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3 Voices


3 Voices is an extraordinary release in the history of New Zealand underground pop. The group was formed by the core song-writing duo of Rob Sinclair and David Bowater, with brilliant slick drummer Steve Garden, and an assortment of talented musicians contributing to the sole album. Sinclair and Bowater had both been in Schtung, then briefly formed the group Ray A – which is where most of this material originates from.

A number of the tracks capture a spiky, kinetic funk, slightly reminiscent of things the Gang Of Four or Talking Heads were doing around that time, though no one in those groups ever went quite as nuts on a synthesiser as somebody does in the song they call ‘Pest Control’.

But Bowater’s saxophones brought another ingredient again; one that had traces of New York avant-garde about it, and make me think of other early 80s phenomena such as James Chance’s Contortions or Lester Bowie’s Defunkt.

Nick Bollinger – 3 voices by 3 voices (Radio New Zealand)

What was exciting about the music from this period — this wide spectrum collection included, it roams from quirky jazz-pop to left-field rock, off-kilter funk and sometimes has oddball spoken word lyrics — is that the musicians were doing it for themselves.

Radio wasn’t playing much New Zealand music at the time so there was no point in even trying to accommodate programmers. Out of that freedom from commercial imperatives came music which was loose and liberated, and often a while lot of fun for them to make and listeners to enjoy.

There are moments here (No Story) where the jerky-quirky influence of David Byrne (Talking Heads) can be discerned, but elsewhere there are nods to shooby-doo Fifties rock’n’roll (the sonic mash-up of Plastic Toys which perhaps betrays an awareness of Pere Ubu), faux-mariachi styles (Delighted Tonight) and disconcerting soundtracks (The Bells with “world war three knocking on your back door . . . where you gonna hide”)

Recommended Reissue: 3 Voices – 3 Voices (




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