Hard News by Russell Brown


Friday Music: Golden Dawn is closing. Start your own fucking band.

Last Friday night I was in a happy place. I'd witnessed an intense, exultant performance by Orchestra of Spheres and now I was not so much dancing as having a spiritual experience with some classic Loft disco records.

The big chap in a tea-cosy hat having a a boogie nearby also seemed to be enjoying himself. It was only later I realised he was American jazz visionary Kamasi Washington, who'd come down with his band after playing a sold-out show at the Powerstation.

It turned out that one of Kamasi's drummers (he has two) had asked a fan where they might go and relax after the show, and was told that their best chance of good music was a place called Golden Dawn, in Ponsonby. It was their happy place, too.

Golden Dawn – or to give it its formal title, The Golden Dawn Tavern of Power – is closing down, seven years after it opened as a two-year pop-up. Tomorrow is its last night on earth.

Where will we send black jazz visionaries for a dance now? And more to the   point, where are we going to go? To say that this Ponsonby oasis will leave a cultural gap ain't the half of it. But, as Matthew Crawley and Nick Harrison tell Henry Oliver over at The Spinoff today, they're tired and they need a rest.

This checks out. Although the bar has been fortunate to have sympathetic owner-investors, its real secret sauce came straight from the hearts of the people who ran it night-by-night. And you can't pour your soul into something like this forever.

While the GD's two-worlds arrangement – guitars indoors and grooves in the yard – might be hard to replicate in another building, I think the thing that's portable, should anyone else care to try, is the sense of event. Want your bar to be better? Treat it like it's special. Book weird artists and treat them well. Put interesting drinks on the bar. Act like you care, be eclectic and have good taste, even at the risk of the news media depicting you as a snob.

And if no one's doing that for you as a punter, demand more from your bars. Ask if the local could put on better DJs, or organise something yourself. Start your own fucking band, basically.

The bar has been speeding towards oblivion this year by putting on a show every night for the last three months. And happily, all of that has been captured by a team led by sound engineer Bob Frisbee, on video and in 5.1 surround sound. You can help them complete There's No Sign On The Door: The Tavern Of Power Concert Movie by chipping in a little to their Boosted campaign. If you're ever had a great night at the bar, consider sending a dollar their way.

I've had quite a few great nights at Golden Dawn since I was directed there seven years ago by New Zealand's current Prime Minister. And I'm proud to have been part of the art by presenting all our Orcon IRL events there, and doing occasional DJ gigs, both with and without my turntable buddy Sandy Mill. We're part of quite a tribe – the likes of Tiny Ruins and Anthonie Tonnon have both played there and worked the bar.

I'm not sure if I'll make Saturday's closing party. Last night – with Voom and Shaft playing inside and Stinky Jim, Cian and Geezer Guy in the yard – was jam-packed and there was a slightly manic air about it all. Maybe I'll swing by on Saturday afternoon (it's open from midday for the paying of respects). Or maybe I'm kidding myself and I'l try and squeeze in for one more lash at it.

However it ends up, I'd like to thank Matthew, Nick and everyone else, for being good people. We need more good people. Now, start your own fucking band.


 In other news, I was delighted to accept the invitation to present this year's Taite Music Prize classic record: which is the Headless Chickens' debut, Stunt Clown.

It's 30 years this year since Stunt Clown was released. It still sounds good – and surprisingly fresh, perhaps because it's the sound of a group reaching for new things. This is the quote I have the organisers this week:

From the strange field samples that open ‘Expecting to Fly’ on in, Stunt Clown is the sound of a band not just waiting for change but imposing change on itself. Made in fraught circumstances – who would have thought winning $60,000 to make a record would be such a pain? – it radically expanded the Chickens’ palette. It plays now as the bridge between the band’s experimental origins and later pop success, but it stands on its own as an ambitious, strikingly varied work. Literally no one in New Zealand was making music like this at the time – they had to invent it. The Taite judges got it right when they chose this album to honour.

I'm looking forward to the ceremony on April 17. Meanwhile, here's a previously-unpublished picture of the band from the amazing Brian Murphy archive.


