Always one of the most supportive and simpatico artists to the 'Round Trip Mars' mission Tom Bailey aka International Observer presents his own kind of problem. Whenever it came time to choose a track for the 'Sideways' compilations the choice of stunners available from the I.O. live canon made selecting just a single slice almost impossible. The solution is in your hands, 13 tracks of dubwise splendour that gracefully moves through moods, styles and tempos.
Riding a haunting piano riff reminiscent of 'Bank Robber' era Clash, 'Leaf Mold' commences with the cuckoo's call and initiates the album with the kind of offer you simply can not refuse. It may well be '2 o'clock in Mombassa' but it's woofer worrying times all over when 'Welcome' hits its stride and announces its entrance as it 'takes a load off' with a bassline of seismic proportions and snatched giggles deep within the mix. Written especially for an outdoor show in central Auckland that was cancelled due to inclement weather 'Freyburg Place Mat' is a strident power-steppers cut that comes with musical thunderbolts but also deserves its very own rhythm shower.
Previously one of the standouts on the 'Sideways Too' compilation the 2-Step tinged skippy shapes of '2 Steps At A Time Sweet Jesus' signal an opportunity to shake a leg and trainspotters. Yes, it is a different mix (as are all of the previously released cuts!) Who let the pigs out? Don't ask us, but there's a pronounced porcine presence permeating amongst the stereophonically sizzling pan-demonious up-tempo rhythms of 'Seedsavers Dub' (which was especially put together for the Auckland GE Free March). Don't argue - get your snout out of the gene pool and into this tonal trough.
Definitely amongst the favouritest of all live I.O. favourites 'Vale Bengali' is a tabla thumping, mellow fellow but a spice invader none-the-less; yes, indeed so many scorchers and we're barely half way through.
Like 'Vale', 'London Dub' was selected by Richard Dorfmeister showing top-shelf taste, for his 'A Different Drummer Selection'. This scorcher of a track (written 'pining for the Northern Line' according to Tom) kicked up a worldwide fuss when it was issued on vinyl on the 'Seen' EP and rightly so, it's straight out moideration. Moving down the moody-ometer the majestic '(The More) We Know' is the last of the previously peeped items, before the album heads into its third-phase meltdown and cracking conclusion.
'Hip Hop's Final' is a typical International Observer tune in as much as, on first plays it appeals and draws you in no doubt, but it is only after repeated dosages that it fully reveals its multi-layered magic, melodic masterstokes and mind boggling minutiae; like the infomercial says it just keeps getting better!! The transition through to the gentle doof, and 'doff of the cap' in the dancefloor direction of 'Low Light Meter' is pretty special in our book too; this one was composed especially to perform at dusk for the Big Chill at Larmer Tree, UK and a duskier delicacy you couldn't wish to find.
Breezing through on a big-ass bed of plump horns, sizzling keyboard skanks and hefty drums that seem to be careering towards implosion at one point 'Dirty Harry' is the first track to be released to radio and you'd best believe the clip is fully loaded on this infectious joint. Another cut that bears titular reference to the location it was assembled for is the epic 'War Memorial Museum Peace' which is perhaps the slowest burner on the whole album and leads into the final shout on the headset hammering, mobile melodies of 'Cellphone Dub', a track that you may not have heard the last of. because we've got plans and ulterior motives yet to be revealed for this one.
We like to pass ourselves off as having an air of sophisticated élan up here at the 'Round Trip Mars' Simplex in Cape Carnivorous, but behind closed doors we are frothing like peeps possessed at the prospect of unleashing this sophomore International Observer release 'All Played Out', get to it.
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The Observer rides again
Posted: Fri Sep 4, 2009 1:51 pm
The Observer rides again
Two years after the seminal Heard was released, Tom Bailey AKA International Observer returns with eleven more slices of delectable dub drenched delights, designed to bother bassbins worldwide on October the 5th via the Dubmissions label and Rhythmethod distribution.
Aside from his opening take on the classic, House of the Rising Sun, Felt is an altogether deeper excursion into bass than its predecessors: beats are sparser and the basslines heavier. Lampedusa is inspired by the refugees held in camps on the Italian island of the same name, physically only breaths away from freedom, but practically miles apart.
It is still a joyful affair though, with tracks peppered by his trademark horns and guitar riffs. Plus Popcorn Slavery is as near to his playful pop past as electronic dub is able to go.
A welcome addition to the Observer collection, then, building on the lush ambience of Seen and the good grooves of Heard. Absolute perfect timing as this is the sound of a NZ lazy summer all wrapped up in a little jewel case. Lovely.
1. House of the Rising Dub
2. Popcorn Slavery
3. The Death of Karamov
4. Rose Madder
7. House Made of Felt
8. Mudshark Lick
9. Binman Dub
10. Miss Hit
11. Abode of the Setting Moon
The chief perpetrator of the International Observer experience is keyboardist, songwriter and producer Tom Bailey. Following the extraordinary success of his synth-pop group The Thompson Twins, production and writing work for the likes of Debbie Harry, and the ambient techno of his Babble project, Tom was lured to New Zealand.
New Zealand culture has a long history of appreciation for reggae and dub, along with more recent blends like hip hop. This, along with NZ's balmy climes, created the perfect inspiration for Tom's exploration of the dub artform he had deeply loved since the seething post-punk infatuation of the music in the late 70s.
Early in 2002, having amassed enough material for a boxed set, Tom set about pruning the oeuvre down to an ideal International Observer primer, called 'Seen'. While he attempted to keep the wraps on this absurdly tasty release, it was somewhat inevitable that previews were sneaked out of seclusion, resulting in extensive radio play worldwide and eager members of the press corps frothing at the mouth for IO morsels. It's been called the lushest, deepest, most caringly crafted dub-a-tronic exploration ever released, a cunning experiment in melodic instrumental dub that, without losing its edge, makes for the most gorgeously seductive meditative listening experience.
This release was followed in 2005 by "All Played Out", a selection of live and sound system favourites that for one reason or another did not make it onto "Seen". Released only in New Zealand and Australia on the cult Auckland label, Round Trip Mars, it followed its predecessor into the hands, boxes and players of discerning dubheads. Some of the tracks from “All Played Out” finally made it out worldwide in 2007 on the “Heard” album through Dubmission Records. Critically acclaimed by the press, it also featured newer tracks and classics such as “The International”.
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