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.

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!

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Wreck Small Speakers On Expensive Stereos

Biography

Wreck Small Speakers On Expensive Stereos were a Dunedin-based duo consisting of Michael Morley (Guitar/Organ/Vocals – before forming the Dead C, 2 Foot Flame, Angelhead, Tanaka-Nixon Meeting, The Weeds) and Richard Ram (Bass/Guitar/Vocals) – though in an early video recording Morley states the group had formed ‘Up North’ before heading to Dunedin. The duo released a handful of handmade cassettes and had an affiliation with Bob Scott’s Every Secret Thing label, with both album releases and compilation appearances. Their most well known material is the River Falling Love EP which was released on Flying Nun in 1986 before being expanded and re-released by US label Ajax in 1993. Morley formed the Dead C in 1987, effectively bring an end to Wreck Small Speakers.

Featuring performances from other Dunedin musicians: Denise Roughan (Recorder/Vocals – Look Blue Go Purple, The 3Ds, Ghost Club), Ivan Purvis (Guitar – Love In A Gas Oven, Alpaca Brothers), Lesley Paris (Drums – Look Blue Go Purple, The Puddle, Olla), Bruce Blucher (Drums – Cyclops, Trash, Fats Thompson, Brown Velvet Couch, Alpaca Brothers) and Martin Kean (The Chills, Doublehappys, Fats Thompson, Stereolab). The groups recordings are based around strong rhythm tracks – usually plucked bass guitar and drum machine, with shout-sung vocals, fractured guitar riffs and organ squeels, with samples and other sound manipulations added into the mix. Though experimental, Wreck Small Speakers retained a high level of musicality and accessibility.

Both their creative genius and the quality of their songs really shines through on the groups lo-fi cassette recordings. The slinky, funky bass and proto-rap vocals on ‘Over My Skull’, the low-key beauty of River Falling Love highlight ‘All Of This’, and Denise Roughan’s wonderful appearance on their most well-known song ‘Rain’. Small scraps of the bands fairly substantial discography have appeared in the digitally archived era, however if ever there was a Flying Nun associated act that could use an anthology release it would be Wreck Small Speakers – its been almost two decades since Morley’s Dead C band mate Bruce Russell released A Child’s Guide To Wreck Small Speakers on his own Xpressway label.

Members

  • Michael Morley (Guitar/Organ/Vocals, 198?-1987)
  • Richard Ram (Bass/Guitar/Vocals, 198?-1987)
  • Denise Roughan (Recorder/Vocals, 198?)
  • Lesley Paris (Drums, 198?)
  • Ivan Purvis (Guitar, 198?)
  • Bruce Blucher (Drums, 198?)
  • Martin Kean (198?)

Discography

  • My Blue Fairy Godmother [1983 Wrecked Music WRECK14]
  • 3.V.M. EP [1983 Wrecked Music WRECK20]
  • Over My Skull Cassette Single [1984 Every Secret Thing EST 06]
  • Cave Cassette [1984 Every Secret Thing EST 21]
  • Worlds Fall Apart cassette [1984 Every Secret Thing EST 24]
  • A Summer In Taradale Cassette [1985 self-released]
  • River Falling Love ep [1986 Flying Nun FN068]
  • A Child’s Guide To Wreck Small Speakers Cassette [1988 Xpressway XWAY03]
  • River Falling Love Reissue [1993 Ajax AJAX 029]

Links

Sheep Technique [01/07/2008]

My very last Sheep Technique (kiwi music show on student radio station RDU); with Paul, and with an aborted interview with Cindy (previously known as Sandra) from former Flying Nun single band 25c.

Bible Black – Hell of a Woman
The Renderers – Low to the Ground
The Clean – Point that Thing Somewhere Else
25c – The Witch
Front Lawn – A Man and a Woman
25c – Don’t deceive me
The Good Housewives – Concerto in D Minor
The Stones – See Red
Spacedust – Too Much Action
3Ds – Outer Space
Steffan Van Soest Hit-Machine – Woman By My Side (Mexican Man)
Ticket – Mr. Music
Shaft – The Downhill Racer
Scorched Earth Policy – Sunset on the Loading Zone
Scavengers – Mysterex
Toy Love – Bride of Frankenstein
Reduction Agents – Urban Yard
Blam Blam Blam – There is No Depression in New Zealand
Pop Art Toasters – What Am I Going to Do
Tomorrows Love – 7 and 7 Is
King Loser – 76 Comeback
Straitjacket Fits – Life in One Chord
Palace of Wisdom – Found and Lost
Wreck Small Speakers on Expensive Stereos – All of This
the Bats – Block of Wood
Snapper – Snapper and the Ocean
Bitch – Wildcat
Die! Die! Die! – Sideways Here We Come
The Androidss – Auckland Tonight
Lawrence Arabia – Half the Right Size

