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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Seeds of Love

I actually don't have a lot to say about my podcast this week. This is mostly because I'm quite tired this weekend and I've got other things on my mind. It's been a long and exhausting first week of the academic year. It was a good induction experience this year and I must say that I'm pleased with the way the new School of Arts and New Media has set out on its first year.

Anyway, on to this week's podcast, which I decided should fully comprise of artists who have already appeared in the series before. This is actually a first for the Mużika Mod Ieħor series.

The opening salvo comes from Fire's recently released debut CD ...Ignite, which I found full of pleasant classic rock moments. If you like solid Americana rock from the 70s and 80s this album is a must have for you. Just listen to the opening track, Get Out of My Way, and I'm sure it will conjure up the best memories you have from listening to Foreigner, Blue Oyster Cult, Van Halen and a bunch of bands of their ilk.

Fire is blessed with not one but two great Maltese rock guitarists. We heard music from one of them (Pejxa) during last week's podcast. This week I have the pleasure of bringing you a previously unreleased recording from Fire's other axeman and producer Robert Longo. Anyone who knows him only through Fire may be surprised to hear him experimenting with dance electronica on this recording called Is Anybody Out There? from about 1993.

The music of Particle Blue is undoubtedly among the best current electronica from Malta. Along with Fire, their release from 2006 is featured in my list of nominations for top music issued this year, which I'll be opening up for public voting in the coming weeks. So, watch this space. Meanwhile you can enjoy a very interesting track from Particle Blue called Intervall ta' Imħabba, which marks the departure of the wonderful Claire Tonna from the band.

Keeping it electronica, I thought it would be appropriate to close this week's podcast with the music of Chemical Orphan. This is the new name adopted by Glen Cachia who, like all the other acts of this week's podcast, was already featured on another edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor. The song Bad Girl is described by Glen himself as "sort of Iggy Pop goes disco."

Did I say I had very little to say about this weeks podcast? And have you noticed that I haven't mentioned MySpace this week. So I'll keep it that way. Plenty of that in previous weeks and in the months to come, no doubt. What I will mention is that I'm very proud of myself because I've managed to sprout a bunch of new basil plants out of seeds from a previous plant I bought for about 10p from Tesco last year. Perhaps I'll post a picture of my little baby in the coming days.

The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also add the latest episodes to your My Yahoo! page.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Can't Get Enough

There are times when I really believe that a good thing will be followed by a bad thing, and vice versa. You could call it instant karma, but I think that it's even simpler than that. Here's an example from the last few days: I installed an excellent anonymizing web browser called Tor released by Hacktivismo a couple of days ago. One of the first things I found out while using it is that Boz Burrell (who played with King Crimson and Bad Company many years ago) had a heart attack and died last Thursday. I've always found unique experiences to be far fetched, but I seriously doubt anyone else had the exact same experience I had with Tor and Boz. Now the two are forever linked in my mind.

To get my mind of all this coincidental stuff I produced the 36th podcast in my Mużika Mod Ieħor series today. Once again most of it is based on my adventures in MySpace. I say most because one of the acts featured this week is not present on MySpace, as far as I know.

Rock guitarist Joe Vella, better know as Pejxa, recently established a presence on MySpace. I've known him since he played in a band called Stratkast about 25 years ago. He's one of the foremost 2nd generation Maltese rock guitarists. Now he plays in the same band as another of the 2nd generation Maltese guitar heroes, Robert Longo. The new band is called Fire and they've just released a CD album called Ignite. I'll play something from that on another edition of my podcast. Today I open my podcast with Pejxa's Entropy, which he has also posted on his MySpace page a few days ago. This track was recorded around 1995 at his home studio using a drum machine, a bass guitar, a guitar and two stereo video recorders. He told me that he first recorded the drums and bass together, then played back this recording and recorded one guitar on the other VCR. He then played back this recording and recorded the second guitar. So this is a relatively low tech recording compared to what can be achieved today with even the simplest of computer systems. In case you're wondering, the 1st generation of Maltese rock guitarists includes people like Albert Bernard, Tony Grech and Freddie Scicluna. Perhaps I can play something by them too on my podcast in the coming weeks.

