Hard News by Russell Brown

7

Friday Music: Warming up for a night on K Road

Things are heating up ahead of next Friday's The Others Way Festival. Sneaky Feelings first album in forever, Progress Junction, is released on the day of their warmup show at Hamilton's Nivara Lounge next Wednesday. It's a canny collection of songs – three from each band member – that doesn't sound quite like any of their previous releases, but is most identifiably Sneaky Feelings.

(Note that there's a Hamilton sideshow featuring Disasteradio and All-Seeing Hand the following night at the same venue.)

Elsewhere in the lineup, I mentioned the great new Disasteradio album last week. There's also the new single, ahead of their debut album, by Hex (see an interview here on Under the Radar):

Jonathan Bree just released this dark, sumptuous new single:

Bespin have a trippy af new video:

The Friendly Poetntial crew have announced that they'll be joined at their show by k2k – aka Katherine Anderson, who makes this kind of smooth house groove:

Wax Chattels have a new single streaming on Under the Radar (along with an interview). It's about Gillian Anderson. The song, that is, not the interview. Well, okay, the interview too ...

And of course, there's the Going Global Music Summit running on the Friday and Saturday.

And here is the timetable for next Friday.

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Oh, and The Others Way will also feature Silver Scrolls finalist Bic Runga, whose 'Close Your Eyes' was included this week in the awards' first ever all-female finalist lineup, along with Lorde's 'Green Light', Aldous Harding's 'Horizon', Chelsea Jade's 'Life of the Party' and Nadia Reid's 'Richard'.

If five women out of five is a first, it's not exactly a surprise: women have been been making much of the creative pace in New Zealand music. The Apra initiative to improve gender parity in its overall membership – announced three weeks ago – is well-timed.

PS: I am Team Nadia, and 'Richard' isn't even my favourite song on Preservation.

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Next Friday is also the release date of Neil Finn's new album Out of Silence – which hasn't been recorded yet! That all happens live on the internet tonight on Neil's YouTube channel, from 7pm. These sessions have been my last few Friday nights, and I'm just full of admiration for Neil for what he's doing here.

To keep you going till then, here's the archived stream of last Friday's "gig night" in the studio, which featured an audience and a great cameo from Onehunga's Swdit:

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Alan Perrott has done a really nice interview with Murray Cammick, whose exhibition of rock 'n' roll photography runs until Sunday at Black Asterisk gallery on Ponsonby Road. Murray will be DJing there on the final day from noon till 3pm, which is all the reason you need to pop in.

The story also features a great photo of Murray himself. And Murray has just shared this picture taken by Terence Hogan in 83-84 – which reminds me rather startlingly of how young Murraywas when he hired 20 year-old as deputy editor of Rip It Up.

And finally, the gallery has republished Murray's account of how Bob Marley invited him to play football, which includes this immortal memory among others:

Within 24 hours of arriving in New Zealand, the tour party had put out a desperation call, they’d used up all the herb.

Someone had grossly underestimated what Marley and entourage needed to keep the show on the road.

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Dangerous Minds has a nice story on the last night of Iggy Pop's The Idiot tour, which was also the last night that David Bowie played in Iggy's band.

The New Yorker on how the "Golden Record" that 40 years ago went out onto the cosmos with the Voyager 2 probe, was compiled. It's by Tim Ferris, the science journalist who was part of the wonderfully-named  Voyager Interstellar Record Committee overseen by Car Sagan.

Ferris puts to rest the story that the committee tried and failed to license the Beatles' 'Here Comes the Sun', but also shares this:

I sought to recruit John Lennon, of the Beatles, for the project, but tax considerations obliged him to leave the country. Lennon did help us, though, in two ways. First, he recommended that we use his engineer, Jimmy Iovine, who brought energy and expertise to the studio. (Jimmy later became famous as a rock and hip-hop producer and record-company executive.) Second, Lennon’s trick of etching little messages into the blank spaces between the takeout grooves at the ends of his records inspired me to do the same on Voyager. I wrote a dedication: “To the makers of music—all worlds, all times.”

The occasion is the impending release of a 40th anniversary box set of the recordings. You can check out a sampler here:

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Island Records has posted Keep On Running, the excellent 2009 BBC documentary about the label's history, on YouTube:

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Tunes!

A swoony new serving of R&B out today from Leisure:

The pulsing 'If Only', from Racing's EP The Bass, out today and on the usual services:

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228

Where are all the polls at?

There has, for obvious and understandable reasons, been much talk about polls in this election campaign. But amid the hubbub, a few key questions have gone missing. Primarily: where are all the polls at?

