Hard News by Russell Brown


Friday (Thursday) Music: The Chant returns

It's been one of those things you didn't like to ask about. Street Chant's sophomore album, Hauora, has been coming so long that its continued failure to materialise might suggest there was a problem. But it's on, ladies and gentlemen.

The principal hold-up has been a lineup change -- a new drummer replacing Alex Brown (who plays on the album and is in one of two videos already in the can). But the band is back, with Street Chant playing the Wellington support on Parquet Courts' tour next month. Salad Boys also play support on all dates: Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin.

The first single from the album is also due next month.

For now, Emily Littler has posted a new track in her Emily Edrosa guise:


Late edit (perils of posting on a Thursday): Ian "Blink" Jorgenson's 'A Movement' is a series of 10 books containing 1000 photographs taken by Blink in the indie music world between 2000 and 2015. Details of the book and the associated tour are here. And here's the beautiful trailer:


I'm filling in on Bright and Urlich, 9-11am on 95bFM on Saturday.

Also: the Splore schedule, featuring Roy Ayers, Mr Scruff, Phoenix Foundation, SJD and much more,  is up today! I'll write in more detail about the talk programme I'm running closer to the time.


Win! Flying Nun is offering a free Robert Scott album to one of the people who shares its new Spotify/YouTube playlist Flying Nun: an introduction.

Herald hipster Bernard Orsman brought us the news yesterday that Parnell is getting cool again. Well, not really. "Less awfully becalmed", perhaps. And hey, if it keeps them all out of Ponsonby that's a win-win. Meanwhile, Audioculture has the lowdown on when Parnell was really cool: 1978, when the punks were there.


The new Anthonie Tonnon song I mentioned last week is available for tasting (and downloading!) now. In keeping with the Tonnon style, it's an epic guitar pop song about ... local body politics. Good times!

That's on NZ On Air's Kiwi Hit Disc 178, which I think is the best edition of the long-running radio sampler in a long time. You have to be a radio/music biz luvvie to get one of those, but nearly all the tracks are already on Soundcloud, including ...

Kamandi's dense, electronic 'Martyrs' (from the mysterious Secret Club label):

DPTRCLB's supple dance track 'Horizon':

And Randa's 'Rangers', which also got a sweet new Robert Wallace video this week:

Note also the NZ On Air staff's playlist of local artists to watch in 2015:

Currently at number two on TheAudience's chart: this zesty synthpop tune from Boy Wulf, aka "Tim, a 21 year old farm-worker from Te Awamutu". I think one of TheAudience's virtues is that you don't have to be in Auckland or Wellington to get noticed:

You can even be in Brooklyn, New York, as is The Sneaks' (and former Lawrence Arabia band member) Daniel Ward, aka Droor:

Jeremy Toy presents an edit from his soulful, jazzy alter-ego Leonard Charles:

BREAKING!! New Leonard Charles: a rework of Janet Jackson's 'Any Time Any Place':


And, finally, the brand new Leftside Wobble vocal dub of the forthcoming (March 16) Byan Ferry single – free for a limited time! Click through, locate and hit that download arrow right now ...


The Hard News Music Post is sponsored by:



Review: Citizenfour

Citizenfour, the Edward Snowden movie, is an unusual film. It tells a story that spans the globe and has a fair claim on being the story of our times, but its heart – and more than half its running time – is in the Hong Kong hotel room where Snowden, the NSA whistleblower, spent eight days in 2013 sharing the secrets he had gathered.

It's an amazingly intimate depiction of a historical encounter. We habitually imagine what it might have been like to be "in the room" for great moments, knowing that the moment has passed and we never will be. And yet here we are, in the room.

The meeting in the hotel room is the culmination of the long process of the gaining of trust that began when Snowden, who first identified himself as "Citizenfour", contacted the film's director Laura Poitras to talk about the intolerable mass surveillance of which he had been a part at the US National Security Agency, and to raise the alarm. Their encrypted conversations, before Hong Kong and after, are the film's narrative thread.

