Posts Tagged ‘New Zealand’

'Designer'

The first single ‘The Barrel’ has been launched today, with a delightfully off-kilter accompanying video that transmutes to film the intense and commanding energy seen in Harding’s live shows. Designer finds the New Zealander hitting her creative stride.  After Party, Harding came off a 100-date tour last summer and went straight into the studio with a collection of songs written on the road.  Reuniting with John Parish, producer of Party, Harding spent 15 days recording and 10 days mixing at Rockfield Studios, Monmouth and Bristol’s J&J Studio and Playpen.  From the bold strokes of opening track ‘Fixture Picture’, there is an overriding sense of an enigmatic artist confident in their work, with contributions from Huw Evans (H. Hawkline), Stephen Black (Sweet Baboo), drummer Gwion Llewelyn and violinist Clare Mactaggart broadening and complimenting Harding’s rich and timeless songwriting.

‘The Barrel’, by Aldous Harding. New album ‘Designer’ will be released on 4AD/Flying Nun on 26th April 2019.

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A rare blend of eloquent lyrical craft and explorative musicianship, the songs of Tiny Ruins are etched into the memories of crowds and critics worldwide. Traversing influences that cross genre and era, the artistry of Hollie Fullbrook and her band spans delicate folk, lustrous dream pop. Production by David LynchOlympic Girls bring ebullient psychedelia to the album.

More thoughts on the album (& many thank-yous) to follow…but for now I leave you to tackle these 11 songs, while I get some sleep in time for an early train to London!

New Zealand band Tiny Ruins have shared the fourth single from their forthcoming album Olympic Girls, out February. 1st on Ba Da Bing Records. It’s called “Holograms” and arrives with a beautiful new video,

“Holograms” follows previously released singles “School of Design,” “Olympic Girls” and “How Much.” Tiny Ruins, which originated as frontwoman Hollie Fullbrook’s solo songwriting project, has always been a nesting place for spare, delicate melodies and verses full of natural imagery and big ideas. But there’s nothing delicate about this latest batch of singles: “Olympic Girls” is warm, full and unexpected—a lively flute finds a home next to electric guitar; Fullbrook’s smooth alto sighs along with clashing cymbals.

“Holograms” is just as beautiful, and it’s one of Fullbrook’s biggest ideas yet. “Holograms is a conversation in a way, where one person posits the idea that technology will increasingly connect us,” she said in a statement. “That we will not just be emotionally or mentally connected, but that our bodies will transcend physical and mortal bounds via technology. That we can bring someone back.”

“How will we come back?” she sings. “Rise and shine as holograms?” It’s an eerie concept, one Tiny Ruins execute beautifully in the accompanying visuals. In the clip, Fullbrook and her bandmates (bassist Cass Basil, drummer Alex Freer and guitarist Tom Healy) search for meaning in a hypnotic model of the solar system. Fullbrook also shared the inspiration behind the video:

For the video, I wanted a sense of longing for this sparkly, colorful other realm, where everyone is connected, in unity. The director Martin Sagadin and I both started out talking about how the song called for a sense of sci-fi, which led us to planets, which led to the idea that we would build planets out of lanterns. This storyline arose where my character is trying to communicate or reach out to another field of existence, via technology. But we felt that the technology could be a bit old and not quite “of this time”—we were inspired by Kate Bush’s “Cloudbusting” video, or the TV series Maniac, in the sense that technology is kind of old and defunct, and there’s a timelessness or lack of specificity as to time. The idea of the video, is that I have a vision of this place I am trying to reach … I gather up particular objects that I feel will connect me to this place. But in the end, it’s futile—I try to reach the planet that appears through the wall, with all my technology revved up, and … it collapses in front of me.

The second single & title track from Tiny Ruins album ‘Olympic Girls’, due out on February 1st.

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Emily Fairlight is a poet and a songwriter. She describes her own music style as introspective alternative folk, written with a rock ‘n’ roll heart. Others have compared her sound to Natalie Merchant, P.J. Harvey, Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane) and Cat Power.

