Archives for posts with tag: New Zealand

The name’s Nothing. Jim Nothing. I like my secret alt-pop agents under-stated, DIY, and a bit rough-hewn around the edges. I like them even more when they arrive with a new album out of nowhere after several years of, well, nothing, and floor you with strange, unexpected new sounds. In this case, lo-fi, DIY, cassette release Jim Nothing has simultaneously fulfilled, exceeded, and confounded early promise. Collaborating with an avante-garde violinist/vocalist Anita Clark (Motte) is an unexpected turn for a shambling jangling fuzzy guitar pop Nothing. On the strength of the two initial songs released ahead of Jim Nothing’s “In The Marigolds” album in September, it’s a glorious combination. Here’s “Yellow House”:

It’s been 7 years since the initial run of 2 cassette EPs and a split cassette EP with Wurld Series. Since then Nothing’s alter-ego James Sullivan has been busy in all manner of bands, including drummer for Salad Boys. This time round the ubiquitous Brian Feary is drumming, while also recording, mixing, mastering “In The Marigolds”. Feary is the heart & soul of Christchurch’s underground DIY scene and Melted Ice Cream Records, a 21st century Chris Knox if you like, without the jandals and shorts.

But it’s the pairing of melodic string instrument talents with violinist and vocalist Anita Clark (her own extraordinary sound explorations under the name Motte) that gives these two initial songs (and presumably the whole album) an unexpected melodic richness and sonic balance. Clark’s violin parts on “Yellow House” evoke the dark drone spirit The Velvet Underground’s John Cale in the verse, and the melodic flight of The Go-Between’s Amanda Brown in the chorus.

The album is released on vinyl – a white and black option – and will have a European release too via Meritorio Records in Madrid, Spain. It was an instant “Buy Now” for me on the strength of these two tracks. Can’t wait to get lost in the marigolds with Jim Nothing in a few months when this is fully released.

Terrible Signal are from Perth, Western Australia and “Retire” is a runaway truck of a song, all jangling thrashing guitars, weedy keyboards, thumping bass and drums and totally-wired rapid-fire Antipodean vocal delivery. No idea what it’s about but New Zealand gets a mention.

The song is from a brand new album “The Window” out on Ballarat label Heart of the Rat. There is an LP version… pre-orders open now.

Terrible Signal mine a similar vein to The Chills, sometimes with a side serving of The Clean (check the next track “Half The Person”), or Able Tasmans (“Day”). It’s a great mix, a bit ramshackle, fizzing, and sometimes with unexpected complexity pulled off with give-it-a-go-mate cheek.

They describe their sound – presumably tongue-in-cheek – as “Saccharine Aus-Nostalgia Pop”. Despite the NZ stylistic connections perceived or perhaps imagined, it’s definitely Australian, in a let-it-all-hang-out DIY-with-ambition kind of attitude. And in the story-telling manner of the lyrics and occassional use of the talking vocal delivery. And in the way it is mastered by the ubiquitous Australian DIY guitar pop sound engineer Mikey Young.

Some of my favourite albums of the past year have been from unsung Australian bands like Terrible Signal that I had never heard of before a chance discovery on Bandcamp. You’ve read about The S-Bends and also Dumb Things here, albums I still regularly play. This is another cracker that will probably fly under the radar. Don’t let that happen. Open “The Window” and let the wind blow.

wurldseries_2016_ben-woodsChristchurch guitar-botherers Wurld Series are back with a full-length album called “Air Goofy”, fittingly available on cassette. Here’s the second song “Rip KF” for you:

It’s ‘fittingly’ on cassette because it was recorded on cassette, via a Tascam 424 4-track cassette recorder, staple of a generation of bedroom DIY artists in previous decades, and it seems again today.

