Saturday, February 18, 2012

Top 20 Tracks of 2011

I'm a tad late with this, so I've had the benefit of trawling through the end of year lists produced by The Wire, Pitchfork, Bleep, XLR8R, FACT, etc. And what a bizarre decision by The Wire to give James Ferraro their album of the year! Good grist for the blogging mill I guess...

I've put the tracks together as something of a listenable playlist, rather than in any particular ranking. I'll write a little something below each track to give some context too. Enjoy!

The somewhat atypical opening track of Hecker's Ravedeath, 1972 album has been mesmerising me all year long. Sheer transcendent beauty! See also his Dropped Pianos EP and, for techno trainspotters, his early work under the Jetone alias on Force Inc and others.

For those unfamiliar with rapper Lil B (and I'll own up to that), Clams Casino seemed to come out of nowhere with a fully-formed, blissed-out downtempo hip-hop sound. 'Numb' is the standout cut on his Instrumental Mixtape, followed later in the year by the rather disappointing Rainforest EP.

With just one EP and a few singles to his name, Holy Other still managed to make the Sonar bill and top several end of year lists. While decidedly easy on the ears, his sound has just enough melancholy and sonic depth to invite repeat listens. A little over-hyped but undourbtedly perfect for the morning after a big night.

One half of UK dubstep duo Vex'd, Kuedo was another artist who seemed over-acclaimed in 2011. His album Severant is as a patchy listen, but when he does nail the vintage synth with modern beats sound, he really takes you there. 'Salt Lake Cuts' is a perfect slice of sunshiney euphoria for the edge of the dancefloor.

A friend of a friend of a friend who witnessed Matthewdavid performing live in his native Los Angeles reported "making love to the speaker all night". There's a lot of low end, a lot of high end, and it's all swirling together in a glorious kaleidoscope of sound. 'Like You Mean It' comes off his Outmind EP, put out on Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder, and for mine it beats any of FlyLo's recent output hands down. See also Matthewdavid's amazing XLR8R podcast of November 2010.

Looking back, why was everyone so surprised that trance and hip-hop made such sweet love together? 'AT2' was the first Araab track I heard, on Laurel Halo's FACT mix, and although the album Electronic Dream didn't quite live up to my high expectations (especially the terrible production quality) it remains on high rotation. See also 'Golden Touch', in which he samples Jam and Spoons 'Right in the Night' to great effect. Touring Australia this February.

Not much from Burial lately, but everything about 'Street Halo' is pretty much perfect: the vocals, the crackle, the drop and even the unexpected coda. One night I was inexplicably holding down the pavement outside some footballer bar in Richmond when the DJ inside dropped this; I ran inside to show my respect, only for the bartender to cut the music and turn on the house lights just as I made ecstatic contact with my new favourite DJ.

A new Modeselektor album is a real event, and although Monkeytown is even patchier than usual - there's a track for every DJ on there, and a lot of cheese - 'This' is a superbly tense and haunting piece of electronica with all their trademark polish and bass weight.

Not only the best of the TKOL remixes, but better than any originals Radiohead or Caribou have put out for some time. When I played this off the Bose Sound Dock at Rainbow Serpent, a hush fell over our little teepee; at the end, Ned remarked that he wanted to hear it again the next day so he could remember it. (I hope you're reading, Ned.) So graceful, yet so propulsive - and with an unexpected euphoric payoff to boot.

Byetone is Olaf Bender of German label Raster Noton, known for the intellectually rigorous and often demanding electronica of the likes of co-founder Carsten Nicolai AKA Alva Noto. So it was a pleasant surprise to find his Symeta album featuring some very danceable, crunchy industrial beats. Bleep obviously thought so too, naming it their album of the year.

Having produced some huge, synth-driven dubstep beats over the last few years (see especially 'Quantum Leap'), it was a nice surprise to hear Slugabed drop something close to a four-to-the-floor beat - although still with a monstrous wobble. The Moonbeam Rider EP was full of ecstatic melodies and strange twists and turns, and rather unfairly lost in the flood of UK beats. Expect big things in the future from this guy.

