Buried Treasure: The Nerines – Owls

The Nerines Candle Claps
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Buried Treasure is a semi-regular feature that explores some hidden musical gems – the rare and forgotten B-sides, covers, hidden tracks, live versions and alternative takes that deserve some recognition.

I don’t remember how I first heard of The Nerines. They were from Palmy, and fit within a punk/indie scene. I saw them once playing an opening slot for Title Fight and it was super fun.

They got overshadowed when one of their members, Benny Tipene, entered on of those singing shows. Idol or X Factor or something like that… I was a fan of Benny’s and loved his folky solo work. He had a few lo-fi demo EPs up on bandcamp and they were great. He came to Wellington once to play at Mighty, Mighty, but I missed it because I had work that night. That was pre-fame days.

He ended up in the finals of the singing show, and although he didn’t win, the boosted profile did wonders for his music career. That’s the way it is in New Zealand – once you’ve been on television you’re bonafide celebrity until the wind changes. One of the pop anthems he wrote soundtracked Coca-Cola’s ad campaign that summer. I don’t begrudge him for his success, but I wish I had been able to see him play a small folk show before he blew up.

Anyway, back to The Nerines. They’re great. This song, “Owls” is my fave, due largely to the fun singalong outro.

It’s a fun tune. Strong bass lines that really stand out, bouncy drums, jangly guitars – these guys know how to play! A stop/start pre-chorus makes the chorus sound full of life and energy by comparison. And then it all cuts out.

Cue palm-muted strumming. The chant starts: “Everything looks shit in the sewer”. Talk about articulate! It just builds up and up and up – throbbing bass, then drums, than layered vocals, and soon enough the whole world is having a party. It’s so fun and you can’t help but shout along about how everything is shit but there’s no way you can actually mean it because you’re just caught up in the moment and life is so fun and this song is great and oh my, I’m out of breath, but what a ride!

 


The Nerines links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheNerines/

Bandcamp: https://thenerines.bandcamp.com/

 

Joseph James

Live Review: Thundercat at NZ Festival, Wellington

Thundercat Wellington
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Thundercat playing NZ Festival

Odlins Plaza, Wellington

Thursday 1 March 2018 (first show)

I must say, I’ve been looking forward to this show. I last saw Thundercat at San Fran in 2016, and it was a blast. One of the most proficient acts I can think of, and with a generous dash of humour.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the venue. A quick search on the Googles told me that Odlins Plaza is on the Wellington waterfront, next to the stock exchange. I’ve been to events located there before (like Homegrown and Lux Festival), but I wasn’t aware of an actual venue. Was it in the whare? Or maybe a makeshift gazebo? And if so, how would thing affect acoustics? I made sure to pack my backup camera lens just to ensure that I was adequately prepared for any eventuality.

I arrived to find the snazziest darn temporary venue ever. I’m talking chandeliers and stained glass windows. It was octagonal shaped with a bar, outside eating/drinking areas, and terraced wooden flooring. Flaaaaaash!

Thundercat Wellington

God bless NZ Festival. Typically going out to see a show on a school night means getting home at some ungodly hour and feeling haggard and sleep deprived at work the following day. But these festival shows are well run. No opening act, and the Thundercat trio graced at stage at 8pm, as advertised.

I was disappointed to see that Thundercat (real name Stephen Bruner) wasn’t wearing his trademark Birkenstock sandals and socks, but rather red Chuck Taylors covered in comic book related patches and buttons. He also had Asian themed silk shorts and jacket adorned with embroidered dragons – giving off a Thai kickboxing x Chinese emperor vibe – and rounded off his look with a red LA Dodgers cap atop thin pink dreadlocks.

Thundercat Wellington I think as a general rule, most guitarists own a pedal board the size of approximately three newborn babies, dotted with small boxes that boast dials and flashing lights that sometimes enhance their overall tone, but are more likely there for show. Bass players tend to cope with less – usually two fewer strings and smaller pedal boards – although they compensate by having heavier amps and speakers. Thundercat didn’t even have a pedal board. He just had two effects pedals and a setlist sat upon a music stand at waist height. That said, he managed to pull off some of the most unearthly tones you’ll ever hear come from a bass guitar – six string or otherwise.

Bruner was joined by Dennis Hamm on keys and Justin Brown on drums. And although Bruner is the star attraction – known as the mad bassist who has played a part with acts like Suicidal Tendencies, Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, even our own Kimbra – his band members demonstrated a heroic effort by not only keeping up, but matching him.

Thundercat Wellington

Together the trio treated us to roughly an hour of fantastic music. It bordered on free jazz, but surely music this complex has to be rehearsed? Busy, cosmic tunes, almost like a continuous evolving solo with the barest of structure.

