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Saturday, March 13, 2010

This Charming Life

These last couple of weeks I spent a substantial number of nights away from my cozy bed. It's great to sample various hotel chains and get a large city buzz from time to time but I certainly wouldn't enjoy living the rat race again full time. I enjoyed meeting people and going places in Malta, Glasgow and London, but now it's back to reality on the holodeck until the next adventure.

Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast 203 comes up right away among the things that help give my life some structure and what you could call a routine of some sort. This week's edition is packed with tracks that have accumulated in my inbox in recent weeks, starting off with the new song by Dolls for Idols. Dance the Dance is very catchy and comes with a cool music video too. This is undoubtedly one of Malta's foremost pop rock bands right now.

Areola Treat have released a couple of tracks from their upcoming second album, featuring their new bassist Steve Shaw, who replaced Matthew Cuschieri a few months ago. 100 Silhouettes is also getting some airplay in Malta right now and I'd expect the other track (Second Coming) to get similar treatment once the new album Pleasure Machines comes out.

During my recent visit to Malta I finally managed to meet that delightful pianist Clifford Borg. He's currently working on his third album, but gave me a copy of his second CD called Origin, as a token of his appreciation for my support for his music over the years. As sophisticated pop music goes, you'll be hard pressed to find anything finer than Clifford Borg emanating from Malta. Worth Waiting? is the tune I've selected from Origin.

There are some songs and singers that sound better removed from the environment within which they are originally presented. Franklin Calleja is one such singer and his song Give Me Time falls squarely in this category. This teenage singer-songwriter has demonstrated admirable promise as a pop artist and I'd hate to see him swallowed up by misguided delusions of grandeur as has happened to so many others before him. I guess only time can really tell. I hope to come back with more on this in the coming years.

One of the endearing qualities of the MMI podcast is that it includes quirky stuff that no radio station mindful of retaining its mindless masses dares to include on its playlist. This week we tick this box with a new recording by British ex-pat Ron Cheevers, who made Malta his new home several years ago. You may remember him on a previous edition in this series as part of Mekon Delta, here he gives us a new guitar soundspace to wrap our ears around in Don't You Hear Me Cryin'.

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, November 07, 2009

Love's Dream

I'm in Hungary this weekend attending a conference on youth culture and new media in faith-driven communities under the InYgo banner. I was actually invited to give a keynote address at the start of the conference in Dobogokö yesterday and stayed on to follow the rest of the proceedings and sample what Budapest has to offer on a Saturday afternoon/evening. You can't really get the feel for a place in just one afternoon/evening of course, so perhaps I'll have to come back for some more Hungarian delights some other time. This is a country that has been indirectly ever-present in my life since 1994 for one reason or another.

Before coming to Hungary, I prepared this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast to ensure that I've included as much of the Maltese music released in 2009 as possible on the series before MMI listeners vote for their top picks of the year. This week's edition is packed with material that will be added to the list of nominations for the 2009 MMI Listener's Picks poll, which will go live on Facebook before the end of this month.

Nosnow/noalps recently played a live gig in Linz, Austria, with Red Electrick and Ira Losco. Since they apparently haven't made any new studio recordings since October 2007, they've released a fourth single from their Just Rock EP. Dance All Over You foregrounds Sarah Falzon on vocals making for a different sounding song from this band.

Daniel Cassar is the name of another member of nosnow/noalps, but he's not the one by that name who provides the second track on the 187th MMI podcast. This Daniel Cassar plays guitar with Cyanide and Soundscape Foundation. He has already appeared on a previous edition of the MMI podcast and today he returns with another guitar instrumental. This one's called In the Loop and to my ears is quite reminiscent of The Duritti Column sound produced by Vini Reilly.

Two new EPs released from the Maltese underground electronica scene provide the next two offerings on this week's podcast. The first come's from DJ Lord Vampirick's debut EP entitled Straight Shot To the Edge of the Universe. To commemorate the first 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing I've picked the oddly titled It Happened 1040.00 Year Ago. The other EP is the 39th offering from Pinkpube, so immediately after DLV's number you can hear the title track from Nothing Less From the West by Noize Duqt, which was officially released on the 22nd of October 2009.