The Weeds

Biography

[Profile thanks to Tim Davey]

The Weeds were around for about a year in the mid-80’s, formed with the intention of having fun and seeing just how stupid they could be, while also entertaining people. The band provided a great distraction for its members from the more ‘serious’ music they were making in other groups at the time. The name supposedly came from the fact that all the members were quite skinny at the time.

Robert Scott and Michael Morley had been playing together in the Pink Plastic Gods in late 1984. Following the end of the group Scott (Bass, Vocals) And Morley (Guitar, Vocals) got together with Jeff Harford (Vocals) and Chris Healey (Drums) and The Weeds was born. All except Healey had had much experience in other bands; Scott had been in The Clean and was front-man with The Bats, Morley was in Wreck Small Speakers On Expensive Stereos and Harford had played with Bored Games. Following the tragic end of Doublehappys in mid-85 Shayne Carter (Guitar , Vocals) And John Collie (Drums) were also added to the line-up. An odd feature of the group was that they had two drummers.

Every gig they played involved some sort of dress-up theme which the whole band would participate in. One night they would be playing draped in foliage and weeds, another would be in glam gear or bad taste clothes. Their most outrageous ‘dress-up’ was playing in their underpants on the town hall stage as support to the Verlaines and the Rip at a 4XO dance. Their only out-of-town gigs were at the Gladstone in Christchurch as support to Look Blue Go Purple and in Auckland at Windsor Castle. The latter gig didn’t go down very well and the band realised that dressing up stupidly and playing music was best done only around people who knew you.

The essence of the weeds was not about serious music or writing meaningful lyrics but about having a good time. A review by Sharon Guytonbeck following a gig at the empire spelt this out:

with a couple of friends helping out The Weeds were a lot of groovy fun. Who needs ‘Live Aid’ when you can have this. Yes, The Weeds confirmed my belief that Dunedin is where it’s all happening musically. We don’t need the rest of the world when we can be at The Empire with The Weeds.

– Critic 6/8/85

Band rehearsals were for the sole purpose of writing new material which gave their on-stage sound a very fresh feel. In mid-85 the band made some recordings at Dockside Studios on Wharf St which emerged as the Flying Nun single ‘Wheatfields’, a very Velvets-influenced piece that buzzed along with the chorus line ‘It’S Been A Hard Day On The Wheatfields …’. further recordings were made later in the year at Chippendale House which to this day remain unreleased.

By late 1985 the members of The Weeds were being pulled away by their other musical projects and the band faded away. Scott continued with The Bats and Carter And Collie went on to form Straitjacket Fits. Morley was later involved in Dead C, Gate and This Kind Of Punishment while Harford became part of My Deviant Daughter.

The Weeds played only around 15 gigs but will almost certainly be remembered by everyone who saw them for their mix of shock, humor and good music.

Members

  • Robert Scott (Bass/Vocals, 198?)
  • Michael Morley (Guitar/Vocals, 198?)
  • Jeff Harford (Vocals, 198?)
  • Chris Healey (Drums, 198?)
  • Shayne Carter (Guitar /Vocals, 198?)
  • John Collie (Drums, 198?)

Discography

Links

Tanaka-Dixon Meeting

An exercise in barely-extant low-fi scrape and dense ambience via cello(?) and guitar.
– Bruce Russel on the ‘Blessed’/’Tanks’ 7″

The duo of Danny Butt (Flies Inside The Sun) and Michael Morley (Wreck Small Speakers On Expensive Stereos / The Dead C Etc). Released three ultra-rare Peter King lathe-cut ep’s on the Dead C‘s Precious Metal inprint, along with an album and single on the Giardia label.

