INCOMING: Straight Outta Christchurch



On the whole, Philadelphians don’t take good times for granted, yes? (We savored the Phillies’ quasi-dynasty last decade; ditto for that ‘74-75 brace of Stanley Cups.) Let’s make sure this positive approach includes the current surfeit of notable New Zealand recording artists coincidentally touring through town here in late September. (Fact: 3 Kiwi acts are playing Philly within six days of each other, all hailing from NZ’s pastoral South Island; while bigger than the country’s commercial/ political hub of North Island, its 1,076,300 residents are but a quarter of its population. Fascinating.)

Most immediately, the Renderers play Kung Fu Necktie this Saturday. Founded in 1989 by couple Brian and Maryrose Crook of Christchurch, they did what many of New Zealand’s internationally celebrated underground/ indie rock bands have done since 1981: put out their first album on local NZ label Flying Nun. 1990’s Trail of Tears established their darkly sparse,  country/ bluesy songcraft, a signature sound through to this renderers3year’s excellent In The Sodium Light. An appealing, sepia-toned melancholia pervades all, with Maryrose and Brian each singing (so well) and applying moody, unhurried guitar+more play to gorgeously atmospheric, sometimes spacey effect. It works. Any fans of the Dirty Three who aren’t already in their dusty corner should head over.

As with other quality NZ acts, there’s a Philly angle – and it does, like said others, involve eternally estimable local label Siltbreeze, who put out the Renderers’ acclaimed A Dream of the Sea in 1998. (The Crooks, who recently relocated to the Mojave Desert, will be re-releasing the album on their own Tinsel Ears imprint soon.) More local score: Rosali, the compatible Philadelphia-based “psych-folk” opener on Saturday, released her oft-shimmering, feathery-fine debut Out of Love on Siltbreeze earlier this year.

“But the big [Siltbreeze-connected successive-Kiwis-LIVE-in-Philly] story” this week is still The Dead C’s cathartic, sonic guitar-squall, controlled art-noise set @ Johnny Brenda’s on Wednesday. The New Zealand trio has earned legendary status over its three decades for producing dense yet ingeniously textured, highly listenable (yes!) slabs of “lo-fi” sound-sculpture via guitars/ amps/ pedals/ etc. It’s gone out on record – Flying Nun; Xpressway (member Bruce Russell’s label, which also, BTW, released Renderers’ Brian Crook’s earlier band, the Terminals); a slew of revered ‘90s albums on Siltbreeze; and the brand new Trouble – and it was conjured onstage in Philly, one of just four USA tour dates.

If you missed it, I’m sorry – it may be because neither The Dead C nor the Renderers, to date, got ANY known press in Philly, preview or review – but … An unbroken, shifting, droning, enthralling soundscape of nearly an hr was created by Russell and Michael Morley working their gear, with scattered drum loops from a missing Robbie Yeats (who has played on some Renderers tracks), held up by visa problems. Oh yeah: for a different flavor of Kiwi, there’s the sweet-voiced country-indie stylings of Marlon Williams (Gram Parsons-indebted, down with Townes V.Z., etc.), playing Boot & Saddle on Tuesday. Dude’s way New Zealand – Maori, actually, descended from the Ng?i Tahu, indigenous to Te Waipounamu (that’s a co-existing official name of South Island – respect).— DAVID R. STAMPONE