New Zealand Music Month Feature Interview: Sandbox Studio

Sandbox Studio on Facebook

New Zealand Music Month logo - May 2023

Local recording studio Sandbox Studio is the best kept secret in the Wellington Music scene, but word is spreading far and wide, and a growing number of artists are coming from all over the country and even across the Tasman to record their sound with Sandbox Studio.

This uniquely located studio was once the living room of the apartment next door, which was built for the owner as a city crash pad. The Penthouse extension which now houses Sandbox Studio was built in the early ’70s but had been abandoned, and was essentially unoccupied for the best part of 10 years or so, before engineer Benni Krueger & musician Jon Lemmon took on the lease in 2016. Initially planned as an art and music space, it eventually became a shared music space, before evolving into a professional recording studio.

For New Zealand Music Month we are premiering a retrospective look at Sandbox Studio, with a feature-length video comprising multiple retrospective interviews conducted over several time periods, along with archival video footage and photos representing the evolution of the studio and its equipment over time. Now jointly run by studio engineers Benni Krueger and Peter Molteno, we talked with studio co-founders Benni, Daniela Mogin and Lorenzo Buhne about how they came to be involved in the studio’s creation, the building of their unique isolation booth, their thoughts on the Wellington music scene, and many other topics.

Today Sandbox Studio is one of Wellington’s top recording studios — a streamlined, professional powerhouse with a fast-paced turnover. In the time since we filmed some of these segments, Sandbox Studio has worked with over 100 new artists and have made significant improvements to the space, equipment, and workflow.

This feature is a snapshot of the studio in its infancy rather than how it is represented today, but it tells the fascinating story of how three people from completely different backgrounds and different countries came together to create something unique and special for the local music scene in Wellington.

Be-spoke Style: new fashion titles

This month’s new fashion and beauty books bring a great selection of reads! Lee Alexander McQueen: mind, mythos, muse is a brand new title on the legendary genius of designer Alexander McQueen and Be-spoke pairs quotes, inspiring edicts, and philosophies from famous fashion designers with fun fashion illustrations. We also have new books on the history of fashion, Indian fashion and textiles, fashionable menswear and a diary from the 1800s, filled with fragments of cloth which become windows into Victorian life. Find your favourite new fashion read in the list below.

Lee Alexander McQueen : mind, mythos, muse / Esguerra, Clarissa M.
“British designer Lee Alexander McQueen’s collections synthesized his training in Savile Row tailoring, theatrical design, and haute couture with references spanning time, geography, mediums, and technology. Taking a look at McQueen’s design process, this book documents the designer’s diverse sources of inspiration by displaying McQueen’s fashions alongside related artworks. McQueen’s encyclopedic references range from ancient Greece and Rome to Tibetan silk brocade patterns, 17th-century Dutch painting, the prints of Goya, and the films of Stanley Kubrick. In each of these cases and beyond, examples of McQueen’s work are displayed alongside artworks from LACMA’s permanent collection.” (Catalogue)

Be-spoke : revelations from the world’s most important fashion designers / Luther, Marylou
“A collection of witty and sometimes wry quotes, inspiring edicts, and philosophies about fashion and style by celebrated fashion designers. Featuring Karl Lagerfeld, Virgil Abloh, Marc Jacobs, Azzedine Alaïa, Rei Kawakubo, Miuccia Prada, Thom Browne, and more, the book celebrates the designers with drawings by fashion’s favorite illustrator, Ruben Toledo. His charming and vibrant renderings of these creative individuals, combined with inspiring and humorous text, makes this captivating book a must-have for fashion lovers everywhere.” (Adapted from catalogue)

India in fashion : the impact of Indian dress and textiles on the fashionable imagination / Bowles, Hamish
“India in Fashion’ explores the beautiful and sophisticated history and aesthetics of traditional Indian fashion, dress, and textiles and their profound impact on European and American fashion from the eighteenth century to today.00This intoxicating and visually rich volume, with texts by experts from India, Europe, and North America, is published to accompany a major exhibition that celebrates the long historical contributions that Indian dress, textiles, and embroidery have had on Western fashion.  (Adapted from catalogue)