Bruner has such a great low-key vibe. He’s not one to take himself too seriously, and laughed a lot at his own expense. There were a few moments that he hinted at losing his cool over technical moments like an monitor mix and a cable crapping out, but they were few and fleeting. He laughed at how nerdy he was, trying to drum up conversation about comic books, video games and twitter.

Thundercat WellingtonThere’s no denying that Thundercat has mad talent. He plays bass guitar like few I’ve ever seen. You wouldn’t even believe that it is a bass if you didn’t know. It certainly doesn’t sound like one. He sings his smooth falsetto verses into the mic before stepping back to launch into extended interludes, his fingers racing atop the fretboard like wired up arachnids.

The highlight for me was watching Justin Brown play. Earlier today I was thinking about great drummers I’ve seen play live. You have your solid rockers from bands like Foo Fighters, Chili Peppers, Shihad. There’s the prog/math guys and general prodigies from bands like Russian Circles, Karnivool, Biffy Clyro, Gary Clark Jr and Incubus. And then you have your freaks, the guys who play for genre-bending technical bands like Mars Volta and Tool. After consideration, I still think that Brown rates among the best I’ve seen. Better yet, I had the pleasure of crouching about a metre away from him to see his playing up close for an hour.

All up it was a great gig. How often do you get the chance to see such amazingly proficient musicians in such an intimate setting? I was impressed by the new venue and had a great time, still getting home for bed at a reasonable hour. What more could you want?

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Thundercat is playing another sold out show at Odlins Plaza for NZ Festival on Friday 2nd March, before heading to Auckland for Auckland City Limits festival on Saturday 3rd.

Words and photos by Joseph James

Live Review: King Brothers, Vottones and DHDFD’s at Meow, Wellington

The King Brothers NZ tour poster
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The King Brothers

w/ The DHDFD’s
The Vottones
Unsanitary Napkin
Meow, Wellington
Wednesday 21 February 2018

I gotta say, before you scroll down, be aware that this review and the photos embedded are not safe for work. Seriously. If your boss catches you looking at some of these images during work hours you are going to have to have a very awkward conversation. This is not appropriate workplace content. This cannot be considered decent by any stretch of the imagination. It’s downright depraved. Got it? Well then read on…

Watching Unsanitary Napkin made me regret that I’ve become estranged from the Wellington punk scene. I used to get along to many more punk shows, but the frequency decreased as many of my friends in hardcore bands disbanded. I still crave a taste of that intense abandon now and again, but don’t get my fix nearly as often as I should. Unsanitary Napkin reminded me of when PEARS opened for Strung Out – hyper aggressive and slightly unpredictable. The two guys in the rhythm section sported proper mops – a shaggy one on bass and a Beatles-esque mop on drums. Long hair always has potential to visually enhance a show, and it was great to see the players whip it around as they played. The vocals coming from the girl on guitar came totally unexpected. She was channeling some heavy stuff, because the coarse shrieking didn’t sound natural. It was weird seeing these demons tear through violent songs, only to transform into cutesy “aw shucks” embarrassed kids between songs. I’ll award points for intensity, but then dock a few for the lack of confidence between songs. Fake it til you make it!

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I glanced sideways at my friend Paris. I’d met up with her for dinner last week for a catch up seeing as she had just returned from a big stint abroad. She’d mentioned that she was keen to catch more live music and I invited her to this, the next gig I was planning to go to. Clearly I hadn’t put much thought into that, and now the poor girl was getting irreversibly scarred from this experience I’d recommended.

The Vottones Meow

Next up were Vottones. wow… what a band!

They delighted in vulgarity. Raw, unrepentant filth. I didn’t understand much of what was said, except for lots of “fuck you”s, an MC5 cover, and repeated chanting of the line “I AM DIARRHOEA”. Class, pure class. This is what I’ve come for.

At one point the singer gestured to his chest as he introduced a song. Is he pointing to his heart? Because if so, it’s the wrong side. Moments later I see that, no, not the heart. He is definitely pointing to his nips with both hands. Just to hammer the point home, he walked along to the bassist to jerk his shirt up and put his microphone to a saggy man-breast while he played. What is this, singing titty hour?

The Vottones Meow

Abusing the bassist didn’t stop there. The band riffed the tune to Sabbath‘s “Iron Man” as he removed his own shirt, grabbed the mic and stepped down into the crowd to sing. Although he didn’t stop there. He walked through the audience and out of the venue. It got to the point that he’d walked so far the mic lead had pulled out, but that didn’t stop him from furiously shouting into it. Upon returning to the front of stage, the singer jumped down and gave poor bass-man the wedgie from hell. As in, pulled the stressed undergarments so hard that he practically tore them in two. He then crouched down and put his head through the undie hole and allowed himself to get dragged around by his new noose, continuing to play guitar.

