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RTRFM General Manager and Gimme Some Truth’s Festival Programmer, Jason Cleary, has gathered together RTRFM presenters and local musicians to give you some insight into the host of films being shown at this year’s festival.
I remember first hearing Elliott Smith on RTRFM, probably Out To Lunch, and just being blown away by the melodic but also very vulnerable music. I also remember thinking it sounded just like someone recording straight into a tape deck in their bedroom.
After his explosion in popularity off the back of Good Will Hunting, he always just seemed out of place and totally disconnected with his new found fame – how he actually felt who ever knows – but this film really explores, via a host of friends and musical acquaintances, what seems to be an amazingly generous and gifted human being.
Freestyle is rap in it’s most raw and unedited state. It’s a rhythmic conversation that can be funny, vicious and heartfelt all at the same time. It’s also a collective voice for a people and an introduction to their culture. If you go along to a cypher (a group freestyle) in Brooklyn you’ll hear more than just rap. You’ll hear freestyles about their government, their families, their jobs, their partners.
It’s a deeply personal insight into not just American culture, but every place on the planet that has embraced it.
Watch this clip of Vince Staples freestyling on a radio show called “Sway in the Morning” for a masterful demonstration of the art form:
Nas is considered to be of the greatest hip-hop artists of all time. His music broke grounds in early 90’s hip-hop, as he told stories about the bleak life in the Queensbridge housing project in Queens, New York through his unique lyricism and flow.
His debut album, Illmatic, is considered to be one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time, and features production from Large Professor, DJ Premier, Pete Rock and Q-Tip. It Ain’t Hard To Tell is produced by Large Professor and features a sample from Michael Jackson’s Human Nature. It is one of the finest example of 90’s hip-hop production known as “boom bap”.
Hailing from the same label as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and sharing some of the same members, Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra are a unique amalgam of post-rock, punk, jazz, neo-classical and North American folk. After more than 15 years together, they are still producing progressive and aggressive music with chanting, samples and much noise. The main difference from bigger brother Godspeed is the use of voice.
Efrim Manuck, member of both bands, leads the vocal duties, but much of it is a group singing dynamic. Chanting, shouting, and a confronting and almost taunting manner, makes for an intriguing listen. Silver Mt Zion, throughout their name and line-up changes, continue to make music you can think to.
The late 1980s and early 1990s were a watershed period for guitar-based music – indeed for the sound of the instrument itself. Whilst the roots of grunge were taking hold in the US and even Australia, in the UK a raft of bands were combining heavily distorted and reverb-drenched guitarscapes with haunting and ethereal pop melodies to create a sound that was at once abrasive and romantic.
What arguably makes the music coming out of Britain during that period so gripping is the way it balanced noise with pop songwriting – not only was this music that embraced an innovative use of the guitar’s noise-making possibilities, but it was made by bands who were writing beautifully melodic and impassioned songs.
Slowdive were more ethereal than aggressive, but their hazy, washed out approach to sound-making and their hauntingly gorgeous songwriting, fronted by the sublime vocals of Rachel Goswell exemplify this movement and provide some of its most blissed-out moments, such as the beautiful, washy and majestic Shine.
No Encore was filmed a few years ago now in 2011, and though I haven’t seen it yet, I can imagine it encapsulates a period of Decibel‘s early career. We bravely ventured our experimental new music repertoire into regional Western Australia, aka ‘down south’, playing venues as diverse as the Albany Performing Arts Centre, a Denmark winery, the Nannup Town Hall and the Northcliffe Interprative Centre,.
Decibel presented a program of our own music, and that of leading Australian and international composers writing for acoustic and electronic instruments in a wide range of ways. The program featured improvisation, noise, electronic processing, found sounds, LP records and even ‘door banging’.
There was a cyclone brewing off the coast of WA and at one stage it seemed that we wouldn’t get past the first concert. But we did, and Kenta with his assistant Ben were there with his camera as we wrangled suits, kilos of electrical equipment, workshops, children and animals.
Decibel’s new album Tuned Darker is out on Listen | Hear, launching at the Astor Lounge on Monday, 19 January 2015.
In recent years, soul and rhythm and blues has provided no end of raw material for documentary makers whose aim is to shine a light on some of the more unheralded contributors to the genre. Some have focused on individual scenes (Wheedle’s Groove – Seattle), labels (Muscle Shoals – FAME Studios and This Ain’t No Mouse Music – Arhoolie Records) while Twenty Feet From Stardom centered its attention on backing singers.
This time around the spotlight is on the Miami sound in Deep City, named after the record label formed by Willie Clarke and Johnny Pearsal in the mid-1960s. Operating from the back room of Johnny’s Record Store, this was ground zero for the Miami soul sound and was the first black-owned record label in Florida.
This hour-long documentary focuses on the lasting contributions made by the producers, their label and the local talents that Deep City Records brought to the forefront such as The Dynamites, Clarence Reid (aka Blowfly), Betty Wright and Helene Smith.
Fela Kuti was a fearless warrior who used music as his weapon. In the heavily militant Nigeria of the 1970’s, Fela used his unique blend of American soul, jazz and traditional African rhythms as the soapbox to broadcast his contempt and dissatisfaction of Nigeria’s corrupt government.
Poet, multi-instrumentalist, human activist, political maverick, husband to 27 wives and father to 7 children, Fela Kuti was easily one of the most important – and often over-looked – figures in music of the 20th century.
And the latest addition to Gimme Some Truth…
Clark Terry made his first trumpet out of garbage in the street, mentored the most influential bandleader in the history of jazz, played in the best big bands of the swing era, inspired generations of musicians, and never fails to find a deep well of generosity and kindness within himself, which he shares with everyone he meets.
At the age of 84, he is still playing alongside the best musicians in the new generation, and is one of the few jazz musicians left from his time period. Clark Terry is among a handful of trumpeters that could be named the greatest in the history of jazz, and the celebration of his life is very much in order.