Archives for posts with tag: Claire Duncan
Dear Times Waste 2009

Dear Time’s Waste, Dunedin, 2009

Day 28 of PopLib’s 31 Days of May marathon for New Zealand Music month is a trip 9 years back in time to “Clandestine” from the first EP release of now-retired musical entity Dear Time’s Waste

“Clandestine” is the opening track on the 1st release by Dear Time’s Waste – the “Room For Rent” EP, released in March 2009.

It’s a song that transfixed then, and – as some music is inclined to do – transfixes still, nine years later, from the moment those two drum beats herald its start.

Following the “Room for Rent” EP, Claire Duncan, as Dear Time’s Waste – sometimes with a band, sometimes without – released two ambitious, excellent, and essential albums; SPELLS (2010) and Some Kind Of Eden (2012).

Afterwards came the intriguing slow development of a new and darker NZ Gothic enterprise, called i.e. crazy.

“Emerging from a mist of shoegaze in my early twenties, I yearned to discover a stronger mode of communication” explained Claire in this tribute to 5 of her favourite NZ songs published on The Wireless.

While i. e. crazy is certainly a “stronger mode of communication” it’s worth noting that the lyrics and atmosphere of the Dear Time’s Waste right from the start contained many hints of what was to follow, as a careful listening to “Clandestine” reveals.

That “mist of shoegaze” produced two of my favourite albums and this 5-song “Room for Rent” EP which is my equal-favourite 5 song EP along with the 1st Jean Paul Sartre Experience 12″ EP released in 1986.

i e crazy LP frontandbackDay 9 of the 31 Days of May New Zealand Music Month madness comes from the extraordinary new album “Non Compos Mentis” by i. e. crazy. Here’s “The Slow Weight”

“The Slow Weight” is a gothic-dark tale of New Zealand underworld. There’s thematic links in the songs of i. e. crazy on the album to NZ’s “Cinema of Unease” style of darkly unsettling film-making and some of the darkest NZ literature. In particular Ronald Hugh Morrieson, a writer in the New Zealand vernacular, whose novels contain “trademark preoccupations …. of sex, death, mateship, voyeurism, violence, booze and mayhem in bleak small town New Zealand – along with his irreverent black humour” [in New Zealand Film 1912–1996 by Helen Martin and Sam Edwards].  It’s a summary that could almost equally describe i. e. crazy and “Non Compos Mentis” as an album.

That kind of gothic-dark shadow self aspect of the New Zealand psyche was also a prominent feature of the post-punk music scene here in the 1980s. Anyone familiar with legendary New Zealand bands like This Kind of Punishment, Children’s Hour, Headless Chickens and The Skeptics will recognise some themes and a desire to provoke by picking at the scab of unhealed wounds in New Zealand society we’d prefer to keep under bandages lest they frighten off the tourists.

“Non Compos Mentis” sees i. e. crazy (Maggie Magee, the alter-ego of Claire Duncan) take these themes of disturbance, disorder, drama, dislocation and death and make them her own. It’s a richly detailed album – words and music – and a powerful creative statement.

“The Slow Weight” is a good example of the storytelling and the music on the album. The unconventional instrumentation, including woodwind sounds from Shab Orkestra adds much to the threatening textured oddness of the atmosphere created. It’s a whole brave new world from Claire’s first band Dear Time’s Waste to be sure, yet on this song it’s still possible to trace the melodic link between the two entities.

“Non Compos Mentis” is available from Muzai Records on LP.

i e crazy 2017In a country where the Prime Minister said “our literary heroes may never challenge the glory and respect given to our All Blacks” our music heroes generally fare worse than our authors.

Claire Duncan, the person behind i.e. crazy, is a literary music hero I’ve respected for several years. I’ve been been waiting for – “Non Compos Mentis” for a while. Waiting in fear and trepidation mostly to be completely honest. And with good reason. Here’s “Closed Case” from the album.

