Tag Archives: Lord Echo

Favourite Releases 2016

The other day, while sunbathing on the lawn of a Melrose flat, my friend and I began thinking about the diminishing human element involved in post-internet music consumption.

When I was at high school, I basically lived at Slow Boat Records and Real Groovy – music havens where I’d browse for hours, listen to CD posts, purchase records, get recommendations from staff, find out about new releases from posters in the window, pick up gig guides and buy tickets to upcoming shows.

I remember getting up at dawn to bus into town and be amongst the first to hear Stadium Arcadium the day it was released in New Zealand. I remember staying overnight outside the ticket booth, flanked by fans draped in sleeping bags, eagerly waiting for sales to open for their first Auckland show. This was about ten years ago now.

Nowadays, you can be a fan without ever leaving your front door. With the exception of buying The All Seeing Hand’s Sand to Glass on vinyl at the door of their album release show, I bought all this year’s featured albums online, without even talking to a single person.

The internet means accessibility has grown but human contact has reduced. But the creation, sharing and consumption of music is still an immensely personal thing. These albums create the soundtrack to so many aspects of our lives, they speak to our own experiences or the experiences of others and make us feel things more deeply. Let’s continue to feel, express ourselves and connect with others.

I’m so thankful to all these artists for producing these works and sharing them into the world, where they can be shared and distributed in an instant across the globe.

In no particular order, here are Kiwese’s favourite releases from New Zealand and China in the Year of the Monkey 2016.

Header Illustration: Ali Pang


The All Seeing Hand // Sand to Glass

(MUZAI)
Wellington, NZ

The All Seeing Hand finally gave birth to Sand to Glass in December and oh yesyesyes, it has been worth the wait.

In their first album to feature predominantly English lyrics, Sand to Glass showcases Marks’ politically pertinent wordsmithing, encased in industrial metal clanking by drummer Ben Knight (Rogernomix, Unsanitary Napkin) and those trademark, turbo charged electronic power ups from scratch master Alphabethead.

It is perhaps their most ‘pop’ record to date, if The All Seeing Hand could ever be considered so, with tracks like Lizard Brain and Swarm standing out as previously released singles and indicating a shift away from the more abstract compositions of Mechatronics (2013) and Fog and Debris (2014) and towards a tighter sense of songwriting.

Listened to this on repeat while biking through the smog of Chengdu, the soundtrack to this environmental apocalypse.

Favourite track: Dog Eat Dog


Hu Yang //  Xu Huai Ruo Gu

(Be Sure)
Beijing, CN

My friend Liu Xing introduced me to Xu Huai Ruo Gu earlier this year and I was immediately hooked. Released digitally on the Berlin/Shanghai techno label Be Sure, which is home to brilliant offerings of mixtapes from artists such as Art’s Difficult (ELVIS.T) and Shanghai techno queen MIIIA.

Formerly known as NiChiFanLeMei, this Mt. Emei born Beijing-based producer creates a kind of brutalist, no nonsense techno – all muscle, no fat.

Possibly my most listened album of the year, suitable for furiously bike riding to a destination or scrubbing the kitchen and getting that shit clean as hell.

Favourite track: Restricted


Orchestra of Spheres // Brothers and Sisters of the Black Lagoon

(Fire Records)
Wellington, NZ

FIRELP430 Death And Vanilla - EP LP SLEEVE

Brothers and Sisters of the Black Lagoon is a psychedelic serving of tunes, many which have been part of the Spheres mind-melting live set for the past few years.

Their knack for combining the everyday with the otherworldly is evident throughout the album: Let Us Not Forget, an eerie prayer of reminders before leaving the house, the intensely danceable South East Asian inspired jam Anklung Song and their fast-paced Zombie Zombie cover Rocket #9.

Bubbling with sounds both organic and electronic, voices both chanted and spoken, influences both local and extraterrestrial, Brothers and Sisters of the Black Lagoon is a tasty, special brew from my favourite band of Wellington weirdos.

Favourite track: Anklung Song


Duck Fight Goose // CLVB ZVKVNFT
押打饿《未来俱乐部》

(D-Force Records 大福唱)
Shanghai, CN

Duck Fight Goose have teamed up with producer Lv for this smashing record on D-Force, their first release in four years, the soundtrack to interplanetary cyborg dancefloors.

