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Nov 19, 2017

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Nick Cave; Ben Harper; You Am I…
by Jane Rocca, Clive Smith and Jon Baxter
Magazine Issue: AUS/NZ Issue Three

Rock legends don't die...

...they just have kids and a new album. Kick it back a gear with new releases from not so new musicians and some electronic music that'll suit your mood, just so long as it's up. Music reviews by Jane Rocca and Clive Smith; wine matches to drink them with, by Jon Baxter.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds/No More Shall We Part/FMG

At 43, Nick Cave is at a new crossroads and this philanthropic turn has been evolving since The Boatman's Call in 1997. Four years on and he's a married man with two twin sons he shares with his model wife Susie Bick. It's this new frontier that finds Cave at peace with reflection and quiet harmony. No More Shall We Part is far removed from the tainted horror of 1996's The Murder Ballads, this time letting love rule where fear once lurked. Sweetheart Come is painstakingly beautiful with the help of Warren Ellis' flighty violins while The Sorrowful Wife is held together by a pretty piano melody. Love Letter is kissed with a breathy affection and these moments abound on this album. JR

Drink with: A late night in the "Cave" calls for something red to scare the blues away. Go west of Melbourne to Great Western or the Pyrenees for Shiraz mellow but forceful that lives on the edge (just like you know who).

Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals/Live From Mars/EMI

Live From Mars comes after four studio albums ensuring plenty of variety. Since his record label signing at the age of 24, not much has changed Harper's folksy and soul roots. In fact the only noticeable difference in recent time is that he often puts down his Weisenborn guitar for an electric neck. Even still, he continues to deliver sensual, political and philosophically earthy material. There's the relatively new song Steal My Kisses which sweeter the centre of a jam doughnut, while Burn To Shine and Welcome To The Cruel World capture him in an acoustic groove oriented mood. Harper also adds acoustic renditions of the Verve's The Drugs Don't Work and Marvin Gaye's Sexual Healing - two hits that made a great impression on this 30-year-old musician. JR

Drink with: Ben's still young enough to press the hip buttons but his influences run back deep. Couldn't think of a better match than the new but traditional darling grape, Viognier - try Yalumba for starters.

You Am I/Dress Me Slowly/BMG

If the encroaching heaviness of You Am I's first single Damage is any indication, the band hasn't lost their knack for producing melodies that grow on you. You Am I still have the sonorous horsepower to make their new album, Dress Me Slowly - their fifth - ripe with pop glory. Beautiful Girl is full of romantic blossom - a predictable manoeuvre considering Rogers' Spanish wife Rocio Garcia Rodriguez recently gave birth to their child. There's melting pop notes (Judge Roy) intertwined with classic twangy guitars (Doug Sahm) - the band merging their best traits - the ability to rock and the inclination to stand by a tuneful and lightly fed pop song all at once. Sometimes full of The Kinks' charismatic 60s feel, other times drunk on a Replacements riff - Dress Me Slowly has that one size fits assurance. JR

Drink with: Dress yourself slowly as you sip on a glass or three of a Tassie sparkling - biting acid but a great heart starter. Try Clover Hill or Jansz.

Stephen Malkmus/Stephen Malkmus/Spunk

Stephen Malkmus left his jingle jangle pop band Pavement in 1999 and went at it alone and the off-kilter pop hooks from this star of indie lo-fi remain unchanged. Black Book is made up of thick melodies with a deep-set groove while Phantasies is a kooky mix of Malkmus' string thin vocal range, chimes and synthesisers. Discretion Groove lays down a gentle yet fuzzy pedal verve while The Hook could easily have walked off Pavement's 1993 Westing & Musket recording. It's Malkmus' shy boy stance that adds to his lo-fi sexiness, not to mention his sinewy American accent adding to the sparkling feel good number called Trouble. The stand out however, is Jenny and The Ess-Dog - it's a girl meets boy tale that twists indie kudos with various tempo changes complete with honeycomb vocals. JR

Drink with: Young, purple and earthy Hunter Valley Shiraz is the go with this dude - sweet with a leathery side - see Tyrells, Brokenwood etc.

The Art of Zen Relaxation Vol 3/Creative Vibes

Superb collection of down-tempo breaks and beats astutely selected by the shakers at local label, Creative Vibes. Representing the cream of UK's Ninja Tunes current crop, as well as some of that label's enduring stalwarts, this is as good as it gets. From the smoky strains of the Tom Tyler mixed Channel One Suite, by arch slow-groovers Cinematic Orchestra, to the restrained hip-hop of The Herbaliser, Zen three is the thinking person's bean-bag best friend. Lay back, headphones on, and don't come back til you're good and ready. CS

Drink with: Something soft and sinkable like a McLaren Vale Grenache - it doesn't make you think too much while you're at the mind laundrette. (Mix up a bunch of Ôem in a bucket next to the beanbag and get a couple of long straws.)

Shantel/Greatdelay/K7/Creative Vibes

Stefan Hantel, going under a moniker better suited to an NY drag disco diva, has turned in a corker. After two earlier albums and some sought after EPs, this is a gem. With a recording philosophy leaning more to the organic than the electronic, there's still enough looped weirdness and funky bleeps to satisfy any moody modernist. Track three, Backwood, is so War we could be in the City of Angels, and the rest of this one consistently rises to equally cherubic heights. CS

Drink with: The alternative is riesling - the right alternative for the alternative (whatever alternative means). Go anywhere in Clare.

Flanger/Midnight Sound

Burnt Friedman and Atom Heart are Flanger - conceptual art jazz noodlers sehr extraordinaire. Atom is known under his other cap as Senor Coconut, who gave us that sensational reworking of Kraftwerk classics in the Cuban style. This seeming juxtaposition with all that is electronically sacred may give just a hint of how far Flanger is prepared to go. Jazzy vibraphones, demon drumming and all the bells and whistles of sampler inspired experimentia, with, believe it or not, a high accessibility quotient, make this a sleeper late night hit. CS

Drink with: The "midnight sound" is the slurping of curry laksa washed down with a spicy lychee Gewurtztraminer. Try Knapstein for one.

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