Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Sounds Like Winter's coming...

Initiated in late 2013 as a songwriting partnership between Ant Banister and Ash Rothschild, as a fully fledged band, Sydney’s Sounds Like Winter have quickly become one of Australia’s leading proponents of dark, melodic post-punk and darkwave synth.

Ash Rothschild was best known as the frontman for nineties electro-alt.rock band Caligula. Ant Banister’s prior background in music, production and a raft of other creative media stretches back to the mid eighties, and is far too extensive to chronicle here, but has included indie-electronica projects like Nanotech and The Flow, and synthpop band Lunar Module.

Early 2014 saw the release of Sounds Like Winter’s first single, ‘The Dark’, accompanied by a strikingly ethereal promo clip directed by Lachlan Peterson. With an atmospheric guitar/bass/synth combo displaying the melodic influence of The Cure, New Order and Joy Division, ‘The Dark’ also showcased the brooding vocal harmonies of Banister and Rothschild, calling to mind Depeche Mode, or even Pseudo Echo.

Sounds Like Winter - The Dark from Sounds Like Winter on Vimeo.

Leaving Banister at the helm, Rothschild soon departed to front bombastic schlock-rock outfit, Graveyard Rockstars, but retains a creative role from the wings as a ‘ghost writer’. 

While Sounds Like Winter’s formative stages have been characterised by a revolving cast of personnel, guitarists Andi Lennon and Tommy Webbster have emerged as mainstays. Both are formerly of Sydney goth/punk/deathrock 4-piece Howl, and Andi was also the driving force behind indie/glam rock/goth pop project Thatch Noir. More recently, the Banister/Lennon/Webbster nucleus was consolidated by the addition of current bassist Jamie Pajuczok, while newest member Leticia Olhaberry will rejoin the group on drums following their return from New Zealand.

The band’s aptitude for marrying early eighties melodicism to slick, contemporary production values was again at the forefront of their next offering, ‘Hollow’, released mid 2014. Modern electronic alt.rock elements combine with an icy synth echoing Joy Division’s ‘Isolation’, while a deceptively catchy hook belies a bleak perspective underpinning the song; the day-in/day-out drudgery of life as a nameless, faceless cog within a sprawling, grey corporate machine. Latterly, ‘Hollow’ reappeared on the Australasian darkwave/industrial (etc) free download compilation, ‘S.I.N.G.E.D Volume II’.

Sounds Like Winter - Hollow from Sounds Like Winter on Vimeo.

March 2015 saw the band’s next release, ‘Sanity Is Calling’ (another Rothschild co-write), featured on the popular international goth compilation and conservation fundraiser, ‘For the Bats, Vol. II’. Without signalling a complete departure from the band’s established sound, ‘Sanity Is Calling’ takes a decidedly more guitar-driven approach, inspired more-so by the band’s post-punk/proto-goth influences than previous synthpop-inflected singles. Coupled with the international exposure via ‘For the Bats’ and a video mash-up of classic black & white horror films, ‘Sanity Is Calling’ immediately broadened Sounds Like Winter’s appeal to the current wave of post-punk, deathrock and ‘old school’ goth revivalists.

Sanity is Calling - Sounds Like Winter from Sounds Like Winter on Vimeo.

With buzz around the band steadily growing, last night (19 August 2015) Sounds Like Winter dropped their latest video single, ‘Ishmael’s Bones’. And what a stonker it is too – my immediate response to the track was to call it “bone-rattling, sea-swaying Australian swamp-goth of the highest order”. Described as a “tribute to the brave souls who set out against all odds to explore this planet”, the band’s cultural heritage and identity bubble to the surface with nods to the rhythmic bump’n’grind of Aussie swamprock (The Birthday Party, The Wreckery, The Scientists et al); to Ant and Andi’s shared vocal invocation of gruff, shadowy Victorian characters lurking below decks; video stills of barbed wire, nautical maps and old maritime imagery; through to the closing maudlin auld sea-shanty that bids us farewell. Immediately compelling, ‘Ishmael’s Bones’ are brimming with both style and substance.

