Broad Oak releases his debut EP In Love With These Hills

Originally hailing from the fair isles of New Zealand but now living in Berlin, Nigel Braddock aka Broad Oak studied classical piano from an early age and completed a music degree before deciding the life of a classical musician was not for him. In the year 2000, after some years wandering the planet, he set up indie label Monkey Records in Auckland to release an album by his band Dystopia which was a collaboration with a poet and a sitar player. Since then he has recorded and produced several albums for the label (John White, Charity Children, The Mung Beings, Cosmo and the Cosmonaut)) as well as working as a sound engineer, tour booker/manager and dj.

The release of his debut EP, In Love With These Hills, sees him come full circle with his label which started out releasing ambient music such as Sleepytime, Dystopia and the compilation Leading a Horse to Water. In fact, the genesis of the EP was a set of recordings he made in 2002.

Says Braddock, “I was inspired by Nigel Gavin who had recorded improvised loops every day for a year and chosen the best for his album, Music For Flem Vol. II (released by Monkey Records). I didn’t have any recording software or hardware back then so I borrowed a friend’s loop pedal and a mini disc player for a few days and recorded a bunch of loops. I made a few cassettes of the resulting tracks and sent them to friends but I always had the idea in the back of my mind to do something more with them one day. In 2012, not long after I moved to Berlin, I bought a piano and decided to add piano parts to two of the tracks. You can actually hear my son coming in on the piece Letting Go while I was playing and saying “music, music” when he was about 18 months old.

Predictably I got sidetracked again and I only finished the tracks in early 2021 while recovering from a bout of covid. My mood was quite sombre as I was feeling very isolated so it was the perfect time to come back to these pieces which are all quite melancholy. Because the original loops were recorded without a click track, the overdubs were all done pretty much live, no cut and paste, which adds a more organic feel to the tracks. There’s also unusual phrasing, for example the original loop for Worms is five bars which gives the track a feel of uneasiness. This is entirely appropriate given the track is named after a nightmare I once had of being dead and buried in the ground but still conscious while worms and other insects devoured my flesh. The tracks are mostly instrumental but track two features vocals from Kathryn van Beek who I was in a band with called Peachy Keen at the time.”

In Love With These Hills is the first of six planned EPs for the coming year which will chart Broad Oak’s progress as a composer and musician over the last twenty years. Since the founding of his label he has been making his own music but always ended up prioritising other artists over his own output. That all changed in 2019 when, faced with ever dwindling returns from streaming, he decided not to sign any new artists to the label and concentrate on his own material and collaborations. He now has eight different musical projects underway including a band with his son (Cosmo and the Cosmonaut), a project with a rapper from New York (The Mung Beings) and an upcoming solo piano album.

Braddock is also very interested in collaborating with AI and the cover for the EP comes from online AI art generator DALL-E. The AI generated music video by WZRD for Worms Ate My Flesh, the first single from the EP, has been selected for fourteen film festivals and recently scooped the Best Music Video and Best AI graphics at the AI International Film Festival.

Broad Oak music video wins at International AI Festival

Congratulations to Broad Oak whose hallucinogenic music video for Worms Ate My Flesh has now been selected for thirteen different film festivals worldwide and recently won Best Music Video and Best AI Graphics at the International AI Film Festival in Salt Lake City.

Broad Oak is the solo project of Monkey Records founder Nigel Braddock who set up the label in 2000. The original loop for Worms was recorded 20 years ago and recently, while under a strict lockdown in Berlin, he completed the track as part of a forthcoming EP.

Beginning with a strident piano phrase and menacing strings the track transitions to a three way dialogue between trumpet, clarinet and oboe before rising to a peak and breaking apart. “The title of the track comes from a particularly vivid dream,” explains Braddock. “I was lying dead in the ground yet somehow conscious. My body was decomposing and being eaten by worms and insects. I could feel things slithering through my eye sockets. In the beginning it was horrifying but ultimately I accepted it and relaxed into it.”

The mesmerising video is a collaboration with an AI called WZRD. The abstract fluidly evolving images sometimes reminiscent of cells and galaxies forming and decaying.

The Mung Beings present their new EP It’s Not Over

In It’s Not Over, The Mung Beings address the most pressing issue of our times, the climate crisis. Lyricist Saadiah Fowlkes was inspired by Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything, to pen the words. While condemning the “fat cats in the back of the Benzes” and noting that “we’re tipping towards extinction” the song also offers hope with the message that “we still have time if we make the commitment”. As Klein concluded in her book we can’t reply on government or corporations to take the necessary steps so we need to come together and take collective action to save our future.