The men’s fashion book
“The Men’s Fashion Book’ is an unparalleled A-Z deep-dive into the designers, photographers, icons, and other creatives who have produced and inspired the most memorable looks in menswear – and are advancing today’s renaissance in men’s clothing and style. Created in collaboration with Jacob Gallagher, men’s fashion editor at Off Duty for the Wall Street Journal, this stunning book documents more than two centuries of men’s fashion, bringing its history to life through iconic, inspirational images, from traditional suits to streetwear, and beyond.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Worn : a people’s history of clothing / Thanhauser, Sofi
“In this ambitious, panoramic social history, Sofi Thanhauser brilliantly tells five stories–Linen, Cotton, Silk, Synthetics, Wool–about the clothes we wear and where they come from, illuminating our world in unexpected ways. Thanhauser makes clear how the clothing industry has become one of the planet’s worst polluters, relying on chronically underpaid and exploited laborers. But she also shows us how micro-communities and companies of textile and clothing makers in every corner of the world are rediscovering ancestral and ethical methods for making what we wear. Worn reveals to us that our clothing comes not just from the countries listed on the tags or ready-made from our factories–it comes, as well, from deep in our histories.” (Adapted from catalogue)

The dress diary of Mrs Anne Sykes / Strasdin, Kate
“In 1838, a young woman was given a diary on her wedding day. Collecting snippets of fabric from a range of garments she carefully annotated each one, creating a unique record of her life and times. Nearly two hundred years later, the diary fell into the hands of Kate Strasdin, a fashion historian and museum curator. Piece by piece, she charts Anne’s journey from the mills of Lancashire to the port of Singapore before tracing her return to England in later years. Fragments of cloth become windows into Victorian life. Through the evidence of waistcoats, ball gowns and mourning outfits, Strasdin lays bare the whole of human experience in the most intimate of mediums: the clothes we choose to wear.” (Adapted from catalogue)

It’s time to rethink your fashion : creating a better future / Lowe, Lalita
“The fashion industry is one of the most resource-intensive industries in the world. Over the years considerable damage has been done, but with increasing knowledge and the power of choice consumers are now influencing change. The key to success is for the fashion industry, consumers, political powers and other industries to join forces for a better and brighter future. To rethink our fashion is to understand and examine our personal and social values. It also means we need to understand the real impact our clothes have on the environment and the people in the supply chain, so we can make better buying decisions.” (Catalogue)

Dress code : unlocking fashion from the new look to millennial pink / Hyland, Véronique
“What does “dressing for yourself” really mean for a woman? Will gender-differentiated fashion go forever out of style? How has social media affected and warped our sense of self-presentation, and how are we styling ourselves expressly for it? Not everyone participates in painting, literature, or film. But there is no “opting out” of fashion. And yet, fashion is still seen as superficial and trivial, and only the finest of couture is considered as art. Hyland argues that fashion is a key that unlocks questions of power, sexuality, and class, taps into history, and sends signals to the world around us.” (Adapted from catalogue)

May’s NZMM Reviews: Part 3 – Wellington CD/Vinyl Mix

Here is part 3 of our New Zealand Music Month Music picks for May. You can catch up with Part 1 here, and Part 2 here. This is a mix of some recent, and some older, Wellington releases and reissues on CD & Vinyl.

New Zealand Music Month logo - May 2023

I’ll hum the first few bars / Long, David
Mark: The new David Long is a quasi-classical/experimental album of commissioned pieces. The title track for chamber orchestra, electric guitar and mechatronics was commissioned by Orchestra Wellington and recorded with Stroma. The rest of the tracks were composed for Douglas Wright’s dance work, ‘Rapt’, and are performed by David Long and Jeff Henderson. The orchestral track explores the collision of structured string parts with punk rhythm’s and instrumentation, while the unusual instrumentation of the ‘Rapt’ tracks feature feedback, banjos, toy percussion, accordion, making the music a character in the larger drama of the choreography.
Neil: Just last year David Long released Ash and Bone, a gorgeously suite of pieces that defy easy generic categorisation, which David described as a work that makes “a constellation of musical styles but never quite rests in any one of them”. The same holds true for ‘I’ll Hum the First Few Bars’, a recording as texturally rich and sonically expressive as we have come to expect from this bold and inventive composer.

