ネオン列車の風景 Neon Train Landscapes

Music by Dave Black & Nat da Hatt – two New Zealanders living in Japan.   楽しむことができます!
 Like 日本 itself, this music offers a surrealistic fusion of ancient and modern.                 released 31 January 2014
Nat da Hatt – electric & acoustic guitars, drum machine, synths, laptop, samples
Dave Black – bass, banjo, acoustic guitar (5), electric guitar (3), loop pedal, electronics, laptop, field recordings

Welcome to the Year of the Horse!

Fame & Oblivion: 2005-2012

“This is something that he has to do, that he will do, come fame or oblivion” –Chris Knox

Now available on Spotify, iTunes, Bandcamp, Deezer etc

fiffdimension vol2, a sequel to Gleefully Unknown: 1997-2005, sees increasingly wide-ranging experimentation and exploration both sonically and geographically, from New Zealand and beyond to Australia and East Asia, and a reinvention as Dave Black.

Whereas Gleefully Unknown: 1997-2005 showed a youthful kiwi fusion of songs with  avant-garde spoken word and instrumental pieces, Fame & Oblivion: 2005-2012 documents me in my late 20s and early 30s moving beyond these parameters.
My approach became less introspective and more journalistic – thanks to new influences from years spent living abroad in Australia, South Korea and Japan. New elements include the banjo, electronica, field recordings, multimedia performances, and touches of traditional Asian music. I also adopted the moniker Dave Black, to differentiate from my earlier works.

The third part of the trilogy, Other Islands: 2012-2018, documents my return to NZ via other Asia Pacific countries, and more recent works.

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Featuring tracks from the albums

Ascension Band: Evolution (2005)

After Maths & Sciences (2005-2006)

South Island Sessions (2006)

First Time Around: East Asia (2008)

The Winter: 2011 (2011)

The Winter: Exit Points (2010/2015)

ネオン列車の風景 Neon Train Landscapes (2010-2015)

and previously unheard tracks

by Dave Black (acoustic & electric guitars, banjo, harmonica, laptop, bass, tenor saxophone, field recordings, piano, gayageum, vocal), with

Mike Kingston (acoustic guitar),

Simon Sweetman (percussion),

Nat da Hatt (electric guitar, keyboards),

Cylvi M (vocal, field recordings, percussion, shakuhachi),

Hayden Gifkins (electric guitar),

Nigel Patterson (hammond organ),

Ryan Prebble (tone generator),

Matthew Thornicroft (electric guitar),

Jeff Henderson (drums),

Noel Meek (vocal),

Clever Hansel (ukulele)

and field recordings from Australia, South Korea, Thailand, Mongolia, and Japan.

If you enjoy this, try the first volume Gleefully Unknown: 1997-2005 and the third, Other Islands: 2012-2018

First Time Around: East Asia

This is an album of sound recordings, made in six different countries, edited into sonic short stories and soundscapes –

East Asia https://maps.app.goo.gl/UZm5kgceqFjuoNf76

following a year and a half living in

South Korea 대한민국,

we travelled to

Japan 日本

China 中国

Thailand ประเทศไทย

Vietnam Việt Nam

Mongolia Монгол улс

Dave Black – field recordings, laptop, gayageum loops, clarinet, acoustic bass, guay, readings

Cylvi Manthyng – tangso, shakuhachi, golden egg, singing bowl, readings & rubbings

First time around [South Korea]

Continue reading “First Time Around: East Asia”

Mongolia Монгол улс

July 22, 2008

Getting to Mongolia really felt like something new though, starting with the big poster of Chinngis Khan at the airport and the fairly small-town feel of Ulaanbaatar. It looks a bit like Dunedin.Mongolia turns a lot of Asia on its head: it’s not crowded, the houses don’t have Chinese-style roofs, it’s warm but not humid & rainy in summer, and they don’t grow rice or eat with chopsticks. With fewer than three million people in a country almost five times the size of New Zealand, it makes home look crowded. Mongolia has the kind of big wide sky we’d experienced driving across Australia in 2005, with endless rolling hills covered in short grasses and herbs and only a few isolated patches of trees or occasional rock formations. The country smells of sage, thyme and livestock. Goats, sheep and horses were a frequent sight though the bulk of the land was simply empty. We saw some large black & white cranes and a couple of huge eagles with two metre wingspans.

