Digital Regress revive a pair of often overlooked New Zealand records from the duo of Brent Hayward and Julie Cooper, better known as The Kiwi Animal. Brent had roots in a couple of other NZ bands, most notably Shoes This High before he and Cooper brought their vision forward their unique take on acoustic pop in 1982. In antithesis to some of their contemporaries, the band didn’t adopt the jangled or bent punk styles that were more popular, but instead found footing in an emotionally bare, often politically leaning folk style that was both gentle and bracing simultaneously. Comparisons to The Vaselines are not without warrant, though The Kiwi Animal don’t often find themselves as cheeky as Kelly and McKee might.
Digital Regress packs up both the band’s debut, Music Media and its follow-up Mercy. The first embraces movement as well as experimentation, sliding from the radio-static dirge, “Radio One” into the sprightly (by their standards certainly) “Every Word is a Prayer.” Cooper has a way of hitting the listener in the heart, tugging at the bittersweet sighs on “Blue Morning.” The record is split between its impulses, but the band manages to pull it off without sounding scattered. Mercy finds itself in a starker place than its predecessor, creeping through the shadows and edged with an anxious energy that ditches notions of catchiness for art house experimentation that would mirror Brent’s foray into film, which would go on to include low-key releases Mudslinging (1984), Beat It (1986), Slick (1989), and his long simmering The Confessions of Johnny Barcode.
Both albums have been out of print for many years, with late ‘90s / early ‘00s editions showing up on German label Sonic Squid. Digital Regress has issued these in editions of 500 copies, with 100 of each on colored vinyl. Truly a portion of the Kiwi underground that needs to be revitalized and reissued. Get them while you can. Highly Recommended!
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