Wāhine / Griffin, Hannah
Mark: Wāhine’ is an album of poetry by New Zealand women set to music. Our catalogue files it under vocalist Hannah Griffin, but like a lot of Rattle Records projects it’s really a collaborative effort by Griffin, pianist Norman Meehan, and Thomas Voyce (ex-Rhombus) on everything else. Blair Latham (bass clarinet) and Nick van Dijk (flugelhorn) provide some additional coloring on some tracks. The poems are from Hinemoana Baker, Cilla McQueen, and Janet Frame, all re-framed into an amalgam of Electronic textures, processed elements & vocals, & Jazz stylings and phrasing. The arrangements are quite varied, moving from moody and minimal to larger soundscapes, and often quite funky in places.
Neil: ‘Wāhine’ by Hannah Griffin is an album of exceptional New Zealand Aotearoa poems by the likes of Hinemoana Baker, Cilla McQueen, and Janet Frame set to music and released on the outstanding Rattle Label. It is notoriously difficult to set poems convincingly to music, perhaps because they contain their own rhythmic structure, but this collection stunningly avoids any pitfalls, largely because the musicians treat the poems as lyrics. This might seem like a small point but it makes a world of difference, allowing the songs to flow. The end result is very beautiful, atmospheric, mellow, melodic and often melancholic work, with minimalist slightly Jazz undercurrents .

Apart / Bergman, Teresa
Mark: Teresa Bergman is a musician originally from Lower Hutt, who finished fifth on New Zealand Idol in 2005. She moved to Berlin a few years later and found success there as a street busker before being signed to a local label. She has just released her third solo album 33 Single & Broke, which has gotten great reviews. This is her 2nd album, ‘Apart’, which was released in 2019 on the German label Jazzhaus Records. She has a distinctive, rich, jazzy voice that merges Jazz stylings and rhythms, with sophisticated contemporary singer-songwriting, to dig into the knotty subtexts and contradictions of modern relationships.
Neil: Teresa Bergman’s rich, powerful and versatile neo soul jazz voice is at the centre of this album about separation. It is a very impressive, and at points intense, pop-soul outing with strong jazz elements and some folk and experimental moments. And definitely displays a deep emotional honesty in its lyrics.

Swings & roundabouts / Lockett, Mark
Mark: Local drummer Mark Lockett took this set of compositions for his 7th album, composed during lockdown, to New York once the travel restrictions lifted. Employing NY heavyweights David Binney, Duane Eubanks, and expat Kiwi Matt Penman, he eschews a pianist to focus on the chord-less playing that he prefers. Harks back to the late 50s/Early 60s Atlantic albums of Ornette Coleman’s classic quartet with Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, and Ed Blackwell. But this is structured rather than free-form playing, with this engaging set of twisty rhythmically complex tunes.
Neil: ‘Swings and Roundabouts’ is a straight down the line jazz album by New Zealand drummer Mark Lockett . It’s his seventh release and can be described as an adventurous and fresh free-form jazz album, which avoids the more discordant places some free form jazz albums explore. It displays a very high level of musicianship and creativity and should have a great appeal for fans of this particular musical genre.

Heroine : the Wild Poppies complete collection (1986-1989) / Wild Poppies
Mark: Formed in 1986, local band The Wild Poppies quickly released a debut album, then relocated to the UK and made a name for themselves in the fledgling Oxford music scene, touring with Ride and Swervedriver, before the advent of rave culture came to dominate the UK scene, and eclipsed their sound. This release compiles, for the first time, their long out-of-print “Heroine” LP on Poppie Records, the “Stare at the Sun” 7”, the “Out of Time” EP as well as some later day demos. An interesting slice of local jangle pop history, from a band that made a lot of local headlines at the time. They had a sound that still resonates locally, and perhaps would have lasted longer in NZ, rather than the ever evolving nature of UK music at that fertile late 80s/early 90s period.
Neil: This rerelease covers pretty much the entire catalogue of mid 80’s jangle pop maestros The Wild Poppies . Sadly, fate wasn’t to be on their side, as their jangly pop sound much beloved in the early eighties was soon to be commercially eclipsed and swept aside by dance culture. The band split soon after the release of their swan song EP. Their trademark ‘warm wall of sound’ is very much on display and the album is a must listen for fans of Neo-Psychedelic pop, 80’s indie pop, and especially jangle-pop with its distinctive guitar sound.

Questions in red / Lavën, Oscar
Mark: More local Jazz from go-to local tenor sax man Oscar Lavën, who is part of numerous local ensembles and guested on numerous projects from The Roger Fox Big Band, to the Wellington Shake-Em-On-Downers. The band includes local players Mike Taylor on trumpet, John Rae on drums, Patrick Bleakley on bass & Ayrton Foote on piano. All the compositions are by Lavën, who embraces elements of the old and the contemporary in his playing. These guys have played so many Jazz Festivals and gigs together that you can feel the simpatico musical sense between, resulting in a set of expertly performed Jazz. Improvisational in places, but mostly just a swinging set that lets his sax playing shine in various contexts that are always engaging, with their different musical shades and colours.
Neil: Oscar Lavën’s ‘Questions in red’ is one of those oh so cool late night café Jazz offerings. it oozes mellow, chilled and romantic tones. Superbly executed cool Jazz boasting topflight musicianship with touches of Monk and Mingus, which isn’t surprising as he covers some of their work. Oscar also displays his own joyful exploration of his own jazz musicianship throughout.

