Posts Tagged ‘Flying Nun’

Superette – Tiger

In the wake of Flying Nun second-gen powerhouse Jean-Paul Sartre Experience’s dissolution around ‘93/’94 the band’s Dave Mulcahy and Greta Anderson picked up hometown pal Ben Howe to round out their new trio, Superette. The album, long overlooked stateside, is powered by moody hooks and a thick layer of grunge fuzz. Produced by Nick Roughan, who also worked on JPSE’s The Size of Food, the record finds itself locked into the sparser end of the ‘90s spectrum, shooting for Albini and Kramer vibes, though skewing a tad more traditional than either producer kicked out at the crack of the grunge era. Like the last wave of JPSE’s output the record embraces less of the idiosyncratic Kiwi-rock and more of their American and UK counterparts, but they hold out some bright spots that keep them from falling into obscurity.

Mulcahy and Anderson were in hunkered down in New York at the time their previous outfit called it quits and they no doubt absorbed all that NY’93 had to offer. There are shades of Sonic Youth and Pixies weaving through Tiger, and while they don’t necessarily make as big a footprint as either of those, naturally, they smash through with “Touch Me” and the clanging “I Got It Clean.” Flying Nun has gone the full measure on this one as well, including the band’s debut EP Rosepig alongside recordings from a planned and scrapped second album. I’d wager than most ‘90s nostalgists on this side of the world are unfamiliar with the trio’s melodic crunch, but with this definitive edition, its worth getting acquainted.



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Eric Allen (of The Apples in Stereo) on Chris Knox – Songs of You and Me

Working down the list of wishlist contributions to the Hidden Gems series has brought me to a fairly big influence on RSTB in general. For a good swath of the ‘90s, and to be honest a good portion of the ‘00s, the works of the Elephant 6 Collective reigned supreme in my listening habits. So, it’s with some excitement that this contribution comes from Apples in Stereo founding member and bassist Eric Allen. Eric’s taken a stab at an album that he’s found has missed its due and remains a treasure among ‘90s CD stacks. Check out below as he tackles Chris Knox’ 1995 sprawler Songs of You and Me and listening back again, I can see how this one made its mark on the band’s sound for sure.

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Odd Hope

It’s hard to capture the feeling of an era lost. There are plenty of jangle-pop imitators and even a new crop of Kiwis that are attempting to resurrect what Flying Nun once found so effortless. In California, however, there remains a solitary lifeline to the sound in the form of Tim Tinderholt’s Odd Hope. Following on a solid single for Fruits & Flowers, Tinderholt has come ratcheting back with a perfect distillation of all those lost gems from the underside of the equator. Though, its not without noting that he’s also mining a great deal from The Jacobites and The Pastels as well. He’s found purchase not only in their sunny, jangled ebullience but also in the quieter, introverted weirdness that made so many of these ’80s and ’90s oddities such coveted releases.

Produced by Fruits & Flowers co-founder Glenn Donaldson, (Skygreen Leopards, The Birdtree) the record retains an unmistakable touch of his own homespun and hissed-flecked folk pop, but at the heart is Tim’s distinct gravitational pull. Tinderholt’s songwriting is given a treatment that flickers like an emergency candle in a power outage, an inviting harbor in the face of unblinking darkness. The album is both a beacon and a comfort. When he’s reflecting the brilliant sun’s glow there’s no other light that can hope to outshine his positivity, but when the vibes turn, as they often do, to smirking, unsure, melancholy and jittery, Tinderholt is the friend who understands just how overwhelming the outside world is.

So maybe just huddle down into these ten tracks like a blanket in a storm that may or may not pass. Tinderholt’s eponymous debut is the kind of record that’s destined to be missed by the oblivious as anathema to modern trends and revisited years later as a cherished totem to those who were paying attention. With so many of those types of records now getting the reissue treatment, it would seem only intuitive to nip into this while it’s fresh and fidgeting. Odd Hope is a truly endearing open wound that sucks the listener in with its weird and blissful ache.




