EP Review: Lights & Motion – Bloom

Lights & Motion Bloom EP Cover

Lights & Motion began in the dark recesses and buried corners of insomnia. Without much sun to speak of in the Scandinavian winters of Sweden, Christoffer Franzen took to sequestering himself in a studio to help battle his condition. I’ve suffered from small bouts of insomnolence as well in my life. It is difficult to find a more lonely and helpless feeling. Thankfully, Christoffer was in great company. Through his project, which began in 2012, Lights & Motion has at once been an escape and a release not only for him but for those lucky enough to listen to his music. Franzen has an incredible capacity to write truly inspiriting and somber music. The most incredible part is that it seems to come so easily for him. It may sound like I’m gushing here but with this latest five song EP, entitled Bloom, Lights & Motion is marking its second release and Franzen’s third in just a little over a year. In January of this year Lights & Motion released the spiritual Dear Avalanche while in October he wrote the score for an imaginary movie called Phenomenon under his own name.

I’ve written in length on the influence one’s surroundings have on creativity. Being able to stand at the edges of town with your arms spread out wide and your head tilted back as you gaze at a million points of burning light twinkling in an endless expanse has to play some role in your creative process. The mind behind Lights & Motion admits that the surrounding panorama and dark winters have had a strong influence on everything he’s done…even if he didn’t know it at the time. The seemingly eternal winter brings with it an urge to create. Through this creation it’s as if Lights & Motion set out to will the changing of seasons.

With Bloom, Lights & Motion comes out of hibernation with hopeful eyes ever set on the promise of Spring’s clement touch. It’s about rejuvenation and being born again. It’s about bursting from the sodden, stark loam of winter to blossom anew. I can’t help but think the song Lion wasn’t so named because of the old adage that ‘spring comes in like a lion’. You can hear a sort of revival present in each of the album’s five songs. Light, airy strings swirl around like a soft, vernal breeze accompanied always by glimmering piano or guitar that tiptoe through the songs as if through a puddle after a spring rain. With each lullaby on Bloom you can almost hear the sleepy staccato of rain dreamily pitter-pattering the tin roof of the shed in your backyard. Franzen states that Bloom, like a lot of his music, was written during the darkest months when he’s longing for the changing of seasons. This longing is the catalyst that enables him to write music with a lighter feel, even while the sky outside is a never-ending blanket of grey. Bloom encapsulate perfectly that longing. Or as Franzen puts it ‘a hopeful melancholy’.

Lights & Motion C Franzen

My only gripe with this album is that I want more. From the opening piano chord of the first track ‘Overture’ to the final chord of the last track ‘Lion’, Lights & Motion has created something here that truly transcends sensibility. Many of the tracks are full of lilting phrases that get your heart pumping new, enlivened blood, but there are moments when the weather changes. Lights & Motion won’t flip the script on you with the kind of abrupt crescendo we all know and love/hate with instrumental music. Instead, the tonal aura changes. Franzen relates that the piano and string textures ‘sound very blue-ish in color and tone’ on his newest mini album. This blue-ish tone portrays the quiet battle between a ceaseless winter and the ushering in of the new blessedness of promise.

Lights & Motion is nothing if not consistent. Every release is consistently beautiful. Consistently gut-wrenching. Consistently full of melancholic hopefulness. Franzen just gets it. On the micro-level he’s growing as an artist by experimenting with sounds and textures. You have to admire how unfailing his creativity is with release after release. The guy is pumping out music at an alarming pace and there are no signs of any kind of artistic lull. It’s difficult enough to try and be consistently creative with short gaps between albums, but Lights & Motion finds a way to do it with a faithfulness to his artistic conviction that I adore. At this point, my only advice to Lights & Motion is that if the landscapes of Sweden have as much influence over your writing as you claim – never move.”


Lights & Motion links:

Website: http://www.lightsandmotion.com/

Bandcamp: http://www.deepelm.com/lightsandmotion/

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/lightsandmotion

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lightsandmotion

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lightsandmotion/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lightsandmotion/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/LightsandMotion

Album Review: Shipwrecks – Self Titled

Shipwrecks album cover by David Caspar

German post-rockers Shipwrecks released their eponymous three track EP back in 2015. I don’t remember how I stumbled upon it, but it was good enough to impress.

