Kiwis swoop and soar sonically

Shane Gilchrist continues his rummage through his album collection. Today he enjoys compositional twists, some electronic noodling and stabs of guitar noise.


> Nightchoir 'See The First Star'

Born from the ranks of now-defunct chart-threateners Pluto, Mike Hall, Matthias Jordan and Mike Franklin-Browne clearly view albums in that old-fashioned way, where one listens from start to end and delights in the twists and turns (sometimes within a few bars), the ebb and flow. Clearly, the Auckland-based trio like to play together, too. And that jam-like ethos, combined with oh-so-tight compositions, has resulted in a 13-track record (the follow-up to 2010 debut 24 Hours of Night) that brims with warm textures, complex harmonic interplay and a sense of upbeat fun.

For those who like: Wilson, Phoenix Foundation.


> Great North 'Halves'

A year and a-half since releasing debut album NewFoundland, Auckland folk-country outfit Great North's sophomore effort is a more contemplative effort. Conjuring images of embers glowing in the small hours, songwriter Hayden Donnell writes (and sings) of relationships both strong and fragile, love bright and dimmed and occasionally veers off into social commentary (All Our Lies). In fact, Donnell's lyrics are the real strength here, helping to lift this material well beyond the obvious or trite as his fellow band members add stabs of piano, staccato drums and chiming lead guitar, albeit in a restrained, almost gentle manner.

For those who like: Okkervil River.


> Urbantramper 'Internet Freedom Is Love'

Wellington three-piece Urbantramper might espouse a dedication to the dissemination of ideas via Wi-Fi, email and the internet, but let's ignore its motivations and focus instead on the at-times achingly beautiful results. Blending electronic elements (loops, samples and keyboard noodling) with tribal percussion and occasional dance-floor inspired filter sweeps, the trio also make sure there's plenty of human heart at play, largely courtesy of dreamy, emotive vocals allied to a pop sensibility that refuses to be buried beneath the carefully constructed layers. Clever stuff.

For those who like: Peter Gabriel, Mulholland.

 


> Die! Die! Die! 'Harmony'

The fourth album from Die! Die! Die! is clear evidence of just what a hectic touring schedule can do. In the case of the former Dunedin, now Auckland-based noise merchants, it means a knife-sharp tightness allied to an ever-experimental ethos that allows singer Andrew Wilson to whoop and yelp as his guitar bleeds distorted melody, cascades into walls of echoing swirls or serves as an ice-pick in the ear. Drummer Michael Prain, meanwhile, provides a staccato, angular and often bruising rhythmic pulse that lets up for the occasional cinematic flourish (such as on the introductions to Oblivious: Oblivion and Shades of Blue).

For those who like: Bailterspace, Shellac.