paperghostA new 4 song EP from paperghost has appeared out of the aether. It has the wonderful title “A Million Dead Dust Motes Hum To Life”. Here’s the opening track, “A Map of Things”

It has been three and a half years since the last Paperghost release. If this is a kind of electronic dream-folk, it is from a future in which dreams are monitored, recorded, mixed and played via some kind of glitchy synth-connected bio-ether-net, controlled by telepathic sentient insect networks.

Paperghost’s fractured yet cohesive futurist sound is a strange alternate-reality with enough conventional melody and rhythm to hold it together and work as rich and detailed subversive pop music. There is much here to explore…

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Dimmer_I Believe You Are A StarHave we reached peak re-issue vinyl yet? How huge is the challenge of running a record label today releasing new music by new or current bands and artists when the new release bins, charts, airplay, print and online media is dominated by an endless run of re-issues, box sets and so on?

Dimmer’s first – extraordinary – album “I Believe You Are a Star” has just had its first release on vinyl, so fortunately it’s not a vinyl re-issue but a vinyl first issue. The original album was released on CD in 2001 at the era of peak Compact Disc. It’s an album I love and Dimmer – the band formed by Shayne P. Carter several years after the demise of Straitjacket Fits – are probably a bit under-appreciated outside NZ, so it still fits within the underdog semi-underground focus of PopLib to post something about it before returning to normal new music service. Here’s the opening track “Drop You Off” –

“Drop You Off” sets the template for the album and for Dimmer. Haunting, soulful, naggingly melodic songs built around minimalist guitar funk, scratching an itch over break-beat drum grooves (from former JPS Experience drummer Gary Sullivan) and Fripp-ish guitar+electronic ambient drone atmosphere underpinning things. While different from the euphoric rock anthems of Straitjacket Fits, these songs share Carter’s gift for soulful grooves, melody and pulsing sonic exploration.

As happens so often with vinyl issues of CD-original releases, there is a track missing to bring the album’s running time down from 45 minutes to a more LP-friendly 40-ish minutes. The track missing from the original 11 track CD release is “All The Way To Her”.

The usual reason for dropping a track to keep the running length around 40 minutes is that vinyl fetishists are a peculiar and problematic, hard-to-satisfy breed. On the one hand the audiophiles would complain about the volume of the pressing if it crammed 45 minutes into two sides (vinyl optimum is @18 minutes per side). On the other hand the cash-strapped vinyl collectors (it’s hard keeping up with the habit) would complain about the extravagance and extra cost of a double LP with only 2-3 songs per side. No-one will be satisfied whatever the outcome, so omitting a track is just part of the eternal compromise of life in the vinyl re-issue age. If only we had either (a) never embraced the Compact Disc format in the first place or (b) never fallen out of love with the Compact Disc format in recent years we wouldn’t be having these kinds of arguments now.

Oddly enough the version of the album on Dimmer’s Bandcamp here (which pre-dates the new vinyl edition) includes “All The Way to Her” but omits two tracks from the original CD issue – “Pendulum” and “Powercord”. All this is possibly annoying for some, but the idea that each form of alternative release to the original CD release reduces the content from the original edition does at least preserve the collectible nature of the CD release.

Dimmer are currently playing shows around NZ, ‘supporting’ Straitjacket Fits. It’s a combination that not only provides excellent value for money but also plenty of opportunity for between-song humour from Carter. Read more about the tour – and his autobiography/ memoirs due middle of 2019 – in this excellent recent interview with Carter.

Finally, here’s a live video of Dimmer performing “Drop You Off” in Dunedin in 2008.

Little Desert_HappyLittle Desert is a 5 piece dark garage/punk psych-rock punk ensemble from Melbourne. “Happy” here is a brand new song, just released ahead of a new EP slated for release in 2019. Buckle in – it’s a W I L D (but happy) ride…

There’s nothing held back here. This is pure, unrestrained, wild, searing garage-psych rock energy. Vocalist Esther Rivers’ delivery commands the song – an ode to sisterly love and embracing life.  In the engine room, Ash Wyatt (Red Red Krovvy/ Masses) propels the song with urgent floor-tom heavy drums, Bonnie Mercer (Dead River/ Breathing Shrine) adds the classic buzz-saw guitar, Ema Dunstan (Hi-Tec Emotions/ Synthetics) shakes the foundations with ominously low bass rumble and Roman Tucker (Rocket Science) provides that psych-essential swirling keyboard atmosphere.

Esther Rivers – “Written on the train on the way back from Scotland it’s our first curt, “optimistic” song with no hidden meanings. I wrote it about my sister as I left her behind after visiting her after ages and finding her in a really good place. We’ve gotten a bit more B52s with these new songs! A bit more groove but still with passion and the psych-out at the end. A bit of a punk edge too. We love playing this song at the end of the set.”

