Malta Week, Mondays, and Surprises!

Welcome to Monday, guys!  (fyi, “Welcome to Monday” is a song by the folk group “The Owls”.  I will review them eventually, but in anticipation, you may check out their myspace.) Thanks for joining us for Malta Mayhem!  This week we discovered that Maltese music really does have very distinct qualities, from reggae/ska to more electronic/grunge.  If it wasn’t your thing, we forgive you, and you have the rest of The Indie Handbook to look forward to.   Actually, you have something *specifically* very special to look forward to this week, and because it is Eric’s news, I am going to let him tell you when he posts next.  No, he is not pregnant.  Let’s just say, he’s going to a show tonight, and he may or may not be having a conversation with a person there.  I’ll leave it at that.

So, to wrap up Malta Mayhem, we have created a Youtube mix for you.  It includes nosnow/noalps, the  Beangrowers, Brikkuni, and Danjeli–there’s a little somethin’ for everyone, y’all!  Sorry you have to click on the link (I know, soooo difficult, right?) but the embedding is just not working out for me.

Also, just because it’s Monday and I’m pretty excited about the possibility of playlists, here’s one to help you get through (the rest) of your Monday. Not particularly work appropriate, depending, of course, on your place of employment. Also, I prefer it on shuffle.

They make reggae in Iowa?

I’ve been learning some interesting things about Malta this week. Yes, I’ve learned about demographics and language and whatever, but I am thinking of more important things here, namely the musical culture. I have learned, for instance, that there seems to be a surprisingly high concentration of reggae and ska acts on this island. (If any of our Maltese friends can explain this to me, I would love to know why. Geographically, Malta is a wee bit removed from Jamaica. Then again, I recently learned that someone I know is a particular fan of a reggae band from Iowa, so I suppose it can come from anywhere. Also, props to The Riffs for a legitimately entertaining ska version of “Smoke on the Water”.) I’ve got one of those reggae influenced Maltese acts for you in this post, as well as one which is less than reggae-ish.

Peklectrick is a project featuring Patrick Galea (formerly guitarist for Dripht, a band which also included two current members of nosnow/noalps [there’s that pesky incestuous streak again]). It would be unfair to call this straight-up reggae. Yes, the reggae-style guitar upstroke patterns are there, but add a bit of overdrive to soften the attack and Peklectrick begins to lean more in the direction of ska. And with Patrick’s half sung, half spoken vocals, he demonstrates once again something we have been telling you all week: the music of Malta deserves your attention. Check out “Reclaiming Space” on his MySpace page.

Danjeli is not a reggae act. Really, it’s nothing like reggae, or like anything else we’ve featured on the Indie Handbook thus far. Danjeli is Daniel Schembri. With a list of influences ranging from Aphex Twin and Autechre to Luciano Berio and Iannis Xenakis, one thing is clear: Danjeli is a DJ after my own heart. His MySpace lists IDM among the genres attributable to Danjeli’s music. That is not to say it is nearly as cerebral as Autechre or, say, Venetian Snares but there is still plenty to love. Take “Festin Unfinished”, for example. At first glance, it’s got a music boxy, children at play sort of sound. But as the drums kick in and the music builds something of a Yann Tiersen feel begins to emerge (think Amelie). If you only listen to one of his tracks, listen to this one.

A Musical Stew That Shouldn’t Work

“A musical stew that shouldn’t work” is the way Brikkuni decribes its music on myspace, and when you hear it, you’ll definitely understand.

[oh p.s. yes we usually do Follow An Indie Band Wednesday highlights but because 5 days is barely enough to cover a country, we are going to put them off this week.  don’t worry, faithful friends, we will be back w/highlights next week.  we may even surprise you with highlights from this week…sometime later.]

I had been wondering about the Maltese language–what is Maltese, what does it sound like?  Well, I think this is it.  (No, seriously, I think this is it, but I’m American and only studied French and don’t really remember much, so maybe it isn’t, but I think it is, isn’t it?  What?)  It always feels a little cheesy listening to music from other countries when I can’t understand the language–like I’m trying too hard to be cool, or something.  I also place a lot of value in lyrics, as in, they better be genius, so to lose that comprehension feels like losing a major element of what makes this particular art (music. with lyrics. not the movie.) meaningful.  However, I’m currently listening to Brikkuni and really digging them, despite the lack of lyrics to help me understand.

There are different kinds of indie, and this particular kind is the kind that is so crazy that somehow it works.  The first song posted on their myspace, “Willie Vassallo,” is completely devoid of lyrics anyway, and sounds like what would happen if John Wayne fought Arcade Fire in one of those old westerns that my dad watches.  During their second song, we are all introduced to Mario’s vox, which are intensely full of character.  Many characters, actually.  He sings, he whispers, he growls, he ba-ba-ba’s, and he shouts…and it’s wonderful.  During “Kollox Suggettiv,” you wonder if Brikkuni has gleaned some stylistic elements from Bizet’s Carmen, especially with the clarinet motifs, the sudden tempo changes, and the “oompa oompa” throughout the entire song.

Yes, it is as bizarre as it sounds.  It also happens to be quite brilliant.  Dig it, Malta!

I hear it’s nice in the winter time

If you’ve been with us for a while, you remember Dutch Week, which went over surprisingly well with you people. Since then, Kristin and I have been dying to do another theme week. We considered taking on the Netherlands again because there is still so much incredible music we haven’t addressed yet, but instead, we are heading south to a place with a surprising amount of great music being created by a population of just over 400,000. That’s right, I’ve been promising this for a few weeks now, and here it is. It is time for MALTA MAYHEM!

We’re going to get things going with my favorite Maltese band (of the ones I have managed to preview thus far). Welcome to the world of nosnow/noalps. This is a band with more than a minor funky streak, just check out the video for “Headset” below. Drawing on equal parts rock, funk, and ska, with boy/girl vocals and some nice guitar work, nosnow/noalps remind me of something like a spiffed up version of CSS and even the art school sound of the Ting Tings (both of which you ought to check out if, for some reason, you didn’t the moment you first heard “Music is my hot, hot sex” on that iPod advert two years ago). There are songs streaming on their MySpace and Facebook pages (we’re on Facebook, too). Check out nosnownoalps.com for other information and stuff not available on either of those other pages.

One last bit of news completely unrelated to Malta Mayhem. Indie Handbook favorites The Joy Formidable released their new single, “Whirring” on 7″ vinyl today (if you are a fan of TIH on Facebook, you already know this). The single includes an alternate version of “Whirring” in Welsh. Visit our Facebook page to see a video for the Welsh version, or just Google it. Of course, it’s too late to pre-order the single and have your name entered into the drawing for the Joy Formidable golden ticket, but I’m sure they will still sell you the record anyway.