Archives for category: Dunedin Pop Underground

Our Day 24 song for 31 Days of May Madness, attempting to post a New Zealand track every day of the month of May, is “The Four Seasons” by Tidal Rave:

“The Four Seasons” is a new song from the Wellington band, released in March this year, and following their first album “Heart Screams” released last year just as the pandemic lockdown commenced in NZ. That album demonstrated Tidal Rave do the dark garage guitar and keyboard thing that New Zealand is world famous for really well.

Anyone into those peculiarly dark and brooding Christchurch bands that were on Flying Nun Records in the 1980s (Pin Group, The Terminals, Max Block, Scorched Earth Policy, and their later post-FNR offspring Dadamah) would have recognised the uneasy listening claustrophobia lurking in Tidal Rave’s music on last year’s album. 

“The Four Seasons” seems a step up in the short disrupted year since the album, and the band here sound less like those NZ antecedents, and more like Vivian Girls with urgent its urgent pulsebeat drumming, three-guitar+keyboard density, those vocal harmonies, and a killer chorus.

Our Day 21 song for 31 Days of May Madness, attempting to post a New Zealand track every day of the month of May, is “Another Door” by The Bats:

Thirty eight years on from their inception in Christchurch NZ, combining The Clean bassist-turned-guitarist Robert Scott, with ex-Toy Love bassist Paul Kean, guitarist Kaye Woodward and drummer Malcolm Grant, The Bats still rock that original line-up. “Another Door” is from their 10th album, called “Foothills”.

There’s a comforting and familiar melodic chug and jangle, those vocal harmonies, a certain kind of wistful warm lo-key DIY homeliness, and an atmosphere of subdued psychedelia hovering in the air.

That atmosphere here (and throughout the album) is given weight through the minimalist tone soloing from Kaye Woodward’s lead guitar. Over successive albums Woodward has refined those lead guitar lines into things of Fripp-like esoteric beauty, with their thick overdriven saturation and sustain, and a ghostly waver of tremolo here.

Our Day 19 song for 31 Days of May Madness, attempting to post a New Zealand track every day of the month of May, is “Interstellar Gothic” by The Puddle:

“Interstellar Gothic” was originally an And Band improvisation. The And Band (1981) were the Christchurch-based transition from Wellington band The Spies (1979) – captured in all their unhinged post-punk weirdness on “The Battle of Bosworth Terrace” archival album released on US label Siltbreeze Records a few years ago – on towards the eventual formation of The Puddle (1984 on) in Dunedin. But on this 1985 live recording The Puddle present the definitive version of the song.

As the bandcamp page for the album notes: “A week before recording “Pop Lib” in Dunedin in 1985 The Puddle toured south to Invercargill with The Chills, playing two nights at Invercargill venue The Glengarry Tavern. The second night, Saturday 20 April 1985 was recorded through the mixing desk direct to cassette tape…The multi-channel live recording is like a studio live-to-air in quality, painting quite a different sonic picture to the dense fug and crowd noise of both “Pop Lib” and “Live at the Teddy Bear Club” releases on Flying Nun Records.”

This live recording – and “Interstellar Gothic” in particular – captures the essential alchemy of that much talked about early line-up of George D Henderson on guitar and vocals, bassist Ross Jackson, drummer Lesley Paris and flute player Norma O’Malley (both also in Look Blue Go Purple at the time), French horn/ cornet player Lindsay Maitland, and keyboard player Peter Gutteridge (formerly of The Clean, at the time in The Great Unwashed, and soon to be Snapper).

When people mention “The Dunedin Sound” in the 1980s they conveniently forget the pinnacle of outsider avant-freak-pop that The Puddle represented during that decade. Another – quite different – exploration of the possibilities of that six-piece line-up is in the delicate and beautiful “Billie & Franz” here:

Our Day 12 song for 31 Days of May Madness, attempting to post a New Zealand track every day of the month of May, is “Combine Harvester” by Opposite Sex:

After relocating to Dunedin and recording their hyper-active eponymous debut 10 years ago Opposite Sex replaced original Gisborne guitarist Fergus Taylor with Tasmanian import Reg Norris, and released two more albums, “Hamlet” in 2015 and “High Drama” earlier this year, from which “Combine Harvester” here is from. 

