Archives for category: Dunedin Pop Underground

crone“Tipping Point” opens a glorious exploration of three dark and sinister soundworlds by experimental electronic duo crone.  Place a pair of comfortable headphones over your ears, dim the lights, close your eyes, and hold on tight…

crone are Lucy Reid and Emily Berryman; initially assembled in Dunedin, then relocated to Wellington.  The three tracks on “crone” (7, 13 and 11 minutes respectively) each build unique yet thematically linked worlds, each one part wonder and part terror.

“Tipping Point” here starts proceedings beautifully, creating an oppressive, threatening landscape of pulses and machines, washed with synth drones and then building steady layers of minimalist beats.

Next, “(in)complete” channels some “Blade Runner” incidental music vibes and damp ambience, before finding a pulse and traces of glitchy disembodied voice. It’s the only human voice on the three tracks and yet it manages to sound the least human thing here in a way; a damaged auto-play facsimile reproduction of a memory of humanity.

Finally, “Masochist Impulse” builds out of the decayed residuals of its predecessor then heads further into noise and deeper into bass frequencies as the listener is dive-bombed by alien insects while being pummeled rhythmically by percussive ultra-bass and heartbeat increasing with the building sense of unease and impending doom.

Altogether it’s a wonderful 30 minutes of immersive music. This absorbing collection was mixed by Danny Brady (Élan Vital, Death and The Maiden) and mastered by Forbes Williams (who also mastered Elan Vital’s brutal cold-wave dance music album “Shadow Self”).

On their first release crone expertly combine futuristic industrial sounds with heavy off-planet atmosphere and pulsing sub-bass to create a thrillingly dark collection of soundscapes. By turns eery, brutalist, tense, and mysterious, while also working effectively as hypnotic dance music capable of inducing a compulsive trance-sway in the listener.

There’s a pile of much-loved Chris & Cosey – Carter-Tutti, and Chris Carter solo albums in the PopLib collection. I rate crone‘s thrilling pneumatic debut up with the best of those.




Charcoal Burners 2019 Mirror.jpg

“Days Behind” is a beguiling song from a new album from prolific independent Dunedin musician Andrew Spittle under his most recent guise as Charcoal Burners:

“Days Behind” is a delicate and strange song; an achingly melodic vocal line unfolds, blurred through multi-layered guitars all playing different parts but weaving together into a gloriously dark and saturated psychedelic feast for the ears. It is one of those songs you can lose yourself among the layers, textures and melodies, played on repeat. It’s not the only song here to combine these ingredients into something wonderful either.

Since 1990 Andrew Spittle – under his own name and with bands Dating Godot, Das Phaedrus, All Red Cables and now Charcoal Burners – has independently released over 40 albums of original music as well as a handful of singles and EPs titles. The earliest releases were cassettes, progressing to Compact Disc and eventually digital releases via Bandcamp.

This latest release has echoes – in musical style and personnel – of Spittle’s 1990’s band Dating Godot with Spittle joined by latter-day Dating Godot member Sally Lonie on bass and vocals. As with Dating Godot some of the music on “The Best Day You Could Imagine” is infused with the spirit of ultra-melodic molten-guitar rock of Husker Du.

However, even with such heavy apparent influences, this album is soaked in the atmosphere of Dunedin. It could not really have come from anywhere else. The sound is sometimes as misty and vague as the city on a low overcast day, the vocals drifting in and out of the murk, but the multi-layered guitars often sparkle like the sun reflecting off the breeze-ruffled surface of Otago Harbour on a better day.

Spittle has been called an ‘outsider’. In art the term usually refers to self taught, so-called ‘naive’ artists.  However the music of self-taught musicians and songwriters is the music often associated with New Zealand overseas. It is music outside the mainstream, following rules of its own making, or perhaps attempting imitation of, or homage to, a particular overseas style, and failing with original results.

Perhaps it also refers to being outside of any particular scene or label. However, that also applies to much New Zealand music. So I’m going with ‘prolific and independent’ instead.

Not that labels matter. It’s all about the music, and in Spittle’s case there’s a huge catalogue available to explore on Spittle’s Charcoal Burners’ Bandcamp.

