Minisnap, Pine [17/12/06]


minisnap and pine, 100 year anniversary of longfellow street [17/12/06]
see more photos from this show at flickr
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Minisnap – In My Pocket EP

Self-Released, 2002

Self-releasing seems to be the way to go in New Zealand at the moment.

Minisnap have finally put out their long awaited ‘In My Pocket’ EP, the title track of which has been garnishing RDU playtime for quite a while now. It’s a nice production, 4 original sparkling pop gems (which includes a hidden bonus track) and the obligatory dance remix, produced by fellow Christchurch native Jolyn Mulholland (aka Gasoline Cowboy).

Featuring Kaye Woodward’s distinctively upbeat vocals and guitar and the fine rhythm backing of Paul ‘Superbass’ Kean and Malcolm Grant on the drums. Expect thick grooves, off-kilt rhythms and some lovely flowing guitar, just in time for summer.

 

Mike Hex [January 2004]

What does Arclife do for the Dunedin community, and specifically, what’s your role in the trust?

I’m not a member of the trust; there was a trust set up in the early days of the Arc Cafe, but now they are two different entities. This change happened last year so Arclife Records is now being run by myself, Thom Bell and Stephen Kilroy.

What’s Arclife up to at the moment? Major changes a-foot?

Apart from having a new company to run the label we received a $10,000 recording grant last year from Creative NZ to record three bands: Heka, Hiss Explosion and Kahu.

Have you been working with any up-and-coming artists or bands we should keep an eye out for?

We have a compilation [from] last year we hope to release soon. Heka are about to finally release their debut CD. Bob Scott (The Clean / The Bats) has a lost Dunedin folk songs CD coming out in march. I’m a big fan of the Undercurrents and hope to do something with them soon. There’s enough to keep us very busy for the next year, that’s for sure.

And Hiss Explosion? Any new recordings in the midst?

Thom Bell has bought this kick arse desk from Vancouver/Canada and we hope to marry that up to the 2″ 24 track tape machine we have down here and get busy in february.

How do the Hiss Explosion recordings differ from your solo outings? How does Peter fit in to the creative process?

Well, solo stuff is done by me at home on my old four-track dirt-tracker so it’s raw and ready and Hiss Explosion has been experimenting with bigger tape machines, so obviously the quality of recording comes down to tape width. I’ll always record and track in analogue tape. Can’t stand that pro-tools sound – too crisp and clean for me. Solo i’ll experiment more with sounds and objects etc.

The Hiss Explosion play Creation on February 6th 2004 as part of the Waitangi Day Special along with International Telepaths (also from Dunedin), Into The Void, Substandard and Idols Of Eve.

Michael J. Brassell: A Memorial [Mar 2004]

Michael John Brassell was a revered and cherished man. As a central figure in both the Christchurch and Dunedin underground rock scenes, Mike (known to many by his stage pseudonym, Mike Hex aka Mike/Whitey Hiss) developed a distinct creative style unhinged from his commercial surroundings. Mike championed the DIY spirit, performing, recording, producing and releasing an abundance of beloved recordings with little regard for mainstream success, but full of such beauty, it would be hard pressed for any true music fan to find merit. Highly prolific, Mike bounced around a handful of bands in the 90’s and 00’s – making his name with a noisy Christchurch-based troupe of madmen called Squirm.

Formed with Brett Lupton and a drummer known as ‘Hat’ in 1992, Squirm thrashed around Christchurch for some 18 months, releasing the ‘Feeding the ground’ full-length in tiny numbers before disbanding – only to regroup late in 1993 with Darryl Kirk on drums. This line-up would produce Squirms defining releases ‘whip me honey’ and the ‘mister mistake maker’ EP on Rob Mayes’ vaunted local indie Failsafe Records, but the Squirm boys wanted to push on for bigger things. Though the EP, recording under former Jean-Paul Sartre Experience and later Stereobus front man Dave Yetton, had interest from the in-a-state-of-progress Flying Nun label – they ultimately failed to find their mark.

The late 90’s brought about a change in line-up, with Peter Mitchell (formerly of New Zealands’ great underground sun-stained country legends The Renderers) now on drums, with former Pumpkinhead bassist Vaughan Watson solidifying the line-up for their last couple of years.

