New Zealander Nick Harte’s first release for James Murphy’s DFA Records is a splicing together of two albums hitherto released only in his home country. Shocking Pinks the album looks long in the tracklisting, but lasts for just 45 minutes and feels shorter still.
As the soundtrack to extreme snowboarding and surfing videos, this record would work a treat. Homespun atmospherics envelop Harte’s stoner-grunge vocals and multi-instrument multi-tracking, FX pedals set to the max, from the off.
This Aching Deal sets the scene, showcasing muffled cymbals under lyrics that are not always obvious, sharing a shoegaze approach to words with Harte’s acknowledged heroes My Bloody Valentine. The wall-of-sound noise he creates, with a preponderance of guitars and bass in the soupy, cymbals-heavy mix, turns the clock back to the beginning of the 1990s and then reinvents the music of the time.
Blonde Haired Girl, weighing in at under two minutes, is the addictive centrepiece with off-key guitar squalls reminiscent of Souvlaki-era Slowdive if they’d ever got agitated and cranked up the tempo. Victims reminds of Nirvana‘s Turnaround but, by contrast, the ethereal Girl On The Northern Line more closely recalls the moods of the late Elliott Smith, especially vocally, while musically sounding very little like him. Later, Jealousy raises the comparison again.
Smokescreen gets close to Murphy’s LCD Soundsystem kitchen-sink approach to percussion recording, but is less about dance beats as creating an eerie, otherworldly atmosphere. Again the lyrics are almost unintelligible.
After the slight misfire of Prinzhorn Dance School, DFA are back on track with this chilled, intriguing record. As a compedium of two previous records, this is a sign of where Harte was. On this evidence, where he goes next will be well worth checking out.