 A number of times in the past few years I've directed you to tunes by the British DJ Nicolas Laugier, aka The Reflex, whose special thing is edits – or rather "re-visions" of classic (and more recently, contemporary) tunes from the original multi-track stems. He often finds something completely new amid the tracks that were buried in the original mix, as is the case with his take on Stevie Wonder's 'Living for the City':

Well, the good news is, he's playing here for the first time next month:

If you can't make to Auckland or it's just past your bedtime (I feel you), he has a whole bunch of stuff on Bandcamp, including this bundle of 45 free edits to download.


New dates for the Anthonie Tonnon full band tour, which launches in Auckland on April 5.

And also, because he's a thinker as well as a dreamer, Tono's advice on How to get to Auckland Airport for $4.80.

Congrats to Indira Force and Mille Lovelock of Astro Children, the two New Zealand representatives at the 2018 Red Bull Music Academy. It's in Berlin this year.

And finally, an interesting – and sympathetic – look at the relatively poor crowds for Lorde's current US tour. She's actually not alone in struggling to fill arenas at the moment, as Laura Snapes points out:

Lorde isn’t the only major pop artist who has struggled to fill arenas in the US recently. Arcade Fire, Lana Del Rey and Ellie Goulding have all played to less-than sold-out rooms; Jay-Z’s 4:44 tour was his highest grossing solo tour, but had low ticket sales, while forthcoming tours by Smashing Pumpkins and Taylor Swift are reportedly not the sellouts that had been expected. Inflated ticket prices could be one cause, and, to a limited degree, blocks snapped up by secondary ticketing sites that didn’t manage to offload their haul. Maybe the trend also says something about the difficulty of persuading a relatively passive, streaming-inclined audience to invest in an artist.

I agree with Snapes that the top of the pop charts probably doesn't represent Lorde's destiny as an artist. When you look at the upper reaches of Spotify, it's actally kind of a horrorshow, and Melodrama, a critical favourite and an award-winner, has not found a place there. But selling 6000 tickets on a tour date only looks like a failure when you're trying to fill an 18,000-seat arena. She has plenty ahead of her.



1984, Cambridge Analytica and what others know of our selves

A couple of weeks ago when I appeared on a discussion panel organised by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner around the Auckland Arts Festival stage production of George Orwell's 1984, I decided to talk not about how we might be surveilled, but how we are being surveilled, every second, by big internet companies.

We receive useful services from those companies in exchange for our data, which they use in turn to profile us as customers, usually for the benefit of their advertisers. The key question was, I ventured, not whether our private information was being held, but what happened to it.

China's grim march toward its "Social Credit" system has begun – and it employs state-controlled analogues of Google, Facebook, Amazon and PayPal to rate and rank every citizen. People's score will be affected not only by their own actions, but by the company their keep. And this isn't even the full government scheme, which doesn't launch until 2020. The Guardian's Tim Phillips recently signed off with this column on "the dramatic and troubling changes now sweeping the world’s wealthiest and most powerful authoritarian nation".

I also noted that Orwell's book was not only about surveillance and the surrender of privacy, but control of language and the undermining of the idea of objective truth. We saw this in action in the 2016 US general election – and the fact that mass data collection by state agencies may be of crucial help in finding out exactly when happened there presents quite a moral conundrum.

I'd love to say I mentioned Cambridge Analytica, but I didn't. But what has emarged over a year's persistent work by The Observer's Carole Cadwalladr – and more particularly the shocking revelations this week – fits the bill.

In short, Cambridge Analytica, the data firm owned by Trump backer Robert Mercer, used information hoovered up – in breach of terms and probably the law, and certainly without users' knowledge – from 50 million Facebook accounts to guide an unprecedented psychographic campaign. Not long after the election, it emerged that the Trump campaign had delivered political advertising in a new way, in thousands of different iterations, sometimes within the same day. We now know how.

Cadwalladr spent a year talking to former Cambridge Analytica data scientist Chris Wylie before he was ready to go public. He explained in this story in The Observer how the information was harvested under the auspices of an academic research project that took the data not only of the people it paid to take a personality test, but that of their Facebook friends too. Wylie said he had come to realise he was part of the creation of “Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare mindfuck tool”.

There's also a video interview with Wylie:

The full extent of Facebook's own complicity is yet to be determined, but Techcrunch writer Josh Constine's Facebook and the endless string of worst-case scenarios explains how it was allowed to happen. The very, very best scenario is that Facebook showed a sustained recklessness with our privacy.

