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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Haven’t Met You Yet

I seem to be involved in more new web development projects than I actually have time for right now. Thankfully, some of the people I'm collaborating with know what they're doing, so I have good reasons to believe that it'll all start coming together very soon. This is not to say that I'm not (always!) looking for new collaborators. Quite the opposite, actually.

One of these web development projects involves the Mużika Mod Ieħor poll Facebook app developed by James Attard in 2007. We're now looking to migrate the app to a more permanent server, update it to take advantage of the recent changes in the Facebook API, and look at ways to make it an overall better experience for the Facebook users who choose to install it. If you're interested in getting involved on this app with us just contact me.

Meanwhile I've just released the preliminary list of nominations for the 2009 MMI Listeners' Picks poll. I'll be considering further releases until the last week of November. Please let me know if there's anything you think should be on that list but isn't there.

The 181st Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast sees newcomers Droned return to the playlist with a song called Love To Let. This young band sounds very tight and to my ears they have an incredible asset in the voice of singer Tommy Vassallo. Even if this band morphs into something else in the coming months - and I hope not! - Tommy will hopefully be around performing as a singer for many years to come.

A few days ago I received a copy of the second CD album released by guitarist Demis. The follow-up to 2007's Ethereal Travel is called Senspiration: From The Senses to The Soul. I've already nominated it in the Top Album category for the 2009 MMI Listener's Picks' poll. This new album is packed with more of the guitar pyrotechnics found on Demis' debut album. Among the flood of semiquavers and demisemiquavers I was delighted to find a song called Alien, featuring guest singer Carrie Haber. That's the track I've selected to include on this week's podcast. I'm now also looking forward to hearing Six.Point.Circle, the band that Demis is now playing with aside from his guitar solo project.

Listening to Marlene Galea's excellent interview with No Bling Show's Jon Mallia last week I realized that a small, but very significant, number of Maltese musicians are bringing the language issue to the fore after years decades festering beneath the surface. In what appears like an effort to democratize their playlist Bay Radio has unleashed an online music repository called Bay Bands. It is through this new online service that I discovered an outstanding song called Jien M'Jien Xej by a duo called M.A.M. Guitarist Miguel Vassallo is heard distinctively on this track, but unfortunately I know very little about M.A.M. because the Bay Bands service doesn't seem to be doing much more than offering musicians (and anyone else) the opportunity to upload material they'd like to hear on the radio but probably never will.

In the fifteen year that they've been around, Rage Against Society have never cared about such things, even if they've regaled us with one of the best loved Maltese punk songs outside the Xtruppaw canon, notoriously championed by the author Ġuzé Stagno. R.A.S. have now released a CD album called 15 Years of Kaos, containing some of the best English-language songs. Punk Is Not A Fashion sounds like a Motorhead tribute but packs a great punch in its lyrics. Given Ray il-Baħri's involvement in various other bands, I'm glad to see that R.A.S. are also gigging quite regularly. They're appearing at Rookies tonight and at Remedy on the 24th of October.

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 or on MySpace. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here or listen to the podcast on the player right below this text.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

So Far, So Good...So What!

I've compiled a list of alternative music from Maltese recording artists released so far in 2009. This is the fourth year that I'll be polling my blog readers and Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast listeners towards establishing the top favourite releases of the year.

The number of new releases is already slightly larger than it has been in any year since 2006, even if, 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 2009 release. I'm also aware that there are some more releases still to come over the next few weeks. I'll be releasing a final list before the voting starts in late November.

Here's the list so far, with respective categories in square brackets:

  • 8 Ugly - Goodbye [ Single ]
  • Aaron Benjamin - On My Mind [ Single ]
  • Abysmal Torment - Omnicide [ Album ]
  • Airport Impressions - Seeing With Eyes Closed [ EP ]
  • Airstrip One - The Ghost [ Overseas ]
  • Andrew Zammit - When All Is Gone [ Online ]
  • anti- - Tufts [ Album ]
  • Antonio Olivari - Dark Ages [ Album ]
  • Billy Lee - Don't Give Your Heart Away [ Online ]
  • Black Aura - Heavy Breathing [ Video ]
  • Bletchley Park - Fake Smiles [ Online ]
  • Brian Vassallo - In the End [ Video ]
  • Cable 35 - Hygene [ EP ]
  • Cable 35 - Mary [ Video ]
  • Carra - album? [ Overseas ]
  • Carrie Haber - It's Complex [ EP ]
  • Chiara - What If We [ Single ]
  • Chris Enriquez - Closest Thing To Love (Because of You) [ Single ]
  • Christabelle - Flame [ Single ]
  • Claudia Faniello - Wild Flower [ Video ]
  • Clement - 909 Invasion [ Online ]
  • Colourblind - Spectre [ Album ]
  • Corrupted Minds - Why Be Normal [ Online ]
  • Cygna - Kuintaar [ Online ]
  • Daniel Cassar - Around the Day in 80 Worlds [ Online ]
  • Danjeli - Kolla [ Online ]
  • Denny Falzon - This Dance is Forever [ Overseas ]
  • Demis - Senspiration [ Album ]
  • Dolls for Idols - Through the City at Night [ Online ]
  • Doubt - Floating Free [ Online ]
  • Droned - Sky Mines [ Single ]
  • Effetti Kollaterali - 33 RPM [ Online ]
  • Elyk Elymur - Dismantle and Destory [ Album ]
  • Ethnamorte - Shades of Beauty & Madness / Belt is-Seħer [ Overseas]
  • Eve Ransom - Soundtrack To A Smile [ Single ]
  • Explicit - Shame [ Single ]
  • Fire - Thrill Me [ Album ]
  • Forsaken - After the Fall [ Album ]
  • Fraser Gregory - A Garden At The Top Of The Tree [ Overseas ]
  • Freddie Portelli - Tonight [ Single ]
  • Hadrian Mansueto - Catch You [ Video ]
  • Ira Losco - Mixed Beats (The Remix Album) [ Album ]
  • Item - Give Up The Ghost [ Online ]
  • Jean Claude Vancell - Ain't Good Enough [ Single ]
  • Joe Mizzi - Age of Decay [ Overseas ]
  • Jon Lukas Woodenman - Better Man [ Overseas ]
  • Julie Ann Zahra - No One in Heaven [ Single ]
  • Kartridge - Wild Crazy Nights [ Single ]
  • Knockturn Alley - Medusa [ Album ]
  • Krafteknique - Thousand Needles [ Online ]
  • Lappalie - Sydneymoon [ Overseas ]
  • Laura Zarb Cousin - You Bruise Me [ Single ]
  • l urk - didj [ Online ]
  • Lyndsay Pace - Addicted [ Single ]
  • Macropode - Convergence [ Online ]
  • Manwel T - Virtual Dub [ Album ]
  • Manwel T Meets Mind's Eye Dub - At the Temple of Dub [ Album ]
  • Marilyn Mifsud - Where My Head's Been [ Single ]
  • Mark Axiaq - Sleeplessness [ Overseas ]
  • MC Frans - Funky Frans [ Video ]
  • Melchior Sultana - Recognize the Real [ Album ]
  • Milk Mi - Disappear [ Single ]
  • Miriam Christine - Alone Today [ Video ]
  • Muxu - Drop It (Say No No No) [ Single ]
  • Muxu - Gone [ Video ]
  • No Bling Show - Stejjer Mill-Bandli (tal-Mosta) [ Album ]
  • No Bling Show - Lucija u Samwel [ Video ]
  • NV - Envy [ Album ]
  • NV - Reason for Denying [ Single ]
  • Oliver Degabriele's Trio - Asteroid 612 [ Online ]
  • Original Cast Recording - Porn: The Musical [ Album ]
  • Pamela - Whispers [ Album ]
  • Paul Giordimaina - A Letter to Bernie [ Album ]
  • Pete Molinari - "Today, Tomorrow & Forever" [ Overseas ]
  • Plato's Dream Machine - Journey Man [ Single ]
  • ReBorn - Chew My Plasticine [ Online ]
  • Red Electrick - Black 8 / 10 Years Too Late [ Single ]
  • Relikc - Tomorrow [ Online ]
  • Renee Cassar - Live and Learn [ Overseas ]
  • Renee Cassar - Dreary Day [ Video ]
  • Retrophytes - Retrophytes [ EP ]
  • Richard Edward - Basking in Baghdad [ Single ]
  • Salt - Star [ Single ]
  • Sasha and Sam - Lullaby for Two / Nina [ Online ]
  • She2s - Bubblegum [ Video ]
  • Simon Vella - Unspoken: Sounds from Within [ Album ]
  • Skimmed - Your Head Is Too Big For Your Crown [ EP ]
  • Skullcakes - Dive [ EP ]
  • Sonitus - Asphixetamol [ Online ]
  • Stefanos - Little Thoughts / Zero Plus [ Online ]
  • Stimulus Timbre - Flowing in Your Mind [ Online ]
  • SunSatION - Disappear [ Online ]
  • Soundscape Foundation - Savannah [ Online ]
  • Sylvan Borg - Mouse by Day (Hero by Night) [ Single ]
  • Synthact - Aer [ EP ]
  • The Does - My Better Side [ Single ]
  • The Myth - Dream [ Single ]
  • The Myth - Animal [ Video ]
  • The Rifffs - Moonstomp [ Album ]
  • The Rifffs - Champagne Charlie's Ghost [ Single ]
  • Thea Saliba - On the Dancefloor [ Single ]
  • "Thomas Hedley," - In Ecstacy [ Single ]
  • Thy Legion - Sadism Through Holy Intervention [ Online ]
  • TokinToker - Elevator to the Moon [ Online ]
  • Tom Caruana - Rebel Withou Applause [ Overseas ]
  • Totema - Till I Die [ Online ]
  • Tribali - The Elephants of Lanka [ Album ]
  • Twenty-Six Other-Worlds - Incubus [ Online ]
  • U-Bahn - Beautiful Girl [ Single ]
  • Uncharted - Blame Me [ Single ]
  • Various Artists - Malta Eurosong 2009 [ Album ]
  • Various Artists - Malta Hit Song Contest 2009 [ Album ]
  • Various Artists - Tumult and Squak [ Album ]
  • Victims of Creation - Chapter 22 [ Online ]
  • Victor Chetcuti - Together Free [ Overseas ]
  • Victoria Osbourne - Filling Days [ Online ]
  • Wayne Micallef - Open Road [ Single ]
  • X-Vandals - Breach the Silence [ Album ]

