Archives for category: International Pop Underground

SaturationsHere’s an atypical track called “Run Electro” from a new album called “Saturations” by New Brighton, Christchurch musician Blair Parkes.

“Run Electro” is an attention-grabbing song, bursting with luminous colour and surging along on an insistent rumbling bass line with phased distorted organ swirls, like a kind a super-charged Stereolab on steroids.

It’s a bit of an odd one out on a curiously sequenced album which seems to morph from reflective guitar folk-pop at the start into more effect-driven shoegaze territory before exploring even deeper into electronic synth-pop.  It’s not the sort of album you can dip into for a quick listen here and there and come away with a sense of what it is all about. It rewards the full journey.

“Saturations” is a curiously timeless collection of songs. The first 4 songs of the songs could fit comfortably in the late 80s/ early 90s NZ/ Australian reflective guitar pop scene, while the second half of the album crackles with more electronic energy, sometimes reminiscent of UK synth-pop band Frazier Chorus.  Both halves of the album are bursting with fine songs.

 

Listening to this Blair Parkes album has sent me on a trip back to NZ pop underground of the late 1980s. Keen students of obscure Flying Nun Records releases may recognise Blair from All Fall Down (FN0989) and The Letter 5 (FN169).

Parkes’ blog post here on the All Fall Down years is also a fascinating insight into the life of a young musician playing in an obscure ‘2nd wave’ Flying Nun Records band in the mid to late 1980s in New Zealand.

As a bonus here’s the Bats-meets-Triffids styled perfection of All Fall Down’s “Black Gratten” from 1987:

 

 

 

nhung-nguyen“Bittersweet” is one of 7 tracks on a new EP called “An Ordinary Narrative” by Hanoi based musician/ composer Nhung Nguyen.

Nhung Nguyen creates atmospheric ambient instrumental music combining acoustic and electronic instruments along with field recordings. This new EP “An Ordinary Narrative” continues a recent theme of using piano as the sole instrument. The simplicity and minimalism may be “an ordinary narrative” but it is heavy with echoes of a ghostly, partially remembered past.

The piano is a perfect universal instrument for conveying a sense of memory,  as well as feelings of nostalgia, regret, happiness, hope… whatever we project on, or draw out of each recording.

The use of field recordings of public pianos, sometimes with their own imperfect out-of-tune character, and then post-production adding the reverb and delay adds to the dream-like nature of these pieces. The magic here is not so much the moment each note is struck but what happens in the space that follows, before the next note arrives.

In “Bittersweet” the occasional background of street noise from passing cars grounds the music at an unknown place and in a point of time. It adds to the atmosphere, the imperfection and to the intrigue. It’s a bit like the music equivalent of watching a flickering old Super-8 film home movie projected onto sun-faded wallpaper.

 

 

Annabel Alpers by Mike Hughes

Annabel Alpers [photo by Mike Hughes]

“The only way to see you is through the whole in my chest” sings Bachelorette, AKA Annabel Alpers on “Blanket”

The throbbing, pulsating synth-heavy “Blanket” is from the last Bachelorette album, a self-titled release on Drag City Records from 2011.

Formerly of Christchurch, NZ and living in Baltimore in the US for the past 4 years, Annabel Alpers – ex-Bachelorette” – is crowdfunding for an intriguing sounding new recording project called “Remote”

This project is about exploring the beauty of sound, to create a live sonic experience that encompasses you, the audience, and is as cathartic for you to listen to as it is for me to make. I’m inspired by the beauty of my remote homeland, New Zealand, which I miss so much when I’m away.  I’m also inspired to find beauty in parts of everyday life – patterns and forms, mundanity, longing, excitement, nature (tamed and untamed), connections, fragility… (the list is endless) – and attempt to communicate this awe to you, through music.

Remote is a live, multiple-speaker, surround-sound experience. My intention is for you to be enveloped in beautiful sounds and emerge from your comfortable listening space transformed – your heart aflutter… 

RangitotoDay 31 of our 31 days of May New Zealand Music Month marathon closes the set of songs with something only a few days old from Auckland shoegaze ensemble Couchmaster. Here’s “Honey over Thunder” from a 5 song EP called “Tumor” released on 25 May.

