Who are MR STERILE ASSEMBLY? They’re pretty unique actually, uniquely excellent… Mr Sterile Assembly are from New Zealand, they have a minefield in their playground, and their latest album, Transit, is something we rather recommend..
MR STERILE ASSEMBLY –Transit (Skirted) – They sound like a more frantic Gong – a slightly stressed day on that planet – or maybe a band on the run from the raggity zaggity crowman of planet Ring? They sound good from the off; hold the front page, we got one here.
There’s a slight sense of claustrophobia, a threat of some sort, with song subjects based in the harsher realities. The album opens with the menacing, urgency of Hibakusha, a song written about a real-life survivor of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they have delightfully awkward sound that continually evolves and never fails to challenge. Gone a little Wilco Johnson messing with The Ex right now: intricate clever rhythmic weaving, that old school Pere Ubu new wave weird-punk art-fuelled feel, and all the while with details and tunes (and clever moves) all of their own…or maybe Cheesecake Truck? Dog Faced Hermans? Their combination of sometimes intricate time changes, female voice, dark-edged melody and real-world lyrics can even be reminiscent of Thinking Plague.
They’re rather unique actually, uniquely excellent. Mr Sterile Assembly are from new Zealand, they have a minefield in their playground, (a mindfield?), they’re exploding things in your mind, they’re forever shifting, changing shape, never retaining a status quo. Gong at their most edgy, at their probingly subversive is probably the nearest thing you can pin on them in terms of a positive comparison – playing with fire, to question and to learn…. This latest album stands out far far more than previous things we’ve heard from these rather creative New Zealanders; this is great, even with all that paranoia and that electric Orwellian warning and the monitoring of your every logged-on communication check in, the watching of everything you ever say or do tagged there by the Man in cyberspace…
Mr Sterile Assembly have a sound that somehow is oppressive and delightful both at the same time. They sound paranoid, they sound switched on, they sound aware, they also sound like thoroughly decent people, inviting people, come join our band – a Crass-like collective you’d really like to be part of and muck in with (Crass always sounded like they’d be such hard work to be part of: this gathering sounds inviting). And even when the sound is getting a little frantic and the saxophone is sounding a little like a maniacal goose, they still flow so well. Mr Sterile Assembly are never aggressive in terms of musical style, never pecking at your head. They may be throwing out questions, but it’s not just head-on arguing. They’re too artistically intriguing to be about mere confrontation as they take you on their ever flowing, ever shifting, ever thrilling musical/lyrical ride… All open mouth expectant, man swallows his own tail, all clever time changes and awkward song structures (along with a fine dress sense).
The band are mostly drummer/vocalist Kieran Monaghan and bassist/vocalist Chrissie Butler – the two piece are augmented by a number of guests and scuttling collaborators. Transit is a cohesive, challenging album, hardboiled but somehow never difficult to listen to, an album that at times is brilliant, an album that’s always very very good (and complemented by good artwork/packaging). They may be from the other side of the world and we may not get that much of a chance to see them live, but this is an album and a band that you do need to go explore.
Here is the original Organ Zine post from August 1st 2011. (LINK IS DEAD)
It was more than a gig.
It was a reunion of old friends, it was revelry in the idea of the actualised dream coming true, it was a celebration of survival through some pretty dark days and the success of personal revolutions, and it was a bloody good gig.
Steve Ignorant brought The Last Supper, came and played in Wellington, New Zealand, Saturday 20 June 2011, bringing with him the songs of Crass. Crass were probably one of the most influential punk bands whose output between 1978 and 1984 grew to so much more than the sum of the parts, inspiring others to make art, make music, make collective efforts, and make efforts to make something better from a bleak and powerless political environment to a vision of a better world, beyond corporations, war, control and conditioning. Those black art-wrapped disc’s traveled the world via snail-mail sowing seeds into the hearts and minds of the discontent and fostered idea’s and grew wonderful things.
However, this was not Crass playing last Saturday, but Ignorant, one of the founding members of Crass, and with a fine band for the occasion. And similar to many of the activities of Crass in their heyday, controversy followed. Not everybody was pleased with the idea of anything Crass-like touring, there have been protests at shows in the states.
Not here. Here felt like pure elation. People traveled from as far south as Invercargill to come and see for this one time songs that meant, and mean, so much. And this was one of the amazing things about this evening, faces not seen for twenty years or more, an almost palpable unspoken joy in some secret and personal survival stories
. There were people there in which I had shared some of my hardest moments in life, and here we are again, together and alive. And there were a lot of us, a room full of mostly middle-aged and aging punks partying like the best of times. It wasn’t nostalgic, we had never shared this particular experience of these songs live, but we had many stories to share and years to catch up on. And we danced! If a mosh pit can be described as a loving event, then last Saturday was the premiere example, people fell and were collected, hoisted into the air and caught, hugged and jumped and surged in that almost tidal movement of bodies moving.
And the songs came, we sang, and it was ‘us’! ‘We’ became the event. The band play for maybe 90 minutes, songs came end on end, linked by sound bites, unrelenting and determined. To me it didn’t feel like a karaoke event, the band executed the tune skilfully, and yet there was room for their individual personality. On guitar Gizz Butt added a slight metal edge to the sound, sturdy and solid bass from Pete Wilson, Carol Hodge on female vocals delivered the lines like they were her own, and Spike T Smith on drums who possibly had the hardest position to fill. Sitting there where once the other founder of Crass, Penny Rimbaud, took control of the skins.
And Rimbaud has been one of the vocal original members opposing the representation of the material of Crass. Although it appears that his view has altered in more recent times.