I hear he's a great DJ, but I can't really imagine going off on the dancefloor to Martyn's music: on the whole it's just too polished, too housey and too minimal for my taste. But this last track off his Ghost People LP is pure rave joy from start to finish, unloading one catchy synth line after another over a breakbeat that's perfectly in the pocket. A whole album like this please, Mr Martyn!

You know what to expect from Surgeon: serious, uncompromising techno. Breaking the Frame, Anthony Child's first album in over a decade, delivers this in spades - but incorporates more broken rhythms (even dubstep) that lend the work a real freshness. And 'Radiance' is so mind-bendingly immense, it makes me long for a warehouse big enough to do it justice.

One half of US post-garage outfit Sepalcure, Travis Stewart aka Machinedrum is an electronic chameleon who lately has latched onto Chicago juke with interesting results. While much of his hyped Room(s) LP veered dangerously close to the background (a bemusing result for such frenetic rhythms), 'Flycatcha' takes the sound back to the dancefloor with a vengeance. Touring Australia in April.

Now living in Sydney, Mark Pritchard is probably the closest Australia has to electronic music royalty on a global scale. As Global Communication (with Tom Middleton), Reload, and more recently Harmonic313 and now Africa Hitech (with Steve Spacek) he just keeps on releasing great tunes in an amazing array of styles. The 93 Million Miles was a sometimes difficult blend of juke, dubstep, acid house and free jazz, but this jungly remix of monster hit 'Out In the Streets' cannot be denied. Playing a three hour show at Miss Libertines in early March.

Carrier was an interesting album on Dusk and Blackdown's Keysound Recording, half 'purple garage' (to coin a stillborn term), and half juke-infused, wistful electronica. 'Trust' falls decidedly into the latter category, and was easily my most listened-to track of the year.

It took a while for Blue Daisy's modern take on trip-hop to hit home - and the first half of The Sunday Gift still leaves me a little cold. 'Shadow Assassins' straddles an unusual space between a fist-pumping dancefloor and the couch at the back of the room. You may wish to blaze, but there's really no need.

Wander/Wonder is, aptly enough, a meandering and beautiful album of warm bass, treated vocals and artful sound collage - and 'Await' is its emotional highpoint. Balam Acab is touring in February, although the live show is apparently terrible. He sings. Why does everyone want to be a rock star?

2011 was Nicolas Jaar's year, and the title track off his debut album shows why. The rhythm section is a perfect low-slung swagger, and up above the vocals reverberate endlessly like a dream that might just become a nightmare. The whole album is amazing, although if you want something more upbeat try his EPs and remixes. They're mostly amazing too. Oh yeah, and he just turned 22.

Apparently GusGus are a veteran Icelandic group of musicians/artists who once counted Emiliana Torrini as a member. Their latest work is being released on Kompakt, the ageing Cologne colossus of minimal techno, and although much of it is too vocal-led and cheesy for my taste, there are moments of beauty and beautifully sparkly production. Hopefully 'Benched', the last and slowest track on Arabian Horse, hints at their future direction.


Thanks for listening, and reading. Comments welcome!

Peter Haas(z) - Almost Certainly Not a Dud Root

I’ve been thinking of reviving this blog.
Actually, I’ve been thinking about starting three blogs: one on electronic music, one on sport and one on politics and society. It didn’t take me too long to detect a small flaw in this plan, though. So for now I’ll see if I can write enough to resurrect this one.
Somehow in my absence this blog has reached almost 900 views. Perhaps the Anonymous who wrote “Seb Prowse is a dud root” in the comments section of an older post has been checking back regularly for signs of a reaction? If so, they just got one: I deleted the comment. There are some things a man likes to keep quiet.
Interestingly, the same phrase also appeared in the women’s toilets at Trades Hall late last year (or so I was told). The plot thickens. Either our perpetrator is being rather presumptuous, or we are dealing with a rather short list of suspects. Or, perhaps., I am merely the incidental subject of a post-ironic slogan which will soon be as ubiquitous as the dreaded Vote for Pedro or, preferably, the mysterious “Who is Peter Haasz?” graffiti campaign at Melbourne Uni in the late 1990s.
I never knew the answer to this question at the time, although I have met Peter Haasz several times in subsequent years. We bonded over achieving fifteen minutes of name recognition in ridiculous circumstances. If I ever meet him again, I’ll ask if his name has a ‘z’ on the end. I’ve written it both ways and neither looks quite right.
Pretty soon we’ll be saying that if you can remember the late 1990s in Melbourne, you weren’t really there. Or, at least, you weren’t getting your gear from Carl Williams.
Here I was taking a leisurely stroll down memory lane, and now I’ve run smack bang into a dead drug dealer. Time to end this post and think about what comes next.
Welcome back to A New Rhyme, and thanks for reading.

