Friday, April 21, 2017

Groove Book Report- The Thirst - Jo Nesbo

To me, at least, there are very few decent thriller writers that can maintain that happy balance between creating a fast, readable story, up to the minute relevance and still surprise me with a plot that is refreshing and new.  Surely, every scenario has been done to death?  Nesbø is not only the master of Scandinavian crime fiction, but he's also a TV pundit.  Sometimes reality reflects his books (as at the time of the Breivik massacres, as Nesbø had written so persuasively about the rise of the far right in his country). While enjoying steady, prodigious sales, his last few books have been favourites with the critics, myself included.  However, The Thirst (brilliantly translated by Neil Smith) could well correct the imbalance. It’s a big-boned, big-paged, technicolor epic in the current Nesbø style, starting adagio and ending accelerando.   It's entirely up to date.  There are nods to hipster musicians Sufjan Stevens and Father John Misty and plenty of Tinder dates with young modern 'fuck-and-run' neo-feminists.  One of these is the main lead, a young female inspector. She's been given her first major case, only to have it snatched off her later by a politically hungry Police Chief.  His 'baddie', on the surface at least, is a bit cliche'.  Really a killer with iron teeth?  How many novels have featured some kind of pscho character like that.  Images of the protagonist in The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, who hones her teeth, also pop into my head. Because of the political power situation we get the return of detective Harry Hole, Nesbo's wonderfully flawed 'hero', who is reluctantly co-opted to track down a vicious murderer who has killed a woman after an internet date. And when a second victim is found, Harry realises, against all other odds and advice,  that there is a connection with the one case that defeated him. Both justice and closure may be within his grasp – as well as a return to his lost childhood.

There is something of a recurring theme here. The Thirst arrives four years on from Police, and is sort of a sequel. In Police a series of policemen were killed by gruesome means. As is often the way with Hole’s cases, the perpetrator was hiding in plain sight: he was a colleague lecturing at the same police academy to which Hole had retreated having left the Oslo police department. The case was solved, but another killer roamed free: escaped convict Valentin Gjertsen, who on the last page of Police was on the brink of raping the pubescent daughter of his psychotherapist.

It turns out that our psycho, Gjertsen is still at large in The Thirst. He has been lying low, having undergone further facial surgery to make himself unrecognizable, but there’s no scrubbing away the lurid death-mask tattoo emblazoned on his chest. When a series of single women are murdered in their homes after Tinder dates, it doesn’t take long for a V signed in blood, as well as Valentin’s DNA, to show up at the crime scene. But Valentin’s lust for young flesh has transmuted into something altogether more bowel-shrivelling: a thirst for the blood of his victims, which he extracts by donning a set of iron jaws.

Harry Hole has now moved on.  He is a teacher now, on low pay at the Police College.  But he's happy.  He'd rather give the case a wide berth: his marriage to Rakel is going swimmingly, his alcohol addiction in abeyance while all his wounds, both psychic and physical, are apparently healed. But he’s soon blackmailed by the despicably ambitious Chief of Police Mikael Bellman – who calls him a predator, not a herbivore - to help catch the blood-sucking killer.

He’s keen to enlist his psychotherapist colleague Ståle Aune to help, but Aune is now a family man trying to coax his daughter Aurora through her miserable teenage years, little realising that it is she who was raped by Gjertsen. Step forward the garrulous Hallstein Smith, who is eager to use the killer’s specialist predilection to promote his theories about vampirism, which for lack of proof have hitherto found him ostracised from the psychology profession.

The first death is what Hole calls “a could have been me murder”. This is an Oslo where men and women have outsourced the hunt for sex and/or romance to a dating app. Even Hole’s new boss Katrine Bratt – the Bergen cop who’s been on meds since going batshit bonkers in The Snowman - regularly swipes for shags. But the murders themselves are spectacularly lurid. The Thirst is another highly competent if thoroughly bonkers excursion into Nesbø’s sick brand of Nordic noir. Something about the high latitude induces grandiose Scandi villains into behavioral extremism – see also The Bridge.

