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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Electric Barbarella

Duran Duran have finally performed live in Malta. It's about 20 years too late, if you ask me. Then again not everyone is as allergic to nostalgia as I am. To be fair Duran Duran have remained active and released some interesting material since they were the huge pop sensation we remember from the 1980s. Back then I didn't really like the band but eventually I came to appreciate some of their stuff in ways that people who know me well could find rather surprising.

There may be some parallel between all this and this summer's other most significant gigs: Danjeli's Kakofonija live, the reemergence of Xtruppaw (with The I-Skandal) and even last week's return of Hunters Palace along with the cabaret by Alex Vella Gregory. Perhaps the connection (or lack of it) relates to the true significance of money and glitter within the music scene; and not just locally, of course.

Being away from the Maltese islands I find solace in seeking out as much new material as I can. In this spirit, this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast features four brand new tracks. The first is by a duo closely associated with Metrokueen: former singer Shawn Ryan and guitarist Billy Lee. They recently appeared on MySpace under the name Dayline with There's Another Place, which they describe as an "impromptu song whilst jamming."

Frank & Chris is/are another duo that broached the local scene this summer. Frank Cachia entered the Virtual Rock Star contest singing alone and a capella last year. He has a wonderful baritone voice, it appears that Chris Peregin appreciates it enough to team up with him for this year's edition. Sadly, they didn't win. Their Toad Song (am I the only one who hears a delightful homoerotic undertone here?) is a worthy effort but their best work is undoubtedly still ahead of them. Any songwriter looking for a good singer should give Frank a good listen. He has one of the best male voice I've heard coming from Malta in quite some time.

Fr Karm Debattista mssp has just released a new CD of songs in English. The album is called Dance of Joy and I've included the title track on this week's podcast. He is currently in Australia, where just a few days ago he launched this new CD at the World Youth Day events in Sydney. I'm sure this record will be well received by fans of Christian music down under and beyond.

Radio-friendly pop is not one of the genres featured frequently on the MMI podcast. However, from time to time there are some tracks that cannot be overlooked. Thea Saliba's Musilicious is one such song. She is a trained musician and not just another diva wannabe, even though she chooses to swim in those shark-infested waters. From where I stand, we need more Theas on the local pop scene to make it a little more palatable. Still, I doubt it will every be as palatable as I've found some of the Duran Duran sounds beyond the obvious hits that everyone at the Luxol Ground expected them to play tonight.

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, July 19, 2008

Magic Bus

Now that the public transport system in Malta is back to "normal" it's good to start thinking about what will really come from the shambles created on the roads of Malta and Gozo throughout most of this past week? Will the liberalization of mass transport on the Maltese Islands really improve in the coming months. Perhaps it'll take a couple of years or more. Will the characteristic authentically vintage buses (not the ones made for tourist) survive much longer?

Knowing how hot the temperature gets at this time of the year in Malta, I seriously doubt anyone has the necessary energy to really bother with all this right now. Truthfully I must admit that I'm impressed by the Transport Minister's actions toward reforming the sector. In Malta it takes a hard-headed political animal like Austin Gatt to change anything that's been ingrained into the Maltese way of doing things for generations.

You could ask why I should care about all this when I don't live in Malta? Aside from the fact that I'm fascinated by this sort of this, the simple answer is that I depend on mass transit to a large extent whenever I visit the Maltese Islands now. So it really does matter to me. Unlike the first-time visitors to the Malta who swore never to return after the mess their holiday turned into, I must return to the islands several times in the coming years.

Ironically, it's at times like this that I miss (if that's the right word) being there. I'd have been able to stay on for the upcoming Hunters Palace gig at Warehouse 8 on July 25. Alex Vella Gera and Peter Sant recently recorded a number of tracks in London along with percussionist Vinicius Duarte. From these London session I've picked Brussels, to open the 123rd edition of my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. Alex Vella Gregory will also be appearing at the upcoming gig, so it promises to be a splendid evening of fine music for discerning ears.

Last week
I mentioned that Pink Pube has just released the music for Dubbien by Particle Blue. This release is blanketed in sweet sorrow for me and all Particle Blue fans. The recordings are devoid of Claire Tonna's unique vocals and this recording is possibly the last we'll hear from what was undoubted one of the most interesting musical duos to grace the local scene in recent memory. Antoine seems to have found his groove again with Shattered Pride (featured in MMI #122) and I'm hoping to including a recent recording by Claire on an upcoming edition of the MMI podcast.

Errol Sammut seems to have appeared on this series more than any other singer in recent months. This is because he is involved in a relatively large number of bands and projects. The most recent of these is a band called The Does; called so after the initials from the band members - Dirk, Owen, Errol, Steve. To me it sounds just like an alternative version of Stone Joker, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Errol's voice is very recognizable and it makes you either become a fan instantly or tune it out after one too many listens, depending one your personal taste, I suppose.

After last year's impressive line-up for Malta's XFM Virtual Rock Star contest, which was won by Slur/Ann Degaetano, I was expecting an equally palatable cross-section of new acts and songs this year. There are a few good contestants but I must admit that I'd have liked to see more participants. I wonder what happened. Anyway, one of the better bands taking part is called Wax. Their song is called Thoughts and it comes with a decent video that I'm sure will be nominated in that category for the listeners' picks towards the end of this year.

