Live Review: Jakob at San Fran, Wellington (June 2021)

Jakob Hiboux San Fran
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Jakob

w/ Hiboux
Saturday 5 June 2021
San Fran, Wellington

Hiboux San Fran Bern

Hiboux San Fran Tom

More recorder!

Hiboux San Fran Declan

Hiboux San Fran Duncan

Hiboux San Fran Lester

Local post-rockers Hiboux have gained a lot of great support slots over the years – Alcest, Tortoise, Head Like a Hole, and recently, Mono. But it seemed overdue that they’d get the chance to play with Jakob.

Something I like about Hiboux is that they’re not afraid to play with the lighter shades of music. They’ll get a good groove happening without resorting to loads of riffs and distortion. It’s quite refreshing for me, as someone who likes to listen to lots of heavy music. Their music is meticulously crafted and you can tell. I couldn’t help myself though, and heckled them with a shout of “more recorder!”. I got a few laughs, but I meant it, I love the sounds they come up with and would happily listen to more.

Jakob San Fran Jason

Jakob San Fran Jeff

I’d actually flown to Auckland after work on Friday to see Jakob play at The Tuning Fork, so you you may as well give that review a read too. It was the same deal in Wellington: Jakob playing their legendary opus Solace from start to finish. They even played the same two encores, “Blind Them With Science”, and “Resolve”.

I’ve seen Jakob play here at San Fran at least half a dozen times now. Many times it has been their own gigs, and I’ve seen them support Russian Circles twice and co-headline with local doom heroes Beastwars. They’ve gone on record stating that San Fran in Wellington is one of their favourite places to play, and considering a Jakob gig at San Fran is never shy of perfect, it’s understandable.

Jakob San Fran Jules on guitar

Jules on guitar

One punter was getting extra into it, waving his arm up over his head like you see people do at hip-hop gigs. I have no idea what was going through his head, but he began to try and crawl up onstage from the side, earning him a few menacing looks of disapproval from Maurice on bass.

The lighting was especially cool at this gig, with each member of the trio standing with LED panels directly overhead. It looked like the stage fog was actually coming out from these panels too.

Jules from Spook The Horses came up for a stint on guitar, the same role Jason from Sora Shima had played the night before in Auckland. There were a few gasps from those in the crowd who knew Jules and were surprised by his appearance, which much have earned him major cred amongst his friends.

I don’t have too much extra to say that I didn’t cover in my review of the Auckland gig, but it was still a real treat seeing them play the same set another time. The bass was louder this time, which was good. All though it was earth-shatteringly loud for a period, making the room shake and causing the band members to cast alarmed looks amongst themselves and dial a few knobs on the speakers.

I think everyone there had a great night. A few of us had been to Auckland as well and it was still a treat.

Sam from the band distance with the set list.

Words and photos by Joseph James

Live Review: Jakob at The Tuning Fork 8th Birthday Celebration

Jakob Tuning Fork
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Jakob

w/ Proteins of Magic
Friday 4 June 2021
The Tuning Fork, Auckland

The Tuning Fork Jakob

It’s been quite some time since our Aotearoa instrumental heroes Jakob have treated us to a gig. They opened for Alice in Chains in Auckland back in March 2019, but I went to Download Festival in Melbourne to see AIC, so it’s definitely been a few years since I’ve seen Jakob last play

.And what a way to emerge after such a break, playing their seminal record Solace in full to celebrate the 8 year anniversary of Auckland venue The Tuning Fork.

This was my first time at The Tuning Fork and I thought it was a great venue. Nestled in the wing of the march larger Spark Arena, TTF offered a better setting for those medium tier acts. Nice and long with a bar situated at the rear on the side. It was an ideal size for a gig of this size, feeling intimate but not too tight for the sold-out crowd. Festoons were strung across the ceilings, and although they weren’t on until the end of the night, I thought they looked great.

