French Disco Boogie Sounds (1975-1984)

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For total indulgence and unabated dance floor pleasure you can’t go past this compilation of French soul, pop, funk and disco tracks from 1975-1984. Selected by Charles Maurice, the album was released last year on the Favorite label. Hit the Bandcamp link below to stream and/or buy the album on 2LP, CD and digital formats.

In their words:

Helped by a close connoisseur friend, DJ and collector Charles Maurice presents a fine selection of what he thinks represent best the amazing energy of this specific movement and period. With 10 rare titles, all produced between 1975 and 1984, he shows a perfect picture of what you could find in French record stores at that time.

On one hand, tracks by Overdrive, Marché Noir, Didier Makaga or France-Lise, were produced by underground artists and labels from the French Caribbean and African community and also filled with the raw spirit of this Tropical stamping. On the other hand, tracks by Beckie Bell, Kelly, Le Club, or Bernard Guyvan, were released by major labels such as Trëma, Carrere, Disques Vogue, or Pathé Marconi, thanks to confirmed independent producers, acting not only in France, but also in Canada and the US. 

Today, Favorite Recordings and Charles Maurice are very proud to shed some light again on these gems, and hopefully offer them a new life on your turntable.

ALBUM REVIEW: Danzig – Skeletons

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Rating6Covers albums can be hit or miss affairs, sometimes insightful and revelatory, often indulgent and derivative. Glenn Danzig’s selections and interpretations sit somewhere in the middle. He has certainly applied the demonic, grandiose metal Danzig sound to these songs, though often they sound like poorly recorded demos. In particular Elvis’ Let Yourself Go works well, as does his Ramones ramalama take on The Troggs’ With A Girl Like You but surprisingly for such an influential song, he takes Black Sabbath’s N.I.B into metal karaoke territory. The real winner is closer Crying In The Rain which best showcases Danzig’s anguished bellow and howl.

Chris Familton

LIVE REVIEW: Moon Duo, Grinding Eyes, Glass Skies @ NSC, Sydney (10/12/15)

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MOON DUO

Opening this evening of psych rock was Glass Skies who whipped up a hard stoner/space rock barrage of riffs and grooves for the few early arrivals. The singer/guitarist overplayed his hand with teeth and behind-the-head solos but they nailed the ‘rock’ aspect of psychedelic music convincingly.

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GRINDING EYES (stage set up)

Grinding Eyes enhanced the tripped-out mood of the evening with a a sea of projected images flooding the band and stage as they dug out some dark and fine garage/drone nihilist rock sounds. Part Stooges, part Primal Scream, they possess a strong rhythm section led by drummer Cec Condon which allowed the guitar, Juno synth and Farfisa organ to carve out some visceral and hypnotic swirling melodies.

This tour sees Moon Duo touring Australia with their live drummer John Jeffrey for the first time and he made a real difference in adding a human element to the previous repetition and rigidity of their drum machine. With projections creating the effect of a swirling vortex the trio quickly laid down the template for the evening with their Krautrock meets Suicide rhythms, Ripley Johnson’s curling , hypnotic guitar phrasing and Sanae Yamada’s keyboards which provided the magical dreamy (and sometimes nightmarish) textures and melodies. To new ears it would have sounded like one extended set-piece but fans of their music know the subtleties and the reward of tension release when Moon Duo exit their long, head-nodding passages and hit rare and uplifting choruses. The songs from this year’s Shadow Of The Sun album stood out with their more precise and brighter sound. Wilding, Night Beat and Free The Skull sounded like T-Rex and Bo Diddley reconfigured into ghostly and psychedelic drone rock and a room full of closed eyes and trance-induced head nodding was testament to Moon Duo’s masterful use of endless simplicity in primal rock n roll.

Chris Familton

LIVE REVIEW: Julia Holter, Marcus Whale @ NSC, Sydney (09/12/15)

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IMG_4209This was a night for a light to be shone on the more distant edges of pop music, where obtuse angles and bold and wilder imaginations take flight. Marcus Whale had emailed Julia Holter requesting a support slot and his wish was granted. Holter and local label Mistletone’s trust was more than rewarded with a riveting opening set that took militant drums, a caustic electronic backdrop and Whale’s soulful, effect-laden voice into territory that artists like Bjork and Zola Jesus inhabit.

Julia Holter’s year has culminated in her appearing at or near the top of many respected end-of-year lists which will no doubt see her cache and audience sizes increase in 2016. That made this show feel like we were witnessing an artist on the cusp of being elevated to the next level of music industry exposure. After a tentative start adjusting equipment and a music stand Holter steadied herself and began an 80 minute set that started with a measured and almost rigid feel and ended in a rousing avant-jazz trip complete with wordless incantations and splintering melodies and rhythms. In the interim Holter showcased this year’s Have You In My Wilderness album with the light-stepping Silhouette a particular highlight as well as musically compatible selections from her earlier albums. Holter has slowly become more confident on-stage since her earlier Australian visits, this time chatting, laughing and making wry song introductions that gave the more avant garde songs glimpses of context. Though the first half of the set too often displayed the conservatorium roots of its composer, the second 40 minutes became richer, more resonant and full-blooded as the mood lightened and the musicians began to sweat and loosen their shoulders. Holter’s recorded music is progressive and avant-pop music but her live set effectively added another layer of personality and approachability to her unique and otherworldly songs.

