Archives for posts with tag: Seth Frightening

i e crazy 2017In a country where the Prime Minister said “our literary heroes may never challenge the glory and respect given to our All Blacks” our music heroes generally fare worse than our authors.

Claire Duncan, the person behind i.e. crazy, is a literary music hero I’ve respected for several years. I’ve been been waiting for – “Non Compos Mentis” for a while. Waiting in fear and trepidation mostly to be completely honest. And with good reason. Here’s “Closed Case” from the album.

“Closed Case” begins with a recording of the emergency call made by the surviving member of a Dunedin family murderded in 1994 about 500m away from where I’m writing this, looking out across Anderson’s Bay and the trees of Every Street below. It was the scene of “…events so bizarre and abnormal that it was impossible for the human mind to conceive of any logical or reasonable explanation” according the Judge in the original trial of that surviving family member charged with the murder of his two parents and three siblings.

The convicted murderer was later acquitted on a re-trial and freed after 14 years – the case found by a jury to not be proven beyond reasonable doubt (criminal law standard of proof). However a judicial review of his case for compensation for wrongful imprisonment found he was probably not innocent on the balance of probabilities (civil law standard of proof). It’s a case that still divides NZ, and also one that continues to cast a dark shadow, perhaps because of that dark and troubling “impossible for the human mind to conceive” aspect of the now unsolved and eternally unsolvable case; the only other suspect being one of the dead.

“Closed Case” does not seem to be specifically about that case, but a more abstract meditation on the kind of mind capable of conceiving of such an act. The song is brimming with dark Gothic unease, the sound of a scraping shovel adding a further nerve-jangling to the tense and chilly atmosphere. The arrangement shovels further layers of funeral melancholy upon the song, as woodwind and brass add their downbeat textures to the song.

The musical arrangements throughout “Non Compos Mentis” are another unconventional but very effective part of this album’s artistry. Utilising anti-pop collaborators Seth Frigthening and various members of Muzai Records label mates Girls Pissing on Girls Pissing, i. e. crazy finds the perfect off-kilter sea-sick uneasy-listening soundscape for these tales of everyday horror of the human condition.

While “Closed Case” is dark, it’s actually one of the more conventionally listenable songs on “Non Compos Mentis”.  Some of the album projects voices that are deliberately provocative… but the warning is in the i.e. crazy name and the album title (translating from the Latin as “of unsound mind”).  The words, as always, are powerful, rich with imagery, each song like an experimental short story in which reality and fiction are blurred, shifting things depending on the perspective of the narrator and their reliability. In other words, there’s a lot here to unpick, and that will take some time.

It’s a bit of an understatement to say this is a dark turn off the track that Claire Duncan’s previous musical vessel, the literate dream-pop Dear Time’s Waste, was taking. In turning off the track, she’s plunged down a steep bank into tangled undergrowth and a stream bed; the water putrid with dairy farming effluent, the ground littered with rusting discarded shopping trolleys and the odd dead body. Welcome to New Zealand everyone!

“Non Compos Mentis” is a difficult, challenging, sometimes confronting album. The history of music is full of difficult, challenging, confronting albums, the history on NZ music perhaps less so. Music, after all, is entertainment, something to sing – and drink – along to here, before and after another inspiring All Blacks rugby football match recharges our warped sense of national pride. Or shatters it when they lose.

The day before I listened to this album in full I played another difficult album, one I hadn’t played for years. Michael Mantler’s “Silence” is a Harold Pinter play set to music and featuring the voices of Robert Wyatt, Carla Bley and Kevin Coyne. You won’t be playing either record at your next party.  “Non Compos Mentis” and “Silence” share a lot in common – deeply unsettling and unconventional, dialogue between damaged minds, observations on everyday things through a different lens. Both present music as theatre, literature as lyrics, and music as the atmosphere to sustain the world created.

In a recent interview Claire described the new direction as a chance to agitate and pick at a scab. Disillusionment with the ‘industry’ and the over-riding value placed by NZ society on commercial potential of music and seeking solace in artistic expression instead is one aspect. Personal mental health challenges and the unhealthy state of NZ society at present for the young and poor is another.