With each novel there’s a sense in which Nesbø has to give himself a higher bar to clear. The Snowman, published a decade ago, recounted his tussle with Norway’s first serial killer. Since then he’s had nothing but serial killers to deal with. Nesbø peppers the narrative with entertaining tracts of psychological underpinning, There are contextualizing allusions in The Thirst to Othello syndrome, the morality of meat-eating, and a particularly blood-curdling tribe of Native Americans. They may be steeped in deep research and may be utter baloney. But they're fun.

In the end the reason to come back for more is the sheer magnetism of Harry Hole. He detests being good at his job, but is unable to avoid utter commitment to it, for which the cost is high: there’s always someone close to him in grievous danger, and Hole is forever playing the sacrificial lamb who gives his blood and even expendable bits of his body to protect the public, and do honor to the victims. “The dead take priority over the living,” he says.

The Thirst like its stablemates is a bulky but zippy 500-pager which never hangs around in one place for very long. This is not literary fiction.  It's all about the shock, awe and flee.  Nesbø keeps you guessing with his usual bag of tricks, making everyone seem a little suspect (or almost everyone). His cynicism about bent coppers and unscrupulous journalists is an inexhaustible and entertaining sideshow. Perhaps, and not for the first time, he gives a little too much credence to the fantasy that a psychopath can carry on his work while keeping up a plausible exterior. What that means is that two thirds of the way in it feels as if every bow has been satisfactorily tied up, but Hole can’t leave the case alone, triggering a climax of breakneck, baroque delirium.

In short, if you liked the other ten, you’ll greedily sink your teeth into this. And maybe by the time it appears in paperback many more millions will have been sold. Later this year Hole makes his big screen debut in the guise of Michael Fassbender, who is the right height but nothing like ugly enough. The Snowman is directed by Tomas Alfredson, who made Let the Right One In and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It's about time Harry Hole became a movie star.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

The Beat Goes On – The BeatGirls’ Turn 21!

There is a party in town and all of Wellington is invited! The BeatGirls’ will return to Circa Theatre in April with their latest show The BeatGirls’ 21st – All Grown Up, celebrating 21 years entertaining audiences the world over.

The group has a long and successful history with Circa Theater which began in 1999 and has continued over the years with 'The BeatGirls’ 21st – All Grown Up' marking the trios unprecedented seventh show at the theatre. Their back catalogue of shows include the popular 'It’s My Party' (1999), 'It’s My Party 2' (2000) and 'Beatcamp' (2010).

The BeatGirls’ 21st – All Grown Up is not only set to be another stand-out show from the girl group, but a chance to reflect and look back on 21 years in the entertainment industry – a truly remarkable accomplishment and very rarely seen in NZ.
Initially only performing music by The Beatles, the repertoire now spans 8 decades incorporating many styles from Swing and Bossa Nova, Girl-group to Glam Rock, Soul to 70’s and 80’s to current songs by popular contemporary artists topping the charts.

“We’ve really re-invented ourselves over the years with new rep and costumes and kept the energy fresh and the show exciting” Founder of the BeatGirls’ (and The BeatGirls’ 21st – All Grown Up creator) Andrea Sanders stated when reflecting on the groups success over the years.

Circa One
Preview 31 March
1 – 15 April
Tues – Thurs 6.30pm, Fri – Sat 8pm. Sun 4pm
$25 – $52
Devised and choreographed by Andrea Sanders Featuring Andrea Sanders, Kali Kopae &
Carolyn McLaughlin.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Groove Book Report: Tell Me My Name - Bill Manhire riddles; Norman Meehan music; Hannah Griffin song; Peter Peryer photographs – Published by Victoria University Press (Poetry + photographs + music CD)