Chris Familton

LIVE REVIEW: Mercury Rev @ OAF

MERCURY REV, JAMES DELA CRUZ (DJ SET) @ Oxford Art Factory, 07 December 2015

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Eschewing the usual opening band, the warm-up honours went to James Dela Cruz (The Avalanches) who played an eclectic hour long DJ set that stretched from Neil Young to warm techno flows and some fine turntablism skills.

FEPX1684Mercury Rev hold a fairly unique position in music with their fantastical, dramatic sound that hits both the extremes of shoegaze and the fragile beauty of Catskill Mountains Americana. This was quite possibly the smallest venue the band have played in Australia so it was a chance for fans to experience them in full flight in relatively intimate surrounds. From a sea of dry ice pierced by dreamy washes of blue light emerged Jonathan Donahue, Grasshopper and their bassist, drummer and keyboardist/flautist. What followed was the full Mercury Rev experience that was in no way downsized or compromised for the club venue. Their recently released album The Light In You got a fair showing in the setlist but they know that their audience peaked with the seminal Deserters Songs album. Early fans were treated to Frittering from Yerself Is Steam (1991) but it was tracks from the aforementioned album that drew the biggest cheers from the enthusiastic crowd. Holes, Goddess On A Hiway and Opus 40 were exquisite in their delivery with Donahue commanding the centre of the stage with conductor flourishes and grand gestures like a magician conjuring up some dramatic illusion. Opus 40 rounded out the main set with an extended and accelerated surge into sheets of distortion with a sonic dizziness that seemed to spin the room on its axis.

Mercury Rev were art rock in dazzling glory, almost too grandiose for the small setting but they never overcooked it. The mystery in their music had the audience immersing themselves in its dark romance while at the same time trying to figure out just how they create such an ornate and wonderful sound from their standard rock band format.

Chris Familton

LIVE REVIEW: Thurston Moore @ Metro Theatre

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Thurston Moore, Gold Class @ Metro Theatre, Sydney (05/12/15)

When you have half of Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine’s bassist on stage one would expect the venue to be fairly brimming with indie rock fans right? It was a surprise then, and somewhat disappointing, to be greeted with a curtained off and reduced capacity theatre that still only made it to two thirds capacity.

IMG_4124Gold Class were back after recently supporting The Fall at the venue and they again impressed with their considered, dramatic and artful post-punk. Dressed all in white, singer Adam Curley barked out his lyrics in a sonorous voice while staring down the arriving audience with a detached cool. All the while the jagged and propulsive rhythms and slash and churn guitar cut equally impressive shapes around him.

After some scene-setting ambient atmospherics Thurston Moore, Debbie Googe, Steve Shelley and James Sedwards lurched into the primitive grind of Forevermore, the opening track from last year’s The Next Day. That album got a strong airing but Moore also previewed a couple of songs from the band’s next album that was recorded back in May. In the encore he also turned back the clock to his first solo album Psychic Hearts with Ono Soul and the quiet/loud rawness of Pretty Bad. Moore was still the uncomfortable frontman between songs but as soon as the music begins he shifted into a trance-like mode, swaying, flailing or just standing with eyes closed, immersed in the chaos or tranquility of the music. Guitarist Sedwards was a wonderful foil and equally adept and conjuring a myriad of hypnotic avant garde and classic rock sounds from his instrument. Behind them, Shelley and Googe were essential to the grounding and forward movement of the songs, workmanlike yet possessing seemingly infinite variations on rhythm and groove. In the end the attendance numbers mattered little as the band played with intensity and passion for the enthralled and tuned-in audience.

Chris Familton

INTERVIEW: Dan Kelly

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Hippie Days Are Here Again

Dan Kelly thought he was going to write and record and quick follow-up to his 2010 album Dan Kelly’s Dream but instead songs were scrapped and re-written, countries were explored and finally, after unexpectedly meeting an old friend in the main street of Nimbin the seed for Leisure Panic was planted, as Kelly explains to Chris Familton.

That jump-off point where a musician realises they’ve found the starting point for a new album can often be a difficult one to find. For some it’s a moving target, for others it’s a spark that keeps disappearing and reappearing in another form. For Dan Kelly it involved a scrapped album and a return to the drawing board before a chance meeting set him on course toward what would become his new album, four and a half years later than he expected.