As we’ve heard from previous tunes and EPs and songs like “Orkly Kid” and “Rabbit” which are both included here, the spirit of early rough-genius Pavement is undeniably strong in Wurld Series at times – twisting fuzzed out guitars and stream of unconscious life lyrical flights.  But so is the spirit of the 3-Ds from closer to home, who arguably influenced Pavement with their eccentric lead guitar shapes and angles atop lurching fuzzed out guitar skronk-pop.

If “Rip KF” – complete with shared lead vocal between guitarist/ vocalist Luke Towart and guest vocalist Tyne Gordon – represents the more middle-of-a-rough-road-to-nowhere melodic guitar pop side of “Air Goofy” then there’s much variety on either side of that median. Check out the thrilling “LT’s Struggle” for an alternative example.

Another great addition to both the Wurld Series and the Melted Ice Cream label catalogues. Don’t just take PopLib’s word for it. UK music blog Did Not Chart has also been singing the praises of this rough diamond.



“Running Out of Money” here, with its captivating Beta Band styled stoned groove and odd time signature, is from a recently released album from These Early Mornings.

These Early Mornings is/ are from New Zealand. The only named to be gleaned from the Bandcamp page for the self-titled album released on 7 October 2016 is one Jim Gaunt.

Whatever and whoever, this is a uniformly warm and weird collection of tunes. It starts with the brief and beguiling lo-fi not-quite rock steady groove of “Visa” before wandering with rhythmic abandon through other not-quite folk idioms in looping, lurching time signatures.

The eponymous third track is fractured stoner folk which might be imagined as an out-of-it Beck playing tribute to Harvest era Neil Young if it were not for the lo-fi recording and seriously off-kilter guitar solos and noise-reprise.

Overall it’s the loopy, grainy minimalism of the songs and the time signatures which makes this such a great collection of odd-pop. The closest thing to “Usually Waiting” and “Unco” for example is This Heat, and there’s a whiff of a folk Swell Maps to “Who Knows Nothing”.

This is the kind of album people will discover in 25 years time and an obscure boutique record label in the USA will re-release. Why wait that long? Get it now!



henikaHenika (Auckland musician and songwriter Henrieta Tornyai) released a self-titled EP last month. “The River” – the first song on the EP – is an excellent atmospheric recording of a dark twist on a murder ballad (possibly) told in the first person. Or not… Listen in and decide for yourself:

Stylistically this song, and much of the rest of the EP, fits approximately in a zone that fans of PJ Harvey, Feist and Lana Del Ray will enjoy, and it’s certainly as well-crafted as the music made by those artists.

When I heard the lines “I’ve been left for dead/ I’ve got a hole in my head/ Eyes open wide, see the water turning red” I was also reminded of The Triffids “Jerdacuttup Man” – another song of death (by the brilliant and tragic David McComb) told in the first person using similar direct and shocking words.

doubleu-quit-bandcamp“Quit” is the title of a fine 6 song EP from mysterious Auckland musician Doubleu. Here’s the opening track “Hero”:

Next track “Red” is equally impressive in its skillful minimal guitar layering, the subtle oddness of the backing sounds, and hushed melodic vocals. And the title track “Quit” after that. And… each following track, so stick around for the whole 12 minutes of this EP thanks.

It’s ALL pretty damned beautiful in a very understated and uncertain way, as if Doubleu doesn’t quite have the self-belief that these songs are in fact just right.

The last track “Words” offers a slightly different palette of sounds. The same shy, delicate and restrained songcraft but with more of an electronic sampled backing and playful sonic weirdness going on.

Everything about this 6 track EP by the mysterious Doubleu is intriguing. In it’s own quiet bedroom-pop-symphonies-in-miniature style, it’s a bit special. Don’t quit please.

Yesses 2016“Bamboozled (supercilious boy)” is the latest single from Dunedin music creation entity Yesses. It’s a huge leap ahead from Yesses’ impressive self-titled 2015 EP.

Even more exciting is the indication there’s an album from Yesses to be released on 17 June 2016. It was recorded in Hamburg, Germany and Yellowknife in the Canadian Arctic Circle, an unlikely combination of international circumstances explained by Yesses’ Jack Brosnahan here.

