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Saturday, October 31, 2009

No Hassle Night

From time to time, when I sit down to blog about my podcast there's little else to say except what's in that particular week's edition and a few related bits and bobs. As you read on it'll become very apparent that this is one of those occasions.

There are a couple of interesting picks on this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast, which is the 186th in the series, now sponsored by Vodafone. All the tracks you can hear on this podcast will be added to the list of nominations for the 2009 Listeners' Picks poll we're planning to launch on Facebook in about 3 or 4 weeks time.

The last time I played something by Chasing Pandora on the MMI podcast, which was only a few weeks ago, I mentioned that they had just released a new single from their upcoming album. That single is called Running in Circles and it was issued as a CD that you could describe more as an EP than a single since the disc also contains three tracks from the duo's Mock the Mocking Bird album from 2007.

The delicate tones of Chasing Pandora are always welcome by MMI listeners. So I'm pretty sure that the second track on this week's podcast will also go down well with listeners. Keith Anthony, who makes up the half of Chasing Pandora that's not singer Mel Portelli, has been recording separately at his Noise Studio with Julian Calabrese. The first release is a music video entitled Coffee, Kisses and Cigarette. This duo has produced this debut release under the seemingly tentative name of Anthony & Calabrese.

Regular MMI podcast listeners will know that one of the things I enjoy most about this show is discovering new material by new acts. The remaining tracks on this week's podcast fall precisely in that category. The first comes from Andrew Ward. I discovered his music by accident. Cinematic is probably a good way to describe it as it conjures up some amazing images. Godess seems to have some Bulgarian elements in it, even if Ward is firmly based in Santa Venera. Quite an unusual offering from Malta but one I believe will be most welcome by anyone who appreciates beautiful sounds.

If you wanted to get as far away as possible from the sounds of Andrew Ward, one place you'd run to would be the hip-hop scene. There seems to be a sense of critical mass in this genre in Malta this year. Gilbert Camilleri a.k.a. GetFunky has produced his third music video on YouTube. This one has a fairly strong Maltese lyric that clearly comes from hurt caused by a female companion referred to simply as Qaħba. While potentially controversial, this song lacks the misogynistic tendencies associated with some American aspects of this genre. Considering resources available the video is quite well made, or rather it fits the song perfectly. I have a higher appreciation for this production as a whole rather than a stand alone sound recording, particularly because the video soundtrack is somewhat over-modulated. Nevertheless, GetFunky is undoubtedly, as they say, pushing the envelope.

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, October 24, 2009

Once More

From time to time I feel I've reached a state of calm. This is a good thing. It means that the excitement and energy driving me to do something or other has subsided, but it also means that there's something else coming up just around the corner. Unfortunately my periods of calm rarely last more than a couple of weeks. If you don't believe me just browse through my blog.

One way to gauge these how calm these calm periods really are is through my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. This regular appointment I've made with Maltese music for each weekend really serves for much more than is clearly evident to any listener. Right now the series is settling into the fact that it is sponsored by Vodafone and gearing up for the 2009 MMI Listeners' Picks poll on Facebook. I equate a time like this to being between waves, but it doesn't feel like the analogy is quite right.

Cover versions are rare on the MMI podcast. The occasional exception makes it to the show simply because it's a stand-out case. And so it is for 8 Ugly's version of Lady Let It Lie by Fish. Apparently, clearing the mechanical rights for this song to appear on 8 Ugly's long anticipated Sleeper album has delayed the release of that CD. If every other Maltese act was so scrupulous about these things I honestly believe that even fewer covers would be recorded. 8 Ugly give the song their own twist, which actually makes it sound as if it was one of their songs rather than a minor hit by the ex-Marillion singer who has visited Malta more than once.

Beige is one of those bands that appeared in the last couple of years that I wish we'd hear more of and more often. A few weeks ago they released a single entitled Feels Good, which makes me want even more from this band. Claire Galea (I think I got her name right this time!) has an unusual voice for a Maltese pop rock singer. It pleasant without being obvious and compliments the slick guitar work by Eric Santucci quite beautifully. It feels good indeed.

The local metal scene has good reason to rejoice today. Twenty-Six Other-Worlds are officially launching their CD album Manipulated with a live gig. Metal fans are very loyal to the bands they like. Most fans like more than one band, of course, so I believe that this release will attract many new followers for this band. Not only can you purchase the CD through the band's website but you can also buy the album from iTunes if you prefer a download rather than a shiny plastic disc. The track they've released as a radio edit from Manipulated is called When Beauty Danced.

