Archives for posts with tag: Muzai Records

Our Day 15 song for 31 Days of May Madness, attempting to post a New Zealand track every day of the month of May, is “Bring Out Your Dead” by Horror in Clay:

“Bring Out Your Dead” the first single from an upcoming June release by Auckland ensemble Horror in Clay on Muzai Records called “Live At Toad Hall.” The song is a disorienting, gently sinister kind of melodic light & dark Post-Punk psychedelia. Despite the ominous title it’s also very approachable, something that can’t always be said about the music of guitarist/ vocalist Casey Latimer (GPOGP).

The distant plangent roar of shoegaze style guitars, propelled on bass and drums awash in chilly sarcophagus reverb, and a resigned vocal incantation all culminates with a hellfire & brimstone sermon sample condemning the excommunicated to eternal damnation, cast out in the darkness with the devil, his fallen angels and all the reprobates.

Imagine The Bunnymen in a period of post-“Ocean Rain” melancholy experiencing some kind of spaced-out datura-fuelled delirium complete with religious guilt hallucinations. Just what we all need as a warm up for a Saturday night out.

Leeds based △Stoner△Witch△Doom△Grunge△ duo Faux Machismo have shifted the tone from their sludgy proto-metal beginnings into a kind of trance-like doom grunge form. The hypnotic minimalism of new single “For Daze” captures the 2020 sensation of being trapped in a kind existential quicksand.

Faux Machismo is Maeve Munro on guitar and vocals and Anna Ridley on drums and vocals. Munro was, until a few years ago, an Auckland-based musician (Young HellionsCat Venom, Bengal Lights), now located in the small but significant NZ underground music enclave in Leeds.

The mood of their first release – a 4 song EP – was set on pitch-black sludgy doom metal (think early Black Sabbath rehearsal room DIY recording vibes) but with a solid melodic and hypnotic heart to the songs that was familiar to fans of Munro’s music as Young Hellions.

This new single ups the recording quality and dials back the pitch-back sludgy doom metal to allow in more air and light. The more textured approach to the loud/ louder dynamic on “For Daze” works a treat, and that “I could sleep for days” chorus release is a thrilling blast of melody, anguish, and abrasive guitar powerchords.

There’s a mention of Nirvana’s “In Utero” in the Bandcamp track notes, and there’s something of that in the chorus for sure. But, in its own way, the guitar tone texture shift between verse and chorus, and the way the song is propelled along by the drums, reminds me a lot of the kind of morose quiet/loud dynamic of San Francisco band Swell, also a stripped back guitar/ drums duo at first. (Refer to the blast from a forgotten past highlighted in the previous PopLib post.)

Too Tone NZ Music Month

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

Our New Zealand Music Month day #25 song comes from Faux Machismo. Here’s the ominous crushing stoner-witch-doom-grunge of “Sink”:

Faux Machismo is Maeve Munro on guitar and vocals and Anna Ridley on drums and vocals. “Sink” is one of 4 songs on an EP also available on cassette.

Munro was, until a few years ago, an Auckland-based musician (Young Hellions, Cat Venom, Bengal Lights), now located in the small but significant NZ underground music enclave in Leeds, Yorkshire, in the U (for the time being) K.

Although the mood is set on pitch-black sludgy doom metal (think early Black Sabbath rehearsal room DIY recording vibes) there’s still a solid melodic and hypnotic heart to the songs that will be familiar to fans of Munro’s music as Young Hellions.


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. 


Young Hellions 2016

Young Hellions songs appear like ghosts sporadically, when you least expect them, and most need them. Here’s the splendidly fuzzed up, woozy new “Fractures And Cacophony” for your listening pleasure.

It’s a fine distillation of the most compelling elements of heavy shoegaze, gothic synth-pop and melodic grunge, weaving melodic pop hooks – and another great song title/ chorus phrase – through the sonic mass of abrasive and swooping guitar interplay.

Young Hellions is Auckland musician Maeve Munro (Bengal Lights, Cat Venom) currently based in Leeds, UK. If you’ve missed the back-catalogue check the first single “Best Witchcraft is Geometry” and  the self-titled 4 song EP it was subsequently included on.

According to Muzai Records “Fractures and Cacophony” was to be released on 22 July. I’ll update this post with a link to any purchase options once they appear. Hopefully it will also be available via Muzai Records’ bandcamp page.

Astro Children ('Proteus' sleeve, photo by Sam Valentine)

Astro Children (‘Proteus’ sleeve, photo by Sam Valentine)

Day 25 of the song-a-day-May NZ Music Month madness is ‘Jamie Knows’ by Astro Children.