But things got even more alarming as UK Channel 4 published the results of a video sting carried out on Cambridge Analytica's senior management. First, them talking about the full range of dirty tricks their company could offer in foreign elections.

And then, bragging about what they depicted as the company's comprehensive involvement in the Trump campaign, including what appear to be illegal activities and the destruction of material communications. It raises questions about links between Russian state interests – which we know for a fact to have been active players during the election campaign – and what this company was doing.

Meanwhile, BBC Newsnight looked at whether Cambridge was involved in the Leave campaign ahead of the Brexit referendum – the company bragged about it then but denies any involvement now – a story it said "raises troubling questions about whether, in the age of big data, our democracy is open to manipulation".

It seems like that some of what the excutives said in what they thought was a business pitch was bullshit. But how much?

Big data and the democratic process are not exactly strangers. Many of us were awed by the work that firms like Blue State Digital did in marshalling votes for the first Obama campaign. But that was largely about a big workforce personally reaching out to voters, keeping their names and getting them to the polls. This targeting of people's psychological vulnerabilities seems something else altogether. It is, in its way, also Orwellian. Winston Smith was scared of rats more than anything.

It seems vitally important that we know as much as we can about this. State processes are in motion. But that we know what we now know is yet another vindication of real journalism.


PS: you can also watch a video of that 1984 discussion, and I think it's worthwhile less for my contributions than for a chance to hear from the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Cheryl Gwyn. She is really worth listening to. 


Fentanyl: it's here

The harm-reduction organisation Know Your Stuff announced today that for the first time it has found the synthetic opioid fentanyl in a field sample in New Zealand. It's something everyone who watches the illicit drug market knew was almost certain to happen eventually. Now it's here.

There have already been fentanyl overdose deaths here, but those appear to have been related to fentanyl diverted from legitimate prescriptions. What Know Your Stuff found last month was illicitly-imported heroin that turned out to contain fentanyl.

The organisation offers (in a legal grey area) drug-checking services at festivals and dance parties, using both reagent kits and a portable spectrometer funded by the New Zealand Drug Foundation. That's how this sample was found.

It's rare for opioids to be presented in that context – who takes heroin to a dance party? – but Know Your Stuff spokesperson Wendy Allison believes that drug users who have become aware of the service may now be bringing along substances they have no intention of taking on the day, to have those tested too.

"We thought we'd better tell people because it's the first time we've found it as a substitution for something else," she says.

"This one came into the country. That's about all we can say about it. With things coming through and being bought on the internet now, whether it's been bought as a single sample off some website or whether it's been smuggled in in large quantities is never certain.

"Anyway, it got destroyed. They weren't taking it."

Along with its toxicity – respiratory arrest is the primary factor in overdoses and fentanyl is likely to suppress breathing in far smaller quantities than more established opioids – it's this undeclared presence of the drug that has caused an extraordinary number of deaths in North America and Britain. In Canada it has turned up in almost every black-market drug but cannabis, including party drugs like MDMA.

Know Your Stuff's statement this morning makes several recommendations in response to the discovery. It notes that the most reliable method of testing for fentanyl and its its analogues is a fentanyl testing strip available at The Hempstore and elsewhere.

It also recommends amending the Misuse of Drugs Act to allow DHBs and other services to offer forensic drug-checking services for people who want to check that what they have is what it's supposed to be; making the opioid antidote naloxone more widely available – and pressing ahead on the long-promised Drug Early Warning System.

Although some Health budget was allocated last year for a scoping study for an EWS, there's little sign of progress on the matter – and the result is that, as Allison acknowledges:

"We are the Early Warning System. We don't really want to be, but nobody else is giving out information about things that could be dangerous. While there are a lot of agencies collecting data, nobody's sharing it."

What has happened this year has underlined quite how much that's the case. In January, Know Your Stuff announced that it was finding a new "crap drug", n-ethylpentylone, being presented as the more common party drug MDMA, or Ecstasy. Although, as a crystal or powder, it may be hard to distinguish from MDMA, it's dosed at about a third the quantity: about 30mg as opposed to 100mg. Taking even measured amounts in the belief it's MDMA can be very dangerous – as we saw last month in Christchurch, where about 20 young people presented to ED suffering serious effects from overdosing on n-ethylpentylone.

