purple-pilgrims-2016Day 17 of our 31 Days of May New Zealand Music Month marathon comes from Coromandel dream-pop electronica cult Purple Pilgrims

“Come join my esoteric cult/ we don’t watch TV/ don’t eat meat/ but in our arms you’ll feel complete” entreat Purple Pilgrims with menacing hyper-perfect diction in this devotional recruitment song.

This is a new track, released earlier this year, following their glorious 2016 album “Eternal Delight”. It carries some familiar Purple Pilgrims hallmarks, from the minimal electronic music which builds to a siren-warning insistent synth melody towards the end, to the eery trance-like vocals with ethereal chorus harmonies.

The combination of the words and all these musical elements turn an invitation to reside with them into something quite terrifying.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/198890349″>Purple Pilgrims – Drink The Juice</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/notnotfun”>Not Not Fun</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Ha the UnclearDay 16 of our 31 Days of May New Zealand Music month marathon comes from Auckland-via-Dunedin band Ha The Unclear. It’s a sickeningly good new single “Big City”

Ha The Unclear are the unchallenged masters of the NZ vernacular song in the same way that Courtney Barnett nails the philosophical minutiae of everyday Australia existence.

Ha The Unclear would no doubt appreciate if a bit of the fame and fortune and world tours of the feted Australian rubbed off on them. But here in NZ we are mostly still embarrassed about ourselves and our funny ex-cent and musicians who perform as their natural Nu Zild selves.

Actually, we are mostly still embarrassed about local musicians full stop. So embarrassed our commercial radio stations still prefer overseas sounds and locals who re-heat generic international sounds, justifying this on the basis “it’s what the public want” even though it must be hard to know what you want – what you really, really want – if you never hear it.

Not me. I’d much prefer a local song about the disconnection of people in big cities as told through the experience of narrator struggling to be a responsible first-responder putting a vomiting stranger on a bus in the recovery position so they don’t choke, while the rest of the indifferent human cargo shuffle off at the next stop. In the Big City, “everyone’s anonymous.” And all done with the wit and casual storytelling style of CB.

Ha The Unclear have songwriting and musical chops to spare.  “Big City” sparkles with the zip and zest of Squeeze and early Split Enz and the chorus is a A-grade earworm. C’mon New Zealand, don’t be anonymous.

Shayne OffsiderDay 15 of our 31 Days of May New Zealand Music Month marathon comes from repatriated Dunedin legend Shayne P. Carter with a track from his “Offsider” album. Here’s “Ahead of Your Time” –

Shayne P. Carter made his mark over dozens of now classic Flying Nun Records releases with Bored Games, Doublehappys, Straitjacket Fits and others last century – then with the brilliant Dimmer this century.

Never one to rest in a comfortable spot musically speaking, proficient guitarist Carter set himself the challenge of mastering the piano and, on “Offsider”, takes his songwriting in new directions.

His approach to the piano is similar to his instinctive approach to the guitar – as much about sound, propulsion, atmosphere, and tension as it is about melody.

Joining him here is regular drum collaborator Gary Sullivan (of JPS Experience) and also saxophonist Richard Steele (saxophonist/ producer of The Puddle’s “Playboys in the Bush”).

Motte 2017Day 14 of our 31 days of May New Zealand Music Month marathon comes from Christchurch sonic adventurer Motte. Here’s the entrancing and hypnotic “Opal Eye”

Motte’s “Strange Dreams” album is a favourite release of the year so far. The modernist classical violin-based music hypnotises with repetition and unlikely combinations of instrument layers, voice and ambient synths and sounds. Here’s it’s the voice of and the background of street noises which slowly builds as the song progresses.

There’s a time to take a risk and push your music collection out in new directions. “Strange Dreams” is a highly recommended way to do that. Better still, track down the LP version from CocoMuse Releases.

Elan Vital_Black and White_small

Élan Vital – Photo by Phoebe Lysbeth K http://www.phoebelysbethk.com/

Day 13 of our 31 Days of May New Zealand Music Month marathon comes from Dunedin trio Élan Vital. It’s the closing track of their “Shadow Self” album and the song is called “Dreams”

“Dreams” has been a fixture in the Radio One Top 11 in Dunedin for the past 3 months. It’s not hard to work out why: it’s a great song with a compulsive kind of rhythm and lyrics most people can relate to.

“Dreams” stands out on “Shadow Self” for a couple of reasons. It’s the singing debut of Élan Vital (and Death and the Maiden) synth and electronic equipment alchemist Danny Brady.  It’s also the most human of the seven tracks which make up “Shadow Self” – a love song even.

