Graham Reid | | 2 min read
It's possible that in 2023 we reached peak Flying Nun & Associates.
But Matthew Goody's excellent Needles and Plastic's detailed look at Nun records from 1981-1989 (the bands, characters and the scene by extension) which appeared at the end of 2022 announced a renewed interest in Nun – and its associates.
Richard Langston's terrific Pull Down the Shades book covering fanzines of the mid Eighties, the expanded reissues of the Chills' albums Kaleidoscope World and Brave Words, new albums on Nun from Office Dog, Vera Ellen, Grayson Gilmore and others . . .
For a certain demographic this was nostalgia coupled with a sense of vindication.
In the middle of Flying Nun's Venn Diagram of the Bats, Clean and Toy Love/Tall Dwarfs is Sundae Painters.
An informal band of bassist/keyboard player Paul Kean and singer/guitarist Kaye Woodward of the Bats, guitarist/keys Alec Bathgate (the Enemy, Toy Love and Tall Dwarfs) and Hamish Kilgour (Clean), this Painters' sole album has a pall over it: the album, in a cover by drummer/songwriter Kilgour, was his last project before his sad death at 65 in December 2022.
Kilgour – a “beatnik” according to Nun's Roger Shepherd – was a wayward spirit who co-founded the Clean with his brother David (and their offshoot the Great Unwashed), and was also a prime mover in Bailter Space and the Mad Scene, as well as releasing two albums under his own name.
An idiosyncratic talent, his drumming style was as distinctive as Moe Tucker's in Velvet Underground.
These pieces by Sundae Painters were recorded in farm shed in Christchurch/Ōtautahi with Delaney Davidson guest guitarist on Hollow Way and drumming on Sweet Dreams, and Alan Starret – a fellow traveler with the Bats, Clean, Puddle and others – on dulcimer for Serious Eye.
In the South Island's psychedelic-folk genre, Sundae Painters -- here released on the small Christchurch indie label Leather Jacket -- weave their way unevenly from the motorik pulsing and transcendental vocals of Hollow Way (coloured by drone and sitar-like sounds from Bathgate) through Velvet Underground speak-sing on Aversion with wire-thin tripped-out guitar insinuating itself and on to the excellent Bats-cum-Clean once-removed In Came You and the neatly off-centre Thin Air (one part Clean and one part Incredible String Band), both written by Woodward.
HAP 1 never achieves the liftoff it hints at (HAP 2 is more assertive), Sweet Dreams written and sung by Kilgour comes close to Tall Dwarfs' anomalous pop and Woodward's dreamy Serious Eye is the standout which ends too abruptly just as it heads upward.
Pieces here chug to a halt, betraying their improv-jam origins.
A memento, full stop, and an honest release out of respect for the late Kilgour, this is an album which, on a blindfold test, many would pick the players' pedigree.
Familiar if sometimes unexceptional pleasures from a Nun alumni semi-supergroup.
This album is available digitally and on limited edition vinyl (through Leather Jacket Records) at bandcamp here