Spank: Slap-Up And Noblest EP

Hailing from the Wairarapa but laced with an indie Brit-pop influence, Spank have a re-jigged line up since the 2014 EP ‘In Their Natural Habitat’. With plenty of clean guitar jangle and an abundance of verve this engages from the outset. The band’s point of difference is trumpet-playing vocalist Nikki King, who leads the group with conviction and confidence. The rhythm section’s (drummer David Heath and Pete King on bass) synergy is demonstrated nowhere better than on opener Crowd Mentality, which oozes urgency despite being a mid-tempo pop track. King’s mellow trumpet lines lead in I Quit before the band deliver a manic strum fest. With a wide range of influences imbedded in their sound Spank manage to retain a characteristic element of Kiwi pop which serves them well. Between the horn and guitar melodies there’s also a regular hint of Mexicana, adding a unique flavour to the songs. Recorded in one sitting at Tsunami Sound Studios in Levin, these five tracks are full of energy. • Stu Edwards

Man From Atlanta: Flood Of Tears

Ex-Sushi Lovers Allan Innes-Walker (guitar/vocals) and Ilmar Taimre (bass/keyboards) team up for the fifth time as Man From Atlanta. Opener Sweet Crying Baby buzzes into the eardrums riding atop a wave of distortion, reminiscent of ’80s R.E.M, before mellowing into a southern rock Radiohead.  Nowhere Fast brings us back to Man From Atlanta of old – Old Timey folk tunes with a contemporary sensibility and accessibility.  ‘Flood Of Tears’ closer Shut Me Down seems to be the culmination of Man From Atlanta’s sound to date, pulling together their knack for dramatic, moody textures, unsettling build-ups like something Tom Waits might have cooked up, minus the dumpster diving. Laden with pop hooks and blues guitar freak outs, its five tracks run seamlessly yet cover a vast array of moods, quite the feat for 18 minutes run time. Sadly one does await another track that, never really comes… It all feels a bit too brief, and that’s little to do with the runtime. ‘Flood Of Tears’ constantly feels as though it’s building to something that never quite shows up. Perhaps that’s part of the appeal, the constant drama with no resolution could be a deliberate assessment of our modern culture – but we’re probably just overthinking things. Just as an answer seems within grasp ‘Floods Of Tears’ takes a left turn, which is more often than not a good thing. And although the record begs for repeated listens, one can’t help but shake the thought of what Man From Atlanta could achieve in a 30 minute run time. • Sammy Jay Dawson

Fresh Talent: Henika

Upon learning her first instrument, Henrieta Tornyai, more commonly known by the name Henika, fell in love with music. Having moved to NZ from Slovakia aged eight, she started playing guitar at 11.

“It’s something I could escape into. Music’s always been that for me,” Henrieta reminisces.

Now, two more string instruments (bass guitar and double bass) and a degree in Jazz Performance later, music has become her life, and held even dearer to her heart.

Henrieta went to the States after completing her degree and worked there with bassist Richard Davis (Sun Ra All Stars, Van Morrison), before deciding to take lead on her own musical career. With experience playing music ranging from Greek folk to orchestral, she had certainly exposed herself to an abundance of styles, so it’s no wonder that she didn’t know what would arise.

“He [Davis] didn’t care how talented you were, he cared about your attitude. So I just started thinking about what I’m really doing, maybe I should do my own thing for a while. I’d worked with other bands and other people and helped to make their vision come true, but I’d never really looked at myself and who I was.

“I wasn’t even sure what type of music it would be, I’d played so many different styles. It was daunting at first to even try to narrow it down, but I just started writing simple songs with an acoustic guitar, to see what would happen.”

What happened is an exotic, haunting, and very sincere sound that exudes Henrieta’s genuine passion for music, and influences have been a vital part to her development as an artist.

“You can put labels on my music; dark alternative indie folk rock jazz, but I really hope people look deeper than that. To me, genre is irrelevant, it’s the essence, the integrity and sincerity in the music that really matters. My greatest heroes like David Bowie, Bjork, Beck, Pj Harvey, Kate Bush, and Nick Cave are all artists who couldn’t be defined by genre. They pushed the boundaries and weren’t limited by anything. This is the sort of artist I aim to be.”

Since winning The Audience’s Making Tracks grant with her single You Bring Me Down Henrieta has professionally recorded the song with Andrew Buckton, and completed a music video on she was actively involved in the production, transforming her initial vision into a true work of art. She is currently working on a self-titled EP with Buckton and Mike Franklin-Browne. Due to be released in September, she is promising a colourful array of dreamy darkness.

“For me, music, it saved my life. It’s something that really gives my life meaning. And it’s not just stuff that I create, but things I grew up with too, it really impacted me. And I think my dream is to give some of that back if I can. That’s my definition of success, it’s not being famous or rich, it’s a connection thing. I want people to connect to my music in the same way that I have to others.”

• Sam Vegar

Evangel: Sea Of The Dead EP

The quality and depth of the current metal scene in NZ is staggering. Evangel epitomises the craft and cunning that we see around the country. The Hamilton four-piece have created an EP of controlled intensity and power that is by turns melodic and hardcore. If you’re holding your breath for a new Tool album then let it go, you’ll find something new and a notch more extreme here. The riffage is massive. Like a physics problem gone wrong the modes of the guitars are exploded in a Rubik’s cube-like layer on layer, all set against a rhythm section intent on undoing the world. Insane levels of double kick and bowel-rattling subs that shift you around the room are provided by Jared Hunt and Seth Tobin respectively. The compressed and unrelenting guitar work and vocals of James Dean and Joshua Tobin compound things. Dean handled the production, recording and mastering at Envy Studios where he works. The six tracks sound crisp and you feel the power of the whole band. A must for metal fans, Evangel’s influences are evident but what they have built on them is something special. • Darryl Kirk