Special guest on the song is Saad’s father, Curtis Fowlkes, an internationally renowned jazz trombonist and in demand session musician who has worked on records by Glen Hansard, Sheryl Crow, Iron and Wine, Horace Andy, Elvis Costello and Lou Reed.

The EP features four remixes from the other two members of the band and two instrumentals.

The Mung Beings are producers Allan Thomasson and Nigel Braddock (from Australia and New Zealand respectively) and vocalist Saadiah Fowlkes from New York. The three met in Berlin where they recorded their debut album, soon to be released on Monkey Records.

Braddock is the founder of Monkey Records and has produced many albums for the label over the last twenty years. Thomasson has played in iconic New Zealand bands Cloudboy and Mink. Fowlkes is a rapper and singer and has performed at venues all over the world, mostly in his hometown NYC and Berlin, his home for nine years. He was a member of the rock/hip hop band Natural Selection and has shared the stage with Wyclef Jean and Mark Ronson.

 

 

Goodbye Lockdown by Cosmo and the Cosmonaut

Goodbye Lockdown is the new single from Berlin-based father and son band, Cosmo and the Cosmonaut.

“Cosmo has been homeschooling for most of the last year and as part of his music lessons we recorded an album,” says the Cosmonaut aka New Zealand-born Monkey Records label boss Nigel Braddock, who was also spending a lot more time at home than usual. “We dedicate this song to anyone who’s been in lockdown over the last year and a half.”

Ten year old Cosmo raps about how the initial novelty of homeschooling quickly wore off and how he just misses his friends, “Now I realise school isn’t so bad, when I see my friends again I will be so glad.” He also takes a swipe at conspiracy theorists, “Some people don’t believe the virus is real, they’ve watched too much YouTube maybe that’s their deal.” Ultimately the message is one of unity and hope, “We need to come together, to stand as one. When this thing’s all over we’re going to have some fun.”

Cosmo and the Cosmonaut invited friends from around the world to take part and the chorus features contributions from Germany, UK, New Zealand, USA, Australia, Portugal, Japan, Greece, Poland, Cambodia and Vanuatu. The accompanying eye-catching music video features each contributor as part of a colourful Zoom choir.

Goodbye Lockdown is the first single to be released from Cosmo and the Cosmonaut’s second album due later in the year. Their first album, Ultra Mega was released in May 2019.

Ultra Mega Music Video by Cosmo and the Cosmonaut

Germany’s fourth most famous father and son electronic rap band, Cosmo and the Cosmonaut, present the music video for the title track from their debut album, Ultra Mega. The video is filmed entirely on the actual moon, where Cosmo and the Cosmonaut enjoyed a picnic of all their favourite vegan foods.

Some people will try and tell you that this video is fake but don’t believe them.

No vegetables or fruit were harmed in the making of this music video (apart from the ones that got eaten).

Lazy Boy, the new single from The Mung Beings

Lazy Boy is the third single from NY/Berlin-based band The Mung Beings and is a dub-inflected protest song against racism.

Saadiah Fowlkes, the rapper/vocalist from the band had this to say about the song:

“Lazy Boy is, essentially a coming of age story, detailing how painful It was for me growing up as a black boy in America. I talk about how, as a result of the systemic racism that is still all too pervasive in America, I would often feel thwarted in my efforts to live up to my full potential. How it felt to be unseen, unheard, and misunderstood. How frustrating it was for people not to see the fullness of my being, and how harmful it is to a person’s self-esteem when they are reduced to a stereotype. Ultimately, I would say that the message of the song is that there is only one race, the human race, and we should not allow ourselves to be reduced to stereotypes. I feel that the song is especially relevant, particularly in light of the BLM movement and the worldwide protests against police brutality in America. There’s even some footage in the video of me marching at one of the many protests that took place here in my hometown of Brooklyn. So my hope is that the song will resonate with POCs, for whom racism is a part of their daily experience, and promote empathy and understanding amongst non-POCs, many of whom are only beginning to understand what it feels like to inhabit the skin I’m in.”

The video features photos of Saad from his childhood interspersed with footage from Black Lives Matter protests and a psychedelic video montage from fellow band member Allan Thomasson.

Ultra Mega by Cosmo and the Cosmonaut out now

A Berlin-based father and son electronic music duo, Cosmo and the Cosmonaut released their debut album, Ultra Mega, in August 2019.

