Archives for posts with tag: dance music

Vanessa Worm originated in the Dunedin underground electronic/ experimental scene that developed in the now defunct None Gallery performance space. A move to Melbourne and EP releases on Glasgow’s Optimo dance label were followed by a hard to categorise first album “Vanessa 77”. Now back in NZ and based in Auckland, Worm has self-released a follow-up album “Mosaics”.  Here’s “Lost Memories”:

The music on “Mosaics” – written, produced and mixed by Tessa Forde (Vanessa Worm) – could be called “electronic” or “dance” or “minimal techno” or “industrial” or “experimental”, or all of the above, but its wilful oddness ensures “Mosaics” doesn’t fit easily in any comfortable singular music category or genre.

Some tracks start out as pneumatic techno or almost smooth Kruder & Dorfmeister style Balearic electronica before they are sucked through the Worm-hole to end up disturbed and disturbing ruminations, while one abandons electronic music altogether for post-punk guitar/bass/drums/vocals.

“Mosaics” might be a break up album of sorts, it seems to be processing trauma in a uniquely Worm way, with unconventional and distinctive vocalising ranging from creepy mouth-sound-effects sometimes bordering on demonic possession to confrontational echo-effected malevolent punk sneer. 

Although “Mosaics” is even less easily pigeon-holed than Vanessa Worm’s first album and spins in a wide orbit from its electronic dance music base, it is just as gloriously, subversively great as “Vanessa 77”.

“There’s no way out but fight” sings Ela Minus in “Megapunk”, a very cool electro-pop anthem with equal parts dark-wave and dance-floor appeal. This 2020 single seems as good a way as any to kick-start 2021:

“Megapunk” is a timeless electronic dance pop anthem. It’s a bit dark and walks the line between being sinister at the same time as being an uplifting call to arms, as much personal as political. The dark undertones here are reminiscent of the kind of shadow-dark regions of electro-pop inhabited by Dunedin darkwave trio Èlan Vital on their only album “Shadow Self”.

The music of Ela Minus (real name Gabriela Jimeno, and originally from Bogota, Colombia) first appeared on PopLib some 5 years ago and everything heard since has had a rare quality. Well-crafted melodic songs with pop hooks, yet without sounding formulaic. The songs were constructed within skeletons of electronic sounds, programmed beats and miniature sonic detailing. Voice and lyrics added a compelling human connection. Where it sounded different was the electronica was soft toned and playful, with plenty of adventure and action-packed spacey minimalism, full of tiny subtle details. It just sounded right and very good.

Fortunately Domino Recordings reached a similar conclusion and have now a released an album. “Megapunk” was released as a single ahead of the “acts of rebellion” album, which it is also included on.

The album is a varied collection of personal/ political dance-floor electro-pop interwoven with some more experimental soundscapes which work alongside the more structured tunes to set the album’s mood and darker non-conformist electronica textures.

Vanessa Worm

Get up and get wonky with a new Vanessa Worm tune for day 11 of our New Zealand Music Month 2020 series. Here’s “In Heaven We Are”.

Vanessa Worm originated in the Dunedin underground electronic/ experimental scene that coagulated around the now defunct None Gallery performance space.

A move to Melbourne and releases on Glasgow’s Optimo dance label followed but there’s a still a highly individual non-conformist ‘punk’ element to the music and performance. This new track adds to the fabulous mind-bending dance music on her Optimo debut “Z Time”EP which is worth exploring if you are new to the Worm dance.

NZMM 2020

Beatrice Dillon triptych

“Workaround 2” is the perfect soundtrack for a day – 29 February – that only exists once every 4 years. It’s from the first album by UK electronic music producer Beatrice Dillon, and it’s an album that blurs boundaries and stylistic conventions and exists in it’s own time-zone.

There seems to be a bit of genre-warping-everything about this unpredictable and ever-shifting combination of rhythmically-uplifting beats, UK club music (techno/ house), electronica, Afro-Caribbean jazz, experimental avant-garde, and musique-concrete.

There’s elements here in “Workaround 2” – with its disembodied vocal from Laurel Halo – that seem similar in approach to the “Fourth World” style of Jon Hassell (especially the recently re-issued “Flash of the Spirit” album with Farafina) but Dillon’s creations are light of touch and full of space to allow the tension and interplay between elements work.

Peach Milk 2017Day 31 of PopLib’s 31 Days of May marathon for New Zealand Music Month ends the month with the dark minimal techno of Auckland producer Peach Milk and “Heretic”

Peach Milk’s “Finally” EP has been a favourite round here for a while now.  Electronic musician/ producer Madison Eve  has created something as Peach Milk that is part Euro-dance/ post-dance music, part ambient soundtrack/ soundscape.

“Heretic” is superbly tasteful in the sounds and the moods created, the dark sheen and shimmer of the synth washes, the understated beats, and the icy ambient minimalism. When vocals appear they are injected into the ether, dancing through atmosphere of the music like ghostly spirits as a disembodied presence. It’s what Peach Milk leaves out that gives “Heretic” and the music on all of the wonderful “Finally” EP the space to set the mind free to wander and imagine.

Thanks for following these posts throughout May. While it’s easy to be cynical about the tokenism of one 12th of the year being a time to recognise NZ Music – Every month is New Zealand Music Month – it is an excuse to do something like PopLib’s 31 Days of May, and hopefully turn people on to new music they may not have heard before. As always, if you’ve found something you love here share it, and let others know.


soccer practise_2017Here’s PopLib’s 5th send as a gift tip for the month, featuring “Cold Hard Surfaces”,  a track from the just-released and wonderfully adventurous debut album by Auckland experimental electronic-soul-pop 4 piece SoccerPractise.