CLVB ZVKVNFT is bursting with imagination and inspiration, combining elements of breakbeat, acid house, synth pop and techno into a cohesive string of 12-tracks. Busy yet uncluttered, frantic yet disciplined. A triumph.

Favourite track: 《马》


Unsanitary Napkin // Patriotic Grooves

(Zero Style, Always Never Fun, Limbless Records)
Wellington, NZ

FASCIST VOLCANO
SPEWING
MOLTEN SHIT

Patriotic Grooves is a fast and furious fuck you from Wellington punk trio Unsanitary Napkin, formed in 2015 and fronted by guitarist/vocalist Hannah Salmon a.k.a. artist Daily Secretion, who is well known for her zines, gig posters and album art in collaboration with other Wellington-based bands.

The 12-tracks of the album are punctuated with broadcast radio beeps and sound grabs from white, male New Zealand politicians and media identities. Incredible, machine-gun-like drumming from Ben, who forms a blistering rhythm section with Rupert on bass.

As the album’s defining image of Donald Trump being annihilated by a rainbow beam from a winged vagina (the sticker version shaped like a sanitary pad) would suggest, Patriotic Grooves is comprised of vaginal blasts of anarcho feminist anger directed towards the chauvinistic and conservative peaks of society.

Brief and intense.

Favourite track: Feminine Odour


iimmune // Abnormal

(D-Force Records 大福唱片)
Beijing, CN

Melodic, dramatic and emotional. Thoughtful compositions reminiscent of Four Tet and Aphex Twin, Abnormal is the beginning of Bobo’s metamorphosis from film scores to dancefloor ready techno.

Keep an eye on his electronic label Prajnasonic and stay tuned for next year, when the bass will drop.

Favourite track: 鲸鱼-


So Laid Back Country China // Sin Cristales

(Self-released)
Wellington, NZ

“I’m too busy drinking / all of the time”

In September, I found myself sitting in the bath tub of a five star hotel in Auckland, up to my tits in hot water and drowning in anxiety. Like my mind was smashing itself into the ground, stuck in a violent wash cycle of negativity, trapped underwater in a swimming pool covered by an immovable tarpaulin. I felt like I was going to rip my own face off.

Sin Cristales brought me back to earth, having articulated such emotions to great effect. Grateful. xx

Favourite Track: Ballad of Calm Arms


Yue Xuan // Entrance & Exports
岳璇《Entrance & Exports》

(Mo Records)
Beijing, CN

Entrance & Exports is a remix of Yue Xuan’s beautiful piano album In & Out from 2015. Bringing together producers from around China such as MHP, Broken Thoughts, Hong Qile, iimmune and Cvalda onto one impeccably well-crafted compilation (which was initially available as a free download on Douban), the remixes span Minimalist, Post-Rock, Drum & Bass, Techno, Glitch, Drone, Hiphop, Experimental, Ambient and IDM, bringing a whole new electronic take on the original.

Entrance & Exports and accompanying national Remix Tour is a fine example of how this young composer is utilising the resources and connections around her to produce something new and exciting.

Favourite Track: Nine of Swords (Cvalda Remix)


Mermaidens // Undergrowth

(Flying Out)
Wellington, NZ

Mermaidens have come a long way since those first acoustic demos four or five years ago, with Undergrowth released in March establishing them as a staple of the Wellington indie scene.

Enchanting mermaids conjuring “dark witch rock” from the dense scrubland is as psychedelic as it sounds – lurking with hidden dangers, the title-track Undergrowth gradually flows from a slow and dreamy creek into a thrashing, rocky river, a structure many of the songs take on the album. There’s certainly something of the occult about these mermaids, whose reverb drenched vocals often take form in first or second person: “I’m a corpse on the beach / I’m a thing / send me out to sea,” pulling the listener deeper into their imagined natural world.

The undergrowth is a mysterious place barbed with the grit and sharpness of gorse, as well as the strength and unruliness of deep roots. Look forward to new material in 2017.

Favourite track: Under the Mountain II


DOC (Dalian Obscure Club) // Northern Electric Shadow
DOC 《北方电影》

(D-Force Records 大福唱片)
Dalian, CN

There’s something in the water up in Dalian…

I hadn’t even heard of the Dalian Obscure Club until copies of Northern Electric Shadow turned up on CD and vinyl at NU SPACE.

