Archives for category: Dunedin Pop Underground
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.

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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.

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 # 16 is the brooding building storm of “Pets” from Port Chalmers trio Bad Sav:

Bad Sav leader, guitarist and vocalist Hope Robertson says “Pets” “is a breakup song even though it doesn’t sound like it. It was a “I don’t need to worry about this stuff because I’ve got my pets” kinda thing.”

“When I write a song if I’m so upset or angry or an emotion has gone beyond words, and just write some music and say, “Well, that sums it up”, I don’t think there’s any words necessary. At other times, words are totally necessary; if there’s an actual issue that’s happened or something you wanna discuss with yourself in songwriting then I’ll do that…”

The sonic storm front  from Robertson’s guitar arrives at the two and a half minute mark, exploding with controlled fury and then continuing to build, forming layer upon layer of gloriously distorted noise as it turns itself into something both hostile and embracing. It’s an utterly beautiful, wrenching song that I love listening to loud over and over again.

When I have seen this band live their structural noise fills the room and vibrates every atom as they tear a hole in the fabric of space and time, particularly with the amazing improv destruction ending to “Pets”. On a great night (and most Bad Sav performances in recent years have been great) the song ends like a universe of “Index of Metals”-era Robert Fripp guitar loops disintegrating as it is pulled into a black hole.

Too Tone NZ Music Month

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

New Zealand Music Month day #10 song is some dark, cold, noisy but dancefloor friendly analogue electronica from Dunedin trio Élan Vital. From their “Shadow Self” album here’s “Possession”:

Élan Vital formed in 2015 in Dunedin’s None Gallery, an artist-run creative community in a former pharmaceutical factory near the city centre. After years of operation the owners of the building are selling it so None’s community and physical existence is sadly coming to an end. It will be the end of an era for the noisiest, most experimental parts of Dunedin’s music underground, and the the place where experimental art co-existed with music. As well as home, practice and recording space for Élan Vital it was also once home to related band Death And The Maiden.

Élan Vital is Renee Barrance (keyboards, effects, vocals), Danny Brady (synths, drum machines, electronics, live mixing) and Nikolai Sim (bass) and the album – unusually for electronic music – was recorded by the band playing live together in their None Gallery space.

Too Tone NZ Music Month

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

New Zealand Music Month day #7 comes from Port Chalmers (Koputai) and a place over the hill called Purakaunui. Koputai seadogs Seafog released a double album recently and “Purakaunui” is a song from the album full of coastal atmosphere.

Seafog’s “Purakaunui” is an updated take on the version from almost 20 years ago recorded by frontman Robin Sharma’s previous band Jetty.

The tiny settlement of Purakaunui is formed around a tidal inlet and overlooks Blueskin Bay. It is an area surrounded by history. To the East is Whareakeake (Murdering Beach), and to the West is Mapoutahi Pa, places of grim history referenced in the song.

Although it’s only 30 minutes from Dunedin city centre, Purakaunui is a world away in time and oasis of somewhat haunted peace now, in part because it’s hard to get a mobile phone signal there. The small cemetery in Purakaunui is also the resting place of Dunedin music legend Peter Gutteridge (The Clean, The Puddle, Snapper).

Mapoutahi

Mapoutahi