Archives for posts with tag: Port Chalmers
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Port Chalmers with seafog

Reminded of Seafog today because the meteorological phenomena caused by warm moist air passing over cool sea has been hanging around the coast near Dunedin all day and because of an afternoon trip to Port Chalmers, which is the home town of the trio called Seafog. Came home and played their very fine 12″ EP/ mini album released earlier this year on Zelle Records called “Dig It On Up” and this track “Division” stood out.

If you love Dunedin music, or NZ guitar rock you really (and I mean REALLY) need this EP/ mini album. It has that kind of Velvet Underground “I Can’t Stand It” propulsion, but filtered through The Clean’s motorik fuzzy strum.

Lyrically it is a typically delightful existential treat reflecting on friendship and memory, referencing back to NZ’s fascination with Joy Division in the early 1980s.

“Unknown Pleasure” album was #1 in NZ’s album charts in 1979 and “Closer” was #3 a year later. Single “Transmission” was #2 in the NZ singles chart in 1979 while “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and “Atmosphere”/ “She’s Lost Control” were both #1 singles in the NZ singles chart in 1980.

A street art memorial from 1981 dedicated to Ian Curtis has persisted in Wellington despite repeated attempts by the Council to paint it over.  Seafog would approve.

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Surfdog_seafog12Day 30 of our 31 Days of May New Zealand Music Month marathon comes from Port Chalmers (above), formerly home to Xpressway Records and still home to many Dunedin musicians. Here’s local musician Francisca Griffin with “Falling Light” –

If you are thinking “that sounds a bit like Look Blue Go Purple” then that may be because two of the three musicians playing on this track are former members of Look Blue Go Purple. Francisca Griffin was Kathy Bull back then, and she’s joined here by LBGP guitarist Kath Webster.

The third musician is drummer Gabriel Griffin – Francisca’s son. You’d normally hear him providing the scattershot rhythms behind the inimitable free-form experimental improv drum & woodwind ensemble Sewage.

“Falling Light” has the kind of freshness and instantly recognisable light and airy guitar tones of its place of origins. Psychedelic folk perhaps, Southern NZ style, and in some respects as reminiscent of David Kilgour’s solo music as it is of LBGP.

It’s a track from a forthcoming album set for release on CocoMuse Releases this year.

PeskDay 7 of the 31 Days of May New Zealand Music Month madness takes us to a dark echoing railway tunnel beneath Port Chalmers where Pesk are waiting for “When The Heavies Come”

I have no idea if Pesk recorded this in a railway tunnel under Port Chalmers at all. This is called ‘creative licence’. Or, ‘fakes news’ as it’s called now. In simpler times it was just called ‘making things up’.  Anyway, it’s a long way of saying this recording sounds huge and cavernous and also a bit ominous, like the rumble of an oncoming freight train. There’s a sludgy lumbering pulse to the riff which brings to mind some of those earliest Black Sabbath tunes like “Sweet Leaf” too which were all lower-mid frequencies and in no hurry at all.

This lovely fuzzy reverb drenched rumble is the work of the two humans making up Pesk. When they play live drummer Raff plays the synth with one hand and and electronic drumkit with the other three limbs. Guitarist and vocalist Amee provides the low frequency viscous guitar and the solemn vocal. It fills a room. It could so easily fill a railway tunnel too.

Seafog_2017Day 6 of the 31 Days of May New Zealand Music Month madness keeps things in Dunedin again (and why not?). Your Saturday blast comes from crusty Port Chalmers punks Seafog and their brilliantly odd and spiky tribute to legendary Dunedin venue “The Crown”.

The debut Seafog album “Raise Your Skinny Fist” had a kind of wiry treble guitar sound and spidery lo-fi charm. But this 6 track EP “Dig It On Up” is a more muscular beast, recapturing the primal essence of Sharma’s 90s band Jetty.  It’s available on 12″ vinyl from Zelle Records and it’s one of this year’s essential Dunedin releases.

“The Crown” is the perfect song about The Crown too. “Welcome to The Crown!” says actual Crown proprietor and local legend Jones Chin at the start. “Play some pool! Here’s some change for the jukebox!” 

Crown Hotel

The Crown is not my favourite venue in Dunedin, but it is the most distinctive of basic live music spaces, essentially a bit of floor at the far end of the public bar. There’s an interesting cross section of Dunedin society co-mingling. It’s best to go with a friend if you are of a nervous disposition or lead a sheltered life away from the fringes. It’s an odd space, wrong shape and size to be a really good venue, although a crowd of 20 feels half full and,when you play there, Jones will serve you a platter of savouries and pastries at the end of the night.

But here’s a surprise – The Crown boasts the best collection of Flying Nun Records era gig posters on display anywhere in the world and the jukebox has local CDs rubbing digital shoulders with classic albums from around the world. If you can’t get to The Crown, just listen to “The Crown”.

JPSE Poster

JPS Experience poster on display at The Crown

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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.

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Taking a somewhat opposite but apposite direction to the futuristic re-mix by Horse Doctor of Death And The Maiden, here’s a brand new song called “Sprain” from Death And The Maiden and Bad Sav shredder Hope Robertson under the guise of her other alter-ego as “bird racer” at Birdation.

Birdation is Hope’s solo lof-fi experimental noise ensemble of one. I say ensemble even though it’s only one person because there’s usually a pile of equipment – ancient and modern – on stage with Hope when Birdation plays live. Not all of it is always under control which adds to the tension and uniqueness of each Birdation performance.

In place of the futuristic glitchy Acid Pro looped-up madness of Horse Doctor, Birdation uses a more old-fashioned recording tool to distort, muddy and saturate the sound into disorienting textures – a 4 track ‘Portastudio’ type cassette recorder.

Birdation songs always come with an adventurous sense of downbeat euphoria and agreeable melodicism.

Louder vocals would be great but the submerged nature the vocals – sounding like they’ve been phoned in from space and recorded in a galvanised metal bucket – is all part of the subterfuge. Deliberately or not, it has the effect of forcing you right IN to the song as you try to work it all out.

There’s some very nice post-rock delay guitar work buried within the tape-sludge and a magnificently apocalyptic ending rounds it all off perfectly too.

Kolya snow

The road from the City of Dunedin to Port Chalmers follows the western shore of Otago Harbour. “City to Port” is a 20 minute car trip or a 4 minute 44 second head-trip while you listen to this:

Kolya is the work of Dunedin musician Nikolai Sim, one-time bassist for Scattered Brains of The Lovely Union, and now bassist for Gothronica trio Elan Vital. He describes the ambient-techno soundtrack of “City To Port” as an “old demo” while he works on new sounds, but it’s new to me and the rest of the world beyond Kolya.

The one-take live-mixed video with the song is from Lady Lazer Light (Erica Sklenars -creator of the fabulous 2 x one-take video for Death And The Maiden’s “Dear ___ “)