Her voice ranges from the most intimate of whispers to the strongest of wails, delivering beautiful and honest lyrics with heartfelt melodies. Emily has been composing and performing for over a decade now, and in this time has played throughout New Zealand, Australia and the USA. Her third and most recent trip to the USA saw her record her sophomore album with Doug Walseth of The Cat’s Eye Studio in Austin, Texas, featuring some incredible Texan musicians including Cully Symington (Bright Eyes and Okkervil River) and multi-instrumentalist Kullen Fuchs.

Emily Fairlight writes both poems and lyrics, and you can tell. The New Zealand singer/songwriter makes music that feels purposefully introspective and intimate, the kind of thing you might listen to alone in the kitchen or with a few friends on the couch, but not too many friends—you’ll want to keep these sounds and words to yourself. She released a thoughtful new album, “Mother of Gloom”, in 2018, which landed her a spot as a showcasing artist at this year’s South By Southwest festival in March 2019.

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Based out of New Zealand, Alanna Eileen first emerged back in 2015, with a debut EP, Absence. That was followed two years later by Keepsake, and maintaining the theme of a new EP every two years, is set to return next month with a brand new eight-track offering. Alanna’s new single, Faded Image is the latest taste of Alanna’s recording sessions in America with producer Alan Weatherhead, known for his work with Sparklehore & Magnolia Electric Co. This fledgling partnership already seems to bearing a multitude of fruits; the production bringing out all the twanging, intimate beauty of Alanna’s songwriting.

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Atop a backing of easy-paced drums, piano flourishes and warm glides of slide guitar Alanna’s vocal is given plentiful space to shine. Despite her New Zealand roots, Alanna’s is a classic Americana-vocal, pitched somewhere between Marissa Nadler and Tiny Ruins’ Hollie Fullbrook.  Lyrically, it’s a classic piece of country, all lovelorn longing and subtle questioning of where and why things didn’t quite work out. We find Alanna falling back to the comfort of a lovers arms, but knowing she can’t bare to hear them speak another word. Ultimately though, it’s a song about moving on, or at least trying to, “will I ever have you in my life?”, she repeats, seemingly not only unsure of the answer but also whether that’s a good thing. Faded Image is a beautiful track, in some ways almost old fashioned, classic songwriting, which oddly with so little of it about in the mainstream, now sounds quite fresh and exciting: a quiet triumph.

Thanks FortheRabbits

Elizabeth Stokes named her band after herself, or, rather, her nickname. So it should come as no surprise, then, that the debut album from New Zealand-based rockers The Beths, Future Me Hates Me, is sharply self-aware. Stokes, a music teacher who quit her day job to tour the world with The Beths, pairs clever, refreshingly straightforward lyrics with uber-catchy guitar pop, and she never stutters in delivering even the most blunt assessments of her doubts, fears and anxieties. “Sometimes I think I’m doing fine / I think I’m pretty smart,” she sings on the album’s title track before, later, completing the thought: “Oh then the walls become thin / And somebody gets in / I’m defenseless.” On dizzying love song “Little Death,” she captures and tames all the butterflies swarming around in her stomach: “And the red spreads to my cheeks / You make me feel three glasses in.”

The Beths sound as if they’re already three albums in, playing with the musical and lyrical finesse of a much older and more experienced band. Every single song on this record arrives with as many contagious hooks and honest confessions as on the sparkly, frank “Little Death” and the toe-tap-inducing examination of overthinking “Future Me Hates Me.” Indie rock is alive and well in Oceania—The Beths, like their Australian neighbors Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, hit it out of the park in crafting one of the sturdiest rock debuts of the year.

“Little Death” is taken from The Beths‘ album, “Future Me Hates Me,” out now on Carpark Records.

A delightful pop collection full of power chords and sing-alongs about the confusion, angst, and pain as we fall in and out of love. Hard not to smile, even while you’re crying. The Beths have a way of giving luminescence and pep to even the most harrowing aspects of love and human relation; bright, bespoke chord progressions and glittering harmonies as the backdrop to self-destruction, the grief of loss, and the pain that can come with finding yourself with a crush. “Broke every window pane/so I can feel the cold rain/when I lie in bed catching death, trying to wash it all away…”

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More superb psychedelic groove rock from Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Sex & Food explores compositional variety and evolving style; from songs that swing and smack to those that simmer and sooth.

