 73, Clouddead... but I digress again). 'Piratão' comes highly recommended!

Quinto Andar | Meu Amor Não Me Abandone

Cidadão Instigado | E O Método Túfo De Experiências

And so does 'E O Método Túfo De Experiências' (Slag), the second album from Cidadão Instigado. This is Saõ Paulo musician Fernando Catatau's project, and as with so many great Brazilians (since 1967 anyway), here's a guy who's got everything and the kitchen sink in his bag of musical tricks. It's like a cross between tropicália pioneer Tom Zé and samba soul giant Jorge Ben, mixing guitar freakouts, batucada drums, weird noises, heady grooves... add a sprinkle of cheesy listening plus an apparent (again, I don't actually understand Portuguese much) sense of humour, and you get a sprawling yet still coherent type of record that could only be made in Brazil. Great fun!

Cidadão Instigado | O Pobre Dos Dentos De Ouro

Cheers for these Andy, and do let me know when you actually want the poster and stuff, yeah? (And does anyone know if Porto de Galinhas is still good?)

[Buyer's guide: These and other independent Brazilian CDs are often to found at and/or braziliancd.]

May 24, 2006

Coo Coo Bird

Wee Willie Shantz' 'Coo Coo Bird' (with it's b-side 'Hush Puppy Hush') is a classic record. Unfortunately I don't own a copy, but if I did it would have a place in my box of desert island discs for sure. (Not that I own such a box either, but anyway...)

Is this country? Is it the blues? Is it a children's record? I have no idea... but it is wonderful. And bonkers! (You could call it inept, but that would be missing the point entirely.) Near impossible to describe, although the now defunct Oddball Auditorium website (who originally discovered and subsequently dubbed it the "world's strangest record") gave it their best shot:

"Can you imagine John Cage jamming with Negativland inside a moving boxcar full of victrolas... or perhaps an old backwoods codger, swigging mash whiskey from a facejar, has been working on these songs for 40 years and he finally got a chance to record them, but the only band he could find was a family of occultists who live at the junkyard. Anyway this record has it all -- prepared sound objects, recording manipulation, sing-speak vocal somewhere between nursery rhyme and shaman ritual, semi-aleatoric stringed instruments, and even a sublime saxophone solo."

The two tracks on this 45 rpm were long thought to be all that existed by Mr. Shantz. Three further records have however since been dug up by the excellent alt. country website They've set up a Wee Willie Shantz homepage of sorts, where all of them can be downloaded. None of the new discoveries quite match the original two for crazyness, but they should still be well worth anyone's while.

Wee Willie Shantz | Coo Coo Bird (original)

May 22, 2006

Asian delights

Chan Pao Chu

Those of you who enjoyed the Teresa Teng track from a few weeks back, might want to head over to Mod-ified Music, where if you scroll down to 17th May and earlier, similar delights are to be had. And if that's not enough, how about these? (Chan Pao Chu pictured).

Teresa Teng | Last Night In My Dreams
Rita Chao & The Quests | Love Is Me, Love Is You
Doris Ang And The Sandboys | Indecipherable title
Chan Pao Chu | She Wants To Get Marry

May 21, 2006

Leftovers 2

Two of my all time favourite record labels are Postcard and ZE. Postcard was a bunch of indie (re)defining acts from Glasgow, mainly Orange Juice and Josef K, while ZE was a diverse group of sassy New Yorkers including James Chance, Cristina, Lydia Lunch, Suicide and Kid Creole, in addition to a contingent of wonderfully playful French artists such as Lizzy Mercier Descloux, Les Garçons (who's first record, credited to Marie & Les Garçons, was produced by John Cale) and Suicide Romeo.

Did these two labels have anything to do with each other? To my knowledge, no. I'm pretty sure the Postcard bands were paying attention to what ZE was doing though (it's been rumoured that Orange Juice initially based their image on Marie & Les Garçons), if not vice versa, and I often think of them together. For whilst coming out of very dissimilar cultural contexts, both labels were unified in spirit by their willingness and drive to redefine what great new music (mostly within the confines of pop) should be all about. And by amongst other things fusing punk ideals with disco/funk sensibilities, they succeeded beautifully, setting a blueprint for many of today's post-punk-funk inspired bands.

