Featured Album: Resolution (2017) by Krisis

Article – by Morgan Thistlethwaite

Krisis (aka Shannon Michels) is a Wollongong-based music producer who’s been tinkering away in his studio on beats and soundscapes for the better half of his life now. His new instrumental album Resolution is the culmination of this work.

“I had 17 years of my work to make something from. I chose to choose tracks from the last five years to give it some sort of coherence … my music has evolved.”

The Gong, as it’s known, is a seaside city of almost 300,000 on the east coast of NSW characterised by picturesque beaches and surrounding bushland. This natural beauty cocoons Wollongong’s heavy industry, the city’s beating heart that lights up the night sky like some kind of post-apocalyptic nightmare.

Wollongong_at_night

By Robert Montgomery [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

In Resolution, the influence of his hometown and the hip-hop sensibilities that Krisis was weaned on are evident. The tracks It Isn’t Any Fun and Respek reflect these roots and from track to track, you can feel the evolution. The Bottom, Got Dark and Hard Labour thump, brood, and evoke imagery that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Philip K Dick novel, and the lighter, more contemplative tracks Tribute, New Dawn and The End Is A New beginning speak a language that suggests maturity that only comes with experience.

Among its influences, the album draws on triphop, dubstep, trap and ambient music to present an eclectic collection of tracks that reflect urban living, science fiction themes, and the fragility of humanity. It’s a solid collection of sounds that illustrates the breadth of ideas and moods that Krisis is able to evoke through his soundscapes.

Pump up that bass and give it a listen.

10407108_474053162737875_3881560407110368822_n

Follow and support Krisis on Facebook and Soundcloud.

Iggy Pop and David Bowie – two decades of uneasy collaboration Part 2: the ‘80s

Music review / Article – by Morgan Thistlethwaite

Iggy_Bowie_1986In this two-part series, I look at every album that, for better or worse, rock icons David Bowie and Iggy Pop share credits.

Find Part 1: the ‘70s here.

Tonight from 1984 is Bowie’s follow-up to the commercial success of Let’s Dance (1983).

david-bowie_tonightDavid Bowie – Tonight (1984)

Iggy’s presence on this record is not comparable to that of Bowie on the Iggy Pop records. However, including Tonight, Iggy is credited on five of the nine tracks with this mess of an album.

Don’t get me wrong, Blue Jean (with its mini-film Jazzin’ For Blue Jean by Julien Temple) is a classic pop song and Loving the Alien Doesn’t fair too badly either, but these two tracks show little to no evidence of input from Iggy.

For the title track, Bowie brought in Tina Tuner to duet with on this neutered (drug references removed) reggae version of Iggy’s song, and it sounds as bad as it looks on paper, believe me.

Neighborhood Threat, also from Lust For Life, makes the cut as well. Iggy’s 1977 version sounds very much like a precursor to what Bowie ends up doing on Scary Monsters and Super Creeps (1980). Perhaps if Bowie had delivered his version a few years earlier, it could have sounded better than it does here.

The third Iggy Pop cover present is Don’t Look Down from New Values (1979), his first solo record without Bowie. The original is a decent soul-influenced track that wouldn’t feel too out of place on Bowie’s Young Americans (1975). For some reason, Bowie gives this a reggae twist as well.

Two original tracks are credited to the pair: Tumble and Twirl and Dancing with the Big Boys. The former rolls along just like its namesake. With a heavy horn rhythm section, this track feels very of its time but solid, nonetheless. The latter includes Iggy on vocals and is very much a signal of what Bowie’s next studio album will sound like.

An album with less than fifty percent new material, Bowie said of Tonight:

…I thought it a kind of violent effort at a kind of Pin Ups.

Pin Ups was a collection of covers from 1973 released to cash in on the success of Aladdin Sane.

Blah-blah-blah_iggy-popBlah-Blah-Blah (1986)

Iggy says this is not his album. The most well-known song on here is the re-worked Johnny O’Keefe track Real Wild Child (Wild One). Half of the album is written with or by Bowie. It’s sound is a pop album with some kind of punk rock edge. It’s even got Steve Jones on it, how punk is that? Mind you, the tracks written with Jones don’t sound anything like the Sex Pistols.

