Local vinyl reviews for NZMM

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To celebrate New Zealand Music Month, we’re showcasing New Zealand and Wellington artists on vinyl at some of our branches (Karori, Newtown, Kilbirnie and Cummings Park). This is in addition to our main vinyl collections in the Te Awe and Johnsonville Libraries.

In terms of physical format releases there are a lot of vinyl exclusives from local artists, so for NZMM 2024 we thought we would check some of those out…

Photo of a vinyl display at one of our libraries.

Ancient relics / Johnson, Lucien (LP)
Mark Says: Following on from 2022’s Wax///wane local saxophonist Lucien Johnson returns with a new LP, Ancient Relics. This is another set of searching tunes that expand on the concept of Alice Coltrane/Pharoah Sanders-esque ‘spiritual jazz’, full of melodic lines and harmonic invention. Pianist Jonathan Crayford, Tom Callwood on double bass, Julien Dyne on percussion, Cory Champion on drums and vibraphone with harpist Natalia Lagi’itaua Mann add layers of swirling counterpoints to Johnson’s compositions. This LP is already acclaimed overseas with plenty of 4/5 star reviews in the UK jazz press, where it slots in neatly next to the current crop of great jazz that is expanding the scope and depth of ‘astral jazz’.

New urban Polynesian / Fuemana (LP)
Mark Says: Thirty years after it was released on CD and cassette, the Fuemana family’s cult classic New Urban Polynesian album is finally available on vinyl. After the success of two tracks on the 1994 compilation Proud (winner of the NZ Classic Record 2022 Taite Prize and reissued on Vinyl here), the label Deepgrooves offered Phillip Fuemana (older brother of OMC’s Pauly Fuemana) a deal for his own LP. He then recruited siblings Tony, Christina, Pauly and Matty J Ruys, a Pākehā singer. The families Niuean/Māori heritage bangs up against 80’s R&B influences from Alexander O’Neal to Luther Vandross to create plenty of classically styled funky grooves, but also something that was a unique type of Polynesian smooth ‘street-soul’. A nice Substack piece from Martyn Pepperell digs further into the album’s history.

Pure / Gutteridge, Peter (LP)
Neil Says: Described accurately by one reviewer as the missing link between Syd Barrett and Suicide, this is the first vinyl release of The Chill’s Peter Gutteridge’s only solo album. It originally saw light as a tape only release in 1989. The newly reemerged album is driven by early rattling drum machines, a few scuzzy, fuzzy, psych guitars, with Peter’s own unique vocals completing the sonics. In its own way this is the recovery of a lo-fi masterwork and a fabulous missing link to have back!

Sundae Painters / Sundae Painters (LP)
Neil Says: This is the last recording of the late, much-lamented, Hamish Kilgour. It was done in conjunction with his brother David Kilgour and three of his long-term music friends: Alec Bathgate, Paul Kean and Kaye Woodward. Their shared musical past shines through in the songs and the overall sound of the release; sophisticated New Zealand rooted garage punk that has its DNA in the sixties and Dunedin. It’s a fabulous release where the energy, enthusiasm and passion of everyone involved is evident. It serves as a fitting reminder of Hamish Kilgour’s musical greatness.

Tides / Hummucide (LP)
Sam Says: Self-described as a ‘four-piece minimalist rock-jazz group’ with influences ranging from BadBadNotGood to Aphex Twin, Wellington’s Hummucide have worked to create a distinctively eclectic sound. They have released a number of singles and EPs since 2020, with Tides being their first full-length offering. The compositions are largely driven by the elegant saxophone and keyboard work of Tony Leman and Ben Stewart (respectively), underpinned by a driving rhythm section to give it a rock-like sense of power and urgency. Several tracks also feature guest guitar and/or vocal spots, which provide numerous moments of timbral variety across the course of the record. Perhaps Hummucide’s greatest asset is their ability to create music that is simultaneously heavy and soothing, which in turn makes for a transcendent and memorable listen.

1981 / Riot 111 (LP)
Sam Says: Riot 111 were a New Zealand punk group, who enjoyed a short yet notorious career throughout the first half of the 1980s. Formed in the midst of the anti-apartheid Springbok tour protests in 1981, the band were noted for their provocative and outspoken political messaging and activities; consequently, they were banned by TVNZ for their depictions of police violence. They went on to release two 45” EPs and played in support of celebrated acts such as The Fall, The Birthday Party and The Dead Kennedys, with the latter’s frontman Jello Biafra being a noted supporter of the group. With this remastered compilation release coming over four decades after their initial run, the music remains as aggressively potent as ever and is most certainly an important piece of New Zealand punk rock history.

