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Archive for May, 2013

NAtional

A self portrait by Nancy Berninger from the inside booklet.

 

The National have just released their sixth studio album, Trouble Will Find Me on 4AD. It seems an appropriate time to pierce the bubble of a band who have seduced cloth-eared critics and music fans forced to feast on a steady diet of tripe and cold chips for years now. So bad is the music scene in 2013 that anyone wearing a suit, writing ‘self-assured, confident’ songs and performing at a middle distance pace will be lauded high and low, and everywhere inbetween.

Now, we have to endure another round of half-considered reviews, as critics become immersed in the stupifying thought-process of ‘never mind the quality feel the width’

Let’s start with the cover, a grim-looking facade that would not be out of place on an Interpol record. Trust me, that’s no compliment.The artwork inside, while abstract and obtuse, would have made for a more fitting cover.

Listening to the disk is a turgid exercise in self-flagellation. The proverbial terms paint and dry are most appropriate as singer Matt Berninger punishes the ears. The opening track, I Should Live In Salt, is a monotone dirge that remains at the same pace throughout. Another uphill stream, Demons, would be ideal for a road trip along a straight motorway with a 30km speed limit for its entirety.

For the record, Porky listened to every second of this album, twice in fact, in case I had been too hasty first up, but believe me, I would write the same thing after 20 listens. Of course, I would have thrown myself off the nearest bridge before then.

I didn’t expect much from Tropical Popsicle‘s debut Dawn of Delight (Talitres) but have found that it’s a surprisingly satisfying recording.

TropicalIt is the kind of record that will garner all sort of reference points, from 1960s garage psych to The Horrors, and the press release namechecks all sorts of genres, sub-genres, beaches and indie acts over the decades. The lynchpin of the quartet is Tim Haines, who has history in not-quite-great acts, and is joined by Kyle Whatley, Ryan Hand and Chase Elliott.

They love 7” singles and enticing covers featuring alluring ladies free of the hindrance of clothing, and musically, they are a tight unit who I would imagine would be mesmerising live with some drug-induced Len Lye-style psychedelic cut-and-paste footage playing on loop in the background. I can’t fault it really, and it is an album that could be played without resorting to the fast forward button, but the album really comes alive on Ghost Beacons which sounds like the Stone Roses meets Pink Floyd, with some immense, and enthralling guitar work. Previous single, The Beach With No Footprints is dreamy pop-psych that captures the shoegazing tag the record label seems to appreciate.

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Super is indeed a super suffix for a band .. think of Supergrass and the Furry Animals in particular, acts whose names match the quality of their output. To this ever-expanding list add Superturtle from Auckland, Aotearoa, who have Superturtlefollowed up 2010’s About the Sun with Beat Manifesto on Sarangbang records.

Porky wrote back then that he was “knocked to the floor when a burst of guitars hit me. About The Sun lasts an ideal 33 minutes and the longest track is 3:04, the sound of perfect pop songs.”

https://craighaggis.wordpress.com/2010/08/08/lowdown-on-the-new-17-superturtles-and-nuns-that-fly/

But Beat Manifesto is more post-punk, less power-pop, although the songs fail to extend beyond an orderly timeframe of up to three and a half minutes. The opener Down Down Down reminds me a little of The Cure with its grim, lost in a forest at nightime, bass but the rest is a curious mixture of late 80s B-52s and Flying Nun. Cause Ya Said So is gloriously direct, Happy Pills has a delicious and bewitching chorus, and there’s no shortage of dreamy hooks and riffs on Lost in the Herd Again.

They’ve also released this on fantastic vinyl, all details here: http://www.sarangbang.co.nz/

 

As ungainly as their name is, LatinAotearoa gives you a clear clue as to what to expect: South America meets the South LatinPacific in a potent fusion of latin and localised soul-funk-hip hop. You can’t go wrong with that fusion and with Jennifer Zea’s breathy vocals sung in her native Spanish, Sonido de LatinAotearoa(Rhythmethod) is an album that wouldn’t fail to find plenty of time booming out of the speakers. Venezuelan Zea sounds especially delightful on Aldeia de Ogum, transporting to you Caracas. With such a range of styles, fellow band members Isaac Aeseli and Booby Brazuka permit themselves to delve into their loves and backgrounds – Aeseli is a former trumpeter with Opensouls and a producer, while Brazuka is a DJ in his native Auckland. That’s obvious on the cover of Ladi 6’s Walk Right Up, which sticks to the soul-tinged flavour of the original but Zea has translated the lyrics into Spanish, giving it an extra dimension.

http://www.latinaotearoa.com/

 

Lastly, I give you Debbie and The Downers the self-titled debut on Rock Bottom records by two (male) ex-members of second-rate rockers Pluto. After listening to those two highly upbeat albums, this is a bit of a comedown. It was predominantly recorded in a home studio in Auckland, and completed in Los Angeles, which clearly has a bit of influence over the duo, who are beefed out by former Goldenhorse member Geoff Maddock.

