Archives for posts with tag: New Zealand Music

Our Day 14 song for 31 Days of May Madness, attempting to post a New Zealand track every day of the month of May, is “Let’s Just Stay in Bed” by King Sweeties:

King Sweeties are bassist/ vocalist Cass Basil (Tiny Ruins) and drummer/ vocalist Bic Runga. The 5 song “We Are the Bosses” EP flew under the radar a bit late last year.

However, the post-punk-pop mix of Tom Tom Club styled sugar-pop with a bit of cool New Wave funk is a cracker, and a duo with the reputation of Cass Basil and Bic Runga nail it with style.

Posted this song “Nap Gate” last year when it was released as a single, but now it is the first track shared ahead of the March release of the Wurld Series album “What’s Growing” so here it is again, as a fitting semi-psychedelic-Sunday aural feast:

Wurld Series has been creating little gems of EPs for a few years now. Previous releases were generally on the lo-to-medium-fidelity end of the spectrum; perfect for the DIY melodic pop with fuzzy wandering lead guitar lines.

Sure, they have always had a “Pavement-y” kind of slacker guitar pop vibe, as much from the low key singing of Wurld Series songwriter/ guitarist/ vocalist Luke Towart. But the music also weaves in a bit of the loopy off-kilter style of lead guitar that local 90s legends the 3Ds were known for (and who arguably influenced Pavement) as well as the fuzzy melodic feel-good factor from Teenage Fanclub’s “Bandwagonesque” album.

“Nap Gate” is less lo-fi than some of the previous recordings but packs all the familiar ingredients. The lead guitar parts here – from Adam Hattaway – are spectacular too, which should be no surprise if you have listened to the Adam Hattaway and the Haunters album “All Dat Love”.

The Wurld Series band is from Christchurch, NZ (the original home of Flying Nun Records) and has always had a revolving line up from release to release. Towart now sees Wurld Series as “less of a band and more of a music-making guild, with a changing line-up that depends on who is present for recording sessions at the band’s lock-up space in the industrial suburb of Woolston.”

Roll on the release of “What’s Growing” in March in a limited LP run. Here’s what they say the album contains:

“The songs contained in What’s Growing are submerged within reeling guitar, hypnotic mellotron and meditative drones. Lyrical themes include post apocalyptic living, extraterrestrial visitation, TV game show monsters and the workplace as a dreamlike medieval dystopia. At times traces of Tall Dwarfs or The 3Ds can be heard. More obvious American 90’s indie rock influences are also evident, alongside a clear strain of unsettling, pastoral British psych folk that runs throughout the album. What’s Growing is a compact statement of intent; a collage of full-noise indie rock recordings and minimal, psychedelic, and homespun artefacts.”

It’s an understatement to say “What’s Growing” promises a diverse range of intriguing sounds. Based on the reliability of every previous Wurld Series release it’s definitely worth considering pre-ordering now if you want to ensure a copy of the LP in March.

Thirty eight years on from their inception in Christchurch NZ, combining The Clean bassist-turned-guitarist Robert Scott, with ex-Toy Love bassist Paul Kean, guitarist Kaye Woodward and drummer Malcolm Grant, The Bats still rock that original line-up. They’ve just released their 10th album, called “Foothills”. Here’s the closing track, the glorious “Electric Sea View”:

“Electric Sea View” is everything Bats in a song. That familiar melodic chug and jangle, those vocal harmonies, a certain kind of wistful warm homeliness, and an atmosphere of subdued psychedelia hovering in the air.

That atmosphere here (and throughout the album) is largely supplied through the subtle keyboard shadings and minimalist tone soloing from Kaye Woodward’s lead guitar. Over successive albums Woodward has refined those lead guitar lines into things of Fripp-like esoteric beauty, with their thick overdriven saturation and sustain, and tiny bit of tremolo here.

“Foothills” was recorded by the band (bassist Paul Kean) in a house in the foothills of the Southern Alps in the middle of New Zealand’s South Island. As Robert Scott explains: “Many carloads arrived at the house, full of amps guitars and recording gear, we set up camp and soon made it feel like home; coloured lights, a log fire, and home cooked meals in the kitchen. We worked fast, and within a few days had all the basic backing tracks done, live together in one room, the way we like to do it – it’s all about ‘the feel’ for songs like ours.”

Asta Rangu guitarist/ vocalist/ songwriter Richard Ley-Hamilton has taken the crafted guitar-pop of his previous band Males, and twisted it to darker, more intricate and thrilling shapes and shades, injecting subtle layers of noise and mayhem, but retaining the pure heart of golden pop, as “Thin Air” here shows…

“Thin Air” is the closing track of Asta Rangu’s “Plasticine” EP (or, at 24 minutes, is it a mini-album?). It’s a hybrid of elements of shoegaze, atmospheric noise-rock, and jangling guitar pop, all laced with an intriguing undercurrent of Fripp-ish guitar sonics experimentation.