The eight days begin with Snowden calm, confident – he has planned this – and perhaps a little giddy that the plan is coming together. By the end, events have broken loose out in the world and Snowden, still with his oddly formal charisma, looks drained and anxious. They don't know where this goes next. In the one sequence where he seems genuinely rattled, he worries what he has done to Lindsay Mills, the girlfriend he was obliged to leave behind in Hawaii.

Any journalist who has taken an interest in this story will be intrigued by the other two people on camera. Glenn Greenwald, then a stroppy Guardian columnist, is wired, keen to go. Ewan MacAskill, the hugely experienced intelligence corespondent The Guardian has sent to Hong Kong to assess the situation, is reserved, phlegmatic, cautious. At one point he observes to Snowden that he doesn't know anything about him. Snowden, slightly taken aback, asks if the reporter wants his professional background, personal story or what. "No," says MacAskill, "I don't even know your name."

And yet at that point, The Guardian is poised to run Greenwald's first two Snowden stories – even though it's clear that, as they gaze at a graphic on Snowden's laptop, they're not even really sure what they're looking at. I asked Greenwald about this when I interviewed him last year and he said that one of those stories, about the NSA's mass collection of call records from the telco Verizon, was "a relatively easy story to report" because the secret court order compelling Verizon to turn over the records was so clear.

But is that a reason to go to press two days after you've met your source? (Ironically, the Verizon story was, of all the leads in Snowden's trove, one that wasn't entirely news. The ACLU had been immersed in a Freedom of Information Act battle over the phone records programme for two years.) The second story, the revelation of the Prism programme, suffered from a lack of clarity over what Prism actually was, and the means and relationships through which giant companies like Yahoo and Apple were required to provide access to their customers' information. The Guardian wound up a day later trying to tally various other claims with what it thought it had gleaned from Snowden's Powerpoint slides. I do think this hurt their later, much more substantial, reporting.

In this light it's hard not to feel that instead of rushing to place Snowden at the centre of the story (somewhat against his own judgement, it seems), Greenwald should have been quizzing him for more detail. What exactly is Prism? Can you characterise it for us, and explain its machinery? How do you know this?

There's also no hint in the film of the pressure Greenwald placed on The Guardian to go quickly, or of his unseemly spat with another journalist Snowden had contacted, the Washington Post's Barton Gellman. And although the British government's extraordinary order to The Guardian to destroy the hard drives on which its Snowden data had been stored is covered, it's somewhat out of context and probably puzzling to someone who doesn't already know the story. Where, I found myself wondering, is Alan Rusbridger in all this?

As George Packer's excellent New Yorker profile of Poitras as she was finishing the film last year notes, her inevitable falling-out with Wikileaks is missing from the story too. The phase in which Wikileaks entered the story, looking to spirit Snowden to Ecaudor via Moscow and making it only as far as Moscow airport, also seems to lack detail.

But let's not quibble too much. Poitras and Greenwald both sacrificed a good deal of what peace they had left in their private lives in taking on this staggeringly important story. They have not paid as much of a personal cost as Snowden himself, but they have paid.

Towards the end of the film, there is a resolution of a sort: Mills, now reunited with Snowden in Russia, is shown making dinner with him, in a shot through the window of the dacha where they will live for the foreseeable future. It's an equilibrium, but not an end. The end of this story seems a long, long way off yet.


Advance screenings of Citizenfour begin at Auckland's Academy Cinema on Sunday. Details here.

The film opens on February 12 at the Rialto Newmarket and the Lighthouse Cinema, Cuba Street, Wellington. Screenings begin on February 19 at Alice Cinemateque in Christchurch and there will be "select screenings" at the Rialto in Dunedin.


Friday Music: Fickle Rock

One of the good things about seeing Courtney Barnett playing Laneway this week (see Jackson's Capture post for great photos – and various reviews in the comments) was hearing songs from her forthcoming album (see the Rolling Stone story here).  And lo, we haven't had to wait long for a more enduring taste, with the release of the video for the first single, 'Pedestrian at Best', a song about the fleeting nature of critical fame.


I tweeted this last week, but it's worth highlighting here too: Simon Grigg's Trawling through the crates – the lost record stores of inner Auckland for Audioculture is a great, and nicely illustrated, tour of places that used to be.