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, July 12, 2008

The Windmills of Your Mind

When Kilin died earlier this week I paused to focus on my obsession with death and everything Maltese. I resisted temptation to blog about Kilin's passing when it happened, not just because I only met the man a couple of times and knew him only marginally through his writings, but more so because I felt the need to shake off the obsessive impulse I mentioned in the first sentence of today's blog entry.

I was also tempted to listen to a recording of an original Maltese song I wrote and sang with Kilin's daughter Cecilia in 1986. The song was written for Skruġġ, a Maltese musical based on Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol. I honestly believe that including it in this week's podcast would have been most inappropriate, for various reasons. I haven't seen Cecilia since before I left Malta for good in 1994, but I was pleased to see her name in print again, on a short note to thank people for their respectful tributes on one of the local newspaper websites. Perhaps I'll play that song on the Christmas edition of my podcast. Yes, that would certainly be more appropriate.

Not being physically able to attend the great gig by Xtruppaw and The I-Skandal today, did help my mood as I prepared this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. I'm not surprised, however, that once I got into it I got over both my Kilin-related thoughts as well as my misplaced longing for Maltese culture.

A new duo called Shattered Pride has just released some tracks via MySpace. Singer Dorian "Sid" Turner and electro-musician Antoine Vella got together in May when they discovered they shared a common taste in dark '80s electro-rock, which they've managed to capture beautifully on tracks like Beneath. They seem to be producing new material quite fast but that comes as no surprise for anyone who knows how prolific Antoine can be when the muse strikes. Fans of his former band Particle Blue are undoubtedly delighted by the official release of their 2005 recordings for the Dubbien performance. More about that next week.

I'm very pleased to see that Carrie Haber (as she now calls herself) has released a number of new recordings of songs we've heard as raw demos just a few months ago. The original version of They Turned Me To Plastic was featured on an earlier edition of the MMI podcast. So it gives me great pleasure to include the full-band studio arrangement of this same song on this week's podcast.

Carrie is currently in London doing a couple of gigs. Tonight she is Tony Moore's guest at The Regal Room. If you follow the Maltese music scene closely, you'll have seen Carrie championed by Tony on TV show Let's Talk Music a few week's ago. That TV series is quite unusual for Malta but it's wonderful to hear that there are plans for it to return next year. Since Tony likes Malta so much, it's only fitting that we include his music on a MMI podcast. From his album Perfect and Beautiful I've picked Face in the Window. Look beyond his history with Iron Maiden and Cutting Crew and you'll see that Tony Moore is a remarkable artist in his own right. I really enjoyed a set he played at SecondFest last year, and I'm currently revisiting that for my own research into Second Life.

"It's all good" is a mantra I've picked up from my wife. It's what leads me to include Black Metal act Improbus Atrum towards the end of this week's podcast. They released an EP entitled Bearing the Mark on the 4th of July. I haven't heard the whole EP, but for personal reasons I'm partial to My Immortal Master. From pictures I've seen of this band, I have reason to believe that they're interesting to watch live too.

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, July 05, 2008

Doctorin' the Tardis

Just as most of us thought that Doctor Who was about to regenerate into a new actor, the current series came to a close, in what has arguably been the best season for the show ever, bar none. Yes, gentle readers, I am a Dr Who fan. I'm a little sad to see the Doctor go away (until next Christmas) but the knowledge of a Cybermen return gives me just one more reason to live.

On a different note, former US Senator Jesse Helms died on the 4th of July. Helms is seen by many as one of the worse opponents to freedom of expression in art, particularly in performance art. I came to know his name well in my research on the culture wars, particularly in relation to Franklin Furnace. While I can never agree with his point of view on art and culture, I've oddly come to appreciate his oppositional rhetoric and actions. Reaction to his abhorrence of works by artists like Karen Finley, Tim Miller, John Fleck, and Karen Hughes, among others, made these artists produce interesting pieces of art in response. I believe this is not the way he is viewed in the art world, but I find it's better to relish the not-so-obvious positive that comes with the death of an oppressor.

As if all this wasn't enough to spice up my weekend as I sat down to produce this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast, Xtruppaw announced their return on the Maltese music scene earlier this week. How can I ever resist an excuse to play some more Xtruppaw on my podcast? The 121st edition opens with Rajt Ma Rajtx from Is-Cd tal-iXtruppaw. The I-Skandal, how have been on a hiatus for the last two years, will be appearing ahead of Xtruppaw at the Poxx Bar in Paceville on Saturday 12 July. From their 2006 CD Skaccomatto I've selected Adjectives as the second track for this week's podcast. Now that il-Fre is back on the rock, I wonder if Dripht will reunite anytime soon. I, for one, sincerely hope so.

It's always a joy to discover new Maltese acts. Ezekiel Micallef appeared on my radar via MySpace a few days ago. Ezzy has released a number of varied tracks on his MySpace page and I've picked Puzzle People. I have feeling we'll be hearing a lot more from this newcomer in the future.

This week I've also made sure not to repeat a mistake I made last year with the musical activities of the ŻĦN. Antonio Olivari D'Emanuele has written and produced a new track for the Symphonik Choir, featuring Melanie Saliba on lead vocals. The Language of Music is one of two new recordings by the ŻĦN choir, written specifically for the upcoming Musequality concert at the University's Temi Zammit Hall on the 18th and 19th July.

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, July 01, 2008

The Boys are Back in Town

Xtruppaw Lajv Is-Sibt 12 ta Lulju 2008.