Reviews from Craig, one of our librarians:
Stainless, Sticky Filth
Sticky Filth is a Kiwi institution. From the punk rock capital of New Zealand, the mighty New Plymouth no less, they’ve built a fearsome reputation, not for their sound obviously, which isn’t particularly unique, but more for their legacy of utterly furious gigs. They’re a punk/speed metal hybrid, completely old-skool and refreshingly uncomplicated; don’t go looking for a hint of ironic sophistication or hip self-awareness, there is none to be found (and they have a front-man called Craig, which is always nice). If your appreciative of rawness and simplicity then you’ll be in grimy rock heaven because Stainless is a non-stop romp through rock’s greatest clichés; drugs, girls and in one case a girl and World War Two German handgun, of course, why not eh. Its unrefined, unpolished and just plain dumb (and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible). Highly recommended to anyone looking for something to simply blast. They’re awesome, mate.
Solace, Cale:Drew, Subsets of sets, all by Jakob
Jakob are the best New Zealand band you’ve never heard of. In just three releases these unassuming chaps from the Hawkes Bay have built an international reputation that has seen them grace the stage with celebrated post-rock artists such Isis and Pelican, reap critical acclaim from the uber-trendy rock quarters and have their records released on tre’-chic European labels. Their sound is fundamentally instrumental; progressive sweeps of guitar build upon layers of overdubs until it’s all shattered by titanic shifts in tone and crushing breakdowns. I suppose they transcend categorization in many regards, post-rock, instru-metal, experimental? Any one could fit. Its Pink Floyd listening in as King Crimson plays Tool (minus the vocal), maybe, possibly? Anyway, best you listen for yourself. Its gentle intricate picking one minute, dense and heavy riffage the next, you’re sure to find something you’ll love. Every album is as equally fantastic as the others; now that’s something you don’t hear too often. Check them out, please!
Rotor+ don’t simply play electronica, they build epic landscapes out of its tweaks and twitches. It’s like this, picture yourself aboard a magic carpet, go on, dare ya. Now envision yourself hanging onto the lip of that carpet as it speeds along hugging the contours of Aotearoa; that’s Rotor+ right there. Listening to Aileron is like participating in a long and constantly unfolding journey, in three tracks we’re whisked along through ambient and ill-bient landscapes, not unlike those traversed by early 70’s electronic experimentalists. It’s certainly surprising every time I listen, there’s something new to be heard and always something fresh and invigorating to be imagined.
Sedition, Dawn of Azazel
Lead by a sworn New Zealand police officer Dawn of Azazel are a death metal band that has mainly drawn media attention because of their lead singers chosen profession. This is a little unfair, I say a little because going by the booklet photos they sort of look like they can handle it. They are also a pretty good old-skool thrash band. Lets be honest, they’ve got little appeal for non-metal heads, actually there’s no way I could recommend this to anyone but a hardened death metal fan, but there’s something truly majestic about the lo-fi hiss and overly trebled cacophony they manage to assemble. It’s true, it’s unvarnished and it’s all frightfully earnest, you can’t ask for more than that in your metal, so on that factor alone I’d say pitch in.
Tiny Blue Biosphere, Rhian Sheehan
Alongside Pitch Black, Rhian Sheehan is another artist who has taped into the core of what makes a great Kiwi electronic artist. There’s no doubt that at its spiritual nucleus Rhian is producing music that couldn’t have been made anywhere else but it is still resoundingly international in its expression. We’ve flung our electronic artists across the globe so it’s nice to hear an album recorded here with such a global theme. At its foundation Biosphere is an ecological album, a celebration of Gaia and our treatment of her. It’s not cynical, while it could have easily been so; it is instead a celebration of us and our surroundings, the perfect Sunday morning album to reflect on or the perfect Saturday night album to bond over.
Poison of Ages, 8 Foot Sativa
Now this is how to record a great Kiwi metal album. Firstly, leave home and head to Sweden’s Studio Underground, worked for Blindspott and has done similar wonders for 8 Foot. I don’t know what it was about the location change but it meant 8 Foot went from being a ‘meeh’ generic metal band to a truly great blackened death metal band, all in a the space of a couple of albums. Infinitely heavier and darker, and with thicker and denser production values than say Dawn of Azazel, 8 Foot have been treading the boards for a decade now and showing no signs of taming themselves. If anything they are getting heavier and more controversial. Poison of Ages is the best place to start, everything previous to this is tamer so you can happily work your way down the albums if you’re after some lighter relief.
There my dear, Dimmer
Shane Carter, blah, blah, blah. We know all about Shane’s iconic, and of course, well deserved status in the annuals of Kiwi rock, but I wonder if that legacy sometimes obscures just how good he really is. We expect greatness, so when it arrives we’re all a bit ho-hum about it. Well, I’m not ho-hum in the least about this album; it’s one of my all time favourites, occupying a very special place in my heart, tucked up right next to a couple of Marvin Gayes’, a Miles Davis, a Bon Iver and one Coldplay song (forgive me). It’s a heartbreak album, wonderfully morbid and melancholic; it’s a right gloomy tour de force. Shane welcomed back the guitar on this album, after a couple of more keyboard orientated excursions, and it’s as beautiful as any of his previous standout works. If you’ve not heard Dimmer before begin here, it’s immaculately dreary.
It is utterly ridiculous that HDU never made it to the top of the Billboard charts. Here’s another Kiwi band, heaped with international praise, and still playing tiny gigs in sweaty pubs around NZ. Doesn’t make any sense at all. They’re a sterling, lurching, beast of a guitar band. Huge chunky, ominous riffs wrapped around twirling and nebulous harmonies. I don’t know what it is about our land but HDU pull something dark, mysterious and somehow kind of tranquil from our soil. They’re timeless and epic, there’s a sweeping gothic, very Dunedin, quality to their sound, infused with some of that Southern chill perhaps. In any case they’ve obviously spent a great deal of time sitting in cold rooms creating these tracks, there’s a care and passion to them that makes one imagine they really inhabit those notes when they strike them.