E-Tome Part Deux: The Slowening

"Well, I'm back."

(A bag of delicious hemp seeds for the first person to correctly identify the above literary reference AND decipher the puerile Hollywood referencing in the title of this, my second e-tome.)

I'm back in the spare room in Goonengerry, promising you, dear friend, that this e-tome will be HIGH IMPACT, in fact PACT WITH TOP ANECDOTES and even, dare I say (I do) ALL KILLER NO FILLER... there will be at least one NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE - not including the FISH HITTING ME IN THE HEAD incident - plus TWO LEECH STORIES and a potentially numerous CASUAL MENTIONS OF THE "BEARD". And all this in a GUARANTEED LOWER WORD COUNT (claim may not be accurate) than the first e-tome.

When we last left the story, your hero was bravely negotiating the faunal deathtrap that is the hinterland of northern NSW. Now make an extra-strong coffee and strap yourself in for Part Deux!

The Germans and I spent a sunny afternoon in Nimbin. And why not, after all? We are consenting adults. Hard to find good drugs in Nimbin though - on the main street at least - unless you want to buy them from the guys with the zombie eyes. The old woman offering cookies and mushrooms seemed nice, as was the guy in Happy High Herbs who sadly reminded me that Philosopher's Stone is no longer legal. But we are health-conscious, sporadically law-abiding folk and so, after a brief visit to a sparsely attended market where the undoubted highlight was three women singing accapella (is it still accapella if they hit wood blocks on every second downbeat) songs like "Shakti Woman", we bought some picnic food and headed to a swimming spot by the creek.

Later in my trip, my Uncle Neil caught me by surprise when he told me he had attended the Aquarius Festival at Nimbin in 1971. He then went on to explain he had been there with the Christian groups trying to save the hippies from eternal damnation, and that when the hippies had surrounded the tent and threatened to burn it down, angels with fiery swords had appeared and protected God's faithful servants. At the time I was somewhat lost for words but, looking back, it seems possible the two groups had been drinking from the same waterhole. But I digress.

On the drive back from Nimbin, we made a spontaneous decision to go to Queensland. It sounds crazy until you realise that Queensland was, like, 50 kms away. So that night Sarah, Marco and I camped once more at Brunswick Heads, or, as we soon came to call it, as loudly and as often as possible, 'Bruns' - before starting the drive north in the general direction of Agnes Water and the Town of 1770. According to the Lonely Planet, it is the 'next Byron Bay'. Warning signs NOT HEEDED.

It didn't seem that far on the map, but Australia is a big place, hey? Not to mention all the roadworks... Still, a few weeks' driving through potholes had completely changed my political philosophy from socialist ravetopia to "full employment through a permanent national road-building program", so I took my medicine with good grace. And a dose of Phillip Pullman. After a swim at Caloundra we made it to Rainbow Beach - on the mainland just south of Fraser Island.

And there we met the schoolies. And they were just so... cute! So friendly and not even that drunk - probably because every time word went around of a party on the beach, the police turned up and confiscated all the grog. We mainly talked to a funny bunch of boys from Maryborough (a middling size town nearby), of whom as many were coolies (they'd left before year 12) and or toolies (their older mates) as actual schoolies. And when girls walked past one of them would skate over casually and then chicken out from actually making conversation. They thought we were cool because we came from so far away, had tattoos (OK, I don't have tattoos myself, but some of my best friends do) and looked like drug dealers (Marco).

So off we drove the next day with the scent of hopeful youth in our nostrils - for a vain attempt to see the turtles at Mon Repos, the desert vibe of Bundaberg which drove us panting into the nearest MacDonalds (I had a McFlurry) and finally, with fists pumping in the air, to Agnes Water... of which we quickly formed the impression that it was the next Noosa, not the next Byron.