Our guide Chim-ge was very helpful and friendly and spoke good English. We also had a driver whose name sounded like Reggae (we had fun trying to explain what reggae music is) who spoke no English but was very good at avoiding getting stuck in the mud. After a seven-hour drive across mostly dirt roads, we got to the ger camp where we were staying for the next two days. A ger is a round Mongolian tent house built around a central fireplace, with a south-facing door (the winds come from the north).

Mongolian nomads dismantle their gers and move home four times a year. That system allows the land to regenerate from grazing. The animals are the families’ livelihoods, providing income, food and even fuel for fires ie dung. We spent a couple of hours ‘picking up shit’ to help out, and also took a turn at milking the goats. We filled a fifth of a bucket between us in the time the mother and grandmother of the family filled two each. The other job was mixing the barrel of arrig, or alcohol made from fermented horses’ milk. We were presented with two bowls on arrival – it tasted like a sour yoghurt.

Mongolian food is almost entirely based on meat and dairy products and not at all spicy. They put some onion and carrot in our food but that was really a tourist concession. I found a native spinach plant growing nearby as a diet supplement – strangely the Mongolians don’t make use of that or the various herbs available. Many traditional nomads believe that vegetables are bad for you. They burn off all the protein and fat by working long and hard outdoors – in the city there were a lot of fat Mongolians however.

On the second day we had a side trip to Karakortum, site of the oldest surviving Buddhist monastery in Mongolia and Chinggis Khan’s royal court (one turtle statue is all that remains). Each Buddhist country has a different style of artwork – the Mongolian style is influenced by Tibetan Buddhism and seemed to emphasise demonic looking creatures such as the blue-skinned three-eyed sharp-fanged ten protectors. Listening to the red-robed monks chanting their sutras was fascinating, much more polyphonic than the Korean minimalist style.

The monastery buildings had Chinese-style roofs but overall there was much less Chinese influence in Mongolia than I’d imagined. If anything we could see bits of Russia creeping in, especially back in town – for example the language is written in the Cyrillic alphabet. It was very interesting the feeling of Asia gradually fading away.

After a couple of days out in the country enjoying the smog-free air and the sounds of goats and sheep rather than traffic noise, construction work and hard-sell advertising, we headed back to Ulaanbaatar. We had timed the trip to coincide with the Nadaam festival (translates as ‘fun festival’), which is the big annual event consisting of wrestling, archery and cross-country horse racing. It celebrates Mongolian independence from 200 years if Manchu rule. We were most interested in the opening ceremony, which was a feast of colourful costumes, dancing and Mongolian music which, as several locals said, evokes the feel of wide open spaces, galloping horses, cold winter nights and mountain passes.

We got our fill of Mongolian music over the next two nights, seeing both a smaller traditional ensemble and a big-scale stage show with a full Morin-Khuur orchestra. The morin-khuur is a kind of two-stringed cello with a rhombus-shaped body and a horse’s head carving at the top of the neck. They come in various sizes up to double-bass size and were surprisingly cheap to buy in the shops (about $80NZ – too big to travel with unfortunately and would need a case). Both shows were amazing, with costumes, dancing, musicians accompanying contortionists, and longsongs and throat-singing.

In all Mongolia was a definite highlight so far…

first time around east asia 5(1)

Vietnam Việt Nam

14 1:33

* This piece about airports is mostly from China, but the music heard from 0:36 to 0:59 is actually Vietnamese (heard on the radio in Hanoi airport – put together with sounds from Hong Kong and Guangzhou)

It was a great pleasure to get to Vietnam. There was a stopover in Hong Kong airport – out the windows I could see glass apartment towers, hillsides eroded from deforestation and a polluted green harbour. Then on to Vietnam, a fertile countryside of rice paddies and fruit trees with sudden rock formations rising out of the plains. Everywhere hundreds of Vietnamese in cone-shaped coolie hats were at work in the fields from dawn to dusk… it’s definitely the land of the cone heads. The hats are an elegantly simple design that protect from the sun and rain.