See also John Dix's Strangers on the Shore, a look at musical immigrants, from jazzman Bob Gilett to madman Jaz Coleman.

And separately, a profile of Thai-born Simon Kong, a largely unheralded player n New Zealand's dance culture.


This is very cool. Auckland vinyl collector Kris Holmes has posted a mix compiled from his collection of gospel 7" singles. It's a lovely listen:

I Won't Have To Cry - A Deep Gospel 45s Mix by Kris_Holmes on Mixcloud


Another week, another impressive young woman from Christchurch representing on TheAudience. This time it's 17 year-old Maya Payne and this is quite a track.

Also, in "can't post this right now" news, Anthonie Tonnon has a nice new tune coming. 'Water Underground' is the fruit of his relationship with the Pittsburgh label Wild Kindness, which is premiering the track overnight. I'll add the embed when it goes public this weekend.

Finally, I've been asked to DJ in the dance tent next Sunday, the 8th, at the 2015 Big Gay Out and I am delighted both to be part of an event that always makes me proud to be a Point Chevalian, and at the prospect of busting out some Big Gay Tunes. Not sure exactly what time I'm on yet, but I'll let you know next week.

It's highly likely that this will get a spin ...

And just to celebrate, I've put that up as a big-ass WAV download (90MB!) for today only (I should really ask Bobby, but it's just a few hours and hopefully he'll approve of the purpose). Right-click here, save-as and dance like a whole tent full of people are watching and you just don't care.


The Hard News Music Post is sponsored by:



Friday Music: Auckland Birthday Party On

The timetable and map for Monday's Auckland Laneway festival are out and besides the usual agonising scheduling conflicts there are one or two notable changes on the site.

The most significant is a shift in the orientation of the smaller Cactus Cat Stage, which typically hosts the more dance-oriented acts. The site itself was levelled over the winter, taking out the rise where people crowded to get a view of the stage. The stage now sits further back and points at 45º rather than directly at the silos, opening up a wider viewing area. And it will sound better: the PA will be flown, not stacked sidestage. 

(Small potential downside: when the site was levelled, some small trees were planted. These may cause a little grief.)

Also, the "Friends and Family" bar, home base to sponsors, musicians, journalists and sundry industry wankers, has been moved back to its former position along the east fenceline. Council landscaping to increase capacity (more bumps flattened) had already taken out the grassy area, so it doesn't seem like any real loss to paying punters.

On the upside for those punters, the promoters are promising 1500 sq metres of shade, which will undoubtedly be welcome on what's set to be a hot, sunny day.

But perhaps the idea of a "main" stage doesn't apply so much this year. As off as Flying Lotus will undoubtedly go when he closes the Mysterex Stage, St Vincent, closing Cactus Cat at the same time, is a big artist. Her album peaked at No.12 in the US last year and she won a 2015 Brit Award. Her performance at Glastonbury last year was splendid. Apart from Courtney Barnett being on so early, that's my only major scheduling woe.

I'm delighted to confirm that Jackson Perry of our Capture blog has been granted media accreditation this year, so we'll have grand pictures of the event. You'll be able to add your own in the thread for his post.

Otherwise, the Laneway 2015 app is here on the iTunes App Store and somewhere at wherever Android users gets their apps. See you there.


It's also worth noting that Laneway is just one of a multitude of events happening on Auckland's waterfront this Anniversary Weekend. Of particular note (for me, anyway), there's Norman Jay headlining a fine and funky-looking Silo Sessions, noon-6pm on Saturday.

Here's the map of the various event locations and the changes to road access for the three days (the bottom of Queen Street and part of Quay Street are totes car-free). 


In other news, my talk programme for Splore next month is coming together nicely. I've confirmed a half-hour chat with Mr Scruff for Saturday's The Listening Lounge.

