Archives for posts with tag: Port Chalmers

The first great new release of 2022 is upon us, in the form of an unexpected album “Silicon Pink”, the first music from Port Chalmers, Dunedin duo Thorn Dells. Here’s “Dark Taste”.

Thorn Dells is Nikolai Sim (Élan Vital, Kolya) and Lucinda King (Death And The Maiden, Bad Sav , Floating Island). “Silicon Pink” is a fantasia of dark hybrid electronic pop, each song a shift in time and space, mixing light and darkness, electronic pop and more exploratory sounds.

There are echoes of 90s dubby trip hop in places, as well as crystalline radio-friendly pop (the sublime “The One I Fear” with vocals from Sean Patrick Donald), and the gloriously sinister “Orlando” somehow channels an imaginary post-grunge Breeders mutation.  

The whole album all feels majestic and epic, the kind of album you would expect to hear on a major independent label (Mute, 4AD, etc.) but this is 2022, and self-releasing through Bandcamp is where you will find the sound of today’s essential exploratory music underground.

Our Day 29 song for 31 Days of May Madness, attempting to post a New Zealand track every day of the month of May, is “Reed Replacement” by Robert Scott & Dallas Henley:

“Reed Replacement” is from a very limited edition CD album called “Level 4” with an original artwork cover from Robert Scott (The Clean, The Bats, Magick Heads). Scott and his partner Dallas Henley recorded the songs at home during “Level 4” during NZ’s nationwide Covid19 Level 4 lockdown in 2020.

Scott’s two most recent solo albums – “Ends Run Together” and “The Green House” – are two of the understated highlights of NZ music in the past decade.   

This low-key unpolished set of songs is an audio scrap-book of songs that, in normal times, would end up being developed for albums by The Bats, or The Clean. “Reed Replacement” here would make a perfect song for any future (but highly unlikely) album by The Clean.

The guitar and voice is Scott’s of course. His unavoidable influence on bassist Dallas Henley is clear throughout the album, as she provides the most Robert Scott-esque basslines imaginable, using the instrument as a melodic counterpoint to Scott’s guitar and vocal melodies.  

If you are in Dunedin and pop out to Port Chalmers on Otago Harbour you will find their gallery and art supplies shop Pea Sea Art on the main street. Pop in, view and buy the art works, and check the bins of local music on LP instore too.

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

Francisca (2) Our song for Day 15 of New Zealand Music Month 2020 comes from locked-down-in-isolation-in-Port-Chalmers duo of Francisca and Alexander Griffin, sharing “Ghost Lights”:

Recorded during isolation lockdown, “Ghost Lights” reprises some of the themes on former Look Blue Go Purple musician Francisca Griffin’s recent album “the spaces between” observing both the natural and spiritual worlds around us and also the human experience within it: “free-falling moments in time.”

The song was released recently on “Ps-Isolation: a global compilation of music made in lockdown” a 119 track (!!!) compilation on the Celebrate Psi Phenomenon label.

“Ghost Lights” has an optimistic widescreen freewheeling soundscape, built on acoustic guitar with Kilgour-esque electric guitar and keyboard flourishes, with Griffin’s spoken word voice-overs providing poetic context for the song. It’s easy to imagine walking around Port Chalmers’ wonky street patterns during lockdown, the ghosts and memories intensified in autumn’s eery evening light, with this as the soundtrack.

Francisca Griffin provides guitars and vocals and keyboards and synth by her son Alexander, who also recorded and mixed the song at Griffin’s home in Port Chalmers.

NZMM 2020

Floating Island 2020

Here in NZ we’ve just completed Day 30 of a COVID19 elimination lockdown. In another few days – Tuesday 28 April 2020 – the extreme lockdown is eased just a tiny bit… but essentially ‘quarantine’ continues for at least another few weeks. On 4 May NZ will achieve the noteworthy milestone of the Middle Ages plague lockdown quaranta giorni (40 days!).

Here’s the first local quarantine lockdown isolation song I’ve discovered. I’m assuming the perfectly-titled “Discontinuation” from Floating Island is a reflection on current affairs… it works as that even if the lyrics are a more general reflection on changing times.

Floating Island is “an online music work book of demos and solo explorations by Lucinda King (Death and the Maiden, Bad Sav & Denudes).”