You may be wondering what the hell the genre hybridisation of “experimental electronic soul-pop” means. Well, this song – and the whole album – is full of twitchy, glitchy rhythms, deep sub-bass and sampled sound layers.

So, it is ‘experimental’ in the sense that it’s taking risks, straying beyond what’s tried and true in electronic music, in soul and in pop, by creating unusual new beats and combining sounds in different, unexpected ways – particularly the fusion of twangy reverb guitars with danceable musique-concrete style sampled sound beats & electronica.

It’s definitely soulful with those fine vocals from Geneva Alexander-Marsters, and it’s very accessible and radio friendly (if not exactly mainstream commercial radio-friendly, but that’s another story in NZ).

SoccerPractise is recommended to send as a gift to the cool people in your life, for those who like pop but think it all sounds the same these days, and for lovers of Te Reo Maori too. Given the regular appearance of Te Reo Maori, one of NZ’s official languages, throughout the album it’s also a great gift for any bigots in your family.  They’ll be singing along to Haere Mai E Tama before they realise what’s happening.

Elan Vital_Black and White_small

Élan Vital – Photo by Phoebe Lysbeth K

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

Helena Celle.jpgBeaming in from outer space, like a time-delayed broadcast from The Clangers planet 50 years ago, comes the malfunctioning dance music of “VR Addiction” .

“VR Addiction” is from an intriguing new release from Glasgow, Scotland based computer programmer Kay Logan under her current alias Helena Celle. The album – “If I Can’t Handle Me At My Best, Then You Don’t Deserve You At Your Worst” – is released through Glasgow experimental/ underground electronic/ Alt-Normal label Night School Records.

If lo-fi electronica is your thing then this is a hissing, buzzing, fidgeting world of virtual unicorns and code dragons. “Recorded exclusively using a faltering MC303, live in a room straight to consumer dictaphones” gives you an idea of how this audio performance art was made. It’s great. There’s a real sense of life, adventure, happenstance, and wonder in the music on the album, attributes which can be absent from more structured, genre-conforming electronic music.

Don’t know if this music is “questioning the hegemony of neo-liberal ideas and their intersection with capital, culture and social practises” as claimed in the explanatory notes. Are these satirical? It’s hard to tell with commentaries on experimental or conceptual art sometimes. Can it not just be adventurous fun with sound which allows each listener to apply their own thin veneer of reasoning to it as they see fit?

Terrible Truths Uptight video stillAfter a month of NZ music it’s time to venture across the Tasman Sea to Australia where Terrible Truths are “Uptight”.

Terrible Truths are a favourite from the well-stocked cupboard of brilliant leftfield Australian music known as Bedroom Suck Records.

Their self-titled debut album is an absolute blinder of fidgety and melodic post-punk built entirely around the interplay between lead guitar, bass and drums, plus call-and-response vocals.

There’s something gloriously wild and ebullient about it all. These qualities are illustrated perfectly on “Uptight” which now has a video for added excellence.

Terrible Truths’ debut has just been repressed in a special 2nd pressing limited edition on gold vinyl with a limited edition bonus 7″ EP. Go on… you know you want to.

Lets Eat Grandma_Video still1Let’s Eat Grandma is two Norwich teenagers, Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton. Their first album is out in June, called “I, Gemini”.  Here’s a preview track from it, called “Eat Shiitake Mushrooms”.

There’s a lengthy glockenspiel and wheezy organ intro before it crackles into thudding dance-floor life at the 1 minute 30 second mark. The vocals kick in halfway through the song’s 6 minute length, so stick with it because it’s a delightful and enigmatic trip beginning to end.

On the strength of this song, and a 7” single – “Deep Six Textbook/ “Sink” – released last month on London indpendent label Transgressive Records , the album promises to be a freakishly wonderful offering of their genre-warping craft.

While their music sometimes shows whimsical playfulness it also seems to carry a darker undercurrent of existentialist unease. That’s particularly true of single “Deep Six Textbook”, a kind of ultra slow-motion darkly Gothic meditation on the frustrations of free-spirited individuals coping with a structured, standardised (textbook) education.  That song was such a striking soundworld I ordered a copy immediately.

“Eat Shiitake Mushrooms” is completely different. It seems to be three songs in one, together creating something simultaneously absurd, playful, unsettling and exotic.

It’s psychedelic pop in the way The Raincoats’ “Only Loved At Night” was psychedelic pop, subversive pop in the way that The Sugarcubes “Birthday” was subversive pop, and absurdist art-pop in the way The Frank Chickens “We Are Ninja” was absurdist art-pop.

What each of the three songs released so far demonstrate is a sense of DIY musical and lyrical adventuring throughout popular music culture, unburdened by conforming with rules of any particular music genre.

Their command of multiple styles demonstrates skilful borrowing, filtering and re-constructing in unorthodox ways of a wide range of music influences from rap, to chart pop, electronica, folk, and more experimental forms. In interviews they seem motivated purely by the healthy enjoyment of creating music, crafting multi-layered lyrics, singing, rapping, having fun, being daft, being deadly serious, leaping from one idea to another, playing with their audience, challenging and dismantling preconceptions.

Let’s Eat Grandma are a reminder of a whole history of music out on the distant margins of the manicured music industry, the subversive music-makers and pop stars.  Misfits, oddities, risk-takers, boundary-pushing experimentalists.  The results will sometimes get written off as novelty music, because music is expected to take itself seriously, be authentic, whatever that is.

The strength of Let’s Eat Grandma is that they are being themselves. And much as we may want to imagine where their potential may take them in future, let’s enjoy their music now for what it is.

Here’s the dream-like video for “Deep Six Textbook” –