Since the last general election in 2014, there have been, with the sole exception of a Herald Digipoll poll in December 2015, only three companies doing public national polling: Colmar Brunton for TVNZ, Reid Research for Newshub and Roy Morgan Research. By some lights that's only two credible polls: Roy Morgan isn't a member of the Research Association of New Zealand and thus isn't signed up to the industry Code of Practice.

We haven't seen a Digipoll poll for the Herald in this campaign, and Fairfax does not appear to have renewed its relationship with Ipsos. There's an obvious explanation for that: full-scale polling is really expensive. Perhaps both companies anticipated a dull campaign – didn't we all? – and concluded that the investment wasn't warranted.

Instead, we've seen a shift to online market market research panels, where political questions can be tacked on as required. The Herald has spun a series of stories out of surveys conducted by ConsumerLink on the 120,000-strong Fly Buys panel. Most recently, one on who respondents would trust to manage a coalition government – which reported the results without matching them against voting intentions. Last month, there was a report on a question about who would be a good coalition partner for National – which fully a third of people polled couldn't answer. It's quite a good illustration of the shortcomings of piggyback polling.

Another thing most people seem to have missed is that Newshub/Reid have gone partially online too, drawing 25% of  their sample from an online panel operated by Survey Sampling International (who were used by The Spinoff during last year's Auckland local body elections).

As Newshub's political editor Patrick Gower explains in this exclusive video, they originally explored mobile phone polling but concluded that it was expensive and impractical. Paddy kindly recorded seven minutes on-set for tonight's Media Take show, but we were only able to use 90 seconds in the end, so I've uploaded the whole thing. It's quite a good explanation of what they're doing. And he notes that TV3, also, considered not paying for polling this year.

There are other polls. Māori Television will again perform the useful service of polling the Māori electorates. TVNZ's Q+A got Colmar Brunton to poll the Ohariu electorate and the results were enough to convince Peter Dunne to take his leave. Horizon is tacking on political questions for someone at the moment. And of course, Curia (National) and UMR (Labour New Zealand First) are doing private research for political parties.

And then there's Community Engagement, which is behind a robopoll conducted last week. Community Engament was the company behind a mildly controversial (but ultimately accurate) poll last year on the Wellington mayoral election. Rob Salmond looked at that last year. The controversy was related to the background of the company principals, Ella Hardy and Eric Goddard, with the Labour Party.

The current call announces itself as "a Community Engagement poll" which will take only 90 seconds (this was mercifully accurate) and cycles through voting intentions, voting history and issues of most concern (health, the economy, etc.)

But depending on their responses, voters may be asked if they'd like to volunteer for the Labour Party's campaign. It's fairly jarring, given that the poll does not announce itself as being associated with the Labour Party.

I asked Labour's general secretary Andrew Kirton, who confirmed that it was part of Labour's campaign activity.

"In the past and even now we do a lot of volunteer phoning just to identify levels of support for local candidates and the party. It's kind of an informal survey. It gives us an sense of what the issues are locally and generally it helps our campaign targeting. Robopolling replaces some of that work. It's bread-and-butter stuff for campaigns really."

So it's less a poll than canvassing – digital doorknocking, you could say.

Kirton acknowledged "trialling" an offer for people to get involved in the campaign "but I don't know what the results of that are so far". Again, this is a pretty standard thing for someone who knocks on your door to do – but that someone will be wearing a party rosette. Shouldn't there be a promoter statement incorporated in the robocall script?

Kirton thought there was, but I don't recall hearing one, and neither did other respondents I heard from. And unfortunately, my VOIP service, which records voice calls, didn't identify this as a voice call and didn't record it. Labour might want to make absolutely sure that statement is there.

I gather that National and the Greens are using similar services in this campaign – and I'd be interested in hearing here from anyone who's fielded such calls.

There will be more korero on polling with Aimee Matiu and Richard Pamatatau in Media Take, at 10pm tonight on Māori Television – along with an at-times fiery sit-down with Te Tai Tokerau rivals Kelvin davis and Hone Harawira.

6

Friday Music: The Return of Disasteradio

I confess, it had escaped me that there had not been a Disasteradio album for seven years. It's not as if Luke Rowell had been idle: he's made a bunch of records as his alter-ego Eyeliner in that time. But Sweatshop, the album released this week, has been a looong time coming. I mean, Kim Hill played the title track, the "first single from the forthcoming 2014 album"  in, well, 2014.

But the good news is, Sweatshop is out and it's really wonderful: a funky, infectious record with 80s pop in its heart and vocodered vocals and old-fashioned drum machine sounds all over the shop. What might look mad and gimmicky is actually a box of finely-crafted bangers with a depth that gives lie to its immediate appeal.