“I wrote a song called Baby Bonus when I was minding a friend’s place up in the hills behind Nimbin and it was the first song where I thought I might base the record around a series of stories set in that region. I’ve gone to Northern NSW since I was a kid. Once I’d written that one I went back to a few other ones and adjusted the lyrics a bit. I often have placebo lyrics in place until I can come up with an interesting story. After that I ended up framing it with that and a bit about my travels in a meta-narrative, not exactly what happened to me. It’s written between the lines, in the lemon juice. The lateral life I’ve lived which has involved a bit of searching and all that. That song set it off, with a chance meeting with a friend in the main street of Nimbin who had just had a baby and I took on the role of a hippie woman in the song. Then I recorded some songs in a mud brick studio in Brunswick which is a cold-climate hippie kind of vibe. There’s a bit of hippie stuff to the record,” admits Kelly.

One recurring tool in Kelly’s songwriting style is the use of place names which give his songs geographical context. On Leisure Panic a list of native Australian birds is also recited and it transpires that Kelly has a fascination for landmarks and the natural world.

It is something I do and maybe it’s something I’ve inherited from playing a lot of Paul Kelly shows. I’m fascinated by beaches and mountains, I studied environmental science when I was a youngster and I like the way they translate into sounds. There’s a bit of synaesthesia like where you see colours as sounds. I do tend to place songs. I probably do tend to always write the same kind of song, hopefully improving it and giving it variation. It’s like some kind of mystical Japanese art where I’m incrementally delving into and expanding this one style I’ve been doing for a long time. I change the musical styles a lot but I do work variations on a theme which often involves naming a town or a spot. I do make things up though, there is a reference on the album to Strawberry City, fuck knows what that is, it just sounds good! The real and the unreal is all kind of interwoven, I really enjoy that. Most of the place names are real, places I’ve been and where stuff has happened.”

Each Dan Kelly album takes a different tact to those that preceded it. Even if his compositional style riffs on the same theme he places the songs in different musical worlds, from his early solo work with The Alpha Males through to the dreamier soulful drones of his latest album.

“The first record was influenced by things like Pavement and the more aggressive music I grew up listening to like Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Jesus Lizard. I was living with The Drones and we were all getting into music together and they played in the band so I was really keen to do that stuff. We reformed recently and it was super energetic and lots of fun. I do find it hard to sing over that stuff though as I don’t have a mega rock voice and those guys were rocking. The next record delved into this tropicalia clean tone, more clangy Sonic Youth adventure music. The third one I wanted to do a Dylanesque surrealistic ramble of words. This one I wanted to be more meditative even though live it is still a bit crazed and spastic rock. It’s more soundscape-based. I definitely wasn’t in a rush to make another punk record though the next one might be. One of the challenges this was to play less and make it sound bigger.”

INTERVIEW: Moon Duo

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Anything Can Be Psychedelic

Moon Duo’s Sanae Yamada discusses their place in psychedelic music, adding a live drummer to their line-up and performing to the ashes of dead people, with Chris Familton.

As the name suggests Moon Duo are a musical pairing, the collaborative project of Yamada and partner Ripley Johnson. The latter is best known for his work with San Francisco psych/drone group Wooden Shjips but with logistical issues slowing progress with that band and Moon Duo becoming more prolific and popular they’re able to spend more time exploring their lunar landscape.

“This will be the first time we’re doing two Moon Duo records instead of alternating albums between the two bands. Wooden Shjips can be more difficult to organise and get them all together as some of them have intense day jobs and families so it is harder to organise. It’s easy for us to pack up and hit the road and John (Jeffrey – drums) is young, he’ll do whatever!” laughs Yamada.

Jeffrey joined the band a couple of years ago, replacing the drum machines they used on stage and in the process reinvigorating and breathing new life into some of the band’s songs.

“There are some songs that I’m way more into because we’ve found this other mode for them which is more dynamic than the recorded versions. A big part of it is having John who opens us up to be dynamic and flexible in a way that we weren’t before. We can play with tempo and length and explore realms on the spur of the moment which is fantastic for us. Having John was great because we could do this kind of man-machine thing where we programmed beats and then got him to recreate them with a human touch. I was really happy with how that worked out.”

Playing in new countries and in unique venues is another way to maintain enthusiasm and variety in their live performance. Recently, one such setting was the Bohemian National Cemetery Chapel in Chicago.

“That was amazing. That place just made the hairs on my arms stand up. It was a crematorium as well as a chapel so it had these walls with little glass cases full of urns with people’s ashes and photographs, mostly from the early 20th century. The room was round with a domed ceiling. Very spooky but very cool.”

There has been an increase in the popularity of psychedelic-based music, from Tame Impala to Unknown Mortal Orchestra, in recent years but does it constitute a scene and if so, is it one that Moon Duo feel a part of?

“I like both those bands but I feel the concept of psychedelic rock is very broad. The idea of psychedelia is to open up doors and possibilities and not put boundaries on things or box anything in. For me, anything can be psychedelic. For instance I find some of Herbie Hancock’s music from the mid-70s to be deeply psychedelic. There’s this minimal synth woman Laurie Spiegel who I really like and her stuff is super minimal but amazing and I find that extremely transportive in a psychedelic way. I guess I appreciate the label for our music but I think the current scene around that concept has a very specific sound aesthetic which we don’t really fit but I like the concept of psychedelia in general.”