“Plasticine” was originally released in 2017 on cassette tape format by emerging Dunedin label trace / untrace who say: “melodic and angular, asta rangu laces jarring riffs into fidgety pop and hook-laden wordplay. a sonic trip into the noisy, intricately layered world of imaginary figures.

Now “Plasticine” has another physical format re-release on the unfairly maligned/ side-lined Compact Disc format, a more economically viable, sustainable, utilitarian, easy-to-store-and-mail, and, well, compact physical format than vinyl. CDs have the advantage of having the tactile and visual qualities of an LP record sleeve in miniature, and this one has a sleeve which has been lovingly hand-crafted in Dunedin by a team of trace – untrace records artisans.

The CD release is available in NZ record stores, and at any shows they play (like tonight’s show at Dive in Dunedin supporting The Beths)

Womb 2020

First up for day one of PopLib’s 31 Days of May madness for NZ Music Month is WOMB with a new (April lockdown) release “Used to Be”:

WOMB is siblings Charlotte Forrester and Haz Forrester, along with Georgette Brown. The trio is based in Wellington and “Used To Be” precedes their second album “Under the Lights”. The song continues on from the beautiful mix of unusual folk, psychedelia, and dream-pop explored on the first album.

To support artists impacted by the COVID19 pandemic, on May 1, June 5, and July 3 (the first Friday of each month), Bandcamp is waiving their revenue share for all sales on Bandcamp, from midnight to midnight PDT (Pacific Daylight Time) on each day. New Zealand Standard Time is 19 hours behind New Zealand Standard Time (NZST) so here in NZ it is is 7pm Friday 1 May to 7pm Saturday 2 May.

We all “Used to Be” once, and hopefully soon we will resume, and continue to be, in some kind of post-pandemic ‘new normal’ involving small venue live music, which the music video for the song begins with…

NZMM 2020

Bike

Apologies for the relative lack of PopLib postings. I had imagined the coronavirus lockdown in NZ would mean I would have plenty of time for regular postings of mood-enhancing new music discoveries. However working from home from my day-job – and grateful to still have a job that I can do that way – has proved to be full-on.

Following on from the sad news back at the start of February of the death of Dunedin musician Andrew Brough (The Orange, Straitjacket Fits and Bike), Bike’s solitary album “Take In The Sun” is now available in digital form via Bandcamp along with the preceding “bike” EP (1995) and “Circus Kids” EP (1997).

Here’s one of the quieter songs on the album. “Sunrise” is full of coded optimism, perfect for these dark and uncertain times:

I only met and talked to Andrew once. It was at a gig at Sammys in the 1980s. His first band – The Orange – were not playing but I saw him and maybe the others in his band at a table and said how much I loved the “Fruit Salad Lives” EP. An awkward momentary congress of introverts.

Next time I saw him was again at Sammy’s, Dunedin’s large ornate Edwardian era music hall. This time he was on stage with Straitjacket Fits. It was around the time of their “Life in One Chord” EP and they were opening for the Jesus & Mary Chain. It remains one of the most memorable performances I’ve seen. I can still vividly recall the feeling on non-drug-assisted euphoria hearing their songs blasted out with passion to their local crowd like they were playing for their lives… followed by a feeling of dull ennui when Jesus & Mary Chain plodded sullenly through their “Darklands” era set afterwards.

Bike’s “Take In The Sun” is a glorious collection of melodic guitar pop. It was probably out of time in 1997, but it just sounds timeless now. Brough’s vision was “to make beautiful music, which had a lot of feeling: beautiful music, with soaring vocals and guitars” and he certainly achieved that on his Straitjacket Fits songs and in Bike’s “Take in the Sun”.

I bought a copy of the album when it was released on CD in 1997, and saw the band play at Arc Cafe in Dunedin that year. Listening to the album again this year, Brough’s lyrics stood out. So many coded messages that his death may now begin to unlock.

“Sunrise” may for some be a minor track on the album but they melodic flights the vocal melody takes are extraordinary and the dynamics are majestic. The lyrics are a wry kind of reflective Brough positivity too, perfect for these times:

“In the sunrise, there’s nothing left to say/ Raise your glass to save your life/ we wish you well/ may good health prevail

In the sunrise, there’s nothing left to say/ Take a partner by the hand/ and spin round ’til good health prevails

In the sunrise, there’s nothing left to say/ while you’re gone we’ll play a song/ of love and tears/ and maybe you might hear 

Raise yourself/ it’s going to be your sunrise soon/ so let yourself shine.”

Bike album CD

Secret KnivesSecret Knives is the recording project of NZ multi-instrumentalist Ash Smith. The first Secret Knives album “Affection” came out in 2010, so this second album “Snuff” – released today – is either well overdue or early for the future. Here’s “Excess” which, paradoxically, is the only song on the album to feature little in the way of (sonic) excess.

“Excess” is described as a ‘homage to the 90’s’ and it ticks all the shoegaze and guitar-pop boxes you would associate with a song balancing Slowdive’s kind of dreamy guitar-based ambience with the more polished pop-craft of The Sundays. It’s also the most direct and ‘normal’ song on the album, so as good a place as any to enter the Secret Knives world.