Recently, I found myself caught up in the great Nobel Literacy Prize debate over whether Bob Dylan should have been awarded it or not. The arguments came from many sides but it all came down to this: Are lyrics poetry? That is, what makes lyrics suitable to be read; or recited; or sung or quoted; or used in a wedding speech; or a eulogy; or put on a pedestal and displayed around a Harbour walkway? Or anywhere? Do lyrics need music. Is that that what defines them or determines them from poetry? I guess the Nobel panel of judges decided that lyrics could stand alone as a legitimate branch of poetry – and QED a legitimate literacy work. That begs another question, too. Does a great literacy work must be in a published book? Have any text or SMS works ever been nominated? Or even Kindle only editions. And, of course, one could easily argue that Rap is poetry – set to music or just recited. It doesn’t need Hip Hop to sell it, but it helps. Don’t let’s get started on that one.

The debate will rage, no doubt. In the meantime, here in New Zealand, there’s a world-famous poet whose writings often end up set to music, although he doesn’t intentionally set out this way. In the case of poet and National Treasure Bill Manhire, it was poetry. Or more to the point the poetry of Riddles. Manhire should know a thing or two about poetry, as founded the International Institute of Modern Letters, which is home to New Zealand’s leading creative writing program. He is now Emeritus Professor of English and Creative Writing at Victoria University of Wellington. Riddling entered Manhire's life when he was very small child. In the introduction to his new collection Tell Me My Name, he reveals the first riddle his mother ever sang to him. He might not have really understood then what the nonsense all meant but it created a strong memory and he sings it still.

 “A wee wee man
In a red red coat Staff in my hand
And a stone in my throat.”
(Answer: a cherry)
 From the traditional English Riddle, The Cherry Song.

As a university student he was introduced to Old English and Norse languages and Anglo Saxon riddle poems. "Objects like a cloud, a swan, an iceberg, would be described in slightly oblique, misleading ways.” This has affected the way he writes this new collection. Oblique but ultimately transparent references are important to this sequence of thirteen riddles. To add another dimension jazz scholar Norman Meehan has composer and plays some very atmospheric piano accompanied by Jazz vocalist Hannah Griffin. What’s interesting about the compositions is that none of them give any clues as to the answers to these riddles but they are revealing once you do know the answers. There’s one about ice that Manhire has peppered with tiny cluesin the lyrics. But musically Meehan gives little away save for the opening few notes of a melancholy violin, slowly groaning like and iceberg.

Manhire’s worked with Meehan and Griffin before, on Buddhist Rain, Small Holes in the Silence (Rattle Records), These Rough Notes (VUP) and the acclaimed Making Baby Float – poems written by Manhire about growing up in 1950’s New Zealand. Griffin’s voice is just as lush and warm on this new CD as it was on that earlier project. It’s almost a maternal angelic presence. Calming and soothing. She could sing the phone book or the US presidential results and still make the world seem alright. What’s abundant here is the space between lyrics and music. Like Manhire’s reading voice, it is slow, relaxed and measured. It is also slightly monotonic, with Griffin holding fast her course. Again giving away little but surprisingly it’s still seductive and enticing. You want to solve these. Or at least try.

The little hardback book that comes with the CD includes the full texts and eight photographs by celebrated artist Peter Peryer – none of which truly give the game away, either. They’re actually red herrings – images that provocatively lure you one way, and then another but ultimately have little obvious the subject of the riddle. This is yet another layer of playfulness. I approached this as a CD review but it’s as much a book review – or a poetry review – as well. Upon my first reading, I looked at the ‘riddleness’ of each poem – what lies within the rhyme. I was looking for the word-smithing and the echoes, the enigma, and because of the rhymes the sweetly crafted melody. As poems, along there is an openness, as if you are walking through a wide-open paddock – endless green stretching to the horizon to meet the blue skies. No wind. Calm. Slow. Sensually sun kissed skin. A vast plain that could generate both movement and stillness. This is a bit of a trade mark for Manhire. He likes to leave the doors open and for the poem to breath. You can hear his soft, gentle voice in these lines. With him, it’s always what he doesn’t say that is important. Take this poem. Simply numbered ‘1’. I won’t spoil it by telling you the subject of the riddle but if you put yourself in the mind of the speaker you will travel with him to the destination:

