We have new releases by artists from a selection of underground music scenes this week: Dan West – a former player in the Paisley Underground scene of LA; respected Dunedinite A. J. Sharma; and Wellington’s Mark Airlie.
And in a nice piece of timing, A. J. Sharma is playing live this week as part of Dierdre Newall’s ‘Tiny Pieces of Eight’ tour, alongside Chris Heazlewood and Grant Ramsey (aka Swampy).
Dierdre Newall, Chris Heazlewood, Swampy and A. J. Sharma
‘Tiny Pieces of Eight’ tour
Chicks Hotel Port Chalmers, Sunday afternoon matinee 20 October
The Dark Room, Christchurch Saturday 26 October
Puppies, Wellington Sunday 27October
Dan West ‘Hot Corners’
Californian musician Dan West describes his new album ‘Hot Corners’ as a “collection of greatest hits you’ve never heard”, spanning an 11 year period. And as a friendly and humble chap, he’s not being arrogant – it’s a lovely collection of songs from a man who’s been in many bands over many years.
West has unusual roots – his father was a TV writer, and he was born and raised in Studio City in Los Angeles, California; a small community built around what was once Republic Studios and later Mary Tyler Moore Studios (and currently owned by CBS).
During his teens, Dan started playing in psychedelic bands around Hollywood and Silver Lake, with names like The Mod Squad, Strawberry Blue, Walls and Bridges, and finally Threw The Lookinglass, which became one of the better known bands of the Paisley Underground movement of the 1980s.
…An aside on The Paisley Underground…
The Paisley Underground was based around a musical scene in LA in the 1980s; it took influences from folk rock, and 1960s West Coast pop and garage rock in general. The biggest band by far to grow from the Paisley Underground was the Bangles; Mazzy Star also had ties to the genre. Prince was hugely influenced by the sound – his label Paisley Park Records was named after the movement, and he wrote ‘Manic Monday’ for the Bangles. Later bands influenced by the Paisley Underground include Mercury Rev and Grandaddy; and New Zealand’s own Chills have been compared to Paisley Underground bands. (More info:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paisley_Underground)
After the demise of Threw The Lookinglass and the scene overall, West fronted Aguafantastica, and is currently in Sidewalk Society, releasing mainly on vinyl and much-loved in Europe. He’s also in new band LoveyDove with his partner (and frequent visitor to New Zealand) Azalia Snail. To earn a crust he arranges music for, and plays in, jazz bands, and teaches at a music school. To say his life is immersed in music would be an understatement.
Hot Corners is a selection of Dan’s own demos, which he’s kept separate from his bands’ tunes. His songs echo the moods of LA, reflecting sunshine and angst in equal parts, mixed with strong traces of psychedelia; the lyrics are wry and observant. As his fiancé Azalia (a respected songwriter in her own right) said when he played these songs to her early in their courtship – and she’s right – “Wow! People need to hear these.” And now you can.
Listen to ‘Hot Corners’ on Bandcamp.
Video: Dan West ‘Never Go Away’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vppbs48WSik
A. J. Sharma – ‘You Are A Traveller’
New album and 7”
A J Sharma is a familiar figure in the Dunedin underground music scene. Most recently Sharma has supported Tiny Ruins, and for a taste of his style, here is his performance for the Radio One Balcony Sessions. You may also know him from the track Giants, on the recently released US/NZ collaboration ‘Drill/I Have No Idea’.
And as Sharma’s new album ‘You Are A Traveller’ journeys out now via Powertool Records, he’s also released a special limited edition lathe-cut 7” single through vinyl specialists Epic Sweep Records, featuring the tracks ‘Sunshine/HMV’. As Epic Sweep eloquently put it, “”Criminally under rated songwriter A.J Sharma has been releasing music since the early 1990s. Not a world away from Alastair Galbraith’s singular vision, on this single Sharma’s typically sparse acoustic accompaniment is somehow taken in new more layered directions.” Get the 7” here.
Sharma wrote all the songs, but notes that the words of track 1 are from Alistair Te Ariki Campbell’s poem “Hut near desolated pines”. The unconventional tracklisting is an aesthetic pleasure in its own right too!
Listen to ‘You Are A Traveller’ on Bandcamp
Mark Airlie ‘Fiona’ 3-Song Single
Tracks: (1) Fiona. (2) The Girl With The Lonely Eyes. (3) Beautiful Son.
Mark Airlie has led Wellington bands Feet Like Fins, Attic Stair and Mark Airlie & Attic Stair. He’s been playing and recording under his own name for 10 years now and has produced a number of solo works including the totally instrumental ‘House With Unseen Guests’. From his 2005 EP ‘Peril Not A Pearl’ the songs Grappling Iron and Tarquin The Portmeister were featured on two compilations from Florida label Sexy Killer Records (Vols:1 & 3) alongside selected East Coast US underground bands.
He says that the thread that holds these three songs together is life, love and human error – lost potential and falling short of one’s ideals. Yet at the same time there is a cathartic effect – Airlie hopes this little set of recordings may comfort people with loss or grief, or who have trouble ”fitting in” in life. As the German author Hermann Hesse said: ”I would not exchange any of my ”bad days” for ”good ones’’…as I truly learned from the bad days.”