Friday, June 30, 2006


The Spanish fans and the national coach got their comeuppance with an African-Arab-Gallic nexus doing in the hyped Spanish team and sending them back to Madrid. Not to diss the Spain team itself which played well during the tournament, but if the bile from the terraces and the dug-out is what marks Spanish football, then I have to gleefully wave Byeee. Loved watching it on Univision, the Spanish language channel in the US. Gol!!!!!! Great that free-to-air television has a smarter alternative to the lame subscriber ESPN and their English-speaking commentators who try to explain the simplest procedures of the game to USanian viewers. A penalty kick is awarded when someone is fouled in the area!

Not sure if I want the French to beat Brazil in the quarter final. I just hope it's a pacey end-to-end flowing game with a decent referee and few amateur dramatics from the players. That might be too much to ask of the gods of football. A Brazilian win would be better for Nike and the marketing of the competition. For now, I'm just happy that multicultural soccer defeated openly racist Euro sentiment. I say that without any naivete about its ephemerality and the riots in the banlieus and the failures of univocal French multiculturalism. Zidane represents the possibilities of a Muslim Europe too; it's not just about the one-eyed mullahs and the hijabi schoolgirls. The anti-racist campaign in football needs greater commitment from FIFA. Blatter has blathered on with very little conviction. Brazil is noted for its amazing denial about its own racist hierarchies of skin colour.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Isn't this a fucking ugly image of Wayne Rooney? I will be crucified and enjoy it. I'm so English though I've got an Irish name. Irish blood, English heart to quote Mozzer. I belong to the community of blood and the cross, consecrated during the holy wars. Two World Wars and One World Cup. Please Portugal, slide at least one past Robinson to spare us all more of this nationalist crap. Such Englishness be damned. And do they say in ancient times...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


1. Bettye Lavette--Damn Your Eyes (Live)
2. Betty Wright--No Pain No Gain
3. Bettye Swann--Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye
4. Brenda Holloway--Every Little Bit Hurts
5. Luther Vandross--Any Love
6. Minnie Ripperton--Inside My Love
7. Bobby Womack--I Can Understand It
8. Johnny Bristol--Hang On In There Baby
9. Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes--The Love I Lost (Long Version)
10. Bettye Swann--Kiss My Love Goodbye
11. Millie Jackson--A House For Sale
12. Jackson Five--I Want You Back (Z Trip remix)
13. Gladys Knight & The Pips--The Nitty Gritty
14. Jimmy Ruffin--Farewell Is A Lonely Sound
15. Gerald Wilson--California Soul


I'm writing from Ann Arbor, site of my alma mater and a hop skip and jump from Belleville, the origin of the techno Triplets (Saunderson, May and Atkins), and only a further few minutes down I-94 in an armor-plated SUV from the Big D of p-funks, slam dunks, slum villages, eerie boulevards and gunshot echoes in the distance. I'll be back in Auckland (not Oakland as I have to keep reminding the natives) in a couple of weeks after dropping into Phoenix and the City of Angels.

Just thought I'd catalogue the music I've been travelling with--at least 25 kilos of the stuff!

Firstly, in a South Indian diner in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, the owner was selling his light jazz, easy listening and soundtracks, collected since the early 1960s. In their dusty plastic covers, and Ahmedabad is semi-arrid I assure you, I found an album of covers done on the zither, some Henry Mancini and Lalo Schifrin work, and other stuff I haven't heard yet but in the Vince Guaraldi kind of jazz territory. For Indian stored oldies these discs were in remarkable condition. A real muso had cared for them for decades. I scraped off the dessicated plastic sleeves and clingfilm covers and gave the covers a moist wipe. Don't you just love those LP covers made of card with extensive sleevenotes that strain for literary significance. I had an idli with sambar with my dad-in-law to celebrate. He'd spotted the albums in cardboard boxes near the exit on a trip a few days before. There were two or three B-movie noirish soundtracks too but I don't remember the titles. This was in May, two continents away and I'm exhausted.

In Londinium, the dollar was divided by three so I was very careful. I spent only a day music shopping, confining myself to Berwick Street in Soho and immediate environs. Sister Ray has taken over Selectadisc but the layout & vibe of the store and the prices seem the same, more or less.

Bought Scott Walker's album The Drift on 4 AD though I haven't heard it yet. I've got the last two and some of the 1960s work and they're always growers and ultimately rewarding difficult listening. He's just one of those guys I want around the rest of my life, like Robert Wyatt.

Also picked up the Boards of Canada Transcanada Highway EP on CD since they were giving away a free DVD of the video. I love the way the main tune Dayvan Cowboy has two parts--that really slow churning opening followed by the full Duane Eddy meets Blue Oyster Cult effect for the second part of the track. Not sure about the video though. Just saw it once. A bit like an Old Spice video crossed with an Apollo broadcast but I guess that's the essence of ambient--from outer space to an ocean of sound. Works off that cliché quite well. And the editing makes it match the sound pinpointedly.

