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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Space Oddity

MySpace have just changed the interface for the music player that appears on pages where musicians, bands and singers upload their tracks for all to hear. This in itself may appear to be just another attempt to change the way MySpace looks, but there's some bad news in it for people like me. The previous MySpace music player displayed the year for the track you were listening to (if it was entered by the artist) as well as the name of the album of compilation it came from; not to mention better/more space for the accompanying artwork.

I'm hoping (against all odds, probably!) that this will either be rectified soon or better still that artists will start blogging more about the tracks they upload or at least somehow give their listeners further information about the tracks they want us to listen to on their MySpace pages.

I'm not saying all this because I'm turning into a grumpy old man. Well, at least not just yet. The missing information is really useful to people like me who put together podcasts with material that's available mostly only through MySpace. Aside from my podcast, I also have an academic/archival interest in the extra data that comes with tracks uploaded to MySpace.

Thankfully, over the years I've also developed a two-way conversation with many of the artists I feature on my podcast. So, in many cases, the additional info on MySpace is not really something I look out for. Still, there are several acts that I either know very little about or only know what I know about them through MySpace. This became even more obvious to me a couple of days ago, when I started putting together the list of nominations for the 2008 MMI Listeners' Picks.

This week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast features a number of new addition to that list of nominations, which will remain a work in progress until the public voting starts via Facebook in November. Explicit return with a new single called Sunny Again. Stephanie Chetcuti's voice reminds me why I like most, if not all, Maltese rock bands fronted by women. It is so refreshing to hear a Maltese female voice singing to an accompaniment that's anything other than the dime a dozen studio programming productions that grace the so called pop scene. I believe that more people in Malta would like alternative music if they heard it more frequently on radio and TV.

Another thing I'd like to hear more of are Maltese bands or singers doing covers of Maltese songs, even if not in Maltese. Dripht did it with The Rifffs' Dance Music for Depression, but it is far from common. 8 Ugly are preparing to release their debut album entitled Sleeper. Happily it includes a cover of Call Me, originally written by Ronnie Busuttil for his band The Refugees. Comparisons are odious, but I have a feeling that listeners will like 8 Ugly's version, particularly as they have worked closely with Ronnie and others associated with The Refugees.

New releases will keep appearing until voting on the MMI 2008 poll starts, and even beyond. We'll try and catch as many as we can to avoid the same sort of 'oops, too late' disappointments from previous years. Music Street Productions are releasing a CD called Purely Pop Compilation on the 7th of October. I don't have a copy of this CD yet but it features a stellar cast from the local scene: Thea Saliba, Jewls Verse, and Amelia, among others. Those others include a delightful duo I'd never heard of before called Velvet Rain. I like their A Song for You very much, so I've decided to play it half way through the 133rd edition of the MMI podcast.

Speaking of goings-on in Malta, Mancunian band Autokat will be playing live at the Sky Club in Paceville this Friday the 3rd, along with local indie delicacies Areola Treat and Airport Impressions. This English band is attracting quite a bit of attention not just because their music is quite good - as you can hear for yourself from the single Innocence - but also and especially because their drummer is Mike Joyce, who played with The Smiths back in the 1980s. As foreign gigs in Malta go, this is one not to be missed. Sadly I'm stuck in Scarborough this week, even though I've had two solid invitations to come to Malta in recent days. If they're playing one of the local clubs around Manchester I may even catch them on one of my upcoming trips to Salford.

Apparently I'm not the only one who had a hard time with the new MySpace music player. Aaron Benjamin and I have been emailing to and fro about his new song after I told him I couldn't access it on his MySpace page. I'm sure he'll sort it out soon enough, but meanwhile you can hear Break the Silence as the closing track on this week's podcast. Needless to say, this too makes it to the nominations list for the 2008 MMI Listeners' Picks.

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 follow each new episode through the MMI Podcast: Facebook Fan Page. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

So Far, So Good...So What!

I've compiled a list of alternative music from Maltese recording artists released so far in 2008. This is the third year that I'll be polling my blog readers and Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast listeners towards establishing the top favourite releases of 2008.

The number of new releases is as healthy as it was in 2006 and 2007. As ever, 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 via Facebook. 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, so please don't hesitate to contact me if you think I've missed out on your favourite 2008 release. I'll keep releasing a final list before the voting starts in late November.

