Archives for posts with tag: vinyl

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. 

 

Ben ChasnyThere’s a new Six Organs of Admittance album out called “Burning the Threshold” and “The Adoration Song” is a fine example of what the album contains.

The album has very little of the soaring electric guitar explorations found on earlier Six Organs of Admittance albums. Rest assured there is plenty of the kind of detailed, intricate, ornate, interwoven guitar pattern-work as we’ve come to expect from Ben Chasny, the modern-day master of hexadic psychedelic guitar music, just delivered almost exclusively on acoustic guitars this time.

As a result the album’s intimate psychedelia and gentle song-craft is accessible and the pastoral, meditational atmosphere achieves a kind of cosmic music for the mind and body. Even when the heavy guitars are brought out for the sole heavy-psych piece “Threshold of Light” the hypnotic groove is build upon acoustic guitars. It’s an album well worth seeking out.

Drahla_Jan2017“Is it real? Is it real?” asks Luciel Brown throughout this potent follow up to the thrilling debut “Fictional Decision” by Leeds-based trio Drahla – PopLib’s essential song of 2016.

The song is due for release in April on the Too Pure label’s singles club. Coruscating bass sets a platform for a typically cool and mysterious sing-speak stream-of-consciousness artful wordiness.

The song builds through dense layers of sonic energy as guitars buzz and menace before pulling back, introducing saxophone – some of the best wild skronking saxophone since The Stooges “1970” from their “Funhouse” album in fact – and then re-calibrating the volume for climactic ending.

It all adds up to a powerful statement and the fulfilling experience of a song merging elements of post-punk with art pop and noise rock and leaving some mystery and intrigue in its trail of beautifully dissonant noise.

The only band I can think of who may have been within striking distance of what Drahla are doing right now was Sonic Youth at the absolute apex of their dark abrasive melodic cool, around the time of their 1987 album “Sister”.

too-tone-tony-awaits-you-2I’ve spent a lot of my life in record stores. I’ve even planned overseas trips around record stores to be visited. Although still in the prime of life I’ve seen the heyday of record stores and now the twilight of record stores (as well as the rise and decline of progressive civilisation it seems).

Yes, despite the much-discussed ‘vinyl revival’ and best year for new record sales since 1991, the small independent stores that kept the format alive throughout the dark years as well as the good years continue to drop away.

Sadly Dunedin’s iconic record store Too Tone Records, out in North East Valley, closes on Sunday 15 January 2017.

Too Tone Records started out in the back of Chick’s Hotel about 2008 or 09. It was a much better idea in theory than it was in practice. I enjoyed the regular pilgrimage out to Chick’s in Port Chalmers, and browsing the record bins while waiting for a show to start. But it wasn’t really a happening place for a record store, despite everything else going for the location.

By the end of 2010 Too Tone Records had moved to North Road in Dunedin’s North East Valley; the city’s artist quarter, if Dunedin had such a thing. More musicians past, present and future than any other Dunedin neighbourhood at least.

Dunedin’s record stores have played an important part in the music scene here. From the mid 1970s to the 1990s it was Roy Colbert’s Records Records in Upper Stuart Street. The main indpendent record store during the 1980s and 1990s was Echo Records on George Street. It was bought out by Auckland-based chain Real Groovy Records, moved into a huge warehouse next to The Police Station and then closed, several years ago now.

In recent years Portil had a short but useful run in the centre city before Relics started nearby. Relics continues to trade – new and used vinyl as well as CDs – and long may it run.

Too Tone Records is/ was a special place. It’s rare in the world of used record stores to have such a meticulously ordered and aesthetically pleasing space. The wall displays – including seasonal themes – were ordered and displayed with an art curator’s eye for colour and order. That care extended to the carefully washing of all used records and their re-bagging in new anti-static sleeves.

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The New Zealand music selection is/ was legendary. Sure some locals grizzled about the prices, but not the visitors who knew a good deal when they saw it. The reason for such a strong local music selection in Too Tone Records is that Tony refused to do what every other record store in the country did which was putting all their rare local stuff on E-Bay and Discogs for overseas collectors to obtain. Tony had no problem with overseas buyers, he just preferred to see them visit Dunedin and his store in person.

Apart from the records, a visit to Too Tone was a chance to view great original art. Tony is a renowned comic artist/ illustrator, and a recent focus of his artistic skill was the ‘re-purposing’ of paint-by-numbers paintings, acquired mostly at the rubbish tip recycling shop, into giant green octopus-themed works of art.