“Happy” is A-grade wild psych rock and roll. Can’t wait for the EP, and I’ll also be examining the Little Desert back catalogue. “Saeva” below has a hard-to-categorise, winning mix of psychedelic garage-rock and doomy/ proggy UK 1970s heavy metal. While you are falling down the Little Desert rabbit hole be sure to check out each of the members other bands in the links above. There’s much more to discover in this noisy Melbourne underground scene.

 

naenaeexpress20181240Carisbrook was the home of cricket and rugby in Dunedin until 2011 when Dunedin’s new covered stadium was opened. Only 10 cricket test matches were played at Carisbrook but some were the stuff of sporting legend. “Carisbrook” is a song from the self-titled album by Auckland band The Naenae Express about the NZ cricketer the band is named after, and his heroic last wicket stand in a test match at Carisbrook in 1985.

“There’s plenty of runs to get/ but nobody’s got them yet.” Chatfield came in to bat at No. 11, and proceeded to score an unbeaten 21 off 84 balls, the last wicket partnership with his captain adding the crucial 50 runs that New Zealand needed to win the match. It remained Chatfield’s highest Test score.

The band operating under the name The Naenae Express create a peculiarly summery New Zealand kind of sports-themed psychedelic pop, at times incorporating a kind of stoned Pavement and Beta Band vibe. Don’t know much about The Naenae Express other than Scott Kendall being the cricket-loving genius behind these well-crafted tunes. The self-titled album is out via their bandcamp page, with a cassette to come sometime.

Earth to ZenaEarth to Zena are a 4-piece band from Wellington describing themselves – very accurately – as ‘psychedelic shoegaze’. Here’s the remarkable “Celestial Skins” from their debut album, “Transmundane”:

“Celestial Skins” here represents the best of all the bands’ elements combined together. There’s muscular crushing space rock noise (Hawkwind, circa “Space Ritual”, with Lemmy on bass!) to open and close the song, and, in-between, passages of diaphanous dream-pop/ shoegaze wonder, plus a kind of free-flowing psychedelic rock reminiscent of Jefferson Airplane. The outro combines everything – plus added synth – in a celestial celebration of distorted glorious saturated noise.

Lead vocalist Renee Cotton also plays synthesizer, adding extra textures and melodies to the futuristic (and Hawkwind-esque space rock) elements of the sound, with Barton McGuire on guitar, Alex Sipahioglu on bass and Nic Allan on drums.

“Transmundane” is a great collection of strong songs, rendered with confidence and style, and also quite often with the amps and effects turned up past the point of no return. Give it a whirl for yourself!

Negative NanciesNegative Nancies are a noisy pop ensemble from Dunedin and “Candy Milk” here is from their debut 12″ EP “You Do You” which is released on 23 November on Christchurch arts&crafts label CocoMuse Releases.

“Candy Milk” has all the lurching anti-pop anarchy of Scottish post-punks Fire Engines, as it morphs from in-yer-face singalong punk blast, through spooky psych experimental zones, adding a dash of helter-skelter computer game soundtrack keys, and back again, to add up to one of the best unconventional pop hits to emerge from Dunedin.

In their own words: “Debut EP from Dunedin’s finest. Anxious polka-punk. Alt-fizz. Subgressive fun-time fantasiangst.”  The band seems refreshingly free of much in the way of online/ ‘social media’ presence so what you hear is what you get. And that’s plenty to chew on for the time being until the EP arrives and the remaining tracks are available.

Flo and Spicey

Please sit back, ensure your seat belt is securely fastened, your seat back is upright and your tray table is stowed away, as we prepare for take-off… it’s time to travel through space and time between Glasgow and Stockholm with Flo & Spicey on an “Adult Single”:

Flo & Spicey (real names Diana Jonsson & Colin Stewart) describe themselves as “a long distance studio collaboration between Glasgow and Stockholm. They make their music using old & discarded tech with a love for all things Joe Meek & Delia Derbyshire.”

It’s a kind of lo-fi retro-collage kind of magpie indie-pop where whistling kettles and stirring tea-spoons, railway station announcements, old TV soundbites and all kinds of noisy flotsam and jetsam are woven into bass and keyboard pop. It’s fun, it’s weird in a kind of Residents-meets-Stereoloab kind of way at times, and it’s all got a heart of pop as well.

Flo & Spicey’s Tea Set is highly recommended for fans of Broadcast and also contemporary exponents of this kind of dark, grainy experimental pop, like Exploded View.