I know I've said this before but I really seem to be making an understatement whenever I say that MySpace is a most fertile resource for discovering new music and/or music I would otherwise possibly never hear. This week I came across a singer/bass player who goes by the name Galea. She was born in Canada and now lives with her family in New York City. Her father emigrated to Canada from Naxxar in the 1950s. To cut a long story short, she has retained her paternal family name as her stage name and that's it. She's just Galea. Like Cher or Shakira, she told me when I first asked her about her name. You can hear a song called My Real Daddy on this week's podcast, which appears to be a running in-joke she shares with her musician husband. The song is from her album Diary of A Bad Housewife. You can hear more from that at her MySpace page.

Last week I announced a list of nominees for the top Maltese music releases in 2006. I asked you, my gentle readers and listeners, to contact me with titles I may have overlooked. I received several email about this and I hope to receive some more in the coming days before I release the list for people to vote on. One of the emails alerted me to NV (Nikki Vukovic and a band with Sean Vukovic and Kevin Vella on guitars, David Wain on drums and Rex on bass) and the singles No Regrets, and Open Your Eyes, which I've been told "received considerable airplay and featured in the charts of radio stations." So NV will be included on the final list, of course, and you can hear Open Your Eyes if you missed it on the radio.

Since there's a whiff of Xtuppaw in the air I must make the most of it. When Xtuppaw finished recording their debut CD at Hell Next Door Studio last spring, the next recording to take place at HND was Angelcrypt's single Thou Shalt Die. If Angelcrypt's music isn't heavy enough for your taste, I'm sure you'll enjoy the other metal track I play on this week's podcast: Beheaded's Recount of Disembodiment.

In the end, my thoughts veer back again to the idea of instant karma. Is everything really connected in our lives? Perhaps that's too spiritual a question for a simple blog like this and a weekly music podcast to entertain. If I didn't share such thoughts with you I'm sure I'd still have them anyway.

The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also add the latest episodes to your My Yahoo! page.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Playin' The Outlaw

Now that I'm (almost) firmly back in Scarborough for the new academic year and I've also managed to finish the first full draft manuscript of my Franklin Furnace book I'm in a position to take stock of some other significant things in my life. Some of those meaningful aspects of my life are too personal to be of any interest to casual readers of my blog. Others include a realization that a staggering number of recordings by Maltese artists have been released in the first nine months of this year.

You may have already seen the list I've compiled. Once I'm convinced that my list doesn't overlook any important releases, my plan is to unleash a revised list for a voting public in a couple weeks. I'm not too keen on awards and other such baseless value judgments, but I am interested in getting a sense of the top 10 recordings from 2006 according to people who listen to my podcast over the last three months of the year.

This week's podcast opens with one of the titles on that list. Last June, Bitterside recorded three tracks at Farmhouse Studios, produced by Howard Keith. The song that most people will have heard is Shutters. I have chosen to play another one of these three tracks, Edge of Reason. Daniel Genuis' voice is hauntingly beautiful and it blends wonderfully with the sound produced by the rest of the band.

Last week I looked back at some loose ends from previous episodes of my podcast. I said that I'm thinking of doing a podcast like that once in a while. I now realize that that may not be a practical approach. In fact, this week I'm following up on something I mentioned in podcast number 19 when I played a track from Nicky Falzon's Masque album Twilight Moods. I met Nick Falzon again on MySpace just a few days ago. I'm overwhelmed by the staggering amount of albums he has produced over the last few years. They number about 70! There are samples from most, if not all, of them on his personal website. I've chosen to play the title track from his eight album in the series, entitled Chlorophyll Dream.

Moving on to another dream, I thought it was most appropriate to play Angel of My Dreams, the new single from Hellraiser, the new album by Krokus, which will be officially released in Malta and the rest of Europe on Monday, 18 September 2006. It was released in Germany and Switzerland on Friday, 15 September. More remarkable than the release of this new album from Krokus is their recently announced show in Malta for the 25th of November at the old power station in Floriana. This will be Marc Storace's first major live concert in his country of birth since that legendary show with Tea at the Plaza Cinema in Sliema way back in the mid-1970s.

Someone who has been active in the local music scene since long before that is Freddie Portelli. He has just finished recording his new 4-track EP at Padded Cell Studios with Robert Longo. This is his 13th CD release since his much appreciated comeback in the early 1990s. He was very kind to email me these new tracks earlier today. So as this week's final track on Mużika Mod Ieħor you can hear the song Good to Be Free. At the age of 62 he sounds as fresh as ever. Long live the king.