Police and the DHB announced that the substance they'd taken was not MDMA, but mistakenly conflated n-ethylpentylone with another drug in the cathinone family, mephedrone, which has a different dose profile. Police subsequently corrected the advice – and it's hard not to think that they did so because Know Your Stuff flagged the error.

But although the media are increasingly treating Know Your Stuff as an expert commentator, the system is wary.

"I suspect what's happening is that we're not legit enough yet. We're not the cops, not a DHB, not ESR," says Allison. "Nobody really knows what we are, we're just some rogue organisation that came out of nowhere and people in the corridors of power are not ready to take us seriously yet. Which is a shame, because while they've sat about, we're the ones telling people what's out there."

She says two MPs from different parties have approached Know Your Stuff and are "interested in what we're doing. Nobody else has shown any interest yet."

As it did last year, Know Your Stuff will be presenting this summer's testing data. Last summer, it noted the discovery of cathinones it could not identify being presented as MDMA. Spectrometer sused in the field typically identify the structure of a chemical and match it against a database of known profiles.

Was n-ethylpentylone one of those mystery cathinones last summer? Yes.

"One of the new and unnamed cathinones we found last summer was n-ethylpentylone. The spectrometer detected it as a bunch of different cathinones and we sent the spectrum to The Loop in the UK, who identified it as n-ethylpentylone. We got the Bruker database update which is now correctly detecting it as n-ethylpentylone, but there are two other cathinones we detected that The Loop could not find a match for. They're cathinones but they're not in The Loop's database.

"We've found those two again this year. We still don't know what they are."

The gap may lie in the fact that new substances in Britain tend to be manufactured in Europe, where those in the market here will typically have been made in Chinese factories.

"But until somebody identifies it and puts it in the database, the best we can do is record it as 'unknown cathinone' and say 'we don't know anything about it, please don't take it'."

And they keep coming.

"They do. And as far as we can tell from information from Europe, at a rate of about six a month."


Bikelash, paralysis – and progress

I couldn't ride my e-bike for a few days last week, having strained my back by, ironically, dismounting said bike and missing a step. In truth, my back had been ready to go for a week or two and I felt bad filling out the ACC claim form – it looked like a cycle accident when I wrote it down, but is it a cycle accident when it happens at home in your porch?

So I had to drive to several appointments where I'd otherwise have ridden, and it seemed tedious, stressful and (parking!) expensive. But after some rest and treatment, I was good to go on Sunday, when I had some errands to run. It didn't start well.

The presence of a national Under-17 football tournament had turned Meola Road, an important local link for Point Chevalier and beyond, into a proper shitshow since Friday. With both sides of the roads parked up with the large SUVs that seem to go hand-in-hand with youth football, cars struggled to even pass each other and on occasions where two buses found themselves on the road at the same time, things really ground to a halt.

I'm a confident cyclist and on the e-bike it was practical to just take the lane, but this mess happens to some degree every weekend. To an extent, it's actually better if traffic has slowed to a crawl – when there's speeding traffic behind you (the speed limit has always seemed optional on Meola), ducking out around parked cars is not for the faint-hearted. It is not something you would countenance a child having to do.

Meola, is, of course, the next leg in the safe cycle route when Garnet Road is sorted out and it's pretty much a given that there will be a similar bikelash, probably from the same people. Their campaigning already seems likely to delay the whole Point Chevalier section by up to two years.

But the fact is, the city needs to get parking off Meola Road, and the promised bike lanes will do that. I'm realistic: I get that many people will need to drive the kiddies to Saturday morning football, but please let's find somewhere else for the SUVs. (Happily, it seems there are talks about employing otherwise unused land owned by Motat for that very purpose, but that's a separate process.)

Things could hardly have been more different after I rode down through Cox's Bay Park and up the hill to the Peel Street roundabout in West Lynn. The roundabout is part of the controversial new road design in the area, and after a little bedding in, it's working well. It could hardly have been worse than the old intersection.

But the real treat was being able to ride up here.

This is the new bike lane up the hill to West Lynn shops. Its completion was briefly delayed when Occupy Garnet Road leaders Lisa Prager and Penny Bright occupied a digger, with a 'Save the Trees' sign. This was odd, given that no trees were being removed. At all. Indeed, the new lane diverts around a couple of trees before heading up the hill along the top of the steep grass berms. (I'm told the Occupiers' new objection to the path is that it is bad for the environment because it's made of asphalt.)