Ever since they burst on the scene with blog-favourite ‘Ffunny FFriends’, Unknown Mortal Orchestra have wilfully proved themselves ready to wrong-foot all of us at each turn. Led by New Zealand’s Ruban Nielson, they followed up on that buzzy single with a fully-formed, self-titled debut in 2011 that proved the hype was well placed. Next, ‘II‘, saw them dabble with a mainstream sound while keeping their sound firmly rooted in their scuzzy origins, and 2015’s ‘Multi-Love’ was a glorious psychedelic romp through Prince-tinged pop. It seemed only natural for them to continue boogie-ing towards the dancefloor and build on ‘Multi-Love”s dancier elements.

On their fourth album, ‘Sex & Food’, you’ll be relieved to know that they’re thrown themselves into another bold new direction for a set of fuzzy, funky and fun set of songs that’ll be rattling around your head all summer long. Most notably, on the comforting ‘Honeybee’, Nielson croons a groovy ode to his daughter amid stellar production: “Careful like an orchid / love survives forever / age of paranoia / don’t be such a modern stranger / oh angel.” It may well be the best song they’ve ever done – crafting a tune that’s tender in the right places and a mightily fun summer jam in all the others.

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While that song is as soothing a pair of fresh sheets, ‘Sex & Food’ features some of their trickiest and devilishly heavy work to date elsewhere. ‘Major League Chemicals’ squeals and squirms like Jimi Hendrix conquering Woodstock, and ‘American Guilt’ is a riff-heavy delight, as highly charged as anything by T-Rex or Black Sabbath. ‘Chronos Feasts On His Children’, meanwhile, conjures up images as grizzly as Francisco Goya’s 19th century painting of the ancient figure doing just that – “Chronos feasts on his children / like turning mango flesh.” This album is as lurid and unmissable as the title suggests.

‘Sex & Food’ comes with a handful of missteps, like the forgettable ‘Not In Love Were Just High’ and ‘This Doomsday’ in the album’s final third. But by and large, it sees UMO pushing their sound impressively, bending the rule book as crudely as they can before the spine breaks.

We are very excited to welcome to the Milk! Records family the incredible Tiny Ruins from Auckland, New Zealand. Tiny Ruins have released two EPs and two albums, the most recent 2014’s acclaimed, Brightly Painted One. In late 2015 songwriter and guitarist Hollie Fullbrook recorded a collection of songs in Brooklyn NY with drummer Hamish Kilgour of The Clean, resulting in the EP Hurtling Through. This was closely followed by the release of Dream Wave – a 7″ single recorded/produced by renowned filmmaker (and Tiny Ruins fan) David Lynch.

Hollie Fullbrook doesn’t waste her time, and by extension, She doesn’t waste yours either. She has never released a song that didn’t sound as smart as it seems effortless. Some people can just command attention. And that’s why we’re excited to be working with her. If the above descriptions don’t make clear, her songs are amazing – anyone who likes the skill demonstrated by The Go-Betweens and Julie Byrne is at risk of Tiny Ruins fanship. We put out a song, “How Much,” recently, and we’ll have more to announce soon.

Tiny Ruins will be touring as a four-piece in the UK and Europe this August with some brand new music coming very soon.

The Kiwi Pop giants and lo-fi all-stars with only the fifth LP in their storied career.

The Clean the Halley’s Comet of indie-rock, appearing after prolonged absences in a flash of brilliance, only to disappear just as quickly and practically be forgotten about again . This New Zealand trio’s output has been notoriously sporadic over their 32-year lifespan, their releases have been fortuitously timed to capitalize on their unyielding influence: After a brief string of legend-making singles in the early 1980s, the band’s relatively prolific 1990-96 run coincided with the ascendance of Clean acolytes Pavement and Yo La Tengo; their last release, 2001’s Getaway, dovetailed with the Strokes and the Shins’ back-to-basics ethos; while the new “Mister Pop” was only their fifth full-length release at a time when a new generation of lo-fidelity all-stars (Jay Reatard, Bradford Cox, Crystal Stilts, Love Is All) is displaying a voracious appetite for Kiwi pop.