Although poorer, the Vietnamese people overall seemed healthier, happier, and more stylish, industrious, humorous and better looking than the average Korean. I enjoyed the fusion of old and new on display, whereas Koreans keep their traditional things quite separate from their modern life. There was also a refreshing absence of the usual celebrity stooges’ faces everywhere, and no McDonalds restaurants to be found. Instead they had communist-style posters of good workers and Ho Chi Minh. The atmosphere was never dreary or oppressive though – it’s a vibrant, colourful country.

Hanoi, the capital, was full of motorbikes, their horns a constant soundtrack. The traffic is busy but not especially fast – to cross a road you just walk out at a steady pace and the traffic all somehow avoids you. It’s a much better system than in Thailand where you wait for a gap and then sprint across. Catching a motorbike ride with Vietnamese locals is a good way to get around and definitely part of the experience.
The slightly unsatisfying aspect was being on a time limit and being on the tourist trail for some of it. Prices were cheap but not that cheap and there were always locals around trying to sell something, and many small-time scams to get extra money. It’s hard to begrudge them though – they’re doing a great job rebuilding from the American war (one-legged mine victims the most visible reminder) and finding their place in the world. The newspaper headlines were mostly government propaganda (it’s a one-party state) and one that stood out was their goal to become an average income nation by 2020. That contrasts with Korea’s frantic industrial development (at the expense of their own culture and environment) and their new president’s unattainable election promise of 7% growth every year.

Highlights included Cuc Phuong national park where we explored a bat-filled cave where stone-age people had lived 7500 years ago; the national water puppet theatre, a great Vietnamese art-form with live music, carving, action and splashes; a night drinking on a boat on Halong Bay with kiwis and aussies; and the sights and general ambience – there was an overall sense of optimism in the country.

In all, I’d love to go back to Southeast Asia another time with an open itinerary and no time limit, and see Cambodia and Laos as well.

Tonight it’s time to get on the train to Siberia, so I’ll write about Mongolia when I get a chance…

first time around east asia 5(1)

South Korea 대한민국

Music and videos by Dave Black & Cylvi Manthyng, two New Zealanders living in South Korea.

The pieces here are made from remixed field recordings of traditional Korean musicians and instruments such as the gayageum, taepyongso, buddhist chants and samulnori drumming, plus our live version of the folk song ‘Arirang’.

Okinawa, Japan 沖縄日本

ハイサイ! イチャリバ チョデ!  よろしく おねがいします。 きょ-ねん 那覇市に すんでいました と にほんご ちょっと べんきょしました。

In 2011-2012 I lived in Naha (那覇市), the main city of Okinawa Prefecture (沖縄県) in Japan (日本).

The soundtracks to these videos are snippets of live Okinawan music I recorded there, such as eisa drum dancing and shima uta island songs.  Spot me on sanshin (traditional 3-stringed banjo) and harmonica in the Iriomote one, and having a drumming lesson in Ishigaki – the two Yaeyama Islands, in the remote southwesternmost corner of Japan.

The Ryukyu Islands are a whole other world from mainland Japan – there’s no Mt Fuji, samurai, sumo wrestling, geisha or shinkansen.  They have a different culture, food, climate and music – more tropical and laidback, the Hawaii of northeast Asia, with jungle, sugar cane, beautiful sea and coral – umi to sango wa totemo kirei desu ne – and wonderful people and tragic history.

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Nat da Hatt and I recorded a track for our duo album ネオン列車の風景 Neon Train Landscapes there – our version of a traditional shima uta (island song)

Continue reading “Okinawa, Japan 沖縄日本”

Kyushu, Japan 九州日本

Videos from a solo trip across Kyushu (in March 2012, on holiday from work in Okinawa).  Accompanied by Japanese music such as koto, shakuhachi, yokagura and hip-hop, recorded live.

Four videos –

1) from sugi (Japanese cedar) forest with 3000-year-old trees on Yakushima Island,

2) heading north via Kumamoto and its castle, to

3) a yokagura dance performance reenacting the legend of how the sun goddess returned to the world in Takachiho,

4) to the  city of Fukuoka (score by Dave Black & Nat da Hatt – free download)

Crossing the Japan Alps 飛騨山脈日本

Music, video and hiking by Dave Black and Nat da Hatt – two New Zealanders living in Japan.

We crossed the Hida mountains in six days, losing a few kg along the way, and passed through 長野県(Nagano), 岐阜県 (Gifu), and 富山県 (Toyama) prefectures.