Album Review: Hiboux – Command The Earth To Swallow Me Up

Hiboux Command The Earth To Swallow Me Up banner
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Local post-rock band Hiboux (pronounced ee – boo. The French word for owls) have worked hard to get to this stage of their career, cultivating a following as they wrote and recorded the songs on this, their first album, Command The Earth To Swallow Me Up.

They struck me as talented when I saw them open for Tortoise last year [Tortoise live review], and this début release has only cemented that opinion.

Before we start discussing the music, I need to draw attention to the title of the opening track: “East Of Seddon”. For those unaware, some of the more major New Zealand earthquakes in recent years have triggered – you guessed it – just east of the upper South Island town of Seddon. I adore the imagery that the title evokes. Does it indicate that Hiboux are at the epicenter of something big? That their music is earth-shatteringly good? Let’s find out…

The track starts of with some gorgeous harmonising guitars that riff together in tandem. Not like thrash metal riffing, but more elegant and leisurely. The two guitarists each deviate ever so slightly with their picking to keep the ostinato sounding fresh. The rest of the band joins in – bass and keys add atmosphere while the drums add urgency. The song meanders and changes – as you would hope from a nine minute epic – and the guitars split to each adopt different roles. But it’s those dual guitar lines at the start that really make this opening track what it is.

Most of the songs follows suit in much the same fashion. Repeated guitar riffs, band comes in, things start to expand. But this is not to say that the music is formulaic. The riffs are fantastic – musical and memorable. The drumming is sensitive – adding to the overall feel with finesse, but not overplaying.

Something that Hiboux excel at is creating memorable riffs without the need for heaviness. Or creating great sound without the need for effects (that I can tell. I hear little reverb, distortion, delay etc but I am not an expert on such things).  And I hate to focus on the guitars so much at the expense of the other instruments, but they really do stand out.

I always wonder how musicians manage to write and remember such long and complex songs. Ranges have a 24 minute song called “Night & Day“, and “Dominion” by Kiwi heroes Jakob rings in at just shy of half an hour. In a recent interview I learnt that Hiboux take months (or even up to a year) to write and refine their epic pieces. It makes sense when you listen to each track. Spontaneous music is great, but it is clear that these songs are not just ideas picked out willy-nilly from a jam session.

Hiboux Command The Earth To Swallow Me Up Band Pic

(Again, I need to go off-tangent here. Look at that photo! How cool is that shot? And, even better, the band is standing on the wall of old army magazine bunker ruins in Wellington, which was burnt down when bank robbers set alight a stolen van that they had parked inside. So much awesome in just one picture!)

Running a music blog is pretty cool, but I find that after reviewing so many post-rock albums it can be hard to come up with ways to discuss music that sounds so similar. Not so with Hiboux, who have done themselves proud with this release. Yes, it is undeniably post-rock through and through. But it also sounds fresh and innovative whilst sitting comfortably within the genre.

I am always stoked to discover great local bands who can sit comfortably beside their musical peers on a global scale, and with Command The Earth To Swallow Me Up, Hiboux have proven that they fit that description.


Command The Earth To Swallow Me Up is now available for download from https://hibouxband.bandcamp.com/ with a limited run of Digipaks available at shows.

Hiboux links:

Bandcamp: https://hibouxband.bandcamp.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/hiboux_band

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/hiboux-official

 

Joseph James

Live Review: Chain and the Gang at Moon 1, Wellington

Ian Svenonius Chain And The Gang Moon Wellington
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Ian Svenonius’ Chain And The Gang

w/ Beatcomber and Hex

Moon 1, Newtown, Wellington

Friday 17 March 2017

The sad irony of being a music reviewer is that I spend less time seeking out new music these days, and more time simply listening to music that people submit to me to review. Cry me a river, right?

So sometimes I need people to push me out of that bubble and recommend things that I wouldn’t usually come across on my own.

My mate Sam invited me to a Cody ChussnuTT gig during my student days. I was coming off an all-nighter, having not been able to find the time to fit in writing an essay around work and showing up to lectures. I was spent. God knows how I was even able to stand upright, having been without sleep for such a long period. But I somehow made it to Bodega for the gig, and I was so glad I did. I went in having never heard a single bar of ChesnuTT’s music, and left a complete convert. It wasn’t the type of music I would usually listen to, but the musicianship, the interactions, the energy – it was all electrifying.

The Chain And The Gang show at Moon was very similar. A friend suggested I come when I caught up with him a few weeks ago, so I figured I may as well. I chose not to even look up the band. Sometimes going in fresh makes the experience even more exciting if the act is good.

And oh they were good!

Ian Svenonius was the circus ringman – the off-kilter MC leading preaching his counter-cultural gospel. Bearing a wild mop of hair and a dapper pinstripe suit, he commanded complete attention and demanded audience interaction.