But happy days nonetheless! Travelling with the Germans was a joy: so much nutella, so much banter, so many opportunities to say "I go to the toilet"... there was the time I panicked and forced them both to help me look for my glasses in the dark sand around my car, before feeling in my back pocket... the beautiful headland at 1770, where Captain Kirk and Mr Banks had landed all those years ago (not a joyous spot for indigenous locals, then)... and so much bodysurfing in underwhelming swell. The best waves were just south in the Deepwater National Park, where we spent a fun arvo in 1-2ft while birds divebombed into schools of fish - one of which, it is true, leaped out of the water and hit me in the head. A strange occurrence, and one that had me questioning my place (or otherwise ) in nature. It remains an open question.

I was due in Brisbane for a family do, so we headed south again via Poona west of Fraser - a strange campsite by the river where the sandflies vied with a fishing party obsessed with the Foo Fighters to see who could be the most annoying locals. By this stage I was sleeping in my tent to stay cool, as overnight lows were around 23 or 24, and with the music pumping until well past our bedtime (9pm) I just read by headtorch and rejoiced when the the Counting Crows came on. Torture is a relative concept.

In Brisbane I lived like a king for two days. My Dad has cousins in Brisbane, and although we have only been occasionally in touch over the years it was lovely to join Dad and Annie and all the family for my Aunt Pam's 70th birthday. My four (second or whatever) cousins were all there, a lovely bunch of boys who are all over 40 with families and jobs but very funny and playful with each other. I ate more seafood than I care to admit - including one prawn that bled on my bread when I ripped of its head - and a Moreton Bay Bug that looked a bit... chopped in half. And then fish. And chips. And fish kebabs. And cake. There may have been some more fish, but I made my excuses and drove into the Valley to meet the Germans for one last hurrah at the Dub Day Afternoon, where my friend Joe Lorback/ Comrade Dubs was playing... a lovely event with just the right amount of non-dub to keep us ravers interested. And surprising run-ins with mates Yasmin and Kaoru. And silly sober dancing which, at the ripe old age of 31, is apparently the order of the day.

A tearful farewell session with the Germans in the Brisbane CBD: one last iPod on shuffle, one last mango, and a tangy pineapple to boot. But in case you missed the memo: The Germans Are Coming To Rainbow Serpent!

The next few nights were spent with Dad's cousin Carolyn and her partner Anna, with whom Dad and Annie have stayed many a time in Taringa. I slept on the balcony, which was dry and mozzie-free and glorious. Carolyn told me a whole bunch of family history which was surprisingly fascinating - all these ancestors living these mostly forgotten lives! Thank god for Facebook: now we are all immortal. Dad and Annie did their morning walks up and down the hills, and on the second morning I boldly went out for a run - scarcely making it past them on the last climb before home.

Ew new (as Theresa would say), this e-tome is completely extra control...

I had a sweet couple of nights at Lennox Head with Joe and his housemates Dave and Emily - and the lovely Natalia who is now back in Melbourne. I jumped from a rock 10m high into the water at Dalwood Falls! I ran barefoot along the beach and made my calves sore! I made a deicious pasta feast with Joe and borrowed his copy of Bass Culture: When reggae was king (almost finished). I went to all nine op shops in Ballina. And I got to skype Theresa WITH VIDEO!!! I've been missing my beautiful girl a lot.

Saturday was Daniel's birthday, so I brought the Goonengerry crew (including Phoebe's indomitably pregnant friend Mikhaila) down to Byron for Joe and Dave's first reggae pool party at the Aquarius Backpackers in Byron... also on Blonderer's special day, we ate chocolate pancakes, hit the beach at Broken Head for the first time, swam and ran around the headland for a mad bodysurf at the next beach south which may or may not have been a beat... not knowing it was his birthday, I had found China Mieville's first novel King Rat for 50c in Ballina - a Pied Piper fantasy novel set in London's 1990s jungle scene... Bo!!!!

ANyway, I'm bored again DAMMIT!!!! And I haven't told the story of the leech (it was only on my ankle, and there is video footage), or Dan's leech (it was in his ear when he ran the Minyon Falls loop), or me and Dan running Minyon Falls (about 8km) sans leeches and sitting atop the 100m falls at the end... or all the healthy food we've been eating in two large meals a day... or Phoebe and I trying to improve Dan's djing... but I'll just end up with the (so-called) NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE, which took place at Bruns yesterday.