From time to time, often quite frequently, my MySpace and Facebook pages are visited by Vince Bongailas who leaves me cryptic breadcrumbs about some new recording or other he's doing. Most recently he's been telling me about his upcoming new album and just a couple of days ago he posted a link to a new collaboration he did on a YouTube video. Recording under the name Ailas I particularly liked his song Kulħadd Għandu l-Art Tiegħu, which he recently released through his MySpace page. I'm not sure if this will be on his new album but I personally think this is one of his more interesting works...and it's the one I'm nominating for 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, 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, July 25, 2009

Someday Soon

The last few days have been quite a whirlwind in terms of travel. Following the weekend in Cardiff Bay, I went to the Isle of Man to deliver a public lecture on Virtual Worlds, hosted by the British Computer Society (BCS). I was touched by the warm welcome I received during the two days I was there, and I look forward to returning for another visit sometime in the future.

After I had returned to Scarborough mid-week, it was time to head out to Leeds for an editorial board meeting for the International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media; I'm the book reviews editor for that publication. After the meeting, we decided to visit the Royal Armouries (again), mostly because it is such an excellently designed museum. I'm not too keen on weapons, but the museum layout and the display arrangements are among the best I've ever seen at any museum. Well worth a return visit.

Now, finally, I'm shaking off the road and getting ready for a productive summer, which should lead into an even more productive autumn when I'll be working on finishing my Franklin Furnace book. I've now made peace with the fact that to produce the level of work that I aim for, I first need to clear the decks from all the smaller tasks I set myself up for from time to time.

As ever, my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast remains the noticeable exception to this. I may have a short break for a week or so later this summer, but there are some pretty remarkable developments afoot with the podcast too, so we'll see how it goes. Meanwhile this week it's time for the 172nd edition of the MMI podcast. Somehow, I've managed to fit five tracks into it, a couple of which are even by performers I hadn't featured on previously.

The Rifffs are currently promoting a track from their cracking debut CD album Moonstomp this summer. Champagne Charlie's Ghost is a delightful ska-tinged song that has this venerable band playing in peak form. I can see how and why they've picked this as the track to push this summer. They've just come off touring in Germany and the Czech Rep. but Maltese fans can catch them at one of three upcoming dates in Ta' Qali: 26 July (this weekend), 15 August (supporting Ali Campbell from UB40) and 12 September (with the national orchestra). The comeback is over: The Rifffs are back where they belong at the forefront of the Maltese pop music scene.

Two instrumental tracks featuring guitarists up next. Both musicians are new inclusions on the podcast but neither one of them is new to the local music scene. Andrew Zammit has been playing guitar since the early 1980s. Some Tigne old-timers may remember him as the lead guitarist with metal band Overdose. Not too long after that he set up his own professional recording studio in Birkirkara: Tone Studios. Paul Giordimania recorded his new double album Letter to Bernie (dedicated to the late bassist Bernard Scerri) at Tone. Andrew has now also released a couple of tracks showcasing his guitar playing. You can hear them all on his recently launched MySpace page. I've picked one called When All Is Gone.

The other guitar instrumental comes from Stefano Farrugia. Most recently his music has been heard in many Maltese households as the main theme and soundtrack for the drama series Pupi, earning him a nomination for Best Score at the 2007 Malta Television Awards. Maltese metalheads may also remember him playing guitar about ten years ago with the now defunct band Angel Dust, which has now metamorphosed into 26 Other Worlds. Rumble is an excellent track to hear not only his guitar playing skills but also his abilities as a composer.

Any regular listener of the MMI podcast knows that I am always keen to include material that uses the Maltese language in one way or another. No surprise then in having the UK-based Ethnamorte return to the podcast again, this time with a tune called Belt is Seħer featuring guitarist Malcolm Callus, who is better known as Gool. I should probably also include one of this non-Ethnamorte recordings someday soon.

The final track I've managed to squeeze into the podcast this week's is Closest Thing To Love (Because of You) the new single from Chris Enriquez. This is a follow up to An Angel In The Making, which I originally played last February. Back then I also commented that I firmly believed this was not the last we'd heard from Chris Enriquez. He's back within just a few months and judging from this new song I have a feeling there's plenty more to come from him.

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, July 18, 2009

Walking on the Moon

I'm in Cardiff this weekend for WordCamp UK. WordPress always struck me as excellent web content management software and I've been hovering around it for several months now. Yet this is the first time that I've had the opportunity to send a couple of days focused on it. It really is remarkable software.

To say that this blog will very soon be switched from Blogger to WordPress is only an initial reason for the excitement I feel about this software. was switched to WordPress last year, but that was more a move of technical necessity rather than something I advocated through preference. In any case, I am truly impressed by the power of WordPress. I think it's the best Internet thing I've turned my attention to full-on for quite some time.