In case you are new around here it has been my custom this year to play Astro Children’s brilliant ‘Proteus’ album loud on Sundays. I’ve also been posting a song from Astro Children every Sunday during May too.

‘Jamie Knows’ is the earliest of the ‘singles’ preceding ‘Proteus’. It is from the gentler side of Astro Children. Astro Children do menacing belligerence (check ‘Shoe’ and ‘Nora Barnacle’) just as well. This song is always a bundle of questions for me (like most Astro Children songs). Who is Jamie? What does he or she know? “Fall, will you help me fall?”… lyrics here don’t really provide any answers or even much by way of clues. Which is perfect. If the questions the song raises were resolved it may diminish its mystery and therefore its hold, its power.

The other aspects of the song are the way the chorus and delay effects, plus a slightly out of tune guitar, give a lush 12 string guitar effect. Doing stuff that is ‘wrong’ but actually ends up right, perfect. And the pounding drumming also reminds this is not what we might otherwise think this song should be – Astro Children do not follow any particular style conventions. The unconventional nature of all of ‘Proteus’ is what keeps it distinct and interesting again and again. Conventions, rules, standards etc. can all stifle creativity. Astro Children show it’s OK to be what/ who you are.

‘Proteus’ is available from Muzai Records here.

Astro Children, Kings Arms, AKL - photo by Ben Howe

Astro Children, Kings Arms, AKL – photo by Ben Howe

Excuse me for repeating myself here but Sunday tradition round these parts involves me frightening the cat & the neighbours by playing Dunedin ‘shoeglaze’ space-punks Astro Children’s ‘Proteus’ album thrillingly loud.

So day 18 of the song-a-day-May NZ Music Month madness is ‘Shoe’ – a face-meltingly visceral two minutes thirteen seconds of fury from Astro Children. Strap yourselves in:

‘Shoe’ has long been a live favourite from Astro Children’s set. Isaac Hickey’s drumming here is the perfect bludgeoning beat willing it on; each piston-stroke compressing the volatile gasses of belligerent retributive anger, causing combustion.

And, as if the temperature isn’t already at a critical enough level here, the moment at 1:06 when the extra explosion of overdriven guitar kicks in is sublime.

This is rock and roll and punk rock at it’s primal scream elemental best; fury & rage channelled into a beat-rocking blast of propulsive plasma – a solar flare from an exploding sun.

I am now metaphorically exhausted… just listen to the song loud & see what you think. Oh & get the album too please… it’s on a lovely limited edition CD from Muzai Records.

Astro Children at the Kings Arms in Auckland, December 2013. Photo by Ben Howe from

Astro Children at the Kings Arms in Auckland, December 2013. Photo by Ben Howe from


Day 14 of the NZ Music Month daily NZ music madness is ‘Wellsford Video’ from the dark imagination of Auckland sound-charmer MOPPY.

This from Muzai Records Bandcamp page: “Moppy (a.k.a Thom Burton) produces wonders of glitch and IDM that take their cues from the ambient works of Chris Morris and the soundtrack to television classic Jaaaaam. Cultivated through a period of fasting in a tin-foil hat, with a brief period of time working with Cute Banana (who appeared on the single “Big Bad Wolf” from his first album, Mokai), Seconds is more than mere electronic music and EDM.”

No idea what any of that actually means sorry but I do like this Moppy album. ‘Seconds’ reminds me in places of early Eno (eg: Music for Films) and Boards of Canada and in other places of the experimental side of Broadcast. But there’s also a lot of musique-concrete & avant-garde sound manipulation going on here too which means it is hard to pin it down to being any one thing.

It’s all very exotic yet accessible while also being fresh & a little challenging. Which pretty much sums up the modus operandi of Muzai Records really.

Astro Children at the Kings Arms in Auckland, December 2013. Photo by Ben Howe from

Astro Children at the Kings Arms in Auckland, December 2013. Photo by Ben Howe from

Day 4 of this month of NZ music madness is a Sunday. On Sundays it is traditional for me to play Astro Children’s ‘Proteus’ album loudly for the sheer thrill of it.

‘Eden’ stands out as a perfect calling card for the band and the album. It’s pop and punk, gentle and violent, there’s melodic singing and a bit of yelling, it speeds up and it slows down. It combines all the elements I love about Astro Children – it’s theatrical, funny, sweet and strident, rough, dark and smart. I adore it.

Astro Children’s Proteus’ was released last November on adventurous Auckland label Muzai Records (also home of yesterday’s doomgaze stars Young Hellions) and has just been made available in stores in a very attractive limited edition CD package.