Archives for category: International Pop Underground

Brian Tamaki and the Kool Aid KidsMelted Ice Cream is a record label from Christchurch. A pretty cool one (ha!). The City, on the east coast of the South Island, five hours drive north of Dunedin, was shaken apart by a series of earthquakes in 2010/2011 and much of the city centre was demolished in the aftermath. But from the rubble grows resistant weeds of underground music. “Sickest Smashes from Arson City: Legacy Edition” is a compilation celebrating those musical weeds. Here’s the first track – “Tunnel Vision”

It’s a fitting first track for the compilation album because (a) it’s a wonderfully great song, and (b) the ‘Brian Tamaki’ of the band’s name is a religious cult leader and bigot who infamously claimed the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010/2011 were ‘God’ punishing Christchurch for sins, including supporting same-sex marriage. Jerk.

It’s a great compilation, heavy on the scrappy melodic punk and bite, with a bit of experimental weirdness folded in towards to end.  Very Christchurch.

Here’s the Melted Ice Cream blurb: “Now that it’s sufficiently obsolete, MIC have decided to revive this antiquated music format, in the most proper way possible: buy this 20 track, NZ-Pressed CD and receive a 12-page booklet with extensive liner notes including bios and photos of each band, a map of Christchurch musical places, a network map of Christchurch band members featured on the compilation, extensive credits and a foreword lovingly written by Hannah Herchenbach. This is intended to be a document and keepsake of the 2018 Christchurch indie music scene. “

In the words of BTATKAK on their Fakebook page – “its a fucking banger, go buy the cd…”

Sickest Smashes.jpg


MelenasMelenas are a guitar/ bass/ keyboards/drums band from Pamplona, Spain and “Mentiras” (which translates as “Lies”) is from their fabulous self-titled debut album of jangling psychedelic garage rock which is well worth exploring in detail… and then buying.

While some will hear the spirit of Look Blue Go Purple in that robustly rhythmic guitar strum, it reminds me more of the perpetual nervousness of The Feelies’ guitar sound. In recent years the only other band I can recall to evoke those same touchstones so well was Veronica Falls, who also shared a fondness for driving songs along with a heavy floor tom beat as Melenas do.

However, the songs here are also just as likely to evoke the spirit of the classic late 1960’s era of proto-psych-pop garage-rock fuzz, jangle and melody (as compiled on the “Pebbles” and “Nuggets” LP series) as they are any possible ’80’s influence. There’s a lot going on; from simple propulsive drums to a solid mesh of rapidly strummed 12 string guitar, soaring vocal melodies with layered backing vocals and a winning way with keyboard flourishes providing the sonic icing on Melenas’ psychedelic pop-tart.


Drahla October 2017“Twelve Divisions of the Day” is a new 7″ single from Leeds-based post-punk noise band Drahla. This one is released on US label Captured Tracks and the early edition came with a newsprint art booklet.

“Twelve Divisions of The Day” continues that distinctive speak-sing stream-of-consciousness delivery from Luciel Brown. It’s a bit like eaves-dropping on someone narrating their hallucination.

The music is grainy, and intense, with angular shapes stabbed out by guitar chords over repetitive nagging notes and driving hi-gain bass and propulsive drums. But it’s also agreeably musical, the lyrical imagery combining with the atmosphere of dark paranoia invoked by the music.

On the B-Side of the single is an alternate mix of the song which incorporates experimental industrial/ dance elements without messing with the weird darkness at the heart of the original. If anything, the electronic noises and distortions layer on even more unsettling atmosphere and paranoia.

That’s a brace of releases from Drahla now that have maintained an exemplary standard of music, lyrics and also artwork and presentation. Can’t wait for a whole album now!

Drahla 12 Division of the Day


Auckland five-piece band Polyester have mixed up a bit of 80’s synth-pop, some proto-disco grooves and some lyrical style to create their self-titled album, just released on cassette. Here’s “Honey” from the album.

“Honey” channels a huge chunk of the spirit and attitude of Orange Juice with its trebly disco strum, propulsive strolling bass-line, intelligent lyrics, and huge backing vocals. You can even imagine Edwyn Collin’s wobbly croon singing this, although let’s take nothing away from Polyester vocalist Sylvia Dew’s natural delivery here.

Polyester is a great band name too – polyester being the ultimate utilitarian fabric – durable, strong, and capable of mixing with and even imitating the appearance and feel of other fabrics.

It’s fitting therefore that the album packs colourful pop-art patterns of cheerful synth-melodies over stabbing guitar strums and some exotic disco-Latin touches. Keyboard player Amelia Berry produced the album, crafting an un-fussy direct sound that’s warm and immediate, wearing its self-made charm well. It’s pop: cool, casual, loosely woven, breathable and for all I know quite possibly moisture-wicking too.



Vive la VoidVive la Void is the solo electronic music meditation of Sanae Yamada, co-founder and keyboard player of Portland’s Moon Duo. Here’s five and a half minutes of pulsing motorik dream-pop called “Red Rider”.

Yamada’s vocals are a washed out hazy presence here. Together with the vocal melodies, it imbues the song with the spirit of ghostly incantation.

The repetitive synth and drums backing on “Red Rider” – and throughout the whole album – provides a steady propulsion to these songs which evokes the perpetual motion of Kraftwerk at their darkest best.

The albums was created during years of relentless touring in vans in the US and Europe, which may be why the album carries the rhythms, repetition, drifting thoughts and dislocation of travel in its songs.

shrapnel 2018

Here’s three songs segued together as an introduction to a new release upcoming from Sydney lo-fi guitar pop outfit Shrapnel, in the process sounding like something from an early Guided By Voices album:

Not sure if this is how these tracks will be assembled on Shrapnel’s “Wax World 5” album or if this is a three-up edit as a pre-release tempter, but either way this is a great way to experience three quite different flavours of Shrapnel’s scratchy, distorted pop goodness.

“Little Rockets” and “Milkman” have the highest GBV quotient, dangerously melodic and a bit mad (those “Milkman” choruses are extraordinary). In the middle is the prickly and furious beast of “Death Rug” which will sandpaper your ear-drums with the roughest fuzzed out guitar and overloaded (cassette porta-studio??) recording.

Shrapnel features Sam Wilkinson who was also in a couple of PopLib favourites – Sachet who in turn came out of the fine Sydney shoegaze band Day Ravies.  Check them all out please, if you haven’t already. Some very fine albums and singles from all.


Exploded View 2018Exploded View – a collaborative project involving UK-born, Berlin-based musician Anika Henderson with Mexico City based musicians Martin Thulin and Hugo Quezada – have a new album – “Obey” – coming out in September and are sharing “Raven Raven” (well) ahead of the release.

Exploded View’s peculiar take on experimental art-pop has an unpolished and non-conformist roughness that sets the band apart from the free-spirited damaged art-pop of Broadcast or the more mannered retro-futuristic synth nostalgia of Death And Vanilla.

As with the earlier releases (highly recommended) “Raven Raven” demonstrates the new album should continue to incorporate some essence of the raw thrill of The Velvet Underground, and even early Can into its intriguing sonic mix.

“Obey” is out on Sacred Bones Records on 28 September.