19 Sep 2021

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

Written By Wolves - EP Review: Secrets - The Collab Project
16 Sep 2021 // by Kev Rowland
Since I started writing for New Zealand’s #1 music site, https://www.muzic.
Alien Weaponry - Album Review: Tangaroa
16 Sep 2021 // by Kev Rowland
There is no doubt whatsoever that Alien Weaponry have captured the imagination not only of the New Zealand public, but metalheads worldwide, with their combination of groove and thrash metal mixing with their Maori heritage to create something very special indeed. There really is no other band quite like them, although I do sometimes find myself thinking of the impact of Sepultura and their Roots album, but one does need to remember that was Sepultura’s sixth album, some 12 years after their first release.
Domingo Candelario - EP Review: Sin Palabras
16 Sep 2021 // by Kev Rowland
Although there is always a very Cuban base to his music, Domingo has covered many different styles, as he transcends culture and language: music is about expressing emotions honestly and he tries to be as unique as he can.  As a child, his parents listened to a lot of Brazilian music, and he was fascinated by the way they used harmonies: it was so beautifully put together, so soft and in connection with the soul.
Glenn Bodger - Album Review: I'll Leave The Light On
16 Sep 2021 // by Kev Rowland
Here we have the debut solo album from Glenn Bodger, who provided most of the instrumentation himself, although he has also been assisted by former Braintree bandmate Darryn Harkness, who helped with additional guitar, bass and keyboards where required. From the gentle, almost cautiously picked acoustic guitar notes on opener I’ll Leave The Light On, we are brought carefully into a world which is dated yet fresh, comfortable but new, as he mixes together different musical elements in an independent, alternative style which is often somehow commercial and others when they are definitely not.
Samantha Josephine - EP Review: Fly Bird Fly
15 Sep 2021 // by Kev Rowland
Samantha Josephine's six-track Fly Bird Fly EP is less than 13 minutes long, but in many ways that makes total sense, as there is a feeling within this that we are being allowed into a secret and very personal world and that it would be intrusive to stay for too long. One can imagine Samantha performing in a corner, hoping that no-one will see or hear her, and when I read in her bio that only her girlfriend has seen her perform in the last year, and that even she is not allowed to be around when Samantha is writing, then it makes perfect sense.
The Night - Single Review: Untouchable
12 Sep 2021 // by Kev Rowland
This cannot be right. According to the information I have in front of me, this Wellington-based band was formed from a group of music students in 2017, started performing live in 2018, and their ages now range from 15 to 18!
Channeled - EP Review: Perception
12 Sep 2021 // by Kev Rowland
As I have said previously, 2020 was a breakthrough year for Channeled, as Ben Ruegg recorded the second album and formed an operational live band to make it more than just a studio project. They made it through to the final of the Ding Dong Lounge Battle of the Bands and set up a headline show at the same venue with Cafe Fistfight and Mariner as support to celebrate the release of I Heard Penelope Sing, but then disaster struck with Ben being rushed to hospital following a Grand Mal seizure.
Empress - EP Review: Trash Dynasty
10 Sep 2021 // by Kev Rowland
Empress were formed by guitarist/singer Lora Thompson and drummer Craig Gilliver after the demise of their previous project, Cheshire Grimm with whom they toured the length of NZ, played with international acts and local superstars, as well as releasing material along the way. The lead track from this EP, Sailing the Seas of Grease, was actually released towards the end of 2020 but it has taken until now for their six-track 23-minute-long debut EP to made available.
View All Articles By Kev Rowland

NZ Top 10 Singles

  • STAY
    The Kid LAROI And Justin Bieber
    Lil Nas X feat. Jack Harlow
    Ed Sheeran
    Elton John And Dua Lipa
    Glass Animals
    Billie Eilish
    Ed Sheeran
    Doja Cat
    Drake feat. Travis Scott
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