Archives for category: International Pop Underground

Back to NZ, where’s there’s been a flurry of new releases as summer turns to autumn downunder. One person Ōtautahi/ Chr istchurch-based shoegaze pop enigma T. G. Shand (Annemarie Duff) has just released a new song “Little Sieve” also available as a very limited edition lathe-cut single.

Compared to the preceding single “Seats” released in December – a thrilling mix of electro-clash of Curve-style crunchy drum-heavy layered guitar rock, clattering post-punk bass, Cocteau Twins-style liquid guitars and a hyper-melodic chorus of layered heavenly voices – “Little Sieve” here dials back the noise for a blissful a lighter-than-air atmospheric dream-gaze-pop song, delivered in a vocal version and in an equally wonderful instrumental version mixed with field recordings.

Ukraine underground music label Muscut has just released a fundraiser compilation Воля (Volia which in English is Freedom) with the proceeds going towards Ukraine’s defense from Putin’s murderous war madness. It’s a glorious compilation of experimental underground music, with plenty to interest fans of the more experimental hauntological field recording aspects of the likes of Broadcast, Eno, Stars of the Lid, etc. Here’s “Smspce” by Mlin Patz.

Mlin Patz a solo project of Chillera band member Polina Matskevich (electric guitar), an outlet for her experiments with sound collages, field recordings and dub sound. “Smspce” here mixes organic field recordings with submerged echo and delay guitar, creating a haunted unsettling ambient soundscape like a dark out-take from Eno’s “Music for Films”.

The compilation opens with a track from the artist featured on the previous post, Bryozone. The musician behind Bryozone, Ganna Bryzhata, is a member of the Odesa dub-surf-instrumental trio Chillera with Matskevich. Chillera also feature on the album.

From the Muscut Bandcamp page for the compilation:

On February 24th, Russia diabolically invaded Ukraine. The world is witnessing a moral catastrophe and war crimes. As a response, Muscut invited Ukrainian artists to join forces in raising funds to support those in need. 100% of the label sales are donated to the “Razom” initiative’s partners and our friends-volunteers who are fighting back the occupier in different Ukrainian cities.

If you are interested in digging even deeper into Ukraine’s music underground dive into this excellent overview from The Quietus.

On 24 February Russia invaded neighbouring independent country Ukraine, in violation of international law. Russia’s military aggression against an independent sovereign nation has included targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, in violation of international humanitarian law, causing death, and destruction, and turning life there upside down. Prior to the Russian invasion and war, Ukraine had thriving underground music scenes. Buying and sharing music from Ukraine artists and labels via Bandcamp is one small way to help the people involved in those scenes. Here’s a track from an album by Odessa/ Odesa ambient electronic artist Bryozone, called “Vavil”:

“Vavil” is from Bryozone’s “Acid Frog Day” album released in 2013. It’s experimental, ‘light industrial’, immersive ambient electronic music. This track in particular has a weirdly natural organic kind of feel, channeling maybe a little bit of the sprit of The Orb and also Can’s “Future Days”. There’s a more recent EP called “Ifrit” from 2016 on the Odessa/ Odesa ‘pluridisciplinary art project’ label system which is also well worth diving into.

Bryozone is Ganna Brizhata from the southern Ukraine coastal city of Odessa / Odesa on the Black Sea. Brizhata is also more recently the bassist in Chillera. The trio’s “Live from Odesa” recorded a year ago at a celebration for Kyiv label Muscut, is a thrilling journey through loose, trippy, dubby psychedelic surf instrumentals.

It’s Bandcamp Friday so here’s a quick hunt for music from artists based in Ukraine who could no doubt do with some assistance and moral support during the current Russian invasion.

Онтос is the opening track from a 5-song EP called Таксі Монтеск’є (Montesqie Taxi) by Монтеск’є from the western Ukraine city of Lviv.

Онтос carries the emotional weight of the music of UK post-punk band Kitchens of Distinction – hazy melancholic dreampop. Монтеск’є is multi-instrumentalist Igor Khorkavyy.

Here’s another Australian treasure, from a glorious album of guitar instrumentals called “For the Morning” (because that’s the time of day the record is for) by LOU. Hard to pick a favourite tunes to share but “Birds in the Morning” is a good starting point:

LOU is Melbourne-based guitarist/singer Sarah Hardiman (Deaf Wish, Brick Head and Nightclub; as well as, Moon Rituals, a collaboration with Mikey Young, who mixed and mastered the album).

