The Wellington music cognoscenti have been excited about Groeni for some time. Recently there has been somewhat of a wider breakout. Groeni was originally ex-music student Alexander Green's solo project, but he has now been joined by Mike Isaacs and James Paul, both also ex-music students. "Hedre" is typical of their tight, subtle and assured approach to building moody, atmospheric electronic textures, coupled with that soulful NZ male vocal timbre which I think maybe subconsciously can trace its DNA to Trinity Roots' beautiful music of the late 90s, early 2000s. I hear echoes often, and not just in Groeni's work. The "Hedre" video is an absolute stunner. Created and directed by Joel Fear, it is a simple concept, brilliantly executed. Hypnotic and complete. Difficult to believe it is his first video effort. With electronics at its core, Groeni's is not a sound one would associate with dynamic live performance (only so much nodding one can do in front of a keyboard!) but from what I hear, the band can deliver live. Wellington music journalist Martyn Pepperell told me, "they're making psychedelic folk with a bass music frame – this is exciting – but that's really exciting is seeing it cleanly delivered by a live band. That's what makes all the difference and helps set them apart." "Hedre" as an overall offering is almost achingly beautiful and up there with the best of 2015. If you are liking this, the new "Hinde" EP is due out October 1st and will be available at the Bandcamp link below. The band is touring to launch the EP. Details can be found at the Facebook link below. I have also included a link to the (very good) www.wireless.co.nz video premiere article as it fleshes out the band better than one of my usual blog posts can. I love this band. Can't wait to see them live.
Groeni - Hedre [OFFICIAL VIDEO]
As L.P. Hartley wrote "the past is a foreign country: they do things differently there", Auckland in the '80s was a very different place to the city it has become. At night it was often quite empty except around the many night clubs that sprouted around the edge of the CBD. It was so much quieter, and less the partly Asian city it has become (I'm not saying that is a good thing). Music had emerged from the Australasian pub rock sound w/ splashes of disco, there were surges of punk, ska and post-punk, then with the emergence of synth-pop and the New Romantic movement (which somehow seemed to sit side-by-side w/ soul and RnB) we had a sound that for me, this track evokes, probably heightened by the Radio with Pictures' Peter Blake (oldies will know that name) "cinema" video effects. Just standing around in videos was also a classic "cool" device. May I stress production standards were pretty poor back then, and "This City" does not suffer from that problem. Great vocals from Matthew Ruys, and a stunning electronic back-drop driven by classic DX7 samples, such as the synth bass and electronic piano, layered up against a chorused slap bass. The overall sound of this outstanding "blue-eyed soul" track places somewhere between 1984 and 1987. The track would not have been out of place in long-disappeared nightclubs such as Quays, Zanzibar and the Six Month Club. Diamond Field is NYC-based Kiwi Andrew White. He and Matthew put the video together on the smell of an old oily rag, using an iPhone 6 Plus and Final Cut Pro. Impressive considering that. The single is available through Luca Discs/Future City Records. You can buy it and various remixes at the Bandcamp link below.
Diamond Field feat. Matthew Ruys 'This City' Official Music Video
When Paul McLaney (who is The Impending Adorations) released his series of progressive-rock-influenced singles earlier this year, I was quietly worried we might not get the fourth instalment of his "G.I.F.T." anthology (the acronym using the first letter of each of the album titles). The first three were "Gestalt", "Intentions", and "Further", and now we have "Threshold". Each is a masterpiece of electronic post-rock using found sounds and ambient textures to build evocative sonic landscapes, topped off by Paul's distinctive vocal stylings. I think this might just be one of the greatest bodies of work put out by a NZ artist, although I am not sure how many people know it exists. To a certain degree Paul's music is an acquired taste, but I have found that once I discarded artistic prejudice, it has been immensely rewarding to listen to. There are several dominant tracks on the latest album, my favourites being "Each Life's Legacy", "Threshold", and this track "Land of the Long White Cloud", from my experience one of the more political of Paul's tracks, although it is far from an overt statement. Rather I interpret it is a subtle lament at the destructive short-termism of modern neo-liberal New Zealand. The lyrics are provided below. Paul put the video together himself, using found footage. It works beautifully. If you would like to hear more of The Impending Adorations' music, you can listen/buy at the link below. Please buy it if you like it.
Land of the Long White Cloud lyrics...