While Taylor provided musical and melodic counterpoints to Hunter’s dark and warped post-punk pop on album #1, Norris provides distressed and queasy dissonant guitar noise.

It’s an acquired taste, often sounding like a post-punk odd-pop group is sharing the studio with guitarist playing music by a different band – the Dead C unfortunately – which can distract from the tunefulness of Hunter’s unique songwriting. That may be the point.

The music of Opposite Sex has grown increasingly darker and mis-shapen over the years, so sometimes that extreme noise terror approach works in service of the song. “Combine Harvester” is one such occasion. Norris’s terrifying guitar noise sounds like a dozen furious wasps trapped in an empty beer bottle, amplified and then annihilated through a distortion unit.

When the song is about wishing an ex-lover was consumed by the mechanical threshing machinery of a combine harvester, that approach works just fine.

Our Day 11 song for 31 Days of May Madness, attempting to post a New Zealand track every day of the month of May, is “Slow Song Simmer” by Seafog:

“Slow Song Simmer” is another song from the recent Dunedin compilation “…And It Could Be Right Now – New Music From Ōtepoti​/​Dunedin” It says it is a demo for the “Slow Death” LP, presumably in the works.

Hopefully that LP retains the washed out shoegaze (seahaze?) shimmer of this because it all sounds as distant and spooky as the noise of fishing boats lost in the disorienting haze of a harbour fog in winter.

Seafog are form Port Chalmers near Dunedin, made up of guitarist and lead vocalist Robin Sharma (Jetty), guitarist Nigel Waters, bass guitarist Andrew Barsby and drummer Martyn Sadler. As they expain: “Seafog are a 4 piece that have been around for a while. We play in the garage out Port, sometimes like our lives depend on it.”

Our Day 7 song for 31 Days of May Madness, attempting to post a New Zealand track every day of the month of May, is another track from the recent Dunedin music compilation “…And It Could Be Right Now” – “Dale Kerrigan” by Dale Kerrigan:

Dale Kerrigan is a band, not a singer-songwriter. There is no-one called Dale Kerrigan in the noise-rock band called Dale Kerrigan. No clue is revealed as to who exactly Dale Kerrigan is or was, nor what they have done to have a noise rock band, and song, named after them. Maybe it’s an Australasian cultural reference to a character in film The Castle: ‘I dug a hole’ Dale. That one. Who knows?

This track is monstrous, in all the right ways. Is it punk? Is it metal? Is it noise rock? Is it prog rock? The answer to all those questions is YES.

Dale Kerrigan is the brainchild of Ōtepoti/ Dunedin musician Shlee Nicholls (Mary Berry, Flesh Bug). Yep, she’s another from the noisy Nicholls family production line of musicians, alongside hyperactive drumming brother Josh Nicholls (Koizilla, Fazed on a Pony, Asta Rangu, Space Bats, Attack! et al.) and friends Joel Field (Porpoise), and Connor Blackie (Koizilla, Adelaide Cara).

The band is Shlee Nicholls’ response to the “ugly boy singing noise” stereotype, combining chunky riffage, loud-quiet noise dynamics noise with lyrics from a woman’s perspective. As with Mary Berry (the band) that combination of muscular noise rock heaviness with the opposite of the “ugly boy singing” is a fresh combination.

The band have an album out next month called Noise Bitch, recorded by the other Nicholls brother Zac (guitarist in Koizilla) in the same house as Koizilla’s 2020 release I Don’t Surf I Boogie and Bathysphere’s recent release Heaven is Other People. “Dale Kerrigan” (the song) will be on it. There’s also an excellent single called “Grudge” from the upcoming album just up now on trace / untrace records’ and Dale Kerrigan Bandcamp.

Dale Kerrigan is the support for Bathysphere’s album release show at The Crown Saturday 8 May.

Our Day 3 song for 31 Days of May Madness, attempting to post a New Zealand track every day of the month of May, is the sonic maelstrom of “Juggling Realms” by Kāhu Rōpū:

“Juggling Realms” is from the new 29 track Dunedin music compilation via Bandcamp called “…And It Could Be Right Now – New Music From Ōtepoti​/​Dunedin”.

Kāhu Rōpū are guitarist Tristan Dingemans (High Dependency Unit/HDU, Mountaineater), drummer Rob Falconer (Operation Rolling Thunder) and bassist Sam Healey.

