The Auckland duo of recording engineers/producers and sound mixers Simon Gooding and Brendon Morrow (York St, television and film work etc) craft the most unfashionable music. And it's some distance from what their professional careers might suggest. Far from deploying all the technology available to them, here they offer up 10 atmospheric, frequently weightless and often delicate songs woven together by acoustic guitars, piano, subtle synth touches and a sure sense of indie.pop.
They know the value of lightly jangling guitars, sharing vocal leads to offer diversity – one taking care of the gravity-free songs, the other pulling the atmosphere back to earth – and can sculpt a song which is fresh but somehow instantly familiar.
The title track (think Jose Gonzalez brought up on Pop Frenzy label bands like Camera Obscura) and the leisurely but stately Pilot are a repeat-play 80s summershine songs which invite languor. The latter also conveys a sense of ineffable sadness despite sounding bathed in warm light.
That mood of ennui and reflection is everywhere here (“I walk the streets at three in the morning” on the delightful There's a Fire) but it has its counterpoint in elevating melodies and that 80s consciousness where the pop hook/chorus and soundscape synths could be transporting: The sad and yearning Stick Around could have arrived from the middle of that decade, but without the obviousness of Ultravox/Duranies/et al.
Curiously then, these songs were not the result of studio sessions but their origins came when Gooding and Morrow took off for a year through South America with some portable recording system and a couple of acoustic guitars they bought in Buenos Aires.
Listening to a song as thoughtfully delicate and hypnotic as City, you'd recommend such a sabbatical to anyone.
Few songs here are designed to get pulses racing (the catchy Lay Down Here at the midpoint and later the swirling Elastic Tongue break the otherwise lowkey mood) but it is in their deft understatement (the featherlight Memory with its glistening guitar and echoed vocal) where they grab attention. An example of when speaking quietly gets more attention than shouting in a noisy room.
Unfashionable perhaps in its subtle consideration, polish and maturity, but a welcome addition to the local landscape for daring to bring such qualities where the opposites are more commonly acclaimed.
Simon Gooding of The Map Room answers the Famous Elsewhere Questionnaire here.
Like the sound of this? Then check out this.
By Graham Reid, posted