Proteins of Magic Tuning Fork )

Opening act Proteins of Magic started the night with her haunting music. Maurice from Jakob was gushing to me about her, saying how he’s been listening to her music heaps lately, and that she’s got some serious cred as the former bassist for Dimmer.

She used her synth with some backing tracks to create a sparse sonic base, and then built upon it using a looping pedal, adding layered vocal harmonies. Oh, and she rocked out on flute. Not something that you see at most rock gigs. She cast a spell upon us during her set, with layered vocal on vocals and otherworldly sounds.

Proteins of Magic Tuning Fork

Damn, I’d forgotten how much I enjoy seeing Jakob play. There are moments where I just shout out loud because it’s so good, an exasperated cry. I can’t put it into words easily – I’ve been raised not to discuss my feelings like all New Zealand males – but their music stirs something deep within that I can only react to by tipping my head back and making weird noises. Am I possessed?

Ask any post-rock fan around the world, and Jakob’s album Solace is regarded with much reverence. Post-rock is a genre that initially was about surpassing the boundaries of rock music, but has in many ways become stale and uniform. But Jakob have always managed to sound like themselves. And they stand out. You’ve got to be pretty good if bands like Tool and Isis are inviting you on international tours.Jakob Tuning Fork

Those opening notes of “Malachite” signaled that something special was about to unfold. The guitar builds, layer upon layer, slow and moody. The drums are primal and repetitive. The rumbling bass ties it all together. It’s mesmerizing and enveloping. And then they’ll unleash the distortion pedal. And the world unfolds and fall back on itself. You get knocked back by a sonic wall of fury. And you welcome it because it makes you feel something that you can’t describe, but at least you’re fully alive in that moment.

“That’s enough of that”, they joked, “We’re far too old for that kind of carry-on!”

They’ve got a great sound. I love watching them and seeing how it all unfolds. Watching guitarist Jeff Boyle letting the notes rise and swell and he deftly picks the strings and rolls the volume knob in one motion. Watching how Maurice Beckett – the once hairy behemoth – now shorn but still a beast of bass – drums and shakes on the body of his instrument to unlock those deep rumbling tones within. Watching how drummer Jason Johnston creates that percussive pulse by laying into his toms. Watching how the trio all communicate with each other onstage with knowing looks that only comes from years of playing with each other.

Jakob Tuning Fork

I’ve tried to emulate their sound myself. Johnston sometimes plays with mallets, and with the snares wires thrown off, opening up the cymbals and giving the snare drum a deeper hollow sound, as opposed to the usual “crack”. I copied this when recording a single for my own band, aiming to replicate Johnston’s style. The guy who mixed the single promptly sample replaced my drums and undid all my efforts…

Jason Lurman from the band Sora Shima came onstage for a guest spot during the song “Everything All Of The Time”, playing the guitar line first recorded by Tristan Dingemans of HDU. Lurman was clearly having the time of his life, grinning from ear to ear and rocking backward and forward as he held an e-bow to his guitar strings.The guys all exchanged a bit of banter onstage which caused a few laughs.

Jakob Tuning Fork

As you have probably gathered, I’m a big fan. There’s something special about a Jakob gig. That album, Solace, deserves a spot in the pantheon of the greats, and seeing masterful musicians deliver those songs in a live setting is something to behold.

They left us with a passing comment: “See you again soon, hopefully with a new record!”. We all responded with cheers.

Words and photos by Joseph James

More photos to come

Live Review with Photos: Peachy Keen Festival, Basin Reserve, Wellington 2021

Peachy Keen Festival Poster
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Peachy Keen Festival

Basin Reserve, Wellington
Saturday 3 April 2021

After a week of truly abysmal weather, Wellington seemingly changed its mind and decided to about turn, blessing us with a beautiful sunny day at the Basin Reserve – ideal for a festival.

