17 Oct 2019
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  • Tiny Ruins - Gig Review: Tiny Ruins with Jen Cloher @ Town Hall, Port Chalmers - 14/09/2019

Tiny Ruins - Gig Review: Tiny Ruins with Jen Cloher @ Town Hall, Port Chalmers - 14/09/2019

15 Sep 2019 // A review by Darryl Baser

Port Chalmers; an industrial port and one-time place to buy cheap real-estate, making it a hub for many a Dunedin musician. One could argue, Port Chalmers is the home of the ‘Dunedin sound’. But some in North East Valley or Brockville may argue, but this is a discourse for another time.

Port Chalmers at 8pm, and there’s a queue forming on the ramp and steps to the Port Chalmers Town Hall, as people file into the historic building for Tiny Ruins and Jen Cloher’s first show of two in the city. So many tickets were sold on Saturday promoters opted for a second night, and as the band seems pretty comfortable staying at Nadia Reid’s whare, they obviously agreed.

Milk records Co-founder Jen Cloher opens up the show about 8.30pm. Her appearance on stage draws an audible hush, which she acknowledged. “Wow a self-hushing audience, cool”, she quipped.

She’s the queen of the understated anecdote leading into songs. Two songs into her set she shares a great story about what she listened to as a kid, bands which weren’t considered that cool in Adelaide in the late 70's early 80's, like The Doors, and Patti Smith. David Bowie Eyes is the song she launches into, and it follows her preamble well. Everything about Jen Cloher is cool and understated. She may have grown up in Adelaide, but she's got that Melbourne laconic cool shtick down pat.

The song Fear Is Like A Forest from her second album follows, and with much of her set she has the naturally self-assured confidence, only attained by years of experience, writing, playing, working a crowd. She never raises her voice, with this respectful audience remaining hushed.

To my great chagrin I’d only known of her in terms of Milk Records and her recently ended (2018) relationship with fellow Milk Records co-founder and musician Courtney Barnett. But it was a pleasure to see her completely control the 150-200 people sitting politely then applauding wildly in the Town Hall, I’ll totally be searching out some of her back catalogue.

She closed with Strong Woman, a self-referential song of empowerment and the only song in which she raises her voice. Great set.

Hollie and her band came on to welcoming applause, and opened the set with Holograms, showing the brilliance of a good sound check and having a touring engineer who sat in the crowd calmly engineering the show using a tablet PC.

But there's a delay as they re-plug lights, taking them out of the same circuits as audio equipment. Problems dealt with, the next tune is One Million Flowers which Hollie says; "it's kinda the theme of the tour," and the song waltzes along like daffodils in a southern breeze.

The next song is another gently swinging 6/8, which the guy behind me attempting to keep time by stomping a foot so much it shakes the floor, is completely baffled by.

It’s followed by Dream Wave; which Hollie says harks back to her growing up near West Auckland beaches. The song sonically rises and falls like a perfect set of waves on any of New Zealand’s legendary surf beaches, beach like Piha, Gisborne’s Wainui, or Dunedin’s Blackhead or Whareakeake (or murderers).

Hollie says she’s not quite as good as her label boss Jen at the between song banter, but she’s totally holding her own and welcomes listeners into her world well. Particularly with her intro to Stars, False, Fading. “It’s about a time when I was a lowly book shelver at Auckland Central library. At that time there was a large place in the basement where books go to die.” “There was this one guy who’d come in every Sunday when I was working, and ask for books about aliens and space, which were always down in the dead books department. I got to spend 30 minutes down there hunting for books, I loved it.”

She introduces School of Design as ‘another haunting wee tune about another spooky haunted building’.

A few dates into their Australasian tour, the band are a well-oiled machine, with the onstage facial and body language communication completely on point.

Also, the bond between Hollie and Jen is strong with Jen Cloher joining the band for a few tunes, including a version of Wilco’s Impossible Journey which they’ve recorded for a magazine compilation. It’s a great version with Jen and Hollie doubling up on the choruses and taking on individual verses.

There were a couple of highlights for me, one was the version of How Much from Olympic Girls, with bass player Cass Basil totally owning, nailing, and shining during the bass solo.

Jen departs, and the band close the set with Olympic Girls. It’s a great version, polished, and on point.

The band leaves, but the drummer left the door to backstage open. Stomping and clapping ensues. Hollie Fullbrook returns solo and plays a beautiful solo acoustic version of Treading Softly from the Hurtling Through EP. It really was a highlight for me, getting to see and hear all of the genius of her guitar playing technique and ability to turn a lyrical phrase in its head.

The band returns for a last song for the night, She'll Be Coming Round. It was a lovely calming way to leave, until it kicks into double time. A rousing and warm way to leave a triumphant show on a brisk Spring evening.


Photos thanks and courtesy to Alan Dove Photography

 

About Tiny Ruins

Tiny Ruins are a band based in Auckland, New Zealand. Conceived in 2009 by songwriter Hollie Fullbrook to describe her solo output, the group now includes Cass Basil, Alex Freer & Tom Healy. Traversing early influences of folk and blues, Tiny Ruins’ sound draws on ethereal and grungy soundscapes alike. Sometimes likened to Nick Drake, Mazzy Star or Nico, Fullbrook’s voice and guitar work evades cliché, making use of alternate tunings by way of her own self-styled fingerpicking. Lyrically one of a kind, stories are laced with a dark humour that is at times disarmingly confessional, at others, cryptic and philosophical.

Fullbrook was born in Bristol, England, before moving to New Zealand with her family at the age of ten and settling in West Auckland. She learnt the cello from a young age, picking the guitar up and writing songs in her early teenage years. Asked to support Alasdair Roberts in Sydney, May 2010, she was signed to Australian indie label Spunk Records on the strength of some demos. Tiny Ruins’ debut Some Were Meant For Sea was released in 2011 and saw critical praise for its minimalist approach & lyrical flair. Recorded by Fullbrook and producer Greg ‘J’ Walker (Machine Translations) in a small hall in South Gippsland, the album was voted 2011’s Album of the Year by BBC World Service arts & culture programme ‘World of Music’ and was a finalist for New Zealand’s Taite Prize in 2012. Tours of New Zealand, Australia & Europe followed, with Fullbrook performing solo, and later as a duo with Cass Basil on upright bass, supporting The Handsome Family throughout the UK.

Joining forces with drummer Alex Freer, Tiny Ruins evolved into a three-piece, recording a bluesy EP, Haunts, together in the Waipu bush, before working with Tom Healy at The Lab in Auckland on their second album, Brightly Painted One. Championed by the New York Times, NPR and David Lynch, it won Best Alternative Album at the New Zealand Music Awards in 2014, and saw a joint release by labels Bella Union, Spunk Records and Flying Nun.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Tiny Ruins

Releases

Olympic Girls
Year: 2019
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Olympic Girls Solo (Acoustic)
Year: 2019
Type: Album
Hurtling Through
Year: 2015
Type: EP
Brightly Painted One
Year: 2014
Type: Album
Haunts
Year: 2013
Type: EP
Some Were Meant For Sea
Year: 2011
Type: Album
Little Notes
Year: 2010
Type: EP

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