The road goes by the house
the wind sings in the tree
we sing the travelling worlds
we sing quietly
(we sing quietly)

All of these poems have cryptic clues awaiting their own individual ‘Eureka!’ moments where there is a Ha! at arrival which is good but not as good as the travel). Sure, you can look to the back page to discover the answers or are they? Perhaps a bridge; an ocean; an echo; a family tree; a watermelon; a muddy puddle; ice; Christmas fairy lights; the dark; longitude and latitude. I’ve added one in, can you guess. Best not. And why puncture the delight of solving these riddles, or better still the bliss of not really ever knowing. In a world of big data, secrets and lies, and a pursuit of truth – fake or otherwise, is there ever a time when we can just ponder without conclusion? Perhaps that is the real pleasure here. The following example may shed some light. Or not.

I’m always at the cinema
I’m always at the beach
I’m waiting in that secret place
 that lovers try to reach

 from poem number ‘5’

 Next month these poems will be performed as stage production at Wanaka’s Festival of Colour adding yet another dimension. There are rumours that the show may tour the country, too. As a ‘literary’ piece it will jump of the page, into the strings and keys of the piano and drift across the auditorium, floating on the vocal chords of a singer. Will this be poetry or lyrics that you are experiencing. Does it matter? Like the riddles themselves, we need to let them be – un-categorized, a pleasure as they are.

I’ll leave you with more to travel on, navigate it wisely:
I’m made of where you’re going
I’m made of north and south
I’m made of possibility
I’m made of somewhere else

From Poem ‘4’

Tell Me My Name is published simultaneously with Bill Manhire’s new poetry collection Some Things to Place in a Coffin.

For more information:

Thursday, April 06, 2017

GroThe Chinese Proverb - by Tina Clough

Army veteran Hunter Grant thought he had left war behind in Afghanistan – a conflict that left him with physical and psychological scars. But finding an unconscious girl in the Northland bush and gradually untangling her story involves him in a war of a different kind in his own country.

Hunter sets out to find and punish the man Dao calls Master, but he soon discovers there is more to this than enslavement. Before long he himself is being hunted by the boss of a drug empire whose sole objective is to kill Dao – she knows too much.

Protecting Dao and waging war while trying to keep the police from stifling his enterprise takes all Hunter’s ingenuity and determination and exposes him to deadly jeopardy. He enlists his old army buddy Charlie and her helicopter to help him, but things become complicated when Dao disappears.

Tina Clough grew up in Sweden and lives in Napier, New Zealand. Her crime novels are character-based with the emphasis on how ordinary people react when faced with danger – an exploration of what we might all be capable of when faced with threat and brutality.
Tina divides her time between translating and editing science research papers and writing crime novels.

Friday, March 24, 2017

2017 Wellington Jazz Festival

Click to see more
In the meantime here's a quick overview of the main acts coming to the festival.

Wednesday 7 June

Bill Frisell
Bill Frisell
The most innovative and influential jazz guitarist of the past 25 years.
Experience the quicksilver sound of “guitar genius” (SPIN magazine) Bill Frisell, performing his first-ever New Zealand show. A shining light of Americana, Seattle-based Frisell is “the most innovative and influential jazz guitarist of the past 25 years” (The Wall Street Journal) and has collaborated with some of the greatest musical artists of our time, including Elvis Costello, Brian Eno, Bono and Marianne Faithfull.

With Frisell joined by vocalist Petra Haden (The Decemberists, Beck, Foo Fighters), Thomas Morgan (double bass) and Rudy Royston (drums), you’ll revel in a sweetly dark and dreamy evening of reimagined cinema and TV soundtrack music from his 2017 Grammy Award-nominated album When You Wish Upon a Star.

Conjuring favourite memories alongside less-familiar moments of magic – from a brush with Bond to the drama of The Godfather and a love-laced Moon River – Frisell imbues these screen gems with a new sense of wonder and joy.

