Graham Reid | | 3 min read
Elsewhere has previously written about Thokei Tapes out of Germany, an independent company specialising in cassette tapes of New Zealand artists not on the main motorways of music, or those on the road who have turned off for a while.
That has meant compilations of obscurities and rarities by artists such as Chris Knox, Robert Scott (Bats, Clean), David Yetton (JPSE, Stereo Bus), Magick Heads, Matthew Bannister (Sneaky Feelings etc) and more.
So we tip our hat to Thomas Keitsch who released these cassettes last year despite Covid (and they are on bandcamp (see below).
So get your motor runnin' and head out off the highway . . . .
The Normal Ambition: 1982-1985
To be honest, this Auckland post-punk four-piece (Geoff Bunt, Peter Matich, David Ford, Gregg McKenzie) has not previously turned up on our radar.
However this music was previously released on Paul Luker's Industrial Tapes indie label (that we do know) and these 16 songs – an 11 minute extra track on bandcamp – were recorded variously at Progressive, Harlequin and live at Streets Ahead Cafe on Princes Street.
At this time Flying Nun, Pagan, Ripper and other indie labels were commanding attention with their particular sounds, but the style of NA owed more to the kind of dance pop-rock of the likes of Gang of Four, anxious British post-punk and early, emotionally detached synth-pop (I Awoke from a Dream).
They also betrayed some musical ambition and accomplishment beyond some of their lo-fi peers (The New Instrumental, The Same Mistake) and in places here you might think if they'd been given a better shot they could have pulled some of the Blam Blam Blam audience (check the lyrically loaded and rhythmically angular Too White to Know).
Alec Bathgate: Phantom Dots
As half of Tall Dwarfs – with Chris Knox – Bathgate has the advantage of name recognition and these 16 instrumentals were mostly recorded in 2019-20 in Kurow, North Otago (never heard of that place though!) although “there's a few older things Alec resurrected and finished off”.
From the beguiling (the quasi-Pacific exotica of Sonic Blue) through miniatures (four pieces barely pass the one minute mark but are refined and focused) to the seductive (the sci-fi sound of The Science of the Unitar, the brooding A Period of Purple Crying), these pieces come courtesy of guitars, piano, loops and drums.
This is one of those collections which rewards enjoyable repeat-play . . . and those making short films should queue to the left for soundtrack material.
Michael Canning: Wise Woman's Hill Road
Sorry, another name new to Elsewhere. Canning is a longtime expat living in London but on the evidence of these 10 new recordings someone we are delighted to discover, albeit belatedly.
He was previously Canhex with the late Michael J Hex for their Sentient Seas album.
(Hex was formerly of Squirm and died in 2004 at 37. Canning wrote Hex's story for audioculture here).
Canning here offers left-field but approachable, dark and crafted songs which are tight'n'tidy pop-rock at their core but coloured by his sometimes surreptitiously whispered vocals and diverse productions from the synth-driven or guitar-based.
Well worth checking out.
Electric Blood: Ohio
And now someone more familiar although the nom de cassette might be unfamiliar.
This is Robert Scott again with 16 lo-fi recordings of his first “band” which included “relatives, friends and neighbours”.
This is juvenilia of course by a band formed in '77 (these songs originally released in '83) but sometimes hints at his later directions in the Bats, Clean, Magick Heads etc.
One for fans.
Completist Scott fans who want to hear a lot of rehearsal room tomfoolery and a few under-cooked songs every now and again.
These and other cassettes can be heard and bought from the Thokei Tapes bandcamp page here.