The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also add the latest episodes to your My Yahoo! page.

Friday, September 15, 2006

So Far, So Good...So What!

I've compiled a list of alternative music from Malta released so far in 2006. My plan is to poll my blog readers and Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast listeners towards established the top 10 favourite releases of 2006.

I must admit that I am very impressed by the relatively large number of releases. In spite of this, I have a feeling my list is not complete. Please let me know if you think there are any additional titles I should add to this list before starting the voting in October. The list is not meant to be fully comprehensive - I am selective - but I would like to include as many titles as possible at this stage.

Here's the list, so far, in alphabetical order:

  • 8 Ugly - Head in the Clouds (MySpace)
  • Andre Camilleri & The Broken Hearts - debut album (out soon)
  • Angelcrypt - Thou Shalt Die [single] (MySpace)
  • Beangrowers - You Are You Are [UK Release] (Series 8 Records)
  • Black Aura - Amun (MySpace)
  • Bitterside - Shutters [single]
  • Brian James - Manikins 2 (Pinkpube)
  • Camilleri/Bomba - Limestone (Transmitter Records)
  • Carrie - debut album (out soon)
  • Chasing Pandora - EP (Tickety-boo Records)
  • Fire - Ignite (Fire)
  • Forsaken - Dominaeon DLP (Immortal Vinyl Records)
  • Freddie Portelli - Good to Be Free [EP]
  • Hagen - Pleves (Pinkpube)
  • Item - tracks (MySpace)
  • Kemik-Al - The Dark Journal (Butterfly Records)
  • Krokus - Hellraiser (AFM Records)
  • Mathematikal - tracks (MySpace)
  • Melchior Sultana - Not For The Masses (Pinkpube)
  • Knockturn Alley - The Dream is Dead (Knockturn Alley)
  • NV - No Regrets + Open Your Eyes [singles]
  • Particle Blue - Electro Synth Heroes (Peeled Tracks)
  • Recoil - Behold the Great/Nothing [single]
  • Rising Sunset - Rhema (Rising Sunset)
  • Salt - Q&A [single]
  • Sandro Zerafa 5tet - White Russian (
  • Scar - Unmake You [single]
  • Scream Daisy - What They Say/Happy Families [single]
  • Slit - Ode To Silence (Anticulture Records)
  • Subculture - A Lifetime of Disappointments (Subculture)
  • Tears of Revenge - Bleed [single] (MySpace)
  • The Rifffs - Life of Crime [single]
  • The I-Skandal - Skaccomatto (Reciprocal Records)
  • Toby - Digi Kinda Life (Playhouse)
  • Tony Grimaud - You've Been on My Mind [single]
  • Tribali - Tribali (Tribali)
  • X-Tend - Conclusion [single]
  • X-Vandals - Erosion of Our Liberty (X-Vandals)
  • Xtruppaw - Is-CD tal-iXtruppaw (Reciprocal Records)
  • Various Artists - 10times10: A Pinkpube Compilation Volume 1 (Pinkpube)
  • Various Artists - Malta Song for Europe 2006 (Maltasong)
  • Various Artists - The AltMalta Compilation (
  • Winter Moods - Ordinary Men (out soon)

  • Monday, September 11, 2006

    Old Manhattan Melodies

    I can hardly believe that it's been 5 years already. So much has happened in these 5 years, of course.

    Although most of the people who saw what happened on that day saw it mediatized through TV and the media, the sheer horror of it all was still all to real for anyone in New York...and not just on that day but for weeks after that.

    In my opinion, things are worse now than they were before September 2001 in terms of personal safety, freedom and liberty. If there's a lesson to be learnt from all this is how effective terrorism can be when the response of those who govern the terrorizes is not directed towards the actual source of the terror.

    9/11 made it uncomfortable for me and countless others to live in America. New York City is a very different place than it was before September 2001. There are too many suspicious eyes looking at people with even the mildest of middle eastern features. Not to mention the fact that at certain times the city feels like a police state. I won't even get into the nonsense at the airports.

    So instead I'll now turn my attention to the positive (if that's the right word!) outcome from that horrible experience.

    MaltaMedia showed its best qualities on 9/11 and in the ensuing weeks. We were on the forefront of local media reporting these world-changing events from a Maltese perspective. We were lucky, if that's the right word, to have direct audio reports from New York simply because I lived there at the time. The team, including editorial director Martin Debattista and Darrell Pace, who was the main content producer for the MaltaMedia Online Network at that time, made the best of the unique resources we had and produced an extensive feature. The regular audio webcasts from New York, and others from Malta too, where a pioneering example of what can be done through the internet to report international events from a local perspective.

