Archives for category: Dunedin Pop Underground

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.

Anthonie Tonnon_Two Free Hands

Day 17 of PopLib’s 31 Days of May marathon for New Zealand Music Month is “Two Free Hands” from Anthonie Tonnon.

“Two Free Hands” is on a 4 track EP which takes Tonnon into new electronic territory, without altering his distinctive mix of songcraft and lyrical storytelling.

Tonnon explains on his website “The new music has partially developed out of touring overseas as a solo performer, and looking for ways to expand the sound with strange and wonderful technology.

In this new music, I’ve been trying hard to play with electronic elements the way I feel an instrumentalist should – in way that is fragile, different every time, and takes repetitive practice and concentration to keep together.”

Asta Rangu 2018.jpgDay 10 of PopLib’s 31 Days of May marathon for New Zealand Music Month comes from Asta Rangu – here’s the driving fuzzed-up pop of “Melancholics”

“Melancholics” is from the excellent “Plasticine” EP/ Mini album released on emerging Dunedin label trace / untrace who say: “melodic and angular, asta rangu laces jarring riffs into fidgety pop and hook-laden wordplay. a sonic trip into the noisy, intricately layered world of imaginary figures.”

Asta Rangu guitarist/ vocalist/ songwriter Richard Ley-Hamilton has taken the crafted guitar-pop of his previous band Males, and twisted it to darker, more intricate and thrilling shapes and shades, injecting subtle layers of noise and mayhem, but retaining the pure heart of golden pop.