Saturday, June 28, 2008

John Martyn - Don't Want To Know

This cut off Solid Air is my favourite John Martyn song by some way. There is something poetic about the lyrics given my previous post about Mugabe and I just felt that it would be a worthy follow-on to what is a depressing situation in Southern Africa.

John is rock 'n roll, even if he is a folky. He had to have a leg amputated after years of alcohol abuse following his divorce from his wife that resulted in him writing Grace & Danger, which he described as such, "I was in a dreadful emotional state over that record. I was hardly in control of my own actions. The reason they finally released it was because I freaked: Please get it out! I don't give a damn about how sad it makes you feel—it's what I'm about: the direct communication of emotion. Grace and Danger was very cathartic, and it really hurt."

I love Solid Air and it is one of the best records in my collection (but Paul will tell you that I probably think they're all the 'best records', which is half true) and this cut in particular is a beautiful and warm piece of work that sounds great first thing in the morning. One of those records that invariably puts a smile on my face from one of the greatest musicians of our time.

John Martyn - Don't Want To Know

A Dark Day

The farcical Zimbabwean elections were held yesterday and with only one candidate to choose from the tyrant Robert Mugabe was duly re-elected as president of the ailing former bread basket of Africa.

Initially coming into power in 1980 after the Zimbabwe Liberation War he was trumpeted as the saviour of a region still smeared with racism as the NP still ruled South Africa with their own tyrannical fist of hatred, the fall out of which South Africa still suffers from today. ZANU-PF had close links with South Africa's own liberators the ANC during the struggle and allowed the exiled Umkhonto we Sizwe, translated as 'The Spear of Africa', to launch guerilla attacks including the infamous attack on Koeberg Power Station just outside Cape Town that coincided with the 70th anniversary of the ANC in 1982. This co-operative relationship is partly why the Thabo Mbeki has so far only exercised 'Quiet Diplomacy' when dealing with Mugabe and why Nelson Mandela had been silent until last week when speaking at an event in London that celebrated his 90th birthday he said that Zimbabwe's leadership was a 'tragic failure of leadership', which to my mind the same could be said of Thabo Mbeki's leadership of South Africa. Remember his HIV does not cause AIDS stance, so that the ANC wouldn't have to provide potentially life-saving AZT medicine or care for the large portion of the population that is infected with the disease? Mbeki also blocked a move at the UN Security Council to declare the election illegitimate.

Mugabe always professes to the people of Zimbabwe that no-one has given more to the country than him but what he has given them is poverty, fear and social ills that cut through a once prosperous society. His 'War Veteran' thugs have used the last month, well in truth since the farm reclamations in 1998, to intimidate into voting for the tyrant leading to countless murders, huge numbers of people being displaced from their homes and a spike to the already incredibly high fleeing to neighboring countries by the disenfranchised. This isn't the first time he has declared war on his own people - in the 80s he targeted members of the Ndebele tribe in central Zimbabwe, which was known as the Gukurahundi - literally the 'washing away of the chaff' - something which the MDC were going to bring him to trial for had they been elected. In the 90s he targeted white-owned farms and as a result the economy, which is agriculturally-based and relied heavily on the tobacco production of these farms, imploded and inflation has gotten to the point where 80% of Zimbabweans are unemployed and 90% live below the poverty line struggling to buy even rudimentary household necessities such as maize, oil and bread.

What Mugabe has done is despicable and the failure of the United Nations to do anything beyond impose sanctions that only serve to prolong the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe are further proof that the UN is nothing more than a bag of wind who couldn't sort out the parking at mall let alone do their duty and step in when the humanitarian crisis requires them to as the situation in Zimbabwe and Darfur surely does. They condemn Mugabe with speeches but not actions as they did with the crisis in the Sudan, a truly inept organization.

The current situation in Zimbabwe truly saddens me and it is one that I fear has no end in sight as the MDC supporters are bound to be further targeted in the coming weeks and with the rise of xenophobic violence in South Africa on the rise should they cross the border it is a case of jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire for these people who have surely lost all hope. Southern Africa is truly at a crisis point, and you know it is bad when the most stable economy in the region is Botswana who were the only nation to have the balls to decry Mugabe but it is a bit like Puerto Rico telling the US what to do.

Today is truly a dark day for freedom, today is truly a dark day for Zimbabwe.

