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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Don't Let Me Down

When the world is running down, you make the best of what's still around. That's some of the best advice I've ever heard, and yet if what's still around is also going down the crapper then it's likely that being optimistic becomes a harder task. This is how I feel right now. I'm sure the negative global vibes aren't helping, but most of it is personal. Not too personal that I don't want to even mention it on my blog, but personal enough that I'll leave it at that before I get into further details.

It's almost a cliche for me to say now that when I find myself in times of trouble I know I can always depend on my podcast to lift up my spirits. Cliche or not, it's simply the truth. This week's edition is further buoyed by the airing of an interview I had on SBS radio in Australia. That sort of thing validates the longevity of the MMI podcasting series in ways that can only really be judged by time.

The 137th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast contains five more tracks to add to the list of nominations for the 2008 MMI Listeners' Picks, which will be open to a public vote via Facebook next month. The first song is one of a small number of tracks recorded recently by Scar, who are currently in the process of putting together a new album. They've release Cambodia as a radio single, but I picked Untenable to open my podcast.

A new band from Gozo called The Imagery are about to release their debut EP entitled Idiosyncratic. Produced by Keith Anthony (of Chasing Pandora fame), the EP will launch officially on Friday 7 November at Rookies in Buġibba; they're evening organizing special transport for their Gozo fans who want to attend. From this EP you can hear Margie Bloom as the second track on this week's podcast. I believe this new band will be very well received in Malta if they keep it up this way.

Red Electrick is another new band. They've already released a very radio friendly debut single called The End of It All. Essentially this is the band Drive with a new name. The sound is also more poppish but I'd have to see them live to really say how different from Drive this new b(r)and really is. I liked Drive's debut single last year very much and it was one of my personal favourites from 2007. Red Electrick sound good but almost too clean for my taste. Still, you could argues that it's better for a band to be too clean than too dirty.

This dichotomy is evident in the final two tracks I've picked for this week's podcast. The first comes from metal band Insurgence, who just supported the Belgian band Fungus Inc, appearing live at Remedy last Friday. They've just released some new tracks they recorded at their garage in Marsa on their MySpace page but I've chosen to play a song they recorded earlier called Shattered Integrity.

The closing track on this week's podcast comes from teenage punk throwbacks Organized Dizorder. I inferred that I'd be including their music at the end of last week's podcast, when I mentioned the upcoming label launch for Resist.Reform.Destory taking place at the Poxx Bar on Saturday 8 November. Following in the footsteps of other Maltese punk bands, most noticeably RAS and BNI, Organized Dizorder bring the visceral elements of their mother tongue into Anti-Social, which brings the 137th podcast to a crashing end.

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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Monday, October 20, 2008

Down Under

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I've been interviewed by Marlene Galea from SBS Radio in Australia about my interest in music and broadcasting. An edited version of the interview was aired this morning in Australia. I will be appearing on SBS Radio again soon in a special feature they're preparing on the Maltese music scene. More about that when it airs.

Click here to listen to the interview. It's in Maltese, but feel free to contact me if you'd like to chat about any of this in English. The topic is central to an academic research project I'm in the process of developing, based on my first-hand experiences in Maltese music and broadcasting since the 1980s. Although I speak at length about the past, I should point out that I'm not really nostalgic, particularly since I believe that the best is always still to come.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008


Just before I started writing this blog entry, Andrew Lloyd-Webber appeared on my screen announcing that he was writing next year's UK Eurovision Song Contest entry. This is not a wacky story that will go away, like Morrisey's bid from a couple of years ago. Lord Lloyd-Webber will be mounting a talent contest to find the right act or singer for the song he's taking to Moscow next May. Even if you detest the kitschiness of the Eurovision, there's no denying that this is a major moment in British pop culture history. If all goes according to plan, this will potentially bring the contest back to mainstream entertainment in Britain. After all, the whole thing is running under the banner "Your Country Needs You!"

For those who couldn't care less about this sort of drivel (as Alex Vella Gera once told me it was, right here on this blog) it's a good thing that this week's edition of my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast features music by largely unknown, new underground acts that will never ever rub shoulders with anything even resembling the Eurovision.

Simon Cutajar, who sings with the upcoming band Skatenati, contacted me a few days ago to draw my attention to the first two acts I've now included in this week's podcast. The first is psytrance duo Soul Kontakt, comprising of Colin Piscopo and Gilbert Cordina, who have just released an EP entitled Deliverance. From it I've selected Brain Telescope to open the 136th MMI podcast.

Tom Caruana is a UK-based musician who Simon and I are assuming (hopefully correctly) to be of Maltese descent. We'll see what he says now that I've included a couple of his tracks on this week's podcast. Beat King is a delightful acid jazz piece but because he too has just released an EP called Is it Free? I've also included a second offering from this artist. You can even hear his voice on Everything Costs and the whole EP is available as a free download via Tea Sea Records.

I'm very grateful to Simon for pointing me towards both Soul Kontakt and Tom Caruana. Both their EPs will be added to my list of nominations for the 2008 MMI Listeners' Picks. If you would like to recommend any music you think should be considered for my podcast please contact me.

It's always a pleasure to discover odd acts from Malta. DJ Lord Vampirick most certainly has a high sense of theatrical effect, even if he may not necessarily be considered a media manipulator. I received a MySpace 'friend' request from him recently and I was immediately intrigued both by some of the images he has chosen to represent him as well as the overall image he's deliberately (or otherwise) working on. After all he's only 17, so his output should be taken for what it really is: teenage experimentation. I am particularly fascinated by a track called Tryin To Be Hard, which stands head and shoulders above anything else I've heard from him. It is a high example for the theory of mimesis and alterity I'm planning to employ in my eventual study of the Maltese music scene, not withstanding the Eurovision Song Contest, of course.

