Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Max Block - Self-Titled 12" EP (1986)

While the Max Block released only one EP on Flying Nun in the mid-eighties, their lasting appeal is due not only to an impeccable lineage--as the link between Scorched Earth Policy and the Renderers, their legacy is assured--but in their ability to transcend this context; simply put, the sounds contained on the Max Block EP are another beast entirely from the Crooks' past and future musical entanglements. As the swirling drone of Mayrose Crook's organ propels each song to the point of collapse, she is matched by the laconic snarl of her husband; along with Rebecca Shanahan and Robbie Stowell, the two play host to a delirious carnival of psychotic merriment. Play this one alongside the Garbage and the Flowers' 7" from December 8th. - Ariel


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Balloon d'Essai - Grow Up 12" EP (1983)

This is a request I've been sitting on for a while. Ballon d'Essai recorded two EPs for Flying Nun in the early eighties; 1981's 'This is the Level Crossing' and 1983's 'Grow Up' are not always successful in their art-damaged punk stylings, but there are enough worthwhile ideas and sheer exuberence on hand to make up for it over the course of a record. They're very of their time, for good and ill. Comics were included with each release, scanned here for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy. - Ariel


Scorched Earth Policy - Keep Away from the Wires (2000)

Never has a name been so apt. A cauldron of prairie fire and brimstone, the sweltering beauty of Peter Stapleton's Scorched Earth Policy lies in their ability to conjure visions of austere desolation, sun-drenched despair, and loves lost and buried with a raucous, tumbling fury not found in the subdued murmurings of the Victor Dimisich Band. While those were delivered in the hushed tones of quiet desperation, these are the tortured cries of a soul slowly succumbing to the hypnotizing lull of insanity. It is the creeping, lingering shadow of the mid-afternoon sun as it tantalizes and mocks, an intangible harbinger of the darkness to come. Rising from the ashes of Victor Dimisich, Scorched Earth Policy was active from 1982 to 1986; during that time they released two EPs on Flying Nun, 1984's 'Dust to Dust' and 1985's 'Going thru' a Hole in the Back of Your Head.' Two live cassettes followed, one a posthumous Xpressway release. 'Keep Away from the Wires,' a collection released on Stapleton's Medication label in 2000, compiles the two EPs in their entirety along with outtakes and live selections. The main separating factor between Victor Dimisich and Scorched Earth--aside from Stephen Cogle's imitable baritone--was undoubtedly the contributions of guitarist Brian Crook to the latter. A spine-tingling blend of poetic menace and bite defines Crook's playing; it is impossible to imagine either Scorched Earth Policy or the Renderers without it. Enjoy this one. - Ariel


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Victor Dimisich Band - My Name is K (1997)

Few musical family trees within New Zealand music are as artistically rewarding as the Victor Dimisich Band/Scorched Earth Policy/Terminals trifecta, and that's not even mentioning the psychedelic twang of Brian Crook's Renderers. The Victor Dimisich Band was the first, releasing a single 12" EP within its lifetime. Containing the spellbinding, swirling intensity of "Native Waiter," the 1982 self-titled release remains a classic of the brooding Christchurch scene that counted the Pin Group and Bill Direen's Bilders among its legendary roster. The Victor Dimisich Band featured Stephen Cogle and Peter Stapleton in their earliest recorded partnership; the haunted baritone of the former is unmistakable, while the propulsive, thundering drums of the latter offer a perfect accompaniment to Victor Dimisich's tales of quiet, droning desperation. In 1988, Xpressway released a live Victor Dimisich cassette called 'The Mekong Delta Blues.' 'My Name is K' collects select tracks from this profoundly lo-fi document and the original EP in its entirety. I've included notes on the exact details of recording. Enjoy! - Ariel


Friday, December 12, 2008

Graeme Jefferies - Messages for the Cakekitchen (1988)

'Messages for the Cakekitchen' was the first and last Graeme Jefferies album to be released under his own name. With songs reminiscent of his work in This Kind of Punishment, 'Cakekitchen' announces itself with quiet urgency, but the facade is transparent; under the surface of its baroquely textured beauty lies a palpable menace. On those few occasions that Jefferies invites this ferocity to the forefront, the result is a cacophonous transcendence. Jefferies' baritone, subdued and emotionally evocative, propels the album forward to an unknown end; subject to the hypnotic intensity of its droning lull, the listener has no choice but to continue on. "All the Colours Run Dry," "The Cardhouse," and "Is the Timing Wrong?" are all among this listener's favorites, and I feel that this album, along with Peter's 'The Last Great Challenge in a Dull World,' evokes and equals the brothers' time spent in This Kind of Punishment; the same peculiar sense of humanistic surrealism permeates each. Don't miss this one. - Ariel

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Garbage and the Flowers - Catnip b/w Carousel 7" (1992)

I apologize for the severe lack of updates lately. To tide you over until the next post--up by the end of the week, I promise--I thought I'd offer one of my favorite New Zealand singles as a peace offering. The Garbage and the Flowers released this cacophonous gem of a 7" in 1992 on the Twisted Village imprint; the band has continued to record, and if you're enticed by the sounds here, a 1997 collection of their material entitled 'Eyes Rind as if Beggars' can be found on the Allegory of Allergies blog. Dusted aptly described the Garbage and the Flowers' sound as "raw gobbets of gray matter, filthy drone, and vintage ennui," and while I think that the band's lo-fi charms begin to wear in the long-player format, this is a near-perfect realization of harsh, dissonant beauty; Helen Johnstone's strong vocals, alternatively defiant and wearied, are the real draw here, anchoring the recordings as they threaten to spiral out of control and collapse in their frenzied rush. The propulsive, feedback-drenched "Catnip" and its counterpart, the austere, resigned "Carousel," offer a bleak vision of modern humanity that is inescapable in its hypnotizing lull. Enjoy! - Ariel