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Look Blue Go Purple – Still Bewitched

In putting together a comp of great jangle-pop last month I was sad to see that female voices, as with many genres, often went underrepresented. One of the brightest stars, and subsequently most often overlooked came in the form of Dunedin group Look Blue Go Purple. The band arrived as part of the Flying Nun stable’s second wave, beginning a run of great EPs from 1985 through 1987. The EPs – Bewitched, LBGPEP2 and This is This – all make their way onto this compilation along with a cache of live tracks spanning from their formation in 1983 to their dissolution in ’87.

The band perfected that distinctive New Zealand jangle, but augmented it superbly with woven vocals, melancholy keys and spectral flute. They worked their way into the canon of culture in their homeland, but unlike contemporaries in The Chills and The Bats, they didn’t find a foothold outside of the country at the time, making them more of a secret handshake between Flying Nun and jangle lovers. The band sprang out of a desire to create music with other women, and though they took inspiration from The Raincoats and The Slits, they were adamant in not presenting themselves as a purely feminist well-spring. Sadly, their status as one of the singular female bands rising in Dunedin lead them to endless questions about gender in regard to their music.

The focus away from the music is criminal, as Look Blue Go Purple remains one of the more nuanced jangle-pop bands to come out of the area. They, like The Beach Boys before them, knew the power of layering vocals in valleys of harmony. Adding to this is the power trio at the core of their songwriting – Denise Roughan, Kathy Bull, and Norma O’Malley. The latter provided the distinctive key swells and enchanted flute parts that truly separate the group from the pack, while Roughan and Bull kept the jangles knotted and the bounce elastic. Flying Nun has done a service getting these EPs bound up on 2xLP, and though the historical inclusion of the live tracks gives this a strong perspective, the fact that it creates a whole new release from their 1991 compilation means that they forgo putting this amazing cover on the gatefold. All in all, this falls heavily in the essential pile.




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Mixtape: Shame About The Rain

Heading into the third installment of the RSTB Mixtape series here and this one speaks to a crucial influence on the site. There’s been no shortage of jangle pop in the last couple of years, particularly because a current crop of Aussie and US bands seem enamored with the sounds of Creation, Sarah, September and Flying Nun. This mix is a tribute to the sound of English rain. It’s full of faraway looks, pining hearts and more than a few hooks. By no means a definitive overview but I have to say, not a shabby collection of janglers here. Check out the stream and tracklist below.

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The Bats

Nine albums in, New Zealand legends The Bats are still finding solace in strums and employing jangle in an abundance that’s just plain admirable. But, as began on 2011’s Free All Monsters, they’ve let the darkness in. It was never all bright spots and roguish charms, but now that age has seasoned the performers, the tones are shearing away some of their brightness to let the seriousness and gravity sink in. Robert Scott’s songs, like his fellow countrymen in The Chills, seem to have always found a fond friend in the ’80s work of R.E.M., and they take the some pleasure in picking through the rubble of Reckoning and Fables-era vibes. But the spirit of kiwi-pop lives on so strong in Scott’s work that even rounding up the outside influences can’t dim the looming specter of New Zealand jangle-pop.

The Deep Set is an apt description, and certainly not a toss away title. It’s the band digging into their own insecurities and letting the wrinkles show. They have a deep catalog at this point, but songs like “Antlers”, “Diamonds” and “No Trace” feel like they stand up easily in a set pulled from Daddy’s Highway or The Law of Things. They prove to be a band that’s without prime, or at least one that constantly exists in it. In an era of endless reformation for sale and reinvention without pity, it’s nice to find a band that ages with such grace that it feels natural, unforced and welcome.