Haunted / Mina’s Veil
Mark: Mina’s veil are a neoclassical dark-wave band, so there are a lot of soaring soprano lines backed up with rich orchestral accompaniment. They’re inspired by Victorian Gothic novels, fairy tales, myths & legends and have just released their 2nd album ‘Haunted’. Ethereal meets classical, gothic bells and sweeping orchestrations that have a rich, cinematic feel of dramatic crescendos and interludes.
Neil: ‘Haunted’ by Mina’s Veil is a rich gothic melodramatic work, with strong romantic classical overtones, with lyrics sung in soaring soprano heavily inspired by Victorian novels and fairy tales. It is very cinematic in feel and structure. Music that evokes mist-soaked moors, decaying castles and doomed lovers in flock coats.

Ego death / Bryant, Danica
Mark: Danica Bryant, a singer-songwriter who grew up in Hawke’s Bay, and is now based in Wgtn. We are big fans of hers and actually filmed her gig at Gardens Magic in 2021, which you can find on our YouTube channel. ‘Ego Death’ is her sophomore EP, and moves away from the acoustic folky feel of her debut, for a brighter pop-banger focus. Every track here is just super catchy and melodic, while the biting lyrics reveal a caustic juxtaposition of the bitter & the sweet.
Neil: Danica Bryant is one most exciting and rising stars in the Aotearoa / New Zealand pop World. ‘Ego Death’, her sophomore EP, amply displays why, with thoughtful and carefully crafted pop songs which encompasses catchy sugary pop hooks coupled with her memorable lyrics. This is just her second release but you can hear an artist growing in confidence and musical artistry not to mention skill. Danica is already a major artist whose work seems destined to reach a huge mainstream international audience sooner or later.

Melanchole / Johann, Daniel [Also on VINYL]
Mark: ‘Melanchole’ is a set of lo-fi pop songs recorded by the enigmatic Daniel Johann in 2012 when he was 15 years old, and originally self-released in 2013 digitally on Bandcamp under the moniker Salvia Palth. The album went on to become a viral internet sensation, garnering over 100 million streams on Spotify and a large TikTok following, which is only growing. The track “I was all over her” alone now has nearly a quarter of a billion streams on Spotify. In 2016, Melanchole was remastered and released on vinyl with a new track listing. The first pressing sold out within the first 24 hours it was released and this is, I believe, now the 3rd pressing, and it’s 10th Anniversary. Sludgy reverb and crackly production define this atmospheric bedroom pop that has become a beloved cult piece, with its (many) musical imperfections somehow coming to define the messy angst of teenage awkwardness & alienation.
Neil: Daniel Johann aka Salvia Palth aka Adore is an artist well worth checking out, as he has adopted a variety of different musical styles and guises over the years. This his 2013 album was released under the moniker of Salvia Palth and it’s a lo fi melancholic, dream pop slow burner, with heavy duty shoegaze and emo influences. It reminded me a little of the iconic Loveless by My Bloody Valentine. The lyrics are about longing, alienation with a dense nocturnal feel to them. The music has that dreamy, bittersweet hypnotic quality to it. If this is your scene, it’s well worth a listen.

The band from Wellington, New Zealand / Dartz [Also on VINYL]
Mark: DARTZ bring their party-pop-punk aesthetic to life in Wellington in a series of short punchy songs that seem to focus on beers, shitty flats, house parties, bad dealers, Toyota corollas, and getting high. However, if the titles of these songs imply a somewhat shallow sense of fun, that is definitely not the case. Beneath the tongue-in-cheek references, the adopted personas, video antics, and seemingly mundane takes of life in NZ, are tracks with reflective and insightful lines that elevate the material, using the genre to touch on social issues around housing, anxiety, politicians, religious figures, colonisation, mental health and more. A funny and clever album, whose success lies in just the right balance of goofy fun and serious intent.
Neil: Wellington party punk band the Dartz started life as a dare. When they went for a support slot for one of their favourite bands the mullet heavy The Chats. Problem was, at that point in time, they were a totally fictitious outfit – not a band at all, just the idea of a band. But after a frenetic couple of weeks actually putting together and creating a band, they did play that support slot and to their surprise had a rapturous crowd, and the rest as they say is history. Their songs are fast, raucous, often laced with sly humour and mainly about drinking, drugging and having wild party times and fun. “Twenty-four beers and only two free hands” indeed.