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A Tony octopus-themed paint-by-numbers modified artwork.

Despite Too Tone Records’ proprietor Tony Renouf’s carefully crafted image as an idiosyncratic curmudgeon, he has always been a very welcoming and genial curmudgeon, as long as you didn’t come into his shop drunk or indulge in other anti-social or record-store-inappropriate behaviour.

A visit to Too Tone was also a chance to discuss the weighty topics of the day, or just to grizzle generally about the things that annoyed us most at the time. Tony was a good listener. He’d say that’s because he’s partially deaf from years as a dub reggae DJ, and is therefore used to just looking at people and nodding thoughtfully when they speak to him.

Visiting Too Tone Records you’d find all the local LP releases available and also have a good chance of bumping into a famous Dunedin musician or two, or even a former England cricket international, or a touring US rock band.

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Tony shows members of Real Estate the Clean EP pop-up art while they purchase Sneaky Feelings’ “Send You” LP and The Orange “Fruit Salad Lives” EP in 2012.

Anyway, Tony has decided to get out ‘at the top of his game’. Can’t disagree with that. You can still follow Tony’s art exploits via his blog.

Thanks for the vinyl, the art, the conversations, the patient listening, the salesmanship and the whole Too Tone Experience.

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the-clean_getaway“Sometimes I’m all on my own” sings David Kilgour in “Stars”, the first song on The Clean’s 2001 album, the punningly titled “Getaway”, soon to be re-issued on vinyl for the first time by US label Merge Records on 2 December 2012.

After that sublime 1980s run of EPs and 7″ singles The Clean released their first – and best – album in 1990. “Vehicle” was from that era when vinyl was still king, and although subsequent albums “Modern Rock” (1994) and “Unknown Country” (1996) also had a limited release in LP format these were (and still are) hard to find in NZ. “Getaway” – originally released in 2001 – was exclusively a CD release.

It took The Clean another 8 years to follow up “Getaway” with the even-better “Mister Pop” which had some of their strongest songs since “Vehicle”. Whether or not “Mister Pop” will be their final chapter is anyone’s guess. In the meantime, there’s still “Getaway” to explore all over again.

“Getaway” comes with a bonus of live recordings from two rare NZ-only releases “Slush Fund” (Arclife, 2001) and “Syd’s Pink Wiring System” (Cleano, 2003).

Part of the enduring appeal of The Clean as a live band has been their singular ability to re-interpret their back catalogue in their live shows, bringing an improv jazz mindset and approach to exploring their psychedelic garage rock, making each song performance a unique event. The full track-listing of Merge Records’ “Getaway” re-issue can be viewed here.

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These are the two original CD only tour merch live albums from 2000/2001 which are included with the “Getaway” re-issue as digital and CD bonus tracks. The bonus CDs are also included with the double vinyl version.

Jay Som 2016“Turn Into” is the title track of the Jay Som album originally called “Untitled” when it was released last December when PopLib previewed the first track.

A lot has happened in the short time since “Untitled” was released.  When the album was recorded it was just Melina Duterte playing and recording at her home in San Francisco. Now Jay Som is a band. There’s a single out on the Fat Possum Label and the band recently toured supporting Mitski. That “Untitled” album has proved so popular it is getting an LP release in November, and a proper title – “Turn Into”.

As with everything I’ve heard from Jay Som, there’s an accomplished combination of some unusual elements in this song. It evokes a little bit of “Rumours” era Fleetwood Mac (the feel) and also “Ignite the Seven Cannons” era Felt (the guitar sound).

That uncanny ability to weave subtle nostalgic elements from different styles of music within honest-sounding contemporary melodic alternative pop is what makes “Turn Into” (the song and the album) so easy to enjoy.

 

Terrible Truths Uptight video stillAfter a month of NZ music it’s time to venture across the Tasman Sea to Australia where Terrible Truths are “Uptight”.

Terrible Truths are a favourite from the well-stocked cupboard of brilliant leftfield Australian music known as Bedroom Suck Records.

Their self-titled debut album is an absolute blinder of fidgety and melodic post-punk built entirely around the interplay between lead guitar, bass and drums, plus call-and-response vocals.

There’s something gloriously wild and ebullient about it all. These qualities are illustrated perfectly on “Uptight” which now has a video for added excellence.

Terrible Truths’ debut has just been repressed in a special 2nd pressing limited edition on gold vinyl with a limited edition bonus 7″ EP. Go on… you know you want to.