Here's the list so far:

  • 8 Ugly - Sleeper
  • Aaron Benjamin - Break the Silence
  • Access To - Something About You
  • Ailas - Town
  • Airport Impression - Wake Up
  • Airstrip One - Into the Silence [EP]
  • Alistair Galea - Nowhere to Run
  • Amelia - Blind Girl's Whisper
  • Andre Camilleri & the Broken Hearts - Australian [album]
  • B. Lee - Until I Find My Way
  • Beangrowers - Not In a Million Lovers
  • Beige - Say Hey
  • Ben - In Memory of You
  • Bitterside - Underrated
  • Blind Saviour - The Master Plan
  • Brian James - Ectomorph
  • Brian Vassallo - Angelique Beute
  • Brikkuni - Kuntrabanda
  • Caligula - Infidelity
  • Carra - Gaia
  • Carrie Haber - They Turned Me To Plastic
  • Chasing Pandora - Two
  • Claudio Baglioni - L-Aħħar Bidwi f'Wied il-Għasel
  • Colourblind - Paper Planes
  • Cynic Pictures - Skizzo
  • Cypher - What Else Remains
  • Dayline - There's Another Place
  • Dean Saviour - Hallway of Kisses
  • Dominoes - Love Maze
  • Dying Signals - The Last Of A Dying Breed
  • Elyk Elymur - Dismantle & Destory
  • Errol Sammut - Affection
  • Eve Ransom - Just The Way I Am + Paradox
  • Explicit - Sunny Again
  • Ezzy - Puzzle People
  • Fakawi - Smart Song
  • Footprints - Red Line
  • Fr Karm Debattista mssp - Dance of Joy
  • Frank & Chris - The Toad Song
  • Fraser Gregory - Let It Rain
  • Freddie Portelli - Viva it-Tewmin
  • Grimaud - Aquaman + All About You
  • HeartBeat - Someway Someday
  • Hunters Palace - The London Sessions
  • Improbus Atrum - Bearing the Mark
  • Inner Grey - If Symptoms Persist
  • Ira Losco - Fortune Teller
  • Item - The God The Slave The Machine
  • Jay P - 1565 Patiently Waiting [album]
  • Jean Claude Vancell - Heartbreaker
  • Joe Mizzi - Falling Apart
  • jon lukas woodenman - My Time + Far Away
  • Kristina Casolani & Toby - Traces
  • Larski - Feast of Avalon
  • Lustre - Divine Fetish
  • Lyndsay Pace - What You're Made Of
  • Malcolm Pisani & Black on White - Promise
  • Manwel T. - Umtha Welanga Dub (feat. Mind's Eye Dub)
  • Martyrium - Awakening the Ancient
  • Metrokueen - Insanity
  • Milk Mi - Black Sheep
  • Mind's Eye Dub - I Wanna Love You
  • Mindstate - Come With Me
  • Miriam Christine - Alone Today
  • Missfire - Halfway Here [EP]
  • Muxu - Beat My Drum
  • Nicky Bomba - Jah in the Moment [EP]
  • Niki Gravino - Catwalk Baby
  • Niki Gravino - Pieces (Toby's remix)
  • Nomad Son - First Light
  • Norm Rejection - Malta Not For Sale
  • nosnow/noalps - Just Rock
  • Offset Collaborations - Sweet Lips
  • Pamela - Whispers
  • Particle Blue - Dubbien
  • Pete Molinari - Virtual Landslide
  • Prayer of the Dying - Ghastly Laments
  • Publik Waste - Nobody Listens
  • Quicksand - Hu Magħna Illum
  • Renee Cassar - Forgot to Breathe
  • Riot - Starting Block
  • Saħħar - Maġija Sewda
  • Salt - Jars of Clay
  • Sandro Zerafa 5tet - White Russian
  • Sharleen Spiter - Melody [album]
  • Shattered Pride - Beneath
  • Shawn Ryan - Insanity
  • Shilloo's Tree - Breakfast Serial + Fourteen
  • Silence Kills You - No Button To Rewind
  • Skambomambo - Made in Polska [album]
  • Sky of Yuggoth - Three Seals of Masshu
  • South Central - Golden Dawn
  • Spriggan Mist - Konditions of Change
  • StarBunker - Forecast
  • Stillborn - Angel
  • Stone Joker - Hero
  • Subculture - Revolt
  • SubEgo - Naming Trees
  • SunSatION - Not A Wonderful World
  • Sylvan Borg - Walk
  • Symphonik Choir - The Language of Music
  • Synthax & Chemicals - Next To Hell
  • Tendency Charge - Stages of Peripheral Diversity
  • The Areola Treat - The Areola Treat
  • The Does - Too Far
  • The Myth - Star + How Does It Feel
  • Thea Saliba - Musilicious
  • Toby - I'd Like To Know
  • Uncharted - Another Day + The Dream
  • Vagabond Project - Time of Your Life
  • Various Artists - Purely Pop Compilation
  • Victoria Spiteri - Every Time's the Last Time
  • Wax - Thoughts
  • Weeping Silence - End of An Era
  • Y4J - In the House

