Various Artists: Kiwi Animals (Strangelove Music/ bandcamp)

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Various Artists: Kiwi Animals (Strangelove Music/ bandcamp)
Were the Eighties the most exciting time for different and innovative music in New Zealand?

Seems so.

Alongside the emergence of political Pacific reggae (Herbs et al) and numerous independent labels (Ripper, Jayrem, Flying Nun, Xpressway, Braille etc) there was From Scratch and the flourishing of avant-garde music, some of which is now being reissued by the Rattle Echo imprint.

If punk kicked the door down to allow entry to anyone with an idea on noise-making, then the post-punk era saw dozens and dozens of artists and groups stream through.

This compilation – with the subtitle Future/Primitive Aotearoa '82-'91– gathers 11 pieces which roam from spoken word/song (Kim Blackburn's percussive Lizards in Love) and the cut-up language of The Kiwi Animal (Brent Hayward and Julie Cooper) on Woman and Man Have Balance, through Drone's Nothing Dormant, Headless Chickens' monochromatic menace on Throwback, Tom Ludvigson and Graeme Gash (the latter of Waves, the former of numerous projects) on Uallang Jnr and to Ballare's electronica Dancing.

Despite the seeming disparity of these people ploughing their own furrows, this holds together remarkably well, a thread of minimal melodicism and spare instrumentation being one binding aspect.

Few of these pieces have been readily available – perhaps only the Blams' dub-influenced Respect – and many come from rare sources.

Chris Knox's home-recording take on Martin Phillipps' Whole Weird World appeared on the limited edition cassette Roger Sings The Hits (500 copies only) recorded for Flying Nun's 10thanniversary in '91. Knox appears as “Roger Knox”.

There are beguiling miniatures here (Norma O'Malley's piano and vocal piece Some Tame Gazelle is an art song from the margins) alongside quirky sonics (Ludvigson and Gash's exotic contribution).

Given what is still out there and how well this has been received already let's hope this enjoyable trawl through archives and tape boxes is just the first of many from Strangelove.


This album is available through bandcamp here and there is a vinyl edition with download code (if you have Pay Pal).

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