EP Review: Paint The Sand – Embers

Paint the Sand Embers EP Cover

I’m writing this up on a Friday evening after a long week and I can’t think of anything right now that I’d prefer to listen to.

It has been two years since Ben Maurice released his début Where I’ve Been EP under the moniker of Paint The Sand. This third EP, entitled Embers, showcases just how much he has improved over that period.

Paint the Sand stands for all things surfing, summer, beaches and barbecues. I would have been surprised if the album art didn’t relate to a beach or road trip in some way. Sure enough, the cover is a shot of ripples on the sea. It reminds me of Signs of Life, from the church Edge Kingsland

Embers evokes the feeling of huddling round the fire on a cold night. Opener “Flicker” offers the sounds of a match being struck and flames crackling, followed by a sparse reverberating intro.

“Flicker” is in itself an indicator of how far Ben has come. I listened to “Flicker”, and then to “Intro” from his 2012 release. Both are similar: instrumental interludes played on guitar. But the new recording is crisper and Ben has advanced from relying on his prized Baby Taylor acoustic guitar to using an electric guitar with effects that offer new possibilities.

“Embers” is a slow burning track that slowly ebbs and swells. The drumming is basic but does enough to add plenty of depth to the song.

“Stop, Wait, Feel” is the highlight of the EP. It sounds like it has had the most effort put into it. There is some great layering, with backing vocals and guitar harmonizing and piano. Ben has become more confident with his guitar playing and singing to the extent that he even includes a guitar solo

The untitled final track sounds raw and grungy at first, but it pulls back to leave a cappella vocals lingering in the air.

The production sounds good. The extra instruments have added new elements to the music. Using electric guitar has allowed Ben to play with his sound and inject new dynamics into his songwriting. It’s nice to see how far he has progressed over the past two years.

Embers is short , as one would expect from an EP. The three songs and an intro only take 11 minutes to listen to. But after a long week those 11 minutes have done wonders to help me unwind.

Joseph James

Live Review: Shaun Kirk at Bodega, Wellington

Shaun Kirk
w/ Paint The Sand
Bodega, Wellington
Thursday 11 September 2014

Bodega was set up differently last night. There were couches and seats in front of the stage where everyone would usually stand.

This suited perfectly for local opening act Ben Maurice, under the guise of Paint the Sand. His music is designed for chilling back to, comprising of surf-inspired originals and laid-back pop cover medleys. Switching from acoustic to electric guitar in the past year has worked for him, making his set more varied and dynamic. He has added some nice brooding interludes to his set with the use of some distortion and a touch of reverb. He kept the crowd entertained between songs with his self-deprecating humour, checking to see if we were still awake.

It was clear that Shaun Kirk had chops from the opening notes. The sound was so crisp, and Kirk commanded full control over his guitar.

And it wasn’t just his guitar, either. He really was a one-man band, playing guitar, singing, blowing into his harp and playing drums though the use of pedals at his feet. It was a funny sight at times. Kirk perched on his stool strumming the gat and singing whilst lightly stomping on his many pedals. It looked like a leprechaun dancing a jig, hopping from foot to foot. I’m still not sure how he managed to keep balance atop his stool.

Highlight of the night was the song “Chicken and Corn”. Kirk introduced the song with a story about his past. When he decided to become a full-time musician he’d bought himself a Kombi. He’d named it Tracy and painted it orange. He would drive from town to town playing shows to earn money to pay for petrol so he could drive to the next show. To sustain his meager existence he’d sleep in the back of the Kombi and  live off a diet of only peanut butter, bread and tinned chicken and corn. It was tough at the time, but he laughs when he looks back at those times now.

Kirk was a wonder to watch. We were sat down on the floor in front of him, entranced with his innate guitar playing ability and raspy falsetto voice. He channeled the spirit of the greats, like his idol, Tony Joe White, and brought some authentic Blues to lil’ ol’ Wellington.

If anyone in the South Island is reading this, I highly recommend going along to the last few shows of the tour. And while you’re at it, take some cans of chicken and corn to donate to a poor blues guitarist.

Joseph James

Shaun Kirk's pedals. Note the five pedals for drums, as well as a stomp box

Shaun Kirk’s pedals. Note the five pedals for drums, as well as a stomp box.