His band, three younger women also wearing the matching pinstripe outfits, laid the basic rhythm that set the template. The music was a hybrid of raw garage and punk. The trio did incredibly well, considering that they hadn’t been an established line-up for too long. Plus they had to be on their toes, watching Svenonius closely to take cues for when to change-up.

Anna Nasty led the music with her basslines. It all built off that bass. She reminded me of Uma Thurman in a few of her Tarantino roles, with a dark bob of hair and a deadpan expression. Ramona Flowers also to mind – maybe it was a garage/punk connection? It was obvious that Nasty was the musical anchor of the band. She had a great voice as well, meaning that the music sounded better live at the gig than in Chain And The Gang recordings I’ve listened to since.

Ex-pat Fiona Campbell had returned to New Zealand to support the band from behind the drum kit. She synced in tight, helping to push the simple beats that propelled the night. And Francy Graham rounded off the music on guitar. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t hear much guitar in the mix under the dominant bass, but Graham did have a few solos that sounded good.

The musicians played tight, yet simple rhythm while Svenonius dictated the show’s direction.

His character was all over the place, standing high on the shoulders of the crowd, or coming in close and pushing himself around the masses at the front. It made me think back to when I saw Damien of hardcore act Fucked Up do the same when opening for Foo Fighters at Western Springs. Svenonius was unpredictable. At times, beckoning us in close to share an exclusive secret, and other times crying his message out loudly, and always punctuated with wild shrieks and yells. He gave small introductions to each song (“We have wanted to come to Wellington for a long time. You want to know why? Why not?”) before signalling the start of each with “Kick it!”

It was very self-aware, ironic, and even self-parodying. The gospel of oppression. Down with liberty! Up with chains! Celebrate censorship, and trashiness and lack of vitality. A very backwards political statement that made sense through reverse-psychology.

The highlight of the night was the song “Mum’s The Word”. I struggle to think of the last time I felt so much joy. I got completely sucked in. The band started off their beat as usual, but then brought it down to the point that the music had stopped and Svenonius was just conducting the audience and instructing us to sing a repeated mantra. I had been exhausted half an hour ago, and now I was possessed by this energy that had me dancing to the music and singing along with the crowd in some inexplicable cult ritual. I had caught something contagious from the primal music and freaky frontman.

Chain and The Gang. Wow.

It was something else, that’s for sure. Call me a convert!

Chain And The Gang Moon Newtown Wellington Set List

The set list

Live Review: Into Orbit – Unearthing Album Release Show

Into Orbit His Masters Voice Unearthing Album Release Show San Fran
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Into Orbit

w/ His Masters Voice

San Fran, Wellington

Friday 10th of February 2017

 

I feel guilty, but it has become common practice for me to start a gig off at San Fran standing on the deck outside. Beer in hand and inhaling the second-hand smoke from my fellow concert goers outside. I watch the passers-by and mix ambient sounds of Cuba street with the music coming from inside the venue. This time it was different. As I was conversing with my friend Jon we both suddenly stopped looked at each other with a blank stare. ‘Hey that sounds a bit like Sabbath‘ he says to me. ‘Or Zeppelin’ I replied with a heightened sense of curiosity.

Opening the door we move towards the stage with gusto. We are met by what His Masters Voice have come to dub The Devils Blues. A fitting title for their high-octane brand of music. As we stand in the center of the floor the sound surrounds us. A sound fronted by mournful wails reminiscent of the classic American soul. The crash of cymbals and driving bass with facial hair to match puts a giant smile on my face as the rhythm section are only a pair of cheap sunglasses away from ZZ Top’s legendary back row. Giving the rhythm just enough personal flair to give it a contemporary feel while staying true to the roots that took hold in the American South so long ago.

slowly but surely

His Masters Voice at San Fran. Image. Mathias Hallberg

It is a hard-fought battle, but slowly the crowd is being beaten into submission. More and more pour through the gates. One by one they are summoned to the dance floor by shrieking guitars. Carrying just enough gravel and grit to stand toe to toe with any Metal band that is foolish enough to take the challenge laid out by His Masters Voice.

As the set comes to an end I was feeling a bit too giddy. Obviously, I needed a beer and the bartender is glad to serve us up a couple of pints of the golden nectar. He would soon come to regret his decision for in my overly excited state I felt compelled to convince him of just how good the show was. The look of terror on his face earns a sensible chuckle. I slowly back away and leave him in peace.

Not one to disappoint Into Orbit step onto the stage and get straight to work, introducing us to their new baby, Unearthing. San Fran’s hall is filled with thundering drums and meticulously layered guitar. Into Orbit must be close to the top of the list of loudest bands that I have seen. So much sound is produced by just two musicians. Paul Stewart on the ever looping and layered guitar and Ian Moir manning the battery. Drawing a decent crowd with their virtuosic Prog Metal sound I am taken once again into their world joined by their ever growing fan base here in Wellington. Their story is told by everything from soft-spoken guitar melodies to full on sludgy heavy metal riffs. Always building and releasing tension in the room.