Still, the tracks credited with Bowie sound like what he will do in future with Tin Machine (1988-1992). For those that don’t know, Tin Machine was Bowie’s attempt to shed his popstar skin to become one of the boys. Those boys included, not coincidentally, the Sales brothers—rhythm section from the Lust for Life (1977) album.

However Iggy feels about it, Blah-Blah-Blah is a solid album and his most commercially successful. Also, Cry for Love (one of the three songs co-written with Jones), is a killer track.

This is the last album that Iggy and Bowie will make together.


Never-Let-Me-DownBowie’s following studio album Never Let Me Down (1987) features a cover of Bang Bang from Iggy’s Party (1981). It pales in comparison to the original but it’s better than anything that features Mickey Rourke rapping on it.

Iggy Pop and David Bowie – two decades of uneasy collaboration Part 1: the ‘70s

Music review / Article – by Morgan Thistlethwaite

Bowie_Iggy_1977In this two-part series, I look at the albums that rock-icons David Bowie and Iggy Pop, for better or worse, share credits.

Post_Pop_Depression_(Front_Cover)Iggy Pop’s album Post-Pop Depression (2016) was unfortunately timely. Recorded in secrecy with Josh Homme and friends the year before, it was released in the months following the death of David Bowie. Not only is it the poignant statement of a punk-rock god feeling that perhaps he’s not long for this world, but also a great addition to an already-impressive body of work. It was this album that got me thinking about the relationship of Bowie and Iggy.

Individually, the pair are no strangers to collaboration. Each have a string of recordings that draw on the talents of others, but among those, the entwined relationship of this pair is unique. It’s also fair to say that one may simply not exist as we know them today without the influence of the other.

This relationship tracks back to the early ‘70s. Before Bowie brought Ziggy Stardust to the world, Bowie saw something in Iggy that many overlooked, and that was the great song-writing at the core of the ensuing chaos that Iggy’s band The Stooges had become synonymous with. So convinced was Bowie of this talent, that he travelled to America to find Iggy, and while there persuaded him to sign with his own UK management. Bowie’s intention was to bring attention to Iggy’s music to an audience that he felt was deserved.

Lou-Reed_TransformerBy the time Ziggy Stardust hit the stage in 1972, Bowie was neck-deep in behind-the-scenes side-projects such as producing Mott the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes, as well as Lou Reed’s now-classic Transformer. The Stooges had, by this point, broken up and their future was unlikely, so when Bowie approached Iggy about joining him in England to do another Stooges record but with a different line-up, Iggy agreed.

Bowie learned the hard way that Iggy wasn’t quite ready allow him to step in on the process in the same way that prior projects had. Finally, he had no option but to step back and let Iggy record the album his own way. The completed recordings were then handed to Bowie for mixing.

Iggy-and-the-stooges_raw-powerBowie did what he could with what he had and Raw Power was released in 1973. Multiple attempts to mix this album exist, and Bowie’s version is certainly not the best. It would be another three years before he and Iggy would attempt to work together again.

During this time, Bowie’s career continued to blossom. Ziggy Stardust rose then fell, and Bowie found success in the US and it’s the hangover from this superstardom that started Bowie down the path toward his “Berlin trilogy” phase. In 1976, Bowie and Iggy began work on the tracks that would become The Idiot, Iggy’s debut album as a solo artist.

Iggy_Pop_-_The_IdiotIggy Pop – The Idiot (1977)

A wonderful piece of work. The angular sounds and electronic swagger that feature on this album is nothing like what Iggy has done before or since. Essentially, it works as a template for the musical direction that Bowie would explore further while in Berlin.

The opening track Sister Midnight would find its way onto Bowie’s 1979 album Lodger as the re-worked Red Money. More recognised, however, is the Side A closer, China Girl, which became the second single from Bowie’s 1983 album Let’s Dance.

