Hello there. Right now, I’m furiously busy with script rewrites, audio editing sessions and directing voiceover sessions for my forthcoming new podcast series with DJ Sirvere, Aotearoa Hip-Hop: The Music, The People, The History. Over two six episode seasons, we track the story of the rise of the local hip-hop scene in New Zealand. Season one begins in 1980 with the unsung Wellington hip-hop pioneer DJ Tee Pee and ends in 1996 with New Zealand music legend Che Fu going solo from his old band Supergroove. Season two, we’ll talk more about that next year. The story begins on November 19, until then, hold tight.
This week’s photographs were shot on Lomochrome Purple 35mm film with an Olympus MJU II, before being developed and scanned by Splendid.
WHAT I’VE BEEN DOING:
I recorded a new mix of dream-pop, psychedelic folk, exotica and rhythmic ambient music for Palestine’s Radio Alhara راديو الحارة, You can listen to the archival stream over on my Mixcloud page.
WHAT I’VE BEEN READING:
Pitchfork: Philip Sherburne on “i’m hole” by aya.
A DJ set from aya can be both thrilling and disorienting, a giddy maelstrom of jungle breaks, Dutch techno, UK funky, South African gqom, and who knows what else—plus edits of Charli XCX and “Call Me Maybe,” for good measure. Synthesized voices offer bite-sized philosophical observations (“Google Street View has allowed us to shrink geography,” proclaims a text-to-speech snippet midway through her 2018 Boiler Room set). Mic in hand, aya might shout crowd-stoking interjections, urge her supporters to vote Corbyn, or offer reflective commentary about her own tracks: At Krakow’s Unsound Festival this October, she said that “backsliding,” a queasy, K-holed vision of ambient grime peppered with cryptic references to hedonism and regret, is about leaving Manchester—“probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she added, sounding suddenly serious.
The boundless debut from the London-based artist is a delirious tug of war between pleasure and unease, shuttling between club sounds and psychedelic mind states with a steely, unbridled intensity. Philip Sherburne goes in.
Resident Advisor: 'A sledgehammer approach' - How Singapore's no-music rule in bars and restaurants hurts the electronic music scene.
Bottom lines aside, the no-music rule also signals a worrying attitude from the government towards creativity and culture.
"To say I'm worried is an understatement," said Chua. "It affects the nightlife and the culture of this country. Not only that, I think I can also say on behalf of my other music heads that this no-music rule affect us mentally as well. A lot of us are so tied to being creative around music. Taking that away from us is heinous. I think the authorities have no clue how much it affects people."
With nightlife still shut, the new law has the club community extremely worried and frustrated. Nyshka Chandran reports back for RA.
Stuff: 'Ambiguous loss': When you can't explain your grief.
“I don’t know when this will end,” Dad said, as he turned the radio off. We both felt like we had lost something which was hard to put into words. There would likely be no family Christmas, no visits, no certainty of when it would all be over.
This experience, similar to what so many Kiwis have gone through over the last year, is an example of ambiguous loss, according to Dr Pauline Boss, Emeritus Professor of Family and Social Sciences at the University of Minnesota.
Ambiguous loss is one for which there is no clear resolution. It is messy, ongoing or unfinished, and often leaves people searching for answers.
This can result in complicated grief, where people become frozen or stuck, unable to process what has occurred.
During the pandemic, how can we grieve the things we can’t quite put our finger on? Tommy Livingston reports.
Crack Mag: Blackhaine - Motion Sickness
Decked out in a plain black cap and black tee, his wiry body cuts a formidable silhouette, even over Zoom. His voice, familiar from his idiosyncratic lyrics, betrays his Lancashire upbringing. These days he lives on an estate in Weaste, a desolate suburb of Salford, Greater Manchester. “There’s no shops here. There’s no shops.” He tails off, considering the gravity for a second. “It’s fucking mad, really” In the early 2000s, Manchester was mired in a musical identity crisis. Nursing a cultural comedown induced by the Madchester era’s pill-fuelled hedonism and the neoliberal nihilism of Britpop, revellers needed coaxing from a tightly-wound safety net. It wasn’t as if artists weren’t experimenting, but interest was thin on the ground. The Stone Roses jangled away in the background, endlessly.
