The Trendees – We Are Sonic Art


[Albert’s Basement; 2017]

Where the term noise pop has come to characterise a certain lineage of indie groups with ornamental scuff and strain, The Trendees build it straight off the plan.  Like Half Japanese and other garage noiseniks before them, the NZ three-piece take the blueprint of a pop song and brick it with paddle pop sticks and asbestos.  Guitars gnash, drums spill out the meter and vocals buckle at full tilt as the three-piece render their tunes as unfaithfully as gleefully possible.  They’ve lathed some fine renderings for this LP but you can imagine these 7 cuts contorting into completely different beasts every time the band hit the stage. 

Going hand in hand with the mangled pop antics are the lyrics (from what you can pluck out): the intimacy of the familiar, passing the time, “boring parties” – small town indifference. The album art is exhibit B – a faceless dilapidated backyard that could easily be hosting its own boring parties in the suburbia of your choice.  Whether it comes from a place of bucolic affection or ennui for their hometown of Oamaru I couldn’t say for certain, but I suspect they wouldn’t back either.   It’s not a curse, it’s not a blessing; it’s just there.

But despite the dereliction, ‘We Are Sonic Art’ never bleeds into seedy territory.   This is daytime noise no doubt about it.  And in the ballad-y moments in particular (“Centre of Town”/“Boring Party”) the slightest of a sunny disposition shines through the pandemonium, like an X or Replacements record churned through a cement mixer. 

The album title says it all – this band isn’t preoccupied with the politicking of noise as philosophical endeavour.  They just play their tunes the only way they know how: fast, loud and combustible, like a steam train on a track laced with pennies.  And it’s one beautiful racket.

Moe Chee – Testament of the Trinity


[Albert’s Basement; 2017]

Spiritual street concrète from Clinton Green/Chun-liang Liu duo Moe Chee recorded live on the steps of the State Library.  

Without the ordinary musical watersheds – chord changes, guitar solos, “kick out the jams motherfucker” – what feel like points of ellipsis in the live street performance Testament of the Trinity Cassette feel momentous.  A brief ducking in the stream of metropolitan chatter signposts a scene change, and a new stray snatch of conversation comes to the fore. 

While the recordings appear to have been compiled in one take there is sufficient narrative to infer an editing process, as the listener is drawn to the counterpoint of the profound and the mundane.  From the muffled proselytising of street preachers to thrill-less renditions of the the night before (“what was jennifer dressed as?”), Moe Chee place meaning in the meaninglessness of a thousand idle thoughts vying for conspicuity in the crowded CBD (one that could exist anywhere in the world if it wasn’t for the familiar sting of occa).   There are no grand monologues here, just the vibrant hum of the day-to-day.  

In the midst of the bulge the performers persist with their strange oscillations – communicating so silently with the crowd that there is never any hint of recognition from their subjects (that is, until the comparative hush of the final movements, where the sea of murmurs subsides into a more serene air of focus).  This sensation strikes me as critical to the project – a 7 day impromptu performance at State library forecourt involving sound and movement.  For all the movement you can’t see, sound infers it:  limbs on percussion, the meditative poses of ceaseless resonances, and the swaying siren song of guest Jen Calloway. 

The Mandarin phrase Moe-chee carries many meanings – ‘silent bonding’, ‘unspoken agreement’ – but it’s essence is illustrated perfectly in these recordings.  Busking these performers are not, as the lines between musicians and listeners and stage and audience are blurred to reveal the strange dance of civilisation.  One where your tantrum over the lack of authentic ramen on the menu reverberates off the scenes of protest out the window.  Where the presidential handshake is no more purposeful than the cat shitting on freshly mowed grass.

Testament of the Trinity is a unique exercise in hands off, interactive musique concrète and another strong instalment in our city’s stellar performance art scene.  Wish I got to see it in the flesh.  You can get the cassette now from Albert’s basement.