  • Saturday, September 20, 2008


    Having finished the chapter on performance I was writing for a book on Learning and Teaching in Second Life (to be published early next year by a Norwegian academic press) I am now able to apply myself to other things. This may be as close as I'm getting to a break before the new academic year. I plan to make the best of it and stay away from the sort of things that have kept me extra busy this past summer.

    One of the things I'm keen to see happening over the next few days is actual on-air use of a videoconferencing system I've been testing with David, Ruben and Lino from Where's Everybody? This is scheduled for an upcoming edition of Bondi+. I don't have full details about the show yet, but I can tell you that I should be appearing on air using Skype with iSight and the built-in mic on my MacBook Pro, which is being fed directly into the video mixer by the WE technical team via the S-Video output on a Windows-based laptop. I'm able to see and hear what's going on in the TV studio through a simple set-up that consists of a decent microphone and a Skype-friendly webcam aimed at a studio video monitor. Not a very sophisticated set-up by professional broadcasting standards, but it should do nicely as another pioneering moment in my media output in Malta. You'll be able to judge the output as soon as the thing goes on air (details to follow in another blog post) and/or on YouTube if/when I get clips from the transmission.

    Since it's the weekend it's also time for another edition of my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. The 132nd offering in the series is quite the rock show, featuring all new tracks from four diverse bands that share a passion for distorted guitars. First up is the new single from Stillborn. Following up with the first release since their last year's album Thy Feeble Soul, Angel showcases singer Diane Castillo's excellent voice very well. I hope the band continues to take their stuff to a mainstream audience the way they did last year at Rockbaze. Check them out at Rookies next Saturday night and see what you think.

    Subculture return with a new line-up and their fourth CD. Revolt is released tonight at the Remedy Rock Club in Paceville, with a gig that includes sets from two other Baħri+Ħamiemu bands: the indestructible Abstrass and the earthshaking RAS. Shattered Pride are also on the bill so it should prove to be quite a night. Subculture now includes teenage bassist Dani Dolt and singer Ramona (the Cat). Ramona is a welcome newcomer to the alternative scene. Listen closely to the track The Earth Dies Screaming and you'll hear much more than the type of voice you expect in any punk band. Although I haven't heard the new album yet, I have good reason to believe that there are other tracks on the CD where Ramona's voice can be appreciated to the full. I'm really looking forward to it. Ejja Ray!

    To make sure that fans of Ray il-Baħri know what he's up to (you know he's too cool or just plain old busy to update the status line on his Facebook account regularly) I thought I'd play a track by another band that now has him in its line-up. Publik Waste has been around for a couple of years with members coming and going but now they've released a new recording with the current line-up. The song is called Nobody Listens and provides a great doze of classic punk complete with off-key singing.

    Since this week's podcast has taken on a very rocky sound I thought it would be most fitting to close it with the black metal sound of Lustre. This is a new duo that has emerged from a collaboration between Martin Ciappara (know to MMI podcast listeners through his Prayer of the Dying project) and Sarrum from Turkey. Divine Fetish is as good a sample of their work as anything else you'll hear from Lustre...that's if extreme metal is your cup of tea.

    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 follow each new episode through the MMI Podcast: Facebook Fan Page. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here.

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    Saturday, September 13, 2008

    Trying To Pull Myself Away

    Things should be better by this time next week. Right now I'm just fighting against the clock to make a Monday deadline on submitting a chapter I'm writing about performance in Second Life for a book on learning and teaching in this virtual world. The book will be published by an academic press in Norway within the next few months. On top of this, life goes on and my "to do" list keeps getting longer and longer. Ironically, as the impeding start of the new academic year looms over the temporal horizon I long for it to all come into place because it helps me structure things better.

    The other thing that helps me structure things better is of course my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. In the midst of the final sprint to get my Second Life writing done on time, I can't but pause for a few hours to produce this week's MMI podcast. By taking time to do this I find that my brain works better when I get back to writing about avatars and the conceptual possibilities of virtual worlds.