Although I'm in Wales this weekend, I prepared another edition of the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast before I left Scarborough. The 171st MMI podcast is loosely themed around this year Malta Jazz Festival. It may therefore seem a little odd to open it with a track called A Quaint Affair from Not In A Million Lovers by the Beangrowers, but there's a simple explanation for this. Beanie singer Alison Galea has been collaborating with Oliver Degabriele's Trio to appear at this year's Malta Jazz Festival.

Unfortunately I don't have any recordings of Alison singing with Oliver Degabriele's Trio. Yet I'm happy to say that I have a recording from Oliver's Trio. Asteroid 612 is a very fitting selection, especially now that we're marking the 40th anniversary of the first moonwalk.

The Malta Jazz Festival is back to its original format after losing its way in an ill-advised private enterprise experiment over the last few years. Charles "City" Gatt has passed on the reins as artistic director to Sandro Zerafa, who seems to be doing an excellent job in restoring the event to its original spirit and venue in Valletta. Although he is not officially on the bill for the festival, it's also a good excuse for me to include another track from his White Russian 5et album, which was released last year. This time I'm playing Delightfully Disconnected.

For the final track on this week's MMI podcast, I'm moving away from the Malta Jazz Festival but staying with music that wouldn't be out of place on the playlist for a lite jazz radio station. Denny Falzon was born in Malta but moved to the USA with his parents when he was just a little boy. He was raised in Detroit but eventually settled in Florida, where he now performs regularly in Palm Beach. His main instruments are guitar and steel drum. Listen to the tune called This Dance is Forever and enjoy what someone of Maltese descent sounds like when they grow up in a culture that's very different to the one they left behind in their native country.

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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Monday, May 18, 2009

Love Reign O'er Me

I'm on the train from London going up north back home to Scarborough right now. I published the 162nd Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast but I didn't have time to blog about it because I was in Moscow. I also had other plans for Sunday and today which made it next to impossible for me to blog any sooner.

I know I owe my faithful podcast listeners a decent blog entry about the most recent podcast. I also owe my loyal blog readers a post about the result of this year's Eurovision Song Contest. Although I have access to the internet via the free wi-fi service on the train, we'll be pulling into York railway station within the next half hour so I won't have time to write the way I'd like to before later tomorrow or possibly even Wednesday. Normal service will resume soon enough, so for now please forgive me for writing the rest of this blog entry the way you're about to read.

The 162nd podcast was released just before the 2009 Eurovision final. So, as you'd expect there's a little Eurovision in it, but if you know anything about the MMI podcast you know to expect something quite different than what the mainstream Maltese media would give you on such an occasion. Yes, the podcast opens with Chiara singing her Belgian made song, with which she managed to return Malta to the contest's final round for the first time since 2006. Malta will never get a decent placement in the current version of the Eurovision without either an outstanding song or a strategic marketing campaign...or both. I think that's all I'll say about the Eurovision today, especially now that it's all (almost) over.

Next up is Freddie Portelli with his new single Tonight. Freddie turned 65 on the 5th of May and listening to this new song makes me appreciate how hip some Maltese pensioners really are these days.

The 2nd edition of the Malta Hit Song Contest presented its final session on the 1st of May. Neville Refalo won this year's contest with a song that was clearly better than most of the rest of those in the competition. However, one of my personal favorites was by Julie Pomorski.

For anyone interested in what Maltese music really sounds like I would currently wholeheartedly recommend the debut album from No Bling Show. I played one of their songs a few weeks ago from a live video version. Now you can hear the song about Lucija u Samuel in the CD version from the album Stejjer tal-Bandli. This album will undoubtedly standout when the end of year top picks are selected for 2009. Meanwhile, I urge you to get your hands on the album and listen to the difference. Here's a group of young Maltese artists on the verge of maturing into significant Maltese artists.

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.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Love Shine a Light

Malta's name is once again to be heard as a contender in the Eurovision Song Contest finals. Many believe that if Chiara couldn't do this for Malta no one else could. This has put immense pressure on the singer, even though she has participated in this pan-European contest twice before. I can understand what she meant last night after the semifinal when she said that she was more concerned about making it through to the final than she is about her performance at the final.

