not-unloved-1If you thought Courtney Barnett’s “Avant Gardener” was the best song to be written about gardens and gardening, it has now been surpassed by the B-side of a 7″ single by Glasgow’s Vital Idles called simply “The Garden”.

If you wanted to be picky you could say that this song is not strictly about gardening as such… “Would you feel uncomfortable if we did it in the garden, with your bum facing the clean air, and the wind in your hair?”

But it does mention in loving sensory detail the features of the garden and the work that has gone into creating this setting for this fantasized al fresco relationship.

“The Garden” is the B-side (or double A-side) of the Vital Idles 7″ single released on brand new Glasgow label Not Unloved Records.  The label is a natural extension of the long-running Not Unloved blog, so named after the title of a Pastels song from their “Truckload of Trouble” album.

There’s certainly a bit of the spirit of The Pastels about this song, but also perhaps a bit of Belle & Sebastian in the wry observational lyrics and delivery – though headed in a somewhat more deviant direction than your average early B & S song.

This is not much like the earlier Vital Idles releases I’ve heard, which were enthusiastically lo-fi cassette releases with “Demo” in the title. Lovely amateurish things but a bit rough around the edges and unfinished sounding, however radiating oodles of potential because of that enthusiasm, spirit and character.

This sounds perfectly finished. The production standards have increased and it’s a glorious thing to hear this band presented in a clear and unfussy way, their character in full bloom now.

As “The Garden” and it’s risque narrative unfolds in rich detail, the pace quickens, the intensity swells, the strings and brass rising and falling like that bum in the clean air, before the post-climax outro of soothing instrumentation. As beautiful as a well-tended garden.

vital-idols-2016

toy-love-live-at-the-gluepot“Pull Down The Shades” closes Toy Love‘s “Live at The Gluepot 1980” album, which first saw the light of day as a Record Store Day release in NZ in 2012. Now it’s available as a digital album via Bandcamp and Goner Records, who were responsible for the initial release along with Auckland record store Real Groovy Records.

Dunedin’s proto-punk band The Enemy – who feature on the cover and inside the recently published photo-book “The Dunedin Sound – Some Disenchanted Evening” – disbanded in 1978 after a move to Auckland.

Three of The Enemy – Chris Knox, Alec Bathgate and Mike Dooley – went on to form Toy Love, adding Christchurch musicians Jane Walker (keyboards) and Paul Kean (bass).

Toy Love called time in 1980. Kean subsequently went on to join The Bats, a band which lasted a bit longer than Toy Love (over 30 years now and they are still releasing fabulous albums, with a new one out soon).

Knox acquired a 4-track reel-to-reel recorder, recording the infamous “Dunedin Double” EP which helped kick-start the careers of a handful of Dunedin bands and their Christchurch label Flying Nun Records.

Knox and Bathgate formed Tall Dwarfs and the rest, as they say, is now history…

 

 

bent_bandcampThe unholy racket of BeNt comes from Brisbane, a city of surprises. “Bad Beds” opens their new and 2nd album “Snakes and Shapes”.

Among the debris of BeNt’s anarchic approach to post-punk song-craft there’s a lot of bits and pieces reminding me of an unlikely collection of avant-pop adventurers.

Foremost is NZ  avant-pop pioneers The Spies, but there also seems to be trace residue here of experimental approaches by the likes of Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band, Pere Ubu and The Sugarcubes, as well as the somewhat mis-placed (but understandable) Slits & Raincoats comparisons they seem to attract.

There’s some absurdist or Dadaist overtones to some of the content – like spoken interludes – and also some approaches to guitar noise that evoke the spirit of Fred Frith’s ‘Guitar Solos’ at times.

This kind of wilful disregard for form can often lead to all kinds of unlistenable noise, but BeNt have melody and rhythm at their heart and there’s a spirited and playful wide-eyed enthusiasm which keeps the songs fun and engaging.

If you enjoy what you hear on this album check out their action-filled Bandcamp back catalogue for more gems, like “Skeleton Man” here from their 2014 album “non Soon”

purple-pilgrims-2016“Is You Real?” arrives near the start of Purple Pilgrims‘ debut album “Eternal Delight” and transports you far away to another world.

It’s a perfect delight to introduce an album that lives up to its name. This track – and the whole album – carefully stirs together psychedelia, ritualistic mantra, hypnotic folk music and dreampop.

