screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Tag: New Zealand

New Zealand’s The Chills Return with Silver Bullets!

photo by Jon Thom

photo by Jon Thom

Well, here’s some fantastic news for New Zealand indie music fans. Dunedin legends The Chills are back after almost two decades with a new album. Silver Bullets, their first full-length studio release since 1996’s Sunburnt, is due out on October 30 on Fire Records. Yes, those Kiwis certainly take their time, but judging from the first two singles released to bloggers, “America Says Hello” and “Warm Waveform,” it has been worth the wait. In “America,” the dark and layered melodic magic and classic Chills sound is still there, with some nicely acerbic social commentary that takes direct aim at misguided U.S. policies and social breakdown, and the world’s quick forgiveness of past transgressions.

“But you grapple with fear as you stare at the sight
For they’re cold uncaring, moving, scaring — inscrutable
For it’s a small world after all — a lonely little blue and white ball
And the universe yawns at our plans — as another empire expands…

But then America says hello — and the world says welcome home

For the everyday people aren’t free — and they know they’re never going to be
With the powerful keeping them hushed — as the tyrants get noisy ones crushed
So they turn a deaf ear to the prophets of gloom
For there’s funding galore from the profits of doom
First a rocket attack then a property boom”

– America Says Hello

“Warm Waveform” brings a softer touch for a dreamy enveloping love song. Smoothly layered melodic bass lines and chiming guitars blend with steady, shuffling percussion and gently sung vocals to create a pretty, shimmering effect as it bounces along pleasantly and sensuously.

“In the blink of the night, you thawed my winter with your dawn.” – Warm Waveform

It is difficult to overstate the importance The Chills have had on the indie music scene in their native New Zealand and beyond. To trace the band’s roots, influences, members through the years and bands they’ve performed with is to take a magical journey through the rich history of New Zealand indie pop in the 1980s and 1990s. Toy Love, The Clean, Sneaky Feelings and The Verlaines are all brethren with their own legendary stories and esteemed places in music history. Tracing all the talented musicians who have been part of The Chills’ history takes a fancy chart on Wikipedia, with Martin Phillipps being the sole original member. There were two break-ups and two resurrections. In 2013, they signed with Fire and Far South and released Somewhere Beautiful, which was a live album of rare recordings from a New Year’s Eve party. They then released the Molten Gold single, Stand By (2014 Tour) and The BBC Sessions. “Molten Gold” appears on the new album.

And with that, we’re back in the present. Silver Bullets was recorded at Albany Street Studios in Dunedin, with James Dickson, Todd Knudson, Erica Stichbury, and Oli Wilson joining Phillipps. After many years of infrequent shows just in New Zealand and Australia, The Chills performed at sold-out shows in the U.K. last year. A Pitchfork article back in July indicated a full tour being planned for next year, with Phillips scheduled to play solo shows later this year.

Pre-order Silver Bullets on CD or vinyl from Amazon or iTunes below. And stay closely tuned to their Facebook page for tour dates! I’m assuming their official site will be updated. Eventually. Gotta love those Kiwis.

Artist Links: web | facebook | twitter | soundcloud (via Fire Records) | Fire Records

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Introducing… Macombee & The Absolute Truth

I think it must be living on one of two relatively small islands in the middle of a vast ocean that produces a special kind of quirkiness and fertile ground for artistic expression outside the norm. Macombee & The Absolute Truth are inhabitants of their own unique reality. Their music is grand and theatrical, with equal parts horn-driven spy movie soundtrack and pretty orchestral piano balladry. It all centers around band leader Sarah Macombee’s Broadway musical vocals. There’s the delightfully adrift and off-kilter “Floatsam and Jetsam” and the expansive (and well-named) “Epic.” Quieter contemplations such as the very sweet “Limbo” and the choral celebration of “Ripples” (that includes her vocal students) give way to full-on productions like “No Man’s Land” and “The Absolute Truth” (which begins and ends this ambitious debut release). Their first release? really??

Originally from England, the Macombees (technically the McCombies) emigrated to New Zealand, and Sarah has been singing in choirs and in bands for many years. Macombee & The Absolute Truth features several Macombee family members and their friends. Up to a dozen or so people were involved in the production of No Man’s Land. It was an album that took 5 or 6 years to make, through trials and tribulations that included a relapse of MS for their bandleader and the unexpected passing of their first producer, Ben Stockwell. All this only added to their determination, which perhaps is what explains the tremendous confidence and polish of this intriguing album. You can hear them discuss the coming together of the band and the making of the album, in addition to three songs performed live, on Radio New Zealand.

My personal favorite is the first single, “Floatsam and Jetsam,” and the quirky video of a pleasant little tea party that goes awry. It was filmed and directed by Immi Paterson-Harkness, edited by Darryn Paterson-Harkness, and features a truly wonderful performance by actor David Thiele. For me, this perfectly captures the amazingly inventive and slightly crazy and surreal Kiwi personality. I look forward to having the Macombees on our shores one day soon.

No Man’s Land can be purchased on iTunes or in its physical form from STORENVY.

Upcoming New Zealand Shows
1/23 – Lucha Lounge, York Street, Newmarket
2/13 – Hauraki House Theatre, Coromandel Town (vocal workshop and show)
2/14 – Kauaeranga Hall, Coromandel (vocal workshop and show)
3/29 – Titirangi Festival of Music, Titirangi Theatre, Lopdell House (vocal workshop and show)

For more information, see their site.

web | facebook | twitter | bandcamp

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Introducing… Kerretta (from New Zealand)

Hailing from Kingsland, New Zealand, Kerretta is described as “a thinking metaller’s rock band.” In listening to their strong new release Pirohia (out 9/5 on Midium Records), to think of them as just a metal band is a great disservice. To my ears, there is a strong prog rock foundation upon which everything is built. While I’m not a fan of comparing bands to other bands (as I believe that to be insulting and creatively limiting) those who enjoy the complex musical layers and textures of a band like King Crimson would do well to give Kerretta a listen.

Though they’re mostly instrumental, on the rare tracks with vocals, such as the Maori-inspired Kawea Tātou Ki Ngā Hiwi, the result is otherworldly and haunting. Even in the instrumental track “Sister, Come Home” there is a subtle traditional element mixed in. The combined effect of the sophisticated musicianship — moving effortlessly from full-on assault to more intricately woven melodies — and occasional infiltration of their rich cultural history is mesmerizing.

The core band is William Waters (bass), H. Walker (drums) and David Holmes (guitar). They formed in 2005, with their Antient EP released in 2008, Vilayer in 2009 and Saansilo in 2011. In addition to performing in Australasia, Kerretta has toured in North America and Europe, performing with Explosions In The Sky, The Breeders, Trail of Dead, God Is An Astronaut and others.

Their European tour begins September 11 at The Good Ship in London and includes Germany, the Netherlands, France and Switzerland, with an Australasia tour to follow in the Spring. No word on the U.S., but we’ll keep an eye out.


1. Ossein Trail
2. The Roar
3. Warnlands
4. His Streets Of Honey, Her Mouth Of Gold
5. Iron Hail
6. Kawea Tātou Ki Ngā Hiwi
7. Sister, Come Home
8. The Last Rivers

facebook | twitter | bandcamp | purchase pirohia: US (digital) | Europe (digital, CD, LP)

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Neil Finn’s Dizzy Heights

Leave it to a Kiwi to produce the perfect soundtrack to our troubling times. Neil has been a favorite for many years now — from his musical meanderings with brother Tim in the artsy and rambunctious New Wave powerhouse of Split Enz to his own immensely successful (and immensely wonderful) Crowded House, to several brilliant solo albums, his 7 Worlds Collide projects and the warm brotherly love and playful affection in his recordings with Tim as Finn Brothers. He’s New Zealand’s elder statesman, an inspirational songsmith and along with brother Tim, was bestowed with an OBE by Queen Elizabeth II in 1993 for their contribution to the music of New Zealand. So yes, it’s actually quite a big deal that Neil has a new album out.

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Hey, it’s an awesome new song from The Chills!

photo swiped from

photo swiped from

So it seems the legendary New Zealand band The Chills have resurfaced after nine years with some new music. Their last release as The Chills was the Stand By EP (2004). To celebrate Martin Phillipps’ 50th birthday last week, it was announced that they’ve signed a deal with Fire Records, who will apparently be releasing several projects with the band. For now, however, most important thing is “Molten Gold,” their first single, which you can listen to below. Holy moly, is that a violin I hear along with the pretty guitar janglies? Love it!

web | facebook | twitter | Fire Records | wikipedia

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The Bats – Spring 2013 U.S. Tour!

Heads up, New Zealand Flying Nun indie pop fans! We have a real treat coming right up on the horizon. Direct from Christchurch, The Bats are here for a 12-date tour across the U.S., stopping off in Boston at the cozy Great Scott this Sunday (June 2). Not only are The Bats one of the legendary bands from back in those heady ’80s. Along with bands like The Clean, The Chills and The Verlaines, they defined that classic “Flying Nun sound” — pretty, chiming, jangly guitar-based pop music that dances happily around positively dismal lyrics. Love it.

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