Ian Henderson is a life-long ‘weird music’ obsessive who used to be a part-time music writer before deciding to release music on his tiny Dunedin record label called Fishrider Records. The label is dedicated to “psych-pop & no wave from below the underground”, including recent albums by The Puddle, The Shifting Sands and post-punk pop subversives Opposite Sex. Here are five albums he’s loving right now…
1 – Broadcast, The Future Crayon: This is a compilation of their EPs and singles. I couldn’t decide which album to single out as I’ve been listening to all of them. Check Tender Buttons and Haha Sound as well. I first discovered Broadcast late in 2010. I’m not sure how this English ‘retro-futurist’ experimental art-pop band escaped my attention for a decade. Like a creepier and more adventurous Stereolab, Broadcast take a very English journey through music evoking imaginary old children’s TV theme music and art-house movie soundtracks. What makes it distinctive is the blend of Trish Keenan’s calmly haunting singing, sometimes strange surreal/ absurdist lyrics, jazzy break-beat drumming (reminiscent of Chicago post-rock band Tortoise) and assorted elderly synth tones and BBC Radiophonic Workshop style bleeps and noises. I became so captivated with Broadcast I’ve been steadily buying everything I can find. I’ve had a compilation of it all playing continually in my car for the past month. Singer Trish Keenan tragically died from pneumonia early in 2011, making their odd, dreamy, timeless pop even more haunted and affecting.
2 – Zen Mantra, How Many Padmes Hum?: Zen Mantra is, perhaps unbelievably, teenage bedroom psychedelic pop-savant, Sam Perry, from Christchurch. This is an album I can’t stop playing. Like Opossom’s Electric Hawaii this has a kind of over-saturated tape and reverb sound, like sizzling hot summer days, under the influence. It is gorgeously melodic and jangling but also kind of mucked up like My Bloody Valentine. It reminds me in part of the best of the Creation Records catalogue from the late 80s with a bit of late 60s pop thrown in, but oddly enough without sounding at all retro. The drum-machine and faint undercurrent of electronic pop keeps it sounding contemporary. The songs are all instantly memorable and it’s something anyone with a love of classic psychedelic or shoe-gaze guitar pop from any era should really check out. It’s hands down better than almost all the current West Coast US guitar pop it may well have originally been inspired by. An instant classic and shaping up to be my album of the year.
3 – Dear Time’s Waste, Some Kind of Eden: I’ve been obsessed with the music of Claire Duncan (who was, and once again is, Dear Times Waste) since first seeing her play early in 2009 when the first EP Room for Rent was released. This is at first a much more difficult album to get to know than the 2010 debut album Spells (which was my favourite album of 2010). Spells was a splendid, layered fantasy of imaginary films, underwater mythology and word-plays. Some Kind of Eden is a much more claustrophobic and stripped down collection. It’s a guarded, restrained but also very revealing and, at times, exultant collection of deeply personal songs, accompanied by fidgety electronic sci-fi beats and icy instrumentation, melted by the most achingly beautiful crystalline voice since Cocteau Twin’s Liz Fraser. In a perfect world she’d be celebrated like Liz or Bjork. But this is New Zealand, so she’s pretty much ignored and unknown outside of alternative/ independent music circles.
4 – The Slits, Cut (Deluxe Edition): This album is one of my all-time favourites along with Young Marble Giants Colossal Youth, Can’s Ege Bamyasi, The Velvet Underground & Nico and now the Opposite Sex album. It is still strikingly different to anything before or since. The best kind of subversive pop is something that defies the genres it sits within and The Slits are post-punk iconoclasts. The songs by these Typical Girls are political on a personal level, and stridently feminist without preaching or losing an irreverent sense of fun. The Slits version of post-punk incorporates elements or reggae, afro-beat, pop and goodness knows what else, all rendered in a dazzlingly rhythmic mix of wild-eyed enthusiasm. I’ve been playing it a lot again recently after getting the ‘deluxe edition’ double CD. It has extra tracks, demos, alternative takes and radio sessions. All of which are as much fun as the original album.
5 – Melody’s Echo Chamber, Melody’s Echo Chamber: French chanteuse Melody Prochet teamed up with Australian multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker from Tame Impala to produce a colourful album that is pop confectionary of the best kind. It’s dazzlingly psychedelic, but blends an imaginary psychedelic past (it never sounded quite as lush and trippy as this) with a more trance-pop present (shades of Boards of Canada maybe). There’s nothing new here but, as with the Zen Mantra album, I love how it sounds warm and bright, all blown out and overloaded, VU meters in the red, with a real or contrived analogue tape compression, like the audio equivalent of an over-saturated Super 8 movie.