Without wanting to sound too much like a jaded old critic, let’s just say that it is becoming harder to find bands that truly stand out and excite within the post-rock genre. Shipwrecks managed to do so with just three songs.

Those three songs did them proud, earning them support slots touring Europe with Immanu El and Explosions In The Sky.

Two years later, they’ve followed up with a début album – also self titled.

Recording Shipwrecks is a romantic tale of a band locking themselves away in a remote cabin to write and rehearse. They’re a band that sticks to a DIY ethos to do as much as they could in-house. The guitarist oversaw recording and producing. David Caspar, the drummer collected earthy mixed media to make the striking album art. The band used old vintage equipment to capture those warm, rich tones. It almost sounds like a wholesome movie montage.

Not afraid to take their time, the band craft their build-ups. Because, as is the case with most post-rock, this is about long songs full of crescendos.

I find it difficult picking a stand-out track. All of them offer similar things, each with their own little nuances. Long, deliberate, and full of hope. Except the song “Maelstrom”, which feels more ominous than the rest of the tracks. It sounds like you’d expect from something with that name. Listen carefully and you’ll hear murky depths, with something deep underwater bubbling away.

I love the drumming on this album. Regular readers will know that I often focus on the drumming because I am a drummer myself. And this is my style of playing: hard hitting. Not fancy or technical, but packing a punch. Hit with purpose and allow the music space to breathe. There are distinct moments I hear that make me smile, like the when Caspar hits the bright ride bell *ping!* in “Monument”, or playing *dahdahdah DAH* around the kit in “Home”. And of course, he loves to throw in plenty of snare rolls.

As much as I love running a music blog, I find it hard to come up with new ways to describe music. I listen to (and write about) a lot of post-rock and so much of it blurs together. Some quiet picking, rising swells, big crescendo… Which band is this again? And without wanting to unfairly name names, I feel that some of the major players in the scene have released fairly uninspiring and forgettable records in recent years.

Shipwrecks have done well to stand out in a saturated scene. Only two releases in, and they already have a reputation.

Like their name suggests, when you stumble upon Shipwrecks, you’ve found something special. Like a precious sunken treasure, offering knowing references to a rich past. Building upon their influences, Shipwecks offer something familiar, yet not contrived. Nothing groundbreaking – just done well.

Shipwrecks. Image: Mirka Scheuer

Shipwrecks. Image: Mirka Scheuer

Shipwrecks is available via Sportklub Rotter Damm and Maniyax Records.

USA buyers can order through A Thousand Arms 

Shipwrecks links:

Website: http://shipwrecks-music.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shipwrecksmusic

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shipwrecksmusic/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCT02cwVPZTmCavhADv3qOoQ

Bandcamp: http://shipwrecks-music.bandcamp.com/


Joseph James

Will Not Fade Awesomeness Award 2018 – Adam Page

Adam Page

Adam Page has brought so much joy to my life that I feel the need to coin an award just to express how he makes me feel.

I still remember the first time I saw him. It was at a bar called Lido on Victoria street, which is now under construction. My friend Sam invited me along, and seeing how Sam’s recommendations are always trustworthy, I made a point of coming. It was weird in a way, because there was no charge for admission – just buy something to eat or drink to support the venue.

Adam led the trio. He largely stuck to vocals and saxophone, but also employed other odd instruments like kazoo and shakers and melodica – just to spice up the sound. He kept his band on their toes, turning to the drummer and saying “give me a disco beat at this pace”, clapping to count him in. Ed Zuccollo was on mini moog, closely watching Adam for key changes. Adam would shout out something like “and now for a solo in the key of E!”, putting Ed on the spot and forcing him to improvise.

It was a brilliant example of great musicianship. Unrehearsed, but still incredibly good.

The highlight of the night was when Adam launched into the Lion King theme song, belting out the African lyrics with intense passion. I found it so funny that I almost fell off my chair, tears rolling down my face with laughter. Adam even paused the song to check that I was OK.