When I first heard “Shadow Self” in its entirety the order of the tracks seemed a very deliberate progression from the harsh mechanical world of the opening title track, through worlds (each of the seven songs is a “world” in my imagination) which progressively incorporated more human elements from the voices and lyrics and emotion.

The album is a fantastic dark and richly textured exploration of scientific and human themes, incorporating lyrics and soundscapes inspired by dreams, nightmares, and horror movies. The music features an unusual combination of contemporary electronic dance music with more diverse influences from 60’s garage psych-rock (the swirling hypnotic keyboard parts by Renee Barrance), post-punk and muscular distorted bass playing a kind of mutant disco rhythm.

The closing track on the album, “Dreams”, conveys the clearest human connection of the seven experiences. It’s a song about release and freedom, love and hopefully even redemption.

From the cha-cha analogue drum machine at the start through to the breakdown and the echoing reprise by main vocalist Renee Barrance coming in at the 3 minute 30 mark the whole song is a seductive dance-floor classic. Danny’s morose yet caring vocals are the perfect understated voice for the song.

If you are in Dunedin there’s an extra chance to catch Élan Vital live at the Pioneer Hall in Port Chalmers tonight, Saturday 13 May 2017 along with another PopLib favourite Bad Sav.

Elan Vital LP playing

Fazerdaze EP and LP 2017

Top left – the orginal hand-made CD-R EP (2014), lower left – the full CD ‘re-issue’ of the EP (2015), along with the “Morningside” LP (2017).

Day 12 of the 31 Days of May New Zealand Music Month madness is a track from the just-released debut album “Morningside” by Fazerdaze. Here’s “Friends”

“Friends” takes the Fazerdaze template of brilliantly simple ingredients: layering guitar melody over a bass-line, and adding introspective lyrics. What happens next is uncharacteristic but exhilarating; engaging hyper-drive with a sonic chorus blast of fuzz guitarist and soaring melody.

That kind of 1, 2 punch from quiet to euphoric loud with lashings of melody is something late 1980s/ early 1990s Flying Nun Records label-mates The JPS Experience used to excel at too. In fact “Friends” would fit comfortably among the songs on their final album “Bleeding Star”.

PopLib tends to champion the underdog and you’d have to be hiding under a rock to not have heard a Fazerdaze song or seen an online article or review about the Auckland musician’s debut and current UK tour, such is the interest in the debut album. So this post is less about discovery of an under-appreciated musician as celebrating the achievement of someone championed here for the past 3 years.

PopLib first featured Fazerdaze back in 2014 when the first EP had it’s initial hand-made CD-R format release. It was clear right from the start that Amelia Murray’s low-key and personal music made a connection with listeners. By staying grounded and trusting her instincts to keep things understated and focus on self-recording her perfect introspective guitar-pop she’s created a wonderful first album that retains the essence of that first EP.

Fazerdaze EP and LP 2017

Top left – the orginal hand-made CD-R EP (2014), lower left – the full CD ‘re-issue’ of the EP (2015), along with the “Morningside” LP (2017).

OV Pain

Day 11 of the 31 Days of May New Zealand Music month madness comes – again – from Dunedin and the first album by Keyboard & drums duo OV Pain. Here’s “See Me Glow”

OV Pain combines the talents of Renee Barrance (Élan Vital) and Tim Player (Opposite Sex). Their music is a minimalist combination of synth/keyboard and drums along with their two different voices used in a variety of roles here, from duets to cross-talk, and conversations.

Opening song “See Me Glow” unexpectedly is an almost gentle distressed psychedelic pop gem with a hint of ancient monastic overtones. The music carries some of the spirit of Snapper along with The Doors when it goes a bit baroque in places.

Player’s vocals here are rendered more in the style of a subdued Ian Curtis singing in the shower rather than the often maniacal style of his Opposite Sex personna. Terrifying Tim does make a number of appearances elsewhere on the album (try “Cold as Ice”) although overall there’s much more gentle controlled singing than terrifying Tim on the album.

The combination of Player’s ominous bruised baritone and Renee Barrance’s light and airy (but sometimes just as menacing) voice is frequently magical throughout the album. On “Soon to Be” mid-way through the album the combination of everything comes together in a quite sublime and beautiful way.

This whole album is fantastic from it’s big echoing live recording to the delightfully off-kilter songs, which combine unlikely elements of Snapper, The Doors, The Slits, X-Ray Spex and even A Flock of Seagulls along with goodness knows what else.

If lo-fi psychedelic keyboard punk is a thing then this is that, although there’s so many different things going on here it’s unwilling to conform to any one genre for ease of classification.

As well as the cassette editions (through Vacant Valley in Australia and Zero Style in NZ) it will shortly have an LP release on the excellent new NZ label CocoMuse Releases.  I’ll be getting a copy.

OV Pain cocomuse