The three recently recent album on our skirted Records were sent to Nick Bollinger of Radio NZ for potential review. And we were wonderfully surprised when this appeared. Thanks heaps for the positive clip.
Nick Bollinger discusses the rhythms, rants and recent releases of Wellington-based independent musician Mr Sterile.
Here’s an act that has travelled as far and wide and played to audiences as diverse as any band from this country ever has – though that hardly means Mr Sterile is a household name.
Mr Sterile is the performing alias of Kieran Monaghan: drummer, vocalist, occasional bassist, guitarist, and – for these particular recordings – virtually everything else as well.
Monaghan has been performing under the Mr Sterile banner since around the turn of this century, often in collaboration with his partner Chrissie Butler.
There’s a high level of theatricality about what they do. Their stage costumes are like some mash-up between Bride Of Frankenstein and early Split Enz. At times they incorporate other musicians as well. These larger aggregations are known as Mr Sterile Assembly. Otherwise it’s simply Mr Sterile, which is the case with two new releases, which are essentially Monaghan solo works – though that doesn’t mean they are not packed to the gunnels with sound.
The music might not conform to any old-school punk-rock rulebook, still there is a punk impulse behind it – perhaps politically even more than sonically. The lyrics are like wake-up calls; warnings of the various mechanisms and instruments of oppression that threaten our lives.
But there is a satirical as well as a sinister side to the Mr Sterile aesthetic, which you’ll find everywhere from the lyrics to the handmade packaging. Sacred cows and self-congratulation are prime targets. The first of these two recent releases is called The General Pathetic, with both its title and graphics parodying a well-known Kiwi rock classic.
Monaghan’s primary instrument is the drums and this music comes at you rhythm-first. Those rhythms can be layered and complex, as in the industrial waltz of ‘Cast Adrift’, or furious and combatant – try ‘Kraschenbanger’s Return’. At other times the effect is almost folky (‘Setting Fire To Bob’).
The General Pathetic was actually recorded about six years ago, though it has only just been mastered, and is the more lo-fi of the two new releases.
The other album – Haters, Wreckers and Other Friends – is a bit more sonically refined, though sheer ferociousness isn’t compromised. This is music with a lot of sharp edges that seems to combine the sonic force of Fugazi with the angular rhythms of Captain Beefheart. Chimes of gamelan deepen the textures. Tracks like ‘Would We Be Alive’ imply a spiky kind of funk.
A third new release, also from Mr Sterlie’s label Skirted Records, could be heard as the antidote to the other two. It certainly makes for a study in contrasts.
Two Hands Twice comes out under the name DSLB (that stands for Ditsy Squalls Lunch Box) the alias of Mr Sterile Assembly bassist Chrissie Butler, and consists simply of five instrumentals played on a wheezy old pump organ. These are minimal and meditative. Built around single note drones in no discernable tempo over which harmonies are very slowly added and subtracted, it is like music in slow motion. The song of a glacier, or an organic, handmade version of Eno’s ambient music.
After listening for a while my nervous system seemed to settle to where just the addition of a second note became a momentous event. But sometimes the organ is joined by unidentified rattles and bangs – it might be a washing machine in the next room – and something almost akin to a groove enlivens the drone.
With these three releases out in the world, Mr Sterile Assembly are heading back on the road soon, premiering some brand new material. In the past they have toured extensively through South East Asia and Eastern Europe, places few New Zealand bands have ever set foot. But this midwinter jaunt takes them to Christchurch, Dunedin an Invercargill.
Catch them if you can. There’s nothing else like it.
It’s been a fair while since any update. Seems like we took a year off.
So feeling rested, reorientated and recuperated we hit the sticks again, with a bunch of new project.
First a number of shows coming up – Wellington, Whanganui, Palmerston North, Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill. Plus we are in the early stages of planning for a much bigger tour at the end of the year.
We have a new look, some new stories and tunes to present to you.
And there are two new solo albums and one remastered album to be released on the bands own label skirted Records. The first is beautiful new atmospheric and acoustic collection of five pieces of sound from DSLB, piped out from bellows over the green pasture of the Manawatu. The album is called TwoHandsTwice.
The second is Haters, Wreckers and other Friends by mr sterile. The most recent collect of random ramblings compiled into one particularly rock collection. Putting the uncomfortable in to the comfort zone. UPDATE: And already these’s a nice wee preliminary review from the Organ Mag in London!
And finally is a new remastering and repackaging of the mr sterile solo album The General Pathetic. More lo-fi and chaotic the album spans the some of the solo sounds from 2005-2012.
Each album is to be assembly by hand, limited to 50 physical pieces only and to be released early April
Marina Organ, one of the grand architects of The Organ Magazine, host of The Other Rock Show on Resonance FM, London, and general all-round super music enthusiast presented a couple of snippets of Chrissie’s DSLB album BlokeBird on the afore mention ResonanceFM.
And even more surprising, when Chrissie appears as poster girl 2014 for The Other Rock Show on the banner above. Such wonderful support, thanks Marina!
DSLB’s first solo album, BlokeBird was released tonight on our skirted Records label. Over a few bottles of Parrot Dog, we (Kieran and I) celebrated our 11th skirted release.
BlokeBird has been much loved in the making. Big ups to those folk who have contributed colour and graft. Cheers to Stefan Neville of Pumice fame for a little classy noodling on File Miles from Anywhere, to Jack Trolove for great photos and to Kieran for hours and hours and hours of everything else.
DSLB (Ditzy Squall’s Lunchbox) has morphed out of a cranking Wellington-based project called Ditzy Squall (Chrissie Butler, Aaron Lloydd and Kieran Monaghan). The sideways lyrics and stacked up patterns still dominate the songs, but in BlokeBird the songs are anchored in low-fi clatter and field recordings rather than the angular pop of Ditzy.
The title track Bloke Bird was inspired by Grayson Perry, the winner of the Turner Prize in 2003. Perry’s win achieved some kick back from the Fine Art’s establishment plus a few column inches in the international press. Not only was it deemed inappropriate for a ceramic artist to scoop a major fine art award, but to pick it up crossed-dressed with your family at your side was quite a story,
The last track, Lucky Hunt also has a story of its own. It was an attempt at a day tape, a project constraint where you give yourself 24 hours to write and package a whole album of songs.
My 24 hours was an overnighter in a hut, in the bush, in the rain, with Garageband and a little orange guitar for company. I didn’t crank out and package a complete album. Instead I wrote Lucky Hunt and made a “behind the scenes” spoof video of “The making of Lucky Hunt”. That’s the video below. Not very serious, but at least you now have some insider knowledge of the instrumentation!!
You can find out more about BlokeBird and DSLB on DSLB’s Facebook page. Or check out the skirted Records BandCamp for DSLB’s BlokeBird and take a look at Ditzy Squall’s Skirt. If PayPal isn’t your thing, drop us an email and we can see what we can do.