SHORT CUTS: A round-up of recent New Zealand releases

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Jakob: Harmonia
SHORT CUTS: A round-up of recent New Zealand releases

Facing down an avalanche of releases, requests for coverage, the occasional demand that we be interested in their new album (sometimes with that absurd comment "but don't write about it if you don't like it") and so on, Elsewhere will every now and again do a quick sweep like this. 

Comments will be brief.

Jakob; Sines (Shoot the Freak/Border): The sound of this Napier three-piece with a global reach achieves lift-off on this often sublime, dense yet subtle and quite exceptional album which is cinematic in its themes and sensurround in its production. Guitar loops, string parts by Rhian Sheehan on Emergent, experimental sounds corralled into song structures, moods which shift from melancholy to heroic, music which can be as soft as a chamber quartet or as massive as a death metal band, sometimes ambient at others grabbing you by the collar and pulling you in . . . These seven pieces in a tight 45 minutes are utterly beguiling, intelligently nuanced repeat-play art-music of the kind which gives post-rock a very good name and dares you to look away. An impressive achievement on all fronts. Essential I would think.

Jakob tour New Zealand and Australia from November 7 (see dates here), their clip for Blinded Them With Science is here and guitarist Jeff Boyle answers our Famous Elsewhere Questionnaire here. Album out on vinyl soon.

Black River Drive; Quicksand (BRD/Aeroplane): The lengthy silent intro then the melancoly piano chords which open this internationally produced and directed album don't prepare you for the riff-heavy, sometimes bellicose and dense songs that follow. This is classic hard rock of the 21st century with its sources in Metallica, Nine Inch Nails and the crafted pop-metal of the likes of Thin Lizzy. Produced by Toby Wright in Nashville (Slayer, Ozzy, Alice in Chains etc) and mixed in Melbourne, this certainly has all the hallmarks of calling card to any international promoter lookig for a rock solid touring band or opening act. The attack is given texture and breathing space by Matt Stone's piano passages, there is political dissatisfaction everywhere (Everything Must Go, Looking for Something) , desperate love (Straight for the Sun) and the customary intimations of mortality (Enemies and Friends) so BRD locate themselves along a very familiar hard rock axis. They might not offer especially original takes on these themes or the sound but this sounds magnificent, is delivered with a passionate conviction and edges neatly between metal and hard pop. As a calling card it is mighty impressive.

The Doubtful Sounds: A Stone's Throw From Happiness (thedoubtfulsounds.com): Give them credit, Auckland's The Doubtful Sounds know what they like and remain true to that calling. What they like is the mid Eighties' sound of the Chills and Bats etc, and so this album continues in a similar vein as their 2012 release The Pop Album. You almost feel embarrassed mentioning the Flying Nun touchstone, but it is so evident in the Batslike jangle pop and even sometimes Martin Phillipps' intonation and dreamy pop style (the rather witty Books About Music) that if you didn't others would think you remiss. But there's rather more wry humour at work here than in their predecessors and songs like Throwing Stones also have a slightly manic but contained energy that puts you in mind of the great Feelies. So both feet in different pasts for sure, but making vibrant guitar pop which is a step up from that last album. And when they get moody and deliver gloom chords with big bass (May Day) they are something to be reckoned with.

Kokomo: Bigger Than Brando (kokomo.co.nz); Hats off to this long-running band out of the Bay of Plenty. This is their 10th studio album and they present it well in a classy gatefold cover. Singer-songwriter Derek Jacombs has been around long enough to have a persuasively seasoned blues voice, and as a songwriter he knows his way around a narrative or a mood piece. Members of this six-piece have a grounding in blues -- as witnessed here by Homesick Blues -- but they stretch wide into quirky country-pop (the title track wouldn't disgrace a John Dee Graham or Tom Russell album and you deserve to hear it, stream it free here). Elsewhere they get breezy and backporch (I'll Do Anything), darker soul-blues (Ruby, the early Waits sound of Lightnin's Gold Tooth) and plenty of material (Waiting for a Sunny Day, Joe the Bartender) which you know is going to have great live appeal. Stick around for the easy old-time roll of South Sea Song at the end which should appeal to any Leon Redbone fans.


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