Dunedin and indeed NZ music royalty The Bats have been pretty busy of late. They released their new LP Foothills last year, to wide acclaim, and earlier this month they also intriguingly released an instrumental version of the album on Bandcamp which gives a really interesting twist on the songs, allowing the rhythm section of perpetual motion and those sparkling guitars to take centre stage.
During the pandemic, Bassist Paul Kean and guitarist Kaye Woodward have formed a humble supergroup of sorts by teaming up with Alec Bathgate (Tall Dwarfs, The Enemy) and Hamish Kilgour (The Clean) to record a couple of songs of darkly hypnotic, underground psychedelia. Hopefully more recordings are on the way!
Robert Scott always seems to be working on something new and he’s teamed up with Dallas Henley to release Level Four, an album of low-key, mostly acoustic songs that wind through some lovely melodies. The 14 tracks feature bass, Omnichord, guitar, vocals and keyboards.
The EP, featuring covers of iconic songs by Wire, XTC, The Comsat Angels, The Korgis and The Passions is out now via Basketcase Records/Redeye Worldwide
Australia’s favourite jangly guitar/paisley popsters Ups and Downs return with this five track EP of covers of much-loved new wave and post punk tunes from the ’80s!
They say the past is ‘another country’, and it is well worth revisiting as Ups and Downs lovingly reclaim alternative classics by XTC, Wire, The Passions and The Comsat Angels.
One of the EP highlights is the band’s gorgeous take on The Korgis hit ‘Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime’ (written by James Warren). They perfectly capture the swoon and melancholic sway of the song, treating it with a gentle strum and shimmer. The icing on the cake comes in the form of legendary Australian-expat Rick Springfield who contributes a beautiful and yearning psychedelic guitar solo that adds a classic Beatles-esque feel to the recording.
Elsewhere the group convey the melodic rush of Wire’s infectious classic ‘Outdoor Miner’ with spirited headiness, they make XTC’s ‘Are You Receiving Me’ one of their own, find a tough-edged drive to The Comsat Angels’ ‘Independence Day’ and apply a darker and warmer moodiness to The Passions’ ‘I’m In Love With A German Film Star’, with sublime results.
The EP cover artwork has a fascinating back-story, as Darren Atkinson explains, “The girls on the cover were fans of Ups and Downs back in the late ‘80s and used to follow us around to gigs and send us presents. On one occasion they sent us a package that had photos of them dressed up as us, taking the piss out of various official promo shots,” he laughs.
(1) Are You Receiving Me – (XTC, 1978) “XTC have influenced all of us over the years. Are You Receiving Me is a classic exploration of isolation and breakdown in communication. We kind of slowed it down and twisted it around a bit.” – Alex
(2) Independence Day – (The Comsat Angels, 1983) “It’s one of those touchstone songs that helped the band define its sound in the early days. It’s been part of our repertoire since just about day one. Its dark and angular nature continues to cast its shadow over what we do.” – John
(3) Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime – (The Korgis, 1980) “It’s a beautifully sad song that continues to haunt me to this day. We’ve even iced the cake by getting a bona fide rock star, Rick Springfield, to play lead guitar on it. Rumour has it that Ups and Downs are Rick’s second favourite band after The Church and I’m OK with that.” – Greg
(4) I’m In Love With A German Film Star – (The Passions, 1981) “We were early Passions fans and used to play this song live regularly in the 80s. We even used a photo of their album cover in our psychedelic live slide show. It’s a song that still moves me nearly 40 years after first hearing it.“- Peter
(5) Outdoor Miner – (Wire, 1978) “We started playing Outdoor Miner live in the late ’80s. I have no idea what the lyrics are about, yet the song is almost heartbreakingly melancholic. Wire have always been able to find beauty among the noise and chaos.” – Darren
One half of folk-noir duo Jep and Dep (also featuring Darren Cross of Gerling), Jessica’s debut album takes the sound forged from that musical partnership and crafts it into her own ethereal and immersive world. Cross is still on hand as producer and engineer but it’s clear from the outset that this is Jessica’s singular and personal vision.
Devoid of drums, the eleven songs drift and creep along like mist on a moor. Heavily draped in resonant reverb that creates an ambient, cathedral-like atmosphere, the billowing vapour trails hanging heavy in the air, shrouding her songs that explore the themes of death, loss and memory – formed from her experience as a survivor of a mass shooting in Strathfield, NSW when she was seven.
There’s a half-grasped memory quality to many of the songs, buried in a hypnagogic haze, while others such as ‘Womb Tomb’ are lifted skyward and ‘Has It Come To This’ has the DNA of a classic torch song.
Vocally, Beth Gibbons (Portishead), Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins) and Aldous Harding’s early work are clear influences on the way Jessica hauntingly layers her voice. By playing electric guitar, she avoids straight folk and creates more emotionally visceral textures, bringing to mind PJ Harvey and the more elegiac playing of Mick Turner (Dirty Three). Time and the listener’s full attention are essential to fully appreciating the depth and expansive beauty of The Space Between.
‘Dear Liars’ is a new track from Melbourne post-rock duo Champion Motorist. Andrew McLaughlin (guitar & synths) and Paul Shea (drums) are clearly at the atmospheric post-metal end of the post-rock spectrum and this track, from their new EP Slight Return, travels a magnificent arc from the scene-setting tension and slow build dynamics through to the four minute mark, where that dissipates into the aether before returning with even more crunch and muscular intent.