Unholy rapture / Dark Divinity [Also on VINYL]
Mark: After 4 singles, a debut EP, and numerous personnel changes, including the departure of vocalist Jolene Tempest, Dark Divinity serve up their debut album. Chunky riffs and precise playing highlight the melodic strain of Death Metal on display here. The return to male vocals with Jesse Wheeler and new guitarist Jiji Aligno add different dimensions to the sound. To non-Metaler’s it may sound a bit samey, but within each track they offer up plenty of technical nuances, shifts in speed and textures to satisfy any Metal fan.
Neil: ‘Unholy rapture’ is Dark Divinity’s debut release, but from the sophistication and confidence of the tracks you would never know. There are elements of black Metal and Death metal, but Dark Divinity has higher aspirations than just being a genre follower. Instead they are out to forge and create their own unique sound. If you like your music dark, fast, furious and brutal, but with an inner melodic core then this should suit you.

Te oranga / Little Bushman [Also on CD]
Mark: Little Bushman were a 2000s group with members who had prominent roles in other local bands. Comprised of Warren Maxwell (Trinity Roots), Rick Cranson, and brothers Joe & Tom Callwood, ‘Te oranga’ was the bands 3rd album, now pressed on Vinyl for the first time. Their mix of proggy, psych 60s & 70s influences, with a moody deep roots-rock folk sound, gave their albums a dynamic sprawling feel, full of space for the music to roam. ‘Te oranga’ is a more more mellow, than the heavier Pendulum that preceded it, with a more soulful keys vibe, Te Reo elements and social commentary. Though this often runs up against the ponderous ‘cosmic’ searching that typifies any ‘prog’ influenced music, the juxtaposition of styles works more often than not, giving their a music a unique energy.
Neil: ‘Te oranga’ is the third album by the legendary local band Little Bushman originally released in 2011. This very welcome Vinyl reissue demonstrates their stunning haunting, blues and 60s psychedelic folk rock trademark sound perfectly. The lyrics, as well as having a space rock vibe, also deal with big issues such as the negative influence of technology in the 21st century. The musicianship on show is exceptional and the vocal delivery of Warren Maxwell points the way towards the other hugely acclaimed band he is part of, Trinity Roots.

The Pacifier album / Shihad [Also on CD]
Mark: 2022 Vinyl reissue of Shihad’s fifth studio album. The 2002 album was a bid for the American market with the band’s name changed to ‘Pacifier’ to avoid associations with the word ‘Jihad’. Derided by fans, and not much liked by the band itself, the music from this period is certainly more commercial, much cleaner sounding, and obviously an attempt at a more commercial sound. Indeed Stone Temple Pilots’ Scott Weiland and DJ Lethal (Limp Bizkit) both feature on the track ‘Coming Down’. Listening to it again today it has actually aged better than you might think, and while it is somewhat generic in places, it has quite a bit in common with that mid-period ‘Foo Fighters’ sound, which itself has achieved an almost classicist position with American rock music. Over polished but worthy of reevaluation.
Neil: Shihad’s trademark interpretation nu-metal, post grunge hard rock (not to mention some excellent albums) had led the band to the top of the rock scene in Aotearoa. All they needed to do now was conquer the American market, but like many bands before them it didn’t quite work out as they expected. Indeed, the band nearly split for good whilst recording and touring this album. It’s a testament to their resilience as a band that they released an album at all. In short, the pressure to release a huge, bestselling album led to conflict and division all round. The resulting album divides opinion both within their fan base and the band itself with one reviewer scathingly calling it a “12 track green card application”. It’s not that bad; just too smoothed out and polished for it to be one of their best releases or play to the bands many strengths.