But the Clean have always exuded a casual grace that suggests they’d still be making the same records even if no one was listening, employing the same set of devices– ramshackle locomotive rhythms, buoyant basslines, swirling organ lines, and wide-smile melodies irrespective of prevailing fashions, technological developments, or geopolitical unrest. And yet, the Clean’s periodic resurgences serve as a reminder that, in a world of uncertainty, there are still some things you can rely on.

Despite the eight-year layoff since Getaway, “Mister Pop” effectively picks up right where we left off, with a pair of warm-up exercises– the metronomic organ-grinding jam “Loog” and the possibly self-referential dream-pop ditty “Are You Really on Drugs?” that feel like vapor-trail echoes of its predecessor’s distended, psychedelic haze. Even in light of the Clean’s lo-fi legacy, the tracks feel demo-grade, built on single ideas that, while lasting only three minutes each, still feel run into the ground, begging the question of whether eight years was actually long enough for the song reservoir to replenish itself again. But such quibbles are cast aside 30 seconds into “In the Dreamlife You Need a Rubber Soul”, a headlight-bright jangle-pop pleaser (possibly about the new Beatles reissues?) that boasts all the hallmarks of classic Clean. On another track, David Kilgour makes an even more explicit reinforcement of Mister Pop’s return-to-form intent: over a paisley-toned, mod-rock swing, he repeats, “It puts me right back in the day.”

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The first time I wrote about The Beths “Future Me Hates Me”—which is already near the top of my own personal Best of the Year list 2018 , I zeroed in on one specific aspect of it: the album’s sense of melancholy. And while that’s undeniably present on the record—on the rip-roaring “Uptown Girl,” Elizabeth Stokes vows to “drink the whole town dry”—but what’s also present is a sense of elation. The starry-eyed deep-in-love ballad “Little Death” offers a deeply earnest and touching depiction of true romance, Stokes gently singing, “Your smile, it makes me weak/ and the red spreads to my cheeks/ you make me feel three glasses in,” as the band steadily accelerates behind her, as if matching the rhythms of her heart. The whole record is shot through with deceptively complicated musicianship and attention to craft; what at first feel like full-blast indie rock songs soon open up to reveal deft, complicated guitar work, clever, counterintuitive structures—like the way the coulda-been-on-Jade-Tree rave-up “Not Running” slams the brakes midway through to turn the melody over to group-sung a cappella vocals.  It’s pitch perfect power-pop with smart, sad lyrics and insanely catchy hooks.

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The more you listen, the more you notice the little filigrees and pivots that usually start showing up on a band’s fifth record, not their first—which is both an accomplishment and a challenge. If The Beths are this good already, just imagine where they’ll be four albums from now.

flying nun

It’s often said that isolation leads to innovative music. That’s certainly true for a country like New Zealand, 2,500 miles over the Tasman Sea away from its closest neighbor, Australia. The country is famous for producing a pioneering brand of guitar music that has influenced artists from Sonic Youth to Pavement, to the late Memphis punk legend Jay Reatard. Since the 1980s, the “Dunedin sound,” as it’s become known, has been used as a touchstone to define a group of bands with jangly guitars, lo-fi production, and a deadpan Kiwi approach to writing and recording music; it was really just a fancy name for a localized subculture related to punk rock. At the heart of the “Dunedin sound” were groups like The Clean, Sneaky Feelings, and The Chills,

Much of the fanfare centered around the workings of Flying Nun Records, an independent label founded in 1981 by Roger Shepherd, who at the time was a relative novice with no prior experience in the business. Shepherd’s approach was fiercely DIY. In the early days, he maintained his job at a Christchurch record store (he eventually quit in 1986) and ran the label on the side. His philosophy was simple: if he liked it, he’d find a way to release it. The financials would be arranged later, sometimes for the better, sometimes for worse. It depends on who you talk to. But as the label’s popularity grew, record industry figures came knocking, and in 1990, with Flying Nun close to bankruptcy, Shepherd signed a deal to incorporate the label with Festival Records (later known as Festival Mushroom Records). A further transaction in 2006 between FMR and Warner Music Group effectively turned Flying Nun into a legacy label.