“Closed Case” begins with a recording of the emergency call made by the surviving member of a Dunedin family murderded in 1994 about 500m away from where I’m writing this, looking out across Anderson’s Bay and the trees of Every Street below. It was the scene of “…events so bizarre and abnormal that it was impossible for the human mind to conceive of any logical or reasonable explanation” according the Judge in the original trial of that surviving family member charged with the murder of his two parents and three siblings.

The convicted murderer was later acquitted on a re-trial and freed after 14 years – the case found by a jury to not be proven beyond reasonable doubt (criminal law standard of proof). However a judicial review of his case for compensation for wrongful imprisonment found he was probably not innocent on the balance of probabilities (civil law standard of proof). It’s a case that still divides NZ, and also one that continues to cast a dark shadow, perhaps because of that dark and troubling “impossible for the human mind to conceive” aspect of the now unsolved and eternally unsolvable case; the only other suspect being one of the dead.

“Closed Case” does not seem to be specifically about that case, but a more abstract meditation on the kind of mind capable of conceiving of such an act. The song is brimming with dark Gothic unease, the sound of a scraping shovel adding a further nerve-jangling to the tense and chilly atmosphere. The arrangement shovels further layers of funeral melancholy upon the song, as woodwind and brass add their downbeat textures to the song.

The musical arrangements throughout “Non Compos Mentis” are another unconventional but very effective part of this album’s artistry. Utilising anti-pop collaborators Seth Frigthening and various members of Muzai Records label mates Girls Pissing on Girls Pissing, i. e. crazy finds the perfect off-kilter sea-sick uneasy-listening soundscape for these tales of everyday horror of the human condition.

While “Closed Case” is dark, it’s actually one of the more conventionally listenable songs on “Non Compos Mentis”.  Some of the album projects voices that are deliberately provocative… but the warning is in the i.e. crazy name and the album title (translating from the Latin as “of unsound mind”).  The words, as always, are powerful, rich with imagery, each song like an experimental short story in which reality and fiction are blurred, shifting things depending on the perspective of the narrator and their reliability. In other words, there’s a lot here to unpick, and that will take some time.

It’s a bit of an understatement to say this is a dark turn off the track that Claire Duncan’s previous musical vessel, the literate dream-pop Dear Time’s Waste, was taking. In turning off the track, she’s plunged down a steep bank into tangled undergrowth and a stream bed; the water putrid with dairy farming effluent, the ground littered with rusting discarded shopping trolleys and the odd dead body. Welcome to New Zealand everyone!

“Non Compos Mentis” is a difficult, challenging, sometimes confronting album. The history of music is full of difficult, challenging, confronting albums, the history on NZ music perhaps less so. Music, after all, is entertainment, something to sing – and drink – along to here, before and after another inspiring All Blacks rugby football match recharges our warped sense of national pride. Or shatters it when they lose.

The day before I listened to this album in full I played another difficult album, one I hadn’t played for years. Michael Mantler’s “Silence” is a Harold Pinter play set to music and featuring the voices of Robert Wyatt, Carla Bley and Kevin Coyne. You won’t be playing either record at your next party.  “Non Compos Mentis” and “Silence” share a lot in common – deeply unsettling and unconventional, dialogue between damaged minds, observations on everyday things through a different lens. Both present music as theatre, literature as lyrics, and music as the atmosphere to sustain the world created.

In a recent interview Claire described the new direction as a chance to agitate and pick at a scab. Disillusionment with the ‘industry’ and the over-riding value placed by NZ society on commercial potential of music and seeking solace in artistic expression instead is one aspect. Personal mental health challenges and the unhealthy state of NZ society at present for the young and poor is another.

I started this talking about heroes. Let’s not forget another musical hero – Muzai Records. Any label releasing All Seeing Hand, Girls Pissing on Girls Pissing and i.e. crazy is taking courage to a whole new level as a New Zealand record label (even if it is now based in Leeds, UK).

The LP of “Non Compos Mentis” can be ordered here. 

 

A_Bats_UF_DTW

Day 13 of NZ Music Month is a blast from the (recent) past in the form of an all-time favourite from the now-retired entity Dear Time’s Waste called “Clandestine”

“Clandestine” is the opening track on the debut release by Dear Time’s Waste – the “Room For Rent” EP, released in March 2009.

