Hard News by Russell Brown

7

Friday Music: The Sweetest Sound

The first time I recall hearing Sandy Mill's voice is about 15 years ago, on Epsilon Blue's chunky electronic banger 'So Many Times' (later reprised as 'Sweetest Sound'). Who, I wondered, was behind that wild, digitally-distressed refrain?

We're friends these days – moreover, we play out every now now and then as a funky mum 'n' dad DJ duo. And I've heard Sandy on a whole lot more records.

She's the complement to Sean Donnelly's lead vocal in SJD. She was in the chorus for Neil Finn's Out of Silence (and appeared on the live streams to be having the best time of anyone in the room). She sang the backing vocals on Placebo's surprise hit cover of 'Running Up That Hill' and has worked with Boy George and Basement Jaxx, and she can be heard on underground dance classics like No Tenshun's 'Soul Music'. She plays in the New Telepathics next weekend at Splore.

Last year, she finally got the chance to do her own thing – and it's not what you might expect. Her first single, 'Let It Go' is out today, and it's a sort of pop-rock-soul anthem. You could imagine it on the radio, or starting middle New Zealand's party after a few bourbons:

It comes with a couple of remixes that acknowledge her roots in electronic music, one by Misled Convoy (aka Mike Hodgson from Pitch Black):

And one by Aston Maxi (aka Sean James Donnelly):

Sandy played her debut show last night at Golden Dawn, along with quite a band: Dianne Swann, Ben King, Milan Borich and Darryn Harkness. And they played the single with three guitars:

The song comes from her EP A Piece of Me, which is released in April. I'm lucky enough to have an advance copy and it's nothing if not eclectic – 'Giftbox' is like a big Atlantic soul number, and 'Charade' is an epic country-rock tune. The thread connecting it all is Sandy's singing: not just a "big voice", but purposeful, expressive, immensely capable singing.

She calls it "post-punk soul" and clearly, I'm biased, but I think there's something strong going on here. Not all the pieces are in place yet (last night's show was off the back of just two rehearsals) but I think it deserves a big audience. It would be nice to think that local radio will get behind this record.

You can catch Sandy and the band in Helensville on March 18, as part of Music in Parks. Perhaps, as a bonus, they'll play the prowling version of the Eurhythmics' 'Love Is A Stranger' they played last night ...

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Julia Deans released a new track, 'Clandestine', today and I'm rather proud of how that came to be.

Late last year, I asked Julia to play at our 2017-roundup Orcon IRL event. She was, of course, awesome – and the final song she played was 'Clandestine', which is on her forthcoming album (out in May) We Light Fire.

Turns out so many people saw the clip and asked her when she was releasing it that she decided to bring it forward. Popular demand!

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It's on, boogie people: the details have been announced for a show spun off the wonderful Aotearoa funk and disco compilation Heed the Call.

Heed the Call Live, at the Hollywood Cinema in Avondale on March 23 will feature performances from Mark Williams, Collision, Tina Cross, The Inbetweens and The Totals. Mark hasn't sung these songs here for 40 years, Collision haven't played together since the late 70s. No word yet on who'll be taking Dalvanius's vocal, but 'Voodoo Lady' will be in the house.

There will be a backing band of younger funketeers, which will hopefully include Jeremy Toy. Jeremy was integral to the whole event, until last week when he was the victim of a nasty road accident (he was hit by a moped whose rider lost control) and had both legs broken. It seems touch-and-go, given that he's completely immobile right now, but fingers crossed.

The organisers have promised to dress the place like a suburban disco, with appropriate lighting effects. Tickets go on sale here at Under the Radar on Monday.

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Alastair Deverick, aka Boycrush, has a new single featuring his frequent collaborator Chelsea Jade. That's the New Zealand dance Company in the video: 

It's from the forthcoming Boycrush album Desperate Late Night Energy, which is released on June 15.

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 New Courtney Barnett!

It's from the forthcoming album Tell Me How You Really Feel, which you can pre-order in various formats, including cassette, with extra goodies.

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Andrew Boak's Punk It Up is back one more time to farewell the King's Arms tomorrow night. The lineup includes Proud Scum, The Johnnys, No tag and Flesh D-Vice. The old punks are promising to play loud and go late.

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Tunes!

Detroit spinner Black Milk is playing Splore next Friday night. And three days ago, he dropped this FACT mix:

It's a free download and a precursor to his new album, Fever, which is released the day he plays Splore. Track listing and background here.

And a super-cool track from the afro-disco-funk archives: orginally recorded by Gabon's Pierre-Claver Akendengué and re-edited by Petko Turner. Free download. 

