Astro Children photo by Daniel Alexander (The Attic)

Astro Children photo by Daniel Alexander (The Attic)

Day 17 of the 31 Days of May New Zealand Music Month bandcamp challenge and I’m keeping it local with Astro Children.

Astro Children have been playing for a couple of years now although both these space cadets are still in their teens (just). Drums and guitar. “Like the White Stripes” you might think. But not like The White Stripes at all. Drummer Isaac Hickey sets down a powerful post-rock-ish backbone of heavy-weight beats. There’s a bit of Constantine Karlis of HDU (from a previous generation of Dunedin noise-makers) about Isaac’s drumming. Guitarist and vocalist Millie Lovelock mostly layers effect-loaded guitar chords over top and either sings or, more usually in Astro Children, screams with a frightening fury for someone usually so quiet, polite and reserved.

This most recent single ‘Jamie Knows’ is not typical of what Astro Children do. There’s not much they do that could be called typical of their sound, but this song is the most pastoral and restrained. In fact it sounds more like it could be a Trick Mammoth song – the other Dunedin band Millie plays with.

Astro Children are not for everyone. Have a listen to their EP here (also released as a CD in a hand-assembled card sleeve). Traditionalists may criticise the ‘over-use’ of guitar effects while those who like their pop a bit more refined may be scared off by the rawness of their sound. I like the over-use of effects and that rawness – these are the things that set them apart for me. The effects at times give the music a cartoon quality which fits that visual element of vintage kids space illustrations.

There’s a courage and wilful determination in making your own music and owning your performances in the way Astro Children do. It’s personal and sharing it is probably uncomfortable. But few others assemble their anxieties and frustrations about the things in their life in quite this way.

The recordings are only a two-dimensional representation. As a live band the extra dimension which completes the experience of Astro Children is the element of performance and Millie’s theatrics. This video of a recent live set from the public bar of the sleazy dark Crown Hotel in Dunedin captures some of that.

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