Peachy Keen felt different from your usual festival as well. One of the key things that stood out is that every act on the bill were fronted by women [except Sweet Mix Kids, the between-set DJs]. Look at most festival posters and you’ll notice that wāhine are glaringly absent, so this was a super welcome progressive change. It also felt more laid back. Many festivals feel like waster-fests (in NZ at least) with a strong focus on punters getting inebriated. Although alcohol was available for purchase all day, I didn’t notice anyone getting out of hand. It felt like a safer than normal environment – I’d even go so far to say family-friendly, seeing as many children were in attendance as well.

KITA

I love Wellington. Say what you want about the politicians and the wind, but it’s an awesome city to live in. Last week the main street in the CBD was closed off all weekend to accommodate a huge free festival called Cubadupa, which involved a hundreds of bands and artists showing their creative side at the numerous stages and areas that had been built for the festival around the city. I’d seen local trio KITA play on the Sunday, attracting a fair crowd with their hypnotic music.

Thinking back, I used to see drummer Rick Cranson and keyboardist Ed Zuccollo play with Adam Page years ago. They were a wonderful match, very technically proficient and able to improvise and synergise with each other. Now they have Nikita Tu-Bryant at the helm, who has a fantastic voice.

Their music was great for the setting. Enough groove to entice some dancers to the front, and laid back enough to suit the sunny Saturday. Really great stuff, and an awesome start to the day.

*Also, check out their new video clip for “Private Lies” that that released today*

KITA at Peachy Keen KITA at Peachy Keen KITA at Peachy Keen

Chelsea Jade

Chelsea Jade was dressed all in white – a nod to cricket, which is what usually takes place at the Basin Reserve where the festival was being held. Flanked by a backing singer on either side, Jade delivered a polished pop set with choreographed dancing.

I’m out-of-the-loop but clearly Jade’s fans knew what was going on, she had them crouching down during parts of her set. She worked the crowd well, evidenced by the throng of fans all dancing against the barrier. She even invited one girl up onstage to dance, who promptly admitted that she had a crush on Jade. “If you dance well enough I may consider it mutual” Jade laughed.

Chelsea Jade at Peachy Keen Chelsea Jade at Peachy Keen Chelsea Jade at Peachy Keen Chelsea Jade at Peachy Keen Chelsea Jade at Peachy Keen

Paige

I can’t decide if it was laughable or genius (possibly both), but Paige started off her set by covering the Highschool Musical song, which garnered a great reaction. It was a strong start, with instant participation from the crowd and a big sing-along. Her music is fairly laid back so the energy died down a bit, but she’s got a great voice and it was a nice set. I loved the backing visuals too, with bumble bees buzzing around on the screen at the back of the stage.

Paige at Peachy Keen Paige at Peachy Keen Paige at Peachy Keen Paige at Peachy Keen Paige at Peachy Keen

The Beths

The Beths were definitely the act I was most looking forward to seeing today. They’ve been progressing from strength to strength in recent years and always killed it during the handful of times I’ve seen them play live. I consider their recent album Jump Rope Gazers the best release of 2020 and was obviously excited to see them play some of it live again.

Of course they delivered. I’m a rocker – no doubt about it – so it was great to see a full band letting loose. They’re fairly humble about their abilities, but watch guitarist Jonathan Pearce shred and you’ll soon see why they deserved to win so big at the recent Aotearoa Music Awards. And of course frontwoman Liz Stokes was the star, with her unapologetic Kiwi accent shining through.The sound quality was a bit patchy – unfortunately something that is fairly common at outdoor gigs – but this didn’t detract from the set too much. The Beths delivered a set of irresistibly fun and catchy hits. Seriously, check them out if you haven’t listened to them already.

The Beths at Peachy KeenThe Beths at Peachy Keen The Beths at Peachy Keen The Beths at Peachy KeenThe Beths at Peachy Keen The Beths at Peachy Keen

Stellar*

It was a pretty spread demographic attending the fest, split among gender and ages. But looking at the lineup, the promoters were clearly targeting a younger audience. This makes Stellar* an outlier, seeing as most of what they’re known for having happened 20+ years ago.