They seek my head / End Boss [VINYL only]
Mark: The debut album, following 2019 single Feral, and 2020 two song EP Heart of the Sky. Stoner/doom/sludge metal 4 piece that features Nathan Hickey from Beastwars, and guitarists Greg Broadmore and Christian Pearce from Ghidoragh. The key weapon, though, is vocalist E.J. Thorpe, who really shows how much difference in textures and stylings a female vocalist can have on heavy oriented music. Big distorted riffs combine with a darkly symphonic sound, occult vibes and hard-rock/bluesy vocals, filtering in unexpected influences from shoegaze to alt-rock, to create a unique blues-metal kind of sound.
Neil: The debut release from heavy rock, sludge metal band End Boss ‘They Seek my Head’ is a powerful, dark stoner release. The tunes are built round a solid bedrock of relentless pounding drums, heavy duty riffs and truly impressive vocals delivered by EJ Thorpe, which are very carefully incorporated into the mix so as not to get lost. They also sound like the kind of band that would peel the paint of the walls live.

Wellington Writers Walk: Iris Guiver Wilkinson, aka Robin Hyde

To celebrate the 21st anniversary of the fabulous Wellington Writers Walk, we’ve taken a closer look at just a few of the authors represented. In this blog we take a look at Iris Guiver Wilkinson’s, aka Robin Hyde’s, typographical sculpture, which features a quote taken from ‘Words’ in Young Knowledge: The Poems of Robin Hyde, ed. Michele Leggott, Auckland University Press, 2003

Yet I think, having used my words as the kings used gold,

Ere we came by the rustling jest of the paper kings,

I who am overbold will be steadily bold,

In the counted tale of things.

In the video below, local authors and Wellington Writers Walk Committee members Philippa Werry and Maggie Rainey-Smith explain Hyde’s work, to be found on a shaded bench overlooking the bay at the back of Te Papa Tongarewa / Museum of New Zealand. They provide a fascinating insight into Robin Hyde’s short, complex and eventful life, and also celebrate her astounding body of work and connections to Wellington.

Young knowledge : the poems of Robin Hyde / Hyde, Robin
“Familiar to many for her fiction and her life story, after publication of “The Book of Iris”, “The Book of Nadath” and the reissue of “The Godwits Fly” in recent years, prolific writer Robin Hyde’s first and best love was actually her poetry. “Young Knowledge: the Poems of Robin Hyde” presents for the very first time a substantial collection of Hyde’s powems, set as a choronological record.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The book of Iris : a life of Robin Hyde / Challis, D. A.
“It is a gripping and profoundly moving story about a “short, tumultuous, incredibly productive, sad and doomed life. It suggests comparison with both Mansfield and Frame . . .”. A dramatic and densely packed story, including appalling accounts of hidden pregnancies, life as a solo mother, drug dependency, intimate acquaintance with sexism and poverty, mental breakdown, and an extraordinary trip in China during the Sino-Japanese war.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The godwits fly / Hyde, Robin
“”By the time Robin Hyde wrote The Godwits Fly she was an experienced and prolific poet, journalist and novelist with an emerging international reputation. She could write with precision and edge. She was alert to different ways of seeing and voicing experience, intense and independent-minded. She stood for the underdog and for the cause of humanity. Her own brief life – thirty-three years, 1906-39 – was a roller-coaster of successes and deep despair. But she held her own line passionately against all odds, and she took the consequences of living hard – recklessly at times – with bravery and spirit.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Nor the years condemn / Hyde, Robin
“‘They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.'” “The line from the Anzac verse provides the title for this novel, in which Robin Hyde shows the predicament of returned servicemen and women after the First World War. Through the story of Douglas Stark, we see the many ways in which New Zealand was failing their expectations. It was not the ‘land fit for heroes’ they had fought for, but a changing society moving through the tough times of the twenties and thirties.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The book of Nadath / Hyde, Robin
“The Book of Nadath is a long prose poem by well-known poet and novelist Robin Hyde which has remained unpublished for 60 years. Written in 1937, Hyde’s last year in New Zealand, it is a sounding device for all the concerns which mark The Godwits Fly, A Home in this World and Nor the Years Condemn. It is arguably the crowning achievement of her poetry. It expresses dilemmas of identity, race and gender still current at the end of the century; but the moment of 1937 is its primary focus, the problem of how to articulate crisis – which writing voice best serves political and spiritual truth – is its enduring fascination.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Iris and Me / Werry, Philippa
Philippa Werry’s  latest novel Iris and Me looks at Robin Hyde’s  entire life touching on her both her childhood and final days , but the book is primarily focussed on her time in China and her journey there. Including her time as a War correspondent during the Sino-Japanese War.” (Adapted from Catalogue)


The uppish hen & other poems / Hyde, Robin
“A previously unpublished collection by Robin Hyde, one of NZ’s finest authors/ journalists, written for her son, Derek Challis. Richly illustrated by Glenorchy artist Dïne.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Ships and sailors: New popular non-fiction

A selection of new book covers, set against a stormy sea background

The invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck.