Take for instance, that title track. Its refrain references Foxconn and it's born out of Luke's unease that the gear he does his work with is likely the fruit of exploitative labour practices. You'd also totally bop around your kitchen to it. 

The songs are more melodic and, well, songlike than previous releases have been – Luke claims the inspiration of Tom Petty, among others, this time around – and I like that too. I'm really looking forward to seeing him play at The Other's Way festival on September 1.

If you can't make that, the other tour dates were announced this morning:

Hamilton, Nivara Lounge August 31

Christchurch, Darkroom, September 8

Dunedin, None Gallery, September 9

Palmerston North, Stomach, September 15

Whanganui, Lucky, September 16

Wellington, Meow, September 30

The album is on the streaming services, but if you buy it on Bandcamp and pay more than zero (it's on name-your-price) you also get a download code for the accompanying digital EP of instrumentals, Sweatpants. And Luke actually gets some money to fund his space travel hobby.

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Speaking of which, Luke told me something nice this week. Way back when I my TV show was called Media7, we had access to enough budget for me to commission Luke to rework our original theme music by SJD. And he used that fee to buy the onstage laptop he played every gig with for the next six years. Huzzah!

If only such a thing were possible now. It's one thing paying for the use of music in your productions (a very good thing thing, might I add), but it's even better being in a position to commission work. Back in 2009, Media7 wrapped up its year by commissioning James Milne (aka Lawrence Arabia) to write and perform a song about a media year characterised by apologies. It was a very good song:

From memory, Luke played the season-ender the following year.

It's not entirely unknown now – the new Checkpoint launched with a theme commissioned from James, and the likes of Karl Steven and the Phoenix Foundation writers have forged parallel careers in writing music for the screen. But it does rather underline the way killing TVNZ 7 and freezing broadcast funding for nine years has had an impact beyond the obvious.

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The Others Way made its second lineup announcement this morning, adding, among others, Tiny Ruins, Grayson Gilmour, the Friendly Potential crew and, yup, Eyeliner. Luke Rowell is going to be busy.

And tomorrow night, I'll be DJing with the brilliant Sandy Mill in the courtyard at Golden Dawn while Hopetoun Brown play inside. We'll be on the decks until 2am, so you if you're watching the rugby, you could still swing by before or after. It'll be funky!

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One thing you can't accuse Lorde of is laziness. I don't quite get how she does it, but here, exactly two months after the release of Melodrama, she is returning to Electric Lady studios for Homemade, a "reimagining" of songs from the album, captured to video.

I like this for a couple of reasons. The first is that although I really enjoyed Melodrama, especially the back half of it, I did stop listening to it for a while out of fatigue at the loud pop production. In Homemade, the songs are stripped back and performed with acoustic instruments and a choir. It could be pretentious, but it isn't. The second reason is that it makes up for that diabolical video for 'Perfect Places'.

The singer talks about why she did it in an introductory video interview. Some songs work better than others. 'Writer in the Dark' was always going to be a starter, but I also like 'The Louvre', not least because the arrangement calls for French horns on the coda at the end. Cool.

Meanwhile, she's on her world tour, and here she is at Outside Lands festival in San Francisco, bringing Jack Antonoff on stage to play Paul Simon's 'Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard'. It's really sweet.

That's a pretty good fan video, but it's also here on the official festival video of the full show.

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Tunes!

One of the fun things about Pure Heroine was the sheer number of remixes draped over its bare bones. Many of them were not good, but some of them were really good. Melodrama, which fills a lot more sonic space, is thus far not as fruitful. But its most spare track, 'Liability', has given rise to this lovely, dreamy hiphip version. It's even a straight-up free download.

Northlander WhyFi, an ally of Auckland Grow Room collective (The Wireless did a nice profile on him) dropped this track this week. The lyrical theme is dark, the bass is low and the tempo is loping. It's good.

In celebration of the solar eclipse visible in across America last Monday, some techno-hippie guy made a take on Pink Floyd's 'Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun'. The tune and the lyrics make several appearances but it doesn't sound all that much like the original. It's groovy though (and a free download):

A Nina Simone edit with a dressing of Grace Jones:

And RocknRolla Soundsystem roll back with this thumping edit of Robert Palmer's 'Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley'.

Those last two aren't downloadable yet, but they seem to be lined up for a free Nu Blends compilation out next month.

9

Synthetic cannabinoids: a primer

What is synthetic cannabis? Why is it even called that? Where does it come from? What's the extent of the problem in New Zealand? And why have we seen a spate of deaths linked to these products in Auckland?

The New Zealand Drug Foundation asked me to write a backgrounder addressing these and other questions, which is now available on its website.

