New Zealand music

For free or not too free?

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Should all downloads be for free?

I’m considering making the whole fiffdimension catalogue on bandcamp (30 albums spanning 22 years) available for free download / pay what you want… but is this a good idea?

On one hand I have a day job (unrelated to music) so don’t have to live off sales (impossible anyway), and would appreciate more active listeners if removing all barriers helps; on the other do hand free downloads undercut other artists and contribute to the devaluation of music overall?

Any thoughts?

Ruasagavulu

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Out now – the new album

by Dave Black & Dr Emit Snake-Beings

Made in Fiji

“So easy to get totally lost in this music, recommend for helping with your inner peace” – Andi Verse

Indo-Fijian inspired tropical devotional avant-garde instrumentals for keyboards, ukulele, dholak, duduk, harmonicas, DIY kitchen gamelan, and video.

 

Snake Beings & Dave Black in Fiji

This was one of the last in-person international collaborations from before the world ended… it’s got nothing to do with the pandemic.

It was recorded in Suva, Fiji, 2nd and 4th of November 2019.

The title ‘ruasagavulu’ means ‘twenty’ in Fijian, to kick off the new decade optimistically.

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Further listening

Our first duo recording wasNgumbang‘  (2015) –

a fusion of several genres and a DIY manifesto – “Pick up the pieces and make them into something new, it’s what we do…”

Read the rest of this entry »

Gar mar par da nee sa

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the opening track from Ruasagavulu

by Dave Black & Snake-Beings

recorded in Suva, Fiji, 2nd November 2019

Snake Beings and Dave Black in Fiji

This short warmup improv is based on an Indian scale, inspired by Dr Emit Snake-Beings‘ travels to Kerala in India, and harmonium lessons in Suva.

There’s an Indian influence throughout the album, as several sections are based on drones and modal improv (rather than the chord changes)… though this is not a traditional Indian album, we’ve borrowed ideas to inform our own experiments.

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The temple in the photo is Sri Siva Subramaniya in Nadi. It’s built in the Dravidian style from southern India, which is also found in Singapore and Malaysia.

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In contrast to other Pacific Island countries, Fiji has a large – almost half – population of Indian descent. Indians came to Fiji in the 19th century, as indentured labourers to work the sugar cane plantations.

The following videos are made in India, courtesy of www.snakebeings.co.nz

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2002: self-isolation before it was cool?

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The difficult third album – recorded during a time of intense introspection in 2002. I locked myself in my room in Wellington for all of November with an analogue 4-track cassette recorder.The results rapidly put an end to my promising New Zealand music career!

Wellington, New Zealand

In 2002, a year whose digits are an anagram of this one’s, I locked myself in my room for a month of self-isolation.

It had nothing to do with a pandemic!

Kia kaha Aotearoa…

It was just me living in Wellington and looking for a way to follow up The Marion Flow (part 2).

I was moving further away from conventional 3min song formats into the avant-garde. Read the rest of this entry »

Fiji 1976, by Alastair Edwards

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Film footage by my father, Alastair Edwards, in Nadi and around Viti Levu in 1976.

It’s from a couple of years before I was born.

There was no sound, so I’ve added a soundtrack from Ruasagavulu, which Dr Emit Snake-Beings and I recorded in Suva decades later.

My Dad’s interest in film (then video) and photography was one of the key influences on my own travel and videomaking. He was doing this long before youtube or instagram!

I miss you Dad…

Ruasagavulu – with Snake Beings in Fiji

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Made in Suva, Fiji – the new album by Dave Black & Dr Emit Snake-Beings

“So easy to get totally lost in this music, recommend for helping with your inner peace” – Andi Verse

Indo-Fijian inspired tropical devotional avant-garde instrumentals for keyboards, ukulele, dholak, duduk, harmonicas, DIY kitchen gamelan, and video.

This was one of the last in-person international collaborations from before the world ended.

 

The title ‘ruasagavulu’ means ‘twenty’ in Fijian, to kick off the new decade.

recorded in Suva, Fiji, 2nd November 2019

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Further listening

Our first duo recording wasNgumbang‘  (2015) –

Read the rest of this entry »

2019 roundup

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At the end of the decade, and looking for a way to follow up the eclectic Asia-Pacific Odyssey of Other Islands: 2012-2018, I stripped things back down to the solo acoustic format of my early years with Live 2019.

The set, at Wairarapa TV in Masterton, New Zealand, was streamed live on the internet on 4th of May 2019.

For the past couple of years I’ve been living in a small town and don’t get to as many gigs as I used to… so here was an opportunity to use 21st century technology to play ‘virtually’ everywhere.

On the other hand musically this was closer to a traditional folk/singer-songwriter set than I’d done for quite a while. I eschewed dissonant improv, multitracking, live backing musicians, field recordings, or electronic trickery this time, and used just acoustic guitar, banjo, and harmonica (and a few seconds of wah pedal on ‘Eastern’).

The set was followed by an interview.

I also released a companion album to Live 2019 its stroppier lo-fi postpunk ‘official bootleg’ predecesor Live 1999. This was recorded on cassette 20 years (or half my lifetime) ago, when I opened for Chris Knox at Bar Bodega in Wellington NZ last millennium:

Live 1999

I started and finished both live sets on the same two songs, to show continuity and evolution.

It’s been quite a journey in between!

