The Spinoff Music team review albums from Alice Coltrane, Fazerdaze, BNQT, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Juliana Hatfield and The Comet is Coming.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
Alice Coltrane – World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda
A long-awaited reissue of new age devotional music from a jazz great
This bowled me over. Alice Coltrane’s music ranges from brilliant spiritual jazz (Universal Consciousness) to totally inaccessible ashram music (Radha-Krsna Nama Sankirtana). I was expecting this collection of long lost recordings from the ‘80s and ‘90s to sound like a Hare Krishna Friday night rave on Queen Street. And… it kind of does. But in the best possible way.
Infused in the endless ecstatic chanting and percussion is Alice’s utterly cosmic synthesizer. Her playing is bold, slick, and grandiose – exactly the opposite of her approach to her usual instruments, the piano and harp. ‘Om Rama’ is a perfect example, with a joyous, soulful chant right off the bat, enveloped on all sides by enormous walls of synthesizer. This music has an unmistakable groove, but at the same time reminds you that you are a tiny being. Some sections sound positively Lynch-ian (‘Journey to Satchinanda’), so weighty are Alice’s arrangements. I was not prepared for a sound this massive, and now I find this record in my top handful of the year so far. – Mitchell Houlbrooke
Fazerdaze – Morningside
Debut album from local indie ascendant
Morningside, released last week on Flying Nun, is the full-length debut of Fazerdaze, Auckland’s own Amelia Murray (see our profile of her here). Whether or not her guitar-based dream pop with a subtle electronic edge is your bag will be clear from the first track: the album sets out as it means to go on, and ‘Last to Sleep’ has that sort of reverb-heavy, endless quality that is common to all ‘summer songs’, thrown out of sorts by a driving, jerky electronic beat.
Murray told The Fader that she felt “displaced and unsettled” while making the album: “All the while I was in search for a home and stability”. That feeling of introspection and uncertainty is painted powerfully by the lyrics (“I’m a lucky girl”, she tries to convince herself), but her sound is very assured, if evocative of other examples of the genre. Whether consciously or not, Murray certainly seems to wear her influences on her sleeve: ‘Last to Sleep’ is reminiscent of The Naked and Famous’ ‘Passive Me Aggressive You’ and ‘Friends’, of ‘Gigantic’ by the Pixies, while the entire album is washed in Best Coast and My Bloody Valentine. The Fader‘s description of it as a “coming of age album for introverts” could apply to a genre, but this is a solid example. – Elle Hunt
BNQT – Volume 1.
A “poor man’s Traveling Wilburys” made up of dudes from Franz Ferdinand, Band of Horses & Travis
In the run-out groove area of The Aesthetics’ mid-2000s Dunedin shitrock opus Ugly Ambition, there’s an 8-word engraving that’s impermeably impressed on a dank corner of my brain: “The Intent Be Artless, The Ambition Be Ugly”. Though I’ve always assumed this Matt Middleton maxim to be a preemptive refutation against claims that his distinct brand of funky nihilism was pretentious or calculated or anything other than a sax-heavy unfiltered id expression, it’s a manifesto that feels depressingly relevant when listening to Volume 1.
Curated via email file-swaps by Midlake’s Eric Pulido and with a supporting cast comprising a bunch of other middle-aged men from middling indie bands whose names I extremely cannot be bothered typing in full (plus uh, Fran Healy for some reason), this 10-track cosmic burp sees its uninspired and obviously disconnected principals cutting loose over all manner of bold-faced sync-bait, from the iPhone ad stomp of ‘Restart’ to the sub-Apatow brahmantic comedy credit crawl schmaltz of ‘Real Love’. It’s a record that wears its influences on its myriad sleeves in the same way that a production music sampler does; an ostensibly well-made proxy for the echo inside the skulls of men who have nothing to say but believe more than anything in their obligation to make their own voices heard. The intent is artless, the ambition is ugly, and the outcome is an offensively milquetoast half-hour which I’ll never get back. Please, avoid. – Matthew McAuley
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Lovely Creatures
A Nick Cave collection for the neophyte and the completist
Nick Cave, and his band the Bad Seeds, of course, are one of those bands that seem particularly hard to anthologise. If you’re into Nick Cave, the likelihood is that you’re very into Nick Cave. You own these records and know them by heart. You’ve read his novels and listened to his spoken word CD. You reached out and touched his hand when you saw him play in your late-teens and remember him punching someone in the face at the bar afterward. You’ve followed the news, watched the documentaries, cried for him, cried with him. If not, maybe you heard him once and didn’t like his voice or his murder narratives or his biblical-sounding metaphor. In which case, let’s be honest, you’ve probably never listened to him again.
But, if you are neither of these people, or are the are former and a collector completist, or are the latter and willing to give it another shot, Lovely Creatures is the best introduction you can have. All the hits, insofar as Nick Cave has hits, are here: ‘The Mercy Seat’, ‘The Weeping Song’, ‘Into My Arms’, ‘Where the Wild Roses Grow’ (his duet with Kylie Minogue), ‘There She Goes My Beautiful World’. Plus, if you want to pay a little more than usual, you get a book and a DVD and whatever else you want out of a total of four available versions. But really, Nick Cave isn’t really about the hits, is he? All the albums that originally bore these songs has any number of songs that are as good as these, but, taken together, these tell the story of one of the most interesting musical careers of the last 40 years. – Henry Oliver
Juliana Hatfield – Pussycat
Her best in a while
When she’s not waxing lyrical about Lorde, alternative hero Juliana Hatfield still releases new music, her most efforts including a fine 2015 reunion with The Juliana Hatfield Three (Whatever My Love), and an excellent one-off Paul Westerberg collaboration dubbed the I Don’t Cares (Wild Stab) from last year. Pussycat was touted in the press prior to release as a direct response to the Trump administration, which is only partially true. Hatfield rages against modern misogyny in all its forms, just as she has done throughout her career. Such subject matter could make for a harrowing listen in other hands, but Hatfield pulls the concept off with aplomb – as she is as sharp, funny and hooky as ever on tracks like the brutal ‘Short Fingered Man’ (“Short Fingered man / Can’t get her off”), the deceptively sweet roll of ‘Kellyanne’ (“You’re smiling as your face is melting and sliding off your skull onto the ground”), the Cosby allusions of the heartbreaking ‘When You’re a Star’, and the grotesque imagery of ‘Rhinoceros’ – in which she compares Trump’s attitude to women to his f*cking over of America in general. These takedowns and sharply written jokes, along with the strong overall construction and sound of the album, help elevate Pussycat from the realms of Hatfield’s usual very good to excellent. – Pete Douglas
The Comet is Coming – Death to the Planet
Dark, synthy jazz, coming to Wellington soon
This British trio do the jazz thing a little differently. Over dark, thunderous synths and drums, saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings unleashes wave after wave of burning hot musical energy. Their debut LP, last year’s Channel the Spirits, was an interesting debut but failed to deliver any true danger. This EP though is just damn perfect. These four tracks waste not a second, and reach full drama usually after less than a minute. If Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Magma, and Pharaoh Sanders had a musical baby it would be these guys. One to check for sure at the upcoming Wellington Jazz Festival. – MH
The Spinoff’s music content is brought to you by our friends at Spark. Listen to all the music you love on Spotify Premium, it’s free on all Spark’s Pay Monthly Mobile plans. Sign up and start listening today.
The Spinoff Daily gets you all the day's best reading in one handy package, fresh to your inbox Monday-Friday at 5pm.