    I'm very pleased with the new recordings from Dean Saviour. His Marshmallow Girl was picked to top the 2007 MMI podcast listeners' picks in the online releases category. He now returns with two new online releases. Hallway of Kites is the one I've picked to open the 131st edition of the MMI podcast. I'm sure Dean's music will receive a good number of votes again on this year's listerers' picks. More about that in a couple of weeks or so.

    I'm also thrilled to discover that Brikkuni are in the process of putting together an album and it looks like it'll be entitled Kuntrabanda. They've just released to unmastered tracks from it on their MySpace page. Brussel is one of them and it captures the unique sound of this band fronted by former Lumiere singer Mario Vella. The band now includes a prodigious line-up, which includes Danjeli on keyboards, his mate Michael Galea on drums, Daniel "il-Flambu" Cassar plays bass, and the other former Lumiere Matthew Cuschieri on guitar. Additional musicians include Ruth Abela on clarinet.

    Their earlier recording was too raw for comfort - I featured it on the 47th edition of the MMI podcast anyway - but it also encouraged me to include a track from a recent batch of recordings I discovered on Facebook by a defunct band called A Fuscia Sun Vessel. This trio was only together for about six months in 2006 and since then Robert Farrugia Flores has emerged as one of the foremost performers on the underground scene along with his new band Dominoes. They will be appearing at the Poxx Bar with Explicit next Friday the 19th of September.

    Since I've gone back in time a little bit for A Fuchsia Sun Vessel, I thought that this would be a most appropriate time to play a track from a CD I've been wanting to feature on my podcast for a long time. I finally acquired my own copy of Sigo's Perfect Existence from 2002. Sergio Gatt, the singer-songwriter who also goes by the name of his band, has withdrawn from performing original material since then but thankfully he still gigs regularly playing covers. This is a shame because as you can hear from Bliss, a duet with Marvic Lewis, there's much more than meets the eye to this performer who has been active for about 20 years now. I must dig out some of my old tapes one of these days and play you something from his days with a band called Big Foot, a time when survival on the local music scene was a much harder slog that it is now.

    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 follow each new episode through the MMI Podcast: Facebook Fan Page. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here.

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    Saturday, September 06, 2008

    Black Hole Sun

    Yesterday I got back from being on the road for almost a whole week. After a couple of days in Bournemouth for the inaugural Media Education Summit I spent three days in Leeds for the 4th Theatre and Performance Research Association annual conference. Such events are excellent opportunities for academic networking. Add to this several high quality presentations and you have yourself a great recipe for professional rejuvenation, just in time before the start of a new academic year.

    Now that I'm back in Scarborough I know I'm home because I can easily slip into the production of the 130th edition of my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. I cherish this weekly appointment with my listeners as I discover more new music from Malta.

    HeartBeat and Footprints are two Maltese christian rock bands who have just released debut singles. HeartBeat is quite new on the scene but Footprints have already appeared on a previous edition of the MMI podcast. I particularly like the vocal combination on HeartBeat's Someway Someday between Dorienne Cachia, Bernard Bonnici, and Allen Gatt. The southern town of Żejtun has been know for its singers for many decades. Footprints' Red Line is a promising debut release, which has also appeared on the recently released CD compilation Malta Rocks, sponsored by the Malta Tourism Authority.

    I haven't acquired a copy of the Malta Rocks CD but I do have a copy of another compilation CD released in Malta this year. Last week I played a track from Stagedive's Alternative Sounds From Malta Vol 1. This week I'm playing another track from it. It's pleasure to bring back to the MMI podcast the music and voice of Adolf Formosa. Does She Dream is the song by Adolf on the Stagedive CD and it is a great track to introduce this singer-songwriter to anyone who hasn't been lucky enough to hear him before.

    Although I've never really been a huge fan of dance music I appreciate good music regardless of genre. The Vagabond Project's Time of Your Life shares it's title with Green Day's anthemic Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)...but there's where the similarity ends. Gavin Borg has produced an excellent dance number which is also a strong pop tune. I've always known that Gavin's sister Coryse has a solid singing voice but this recording shows her vocal prowess in full force. Comparisons can be odious but for me this new release by The Vagabond Project feat. Cor is up there with the best of the recent stuff released by Madonna. In another time in another place it would achieve the same kind of acclaim. As far as I'm concerned, it certainly deserves it.

    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 follow each new episode through the MMI Podcast: Facebook Fan Page. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here.

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