15 Aug 2022

Remember Me? | Join | Recover
Click here to sign in via social networking

Gig Review: Star Control & PolarisRadio @ The Wine Cellar, Auckland - 03/07/2021

05 Jul 2021 // A review by Kev Rowland

Yet again I find myself heading into central Auckland for the second consecutive night on my way to a gig, this time to a two-band bill at The Wine Cellar featuring Star Control and PolarisRadio. A few months ago, I bumped into Felix Lun at a gig where he was guesting, and while our discussion of course concentrated on the mighty and much-missed Shepherds of Cassini (where he played violin), he told me that he and drummer Omar Al-Hashimi were now two thirds of a totally different outfit called Star Control. I promised to see them when next they played, so it was back to K Road again to see what promised to be something of an interesting evening.

Since we last met, Felix had sent me a copy of their album, which was available at the gig tonight. Nothing really unusual in that I hear you say, but this one is only available on a Star Control USB drive which also includes a load of old shareware PC games, and of course a colouring book! Yes, there is an honest to god colouring book as part of this release, and after reviewing thousands of albums over the last 30+ years I have to say this is a first for me.

I caught up with Felix and David Somervell before the gig, and learned something about their line-up, which is also somewhat unusual in that they are a twin keytar outfit with real drums. I am having a hard time remembering the last time I saw one keytar, let alone two in the same band, so I was somewhat intrigued. When it came time for them to play, both David and Felix donned multi-coloured capes, and all three of them wore glasses containing LED which certainly made an impact on those watching (but also meant they were basically playing blind as they could not see anything). Even though they didn’t mention the name of the band until the end, that didn’t matter as David’s glasses kept repeating STAR CONTROL, two letters at a time. Felix had also stolen his partner’s classic 80’s game console and it was set up to project behind the band, and people in the audience were encouraged to play games through the set, so they did!

Given everything else, the music perhaps was not surprising in that it was multi-layered synths in an 80’s fashion, but with dynamic live drums cutting through. It has been some years since I last saw Omar play and I had forgotten just how powerful the softly spoken man is when he gets behind the kit. Although David and Felix were playing the lead melodies throughout, it was obvious that there was more music on the backing tracks as they just did not have enough hands. There was very little talking from the band, as they went through one instrumental number after another, and although there were times for me when it started to get somewhat repetitive there was always Omar to cut through and take it in a different direction. Only one song contained vocals, Angel, but here David was channelling his voice through the keytar and creating something very robotic and totally in keeping with the music. There was no doubt that the audience were having fun, with lots of people dancing throughout and plenty of people calling for an encore when they finished.

When I asked Dean Moroney to describe PolarisRadio he told me he was a solo act from Napier who performs instrumental, electronic, synthwave, with rock guitar. He provides dance beats with an 80’s flavour, and plenty of riffs, controlling the output through two iPads, a laptop, a synthesiser, a guitar and a bass guitar, but not all at once. While Star Control were not really a style of music I enjoy (not everyone can like everything), I was sure that PolarisRadio were going to be even further off the reservation, but I was certainly intrigued to see what this guy could do. Bearing in mind this was at The Wine Cellar, a small venue, Dean had gone all out to create something which was far more than just music being created live. There are only so many things two hands can do, so he would set the backing going, and then control it through the iPads, sometimes adding synth, guitar or bass, or just live mixing on the iPads, throwing in different sounds. Then on top of that there were 80’s style computer graphics videos linked in with the music, so it was almost as if Dean was playing a soundtrack. It was not possible to separate the visual and the audio, it was very much all part of the same thing, and one enhanced the other. Musically this felt more intense than Star Control, and there were times when there were obvious Kraftwerk influences, yet at the same time this would be perfectly at home in the rave scene.

Musically, neither band were playing something I would normally listen to, but there is no doubt whatsoever that they are very skilled at what they are going, and the audience certainly appreciated it. A great deal of effort was put into this gig, from both acts, and if this style of music is something you are interested in, then both bands are certainly worth checking out.

Photo Credit: Kev Rowland


Other Reviews By Kev Rowland

Scapegoat - Album Review: Reality and the Hanging Tree
12 Aug 2022 // by Kev Rowland
Rene Black can often be found out and about on the Auckland scene, either playing in the premier NZ Sabbath tribute band After Forever, or just supporting other bands and enjoying the vibe. We regularly bump into each other at our favourite dive, Ding Dong Lounge, but whereas that is a relatively new place for me, Rene has been on the circuit for years as he was also drummer and founding member of both His Masters Voice and {Cripple Mr.
Caitlin - EP Review: States
12 Aug 2022 // by Kev Rowland
Here we have the debut EP from young Christchurch-based indie-pop musician Caitlin (Caitlin Bradley) who is currently studying at Ara Music Arts in the city. She took the songs to Ryan Chin (Fisherman), and together with Will McGillivray (Goodwill), Thomas Isbister, and Shaun Malloch they worked to capture her innocent vocals and songs in a manner which brings together lots of different styles.
Corduroy. - Single Review: Ozone
11 Aug 2022 // by Kev Rowland
Ozone is the latest single from Wellington-based band Corduroy., and is taken from their forthcoming EP, Halftime Oranges.
Mim Jensen - Single Review: Germaphobe
11 Aug 2022 // by Kev Rowland
This is the debut single from Otautahi artist Mim Jensen, and a load of fun it is too. It commences with jangly guitar and Mim’s vocals, and soon we are taken into commercial indie rock which has definite nods back to the likes of Fur Patrol.
Moone - Single Review: I Am Who I Am
10 Aug 2022 // by Kev Rowland
There are some people who come into this world and put the rest of us to shame as to what they achieve, and undoubtedly one of those was Eva McGauley, who at the age of 15 was diagnosed with terminal cancer, to which she succumbed a little more than 3 years later. Eva was involved with the Wellington Rape Crisis Organisation, was an intern with the Green Party, ran her own charity 'Eva's Wish' raising more than $70,000 to help sexual abused survivors, was involved in the '200 Women Who will change the way you see the world' book and exhibition and was nominated for Youth Wellingtonian of the year award, among others.
Oliver Birch - Album Review: Burning Daylight
05 Aug 2022 // by Kev Rowland
This is the debut album from Auckland musician, Oliver Birch, although older versions of many of the songs contained within have already been made available as singles. When the album started with the lengthy keyboard chords and feedback intro I thought it would fall into krautrock, but instead it quickly changed into a psychedelic experimental art rock number with emotionally charged vocals and an outright refusal to conform to any expectations.
Album Review: Black Velvet Butterfly
03 Aug 2022 // by Kev Rowland
Black Velvet Butterfly are a one-man band from Auckland featuring James Castady-Kristament. I was intrigued to be sent this as when I looked on their Bandcamp page it said, “It may just well be the coolest thing you’ve heard in the Goth scene since Type O Negative.
Bill Angus and the Mighty Ways - Album Review: All Night Before the World Began
01 Aug 2022 // by Kev Rowland
Bill had a musical career in England before deciding to do something different, and returned to his roots when he started working in New Zealand. This is his third album.
View All Articles By Kev Rowland

NZ Top 10 Singles

    Steve Lacy
    Luude And Mattafix
  • DOJA
    Central Cee
    Doja Cat
    Cat Burns
    Harry Styles
    Kate Bush
    Post Malone And Doja Cat
View the Full NZ Top 40...
muzic.net.nz Logo
100% New Zealand Music
All content on this website is copyright to muzic.net.nz and other respective rights holders. Redistribution of any material presented here without permission is prohibited.
Report a ProblemReport A Problem