To call Tom Heyes’ work cinematic is almost an understatement. Born in Preston, the 26-year-old escaped into movies as a teenager, and his dialect-dipped wordplay illuminates an HD picture of a cloudy panorama – specifically England’s north-west – that’s been culturally opaque for far too long. His moniker, Blackhaine, is a portmanteau of “black”, to represent the self-destructive emotional spiral of northern poverty, and “haine”, swiped from French director Mathieu Kassovitz’s influential La Haine. “La haine attire la haine,” Hubert Koundé’s drug dealing boxer says in the 1995 film. It means “hatred breeds hatred” and addresses the kind of violence and poverty that scars social landscapes for generations. John Twells met Blackhaine and wrote about it like their life depended on it.
WHAT I’VE BEEN LISTENING TO:
The Pop Group, Y In Dub (Mute Records)
Forty two years after the release of their debut album Y, UK post-punk pioneers The Pop Group hand South London dub and lovers rock production legend Dennis ‘Blackbeard’ Bovell MBE the multitrack. The result is Y In Dub, an incredible reimagining of the songs that launched The Pop Group’s storied career, and a fitting homage to the decades of dub and reggae music that The Pop Group have long drunk from as inspiration. Not much left to say but LISTEN. I believe they may have performed this one live together earlier in the year.
aya, i’m hole (Hyperdub)
As Bandcloud observed recently, people are calling this The Album of The Year in some quarters. i’m hole is the debut from aya (formerly LOFT), a London based DJ, producer and vocalist with a magpie like ability to naturally weave disparate genres and sounds together in their sets and production. Ethereal grime, concrete music, drone, and internal monologue vocals that shapeshift between spoken word, rap, and digitally manipulated song, all often at less than a moments notice. i’m hole is a psychedelic record, but it’s also a club record. Right now, there is something singular about aya’s music, and this album represents a major moment, or turning point if you well. The soundscape either has, or is just about to shift. Welcome to aya’s era.
Nomad Carlos, Element of Surprize (Self-Released)
Ostensibly, Kingston, Jamaica based MC Nomad Carlos and his extended crew The Council of The Gods, appear to be cut from a similar cloth to the grown man raps I associate with Mello Music Group star Oddisee, Buffalo, New York’s Griselda Records crew, and Ka, the very lord of introspection himself. Element Of Surprize is Carlos’ latest solo album, with production provided by a small militia of associates including Chosen1 Beats, Son Raw, The Quarter Inch Kingz, Skinny Bonez Tha Godfatha, and Carlos himself.
Over eleven vividly cinematic instrumentals - couched in rap formalism, but still open to trying new things out - Carlos unapologetically shares his perspective on numerous pivotal moments from across his lifetime. Honest and plainspoken, he says what he means, and means what he says, without expecting anything from the listener but a moment with their ears. Rounding things out, he pulls in some guest vocals from K0zm0z, Falcon Outlaw, Five Steez, and cuts from DJ Hook Raida. In a word: refreshing.
A Small, Good Thing, Block (Leaf)
This is an oldie not a newie. Not sure I would call it small, but it’s definitely a good thing. From what I remember, people on Twitter were talking about the roots of Ambient Country. Someone mentioned A Small, Good Thing and a few other acts, and I had to go look them up. Turns out A Small, Good Thing’s 1997 album Block was up on Bandcamp. Fittingly, it was originally released by The Leaf Label, who also licensed and released quite a bit of music from Susumu Yokota, who I recently wrote about for Wax Poetics. Not sure I’d call this album ambient country though. It’s more rhythmic ambient blues with the odd country/bluegrass tinge or shade. Either way, beautifully produced headphone music from a trio who are probably well deserving of a critical reappraisal. In Aotearoa New Zealand, this stuff was distributed by Flavour Distribution. That’s another story that really needs to be re-illuminated.
Michael Llewellyn, Oh My Darling (Self-Released)
Here’s the debut album from emerging Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Aotearoa singer-songwriter and musician Michael Llewellyn. Llewellyn cites the likes of Leonard Cohen and the Velvet Underground as influences, and let me be clear, the sixties/seventies folk-rock, avant-rock and psychedelia that suggests comes through loud and clear across Oh My Darling. This is an album of love and loss, and all the reflections that both of those feelings through up after the moment has passed. Rollicking rhythms, range-roving guitars, and yearning, searching lyrics and voice. You’ve got a promising future ahead of you, Llewellyn. Just don’t lose your sense of humor, okay?
In more aya related news, Sophie McNulty interviews aya in the new issue of DJ Mag.
If the idea of a podcast on the history of Hip-Hop in New Zealand interests you, please follow this Instagram account.
Here’s a DJ recording of akanbi and Voices going B2B at Brooklyn, New York’s Club Night Club in August.
Strategic Tape Reserve is back with YET ANOTHER BANGER OF A TWEET.