The music of Kāhu Rōpū is heavy, intense, cinematic – as you would expect of a band with both Dingemans and Falconer.   

There’s a new 29 track compilation just out via Bandcamp called …And It Could Be Right Now – New Music From Ōtepoti​/​Dunedin. It’s a diverse allsorts pick’n’mix of Dunedin sounds. This track from Ana Moser stood out as being both experimental/ lo-fi and also all kinds of atmospheric wonderful.

Moser is described as ‘a loop pedal artist’ who was previously half of Dunedin duo ODESSA, crafting lo-fi ambient-experimental sludge metaltronica.

On “to a place” (“imprisoned in sound and melody“) Moser uses mostly her voice, which carries something of the world-weary spirit of Billie Holiday, doubled with a subtle pitch-shift effect (?) and fogged in reverb, with percussion and droning keyboard, to create a darkly atmospheric, grainy, lo-fi psychedelic devotional music incantation.

“…And It Could Be Right Now – New Music From Ōtepoti/Dunedin” showcases recently produced music made in this city, from punk to indie rock, electronica, sound art, krautrock, improvisation, chiptune, screamo, folk, noise to electropop and more. There’s probably something for everybody.

The compilation features some PopLib favourites, including songs from Bathysphere, Asta Rangu and Seafog. The more experimental sounds are towards the end of the compilation, and there’s much to explore there and along the way.

Minus 2 were an off-shoot of long-running Christchurch band The Terminals, made up of guitarist and singer Stephen Cogle, bassist/ cellist John Christoffels and keyboard player Mick Elborado. They recorded a couple of albums in the early 2000s, released as limited CD-r runs on small underground labels. This song “Crocus” is second of these Minus 2 albums “Joy of Return”:

Minus 2 recorded “Joy of Return” album about 2002 or 2003, but it wasn’t released until 2009 on 50cc Records. It has recently been made available again via Mick Elborado’s ‘Melbo’ Bandcamp as a free download. I would have happily paid generously for this – it’s an extraordinary collection of dark swirling folk-pop-noir.

The mix of keyboard and a weaving lead guitar line here means “Crocus” sounds like a demo for a mid-period Felt song, from the Ignite The Seven Cannons And Set Sail For The Sun album, the only to feature both guitarist Maurice Deebank and organist Martin Duffy. But instead of Lawrence we have the distinctive ominous vibrato baritone proclamation of Stephen Cogle.

Whereas The Terminals were often a multi-instrument wall of sound, the percussion free space of Minus 2 gives a different kind of setting for Cogle’s voice, and the resulting music has a character of its own. The whole album is glorious, and the epic title track closing the album – a duet with Nicole Moffet – is particularly wonderful:

Dunedin’s hyper-melodic driving fuzzed up guitar-pop maestro Richard Ley-Hamilton returns with a new asta rangu single “I Dream”:

“I Dream” is from a brand new split (digital) single by Dunedin fidgety guitar-pop band asta rangu. Guitarist/ vocalist/ songwriter Richard Ley-Hamilton has added a sonic hardener compound to the style of crafted guitar-pop he created with his previous band Males, which shares the other track on the split single – a previously unreleased song “Clear Lake” from the second Males album “None the Wiser” sessions in 2016.

The two songs side by side show the similarities and the differences in the six year gap between songs. “I Dream” by asta rangu shows how Ley-Hamilton has developed the hyper-active guitar pop he pioneered with Males and twisted it to darker, harder, more intricate and interesting shapes and shades, injecting extra layers of noise and mayhem, while still retaining the pure heart of golden pop in his songwriting.

The band line up in addition to Richard Ley-Hamilton on guitars and vocals is Julie Dunn (Bathysphere) on synths, Angus McBryde (Bye Bye Fishies) on bass and Josh Nicholls (Space Bats, Attack!, Koizilla) on drums.

Starting tonight asta rangu has embarked on an extensive NZ tour/ also including a set of songs from Males:

Wednesday 10th February – The Stomach, Palmerston North
Thursday 11th February – San Fran, Wellington
Friday 12th February – East Street Cafe, Nelson
Saturday 13th February – darkroom, Christchurch
Saturday 20th February – Dive, Dunedin
Saturday 27th February – Wine Cellar, Auckland
Saturday 6th March – Tuatara, Invercargill