It's not quite there yet: Auckland Transport needs to better signal that the ramp that leads back to the road is not in fact yet more car parking.

From there, you're into the West Lynn shops, the site of an iconic bikelash battle. And you know what? It's looking good. AT still hasn't announced final details of what it's going to do to remediate the hamfisted streetscaping inflicted during the original project (that steeply sloping footpath on the east side is an embarassment), but the bike lanes themselves are pretty sweet.

In truth, there was never as much wrong with them as their opponents noisily insisted, but now that the asphalt has cured and the green surface has gone on, they look and feel like bike lanes.

It's surprising how much difference that makes. The bumpers are stopping people parking all over the southbound side – except where, like this vehicle, they're parking illegally.

The lane is messed up a bit on Sundays by the farmers' market at the community centre, but by the same token, there were plenty of bikes parked up there.

The very next stretch of the lane kind of threw me. There's not actually a lane, just a very narrow, painted "door zone". Well, actually, there is meant to be a bike lane, a kerbside one, but cars are parking on it. The design had them parking to the right of the door zone, but it is sitting there uncompleted because the Occupiers have spooked AT into leaving it unfinished. It's ridiculous, to put it mildly.

UPDATE: I'm told that AT is now saying it's going to paint out the bike lane, permanently restore parking to the left of the line and break its own design. Cyclists can just suck it up, apparently. I cannot emphasise how fucking stupid, outrageous and cowardly this is.

UPDATE 2: Auckland Transport has responded thus: "There is no commitment to remove greening at this stage. The proposed cycling facility between the West Lynn Village and Surrey Crescent is under review, and we are not pre-determining the outcome until the analysis is completed." This isn't what I was told by someone involved, but I'm happy (and relieved) to accept it. I hope and trust Auckland Transport will show some courage and do the right thing here. Meanwhile, a clearly marked bike lane will go unenforced for as long as a year.

Heading in the other direction, it looks like this. Yes, we'd all like separated lanes, but it's adequate.

Adequate, that is, until you pass the West Lynn shops and everything just disappears. Again, this seems to be because of the halt forced by the protesters. It seems likely to stay that way, dangerous and dysfunctional, for another year. And in a way that suits the Occupiers quite nicely – the longer they can ensure the the project stays uncompleted, the longer people are deterred from using it.

But the lesson from the parts of West Lynn that have been able to be completed is: build it and they will come. On Saturday, Patrick Reynolds took an extrordinary series of photographs as he enjoyed a St Patrick's Day beer at Freida Margolis.

They included this startling lineup of Onzo bikes, which didn't get there on their own – they were "scavenged from backyards" by some bikers on something called the Tour de Ponsonby and ridden en masse. Yes, perhaps somewhere better than the footpath is required for storage, but getting these things back in circulation is a worthwhile thing to do.

Again there's a lesson here about bike-friendly makeovers and bikelash  – especially a bikelash driven by people as mendacious and incoherent as the Occupy Garnet crew. The idea that whatever is being done is a "disaster" becomes the received wisdom. Until people start using it and it's not.

As one resident put it to me:

I've noticed the change in the vibe on the street, too. Many more kids and families out. Driver behaviour seems to be changing. Far more care being taken at intersections, turning corners etc. Far less stressful to be a pedestrian or a person riding a bicycle than it used to be.

And that, really, was the entire idea of the reshaping of that stretch of road (a project which didn't even begin with the bike lanes). A village looks and feels a lot more like a village when it doesn't have traffic speeding through the middle of it.

There will still be some unhappy people. The owners of Nature Baby, the high-end baby shop, have acknowledged that it's not really the bike lanes they're exercised about (and it can't really be the parking – they have more parking out back than any other shop in the area), but the fact that there is now a bus stop outside their shop. Their customers aren't really the sort of folk who take buses.

But, you know, things change. People who think the convenience angle-parking is going to be restored outside Harvest Wholefoods are dreaming. It's just not going to happen. Cities aren't and shouldn't be designed around convenience car parking. And, true fact, there is now more general parking in the area than there was before.

Another problem with bikelash driven by the likes of Occupy is that it tends to obscure real problems: every complaint about everything comes at the same screeching volume and the only acceptable solution is to reverse all change and put it all back how it was. Again, not going to happen.

