Saturday, 22 February 2020

Fat Freddy's Drop ‎– Special Edition Part 1 (2020)

Genre: Electronic, Jazz, Reggae, Funk / Soul
Format: Vinyl, CD
Label: The Drop

1.   Kamo Kamo
2.   OneFourteen
3.   Raleigh Twenty
4.   Special Edition
5.   Trickle Down
6.   Six-Eight Instrumental

Bass – Tyrone McCarthy
Drums – Iraia Whakamoe, Julien Dyne
Percussion – Will Ricketts
Performer, Producer, Written-By – Chris (Mu) Faimu, Dallas Tamaira, Fat Freddy's Drop, Iain Gordon, Joe Lindsay, Scott Towers, Tehimana Kerr, Toby Laing

Get Ready. Set. Drop! The Freddy’s are back with some choice new cuts to sink your teeth into. Part 1 of a double album, Special Edition Part 1, landed on Friday 15th November (Part 2 will be out later next year). Recorded at the band’s Wellington studio, BAYS, this new beast of boogie is a short but sweet mix of road-tested jams and material written ‘undercover’ during the band’s limited downtime. 
Of the six new offerings, Raleigh Twenty (gotta love that name!), Trickle Down and Six-Eight Instrumental came from those sessions, whilst Special Edition, Kamo Kamo, and OneFourteen were firm faves in their worldwide touring sets. 
The vanguard single Kamo Kamo is already out, whetting appetites, especially for us down here in their hometown of Welly, as we all wait with heavy anticipation for their upcoming Lower Hutt gig. That show will be part of a ten show rollout that spans places from the deep south to the heady north. Google Kamo Kamo and you’ll be reminded of the small ‘grenade shaped’ marrow or squash traditionally used in hangis and fry-ups. It sticks with the band’s obsession with kai, and is the purest definition of the late-night roots reggae grill, thickened with Joe Taimara’s trade mark buttery vocals, and super funky horn punctuations from Scott Towers, Toby Laing and Joe Lindsay. 
High up on my repeat playlist is the Detroit House-influenced Trickle Down. I especially loved the locomotive rhythms laid down by Chris Faiumu (aka DJ Fitchie). Still rocking his trusty MPC he engineers this little engine through wave after wave of sophisticated groovyness. Layered over it all, Taimara (aka Joe Dukie) brings us desperate conscious lyrics that repeat a cry from Capitalism’s forgotten: ‘Getting short on patience, getting high on hope, getting short of patience siting here waiting for the rain to fall’. 
Raleigh Twenty is a tricky little number. It starts off with a nifty little 1980’s computer game jingle, then spreads out into the blissful jazz-pop of 70’s heroes Steely Dan. However, I’m pretty sure Messrs Becker and Fagan never made songs about dropping off the missus and going for a cruise on a vintage bicycle while she’s at work slaving away over a hot computer. 
Six Eight Instrumental reminds me of those blissed out trance-techs that bands like Orbital used to make. It’s a slow creeper built on a simple recurring refrain that builds and builds before swerving off onto a tangent or two in the usual Freddy fashion. While it’s nice enough, this is the one track that still feels a little unfinished. Maybe we’ve been spoilt by vocals and horns, but I still felt something was lacking. I’m just not sure what. 
An absolute festival fave will be the Black Seeds flavours of Special Edition. You certainly, can’t deny the hand-waving funk’n’roots knees-up atmosphere of this styleee tune. Every BBQ from Cape Reinga to the Bluff will be raising their beers and grill-mates high during the chorus “No Worries in the Party Tonight”. 
Of all the tracks that sound the most like the earlier Fat Freddys Drop, OneFourteen is the most likely candidate. Kicking off with Ian Gordon’s French Cafe accordion keys this number moves smoothly into the template perfected way back in the days of Based On A True Story and Dr Boondigga and The Big W. It’s a solid player, peppered with soulful horns and ripe for a big jam-extrapolation during live set. There is added flavourings thanks to Scott Towers (aka Chopper Reeds) and he meandering jazzy sax stint. For some reason my head went off to that clip of Lisa Simpson playing in a dark alley. 
Everyone loves the Freddys, and material like this just proves why – time and again. Funky jams and festival favourites to please the ears and your dancing bones. What else could you want. Bring on summer. Yeah. Mic drop! 
Tim Gruar / Ambient Light

