23 Sep 2021
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Wax Chattels - Gig Review: Wax Chattels @ San Fran, Wellington - 18/06/2021

20 Jun 2021 // A review by David McGurk
Starting almost right on time – not quite as precise as the militant time slots enforced at the now-closed ‘Puppies’ but closer than you would normally expect in Wellington – Soft Plastics took the stage. It took me a little while to get it. The trio’s third song, an instrumental which sounded like something off an early Phoenix Foundation EP, had me nodding lazily with the crowd. A moment of post rock at the end of a song called Loser was closer to getting everybody hyped – and that’s what we wanted, because we were there, in Mint Chicks and  Die! Die! Die! T-shirts, to see some furious, chaotic music – but the whimsical straightforward songs never quite got the blood pumping. If I closed my eyes and imagined myself listening under a rainy tin roof the music was great. But it was an odd choice of opener for a manic post punk trio.


The five-piece Dateline followed. They had some speed, energy, and a stern-faced percussionist which led to a bit more shuffling on the dance floor. The songs were well-structured (verses and choruses) with plenty of melodic oohs and ahhs, but once again I found it an odd pairing to the main event. I was there to see something relentless, and I couldn’t switch gear into these perky rock songs.

Wax Chattels brought down the fury I came for. Drummer Tom Leggett machine gunned his 2-piece kit like a mathy Jon Theodore. I loved the way he could hammer down grooves of boggling complexity and then stick to them. This repetition, no matter how bizarre the hits, let me latch on and find a sense of place in the madness. And that madness was thick. Amanda Cheng’s distorted bass was as percussive as it was musical. I have no idea what Peter Ruddell was doing to his synth set-up, but the abuse he inflicted upon it created possibly the most precise wall of noise I’ve ever heard from a live act. In the times when something musically unexpected happened (which was often), the band would nearly always return to an earlier groove. This cyclic playing style recalled a lesson from my tabla teacher: ‘Hear the first, recognise the second, anticipate the third’. Verses and choruses be damned – this was all about movements and moments: recognition and anticipation. Both Cheng and Ruddell took turns to glare and yell at us. I was mesmerised, rooted as much as I could be to San Fran’s unnervingly wobbly floor.

“We’ve got shirts, records and… tote bags,” said Ruddell in one of the strange, silent spaces between bursts of music. A pause. Then, “Apparently it’s a very Kiwi thing to hock shit on stage?”

The crowd leaned 30 and above; it was the Flying Nun crew – the folk who came of age in the 90's underground, hit their late 20s confused as the Wellington dance and pill revolution hit, and now, all suits and management, were climbing in an out of rare pockets of alternative music in an otherwise adult Kiwi life. Or perhaps I’m projecting – when I saw The Mint Chicks on the same stage in 2006 Kody Nielsen hung upside down from a beam while we raged and tore at each other. Now there were too many glasses of wine on the dance floor. Only a small, dedicated pile of giant dough boys even got close to moshing as the rest of us kept a cautious eye them. I suppose I imagined waves of shoving and sweat, but most of the crowd seemed to jerk politely and try to make sense of everything. After Cede, a sub two-minute cathartic scream-fest from Cheng featured on the band's latest album, Clot, the guy behind me muttered to his mate, awed, “Oh my god what the hell? that was so good.” It really was.


Photo Credit: Garry Thomas Photos

 

About Wax Chattels

The inception of Wax Chattels occurred rather rapidly. Several years after completing Jazz school together, Peter Ruddell and Amanda Cheng reconnected at a Preoccupations show in 2016 at Auckland’s legendary Kings Arms Tavern. The pair quickly decided that they wanted to create some noise together, and wrote a few demos before enlisting drummer Tom Leggett. It wasn’t long before Wax Chattels were up and positively running, becoming a fixture at local haunts and dive bars with their punishingly abrasive, yet polished, live set.

The band were a week shy of embarking on their 2017 DIY tour of Japan, China and Taiwan when they played a set at Auckland’s independent festival The Others Way. Captured Tracks founder, Mike Sniper, happened to be in the room for just two songs of Wax Chattels’ set, before he had to rush off to DJ in another venue. As it turns out, those two songs were proof enough for Mike Sniper and Ben Howe to co-sign Wax Chattels to Captured Tracks and Flying Nun Records on the spot. The band played an unscheduled set at an industry showcase the following night, which allowed Mike to fully comprehend what he’d got himself into. As the band have since said, “We want to play shows that make people feel uncomfortable. The goal is to leave the audience feeling slightly altered, like they have experienced — not just heard or seen — something."

It is universally agreed that Wax Chattels are a must-see live act and their eponymous debut album captured this perfectly. Their hypnotically sinister debut was released in May 2018 and was supported by six months of relentless touring: a NZ tour, two tours of Australia, a stint in the UK and two major North American tours. The album reached #7 on the Official New Zealand Album Charts, and album release week saw the title feature as #1 in Rough Trade’s ‘Top 20 New Releases’ and AV Club’s “most anticipated album”. The album’s success at home and abroad led to the well-deserved nomination of Best Alternative Artist at the 2018 New Zealand Music Awards, as well as the band’s inclusion in the coveted shortlist of finalists for the Taite Music Prize and Auckland Live Best Independent Debut Award. After a knock-out debut, the anticipation that surrounds their sophomore album, Clot, is immense.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Wax Chattels

Releases

Clot
Year: 2020
Type: Album
Live at Part Time Punks
Year: 2018
Type: EP
Wax Chattels
Year: 2018
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape

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