I’d seen Stellar* open for Shihad in Riwaka (just out of Nelson) on New Years Eve a few years ago. I was shocked at how similar this set was to last time, with singer Boh Runga introducing the songs almost exactly as she had last time I’d seen them play. They should at least be able to mix the banter up so they don’t feel stagnant. The audio mix was also quite bad, noticeably worse than The Beths’ mix had been. The set was fine. I do enjoy their music but it looked like they were struggling to garner much of a reaction from the audience. Stellar* need to work on freshening up if they want to be more than a boomer nostalgia band.

Stellar* at Peachy Keen Stellar* at Peachy Keen Stellar* at Peachy Keen Stellar* at Peachy Keen Stellar* at Peachy Keen Stellar* at Peachy Keen Stellar* at Peachy Keen Stellar* at Peachy Keen

Foley

I’ll admit I hadn’t really heard Foley before today. But they were fun. I always prefer a band over a DJ or backing track, and they were full of energy. I don’t have much more to say, but I enjoyed them.

Foley at Peachy KeenFoley at Peachy KeenFoley at Peachy Keen Foley at Peachy Keen Foley at Peachy Keen

Ladi6

Ladi6 was sliiiick. You can tell that she’s been doing this for a while, because this was a performance in every sense. There were three DJs (?) at the rear, manning decks and a mini drum kit and I’m not sure what. Ladi6 was front and centre, commanding attention. She used Samoan fans as props (and I’m sure to keep her cool – it was hot!), and had dancers dressed in bright orange to either side of her. The dancers were super effective – totally in sync and they really stood out with their orange attire. Peachy Keen was all about feminist representation, and Ladi6 upped the ante by making a point to address cultural inclusiveness as well, with the dancers incorporating Pasifika flags into their routines. I’ve gotta say it was certainly the most professional and polished set of the day, and visually it really stood out.

Ladi6 at Peachy KeenLadi6 at Peachy Keen Ladi6 at Peachy KeenLadi6 at Peachy Keen

Ladyhawke

By contrast, Ladyhawke fell a bit flat. The acts had been running progressively later throughout the day and there was quite a wait before she came on. I don’t know what the cause of this was but I’m guessing it was something to do with soundchecking and set ups? Sweet Mix Kids helped to amp the crowd up during these breaks with their DJ sets but that energy dispersed when Ladyhawke came on.

It was finally dark by this point, making the lights onstage effective, but there was just something missing from this set. A few of the better known singles caused ripples of excitement among fans, but overall it was underwhelming.

Ladyhawke at Peachy Keen Ladyhawke at Peachy Keen Ladyhawke at Peachy Keen Ladyhawke at Peachy Keen Ladyhawke at Peachy KeenLadyhawke at Peachy Keen

Gin Wigmore

Gin Wigmore knows how to party. Brimming with confidence, she showed us a good time. Her band rocked. I’d heard a rumour that one of her guitarists had caught covid on the way to NZ so she’d had to recruit a ring-in, but honestly, you wouldn’t know it. They played flawlessly.

Wigmore also joined in, playing guitar on a few tracks, and thumping the hell out of a floor tom drum towards the end of the set. You could tell she was enjoying herself and it was infectious.

Jason Aalon Butler in the mosh pit during Gin Wigmore's set at Peachy Keen

Jason Aalon Butler in the mosh pit during Gin Wigmore’s set at Peachy Keen

Her husband Jason Butler managed to get on someone’s shoulders in the mosh pit. He stripped of his shirt and beanie and threw it onstage. Security guards quickly flashed their torches at him and made him get down, but Wigmore lapped it up, flirting with him from onstage. “Hey sexy man, I think I’ll marry you and have your babies!” she shouted. “Hmmmm I can smell some weed. I live in LA, where you can have someone deliver it to you in a three piece suit. Not like here in NZ, where you have to go to a dodgy area to pay $20 for something wrapped in aluminum foil. Anyone want to share?” she joked.

Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen Gin Wigmore at Peachy Keen

Benee

And now for the big act. The stage was noticeably bigger, with some of the clutter from the wings removed to make space. The drums looked formidable, with odd perspex shields set in front (I guess for acoustic mix reasons). Benee was the big draw card that many people had come for.

She came onstage rocking a red puffer jacket and a fluffy bucket hat. And fair enough – it’d been a scorcher earlier on, but there was a definite chill in the air now it was past 10pm. The stage was quite dark despite the lights, and Benee nonchalantly walked from side to side as she sang.

I don’t know if it was forced or is she’s just odd, but Benee was full of quirks. She adopted different accents every time she addressed the crowd. She made animal noises during the pauses between lyrics. At one point she just lay on the floor of the stage as she sang.

I’ll be honest, the appeal was lost on me, but obviously my opinion didn’t matter because thousands of adoring fans were hanging onto every word. Benee’s set started more than an hour later than scheduled, but there was a strict sound curfew  of 11pm, so her set was cut a lot shorter than anticipated.

There was a bit of an outcry over the drastically shortened set, but there’s nothing that could be done.

Benee at Peachy Keen Benee at Peachy Keen Benee at Peachy Keen Benee at Peachy Keen


All in all it was a fantastic day. Thankfully it was sunny. The Basin Reserve was a suitable venue, with plenty of space for a stage and dancing area, as well as surrounding banks for those who just wanted to lay back and soak it all in. Most of the acts played well, although it was possibly a bit ambitious booking so many. Once events like this start falling behind time it can snowball, and it’s a real shame that the two last acts had to cut songs from their sets.

Sure, there were a few teething problems, but overall it was a great success, and it’s very likely that we’ll see another Peachy Keen event in years to come. It had a unique vibe that I hope they can replicate in the future. I wonder if they’ll aim to pull international acts or if they’ll stick to Aotearoa artists, but either way, they deserve congratulations for taking such a progressive stance and making a point of celebrating women in music.

Words and photos by Joseph James

Premiere: Sora Shima – At the Edge of Hope Is Despair

Sora Shima At the Edge of Hope Is Despair cover
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Sora Shima were staples in the New Zealand post-rock scene for some time. They shared the stage with royalty like Jakob and Mono, and put out some great music.

The band slowed down and fell into a hiatus about five years ago. You know the score – guys get a bit older, work commitments start taking over, suddenly they have families, and the band goes on the back burner. Their last release was the 2014 album You Are Surrounded.

I remember in late 2016 my friend David Zeidler (of Young Epoch fame) asking me to recommend some post-rock acts from my neck of the woods for an A Thousand Arms compilation, which were relatively new at the time.

From memory I suggested Jakob, Sora Shima, Hiboux, Into Orbit and Kerretta. Three of those acts made it onto the first edition of Hemispheres (Hiboux featured in the following edition).

Chatting with Jason from Sora Shima, the fresh surge of interest in his band as a result of that compilation inspired him to revive the band and get things up and running again.

They’ve had a handful of gigs in the past year and have been working on new material and getting back on track. Out of nowhere they’ve dropped two fresh songs.

“At the Edge of Hope Is Despair” is a brilliant return to form. A guitar line at the start reminds me of Tides of Man – which can only be a good thing. And the drums sound immense – really full and vibrant and spacious. So many drummers try to emulate that sound that John Bonham gave us in the song “When The Levee Breaks” and Sora Shima have come darn close. All the instruments come together in a searing, triumphant crescendo that leaves you panting for more. I’m reminded of the recent Hubris album.

“Loss” is more cinematic ambient, full of mournful swells and dense textures. A nice counterpiece to the first track.

Sora Shima

There’s no story behind these tracks, no waffly bio. It’s just shy of 7 minutes worth of music. But it’s damn tasty and exciting to have new content from such a great band. Keep an eye out on the Shora Shima Facebook page for some news being announced in the next week.