Adam played a series of these gigs over the next month of so, always a free mid-afternoon improvised show at local bars and cafes. Always a complete joy to watch.

Adam Page

I remember him opening for comedy-rockers The Beards the first time the came to Wellington. I think they had some history, both coming from Adelaide. Adam had all the vital ingredients anyway: musical talent, a wicked sense of humour, and a beard. Using a looping pedal and a microphone, he played a set of songs that comprised of beat boxing and beard noises.

Beard noises? Well, when he pull on one long hair it made a high-pitched sound. When he brushed a comb through his follicles percussively, it made a beat. It sounds unbelievable, but he pulled it off.

Another show of note was at Puppies or Happy [I can’t remember which name the venue had at the time]. It was a Star Wars themed gig, to tie in with May the Fourth. Everyone in the band was dressed up as a Star Wars character, with Page dressed in a Boba Fett outfit that was far too small for him, giving him a major wedgie. Ah, the sacrifices we make for music!

I remember one individual was dressed in the infamous sexy slave Leia outfit. Said individual was a guy.

It was a fun night, a gathering of nerds and music lovers. The band ran through hits like “Imperial March” and that fun Cantina tune, adding fun twists to the covers.

It was a glorious period when Adam Page lived in Wellington. The name Adam Page was synonymous with fun times, and those times were frequent. He comes back now and again, often for Fringe festival.

Adam plays weird, but good music. He’s known for his improv looping sets. He released an album of Native American flute songs. He also featured on Name UL’s debut EP.

Adam personifies musical talent. You never know what to expect from one of his shows because they’re so spontaneous. He doesn’t stick to genre or convention, he just plays well and has fun. He’s such a gifted goofball. If you get the chance to see Adam Page live, do it! I guarantee you’ll have a great time.

And that is why Adam Page is the recipient of the 2018 Will Not Fade Award for Awesomeness!

Adam Page is playing at Meow in Wellington on Saturday 16 December. Tickets:  http://www.undertheradar.co.nz/gig/57366/Adam-Page.utr

Adam Page links:

Website: http://www.adampage.com.au/

Bandcamp: https://adampage.bandcamp.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/egapmada

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/adampagemusic/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/egapmada/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1u9MxsquCsO80boF-fClZw


Film Review: Birth of the Dragon (Bruce Lee biopic)

Bruce Lee Birth of The Dragon

For someone who was gone too soon at the age of 32, Bruce Lee sure achieved near mythical status. But as Lee’s daughter, Shannon, pointed out in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter in 2015, no film about her legendary father has completely captured the essence of the man behind the myth.

A year later, the Bruce Lee biopic Birth of the Dragon, directed by George Nolfi, was released. It stars Philip Ng, Xia Yu, and Billy Magnussen, and is supposedly about a young Lee (played by Ng) who challenges the kung fu master Wong Jack Man (played by Yu).

The film, unfortunately, does not give justice whatsoever to Lee, the master martial artist and to Lee, the man. Instead, it depicts Lee as more of a sidekick than superstar, a mere footnote to the exploits of Lee’s fictional American friend named Steve McKee (played by Magnussen). This unfortunate juxtaposition of roles, whether done deliberately or a mere oversight, was justifiably criticised by those who viewed the film as reported by Catherine Shoard who penned a review for The Guardian.

The film revolves more on the romantic travails of, a fictional American named McKee, who meets a waitress and falls in love with her, unaware that said waitress works for the local crime lord. So of course, McKee gets in trouble and Lee’s character and his supposedly history-altering rivalry with the kung fu master become mere sideshows. This is despite the trailer (see below) promoting the film as very much Lee and Wong’s story.

What’s worse, is that Lee is depicted as a cool-as-ice, nearly dimensionless, emotionless individual who makes a 180 degree turn to quintessential jerk—insecure, jealous, and vengeful—the moment he is confronted by the Wong challenge. This portrayal alone would have been enough reason for the younger Lee to slam the biopic as “a travesty on so many levels,” which she rightfully did as a Quartz article on the film recounts.