With aspirations to cross over to an american audience, Squirm took the unusual step of going it on their own, Mike forming his own recording label (Noseflute Recordings) and rechristening his Christchurch flat recording space as ‘Hex Central‘ – now a well-known spot for local muso’s. Though the DIY approach never saw them reach their goal of hitting it big overseas (and Squirm actually dissolved with the release of Mike’s first solo release), it did cultivate interest in the Hex philosophy to recording.

Mike’s low-fidelity, hiss+ recording style (all future Hex recordings would be free from the threat of any kind of crystal-clear and septic digital clarity) seemed custom made for his quirky and explorative approach to guitar playing and vocalising. Suddenly other bands were joining in on the act – Mike playing particular attention to The Centre Will Hold, a melodic local outfit of friends determined to produced the ultimate 1 minute pop song. In D Flat.

Mikes’ music (he had soon released his solo debut ‘Johnny Horse’ in small quantities, spreading a short distribution to independent pockets of Europe and the states, along with a keen – though small local following) was now sounding almost fully formed. After the release of the albums follow-up ‘the hiss explosion’, he took the step of moving to Dunedin. Taking a coordinating position with the fledgling Arc Life Recordings label – which had succeeded Flying Nun as the centre of all things low-fidelity in Dunedin, he joined locals Stephen Kilroy and Thom Bell.

With Mike in line, Arc Life thrived. New recordings from locals Cloudboy and their charming chanteuse Demarnia Lloyd, along with Renderers descendents (Brian Crooks side-project) Bible Black and the involvement of one of Mikes’ heroes – David Kilgour of seminal outfit The Clean, had Arc Life well on their way to bigger things.

In 2002 Mike released what could be his finest release, the awe-inspiring beautiful ’66’ with the Hiss Explosion – the texturally focused guitar-and-drums duo he had formed with former Squirm member Peter Mitchell for his last outing. ’66’ is pretty much a faithful recreation of how Mike and his hiss explosion sounded live – a rush of guitar, thumping drumming and melodic vocals. Based around Mikes’ obsession with a looping guitar foot-pedal (not exactly the height of hi-technology) the primitive sampler made for excellent compliment, and allowed Mike to create walls of transient, flowing sound, flush with soaring highs and lows that Mike caressed with his careful vocal approach – truly mesmerizing.

I had the fortune of organizing Mike’s final Christchurch show on Waitangi day 2004, and in an effort to promote the show, we scammed an interview used in local gig guide the package which i contribute towards, with Mike explaining where he was currently at. He talked about new releases on their way from HDU front man Kahu and perennial Dunedin feature Bob Scott putting out a CD of ‘Lost Folk Music’, along with possible recordings from The Centre Will Hold’s outgrowths’ the (still Christchurch based) Undercurrents. The big news though was that Arc was rebuilding their home-brew studio – with the help of Thom Bell (who was now playing an integral part in the hiss explosions’ sound, being the in-house sound guy) they had purchase a new studio desk from Canada and had set about putting things together.

The Hiss Explosions’ last Christchurch performance was a wonderful occasion. Christchurch has been witness to something of a re-birthing in the local scene in the last year, with more venues becoming regular performance options and the Waitangi day show brought out the kind of crowd you reminisce about, with former scene regulars and underground musicians alike coming out of the woodwork to witness Hex’s triumphant return, along with some starting performances from Substandard, Idols of Eve, Into the Void and fellow Dunedin troupers the International Telepaths.

Sadly Michael John Brassell passed just a few short weeks later, a sad victim of pneumonia; he died quickly and without warning in late February at the age of 38.

With little time to think, Fleur de Lis – a close friend and the front-woman of one of Christchurch’s most under-appreciated rock outfits The Dialtones, and myself set about stringing together a memorial gig for Mike, and with out too much trouble people were soon going out of their way to pay tribute to our fallen friend. On Friday the 12th of march, some 9 bands lined up to pay respect to Mike in their own way – the way Mikey Hex would have wanted it – with music.

Memories and reminds of Mikes past were gathered in a tribute center near the stage, a beautiful image of Mike playing at the Waitangi show, along with posters from Mike’s many bands through the 90’s (including one that was particularly significant to me – a late 90’s show were my own band made just our sophomoric appearance under Mikes lead), and his memorial signing book that was just about overflowing with loving tributes by the end of the night.

With 9 bands and some 300 punters, there was no messing around to be had. Dave Khan showed what a long way he’s gone in the last 18 months – forming an ethereal wall of sound from his keyboards and vocal harmonizing effects as drawing room – the solo moniker that seen him through a decade and a myriad of different styles. Playing out like ambient music at high-volume, Khans’ approach made the perfect melodic introduction to the night, a relaxing low-key performance.