Friday, June 27, 2008

One Hundred Project

If anyone out there wants to do the One Hundred Project then give me a shout. It's ten simple questions and either a mix or a few of your favourite records with a short bio/links etc., so it isn't too traumatic. You don't have to be a DJ to do it either, in fact I'd probably prefer it if you approached it from a music lover's point of view and not as a chance to show off the 10 latest tracks in a slick seamless fashion.

Pat Les Stache - Lovin' In The Jungle

Pat Les Stache is TJ Gorton who runs the American Athlete blog up north in Seattle, WA and for this cut he's taken the scissors to Johnny Tropea's balearic classic Living In The Jungle. Johnny is best known for his solo work but he's also worked with musical luminaries such as Deodato, Eric Clapton and Paul Simon and to be honest I know very little about his work but this track is phenomenal and the originally probably did a need a little nip and tuck here and there, and TJ has done an outstanding job of lengthening the groove a bit, which is all it needed really. Things are getting really balearic around here, aren't they? If any of you have anymore Johnny Tropea suggestions then let me know, his records seem to be a dime a dozen out here.

Pat Les Stache - Lovin' In The Jungle

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rufus & Chaka Khan - Ain't Nobody - Frankie Knuckles' Hallucinogenic dub

Here is a proper spine-tingler, one of those records that if you play at the same time makes memories that will stay with you till your last breath. I remember being at an outdoor party in the mid-90s and one of the DJs, I think it was Mavre, played this and the whole place went absolutely radio rental. Being surrounded by all my friends, holding hands with my girlfriend at the time with the sun starting to appear over Table Mountain was absolutely magical, something that still gives me shivers when I think about it - how is that for a balearic love-in moment? This track was included on the new Elaste compilation that came out on Compost a few months back. I'm sure you'll all agree that it is a stormer. Enjoy.

Rufus & Chaka Khan - Ain't Nobody - Frankie Knuckles' Hallucinogenic dub

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Quixote - Before I Started To Dance - Chateau Flight dub

If you're a fan of Quiet Village then you will love this track from Gilb'r and Nicolas Chaix's new krautrock inspired project, Quixote. They are of course best known for their Chateau Flight moniker and Nicolas is, of course, the mighty I:Cube - purveyor of everything from hip-hop to minimal all done in his own inimitable electronic style. This remix that they've done of their own work is smacked out genius, lengthening the track out for all it is worth and adding more than a sense of drama to the track as it builds and builds with the vocal snippets coming in and out of the arrangement. I am a huge fan of Gilb'r and Nicolas' work and this track just reinforces my love for their work. This is definitely a project to keep your ears open for in the months to come.

Quixote - Before I Started To Dance - Chateau Flight dub

Nagisa Ni Te - Premonition

I'll be the first to admit that I know very little about Japanese duo Nagisa Ni Te but apparently their name is directly translated as 'On The Beach' and this track perfectly exemplifies that vibe. Apparently they are prone to guitar freakouts and have been likened to Acid Mothers Temple who are a psychedelic band. This track sounds absolutely perfect here in the warm California sunshine. There is something about the sparse organ and guitar work that make this just the sort of thing you want to listen to on a pair of headphones staring down at a valley, which is what I'm going to go and do now. This is for the folkies out there, big up yourselves quietly.

Nagisa Ni Te - Premonition

NOMO - Three Shades

NOMO who previously consisted of a large cast of revolving members have now settled on a group of eight core members and their recently released third album Ghost Rock sounds a lot more cohesive than their previous two efforts, which to be fair, were both excellent additions to the afrobeat cannon. They've added more electronics into the mix and seem to be truly living up to their post-afrobeat tag that they've been saddled with recent years. They're probably a bit less Francis Bebey and a bit more Can but still with that incredible groove that they generate that invariably lights up the dancefloor. Three Shades isn't really the best cut to illustrate the new breadth of the band but it's the track that I keep coming back to time and time again. It's a bit mellower than some of their other cuts but it makes perfect sense once you get lost in it. I do believe that their new album is absolutely essential and you should get yourself a copy posthaste. They're currently on tour here in the US and you check their dates by clicking here - I'm probably going to go to the show in San Diego. Here is an interview that I did with the bandleader Elliot Bergman a few months ago.

