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Sonically, like all the best music, it’s hard to describe. The riffs are usually slow, deep and simple, like the stoner/doom leaning sub-genres of metal or rock, but the drumming is more frenetic. It’s not as fast as punk, but it has a similar intensity owing to the sheer weight of it all. Much of that almost industrial-like power comes from the central instrument, the diddlybo, built by Liam Clune.
The term diddlybo apparently refers to any simple stringed instrument played with a slide, but in this case it’s two guitar strings stretched across a plank of wood with scavenged pickups. Rather than being plucked, it’s hammered with sticks, and it’s fretless.
It’s inherently limited compared to a guitar, and those limitations shape the music. It’s a prime example of that famous truism, limitations foster creativity. Beating something with a stick is slower than plucking with five fingers, so the riffs are slow, and simple, which makes more room for discourse between drums and bass.
But it can also be hammered and muted to create percussive noises, and because it’s fretless it can be used for slides or subtle modulation. So it both creates limitations and opens up new textural avenues. It’s what makes their sound so iconic.
For this EP, they recorded at the Finns’ esteemed Roundhead Studios in Auckland. There’s some irony in running a plank of wood with a reclaimed door-hinge bridge and mismatched pickups through a hundred thousand dollar mixing desk. The whole Night Lunch thing just seems so antithetical to a "proper" recording studio.
But it does sound really good. It’s weighty, and spacious but not too spacious. Everything sits nicely.
It’s hard to know how much of that is down to the equipment and how much is down to Steven Marr, the ex-Dunedinite who recorded most of the local bands of the past few years in his engineering role at Radio One and now works at Roundhead. After all, the studio is about more than just the patch cables between the compressors and reverb units and the mixing desk; it’s about the patch cables between people.
The album peak for me is the fifth track, House full of Shit. "What are we going to do with all this shit?!" laments a Liam, and I feel it. Anyone who has moved house will be able to relate to the feeling of just having too much shit and wondering whether you really need three VCRs and a rubber plant, and it points to the wider issue of consumerism and the culture of disposability.
Scary Car also resonates strongly, as does Stop Spots. It’s relatable stuff, at least for people like me, and I think that’s what gives this album that something extra. It’s their unique perspective, humour, and their unbreakable bond as Liams that shines through above all else.
Stream Table for Two on your favourite streaming platform, or buy it at nightlunch666.bandcamp.com. Catch them at Welcome to Nowhere or Newtown Festival up in Wellington in the next few months, and somewhere closer to home soon after.
- Fraser Thompson