0

SPLORE! The Listening Lounge 2018

As I've done for the past few years, I'm running the talk programme at Splore – the Listening Lounge – this year. And I'm pleased with what we have for Splorers at the Living Lounge tent on Saturday, February 24. Here it is ...

10.30am KNOW WHERE YOU STAND

Splore's relationship with Ngāti Whanaunga and Ngāti Paoa, the iwi associated with the Tapapakanga site, has always been important to the festival. The past year has been an exciting time for both – as part of the Hauraki collective, the two tribes finally initialled Treaty settlements with the Crown in August last year, the culmination of three decades of work. I'll be talking to Tipa Compain and others about their history – and the future.

11.00 EVERYTHING STARTS WITH AN E-BIKE 

A look at the e-bike revolution and how it changes things, with Bike Auckland’s events manager Olivia Lynch, the team from Big Street Bikers and Auckland Transport Māori liaison manager Tipa Compain. There'll be things to see and bikes to ride.

11.30 DRUG-CHECKING, HARM REDUCTION AND DODGING BULLETS

Know Your Stuff's Wendy Allison and NZ Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell are back again this year to talk about what's out there this summer (this season's crap drug has already been identified in the wild and it's alarming) and drug harm reduction in general. Always a popular session.

12.00 -12.45 WHERE TO NOW FOR MEDICAL CANNABIS?

The "Chloe bill" might have failed in the House, but submissions have opened on the government's medical cannabis bill, which will become law. What's possible? What's reasonable to go for? What are the risks? And what are the stakes? With Chloe Swarbrick MP, Auckland patient advocate Pearl Schomburg, Panapa Ehau of Hikurangi Enterprises (a Māori social enterprise lining up to be the first domestic producer of approved products), Shane Le Brun of Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ and Ross Bell. I think this is the best lineup on this topic there's been – certainly outside a specialist forum – and I'm expecting some news to come out of it.

If you can't join us at Splore, be assured that we'll be recording proceedings and I'll be writing up the highlights.

If you are coming out to paradise, note that the schedule is up now and there will be a new site map (new bars and stages!) published soon. Note also that 95bFM will be broadcasting from Splore this year – and that in partnership with Samsung they'll be placing electronic schedules on screeens around the site.

27

Waitangi: Just enjoy the day

It's not hard to divine the public narrative of Waitangi Day 2018: the Prime Minister and her party have enjoyed a positive, significant and possibly even historic week in the North.

Something has changed at Waitangi wrote Simon Wilson in the Herald, observing in a follow-up column that Ardern's "triumph at Waitangi turned out to be a near-perfect way to pull together all the threads of her ambition: political, cultural, personal." Newshub's reporters quoted many of those present marvelling at the change in atmosphere this year. Sharp commentators like Leonie Hayden, Morgan Godfery and Shane Te Pou declared that something good was indeed in the air.

Newshub reported, a touch unfairly, that Opposition leader Bill English was claiming credit for the success of this year's ceremonies. What both English and Steven Joyce said was the the decision to move events away from the lower marae, Te Tii, had removed a perennial flashpoint for trouble. That was more a matter for Ngāpuhi than the former government, but it would still seem to be true.

Was it, as some doubters are claiming, the sole factor in this different sort of day? No. That's ridiculous.

There is a backdrop here. In the broadest sense, a Labour Prime Minister went to Waitangi at a time when the thunderous dismissal of the political overreach of certain Māori Party figures – to Labour's direct electoral benefit – echoes still. She arrived on the back of a great deal of groundwork by her own Māori MPs, most notably Peeni Henare. I suspect that last is where where the idea of spending a full five days in the North came from. That was, as Annabelle Lee wrote in a great column for The Spinoff in advance of the day, a really big deal.

National has taken the concept of ‘rangatira ki te rangatira’ to the extreme, preferring the Iwi Leaders Forum as their primary point of contact with te ao Māori.

Like Key before him, English is a big fan of the forum thanks to what he describes as their “forward looking, business focus”. But to say that National has engaged meaningfully with Māori as a result of this relationship is like saying you’ve consulted with New Zealanders because you’ve had a hui with the Business Round Table.

Ardern’s five days means the prime minister will spend time among some of our most neglected communities as opposed to the conference centres often frequented by the forum.

The decision for Ardern to speak on the māhau at Waitangi’s top marae will not have been made lightly. Negotiations to hammer down the detail of how this will work are still ongoing. But that Ardern is willing to put herself out there is an admirable expression of rangatira ki te rangatira.