All three songs I've already mentioned for this week's podcast will join the rest on my list of nominations for the 2009 MMI Listeners' Picks poll. I'm still collecting names for that list, so I was very pleased when Alex Vella Gera contacted me to point out that Hunters Palace released a live album of a show they gave at Chiaroscuro in Valletta on the 30 December 2008. The album was released as a limited online download only under the name 30/12/08. The band have been gigging and recording in London this month, so I'm sure we'll be hearing more from them again soon enough. Until then I've picked After The Dream to bring this week's podcast to a calm close.

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, October 17, 2009

Waterloo Sunset

Last Tuesday evening I was walking across Waterloo Bridge from London's theatre district heading towards the National Theatre on the South Bank to hear a spot of live jazz and take in an exhibition of Maurizio Buscarino's photos from Grotowski's Apocalypsis Cum Figuris. Suddenly I realized that if I turned to look back on the Westminster skyline what I was really experiencing was a Waterloo sunset. It was a magical moment.

I had just returned from a quick weekend visit to Malta. Aside from a couple of personal and professional engagements, the rest of my time there was filled with all sorts of live music. This week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast captures some of these musical moments, which included an unusual CD single launch in Valletta, a punky gig in Paceville, and an evening at CampusFest in the University of Malta's Vassalli Quadrangle. There was plenty more to see and hear but the laws of physics always get in the way on such occasions.

The music of Bletchley Park was originally featured on the MMI series last August after they had just won Rookie's 2009 Battle of Bands. They've now released their debut single entitled Alien so I thought it was appropriate to set things off with it on this week's podcast. I had a brief chat with guitarist Mario Saliba after the gig and then bumped into him again the next evening at Castille Place just before I watched Mark Dingli's Kont Diġa. I think I should play a track from its soundtrack on a future edition of the MMI podcast.

Just hours after arriving in Malta last Friday I found myself getting on an open top double decker bus to be taken to the Valletta Waterfront for the launch of the new CD single by Kristina Casolani.L to R: Jes Psaila, Renzo Spiteri, Toni Sant, Kristina Casolani The whole idea was quite well organized, especially the welcoming environment at Fratelli's where the launch actually took place. The coup was a live acoustic set of about half a dozen songs from Kristina's repertoire played by guitarist Jes Psaila and percussionist Renzo Spiteri (pictured here on during the bus tour). These arrangements clearly bring out the fact that Kristina is no ordinary R&B wannabe and her songs contain much more than well-crafted computer sequences. It was a very welcome surprise to hear such a heartfelt set from a performer who is better known for glitz and glamour.

Later that same evening I found myself at Remedy's in Paceville for Dripht's reunion gig. Dolls for Idols warmed up the crowd, perhaps a little more than Nick Morales expected. So much so, that this can be called the most troublesome show he ever gave because between a broken string, copious amounts of beer thrown towards the musicians, and clumsy stomping by die hard fans on the front row onto the small stage his guitar and pedals were damaged. Nevertheless, Dripht haven't lost the edge that made them so well-loved by the alternative scene in the first place. To mark their reformation (is that the right term?) they've reissued a track from their Global Warning CD entitled Ecoloclast. They have plenty of songs that are better than this but it's good to pay some attention to one of their lesser hyped tracks. I'm hoping they'll be writing and recording some new tracks next year.

Among many musicians at the Dripht gig (most of Xtruppaw, Ray il-Baħri, Patrick Galea, Adolf Formosa, Leo Stivala, and name a few) I met Antoine Vella who immediately told me that his former Particle Blue partner Claire Tonna has recorded a new song, which she has released as a confessional video on her Facebook page. I later found out that she was giving a very low-key gig in San Gwann that same night. Kicking myself hard is one of the things I remember doing when I found out about this. For the Princess Called Sea is one of the most beautiful songs I've heard this year. Claire has evidently found a new voice for herself and we can only hope that she will be recording more songs like this in the coming months. Along with all the tracks on this week's podcast, this song will be nominated in the 2009 MMI Listeners' Picks poll, which will open for voting in about six weeks time.

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. This podcast is brought to you by Vodafone.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Unnatural Selection

I'm in Malta this week. It's a quick visit for personal and professional reasons. It's all good stuff, even if I don't particularly like traveling long distances for short visits. This is exactly how I feel whenever I go to academic conferences or other professional engagements. Then again, it's a way to get out of my head, ward off severe bouts of cabin fever and meet all sorts of delightful people.