“Bamboozled” sounds wonderful and the mixing from regular co-conspirator De Stevens is spacier and more restrained than last year’s hyperactive EP sounds. It keeps the focus on the sun-dappled dreaminess of the song and gives it a kind of XTC-meets-Tame Impala hyper-psych-pop sheen. The album -called “Fixated” – promises much more of this.

Yellowknife Rock Art

Rock art in Yellowknife, Northwest Territory, Canada.

Males_None the wiser

Richard Ley-Hamilton of Males

Day 31 of NZ Music Month is a song from the debut album “None the Wiser” from Dunedin’s mighty falsetto pop-Gods Males. It’s called “Chartreuse” –

“Chartreuse” demonstrates just how far their helium-voiced guitar power-pop has come since their double EP debut release “Run Run Run/MalesMalesMales” in 2013.

It’s a sophisticated slice of melodic and multi-layered noisy guitar pop, the kind of thing which would not sound out of place on an early album by US band Spoon.

At the time of its release on March 21, 2016 Males “is/are/were” Richard Ley-Hamilton (guitars, vocals), Sam Valentine (bass), and Paul ‘Pipsy’ McMillan (drums).

Sandra Bell by Hayley Theyers

Sandra Bell – photo by Hayley Theyers

Day 24 of NZ Music Month is a song by Sandra Bell, performing as The Maitlands with her son Florian and regular drummer Diane Civil, called “Sweetest May”

“Sweetest May” is from an LP of Robbie Burns songs interpreted by Dunedin* musicians. It’s available on LP, released late 2015 on Zelle Records.

The compilation also features interpretations of Burns’ songs by David Mitchell (3Ds), Bill Direen, Bob Scott and David & Hamish Kilgour among many others.

Sandra Bell’s first recordings were in the mid 1980s. A version of “Industrial Night” she recorded in 1990 with Peter Jefferies on drums, David Mitchell on guitar, and Kathy Bull on bass was released on the compilation Killing Capitalism With Kindness and was followed by the Xpressway  album Dreams of Falling.

There’s a detailed overview of Sandra Bell’s history as performance poet and musician on the excellent NZ music history website Audioculture.

(* It’s a pretty broad definition of “Dunedin Musician” too, including those like Sandra who no longer live there but spent a significant part of their creative life in the City)




Seafog above Port Chalmers

“When you’re stuck inside the song/ and the nights are so long”

Songs about songs, about listening to songs, about living with songs, about living in songs? Here’s one, straight from Dunedin’s underground. So “Raise Your Skinny Fist” to the skies with Seafog.

“been listening to Godspeed You! Black Emperor/ and this is what it sounds like when you’re living with me”

It’s a great song, lyrics and title referencing GY!BE’s “Lift your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven” album, and written to celebrate the birth of songwriter and guitarist Robin Sharma’s daughter into this world, and into his home of uneasy-listening music.

As the lyrics of “Raise Your Skinny Fist” indicate, Sharma draws his influences from the disturbed alternative sounds of the 1990’s from the likes of G!YBE, Pavement, Sonic Youth, Slint, Silver Jews and many others.

But the band and the voice, guitars and recording are also the sound of, and a direct link to, the darker, noisier late 1990s to early 2000s decade of Dunedin music that is largely unknown/ forgotten beyond Dunedin memories.

Seafog descended from fine Dunedin band Jetty who released their one great album – “Soundtrack For Modern Heartbreak” – in 1998 (subsequently re-released on Powertool Records in 2008).

Seafog play an unadorned guitar noise with heart-on-sleeve, stream-of-consciousness lyrics; a search for meaning, a search for escape. The album is packed full of this yeasty, prickly, characterful guitar music.

“Raise Your Skinny Fist” is released on Zelle Records on 1 May in a limited edition of 300 LPs.