Archives for posts with tag: New Zealand Music

OV Pain_LPDunedin keyboard/ drum/ voices dueo OV Pain have just released the LP format of their dark and thrillingly weird first album and it’s something to behold. Here’s the wonderful “Soon to Be” to draw you in to their (under)world:

The album was recorded at the Anteroom in Port Chalmers and mixed and mastered by local legend Forbes Williams. OV Pain are Renee Barrance (Élan Vital) and Tim Player (Opposite Sex).

The more-or-less-live recording in a big hall gives it a real sense of space and place – simultaneously open and echoing but also imbued with the chill and claustrophobia of some large underground crypt, where these dark tales and timeless sounds are performed with a kind of chanting, ritualistic possession.

This is haunted music, lost souls finding other lost souls, meditations on the darkness around us and within us.  It’s a bit theatrical and weird, mixing post-punk, psychedelia, prog-rock, synth-pop, with magic and witchcraft.

Gloominess has never sounded this colourful, this alive, this thrilling and this essential.

SaturationsHere’s an atypical track called “Run Electro” from a new album called “Saturations” by New Brighton, Christchurch musician Blair Parkes.

“Run Electro” is an attention-grabbing song, bursting with luminous colour and surging along on an insistent rumbling bass line with phased distorted organ swirls, like a kind a super-charged Stereolab on steroids.

It’s a bit of an odd one out on a curiously sequenced album which seems to morph from reflective guitar folk-pop at the start into more effect-driven shoegaze territory before exploring even deeper into electronic synth-pop.  It’s not the sort of album you can dip into for a quick listen here and there and come away with a sense of what it is all about. It rewards the full journey.

“Saturations” is a curiously timeless collection of songs. The first 4 songs of the songs could fit comfortably in the late 80s/ early 90s NZ/ Australian reflective guitar pop scene, while the second half of the album crackles with more electronic energy, sometimes reminiscent of UK synth-pop band Frazier Chorus.  Both halves of the album are bursting with fine songs.

 

Listening to this Blair Parkes album has sent me on a trip back to NZ pop underground of the late 1980s. Keen students of obscure Flying Nun Records releases may recognise Blair from All Fall Down (FN0989) and The Letter 5 (FN169).

Parkes’ blog post here on the All Fall Down years is also a fascinating insight into the life of a young musician playing in an obscure ‘2nd wave’ Flying Nun Records band in the mid to late 1980s in New Zealand.

As a bonus here’s the Bats-meets-Triffids styled perfection of All Fall Down’s “Black Gratten” from 1987:

 

 

 

Pesk“Forests” is the opening track from an 8-song mini-album called “Ground” by Port Chalmers-based dark and doomy shoegaze duo Pesk.

There’s an atmosphere of dark magic throughout the whole album, and this opening track is a sublime starting point for your journey into Pesk’s world.

The trademark Pesk fuzzed out reverb sludge-guitar fills this dark forest like a dense fog, while those crunching syn-drums are like a giant’s foot-steps. The shimmering keyboards, Nico-esque vocal and then that unexpectedly exultant chorus melody provide the transcendent touches to a spellbinding song.

The rest of the album continues with a similar strong and uncompromising tone.  They refer to their sound as combination of shoegaze, industrial and cold wave but there’s also a fair chunk of stentorian doom-laden metal about the rumbling density of their sound.

LBGP_2017Day 5 of 31 Days of May for New Zealand Music Month and we are still in Dunedin to revisit the quietly influential Look Blue Go Purple with “Circumspect Penelope”, a track from a new (released today) double album called “Still Bewitched” compiling their three EPs along with a side of previously unreleased live tracks.

Look Blue Go Purple filtered the spirit of 1967 psychedelic folk rock through the more contemporary influences of the post-punk make-your-own-sound freedom of The Slits and The Raincoats and the 1980s Dunedin scene they were part of. There’s some more background on the band and this album in a recent Otago Daily Times article.

There’s a tendency from some to view Look Blue Go Purple as a group somehow distinct within the Dunedin scene. Yet this overlooks the involvement of most of the musicians in a variety of other bands before, during and after Look Blue Go Purple’s reign from 1983 to the end of 1987.

Drummer Lesley Paris had been in a band called the Craven A’s with Terry Moore (The Chills), David Kilgour (The Clean, Great Unwashed) and Peter Gutteridge (The Clean, Great Unwashed, The Puddle, Snapper) prior to Look Blue Go Purple. She was the powerful rhythmic glue that held the early line-up of The Puddle together for 5 years from 1985, while Norma O’Malley wove farfisa organ and flute through The Puddle’s spidery psychedelia, all at the same time Look Blue Go Purple were in existence.

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The Puddle in 1985 – L-R George D. Henderson, Lesley Z. Paris, Norma O’Malley, Peter Gutteridge, Ross Jackson & Lindsay Maitland

After Look Blue Go Purple Lesley continued with The Puddle then played in Buster and Olla. Norma O’Malley formed Chug with Alf Danielson, Kathy Bull played bass in Cyclops with Peter Jefferies and Denise Roughan was in the 3Ds. And that’s just the immediate post-LBGP highlights.

