Archives for posts with tag: Wellington

Womb 2020

First up for day one of PopLib’s 31 Days of May madness for NZ Music Month is WOMB with a new (April lockdown) release “Used to Be”:

WOMB is siblings Charlotte Forrester and Haz Forrester, along with Georgette Brown. The trio is based in Wellington and “Used To Be” precedes their second album “Under the Lights”. The song continues on from the beautiful mix of unusual folk, psychedelia, and dream-pop explored on the first album.

To support artists impacted by the COVID19 pandemic, on May 1, June 5, and July 3 (the first Friday of each month), Bandcamp is waiving their revenue share for all sales on Bandcamp, from midnight to midnight PDT (Pacific Daylight Time) on each day. New Zealand Standard Time is 19 hours behind New Zealand Standard Time (NZST) so here in NZ it is is 7pm Friday 1 May to 7pm Saturday 2 May.

We all “Used to Be” once, and hopefully soon we will resume, and continue to be, in some kind of post-pandemic ‘new normal’ involving small venue live music, which the music video for the song begins with…

NZMM 2020

Secret KnivesSecret Knives is the recording project of NZ multi-instrumentalist Ash Smith. The first Secret Knives album “Affection” came out in 2010, so this second album “Snuff” – released today – is either well overdue or early for the future. Here’s “Excess” which, paradoxically, is the only song on the album to feature little in the way of (sonic) excess.

“Excess” is described as a ‘homage to the 90’s’ and it ticks all the shoegaze and guitar-pop boxes you would associate with a song balancing Slowdive’s kind of dreamy guitar-based ambience with the more polished pop-craft of The Sundays. It’s also the most direct and ‘normal’ song on the album, so as good a place as any to enter the Secret Knives world.

Overall “Snuff” has so much going on it’s hard to sum up its appeal easily. However, if you like the kind of breath-taking melodic pop of the likes of Avi Buffalo and Granddaddy you will love Secret Knives.

The songs on “Snuff” are as carefully constructed and lovingly crafted as a Field Music album too. But, in place of the Brewis brothers’ antiseptic gleam and mathematical precision, Smith offers an adventurous and hyper-active vision of futuristic sonic exploration and a lot more human soul.

The human soul keeping the songs tethered to reality among the abstract noise comes courtesy of vulnerable lyrics and especially Ash Smith’s wistful vocals. They often provide an eery Antipodean approximation of the distinctive soulful reedy quaver of Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside, which is the perfect kind of voice for this kind of adventurous pop.

The gleaming 3D production accompanies crystalline picked guitars with crisp drums and a range of innovative manipulated sounds which add a kind of neo-psychedelic halo to the music – particularly on the extraordinary title track.

Snuff is available worldwide digitally October 22 via A Low Hum and as a limited edition cassette in collaboration with Prison Tapes. All cassettes, and digital orders above $8NZD, come with a download code for an exclusive digital-only companion EP, Smith’s “Blue Period”, collating exploratory ambient instrumentals written alongside “Snuff”.




Earth to ZenaWellington psychedelic shoegaze band Earth To Zena return with an intriguing preview of a new release called “Transmutations” which they say is companion release to their 2018 album (or long EP) “Transmundane”. This new release promises to shift the axis of their debut by revisiting three of the songs in stripped down versions along with three new improvised instrumentals. Here’s their transmutation of “I’ll Never Know”:

The low-key atmospheric wash of “I’ll Never Know” takes them into similar territory to Slowdive’s epic (although misunderstood/ under-appreciated at the time) low-key ambient/ experimental shoegaze 1995 masterpiece “Pygmalion”.

The transmutation of “I’ll Never Know” highlights Renee Cotton’s vocals and also the songwriting and musical skills of the band. The recordings grew out of finding stripped down ways to perform the songs in more intimate settings than suited the full throttle roar of their normal performance: “we aimed to replace shimmering distortion with ethereal ambience, complexity with simplicity, density with space.”

The other pre-order track, the dreamy soundscape “Found”, is also a sublime atmospheric trip into a new world courtesy of what sounds like an elevator trip into the ambient afterlife and beyond.

“Transmundane” has been a regular feature on the car stereo and home stereo since its release and, on the strength of these two  pre-order tracks, the ethereal ambience of “Transmutations” promises to be a regular companion as well.

Terror of the Deep.jpgWellington band Terror of the Deep released their third album – “The A-Team” – at the start of May. It’s another impressive collection of understated gems, laced with a healthy dose of subtle garage-pop psychedelia. Here’s the glorious “Glisten in the Wind” for your listening pleasure:

“Glisten in the Wind” is written and sung by drummer William Daymond, and it is a two and half minutes wandering in the garden of earthly delights. Acoustic guitars and keyboard combine with bass and drums to deliver a simple yet beautiful and brief sonic adventure concluding with a star-burst guitar solo.

The album mixes garage-pop with the relaxed slightly country-esque flavours of late 1960s US West Coast rock, adding a hint of The Feelies, the odd bit of synth-pop (!) to inhabit a similar musical zone to the adventurous low-key guitar-pop craft of Australians The Ocean Party.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s a song from another of PopLib’s favourite albums of 2018 you probably haven’t heard of. “Sinking Ship” is from Emily Fairlight‘s self-released album “Mother of Gloom”, a slow-burning masterpiece of dark and damaged alternative folk music which has a heart of emotionally-charged pop.

Some would label the music on “Mother of Gloom” as “Americana”. I’ve never been sure what that word actually means. Or how it can be applied to the music of a singer-songwriter originating from the fertile Christchurch/ Lyttelton scene that produced the likes of Marlon Williams and Aldous Harding and helped develop Port Chalmers musician Nadia Reid. Emily Fairlight has also been based in Wellington before a recent shift south to Dunedin.

