Coate, Winter, Half Mountain, Teke and Craig and Steven at darkroom

Coate
Coate
Sorry this has been a long time coming. Epic 5 band night on a Thursday night at darkroom. Coate have to be one of my favorite local groups these days, and Winter were a lot of fun too. Opening act Steven was an uncompromising, impassioned guy, Teke and Craig were as slick as ever and debutant Half Mountain show a lot of promise.

Winter
Winter
You can view more photos from the set here.

Shacklock Meth Party Release Party

Zen Mantra
Zen Mantra

Rhett Copland put together this terrific party at All Plastics studios on saturday night for the album release of his latest project – Shacklock Meth Party.

With performances from the excellent young groups Zen Mantra and Ipswich, Auckland’s former Nevernude vocalist Anthony Drent, debutants Raygun (with Damo Suzuki / Mark E Smith style rhythmic ranting) and the headline act all playing pretty tight sets.

I took a bunch of really cool black and white action shots – which you can see the rest of here.

Ipswich
Ipswich

You can check out a video for Shacklock Meth Party’s ‘This is my Shit, Gwen’ below:

Shacklock Meth Party – This Is My Shit, Gwen

Shacklock Meth Party
Shacklock Meth Party

Bailterspace – Strobosphere out today!

Bailterspace - Strobosphere
Bailterspace – Strobosphere

Well holy moly.

After 14 years, Bailterspace are back with their first new release since 1998’s Photon EP!

I previously mentioned the early single ‘No Sense’ is available via streaming on the Arch Hill BandCamp (see below) – however the album in full is now available, and on tasty vinyl too! You can order direct from the good folks at Arch Hill here.

Pete Swanson (USA) with Gate and IRD

At the Physics Room, Friday August 10th 2012

IRD
IRD
The Physics Room has been at the forefront of Christchurch fringe culture since 1996 – providing a project space for installation artists and performers of various different mediums. Currently located at a temporary site on the corner of Sandyford and Colombo Streets, the space is divided into a light, open gallery and a dark, enclosed performance area with this particular event hosted by Auckland-based ‘Innovative Audio Culture’ organization Altmusic.

Christchurch-based multi-instrumentalist Rory Dalley (aka IRD) opened the evening, creating a clattering maelstrom of sound from broken audio equipment and an assortment of percussive objects. Bending and shaping cassette and turntable noises with traditional maori harakeke (i.e. flax) instruments into a fractured cacophony.

Gate
Gate
Legendary Dunedin underground figure Michael Morley was next – performing under his solo alias Gate. Known for significant New Zealand underground acts the Dead C, Wreck Small Speakers On Expensive Stereos and others, Morley is a huge figure in underground circles. A captive audience was enveloped by Morley’s guitar and effects orchestrations – creating a harmonic, slow moving drone that evolved at the speed of molasses.

Pete Swanson
Pete Swanson
Portland, Oregon’s group Yellow Swans were known for creating intriguing, improvised experimental noise built upon Pete Swanson and Gabriel Mindel Saloman’s electronics, guitar, drum machines and vocals. After seven years playing around the globe and releasing a huge catalogue of music, including several collaborative albums with brilliant Australian group Gray Daturas – the duo called it quits in 2008. In a solo capacity Swanson’s performance was heavy on the bassy rhythmic pulses, psychedelic and swirling sounds created a frequency overload in my head, rattled my teeth and even prompted a few audiences members to dance.

Die! Die! Die! ‘Harmony’ album release tour

Andrew Wilson of Die! Die! Die!
Andrew Wilson of Die! Die! Die!
With Opposite Sex and Ipswich at Dux Live. Saturday July 28th 2012.

It’s no secret that Die! Die! Die! are one of my favourite New Zealand bands. Since the group first morphed from the ashes of Smokefree Rockquest champions Carriage H (initially taking the name Rawer), the formative duo of Andrew Wilson (Guitar and Vocals) and Michael Prain (Drums) have been pushed the boundaries and expectations of what a New Zealand group can be. Now supplemented with former Mint Chick Michael Logie on bass guitar (replacing the departed Lachlan Anderson) the group are now very influential in their own right.

