Cordyline Australis - Michael Canning (Ghostjogger)
Looks like I was premature the other week when I listed my fave ten or so for 2017. “Cordyline Australis” should have been there.
And I have to say I envy all of you - you haven’t heard this yet. The first listen - if you put aside the hour and turn it on - you’ll be damn impressed. This is one hugely groovy disc.
You don’t know Michael Canning from a bag of chops, of course; he’s on Facebook as Michael Sea, and I did a review of his band’s last EP, “Mass Spectrometer”; I should also point out that Canning has released one earlier solo LP, and a slew of other music with other bands. Hassle the man on FB, but also go here.
This is New Zealand-born Canning's second solo album and his 11th release since 1990. He's been based in the UK since the 1990's.
Now, I’ve outed Michael Canning in that review, told you all about his younger self. Not that you can really tell he’s a huge MC5 fan here. This is a solo disc which any single one of you reading this would be proud to make.
Right, you all remember the ‘70s, right?
No? What about the ’80s?
Too drunk? So, you think you remember them but… okay, okay, I’ve got the idea.
Look. Way back at the tail end of the ‘70s, young folk like myself were discovering the future and also the amazing past. As if they’d merged. So we’d discover The Pop Group’s “Y”, and Can’s second LP in the same week. Or Metal Urbaine and Neu, ditto. The Barracudas, and Love. The Teardrop Explodes, and The Trashmen. Are you with me yet? (ED: Yes, Sir Les.)
Well, don’t you worry about that, as a wicked old prick once said (over and over. The fat swine’s probably still saying that now). Back then, there were bands which were considered weird by the many, but were considered hypnotically fascinating by the very few. (Didn’t make us superior to be among “the few”, as some have suggested. No, it made us stick out like dog’s balls on a Christmas plum pudding, and about as popular. And we’d stick to our moral authority in public - then run like hell or we’d be beaten up, not just by Elvis fans or skinheads, but by the police if you lived in WA or Queensland).
I recall one musician who I won’t name, who referred to The Velvet Underground as “really weird” (accompanied by a confused, screwed-up face) in 1980.
By 2017 we should know a bit better. However, in a world where art is only cursorily examined, and if it’s apparently shocking, fawned over. If it’s scrappily done and appears radical (compared to the ever-shit mainstream.) Why is the mainstream always so fucking god-awful? You get to appear in all manner of hipster-lead blogs (oh, the irony: “hipster” in the modern context used to mean someone who really knew about a specific thing, and now it has come to mean a dress-sense and incredible ignorance. Those who think I’m poking fun - “punk” haircuts were all the rage for eight-year-olds in 1986, and grown-up punks increasingly resembled clowns, while the big hair - apropos Sioux, Cave and Smiffy - and shoulderpads were coupled with big fat arses squeezed into ‘designer’ jeans. Remember all that? Geeze Louise, Muriel…) Ah. I seem to have lost control of that sentence.
So, by the standards of the mainstream shitstem, “Cordyline Australis” is weird. Got that? Weird.
But nah. It’s groovy as all get out. You can’t really compare the thing to any other record, not really. There are quite a few influences, but that’s utterly unimportant. Apart from a couple of horns, Canning has done the lot, including the recording, mixing and mastering. And unlike the majority of solo projects, “Cordyline Australis” is fucking brilliant.
The grooves he sets up are unique, often bassy. The rhythms he sets up with his voice - and that voice has been treated very uniquely. There’s such an intimate, loving aspect to this disc. It’s mercurial, unpredictable - especially that all important first listen. And you go back for more, hearing more.
There’s a lot to this record, and honestly, there’s so much simplicity to it. Somewhere between charm, lovemaking and lazy Sunday morning. The man knows how to make silence a rhythm. Knows how to capture us. And release. It’s sensual without turning aggressively sexual. And a whole pile of other things.
“Cordyline Australis”, Canning writes, is “the taxonomic name for the common ‘cabbage tree’” (you’ll recognise the thing immediately on the back cover) as we call it in NZ. As it happens it grows really well in the temperate climes over here in the UK, so seeing one always makes me smile.”There are numerous themes to this record but probably one of the most important ones is finding beauty in the everyday.”
Every song on “Cordyline Australis” is a little adventure, an audio snapshot, a rich groove and a place to go, go to, travel from, and generally lie down and soak in. I don’t have the language, really, to make it any clearer. You need to hear this.
One interesting snippet more; “Stone Age Europe’”is the only track that survived from [my initial recordings in] 2001, and from memory was recorded a month or two before 9/11 happened in NYC. It now seems even more pertinent with Brexit happening, renewed Cold War tensions, and the madness happening in Syria and Libya, etc…”
I’ll be turning to “Cordyline Australis” over and over. To paraphrase a rather greater gentleman (than the prick alluded to above) once said, “just because you can’t hear it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there”.
There’s still a whole pile of musicians I’d love to meet before either they or I pop our/ my clogs, but Michael Canning is the most important.
What are you waiting for? Buy it here.