The tiny city of Dunedin, located in the Otago Region of New Zealand, is synonymous with smart bands, incredible melodies and a wholly distinct and innovative music. Thanks to The Clean, The Chills, The Bats, The Verlaines, and The Dead C, Dunedin has amassed a worldwide reputation for innovative music. Local label Fishrider Records has taken on the mission of compiling and producing an album that casts a light toward the Dunedin of today. Whether it is dark synth-pop, teen angst noise pop, guitar-and-organ jangle, or all-out psychedelic weirdness, these songs all come from a place on the edge of the world where the young still read books in abundance and fend off boredom by creating music and art in cold houses.
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- PROTEUS7DE033 / LP on Ba Da Bing! / Fishrider inc. Males, Opposite Sex, Scattered Brains of the Lovely Union, Trick Mammoth etc.
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I would like to dedicate this review to a "Dunedin Sound" founding father Peter Gutteridge, who sadly died a couple of days ago. RIP Peter, may your music and influence outlive us all.
It's no secret that I love most of the music made in Dunedin from the 80s and into the 90s. There's still The Clean and The Chills and many other old luminaries in and about this legendarily vibrant NZ University town making great music. But what of the new breed? Contemporary Dunedin label Fishrider have joined forces with the esteemed American stable Ba Da Bing to push this burgeoning second wave of bristling experimental pop and classicist indie talent further into the consciousness of the international indie fraternity. I'll be honest and admit I've really heard of only four of these artists, one of whom, The Prophet Hens, landed squarely in both Clinton's and my own annual top ten last year. I even mailed Fishrider to heartily protest at the lack of a vinyl release. Thank goodness they got featured here. There'd be a riot otherwise.
Mavis Gary kicks off this marvellous primer with a vintage slice of minimal schizo guitar pop that straddles the twee, shoegaze and noise rock camps with its spooked harmonies, tentative lyrics and rudimentary drums (which could well be a drum machine). It recalls under-appreciated Sonic Youth disciples St. Johnny quite strongly. Lovely understated anthemic quality to it, I can see why it opens the album. Death & the Maiden come from a more Gothic, electronic angle and their song here glistens and fizzes with arpeggiated electronic beauty, a truly hypnotic bass motif and tender ethereal vocals that shouldn't be talking of such matters as the gouging out of eyes. Those tones are too beautiful for such dark concerns!
The Prophet Hens next. Mmmmm. The Prophet Hens. If you've not read about TPH, go here for both glowing staff and customer reviews. Males are another band I kinda know of. With a strange mewling falsetto that shouldn't work, but does, these oddbod kids kick out a trebly energised racket that is tuneful and engaging with some gorgeous chiming guitar work adding to their rousing jump-up credentials. Next, Mr Biscuits are setting themselves up to be the weirdos here on side one. Surf guitar madness, distorto drum machine, real drummer too doing his thing in a tub-thumper punk style. Sassy, sneering girl singer who sounds like she'd kick you right in your ripe plums. Maybe that is what the song is about? Then it goes a bit cartoon hardcore before we're plunged straight back into that fantastic rubbery, twangy riff. Repeat over again. I love it.
Now, the superb Opposite Sex with a new song. And it's totally mint. 'Supermarket' is seemingly all about going to the supermarket but being nonplussed by its contents. I think it's written from a third person angle but I'm unsure. The line "being pushed around by some dickhead who plays rugby and his mate" is genius and has me thinking of Headingley in Leeds, hence a busy Uni town on the other side of the world has exactly the same hassles as we do. Strange Harvest finish up a near impeccable opening salvo with a stunning atmosphere-laden slice of cinematic noir-pop. Adore the increasingly violent feedback-y guitar trails as the song progresses, the dubbed-out snares and delicious rise/fall melody of the synth line that totally carries the song not to mention the sad, smoky female vocals. 'Amnesia' is an absolute beauty that sounds like little else I've heard of late.
Side Two offers up the strummy 60's folk/psych classicism of The Shifting Sands which reminds me quite a lot of Beck. Subsequently, Astro Children contribute a charming piece of lo-fi murky ethereal pop. Yet another strong female voice here which is very heartening, her high breathless coo being a thing of wonder. Kane Strang also do his/their thing in a rather lo-fi fashion, the ghostly harmonies and laconic psychedelic chime and murk conspire to produce a song of rather mystical proportions. There's chord changes here that could make a grown man cry. I can detect all sorts of things I love about scratchy Antipodean pop in here and more. I'd be hard pressed to pick a favourite from this compilation but by virtue of its strangeness I think 'Winded' could be MY track. He's also in the running for my "man crush" of the week. Last week it was Britt Walford after finally watching The Breadcrumb Trail.
Look, I'm awfully sorry but this is now the longest review I've written in months. Nathon will bloody kill me. Sorry to the other three bands that conclude this amazing collection (Bad Sav, Scattered Brains....., and Trick Mammoth - your tracks are great an' all) You people can read about them in the accompanying A4 booklet which is so nicely produced I'd even buy it sans record! As musical exposes of a region go this is simply a truly great record, more than a mere sampler.
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