I’M FIXING MY EYES. Yep, the Shifting Sands’ new album, Cosmic Radio Station (Fishrider records) is a psych-Pollock mess’n’mesmerising montage of … well uv a peek urselves.
The Sands are from Otago, but Porky won’t be banding that humdrum Dun***n S***d crap on ya today … it’s the Port Chalmers sound!
In this wee toun north of the biggest city in the province there’s a hotel, described in the press release as “tiny and haunted” but it has shoved a microphone and a cheap pint in the direction of Sebadoh, J.Mascis and Sharon van Etten et al over the years. This is the Sands’ spiritual home.
The trio are steeped in shoegazing, ethereal scuzzy, laidback psych. The cover seems more appropriate after a couple of listens. You get all of those adjectives and more on the droney Make It Through, and it’s erstwhile cousin Should Be Better, which is as good as a pitch as any for what independent South Island music has screamed over the decades.
You want it mellow? Like Pink Floyd? Try the two-minute hypnotic instrumental Whareakeake while Coming Back finds Mike McLeod with guitar in hands chopping out riffs like he was in Ha! The Unclear.
All over this record are violins, chiming drums and deadpan vocals. It’s like Robert Scott on acid.
Tune in, turn on, slop out.
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COVERS CAN say quite a bit. The beautiful frontage of The School’s Wasting Away and Wondering (Elefant records) whispers 1965 meets a Belle and Sebastian EP.
Song titles too can hint to the contents within: titles such as Put Your Hand In Mind and My Heart’s Beating Overtime suggest an early 60s simplicity and an intricate beauty that reminds one of the 80s twee fad.
I’m not disappointed either when the disk hits the laser. Pop music is about internal singalongs and tolerable earworms and Wasting Away and Wondering hits those buttons.
In an age of, on the one hand, mindless celeb-obsessed glamour and glitsch culture onslaught and the in-depth, worldy-wise thoughtful views explored by the Passion Is A Fashion blog, it’s heartening to indulge in lyrics such as “First time I saw you with that smile upon your face/ I knew I would have to make you mine,”. Easy-on-the-ear soundscapes that ease you into the day or make the pre-bedtime routine so much more happier.
The words are entirely the copyright of Liz Hunt, the group’s vocalist who also chips in on keyboards and percussion. But it is a band, and she is accompanied by Andy Regan, Ryan Cox, Harri Davidson, Kay Russant, Steph Doble and Fran Dimech. I’m unfamiliar with The School but this is their third album.
Melodies are everywhere but Wasting Away and Wondering has some swoonsome influences, notably from Motown on Do I Love You? but you can detect the effervescent candy-pop glory of the Altered Images on the title track.
Hunt et al slow it down a bit with some tender moments on Don’t Worry Baby (I Don’t Love You Anymore) but this isn’t what The School is really about, and the upbeat slaps down the moody material. This is a record for ice cream days and nights watching Val Doonican Christmas Specials on YouTube.
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