Sure to be an opening-night knock-out.

Thursday 8 June

Dave Weckl & Tony Lindsay
Dave Weckl & Tony Lindsay
Catch the jazz beat with one of the world’s greatest living drummers.
A regular performer with jazz great Chick Corea, Dave Weckl delivers every time, creating an “explosive” (All About Jazz) fusion of funk, rock and blues.

He’s joined by Grammy Award-winning Santana vocalist Tony Lindsay, Down Beat rising sax star Adam Schroeder, Mingus Big Band trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, and concert openers the New Zealand School of Music Big Band – Aotearoa’s premier student ensemble.
Friday 9 June

Dianne Reeves
Dianne Reeves
Make some soul time with one of the most-awarded female jazz vocalists of our time.
A sultry and soulful storyteller, her unique jazz stylings reflect a pure and heart-felt love of music. From R&B to pop, folk and rock – she owns them all with her lush, crystal-clear voice.

Experience the charisma, power and beauty of this five-time Grammy Award-winner, joined on stage by Peter Martin (piano), Romero Lumambo (guitar), Reginald Veal (double bass) and Terreon Gully (drums).

With collaborators ranging from all-time greats Harry Belafonte and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis to new guard Esperanza Spalding, Robert Glasper and Lalah Hathaway, Reeves is the true heir to Ella Fitzgerald’s queen of jazz throne.

A sure-fire Festival favourite in the making.

Saturday 10 June

Seoul Jazz: The Jac & Black String
Seoul Jazz: The Jac & Black String
Wellington meets world jazz in this exciting international premiere.
Cheer on home-town jazz heroes The Jac as they’re joined by South Korea’s Black String in the culmination of a year-long collaboration. This powerful night of in-the-moment magic melds Black String’s electrifying and explosive play on Korean musical traditions with the cinematic sound of these award-winning New Zealand talents.

“Triumphant” (London Jazz News) in their own right, four-piece Black String are making waves on the world music scene for their fresh and fiery jazz sound.

Meanwhile, “spine tingling” (New Zealand Musician) eight-piece The Jac are a freight train of pure musical energy, featuring members of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, The Troubles and the Richter City Rebels.

Be there as they forge a new Korean-Kiwi jazz genre.

The Comet is Coming
The Comet is Coming
Brace for impact with these futuristic space-jazz pioneers.
Fusing jazz, Afro-beat and electronica, The Comet is Coming are your Saturday night soundtrack to an imagined apocalypse, with members King Shabaka (Sons of Kemet, Melt Yourself Down), Danalogue and Betamax your cosmic guides.

These one-time Snarky Puppy openers are charting their own path in the spirit of legendary freestyle funksters Sun Ra, Frank Zappa and Jimi Hendrix, making last year’s prestigious Mercury Prize shortlist.

Book fast and get ready to dance like it's the end of the world.

Sunday 11 June

Bach Beat
Bach Beat
Master musicians blend the best of classical with the best of jazz.
Marvel as master musicians Michael Houstoun, on piano, and Rodger Fox blend the best of classical with the best of jazz. From a big band take on Bach to original music by Grammy Award-winning composer Bill Cunliffe, a swinging Sunday afternoon awaits.

Also featuring special guest appearances by American guitarist Chris Cain and Kiwi vocalist Erna Ferry.

Harold López-Nussa Trio
Harold López-Nussa Trio
Feel the heat in this upbeat Festival closer.
Globe-trotting Cuban charmer Harold López-Nussa brings the heat in this upbeat Festival closer.

A classical piano prodigy and Cuba National Symphony Orchestra soloist, López-Nussa made a late switch to jazz and has never looked back. He’s since collaborated with musical legends Chucho Valdés and the Buena Vista Social Club, and been picked up by New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London and the world-famous Montreux Jazz Festival.