While you’re at it, buy their back catalogue off Bandcamp. They’re only asking for $3 for their entire collection, which is criminally underselling themselves.

 

EP Review: distance – over time

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Sam Butler is likely best known for his time as the bass player for Banks Arcade. Recent life changes have signaled time for new opportunities, allowing Butler to explore different avenues.

He put the word out last year, wanting to start a post-rock group. I even had him over at one point for a jam in my bedroom. But a shift to the sleepy town of Nelson put those plans to rest, so Butler decided to see what he can do on his own. The result is the over time EP, put out under the moniker of Distance.

The timing seems slightly comical, considering all the jokes circulating about how we are about to get flooded with bedroom albums and solo projects due to the covid 19 lockdown period, but don’t worry, this is actually quality output.

Butler shares with me about the inspiration behind the EP. The immense Nelson Pine factory plant in Richmond is responsible for producing a lot of the MDF, plywood and timber that we use in our part of the world. You can see the constant plume of “steam” churning out from it’s chimneys at all hours.

Butler noticed this during a commute to work one day and it got him thinking about the water cycle. One thing led to another, and before long he’d formed a song in his head that revolved around the concept of water. Wanting to extend himself, he expanded upon the theme, introducing other elements of nature, and in the end settling on five elements he loved about New Zealand: water, trees, sky, mountains and people.

Most post-rock music is instrumental by nature, leaving the music open to interpretation by the listener. But I do love when post-rock artists use an overarching concept to influence and inform the songwriting process. It can result in a more interesting final product, which invites the listener to interact with the themes and messages of the music on a deeper level. Take Ranges, hubris. or Lost in Kiev, for example.

distance over time Sam Butler

“coalescence” is the original water themed track that jump-started this project. Butler shares that “throughout the song, raindrops fall, coalesce, create puddles, rivers and streams, and then finally join the ocean, where they crash about in the final climax.” Guitar notes with plenty of delay and thunderous drums echo within a sparse chamber before sharply plucked bass and monstrous layers of guitar consume everything and engulf you. I especially love the blink-and-you’ll-miss-em drum fills towards the end of the track.

It’s clear that Butler is a fellow believer, having paid his dues at the altar of Jakob. The rolling bass line in “coalescence” and the hollow snare tone on “tectonic” – there’s no mistaking where he drew key inspiration for those aspects of the music from.

Butler utilises wonderful field samples, of rolling water, of crashing waves upon the shore, of tranquil birdsong, of people chatting. These recordings lend themselves to the concept that anchors the music, as well as adding an georgeous textural layer to the sounds.

I just adore the birdsong in “undergrowth”. The music contains tribal percussive elements and grunty riffs that sound like the lovechild of Jakob and Tool.

The heaviest track is “firmament”. It sounds crushing and huge, a dense slab of noise which threatens to overwhelm everything.

One of the better known Māori whakatauki (proverbs) is:

He aha te mea nui o te ao. He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata

What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.

It’s a nice touch naming the final track “(treasure)”, knowing that the working title was “People”, making me guess that the name is alluding to the whakatauki.

The track is very much a nod to the origin of ambient music: Brian Eno’s Music for Airports. We hear hustle and bustle, distant sirens, people connecting. Similar to “Coda” from Pillars’ outstanding 2019 record Cavum, it’s a touching track that explores mundane yet magical aspects of life, and a brilliantly soft finish to a great collection of music.

This is an extremely promising release from Butler, and certainly exceeds all expectations in terms of quality, considering it’s a lock-down bedroom project. Looks like I missed a grand opportunity, given that we could have teamed up to start a band when he lived in Wellington. That aside, over time is well worth your attention, with well crafted songs that sound great, and an understated concept of gratitude that we would all do well to remember in trying times such as these.

distance over time


distance links:

Bandcamp: https://distancenzl.bandcamp.com/album/over-time

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkFeC2SN-QY

Spotify et al: https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/distance2/over-time