To me, Bowie’s polished version always sounded like a karaoke cover, only emphasised by the accompanying video that features a suited Bowie crooning along with a microphone in front of what could be a wallpapered stage in the corner of a cheap bar.

Iggy-Pop_Lust-For-LifeIggy Pop – Lust for Life (1977)

This follow-up to The Idiot came quickly. Written, recorded and mixed in eight days, the sound of this record is far more in line with the sound with which Iggy is known. A true classic, the title track bounces onto the stage with an infectious energy that is still imitated today, but never equaled. Lust for Life sets the upbeat tone for this album, barely taking a breath between tracks.

Turn Blue is the exception to this rule. This Blues-based track is a confessional of how Iggy’s drug addiction thwarted previous efforts to collaborate with Bowie.

Bowie’s influence on this album is strong but far less imposing than it was on The Idiot and sits closer to what his presence was on Lou Reed’s Transformer (1972).

Once again, the last track of Side A would find its way onto a following Bowie album, as well as becoming said album’s title.


david-bowie_tonightFind out all about Tonight (1984) and beyond, when we explore the continued collaboration of Iggy and Bowie throughout the 80’s in part 2 of this article.

Reviewed: Ziltoid the Omniscient (2007) – Devin Townsend

Music Review – by Morgan Thistlethwaite

Ziltoid-the-Omniscient-2007Let’s just put it out there; I’m a bit of a Devin Townsend fan. People who know me know this. I love his musical diversity, his ability to push the limits of the sounds and styles he works with, and the honesty reflected in his work.

Like many, I discovered him through the chaotic metal of his band Strapping Young Lad when I was an angry teenager. Since then I’ve come to know and get slightly obsessed over his greater body of work. From his most recent Devin Townsend Project (DTP) release Transcendence (2016) to his lesser-known works like the ambient Devlab (2004), and his vocal work on Steve Vai’s on Sex & Religion (1993).

Whatever direction his music takes, however chaotic, meditative, emotive or hilarious, it’s always passionate, personal, and stands to represent an expression of his mental state or feelings of that moment.

So if I gush a little bit, I’m not sorry but I will try to keep this review as factual and objective as possible.

According to the album’s liner notes, Ziltoid was an idea that Devin came up with when he was about 8 years old, and had been brewing in his subconscious until he took the time out to actualise the idea and bring the puppet to life (he made a puppet).

My first meeting with Ziltoid was in the days of Myspace. As a precursor to the release of the album, Ziltoid broadcast a handful of two-minute video messages to alert fans of his imminent arrival. It was a fun little experiment from before Youtube and became second nature to internet users.

The album’s musical comedy concept tells the story of Ziltoid, a creature who experiences everything all at once. He’s a little screwy because of this, and he likes his coffee. In this story, Ziltoid visits Earth to demand the perfect cup of coffee lest humanity be annihilated. Of course, his standards are quite high so he gets all Ming The Merciless and an all-out attack on the planet ensues.

Punky_BrusterIt’s hard not to compare Ziltoid the Omniscient with Townsend’s first musical comedy album, Cooked on Phonics (1996). Released under the fictional band name Punky Brüster, it made a statement on the punk music resurgence of the time. The songs were solid (it’s not hard to get punk wrong, even if you infuse it with metal sensibilities) and the narrative held it all together as a mildly-entertaining concept album.

Comparitively, Ziltoid is far more theatrical. Where Punky Brüster may have been constrained by the “cool” of what peers felt to be acceptable, Ziltoid throws all caution to the wind to create a narrative that lies within the songs as much as the sketches that bookend them.

The music is mostly heavy. Tracks like By Your Command and Planet Smasher dominate the sound with a few contemplative moments from tracks such as Solar Winds and The Greys to break up the assault and add contrast to the final package.

This is one of Townsend’s solo efforts in the strongest sense of the word, with all creative input being his, even down to programming the drum parts. He does, however, get some friends in to provide additional voice talent (current DTP members, Brian “Beav” Waddell and Dave Young).