When Ardern did speak on Monday, what she said was notable in various ways. Her request for Māori to hold her government to account on poverty and inequality was widely reported, but I thought the metaphor she conjured to express that was the real heart of it:

A kaumatua spoke about the differences between these two whares on these grounds, and if you ask me the distance between this whare and the old homestead is the difference between us as people, the inequality we still have.

The distance between here and here is unemployment, is rangatahi who don’t have hope for their future, it’s the poverty that exists amongst whānau, it’s those rangatahi who don’t have access to the mental health services who take their lives, it’s the fact that not everyone has a decent home, a decent place to live. And it’s the incarceration of the Māori people disproportionately to everyone else that is the distance between us. And so long as that exists, so long as that exists we have failed in our partnership, but I inherently believe in our power to change and I hope not only that my child believes in that power too, but I hope that they will see the change for themselves.

From a politician who is not a natural orator, especially by marae standards, it was a remarkable address, in part because it seemed personally authentic.

The for-the-many-not-the-few philosphy outlined in the speech, and over the days before it, was summed up as dawn broke yesterday. Ardern had decided that the start to the day should not be the invite-only breakfast at the Copthorne Hotel conducted by John Key in recent years, but a public barbecue, cooked and served by the Prime Minister and her MPs on the Treaty grounds. The symbolism of that was immense.

The government cannot and will not stop talking to iwi leaders, of course. The increasingly capable, business-minded people at the helm of iwi affairs are vital figures in the country's future, whether they be those guiding the likes of Tuhoe, Ngati Whanaunga or Ngati Paoa in their new post-settlement journeys, or the second and third-generation leaders of Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Whātua. But reaching past them to the people was significant.

It helped also, of course, that the Prime Minister is hapū. What is shaping up as the best unplanned pregnancy ever had the kuia cooing and offered some shelter from any hostility that might arise.

But with all this – with the good political timing, the assiduous organisation and all the favourable winds – Jacinda Ardern still needed to turn up and do it. It was an easy observation to make that she did something John Key or Bill English could not have done, but I think it's also true that Helen Clark couldn't have either. Ardern's ease with people, her availability to them, her sincerity, is significant and it's a component of leadership.

Not everyone agrees, of course. Some people are quite upset about the positive result at Waitangi. I had to block someone on Twitter yesterday, not because they abused me – I've been called a hack before and it doesn't hurt – but because they repeatedly used the phrase "Ngapuhi goons". It was really the wrong week to do that. I stood in a church a few days ago to farewell my friend and I talked about his pride in his Ngapuhi whakapapa and greeted his family.

What about the water tax and the Kermadec sanctuary? the same person demanded. Where were they discussed? As far as I know, they weren't, and would not have been in the normal course of events. But it's evident that Labour faces some tricky policy issues that will directly weigh on Māori interests. It's also evident that what happened over these five days in the North will make it easier to navigate those issues in good faith. It's not that hard to grasp.

A number of reports and commentaries focused on the lack of protest as a benchmark of yesterday's success. Personally, I was somewhat relieved to hear that Kingi Taurua had fronted up to complain about the sidelining of Te Tii. Protest is okay. And it was okay, too, for Bill English to be at Bluff yesterday. We may have certain perceptions of Southland, but as Ali Jones noted on Twitter, Kai Tahu historian Michael Stevens' history of Bluff speaks of a deep history of Māori identity.

Yesterday did feel different, and perhaps like the start of something new. That was, as I've noted, down to a combination of fortune, timing, preparation, political narrative and the personal qualities of the new Prime Minister. And it doesn't really make sense to unpick any one of those from the other. Perhaps it's best to just enjoy the day that was.

9

Music! Is Everything ...

Jackson has posted some great photographs of Laneway 2018 in Capture. I'm glad he did, because, as is sometimes the case at the big events, I didn't take any. Well, inside the gates that is. I did take this pic of the situation that greeted us on arrival about 2.45pm.

Apparently the problem was with all the millenials who don't own printers and just brought along their e-tickets on their phones. The barcodes didn't always scan well and the entry systems basically broke down for a while. It was pretty unpleasant – a few people needed medical attention – and would have been worse for those stuck on the sunny side of the crowd.

Happily, after collapsing in the shade to recover from the ordeal of getting in, the first thing we watched was one of the best Laneway performances I've ever seen. I knew nothing about Moses Sumney before the day, but he and his band were astonishing. He not only showed off a startling vocal range, but at times seemed to redefine what a voice even is.

