Volcanic Tongue Catalogue

Alastair Galbraith
Cry

Mie Music MIE-017

LP
£14.99


Beautifully realised reissue of one of New Zealand underground singer/songwriter/soundist Alastair Galbraith’s hands-down masterpieces, 2000’s Cry in an edition of 500 copies: recorded in a shed at Taieri Mouth between 1998 and 2000 and then released by Emperor Jones on CD in 2000, Cry is an incredibly intimate record, an up-close rendering of Galbraith’s amazing, frail song stylings all put together with supremely imaginative use of base materials, simple backwards tape drones, melancholy organ drones, singing violin... Galbraith’s vocals are raw and unarmoured, singing/whispering through a kind of supremely personal take on post-VU traditions. The instrumentals have a distant/drizzily hypnotic quality, with cheap circling organ tones that somehow transcend their genesis and blossom into dizzying miniature carousels. The songs are simply heartbreaking, lucid acid folk stylings but with that distant edge-of-the-world appeal. Galbraith can saw through a violin with alla the power-droning style of John Cale and some of the instrumentals here reposition ’66 era Velvets downwind of Xpressway, with all sorts of foggy 4-track detail adding rainbow spectra to the hazy, sad atmospherics. But it’s the songs I most come back to, with that voice, that up-close intimate style, enough to soften the hardest of hearts. Easily the equal of totemic sides by Syd Barrett, Kevin Ayres et al but with an avant/underground aesthetic that situates it downwind of no one. A magical record, first time on vinyl, one to treasure. Very highly recommended. 

Peter Jefferies
The Last Great Challenge In A Dull World

De Stijl IND123

CD
£13.99


Necessary CD edition of this all-time classic New Zealand underground side, originally released in 1990 on Bruce Russell’s legendary Xpressway label: Jefferies was a member of This Kind Of Punishment and this is one of the all-time great weirdo singer-songwriter albums, with a backing band that includes all three members of The Dead C – Bruce Russell, Michael Morley and Robbie Yeats – as well as Alastair Galbraith, Kathy Bull, Robbie Muir , David Mitchell and Nigel Taylor. Jefferies channels the revenant forms of Syd Barrett and Kevin Ayers, all filtered through that amazing subterranean/basement distance that defines the best of the Xpressway sides. His song-writing is just heartrendingly beautiful, power crying over lilting repeat-piano minimalism and disembodied backing vocals, singing unaccompanied acapella tracks that have all of the alien power of Jandek and playing amazing damaged downer guitar dirges that marry the brokedown form of The Dead C to classic psychedelic songforms. Truly, an all-time desert island discs and one of the most magical moments in the Xpressway back catalogue finally available again on vinyl. Comes with a download code. No one does the sound of lonesome like Jefferies. Can’t recommend this masterpiece enough!

A Handful Of Dust
Topology Of A Phantom City

Ba Da Bing Records Bing-1000

Cassette
£8.99


Hand-numbered edition of 300 copies exact replica reissue of one of the signal moments in the Bruce Russell(The Dead C et al)/Alastair Galbraith back catalogue and one of the hands-down greatest NZ free/noise documents of the post-Xpressway age: originally released as a cassette on Russell’s private Corpus Hermeticum imprint in 1997, Topology Of A Phantom City sees A Handful Of Dust swollen to full-blown trio format, with Russell on electric guitar, Galbraith on violin and guitar and Peter Stapleton (Pin Group/Dadamah/Eye/Flies Inside The Sun et al) on percussion, synth and shortwave radio. The shortwave gives the music a distant, alien quality and Russell’s guitar is particularly insane here, playing epileptic machine gun staccato dirges and sudden dooms of detuned bass violence that serve to locate the music somewhere downwind of Donald Miller, Derek Bailey and Bill Orcutt while sounding quite unlike any of them. Indeed, Topology... is one of the prime arguments for just how specific and radically disconnected the NZ underground’s approach to free music was, coming out of garage pop and annexing a no-technique DIY zone of pure electric satori that saw the guitar finally embracing the kinda amplified chaos that rock music had always promised or more properly teased at. Indeed, the kinda heavy metal, non progressive string pile-up that takes place here is nothing short of jaw-dropping, auraless in its unalloyed brutality while somehow generating the kinda group language that makes for true ‘mindless’ interaction. This is the sound of three hyper-advanced non-technical musicians playing in an omni-directional eruptive style that is more truly ‘post-Ascension’ than virtually anyone with a reed in their mouth. The Last Year At Marienbad artwork only adds to the feeling of strange, previously uninhabited geometries. Another contender for cassette reissue of the year, simply phenomenal, comes with a download, highest possible recommendation!