“Discontinuation” is a glorious and disorienting solo electronic extrapolation of King’s work in Death & The Maiden. The washes of sounds, layers of ambient textures, crisp minimal beats, and especially that distressed woozy slow vibrato not-sax melody behind the melancholic voice create a wholly a complete(d) work. There’s nothing “demo” about this.

There are more excellent solo explorations uploaded just last week. Always great to have new music to discover, even more essential during a period of quarantine home detention.

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.

Too Tone NZ Music Month

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

Our New Zealand Music Month song for day # 23 is “Hourglass” from Port Chalmers trio Death And The Maiden.

“Cold ocean…” intones Lucinda King as we are led into the eery, hypnotic world-in-a-song of “Hourglass”. Hope Robertson’s guitar swoops in time with Danny Brady’s subtle drum machine beats and synth arpeggios. “Collected hourglasses, filled the room up, but all that time: useless…” 

Death And The Maiden’s second album “Wisteria” is shrouded in a cool, misty ambience. It is an unusual but thrilling and muscular hybrid between electronic music and dark post-punk and an a Gothic kind of psychedelia.

Too Tone NZ Music Month

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

Our New Zealand Music Month song for day # 16 is the brooding building storm of “Pets” from Port Chalmers trio Bad Sav:

Bad Sav leader, guitarist and vocalist Hope Robertson says “Pets” “is a breakup song even though it doesn’t sound like it. It was a “I don’t need to worry about this stuff because I’ve got my pets” kinda thing.”

“When I write a song if I’m so upset or angry or an emotion has gone beyond words, and just write some music and say, “Well, that sums it up”, I don’t think there’s any words necessary. At other times, words are totally necessary; if there’s an actual issue that’s happened or something you wanna discuss with yourself in songwriting then I’ll do that…”

The sonic storm front  from Robertson’s guitar arrives at the two and a half minute mark, exploding with controlled fury and then continuing to build, forming layer upon layer of gloriously distorted noise as it turns itself into something both hostile and embracing. It’s an utterly beautiful, wrenching song that I love listening to loud over and over again.

When I have seen this band live their structural noise fills the room and vibrates every atom as they tear a hole in the fabric of space and time, particularly with the amazing improv destruction ending to “Pets”. On a great night (and most Bad Sav performances in recent years have been great) the song ends like a universe of “Index of Metals”-era Robert Fripp guitar loops disintegrating as it is pulled into a black hole.

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 #7 comes from Port Chalmers (Koputai) and a place over the hill called Purakaunui. Koputai seadogs Seafog released a double album recently and “Purakaunui” is a song from the album full of coastal atmosphere.

Seafog’s “Purakaunui” is an updated take on the version from almost 20 years ago recorded by frontman Robin Sharma’s previous band Jetty.

The tiny settlement of Purakaunui is formed around a tidal inlet and overlooks Blueskin Bay. It is an area surrounded by history. To the East is Whareakeake (Murdering Beach), and to the West is Mapoutahi Pa, places of grim history referenced in the song.

Although it’s only 30 minutes from Dunedin city centre, Purakaunui is a world away in time and oasis of somewhat haunted peace now, in part because it’s hard to get a mobile phone signal there. The small cemetery in Purakaunui is also the resting place of Dunedin music legend Peter Gutteridge (The Clean, The Puddle, Snapper).



Seafog_2017Day 8 of PopLib’s 31 Days of May New Zealand Music Music Month marathon is “Dig” which closes the stellar EP “Dig it on Up” released last year by salty Port Chalmers sea-dogs Seafog.

Seafog songs quite often reference bands and reference talking about bands and in among the stream-of-consciousness word-storm poetry of “Dig” guitarist, vocalist, songwriter Robin Sharma sings “we talked about going to see The Dead C…” which is the kind of thing people talk about in Dunedin every so often.

I’ve said this before (and I’ll say it again) – “Dig It On Up” is an essential collection of sounds from beneath the NZ underground. Every Dunedin-origin-weirdo-music-loving home should have one of these 12″ EP/ Mini albums.  And while you examine this artifact, make sure you check out the earlier spidery Seafog album “Raise Your Skinny Fist”, and also the decade(s) earlier music of Sharma’s previous band Jetty.

What’s “Dig” all about? Well, if it’s about anything it’s about communication and confusion.  “Dig it on up, can you dig it all out, can you dig it?” Yes.