Archives for posts with tag: Dunedin

Continuing our theme of soundtracks to ‘escape from Dystopia’ with here’s something a bit closer to home, the now Dunedin-based duo The Melancholies and “Cool Magic” from their recent self-titled 4 track EP:

“Cool Magic” is all decelerated minimal bass and drum-machine post-punk, as gloomy as it is exotic. It has a bit of that languid time-stretching cadence of HTRK and the dark energy spells of Young Hellions mixed in too.

As with both of those musical outfits sparse guitar and chunky bass riffs provide the textures over the electronic percussion, while synths, drones and other sonic treatments are the atmospheric wash over and through this hypnotic song and throughout the EP.

The duo is Holly Coogan and Tom Young and the other standout track on this strong 4 song EP – “Cute Aggression” -was apparently released 3 years ago. Good things take time. The 4 songs on this first EP are all Good Things. Perfect soundtracks for your escape from Dystopia.

Finally, an end to 31 Days of May Madness for New Zealand Music Month, posting a New Zealand music track a day throughout May. Ending the way we began, with an appropriately-titled song from Dunedin post-noise-rock (or maybe we could call it Dun-gaze) newcomers Bathysphere called “See Ya”:

Bathysphere released their first album just as May started. That’s wonderful news because their first song “Window” and then this song – which is from the recent Dunedin compilation “…And It Could Be Right Now – New Music From Ōtepoti​/​Dunedin” – were the kind of thing there ought to be more of in the world.

Bathysphere is made up of a who’s-who of the Dunedin music underground, including Trace / Untrace Records founders Julie Dunn (Asta Rangu, Mary Berry) and Richard Ley-Hamilton (Asta Rangu, Space Bats, Attack!, Males), with Josh Nicholls (Koizilla, Space Bats, Attack!, Asta Rangu, Fazed on a Pony) and Peter McCall (Fazed on a Pony).

Our Day 7 song for 31 Days of May Madness, attempting to post a New Zealand track every day of the month of May, is another track from the recent Dunedin music compilation “…And It Could Be Right Now” – “Dale Kerrigan” by Dale Kerrigan:

Dale Kerrigan is a band, not a singer-songwriter. There is no-one called Dale Kerrigan in the noise-rock band called Dale Kerrigan. No clue is revealed as to who exactly Dale Kerrigan is or was, nor what they have done to have a noise rock band, and song, named after them. Maybe it’s an Australasian cultural reference to a character in film The Castle: ‘I dug a hole’ Dale. That one. Who knows?

This track is monstrous, in all the right ways. Is it punk? Is it metal? Is it noise rock? Is it prog rock? The answer to all those questions is YES.

Dale Kerrigan is the brainchild of Ōtepoti/ Dunedin musician Shlee Nicholls (Mary Berry, Flesh Bug). Yep, she’s another from the noisy Nicholls family production line of musicians, alongside hyperactive drumming brother Josh Nicholls (Koizilla, Fazed on a Pony, Asta Rangu, Space Bats, Attack! et al.) and friends Joel Field (Porpoise), and Connor Blackie (Koizilla, Adelaide Cara).

The band is Shlee Nicholls’ response to the “ugly boy singing noise” stereotype, combining chunky riffage, loud-quiet noise dynamics noise with lyrics from a woman’s perspective. As with Mary Berry (the band) that combination of muscular noise rock heaviness with the opposite of the “ugly boy singing” is a fresh combination.

The band have an album out next month called Noise Bitch, recorded by the other Nicholls brother Zac (guitarist in Koizilla) in the same house as Koizilla’s 2020 release I Don’t Surf I Boogie and Bathysphere’s recent release Heaven is Other People. “Dale Kerrigan” (the song) will be on it. There’s also an excellent single called “Grudge” from the upcoming album just up now on trace / untrace records’ and Dale Kerrigan Bandcamp.

Dale Kerrigan is the support for Bathysphere’s album release show at The Crown Saturday 8 May.