Jordan De La Sierra ‎– Gymnosphere: Song Of The Rose (1978)

Style: Space Rock, Avantgarde, Experimental
Format: Vinyl, CD
Label: Numero Group, Unity Records

1-1.   Music For Gymnastics
1-2.   Temple Of Aesthetic Action
2-1.   Music For Devotional Pastimes
2-2.   Sphere Of Sublime Dances

Composed By, Performer, Producer – Jordan De La Sierra
Engineer (Digital Restoration) – Robert Rich
Executive Producer – Peter Georgi
Mastered By – Paul Stubblebine
Producer (Reissue) – Ken Shipley, Rob Sevier
Recorded By, Producer, Remastered By – Stephen Hill

After Gymnosphere: Song of the Rose, Jordan De La Sierra's New Age magnum opus, flopped in 1977, the classically trained Bay Area composer occupied himself as a professional landscaper. Because of course he did. The metaphor almost seems too groaningly obvious to be true: If he wasn't going to be patiently trimming shapes out of vast space in one medium, it seemed, another one would have to do. 
More than any other subgenre, New Age is concerned with space, about placing sounds like immaculately arranged furniture in a white room. Gymnosphere, in that regard, was rather unwieldy—at least as a physical retail object. Spread across two LPs and occupying nearly 120 minutes, the album also came with De La Sierra's 20-page hand-drawn booklet to accompany it. "Greetings to all fellow members and space colonizers here present in this our local universe," De La Sierra wrote in the liners' opening page, in a decorous Hallmark script. The music within he humbly offered as "spatial food... for our finer being bodies" along with his instructions that portions of it be specifically listened to "at the nexus in the diurnal-nocturnal cycle" (presumably, he meant "twilight"). It was, in every way, a big object with no space to fit into: Unity Records, which had the misfortune of releasing New Age records before anyone had figured out how to sell New Age records, eventually went under, just a few minutes on the cosmic calendar before Enya and Yanni turned New Age into an industry. 
Now Numero Group has reissued De La Sierra's Gymnosphere in its original length and with De La Sierra's original drawings lovingly intact. It's a remarkable turnabout for an album that was lost in the digital wilderness for decades. Finding information on the Internet about De La Sierra that predates last year is rough, usually turning only a few tremulous queries for this "orphaned work" to find a new home. But recently, as labels reissue more material from the period, there has been an unusual amount of energy and attention devoted to the pre-boom New Age years. A few years ago, the thought of hardcore music kids aggressively seeking out long-lost New Age documents by Laraaji, Iasos, and Constance Demby would have seemed like a gentle joke, but now it just feels like the inevitable next step in the acceleration of reissue culture.

Narrating music without any legible action is a bit if a riddle, but a salient measure of New Age is how lightly it inspires intangible feelings like melancholy and contemplation without alerting your higher mind that you're being "bored." De La Sierra's piano, recorded live in Grace Cathedral in 1977,  is an elusive sound, at once tactile and abstract. On the one hand, it's clearly a piano ringing out into a drafty cathedral, muffled by room tone and tape recording, and occasionally you can feel the stale breeze from the chapel pews on your face. On the other, his glimmering tone feels like a trick of the light, something that catches your attention and then promptly disappears. His lightly dancing playing, spelling out one or two chords for uninterrupted minutes at a time, turns notes into vague shapes of the kind you see when you press on your closed eyelids. 
Gymnosphere consists of four separate pieces—"Music for Gymnastics", "Temple of Aesthetic Action", "Music for Devotional Past", and "Sphere of Sublime Dances". Each runs over 20 minutes, the space between them little more than a breath for silence and composure. "Music for Gymnastics" consists mostly of one chord, spelled out in the left hand again and again while the right hand dances over runs. The chords don't change, in any active sense, as much as they cloud into new harmonies, touch on suggestions of new chords. It's like watching sediment stir and settle in your tea—contemplative, mundane, somehow, on a tiny level, awe-inspiring. 
Jayson Greene/ Pitchfork