It feels like an album of yesteryear, as Milan Borich and Tim Arnold push themselves, reaching out to all sides of the Debbiesquare and forcing the listener to second-guess what their ears will be subjected to next. So, we have Citrus Ave, the album’s highlight with it’s Leonard Cohen meets the Pet Shop Boys pop sensibilities, and then there’s Digging For Coal that’s reminiscent of the wayward theatrics and slight grunginess of Ariel Pink. Or there’s the monotony of The Cad, a track that starts on the flat surface and sticks to the same pathway. Much of DATD is like that, and even a track called Cunt about a woman “who won’t be coming home” barely tickles Porky’s underbelly. I am heartened to read though that Debbie and co’s second album will be “a more visceral and violent affair.”

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Give him his dues, Nick Raven is eager, and persistent.The teenager has just released his debut album, and, despite not following the formal protocols for getting a review on Porky Prime Cuts (ie bribing the fat pig with copious amounts of tinned asparagus and laxatives) he’s got one anyway.   Raven

Love & Lomography on Powertool records is an album of craftsmanship, desire and passion. Unusually, Raven inscribes his own theory on the album on the liner notes: “This is not an electronic made by machines. Nor was this album written for commercial gain.” Fine words indeed.

Tracks generally veer from the edgy, entrancing psychedelic efforts of Butterfly and Sitting &  Laughing, with folkier moments such as Love and Drown. For an 18-year-old Raven has a worldy-wise head on his shoulders, and this reminds me a little of an acoustic Kasabian or the House of Love, who as you may be aware are big favourites of Porky. This is a grower on the stereo and I’ll be keeping an eye out for this kid.

Raven’s labelmates Factory Kids have avoided Porky’s ears till now, so the team sitting in the boardroom on Level 16 of Factory Kidsour tower block were surprised to learn their latest release is a compilation of album tracks and singles going back to 2008. The cover of Cried Off has a man looking out of a window toward a towering block of cramped flats with a ropey escalator and piss-stained stairs, so I guess I’m forewarned that this is an album that will test our penchant for upbeat pop and hard-edge rock. It melds the languid vocals of Jesus and Mary Chain with the gloom of mid-80s New Order. A very British record that did not immediately appeal to the panel on initial listens but Factory Kids are a band that do require some patience and a love of urban non-dance post-punk. 

http://powertoolrecordsdotnet.wordpress.com/

New Zealanders Wilberforces are a relatively fresh unit with a six-track mini-album delayed by the desire to press it Wilberforcesonto vinyl. Paradise Beach (Muzai records) is a rattling humdinger, despite its brevity, and even songs such as the title track end abruptly. It’s an artform to use layered guitar parts and harmonies together, but Wilberforces manage the task admirably, especially on the aforementioned Paradise Beach that has all the energy and ruthlessness of a shoegazing-era Ride. The expansiveness of the music is matched by the striking, yet authoritative vocals of Thom Burton. That attitude is reversed on Magdalene Brothers the most intense track and one that references a number of historical religious figures. I am expecting much more from this Auckland underground duo.

http://muzairecords.com/

Lacking in such uproarious freneticism are Salon Kingsdadore, the vehicle for Sarangbang label top boy Gianmarco Liguori. They are an instrumental quartet with an eye on cinema as much as the next gig. Anti-Borneo SalonMagic is the fourth release by the band that also includes Murray McNabb, Hayden Sinclair and Steven Tait, with McNabb seemingly having brought new influences into an already-ubiquitous palate, developing a sound that sounds enigmatic, and geared toward movie and television use. Those tempted to use the term post-rock put your cliched references to the delete file, Anti-Borneo Magic is a diverse, and huge body of work (a triple album that would make The Clash’s Sandinista look like an EP in comparison) that challenges your notions of verse, chorus, verse and a drummer who is partially mental. It is a beautiful set that, naturally requires patience, and some quality weed, with tracks lasting up to 24 minutes. 

http://www.sarangbang.co.nz/

I have a lot of time for a band that release an album on cassette as well as the normal digital release. I mean who even plays those things nowadays? This self-titled DIY effort has no images, and a pasted-on track listing and band line-up. The Salad Boys are Salad Boysthe modern update of the largely mythical Dunedin Sound of the early and mid-80s, and reminiscent of The Clean.

Unfortunately I’m running out of time, so I recommend clicking on this link, to a very good Kiwi blogsite, everythingsgonegreen that has a far finer and more astute review than we could possibly provide.

http://everythinggonegreen.blogspot.co.nz/

There’s a link there to their bandcamp page where you can get a download for whatever you want to pay (don’t take the mick though), or the cassette for five bucks, plus postage.

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