I wish Rimbaud could have been there to see what he was part of creating. And that it still holds meaning , it is worth it, and I appreciate the opportunity to say thanks. It’s amazing now thinking about it, these journeys that have taken place to final meet again in this bar. How the people have traveled. And how the music traveled more than a quarter of a century ago, to be copied onto cassette and then handed around in those extremely isolated environments, and Invercargill was, like a secret note in a bottle on a dire sea. And here we all are.
I can’t actually remember my very first meeting with Crass, but Feeding of the 5000 was the first album I had, on one of those cassettes, a muffled dubbed copy on a well worn piece of magnetic tape. I thrashed it on my walkman, it was a lifeline to another world along way from where I was. My options were looking bleak, I was 14 and had already gone before the judge, skulling screwdriver and sniffing solvents to escape, running with nowhere to go, locked in a catholic boarding school with music as my only respite. I was an unfocused explosion, school tried to shut it down and contain it. Crass, significant amongst a small collection of other tapes, taught me how to focus that explosion. I was asked not to return to school, the prospects were working at the aluminium smelter or in one of the six local freezing works. I wanted no part of either, I got a job pouring concrete and as soon as I had enough money to buy a stereo and a drum kit I quit, moved to Invercargill with the plan to get a band together, and really I haven’t stopped. My education consisted of “there is no authority but yourself”, and ‘d.i.y’- do it yourself, and for me it has been a lesson well learned.
Who could have thought that more than 25 years after this first experience I would get to make this direction connection with this influence. In the late 90’s I wrote a song called The Agents of the Sun, the final two lines “beg the question, bend the truth, bail out the basement while there’s hole’s in the roof” were lifted straight from a Crass song called Beg your Pardon. We revived Agents and had the personal honour to perform it this night to one of the authors.
Heres the original version of Agents of the Sun from about 1999.
This is my story, and we all have our own. And Saturday was an opportunity to revel in the success of survival, not all did, and it’s worth remember them because life is hard, and you find meaning where and how you can. I can’t imagine how I could have turned out if I had missed that single exchange years ago, that hearing for the first time a sound that made some sort of profound sense, not spiritual, just a very human connection. It makes me wonder.
I must admit though when I first heard that this tour was happening I was also skeptical. It challenges me now to think about this skepticism, have I turned into a conservative purist? Or perhaps it is the idea that something that has taking on personal significance could be reduced to something less than my spectacular and emotive memory of Crass? The fear of a passion defiled perhaps? Or did I think the Ignorant was breaking the rules of ‘anarchy’?
But it was actually Rimbaud in a recent interview that helped me find a differing perspective. He was asked about the expectation of an audience, and Rimbaud replied that as long as it still says something to 13 year old kids, “would he be able to do that, what would he think of it, “how much could he get for it, not money”.
[see approx 6.40 for quote]
So I figure, OK, I’m going to take the 14 year old me out on a date to celebrate and revel like it may be the last time.
So thanks, for it all. Saturday was the most perfect celebration. I am glad that Steve has had the vision and taken the risk of touring once, unfortunately he is also wearing the flack. That effort to travel this far was not wasted on us.I know I am not the only one who feels that this may have been one of the gigs of our lives, and I don’t mean that lightly. Massive thanks to Tim, Punk Rock Road Trips NZ, for the organisation, must have been pretty nerve-wreaking with a Chilean volcano farting ash and grounding planes. And I want to thank the people who traveled, it was brilliant to reconnect, let’s do it again sometime aye?
Did I mention? It was a great gig.
Here we are in June. The time is spinning toward our departure for Malaysia, Java, & Singapore. There is still bit of work to do, a few shows to be confirmed, but one thing is certain, the tour will be a blast.
We were very pleased to have the opportunity to present our story of The making of Transit on the recent national radio program Music101, you can go HERE and listen to the interview. Thanks a lot Emma for the fine work.
mr sterile, the solo project, has recent added three songs to a new Root Don Lonie for Cash split 8″ acetate release. Click HERE to go to the RDLFC website. The other artist is the fantastic Biff Bangle Experience, a Link Wray/Bill Sevesi surf offering of divine proportions, check it out.
It’s confirmed, mr sterile is to be the featured drummer in the next NZMusician magazine. It may be out June?July? Who knows…
The Steve Ignorant show happens on June 18, a very exciting opportunity. Please see previous post for links to find out more about this bloke’s involvement in the very influential and inspiring UK group, Crass.
We are also presently in negotiation to bring the Transit exhibition to the city of Hamilton, more about that later.
Things have been quite quiet after our Australian tour. But things are not still for long. Here’s a head’s-up of things & events in the next couple of months.
We are currently in the middle of organising our return to south east Asia tour, the plan this time has settled, we have an basic itinerary and we shall be visiting Malaysia, Java, and back to Singapore. I will post dates as I get them confirmed. But it is great to be reconnecting with all those good people then, and brilliant to be making be contacts and I can’t wait see/hear some great new SAE music.
We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to help open the show for the Steve Ignorant – Crass Songs show. He is performing June 18 at Bodega in Wellington. Ignorant was one of the key founding members of the inspiring late 70’s till 1984 anarchist punk bands. If CRASS is a name that does not mean much then I would recommend that some investigating be done, the albums Stations of the Crass, Christ the Album, and Penis Envy are astounding.
For all other shows please look to your right of the screen for updated show information.
We recently had the privileged to be filmed for a documentary film project by Dylan Herkes, chief magnate of Stink Magnetic. The filming project is documenting the phenomenal history of the venue Eye of Night in Whanagnui.
Quite favorable reviews of TRANSIT have continued to come through. ConcertFM’s William Dart gave a favorable review HERE(it will only be up for a couple of weeks, not sure if they archive). NZ Musician have become interested in having an interview done with mr sterile about his drumming , expect that in the next month or two, all other reviews will be included to the TRANSIT page.