The power of crashing waves, the fluidity of rising tides, the delicacy of swirling rockpools – this is understated, beautiful ocean-inspired math-rock. A fresh breeze of sea air!

Favourite track: 加百利布吉 Gabey’s Boogie


Males // None the Wiser

(Fishrider Records)
Dunedin, NZ

A burst of sunny South Island power-pop. The long-anticipated follow up to their debut MalesMalesMales in 2012, None the Wiser is full of so many bright, catchy riffs and uplifting falsetto parts that wearing sunglasses should be listed as a prerequisite for listening. A set of wonderfully crafted guitar songs.

Favourite track: Chartreuse


The Fuzz // The Root of Innocence
法兹乐队《童心之源》

(Maybe Mars 兵马司)
Xi’an, CN

This upbeat, chorus-soaked indie rock record is possibly the most Maybe Mars-y Maybe Mars release to date – you just know Yang Haisong has been here.

The audience were quietly bopping along when The Fuzz came to Chengdu on their enormous album release tour in early 2016. Then when Sijiang from Hiperson came out to help them sing《控制》, the crowd exploded with cheers and turned into a sea of moshing bodies, it was beautiful.

Favourite Track: 《控制》


Peach Milk // Finally EP

(Self-released)
Auckland, NZ

Peaches and cream are my favourite kind of lollies. So perhaps it is inevitable that I would be into this new young Auckland producer, who dropped her first EP earlier this year. Peach Milk’s music sounds like her name would suggest – sweet and smooth.

Look forward to her sound evolving in the new year.

Favourite track: Heretic


yourboyfriendsucks! // Episode 1
yourboyfriendsucks!《第一季》

(QiiiSnacks Records)
Guangzhou, CN

Six-tracks of candy-coated indie-pop from our Cantonese speaking friends yourboyfriendsucks! Opening with a tribute to Just Like Honey by the Jesus and Mary Chain, how can I not love this? Surprisingly clean production for QiiiSnacks Records (formerly Full Label), known for their DIY lo-fi recordings.

Perhaps the biggest travesty of 2016 is the dissolution of ybfs!, as the lead singer Zoey has moved to Europe to study. Episode 1 is in fact the final episode. Boo!

Favourite track: Stay or Stay Away


Higher Brothers // Higher Brothers Mixtape
海尔兄弟 // 《海尔兄弟》

(Self-released)
Chengdu, CN

higher-brothers-mixtape-cover-art

“来嘛来嘛来嘛差一位 ~ ”

Perhaps I’ve included Higher Brothers Mixtape here more for their impact rather than my own personal taste, but their skyrocket to fame and influence on the local scene this year is certainly noteworthy. If Fat Shady put Chengdu hip-hop on the map, Higher Brothers CDC rappers Masiwei (马思唯), Dz, Psy.P and Melo, have dabbed themselves to the top and become one of Chengdu’s, if not China’s most iconic hip-hop acts.

This 19-track offering is a searing blast of arrogance and attitude delivered in a mix of lightening fast Chengduhua and American slang. Whether or not elongated trap beats are your thing, or that each track repeats the chorus about five times, tracks like 《野猪儿》 and 《尴尬》 have attained anthem-like status and established hip-hop as the biggest sound in Chengdu.

Now managed by Asian hip-hop agency 88 Rising, Higher Brothers have taken Chengdu hip-hop to an international level of “worldwide shit.” As collaborations with international artists such as Harikiri, Charlie Heat, Bohan Phoenix and J.Mag roll in, I look forward to their sound maturing more in future.

HIGHER.

Listen on Xiami.

