Wellington City Libraries

Te Matapihi Ki Te Ao Nui

Wellington Music: A Trip Through the Archives.

NZ Music Month is a good time to dive into local music and the WCL CD collection is an excellent resource to enable such endeavours. The general consensus from our ‘NZMM: Artists on Wellington Music’ series of daily posts seems to be that, for a small city, Wellington produces a lot of outstanding music and also that the music is highly diverse in nature. To illustrate both points, here is a diverse list of ten recommended Wellington releases.

Cover imageGamelan Padhang Moncar – Naga 2014
Victoria University’s School of Music’s Gamelan ensemble toured six Indonesian cities in 2013 and recorded the 12 original pieces composed specifically for the tour when they returned. Produced by Jack Body, this is an entrancing work and one can only marvel that this hypnotic and astoundingly beautiful music was composed and recorded here in Wellington.

Ghostplane – Beneath the Sleepy Lagoon 2005Cover image
A mysterious record by a mysterious band who only ever recorded one album and one EP. From the excellent cover art to the music this is an intriguing work that sits somewhere between art rock and alt country in weaving a spell that could be described as South Pacific gothic. It’s a dark, moody and understated gem.

Jet Jaguar – Four / Montano – Subtitled 2012Cover image
Local electronic producer, Michael Upton aka ‘Jet Jaguar’, has been making high quality downbeat and experimental electronica since the late ‘90’s. In 2012 he released two CDs – as Jet Jaguar,‘Four’, and as Montano, his collaboration with Melbourne based musician Shanan Holm, ‘Subtitled’. ‘Four’ is the distinctive Jet Jaguar sound – smooth, chilled yet funky, while ‘Subtitled’ consists of intriguing ambient pieces based on field recordings of the sounds of urban Melbourne. Both are beautifully produced and are a great introduction to a very talented electronic producer.

Mestar – Shut the Squizwot Factories Down 2006Cover image
Not strictly a Wellington production, but South Islander John White recorded this while he lived in Wellington a few years ago with local musician Stef Animal on bass. It’s only 30 mins long but contains some of the best power pop you will hear. It remains a mystery why Mestar never attained the fame they deserved but John White continues to make great music undaunted. This is now also available as a free Bandcamp download.

Mr Sterile Assembly – Transit 2012Cover image
Possibly Wellington’s best kept secret and defying genre classification, the duo of Mr Sterile Assembly incorporate elements of jazz, rock, punk, improv, indie, pop and post-punk, yet remain oddly accessible….and they can rock! The standard of musicianship is high, with guests including Jeff Henderson on saxophone. This is remarkable music that works with its own internal logic, demanding listener attention, but offering substantial reward.

Orchestra of Spheres – Vibration Animal Sex Brain Music 2013Cover image
Not often enough, music turns up that exists within its own unique bubble of creativity and ‘Vibration Animal Sex Brain Music’, recorded in Italy by Wellington band ‘Orchestra of Spheres’ is a good example. Their celebratory and joyous psychedelic sound, propulsive and slightly off-kilter, has evolved since their first release ‘Nonagonic Now’, incorporating a more user-friendly ‘pop’ feel, but the pop of a parallel dimension tribal culture, where it is normal for musicians to make their own instruments from biscuit tins and perform live wearing robes, sequined masks and hats made of cassettes.– it grooves, Jim, but not as we know it.

The Golden Awesome – Autumn 2012Cover image
Wellington band The Golden Awesome are signed to New York indie label M’Lady’s which released ‘Autumn’ on vinyl as well as on CD. The album received glowing reviews both locally and internationally for its immersive, dramatic sound that lovingly references the heyday of the shoegaze era. Featuring layers of overdriven guitars with dreamy female vocals buried in the mix they evoke a mysterious poignant beauty.

VA – A Sound Like No Other 2014Cover image
Wellington based DJ/producer, Milky Joe, curated and mixed this collection of recent tracks released by Wellington based artists across a spectrum including electronic, ambient and indie bands. This doesn’t have the smooth flow generally associated with dj mixes, but given the variety of material used, that is probably a good thing. If anyone is interested in what is happening under the radar in Wellington then this is essential listening…..and it’s free to borrow as well!

Douglas Lilburn – The Landscape of a New Zealand Composer (Audio Book) & Complete Electro-acoustic Works (1963-1969)Cover image
Anyone interested in the history of Wellington music cannot go past the city’s most famous composer, Douglas Lilburn. This year he became the first classical musician to be inducted into the NZ Music Hall of Fame and the Audio Book ‘The Landscape of a New Zealand Composer’ is a 10 disc set that chronicles his entire career. ‘Complete Electro-Acoustic Works’ is a three disc set that compiles his electronic music experiments of the 1960’s when he established the first electronic music studio in the Southern Hemisphere at Victoria University, a facility that still operates today.

Skeptics : Sheen of Gold (DVD) 2014Cover image
The Skeptics were a hugely influential 80’s Flying Nun band, originally from Palmerston North, whose underground fame continues to grow to this day. The band broke up in 1990 following the sudden death of singer David D’Ath, and this doco directed by Simon Ogston, which premiered at the 2013 New Zealand International Film Festival, skilfully traces the trajectory of the band from start to finish. Featuring archival footage, music clips and interviews this is an engrossing documentary and an excellent testimony to one of NZ’s most innovative bands that both fans and newcomers will find fascinating.

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