Suicide Romeo | Images

Take a look at the Suicide Romeo discography on this Japanese ZE website, and you'll notice that Orange Juice is mentioned. Which you'll realize makes a lot of sense when you listen to the track (from their first and only (?) LP 'Images') below.

Suicide Romeo | Suicide Romeo

Thrown in for good measure, here's a Les Garçons b-side; not a million miles from what Josef K was doing at the time. (Or what Franz Ferdinand et al. are doing now I think...)

Les Garçons | Dans Quelques Minutes

May 10, 2006

"Entertaining to an almost ludicrous degree"

I bring excellent news: The very, very funny 'Who's Toby?' will soon be available for the whole world to enjoy. Not on a TV near you (television's old hat anyway) but as a series of weekly podcasts premiering on 6th June 2006. My definition of a good plan would therefore be to do one of the following:

a) Go to the iTunes music store and subscribe immediately (it's free!)
b) Copy and paste into whatever player or application you use to receive RSS-feeds.
c) Check the 'Who's Toby?' website at weekly intervals starting from the above date.

You will not be sorry. In the meantime, here's a taster:

Who's Toby? | Trailer

May 08, 2006

Grant McLennan RIP

(I only saw The Go-Betweens live once, at Oslo's Sardines club around the time of their '16 Lover's Lane' LP. It was a strange set; musically great, but I could sense a lot of on-stage tension between Grant McLennan and bandmate and girlfriend Amanda Brown. I never found out what it was all about, it wasn't for me to know. But I was very intrigued.)

Grant McLennan

The Go-Betweens were for the better part of the 1980s one of my favourite groups (I think I sometimes preferred them to The Smiths who they often were compared to; in hindsight definitely), so it was with great sadness that I learned this morning of founder member Grant McLennan's death in his sleep at the premature age of 48. A profoundly talented and emotional songwriter has passed away; he will be sorely missed. If you haven't heard any of his and their stuff, you should. In fact, you must.

The Command House, Chatham, May 5th 2006

I have just had a wonderful weekend! Took a spur-of-the-moment type trip down to London again (I seem to be doing that a lot these days), and did I have fun!

The trip gave me the chance to get another double dose of The Indelicates; first at Catch in Shoreditch, which was great, and then at the lovely riverside pub The Command House in Chatham (Medway, Kent... and I had to check the atlas when I got home to find out where that actually is), which was a happening.

First on a bill of three (actually four, but I'll leave the headliners for others to bother about), The Indelicates were received as the stars they so much deserve to be. In fact are. Here was a wildly enthusiastic crowd of real fans, singing along and genuinely loving what they heard, much to the delight (and surprise it seems) of the band, who subsequently shone!

Then came a brief set from local 4-piece The Scopes, sounding to me a bit like New York noise/no wave/post punk from 1978 or thereabouts, but as done by English teenagers with indiepop sensibilities. And that really must be good. Raw, abrasive and cool as it comes! I've lived with a handful of their demo tracks for a while; check this one out:

The Scopes | Kings Of Climax

Last up were The Space Peacocks (also from Medway), a demented I'm sure but no less fab bunch of punky glam rockers (or glammy punk rockers) with a perfect sense of bargain bin theatricality and a set of songs to kill for. Quirky melodies and excellent boy-girl call-response speak-singing were the order of the night, a guest appearance from someone I maybe should know of but don't on the brilliantly titled 'Why The Fuck Did You Spend 20 Quid On A Lighter?', a jubilating home crowd, and you have, as my friend Redmond predicted for the whole triple bill, a seminal event.

The Space Peacocks' 'EP Phone Home' is still available for download via their website I think. On it is the lovely 'Romanticide', and this:

The Space Peacocks | Do The Neo Dada

So to conclude; a perfect evening, and a great trip down from Oslo. (I did other stuff as well, but more on that later. Maybe). The fact that summer arrived at approximately the same time as I (a coincidence I suspect) did nothing but enhance the two days I spent. And did I mention how wonderful The Indelicates are?