Review: postcards from new zealand ‘city islands’

Enigmatic is not a phrase I use often when reviewing but it seems applicable to postcards from new zealand. There is very scant information available other than they are from New Zealand and have been creating music since 2008, this would make them something akin to a modern day version of The Residents whose own identities are shrouded in mystery. Dan of London based Mandrone Records states that this was part of the appeal in his decision to sign them. In fact, he had to sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) in advance. Interesting or pretentious? You decide.

postcards from new zealand ‘city islands’

The band have released an astonishing 21 full-lengths and an EP through Bandcamp. It’s hard to find many bands with that kind of prolific work rate, even King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, who once released five albums in a year, come across as slouches by comparison. The artwork, by the band, is a landscape of an abandoned city, ala Chernobyl, being enveloped by an ominous sky, its beautiful and threatening simultaneously, perhaps indicative of the music to come. Also, according to the album’s Bandcamp page, it is the third chapter in the ‘we watched them devour’ saga.

My favourite Nine Inch Nails album is The Fragile and opening track as the towers crumble definitely brings to mind that album’s more ambient textures and ties in nicely with the promo-notes claim that ‘this release sees postcards from new zealand delve deeper into their use of electronics to produce epic soundscapes’.

snow and sand starts with a vibrating low hum that conjures up images of a beautiful desert like vista. Pounding drums and layers of guitar are soon added, both of which transfix, correction, hypnotise the listener, it certainly took a few minutes for me to emerge out of my trance like state. Never mind forking out cash on boring meditation CDs that feature the sounds of a rainfall or forest, just stick on this slab of psychedelic beauty and you’ll be feeling infinitely more relaxed in no time.

Enigmatic is not a phrase I use often when reviewing but it seems applicable to postcards from new zealand…

tortuous unwindings accompanying video reflects the bleak desolate nature of the music, long-neglected buildings encased by an equally unforgiving environment. The track has a post-industrial sound that reminds one of Swiss outfit The Young Gods, before ending in a blaze of fury with some ripping black metal blastbeats, as if the track needed any more of an apocalyptic sound.

ocean avenue, the longest track at a mammoth near on seventeen minutes, has an all enveloping and immersive post-metal sound that recalls Isis’ Oceanic album (coincidental that the track has ‘ocean’ in the title?) as well as Rossetta’s The Galilean Satellites, albeit without the harsher sludge derived vocal style of both. One could even point to the first couple of Earthless releases, or at a stretch the otherworldly space-rock of Hawkwind/Pink Floyd. There are faint traces of Ride’s Nowhere album present too (from the eleven minute mark onwards) which conclude the track with layers of blissful reverb that give you a comfortable, reassuring feeling.

Just as you were thinking it was time for a mug of Horlicks and an improving book, it just keeps coming offers up some fairly grim post-punk in a Killing Joke vein and provides for, as the promo-notes state, a militaristic ‘war-like setting’. Hardly the most restful way to conclude the album, but none the worse for it either.

‘From the awe-inspiring to the disturbing’ is a pretty accurate way of summing up the album, serving as a decent introduction for brave listeners who wish to delve into the band’s extensive and terrifyingly overwhelming back catalogue.

Label: Mandrone Records
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Reza Mills