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    Saturday, September 19, 2009

    Only When You Leave

    Earlier this month it seemed as if the grim reaper was working overtime, particularly on Maltese fifty-somethings. The prelude came with the passing of the gentle mannered Dennis Vella: a great loss for the contemporary Maltese art scene. Most recently, after at least two other Maltese men in their fifties, it was my old friend Remo Mifsud who died. He was only 51 and a very active doer of many good deeds; truly too many to mention here. His name had graced the pages of this blog at least one other time, when he informed me that our mutual friend Maggie Borg had succumbed to cancer back in 2004. Aside from these four men, I'm sure there were several others I never knew, but who were loved and cherished by those around them.

    Regular readers of this blog know that death is one of the themes I return to quite frequently. It is not a morbid obsession but rather a reminder of our mortality that drives these posts. I'm also almost constantly surrounded by obituaries and death anniversaries because of work I do in relation to's Today in Maltese History.

    It easy to find solace in the living. Life is for living, and death is simply an essential part of life. Without making light of the grief that comes with death, I plenty of the vital energy and elan that's farthest away from death in my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. John Peel was so right to champion teenage kicks; teenage dreams are indeed so hard to beat.

    The opening song on the 180th MMI podcast comes from Wayne Micallef. This summer he has enjoyed considerable radio airplay in Malta with his single Open Road. Although I've already featured Wayne on a previous edition of my podcast just a few months ago, it suddenly dawned on me that I had not played this particular song. So here it is. I'm sure it will be quite well supported in the upcoming 2009 MMI Listeners' Picks poll, nominations for which will be appearing very soon.

    I also played music the band Skimmed just a few weeks ago. Their single Can't Stop has been receiving widespread airplay in Malta ahead of the release of their debut EP Your Head Is Too Big For Your Head. The CD will be launched officially on Friday 25th September 2009 at Lo Squero in Floriana; and if that's not enough to encourage you to drag yourself there, perhaps I should also mention that the support act is none other than the fabulous Brikkuni. The song I've selected to play today from this new 8 track EP is aptly called Victory Kitchen.

