Archives for posts with tag: A Low Hum

Secret KnivesSecret Knives is the recording project of NZ multi-instrumentalist Ash Smith. The first Secret Knives album “Affection” came out in 2010, so this second album “Snuff” – released today – is either well overdue or early for the future. Here’s “Excess” which, paradoxically, is the only song on the album to feature little in the way of (sonic) excess.

“Excess” is described as a ‘homage to the 90’s’ and it ticks all the shoegaze and guitar-pop boxes you would associate with a song balancing Slowdive’s kind of dreamy guitar-based ambience with the more polished pop-craft of The Sundays. It’s also the most direct and ‘normal’ song on the album, so as good a place as any to enter the Secret Knives world.

Overall “Snuff” has so much going on it’s hard to sum up its appeal easily. However, if you like the kind of breath-taking melodic pop of the likes of Avi Buffalo and Granddaddy you will love Secret Knives.

The songs on “Snuff” are as carefully constructed and lovingly crafted as a Field Music album too. But, in place of the Brewis brothers’ antiseptic gleam and mathematical precision, Smith offers an adventurous and hyper-active vision of futuristic sonic exploration and a lot more human soul.

The human soul keeping the songs tethered to reality among the abstract noise comes courtesy of vulnerable lyrics and especially Ash Smith’s wistful vocals. They often provide an eery Antipodean approximation of the distinctive soulful reedy quaver of Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside, which is the perfect kind of voice for this kind of adventurous pop.

The gleaming 3D production accompanies crystalline picked guitars with crisp drums and a range of innovative manipulated sounds which add a kind of neo-psychedelic halo to the music – particularly on the extraordinary title track.

Snuff is available worldwide digitally October 22 via A Low Hum and as a limited edition cassette in collaboration with Prison Tapes. All cassettes, and digital orders above $8NZD, come with a download code for an exclusive digital-only companion EP, Smith’s “Blue Period”, collating exploratory ambient instrumentals written alongside “Snuff”.




Thought Creature R1 LTA 2018

Thought Creature performing in the Radio One studio in Dunedin during their 2018 “Ocean Dream” album tour.

Day 6 of PopLib’s 31 days of May New Zealand Music Month madness marathon on psychedelic Sunday is “Talking in Tongues” from the new album “Ocean Dream” by Wellington via Berlin group Thought Creature.

Thought Creature have a distinctive sound and “Talking in Tongues” here shows the range of influences; combining dance music, some Cure-ish post-punk/ New Wave, the raw spirit of garage rock, and a liberal dusting of psychedelia effortlessly into a cartoonish fusion of danceable grooviness.

There’s a good interview with Thought Creature on Under the Radar NZ here.

Here’s Thought Creature’s recent live-to-air in Radio One’s studio in Dunedin – first track is “Talking in Tongues” and hang around for more psychedelic dance goodness after that (including the glorious “Paradise” to finish).

If you recognise the bassist here, it’s Danny Brady of Dunedin bands Death And The Maiden and Élan Vital. Thought Creature was the first band I saw Danny play in, on an A Low Hum tour show at Arc Cafe about 10 years ago. After Thought Creature moved to Berlin, Danny met a couple of other travelling NZ musicians – Lucinda King and Renee Barrance. On his return to NZ and move down to Dunedin he formed Death And The Maiden with Lucinda King and then Élan Vital with Renee Barrance.

As well as Danny, Thought Creature still has it’s original nucleus of guitarist/ vocalist Will Rattray (also in the excellent and closely-related psychedelic garage rock band Full Moon Fiasco) and supplemented on their recent NZ tour by drummer Andy Frost (Coyote) and Jelena Mirceta (Full Moon Fiasco) on keyboards.



Shocking Pinks

Dunedin dark electronica + post-punk trio Death And The Maiden have contributed this hypnotic re-mix of Shocking Pinks’ “Every1” to a re-mix cassette released this month.

‘Wake up Children’ is a collection of remixes by New Zealand producers of songs from ‘Dance the Dance Electric’ which is being re-issued by A Low Hum this month.

Here’s the Shocking Pinks’ original – a deliciously grainy slice of bruised psych-pop:

There’s a Shocking Pinks album release tour happening for that right now in the US.