Flags in the harbour like vertigo reach into the distance of letting go
The Sun's shining like a bonfire in the sky
Voice of the ocean in the throat of a shell
Spectators in the frontline sell
The possibilities of everything that money can buy
Land of the Long White Cloud
Your time is up
The Sun beats down
Land of the Long White Cloud
You filled your cup just to pour it out
A loud rhythm of silence greets
The chorus of approval from these dead end streets
The Sun's shining like a furnace in the sky
Histories for sale at the highest price
Auctions of ambitions offer up the birthrights
Of generations yet to claim them
Land of the Long White Cloud
Your time is up
The Sun beats down
Land of the Long White Cloud
You filled your cup just to pour it out
God defend us
How do they do it? Having been around for a decade and a half, The Phoenix Foundation continue to produce songs that are rewarding to listen to, intriguingly built, with layers of texture to peel away if one feels so inclined. There's also that perfect balance of saccharine and satire, and for me there's the "dopamine hit". Not always, but often. "Mountain" is the first single release off "Give Up Your Dreams" or "GUYD" as the band has been promoting it. The album is due out on August 7th, and has so far been reviewed well (see the links below). The album was approached slightly differently this time, with songs written as a band, and more structured studio time. Although apparently there was much twiddling of knobs and tweaking of effects processors after the initial recording sessions. It sounds like the album will be more up-tempo, but judging from "Mountain" and the just-released "Give Up Your Dreams" single (see Stereogum link below) it remains melodic and hooky. See the Salient link below for a very good interview with Sam Flynn Scott on the making of the album. The "Mountain" video is classic Sam Kristofski, with echoes of videos previously shot for Opossom and Tom Lark. I'm a fan. Bated breath on the new album. I have provided a link to the Memphis Industries site below for prospective purchasers. NZMusic4U is one!
Sam Kristofski link:
The Phoenix Foundation - Mountain (Official Music Video)
This is music for musicians, and for those who like to think about their music as much as feel it. Introverted Dancefloor is the name of a new project from Bevan Smith, known for running a variety of monikers over time...Aspen, Skallender, Signer...and also for being one half of one the great NZ bands of the mid-2000s, Over The Atlantic. The new self-titled album from which "Happiness is Such A Mess" hails has taken four years to arrive. It sounds like it was an almost tortured genesis. Bevan deliberately put himself under a lot of pressure to create an album that was difficult to make. Limiting himself to only two synths, one mic, one filter and one effects processor, many of the songs were scratched and restarted. "Happiness.." demands quite a few listens to get inside one's subconscious, but it is a pleasure after several. And it is not just an aural experience, bringing with it some simple, hopefully helpful, existentialism...(!)
"If you ever feel unhappy,
don't forget that things are bound to change,
not that change is such a good thing,
there's a chance that things might get much worse"
The stunning video that accompanies this single was directed by Rowan Pierce, with photography by Matt Henley. Choreography was by Victoria Colombus with dancers Errol Anderson and Emma Martin. Bevan has been on the Carpark Records label since 1999 and says he feels grateful to still be one of what we know to be a stable of well-respected artists. But his continued presence on the label is not accidental. Here is an artist who must continue to interest music fans. And there is an integrity to the intellectualism he brings to it. It is also fun. A range of links are provided below to enable the reader to get to know Introverted Dancefloor better. Highly recommended. Watch out for the album release in September. Hopefully we will get a few more video releases ahead of the release date.
Introverted Dancefloor - "Happiness is Such A Mess"
Gorgeous. Everything that Glass Vaults has been, but warmer. Glass Vaults' new album "Sojourn" is launching in September. The two releases so far indicate an evolution from what I experienced as a ambient melodic electronic focus with often-times dense minor scale textures, to what might be a more guitar-driven (but not dominated) sound, and a sunnier tonal outlook. The "Sojourn" single is my favourite of the two tracks released so far, "Sacred Heart" being the first release. "Sojourn" is a simple love song with a big heart, and layers of rich melody, texture...and light? Impressionist music maybe. The cover art hints at this. Richard Larsen's vocals seem enhanced by the context. And the second lift of the song at 3:10 is one of those dopamine moments. I recommend you listen to this on very good headphones, or on a sound system with good bass response. The beautifully-constructed video is the work of Ryan Fielding, and uses some footage from the much-missed "Camp A Low Hum" music festival which I regret never having attended. The love song could just as easily have been for the festival, a meeting of those that follow alternative life paths and the music that seems to be an integral part of it all. As it is, Paul Simon's "Graceland" and the NZ summer are also objects of the artists' affection here. I will be buying "Sojourn". If you would like to listen to the first two singles right now, or even get acquainted with historical material, please go to the link below. I own everything Glass Vaults have released so far.
