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The group will be celebrating the release of their new EP ‘Machine Language’, recorded in Dunedin over 2016.
Formed in Auckland in 1996 by former Dunedin residents John Guy Howell and Victor Billot, the group was joined by Mark Orbell on drums for their debut album ‘City of Bastards’ (1996) recorded at Auckland’s Earwig Studios.
A further EP was released in 1997 before the band went to London. Returning to New Zealand by the end of 1999, a second album ‘Stratford Workshop’ was released.
The group then went into extended hibernation. John remained the most musically active of the group, first with Auckland group Salon Kingsadore then with the Broken Heartbreakers, who played extensively throughout New Zealand and internationally, before relocating themselves to Dunedin in 2014.
Victor and Mark both released solo recordings.
The three original members John, Victor and Mark, have been joined by longtime associate, Andrew Spittle, the reclusive yet highly productive leader of Dating Godot, and All Red Cables.
It’s a long and winding road for the four, who have shared origins in the early 1990s Dunedin music scene.
Victor and Andrew played together in the American punk influenced Das Phaedrus, while John and Mark played in the modernist beat group Tin Soldiers and the legendary Too Many Daves, in that era, before leaving the city for many years.
Three of the members are now resident in Dunedin, while Mark Orbell is a long time denizen of Wanaka.
The group have approached the new format Alpha Plan with a specific creative vision.
John has remained on guitar, and Mark on drums, with new member Andrew filling bass duties. Victor has been placed up front on vocals.
The concept for their new EP is based around a selection of lyrics adapted from poems by Victor, who has published two volumes in recent years.
The group produces the music by working quickly around skeletal and simple frameworks, which are developed and refined over time, often in the studio.
John says the approach has been productive and has created interesting results, quite different in many cases from the sounds of the earlier incarnation of the group.
He says the material ranges from repetitive drone-based improvisations, to amalgams of post punk and Krautrock, to melodic and more restrained songs.
Victor says he has used a rhythmic vocal presentation style, verging on spoken word, which provides an unusual element to the set.
He says his lyrics are often adapted from poems that have been written for live, spoken performance in mind, and are diverse in theme, ranging from political and social satire (‘Maxed Out in New Keyland’), to personal reflections on anxiety (‘Ambient Terror’), and more surrealistic and imagistic pieces (‘The Train is not the journey.’)
A number of videos have been produced by Victor and together with audio, are available via the website www.alphaplan.wordpress.com