Substandard took the occasion to make some changes – for the first time they had become a four-piece, joined by guitarist Danny Bare’s flatmate Matt on 2nd guitar and the groups first ever vocal performance. Covering Sonic Youth’s epitome of sound ‘Diamond Sea’ – a seething 20 minute song comprised of 2 distinct approaches – melodic vocal parts joined with full-frontal guitar attacks (known as the ‘Sea of Confusion’). Substandard made good on the hardest of covers, Andrew adding his own touches while trying hard to mimic Steve Shelley’s minimalist drumming, Gareth floating in and out with strong bass cues, while Danny and Matt reconstructed the piece with precision.

The Dialtones (with the ever-present sound supremo Marcus Winstanley making his 1st of 3 stage performances for the night) were absolutely bombastic. Marcus’s dominant drumming drove the band to new heights, Fleur leading the band through one of their most rousing performances and absolutely the surprise of the night. Fleur’s usually sedate vocals seemed to raise with authority above driving compliment, and it sounds like they’re truly in-line to make a welcome return to the Christchurch scene with a new high-power approach to their slightly folky rock.

With the night now pressing on (20 minute sets are one thing, but set-up times had already seen the night stretch out an hour or so) Minisnap had arrived and were inclined to take the stage next. With Marcus returning to the stage to compliment the Rob Scott-less Bats sister band as the supplementary guitarist, mini-snap sounded a little muffled and lacked definition, but still displayed a charismatic approach to their jangly guitar pop.

Arriving from wellington to take the stage as Dragstrip), former Ape Management band mate of Mike’s David Clark displayed humor and a gritty approach to guitar rock. With Darryl Kirk soon filling in on some impromptu drumming (without knowing any of Dragstrip’s stop-start song structures), he brought a smile to an already jubilant crowd. Using the kind of down-and-dirty insights that a beat poet might conjure up, Dragstrip were brash and to the point – and thoroughly entertaining.

The entertainment continued in the form of a short and explosive set from Into the Void – another in the line of bands that appeared with the Hiss Explosion on Waitangi day. The guys were right on forming, pounding away on the gig drum-kit with authority, while guitar and bass interlocked to create dense and highly rhythmic grooves. Things got a little silly late in the set when the drum kit, started inching its way off the stage, the voids drummer continuing to soldier on as his kit fell apart around him, with cymbals flying forward and his double-kick basically giving up the ghost simultaneously.

After a bit of a delay, the other surprise packet of the night – a new look Shocking Pinks took the stage for their debut performance. The Pinks have cultivated a bit of a unusual standing in the Christchurch scene, diving fans and muso’s with their infectious danceable songs, but leader Nick Hearte’s somewhat unusual approach to retaining band members. Needless to say the new line-up looked a little nervous (especially playing to such a large crowd), with new guitarist Kit not really making their new direction – closer to a shoe-gazer sound, all that obvious with some restrained playing. Cutting things short at a mere 2 songs; they ended in a flurry of sound as nick drowned the crowd in bass feedback.

Things took on a more mellow direction as the night passed 2:30 am – the much-vaunted undercurrents showing off the highly soothing melodic pop that had made them such a firm favorite with Mike. Bassist and vocalist Nick (formerly of seminal shoe-gazers Barnard’s Star, along with the guitarist – yes him again – Marcus Winstanley) really drove the band on a number of their songs, his playing adding volume (not to mention groove) to their wistful and contemplative pop melodies. One of my highlights for the night, the undercurrents unfortunately played to a fleeting crowd, weary from a late night.

Finally Eskimo – the new power-trio of Rob Mayes (bass), Michael Daly (drums) and local legend Dave Mulcahy (guitar) concluded things to a diminished, but enthusiastic crowd. Mulcahy and Mayes joked, and ran through a couple of their newly formed songs – that sounded like a slightly harder variation on Mulcahy’s former band Superette. In good spirits (not to mention having consumed many) Mulcahy grew distracted and frustrated in their third song, and quickly pulled the plug – effectively ending a long and wonderful night a little abruptly. Despite such a rough approach to a set, they did sound quite distinctive. After hearing an earlier performance to an uninterested varsity crowd a couple weeks back, Eskimo sound like they are indeed making strides towards the kind of pop gem i know both Mayes and Mulcahy are capable of.