I started this talking about heroes. Let’s not forget another musical hero – Muzai Records. Any label releasing All Seeing Hand, Girls Pissing on Girls Pissing and i.e. crazy is taking courage to a whole new level as a New Zealand record label (even if it is now based in Leeds, UK).

The LP of “Non Compos Mentis” can be ordered here. 

 

seth flag Day 12 of NZ Music Month continues the Sonorous Circle link from yesterday with the uneasy listening of Seth Frightening and “Don’t Send A Man” from the 2015 album “But We Love Our Brothers and Sisters”

As noted on PopLib a year ago Seth Frightening’s music is damaged ghoulish folk. Here the sparse sonic palette is busied with drums and bass as well as the trademark splatter of furtive, worrisome noises.

Seth Frightening plays a 91 Club presents show at the Crown Hotel in Dunedin this Friday 13th May along with another PopLib favourite i.e. crazy, who had this to say about her companion’s music:

“It’s a perfectly impossible marriage of folk and experimental; ranging from chaotic, crushing epics to jarringly sparse acoustic arrangements. I have little idea even now what makes this music as magical as it is.

Read the full article “My Top 5: i.e. crazy” on The Wireless.

 

WOMB

Day 11 of NZ Music Month is the lucid “Cosmic Dreaming” from the innermost cosmos of Womb.

Womb is part of a healthy Wellington underground folk scene. The scene loosely aggregated around low-key Wellington label Sonorous Circle is not your everyday, traditional folk. It’s odd-folk, weird-folk, Gothic-folk, cosmic-folk…

“Cosmic Dreaming” is a great starting point to explore the self title debut album by Womb (Charlotte Forrester).

There’s a hint of the elegiac melancholy of Sufjan Stephens’ early music about this song and the way it drifts gently upon melodic waves of spectral voices over sparse acoustic instrumentation.

ie crazy 2016 “An Incident on the Edge of Town” is a long-time live favourite from the repertoire of the artist transitioning via reverse-metamorphosis from the beautiful butterfly of Dear Times Waste into spiny, poisonous, crepuscular caterpillar i.e. crazy. Four months on from the stirring first single “You’re A Stranger To Me Now” comes another festering puss-filled abscess of extraordinary dark experimental songcraft, drawn out by cranky sonic poultice.

If that sounds a bit nasty it’s only because this song is like a fetid reminder of a Raymond Carver short story of everyday paranoia on the margins of society.  Lawn mowers and mannequins. The stuff of suburban nightmares…

“In the passenger seat, there’s a hanging head;
as though it’s attached to a taut and jerking thread.
There’s a shop en route that sells mannequins…
I will take one home
just to eat with it.”

As with everything in the long and interesting journey taken from there to here over several years by i.e. crazy maverick Claire Duncan/ Maggie Magee there’s a heart of very melodic pop to this. It’s there among a tangle of insect-like guitar clicking scratchy noises (Sean Kelly/ Seth Frightening once again) and clattering drums (GPOGP‘s Catherine Cumming) and bursts free with the buzzing earworm chorus.

It may be a House of Horrors but the door is open and the welcome mat is out. Come in and take tea with the mannequins and sit and listen to their voices in your head for a while.

 

“We captured every roaming shark in our own rotten net… and wore their teeth around our necks. You’re a stranger to me now.”

“You’re a Stranger (to me now)” is “the woozy rant of a jilted lover” from enigmatic Auckland musician i.e. crazy.

i.e. crazy (or maybe it is I.E. CRAZY?) is the new music form and name adopted by Claire Duncan, formerly of Dear Time’s Waste fame.

I say “new” although this name has existed since not long after the last Dear Time’s Waste album “Some kind of Eden” was released at the end of 2012. And I say “fame” although Dear Time’s Waste never achieved the kind of recognition befitting an artist with such extraordinary talents as a songwriter, wordsmith and musician.

However the i.e. crazy/ I.E. CRAZY name is still “new” in the sense that it has taken a while for this first formal release to appear.