Favourite track: 《尴尬》


Commended:


Singles:

  • CA1XR //  爱在一方(Future Disco V.I.P)
    Chengdu, CN

  • Cut Off Your Hands // Hate Somebody
    Auckland, NZ

  • Womb // Feeling Like Helium (demo)
    Wellington, NZ

  • Hiperson // 追和等
    Chengdu, CN


Next year we can look forward to…

Debut record from Chengdu indie babes The Hormones, the sophomore album from South Island songstress Nadia Reid, something trippy from Beijing no-wave masters Chui Wan, minimal techno stylings from atmen, the debut record from Kunming electro-punk wastrels South Acid MiMi Dance Team, potentially music from new Maybe Mars signees Lonely Leary and Dream Can  perhaps even something from those mysterious Dunedin-based creatures Elan Vital and Kolya

Vinyl Destination: Interview with Cian O’Donnell from Conch Records

In this content-saturated Internet age of free digital downloads and infinite streaming, Cian O’Donnell is among those still repping the power of wax over at his well-loved shop Conch Records, which has been spinning records in the City of Sails for the best part of two decades. Kiwese caught up with the voice so familiar to George FM listeners ahead of his upcoming vinyl DJ sets at JUE | Music + Art Festival in Beijing and Shanghai next week.

KIWESE: Hey Cian! You are coming over to China next week, how did the connection with Lost Cargo and JUE Festival come about? CIAN: I met a lass called Olivia at Conch in Auckland last year. She never really told me what she did back home, but she’d come in, buy records and listen to a whole bunch of stuff in store, then came to one of the monthlies we organise called The Turnaround. Before she left, I invited her up onto my radio show [Earshot on George FM] to play a selection of young, fresh, Chinese beat makers. The stuff she brought up was so good! We got really good response on the text lines, so talked about doing some kind of collaborative promotion of artists in China and over here. Awesome! Who is she? Shanghai local? She is a promoter for The Shelter in Shanghai – which I’d heard about through people I know that have played there. It’s an old underground bomb shelter, definitely Shanghai’s underground (for use of a better word) alternative club, where different promoters come on and do different evenings, from hip hop to electronica to trap, footwork and whatever, with artists from James Pants to Kode9 and so on.

Listen up Beijing & Shanghai! Poster image from Wooozy.cn.
Listen up Beijing & Shanghai! Poster image from Wooozy.cn.

With JUE I’m gonna be speaking on a panel of four people, including Awesome Tapes from Africa, discussing the importance of communities that grow around important around music-related blogs, venues or events.

“A record shop is more than just a standard retail space – it ends up being a hangout, a communal meeting spot. Bands are formed, friends are made, gigs are staged.”

Can you tell us about the early beginnings of Conch Records? Living in Auckland in the mid ’90s, I was getting tired with finding the same records in every shop. So I started doing small orders with some of the distributors I used to work with overseas, mostly from Europe, then a friend who started the Aotea Square Markets approached me about doing a stall. I used to take down my turntables, two or three crates of records and a suitcase of CDs. It was a real success. After that, my now partner in Conch, Brent Holland, took a space in an old arcade on High Street, fitted it out with everything handmade timber and made it look amazing – it looked like a big packing crate. We stocked a really good alternative selection of Jamaican 7″s, independent hip-hop, quirky house, reggae, Brazilian, Latin… But although it was really loved and respected, it never really made any money. So we started looking for a bigger premises with more foot traffic. At our current premises on Ponsonby Road, it started with a small coffee shop and a few seats out front. Now we’ve managed to expand with a courtyard out back, its licensed and the whole bar and restaurant aspect has kind of overtaken the record store. This year the plan is to get back on track with the retail side. I’ve had the pleasure of going to Conch and thought the food and service was great. Do you think the gentrification of Ponsonby has resulted in a shift in focus from selling records to providing a dining experience? In some respects if we had opened up Conch right from the start eight years ago as a café/restaurant/bar, we would’ve smashed it. Because now, as you say, the whole area has been gentrified and there are just so many restaurants, cafes and bars competing along that whole area. The only reason we have recently changed focus is because we weren’t able to survive solely selling coffee and records.

“You hear all these stories about the resurgence of vinyl and the rest. Yes, maybe in a city of 20 million people where there is a history of vinyl; London, Tokyo, New York

But in little, old Auckland, where Serato was invented and where people like supporting homegrown products, more and more vinyl buyers are going digital.”

In saying that, all of Conch’s biggest sellers have been local releases. Our biggest selling 12” was Manuel Bundy’s Solephonic EP, we must’ve sold about 150 copies. We’ve also sold a lot of local 7”s. There is a label in Japan called Wonderful Noise which have signed up the crème de la crème of New Zealand beat makers. kitchen-slider-slide-3

Drool worthy meals from the Conch menu. Image from Conch.co.nz.
Drool worthy meals from the Conch menu. Image from Conch.co.nz.