Come sway the night away, and feel the energetic rhythms and magical melodies of this next-big-thing performing with Ruy López-Nussa (drums) and Julio César Gonzalez (guitar).

Click to see more

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

WOMAD Scrapbook

WOMAD 2017 Scrapbook

Hit & Run - New book about the SAS atrocities in Afghanistan

Jon Stephenson
“On 22 August 2010 New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) elements, operating as part of a Coalition Force in Bamyan province, Afghanistan conducted an operation against an insurgent group…
Nine insurgents (not 12 as reported) were killed in the operation which targeted an insurgent group in the area where Bamyan province borders neighbouring Baghlan province...
Following the operation allegations of civilian casualties were made. These were investigated by a joint Afghan Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Interior and International Security Assistance Force Assessment team, in accordance with ISAF procedures.
The investigation concluded that the allegations of civilian casualties were unfounded.”
New Zealand Defence Force - Media Release – 20 April 2011

Six years later, to the day, investigative reporter Nicky Hager and war Correspondent Jon Stephenson have released a book (Hit & Run: The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan and the meaning of honour).  It reveals what they believe to be the truth behind the “tragic and disastrous SAS actions” and allege that “at least 21 civilians were killed or injured – many of them women and children.”  They have even recorded their names and documented their lives in the book, including 3-year-old Fatima, who was killed as her mother, carrying her, tried to dive for cover.
‘Although Fatima was only three years old she was already attending school,’ a local said. ‘She was very beautiful and intelligent. She was in her mother’s arms when a piece of shrapnel hit her head.’
‘Although Fatima was only three years old she was already attending school,’ a local said. ‘She was very beautiful and intelligent. She was in her mother’s arms when a piece of shrapnel hit her head.’

Fatima's house (central house in picture), which was badly damaged at the same time she was killed. Fatima had been carried a short distance behind and to the left of the house before she was killed in her mother's arms.
Fatima's house (central house in picture), which was badly damaged at the same time she was killed. Fatima had been carried a short distance behind and to the left of the house before she was killed in her mother's arms.
They also claim that the attack went further, leading to the blowing up and burning of at least a dozen houses by SAS and US forces and then later, a second village raid destroying more property before one single insurgent was caught.  He was handed over to the Afghan secret police and tortured. 
Hager also claimed in his press conference, held after the launch that the real insurgents, still very much alive, had actually attended the funerals of the civilians (from that 21).  This he said was recorded on video and sold to authorities.  He hadn’t seen the tape, he conceded.
This book, he said, was an investigation into the truth behind the story of these raids and the cover up that was conducted not only by the NZDF but also by The Defence Minister at the time, Wayne Mapp and the Prime Minister at the time, John Key, who had actually authorised the attacks by telephone. 
He made no bones about linking the connection between the raids and the recent death of a New Zealander, Lt Tim O’Donnell, who was killed by a roadside bomb in August 2010.  One journalist asked if this was a revenge attack that he was alluding to but he was careful not to answer this conclusively. 
Nicky Hager and the press
Hager said that he and Stephenson had been given the story, they hadn’t sought it out.  And that was one of the compelling reasons to pursue it.  Both Hager and Stephenson emphasised several times during the book launch that the book was based on ‘numerous and extensive interviews with people involved in these events, including New Zealand and Afghan military personnel as well as residents of the village.”  Hager did also add that he had not approached Key or Mapp for comment because he believed that although they may have known the truth they were not likely to reveal anything or even to reply in any way. 
Hager’s book was released today and will be available through most of the usual retail outlets including Unity Books.     

For more information go to

Article by Tim Gruar.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The vinyl revolution is a sham

According to NME:

Fans of large, unwieldy discs of black plastic rejoice, because last year vinyl sales reached a 25-year high in the UK, with over 3.2 million albums shifted on the pleasingly analogue format. I count myself as one of those very fans – see above as I casually enrage the purists and rub my grubby fingers all over a treasured Dolly Parton offering that I picked up for 50p and makes up part of my largely battered but very much beloved collection of second-hand records.

