Archives for category: Dunedin Pop Underground
Bad Sav_Hope Lucinda NoMike_photo by Chris Schmelz_smaller for web

Hope Robertson (guitar, vocals) and Lucinda King (bass, vocals) of Bad Sav. (Absent is drummer Mike McLeod) – photo by Chris Schmelz.

“Hen’s Teeth” by Birdation will be familiar to regular followers of PopLib. Birdation is the solo experimental noise workshop of Port Chalmers musician Hope Robertson. Robertson is guitarist in electronic+post-punk dark dream-pop trio Death And The Maiden and the long-running, slow-moving noise rock trio Bad Sav. Next week, Bad Sav finally release that long-awaited first album. The first track shared ahead of the release is “Hen’s Teeth”

The slow trance-like lo-fi churn of Birdation’s “Hen’s Teeth” has been turbo-charged by Bad Sav into an uptempo slice of chiming guitar rock. The first second is arresting in unexpected ways with the intake of breath before the song starts.

I love the way Robertson’s stabbing sparkling guitar chords dance from side to side in the mix, like a delay echo in a huge cathedral. Then there’s that euphoric chorus and the crunch of additional guitar horsepower to seal the effective assault on the senses. There’s still a thrill and a power to be found in a trio playing guitar, bass and drums, loud and with distortion and Bad Sav’s album delivers that tonic in 10 measured doses.

With Bad Sav less is more. Whereas My Bloody Valentine would have spent years burying the song in sonic molasses, Bad Sav achieve the same dizzying chord-bending melodic blaze with a recording as immediate and monstrous as their live performances.  Their churning guitar-heavy sonic distillation of melodic post-rock, noise-rock and shoegaze is a thing of sonic beauty to experience live, the guitar sound building patterns of glorious saturated noise that fill every corner of the venue and your head.

Bad Sav have been around for 10 years – long enough to have started out with a MySpace page, the internet equivalent of carbon-dating a band’s vintage. They had an early song on a Radio One sampler CD, then a long wait until 2014 when they self released 4 songs on their Bandcamp. These 4 songs make for an essential pre-quel EP-length introduction to the band.

Here’s the original Birdation formation of “Hen’s Teeth”. The Bad Sav and Birdation versions on a split 7″ single would be a lovely thing indeed. That won’t be happening, so best you download the Birdation version below and keep it safe.




Koizilla 2018Koizilla‘s first full length album, following a succession of fine EPs, is called “Lazy Hazy” and it’s jam-packed full of energetic psychedelic pop and adventurous prog-rock, perfect fare for a Psychedelic Sunday song share.

First time I saw the Nicholls brothers playing in a band (the wonderfully atmospheric and mostly instrumental A Distant City) guitarist Zac reminded me – in appearance and playing style – of an early 1970s German space rock guitarist… and brother Josh also fitted the mold of the archetypal manic psychedelic space-rock drummer. The music on “Lazy Hazy” often still sounds like it could have been made by some undiscovered early 1970s offshoot of Amon Düül II.

There’s a lot of “look at me” fiddly and technically impressive musicality here; gratuitous time changes, tricky stops and starts and impossible drum fills (just listen to “Sandflies” for example of all of that). That kind of thing usually leaves me cold these days – thinking particularly of over-achieving and over-producing but ultimately mostly under-whelming Australians, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.

But Koizilla have a lightness of touch and also playfulness evident from the absurdist sense of humour and ridiculous fun of the songs. That infectious charm keeps the music on “Lazy Hazy” as compulsively entertaining as it is adventurous and always on the right side of taking itself too seriously. There’s seriously pop-tastic hyper-drive space rock along the way, even including some very appropriate and tasteful flute here and there.

Don’t be afraid to let yourself go all “Lazy Hazy” for a bit and immerse yourself in a different slice of Dunedin sonic exploration.


maxinefunke20181240“Home Fi” is the title track of a new album by Dunedin musician Maxine Funke. It’s also a great genre name for these audio-vérité recordings.

Finger-picked nylon string acoustic guitar, voice and occasional appearance by an acoustic bass and wheezy, wobbly toy organ is all that’s involved and it’s a perfect combination.

The song-writing is low-key beautiful, the songs unfussy yet rich in detail. The starkness of the recordings, complete with a hint of background hiss, is like the sound recording equivalent of snapshots found in a mildewed photo album in a shed; faded sepia, black & white & colour photos, curling up at the edges; a moment from a timeless time in a placeless place.