I guess on this trip I've been compelled to buy more uneasy listening, so that I can snooze and study without being too distracted. Man, I've got a book to write in 2006 so I need me some background sounds. So I took a punt on the unheard but perfectly titled Music To Fall Asleep by Klimek on the reliably precious Kompakt label. It's been very effective, delivering sweetly on its promise. Bill Frisell is thanked in the CD booklet and there are bits and bytes of guitar that owe something to his style littered throughout the record. It loops and loops and loops until zzzzzzzz... Just sublime. Good music for the bath too.

This shop also has a selection of excellent music related t-shirts which I've never purchased from due to their high prices. I did succumb to a Cassetteboy number with a computer screen interface on royal blue. Cute since I'm working on understanding popular music in the digital age.

Strolled down and around the corner to Sounds Of The Universe, the record shop of the record label Soul Jazz. Loads to choose from in a small space. But had read about Burial (first album on the Hyperdub label) in the grime/dubstep column on Pitchfork and it was on a listening station, so got that one. It's also excellent for falling asleep but has a melancholia and foreboding about it that really captures part of the Londonistan vibe at the moment. I hadn't yet read all the other guff about this album yet so feel satisfied that I was there early in the game of critical hype around this classic of dubstep and beyond.

Also at SOTU, I tracked down Lovers Rock by the Love Joys (Wackie's label). I know one of the Love Joys sings on a Rhythm & Sound track of a couple of years ago, and the Berlin boys are responsible for re-releasing the Wackie's back catalogue, but I wasn't aware of these soulful Brixton songstresses until DJ /Rupture/Jace Clayton linked us to Auratheft's online mix of the Love Joys' phonolog. This is a terrific reggae album: strong grooves that are varied and extend dubwise in many directions, beautiful harmonies and horn patterns, and superb lyrics about relationships. Got to find me more of that lovers rock.

Decided to limit myself to buying CDs because I just didn't want to carry vinyl in my luggage. But the big haul in London was the bulk of my brother's record collection. He only listens to Sufi Muslim discourses on his iPod these days, so he said I could have all his Jamaican pre- 7" singles, some twelves, and loads of dub albums on CD and vinyl. I've got a box of 45s--one of those plaggy ones that fall apart really easily--forming the central bulk of one bag. The singles include many post-punk and mid 1980s records in great condition--stuff I sold my brother about 15 years ago when I was skint but still hoping that the archive would remain in the family. These include the Smiths singles and the Jesus and Mary Chain and Take the Skinheads Bowling by Camper Van Beethoven, three Husker Du's and a bunch of other gems.

The reggae stuff is the product of years of visiting Reggae Revive in Portobello Road and stalls at Camden Market. Then there are loads of Blood and Fire dub albums and early hardcore and electronica from the Prodigy and Orbital et al. One suitcase is almost full with bubblewrapped CDs. I had to do this after much time spent calling postal services and couriers about how to send the music by air or sea to New Zealand. It's fucken expensive either way in the UK. Don't even think about it. I therefore spent even more time stressing about which albums and twelves and sevens to leave behind until the next time I visited the UK. Anyway, versions galore for The Basement in the coming months. The Crowning of Prince Jammy is one of the special ones. I love the crackle you hear on those Jamaican B-sides. Fat We Fat!

In Ann Arbor, there are several good music stores, and mainly independent and secondhand at that. At Wazoo, which I frequented from 1988-91, I bought Slowdive's Souvlaki. The shoegazing classic and its wash of post Bloody Valentinian sound (extra tracks on the US release) has been on my list for a while since I was reminded of the glory of 40 Days by a friend and Nick lent me an electronic tribute to the group on Morr records of Germany.

With somnambulant purpose, I also bought Bibio's Fi on Mush records. What a perfect name for the label. I'd downloaded a couple of tracks of Bibio's after being alerted to him over a year ago. The titles evoke minor geographies of the city and the suburbs.

Found cheapo secondhand copy of Asa-Chang & Junray's Junray Song Chang on Leaf Records. Vicky lent me this some time ago, and I loved Hana off it, so 8 bucks appeared a bargain.

Another album on my wishlist for a while is Akufen's My Way. Had heard the phenomenal and awe-inspiring Skidoos on Nick's copy of a Sonar festival CD, and downloaded one or two other glitchy radioscans from the album, but this was 8 bucks too.

Still searching for Akufen's (under real name of Marc Leclair) album Music Pour Trois Femmes Enceintes (Music For Three Pregnant Women) which has been reviewed well by Philip Sherburne and others and promises to be another great snoozy ambient electronic feast. Saw it in HMV's megastore, Oxford Circus, London but the thing was pricey so decided to try in North America since it's a Canadian release. No one in Ann Arbor has it, but I figure I'll order it off Amazon when I'm in Phoenix. It's there along with the UK also-overpriced release of Betty Swann's compilation album on Honest Jon's. I downloaded one Betty Swann track and was completely blown away by the Muscle Shoal blues of it. Put that on a soul playlist 'Ooh Betty' (homage to 70s sitcom Some Mothers Do Ave Em) which features other Betty(e)s: Davis and Lavette, amongst other soul gems.

In Schoolkids in Exile, a basement record store on State Street, I came across another gloomy ambient record, the appropriately titled Melancholia by William Bazinski, in an unmarked curvaceous and snug CD case.