McLaughlin spent a decade treading the boards with Melbourne group Radiant City after having played in band with Shea when they were younger. Reconnecting after twenty years, these songs apparently came quickly. You can hear it too, in the way they favour simplicity and a steady sense of order and control in their compositions.
Bands such as Smashing Pumpkins, Mogwai and Russian Circles come to mind when listening to Champion Motorist. Check out the full EP over on their Bandcamp page.
We’re excited to be premiering the brand new single/video from New Zealand legends The Bats. The track comes from their forthcoming album Foothills, out Nov 13th via Flying Nun Records.
There’s a warm and heavy-lidded dreamy quality to ‘Gone To Ground’, in large part courtesy of the use of EBow on the guitars and the way drummer Malcolm Grant gently propels the song along. A rich atmosphere pervades the song, perfectly capturing a wistful sense of retreat.
Robert Scott on ‘Gone To Ground’ — “Hide and seek, do we want to be found…. maybe not. Many people have gone to ground in these tricky times. A slight sense of unease pervades the song with the spooky strains of an E bow filtering through the trees. You could walk the marshes and go far. It’s funny how you can draw connections between a fictitious tales and present day life.”
The video clip was created by Sports Team and Annabel Kean has said on the ‘Gone To Ground’ video, “This is by far the longest we’ve spent on a video. We started about a year ago when we heard an early mix of the song, but the discovery of perpetual motion by way of spinning veges really opened a can of worms. Then it took us three attempts to pluck up the courage to light a guitar on fire.” Co-director Callum Devlin adds, “It was a total collaboration, and a very instinctive process. We wanted to try and capture what we felt listening to the song. There’s an uncertainty and a mystery to the lyrics that I feel lead us somewhere a bit more conceptual.”
Foothills is the band’s tenth album, on top of their many singles, EPs and compilation releases and over 35 years they’ve never put a foot wrong. The new album was recorded in Spring 2018 at a country retreat pop-up studio. At that time, 15 songs were captured and immortalised in the Canterbury foothills of the Southern Alps, Aotearoa (New Zealand). Only too well, The Bats know the possibilities, potentialities and sonic vistas that arise when one takes the reins for the recording process in a beautiful place that’s on home turf.
Robert Scott, on the making of Foothills has said “Time marches on… finally, we found a gap in our busy lives and chose a week to convene. We found a house that is usually inhabited by ski field workers — Kowai Bush, near Springfield about an hour west of Christchurch and of course nestled in the foothills of the mighty Southern Alps. The songs had been written, demo’d and arranged for some time, but still with a little room for trying things out in the studio. Many carloads arrived at the house, full of amps guitars and recording gear, we set up camp and soon made it feel like home; coloured lights, a log fire, and home cooked meals in the kitchen. We worked fast, and within a few days had all the basic backing tracks done, live together in one room, the way we like to do it – it’s all about ‘the feel’ for songs like ours.”
Melbourne band Sunny Disposition have that certain Australian indie rock of the 00s sound in their veins. That mix of jangly guitars, angular shapes on the fretboard, jerky, curious rhythm section explorations and a fine balance between raw emotion and intellectual musings in the lyrics and vocal delivery. ‘Rain On Your Parade‘ twists and sonically wrestles with itself quite wonderfully and brings to mind Antipodean bands such as Purplene, Jebediah and elements of Something For Kate.
Sunny Disposition formed in the early-2000s and actively played regular live shows in Melbourne and Sydney. They released their debut EP ‘Drifting by a Scene” in 2005 and have now reconvened to release their new EP Full Of Reasons, recorded over a decade ago.
There’s a big New Orleans brass funk vibe happening on this recently released single by The Bigfoot Collective. There’s swagger and a nimble groove that lumbers along on the good foot, making it totally infectious stuff.
Written by trombonist Thomas Voss and featuring a trumpet solo from Harrison Smith, the song showcases the inspiration that the 18-piece Adelaide, SA group draws from the New Orleans “second line” tradition and the street performers of NYC.
Thee are a few other recent singles on their Spotify and Bandcamp and keep your eyes open for an EP due later in 2020.
There’s a wonderfully warm and rolling feel to this new track from The Finch Cycle. It’s post -rock at its core but it also dials into that beautifully emotive 90s/early 00s indie rock sound of Australian bands such as Bluebottle Kiss – when it was as important for the guitars to lull and serenade as much as they needed to swerve and coruscate. The trombone gives the track an additional depth and melancholic tone and is a key ingredient to why the track works so well for us.
‘Forty Minus Zero‘, and it’s single partner ‘Ale Of Steam (live)’, are the debut release from The Finch Cycle (Melbourne VIC), an instrumental project for Bradley Murray (ex owner of Wireless Records and member of the band Sunny Disposition) who recorded it in a single day, in a converted barn, on a cattle farm estate, Rochford, Victoria, Australia.
Bradley Murray – guitar Daniel Zugna – guitar Kirsty Letts – guitar Andrew McLaughlin – guitar Brendan Bartlett – trombone Joe Magee – bass Michael Evans-Barket – drums