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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun

In memory of Dr Albert Hofmann (1906 - 2008)...


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Have You Ever Seen Rain?

The rain can be both real and metaphorical at the same time. I thought about this quite frequently this weekend. I had planned to spend as much of my "free" time in the organic garden at home. It started out as the first truly mild weekend this season, but my plans were rained on; first metaphorically and then from the sort of clouds that always bring moisture in the air.

I've now resigned myself to yet another weekend were I can't do the work I'd like to in the garden. Hopefully it will get better very soon because the lawn really needs mowing. Meanwhile I find solace in my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. At times like this it feels very much like my own private pot at the end of the rainbow.

The 111th MMI podcast opens with a song from Pete Molinari whose mother's Maltese parentage qualifies him for inclusion in this series. He has a remarkable voice that would be very well suited for Maltese għana. He has not explored that part of his personal heritage, yet. If/when he does, keep in mind that you heard about it here first. Have a listen to Virtual Landslide, one of his recent singles, and you'll see what I mean if you're familiar with Maltese folk singing beyond the hackneyed stereotype.

On one of the early editions of Mużika Mod Ieħor I featured a tune called White Russian by the Sandro Zerafa 5tet. At that time this was a new project that this Maltese Paris-based guitarist was exploring. The whole thing has now matured into a full CD release, which was launched at the recently opened venue Warehouse No.8 in Marsa. While listening to the track Sidewalk Slant it crossed my mind that the launch party must have been a fantastic place to be this weekend, particularly because Danjeli provided the music after hours.

Any opportunity to play something from Danjeli is not easily passed up on my podcast. From last year's outstanding Pinkpube release by Danjeli Kakofonija I've picked Dureb. It works well in the eclectic mix on this week's show. If you still haven't heard Kakofonija, do yourself a favour and download it (for free!) from the Pinkpube website.

In preparing this week's selection I came across singer Ann Degaetano's name. She won the Virtual Rock Star contest put on by Malta's XFM radio with her band Slur. I was hoping to see more of her by now. To my knowledge, so far she has been a one hit wonder. I hope someone tells me I'm wrong and points me towards new recordings featuring Ann's voice. Luckily, other than the song she presented for last year's XFM contest she also released It's Your Imagination, which even on a first listen shows that it would be a shame for this singer to simply disappear into oblivion just yet.

Closing up with something new, I came across B. Lee, the new lead guitarist with Metrokueen, who appeared on a recent edition of the MMI podcast. B. Lee (aka Billy) has released an instrumental blues rock track called Until I Find My Way. More than anything I really like the title of this instrumental track because it ties in with the way I feel about getting back to the garden. Until then, I'm just caught in what Joni Mitchell calls the devil's bargain.

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. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Metal Guru

It's been an odd week. I can't really put my finger on it but I know that it has much more to do with the latest language debacle or the new collaborative effort at MaltaMedia. When the going gets tough there's nothing like heavy metal to realign the gray matter adequately for the next challenge.

In case you're wondering how I go about dealing with this sort of thing, just have a listen to the 110th podcast in my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor series. It's all metal all the way going from hard rock to the heaviest metal since lead and mercury were discovered.

Frenzy Mono have recently teamed up with bassist Albert Bell to form a new band called Nomad Son. The podcast opens with The Blacksmith from Frenzy Mono followed by Shallow Grave from Nomad Son, which is one of the songs that landed the band a recording contract with Italian label Metal on Metal. Albert Bell is one of a handful of rock gurus on the Maltese scene. I've known him since we were both sixth formers about 25 years ago and I'm truly impressed by his prowess.

Nomad Son are playing a gig with Lithomancy at the Poxx Bar on 3 May. Lithomancy have almost been around for two full decades. As Maltese metal bands go they're dinosaurs even if their brand of metal remains close to the cutting edge of the hardest rock genres. I like any band that Dino Mifsud Lepre drums in and Rex is one of the most versatile singers on the local rock scene. Lithomancy fans know them best for their Witness of Eternity, which has to be one of the death metal classics from the Maltese dark scene.

Hardcore metal bands are still numerous in Malta. Metal tastes on the islands have come a long way since the days of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even Metallica. I've selected new material from two relatively new bands for the latter part of this week's podcast. The first comes from last year's Erythuria album Annihilate to Repent, launched at Poxx on October 5. The track I've selected is called Touched by the Gods. The other band is Tendency Charge. From their (possibly as-yet unreleased) EP Stages of Peripheral Diversity I've picked To Punish and Enslave.

I have a feeling that some of the regular MMI podcast listeners will not necessarily appreciate some of the hardcore metal sounds presented on this week's edition. I believe that this should most certainly not preclude this music from the series. I'm also pretty sure that listeners who understand what I'm on about with my podcasts can see why I chose to play all sorts of music from the alternative music scene in Malta.