Dan and I drove down to Bruns for a bodysurf, despite the inclement weather. There were a few waves the around breakwater, and a southerly was blowing them towards the rocks - so we got in about thirty metres down. The water was warm and we caught a few waves, but after swimming back out I realised we were out of our depth, being swept towards the rocks... and it was all looking a bit dicey. We tried to swim away from it but had no luck, at which point Dan (being super-fit, a strong swimmer and an all-round gentleman) offered me the fins he was wearing. These I put on as the waves buffeted us around, and then we spent a few minutes trying to swim away from the rocks again... to no avail...

Now in case you didn't know I grew up by the beach, am experienced in the surf and a reasonable swimmer. I am generally confident in the water but this was fast becoming the dodgiest ocean situation I'd ever gotten myself into. We decided to try to surf towards shore, and Dan caught a little wave and managed to get out on the rocks - only cutting his leg slightly. I was further out and briefly tried to do the same, but it quickly became apparent that this was more dangerous than the alternative - I almost got smashed on the rocks and had to backpedal fast.

In the back of my mind throughout the last five or so minutes was the idea that I might have to go beyond the breakwater and try to swim in the head of the river. I was getting knocked around by waves and at one point swallowed a fair bit of water, was feeling buggered and a bit panicky, and decided to give it a go. As soon as I stopped fighting the current it quickly swept me around the rocks to the head of the river, where I floated on my back and used the flippers and the current to kick my way into the river (where we'd swum many times before - thankfully the terrain was quite familiar).

Dan was on the rocks where a few fishermen were also standing, and we gave each other the thumbs up because once inside the river, although still tired, I knew I'd be fine. I still had to swim a fair way into the protected beach, but I'd rested a bit and that only took a few more minutes. he dived in and swam the last fifty metres with me - and then went off to try to bodysurf further down the beach while I got my breath back and got changed, feeling a bit spooked but relieved.

So there it is, my brush with death... not really, but a dicey situation and one that should have been avoidable by sitting and watching the surf before we got in, as Dan said afterwards.

I'll leave it on this note. I'm alive and well, and in fact healthier than I've been in ages... tonight we're dining at Mikhaila's place, tomorrow Dan and I go camping for a few days, on Saturday surfing with Joe and Dan, maybe a doof at Broken Head after that... and next week I start the trek down to Melbourne to meet Theresa and hopefully enjoy a short camping trip with her before our longer trip to Tassie in January...

If you made it this far, HAVE A GOOD HARD AT LOOK AT YOURSELF! Seriously, get a life wtf. But I love you for it, and hope Part Deux has lived up to its predecessor.

Missing all my friends and family, and looking forward to seeing you all soon :)

Love Seb xx

P.S. The 'beard' is a day-by-day proposition... some days I think it's a goer, other days not so much... on a good day you can almost see it from a distance of more than a metre, in a certain slant of light, if you know what you're looking for...

P.P.S. I have lost it!!! I almost forgot an awesome dinner with my beautiful buddies from the student activist days, Edmee, Jess and Kim up in Brisbane... see my iPhone photos for proof... love you guys!!!

The first e-tome

(What follows is, by now a retrospective: the first Facebook note I posted about my recent ravels on the east coast of Australia.)

I'm sitting in the spare room of Dan and Phoebe's house in Goonengerry, near Mullumbimby in northern NSW. There are two "Dan and Phoebe"s, in case you didn't know. There's Danny Duck and PB down in Melbourne, and then there's this lot, recently of Docker River, NT. We've spent a few nights with them in the last week - and we is me and the Germans. Sarah and Marco are sleeping in Roland, their trusty Holden Jackaroo, although I reckon the sun will just be waking them up by now.

It's hot sleeping in a car, so I'm usually pretty comfortable with my choice of vehicle for this trip. I ended up with a 2002 Camry station wagon. It's just big enough to sleep in at a pinch, although so far I've been very happy in my swag. It's one of the deluxe models with three little poles that form domes at head, waist and toe - plenty of room and a reasonable foam mattress to boot.

You know the start of The Lord of the Rings, how it takes them a while to actually get anywhere and get going properly on the quest? (No? Well, take my word for it.) Well, I think I've finally arrived in Rivendell. From here on in it gets serious...