Ishmaels Bones - Sounds Like Winter from Sounds Like Winter on Vimeo.

Already being championed by specialist DJs, clubs, radio and webcasts from around the world, and now fielding offers to tour Europe and North America, Sounds Like Winter are about to embark on their first offshore jaunt to New Zealand with shows at Auckland’s Whammy Bar on Friday 11 September and Wellington’s Valhalla Tavern on Saturday 12 September. 

Supports include Undiscovered Moons of Saturn, HUMANiSER and DJ Frankie Flesh in Auckland, and in Wellington, Splintered In Her Head, Todd Manion (Bat Nouveau, Aus) and DJs Batbones & Syria of Club StrangeHouse (Melbourne/Brisbane).

Sounds Like Winter online: VideosSoundcloudFacebook

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Kollapsing new people

The new clip for 'Heartworm' by Kollaps​, from St. Kilda in Melbourne, along with their forthcoming four-song cassette/download EP by the same name (via Belgian label Silken Tofu), is something I've been waiting to catch some kind of glimpse of/clues about for perhaps about a year or so.

At that time, I discovered Kollaps via a handful of live recordings on Youtube; a young band playing that raucous antipodean brand of bludgeoning, harrowing music that tends to attract terms like no wave, swamp rock, post-punk, noise-industrial... There was the occasional Neubauten cover, which might seem predictable enough from a band called Kollaps, but when delivered within the confines of a 'conventional rock' context (to use the term very broadly), the effect was to subvert both formats simultaneously.

There were no Kollaps demos; no studio recordings, no downloads (so far as I know) - just a couple of live clips on Youtube. And then they went into hibernation, apparently intent on giving themselves a bit of an overhaul. Even the live videos, then the only tantalising hint at what they might next become, vanished.

The result, on re-emergence, is immediately more refined. 'Heartworm' commences in a fairly dark, ambient (without being "dark ambient"), Avantgarde electronic vein - that uneasy sound people might associate with Coil​, for instance; an aural snapshot of brooding menace, at the early onset of drug psychosis.

Were it not for singer/guitarist Wade Black's frequent barks of "SICK! ... SICK!...", you might soon start to wonder if perhaps they've sanded off too many of the jagged edges. You wouldn't be worried for long. Just a couple of minutes in, and 'Heartworm' reaches its crescendo; a squalling, caterwauling, frenzied culmination of the trio's characteristic influences - 'Friend Catcher' meets 'Headcleaner'. I say crescendo, but then, they just keep that howling noise on going.

The video was shot by Hugh Marchant; partly during a band rehearsal at the Vault in St. Kilda, and partly during a live performance at Esso squat in Essendon, June 2015. Some of Marchant's previous credits include work in the art and special effects departments for John Hillcoat's 'The Road'; Nick Cave's (Hillcoat-directed) 'The Proposition'; and the 'Autoluminescent: Rowland S. Howard' documentary.

The version of the 'Heartworm' clip embedded above is from Youtube, as that's all blogspot would let me do, but for quality's sake, this Vimeo link is recommended:

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Guest Blog on the Tracks

While in the process of overhauling and reinventing Sat at Home as a music blog, I've been dragging out and finishing off a lot of writing that I started over the course of running the radio show since mid 2013, but never seemed to find the time to complete. 

Today I finally finished off a guest blog for Simon Sweetman's Off The Tracks/Blog On the Tracks column, for the ongoing 'Five Albums I'm Loving Right Now' series. 

Simon originally asked me to do this back around June/July last year, and in that time it's ended up becoming a fairly sprawling account of five enduring favourites from the last couple of years. 