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. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

And Your Bird Can Sing

It's been about a week since Il-Manoċċa was launched. So far so good. It looks like the sort of blog that's actually needed for the Maltese online media circus. I'm not a big fan of local politics but I can understand the interest it can generate, especially for anyone who feels that things can be better. Then again, things can always be better.

In an attempt to make things ever so slightly better, prolific blogger Sandro Vella has spearheaded a Blog of the Month initiative reminiscent of the Blogger's Carnival some old-timers may remember from a couple of years ago. By his own admission, this is a bold move, but as the Italian saying goes tentare non nuoce. You can now vote for your favourite Maltese blog here.
While it's good to see any sort of activity on the Maltese blogosphere, I disagree that this initiative should be promoted by any means necessary. That sort of thing can get great ideas killed. Never forget what happened to Malcolm X, even if this move is far less socially significant than the struggle that got him shot. There's no need to be paranoid...just don't sit with your back to the door.

Sandro is right to think that it's not enough to just blog about an idea. It needs to be spread. As I see it, the problem with spreading something that there's (relatively) so little of is that it can be spread too thin.

On a related note, I'm quite pleased to see MaltaGirl blogging fairly regularly again now that she's sort of settled into her new lifestyle. She's the undisputed queen of the Maltese blogosphere. I'm also very glad to see that a Ħsejjes 2 blog has emerged in recent days bringing back on of the Maltese bloggers' darlings; it doesn't get more real than Ħsejjes.

All this bodes well for the Maltese blogosphere, especially since its death knell was supposedly heard by many some time ago. To believe that the Maltese blogoshere is dead is to believe that Malta can ever be a participatory democracy where diverging opinions are given a significant voice to state their point of view as openly as possible.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Nine in the Afternoon

My weekly music podcast is on the 109th edition this week. The four tracks I've selected to play are all new. This is a clear indication of how vibrant the local scene has become. At least that's how I see it, even if two of the recordings I've included don't really originate from Malta.

The opening song is the new one from Fraser Gregory. It's called Let It Rain and comes with a video on YouTube too. Apparently Fraser is now firmly anchored in London gigging at various small venues. I wish the listings on his MySpace page were up to date. Perhaps he's just too busy making music.

Keeping it Maltese abroad, the second song comes from Maltese-Australian singer-songwriter Luke Caruana, better known as Carra. He has recently released a new single entitled Gaia, apparently inspired by his 2007 visit to Malta. It's worth noting that Carra's band features a Maltese-Australian drummer by the name of J.J. Portelli. It sure is a small world.

Back on the rock centre of the universe, the gravitational pull of the alternative music scene these days seems to be at the Poxx Bar in Paceville. This weekend nosnow/noalps played two gigs there. Last night they appeared sandwiched between Cable 35 and BNI. Tonight they're supporting the Beangrowers as they launch their new album Not In a Million Lovers, which was featured on this podcast last month. To celebrate what seems to be the hardest working band on the Maltese music scene, you can hear Lights On from the nosnow/noalps EP (just rock), which was released last February.

This week's podcast comes to a close with what is undoubtedly one of the heaviest new bands in Malta: Dying Signals. They made their live debut last summer Slit and Ktinodia. Earlier this year they started recording their first CD at Splitter Studio entitled The Last Of A Dying Breed. They've just released some demos from these session and I've picked Neglected for my podcast. Hardcore metal is an acquired taste and I must admit that after some years I seem to have come to like it more than I thought I ever would. I think it's at least as entertaining as watching anything else that doesn't normally happen on a quiet Sunday morning.

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. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Free Bird

A new collective blog called Il-Manoċċa was launched yesterday by a group of Maltese men seeking an alternative outlet for their progressive ideas. I equate most white wines with cat piss but anyone who cares to reproduce anything by Marcel Duchamp wins me over even without any inebriating libations.

I seriously doubt that the men of Il-Manoċċa were invited to air their views on this evening's edition of Xarabank. Malta's most popular TV show focused on the Internet as we used to know it before we came to really know it as we do now. It's a pity that the programme felt like it was thrown together by people who are out of touch with the most recent developments. As a matter of fact, just as with the moon, there's no dark side of the Internet, it's all dark. Or is it?

I've been wanting to find some time to blog about the Maltese blogosphere for quite some time. This is not it but I must mention the wonderful buzz created by some Maltese blogs during the recent general elections and the ensuing aftermath. Bloglords Jacques, Sandro and Fausto are at the top of the list, of course. Then again I'm also pleased (if that's the right word) by the serious case of bloggorrhea on Daphne's Running Commentary.