You can see an element of Die! Die! Die!’s fury and passion in opening act Ipswich. The trio have made great strides in the last year establishing themselves throughout New Zealand. Ipswich have releases coming out on excellent Auckland-based independent label Muzai Records and recently won the coveted RDU ‘Round-Up’ band competition – a testament to their power in a live setting. Their songs are built on jagged guitar riffs and overdriven bass, invoking the likes of the Skeptics, the Gordons and other Flying Nun era groups.

Lucy Hunter of Opposite Sex
Lucy Hunter of Opposite Sex
Dunedin group Opposite Sex made for an intriguing contrast. With their North Island based guitarist Fergus Taylor sitting out these South Island shows, the duo of Lucy Hunter (Bass and Vocals) and Tim Player (Drums and Vocals) varied between primal drumming and sing-shout songs and melodic, whispered numbers built on Hunter’s extraordinary virtuoso approach to bass guitar. I saw elements of old-school Welsh post-punk group Young Marble Giants in their songs, very cool.

You can tell Die! Die! Die! are a very special group – as soon as the boys hit the stage the audience surged forward, hanging on every word from frontman Andrew Wilson and thrusting back and forth to the military rhythm of exception drummer Michael Prain. Starting their set with a handful of older songs before gradually introducing their new material the trio never relented in intensity. Michael Logie showed he’s no slouch on bass, adding huge crunchy, fuzzy riffs to Prain’s powerful beats and allowing Wilson to freely roam around the stage and into the crowd, leading the audience in anthemic chants ‘A.T.T.I.T.U.D’ and ‘How Ye’. The new album Harmony shows the groups continued evolution and refinement – truly one of New Zealand’s finest bands.

See more photos here.

Sherpa w/ Bang! Bang! Eche!, Dance Asthmatics and Zen Mantra

Tam November of Zen Mantra
Tam November of Zen Mantra
Smashing line-up friday at Dux Live, with a great mix of young, up-and-coming groups from Christchurch, with poppy Auckland group Sherpa headlining.

Youngest of all would be opening trio Zen Mantra. Fronted by the barely 17 year old Sam Perry, Zen Mantra take on a psychedelic approach to clean and concise indie-pop. With swirling guitar, bass and rolling drums their songs are warm, fuzzy and comforting and are simply drenched in melody. A young group absolutely absolutely overflowing with potential.

Dance Asthmatics make for quite a contrast. Brian Feary (drums), Joe Sampson (guitar) and Ben Odering (bass) create a tight, flowing and often groove filled backing with more than a little krautrock style rhythm – but frontman Stephen Nouwens can steer the group in any number of directions. He can take a plaintive but acerbic and poetic approach to singing (like a young Mark E Smith of the Fall), and then the next minute rip into an aggressive rant, gasping for breath between each delivered sentence. Always exciting and always a lot of fun.

T'Nealle Worsely  of Bang! Bang! Eche!
T’Nealle Worsely of Bang! Bang! Eche!
Despite lacking practice since previous shows, Bang! Bang! Eche! lived up to their reputation as one of Christchurch’s finest and slickest live acts – with the best reception of all the groups on the night. Particularly on form was bassist T’Nealle Worsely, though the group lock together like a syncopated, pulsing singularity.

Out-of-towners Sherpa have been making quite a reputation for themselves up in Auckland – their album Lesser Flamingo and stunning new video Turtles are unabashed slices of pure New Zealand power-pop. Gleeful and with great dollops of catchy guitar and keyboards. Frontman Earl Ho is a colourful character – leading the group through a sharp set of songs at blistering pace. A lovely way to end the evening.

See more photos here.