NOMO - Three Shades

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Simian Mobile Disco - Love - Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve remix

Richard Norris and Erol Alkan are Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve who initially started the project as a re-edit turnout for some of the psychedelic rock tracks that have influenced them over the years. Richard, of course, was in The Grid and Erol is the poster boy for the Trash/New Rave scene, so between them doing a project devoted to psychedelic sounds is a bit of a step into the unknown, something which they have done with aplomb. They've re-animated everyone from Badly Drawn Boy to Peter, Bjorn & John to Finlay Brown to every student with a lisp's favourite chanteuse Tracey Thorn in addition to their highly limited and pricey EPs that sell out incredibly quickly when they raise their heads at places like Piccadilly Records.

For this record they've taken Manchester's Simian Mobile Disco's Love and made it palatable for the more discerning dancefloors the world over. The almost tribal-like drumming combined with the driving basslines and the great use of the vocal sample make this an absolute dancefloor bomb that I could see taking the roof off just about everywhere that the freaks come out for their weekly stress relief. A great record that deserves to get more attention than it already has. (Also if you can find the Shackleton remix of Hustler then you're in for a treat, probably the best thing about at the moment in all truth)

Simian Mobile Disco - Love - Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve remix

Milton Nascimento - Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser

Brasilian pop icon, Milton Nascimento has been putting out music since the 60s and my personal favourite record of his is the imperious Parra Lennon é McCartney, which is one of those records that if you don't own you really should stop fucking about and get yourself a copy of pronto! (It's on his 1970 album Milton, which will cost you in the range of 40 sheets) I wrote a short bit on Parra Lennon é McCartney which you can read here.

Although Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser isn't as immediate as Parra Lennon é McCartney it is still incredibly beautiful and just about everything you could want from a record. My Portuguese is non-existent, so I have no idea what the title means or what the lyrics are about but it is one of those tunes that I seem to just stick on repeat from time to time and get caught up in the sublime melodies and superb guitar work. A timeless record.

Milton Nascimento - Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser

Monday, June 23, 2008

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80

On Saturday myself, the wife and our good friend Shambo braved the three hour drive north to Los Angeles to go and see Fela's sprog Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 in concert at the historical and iconic El Rey Theatre on Wilshire.

We ended up getting to LA a bit later than planned but way too early for the show and I asked three guys outside the theatre where we could park and about halfway through asking them I realized that I was talking to guys who had lived with and played with the mighty Fela and got well and truly starstruck. Fela is, as I'm sure you're aware, one of my heroes and meeting members of his band was easily one of the highlights of my life. Walking on cloud nine already at this point we found a Mexican fusion place and settled in to eat tacos, drink far too many margaritas, knock back a few cold ones and as you can imagine we got suitably excited for the night ahead.

The show kicked off with the band leader coming out and introducing every member one by one, each greeted with warm applause and he expertly got the crowd whipped up well and truly into a frenzy. The place was about 3/4s full but there was a huge roar when Seun did eventually make his way on stage. Some members of the band wore t-shirts that said 'Afrobeat Rules' and they well and truly missed a trick by not having the t-shirts available to purchase from the merch stand.

I really like this picture of Seun whose tattoo on his back says, "Fela Lives." His brother, Femi, has the same tattoo.

Seun was a demon on the horn and Egypt 80 are incredibly tight with not a single bum note played throughout the two hour show and they were well and truly in their groove from first song until encore. Incredible musicians.

Some of you may recognize the pose but it was Seun's way of paying respect to his father. Having said that he's definitely his own musician and his own work, of which his set was entirely based, is incredibly strong and well worth some of your hard-earned. His between song banter was at times poignant and at times seriously funny. One of his female backing singers came down to the front of the stage during the encore to shake her arse and every redblooded male in the place got even more excited, if that was even possible. I was incredibly impressed and even getting stuck in a traffic jam on the 405-S at one in the morning couldn't take the smile off my face. One of those life-affirming concerts that makes collecting and loving music so worthwhile. If he comes anywhere near you I have to implore you to go.

For more pictures click here.

During Fire Dance he did a little call and response and the place was going mental, when you listen to this, and I do hope it'll be as loudly as possible, imagine 300 people shouting 'Fire!' back - a truly electric atmosphere.

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 - Fire Dance

RIP George Carlin

Gone too soon. Massive respect to a man who told it like it is without any fear of the consequences.

The Richard Zoglin article in Time is a good read and a worthy obituary - read it here.