Anyway, this is just a brief blog entry to remind myself and my readers that I once blogged about more than my weekly music podcast. It also reminds me why I've chosen to set aside less of my time for general blogging and more time on my music podcast. Perhaps Il-Manoċċa will alter this slightly in the coming weeks and months. Then again, with all due respect to the men of Il-Manoċċa, I seriously doubt it.


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Cold Shoulder

Things are more or less back to "normal" now after the ups and downs of the last couple of weeks. The weather still doesn't want to play nice just yet, but that's to be expected in Britain. Luckily I managed to find a few hours to work in my organic garden this weekend but there's plenty more to do now that it's (supposedly) springtime.

The 108th podcast in my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor series is out a few hours earlier this week. This is mostly because it's too cold to work out in the garden this afternoon, but it's also a way to make sure that I avoid another nightmare scenario like the one I went through last week. As a way of recentering myself and the podcast I open with a track from last year's debut album by Peklectrick. I featured his Reclaiming Space when it first came out last November, but it's high time I played another track from it. So this time I've selected a song called Six Strings. If you like alternative music from Malta and you haven't heard this album yet I highly recommend this CD. It deserves much more attention that it has received so far.

Metrokueen is a new band on the local scene. Most recently they appeared at the BJs music marathon where they undoubtedly delighted fans of classic rock. They've already recorded two of their own songs. Insanity is the one I prefer and you can hear it as the second selection on this week's MMI podcast. The bassist for this band is none other than James "Jelly" Attard whom listeners may recognize as either the bass player from White Crimson or the uber-tech guru who gave us the Facebook app for selecting the 2007 listeners' picks.

If you're a regular listener of the MMI podcast, you'll have already heard me play two tracks from the band Colourblind. They're currently working on an album but meanwhile guitarist Alistair Galea has recorded a very interesting instrumental track as a soloist. The tune is called Nowhere to Run and it's delightfulness is only rivaled this week by the guitar chimes at the heart of the Metrokween song I played earlier.

Closing off this week's podcast is a young singer whose output has so far been fairly eclectic in terms of quality. I like Lyndsay Pace's voice but I'm not impressed by most of the songs she sings. Thankfully there's one that's good enough to hear from beginning to end without a single cringe. What You're Made Of shows that this singer can either really make a name for herself on the local scene or disappear without a trace like so many others before her have done. I should probably make a note of that as an idea for a future podcast.

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. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Show Must Go On

The 107th podcast in the Mużika Mod Ieħor series is now online. Better late than never. It's only late because of the mental meltdown that accompanied the failure of my hard drive over the weekend. I won't bother you with the details of the two days I spent in technical hell. I'll just say that I've finally learned my lesson about having a proper back-up system. I'll be working on that later this week but first I have some unfinished business I need to tend to, which includes the most recent MMI podcast, of course.

I decided to take a brief break from the podcast over Easter to recharge my creative juices. In the meantime, a number of new releases accumulated on my desktop so this week I'm seeking to put out as many of them as possible. The first offering is the second single from Beige called Say Hey. They've released it on ReverbNation. Singer Claire Falzon's voice is reminds me of Linda Perry from San Francisco early-90s grunge band 4 Non Blondes.

Another new track comes from Shilloo's Tree who were first featured on the MMI podcast last year. Breakfast Serial is a very well-crafted song and shows that this band puts some thought into their tunes. I also think that Max Dingli's voice brings it together quite nicely.

The Areola Treat released their debut single at the Poxx Bar on Sunday during a gig that featured British band The Violets. SIBBI is an excellent debut single from a band that's at the forefront of the current Maltese underground music scene. The other demo recordings that this band has released. Christine (my wife) told me that this band is one of the best things she's heard coming out of Malta in recent months. I agree. It's quite energizing.

Back to the Poxx Bar for a minute: it was there that I saw Mathematikal supported by Vinnie Vintage during my most recent visit to Malta. Poxx is right on the edge of Paceville so it's a very appropriate venue. Mathematikal were very enjoyable to watch live, even if the sound wasn't quiet as good as any musician would like it to be. To make this occasion I'm playing part of the Mathematimix celebrating the strong presence that Jon and Jay have established on the local hybrid music scene.

To close off this week podcast I've decided to play a song I heard several times on the radio during my recent visit to Malta. One reason it was being played so frequently because it had just been released, but the other reason is that it is a truly remarkable arrangement of one of the best Maltese songs of all time. The song is Paul Abela and Alfred C. Sant's L-Aħħar Bidwi f'Wied il-Għasel and the new interpretation comes from Italian singer Claudio Baglioni. It's simply divine.

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. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here.

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