Overall “Snuff” has so much going on it’s hard to sum up its appeal easily. However, if you like the kind of breath-taking melodic pop of the likes of Avi Buffalo and Granddaddy you will love Secret Knives.

The songs on “Snuff” are as carefully constructed and lovingly crafted as a Field Music album too. But, in place of the Brewis brothers’ antiseptic gleam and mathematical precision, Smith offers an adventurous and hyper-active vision of futuristic sonic exploration and a lot more human soul.

The human soul keeping the songs tethered to reality among the abstract noise comes courtesy of vulnerable lyrics and especially Ash Smith’s wistful vocals. They often provide an eery Antipodean approximation of the distinctive soulful reedy quaver of Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside, which is the perfect kind of voice for this kind of adventurous pop.

The gleaming 3D production accompanies crystalline picked guitars with crisp drums and a range of innovative manipulated sounds which add a kind of neo-psychedelic halo to the music – particularly on the extraordinary title track.

Snuff is available worldwide digitally October 22 via A Low Hum and as a limited edition cassette in collaboration with Prison Tapes. All cassettes, and digital orders above $8NZD, come with a download code for an exclusive digital-only companion EP, Smith’s “Blue Period”, collating exploratory ambient instrumentals written alongside “Snuff”.

 

 

 

Die Musikband

Music Has the Right To Children” proclaimed Scottish sound manipulators Boards of Canada in the title of their 1998 album of warped electronic music. Here then is an NZ-raised child of motorik German instrumental elektronische Kosmische musik” (usually referred to in Anglo-centric parts of the world as “Krautrock”, a derisive term coined by British music journalists for this counter-culture sound). Die Musikband is from Dunedin New Zealand and “Klar Linien” is their opening salvo ahead of their first EP.

“Klar Linien” translates as “Clear Lines”. There are clear lines between the motorik form of German elektronische Kosmiche Musik and some of Dunedin’s bands of the 1980s. Snapper were the most obvious inheritor of the robotic rhythm gene, but The Clean were an earlier example with “Point That Thing Somewhere Else”, further refining their organic Antipodean version of the motorik essence in the rhythmic fabric of their “Vehicle” album. Even shambolic cult band The Puddle managed to weave some of the more experimental elements of Kosmiche Musik into their ramshackle spiderweb of chemically-altered lo-fi psychedelia at times.

There’s also clear lines between the members of Die Musikband and Dunedin bands of the 1980s, and the 1990s, and the 2000s. As they explain: “The people in this band have all done other stuff. Now they’re doing this. As well. Jeff (Bored Games, The Rip, My Deviant Daughter, Valve, The Broken Heartbreakers), Karen (Onanon, Death By Silo), Alex (That High School Covers Band) and John (Salon Kingsadore, The Broken Heartbreakers).”

“Klar Linien” combines elements of the kind of melodic and sonic playfulness of Kraftwerk and Harmonia with a bit of Dunedin wild yeast. Along with Al Haig of Snapper, Harford is one of the great motorik drummers of Dunedin and one of the best foundation builders in the business. Together with Karen McLean, the drums and bass provide a reliable means of propulsion upon which guitarist John Howell and synth player Alex Gilks can paint in sound.  When they play live they are at their best when locked in a repetitive groove, layering sound upon sound.

 

 

DK H8s 2019David Kilgour returns with his band the Heavy Eights for a beautifully melancholic album “Bobbie’s A Girl” which has just been released on US label Merge Records.

“Looks Like I’m Running Out” ambles along blissfully, a bit like Syd Barrett’s “Gigolo Aunt” shuffle, but it’s a pace that out-sprints the languid drifting sleep-walking state of much of the rest of the album. I mean that in a good way too.

At times it feels like the album is a conversation between worlds, between the living and the dead. As DK explained in an interview: “The whole album is a sort of mood piece, really. Grief was behind it, as you say. I lost my mother and my friend Peter [former school friend and early Clean/ Chills/ Snapper band member Peter Gutteridge] around the same time, and for a while, I made no music at all, then I started to really just indulge myself and let the melancholia wash around me.”

The album is minimalist, in words and sounds and notes and chords, yet also one of the richest, deeply textured, atmospheric collections in the substantial David Kilgour catalogue. Acoustic and electric guitars, piano, keyboards, vibes, voices; all leavened by the air between the notes.

There’s a strange kind of magic at play here. It is partly the circumstances of the album’s origins, but also maybe also aided by the provenance of the location of its recording in the 140 year old Port Chalmers building Chick’s Hotel. Some of the songs seem improvised by the band in a telepathic dream-state. It’s so laid back at times it almost falls apart. But, like those two Syd Barrett solo albums, it somehow holds itself together, willed on by primal musical instinct shared among the players and shepherded by spirits in the aether of the eternal vibrations of the universe.

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.