Even though “For the Morning” is music for the morning, it works at all other times of the day as well. The whole album – written and recorded alone over two days in Beechworth, inland northern Victoria – works as a woozy DIY instrumental meditation, in a similar way to the music of Durutti Column, particularly the 1980 classic “The Return of The Durutti Column” which this echoes with its use of drum machine, clean minimal guitar melodies, washed in reverb and delay.

The album has an Australian sense of atmosphere in the same way William Tyler’s instrumentals seem to fit the vastness of the North American landscape. In LOU’s case it’s open space, clean air, sun dappling under trees. Although the album’s recording setting may have been far inland, it also has a coastal feel, thanks to some understated ‘surf’ styling in the lush guitar. There’s something quietly uplifting about this album, and we all need a bit of dappled sunshine relaxation right now.

“For the Morning” had a digital self-release last year in September 2021, but soon came to the attention of Sorcerer Records who reckoned it deserved physical form to ensure its permanence. There’s a pressing of 300 copies on vinyl which you can order from Sorcerer Records Bandcamp.

You can thank UK music blog Did Not Chart for this post. The music was not discovered via Did Not Chart, but located as a result of that blog’s 2021 round up, and the comments: “First year ever without a new Australian band. I must have missed something.” That set PopLib off on a search of all the reliable sources of new Australian DIY pop, leading soon to Tenth Court on Bandcamp, and the discovery of the Shrapnel album “Alasitas”, released June 2021 and slipping under PopLib’s radar at the time. Here’s “Flatter Than Your Earth” to re-programme your synapses:

Flatter Than Your Earth” is from a remarkable DIY garage/psych/prog/ folk album by an expanded Shrapnel, presenting an ear-popping further expansion of the kind of angular melodic fuzzy guitar pop brought to us over the past decade by Sydney bands Day Ravies, Sachet, and Baker’s Pace. The common denominator of all those bands is hyper-active over-achieving melodic guitar pop maverick Sam Wilkinson, and the line-up of Shrapnel an “Alasitas” includes all Wilkinson’s former Day Ravies colleagues – Lani Crooks (also in Sachet, and who likely shares the vocals on this track), Caroline de Dear, and Matt Neville.

The music on “Alasitas” is hard to describe. There’s a 60s garage rock thing, with a heavy psychedelic influence, and a mix of prog-rock and psychedelic folk tangents. The inclusion of flute (Crooks), clarinet (de Dear) and synth takes this psychedelic garage rock to some very strange and beautifully wonky places.

Shrapnel may not be the new Australian band Did Not Chart was hoping for, but this album is one I’m happy to buy from Bandcamp. Something to consider adding to your wishlist for Bandcamp Friday, resuming this Friday 4 February 2022.

English ‘retro-futurist’ experimental art-pop band Broadcast’s journey through music at times evoked imaginary old children’s TV theme music and art-house movie soundtracks. What makes their music so distinctive is the sometimes familiar – yet not from this world – eclectic style of the music, with its assorted elderly synth tones and BBC Radiophonic Workshop style bleeps and noises, together with Trish Keenan’s calmly haunting singing, often of strange surreal/ absurdist lyrics.

Tragically, Singer Trish Keenan died from pneumonia early in 2011, making their odd, dreamy, timeless pop even more haunted and affecting. Since then there have been re-issues of the original albums and compilations of singles and EPs in 2015, but the announcement of three archival releases this month was a pleasant surprise. Here’s “Sixty Forty” from a 2003 BBC Maida Vale studio session:

Sixty Forty” – Broadcast’s cover of a song from Nico’s 1981 “Drama in Exile” album – was previously only available on a 2009 Warp Records compilation Warp20 (Unheard).

“The BBC Maida Vale Sessions compiles four of Broadcast’s live performances at the West London studios between October 1996 – their first session for the John Peel show the same year as their first single release – and August 2003, by which time they had released their “Haha Sound” album. It was a period that saw them devolve from a more expansive kind of eerie psychedelic pop into even more experimental electronic noise pop as the group reduced to the core duo of James Cargill and Trish Keenan. “Sixty Forty” here is perhaps an early sign of what was to come two years later on their “Tender Buttons” album.

While most of the remaining songs will be familiar from their studio releases BBC sessions always seem to bring out something fresh in bands. This album also includes a song they did not record on any subsequent studio release – “Forget Every Time”.

Broadcast release three archival albums on the 18th March 2022 via Warp Records – Microtronics – Volumes 1 & 2, Mother Is The Milky Way, and BBC Maida Vale Sessions from which “Sixty Forty” here is taken.