Drones and gets hazy and kind of scary via the same instrumentation, peaking with some nice moments of high-end skree and fucked, loose percussion.
– Bruce Russel on the The Ark

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Tknxm 8″ Lathe-Cut Ep [1993 Precious Metal Pm 26]
  • Annihilation Lathe-Cut 8″ Lathe-Cut Ep [1993? Precious Metal Pm 30]
  • The Burning House 8″ Lathe-Cut Ep [1993? Precious Metal]
  • ‘Blessed’/’Tanks’ 7″ [Giardia]
  • The Ark [Giardia]
  • Twelve Inches Heaven [Hells Half Halo]

See-Also

dead c

Biography

Dissonant, purposely Lo-Fi and exceedingly experimental Christchurch 3 piece built on Michael Morley and Bruce Russell’s guitar work and Robbie Yeats (The Renderers, Verlaines) pounding drumming.

Their initial recordings were exercises in tonal freak-outs – pushing the limits of how self-confessed non-musicians could make music, but their early masterpiece (the stunning Eusa Kills) is actually one of their most accessible releases.

All three members are exceedingly prolific musicians and scene figure-heads, with side projects such as A Handful of Dust, The Renderers and Gate keeping the trio busy.

Members

  • Michael Morley (Guitar/Vocals)
  • Bruce Russell (Guitar, Noise…)
  • Robbie Yeats (Drums)

Discography

  • The Dead See Perform M. Harris (1987, Diabolic Root)
  • 43 Sketch For A Poster ?(Cass, C30) (1987, Diabolic Root)
  • DR503 4 versions, (1988, Flying Nun Records)
  • The Live Dead See ?(Cass), (1988, Xpressway, X/WAY 1)
  • The Sun Stabbed 7″ EP (1988, Xpressway, XPRESSWAY VII)
  • Eusa Kills (1989, Flying Nun Records)
  • Perform DR503b (1989, Xpressway, X/WAY 12)
  • Runway (1989, Precious Metal, PM1)
  • Trapdoor Fucking Exit (1990, Precious Metal)
  • Helen Said This / Bury 12″ MiniAlbum (1990, Siltbreeze SB02)
  • Hell Is Now Love / Bone 7 (1991, Siltbreeze, SB06)
  • Mighty / Power / Peace 7″ EP (1991, Forced Exposure, FE-026)
  • Harsh 70’s Reality (1992, Siltbreeze)
  • Clyma Est Mort (1992, Siltbreeze/Xpressway)
  • The Operation Of The Sonne (1993, Siltbreeze, SB30)
  • The Dead C Vs Sebadoh 7″ (1993, Siltbreeze, SB25)
  • Metalheart EP (1994, Siltbreeze)
  • World Peace Hope Et Al. Compilation (1994, Shock, SX 027 CD)
  • The White House (1995, Siltbreeze)
  • Repent (1996, Siltbreeze, SB-66)
  • Tusk (1997, Siltbreeze, SB64)
  • Perform DR 503C Compilation (1999, Flying Nun Records, FNCD443)
  • The Dead C (2000, Language Recordings, Language Recordings 1 & 2)
  • Live U.S.A. 1995 (2000, No Frillz Records, NF015)
  • Stealth / The Factory 7″ (2000, Sub Pop)
  • Load (2001, MM, MM1)
  • New Electric Music (2002, Language Recordings, LR3)
  • The Damned (2003, Starlight Furniture Co., *21)
  • Konono No. 1* / The Dead C – Split Series #18 12″ EP (2005, FatCat Records, 12FAT050)
  • Hi God People* / The Dead C – Split LP (2006, Nervous Jerk, JERK002)
  • Relax Fallujah – Hell Has Come 7″ Single (2006, Ba Da Bing!, BING-049)
  • Vain, Erudite And Stupid (Selected Works: 1987-2005) Compilation (2006, Ba Da Bing!)
  • Future Artists (2007, Ba Da Bing!)
  • Secret Earth (2008, Ba Da Bing!)
  • Golden / Canine 12″ Single (2008, Ba Da Bing!, BING-065)
  • Patience (2010, Ba Da Bing!)
  • Armed Courage (2013, Ba Da Bing!)
  • The Dead C / Rangda – The Dead C Vs Rangda ?(2013, Ba Da Bing!, BING-081)
  • The Twelfth Spectacle (2014, Grapefruit Records (2))
  • Palisades 7″ EP (2015, I Dischi Del Barone, IDDB007)
  • Trouble (2016, Ba Da Bing!)

Links