Seafog: Animal Lovers (Zelle Records/digital outlets)

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White is Not a Colour
Seafog: Animal Lovers (Zelle Records/digital outlets)
Available as a limited edition double vinyl set from Zelle Records, a record label out of Vienna which releases New Zealand artists (Bill Direen, Jay Clarkson, Marineville and Vorn among them), this is quite a swathe of music by Seafog out of Port Chalmers.

Recorded in 2017 at the Anteroom in that capital of alt.whathaveyou near Dunedin, these 16 songs are propelled by a furious soundscape of distorted, bulldozer guitars which is most often exciting and pulse-pumping.

Those unafraid of the Gordons, Skeptics, Bailterspace et al will feel very much at home here.

But what gets this past being a sheer wall of sound are the songs by mainman singer/guitarist Robin Sharma delivered by drummer Marty Sadler and guitarist Nigel Waters with engineer Forbes Williams guitar on ‘feelings’.

Sharma's vocal hit a place between the dismissive tone of Lou Reed, the commitment of Iggy, a bit of Mark E Smith's declamatory style or the desperation of a Sixties garageband singer who knows this raucous song might be their only shot.

And these are emotionally powerful songs fueled by adrenalin and intelligence (White is Not a Colour, Centre of the Heart) and sometimes ride a ramshackle pop-rock structure: Colours and Sanctuary for example sound ripe for student radio repeat-play; Feelings is early Bunnymen/Teardrop Explodes as the soundtrack for the nightshift in an heavy industry factory.

They pull things back in a few places, notably on the big strum, slashing drums and ballad-like melody of Life is a Truck (“you get hit”) which opens seductively but gets more sonically intense as it aims towards the middle of its tight three minutes before stripping back again to let a key sentiment shine through: “It's okay to turn the voices off”.

Looking for a Friend is close to David Kilgour of his Here Come the Cars period, toned down and intimate.

Indian Reservation refers to the occupation at Standing Rock to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline (with a neatly cynical but double-edged “born in the USA”). What the Heck is pretty funny with its reference to Patrick Duffy (The Man from Atantis).

The only previous album by Seafog/Sharma which Elsewhere gave consideration to was Dig It On Up in 2017 (although we mentioned the earlier Raise Your Skinny Fist with sample track of the previous year) but this double album is much more consistent and coherent in its approach and delivery.

Yes, it may be a challenge for many. But without compromise Sharma/Seafog have delivered a heavily atmospheric collection which refines their earlier instincts into a powerful – and sometimes punishing – collection which often feels more liberating and light-filled than densely dark.

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