The spontaneity of electronica performed live is something that can definitely make or break an artist. It is the great illusion: even though it can be performed live is it rarely created in real-time. All the programming and sequencing is often (for the most part) created using pretty much the same technology upon which it will be performed; therefore the opportunity to breath something new into the fray, to de-construct and re-construct things within the 'live' environment becomes ever more prevalent.
When we first heard that TOKiMONSTA was finally gracing our shores, it was with a buzz of anticipation and excitement. Any artist bearing the Brainfeeder brand (and now with releases on Ultra Records) is worth their salt and it can easily be said that TOKi has been one of the more arresting artists to surface through the new 'bass-age'. Her woozy, eloquent style has brought a certain symphony to the table and I was interested to see how she was going to translate that mood live.
I wasn't the only one. A healthy crowd of beanie-wearing devotees had also stepped out on this wintry Wednesday evening, unperturbed by the relatively late change in venue from Toto's to K Rd'sWhammy Bar. I refrained from forging any immediate and somewhat clichéd notions that this was still an 'underground' scene; however I must admit the threadbare carpets and graffitied walls gave things a foreboding sense of purpose.
When we arrived, local artist Kamandi was already warming up things nicely and that included the bass-bins. For the slowly gathering crowd it was the perfect entree - deep choppy beats that were so heavy I imagined him having to carry his laptop on a trailer. Suren Unka then stepped up - another emerging local talent with a wildly different yet complementary take on things. We were treated to some pounding 4/4 kicks and enough piano-laced trance to evoke fond memories of 1998's Return to the Source parties at Brixton Academy. With drumsticks firmly in hand, he added and overlayed sounds within the live context, which brought back a sense of the organic. He was loving it, and it showed.
The pace was set, the room had definitely heated up and all coats had finally found a rack of their own by the time Jennifer Lee (aka TOKiMONSTA) graced the stage. Sporting a glittered silvery cap and a Californian smile that lit up the room, it was obvious that she was stoked to finally be here in NZ. After a brief welcome though a feedbacked mic we were straight into things. and there was little time to gather our thoughts as it kicked in hard from the get-go. With precision, Lee began to layer bass and drum breaks under swirling visuals. It was a train that we were already running to catch from the outset, hastily climbing aboard as it traversed smoothly around corners at speeds between 70 and 140bpm.
"Are you still with me?" she asked with a smile as she took things up a couple of gears through a giddy trip of hiphop, house and trap style percussion. Vocal samples were looped and chopped to keep up with the pace, moving quickly past the window of the speeding carriages almost like conversations on a fairground ride;XXYYXX, Grandmaster Flash, Blackstreet and even Armand van Helden at one point found themselves spinning headlong in the mélange. The dancefloor heaved and surged like a breaking wave; hold tight, Auckland!
After about 20 minutes in, it had become increasingly clear that this was not exactly the journey most had expected, and the nausea kicked in. Although clinical by its organisation, construction and delivery, the continued alternating between styles and genres every 16 bars eventually started to take its toll. Lee had the opportunity here to cleverly de-construct things, to have fun with her own creations that we in-turn had grown to love, especially in light of the fact that a new album had just been released.
Instead she had opted for an all-out assault on the senses, scratching the surface of all genres with little or no space for any real depth. Understandably, elements from the new release were very much in the mix here: the hard Kool Keith vocal overlays from The Force; the instantly recognisable riffs of Let It Go; and the milky sounds of Gavin Turek among others. But there was no real chance for them to deservedly breathe and flourish. Instead they too became part of the white noise, without the chance to leave any lasting impression. There was a small break of sunshine as the beautiful strings and vocals of Darkest (Dim) finally clambered to the surface, but it was soon swallowed up again in the 140bpm calvacade, extinguished just as quickly as it had sparked.
After 60 relentless minutes the show had reached its final destination, but for some the interest had faded long before that. Primarily, it wasn't really anything that we haven't seen before. This non-stop megamix (a seemingly fitting description) of scraping through genres got tired very quickly, and it wasn't as if her selection choices were original either. It would have been slightly more forgivable had it have been a purely vinyl DJ set, but only slightly. The samples would still have been stale and outdated, but at least it would have been more intriguing to look at. As a result, the only interesting thing to come out of the speakers was of course her own compositions; it was just a shame that they needed to fight for so much space during the proceedings.