Other details from the press release I wrote:

The keynote of Saturday's session, The Listening Lounge, is 'Imagining Auckland', a panel discussion on the shape of the city most Splorers will return to after their weekend at beautiful Tapapakanga Regional Park. Zoe Lenzie-Smith, one of Generation Zero's leaders, Transport Blog's Patrick Reynolds and artist Ross Liew, who was recently appointed to Auckland Council's public art advisory panel, will discuss a better future with Russell -- and with the audience.

 The Listening Lounge will also feature a series of Pecha Kucha talks from the likes of former Splore boss – and now sustainability consultant – Amanda Wright, and a chat with Mr Scruff about the state of things.

On the Sunday, Art & Soul will take a more personal tack in conversations with the Phoenix Foundation's Samuel Flynn Scott, secular celebrant Hilary Ord, Australian artist Marcus McShane, poet Dominic "Tourettes" Hoey and teenage musical prodigy Eddie Johnston, aka Race Banyon.

 "All these people have stories outside what they do that inform their work," says Russell. "Marcus is a cycle courier, Dominic lives with chronic illness, Sam is a family man in a business that sometimes makes that hard. It's Sunday: a time to talk about family, community, creativity and soul."

So, from the most personal of journeys to the future of a million: that's the span of it.


No contest for local video of the week this week. Frances Haszard and Louis Olsen's haunting animation for @Peace's 'Gravity':


New on Audioculture: Redmer Yska's Popshows and the transformation of New Zealand pop includes pictures of The Who and the Rolling Stones, but also this amazing image of fans swarming Mr Lee Grant in 1967:

And Gareth Shute has a really interesting profile of Arch Hill Recordings the label founded by Laneway co-promoter Ben Howe and home to Street Chant, Doprah, Don McGlashan, David Kilgour and many more.

Also, Manu Taylor has written some words around examples from 95bFM's Extended Play series exploring classic New Zealand EPs.

Manu recently stepped down as bFM's general manager after six years and while bidding him farewell, it seems worth noting that the way has been opened for the station to be refreshed and reinvented. I think there will be some good applicants for that job -- and there should be. It's the kind of job that will be both maddening and extremely fulfilling.


The tunes ...

Race Banyon seems certain to pack the Thunderdome for his half-hour set at Laneway (same time as Courtney! Waah!). If you don't make it in, there's always the 20-minute downloadable "takeover" mix he did for George FM this week:

Something new involving Eddie's other identity too: Alex Young has taken the 59 sweet, sad seconds of Lontalius's 'Maybe His Smile Will' and worked it up in to a longer song of his own. This in an interesting way to do a collab.

British DJ-producer Jon Hopkins plays a whole hour (5.25-6.25pm) on Laneway's Cactus Cat Stage on Monday. He's also the latest curator tapped for the long-running Late Night Tales series. Preorder here in all formats, taster thus:

One of the bonus tracks from the new "deluxe edition" of St Vincent's eponymous album:

A brilliant take on 'White Lines' from Copycat's new Catch Wreck EP, available at a very good price on Bandcamp.

The Sonics, the original 1960s garage rockers, have their first album of new material in nearly 50 years ready for release. They posted a taster this week:

On TheAudience, another precocious talent from Wellington. Sixteen year-old Leon van Dijk and his quiet tunes:

And finally, a lovely Karim Chehab dub of an all-time house classic. Click through for the free download:


The Hard News Music Post is sponsored by:



We can make things better here

It was nice to get up this morning and see that the Herald's editorial today has acknowledged last week's post here about the walking and cycling infrastructure improvements going on around the the major transit projects on the edge of our suburb. I saw it as a little effort at local reporting. The kind you can only really do on a bike.

And I like the tone of the editorial in general. This kind of coverage is in itself an incentive for the people who make decisions on walking and cycling infrastructure. The editorial concludes:

There will be inevitable grumbling from motorists, but in many instances the needs of all can be accommodated by careful redistribution of space taken by traffic islands and median strips.

This weekend much focus will be on the water, with the Anniversary regatta, but Auckland is not just a city of sails, it is a city of shores, given its isthmus setting between two harbours. The public programme of making it easier to cross that isthmus and to reach more points on the coast has been a welcome plus.