The fight scenes between Lee and Wong could have been the saving grace for the film, considering Lee’s reputation as close to a fighting machine and Wong’s standing as a kung fu master. But of course Nolfi and his team found a way to mess those up, too, as Lee and Wong’s supposed bare-knuckle, fight-to-the-death battle looked nothing like a conflict between two of the finest martial artists ever to walk this planet.

Bruce Lee

In short, Birth of the Dragon was a complete disaster, perhaps even a blatant money-grab, hoping to make a few millions off of Lee’s near-universal appeal and popularity.

The film, though, would not have been the first to try and profit from Lee’s legend. There have been countless movies about Lee, like Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story and Bruce Lee, My Brother (produced by Lee’s brother, Robert). Gaming companies have also rode on the seemingly never-waning popularity of Lee. Datasoft released the game Bruce Lee way back in 1984 for the Atari 8-bit family. Virgin Interactive Entertainment, meanwhile, released Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, a video game based on the eponymously titled film. The Slingo slot game Bruce Lee is inspired by the master himself, and makes use of images that are distinctly associated with Lee including his likeness, his signature vertical split pose, and several items connected to Lee’s martial arts legacy such as the shuriken and the dagger. The most famous example in the gaming industry is the character of Lee in the Tekken franchise which is a respectful homage to the master.

At the end of the day, Shannon Lee was right: no film has captured the essence of Bruce Lee. Fans of her father are no doubt hoping that the next biopic about the Jeet Kune Do founder will finally be the one to give justice to the life and ties of the older Lee.

At the end of the day, Shannon Lee was right: no film has captured the essence of Bruce Lee. Fans of her father are no doubt hoping that the next biopic about the Jeet Kune Do founder will finally be the one to give justice to the life and times of the older Lee.

Live Review: Guitar Wolf at Meow, Wellington

Guitar Wolf Meow - Will Not Fade

Guitar Wolf

w/ Huge Mutant

Meow, Wellington

Friday 24 November 2017

I feel that I need to explain my choice of attire.

Yesterday I posted on Instagram about how I was so excited for the Guitar Wolf gig at Meow tonight, and that I was planning on wearing my finest Hawaiian shirt. Someone from the band Hiboux commented, asking if this was a thing.

In short: no. But there is a weird rationale behind my decision.

You see, this is my third time seeing Guitar Wolf live. The first time was at Bodega. It was the night after seeing Foo Fighters at Western Springs in Auckland – at the time easily the best live act I’d seen. And as amazing as the large-scale Foo Fighters concert was, Guitar Wolf came damned close to topping them in terms of putting on a phenomenal live music experience.

One of the highlights of that night was when the singer pulled me up on stage to join a human pyramid. Another was when he pulled up a guy with a large beard and Hawaiian shirt. He handed his guitar to our lumberjack-looking friend, compelled him to “feel the rock” and instructed him to strum out.

The second time I saw Guitar Wolf was at Mighty Mighty – another defunct Wellington venue. And lo and behold, the same guy – wearing the same Hawaiian shirt and rocking the same awesome beard – was pulled onstage to feel the rock and play guitar. This second time I figured out that he was selected because he won a thumb wrestle.

I vowed to myself that next time, I would like to win the thumb wrestle and transform into a rock god onstage, under tutelage from Japan’s finest. And just to somehow enhance my odds, I decided to dress the same as the lumberjack dude. My thought process doesn’t make much sense, but oh well.

I’m lucky I even made it to the gig. After a long week at work I was knackered. I work as a preschool teacher, and the combination of heat, hay fever and loud children had given me a severe headache. I decided to have a short nap when I got home.

Turns out I needed that nap more than I’d realised. I woke up at 10pm – four hours later! I quickly threw on the all-important Hawaiian shirt and raced down to Meow. I’d missed the opening acts, but thankfully got to the gig in time for the main act.

And what a beautiful sight it was. Three grown men onstage wearing leather jackets and velociraptor masks. The guitarist cracked a can of beer open and emptied it into the mouth of the dinosaur.