Paul Virilio

Catalogue link: The Wager, by David GrannThere is a fantastic bunch of new non-fiction books this month, and we’re particularly excited for The Wager, a gripping tale of treachery, survival and empire, all bound up in the story of one ship that wrecked in 1742. David Grann crafts a riveting narrative from the historical record, taking us through the conflicting reports of what went down on board the ship, as one side speaks of mutiny and the other of misrule, and the court tries to determine the truth.

Disaster at sea is no new tale, although it is certainly one that still grips us even as the Age of Sail drifts further into the past. New Zealand has had its own share of infamous wrecks, with one of the most notable being the General Grant (the recent Ockham-shortlisted novel Mrs Jewell and the Wreck of the General Grant offers a fictionalised account). This ship is rumoured to have sunk off the Auckland Islands with an exceptional amount of gold, but the treasure trove has never been found despite many valiant efforts over the years. Those islands were particularly deadly – Joan Druett’s book Island of the Lost explores the plight of two other crews that wrecked in the same cold southern waters. Mere miles from each other, the two groups underwent polar-opposite experiences, with one defying the odds to survive while the other floundered into anarchy and ruin. Perhaps this is why the interest in these disasters endures. They are excellent studies of human nature under harsh circumstances, of people at their best and their worst. (The allure of sunken treasure has something to do with it too, no doubt.)

However, it’s not all boat books this month. For the landlubbers amongst us, check out the list below for some other fantastic reads. You’ll find the surprising union of maths and literature, an exploration of death festivals around the world, a protest against the ticking clock, and more.

The Wager : a tale of shipwreck, mutiny, and murder / Grann, David
“On January 28, 1742, a ramshackle vessel of patched-together wood and cloth washed up on the coast of Brazil. Inside were thirty emaciated men, survivors of the Wager, a ship which left England on a secret mission in 1740. Six months later, another, even more decrepit craft landed on the coast of Chile. This boat contained just three castaways, and they had a very different story to tell. As accusations of treachery and murder flew, the Admiralty convened a court martial to determine who was telling the truth. The stakes were life-and-death, for whomever the court found guilty could hang. Grann unearths the deeper meaning of the events, showing that it was not only the Wager’s captain and crew who were on trial – it was the very idea of empire. The incredible twists of the narrative hold the reader spellbound.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Once upon a prime : the wondrous connections between mathematics and literature / Hart, Sarah B.
“We often think of mathematics and literature as polar opposites, as different as they come. But what if, instead, they were inextricably, even fundamentally, linked? In her clear, insightful, laugh-out-loud funny debut, Professor Sarah Hart shows us the myriad connections between math and literature, and how understanding those connections can enhance our enjoyment of both. As the first woman to hold England’s oldest mathematical chair, Hart is the ideal tour guide, taking us on an unforgettable journey through the books we thought we knew, revealing new layers of beauty and wonder. As she promises, you’re going to need a bigger bookcase.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Off-Earth : ethical questions and quandaries for living in outer space / Nesvold, Erika
“Can we do better in space than we’ve done here on Earth? We’ve pinpointed the destination, refined the technology, designed the habitat, outfitted our space residents. Are we forgetting something? A timely reminder that it’s not just rocket science, this thought-provoking book explores the all-too-human issues raised by the prospect of settling in outer space. It’s worth remembering, Erika Nesvold suggests, that in making new worlds, we don’t necessarily leave our earthly problems behind. Space settlement is rapidly becoming ever more likely. Will it look like the utopian vision of Star Trek? Or the dark future of Star Wars? Nesvold challenges us to decide.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Saving time : discovering a life beyond the clock / Odell, Jenny
“Our daily experience, dominated by the corporate clock that so many of us contort ourselves to fit inside, is destroying us. It wasn’t built for people, it was built for profit. Explaining how we got to the point where time became money, Odell offers us new models to live by – inspired by pre-industrial cultures, ecological, and geological time – that make a more humane, more hopeful way of living seem possible. Odell urges us to become stewards of these different rhythms of life, to imagine a life, identity, and source of meaning outside of the world of work and profit, and to understand that the trajectory of our lives – or the life of the planet – is not a foregone conclusion. In that sense, “saving” time could also mean that time saves us.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

