Ersatz Savant mirrorTimaru, a city of 44,000 people, situated midway down the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, half way between Christchurch and Dunedin, is world famous for absolutely bloody nothing. The last record shop in Timaru closed last century. Even the claim that a member of the Jean Paul Sartre Experience came from Timaru turned out to be a lie, played for laughs. But Timaru has news for you: Ersatz Savant. Have a listen to “Improvement” from Ersatz Savant’s second album, ambitiously named “II”:

In a world of fakes and imitations, the name chosen for this musical project is self-deprecating, signifying an inferior substitute for a learned person. But this is actually a pretty classy, and ultimately original album. There’s nothing inferior about “II” at all. It is quite wonderful.

The album sounds like a sometimes sinister New Wave/ Goth corruption of Bowie’s “Hunky Dory” era proto-Glam style. What the self-recorded album lacks in studio sheen it more than makes up for in strong songwriting as well as sounds and arrangements capturing the essence of early 70s Glam as well as early 80s Gothic post-punk.

But the crowning jewel is Ersatz Savant’s extraordinary voice which walks a line between Bowie’s early 70s hammy music-hall poshness and Pete Murphy’s sinister undertaker purr.  Added all together “II” is an intriguing and hugely enjoyable album. Who would have guessed it, Timaru?