They also invited someone from the audience up onstage for a guitar duel at one point. I think they knew him – he could definitely play guitar well – but he could have been a random for all I know. I’ve been in that situation myself, pulled up onstage to play guitar for a band (although I don’t know how to play guitar).

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People think I’m weird for going to these kinds of things. And they’re 100% correct. But they don’t know what they’re missing out on. Last year I saw a guy dressed as an astronaut duet with puppets. A few months ago I played guitar with the legendary Guitar Wolf. These are the experiences that make you know that you are truly living. Sometimes the path to enlightenment involves watching half-naked foreign men violate all concepts of decency in dimly lit bar on a Wednesday night. I don’t make the rules – that’s just how it is.

The hilarious thing is that after the set the guys from Vottones got changed from their leather rock gear into standard clothing. It’s weird to see a man walking around in baggy jeans and a cute sweater, knowing that just 10 minutes ago he was a vile rock lord. It shatters illusions to see that he was a nice guy in comfy clothes commenting on how good the chicken on the menu tastes.

The DHDFD’s came across as a weird cross between Deja Voodoo and The Datsuns. I know, it doesn’t make sense to me either, but that’s how it was – both terribly dero and stylistic. Scott on vocals was rocking the timeless outfit of only stubbies and a trucker cap, while his bandmates either side of him wore dress shoes. It was snotty punk with odd tangents. “We wrote this one after snorting meth, thinking that it was speed”, Scott explained, before popping a Gollum squat on a table amidst the audience for the next song. I would consider this set mad enough on any given day, but sandwiched between two crazy Japanese acts made it look mild by comparison.

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Next up were the headliners- the almighty King Brothers. During soundcheck the drummer let loose and I found my attention snatched away from the conversation I was having with Paris. Dude has chops! It’s unfair really – borderline cheating. I came here to witness energy, aggression. Wild, untamed insanity. Stage dives and gimmicks. But musical talent? That’s just not punk rock!

The King Brothers Meow

The trio dressed sharply in suits, adding an edge of sophistication to their set. The started off with a bang, with the bass and guitar players climbing onto speakers and jumping off in unison.

The lead vocalist with greying hair dominated as the life of the party. “COME CLOSER!” he shouted, beckoning to us. “COME CLOSER!” As soon as a mass of bodies had collected in front of him he sprang off the stage, the first of countless croudsurfing sessions during the set.

The King Brothers Meow

I’m not sure who was most standout in the King Brothers. The floor adverse singer certainly deserves a mention. A madman front and centre, demanding attention and acting out like a toddler. He shouted and swore, climbing on things and calling for people to put him up and carry him around. But then the other two onstage held it down professionally, with their unceasingly good brand of rock. Usually either the music or the show suffers at expense of the other, but in this case both the madness and the talent impressed.

The most excellent moment was when the vocalist ran into the crowd, snatched a girl’s drink, sculled it down, grabbed a dude nearby for a quick pash, and before you know it was back onstage.

Towards the end the band picked up the drumkit and re-assembled it in the middle of the floor, continuing the set in the centre of the crowd. Our madman friend, shirtless by this point, circled his bandmates above their heads, doing donuts whilst crowdsurfing.

It’s an overused cliché, I know. But dammit I was speechless after that show. I just stood near the bar, mouth slightly ajar, trying to process everything I’d just experienced. Just… just… uh… woah. That was rock and roll. That was a show.

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It’s bittersweet really. I had such a blast. I thoroughly enjoyed every wretched minute. But I am sad knowing that I’ll unlikely ever see a show that good again.

Photographer Connor Crawford recently posted a photo from King Brother’s Auckland show, captioned “King Brothers are the greatest band in the world”. I can 100% see where he comes from. Up until now Iron Maiden and Guitar Wolf both laid claim for my greatest live shows, but I think that I may need to revise this now.

And as for my friend Paris? Well yeah, she may need to get therapy at some point down the track, but she had the time of her life, and was grinning from ear to ear by the end of it.

 

Words and photos by Joseph James

EP Review: The Amblers – The Dustling Man

The Amblers The Dustling Man
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That first guitar lick will tell you everything you need to know about The Amblers, a blues rock duo hailing from Johannesburg.

It’s a lazy, crunchy riff, freshly graduated from the school of Angus Young. But there’s something more to it too, like if AC/DC grew up in the American South.

The blues rock influences are evident too – you have your Rolling Stones, White Stripes, and Royal Blood. Dirty blues rock, y’know? These all tie in to give that dangerous edge. Sure, the riffs and beats follow a formula of sorts, but there are unpredictable elements that only emerge for a bar here or there. If you listen closely you can also hear some nice clean playing underneath the layers of distortion. These parts are heard to pick out, but would certainly be welcome more prominently in the mix.