    U-Bahn are undoubtedly among the few Maltese electronica acts that have been active longest. However, apparently they're also one of the least willing to release full tracks for free listening on the web; to my knowledge they don't even have a MySpace page. It has also taken me a while to bring you their most recent hit, Beautiful Girl. It's well worth the wait and I'm sure that die-hard fans are more than willing to part with their hard-earned euros to add this track to their MP3 player shuffle playlist.

    Moving on swiftly to the other end of the electronica spectrum, I recently came across the work of Stimulus Timbre, which is the name under which Keith Farrugia records his music. Flowing in Your Mind is an apt way to end this week's podcast. I'll should be back on the blog sooner than the next podcast to reveal this year's initial list of nominations of the 2009 MMI Listeners' Picks poll.

    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 or on MySpace. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here or listen to the podcast on the player right below this text.

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    Saturday, September 12, 2009

    Come So Far Yet Still So Far To Go

    For once in my life I feel surrounded by more positives than negatives, more knowns than unknowns, more good than bad, and more effective action than hot air. This is what change feels like. Much of it is personal, so I don't expect everyone (or even anyone!) to feel the same way as I do. If there's one thing that's around right now that I can pick to demonstrate the strong shift I'm trying to capture in words it's a music video by No Bling Show.

    In countries where the music industry is a recognizable contributor to the national GDP this sort of work has become ordinary, almost to the point of complacency. For Malta and Maltese artists, however, this type of work is a cut above everything else that came before. Aside from any artistic merit the work itself has, the very fact that this video has been produced to the level demonstrated here is an admirable achievement in itself.

    Beyond everything else, No Bling Show have beautifully managed to find a way to capture the impact of cultural imperialism on Maltese quotidian culture. Just for this, I wholeheartedly call their work simply brilliant.

    If I ever needed a boost of encouragement to continue producing my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast, this is it. I firmly believe that within a generation or so Maltese popular music will be predominantly less mimetic than it has been in the last fifty odd years. This may not seem as obvious to most people as appears to be for me and some regular listeners of the MMI podcast. I could be wrong about the future, but I want to believe that I'm right...and see no harm in that.

    The 179th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast may not allude to the future I've just outlined, but it certainly captures the way things stand at this point in time. The opening song comes from a new CD album released by Colourblind called Spectre. I've already featured the title track and another called Miles on previous editions of the MMI podcast, so for today I've picked one called Masquerade.

    Whenever any Maltese act releases a CD I'm reminded how far we've come. I'm also made to realize we still have a far road ahead. Things are getting better all the time and we truly have reason to believe they will keep getting better. Importantly, as I see it, we've finally (inevitably?) passed the tipping point, so there's no going back now.

    Bring back a performer whose work I'd featured in an earlier edition of the MMI podcast is something I seek to do regularly. There are some acts for whom this is not easy. Tears of Revenge immediately come to mind in this category. Way back in the 6th MMI podcast, I played the music of Black Aura, the name under which Alfred Farrugia produces his electronic music. A few days ago, new music by Black Aura came to my attention through a couple of arty video clips produced by visual artist Brian Grech. Heavy Breathing is the track I've selected to include on my podcast, but you can hear several tracks from Black Aura on his official website as well as watch the videos on You Tube.

    Maltese performers have been trying to make a name (and/or a career) for themselves oversees for decades. Carrie Haber is among the most recent names on this long list. She has managed to do something that very few, if any, have done before. For a limited time, Carrie has released a live recording of one of her songs recorded live at a London venue, where she's performed a number of times in recent months. The song is called I Need A Distraction, and I'm really looking forward to hearing more songs recorded live in London (or elsewhere) by Carrie, since she has promised to release a new one about once a month. Follow her on Facebook or MySpace if you'd like to be kept up-to-date on new releases in this vein.

    Regular listeners of the MMI podcast know that I frequently include material from musicians who have Maltese blood running through their veins, even if they're not legally Maltese. Pete Molinari is one such artist; he qualifies through his mother's Maltese parentage. Earlier this year he recorded a new EP entitled Today, Tomorrow & Forever at the Playground Sound Studios in Nashville, Tenessee. While Maltese country singer Marty Rivers recorded in Nashville years before Molinari, the latter has done something others probably only dream of. This EP, released on 24 August 2009, features the legendary Jordanaires, best known as Elvis Presley's backing singers. You can hear the title track, one of Patsy Cline's classics, as the penultimate selection on this week's MMI podcast.