It’s a song that transfixed then, and – as some music is inclined to do – transfixes still, seven years later, from the moment those two drum beats herald its start.

In the 7 years since then Claire Duncan, as Dear Time’s Waste – sometimes with a band, sometimes without – released two ambitious, excellent, essential albums; SPELLS (2010) and Some Kind Of Eden (2012).

Afterwards came the intriguing slow development of a new and darker NZ Gothic enterprise, called i.e. crazy.

“Emerging from a mist of shoegaze in my early twenties, I yearned to discover a stronger mode of communication” explained Claire in this tribute to 5 of her favourite NZ songs published on The Wireless earlier this week.

Everything essential from Dear Time’s Waste is still here, just rubbed raw by experience, personal turmoil and the stubborn refusal to conform anymore. The words continue the writer’s examination of the human condition with novelist’s eye for detail and a poet’s ear for phrasing. The music, while more dissonant and damaged at times, is still compelling.

Claire, as i.e crazy, performs at The Crown Hotel in Dunedin tonight in a 91 Club presents show along with Seth Frightening and Terrified… the perfect combination of names (and music) for a Friday 13th event.

 

“We captured every roaming shark in our own rotten net… and wore their teeth around our necks. You’re a stranger to me now.”

“You’re a Stranger (to me now)” is “the woozy rant of a jilted lover” from enigmatic Auckland musician i.e. crazy.

i.e. crazy (or maybe it is I.E. CRAZY?) is the new music form and name adopted by Claire Duncan, formerly of Dear Time’s Waste fame.

I say “new” although this name has existed since not long after the last Dear Time’s Waste album “Some kind of Eden” was released at the end of 2012. And I say “fame” although Dear Time’s Waste never achieved the kind of recognition befitting an artist with such extraordinary talents as a songwriter, wordsmith and musician.

However the i.e. crazy/ I.E. CRAZY name is still “new” in the sense that it has taken a while for this first formal release to appear.

Anyway, “You’re A Stranger (to me now)” delivers a rawer shock of sound than the often more manicured Gothic dream-pop soundscapes of Dear Time’s Waste, with the help of some accomplices (Seth Frightening alter-ego Sean Kelly and GPOGP drummer Catherine Cumming) well-qualified in the dark arts of music from the borderlands.

The words continue the writer’s skill for forensic examination of life experiences (whether her own or imagined others’ is unclear and unimportant) with a novelist’s eye for detail and a poet’s ear for phrasing. So everything you want from your experience of Dear Time’s Waste is still here, just rubbed raw by the stubborn refusal to conform.

The words of the song are self-explanatory in their own obtuse, coded way. “You’re a Stranger (to me now)” is a bruised/ bruising examination/ exhumation of post-relationship life, expressed and delivered in a way few others would attempt or have the imagination or courage to pull off.

If you need a prologue, an introduction, a pre-amble to orient your mind to the what and the why of all this then there’s a great letter-of-sorts about it all, and about the frustration borne by those with an impulse to create to communicate through un-valued art in NZ’s culture-shaming/ asset-whorshipping society on the artist’s Facebook page.

ie crazy mosaic

I.E. Crazy is the most recent transformation of Dear Time’s Waste‘s Claire Duncan. Anyone who’s followed this blog for a while will know Dear Time’s Waste is a longtime PopLib favourite. It all started back in 2009 with the brilliant “Room For Rent” EP and continued through two superb albums, “SPELLS” in 2010 and “Some Kind of Eden” in 2012.

I.E. Crazy continues where Claire left off with Dear Time’s Waste. Thanks to Wellington’s Papaiti Records you can download an artist-authorised ‘bootleg’ of 4 live recordings of an I.E. Crazy show at Auckland’s basement bunker venue the Wine Cellar.

All the familiar elements are there – those detailed lyrics rich with images, that voice… but these are somewhat darker and rawer, built on guitar and drum machine. Fabulous stuff. Assuming Dear Time’s Waste has been ‘retired’, a more formal release of I.E. Crazy songs would be a perfect way to continue the story of one of my favourite songwriters and performers.