Helen Henderson: London

From her musical beginnings in Invercargill to arriving in London in the late ’70s with a handful of songs and 50 quid, timing and musical fortune were kind to Helen Henderson. After landing a record deal with a label that was home to The Boomtown Rats and Sinead O’Connor, to name a couple of prominent label mates, Henderson proceeded to pair up with prominent session musicians and record the collection of songs that only now has surfaced as ‘London’. The master tapes languished in a vault for a quarter century until co-songwriter Bob Rosenberg uncovered them. Henderson’s gift is the ease in which the songs seem to come to her and her storytelling ability is obvious, songs painting vivid pictures of the characters involved contrasting with others sung in first person. Listen To The Wind is filled with hope while Anyone’s Baby is possibly more autobiographical. Children Of The Night stands out as the album’s gritty rocker amongst a collection of retrospective love songs. With quality songs, musicians and engineering, time has been kind to these recordings and the songs still stand strong. With stylistic parallels to Sharon O’Neill and a confident songwriting individuality, Helen Henderson proves a timeless treasure worth (re-)discovering. • Stu Edwards

Fresh Talent: Kip McGrath

Coming together in time for 2014’s Chronophonium festival, Auckland act Kip McGrath have since released two self-produced EPs. Their latest entitled ‘Sour Grapes’ consists of five tracks, the majority of which were written by Timothy Berry.

“Me and Grelj [bassist Michael Garelja] were talking about forming a band and I was trying to get Sylvia to sing on some stuff I had already recorded and then that ended up coming together as Kip McGrath”,  Berry remembers.

“I came up with the name on a whim,” vocalist and percussionist Sylvia Dew volunteers. “Me and Tim were walking in the middle of town and talking about terrible band names, and band names we thought were good… this was sort of before we even decided to be in a band. And there was just this line for Kip McGrath, an education centre, and then we were just like, ‘Oh yeah.’”

The new EP’s name was similarly random, taken from the signage on a truck parked outside their flat, rather than any expression of internal ructions. Minor tensions did surface near the EP’s release, but any thoughts of ending were swept clean when it received positive reviews.Their self-titled first EP, just a year earlier, showcased more of a bubblegum pop style. That remains sprinkled throughout ‘Sour Grapes’, but is now combined with more rock hooks, merging together to make a solid indie pop recording.

Drummers have been their problem, with Reuben Winter (Totems, P.H.F) replacing the original, and the stool more recently filled by Keria Paterson (RalWuss). The band are determinedly DIY and chose to produce the first EP themselves, but Tim admits that in the process he realised he wasn’t actually that good at it.

“So I spent a lot of time learning how to produce. I think that’s the main difference between the first one and ‘Sour Grapes’.”

“We had a bit more of an idea of what we wanted it to sound like as well, following on from the last one, we each had our own ideas and we wanted it to be a bit more dancey, a bit more funky,” guitarist Tane Marques adds,

A new batch of recording is already scheduled, with the plan now to start compiling an album.

“With all of our music that we have recorded and released to date it hasn’t been so much a process of writing something and then recording it ,” says Tane. “We’ve still got a backlog of stuff we learned from when we started. So I think the next stuff that we do will be more like, “Yeah, we wrote this and learned it and recorded it.’”

• Hunter Keane

A Dead Forest Index: In All That Drifts From Summit Down

This very original collection of songs combines genre elements in an often surprising and atmospheric way. A Dead Forest Index is Adam and Sam Sherry, the Euro-based brothers performing mainly guitar, drums, organ and vocals. Guitar parts are sometimes folky and acoustic, strummed slowly, and at other times borrow elements of post-punk musicianship, strummed downwards quickly and continuously. The excellent vocals always sit presently over the tracks, reverb soaked and choral, feeling religious in tone – similar in style to recent tracks by Wellington trio Groeni. The drumming is interesting throughout. Rhythms are fairly straight but hi-hats are forgone in favour of thumping toms and kicks. On songs like Sand Verse and Homage Old the percussion sits in the background, beating war drum-like rhythms creating a very epic atmosphere. Recorded and mixed by Simon Gooding at York St, the 13 tracks mostly range between three and five minutes, with a few short experimental moments welcome additions. ‘In All That Drifts From Summit Down’ is best listened to in sequence and will be enjoyed by anyone with an appreciation of the more experimental side of folk, post punk and measured atmospheric vocal music. • Olly Clifton