Almost bought Spacemen 3's Dreamweapon, but resisted it in corporate Border's Ann Arbor flagship store.

That's it so far.

Musicians have left holes and tears since they departed after I left the shores of Aotearoa:

RIP Grant McLellan of The Go-Betweens--we 'part company' but your songs and voice linger
RIP Desmond Dekker--the Israelites need to hear you breaking down that wall of heartache in the west bank
RIP Billy Preston--vital organ intact and in the groove of sundry tracks

That's it for now. I'll be back with more by the time I get to Phoenix. Bu-bum. Peace.

Monday, June 19, 2006


What's George W. Bush's position on Roe vs. Wade?

He said he didn't really have an opinion on how people got out of New Orleans.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Here's a story about filmstar Aamir Khan and the boycott of his latest film Fanaa in Gujarat. The BJP threatened multiplexes just because Khan has said publicly that poor people displaced by the building of the Narmada Dam be fully compensated and resituated by the Gujarati state government. His press conference went on for ages on telly with journalists asking the same questions again and again. He really did make no bones about his antipathy to the BJP state government responsible for the pogrom of 2002 and growing ethnic chauvinism.

Fanaa is also Kajol's comeback film. I haven't seen it yet, but reliable sources say it's pretty good. It has central Muslim characters, deals with the Kashmir issue, and allows for more ideological ambivalences than your standard nationalist Bollywood flick of the last few years.


So I did use the phrase Inglistan years ago to describe an England made Desi, but now with the publication of a novel Londonstani and a lot of journalistic scaremongering about loadsa British Muslims as budding terrorists, the related, more local term has become quite widespread. Check out this bullshit for example.

When I was in London, the big news was quite the opposite to the brown assault on English culture suggested by Melanie Phillips & fellow civilizationalists. State terror was directed against the capital's Muslim residents. The anti-terrorist squad equipped with 'specific intelligence' raided a house in Forest Gate in East London on June 2nd, shot one young British citizen 'of Bangladeshi origin' and arrested him along with his brother. Days begat days without finding owt. The brothers have since been released due to that dodgy intelligence.

The image above isn't an Al Qaeda surveillance photo, but a snap I took as I looked across at the dome of St. Paul's from one of the rooms at the Tate Modern in Southwark.

Also in Londinium (I've always liked the Roman version meself), I had several discussions with my bros about the revival of the St. George's flag. It was flying from every other car and from dozens of shops, mainly in anticipation of the World Cup in Germany. The English flag has always bothered me for its associations with the Crusades and rightwing political parties, but it seems that it has been reclaimed. Is this semiotic appropriation a good thing or just evidence of the insidious banality of nationalism? The English are at war in the Middle East (again) and yet they fly the flag for the footy team and talk about the weather. The papers were full of black and brown as well as white Englanders saying how good the flag was. My devout Muslim brother said it bothers him that it's a Christian symbol for the nation but otherwise he was OK with allsorts waving it. My other less devout bro said it was cool. I still felt queasy.

On CD in Soho I bought a new dubstep album, the first on the Hyperdub label, by the mysterious Burial. Could only be vaguely described as Dub influenced. More cinematic than Massive Attack. If King Tubby had mixed Boards of Canada. Like Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures (for Manchester) and David Bowie's Low (for Berlin), this is a fiercely evocative city record, a London document, capturing the dead spaces, spooks and paranoias of the post 7/7 capital city.

In London I also bought a wonderful album Lovers Rock (1982) by (for me) the recently discovered Love Joys i.e. Brixton cousins Sonia Abel and Claudette Brown. Produced by Bullwackie on the Wackies label and re-released by the Rhythm & Sound guys in Berlin.

Took a punt on the new Scott Walker album The Drift (4AD). It appears to capture the bleakness of the present geopolitical moment with songs alluding to Bosnia and the war makers and fakers.


Been away from the blog for ages. The travelling just tires you out. I must have been in Ahmedabad when I last wrote. Over three weeks ago. Since then, went to Goa (South Goa and Varca Beach to be exact), then Bombay, then London, then Carbondale in Southern Illinois (where the strip mall flag and yellow ribbon picture were taken), and now in Ann Arbor, or A squared as we called it. I lived here from 1988-91. On to Phoenix next, then Auckland via LA by early July. I'm dying to be home now.

Where to start after such a long break?

USA in totalitarian moment. A number of commentators have written about King George's signing statements which use his executive powers to change any legislation he doesn't like. The commander in chief can do whatever he deems fit.

SUVs everywhere though I'm grateful friends have them since our luggage has grown over the last two months.

Saw a bit of Fox and Republican pin-up Ann Coulter who still believes, and I quote from post 9/11:

"We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war."

She's got another bestseller out and has attacked several of the widows of September 11th 2001. Cynical but effective marketing.

Taken my shoes off, and my belt, removed my laptop from the bag and placed them all in grey plastic trays too often now.

Seen more women than men in military uniform at airports and supermarkets. In transit in and out of Afghanistan and Iraq. Noted that there is a growing underbelly of counter recruitment organizations.