A successful album release show, sadly (or not) overshadowed by a world-class performance by the opening band.


Links

Into Orbit

His Masters Voice

Live Review: Ty Dolla $ign at Shed 6, Wellington

Ty Dolla $ign Campaign Tour NZ poster
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Ty Dolla $ign Shed 6 Wellington Campaign Tour

Ty Dolla $ign

w/ DJ Sir-Vere, TeeCee 4800 and DJ Dre Sinatra

Shed 6, Wellington

Tuesday 31 January 2017

Ty Dolla $ign began the NZ leg of his Campaign tour in Wellington off the back of his mixtape of the same name,

This show excited me for two reasons. Firstly (and more obviously) I am a fan of his and what better way to experience his music then performed live. Secondly, I was excited to contribute to Will Not Fade by writing about Hip Hop/RnB – a genre that may not get as much coverage on this site.

First coming into the spotlight on the track “Toot It and Boot It” by YG back in 2010, Ty Dolla $ign has since release 2 EP’s, 9 mixtapes and 2 albums, and founded a music production team (D.R.U.G.S). He has also contributed his song writing skills to hits like “FourFiveSeconds” (Kanye West/Rihanna/Paul McCartney), “Loyal” (Chris Brown/Lil Wayne/French Montana/Too Short/Tyga) and “Post to Be” (Omarion/Chris Brown/Jhene Aiko).

A standout in the ever-growing category of singer-rapper (think Drake, Future etc.),Ty Dolla $ign’s sound has elements of Hip-Hop, RnB and Soul. Among his influences are 2Pac, Prince and Stevie Wonder. Music production plays a big part in his artistry, being a multi-instrumentalist.

Ty Dolla $ign Shed 6 Wellington Campaign Tour

We arrived at Shed 6 to see it roughly half full. Shed 6 is an underutilized venue that I would like to see more acts play. It reminds me of the now-defunct James Cabaret, although is twice as large. A DJ was walking around on stage trying to amp up the crowd.

Teecee 4800 Ty Dolla Sign Shed 6 Wellington Campaign Tour

Ty Dolla $ign’s cousin Teecee 4800 succeeded in elevating the mood. The audience notably perked up in response to the live performance after having listened to prerecorded tracks through the PA for the past few hours.

Ty Dolla Sign Shed 6 Wellington Campaign Tour

And as much as they loved Teecee, it was nothing compared to the star attraction. Ty Dolla $ign arrived onstage larger than life. He wore a Hawaiian styled jacket atop a black Gucci t-shirt – both of which were removed before long. His dreadlocked hair was tied back under a cap, and he wore round sunglasses to protect his eyes from the harsh red stage lights.

He was clearly excited to be in New Zealand. He commented on how much he had enjoyed Wellington since landing at the airport and complimented us on our potent strains of marijuana before lighting up a large blunt and taking a big drag before throwing it into the crowd. A risky move considering that it was an all-ages show, but I get the impression that this didn’t concern him too much.

It was a real buzz to run around in the photographers pit taking photos from all angles. It’s a shame that red lights – the bane of the photographer – dominated the entire show. Steam cannons lined the front edge of the stage to shoot geysers of steam into the air at certain moments.

Crowd Shot Ty Dolla Sign Shed 6 Wellington Campaign Tour

Ty Dolla $ign treated us by playing all manner of tracks from his varied career, showcasing his strength as a collaborator. It’s a shame that autotune is so prevalent in many of his songs because he has great singing talent. It was terribly fun and it was clear that everyone in the building was having a blast.

It was interesting trying to figure out who the true Ty was. A large, heavily tattooed rapper drinking gin out of the bottle. A talented musician with illustrious credits to his name. He proudly brought his daughter and sister onstage, but then later let his DJ stop the set to pull girls up onstage to dance. Is it possible to be both a family man and womanizer? He brought TeeCee 4800 back out to tag team on some tracks with him.

Ty Dolla $ign Shed 6 Wellington Campaign Tour Crowd Surf

The once-fun set got derailed and lost all momentum as DJ Dre Sinatra spent five minutes beckoning girls up onstage to dance for the final track before taking them backstage for the “after party”. As lame as it was halting the show to seek out groupies, Ty Dolla $ign did end on a fun note, with Fifth Harmony’s “Work“, and ventured into the audience to do a spot of crowd surfing.

Overall it was a fantastically fun gig – certainly worth staying up late on a Tuesday night for.