Vanessa Worm

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 EP releases on Glasgow’s Optimo dance label followed and now there’s a first album just released, called “Vanessa 77”. Here’s “Satisfaction” from the album:

There is a highly individual non-conformist ‘punk’ element to the music and performance. “Satisfaction” is one of the more ‘regular’ tracks on the album, coming across like Kruder & Dorfmeister re-mixing mid 1970s Can fronted by a demonically-possessed Grace Jones.

To say the album is all over the place is an understatement. The opening tracks are formed on guitar before being dragged backwards towards the thump of electronic dance beats and an ominous tolling bell (send not to know for whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee as John Donne wrote some 500 years ago).

The music has bucketloads of variety and character and Worm’s unconventional vocalising ranges from mouth-sound-effect oddness to a kind of electronic punk sneer.  I guess you could call the music “electronic” or “dance” or “industrial” or “experimental” but it’s not going to fit in any comfortable singular genre.

The music on “Vanessa 77” has more in common with boundary-pushing weirdos of the post-punk avant garde music art scene – a bit of dancefloor Throbbing Gristle malevolence here, some fried Fred Frith guitar deconstruction there. For all those reasons and more it’s gloriously, subversively great.

“Vanessa 77” is available on LP on Glasgow dance music label Optimo Music with mailorder via Boomkat.

Strathcona pl 2020 (2)

Three years on from the release of a 4 song EP strathcona pl return with another intriguing slice of reflective sub-2-minute guitar pop called “in the cities”. The first PopLib post about the first song released by strathcona pl concluded “so now we know everything, and yet we still know nothing at all.” And here we are, three years later, knowing a bit more, but somehow even less than before.

What we do know now is that “in the cities” is “a strathcona public library music group song” and, in place of the mysterious woman’s voice on the first EP, there’s a familiar Dunedin voice – Peter McCall (Fazed on a Pony) – indicating an evolving collaborative virtual music ensemble stretched across a closed down world to/from Brighton in the UK.

“in the cities” shares with its predecessors a gentle folk take on ‘indie-pop’ –  minimal-yet-complex interwoven acoustic guitar/ bass/ drums drifting in and out and the low-key layered vocals, lyrics reflecting on fading memories of life passing, a succession of past lives captured in photographs.

Hopefully this is the first song of another brace leading to a second EP of these beautiful and affecting understated folk-pop songs.

DATM_Cave_Wisteria_smallerOur day 17 song for New Zealand Music Month comes from Port Chalmers trio Death And The Maiden with the dark swirling atmosphere of “Shadows”:

“Shadows” comes from the trio’s second album “Wisteria”. The song combines Death And The Maiden’s usual electronic rhythms (Danny Brady), guitar (Hope Robertson), bass and vocals (Lucinda King), but also layers on the additional acoustic drums (from guitarist Hope Robertson, who was also drummer for the last line-up of Snapper) and piano.

The song rises and falls, the unusual musical arrangement combining the enigmatic lyrical imagery to create a typically unique Death And The Maiden atmosphere of shadows, mystery and foreboding. Robertson’s guitar dominates, swarming glorious fuzz and tremolo clouds above the forest of textures and rhythms. Another extraordinary song from a modern classic of dark Dunedin music.

NZMM 2020

Charcoal Burners 2019 Mirror.jpg

“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.

Too Tone NZ Music Month

NZ Music Every Godzone Month! sign from Too Tone Records in Dunedin.

Our New Zealand Music Month day #30 tune is the gorgeous instrumental “Lull” from High Dependency Unit (HDU):

“Lull” is from HDU’s 1998 album “Higher + +” which is one of the classic NZ experimental post-rock albums. It encapsulates perfectly the dreamy astral psychedelia side of the band, usually remembered for their searing futuristic “space blues” soundscapes of walls of firestorm guitar and thunderous bass over tight patterns of crunching drums.  It’s wonderful to see the whole glorious catalogue of HDU albums available on Bandcamp for new generations  and audiences to discover.

Too Tone NZ Music Month

Shop display of re-purposed NZ Music Month poster at Too Tone Records (2010-2017) in Dunedin.

