Folks in Aotearoa are happy to trip to the past via 2LP NZ punk, funk or garage rock comps, and boundlessly bang on about our Flying Nun or Free Noise scenes -- but good-time synth-pop is easily our most unloved genre. Which is a shame, because although it was never a very big or very strong scene in eighties Enzed, we put out some pretty solid tracks.
Volume Two of this series collects a complex, chirpy swathe of minimal wave, electrogoth, Peter Gabriel-/Kate Bush-inspired sophisticated pop, R&B and B-Boy music, a melodramatic Bowie clone, and sweet throwaway love-pop -- all awash in the timeful silicon sounds of Rolands, Korgs, Moogs and Yamahas.
Digging back into the fertile fields of the 1980s Christchurch underground. Many of these songs were comped on the Krypton Ten 2xLP, but now you can listen to them in all of their 35-year-old, 'tape-saturated', hissy and disintegrating glory! Read all about Onset/Offset in Andrew Schmidt's article here. 20 Krypton Hits Volume One (1983)
New Zealand Composer Edition: New Music For Violin and Piano, by Jonathan Besser & Chris Prosser.
Both artists have been involved with electronic music, though I've only heard Besser in Free Radicals. But this part of their practice is evident in the record's opening suite.
Extended techniques expand the timbres in the Three Impressions of 'Dark Wind': in Part One, reverberating wooden raps and clouts on bodies of piano and violin, strummed piano wires and whispery un-rosined bowing wheeze huff and heave like the sea; Part Two's tinkling keys ground the flutter and swoop of birdcalls/-flaps/-hoppings chivvied from the fiddle; whilst Part Three feels electronically augmented, with low piano strings struck odd-chiming like ring-modulation, and paper slipped 'twixt the violin strings sizzles and snaps 'midst buzzy sawtooth scything. Unambiguously bewitching.
Continuing our Christchurch cassette excavations: home-taped, killer music from the bountiful Bob Cardy (Axemen, Shaft, etc.).
Traditional EnZed bedroom studio stuff in the orthodoxy of Chris Knox or Kraus, Alastair Galbraith or Darcy Clay or Stefan Neville -- like The Residents recording The Basement Tapes or Jonathan Richman's Thinking Fellers tribute act solo-recorded on the dole, all dolloped in Strapping Fieldhands' sloshed slapdashery.
81 songs on six tapes over two short years! Cheesy preset synths and sound effects, home organ, drum machine and double-tracked vocals, guitar and bass and banjo. Riffs for Africa, Velvet earworms, effortless songcraft out the metaphorical wazoo, plus jokes 'n' puns & drones 'n' gems a-poppin'.
Download and overdose on this underlooked ol' wunderkind! Unreservedly recommended.
Debut album from late-80s Auckland minimalist avant-garde art schoolers Drone. Not what I expected when I discovered them around the turn of the century, my post-Free Noise sensibilities presuming heavy electric drunge.
This is not that: instead it's sombre and sober, astringent acoustic strings with vocal harmonies and scant samples, detuned chimings and chants braided into unison rhythms. Rich and thick (like good American ketchup or bad American presidents), sensitive and affecting, very smart yet from the gut. The marching piano on second track 'Carcass' bounces like an obscurely perky This Kind of Punishment, while 'Music for Guitar + Piano' could be a Terry Riley-led Abel Tasmans painting a McCahon. Other tracks call to mind a synth-less Marie and the Atom, stripped down or vigorous as in knotty ‘pop’ tracks like ‘Lofty’ by Out of the Compost, or ‘Black Thoughts’ or ‘Ethiopian Dream’ by Thin Red Line.
Get the whole story at AudioCulture, and pick up their first 7-inch here.
Brent Hayward -- a stabler Syd Barrett, a glib Pip Proud, a scatter-brained Bill Direen, a slipshod Crispin Glover -- the hands and mind behind Shoes This High, Smelly Feet, The Kiwi Animal, Fats White (and so on). Earnest weirdness and unsmiling silliness which swings from intimate revelation to dispassionate observation track by track. Andrew Schmidt's got a full write-up on Brent Hayward's post-Shoes This High story on AudioCulture.
The ideal initiation into the Smelly Feet scheme, from the seasick and slinky 'North Of Anywhere' to the sweet ennui of 'A Song For The World', then on to the miniature municipal metaphor 'Vegetable Market' before merrily surrendering to the apocalypse with 'E.O.T.W.I.T.'.
A scan of the complete fold-out 7-inch sleeve is included. A wee bit of distortion on this rip.