They are (in no particular order) the 'Horde Mentality' EP from dark punk/deathrock outfit Masses (Melbourne, Australia, 2014); 'Another Life' by synth/darkwave duo Black City Lights (Wellington, NZ, 2013); 'Self Initiation' from post-punk trio Ascetic: (Melbourne/Berlin, 2013); 'Ninth' by former Bauhaus frontman Peter Murphy (UK, 2011); and the self-titled début from post-punk band Villain (Christchurch, NZ, 2014).

There are also rambling tangents buried in the text (masquerading as 'context') on subjects ranging from what's wrong with gothic rock and pseudo-industrial dance music, why Australia is better than New Zealand, and why it's important to mislabel everything you hate as "numetal". 

Tis to be found here.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

No Why: an introduction - the 'Weathered' EP, live in Wellington (14 Feb 2015), and new single

No Why are a post-punk influenced band from Auckland.

Originally known as 1995, the band was formed in 2006 by Adrian Bird (guitar), Matt Offord (vocals), Jordan Puryer (drums), David Provan (guitar) and Chris Washer (bass). Adrian Bird and Jordan Puryer meanwhile formed the dark electronic duo Mellow Grave, and both Puryer and Provan double as members of Sunken Seas – reasons enough to investigate their work together within both 1995 and No Why. 1995’s guitar-driven sound combined the energy of post-punk with the sonic textures of shoegaze, while also bringing a droning sense of dark pop melodicism to the mix.

By 2008, the band had clocked up three radio hits (‘Fractals’, ‘A Red Forest’ and ‘Gettin’ Brainz’) in the charts of 95bFM,, RDU and Radio One, with the latter two singles also breaking the Top 10 in New Zealand’s National Alternative music chart. Their recorded output from this period was showcased on the début EP, ‘Guilt’, from 2009, and followed by the single ‘Polar Rapid’ – a split 7” with Brisbane band DZ (now better known as DZ Deathrays). The Interpol-esque digital single, ‘Foreign Soil’, appeared as a free download in 2010.

Soon afterwards, 1995 entered the studio with renowned producer Nick Roughan of Skeptics to commence recording their first full-length album. From these sessions, two singles and accompanying promo videos were released in 2011; ‘Love Your Ghost’ and ‘Nowhere Slow’. Coupled with the news of their collaboration with Roughan and some high profile live shows, both singles – and especially the soaring wall of sound showcased by ‘Nowhere Slow’ – generated significant notice from NZ’s music press. The album, however, was not to be, as guitarist and co-founding member David Provan ultimately left the group for personal reasons in early 2012.

Initially, the band continued under the 1995 moniker, with replacement guitarist Geordie McCallum of SinSin (and formerly of Motocade) in Provan’s stead. Wiping the slate clean, however, the band re-emerged in 2013 as No Why; partly to avoid confusion with a French group also called 1995, but first and foremost as a means of starting from scratch as a new project. In this incarnation, the group has adopted a darker, grittier, stripped back approach to angular post-punk than the earlier project’s densely layered shoegaze leanings, coinciding with McCallum’s transition from the role of replacement guitarist, to the band’s new lead songwriter. Also more apparent within McCallum’s songwriting is the influence of the Flying Nun stable of quintessential Dunedin guitar bands.

No Why - 'Weathered' EP

Last year, No Why released the Weathered EP via bandcamp – one of my favourite releases of 2014 – which can be downloaded on a ‘name your price’ basis. The opening track is a thick, brooding vapour of a song called ‘Anxious’, pointing to the melodic influence of New Zealand guitar bands like The 3Ds, Bailterspace or H.D.U. ‘War’ contains trace elements of the earlier band’s sonorous approach to guitar multitracking, but is contrasted with moments of skittish minimalism, adding uneasy tension and dynamic to the track.