And thus a long night was completed. Special thanks must go to sound guru’s marcus and loki, who made everything flow so beautifully, and of course the many bands that gave their time for such a worthy cause. Michael John Brassell will be remembered as a friendly and encouraging man that meant a lot to so many people – he will always be our Mike Hex.

Neil Robinson Leaving Party!

Christchurch-based former Rockquest winners and all-round fun-time band Neil Robinson play their last show with the departure of frontman Chris Young for England. Supported by Bang! Bang! Eche! at a well-known Sockburn flat, this was a damn epic (and messy) party.

Click here for the photoset.

The New Originals [jan 2006]

‘they’re new, and they’re original’.
– Janus currie [lead singer of the leper ballet]

the first time i saw the new originals, supporting solo bravo at the jetset lounge – i thought they were crap. Talented – but crap. Still, you’ve gotta admire a band named in the spinal tap tradition.

Tim moore (guitar and vocals) formed the group in 2002 with his former shirley boys schoolmates matt oram (drums) and louis dudson (bass), by the time they started performing in christchurch’s bar scene, they were boosted by a couple of exchange students – anne ito (keyboards) and per warberg (acoustic guitar), with clare mclennan-kissell (percussion) completing the lineup.

I couldn’t understand how a huge group (by my recollection there must have been at least a half-dozen on stage) of what were presumably under-aged kids (and i use the term fiercely – lousy high school brats, how dare they be in my local, etc), could clamber up the stage of the jetset lounge with keyboards and classical style percussive instruments. I was definitely stuck in a drums, bass and guitar mindset.

Of course i was completely wrong – the group’s only fault is that they possibly hadn’t yet found their feet. And over the next couple of years that would change as they developed their own distinctive sound, perhaps hastened by their reduction in numbers. See around two years later i caught these feller’s once more and found that; they’d been reduced to a slender 4-piece, the twee overbearing-ness i’d imagined had given way to lovely heartfelt melody mixed with glorious noise and lastly (and possibly most importantly) they were now all above the legal drinking age. They’d become one of these groups were you could endless name some points of reference in their sound, but never name a group that sounds quite like them; a reflection of influences harmonized into something, well – original.

In the last couple of years i’ve gotten to know them and their songs quite well, sharing a number of bills with everybody’s favorite erstwhile maniacs the leper ballet meant i saw them more and more, and their quirky approach had more than grown on me – they’d become one of my most beloved local groups.
The group plays a sharp blend of pop-rock, infused by over-the-top drumming; driven by this overwhelming chugga-chugga rhythm, much like the best bats songs – though they can drag on a bit you don’t really want each song to stop.

Tim sings in a kind of almost-embarrassed-by-himself-but-enthusiastic kind of way, plays a mean guitar with a little bit of finger-plucking/tapping style (thanks to a long few months with a couple broken fingers), is simply frightening behind the keyboard and has a pretty swish theremin that the group never really over-use. Ann ito is the cutesy keyboardist and backing vocalist who always seems to be too low in the mix. Louie dudson is the ‘lead’ bassist (ala peter hook) and resident fan favorite pretty-boy – his high-register runs are often pivotal points in their best songs. And of course matt oram -probably the one member of the group that draws the most undeserved critical flak, he’s simply a fire-cracker of a drummer – making the group burst at the seams with tom-heavy drum rolls, feeding that indulgent streak.

So now the end result is a chameleon of a group; from their recordings you might expect the new originals to be a timid, mellow live act – but on witnessing the ferocity and chaotic nature of their performance (especially oram’s full-tilt drumming) you’d be hard-pressed to imagine the group recording at all.

[debut ep] ‘ya stal’ was recorded at the end of 2003 with jules marchant at the desk, and we released it in august 2004 with the party at the dux with leper ballet supporting. It was the first proper recording any of us had done, so it was a real learning curve. The name came from a history textbook at shirley, which said that as a child, stalin’s favorite game was to have the other kids carry him on their shoulders in a mock victory rally, while he shouted “ya stal!” which means “i am steel” and this is also why he later changed his name to stalin, which means “man of steel”.
– Tim moore

a particular point of reference is that tim and i share a mutual love of all things jeff mangum -the crazy bastard behind neutral milk hotel. Of course he’s one of those overblown obsessive types though, with the dozen’s of bogus quality mp3’s and demo recordings – all that crap. You can hear a bit of that in their sound, along with the new order approach to rhythm, and what i see as a velvet underground-esque pulsating drive; i’ve been trying to get him in to the microphones – now there’s a crazy loon i’m obsessive about.