So we got Lisa Prager getting herself arrested last week for haplessly swinging a log-splitter at a bump built as part of the reshaping of the road at the intersection of Surrey Crescent and Richmond Road. There's a reasonable case that the half-completed feature doesn't work. But – and Prager presumably knew this – a new design, agreed with the community liaison group that Prager demanded, is to be presented. And whatever that design is, the bump will be removed. Her action seems to have been purely an attention-seeking stunt.

Prager and her friends' wild statements – including the frequently-made claim that bike lanes are part of Agenda 21, a UN-driven conspiracy to steal private wealth and erase national sovereignty – have understandably led many observers to think they are simply deranged. I know several residents near the traffic island they have "occupied" (that is, littered with their pup tents and signs while they're away elsewhere) who are quite sick of it all, and who quietly cheer every time someone comes and trashes it.

But the noise has, unfortunately, been enough to spook Auckland Transport into halting all new cycleway development in Auckland for an unspecified time. There was another meeting of one of the community liaison groups yesterday, hijacked, like all the others, by Prager. Someone who was there described the atmosphere as toxic: "Like riding behind a bus for two hours." 

There are certainly lessons AT should learn out of this fuss, but it also also needs to show some spine. There must surely come a time, hopefully soon, when the city must just move into the future.


It is also true that some media commentary hasn't hasn't helped. While the Herald's duelling correspondents, Bernard Orsman and Simon Wilson, were duking it out over bike and bus infrastrcture, the paper published an editorial, headed Cycle lanes can do the job without being gold-plated, that tried to be helpful but wound up simply confused. It began:

The Tamaki Drive cycleway has just turned 42. The milestone is significant because it is a reminder that cycling has been part of Auckland's urban landscape for decades, yet its acceptance as part of the transport mix still faces bumps and impediments.

Hundreds of cyclists turned up when the harbourside cycleway opened on a sunny Saturday in March 1976. The budget for the route from the city to St Heliers was $1000, which included white paint for a separation strip.

But that's basically all the Tamaki Drive cycleway is – a thin strip of white paint on a footpath. It's fine for wobbling along on on a Sunday afternoon with the kids, but it's not really transport infrastructure. If it was, then Jane Bishop wouldn't have died under the wheels of a truck as she tried to ride home.

The other lesson from these projects is the tendency for planners to embrace gold-plated schemes. Two years ago, the K Rd budget was $11.7 million. The latest figure is $17 million.

Cycle lanes do not always need to be high-end projects. The 3m dedicated lane on Nelson St has 400mm concrete slabs along its road edge, sufficient to keep cyclists safe from heavily-laden trucks. The route was installed quickly and gets plenty of use on week days.

Yup, Nelson Street was low-hanging fruit – an available lane on an arterial road that was well under capacity. The inevitable whining from Mike Hosking, Brian Edwards and Michelle Boag has long since faded as people use it daily, for real journeys.

Yet it was useful because it's downstream from a much more expensive project – the $18 million "pink path". But the real point here is that the budget for the K Road upgrade isn't the budget for bike lanes – it's a complete remodelling of the street, adding amenity all along the ridge. The real cost is in the moving of the kerbs and services, not putting in the lanes themselves. That's also where the real disuption will be – retailers will see works for as long as 18 months, some of that time with their footpaths dug up. AT and the local board really need to work on minimising the impact of construction time on those businesses.

The same is simply not true of West Lynn and Westmere. They were not "gold-plated", but the opposite. The gold-plated solution on Garnet and Old Mill Roads in Westmere would have been to move back the kerbs and take a metre and a half of the vast berms. But the moment you do that, you're into serious money. So we got a series of awkward compromises to stay within budget while keeping the unnecessary flush median strip some residents said they had to have.

Same at West Lynn. A generous budget would doubtless have seen AT actually hire an urban design team and save itself a whole lot of grief. The actual lesson here isn't that gold-plated schemes are trouble, but that very cheap ones might be.

The Herald editorial reminded me of the one in The Listener recently, which trotted out a whole of received wisdom and unsupported assumptions that undermined Rebecca Macfie's long, carefully-researched cover feature on bumps in the road to greater cycling uptake that appeared in the same issue. (It's really worth reading.) If you want to help, it's best to know what you're talking about.