This is not hubris. Chiara is the first to admit that she is stubborn and hard-headed when it comes to reaching for the number 1 spot at the Eurovision Song Contest. Since she is not a singer by profession this is understandable. Over the years Chiara has fashioned as a Eurovision performer and this suits her very well. She seems quite happy to think that this contest is the pinnacle of her carrier in the music industry. There's nothing wrong with that, especially for a singer who comes from a country that has produced fewer international stars that most people have fingers on one hand.

By all counts, winning the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest is no easy feat for the Maltese singer and her Belgian-made song. Chiara has a beautiful singing voice but she will need to beat at least 4 others singers with beautiful voices and/or songs: Jade Ewen (UK), Yohanna (Iceland), Malena Ernman (Sweden), and of course Patricia Kaas (France). Flor-de-lis (Portugal) is not to be discredited at this point of the game either.

Any assessment of Chiara's chances for bringing the Eurovision Song Contest to Malta in 2010 should also take into consideration that Regina (Bosnia & Herzegovina) is clearly the Eastern favourite this year, while Alexander Rybak (Norway) remains the bookies pick to win. Today the bookies have Malta in 10th position on average at the final, and many are including Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Ukraine within the final top 10.

As I write this I'm watching the dress rehearsal for the 2nd semifinal. If this year is a year for ballads and/or great voices I don't think the 2009 ESC winner is among this batch. Most of the songs could have been last year's runners-up in their respective countries but the Ukrainians really know how to stage a spectacular extravaganza. Anyway, I'll reassess this situation, if absolutely necessary, on Friday. If I'm lucky I'll manage to take in the town and its glorious culture a little bit more than I've had time for till now.

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

For Those About To Rock

I'm writing this on the National Express train between York and London King's Cross on my way to Heathrow Airport. I'm on my way to Moscow for the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest. I wanted to test the free on-board wi-fi by publishing my weekly MMI podcast from the train. So far so good...or better still: it looks like everything is falling into place nicely. Wireless internet really is an essential element of the major paradigm shift that allows me (and countless others) to engage in this sort of mobile activity. For a blow by blow update on all this, you can follow me on Twitter too. I won't be offended if you don't.

To make sure I arrive in Moscow for the Eurovision in the appropriate mindset the 161st Mużika Mod Iehor podcast is dedicated to all Maltese (hard) rock fans. Starting off with a band that as not only just released a new album but also took part in the 2nd edition of the Heavy Metal Eurovision back in 2005. Aidenn Falls sees this veteran Maltese metal band Forsaken in top form. Leo Stivala's vocals give the band a distinctive mark that makes them instantly recognizable among the many other metal contenders on the scene. After the Fall came out on 1 April 2009 and marks Forsaken's first collaboration with Swedish metal label I Hate Records.

Speaking of new albums, I'm sure that every self-respecting rocker in the Maltese islands has heard about the new release from Knockturn Alley entitled Medusa. I featured this band on my podcast back in 2006 when they first appeared with their debut EP The Dream is Dead. I'm very pleased to play Epilogue (Cities Burn) from their new debut album, which is officially released tonight at the Liquid Club in Tal-Ballal, limits of San Gwann. Greek band The Source are the opening act at the launch gig. Something tells me that the connection comes through Knockturn Alley's drummer Dimitris Aggelidis.

In The Name Of is another active Maltese hardcore metal band. I've never had an opportunity to play any of their music on the MMI podcast before. This is most probably because they've only been around for a couple of years and it's only recently that I managed to get my hands on one of their recordings. Have a listen to Rise (of a Crushing Alliance) and sample the sort of thing you should expect from the if you go see them live along with Twenty Six Other Worlds and Oblique Visions at the Poxx Bar in Paceville.

This genre of music is a dominant subculture which rivals any other style of music. I believe that it's only considered underground because most radio stations refuse to play it. It's not surprising that one of Malta's most successful alternative bands emerged from a hardcore metal band. That band was called Victims of Creation. I had the distinct honour of playing their only released recording on the MMI series within the first few months after I started podcasting. It is therefore a joy that I share with numerous other Maltese rock fans that Victims of Creation have returned to play live at the Malta Doom Metal Festival, which took place at The Poxx a last weekend. Victims of Creation (with a slightly altered line up of original members) have released a garage recording of a track called Chapter 22, and that's the sound I want running through my head as I head out to Moscow for this year's Eurovision Song Contest. I'll make it up to any podcast listeners who prefer lighter genres of music next week. I promise.

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.

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