Koizilla 2019Here’s some magic flute-tootlin’ psychedelic-prog rock rifferama for your Psychedelic Sunday from Dunedin band Koizilla, with their new single “I Can’t See Anything”:

Koizilla – Zac Nicolls (guitar and vocals), Hilary Faul (flute, vocals, keyboards, percussion), Connor Blackie (bass, vocals) and Josh Nicolls (drums) – have always had a bit of that accidental early 1970s German psych-prog sound to me, which is why their skillfully executed blend of riff-rock and prog-rock precision time changes has been so easy to enjoy. Koizilla are all about the adventurous risk-taking glee of melodic multi-instrumental synchronicity rather than the joyless mechanical precision of musical theory mathematics exercises that prog-rock forms can sometimes amount to.

“I Can’t See Anything” is all over the place – in the best possible way. Nothing else does what a flute does in rock music. The magic flute melodies here bounce off the riff and rhythms and when the rhythmic pulse drops away for the more pastoral passages here Koizilla head deep into the territory of Swedish psychedelic rock ensemble Dungen, which is a wonderful place to be for all of us.

Too Tone NZ Music Month

NZ Music Every Godzone Month! sign from Too Tone Records in Dunedin.

Our New Zealand Music Month day #30 tune is the gorgeous instrumental “Lull” from High Dependency Unit (HDU):

“Lull” is from HDU’s 1998 album “Higher + +” which is one of the classic NZ experimental post-rock albums. It encapsulates perfectly the dreamy astral psychedelia side of the band, usually remembered for their searing futuristic “space blues” soundscapes of walls of firestorm guitar and thunderous bass over tight patterns of crunching drums.  It’s wonderful to see the whole glorious catalogue of HDU albums available on Bandcamp for new generations  and audiences to discover.

Too Tone NZ Music Month

NZ Music Every Godzone Month! sign from Too Tone Records in Dunedin.

Our New Zealand Music Month day #27 song is from Emily Fairlight’s “Mother Of Gloom” album – here’s “Drag the Night In”:

Fairlight’s album is a slow-burning masterpiece of dark and sometimes damaged alternative folk music with a heart of pop songcraft.

Singer-songwriter-musician Fairlight developed her craft in the fertile Christchurch/ Lyttelton scene that produced the likes of Marlon Williams and Aldous Harding and helped develop Port Chalmers musician Nadia Reid. She is now based in Dunedin after a shift south from Wellington.

The album was recorded far from NZ, by Doug Walseth of The Cat’s Eye Studio in Austin, Texas, with Okkervil River drummer Cully Symington and multi-instrumentalist Kullen Fuchs, who adds accordion to “Drag the Night In” here.

Fairlight’s striking, resonant voice is the key to breathing her songs into life. It’s a wonderfully distinctive instrument in its own right, full of a dark magic and carrying the weight of a world of heartbreak. But don’t be put off by the most likely tongue-in-cheek album title – “Mother of Gloom” is a rich and ultimately uplifting album of songs of perseverance and survival.

Too Tone NZ Music Month

NZ Music Every Godzone Month! sign from Too Tone Records in Dunedin.

Our New Zealand Music Month song for day # 23 is “Hourglass” from Port Chalmers trio Death And The Maiden.

“Cold ocean…” intones Lucinda King as we are led into the eery, hypnotic world-in-a-song of “Hourglass”. Hope Robertson’s guitar swoops in time with Danny Brady’s subtle drum machine beats and synth arpeggios. “Collected hourglasses, filled the room up, but all that time: useless…” 

Death And The Maiden’s second album “Wisteria” is shrouded in a cool, misty ambience. It is an unusual but thrilling and muscular hybrid between electronic music and dark post-punk and an a Gothic kind of psychedelia.

Too Tone NZ Music Month

Shop display of re-purposed NZ Music Month poster at Too Tone Records (2010-2017) in Dunedin.

Our New Zealand Music Month song for day # 18 is from “Dunedin’s finest. Anxious polka-punk. Alt-fizz. Subgressive fun-time fantasiangst” trio Negative Nancies. It’s from their thrilling and essential debut EP “You Do You” and the song is “I Wish”:

Negative Nancies “You Do You” is a disturbingly brilliant 6 song EP. “I Wish” alternates between a plaintive desire to remedy unconscious repetitive behavior (“I wish, I wish, I didn’t grind my teeth at night/ I wish, I wish, I didn’t hold my jaw so tight”) set over a galloping whip-crack beat and a rapid spiraling descent into a deeply weird nightmare of distorted keyboards, feedback bass and a cauldron of swirling voices. Negative Nancies music is natural noisy exploration and expression rather than an arch noise-art project and the EP ought to be resonating radio, speaker and headphone frequencies around the world.