This clip from a show in Rotterdam a couple of months ago captures something of what it was like:

One thing that struck me about the music of Laneway 2018 was how laid-back a lot of it was – occasionally to a fault (Connan Mockasin was so low-key that we just just drifted away to do something else). But the new venue seems to lend itself to a wider palette. Aldous Harding might have struggled in the capark environment of the Silo Park main stages, but at 6pm on Princes Street, shaded by towering trees, it seemed just right.

I also dug Slowdive (they basically do one thing but they do it really really well), Unitone Hi-Fi, Bononbo and, most especially Tokimonsta, who transcended trap and hip hop cliches to bring the breaks. I'm glad that many people seemed to enjoy Father John Misty so I didn't have to.

It was all-too-evident when we arrived that there were 2000 more people onsite, but that gradually sorted itself out and the event found a rhythm. I hope Laneway can stay at Albert Park for a long, long time.

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As many of you will be aware, my old friend Grant Fell died recently, and the communities he was central to converged to say farewell. After his funeral service at St Matthew's in the City,  his friends moved on to Golden Dawn, where the Headless Chickens got together to play one last time in his memory, while everyone cheered and danced and laughed and cried.

I talked to Alex at Music 101 and Henry at the The Spinoff, wrote this Audioculture article and delivered a eulogy that at times had me battling keep it together, so perhaps it's time now for someone else to talk about Grant.

But several times last week, I thought about a beautiful song. 'The Sleepwalker' was written by Chris Matthews while he was in Children's Hour. The rest of the band talked about the song reverentially, but they never recorded it and the only time they played it live was years later, as an off-the-cuff encore at the Kings Arms when they reformed for a handful of shows in 2005.

The song was eventually recorded when Chris was with the Jefferies brothers in This Kind of Punishment, and was released on the album A Beard of Bees.

Happily and fittingly, A Beard of Bees is one of the early TKP records newly re-released – after nearly 35 years! – by the Superior Viaduct label. You can buy them, for a mildly breathtaking $60, from the Flying Out store. (The project has also had the happy effect of of getting the long-estranged Jefferies brothers communicating again.)

But the song's complex and interesting story doesn't stop there. In 1995, Cat Power recorded a version for her debut album, Dear Sir. And I say "version", because it's ... different. So much so that some Cat Power fans are quite emphatic that she wrote it.

"I friended Cat Power on MySpace – obviously a while back!," Chris tells me, "And chatted with her a few times, but after I asked her who did her publishing and stuff for her first album she went mysteriously quiet. I can’t imagine she sold a million copies of it but I never saw a cent in royalties. The weird thing is that she changed the chord progressions, the melody and a lot of the words, so if she’d just changed the title then nobody would have known it was my song!"

The other thing about that version is that it is, frankly, not very good.

"She’s done some wonderful cover versions of songs," agrees Chris. "Just not my one ... "

The song came back again after that, when Chris incorporated elements of it into the Headless Chickens' 'Mr Moon'.

"I recycled the verse melody from 'Sleepwalker' for the 'Mr Moon' chorus. Originally, the chorus for Mr Moon was just going to be my guitar line and with no words and then I realised it was the same chord progression as 'Sleepwalker' and that vocal melody worked nicely with it – and since not many people heard 'Sleepwalker' at the time then I might as well use it again."

Chris swears he's going to get around to suing himself for copyright infringement one day, but is understandably hoping to settle out of court.

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 I was chatting to someone at a party on Sunday who told me about a young Ngati Porou guy called A.ZEE who is not only recording his own tracks but creating videos for them. He's creating a lot – there are 53 videos in the rap section of his YouTube account, and 129 featuring just beats – and this sounds like a great song to me:

And this:

I reckon he deserves some attention. There's a lot going on there.

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A tip from Stinky Jim here. Khruangbin are from Texas, but they take their inspiration from North Africa and the Middle East – and most notably, the Persian funk of pre-revolutionary Iran. Like this:

They are, as you might expect, serious crate-diggers – and here at The Vinyl Factory they offer up their Top 10 P-funk gems ("P" stands for "Persian", right?).

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The King's Arms Tavern has a busy schedule as the place works towards its closure at the end of the month, with shows by Dimmer and the D4, the return of Punk It Up and even a family fun day next Sunday.

And throughout that time, there's Departure Lounge, an exhibition by artists Rachael Burke, Jamie Wardale, Jean Stewart andGerry Copas in homage to the KA. The exhibition has an opening event on Wednesday, from 5.30pm to 8pm on Wednesday and all the works are for sale.