Despite the hazy charm on the surface, there is always a hint of something a little ominous or disturbing beneath the surface in their music, as with earlier offerings from Purple Pilgrims. In literature and fairy tales the concept of “Eternal Delight” always came with a catch…

“Eternal Delights” was conceived and recorded by Purple Pilgrims – sisters Clementine and Valentine Adams – in the forests of the Coromandel, east of Auckland, NZ.

The album is available on CD and LP on Not Not Fun Records.

Purple Pilgrims LP.jpg

Helena Celle.jpgBeaming in from outer space, like a time-delayed broadcast from The Clangers planet 50 years ago, comes the malfunctioning dance music of “VR Addiction” .

“VR Addiction” is from an intriguing new release from Glasgow, Scotland based computer programmer Kay Logan under her current alias Helena Celle. The album – “If I Can’t Handle Me At My Best, Then You Don’t Deserve You At Your Worst” – is released through Glasgow experimental/ underground electronic/ Alt-Normal label Night School Records.

If lo-fi electronica is your thing then this is a hissing, buzzing, fidgeting world of virtual unicorns and code dragons. “Recorded exclusively using a faltering MC303, live in a room straight to consumer dictaphones” gives you an idea of how this audio performance art was made. It’s great. There’s a real sense of life, adventure, happenstance, and wonder in the music on the album, attributes which can be absent from more structured, genre-conforming electronic music.

Don’t know if this music is “questioning the hegemony of neo-liberal ideas and their intersection with capital, culture and social practises” as claimed in the explanatory notes. Are these satirical? It’s hard to tell with commentaries on experimental or conceptual art sometimes. Can it not just be adventurous fun with sound which allows each listener to apply their own thin veneer of reasoning to it as they see fit?

drahlaI love the random acts of discovery that come via Bandcamp and people doing the simple act of sharing a link to something new. Sometimes what you hear invades your brain so quickly and completely that resistance is futile and you click ‘buy’and pay more than the asking price just because it is that good. Like Drahla and “Fictional Decision”:

It’s a simple idea. Bass, drums, voice and that quiet/loud dynamic we are familiar with from Pixies songs. Part spoken/ part sung/ part chanted words and phrases that are strange, mysterious, threatening (and also as artfully abstract as cut-up Broadcast song lyrics), are a familiar concept to minds perverted by years of the free-form imagination of Mark E Smith in The Fall.

But on this song by Leeds based trio Drahla these components – familiar concepts from post-punk and noise rock – are assembled and delivered in a way that allows them to take on new life and provide an an electric shock.

Maybe it’s the way that when the guitar comes in LOUD it’s just a blazing storm of dissonance and beautiful abstract fury. Maybe it’s the way that bassist/ guitarist and vocalist Luciel Brown maintains an air of indifference to the setting in which her incantations are delivered. Classic tension and release.

Either way, I’ve played this a dozen times tonight and all I can conclude is that I’ll be playing it another dozen times tomorrow… and after that as well.

Postscript: There’s a wonderful lo-fi synthpop/ artpop split release with Swords from a year ago which has two songs from Drahla. “Stereo Maze” gave me flashbacks to an old Amos & Sara cassette tape from a long time ago. The post-punk art-pop spirit is clearly strong in this band.

And then there is this enigmatic “teaser” for something I’d love to hear more from:

allan-smithy-mirroredAs you listen to “The Streets” by Allan Smithy (not his real name) you can easily imagine the the sun beating down and the warm breeze on your face as you drive through the tree-lined sun-dappled streets of Sydney’s inner city and coastal suburbs with the windows wound down. Well, OK, it’s easy to imagine that if you’ve been there I suppose. But if not, then imagine you can imagine it.

If the song sounds like it could be from The Go-Betweens’ classic “16 Lovers Lane” album then that’s probably exactly what Allan Smithy (not his real name) would want. I mean, the entire Bandcamp artist description text reads “80’s Nostalgia-Australiana.” No beating around the flaming Wattle bush there, mate.

Allan Smithy is the pseudonym used by Sydney musician Matt Amery for his latest music venture. This Allan Smithy character is “an avid believer in the aural benefits of listening to home-grown 80’s bands. He has a sense of pride in Australian music and proudly wears his influences (The Go-betweens, The Triffids and The Church) on his sleeve.”

These are noble enough sentiments. But what makes the music of Allan Smithy so good & worthy of the time of both 80’s Nostalgia-Australiana fans and the uninitiated seeking simply new soundtracks for their lives is that the songs on this EP deliver on those influences and add – with considerable interest – their own qualities and sense of place and of wonder.

Here’s “Air” from the EP too: