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

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No Manz Land, Fats White
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, in the same way it does IN BRIEF about international releases.

Comments will be brief.

Able Tasmans: A Cuppa Tea and a Lie Down (Flying Nun): Second only perhaps to the Verlaines, the cleverly named Able Tasmans were the most musically ambitious and exploratory group in Flying Nun's golden years, and the evidence is here on these relentless musical/melodic and often witty songs, many of which have an urgent and propulsive rhythmic drive. These 20 tracks pull together their debut LP of the same name, the Tired Sun EP and three extra tracks (Carolines from the Outnumbered By Sheep compilation from '86 and two from cassette recordings which were on the Departure Lounge album). Given most of these have been long out of print this is a very welcome reissue, although someone might have wanted to proof read the booklet essay by founder Graeme Humphreys.

Fats White; Endymion Best (Powertools): The inimitable FW aka Brent Hayward is one of those multi-media types whose diverse career was perhaps unimaginable in the days before the punk DIY ethic took hold. This double CD of idiosyncratic pop, strangely disturbing folk-prog, bent blues and much else (enticingly packaged with his colourful images) apparently came out last year but for some reason has only just turned up in Elsewhere's letterbox. If you've never encountered him before this an excellent starting point because the songs are (mostly) concise and coherent (after his own fashion) and his voice sounds strong. Very distinctive guitar work too. He tells interesting if slightly surreal stories too. The second disc seems to be live and rude in the studio where he taps a little of the spirit of ancient blues and Nick Cave. Well worth checking out here.

The Phil Broadhurst Quartet: Panacea (Rattle Jazz): Hard to believe but pianist/composer Phil Broadhurst has been part of the New Zealand jazz scene for more than 40 years. And he has created a body of work in that period notable for its restrained and often effortless sounding elegance where he doesn't lose sight of swing or melody. In that regard he can seem conservative, but that would deny the subtlety of his work, evident here on the lovely ballad Wheeler of Fortune (dedicated to the late trumpeter Kenny Wheeler), the slightly melancholy and beautifully constructed Absent Friends (with an appropriately reflective tenor solo by Roger Manins) and the short solo reprise of the piece Japanese Shadows at the end. Adding extra texture and colour on two pieces is guitarist Neil Watson whose lap steel takes Inverted into a more woozy space.

Mere Boynton and Jonathan Besser; Aroha Ahava (Besser-Boynton): This is not going to be to everyone's taste but you cannot deny its ambition and, in places, it ethereal beauty. These 10 songs -- produced by Don McGlashan -- find composer Besser (playing harmonium) writing songs around the various facets of love (secular and spritual) for singer Boynton, and also adapting a poem by Rumi and passages from the Songs of Solomon for similar purpose. With beautiful violin (Charmian Keay) and viola (Iselta Allison), these songs have a warmth although over the full duration (some pieces in Maori) there is less musical diversity than the broad themes promise. 

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