Welcome to the first edition of Kind of Vibe…my monthly blog post with album and gig reviews. At least I will attempt to write monthly! So without further ado.. here’s some musical musings from March.
The first month of Autumn in the southern hemisphere delivered some fabulous new titles worldwide and a plethora of excellent gigs in Melbourne. We were treated to WOMAD, Port Fairy and Golden Plains side shows plus comedy festival events galore and the Melbourne International Jazz Festival program launch! Can’t possibly write about it all but here are a few of my favourite new titles from the past month and a couple of gig write ups.
HEY EP – LE1F (Terrible Records/XL)
For your dose of brash, bold, nasty dance hop meet NYC’s LE1F! Presenting fashion hip pop finery, LE1F’s debut EP titled ‘Hey’ delivers attitude, danceable breaks, aggressive beats and dark synth sounds with a distinctive fluid vocal rap. This sounds massive in my car with my subwoofer cranked. Love the look, the clip and the shapes. Check out the clip below from Letterman. Looking forward to hearing more from LE1F. His debut album is due out later this year. Manskirt and beanie, tick.
WUT on letterman:
Studio One Rocksteady – Various Artists (Soul Jazz Records )
I had the pleasure of visiting Soul Jazz records HQ when I was in London last year. Tucked away in the lanes of Soho the record store ‘Sounds of Universe’ boasts two floors of records and books, kept in a very functional order (virgo librarian approved) making it terribly easy to spend hundreds of pounds (credit card approved, ouch). The basement houses originals and some rare finds, the ground level is re-issues and new titles. Level one however is where the magic of the Soul Jazz Records compilations happens and I got a sneak peak of the label space when I was invited to meet the team and chat about upcoming projects last June.
Upon arrival Angela (Soul Jazz Records lovely marketing manager) made me a cup of tea and took me upstairs and showed me through the label offices – a floor to ceiling cave of paperwork, posters, books, posters, files and other bits and pieces. We had a fabulous chat about the label, the Australian radio scene, British record buying culture and about Glastonbury festival (many of the soul jazz staff were heading up to the festival and they urged me to go and hang out in their tea-friendly tent). Ang also spoke to me about upcoming souljazz records projects, so I was chuffed to receive a copy of their newest compilation ‘Studio One Rocksteady’ recently.
Compiled by SJ records founder Stuart Baker, this compilation highlights key tracks from mid sixties Studio One Recordings encompassing Rocksteady, Jamaican Soul and Early reggae. Light on horns, these tracks are vocal orientated and have a clear soul influence. Highlight tracks are “My Ambition” from Marcia Griffith, a mellow funk groove with vocal attitude. “Easy Take It Easy’ from Dennis Brown has a chunky restrained groove and terrific vocal performance.
This is a fabulous compilation with well written liner notes that passionately and eloquently point out note worthy parts and features about each track. For the uninitiated to the Studio One catalogue this is an excellent place to start your Jamaican musical education to Rocksteady. I adore the Soul Jazz label, all of their compilations are worth collecting and treasuring. Musical education yo and fabulous gift ideas too. The Blaxploitation comp is a favorite and the Vogueing compilation is also fabulous. Hats off to Souljazz for bringing lesser known artists and overlooked gems back to the retail space and for doing so in such a refined loving way. The packaging, liner notes and care put into each compilation is stunning.
Essential Soul Jazz titles for your collection…
Kiss Me Once – Kylie (Warner)
Kylie’s 12th studio album Kiss Me Once is escapism pop perfection. Closer to the harder sound found on the ‘X’ album than the dream swirl of ‘Aphrodite’ this new offering has a slight urban nod (perhaps influenced by her new management deal with Jay Z’s Roc Nation). Recorded in LA and produced by Kylie and Sia, Kiss Me Once contains all the Kylie essentials: catchy hooks, fantasy love-sexy lyrics, double tracked wall of sound vocals and stunning audio production.
Every song is sonically sublime with warm synth sounds, moogy sounding appreciated keys parts, fuzzy electric guitar, bells, huge sub frequencies and perfectly programmed drum parts, EQ’d and compressed to ear candy perfection. The arrangements and parts are detailed, layered and all encompassing, creating a huge fantasy pop landscape.
Apparently when Sia came on board as executive producer she sifted through all the works in progress Kylie had already started working on and scrapped a lot of the original material. She then told Kylie that the album was lacking sexy songs and that she needed some sexier material. This resulted in Sia writing the ‘Sexercise’ track which is a super minxy cheeky sports-sex inspired track which is just hilarious. I can just imagine Sia and Kylie cracking up whilst writing this song doing Kath and Kim and Olivia Newton John impersonations over a chardonnay. What a fabulous collaboration by two Australian pop ladies! The track really reminds of the Red Blooded Woman track and other tunes from the Body Language album.