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RSTB Best Reissues of 2016

If you’re familiar with Raven Sings the Blues, then you know that reissues and digging through the past play an important role in coverage on the site. Aside from the stellar new releases out this year, several companies stepped up to deliver reissues of essential material that could very well have been lost to time. This is a weird time in the life of a reissue label, a time where major labels are cranking out as much vinyl fodder as possible, with less than a fraction of it being records that couldn’t just be picked up in a $5 bin in decent condition. These are some of the reissues that I thought were deserving of accolades this year.

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The Bats – “Antlers”

Five years on from their last foray back into jangle-pop’s halls, The Bats return with a new cut from their upcoming ninth LP, The Deep Set. The song’s got all the hallmarks of a classic Bats tune; low-swung rhythm, the scratch-sway jangle melting with chiming chords, and Robert Scott crooning over the whole affair, demanding your rapt attention. For most bands this far out into their career its hard to make your sound relevant, without seeming dated or gimmicky. In The Bats’ case the fact that the world finally turned its head to the right angle to hear New Zealand’s sound as a widespread influence helps this cut feel like it may well have come from any number of worthy followers. though the magic is that none of them could quite find the timelessness that Scott and The Bats conjure. “Antlers” feels like its always existed, waiting in a pile of classic tunes to hit you right in the ennui center of the soul. Quite like their contemporaries The Chills, they pick right up where they left off and prove that perhaps people should have been paying more attention all along.

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The Terminals – Uncoffined

Flying Nun’s recent resurgence and subsequent repressings have required a keen eye to follow where they pop up, HoZac enters the ring as the latest to offer up one of the catalog’s sorely overlooked artists. The Terminals featured members of The more acerbic Pin Group alongside members of the lesser known Victor Dimisich Band and The McGoohans. They too would eventually go down the same noisy, post-punk route as The Pin Group, but on their first two albums they maintained a sound that fell down the same jangle-pop hallways as fellow NZ stalwarts The Clean, The Chills, Able Tasmans or The Verlaines. The shift in sound seemed to stem from the departure of guitarist Ross Humphries, also of Bailter Space and The Great Unwashed, but his inclusion here marks some of the band’s more buoyant offerings.

No mention of The Terminals would be complete, though, without placing a fair amount of credit for the band’s allure to vocalist Stephen Cogle, whose rich tenor/baritone fluctuation and tender quaver adds a welcoming extension of kinship and understanding to the band’s jangle-pop offerings. Despite all the band had going for them, they remain one of the more overlooked bits of the Flying Nun and Xpressway catalogs despite best attempts of a few worthwhile CD reissues and comps compiled through the aughts. Beginning with this debut finding its way back to the vinyl format, though, its starting to look up for the band’s legacy. The record’s been remastered from its original tapes and the sound gets a proper scrub-up in quality, bringing out the subtle brilliance of this antipodean classic. Twenty-five years later, maybe this is the time for The Terminals.

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Massage – “Crying Out Loud / Under”

Seems all that jangle in the South Hemi is bleeding its way northward and those with the right kind of ears are tuning in. L.A.’s Massage take heart in the sweet and dour strums of the Twerps/Boomgates vein of Aussie pop, while also taking a swerve past strains of the Sarah Records germ that may have planted a seed during guitarist Alex Naidus’ tenure in The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. In general though, as the band attests, they live in L.A. but their hearts are adrift in Australia. The A-side sways with three part harmonies and a pining lyric that’s delivered with wistful sweetness by keyboardist Gabi Ferrer. On the flip, things kick up to a faster pace with a bright shock of pounding riffs and some of those Sarah records notes floating though, weaving their vocal harmonies into bittersweet knots with the deft skill of Veronica Falls at their best. The EP was recorded by Papercuts’ Jason Quever, who’d knocked into the band practicing around the corner from his studio. The veteran engineer gives things a subtle sheen and sparkle that compliments the band’s effervescent pop. Its a pretty perfect double shot that’s bound to knock around your skull for days. Here’s hoping that this grows to a full length soon.




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