As an added bonus, “Circumspect Penelope” also has one of the very best Dunedin music videos ever, by regular Flying Nun Records video-maker Pat O’Neill:

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The Prophet Hens – photo by Phoebe Lysbeth K http://www.phoebelysbethk.com/

Day 4 of the 31 Days of may Madness for New Zealand Music Month 2017 is another Dunedin tune, this time dialing up some jangling melancholia by The Prophet Hens. Here, from their 2nd album “The Wonderful Shapes of Back Door Keys”, is “Good Shadow”

“Good Shadow” is an enigmatic song, apparently about nothing more complicated than, well, the writer/ narrator’s shadow. But it is saturated with metaphorical weight and the pay off line -“don’t let me down” seems to be sung more in resigned hope than confident direction.

As a noun “shadow” in its most direct meaning is a dark area or shape produced by a body coming between rays of light and a surface. But it can also refer to proximity, ominous oppressiveness, or sadness and gloom. There are a lot of shadows of both kinds in Dunedin.

I’m always going on about the (oppressive) shadow cast by the past of Dunedin’s fabled 1980s music era over the current era of musicians. Unusually for a contemporary Dunedin band, The Prophet Hens wear their local influences on their sleeves (or wings) so they would probably regard it as a… “Good Shadow”!

The song (along with half the album it is from) features the wonderful voice of Penelope Esplin. She also plays the old Casiotone given to her as a child by her father which gives the song (and the album) it’s colourful fairground wheeze. Penelope’s voice can also be heard with French For Rabbits and her own duo Grawlixes, along with The Prophet Hens’ bassist Robin Cederman.

[Note: Music released on the label I run isn’t usually featured on PopLib because PopLib is more about helping with the discovery of other mostly underground/ under-known/ under-appreciated bands and musicians. I’ll be making an exception during this, the 4th year of NZ Music Month daily posts on PopLib. As over 160 great NZ songs have been released on the label over the past 11 years it seems a bit unfair to omit them from consideration. These are after all some of my favourite local bands creating some of my favourite music.]

Asta RanguAfter what seems like (but probably wasn’t) a quiet few months in the never-ending production-line of left-field underground pop-craft from Dunedin, NZ there’s been a bit of a buzz of activity of late. Last week we introduced you to the mysterious strathcona pl, and now it’s Asta Rangu, with “Skip on Trak One”

“Skip On Trak One” is fidgetty pop with almost psychedelic glam-rock feel to the darting twisting guitar runs, the expansive layered guitars in the chorus and the intriguing lyrical flights of fantasy.

Asta Rangu is the solo brainchild and solo recording and performance project of Males‘ guitarist and songwriter Richard Ley-Hamilton. It’s a further progression from the more complex, layered, progressive pop of Males’ recent “None The Wiser” album, which was in turn a progression from the infectious helium-powered guitar-pop of their much-loved debut “Run Run Run/ MalesMalesMales”.

Even more exciting (and “Skip on Trak One” is pretty damned exciting) is that this is the first release on a brand new Dunedin label called trace / untrace records. The label plans to provide a collation and discovery point for a collection of new bands and musicians, and intends to offer digital and cassette releases initially. Bookmark their website – I have a feeling we’ll be revisiting their catalogue a bit over the coming years.

 

 

Strathcona BandcampEveryone likes a mystery, right? Well here’s something mysterious and new from Dunedin. All we have is a song called “Seams” on Bandcamp and the band/ performer name strathcona pl.

An EP is promised in the future. Adding to the intrigue is that “Seams” is so good it draws you back to listen again and again to try to find clues in the DNA of the music because music can’t exist in a vacuum, it must come packaged with information – knowledge about its creator.

“Everything and everyone’s falling apart” observes the chorus over and over again before adding “in my dreams” and you really want to write down all the lyrics to try to decipher meaning from them but you also know this this would break the spell of only half-hearing these anxiety dream lines.  So, let’s instead focus on the music, because it’s a little unusual and just a bit intriguing, not sounding much like anything we’ve heard around the streets of this town recently.

The minimal-yet-complex interwoven guitar/ bass/ drum sound, staccato chop of the guitar and bass and the hushed vocals here remind me of Young Marble Giants.   But there’s other interesting undertones throughout which offer even more intriguing Post-Punk influences or perhaps just coincidences. The guitar playing and chord changes – those descending lines at the end of the chorus in particular – seem to carry a faint sonic smudge of a track off an early Cure album perhaps (circa “A Forest”).

So it’s a little bit folk, a little bit Gothic, some Post-Punk DIY or maybe even New Wave. And as much as it may carry these early 1980s UK echoes, it also hints at the folk-rock intimacy of The Spinanes (on Seattle label Sub-Pop’s 1990s roster) or the more DIY folk/ punk attitudes of artists on nearby K Records ‘International Pop Underground’ at the same time. So it’s all these things and yet, because it’s from Dunedin in 2017, it’s none of these things.

Finally, a search of Wikipedia helpfully informs us that Strathcona is an invented name from the 19th century, a way of referencing Glen Coe (Glencoe) in Scotland in a way that avoided any word-association with “massacre” and used by its creator as a place name across Canada. The ‘pl’ suffix could be an abbreviation of place, or Public Library.

So now we know everything, and yet we still know nothing at all.