    To remind us that taking good fun seriously is a worthy quest, Xtruppaw have returned with a live concert at the Buskett Roadhouse tonight. BNI and DJ Fre will be providing further entertainment before and after the band hits the stage. Xtruppaw have been working on their second album for some time and people who attend any of their (rare) live gigs these days will undoubtedly be treated to early versions of some of the new songs. If we're lucky 2010 will see the release of Xtruppaw's second album, but first they have to find the time to record it, of course. Ironically, the more live gigs they give, the less time they have to record their new album. Catch Xtuppaw's Nenannana as the closing pick on this week's podcast. I'm playing this today with a special dedication to my dear friend Immanuel Mifsud who celebrates his birthday today.

    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 or on MySpace. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here or listen to the podcast on the player right below this text.

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    Saturday, September 05, 2009

    Here It Comes Again

    This time of the year is the part I prefer above all others. I like it far better than Christmas, Easter or even the start of summer. From American marketers (of all people!) I've learned to call it 'back to school' time. Since I moved to the UK it has also been time when I mark the turning years I've spent working and living here.

    Since 2005, immediately after what in the States we'd call Labor Day weekend, I've also always looked forward to the Theatre & Performance Research Association conference. It's one that I've come to appreciate above all other academic gatherings, mostly because of when it happens, rather than where it takes place or what goes on during the conference itself.

    Like many others, I'm a creature of habit. I'm not too keen on routine but I love my rituals. The end of summer ritual is quite special for me. Preparing for the new academic year feels like an intellectual springtime. This year I'm particularly blessed with time off teaching to focus on finishing my Franklin Furnace book. I'm sure I'll be blogging more about that in the coming weeks, so I'll leave it at that for now.

    Soon enough, I'll also be gathering the nominations for this year's Mużika Mod Ieħor Listeners' Picks poll. Meanwhile, new releases keep coming thick and fast. Last month I received no fewer than seven CD albums, which is quite a large number when you consider that this distribution format is supposedly dancing to the sound of its death knell.

    It give me great pleasure to introduce the 178th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast with music from Joe Mizzi's new album. It's entitled Age of Decay and features 12 excellent tracks. Regular listeners of my podcast will have already heard two pre-release tracks from this album, but not that the album is out you can hear Like the Wind as the opening song.

    On the 2nd of July, Eve Ransom released their single Soundtrack to a Smile. It has been receiving considerable radio airplay in Malta, even topping the current local chart on Bay Radio for two consecutive week. It great to seem Maltese bands being given due attention by mainstream media. At the same time I'm always saddened at how selective most radio stations tend to be when it comes to the range of musical genres they're willing to include on their play-lists. As I see it, this only makes for a homogenized sound where originality is rare. Having said this, I hasten to add that it's really good for bands like Eve Ransom, who deserve all the attention they can get.

    Last year's top MMI listeners' pick in the overseas-based category came down to Airstrip One, a British band fronted by Andy Hill, who is half Maltese. Andy is visiting Malta right now so it's most appropriate to play the new track from Airstrip One. It's called The Ghost and I'm sure it'll be nominated in the 2009 MMI Listeners' Picks poll.

    I'm always thrilled to hear from Maltese musicians via MySpace, Facebook or any other way people can make contact with me. I am particularly pleased when I receive messages from people I've never met or ones I haven't heard from in yonks. Franky Camillieri falls in the latter category. Back in the early 80s, Franky was a prominent presence on the Tigne rock circuit. He is mostly remember for played keyboard with Fluid, a jazz-rock fusion band the likes of Malta had never seen before or since. Franky left Malta for the UK many years ago and has now returned with recordings featuring Tarcsio Barbara and Rebecca. He never really stopped gigging and TokinToker is his current project, which will continue with other collaborators once he returns back to England. Elevator to the Sun is an excellent rough demo of the sort of music we'll be getting from TokinToker in the coming months. I'm sure I'll play another track from Franky on another edition of the MMI podcast in the coming months.

    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 or on MySpace. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here or listen to the podcast on the player right below this text.

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