You are originally from Hereford, England, how did you end up in New Zealand? I ended up here by mistake actually [laughs]. I was backpacking and travelling around when my visa in Australia was set to run out. That was 1988. I only had enough cash left to get to New Zealand and I had a contact in Wainuiomata. It was raining the whole time and I thought “what the hell am I doing here!” I managed to get a full time job at the old EMI store, where Rex Royale is now on Cuba Street, and got to meet Matt Poppelwell, one of the main DJs around town, who introduced me to what seemed like a third of the population of Wellington [laughs]. A lot of DJs will say they ‘play everything’ and that they are really eclectic, but this guy Matt really was. What were your initial impressions of the Wellington club scene in 1988? It was a bit scary [laughs]. If you went to a standard club, people were still listening to white boy electronic music like Depeche Mode, New Order and Fine Young Cannibals. I left just when the whole Acid House era kicked off in the UK. When I got over here, it still hadn’t really hit. So I would go with my Polynesian mates to some of the Poly clubs – they were playing modern RnB, Brit soul, American street soul… I loved those clubs. Much more black orientated than my white honky roots [laughs]. I grew up listening to Tamla Motown and that. What made you want to move to Auckland? The first time I came to Auckland I met a bunch of people who ran Planet Magazine and they really became my family over here. When I was over in London in the mid ’90s, they called me up and asked me to be the resident DJ in the space we used to live in for a new venue they were starting – the Khuja Lounge. This is back when Auckland was a much more interesting city and people used to live really interesting inner city spaces.

“We had the whole third floor on the corner of Queen Street and K Road for $50 a week.

There was nothing like it. We had old Indonesian furniture, a massive communal weaving table with scattered cushions around it. I’d start at 8pm and play till about 4am, Wednesday to Saturday. For any real DJ, that’s your dream gig, man. On the same floor, we’d opened up a talent agency called Saama Productions, which specialised in signing people from indigenous backgrounds. As a result, the Khuja was a real melting pot of all different styles and characters – everybody from models, actors, comedians and dancers were there. For about three or four years, we smashed it. It was the most enjoyable place I’ve ever played.

Image from George FM.
Selector and collector. Image from George FM.

Right now, Auckland could do with more…? Hmm… People that go on out and play more of a variety of music and take more risks. Venues that actually take time money and effort to put in proper sound systems and maintain them. Less of these kind of Pack Group bars and Mac Brewery Bars, with the same kind of soundtrack, the same kind of crowd. I don’t know if it’s the same in Wellington, but Auckland just feels like it’s been totally whitewashed. It feels like it’s the North Shore and Hamilton transplanted into the city on the weekend… Nowadays people become DJs overnight when their mate gives them a USB stick with 5000 records on it, with no experience or knowledge of any of the music… No time into digging, or money. Everyone’s a bloody DJ nowadays. What are you expecting from your time here in China? Never been to China before, I’ve always wanted to go. I fly out Tuesday night. I really hope this is the start of me being able to come out more regularly. I’m looking forward to everything! Shanghai sounds like such a crazy mix of the modern and old. I love big cities and what they have to offer and the whole energy. Any favourite Chinese beats at the moment? Favourite vocalist out of China is a lass called ChaCha. I’m not sure who is making her beats, but she rules! Favourite locals? Local stuff, whew! Coco Solid, Lord Echo, Julien Dyne, Electric Wire Hustle, Christoph El Truento, my mate Submariner, Stinky Jim (who doesn’t release stuff), Lawrence Arabia… so many, theres a lot of good music coming out of New Zealand! Chur Cian, hope you enjoy Shanghai and Beijing!

logo Read more about Conch Records, Cafe, Bar and Restaurant www.conch.co.nz Check out Cian’s weekly show Earshot Radio on George FM www.georgefm.co.nz | Every Sunday 10am – 12noon (NZ Time) The JUE Music + Art Festival program is here Next week Cian will play at DADA Beijing on Friday 13th March, followed by the Shelter in Shanghai on Saturday 14th!