Other projects

My other 2019 works in progress included

* experiments with animated visuals and electric improvisations (the ‘yang’ flipside of the deliberately toned down ‘yin’ Live 2019)

* a duo with Emit Snake-Beings, for an as-yet-untitled sequel to Ngumbang, coming in 2020 (we had a recording session in Suva, Fiji, of all places);

* a couple of informal jam sessions with the Electricka Zoo (which has otherwise been on hold since last year); ( http://www.soundcloud.com/darrel-hannon/jamming-with-dave)

* and I continued to adapt the 19th century book ‘Poems & Lyrics by John Collie’, which I’d learned was written by my Scottish great-great-grandfather in 1856 before he came to NZ. Three of his poems featured on Live 2019, with more in the pipeline.

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The Marion Flow (part 2, Wellington 2001)

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It’s lo-fi, organic and about as eclectic as one could manage. Kind of reminds me of Nick Cave if he had grown up in Timaru. No pretentious American accents or catch phrase choruses, just a bunch of people making music. A little beauty!” – NZ Musician, August/September 2002

The Marion Flow was originally a longer album which spanned recordings from New Plymouth in 1999 and Wellington in 2001.

This page is for the 2001 Wellington recordings: produced by Paul Winstanley, & featuring Chris O’Connor (drums), Chris Palmer (electric guitars), Simon O’Rorke (percussion), and more. Recorded at Thistle Hall, Wellington, 2001, and mixed by Joe Callwood.

For the earlier 1999 New Plymouth sessions see The Marion Flow (part 1, Taranaki);
By the time the opportunity arose to finish recording the Marion Flow I’d been thoroughly immersed in the Wellington free jazz and avant-garde music scene, and was very fortunate to have help from some of the top players there. I’d never studied music at school or been in a conventional band, and was out of my depth technically… so working around my limitations became a spark to creativity.

Edwards’ music is often a sculpture rather than a melodic composition. Within this chosen form, amongst all the writings rantings & poetry there’s much difficult pleasure to be had for the musically adventurous.” – Brent Cardy, Real Groove, July 2002

In 1999, aged 20, I’d left New Plymouth, a large rural town, where I grew up, and moved to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, where I’d been born and where my early pakeha settler ancestors had lived in the 19th century. The Marion Flow reflects this journey, geographically, sonically and spiritually.

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I’ve now reissued the two halves of the album separately – to emphasise the sense of time and place, and stylistic evolution, and to re-present them more concisely for the short-attention-span 21st century.

Further listening

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1999

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At the close of the 90s, aged 20, I left New Plymouth, the large rural town in Taranaki province, where I grew up.

I moved to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, where I’d been born and where my 19th century pakeha settler ancestors had lived.

My second album, The Marion Flow reflected this journey. It showed a musical and lyrical evolution beyond my debut Scratched Surface.

(part 1, Taranaki).

The Marion Flow

Electric and acoustic songs, spoken word and instrumentals – an almost-recognised New Zealand classic (19992001)

It’s lo-fi, organic and about as eclectic as one could manage. Kind of reminds me of Nick Cave if he had grown up in Timaru. No pretentious American accents or catch phrase choruses, just a bunch of people making music. A little beauty!” – NZ Musician, August/September 2002

Paul Winstanley, recording The Marion Flow (1999)

Paul Winstanley played bass on and engineered the recording sessions, which were hosted by Brian Wafer.

The “hit single” Banana Wizard was released on a compilation of Taranaki music and had some student radio airplay around the country… about the extent of my commercial success to date.

I was also opening my ears and mind to more experimental sounds, and moving beyond conventional pop song structures.

At the same sessions we recorded free improvisations, which Paul later overdubbed and rearranged into

dAdApApA: Waiting for the Drummer

Taranaki improvised rock/noise deconstruction with sputtering synth, air-sucking turntables, didgeridoo and sundry toys providing layers of surreal abstraction (1999)

“after recording tracks for The Marion Flow at Wafer HQ in New Plymouth, an ad hoc group of associated locals assembled to record… the only rock references here come from the guitars… throw in some spoken word and a special guest appearance by N.P. record mogul Brian Wafer on vacuum cleaner and the dAdApApA nova had blazed and fizzled in the blink of an eye” – Eden Gully

& then I got to the capital city, and was suddenly a small fish in a bigger pond…

Part 2, Wellington

Dave Edwards, at Bar Bodega, Wellington NZ, 1999

Here’s what I sounded like around the time I arrived in Wellington – this solo postpunk set at Bar Bodega, opening for Chris Knox, was preserved (in lo-fi, a 90s aesthetic):

Live 1999

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But apart from songs I also fell under the influence of the burgeoning avant garde and free improv scene in Wellington.

This was centred around a venue called the Space (later Fred’s and then the Pyramid Club)… the dissonant flipside of the more popular smooth Pasifika/jazz sound the city became known for (Fat Freddy’s Drop et al).

Although way out of my depth technically, I met up with improvising percussionist Simon O’Rorke, and jazz-trained players including Blair Latham and Jeff Henderson to make

in the non-idiomatic idiom in Norway

Free (in both senses) jazz from Wellington, Aotearoa (1999)

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Click here for more detail on the free improv scene in New Zealand

The Wellington jazz sound informed the second half of The Marion Flow, recorded over the next two years

Further Listening

For an overview of my early period, try

1997-2005

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The Electricka Zoo – new tracks, late 2019

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Here’s a pair of new (late 2019) tracks from The Electricka Zoo

Keyboards & electronica by the Digitator

& Dave Black on electric guitar

in Upper Hutt, New Zealand, November 2019

the Electricka Zoo, 2017

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