Thursday, May 21, 2009

Alpaca Brothers - Legless EP (1986)

A fine, underrated band from the peak of Flying Nun's influence, the Alpaca Brothers stirred up a nice racket on their 1986 Legless EP. The band featured Steve Courname, who went on to drum for the Verlaines, and Norma O'Malley of Look Blue Go Purple. - Ariel


Monday, May 18, 2009

"Friends of the Enemy" Documentary

This is great stuff!

Part 1:

Part 2:

State of the Blog

As you may or may not have noticed, a number of links have mysteriously disappeared. My attempts to create an archival collection of New Zealand music were tempered in March when a representative from Mushroom Records--the label that bought Flying Nun in 1990--requested that a number of artists be removed, including:

The Clean
David Kilgour
Martin Phillipps/The Chills
Chris Knox
Toy Love
Tall Dwarfs
The Bats
Goblin Mix

So, that explains that. For educational purposes, the pages will remain. I'm going to start writing about music from outside of New Zealand again--in addition to the usual, of course--but please continue to request your kiwi favorites!

- Ariel

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Beat Happening - You Turn Me On (1992)

It's not kiwi, but it's one of my favorites. Hearing someone slight this record recently was like hearing an attack on an old friend.

Bathed in ambient warmth, You Turn Me On is classic Beat Happening—pure, minimalist fury, driving percussion, and laconic drone—but in panoramic Technicolor. Draping their distinctly adult tales of lust, love, and rejection in the gauzy language of adolescence, the innocence of Beat Happening’s approach is belied by the bittersweet knowledge that such blissful idyll is fleeting. The childlike retreat to the comforting and the familiar is a futile pursuit, but it is often the only language that is available to us. Nakedly emotional and rooted in the present, You Turn Me On is Beat Happening’s most honest record. From the opening strains of “Tiger Trap” to the closing chimes of “Bury the Hammer,” the album is an extraordinary coda to a career of conceptual and lyrical delights. Though its predecessors’ rinky-dink, schoolyard charms were a key aspect of Beat Happening’s sound, the more polished affair of You Turn Me On does not lessen the impact of its songs but rather confirms what had always been clear: in terms of lyrical and melodic prowess, Beat Happening was a cut above the like-minded crop of awkward, cardigan-clad bands that appeared in their wake. The limitations of their sound were never reflected in the strength of their material. On You Turn Me On, the digital effects suit the songs. It is difficult to imagine the lullaby drone of “Godsend” without the sweetly lilting guitar harmonies that blend and swoon together in a transcendent evocation of idealized love. Heather represented the pulsing, human heart at the center of Beat Happening, offering a sweet contrast to Calvin’s guttural food-sex-death metaphors and B-movie diversions, and ”Godsend” is the album’s centerpiece. You Turn Me On is full of such moments, a beautiful and resigned farewell from one of the era’s greatest bands. Heather, Calvin, and Bret: thank you. - Ariel

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Cakekitchen - Time Flowing Backwards (1991)

Originally released as a four-song EP on Flying Nun in 1989, 'Time Flowing Backwards' was reissued by Homestead Records in 1991 with six additional tracks. 'Time Flowing Backwards' has a bigger, crunchier sound than its predecessor, Jefferies' 'Messages for the Cakekitchen,' though it shares that album's sense of droning urgency. Enjoy this and 'World of Sand.' - Ariel


The Cakekitchen - World of Sand (1991)

'World of Sand' succeeded 1989's 'Time Flowing Backwards' EP, which was the official debut of Graeme Jefferies' recordings under the Cakekitchen moniker. It may be argued, however, that Jefferies' Messages for the Cakekitchen, released under his own name in 1988, was the true birth of Cakekitchen. The tightly crafted tension and claustrophobic nature of 'Messages...' is less apparent but not lost entirely in 'World of Sand.' A more polished affair, it is still unmistakably Jefferies, whose rich, guttural vocals appear alternatively menacing and tender. The revolving cast of musicians that have appeared in Cakekitchen over the years includes Alastair Galbraith, represented on this album in the haunting, gentle lilt of the title track, and the Clean's Hamish Kilgour. Enjoy. - Ariel


Friday, February 13, 2009

Marie and the Atom

Spit It Out 12" EP (1983)

- Miss America
- Yellow Tulip
- Tall
- Torch
- Aria To Marie
- Swing

Yellow Read Aloud 12" EP (1983)

- Receiving The Yellow
- Karaka Bay
- Isol
- A Town Called Women And Men
- Orange Towel Song


Marie and the Atom
Spit It Out 12" EP & Yellow Read Aloud 12" EP

The Dead C - Live Dead See (1988)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Renderers - That Dog's Head in the Gutter Gives Off Vibrations (1995)

This album was Brian and Mayrose Crook's second full-length release as the Renderers, appearing four years after their debut, 'Trail of Tears.' The Crooks would produce their most lasting material with the Southern-fried, psychedelic twang of the Renderers, born out of the anarchic joy of the Max Block; 'The Dog's Head in the Gutter...' is undoubtedly their masterpiece. While 1991's 'Million Lights' 7" announced Mayrose Crook as the perfect vocal counterpoint to her husband, it is with this album that she truly comes into her own as a vocalist. The slow-burn of "So Blind," coupled with the quietly defiant resignation of Mayrose's vocal, punctuated by the piercing guitar tones of Brian Crook, achieves an escalating emotional intensity that sets the tone for the remainder of the album. Positioned after the ominous, dusk-tinged "Unforgiven," the two songs exemplify the weeping humanism at the heart of the Renderer's music, bittersweet yet tinged with the allure of misanthropy. Enjoy this one. - Ariel


Friday, January 9, 2009

Wreck Small Speakers on Expensive Stereos - A Child's Guide to...(1988)

Preceded by collections showcasing the live power of the Dead C and This Kind of Punishment, 'A Child's Guide to Wreck Small Speakers on Expensive Stereos' was the third assortment of material released on Bruce Russell's Xpressway imprint. A duo comprised of the Dead C's Michael Morley and Richard Ram, Wreck Small Speakers on Expensive Stereos released an EP on Flying Nun in 1986 entitled 'River Falling Love,' but the pair were independently prodigious, recording a number of self-released cassettes from 1983 to 1986. 'A Child's Guide to...' is an archival release, gathering material from these obscurities in addition to live recordings. The band pursued their various musical diversions to varied success, from the techno-pop meanderings of "Together We Sense" to the delicately beautiful "Rain," which features an ethereal vocal contribution from Denise Roughan (Look Blue Go Purple/3Ds.) Enjoy. - Ariel