I’ve been singing along with ‘I Was Gonna Cancel’ (Pharrels writing contribution), ‘Sexy Love’ and ‘Les Sex’ all month. The single ‘Into The Blue’ is gorgeous but my current favorite is ‘Million Miles’ – it’s a classic Kylie dance track. The box set comes with a plastic clear screen with the water drops in 3D so you can do your own selfie version of the album cover. Cute.
Charles Bradley @ The Corner 6th March
Returning to Melbourne for a sold out show at the Corner I was so excited to see Charles with his new band The Extraordinaires. This was the third time I have heard Charles live and I think each time I fall in love with him a little more. Charles sings like his life depends on it and truly gives all his energy to each show. Considering Bradley was a James Brown impersonator for so many years it’s incredible that he is able to truly give so much of his own emotion and personal feeling to his performances and sing his own stories with so much honesty and integrity. There is nothing clinical, corporate or cover band-ish about him. His time singing the Godfather of Soul repertoire might have cemented his performance technique and ability to work a crowd, but you cannot force or learn the kind of emotion Charles gives on stage. I started crying second song in, the man just breaks my heart!
He covered repertoire from the Victim of Love album as well as No Time For Dreaming including songs such as The World (Is Going Up In Flames, Victim of Love and Confusion. His had complete command over the band and they were super tight, focused and energized. The organ player was beaming and you could tell he truly adored Charles. The drummer was incredible, terrific feel, energy and a real ‘snap’ to his playing. I loved his purple shirt with velvet purple bowtie. The rhythm guitarist wore a very snazzy camel suit and the trumpet player wore a pinstripe suit – he looked like one of the New York gangsters from the Boardwalk empire series. The sax player nailed his solo but impressed me even more with his very determined tambourine playing. Nice tamb technique I thought. I’d love to know what guitar the lead guitarist was playing. It looked like a vintage or custom made axe from 40 odd years ago, looked very crusty and bent up but had a gorgeous warm tone to it. He delivered each and every solo with aplomb, rewarded with appreciative man nods from his rhythm-playing accomplice. The bass player was diligent with the groove and with his step-tap-step-tap daptonian move, which he didn’t rest from for the entire show. Charles did three costume changes, firstly sporting a red pant suit with a sequined black vest. He later changed to a black number with a body con lycra top with mesh sleeves and a black sheer overcoat, accessorized with a skull belt buckle. Then finally he re-emerged in another red combo featuring a red blazer embossed with his initials in diamantes on the lapels (bedazzler anyone?).
Charles is almost famous for his fan interaction and this show did not disappoint. After his encore, he jumped into the crowd and started hugging his audience. He wrapped his arms around my mum in a massive bear hug. He then hugged my stepdad Greg and then me with tears in his eyes, dripping with sweat. If you get the chance to see Charles live, do not miss it!
I took this pic at the gig. Mum baggsed us a spot right up the front! Nice one Mum.
Quantic DJ Set @ Boney 7th March
Will Anderson aka Quantic is a composer, musician, producer and record maker from Worcestshire UK, now based in Bogota Columbia. Drenched in Caribbean and latin influences Quantic has an impressive discography of original projects encompassing British soul, cumbia and tropical flavors with his acts Flowering Inferno. The Quantic Soul Orchestra and the Combo Barbaro. Last year Quantic released a collaborative project with powerhouse Brit-Soul vocalist Alice Russell called ‘Look Around The Corner’, a stunning record with lush strings, layers of horns and percussion, Columbian accordion and boogaloo grooves.
Anything Quantic-fied is worth investigating in my opinion (ahem dream collaboration haha!).
I saw Quantic on DJ duties a few years ago at Mayer Hawthorne’s first Melbourne show at the Corner, which was a powerhouse set of soul, and dance floor boogie. But since the last few projects from Quantic have been heavily influenced by Cumbia, I couldn’t wait to hear what he would spin at Boney. I wasn’t disappointed! Andersons deck performance is probably the best Musician to DJ transition I’ve ever seen and the place was packed! It was a packed sweaty mess up there! I couldn’t really see anything (except the plethora of tall people’s heads). The audience was an interesting mix of soul lovers and Melbourne’s Columbian community and I wondered how they heard about the show, which was promoted kind of under the radar. I thought it was interesting that although there was no real visual element to the show and barely any lighting on Quantic (the stage was very dark) the audience all faced Quantic, which I thought was nice, and there was even some applause which isn’t super common at DJ gigs I think. I thought that was very respectful.
What was incredible about this set was the mix of genres. One minute we were dancing to Columbian folk and Cumbia and the next minute Quantic would start pumping out a house style beat. Anderson played from 12.20 -3 until PBS’ DJ Manchild took over the decks and Quantic joined the dance floor. Manchild was still playing at 4.20am when I hit the road and Quantic was still bopping away, no minders apparent. I wonder how he went getting to WOMAD the next day. Rock and roll.
Coming up in April – the new Nick Waterhouse record will finally be released, blues festival side shows hit M-town, International Record store day spawns a shopping frenzy and my album pre-sales go live! Woop!