Travel Through Midnight” is the opening track from an intriguing compilation of bands who released records on Sarah Records in the 1990s or – in the case of The Luxembourg Signal here – have evolved from Sarah Records bands. The compilation is called “Under the Bridge” and is released on 1 March 2022 on Skep Wax Records.

The Luxembourg Signal include four members of Aberdeen (a band from Los Angeles) who released two EPs on Sarah Records, based in Bristol, UK, in 1994. One of the Luxembourg Signal/ Aberdeen members – Beth Arzy – is also in Jetstream Pony who also have a track on the compilation.

”Travel Through Midnight”, sung by Betsy Moyer, takes inspiration from a Russian fairy tale ‘midnight’ demon, reflecting a sense of travelling great distances, each place being at midnight, and never reaching the light of day. There’s a parallel in that fairytale with the ‘midnight’ of the never ending pandemic, where the hope of coming out into ‘daylight’ is dashed by another wave, and the only certainty is uncertainty. Sounds ominous when thought of like that, sorry. It’s a shimmering melancholic dream-pop song so best not to dwell on possible meanings and just enjoy the glorious music, which is ultimately what’s going to help many of us get through this moment in time.

This extract from the press release provides a concise summary of what the compilation is about, and who is involved:

A compilation of new songs. An essential album for all fans of Sarah Records. Bristol’s Sarah Records was a defiantly independent record label. Feted by many – if hated by some – it has been increasingly recognised as a seminal label which, during its short lifetime in the 1990s, created a whole scene around itself. While the label has long since closed its doors, and eschews re-releases, the bands on Sarah – or at least their members – have kept on creating perfect pop music. Under The Bridge is an extraordinary reunion, showcasing new material by fourteen of them. Many are British, but others hail from as far afield as Sydney, Victoria, California and Arizona. There are some names you’ll recognise: The Orchids, The Wake, Even As We Speak, Secret Shine, Boyracer, St Christopher. In many cases, their line-ups are relatively unchanged. Then, there are newer groups, where different line-ups have evolved: Jetstream Pony and The Luxembourg Signal (both ex-Aberdeen), The Catenary Wires and Tufthunter (both ex Heavenly), Soundwire (ex-The Sweetest Ache), Leaf Mosaic (ex-Sugargliders), Sepiasound (ex-Blueboy) and Useless Users (ex-Action Painting/Secret Shine).

For anyone interested in going to down an Aberdeen (the band) rabbit hole, Aberdeen also appear on the excellent “Three Wishes: Part Time Punks Sessions” album along with 14 Iced Bears, and The June Brides.

Canadian duo You’ll Never Get To Heaven released an unusual and dreamy album of minimal experimental dream-pop last month. Here’s “Dust” from the album as your exploration entry point:

You’ll Never Get To Heaven is Alice Hansen and Chuck Blazevic, and “Wave Your Moonlight Hat for the Snowfall Train” is their fourth release. It’s a sparse album of minimalist dream-pop songs and instrumentals, employing melodic fretless basslines and harmonics, watery piano and marimba, hushed vocals, and a lot of tape echo delay effects. It’s an unusual but fully-formed and accessible collection of ethereal dream-state music.

The highlighted track here “Dust” reminds me in some ways of UK post-punk duo A.C. Marias around the time of their mesmerising 1986 single “Just Talk” (with it’s equally mesmerising video).

A. C. Marias (which was Angela Conway and Wire guitarist Bruce Gilbert) also used a combination of minimal repetition and dream-pop vocals to similar effect, pre-dating shoe-gaze and dream-pop and out of step with the cool harshness of much post-punk, and jangling nostalgic guitar pop of the mid 1980s.

Here’s another A.C. Maria video for “Just Talk” performed live on a TV show.

Here’s a fabulous brand new slice of 21st century post-shoegaze guitar-pop from Christchurch musician Annemarie Duff flying as T. G. Shand.

Following on from two excellent singles earlier this year – “The Ease” back in February, and “Lemony” in July – “Seats” here is the most arresting and sonically complex of the three.

It’s a little bit off kilter, in a very good way, rocking a mesmerising electro-clash of Curve-style crunchy drum-heavy layered guitar rock, clattering post-punk bass, Cocteau Twins-style liquid guitars and a hyper-melodic chorus of layered heavenly voices.

What’s ahead in 2022 from T. G. Shand? Download these songs and follow the T. G. Shand Bandcamp and you will find out directly as soon as something new is released.