    The original webcasts are still available along with the 9/11 feature at They have now also been repackaged into a series of 24 podcasts. This podcasting series was originally released as the world's first Maltese language podcasting series in August 2005.

    MaltaMedia recognized the potential of the internet and other new media to provide an immediate news and information service to people around the world interested in global events from a local perspective. Through its focus on the World Wide Web as its primary communication platform, MaltaMedia continues to be the main torchbearer for the future of media communication in the Maltese Islands, as it has done since 1998.

    We're far from perfect, of course, but at least 9/11 helped us see (and show) that we can rise to the occasion even when events are simply overwhelming.

    Saturday, September 09, 2006

    Distant Melody

    As you may have already read in my previous post, I'm in London this weekend. Managed to make it to Aldo and Mike's wedding bash in Soho last night and this afternoon I just finished attending the TaPRA (Theatre and Performance Research Association) annual conference at the Central School of Speech and Drama. Christophe Alix and I gave a presentation about our research work on creative projects using found objects in digital media environments. We showed some of this work in Malta last month, to very mixed reviews.

    Now we're getting ready for an Objects Found or Lost? gig at The Octagon at Queen Mary, University of London, as part of (re)Actor, the 1st International Conference on Digital Live Art, which is also part of Engage, the British HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) Group annual gathering. I think that's all I'll say about all this on my blog for now, unless there's something really extraordinary to share with my readers in the coming days.

    Speaking of extraordinary things, the Gozo-based German writer Sabine Cassar-Alpert is guest blogging on Wired Temples this weekend. I like it when there are guest blogger on WT simply because they bring a different perspective to looking at Malta on the Web, which Robert Micallef has otherwise been doing daily for amost two years now. I think this is an ideal way for him to take a break or attend to other matters for a few days without the need to feel tied up to the blog. In his case, oddly enough, it's a case of finding some time to dedicate to his personal blog, which he recently revivied.

    From my many years in professional broadcasting I learned to plan ahead on programmes that would coincide with a busy period of other work, especially a work-related trip elsewhere. This means that before I left Scarborough for London I recorded the 34th edition of my weekly podcast. As a loose theme for this week's show I thought I'd revisit some of the acts I mentioned in previous months but never quite managed to get back to. I think I'll do this sort of housekeeping show ever couple of months from now on.

    Back in February, when the Mużika Mod Ieħor series was still on episode 11, I played a track from Hidden Sun who split up after their final gig at The Alley in October 2005. Hidden Sun band members had promised that they would move on to new projects with their music. And so, Jon and Jay from Hidden Sun have now resurfaced as Mathematikal. From their new material you can hear a song called Revolve at the top of this week's podcast.

    Mathematikal's brand of electro-rock is the sort that makes good bedfellows with both rockier sounds as well as full-blown electronica. So next you can hear the experimental electronic sounds of Grosz Ear, which I discovered recently on MySpace. Well, actually, Grosz Ear discovered me and I know very little else except what's on the MySpace page for this act. The track I chose for my podcast is called Boney N. I'd love to know more about Grosz Ear. If you are Grosz Ear or know something about Grosz Ear that I don't know please get in touch with me.

    Keeping it electronic I can't but turn my attention one more time towards the Pinkpube catalog. After playing the music of Hagen and Brian James, this week I spin a track by Melchior Sultana entitled Sweet Souls. I really admire Maltese musicians who keep their original name. There was a time when that was very unfashionable. I'm sad to say I even fell victim to that trend myself as a teenager...but perhaps that's another story for another day.

    Playing all this instrumental music has made me want to play yet another such tune. I've been planning to play another track from The I-Skandal's Skaccomatto EP for a couple of weeks, and since Phyzics Song is actually an instrumental it fit the bill perfectly. Incidentally, I still don't understand why there's no MySpace page for The I-Skandal. Could they really be that crass? I seriously doubt it.

    To make up for such gaps, Tony Grimaud has created a second MySpace page. Come on Tony, what's the story, mate? He has now even included 3 old recordings on his original page. So, for the benefit of all the young dudes who still don't know about the legend called Grimaud, and for the old hipsters who can't believe how much things have changed since the 1980s (have they really?) I end this week's podcast with the powerful ballad Free Me from This Hell...and it feels like Tigne in 1984 all over again.