To close this week's podcast I've picked a track from a new project that's about to be launched at the Poxx Bar in a couple of weeks. Hostile Hostage is among the first offerings of Revolt.Destroy.Reform, the new label about to be launched in November. White Police is a good example of the breakcore gabber style adapted by Hostile Hostage. I, for one, am very pleased to hear this style of music brought to the local scene, and I'm sure it will be well received by many old school techno lovers and anarcho-punks. More of this in another podcast soon.

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, October 11, 2008

Big Money

Two memories from my pre-adult life crept across my line of sight this week. While I'm certainly not the nostalgic type, I thoroughly enjoyed a brief exchange with a former teenage girlfriend on Facebook, even if the bottom line was just a realization that we only really knew each other before either one of had grown up. And news of a St Gregory's Church Children's Choir reunion took me back even earlier into my childhood. I was very pleased to see pictures of so many people I haven't seen in well over thirty years.

Both these instances made me aware of how radically my life has changed since my childhood and teenage years. This is probably true for many people, but it's not necessarily so for everyone. I also bring this up in light of the recent developments we're now all calling the current financial crisis. Back then I cared about money even less than I do now. Oddly, however, I find myself peripherally depressed by the economic downturn. Perhaps it's a blessing in disguise and this will lead more and more people to appreciate that there's much more to life and living than financial wealth and material possessions. Or at least I'd really like to think so.

It's with these thoughts dancing around in my head that I prepared this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. It's also not accidental that three of the tracks on this week's podcast come from countries outside Malta. The first features London-based Maltese singer-songwriter Richard Micallef. People in Malta may still remember Richard as part of The Mics. His solo material is quite good and I'm really looking forward to hearing more from him as the years reshape his musical taste beyond the obvious. This man may emerge to be one of the stronger figures of the Maltese music scene in the near future. Listen closely to Take a Minute, which also comes in an acoustic version on his MySpace page, and you'll probably see exactly what I mean.

Keeping it in the family, I thought it was about time I included something by Richard's brother Wayne. These guys are clearly indebted to their father for their musical genes. Anyone who cared about the Maltese music scene as far back as the early 1990s, probably remembers Joe George Micallef, who was among the longer-serving contenders on the local pop scene and hotel circuit. Wayne Micallef's Is Someone There owe's a lot to this legacy, even though it may not appear to do so at first glance.

All the music for rest of the 135th MMI podcast comes from Maltese musicians outside Malta. I've already had the great pleasure of including a couple of songs by the Maltese-Australian singer-songwriter David Agius. I received a message from David via Facebook a few days ago asking people to vote for him on a Sing with Stevie Wonder Competition. He'll certainly appreciate your vote. You can also hear one of his own songs, entitled When I Get Old, on this week's podcast. I'm really looking forward to hearing more from David. It's a pity there's nothing from him I can nominate for this year's MMI Listeners' Picks.

I was also pleased to hear from Ray Buttigieg recently, announcing that he has some new material on the way. Ray's messages tend to be cryptic, so I'm not sure what he's referring to exactly. I did find a new MySpace page dedicated to what he calls his Maltese Rarities. I've selected Imħabba Saltan Fuqi from this collection to bring this week's podcast to an appropriate close, until the next one.

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, October 04, 2008

Finding My Way

As expected, this past week has left me physically and mentally exhausted. My wife and I had hoped to celebrate our wedding anniversary by going to a nice restaurant on Friday evening but we were both simply too worn out to even think about making a reservation. We'll have to leave it for another day...probably Monday.

Meanwhile, the first week of the academic year went quite smoothly, even if it was jam packed with activities for both new and returning students. I particularly enjoyed lunch with the postgraduate students on Friday. What a civilized way to start a postgraduate degree! The fish & chips at the university canteen was even better than it has ever been in recent memory. It was surprisingly very non-salty and I guess that's what made it most appealing to me. The average fish & chips punter would probably find this dull or simply drown the meal in salt and vinegar.

To make me remember that a new academic year doesn't mean that everything else just goes away or changes, I made sure to relish the time I spend every weekend producing my Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. This week's edition adds four more tracks to the list of nominations toward the 2008 Listeners' Picks.

The first selection continues in the same vein I explored recently with Maltese rock bands fronted by female singers. Jeanelle and Uncharted provide an alternative sound that is quite refreshing on the local rock scene. You can hear their new song The Dream on my podcast and, if you're in Malta next weekend, you can catch them live at the Poxx Bar on October 11, along with Airport Impressions.

I normally avoid featuring the same act twice on my podcast within a short period of time. This is not a hard and fast rule, of course, but I gladly bring The Myth back to my podcast playlist as they have released a new single called How Does It Feel. This is a very welcome follow-up to Star as it shows that the band can do more than produce a song that sounds like an Oasis out-take. This new song is so much better that I've decided to replace Star with it on my list of nominations for the upcoming 2008 Listeners' Picks. I have a feeling that this band, which has been around for almost two decades, is still on a journey towards finding its own voice and when they do we may very well be hearing some remarkable new tracks from them.

I've also previously featured the Maltese-Australian singer-songwriter Renee Cassar on my podcast. She is on a very similar path to the one I just described for The Myth, even if she's come quite some way in a very short span of time. Although she has released several original songs through her MySpace page, apparently she still hasn't released an album yet. It would seem that she's aiming to rectify this by taking part in the MySpace Road Tour.

These new social networking sites have become such an essential element of the music that, like many other music fans around the world, I turn to them regularly to keep in touch with what's going on. This week through Facebook I discovered that Toby and Kristina Casolani have just written and recorded the theme song for the new Maltese TV series Traceland called Traces. It's good to have these two on the list of nominations for the 2008 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 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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