Anyway, “You’re A Stranger (to me now)” delivers a rawer shock of sound than the often more manicured Gothic dream-pop soundscapes of Dear Time’s Waste, with the help of some accomplices (Seth Frightening alter-ego Sean Kelly and GPOGP drummer Catherine Cumming) well-qualified in the dark arts of music from the borderlands.

The words continue the writer’s skill for forensic examination of life experiences (whether her own or imagined others’ is unclear and unimportant) with a novelist’s eye for detail and a poet’s ear for phrasing. So everything you want from your experience of Dear Time’s Waste is still here, just rubbed raw by the stubborn refusal to conform.

The words of the song are self-explanatory in their own obtuse, coded way. “You’re a Stranger (to me now)” is a bruised/ bruising examination/ exhumation of post-relationship life, expressed and delivered in a way few others would attempt or have the imagination or courage to pull off.

If you need a prologue, an introduction, a pre-amble to orient your mind to the what and the why of all this then there’s a great letter-of-sorts about it all, and about the frustration borne by those with an impulse to create to communicate through un-valued art in NZ’s culture-shaming/ asset-whorshipping society on the artist’s Facebook page.

Illustration by Zach Webber

Illustration by Zach Webber

Day 28 of PopLib’s May Month of Madness Marathon for NZ Music Month comes from Wellington music-futurist Paperghost and the disturbing pop construction of “BADSPIRIT”

Paperghost – the world of Zach Webbers, with a few friends sampled – is another artist associated with ‘dream-folk’ label Sonorous Circle. “BADSPIRIT” is from a new album “Signal Fingers” released in April as a T-shirt-with-download.

However if Paperghost is dream-folk it is dream-folk from the future, in which the dreams are monitored, recorded, mixed and played back on some kind of glitchy telepathic bio-ether-net.

I’m assuming this is painstakingly crafted on a computer from a mix of live and sampled music, found sounds, treated vocals and goodness knows what else. The only apparent stylistic link to other Sonourous Circle artists is the vocals which, when discernible as human, are often eerily reminiscent of Seth Frightening at his most freakish.

Whatever and however it was made, “Signal Fingers” is a brilliant album. It presents a fractured yet cohesive futurist-pop alternate-reality with enough conventional melody and rhythm to hold it together as very listenable collection of extraordinary rich and detailed subversive pop music.

Though it doesn’t sound mch like anything else, I am reminded at times throughout the album of the complex post-rock of US ensemble Tortoise and also of NZ electronic/ industrial futurist art-rock pioneers Fetus Productions classic “Luminous Trails” album. If you like music to expand your mind take a trip into the future with Paperghost.

WOMB

Day 26 of PopLib’s May Month of Madness Music Marathon for NZ Music Month is “Airplane #1” from Wellington’s Womb.

Womb is the work of Charlotte Forrester and friends and it’s a Sonorous Circle release, mixed & mastered by Sean Kelly. His alter-ego is Seth Frightening and Womb bears some sonic similarities through the sparse mostly acoustic instrumentation and spectral vocals. “Dream-folk” is what Sonorous Circles call it, with concise accuracy.

“Airplane #1” is a wonderful introduction to this world. As well as the Seth Frightening reference point the song brings to mind NZ’s Tokey Tones and also at times The Raincoats ‘Odyshape’ album too. The occasional rhythmic hesitancy on “Airplane #1” just adds to the subtle other-worldly intrigue.

Seth Frightening

Day 5 of May Month Of Madness – celebrating(?) NZ Music Month with a daily journey into the underbelly of (mostly) unknown New Zealand music – is “Deliver” from enigmatic folk-ghoul Seth Frigthening.

Seth, or Sean Kelly as he is known in daylight, has plied his peculiar style of damaged folk for five years now and there’s an impressive back catalogue on the Seth Frightening Bandcamp page. The first album “The Prince And His Madness” is a wonderful starting point.

Progressive releases have become darker, less fanciful, but adding layers of creepy spectral depth and experimentation. Beautiful, strange & often disturbing; that’s Seth Frightening.