The very final day the King's Arms will ever open its doors is Wednesday, February 28, when 95bFM will be broadcasting from the pub the whole day  with guest bands and DJs – and even the opportunity for you to get yourself a King's Arms tattoo!

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Tunes!

Absolutely piping hot: Coco Solid has just dropped Cokes, a Waitangi Day mixtape of material she's been working on for the last few years. She talked about the project – and about Waitangi Day – to Jessie Moss at The SpinOff this week. You can download it for free now from her website. (She also has a Patreon account giving access to her podcasts and other work for as little as $1 a month.)

Also, this sheer slice of summer is a fresh free download:

And Ronny Hammond is back with another trunkload of funk. Also a free download ...

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15

Friday Music: Rolling Funder

In these complicated times, many musical artists have been obliged to expend some of their precious creative essence on new ways to earn the money that would allow them to continue being musical artists, as opposed to, say, hospitality workers or officials at the Ministry of Culture and Heritage who, in quiet moments, wistfully question their life choices.

Principal among those ways is, of course, going to the people via crowdfunding. And I'd like to recommend to you Lawrence Arabia's new crowdfunding venture, Lawrence Arabia's 2018 Singles Club, on Kickstarter.

The idea is pretty sound: for a pledge of $20 or more, you'll receive a new digital single every month of 2018. Pay a few dollars more and you'll get the as-yet-untiled Lawrence Arabia album into which those singles will be compiled. Or a tea towel.

And if you're an official at the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, you may even choose to briefly quell the voices in your head by ponying up $200 for a personal video call in which Lawrence will sing 'Wind Beneath My Wings' solely for you, or $500 for a kind of life-membership package which includes your name on the door for every Lawrence Arabia gig until the end of time. You may even have a spare $2000 for a private Lawrence Arabia show at your own home or other nominated place.

But even if you don't have any money or you hate Lawrence Arabia's music, I would encourage you to go and browse the page itself, because it's extremely witty.

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Also seeking you patronage are Wellinton's Hex, who'd like a little support to help them with a trip to the South By Southwest festival in March.

Or if you're in Auckland, you could also drop a tenner on going to see them play with the Echo Ohs and others at the King's Arms tomorrow night.

You may have heard the band on 95bFM this morning, discussing the exact nature of Satan's buttplug with Mikey Havoc and premiering their new single 'Sight Beyond The Line'. It's from their debut album, The Hill Temple, which is out next month. You can't hear that anywhere else at the moment, but here's the last single, 'Runes / Ruins', which is about as poppy as they've ever got:

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Meanwhile, Digital Music News has a useful story on YouTube's new monetisation rules, which pretty much crap on independent musicians who thought they might earn a little beer money from the ads placed against their videos.

Under the new rules, "content creators" will lose the ability to monetise their videos unless they can show 4000 hours of total watch time within the past 12 months (or have at least 1000 subscribers). Now, this might be fine for "creators" who video their breakfast every morning, but it's less so for artists like, say, Disasteradio, who spend three months crafting a brilliant clip. Worse, YouTube will continue to place ads against their content – they just won't get a sliver of it. And they may have trouble claiming even the money have already earned.

The change appears to be YouTube's way of weeding out the "bad actors" – Nazis and crypto-paedophiles – who have been scaring off big advertisers. It seems a particularly ham-fisted way of achieving that goal.

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Kody Neilson has given a glimpse of what he'll be playing at Splore next month, in the form of an instrumental piece called 'Bic's Birthday', which is  the lead track on a forthcoming album of similar material called Birthday Suite.

He talks about the new project here in an interview with Under the Radar.

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Having brough Theo Parrish to us last year, the Anno Domini crew have gone large for 2018 by announcing that goddamn Moodymann is to play the roof of the Art Gallery on March 11. Tickets here from Monday.

Did I mention that Troy Kingi is touring? Troy Kingi is touring!

Anthonie Tonnon has a nerdy little post about going electronic and shrinking his excess baggage. You can catch him in Australia over the next week and, rather excitingly, he has posted the lyrics from his current Two Free Hands EP, with the promise of a full lyrics section on his website soon.

Old punks may wish to check out the Suburban Reptiles scrapbook on Audioculture. Those were different times ...

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It's been out for a few months, but I've been really enjoying hearing Charlotte Gainsbourg's 'Deadly Valentine' on bFM all summer:

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Tunes!

Leftside Wobble has posted one of his b-sides as a free download on Facebook (click the link in the Soundcloud text to get there). It's sweeeet:

Auckland electronic producer d.tyrone has a bubbly little number up on Soundcloud:

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