Illustration by Zach Webber

Illustration by Zach Webber

Day 28 of PopLib’s May Month of Madness Marathon for NZ Music Month comes from Wellington music-futurist Paperghost and the disturbing pop construction of “BADSPIRIT”

Paperghost – the world of Zach Webbers, with a few friends sampled – is another artist associated with ‘dream-folk’ label Sonorous Circle. “BADSPIRIT” is from a new album “Signal Fingers” released in April as a T-shirt-with-download.

However if Paperghost is dream-folk it is dream-folk from the future, in which the dreams are monitored, recorded, mixed and played back on some kind of glitchy telepathic bio-ether-net.

I’m assuming this is painstakingly crafted on a computer from a mix of live and sampled music, found sounds, treated vocals and goodness knows what else. The only apparent stylistic link to other Sonourous Circle artists is the vocals which, when discernible as human, are often eerily reminiscent of Seth Frightening at his most freakish.

Whatever and however it was made, “Signal Fingers” is a brilliant album. It presents a fractured yet cohesive futurist-pop alternate-reality with enough conventional melody and rhythm to hold it together as very listenable collection of extraordinary rich and detailed subversive pop music.

Though it doesn’t sound mch like anything else, I am reminded at times throughout the album of the complex post-rock of US ensemble Tortoise and also of NZ electronic/ industrial futurist art-rock pioneers Fetus Productions classic “Luminous Trails” album. If you like music to expand your mind take a trip into the future with Paperghost.


Back in 2006 A Low Hum was writing a new chapter in the history of NZ’s neglected underground alternative music scene with a twice-yearly magazine, compilation CD and madcap nationwide tours by young up-and-coming bands crammed into a Ford Transit van towing a gear trailer.

The live events and particularly the compilation CDs were a gateway into a world of music that even the still-healthy music print media in NZ neglected at the time. I discovered Kill The Zodiac through one of those compilation CDs and bought a couple of copies of the self-released EP/ mini album debut by Kill The Zodiac, from which’We Breathe From The Same Mask’ comes.

My memory is hazy but I think Kill The Zodiac was the work of a then teenage Hamilton schoolkid Adam Fulton. It still sounds perfect, fully formed, expertly realised and beautifully atmospheric, just as it did at the time. I used to play the EP – and this track in particular – a lot.

There are two more recent releases on the Kill The Zodiac Bandcamp page well worth checking out.

As “New Zealand Music Month” roles around each year I am reminded of the contribution of people like Ian “Blink” Jorgensen who willed A Low Hum into existence and, through stubborn belief in an idea, helped coalesce a scene of sorts and share it with the rest on NZ and also the world. In the process he also inspired many others (myself included) to not only believe in local music, but also to support and share it.

We Are Temporary

Here’s day 16 of the PopLib New Zealand Music Month bandcamp challenge.

This one may push the boundaries of ‘New Zealand’ but if Unknown Mortal Orchestra can still qualify as ‘New Zealand’ for funding and music industry awards then former Christchurch musician Mark Roberts – formerly operating here and overseas as The Enright House – still qualifies, even though he now lives in Brooklyn, New York. Some will remember The Enright house from their album released on the A Low Hum label and their epic videos.

I discovered We Are Temporary by happy accident as it turns out it is his label Stars & Letters that released the 7” single of the brilliant ‘Sugar C.” from Misfit Mod I bought and featured here a few days ago. His own music as We Are Temporary is just as dark yet accessible as Misfit Mod. It’s a similar kind of stark electronica with a very vulnerable human heart.

There’s a great interview with Mark published just a few days ago at Under the Radar here which explains everything better than I can.

I was particularly taken with this paragraph, which is such a completely perfect (ha!) expression of my own views on imperfection/ perfection in music making. It’s one of the most important things any musician embarking on a recording project needs to learn. Too many learn it the hard way.

“In fact, far from embracing the imperfect, my initial approach to the record was to try and make it perfect, and it failed. There’s always room to tweak things, but every added layer of perfection and refinement edges out a layer of raw, emotional impact. In the end, I found myself embracing the imperfect again, but I had to fight bitterly for perfection and fail at it first. Perfection, I learned, is a goal riddled with diminishing returns.”

[Note: The original song selected was ‘Swords’ from the Stars & Letters sampler compilation. The link disappeared as ‘Swords’ was replaced by the new single ‘Satellites’ not long after posting this entry (probably Mark’s perfectionist tendencies at work). As a result I’ve decided to change the song selected to ‘Satellites’ so you can hear what We Are Temporary sounds like. I liked ‘Swords’…]