Drifting into the ghostly fog

Death And The Maiden is having an album release party for Wisteria tonight at the Port Chalmers...
Death And The Maiden is having an album release party for Wisteria tonight at the Port Chalmers Pioneer Hall. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Death and the Maiden's second album exists in the same shadowy world it created for its self-titled debut. But it goes further, refining and polishing it, until it is like a smooth black pebble.

It's an enigma, like being at a dance party and realising part way through you are actually at some sort of pagan ritual of death.

It has been just over a month since the Port Chalmers three-piece opened the gates to the beautiful dream world of Wisteria. I spoke to the band during a rehearsal ahead of tonight's album release gig in Port Chalmers.

"It's been nice because we've been sitting on it for so long, it's been two years since the time we recorded it,'' explains Danny Brady (synths).

"Because you get to the point where you just can't tell anymore whether it's good or not ... it's been nice getting feedback, and mostly positive feedback.''

Mostly positive is an understatement. English author Mick Middles in a fascinating review for website thequietus.com compared the album to a "lull'' in the mid '80s Manchester scene where

"a curious ethereal mist settled over ghostly dance floors''.

He concludes: "So you find an album that, at once, glistens with a hearty pulse and drifts further and further into ghostly fog.''

Port Chalmers is about as far from the clubs of Manchester as you can get, but the portside town from where the band hails is certainly no stranger to "ghostly fog''. I asked them if the setting influenced the sound.

"Most definitely,'' agrees Lucinda King (vocals/bass).

"I walk around Back Beach in Port Chalmers a lot and that's where a lot of my lyrics are written - as I'm walking, usually in cold weather.''

And much like the cold weather, her lyrics definitely have the tendency to catch you off guard. While the songs regularly break into pulsing, hypnotic rhythms, if you delve deep enough the lyrics are darker than the music suggests.

Asking a band to describe their own music never goes well, and this band is no exception. Guitarist Hope Robertson describes it as "sad pop music with loud noises in it'' which, while technically accurate, doesn't quite paint the full picture.

Brady elaborates: "It's just what naturally happened ... because, I think, we all come from quite different music backgrounds or different tastes.''

Robertson: "But we do have some things in common, we all like Portishead, so there's that.''

King adds: "I think most of it is more sad than happy, but we're kind of tricksy, so it sounds more positive and upbeat. But I don't think there are any positive songs on there.''

I asked how the songwriting process works for them.

"It's different depending on the song, but a lot of the time they could be things I've made at home, recorded in Ableton or Reaper ... then I bring it to those guys,'' says King.

"But sometimes it's like, there's a few songs on the album where we were making it on the spot for the record.''

Duchess, a lumbering track accented by bleepy arpeggios, was one of those songs. The two vocal tracks were recorded in one take and made up on the spot.

"That was probably the funnest song to record; doing it like that.''

Rumour has it they will be playing as a five-piece tonight, with live drums and more ... so if you only attend one Death and the Maiden gig, make it this one.

Supporting is Wet Specimen (the new band of Lucy and Reggie of Opposite Sex) and Kolya, which is Nikolai from Elan Vital.

-Fraser Thompson, dunedinsound.com


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