The completion of the Waterview Connection project will include, quite remarkably, a foot and pedal path across New Zealand, spanning the isthmus from harbour to harbour. It will connect with the SH16 cycleway. That's the beginning of a real cycle network. The new "greenways" on the Point Chevalier side of the northwestern motorway are also part of the deal.

It's vital to note that these things didn't just happen – they were the result of the advocacy of groups like Cycle Action Auckland, which eventually obliged NZTA to build or fund the overground stretch of the SH20 cycleway traversed by the new tunnel.

The progressive extensions of SH20 also gave rise to the cycleway that stretches alongside the existing motorway. By the same token, it would have been difficult to improve the SH16 cycleway without the Causeway upgrade (which is in part necessary to take the traffic from Waterview). The raising of the Causeway also means that for the first time, there will be proper capture of run-off from the motorway, so pollutants don't enter the part of the harbour where we swim. When the project is completed, there will be longer, wider bus lanes and a dedicated SH16 busway seems likely in the longer term.

The authorities have unfortunately baulked at times – the daunting 1km climb northbound to Hillsborough Road on the SH20 cycleway is a showstopper for commuters and weekend cyclists alike – but the principle of major roading projects meeting the needs of walkers and cyclists is an important one.

So I wasn't entirely down with Paul Little's column in the same paper on Saturday, damning the Waterview Connection to hell:

Although no one has actually been seen embracing them, the stand of six 80-year-old pohutukawa on Great North Rd near the SH16 interchange works could use a hug right now. Auckland Transport has approved their removal to widen a road we don't need.

Hugs would also be welcomed by a lot of Aucklanders who have recently begun to see all too plainly what a hellish plan is being put in place between here and the Waterview connection (cost $1.4 billion). The pillars and overpasses can now be seen to be on a scale so colossal they appear not to be made with humans in mind at all.

And all to make the city even more dependent on cars and less likely to get decent public transport, because, well, sorry, but do you have any idea how much the Waterview connection has cost?

More roads for cars do long-term damage to Auckland as well as the regions. It deprives the latter of public funds for development and funnels their people into the mega-city, at a time when many regions' main industry is filling in benefit applications because they have no jobs left.

As I noted in last week's post, the expansion of the St Luke's Road overbridge, opposite Western Springs, is part of the same wider project as the Waterview Connection and the Causeway upgrade -- but is worse in almost every way. With two local boards, NZTA and Auckland Transport all in the mix, it lacks purpose and vision and any real connection with the local community. The potential loss of the six heritage pohutukawa and the buggering up of of an already bad intersection for pedestrians are functions of that.

But hey, I'll say it: I live right on the edge of the Waterview Connection and I'm mostly okay with it. Yes, it will get me to and from the airport more quickly -- but in a way, it's the reason for that that's more important. The time saved will be saved because the Waterview Connection will take traffic off my local roads. Half the journey time to and from the airport is curently the grind through streets and intersections designed for local traffic, not airport transits.

From 2017, I expect that traffic through the middle of my suburb, especially on Meola and Point Chevalier roads, will decrease notably, because there will be no direct access to the Waterview Connection via Point Chevalier. I worry about that St Luke's interchange, but I'm pretty happy about the prospect of fewer traffic jams on Carrington Road.

I'm also undaunted by the scale of Waterview. Indeed, I'm somewhat in awe of the engineering going on. Yes, there will be lanes high in the air at the north end, but they're in the space over the existing motorway. Waterview residents will have their own views about the degree of mitigation embodied in the project, but people I've heard from seem fairly happy with it.

Anyway, in conclusion: three dates for you. One is at 9am tomorrow, for the opening of the new Oakley Creek bridge alongside the motorway and a little ride around the new infrastructure in the area.

At 6pm tomorrow there’s a public liaison meeting with the contractors representing Auckland Transport and NZTA at the Western Springs Community Centre opposite the park. If you're concerned about the pohutukawa or anything else about the redevelopment of the St Luke's Road interchange, this is the place to air those concerns.

And finally: Friday's deadline for submissions on the Skypath across the harbour bridge. No, it should not be relying on private funding, but it's still a fairly exciting development. We can make things better here.