Sure there’s a hint of country in Fairlight’s music; a slow-strummed acoustic guitar tends to do that. And, although Fairlight is from the South Island of New Zealand, the album was recorded by Doug Walseth of The Cat’s Eye Studio in Austin, Texas, with Okkervil River drummer Cully Symington and multi-instrumentalist Kullen Fuchs (trumpet, accordion, omnichord, vibraphone) adding further exotic instruments to the atmospheric song arrangements. So there is legitimately something of Texas in the mix as well as the unstable geography of New Zealand’s South Island.

However, it is Fairlight’s striking, resonant voice which is the key to breathing these songs into life. It’s a wonderfully distinctive instrument in its own right, full of a dark magic – including a hair-raising vibrato – and carrying the weight of a world of heartbreak and torment.

To compare Fairlight’s voice to the likes of Emmylou Harris, Angel Olsen and Natalie Merchant – which is the kind of company it belongs among – runs the risk of denying its own unique powerful character.

In the end the only place that matters for “Mother of Gloom” is the space – metaphorically-speaking – between the head and the heart. Don’t be put off by the most likely tongue-in-cheek album title – “Mother of Gloom” is a rich and ultimately uplifting album of songs of perseverance and survival.

Emily fairlight Mirrow image

paperghostA new 4 song EP from paperghost has appeared out of the aether. It has the wonderful title “A Million Dead Dust Motes Hum To Life”. Here’s the opening track, “A Map of Things”

It has been three and a half years since the last Paperghost release. If this is a kind of electronic dream-folk, it is from a future in which dreams are monitored, recorded, mixed and played via some kind of glitchy synth-connected bio-ether-net, controlled by telepathic sentient insect networks.

Paperghost’s fractured yet cohesive futurist sound is a strange alternate-reality with enough conventional melody and rhythm to hold it together and work as rich and detailed subversive pop music. There is much here to explore…

Earth to ZenaEarth to Zena are a 4-piece band from Wellington describing themselves – very accurately – as ‘psychedelic shoegaze’. Here’s the remarkable “Celestial Skins” from their debut album, “Transmundane”:

“Celestial Skins” here represents the best of all the bands’ elements combined together. There’s muscular crushing space rock noise (Hawkwind, circa “Space Ritual”, with Lemmy on bass!) to open and close the song, and, in-between, passages of diaphanous dream-pop/ shoegaze wonder, plus a kind of free-flowing psychedelic rock reminiscent of Jefferson Airplane. The outro combines everything – plus added synth – in a celestial celebration of distorted glorious saturated noise.

Lead vocalist Renee Cotton also plays synthesizer, adding extra textures and melodies to the futuristic (and Hawkwind-esque space rock) elements of the sound, with Barton McGuire on guitar, Alex Sipahioglu on bass and Nic Allan on drums.

“Transmundane” is a great collection of strong songs, rendered with confidence and style, and also quite often with the amps and effects turned up past the point of no return. Give it a whirl for yourself!

Tidal Rave FOMOWellington band Tidal Rave are back with a great new single “FOMO”:

Their EP last year had a churning claustrophobic feel, reminiscent of the dark garage rock of 1980s Christchurch band The Terminals.

“FOMO” is lighter – there’s more space around the three guitars to let the song breath – and the combination of keyboard with those three guitarists brings to mind the wry chamber pop of another 1980s/ 90s Flying Nun band The Able Tasmans, or perhaps even the Sarah Records pop of bands like Even As We Speak.

It has a distinctive Australasian feel to it. Maybe it’s the way we strum guitars down here, but it’s also in that distinctively Antipodean conversational vocal delivery and storytelling from Emmie Ellis, who takes the lead vocal here, and says of the the song “An ode for the excitable drunk who never wants to go home. Maybe based on real-life events.”   

Carb on Carb 2018Day 18 of PopLib’s 31 Days of may marathon for New Zealand music month is the epic closing track of the brand new album by Wellington “emo pop-punk” duo Carb on Carb – “Mitimiti”.

“Mitimiti” is a song about NZ, homecoming, travelling, the places you find that re-connect you to life, to friends and family, to the country, to the world. Mitimiti, the place, is a tiny settlement on the wild West Coast of Northland just below the start of 90 Mile Beach, a long drive along winding gravel roads. If there’s a theme to the album “For Ages” its about travel and home-coming and the people and life in between.

Carb on Carb’s take on “emo pop-punk” is not what you may associate with the genre if your only exposure was the hyper-produced blast of US bands. The guitar/ drums duo of Nicole Gaffney and James Stuteley means there’s plenty of space and dynamics in Carb on Carb’s sound. This is just great honest melodic guitar-pop for real lives by real people.  “For Ages” is released on LP and CD on their own label Papaiti Records.

full moon fiasco photo by Laura Cherry

Full Moon Fiasco [photo by Laura Cherry]

Day 14 of PopLib’s 31 Days of May for New Zealand Music Month comes from Wellington psychedelic group Full Moon Fiasco and “Summer Eyes”.

“Summer Eyes” is the title track of an excellent album released late last year on Fantasy Fiction. Full Moon Fiasco is another Will Rattray band, and listening to this track, and the other songs there’s a clear link to the music of his other band, Thought Creature.

While Thought Creature mix their psychedelic approach with a bit of dance music and even glam rock, Full Moon Fiasco are more of a ‘traditional’ style of psychedelia. There’s a bit of the spirit of Pink Floyd’s “Piper at the Gates of Dawn” to the sound at times, but mostly it has more of a grainy “Pebbles”/ “Nuggets” era style of garage rock psychedelia. It’s an album well worth the time tracking down an LP copy if you are that way inclined.