Today, that heritage is well documented. A film titled Heavenly Pop Hits – The Flying Nun Story premiered in 2002; last year, Shepherd released a book, In Love With These Times: My Life With Flying Nun Recordsand in 2013, New York record label Captured Tracks started reissuing records from the Flying Nun back catalog.

In 2009, Flying Nun was purchased from WMG by a consortium of New Zealand music professionals (including Shepherd), and in recent years has started signing and releasing music by contemporary artists such as Fazerdaze, The Courtneys, and Mermaidens. Those artists undoubtedly benefit from the past and present versions of the label. Many other New Zealand artists benefit, too, simply by sharing a home base. But the association by proxy hasn’t always been welcomed. As Flying Nun has been mythologized in New Zealand music folklore, many contemporary artists have come to view the label as having an overbearing presence.

Referencing Flying Nun has become somewhat of a tokenistic gesture, a way of pigeonholing every New Zealand guitar band without really saying anything unique about them.

No matter how you slice it, in a small market like New Zealand, a label with a history like Flying Nun’s is going to cast a long shadow. On one side you’ve got the label’s legacy, which helps to draw attention to music being made in the shaky isles, while on the other side, it’s easy for music fans to flick through the Flying Nun catalog but bypass the artists sitting right next to it.

Today, much like in the past, there’s plenty of independent record labels operating in the margins. Many have cemented their own histories amongst a dedicated community of fans, but few have found the type of global infamy that is bestowed on New Zealand’s most recognizable label.

Fishrider Records

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Ian Henderson started Fishrider Records in 2006 to release an album by The Dark Beaks. He says he had no intention of making it a permanent gig. “Enthusiastic feedback from customers, radio hosts, and reviewers around the world [and here in] Dunedin inspired me to continue,” he says. Early releases such as The Puddle’s No Love – No Hate and The Shakespeare Monkey resemble the famed “Dunedin sound” (the band has also released music with Flying Nun), but in recent years a swath of bands with new wave and post-punk tendencies have dominated the label’s roster.

“Today, there is even less of a ‘Dunedin sound’ or even a scene,” says Henderson. “Music and art have always overlapped here, and that overlap is where the interesting people and sounds are, and it’s always changing… I’ve always believed Fishrider releases the artists and albums no other label would release, and also that the label is more music arts and crafts than music industry.”

Henderson runs the label from his home in Dunedin, but partners with U.K.’s Occultation Recordings for European and U.K. distribution. It helps him save on the cost of shipping and allows him to run the label with “an art-before-commerce” approach. “The bands organize their own art and decide how they want to present themselves and their music. What I do is mostly project management and coordination, plus PR, administration, and bookkeeping. And lots of packaging and mailing,” he says.

Remaining partial to the creative process also allows him to enjoy music as a fan. “Everything released on Fishrider is something I really like and want to have in my own record collection and play,” he says. Henderson’s curation is central to the label’s success, and also helps the label maintain a certain aesthetic and sound. His love of tempered melodies and earnest storytelling define the first six years of Fishrider, which were dominated by The Puddle, Dark Beaks, and art-pop band Opposite Sex. Psychedelia started to become a theme with the first Shifting Sands record in 2012, and you can start to hear the influence of British shoegaze and American indie rock.

Melted Ice Cream

Christchurch label Melted Ice Cream is responsible for releasing some of New Zealand’s most defiant punk music. The label was started by Salad Boys guitarist/vocalist Joe Sampson in 2011 as a digital bootleg label, and later evolved into an original cassette label based out of his apartment. Brian Feary, who was living with Sampson when the label began, is now its custodian. Addressing the label’s origins, Feary recalls, “In the early days we were dubbing cassettes by hand on whatever tape recorders we could get our mitts on. We actually devised a method where we were playing all of the tracks into a four-track and recording both sides of a tape at once… In 2012 I managed to find a cassette duplicator being sold for $24 by a studio that was closing down. That was a watershed moment for the label—we could then dub a whole run of 50 tapes in about three hours!”