American ramble : a walk of memory and renewal / King, Neil
“Neil King Jr’s desire to walk from Washington, D.C., to New York City began as a whim and soon became an obsession. Determined to rediscover what matters in life, Neil turned north with a small satchel on his back and one mission in mind: to pay close attention to the land he crossed and the people he met. The journey travels deep into America’s past and present, uncovering forgotten pockets and overlooked people. By turns amusing, inspiring, and sublime, American Ramble offers an exquisite account of personal and national renewal.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Why we garden : the art, science, philosophy and joy of gardening / Masset, Claire
“Whether you seek sanctuary in your potting shed, find paradise amongst your patio plants or enjoy the simple solace of your hands in the soil, there is beauty, peace and happiness to be found for every gardener in this thoughtful and entertaining collection. Both a hymn to gardening and a call to action, this down-to-earth guide is worth a hundred ‘how-tos’. Wander the gardens of Giverny with Monet to create your own ‘beautiful masterpiece’ or, like George Orwell, reap the joy to be found in the work of an allotment. Discover the soothing symmetry in the spiral of sunflower seeds, or provide a wild abundance of floral habitat for the natural visitors to your garden.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Closer to the edge / Houlding, Leo
“One of Great Britain’s finest climbers and adventurers, Leo Houlding started out climbing at ten years of age in the Lake District tackling the many historic peaks and crags in the area. He has since gone on to summit the world’s tallest walls and toughest peaks, and has crossed continents to take extreme sports to the most remote corners of Earth. How did a working class lad from the north of England scale such heights and avoid the pitfalls and fatal accidents that have struck down so many of his colleagues and friends? Honest, raw and exhilarating, Closer to the Edge is Leo’s ‘warts-and-all’ story of a remarkable climber and free spirit who has been at the top of his game for over thirty years, with still more mountains to explore.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

This party’s dead : grief, joy and spilled rum at the world’s death festivals / Buist, Erica
“By the time Erica Buist’s father-in-law Chris was discovered, upstairs in his bed, his book resting on his chest, he had been dead for over a week. She searched for answers and tried to reason with herself and eventually landed on an inevitable, uncomfortable truth: everybody dies. With Mexico’s Day of the Dead festivities as a starting point, Erica decided to confront death head-on by visiting seven death festivals around the world. This Party’s Dead is the account of her journey to understand how other cultures deal with mortal terror, how they celebrate rather than shy away from the topic of death, and how when openness and acceptance are passed down through the generations, death suddenly doesn’t seem so scary after all.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Tina Turner 1939-2023

The legendary Tina Turner has passed away at the age of 83. The following titles from her illustrious career are available in Wellington Libraries.

Private dancer / Turner, Tina
Still arguably the greatest comeback in pop music history. Assembled quickly with a variety of producers, Private Dancer is a slick pop confection, decidedly different from the gutsy RnB that she initially became famous for with the husband Ike. Turner is in fantastic voice, bringing a survivor’s maturity and grit to the material. The Grammy winning “What’s Love Got to do With It” and the Mark Knopfler penned title track were the big hits, but sparkling covers of David Bowies “1984”, The Beatles “Help”, and Al Greens “Let’s Stay Together” round out a fantastic pop album that still sounds great today.

Break every rule / Turner, Tina
Sticking with the successful format, this again featured the song-writing of Terry Britten and Graham Lyle, the team behind “What’s Love Got to do With It”. Their contributions, “Typical Male” and “What you Get is What You See” kept Turner riding high in the charts. Less well-known highlights include the power ballad “I’ll Be Thunder” and the Bowie cover “Girls.”

Foreign affair / Turner, Tina
Tina would return to her blues roots on this 1989 set with a couple of scorching Tony Joe White covers, “Steamy Windows” and “Undercover Agent for the Blues”. The former would prove a sizeable hit, as would adult contemporary ballad “I Don’t Wanna Lose You” and one of her best-known recordings “The Best”, since immortalised by its use as a promotional tune for the Australian National Rugby League.

The collected recordings : sixties to nineties / Turner, Tina
All the best / Turner, Tina
Both fine compilations. The Collected Recordings, released in 1994, offers a superb introduction to Turners Sixties work with Ike Turner, from early hits like “A Fool in Love” and “Proud Mary” to the Phil Spector collaboration “River Deep, Mountain High”, which Spector considered his greatest recording. It also includes often

overlooked period between her split from Ike and her spectacular comeback in 1984. All the Best focusses solely on her post-1984 period but includes several quality tracks from the mid-to-late nineties not represented on the earlier compilation, most notably one of the all-time great Bond themes “Goldeneye”.