Tuesday, February 08, 2005

like kiwis & lava rocks

Raft, the new album by New Zealand's Stefan Neville, aka Pumice, out on Portland, Maine's wonderful Last Visible Dog is a smoldering cathedral ragged with collapse though offering equal translucent melodies from behind that signature Kiwi-murk. Pumice, who started out in 1991 and began releasing records since 1994, follows in the path of fellow NZers Alastair Galbraith and Peter Jefferies (whose Last Great Challenge in a Dull World is on my ultimate top ten), while also being contemporary and outright member of newer festerings with folks like Armpit or Peter Wright. The Hawaiian slack guitar opener “Pumiceraft” floats marvelously across its trembling sliver of tape before the down strokes remind that this is a songwriter’s record. Neville’s control on these ten songs, whether collaged or fragile with instruments or near-solitary voice, is massive enough to peel emotions and its bier structure down to a frightening core. Each song smuggles miniature detonations, whether its the misshapen guitar summoning of Julie Andrews on “In Space (on the burst)” to the scarcely present miming of “Awe of Oar,” either are enough to raise the album as touchstone for NZ pop. Sound artist Witcyst makes a contribution via tape loop on countryside picking of “Pudding Stone” that evokes circling birds; vulture or friendly, you aren’t quite sure.
A near-prefect addition to the NZ cannon. If Ajax Records was still around, this would be the toast.

Pumice - Pumicefraft
Pumice - In Space (on the burst)


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