AM444 – Photo by Benoit Florencen
Ok, so it’s about time I get my arse into gear and start updating this blog with more than just event promo. Over the next few weeks we will be posting up a bunch of news and music and also recapping on what has been going on in the Sub-Culture world and beyond over the last few months. There is a lot to post up, but with their first 12” vinyl release at YuYinTang this weekend (more on that shortly) what better way to start than a brief review of what AM444 have been upto recently.
AM444 released their first mini-album ‘Eye Wonder’ back in April 2011. Shortly after Otis.Soul was born, Drunk Monk somehow managed to get a ring on Chacha’s finger, Jay went back to Holland for a while and Red Bull kidnapped ChaCha for a few weeks in Madrid until she escaped to Berlin. Because of all this, after their first live performance at The Shelter, AM444 disappeared for a short time.
AM444 live @ JZ club with Li XiaoQuan and Willow
Earlier this year, personal lives started to settle down a little and Jay and ChaCha got back into the studio to start work on their new album (due this October!), and they also got back on the road. After playing shows in ChengDu, ChongQing and Beijing, they finally played their first Shanghai show in exactly one year, but this time, instead of the murky depths of The Shelter, their return show was at Shanghai’s premier Jazz venue, JZ Club. We’d been chatting with Mark Elliot from JZ about AM444 performing there for and finally we set a date for Sunday 1st April. As a nice little bonus, a few weeks after we set the date we also realized that the following day was a holiday, and, as with every Sunday at JZ, it was a free event. They packed out JZ club and gave a killer performance alongside Li XiaoQuan on Trumpet and Willow on Sax. AM444 was back!
Their next performance took them somewhere quite different. In early 2012 our friends at 86/33Link in Beijing contacted us and proposed AM444 to perform at the Iomma Conference and Sakifo Festival on Reunion Island. It was kind of a surreal offer, we had never imagined of travelling there, to perform or otherwise, and up until the day that ChaCha had her visa and we had flight tickets in hand it was hard to believe it was real. But…it was definitely real.
Reunion Island, a French owned island around 200km from Mauritius to the East of Madagascar, seems to be pretty unknown unless you live in the surrounding area or you’re from France. It was probably one of the most beautiful places I’d ever been. Perfect weather, black volcanic sand, crystal clear ocean, incredibly hospitable people, an amazing mix of cultures and religions, it was pretty special. AM444 performed twice on the island, once on a public stage in the centre of St Pierre, and once at the Sakifo Festival. Both performances could have been better attended (competing with Jeff Lang and Patrice didn’t help) but the people that did attend gave off some great energy and AM444 made a lot of new fans. They also got a great write up in the local news paper following their first performance, with the writer saying that they played far too early in the day and deserved a much bigger crowd!
AM444 live @ Reunion Island
The rest of the line up at the Sakifo Festival was pretty impressive, with acts such as Earth, Wind and Fire, Sharon Jones and The Dapkings, Saul Williams (who we met and was a thoroughly nice guy), Chinese Man and Calypso Rose, as well as some great local bands. Saying this though, we hardly saw any of this (apart from Sharon Jones who was amazing, and Ayo who was not so amazing) as we discovered something whilst on Reunion – Maloya!
Maloya, regarded as the African Blues music, originates from Reunion and has strong ties to the islands history of slavery. Often political, Maloya is usually sung in a minor key in Reunion Creole, uses mainly percussion instruments (many indigenous to Reunion) and incorporates a lot of call and response chanting. We had never heard anything like it and were instantly blown away. At the festival there was a fairly large hut made from leaves and dedicated to local musicians and Maloya music (as well as serving the best creole food at the festival) and that was where we spent pretty much most of our time. The energy in the tent at night was incredible, with people entering an almost trance like state and a whole host of local musicians jamming together creating some unreal rhythms. Combine that with several flavours of Charette, Reunion’s best (and only?) rum, as well as some local ‘produce’ and once you enter the hut you pretty much don’t leave all night.
Maloya Power! Photo by Patrick Loupy
There were many other great experiences on the island, eating at the family home of one of the local musicians, making a lot of great friends, swimming in an ocean where the sea bed is made of solid, volcanic rock which has been eroded into smooth ‘steps’ by the waves, seeing some of the most amazing sun sets and cloud formations. It was quite a trip, and one that we will hopefully be repeating very soon. Pierre and Leo at 8633Link, we cant thank you enough!
After returning from Reunion it took a while to come back down to reality, but soon after AM444 were set to play at this years Fete De La Musique Festival and also as part of a live showcase at the last Sub-Culture event, both on the same day. We were slightly worried about the Fete gig as we saw very little promotion for the event and also their time slot was early on in the afternoon and so we weren’t expecting much of a crowd, but to our surprise the venue was pretty much rammed from as soon as the doors opened and the response to the show was great. The crowd was probably 95% local, a lot of whom probably hadn’t heard AM444 before, and, apart from the unintentionally extended experimental intro, the show went really smooth and the crowd responded really well to it.
Sub-Culture Live poster – Designed by Kim Laughton
Later that evening AM444 played their first show in The Shelter for over 1 year, along side live acts Downstate, ROM and Lon, as part of the Sub-Culture live event. Although there were a few issues with the sound, the crowd was fantastic and AM444 played possibly their best live show yet! A full set of photos and review of Sub-Culture live will be posted up soon.
And so that brings us pretty much up to date with AM444. This weekend AM444 will be releasing 2 brand new tracks on their first 12” vinyl release along side 2 tracks from SF indie band Tussle courtesy of Uptown Records, Smalltown Supersound, Genjing Records and PAUSE:MUSIC. Also playing at YuYinTang that night will be Duck Fight Goose, Next Years Love and Wander Lust! This will be AM444’s last show until the Autumn, don’t miss!!