If you are familiar with the music of Sibylle Baier, Vashti Bunyan, or contemporary Australian musician Julie Byrne, you will probably already know about Funke and her excellent previous albums “Lace” and “Felt” and if not…  “Home Fi” is a fine starting point.

for the quailDay 30 of PopLib’s 31 Days of May marathon for New Zealand Music Month is “Election Drinking Party” by Dunedin post-rock/ post-punk/ post-everything trio For The Quail.

For The Quail are Evan Sunley James (Guitar, vocals), Karl Bray (bass, backing vocals) and Samdrub Dawa (Drums). The song was written, recorded and released to mark New Zealand’s 2017 General Election, and captures an essence of the squabbling frustration of the 3 year political cycle of blame and claim, truth and lies and mis-use of statistics. Enough to drive anyone to drink.

The second half of the 8 minute epic goes off into space in a pretty wonderful way with delay guitar looping back on itself over and over to provide a noisy blanket of swirling sound as the percussion starts to become motorik and mechanical and steadily disintegrate and it ends in a kind of apocalyptic ambience.



The Prophet Hens – photos by Phoebe Lysbeth Kay

Day 29 of PopLib’s 31 Days of May marathon for New Zealand Music Month is “Friends” from Dunedin “jangle-pop” guitar & Casio keyboard band The Prophet Hens.

“Friends” is from The Prophet Hens second album, “The Wonderful Shapes of Back Door Keys” released in 2016 just before the band went into indefinite hiatus. While The Prophet Hens tended to be cursed with the ‘Dunedin jangle’ sound thing (in NZ at least – that was seen as a positive overseas) their influences were more from UK 1980s guitar pop and US guitar pop. “Friends” wears its early REM/ Peter Buck influences on its sleeve.

Keyboard player (playing the legendary Casiotone given to her as a child) and vocalist Penelope Esplin and bassist Robin Cederman are now the Wellington-based duo Grawlixes. Esplin is also now part of French For Rabbits.

Guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Karl Bray is busy these days as bassist for post-rock ensemble For the Quail along with the recording engineer for this album Samdrub Dawa and Evan Sunley James. It was in the sophisticated country-ish pop ensemble The Sunley Band (“Dunedin’s least fashionable band” they claimed) that I first saw Karl and Penelope play, many years ago. There are several Dunedin-linked NZ music rabbit holes to fall down in this post – each one well is worth the diversion.


Day 26 of PopLib’s 31 Days of May marathon for New Zealand Music Month is “The Chateau” by Bathsalts, from their “Drive” EP released last month.

Bathsalts are a three piece band originally from Queenstown, but now based in Dunedin, and consisting of Reuben Scott (guitar / vocals) Yuta Honda (bass / vocals) Theodore Baumfield (drums / vocals).  They say “grunge”, “indie rock” and “psychedelic” and that’s a start, but only the half of it really.

There’s also a hint of post-punk/ New Wave at times with those chorus effect guitar interludes evident on this track and also some post-rock progressiveness in those time changes and snappy interplay between guitar, bass and drums.

Keep an ear on Bathsalts – there’s an encouraging blend of influences percolating on this three song EP recorded at Chicks Hotel in Port Chalmers and the skill to develop it all even further in future.

Alazarin Lizard 2018Day 19 of PopLib’s 31 Days of May marathon for New Zealand Music Month comes from the “Dunedin-transient pop influenced, neo-psychedelic mess” Alizarin Lizard with “Back to Front”

Alizarin Lizard share a couple of members with peripatetic popsters Ha, The Unclear and are similarly spread far and wide around NZ’s great cultural centres – Dunedin, Auckland and Katikati (I think).

The band has a fulsome back catalogue on Bandcamp exhibiting a wild conglomeration of jammy psychedelic rock with observational lyrics and some proggy touches. “Back to Front” is a single released ahead of a new album and it sounds a lot more polished – a finely crafted psych-pop gem with enough ear-popping sonic adventuring to keep it well left of the mainstream.

The guitars chime with sitar-like effects, a fuzzed out lead refrain soars above, keyboards swirl through rotary speakers, and the reverb washed vocals all combine together to give an effect like an NZ take on a sun-bleached lost early 1970s US band blasting out on FM radio as you take a trip through California in a van full of stoned friends. There’s something almost Todd Rundgren-esque about this wonderful song and its weird but listener-friendly earworm pop.