Archives for category: New Zealand Music Month

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 20 song for 31 Days of May Madness, attempting to post a New Zealand track every day of the month of May, is “Plume on Europa” by Ripship:

“Plume on Europa” is from the 2020 post-punk sci-fi lo-fi weirdness of Ripship’s “Greebles” EP. The song stands out for Callum Lincoln’s chiming guitar-synth arpeggio and drummer Eva-Rae McLeans’ lost-in-echoes spoken-word vocals, sounding like nothing much else.

The Auckland duo create something curious and different on the six song EP. It’s full of unexpected clanking cool strangeness, spoken word commentary, and all-sorts of musical, sonic and lyrical oddness.

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 17 song for 31 Days of May Madness, attempting to post a New Zealand track every day of the month of May, is “Sometimes” by P.H.F.

P.H.F. stands for Perfect Hair Forever and this release, which is called “Unplugged” is – you guessed it – solo acoustic recordings of old and also unreleased songs from the P.H.F catalogue by P. H. F. dude Joe Locke. It’s just been released (on translucent green shell cassette) on Danger Collective Records.

“Lo-fi garage pop” is what P. H. F. was initially about, but the output of this prolific artist is not so easily pigeon-holed (check “Anthology” here, which includes the original synth-pop version of this song).

But these songs sound fine unplugged and unadorned. It’s contemporary urban bedroom folk music. Maybe all the better for the absence of crushing distortion/ effect-heavy production in fact. The album is just acoustic guitar and voice, with some occasional additional vocal harmonies. And, in the case of “Sometimes” here, the synth melody of the original is replaced by some A+ whistling.

Our Day 16 song for 31 Days of May Madness, attempting to post a New Zealand track every day of the month of May, is “Call Centre” by Les Baxters

Les Baxters, described as a “tabletop electronica quartet” emerged 7 years ago from the post-earthquake Christchurch/ Ōtautahi experimental sound scene. The NZ ensemble is made up of long-time friends John Chrisstoffels (The Terminals, Dark Matter), Dave Imlay (Into the Void, No Exit), Paul Sutherland (Into the Void, Fence), and Erin Kimber (Sheet Sweater). They draw on a love of sci-fi movie soundtracks, Deutsche Elektronika, goth-doom, and ambient techno, using vintage synths, Theremin, Casio beats, and found recordings to create their music.

While the name references the master of kitsch exotica, US composer Les Baxter, who released dozens of albums of soundtrack music and exotica (including Yma Sumac albums) in the 1950s and 1960s, the NZ Les Baxters are (much) less about kitsch exotica, and heavily into experimental sound collage and old/odd instruments.

If there’s a style to describe such a varied collection of sound-making, it probably aligns closest to the UK “hauntology” scene, but with the retro-futurist aesthetic given a more international – and experimental – scope. Best example of where this sits in the landscape of sound would be the classic album Broadcast And The Focus Group ‎– Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age. In other words, adventurous, multi-layered musical sound-art that the listener can get lost in for a long time.

Les Baxters eponymous album is available on LP and digital from CocoMuse Releases.

Our Day 15 song for 31 Days of May Madness, attempting to post a New Zealand track every day of the month of May, is “Bring Out Your Dead” by Horror in Clay:

“Bring Out Your Dead” the first single from an upcoming June release by Auckland ensemble Horror in Clay on Muzai Records called “Live At Toad Hall.” The song is a disorienting, gently sinister kind of melodic light & dark Post-Punk psychedelia. Despite the ominous title it’s also very approachable, something that can’t always be said about the music of guitarist/ vocalist Casey Latimer (GPOGP).

The distant plangent roar of shoegaze style guitars, propelled on bass and drums awash in chilly sarcophagus reverb, and a resigned vocal incantation all culminates with a hellfire & brimstone sermon sample condemning the excommunicated to eternal damnation, cast out in the darkness with the devil, his fallen angels and all the reprobates.

Imagine The Bunnymen in a period of post-“Ocean Rain” melancholy experiencing some kind of spaced-out datura-fuelled delirium complete with religious guilt hallucinations. Just what we all need as a warm up for a Saturday night out.

Our Day 14 song for 31 Days of May Madness, attempting to post a New Zealand track every day of the month of May, is “Let’s Just Stay in Bed” by King Sweeties:

King Sweeties are bassist/ vocalist Cass Basil (Tiny Ruins) and drummer/ vocalist Bic Runga. The 5 song “We Are the Bosses” EP flew under the radar a bit late last year.

However, the post-punk-pop mix of Tom Tom Club styled sugar-pop with a bit of cool New Wave funk is a cracker, and a duo with the reputation of Cass Basil and Bic Runga nail it with style.

Our Day 13 song for 31 Days of May Madness, attempting to post a New Zealand track every day of the month of May, is “Dust to Dust” by WOMB

Wellington based trio WOMB is siblings Charlotte Forrester and Haz Forrester, along with Georgette Brown.

“Dust To Dust” continues on from the beautiful mix of unusual folk, psychedelia, and dream-pop explored on the first album.

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.”