Fuzzy and raw, the opening track reeks of cool. Resplendent with laid back riffs, rocking solos, sloshy drum cymbals – these guys know what’s up.

The title track is the one to get your toe tapping. Similar to the first song, with a faster riff, and more of a four of the floor stomping feel than the stop start vibe of the first track.

The song “Tired”, on the other hand, is slower and balladesque. The distinctive guitar remains, but organ is dominant during this track. Organ with so much vibrato I picture the underwater scene from Pinnochio. You know when cartoons speak underwater and their voice ripples and undulates as they talk? Another neat addition is crisp piano notes playing on the beat, clinking to accent where you’d sometime expect the drummer to play the bell of the ride cymbal, or a cowbell.

Drummer Jason Hinch shows off most of his chops during the last track, “Keep Me Screamin’”. The verses follow the vocal line – guitar line alternating delivery of Sometimes. The cleaner guitar tone feels welcome after three tracks of intense fuzz, but still retains the same energy. 

For a duo, these guys sure pack a punch. Intimate listening reveals layer upon layer of subtle details that drown under the intense distortion. In fact, I can’t figure out how they would possibly pull these songs off live. Fuzzy, filthy and fleshed out, The Amblers will have you rocking out more than you’d expect possible from just two guys. They’re currently in the studio working on a new album, and that is something that excites me very much.

The Amblers


The Amblers links:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/wearetheamblers

Twitter: https://twitter.com/The_Amblers

Deezer: http://www.deezer.com/en/album/45793922

iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/album/id1267131916?ls=1&app=itunes

 

Joseph James

Buried Treasure: Midnight Legs // Marathon Lungs – Aesthetic Medicine

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This is a guest post from Aaron Edwards, better known as Foofer. Aaron has written about music for many years, getting his break on Postrockstar (where he had the weekly column Foofer Fridays), before writing for Echoes and Dust, and now Arctic Drones. He lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife and two young children, and hosted me (Joseph) when I was travelling through America in late 2017. I emailed him recently asking if he would like to tell us about any underrated bands who deserve more attention, so he graced us with his writing to promote Boise locals Midnight Legs // Marathon Lungs.


Midnight Legs / Marathon Lungs - Aesthetic Medicine

First and foremost I would love to thank Joseph for letting me come out of my cave and show him how it’s done. This past year has been crazy in a lot of ways, and I think everyone knows how easy it can be for good releases to slip under the radar or fall through the cracks. Midnight Legs // Marathon Lungs is definitely one of those. 99 times out of 100, a début album from a new band is ignored. And it only gets worse in states where the population is less than the number of cows (or potatoes).

Being from my neck of the woods (which I don’t get to say very often) means that they were on my radar from day one, basically. I went to their album release show, and they were kind enough to supply me with my own copy of their CD. For weeks it was all I could play in the car. Their bandcamp page says “We’re not sad. We’re contemplative.” and it’s crazy how true it is. I’m not usually in the mood for ‘Aesthetic Medicine’ unless I’m already inside my own head, or have a long car drive ahead of me. I cannot and will not ever claim to fully understand lyrics, but I can say that I probably do more thinking due to their words moreso than their music.

There’s something raw about the music that’s so appealing. There’s a very strong Slint vibe in a lot of their sound, but they also have a tendency for sounding very Post-Rock, with their bass-heavy melodies and twinkly guitars. However they don’t fall prey to post-rock pratfalls, how they do more strumming than tremolo picking. It’s a breath of fresh air for someone who’s listened almost exclusively to post-rock this past year. Imagine if Slint had made something a little more melodic and peppered it with screaming, and you’ll be close to imagining ‘Aesthetic Medicine.’

Considering that this is a début album for a local band that’s all DIY, the production is surprisingly solid. It was recorded, mixed, and mastered locally and it still sounds better than some of the local stuff that was mixed and mastered elsewhere. Even the acoustic guitar sounds how it should, I can even play it on my phone speaker and it won’t suck.

Overall, I would recommend this album to all the sad bois out there. Since this release they’ve added a keyboardist, so you can look forward to another layer of depth, and another mind to add to their potential which adds up to more than the sum of their parts. It’s not exactly within my wheelhouse of music, I didn’t even think to write about them until Joseph asked me if there was anything I’d want to bring to attention from this last year. However they’re from my neighborhood. They make good music. And while it didn’t make it to my year-end list on Arctic drones, I appreciate what they’ve made and I’m excited to hear more of it.


Midnight Legs / Marathon Lungs links:

Bandcamp: https://midnightlegsmarathonlungs.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/midnightlegsmarathonlungs