[Published in the Christchurch Press 27/07/2012]

Bruce Russell on ‘Time To Go’ [Volcanic Tongue]

Of all the profound ways in which my life had changed in that epochal year (and since the preceding Christmas I’d become an enemy of the state, among other things), seeing the Clean was the biggest. I can still recall the certainty with which I knew then that they were at that moment the best fucking band in the world. I still don’t understand how I knew it, and in many ways I’ve spent a significant portion of the last three decades trying to disprove that hypothesis, but I haven’t done it yet. Maybe the Fall were better that year. But the fact that the last sentence contains ‘the Fall’, and starts with ‘maybe’, should alert informed readers to the enormity of what I was experiencing. It was like falling in love.
– Bruce Russell – From Volcanic Tongue

Bruce Russell (The Dead C, Gate, A Handful Of Dust etc) has put together a short but witty (and mighty acerbic!) article on the Volcanic Tongue: Underground Music Mail Order and Shop website detailing the back-story to ‘Time to Go – The Southern Psychedelic Moment: 1981-86’ – a terrific compilation Bruce put together for Flying Nun capturing some of the lesser-heard treasures from New Zealand’s South Island in the early to mid 1980s. Have a read, it’s a nice little insight into how the compilation came about and the general enthusiasm Bruce has for music of the era.

It’s that kind of ‘it came from the sky’ vibe that frankly defies categorisation. You can smell the reality. These people were very literate in rock music terms, they were literate in literary terms too, and they took drugs. It was what we did to rebel. Listen to ‘Russian Rug’. You don’t produce that kind of whacked-out blending of Pierre Henri with ? Mark and the Mysterians, without engaging in the desperate ‘datura-to-San Pedro’ sub-sub-culture which characterised the South Island of New Zealand at that time: and we invented home-bake heroin, don’t forget.

– Bruce Russell – From Volcanic Tongue

And If you haven’t already; checkout/pick up the compilation itself. Contains some of my favourite tracks by the likes of Pin Group, The Gordons, Scorched Earth Policy and Wreck Small Speakers On Expensive Stereos – not a dud in the lot!

Cabin Porn: Phil Elverum

Nothing to do with New Zealand music (though I reckon Phil would fit right in in New Zealand) – but a friend of mine alerted me to this link on the Cabin Porn website (don’t worry, its not porn, but rather amazing photos of awesome secluded cabins in the wilderness).

Phil Elverum from the (US) bands The Microphones and Mount Eerie lived here for a year in Anacortes, Washington. Phil’s description:

There were squirrels inside in the mornings yelling for us to get out because the cabin had been so deeply reclaimed by the forest. Still, there were some excellent times here. Watching Law & Order on a laptop, mid-winter, and the computer shutting down because the battery was too cold. Knife throwing into a tree trunk for hours. Firewood rambles. Did the artwork for “Live In Japan” in there. Fried a weird fish on the outdoor campstove kitchen. Played Monopoly by kerosene lantern. Weird semi-pioneer time.

I’m a HUGE fan of Phil’s music, plus also his artwork and photography – all of which seem to ruminate around the outdoors, seclusion and the nature in general.

The Palace Of Wisdom

The Palace of Wisdom originated in 1999 when well established Christchurch rock’n’roller Ben Johnstone (Guitar/Backing Vocals – Hi-Tone Destroyers, The Incisions) got together with intimidating vocalist Andrew ‘Ox’ O’Connell, adding hooky guitar riffs to O’Connell’s hurricane force vocals. The resulting recording was released as part of the No Thanks To New Zealand On Air compilation in 2000. Matt Alien (Hi-Tone Destroyers, Black Panthers, Space Dust, Slavetrader) joined on drums, with the line-up complete by English bassist Ian Lloyd.

With Lloyd’s departure in late 2000, ALC5 (yet another Hi-Tone Destroyers member) joined the group on Bass, however after a year with the group he was also replaced, this time by the legendary Mick Elborado (Scorched Earth Policy, The Terminals, Gas, The Axemen, Drowning Is Easy etc), who became a mainstay in the group and is responsible for the bands huge, over-driven bass sound on the excellent Pills EP.

The group then started to rotated through a number of drummers with Nick Harte (The Incisions, Shocking Pinks, Black Albino, CM Ensemble, The Urinators) in February 2002, Tim MacDonald (The Incisions, Shocking Pinks) in March 2003, Simon Nunn (Steffan Van Soest Hit-Machine, The Undercurrents, Kate in the Lemon Tree, Weaponized, Hi-Tone Destroyers etc) in December 2003, and then Chris Andrews (a million lights, Mysterioball, Idols of Eve, Pop Hits City, O’Lovely) in November 2004.