I learned a bit researching it and was even surprised by some of what I learned. Notably, the extent to which the recent spate of acute presentations is an Auckland, not a national problem.

I can say with some confidence that it's not about fly spray or weed killer or  any other impurity in the street products – it's more likely about dose.

Anyway, have a read and if you have any further questions I can try and answer those too.

20

Friday Music: Down the Hall on a Friday Night

It was only because I happened to see a tweet that I clicked through last Friday to the first live stream of Neil Finn and and friends as they record his forthcoming album, Out of Silence, at Roundhead Studios – and it was quite an experience

I happened to drop in right at the beginning of the final, conclusive take of the new song 'More Than One of You', an epic, Beatleseque number featuring a choir of stars: Sandy Mill, Hollie Fullbrook, Lawrence Arabia, Samuel Flynn Scott, Victoria Kelly and more. And it was beautiful.

It features in this short clip of highlights from the evening:

To see the whole song, you can jump to that point in the original video here.

And thanks to Finn fan blackandwhiteboy for logging shortcuts to other highlights of the two-hour stream:

01:12 -Pablo Vasquez & Elroy Finn

09:55 Gentle Hum

15:33 Faster Than Light

28:00 Widows Peak

31:48 Better Be Home Soon

39:32 As Sure As I Am

47:17 Independence Day(?)

54:06 Ging Gang Gooly

1:08:49 More Than One Of You

1:44:51 Love is Emotional

1:51:05 Second Nature

1:56:48 -Pablo Vasquez & Elroy Finn

Note that 'As Sure As I Am' features Nick Seymour on bass – and Nick's in Ireland. The pair of them work to play a beat apart to allow for the Skype delay, and almost get there.

It's not all action – quite a lot of recording albums involves muddling around setting up to do a thing, and Neil is quite enthused with taking Skype calls from fans around the world – but with a glass of wine in hand, it's an unusual and lovely way to spend a Friday evening.

Tonight's stream – featuring a guest appearance from Tim Finn – starts at 7pm and you can watch it here at Neil's YouTube page or here on his Facebook page. If you can, the YouTube is a better bet – it's in stereo, while the Facebook stream is mono.

The stream is directed by the amazing Hugh Sundae, who will also be doing  the job at Orcon IRL at the Golden Dawn on Sunday.

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My friends at Southbound Record Shop currently have a big range of releases from the remarkable ambient-chamber music label Erased Tapes in stock – and a nice little treat for anyone who can make it in to the store and knows to ask.

There's a free CD sampler in store, featuring Penguin Cafe, Rival Consoles and others from the label. Nice.

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Moving to Nelson, DJ-journalist Grant Smithies has opened a record shop in a beer garden. Because of course he has.

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I really enjoyed Bill Direen and the Builders' show at Golden Dawn last Friday night – this time, there were lots of odds and ends early on (including a version of W.H. Auden's 'Death of  a Fascist') and then, with a band, a set that included a funky swag of songs from CONCH3.

This weekend, it's Wellington's turn. Bill plays the Pyramid Club on Sunday and there are screenings of Simon Ogston's Bill Direen: A Memory of Others on Saturday and Sunday.

See also: Graeme Hill and that Smithies guy sfting through Bill's back catalogue on Radio Live and Campbell Walker's deep, thoughtful examination of the film and the artist for The Pantograph Punch.

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Blair Parkes has made a video for my favourite song from his recent album, the krautpop romp 'Run Electro':

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Something remarkable arrived at The Internet Archive this week: a huge trove of professionally digitised 78rpm records. The sound files are freely downloadable in a range of formats – as is the label art:

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A different kind of musical history: the first LP I ever owned for myself wasn't what I thought it was. I thought I'd bought an album with songs by The Sweet on one side and their glam buddies Slade on the other. But what I hadn't understood was that it wasn't the original artists, but one of the Sounds Like series of cover albums record by top Dutch session musicians. I still played it heaps.

Cover albums were a surprisingly big thing in the early 70s, but I can't find mention of the Sounds Like series released in New Zealand. I'm not even sure I have the name of the series right. Can anybody help?

Anyway, some madman has put together an hour-long mix of soundalike cover versions for FACT mag. And the result is very strange ...

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Tunes!

I don't know how I missed this at the time, but about a month ago, Auckland  kiwiana disco kings DICE posted this remix of Chris Knox's 'Not Given Lightly'. It's totally mad, but it works. (Free download.)

The same crew have also pitched in on the Redbull remix competition for Ladi6's 'Royal Blue'. Nice.

FACT highlighted this lovely bit of Afro-synth goodness by Esa, an artist I know nothing about but will be investigating.

And new from Aucklanders-in-London Chaos in the CBD:

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