    The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also add the latest episodes to your My Yahoo! page.

    Thursday, September 07, 2006

    Unchained Melody

    I just arrived in London this morning so I don't have time to blog at length, but I had to mark the passing of someone I would dedicate a few more words to if I had the time. Lewis Portelli died this morning. Most people know him either from his work in sports journalism or in philanthropy. There's also his work as a civil servant with the DOI, of course. And then there are a few people who, like me, will also remember him for being a part of the team that produced children's programmes on Rediffusion in the 1960s.

    In 1990, when I was producing a 26-part radio series marking the end of cable radio broadcasting in Malta I interviewed Lewis at length at his home in Balzan. I had never met him in person before. Nor had I met him again since. The interview went quite well, or at least so it seemed to me because we drank quite a bit of Chivas Regal that night, but not too much, and mostly after the recording of the interview was over. If I wasn't busy in London right now I'd share that recording with you.

    I can't say I knew Lewis Portelli, even though my earliest recollections of him are from my childhood. Yet, like so many others, I can't say that I didn't know Lewis Portelli. His public life was known by far too many not to warrant a mention here today.

    Saturday, September 02, 2006

    C'Mon Everybody

    I was very pleased to hear that my old friend Aldo Gatt (also known as Gattaldo) is legally registering his marriage to his long-time partner Mike this week. Aldo and I have known each other since we were 11. So it comes as no surprise that I've been invited to a dinner celebration they're having down in London later this week. And since I'm going to be in London anyway for the Theatre and Performance Research Association annual conference, I may very well join them for some Moroccan food and fun. While probably not the first Maltese gay man to get married under the new British law, Aldo is undoubtedly a pioneering Maltese gay rights activist. Have a look at these couple of video clips on YouTube, especially if you didn't see them on TVM when they first aired a few months ago.

    Malta may have joined the EU but the country is still far off in terms of personal civil liberties. Did you hear the one about the call for a constitutional amendment against reproductive rights, which are already forbidden by Maltese law anyway? Please don't get me started on least not just yet. I'm just too busy (what's new?) right now. Before I get ready for my gigs in London (more about that in a future blog post, which is a certainty as much as the 9/11 one -- in fact they may turn up on the same entry) I should tell you a little bit about the 33rd podcast in the Mużika Mod Ieħor series.

    MySpace continues to dominate my weekly podcasts. It also continues to reconnect me with musicians I hadn't heard from in quite a number of years. One of these is a British singer who lived and performed in Malta in the early 1990s. Lisa Covington's song from 2004 called Afraid I'm Not Afraid opens this week's podcast.

    Lisa's song serves as a good prelude for the music of someone I met on MySpace for the first time just a few days ago. Interestingly, this time he' the one who remembers me from TVM and radio in Malta in the early 1990s. Brian James has released two EPs on the impressive catalogue from Pinkpube, which was first featured on my podcast a couple of week's ago. From his second Manikins collection you can hear Walk Away. It's a minimalistic techno sound with a hypnotic rhythm, leading me to think that this is a rather extreme form of electro dance music.

    Equally extreme, but in the metal camp, is the post-hardcore sound of Item. Abysmal Torment's Nicky Farrugia is now this band's vocalist following the departure of Leli Apap. I must confess that I find the sort of growling that accompanies the metal sounds from the likes of Item quite refreshing especially in light of all the badly executed attempts at normal (for lack of a better term) singing. Item are appearing with fellow metal monsters Loathe at the Remedy Club in Paceville on Friday 8th September. I believe that no self-respecting contemporary metalhead should miss a gig like that.

    I imagine that an equally splendid time was had by all who attended the Rebelfest at the Buskett Roadhouse last Friday. After last week's track from Subculture's second CD, I thought it was appropriate to play a song from the X-Vandals' debut album, Erosion of Our Liberty, which was also released on the same night at Rebelfest. The track you can hear on the podcast is called Disposable Breed. Slowly but surely Ray il-Baħri is becoming Malta's most prolific rock guitarist ever. Does anyone know of any other Maltese guitarist who plays with more bands than he does, even if he doesn't feature on any MySpace page, yet?

    The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also add the latest episodes to your My Yahoo! page.