Hard News by Russell Brown

43

Friday Music: Starting Early

Consider Joel Little. He begins the week with a Grammy and now concludes it with the release of the debut EP from his next thing. Broods, who signed a remarkable international recording contract two months ago, have a self-titled EP out today:

It's quite unlike the recordings Little has produced with Lorde -- full-spectrum electro-folk versus the stark, disruptive pop of Pure Heroine -- and it's not hard to hear the Nelson sunshine in it. I think the hit here is 'Coattails', with its grand, surging chorus.

Notch up another one for the Smokefree Rockquest, which Georgia and Caleb Nott won in 2011 with their high school band The Peasants. The Peasants didn't do much -- they broke up after one NZ On Air grant -- but you can hear the roots of Broods' sound in the one single they did get recorded.

The Rockquest experience introduced them to Little, who was acting as a judge. And through him, to the managers who later negotiated Broods' record deal. The same management didn't quite get Little's first production and co-writing project, Kids of 88, over the line internationally, but the lessons learned then have been to the good of Broods.

Beyond that, I think we're seeing the benefits of popular music performance being embraced by schools, celebrated and often formally incorporated in a programme of study. Almost no one goes on to their ultimate success with the band they formed at school (cf: Lorde and her boisterous metal covers bands on YouTube), but the benefits of starting early seem manifest. And talent quests actually don't seem to hurt.

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To celebrate passing 50,000 plays on his Soundcloud page, young Auckland producer The Basement Tapes has posted his really nice remix of Massive Attack's 'Teardrop' as a free download:

You can also find his debut release, The Vapour EP, as a free download on Bandcamp.

I really loved the afternoon performance in the Laneway Thunderdome by another Auckland DJ-producer, High Hoops -- it was one of the highights of my day. Joyous, funky nu disco fun -- he even sings over his own tracks. His set included this:

So where are the new tracks, bro?

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Jackson has a great photo-post and subsequent discussion about Laneway (and Lorde), but just let me say this: toilets. There were heaps of them. About twice as many as the Big Day Out for a third as many people. There were queues, but they moved quickly by comparison. Ditto for the bars.

This was the year that the promoters got the Silo Park site about as right as possible -- especially in moving the Pretty Important People (sic) bar over to the far corner of the site, by the water, freed up a precious grassed area by the main stages for public use. Ironically, it's the last year they'll be able to use this site.

But that's not all bad. While the festival generally operated well at its consented capaity of 10,000, the Cactus Cat stage, home to most of the  hip hop and electronic acts, was a real pain at times. Jim and I skipped Kurt Vile (sorry, my indie friends, but that was dreary) to catch XXYXX and endured a crush that wasn't dangerous but did make it hard to enjoy the music, while the artist spent a lot of time apologising for the sound.

Even later, when Jamie Xx played a beautiful and brilliantly downtempo sunset set, the PA just wasn't loud enough and the fraught squeeze in front of the stage was quite at odds with the music. On the next site, wherever that will be, there will have to be a more sympathetic setting for the second stage.

As Bob Daktari notes in the discussion for Jackson's post, not everyone seems to go to Laneway for the music. Its hip, urban feel makes it a place to be seen, as well as see bands. Some of the people who go on that basis are quite annoying.

While the Big Day Out, on its new site, flubbed the practicalities of liquids in and liquids out, it did lay on what I think is the best sound ever at a New Zealand festival (the Aroha/Tamaki stages in particular were a good advertisement for their sponsor, JBL) and provided twin video screens at both major stage areas. It would be nice to think the bar has been raised for everyone.

But let's not quibble. Like their counterparts at the Big Day Out, the Laneway promoters faced challenges this year, and came through big-time. Monday was the best show they've put on so far, and deserved to sell out. I had a great time, heard a lot of great music, and I'm already looking forward to next year.

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The twin blow suffered by Laneway was, as we all know, the withdrawal of Lorde and James Blake in order to attend the Grammys. The former arranged a make-good show that let them keep equipment on the Silo Park site for what turned out to be a victorious welcome home.

It really was a remarkable evening: a notably sober crowd of 10,000 tweens, teens and grown-ups (the consented capacity of the entire site) crammed in front of one stage, cheering, waving glow-sticks and singing along.

It also almost defies belief that the homecoming star was ill and vomiting (whether with nerves or something gastric) shortly before taking the stage, although she was three songs in before she spoke to the crowd. She's grown a hell of a lot as a performer in the past six months. She uses the stage far more confidently, dips more readily into the powerful lower register of her voice.

Of note: the covers of Son Lux's 'Easy' and James Blake's 'Retrograde', which I suspect indicate something of Lorde's own future directions -- literally in the case of the former, which she's likely to re-record with its author.

Where she once occasionally got rushed by her own backing tracks, on Wednesday night she was spot-on. The super-basic computer/drums/voice format she's been touring with is very well established, and 'World Alone', which closes her album and closed the show on Wednesday, turns out to be a real festival banger live. (Part of me does wonder how the show would have been in its original slot in front of a bunch of messy, loved-up Laneway punters. Quite fun, I imagine.) Adding more live instruments and and developing extended and/or dubbed-out versions of the songs would seem to be a logical step.

As has been reported, the singer was upset by the behaviour of some media on her arrival from LA on the day of the show. That her since-deleted tweets on the matter would be widely reported is a given, but journalists need to show a little empathy here. She was concerned about the physical jostling of her own family. That doesn't make it a "tirade" or her a "diva".

An earlier brush with the press -- the photos of her in a bikini at the beach published by Woman's Day and subsequently used in an utterly revolting fashion by TMZ -- has re-emerged this week, thanks to Alison Mau.

Paul Dykzeul, CEO of Woman's Day publisher Bauer Media, responded as you'd expect, insisting that "We care about readers, and these photos would be and are of genuine interest to our readers."

Paul, let's be real about this. You paid for pictures obtained in the course of the prolonged stalking of a teenage girl. She was followed to her remote family bach and then to another location half an hour away. It wasn't a chance picture at the beach. You're complicit in that and explaining it away as "caring" is pretty dreadful.

 On the other hand, there's an extent to which the close, even constsnt, attention of the media comes with the territory. Lorde has been nothing if not dutiful about her press responsibilities, and realistic about the press taking what isn't necessarily given.

But, there's this. After this year's Silver Scroll Awards, my friend Simon Grigg was leaving the venue and ahead of him saw Lorde and her boyfriend James Lowe, the singer holding her award in one hand and James' hand in the other. She was number one in America that night, but they walked off towards the city together, unbothered, not surveilled by anyone. I think we'd all be a little poorer if we entirely lost the ability for that to happen.

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Some tracks.

There's Dan’s (@Danbakes) pretty-good recording of Lorde covering James Blake’s Retrograde on Wednesday. 

I couldn't find anything that exactly replicated Jamie Xx's Laneway set -- which ranged from cool funk through minimal house, dub and more -- but his most recent mix for BBC 6 Music has some of the same stuff.

Brand new Coco Solid:

If you dug Doprah at either Laneway or before Lorde, here's their big tune. Click through for a download courtesy of TheAudience.

More High Hoops:

A "6-Piece punk-influenced hiphop brass band from Auckland." Not bad!

More crazy business from West Auckland's The Dastardly Bounder:

And finally, a spooky little number for James Dann ...

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