"I can play one more song," Lee proclaimed, ironic given the fact that she hadn't really played 'one' song in its entirety the entire time she had been on stage. Maybe this was the chance; maybe we would finally get to hear the real TOKiMONSTA, breaking down and celebrating all those delicious layers and showing us what she was made of? My mustered excitement was short-lived. All that was left in the tank was a three-minutePurple Haze/Dam Funk mashup. Sadly, it was as if Lee herself was not confident that we would 'get it'. Almost like it was assumed we would be unhappy for her to simply stand in the spotlight with her APC and do what she is so good at - touch our soul with beautifully produced music. Surely the very idea of the interaction is to explore?
In the mid to late 90's, when grunge began to wither away and MTV strived to find the next easy to access label to attach to new batch of up and coming rock bands, global attention started to shine on the Alt Rock scene.
The I Love The 90s Tour returns to Auckland next year March 23rd at Auckland’s Spark Arena, with a completely off the chain lineup featuring classic Hip Hop crew Naughty by Nature. Vin Rock from the Grammy Award winning rap group speaks fondly of this country and love of our people.
The Soundsplash Festival is returning to Raglan in January 2018. Local reggae favourites Katchafire are returning to feature on the bill. We sent a few questions over to lead vocalist Logan Bell ahead of the festival.
Following 2015’s Kitty, Daisy & Lewis'The Third', the sibling trio are back stronger than ever, harnessing their ability to create pop-infused soul, blues, rock n roll and a large mix of genres to perfection, in the shape of their fourth studio album, Superscope.
Kylie Price has just released her new album Bones. Last week she appeared on theNZ Entertainment Podcast, where she sang a new song I Dont Want To Go off the album while talking shop about her dream gig to play with Ed Sheeran and her Philipino roots.
Last week I caught up withPeter Hook ahead of returning down under for Australasian leg of the Joy Division and New Order Substance tour. We had a great chat about the spirit of punk, what it takes to write a book and why shows like the X-factor are so unhealthy…
Long established as one of New Zealand’s finest acts, South Pacific reggae-soul legends, The Black Seeds are set to tour the country in September, following the release of their long awaited 6th studio album Fabric, (out today - Friday September 8th).
Jacqueline Nalpant is a Booking Agent for the Paradigm Talent Agency, and is heading to New Zealand early next month where she'll be one of the speakers for the Going Global Music Summit (Friday 1st & Saturday 2nd September at Roundhead Studios, Auckland).
Since making her musical debut with her song Drift early last year, fast attracting a solid fan base and over 1 million plays across Spotify and Soundcloud in just a few months, Madeline North, better known by her musical moniker So Below, has once again blessed us with a moodier, masterful electro-pop banger, titled Ruin.
Since forming in 1998, the Antwerp, Belgium based trio Triggerfinger have long become a mainstay on the rock scene, building a solid reputation across Europe, the US, Canada and beyond, as one of the hardest-driving and sharpest dressing bands around.
Popular metalcore group Northlane are on their way to New Zealand. The Sydney band are touring North America taking in countries like Chile and Mexico as they head our way down-under next month to play Wellington’s San Fran then Auckland at the iconic Kings Arms.
Returning to New Zealand for the first time in three years, Australian metalcore band In Hearts Wake are on their way to our shores next month for a quick run of shows supporting their label cohorts Northlane.
Courtney Marie Andrews has landed in New Zealand, and set to play two concerts this week with Joe Pug - tonight at San Fran in Wellington (Wed July 19) and tomorrow night at The Tuning Fork in Auckland (Thu July 20).
Auckland two-piece Skinny Hobos, Alex Elvis and Texas Holdom, are heading on a 5 date New Zealand tour with headliners Decades, Bakers Eddy and Dead Favours. Kicking off tonight in Hamilton (July 14), the tour will also take them to Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and finishes up in Dunedin.
Have you ever considered sharing your most personal experiences with the entire world? Well come this Friday 14th July, that’s what Emma Cameron, the rocking front-woman of kiwi band Decades is about to do, when they release their long-awaited full length debut album, The Truth And Other People, so we sat down with the cheerful front woman to discover just what truth this album reveals..
Whilst Sonny Landreth is a well known slide-guitar master, zydeco enthusiast and phenomenal blues legend, what you may not know about him, is that he is one of the nicest gentlemen in the entire universe.
He was always the boy next door type energy, that type of person you just always wanted to be around. From day one, Shay Taylor has always been one to break the mold and live life in such a vibrant and contagious manner, that no matter who he spoke to, they walked away feeling great!
Anthonie Tonnon is taking his new Extended Player and single to Australia, and to New Zealand towns that missed the first run of dates, or sold out too quickly. He’ll also be appearing at three summer festivals this February.
After a stand of three Auckland concerts that sold out in minutes in January, Connan Mockasin is hitting the road across Aotearoa for the first time in eight years this summer for a select run of headline shows.