Guitar Wolf Meow photo by Kay

Image: Kay Hoddy

After a short intro track the trio ditched their dino masks. Seiji led the trio on vocals and guitar. He wore wraparound sunglasses and was dripping with sweat for most of the set. Half of the appeal of Guitar Wolf is their energy, and Seiji injects so much of his personality into the show – making exaggerated expressions and motions as he plays. Toru kept the beat on drums, and frantically combed his hair back – rockabilly style – between songs. They also had a new bass player – Hikaru. I remember previous bassist, U.G. had taken to his bass guitar with a saw, cutting off the bottom portion that he didn’t need, seeing as he only played three strings. Hikaru was great, energetically flicking his hair around, and supporting on vocals.

Guitar Wolf are not for everyone. They take cues from punk, rock, rockabilly and garage to create their unique “jet rock n’ roll” – think Japanese Ramones. They’re ear-splittingly loud, with plenty of feedback and distortion. And they’re fast too. OK, so they’re not the tightest act out, but why let technical ability get in the way of a good show?

Seiji had good banter – or at least from what I could understand. He made a shout out “my cousin, Prime Minister of New Zealand” during their cover of “Summertime Blues”. He asked if we had boyfriends/girlfriends/both, before teaching us how to love. He also asked the crowd what the highest mountain in New Zealand is, which had him stumped when he couldn’t understand the name Aoraki.

Guitar Wolf Meow photo by Kay Hoddy

The pick of destiny. Image: Kay Hoddy

If you can’t tell yet, the show was great. I had the best time.

Like, literally.


Ok, so maybe it wasn’t the shirt. But I accomplished my goal.

As soon as Seiji removed his guitar strap I knew my time had come. He thrust his arm out into the crowd and I raced forward to grab his hand. He didn’t thumb wrestle me as I’d expected, but I clung on hard, trying to gain favour with him.

Seiji pulled me onstage, gave me his guitar, turning a knob so that the volume maxed out, squealing with feedback. Then he placed a guitar pick in my hand, raising it high above me head in a classic rock star stance. He shouted instructions my ear. To be honest I can’t even remember what he said – I was on such a buzz – but the gist is that I had to rock out.

I began strumming in time with the band. I’m not a guitarist and had no idea about chords, so I just played open, with my hand resting lightly on the strings on the neck to prevent too much feedback. My apologies to those who attended and had to put up with the cacophony I cause.

Seiji instructed me as I played. I don’t know if I understood correctly, but he guided me to wait, before strumming when he cued me. The next challenge was to jump in time with the band as we played. They all crouched down and I followed their lead, unsure of my role.

Image: Kay Hoddy

I have no idea how long I was on stage, but I was having the time of my life. I had bloody fingers and knuckles from the sharp guitar strings, but I didn’t care – it was worth it. At one point I noticed that one of the guitar strings had broken, and I wondered if I had done that, or had Seiji broken it earlier?

To finish, Seiji held me and pulled me down to the floor of the stage, removing the guitar from me. A man at the front of the crowd grabbed my legs and hoisted me up, and next thing I know, I was crowd surfing. It was unnerving, but I felt supported and nobody dropped me.

Guitar Wolf Meow photo by Kay Hoddy

Image: Kay Hoddy

The rest of the set was great. People congratulated me on my newfound rock god status. Guitar Wolf kept playing their furious music. It was fun.

They left the stage, before coming on with an encore of a few more songs, and Seiji wrapped up with a second, solo encore.

Guitar Wolf prove that a rock show needs to be exactly that – a show! They have the look, the attitude, and the energy – as well as the music. If you get the chance to see Guitar Wolf in action, do it! Just don’t forget your earplugs!

Rock and roll!

Guitar Wolf have three more dates in New Zealand:

Saturday 25th November, Whammy Bar, Auckland
Sunday 26th November, Kewpie Party Boat, Tauranga
Monday 27th November, Secret Show, West Auckland

Tickets at Undertheradar: http://www.undertheradar.co.nz/tour/7227/Guitar-Wolf-New-Zealand-Tour.utr


Words by Joseph James

Photos by Kay Hoddy (https://twitter.com/KayInNewZealand#)