I also can't believe how hot and muggy the weather is over here right now. I don't ever remember October being like this. It's a great difference from what I've become accustomed to in the UK at this time of the year.

Yesterday I attend a couple a great gigs. The first was an amazing acoustic set by Kristina Casolani with guitarist Jes Psaila and percussionist Renzo Spiteri at Fratelli's on the Valletta Waterfront. The other was at Remedy's in Paceville, where the long awaited reunion of Dripht almost literally brought the house down - my ears are still humming more than 12 hours later. I'll be featuring both these acts on my Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast next week along with some of the other stuff I'm hoping to sample while I'm here this weekend.

Brought to you by Vodafone, the 183rd MMI podcast packs an interesting mix of styles and genres. Opening up with Thea Saliba's Lost in Space, which is exactly the sort of delightful electonic pop ditty you expect from this young singer. If nothing else, it sets the mood perfectly for Tenishia's remix of Winter Moods's 2006/07 hit Marigold. Whenever songs switch genres this way their worth is tested to the limits, and this particular favourite from Winter Moods passes the test with flying colours.

Beyond Infinity is a song from a new band called For Strings Inn, who are about to release a debut EP entitled With Strings Attached. From the samples I've heard from it on their MySpace page I get the feeling that each of the 4 tracks on this upcoming CD represent the individual musical taste of each of the band members, including Mark Zizza on bass and drummer Ryan Abela who are quite well-known on the local alternative music scene for their various escapades with groups playing quite varied styles.

Following up their debut album In The House with one called Tear It Down, Y4J Band continue to satify their many fans, particularly those gathered around them in Pembroke's charismatic movement. Tear It Down continues where the debut release left off but shows a degree of maturity, particularly in the vocal arrangements. The title track, which I've chosen to play as the closing song on this week's podcast, is clear testament to this.

All the songs on this week's podcast will be entered on my list of nominations for the 2009 MMI Listener's Picks poll, which will open for votes via Facebook towards the end of November.

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, October 03, 2009

Call Me

As we approach the end of the fourth year of weekly podcasts in my Mużika Mod Ieħor series, the show is now sponsored by Vodafone. I'm grateful that we now have the required support to not only continue promoting music from Malta but also a new push towards the possibility of develop things even further in the coming months and years.

I've just embarked on a year-long academic sabbatical to focus or research and professional development. The Franklin Furnace book remains the first item on my research agenda, of course, but I'm also looking forward to embarking on my next research projects. These fall into two general topics: artistic practice in virtual worlds and Maltese popular culture. The first ties in directly with my work on Franklin Furnace but it goes beyond it in a number of ways; more about that in the coming weeks/months. The other research area has me working on building critical longevity from my weekly MMI podcast into collaboratively gathering and disseminating documentation of cultural practice from the Maltese islands. I've been alluding to this for some time now, but by the end of my research leave period I'm hoping to have taken this idea into a solidly practical phase, which should become the center of gravity for much of my day-to-day work.

That's the plan. Getting there requires a generous amount of elbow grease, which obviously includes more of the MMI podcasting series. The 182nd edition contains four new tracks that will find themselves among the list of nominations for the 2009 MMI Listeners' Picks poll, which will be launched on Facebook towards the end of November. The first of these tracks is the new single from Eve Ransom. Technically speaking, Evergreen is being premiered on my podcast ahead of the radio release in a few days time.

Up next is the first single from Chasing Pandora's album, planned for release in 2010. Time shows that this duo will continue to amass an impressive repertoire of original songs. It is through those songs that they continue to delight new fans, not only in the Maltese islands but also in various intimate venues around London. They will be appearing there in the coming days: Monday (5 Oct) at The Bedford on Balham, Tuesday at the 12 Bar in Soho, Thursday at The Water Rats at Kings Cross, and on Friday they will be upstairs at The Garage in Islington.

I'm always on the prowl for new acts to include on my weekly podcast. The music website that appeared from Malta earlier this year at is a welcome addition to the local scene. It's through this site that I discovered Jerico Sincrest's Rain. Apparently it comes from an album called The Dark Flows but the website offers very sketchy details and Jerico's MySpace page isn't bursting with information either.

An album that should be coming out before the end of this year is Scar's second CD, entitled Breaking Radio Silence. Ahead of this release, Scar have issued a single called Mind the Gap. This song has been receiving considerable radio airplay in Malta and it will undoubtedly serve the band well to raise expectations for their second album. I, for one, am looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of the CD as soon as it becomes available to the public, if not before.

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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