The trip began in Adelaide, where Mum helped me buy the car and I spent some lovely time with family while stocking up for the trip. My first long solo drive was the familiar road to Melbourne, Triple J alternating with Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy on CD, and a night with Theresa and then another at Candy St before heading to Canberra for a couple of nights with Dave. I drove into our nation's capital listening to the Senate on the radio, and with Dave hung out at the National Library, the Rob De Castella running track, the local pool and a sinophile dinner party.

All very, very civilised - unlike the first experience striking out on my own. From Canberra I drove to Newcastle, where I had my first ocean swim of the trip before realising I was due up in Byron Bay the next evening for a 6pm rendez-vous. Somehow I'd lost a day already. So I pushed on north and ended up just north of Port Macquarie as night fell, hoping desperately to avoid sleeping in a highway rest area. Thankfully the little town of Crescent Head turned out to be a great find, and I spent the night in a deserted carpark by the beach with my swag beside the car. At first I experienced a slight combination fear of rangers/ drunk locals/ Wolf Creek scenario, but somehow I feel safe in my swag. What or who could harm me in there? How would they even be able to see me? I slept like a log.

Waking at dawn and walking on the beach was a magical experience. I had the whole place to myself, the surf was beating down on the shore and I wandered sleepily around collecting beautiful shells that seemed to be everywhere. Then I climbed the headland for a view as the beach began to fill with runners and dogwalkers. I think I'll be back in Crescent Head before too long...

The drive to Byron still took most of the day, but by 5pm I had negotiated the descent from Bangalow and had arrived in what seemed to be the right place - but without a single sign welcoming me to Byron Bay. Was I in the right place? My iPhone confirmed that I could have just kept driving and hit the beach, so I got back on the main drag only to see Sarah and Marco walking up in the opposite direction. After a quick hello I parked right on the seafront and jumped in the water - it was raining, but I needed a wash and had already broken my rule about swimming in every beach you walk on that morning.

The Germans had already been in the area for a week or two, and had a found a nice place to camp a few days before - only to be moved on by the irate owner of the property! Undeterred, they found us another secluded, empty block of land a short way along the road to Bangalow. It's a good spot, and we've spent a few nights there already when we're around Byron.

Have you read The Byron Journals yet? When I wander around Byron I keep thinking about Melbourne Dan's novel, as well as all the stories that didn't make it in - could there be a second book on the cards... Bullshit: The Real Story Behind The Byron Journals??? (I taught the Germans 'bullshit' as part of my very brief Surfing 101 class, which also included how not to drop in and get your lights punched out by psycho locals - and Sarah hasn't seen Point Break, and neither has Phoebe, so we are building towards an epic viewing at some stage soon.)

We've experienced the drum circle, complete with Byron hardcore local boys trying to pick up dolled-up tourist girls, and the Pass and Tallows, although the waves have not been great at either. We've been camping more regularly at Brunswick Heads just 15km north, a pretty little town with a great beach and river that is perfect for swimming - a rope swing to jump off and local kids doing back flips off the bridge. And we've got our hippie on up here around Goonengerry, swimming at the foot of Minyon Falls, eating 'organic doughnuts' at the Mullum markets and mostly raw food feasts on D and P's beautiful deck overlooking gardens with wallabies and pademelons... and, last night, visiting the outdoor compost toilet in the dark and then keeping perfectly still, heart in mouth, as a large snake slid slowly across the path. I think that one was the friendly local python, but Phoebe has video footage of two brown tree snakes FIGHTING IN THE LIVING ROOM from a few nights ago.

The two funniest stories from the trips so far both happened around here. After the first night we spent here, almost a week ago when it poured with rain, Daniel (as Phoebe calls him, and it might be easiest if I do too) and I got up and went for an early morning run. It sounded doable, 5kms return to the orchard where you can pick up custard apples on the side of the road. I hadn't factored in the steep climbing driveway however, so I was buggered before we even made it onto the road, and exhausted by the time we made it back - with Daniel carrying all three custard apples. We stripped off for a dip in the waterhole (and yes, skip this part if you are squeamish), and I waS feeling almost human again and was giving myself a, ahem, cursory wash when I noticed something that felt unusual attached to the side of my scrotum...