The punkest of the three releases presented here -- 'OHMS' is shouty and strident, repetitive like Kiwi Animal's 'Woman And Man Have Balance', intercut with lyrical nihilist declaimings. Then there's the grotty-vibed 'My Festured Toe' [sic], and the chastising 'Comparisons'. Detuned, clatter-stringed guitar.
Snippets, quite a few complete songs, and euphonious streams-of-consciousness -- 22 total tracks recorded at home and gigs, on four-track and portable tape recorders. The good stuff here is like first-take Kiwi Animal, Hayward's (admittedly idiosyncratic) songcraft and playing both edging toward that Brent and Julie apogee. Not at all a 'for the real fans only!!!!' Dead Letter Office, rather a rare find -- like a faded denim jacket in your size at the op shop which is both impeccably zirconia-bedazzled and prog-metal patched.
The first three pieces on the a-side are furiously lofi -- like, no-fi -- and I worried that the tape was degraded, but by ‘Kenny’ they are much clearer, so hang in there. It's promptly obvious from the varying track quality that the indiscriminate fidelity is intentional. I've stereo compensated as it was heavily left-leaning, and boosted the volume of the ultra-lofi bits.
More obscure Chch! Nux Vomica were an early project of Lawrence Kennett and Lisa Preston, later of The Portage. Kennett's first band, The Droogs, released one single around 1981 on cassette, 'Fuck Your Brain', which was re-pressed on vinyl in 2005 (under the name The Pitts). Kennett stepped back from music for a bit but has recently begun playing again with other Garden City refugees now resident in Dunedin: Bob Cardy and Mick Elborado. Preston continues to perform, with bands such as Snort and Loliners. Bassist Phillip Hubbard disappeared from the scene in the early 90s, and drummer Chris Small died last year.
Nux Vomica - My Life To Live/T.V. Producer (1985)
This 7-inch is quite crackly but so what -- it's p*nk as f*ck. 'My Life To Live' sounds like one take, live in the studio, with some telephone-mic vocal overdubs -- slurred'n'shouty, organ'n'bass, grotty staccato garage. 'TV Producer' might be brutally tape-spliced from several takes, with different EQs and mic placements, giving the whole thing a nicotine-stained short-of-breath live-reptile-show caveman-minimalism drive.
Recorded and co-produced by The Axemen's Steve McCabe.
Recorded at the Gladstone, in Motueka and Takaka, and in rehearsal.
Heaps more guitar on this (if there was any on the single, it was totally inaudible) -- smoky, speed-thrilling, raw cuts from the Gladstone: 'Adoption', 'My Life To Live', and the Very Metal 'Gnome'.
Two songs from this -- 'Sin' and 'Swamp Dream' -- were re-recorded with The Portage on the Thirteen; Thirteen twelve-inch. 'Sin' and seven-inch A-side 'TV Producer' get roisterous in Takaka with Alan Wright on sax skronkings. The 'Swamp Dream' live rehearsal is murky-as motorik, like Sister Ray gets stripped-down and sweaty. Acoustic duet 'Good Things' could be a Kiwi Animal outtake. A couple tracks are just simple snippets of the best parts: 'Keeps on Coming' --which feels snotty and primitive like The Stones [NZ] -- starts suddenly, cuts abruptly.
Their originals are the best bits, but the tape finishes with a couple of covers of Lou Reed and The [Rolling] Stones.
[Note: There is a noisy tape glitch toward the end of the heavy, heavy, psych-groove 'Iron Pineapple'. I've done my best to splice the sound together. Not sure if the original tape was recorded that way (à la The Puddle's live records) or due to deterioration from earthquake liquefaction residue.]
Rough as guts, fucked up and sweet, familiar and a bit of strange. Highly recommended.
These links are for the enjoyment and preservation of discontinued music. Whenever possible, links will be added to buy hard copies. If I discover that these works are available legitimately in any format, I will remove the links. These works are all long out of print, and hopefully the continued trading of these inferior digital formats will encourage their re-pressing, rather than suppressing.
If you like these artists, support them! It was hard for many of them to make a living long before their albums were available for free downloads. Find out what they are doing now, buy what they have available, and go see their shows. Tell your friends about them too.
Artists, labels and copyright owners, please contact me to have any of these removed. My main interest in posting these albums is digging up forgotten gems and promoting them. I hope that by sharing, enough interest will be aroused that official releases will be forthcoming. And re-issue labels, please press lovely new 180gm vinyl versions, with heavy cardboard sleeves, for all of them.
Looking for rare, out of print New Zealand-ish psych, electroacoustic, garage, rock/pop, experimental, electronic, avant-garde...
Contributions welcome -- out of print only! -- as are comments.