Ty Dolla $ign Shed 6 Wellington Campaign Tour

Words by Jayden Sulufaiga and Joseph James

Photos by Joseph James

Live Review and Photo Gallery: Caligula’s Horse at Valhalla, Wellington

Caligula's Horse Valhalla Wellington
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Caligula’s Horse

w/ Clæmus and ELIM

Valhalla, Wellington

Wednesday 1 February

Sadly I missed ELIM’s set, but was able to catch the other support act, Clæmus, who proved themselves a great choice to open for Brisbane prog-rockers Caligula’s Horse. Clæmus have a similar progressive sound, and plenty of energy to bring their set to life. It’s amazing how such talented locals keep coming out of the woodwork. Where do they keep hiding? Anyway, now that I’ve discovered them I’ll be sure to attend more gigs that they play.

This was a last-minute show, announced mere weeks before the event. Caligula’s Horse were due to come to NZ for the first time to support Opeth at their gig in Auckland, and seemingly decided to add a Wellington date the night beforehand, much to our pleasure.

The lads in Caligula’s Horse were buzzing to see such a turnout. And it wasn’t bad, but it was hardly packed either. It was however, a case of quality over quantity. Valhalla wasn’t filled to the brim, but the fans who had shown up were diehards, many of whom sang all along to all the words, much to singer Jim Grey’s delight.

I think Caligula’s Horse strike a great balance. They described their own music as “prog-wank”, but I disagree.Sure, the songs are long, and have noodly solos, but they don’t venture into boring territory like some other prog-rock bands. The solos are interesting, the music makes you want to move, and the vocals are on point.

I’m writing this a few days late, having been out-of-town yesterday for the Opeth gig. So with hindsight on my side, I can safely say that it was worth seeing Caligula’s Horse play at Valhalla. OK, it was worth it regardless, but the Valhalla set was far better than the set that they played opening for Opeth in Auckland. This is not to say that the band played badly in Auckland, but there are only so many songs you can fit into a half hour set when you play prog-rock. A band of this calibre deserves more than 30 minutes to show off their talents on stage. This headlining show gave provided us Wellingtonians the opportunity to see Caligula’s Horse let loose at their peak, and not constrained into a supporting slot.

Something I loved was seeing guitarist Sam Vallen’s grandmother positioned just in front of the stage filming her grandson’s band on her smart phone. I wouldn’t usually expect to see that generation at a gig, let alone at a metal bar late on a Wednesday night! It certainly brought a grin to my face to see a grandmother so proud of her grandson.

It was an absolute pleasure watching the band play, drawing from a music new and old. Half way through their set, my mate turned to me and said “I think that this is the best band I’ve seen play at Valhalla!” I thought about it for a minute, and I agree. Caligula’s Horse are a band worth seeing, and I am happy that we saw them play their own unbridled set as well as an opening set for Opeth the following night.

 


Links:

Website: http://caligulashorse.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CaligulasHorse

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/samvallen

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/caligulashorse/

 

Words and photos by Joseph James

An Ode To An Important Local Venue: Bar Bodega

Bodega Wellington
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Bodega

Bar Bodega hosts some of my most revered memories.

Florida punks Against Me! played there back in 2011, back when their front man was still a man. Sweat dripped from the ceilings as the crammed-in crowd tussled, swayed and shouted along to the songs. There were stage dives aplenty, but not many came off the stage. My friend Steve and I took turns boosting each other up. We cupped our hands near our knees for the other person to step onto and launch off.

I remember my first time witnessing a Guitar Wolf show. I’d seen Foo Fighters play in Auckland the night beforehand, and struggle to decide which band put on the better performance. Guitar Wolf were almost cartoonish – Japanese rockers fully buying into the stereotypes. They preferred to suffer under intense heat rather than ditch their leather jackets and sunglasses. There was thumb wrestling, human pyramids, and a LOT of noise. The music wasn’t that good, but never mind that, it was about the overall experience.

Cody ChessnuTT blessed us with his smooth, soulful R&B beats on the night of his 40th birthday. I had been awake for roughly 36 hours trying to juggle university assignments around work, but as exhausted as I was, it was worth staying awake late into that Monday night.

I’ve marvelled at my favourite singer Frank Turner as he spread the folk punk gospel from his pulpit, and was inducted into some other-worldly ritual when Killing Joke tried to set off the apocalypse from the stage.

Locals and internationals; punks, rockers, soul-singers, blues-players, beat-layers, rappers, wailers and crooners have all graced the stage, amongst many others. Look around the bar and you will see many records, photos, posters and backstage passes that lay testament to the many musical memories that still linger within the venue. Furthermore are the memories of first bar, from its original site on Willis Street 25 years ago.

Bodega has now followed the likes of Mighty Mighty, James Cabaret, and Puppies by closing up shop. May the memories remain long after the doors have shut.

 

Joseph James