Glass Vaults - Sojourn
Sweet lonesome vocals that say something + reverb. Pedal steel + reverb. Over-driven guitar + reverb. Harmonies slurred and blurred by reverb. For me, all of that is very difficult to resist. So how did Nashville destroy country music for those who wanted the authenticity that makes this music of the wide open spaces so compelling? I am an electronica fan, but its artists like Mel Parsons (and Marlon Williams for that matter) that take me where electronica has normally had me for itself. Stark contemplative moments of emotional clarity. This is a simple but beautiful song. Though I am pretty sure this elegance would not have been so easy to create. "Driving Man" was written by Mel Parsons, produced by herself and Gerry Paul (the guitarist) w/ Lee Prebble recording (yes, at The Surgery) and Auckland's Oli Harmer mixing. Anji Sami (She's So Rad) and Lisa Tomlins are on backing vocals. The video was produced and directed by Tim McInnes (Ruffell Productions) with photographic direction by Sabin Holloway. The video stars Beth Alexander & Khuzwane Holder. It all works. If you would like to get to know Mel Parsons' art better, there is a (typically) great Graham Reid interview link below. Otherwise, cos of course you like it, buy it at the link below. I have.
Graham Reid interview here...
Mel Parsons | Driving Man
Three things that really distinguish Melodownz (Bronson Price) and his colleagues in Third3ye is a delicious use of melody and harmony, an overall subtlety of presentation, and thematic content which is far from the overly common & sometimes close-to-narcissistic "watch me on my journey to the top". "One Liiif3" is one of the best tracks from Melodownz' debut solo album, "Beginner's Luck", released late-2014. The single was produced by My Disguise (a Kiwi living in Perth right now) with mastering by Rizvan Tuitahi, himself a talented MC, producer. The album was otherwise produced by a range of producers including Ben Jamin and Jay Knight. Engineering was by Rizvan. The video was put together by Lifers.Co. Bronson has a pretty impressive backstory which you can flesh out at the interview link below. You can buy "Beginner's Luck" at the link below. I own it.
The interview with Melodownz...
Watch Melodownz live at the link below...
MeloDownz - One Liiif3 (Official Video)
Hitting the NZ music industry like an Exocet out of a sea-fog, Matthew Young's first musical offerings in late 2014 ("Loveblind", "Knock") stunned many for the writing, the vocal delivery and the production. New Zealand has recently developed somewhat of a mini-cluster of RnB-influenced future-poppy artists and here was someone coming in at a slightly different angle and again doing it so well. The enigmatic Mr Young appears to have a 360 degree approach to what he does, whether that be writing, singing, sound and image/fashion, and so far executed all with aplomb. The only industry player not surprised by the quality of all this is Sony, who have signed him. I note Djeisan Suskov (now going by the singular moniker "Djeisan") is responsible for production on "Magic". Clearly a versatile producer, he has done a superb job on this, and other tracks I have heard. I have previously come across Djeisan's work with Artisan Guns, Dear Times Waste and his own project Cool Rainbows. All substantially different to "Magic" but the clarity and space I associate with his production is still there. The video was put together by Jordan Arts and Matthew, and is a suitably sophisticated visual presentation. Matthew Young's new EP "DIVE" is due out June 12th and is currently available on Spotify. Many of the tracks are also available at the Soundcloud link below. An exciting artist that will surely break big.
Some blog interviews below...
MATTHEW YOUNG - Magic
I am pretty confident that people who should know, do. But not sure how many others realise Paul McLaney is a bona fide New Zealand musical treasure. Much of his music might be an acquired taste, but like all the greats, time tests his music well. After a period of releasing a more electronic loop-driven series of albums (which I adore), he clearly couldn't fight the British progressive rock lurking in his genes. As a result we get a three song musical cycle that presents much in the way of great post-progressive rock music of the late 1970s and 1980s. The first of this cycle was "The Best Is Yet To Come", seen earlier this year on this blog. "When The Wind Blows" is a complex, multi-layered masterpiece, and an honest message to a friend in trouble. Mr McLaney knows how to use dynamics. "When The Wind Blows" starts as standard Impending Adorations electronic fare, but evolves into something that clearly has some inspiration in the sort-of-forgotten-but-amazing late 80s, early 90s Talk Talk/ Mark Hollis' albums. Those albums are so influential and if you haven't heard them...go there! The Auckland Gospel Choir stump up beautifully in the single. The stunning video is by RedKidOne who is responsible for this three-song cyle. You can buy this very special single at the links below.
Also on Spotify...
The Impending Adorations - When The Wind Blows