We had already been enjoying Daniel's "leech on penis" stories for a while, so I feared the worse... but upon exiting the water it became clear that it was, in fact, a tick. So it was the naked walk back up to the house, where Phoebe, Sarah and Marco were relaxing on the deck - and Phoebe used her apparently renowned anti-clockwise rotation technique to remove said tick with the trademark popping sound. "We're friends for life now, Seb" she told me.

So, story number one is the tick. Story number two is a more straight up Seb travel story.

On Friday morning we woke up at Brunswick Heads, and after my morning swim we headed up to Mullum to rendez-vous with D and P at the Farmers Market. I drove into the carpark with the electronic dub sounds of Bluetech blasting through wide open windows, before we wandered around drinking cane juice (amazing)... and ran straight into Fred, a Melbourne man who lives ON CANDY ST, and who told me with a big smile that his band Lubdub were supporting... you guessed it, Bluetech that night at the Buddha Bar in Byron Bay!

So Friday night was a surprise party night. We chilled out in the afternoon with a swim at Brunswick Heads, the now traditional lunch with way too much nutella, and then Dan drove us all down in the Camry. The Buddha Bar is at the Byron Bay Brewery, and out the back in the beer garden a band played covers of U2 and god knows what else while inside the launch party for the Earth Freq festival 2012 was going down. We missed Lubdub but caught The Mollusk (that guy could get a dance floor going in a morgue), then Kilowattsplayed a mix of broken beats and crunchy dub techno before Bluetech took over for an hour and a half of thunderous bass and waterfall melodies that, apparently, made Daniel need to go to the toilet five times during his set.

It was an indoor venue and, with the exception of The Mollusk, the music was mostly on the chilled side of party, but it was still a shoes-off dancefloor with lots of smiles, interpretative dancers up the front, the occasional smelly hippie and LOTS of beautiful people. I ran into a few friends of friends too, so have a few more people to hang with if I stay in the area a bit longer. Bluetech played only three tracks I recognised, and at one stage I confidently declared (with the holier-than-thou certainty of the fully sober) that his fourth track was one of the best bits of electronic music I had ever heard. I'm not sure if anyone was listening.

But enough! It was fun, and a lovely coincidence - and afterwards I was the designated driver doing 30kmh up the dark winding roads to Goonengerry, and we all arrived safely home to listen to happy hardcore on the deck (it's a long story, but a true one).

By now you must be as sick of reading this as I am of writing, but I did want to check in with my friends and family and assure you that ALL IS WELL! The only downside is how much I'm missing Theresa, but we have skype chatted the last few days and I'm looking forward to a Tassie adventure with her in the New Year. Oh yeah, if you have an automatic car - or even just a licence because she will soon have use of a car - and want to take her for a drive, do it!!! Her Ps test is in a couple of weeks :) :)

All that remains is to say I LOVE YOU ALL (obligatory) and I'm sorry not to be writing to all of you individually - I'm sure you understand. Be assured I am driving carefully, eating too much and never showering.

The next few weeks I'll head up to Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, hang in Lennox Heads with my mate Joe, and who knows what else? Oh yeah, and tonight I think we're going to the premiere of a new indigenous-themed doco in Mullum, with Xavier Rudd playing live - sounds all right, hey?


Oh yeah...

Reading: American Gods by Neil Gaiman (next is The Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban). Marco is enjoying the copy of Hating Alison Ashley I bought him and Sarah at an opshop.

Listening to: my iPod on shuffle, Marco playing the guitar, Spiral Tribe.

Eating: coconuts, mangoes, bananas, hemp seeds, strange berries, avocado, crumpets with nutella.

Learning: German, driving, hopefully sewing because my stubbies are in trouble.

Growing: what is euphemistically being described as "a beard".

P.S. I forgot the story about trying to find a bush doof, going down a dodgy track, puncturing a tyre, not being able to get back up the track, calling 24-hr roadside assist, getting the tyre changed on the slope and then towed back up, completely missing the party which was shut down and then moved 30kms away but deciding maybe that was for the best because everyone who stopped and asked us for directions seemed a bit weird and possibly too stoned to be driving safely... oh well, that's not a very good one anyway.