At first the recent boost in sales of brand new vinyl seems to be a glorious thing, with people embracing an old-school format as a stand against the constant digitisation of our consumption of music. But when you look at the 2016 data in detail, a weird pattern starts to emerge. David Bowie’s ‘Blackstar’ and Radiohead’s ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ aside, the albums that populate the Top 10 are old, from The Stone Roses’ 1989 debut to Nirvana’s 1991 breakthrough ‘Nevermind’, Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 smash ‘Rumours’, Amy Winehouse’s 2006 ‘Back To Black’ and Bob Marley’s posthumous 1984 best-of, ‘Legend’. They’re all records that were – and remain – bestsellers; none of them have shifted fewer than four million copies, with most selling a hell of a lot more. Which brings us to the question: why are people buying albums that they most likely already have, be it on CD or through a download?

Is vinyl simply just the latest poser accessory, after beards, fixed wheel bicycles and literally anything with the word ‘craft’ in it? It’s not an entirely out-there assumption, especially considering the current popularity of vinyl frames, made for the express purpose of locking up your records and placing them on the wall, which makes them pretty difficult – even impossible – to then play. The stats seem to back the theory up; last year the BBC published a survey that stated half the people who purchase vinyl have no intention of ever playing it, while seven per cent of vinyl buyers don’t even own a record player. It’s a bit like buying a bunch of flash new workout gear when you know full well that you’re going to spend the next few months on the sofa eating Deliveroo and watching back-to-back episodes of The OA.

The fact that all vinyl now comes with a ‘download code’ seems to suggest that even record labels know that their releases are unlikely to get much love on the turntable. Add to this a new wave of unreliable record players that don’t cost much more than the actual vinyl, on which records sound, well, a bit s**t, and you’ve hardly got the makings of a real vinyl revolution. Here’s to things changing in 2017 though – and to people actually playing the records that they buy.

WOMAD 2017 - 9Bach

Below are some photos taken by McKenzie Jennings-Gruar.  Kenz also interviewed 9Bach's Lisa and Martin for  We've included a link to her IV here, too.  Enjoy.

14-Year-Old McKenzie Jennings-Gruar Interviews 9Bach at WOMAD 2017

Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar interviewing Lisa and Martin from 9Bach
This is their video: 9Bach - Pa Le? (Live on Ochor Un)

9Bach formed in 2005 thanks to a chance meeting between Welsh singer-songwriter Lisa Jên (also known for her collaborative work with Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys) and English guitarist Martin Hoyland. With their unmistakable sound of Welsh language vocals shimmering alongside swamp guitar, harp, rhythm section and a subtle use of technology, 9Bach have been widely credited with giving a new voice to Welsh song. Their second album, Tincian, was described by The Line of Best Fit as “ripped through with transcendence; a brooding melancholy as much as a gossamer dreaminess”, and was voted Best Album at the 2015 BBC Radio 2 Awards by the public. Their new album Anian is a soulful, brooding record whose songs take a critical look at the world in which we live.

Anian: Welsh word meaning nature, the natural order, natural morality, the natural world, creation. What you are made of, your soul and bones, and how you connect with other people.

Lisa Jen - Photographed by McKenzie Jennings-Gruar

Mirain - Photographed by McKenzie Jennings-Gruar

Lisa Jen - Photographed by McKenzie Jennings-Gruar

WOMAD 2017 - Hot 8 Brass Band

Below are some photos taken during the weekend.
WOMAD 2017 - New Plymouth.
All photos by Mckenzie Jennings Gruar.
These are from the Hot8 Brass Band's Show.
The band played two stellar shows on the Bowl and Gables Stages, With their hip-hop bent and their funky styles they made brass cool and 'street'.  These guys were wicked.  We've included a bit of a bio below and a youtube clip. Scroll on down and get on down!