Feary highlights the release of a compilation called Sickest Smashes from Arson City, which features artists from the local Christchurch punk scene, as a pivotal moment in the label’s evolution. “It probably could be viewed as the initial launch of Melted Ice Cream as it is today,” he says. It included early singles by Salad Boys, as well music by dance-rockers The Dance Asthmatics and thrash punk band Transistors.

Like a lot of small independent record labels, Melted Ice Cream relies on the local music scene to keep the label upright. The label’s roster reflects this volunteer-run spirit. Feary says, “It’s a pretty casual thing, generally we know members of the bands or are even good friends with them, and of course we release music that we are involved with.” Feary is a member of X-Ray Charles and plays in The Dance Asthmatics alongside Sampson, who also plays in Salad Boys and T54. Both their fingerprints are scattered across the back catalog.

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trace / untrace

Julie Dunn cites Melted Ice Cream and Fishrider Records, as well as Auckland’s Prison Tapes and Australia’s Flightless Records, as the inspiration for her label, trace / untrace. Dunn and Richard Ley-Hamilton started the label in 2017 and have released cassettes by four of their favorite Dunedin bands: The Rothmans, Koizilla, asta rangu, and Bediquette.

The label is headquartered in Dunn’s kitchen, which is where her tape machine is located. “Tapes are such an incredible format,” she says. “I had a tape player in my car for years and some of my favorite albums are ones I’ve listened to way too many times while driving. I also really like the compressed sound that tape lends to music, which acts as a kind of lo-fi gloss for anything. Design-wise, I love making up J-cards and think you can be so creative with the artwork for a tape case.”

Dunn says before starting her own record label, she had no prior experience in the music business—“other than going to a lot of my friends’ shows and helping them as their roadie and driver”—but she has big plans. Dunn wants to use her position to promote more inclusivity in the Dunedin music scene, which for decades has been heavily dominated by male artists. “I’m really interested in exploring ways to remove barriers to making music, especially for women, non-binary, and young people, Another big aim for me is to start a platform for sharing knowledge on really solid DIY practices for musicians, like how to make good quality merch cheaply, how to host a successful DIY show,how to record inexpensively—anything that makes it easier for people to make music and get it out into the world.”

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The highlight of the trace / untrace catalog thus far is Asta Rangu’s excellent debut EP, PlasticineIt’s the work of label co-founder Ley-Hamilton, and is a fluid rock ‘n’ roll record full of tightly wound guitars and soaring vocal melodies. In the post-grunge era of the late ’90s it would have slotted in nicely beside some of the greats, but in a contemporary setting it still sounds fresh.

Lil’ Chief Records

Scott Mannion cites the lack of New Zealand record labels interested in pop music as one of the reasons for his decision to start Lil’ Chief Records with Jonathan Bree in 2002. While working together at a record store, the pair noticed a shift in the musical landscape—particularly in Auckland—towards a more aggressive style of rock music that emerged during what could be described as the post-Flying Nun era. “If Flying Nun had been around to sign The Brunettes and The Tokey Tones in the early days, we probably wouldn’t have started Lil’ Chief,” Mannion says. But given the circumstances, starting a label to release their own bands’ brand of pure-of-heart pop music made the most logical sense.

The first two releases on Lil’ Chief were of Bree’s band The Brunettes, a duo characterized by Bree and Heather Mansfield’s deadpan romanticism. Their love of ‘60s pop was endearing to fans, who saw them as a bedroom version of bands like The Beach Boys or Shangri-Las. The success of the first two Brunettes records was great for business. It cemented them as Lil’ Chief’s flagship band and helped to create the framework for a functioning, albeit very DIY, record label.

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Those early releases proved the need for a DIY pop-friendly label to exist, and the Lil’ Chief roster expanded to include The Reduction Agents, Voom, and The Ruby Suns, who along with The Brunettes went on to sign with U.S. label Sub Pop.

thanks Bandcamp –Nick Fulton