Ephemeral / Wilson, Dave (LP)
Mark Says: More of an inside/outside small group orchestra, this latest album from Chicago-raised and Wellington based saxophonist and bass clarinettist Dave Wilson features a larger ensemble, with a string quartet adding layers to his jazz quintet. Wilson plays tenor sax and bass clarinet, and his quintet consists of double bass player Chris Beernink, trumpeter Ben Hunt, guitarist Callum Allardice, and drummer Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa. The ongoing musical conversation between the New Zealand String Quartet and the horns features plenty of improvisational hues and drone like segments, as stonking brass merges into dreamy reflections of the natural Wellington environment and the nature of ongoing relationships.

Dangerous day to be a cold one / Dartz
Sam Says: Over the past five years, Dartz have rapidly become one of the most exciting and prolific acts within the local Wellington punk scene, with several EPs and singles put out since 2019. Released on the famed Flying Nun records, the aptly (and humorously) titled Dangerous Day to be a Cold One is their sophomore full-length effort, and finds them sounding more confident and polished than ever before. Packed full of infectiously catchy and highly energetic pub-rock party anthems over the space of 30 minutes, it is a fiercely immediate and decisive album from a band firing on all cylinders, a notion made all the more apparent by the quick turnover since the release of their debut little over a year ago. With Dangerous Day to be a Cold One, Dartz have clearly established themselves as a major up-and-coming force within the local scene.
Neil Says: The second album from the New Zealand slash and burn punk rock outfit Dartz sees them capitalising on their reputation for high octane, explosive live gigs. They’ve been playing to packed audiences of ecstatic heavily involved fans, and this resulting new album doubles down on their brand of raucous, anthemic, fast and furious punk sing along tracks, all with a unique local bite to their lyrics.

Mermaidens / Mermaidens (LP)
Mark Says: Mermaidens returned with their fourth full length record in 2023. They’ve swapped the sometimes-obtuse post-punk/psyche-rock overtones of their previous work for a vibe that is slicker, and more pop. The result is a sound that harks back to the fizzy ‘alt-pop’ that ran through bands like Pixies and The Breeders & Belly, with dashes of 80s shoegaze and punk. With Samuel Scott Flynn (Phoenix Foundation) at the helm as producer, there is a real sense of arrival with this album. Every musical element is cleanly locked in place, the songwriting is more immediate catchy with plenty of pop hooks, along with more harmonies and shimmery, hypnotic, grooves. Perhaps their best album yet.

Ideal home noise / Ellen, Vera (LP)
Mark Says: Singer and multi-instrumentalist Vera Ellen returned with her second album on Flying Nun, following her 2021 album, It’s Your Birthday which earned won the ‘Best Alternative Artist’ award at the 2022 AMA’s as well as a Taite Award nomination. Introspective and deeply personal while still offering up plenty of catchy songs, Ideal Home Noises mines heavier material, sifting through the detritus of health and mental health struggles, and the general hopelessness felt by the younger generation. While it’s often raw and plaintive, it’s also full of darkly comic reflections and sharp, insightful, self deprecating indie rockers, full of dynamic guitar lines and surging melodies. So, no surprise it ended up winning the 2024 Taite Music prize.

Ebony Lamb / Lamb, Ebony (LP)
Mark Says: Local star Ebony Lamb (of Eb & Sparrow) strikes out on her own with her debut solo album on Nadia Reid’s label Slow Time Records. A smooth, warm, intimate, analogue sounding production expands the sound palette and lyrical themes of her previous band, who amicably parted ways in 2018 (after an EP & 3 full-length albums). Impressionistic songs are built around jazzy psych-folk and moody alt-country, delving into coping with the complexities of relationships between friends, parents and children; the shifting uncertainty of the modern world and the strength of connections. Reminded me a bit of the latest Mitski album in places. A great leap forward artistically, and obviously just the beginning of her new music journey.

Rejecting obliteration / Blindfolded And Led To The Woods (LP)
Sam Says: Having been an active force for well over a decade, Christchurch-based titans Blindfolded and Led to the Woods have built themselves into one of the biggest names in New Zealand extreme metal. Over the course of their three previous albums the band have shown remarkable development, starting out as a humour-laden deathcore act before morphing into a forward-thinking avant-garde/progressive death metal outfit with an impressively varied sound. On their fourth album, Rejecting Obliteration, they push their limits even further whilst sounding more confident in themselves than ever before. Chaotically dissonant guitar riffs and thunderous blast-beat driven drum passages gnash and gnaw their way through relentlessly complex musical arrangements to great effect. These elements of savagery are succinctly offset by moments of atmospheric and melodic grandeur, providing a colourful musical template of epic proportions. Whilst many lesser acts often attempt such feats of creative diversity in what feels like a mismatched and awkward manner, Blindfolded and Led to the Woods are able to pull it off in a way that feels positively elemental in execution. Rejecting Obliteration is a truly impressive affair that can confidently stand alongside the best in the world within the field of progressive death metal.

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