Ziltoid The Omniscient is an over-the-top prog-metal trip that sounds like some guy in his basement playing with toys and entertaining himself (which is exactly what it is and that’s not a bad thing in my books). The story is flimsy but the voices are fun, and if you always thought that Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War Of The Worlds would have worked better had it been a little more self-aware and humorous, this one’s for you.

Reviewed: Gorillaz – a retrospective of the first three albums

Music Review – by Morgan Thistlethwaite

JamieHewlett1_Gorrilaz_IllustrationChronicles_1500

Gorillaz have just released Humanz, their fifth studio album. If you were wondering, it’s been over fifteen years since Blur’s Damon Albarn teamed up with Tank Girl creator Jamie Hewlett to create Noodle, Russel, 2-D and Murdoc (pictured above), the fictional members that comprise the band.

tank girl

Jamie Hewlett’s Tank Girl (1991)

At a time when the future of Blur’s 13-year-long career was in question, you may have been forgiven for thinking that maybe the Gorillaz project was just a gimmick for an aging Albarn to prolong his longevity in the increasingly youth-obsessed industry that 2001 represented.

Regardless of motive, Albarn and Hewlett’s collaboration allowed them the opportunity to create something bigger than either had previously achieved.

Their little cartoon band with its rotating roster of musical guests continues to be an enduring formula.

Nearly two decades on, and each album still feels fresh. Drawing deeply from a rich and diverse history of musical styles, the Gorillaz sound manages to blend these loans and influences with a contemporary sound that can truly be called their own.

To prepare for Humanz, I thought it would be fun to revisit the first three Gorillaz records and track the evolution of the band. Join me to see just how far they’ve come.

 


Gorillaz (2001)GorillazAlbum

The debut self-titled album set the template for the Gorillaz sound. In this collection of electronic-infused indie/rock tracks, sprinkled with liberal doses of hip-hop, only a handful of these tracks really stand out. Most notable is Clint Eastwood, featuring Del the Funky Homosapien providing vocals for the verses. This catchy track was the leading single, and its animated clip gave us a first glimpse of the characters and their individual personalities.

Sonically, the rest of the album sits somewhere between early Massive Attack and Beck records.

Noteworthy tracks:

  • 19-2000 (Soulchild Remix)
  • Clint Eastwood
  • New Genius (Brother)

Demon Days (2005)Gorillaz_Demon_Days

Despite the wider range of musical guests contributing to the songs, this follow-up gave us a far more coherent-sounding album. Demon Days paints a picture of Armageddon and chaos within the fictitious world of our band and delivers along with this, a strong musical arc with near-cinematic aspirations.

The pop really pops and the additional instrumentation succeeds in creating a compelling musical journey well worth revisiting again and again.

Noteworthy tracks:

  • Dare
  • El Manana
  • November Has Come

Plastic Beach (2010)Plasticbeach452

This album takes the concept of musical collaboration and diversity set with Demon Days and turns it up to 11. The tracks bounce flawlessly between pure hip-hop, soul sounds, and beautiful aural textures provided by the Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music, sinfonia ViVA and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. The package is held together with the pop sensibility we’ve come to expect and the guest list is huge, featuring the likes of Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed, Bobby Womack, and Mick Jones, to name but a few.

Lore states that this album didn’t come easily and contains remnants of an earlier project scrapped in 2009. Perhaps it’s because the Gorillaz template values eclecticism that Plastic Beach doesn’t feel like the disjointed Frankenstein it could’ve been.

Noteworthy tracks:

  • Stylo
  • Empire Ants
  • Pirate’s Progress / Three Hearts, Seven Seas, Twelve Moons


Bonus review: The Fall (2010)The_Fall_(Gorillaz_album)_cover

Yes, it’s a Gorillaz album and we’ve all learnt by now that Damon Albarn is a musical genius, but I don’t quite believe that The Fall belongs in the same canon as the previous records. This collection of tracks was written and recorded by Albarn on his iPad while touring for Plastic Beach.

That said, The Fall remains a noteworthy example of what can be achieved on the fly and at minimal cost with a portable device and the apps available.

This was eight years ago—imagine what you could do with the technology available now.

For more music and information, check out: gorillaz.com