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“Days Behind” is a beguiling song from a new album from prolific independent Dunedin musician Andrew Spittle under his most recent guise as Charcoal Burners:

“Days Behind” is a delicate and strange song; an achingly melodic vocal line unfolds, blurred through multi-layered guitars all playing different parts but weaving together into a gloriously dark and saturated psychedelic feast for the ears. It is one of those songs you can lose yourself among the layers, textures and melodies, played on repeat. It’s not the only song here to combine these ingredients into something wonderful either.

Since 1990 Andrew Spittle – under his own name and with bands Dating Godot, Das Phaedrus, All Red Cables and now Charcoal Burners – has independently released over 40 albums of original music as well as a handful of singles and EPs titles. The earliest releases were cassettes, progressing to Compact Disc and eventually digital releases via Bandcamp.

This latest release has echoes – in musical style and personnel – of Spittle’s 1990’s band Dating Godot with Spittle joined by latter-day Dating Godot member Sally Lonie on bass and vocals. As with Dating Godot some of the music on “The Best Day You Could Imagine” is infused with the spirit of ultra-melodic molten-guitar rock of Husker Du.

However, even with such heavy apparent influences, this album is soaked in the atmosphere of Dunedin. It could not really have come from anywhere else. The sound is sometimes as misty and vague as the city on a low overcast day, the vocals drifting in and out of the murk, but the multi-layered guitars often sparkle like the sun reflecting off the breeze-ruffled surface of Otago Harbour on a better day.

Spittle has been called an ‘outsider’. In art the term usually refers to self taught, so-called ‘naive’ artists.  However the music of self-taught musicians and songwriters is the music often associated with New Zealand overseas. It is music outside the mainstream, following rules of its own making, or perhaps attempting imitation of, or homage to, a particular overseas style, and failing with original results.

Perhaps it also refers to being outside of any particular scene or label. However, that also applies to much New Zealand music. So I’m going with ‘prolific and independent’ instead.

Not that labels matter. It’s all about the music, and in Spittle’s case there’s a huge catalogue available to explore on Spittle’s Charcoal Burners’ Bandcamp.