This line-up was the longest of the group, though recordings from this era (which lasted almost 4 years) are limited to Stuck In The Suck. After a disastrous recording session at Christchurch’s MAINZ, and other internal issues – Mick Elborado left the group. Jared Kelly (The Pickups, Blue Moon) then joined in May 2008, with Andrews and Kelly switching instruments after their first practice.

2008 was a particularly important year for the group, recording the Common Threads EP with the lineup of O’Connell (Vocals), Johnson (Guitar), Andrews (Bass) And Kelly (Drums) Before Stink Magnetic‘s Bad Evil joined as a 2nd guitarist, moving down from Palmerston North. This was an important change for the group as in late 2009 founding guitarist Ben Johnstone left to raise a family in Canada, and Aiden Moody (Bad Evil, Grand Chancellors) took over his lead guitar duties.

Both Kelly and Andrews left for other towns in 2010, however Ox enlisted the help of drummer Michael Summerfield (The Undercurrents, Cowboy Machine), before Andrews rejoined in early 2011 on bass guitar. The group played the very last show at historic Lyttelton venue El Santo Porteno, just 2 days before the February 2011 earthquake. This disrupted the progress the group had been making, with guitarist Moody moving on to form surf group The Grand Chancellors. The group resurfaced in early 2012 with Jared Kelly once again playing drums (replacing a departing Summerfield), with John Harris (Lonely Harris Club, Doctors, BnP) quickly establishing himself as their latest guitarist.

Of the course of the last 13 years the group has played a string of high-profile support slots, including The Chills, The Datsuns and of particular note – US group Dead Moon, who the group cover (‘Unknown Passage’) and are of particular importance to vocalist O’Connell with their never-say-die attitude to Rock’n’Roll. The Palace of Wisdom’s set is augmented by a number of re-interpreted covers, often quite removed from the originals, or obscure in their origin – this includes The Great Unwashed‘s ‘Born in the Wrong Time’ (as ‘Sending Him Away’), and Joy Division’s ‘Sound of Music’.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • The ‘P’ EP [2001 Self-Released]
  • Candy Pants [2002 Self-Released]
  • Pills EP [2003 Self-Released]
  • Stuck In The Suck [2006 Self-Released]
  • Burnside EP [2008 Self-Released]
  • Common Threads EP [2009 Self-Released]

See-Also

The Undercurrents

Excellent Christchurch guitar band that evolved from earlier group The Centre Will Hold. From that group Jamey Holloway (Guitar / vocals), and Nathan Bycroft (Drums) were joined by Nik O’Keefe (Bass, Vocals) and Marcus Winstanley (Guitar) to form the original line-up in mid 2003. This original line-up played in a low-key manner, with just Winstanley’s guitar adding an extra layer of Shoegaze type guitar into the mix (as he had done with previous band Barnard’s Star).

Eventually Bycroft left and after a short stint by Stephen McCarthy (Pine) the ever-versatile Simon Nunn (also of the Steffan Van Soest Hit Machine, Hi-Tone Destroyers etc) filled the drummers seat more permanently, and beefed up their sound quite a lot. Michael Summerfield (Palace of Wisdom, Cowboy Machine) joined on viola, adding a level of country/folk inflection to their sound. The group managed to win the 2004 RDU Round Up band competition, released an EP with the help of Michael Brassell (aka Michael J Hex) / Arc Life Records and set up All Plastics – a small recording studio.

Simon Nunn eventually found himself committed to his regular gigs as a professional musician, so young drummer Matt Scobie (Black Market Art, T54) was brought in to replace him, and long-time bassist Nick O’Keefe also left, replaced by Vaughan Watson (Pumpkinhead, Squirm). The group has continued a low-key existence, with only a handful of shows a year and recordings few and far between.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Undercurrents (Blue Stripes) EP [2004 Arc Life]
  • Undercurrents (Big Ears) EP [2005 All Plastics]
  • Undercurrents EP (Black Birds) [November 2006 All Plastics]
  • Heavy Sky [July 2010 All Plastics]

See-Also