I was going to select the opening track “Psychogenic Fugue” because it is dedicated to Dunedin music legend Peter Gutteridge and packs that familiar Snapper drone and drumbeat. But for the closing song for this year’s NZ music month trawl through the wonderful online underground of Bandcamp I couldn’t go past “Honey Over Thunder” with it’s wistfully melodic vocal from drummer Rachel Charlie and effortless reverb drenched psychedelia.

The EP is a wonderfully eclectic mix of guitar rock heavy on the atmospheric effects. It appears to be mostly the project of Rikki Sutton, from another shoegaze style Auckland band Eyes No Eyes. He’s guitarist, bassist, keyboardist and vocalist on most of the tracks as well as engineering and mixing the recording. Rachel Charlie on drums and vocals and Adison Whitley on guitar are the other two people who play on all the tracks. Extra points for naming the band after a great album by The Bats too.

 

Thought CreatureDay 27 of our 31 Days of May New Zealand Music Month marathon is a lost classic from 5 years ago by Wellington-via-Berlin band Thought Creature that not enough people have heard. Time to rectify that with a trip to their “Paradise” (play this L O U D)

“Paradise” is a guitar-heavy psychedelic dance groove celebration which would have sounded at home on a late 1980s Julian Cope album when the 1980s psychedelic pop revival was morphing into rave culture’s transcendental dance music.

Thought Creature’s Berlin sojourn in the early 2010s and their transformation into a noisy psychedelic electronica+guitar outfit led to the formation of two of Dunedin’s best genre melting electronica+ bands today – Death And The Maiden and Élan Vital. Both Dunedin bands trace their formation to Berlin around the time this song was released and the common denominator to all three bands is Danny Brady.

There’s another common denominator too: Erica Sklenars, who appears in this live video of “Paradise” from a Berlin house party and is a regular collaborator with Death And The Maiden and Élan Vital for music videos and live performance visuals.

TupuhiDay 25 of our 31 Days of May New Zealand music month marathon comes from the suburban dub labs of Mark Tupuhi and the opening track from “the Deep End” – an ecclectic album of hypnotic psychedelic dub and electronic music. Here’s “Brevity” –

The album was an accidental discovery on bandcamp. “Overcome evil by dub” seems to be the entirely plausible theme of the opening track “Brevity” as it slowly unwinds with cut up voice samples and echoing delayed layers of guitar.

Usually the association of dub and reggae in NZ today is with the reductive pasteurised, homogenised mainstream-friendly “barbecue reggae” pop, a kind of audio head-nodding narcotic, where rhythm and formula is elevated above imagination.  That’s a long way from the adventurous spirit and imagination associated with reggae and dub in particular in the 1970s through to the 1990s.

Tupuhi’s DIY home recorded album “The Deep End” mostly avoids the contemporary NZ formula and takes the music in some unexpected directions at times. The combination of live and digital instruments and elements of dance and trance music is more reminiscent of the kind of sonic adventures of the On-U-Sound artists in the UK in the 90s.

As well as contemporary psychedelic dub like “Brevity” you’ll also find atmospheric industrial psy-trance on “Teradactyl” and even a kind of futurist post-punk electro-dub on “Malcolm”. It’s an album worth exploring further.

 

 

Doubleu_Quit cassette

Day 23 of our 31 Days of May New Zealand Music Month marathon comes from Auckland bedroom recording artists-extraordinaire, the mysterious Doubleu. Here’s “Yr an Angle” –

“Yr an Angle” is a hypnotic pop gem, occupying similar territory to fellow Auckland DIY artist These Early Mornings but with a lot more odd layers of unconventional and experimental sound.

PopLib featured a track from Doubleu’s intriguing EP “Quit” last September. Since then two Doubleu EPs – “Quit” and “Wuss” – have been combined on a cassette release on Slovakian based cassette label Z Tapes.

Z Tapes is run by Filip Zemčík and his selections have acquired a large following… which means the strangely wonderful introverted DIY psych-pop of Doubleu has been heard and enjoyed by hundreds of people around the world.