‘Mine’ is a fine example of propulsive post-punk with solid, driving bass, drums and rhythm guitars combined with plaintive, almost dissonant vocal hooks, all united in a singular quest to induce compulsive head-nodding. My favourite song on the EP is ‘Flags’, which faintly echoes the dark post-punk of early UK Decay, Theatre of Hate or New Model Army with its ominous bassline, eerie guitar lines and detached, resonant vocals, underpinned by a steady Joy Division-esque backbeat. The EP’s fifth and final track, ‘Young’, is perhaps the most lightweight and conventional in style, and for me the least compelling as a result. Even so, it’s a jaunty piece of melodic guitar-pop in the style most often heard on New Zealand student radio during the late 1980s and early ‘90s, which in itself holds its own special appeal.

More recently, with original vocalist Matt Offord’s departure, Geordie McCallum comes still further to the fore, recast in the role of the band’s new frontman. The band played live at Wellington’s Valhalla for Valentine’s recently; their first visit to Wellington, and my first chance to hear them with Geordie on vocals. He’d mentioned to me beforehand that he found himself emulating Offord’s vocal style, and was struggling to front the band in a style more his own. And sure – I could hear what he meant, but only because I was already familiar with the EP and the band’s background. On the plus side though, anyone already a fan of the songs on ‘Weathered’ could hardly have felt let down by McCallum’s delivery of them. No Why have also begun to reintroduce one or two definitive highlights from the 1995 back-catalogue to their live show. In the case of ‘Nowhere Slow’, while the obvious melodic strength of the song makes it a high-point in the set, the stripped down arrangement and performance of the overhauled band makes it very much a No Why reworking. 

Soundcheck - 14 Feb 2015, Valhalla, Wellington. L-R: Adrian Bird, Geordie McCallum, Jordan Puryer and Chris Washer. Photo: Rosebud Garland.

No Why (Geordie and Chris) live, 14 Feb 2015, Valhalla, Wellington.  Photo: Rosebud Garland.

No Why (Geordie and Chris) live, 14 Feb 2015, Valhalla, Wellington.  Photo: Rosebud Garland.

No Why live (L-R: Adrian, Jordan, Geordie, Chris), 14 Feb 2015, Valhalla, Wellington.  Photo: Rosebud Garland.

No Why (Geordie and Chris) live, 14 Feb 2015, Valhalla, Wellington.  Photo: Rosebud Garland.

After the show. L-R: Rosebud Garland, Geordie McCallum, Adrian Bird, Jordan Puryer, Dell Mitchell. Photo by James Black.

Jordan, Geordie and Adrian with Dell Mitchell. Photo by James Black.

A more promising indicator of things to come, however, was new song ‘Dead Dreaming’, which left a resonating impression after hearing it for the first time live, and was released online around a week later. The opening strains of a languid guitar gently intone a booze-soaked song of introspection and regret, which bears some vocal and melodic resemblence to The National, Interpol and the like. The verses meander in and out of this melancholic haze, alternating with more vigorous attempts to muster enthusiasm, before collapsing back into a heap on the couch. “It’s all over…”, drawls the doleful refrain, “But maybe one last time”.


Sunday, 1 March 2015


Since September 2014, I've been forced to concede that hosting a regular radio show is just something I can't fit in around my otherwise highly irregular schedule. Many thanks are due to Tom Stamates at Cathedral13 internet radio for his commitment to the project, and to all the bands and recording artists who have sent me music for the show. What I have not yet played on the show, I will write about.

Consequently, 'Saturday Night Stay At Home' will be transitioning from a radio show to a music blog, to be updated whenever. First though, I'll be giving this blogspot a bit of a clear out and tidy up. 

Till then, a short write-up I did of Peter Hook & The Light's live show in Wellington recently was featured as a guest blog on Michael Hollywood's 'Everything's Gone Green' blog, accompanied by photos from James Black - click here.

For more of James' photos from Hooky's Wellington show, click here.
James also got some shots of Disjecta Membra live at the downstairs after party that night, here.

Photos of Peter Hook & The Light the following night in Auckland, by Warren Jones, are here.