Disappointingly they’re currently on hiatus at the moment as a live group, though it still looks like there’s a future for the new original’s wonderfully comical songs: since then, we did some recordings with nick harte, and more with jules, which became the [excellent] ‘jump on the wagon’ promo cd. We are planning to record an album, as there is at least an albums worth of material we played but never recorded…

there’s no definite timeframe at the moment, because for now at least the band is sort of on hold. We’re going to call it “none dare call it a conspiracy” whenever we do get around to doing it.’ ‘for now, i have recorded an ep “in miracle world” which is 6 tracks, 3 recorded with marcus [winstanley] at the undercurrents studio, and 3 i recorded by myself (i’m going under the name cold war babies). I played every instrument on the ep, drums, bass, guitar, keys, vox, theremin and jews harp.’
– tim moore

look out for their future release and track down the ‘ya stal’ ep – if you can find it. It’s a little old and a little crinkly round the edges, but contains some cracker tunes from the groups substantial back catalogue – ‘and today’ should by right be a hit single, and is always a thrill live. On first impression the cold war babies material varies quite markedly both from the new originals and from song to song. Featuring drum-heavy lo-fi meshed with accomplished guitar and keyboards, sonic experiments and some genuine pop numbers – keep an eye and ear out.

Not So Experimental, Ed Muzik, Tiger Tones

At the Dux de Lux, oct 7th 2006

What a tremendous show! i felt real local harmony tonight as some of christchurch’s freshest local acts took a step up and showed what the garden city is capable of.

My first time seeing ed muzik and i must say i’m impressed. Hugely funny and entertaining fellow, Ed delighted the crowd with a soviet-themed performance that involved enya samples, songs about ipods, and a couple really kooky outfits.

Now a lot of you out there will be familiar with the Tiger Tones, especially since they won roundup a couple weeks ago. we’ll things have taken a major step forward with the addition of guitarist james; freeing up frontman mark to play keyboards and giving the group a whole new set of songs – upbeat and just about the most fun i’ve ever had.

With the gauntlet set down, not so experimental also took a step up, thrilling the crowd with a cataclysmic performance, vocalist johnny throwing himself about the stage and amongst the crowd as the group reached peak after peak. in fact the crowd were so eager for more songs the guys had to repeat themselves as an encore…

see more photos from this show at flickr

Otautahi Social Centre Show

Great fun at this new All-Ages venue run by the Food Not Bombs people. We (Palace of Wisdom) had a great time playing alongside Abortion Bucket, Tweak, Mikkey Pixton and Craig and Teke.

Click Here for the Photoset.

LIVE: 47 Diamantes with Tommy Ill and Shorty K

Unfortunately I missed the main Christchurch connection in this Goodbye Blue Monday show, with Tommy Ill trading rhymes in a new duo with Shorty K a little after I arrived; as I’d missed local opener (and Bang! Bang! Eche! frontman) Zack Doney fronting his new project Teen Fortress. Much more upbeat than the last time I saw Tommy rhyme, Shorty K (aka Kelvin Neal of the Crackhouse 5) adds a bit of sing-along to proceedings, helping to get the party started for me.

The hilarious 47 Diamantes feature an ex-garden city-ite anyways in front-woman and exhibitionist Gemma Syme (Dianna Rozz / ex-Holiday with Friends) and brought the night to a great close. After ripping through some electro + screaming classics (with Shorty K manning the keyboards and playing some sweet catchy beats and riffs), Gemma started stripping layers and inviting the crowd forward. Check out the full photo set by clicking the link above.

LIVE: Witchuals and Kutomo at High Street Project

Me and 8 other folks caught a lovely show at High Street Project last night. I turned up on time at 8pm to the usual message; wouldn’t be starting for a while yet so Rory from Witchuals, plus the Finnish guy Veli-Matti walked down to South City for some food and booze, talking about Earthquakes and Brisbane’s floods (as Veli-Matti has been living there).

Witchuals, originally uploaded by fraew.

Witchuals is the latest name for Rory and Shannon’s junk noise, vocal play with dictaphones and percussion performances. Really cool stuff, got some on video which i might upload later.

Veli-Matti then played a few songs as Kutomo using a loop station, guitar, nice lil casio keyboard and some wind instruments. Fairly down-beat but nice stuff, which he book-ended with awkward descriptions of their meaning.

Beverage of the night was Rochdale Ginger Cider, which at 8% hits more like a scrumpy but tastes pretty great.