Hot 8 Brass Band - Photo by Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar

For over 20 years one of the most popular and visible funk-style brass bands in community parades and funerals has been the Hot 8 Brass Band. In 1996 sousaphone player Bennie Pete was instrumental in merging two former Fortier High School student groups, the High Steppers and the Looney Tunes Brass Bands, to form the Hot 8. The players grew up together and maintain strong, family-like bonds and regular membership. Most of them were born between 1975 and ’87 in a generation that grew up hearing mainly modern-style brass bands in community functions. The band can be larger than many younger groups often featuring ten members, including three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, bass drum, and snare drum. As is common among some more modern groups, the Hot 8 uses only one reed player and like most of the younger bands, the Hot 8’s funk style is a blend of influences from the Dirty Dozen and Rebirth, with more elements of contemporary r&b, rap, and its local variation, “bounce.” The uniqueness of their sound is mainly due to a steady stream of creative original songs and ideas composed or introduced by various band members. Since the Dirty Dozen, the sousaphone has had a more prominent role in brass bands as a feature and solo instrument; it frequently sets up and maintains short rhythmic (often melodic) grooves that dominate and propel most songs in the band.

The story of the Hot 8 Brass Band has been one of tragedy and triumph. Over the years the Hot 8’s ranks have been decimated by the deaths of four original members due to street violence and illness. Hurricane Katrina was a life-altering turning point; after being evacuated, displaced, and scattered across the country, the band regrouped and began touring the United States to encourage and support other displaced Katrina victims and promote New Orleans’ recovery. After also performing abroad, they opened on tour for popular r&b singer Lauren Hill for six months. The Hot 8 was featured in two Spike Lee documentaries, When the Levees Broke (2006) and If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise (2010), bringing them a measure of national exposure that has helped to fuel a steady touring schedule. The band has recorded two of its own CDs and one with the Blind Boys of Alabama. In 2012 the band put out an autobiographical CD, Life and Times of the Hot 8, and a music video over the backdrop of a Katrina-damaged city, Ghost Town.          

Long-term displacement across the country helped members of the band realize just how unique and special New Orleans culture is, which in turn inspired their desire to learn more about the history, sound, and style of earlier brass bands. Hot 8 manager Lee Arnold and leader Bennie Pete approached me about doing a series of workshops with the band; we watched videos, listened to recordings, talked, and rehearsed. The result was a series of concerts in which the band included traditional songs and explored long-forgotten concepts like three-part trumpet harmonies and volume shifts. A continuous fraternal relationship between the Hot 8 and me has led to some members playing on traditional gigs. Our early collaborations were re-created in a segment featured in the third season of HBO’s series Treme, in 2012.

Here's a taste of what we saw at WOMAD: The Hot 8 Brass Band with Ladies And Men of Unity - 'Poppa Was A Rolling Stone'

More WOMAD photos:

Hot 8 Brass Band - photo by McKenzie Jennings-Gruar
Hot 8 Brass Band - Photo by McKenzie Jennings-Gruar

Hot 8 Brass Band - Photo by McKenzie Jennings-Gruar
Hot 8 Brass Band - Photo by McKenzie Jennings- Gruar
Add caption

 Hot 8 Brass Band - Photo by McKenzie Jennings-Gruar

 Hot 8 Brass Band - Photo by McKenzie Jennings-Gruar

 Hot 8 Brass Band - Photo by McKenzie Jennings-Gruar

Add caption Hot 8 Brass Band - Photo by McKenzie Jennings-Gruar

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Record Store Day 2017

This year, Southbound Distribution has over 300 officially-endorsed Record Store Day vinyl releases that have been offered to records shops throughout New Zealand for the 10th Anniversary of Record Store Day on Saturday, April 22nd.

For ten years, Record Store Day has celebrated the unique culture of record stores worldwide. This is a day for people who make up the world of the record stores - the staff, the customers, and the artists - to get together and celebrate the unique culture of a record store and the special role these music outlets play in their communities. 
This is a day to enjoy buying local, listen to music, chat to the staff and other customers, to get something special for your collection, or even, to buy your first record!