Featuring songs about climate change, the stupidity of war and not wanting to go to school, Ultra Mega addresses some of the most important issues facing kids (and adults) today. It’s not all about serious topics though; Ultra Mega Yum Yum is a celebration of their favourite food and I Like Water is a gargled anthem to H2O.

“A couple of songs also function as a form of therapy, for example the Shut Up Song”, explains the Cosmonaut. “Cosmo was going through a phase of telling me to shut up so I said, hey let’s write a song about that and you can tell me to shut up as much as you like. Now he gets the satisfaction of telling me to shut up a bunch of times whenever we play that song. We Are the Dumbheads was a reaction to a situation where Cosmo ended up feeling bad and calling himself a dumbhead and I said no, I’m the dumbhead for not anticipating that situation (which I should have). In the song, being a dumbhead becomes something positive and silly.”

Regarding the inspiration for the songs, “A lot of them began while riding our bikes around our neighbourhood. I would sing the bassline or do some beatboxing and Cosmo would rap on top. In the beginning, I was writing most of the music and lyrics but towards the end, Cosmo was coming up with some great ideas. He also plays keyboards and recorder on a couple of tracks.”

The Cosmonaut is a musician and producer and just happens to have a recording studio set up in his lounge so recording was an uncomplicated affair. “There was always a mic set up ready to go for whenever we felt creatively inspired”, says the Cosmonaut. Recording of the second album is already well underway. “We’re planning to release an album a year.”
It’s no coincidence that the Ultra Mega album begins with the words of 15 year old climate activist Greta Thunberg, “You’re never too small to make a difference”. “She made a big impression on us,” says the Cosmonaut, “and we thought if we record these songs and even if just one person hears them and makes some positive changes, then we will have made a difference.”

In the closing song of the album, This Is the End, eight year old Cosmo and his dad sing “Be kind to all, that’s our message.” Sounds like a mantra worth repeating.

Debut single from Cosmo and the Cosmonaut

Berlin-based father and son electronic music duo, Cosmo and the Cosmonaut, will release their debut album, Ultra Mega, in August 2019.

Their first single, The World is Burning, addresses the issue of climate change through the eyes of a seven year old and features the voice of fifteen year old climate activist Greta Thunberg.

LYRICS

I’m only seven years old and I’m just a kid
But it’s clear in my mind that we must forbid
The burning of fossil fuels, it’s causing climate change
So please tell me why we can’t arrange

Clean, green energy for the whole earth
It’ll cost lots of money but surely it’s worth
To save us people, the animals and the planet
I think it’s high time that we demand it

Come on people, we must do something
Come on people the time is now
Come on people the world is burning
Come on people let’s work it out

The weather is changing and it’s easy to see
Even for a kid as young as me
The summers are hotter than ever before
In winter there’s no longer snow outside my door

So politicians stop clowning around!
There’s no question, the science is sound
Make the changes before it’s too late
Otherwise you will have sealed our fate

Come on people, we must do something
Come on people the time is now
Come on people the world is burning
Cosmo on people let’s work it out

Come on people

Come on people, we must do something
Come on people the time is now
Come on people the ice is melting
Cosmo on people let’s work it out

Come on people, we must do something
Come on people the time is now
Come on people the ice is melting
Cosmo on people let’s work it out

Come on people

Dystopia release Rough Art of the Spiritual

Dystopia have finally released their long awaited second studio album, Rough Art of the Spiritual, eighteen years after their 2000 debut, The Wisdom of Insecurity.

Featuring once again the exquisite poetry of Liz Maw set to music, the new album was fifteen years in the making with recording having begun in Auckland, New Zealand in 2002 and completed in Berlin in 2017.

While the first album was a collaboration between Maw, Monkey Records founder Nigel Braddock on keyboards and Shinya Asakura on sitar and production, the new album is based around the trio of Maw, Braddock and guitarist Gerhard Lottermoser with a dozen other musicians featuring as guests.

As on Dystopia’s debut, Liz Maw’s poems take centre stage and her astute observations on life, death and the human condition are quietly compelling. Although her voice sometimes barely raises above a whisper, the listener is consistently drawn in by the rich imagery and hypnotic soundscapes which rise and fall and swirl around her.

The music ranges freely in style from electronica to ambient to neoclassical to jazz to psychedelic rock and sometimes swells from a murmur to an apocalyptic crescendo.

The striking artwork is a painting by Liz Maw who has gone on to become a highly successful visual artist in New Zealand.

The album was released on February 5th on very limited edition clear and black heavyweight vinyl. Order here: https://monkeyrecords.bandcamp.com/album/rough-art-of-the-spiritual. The album is available to stream or buy from all the usual platforms.