New Zealand Music Month day#2… dance like a weirdo with former Dunedin (now Melbourne) electronic producer Vanessa Worm.

“I Did a Lava Dance” mixes pummeling minimal techno with injections of startling sci-fi horror noise and even odder vocal stylings which bring to mind a glitchy malfunctioning Grace Jones robot.  It’s from an excellent three track EP on Glasgow electronic label Optimo.

Too Tone NZ Music Month

Shop display of re-purposed NZ Music Month poster at Too Tone Records (2010-2017) in Dunedin.

It’s May. It’s New Zealand Music Month. It’s time for another tilt at the obsessive-compulsive posting of 31 NZ songs from Bandcamp over the course of the month to try to turn the world on to the kind of sonic lint that lurks behind the glittering facade of  “Popular Music”.  Kicking off the 2019 roll call is the opening track from Shayne P Carter‘s latest solo album “Offsider”.

“I Know Not Where I Stand” is a huge clunking, shuffling beast of a song. Never one to rest in a comfortable spot musically speaking, proficient guitarist Carter (Bored Games, Doublehappys, Straitjacket Fits, Dimmer) set himself the challenge of mastering the piano. His approach is similar to his instinctive approach to the guitar – as much about sound, propulsion, atmosphere, and tension as it is about melody.

Carter’s “Offsider” album is recommended for anyone into seriously good, original, adventurous pop or rock music, and particularly for those who go on about the heyday of Flying Nun Records but stopped buying new music many years ago.

Shayne Carter has written a book. Dead People I have Known is what it is called and it is available in a few days time. It’s a memoir, though it could be a novel. If it was a novel it would be better than Iain Banks “Espedair Street” and David Keenan’s “This is Memorial Device” combined.  The characters in Shayne’s book are also unusual and unlikely but they are real. Many of them are dead, as the title accurately explains.

It’s not the first book by a musician from Dunedin. Sneaky feelings’ Mathew Bannister wrote one that was pretty good in its weird combination of misguided self-loathing and self-importance. I haven’t read Peter Jefferies’ book yet.

Shayne Carter is the only one of my Dunedin music heroes I have not properly met or talked to. He was, and still is, too intimidating. His book makes it pretty clear that being intimidating, or just an occasional arsehole, was a deliberate ploy.

I read the book in one sitting. Partly because it was someone else’s review copy and I was probably not meant to see it. Also because it was, as they say, a page-turner.  Actually I read most of it twice because I have an annoying habit of opening up new books and reading bits at random first, as if to get a taste before committing to a full reading. Then I read it again, from beginning to end to join up all the bits I’d read previously. I look forward to reading it again when I buy a copy upon its release.

A couple of things about Shayne’s writing style struck me. The first was that his ease of storytelling, the way he created the scenes, brings his characters to life through their actions and words, and the associated emotion, reminded me of Tim Winton’s writing.  Like his “Breath” perhaps, but about music, and the characters associated with it, rather than surfing.

The other thing I felt, as the story whizzed along, one outrageous incident after another, was that this was almost like the kind of improbable fictional life story narrated by the central character from an implausible and fantastical Peter Carey novel.

Those were both novelists I really enjoyed, back in the days when I read novels. Nowadays I read almost exclusively music books, finding that with the best of them truth is indeed stranger than fiction.  This is more than a music book. It’s a memoir of course. But it’s also a social history, mostly of a Dunedin that is still almost there, as well as an affecting reflection on life, death, culture, identity, love, self-loathing, ego, regret, creativity, family, and friendship and more.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, it is possible to review Carter’s “Dead People I Have Known” using unaltered snippets taken from reviews or short descriptions of my favourite of Carey’s books:

“Boldly inventive, irresistibly odd.  In this darkly funny novel, death is sometimes a necessary prelude to real life. A story that couldn’t be true unless its teller were mad.  His search for a place in life where he can accept himself and be accepted by others.  A masterpiece of coal-black humour and compassionate horror. Fiendishly devious and addictively readable.”