But, you know, this is a process, and it'll get better. And it's not just the big projects. Later on Sunday's ride, I came through Mt Albert War Memorial Park to be greeted by the bars of doom. Presumably it was originally intended to stop motorcycles using the path. In the process it stopped everything: bikes, wheelchairs, pushchairs and even pedestrians. The well-worn desire lines on either side of the bars very clearly indicate that almost no one actually ventures to navigate the bars. The picture doesn't do justice to what a bizarre squeeze that is.

So put that on the list, AT and Auckland Council. The path to a more accessible city includes tiny steps as well as big ones. But we can't allow ourselves to be paralysed.


Friday Music: The Roundup

It strikes me that with the essays that have occupied Friday Music lately, it's a while since I just rounded up a whole bunch of music and related stuff. And there is quite a lot of stuff. So here's a roundup, starting with stuff out today ...

Auckland MC JessB captured attention almost as soon as she stepped on a stage three years ago – the strength she radiates is pretty hard to ignore. She's had a busy summer – Rhythm and Vines, Northern Bass and Auckland City Limits – and her seven-track EP Bloom dropped on your favoured streaming service today. It's all tight rhymes and a booming production courtesy her long-time collaborator  P Money. And the video for 'Take It Down' featuring Rubi Du (aka the excellent Silva MC) is one of my favourite local clips in a while. Looks like you don't mess with Jess and her girls.

Also fresh today, but in a wholly different vein, Carnivorous Plant Society's The New King, an album of sweeping cinematic whimsy featuring the likes of Hollie Fullbrook, Lawrence Arabia and Don McGlashan. This is the video for 'Journey of the Sacred Crystal', which was created, like all their low-fi animated clips, by bandleader Finn Scholes.

Darren Watson, the local bluesman who unexpectedly found himself in a free-speech battle with the Electoral Commission over his song 'Planet Key', hasn't got any less political. This is the video for his new song 'National Guy', from the forthcoming album Too Many Millionaires, which is out in May. I presume no one will try to ban this one ...

Audioculture has matching new articles by John Pain on Bressa Creeting Cake and Edmund Cake and the Ed one in particular is a wild ride, encompassing the Geffen deal that slipped away, a nervous breakdown and "a kind of musical MOTAT". I know Ed a little through friends and he has always struck me as having a wild intelligence, but I didn't know the full drama. Hell of a story.

Also a hell of a story: that of Russ Solomon, the founder of Tower Records, has died aged 92 while drinking whisky and watching the Oscars. I really must track down the documentary ...

Over at The Spinoff, Calum Henderson has done a listicle of New Zealand’s greatest one hit wonders (and their second-biggest songs).

Record Store Day rolls around again on April 21. Here are the 500 releases lined up.

David Dallas has a new video for 'Probably', from the Hood Country Club album. Cool.

The new Unknown Mortal Orchestra album Sex & Food is on the way. Pre-orders and more information here.

Sydney-based soul and hip hop label Low Key Source has released its first mix CD, with Base FM's Dylan C on the mix and tracks from Ladi 6, Raiza Biza, and Haz Beats alongside contributions from all over the globe. It's a really cohesive collection and I like it.

In the build-up to her album Tell Me How You Really Feel, Courtney Barnett has released the video for 'Need a Little Time'. I think it's her best song in a while, and the video is trippy, dystopic sci-fi.

Melancholy, twisted, alone together at the margins: it's 'Hotel Room', a Tourette's poem set to music by Christchurch artist gemma Syme and Nick Harte of the Shocking Pinks and recorded in a room at the Sherwood in Queenstown ...

And yeah, I know Kamasi Washington's play the Powerstation tonight, but I don't have tickets for that and my night out will be at the soon-to-close Golden Dawn, where Orchestra of Spheres and friends are playing and my fried Lady Rox is on the decks.

Note that the GD's last night on earth is the closing party a week tomorrow – and that there's a tightly-packed schedule between now and then. You probably should go there at least one more time ...



Gemma Syme again, in her regular guise as Instant Fantasy, copping a dreamy, housey remix from Boycrush.

A remix too for Wellington's Estere, in advance of her album tour.

A gorgeous track from the forthcoming Africa Seven compilation Mothers Garden (The Funky Sounds Of Female Africa 1975 - 1984).

And there's still something new to be found in the dancefloor classics. Free-download banger ...