25 Jul 2024

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

Ha the Unclear - Album Review: A Kingdom In A Cul-De-Sac

25 Apr 2024 // A review by Cathy Elizabeth

If I could choose one word to sum up Ha The Unclear’s recent album release I would have to go with the word “inspiring”. And if I could throw a few more together in a kind of haphazard stream-of-consciousness way, I would add that A Kingdom In A Cul-De-Sac is oozing with creativity, quirky humour, plumbing the depths of musical understanding, and coming back up to the surface with a gift - permission to be one’s authentic self.

I felt very inspired by this music. Just listening to it for the first time caused a random rush of completely unrelated thoughts and ideas to flood my mind, which I needed to then quickly write down. It was very freeing. But why?

Paris label Think Zik ! obviously gets it, recently signing these four humble lads, originally hailing from Dunedin to their label. Ha The Unclear will tour the release in iconic venues in Paris before returning to New Zealand to play a series of much-anticipated home shows, with band members Michael Cathro, Paul Cathro, Theo Francis and Ben Seargent.

The album bursts into life with the quintessential break-up song Growing Mould. Michael Cathro’s unmistakably Kiwi accent delivers the devastating blow-by-blow with self-depreciating humour. Rich with backing vocals, as almost all of the songs are, and extremely catchy with retro overtones.

I absolutely love the concept behind Secret Lives of Furniture, which uses my favourite of all the writing techniques; personification. I wrote a poem many years ago using a similar concept (Relax couch, sit down chair, just stand there fridge and pass me a beer, lie down bed and curtains hide, what built-in wardrobe keeps inside … ) Mine was called Communing with the Furniture (as they carry out their domestic functions), so I was extremely excited about this song!

And wow what a masterpiece it is. Absolute genius, I have to say. The magic of personification is in its ability to project human emotions onto inanimate objects, where they can be better examined. This gut-wrenching story from the perspective of the coffee table is an intense emotional journey, and it’s just brilliant. Lyrically, musically and in every other way.

Then Mannequins gallops through, with its hilarious imagery, complex chord chart, and infectious frenetic energy. Which leads us to Alchemy. And now I’m really falling in love with the masterful use of melody and harmony this band employs. I like the 70’s throwback feeling of this song, juxtaposed with a raw and dirty guitar solo for good measure.

The album then switches up the vibe again as we get deeper in, with Paperboats; a more country aesthetic, but still somehow completely in keeping with their distinctive Ha The Unclear sound. Cathro’s voice soars in the bridge, giving Sticky Fingers vocal tones, would you believe?

Cave Paintings is a beautiful dance between guitar and vocal, and I appreciate so much that it was recorded this way. The clean simplicity of the acoustic arrangement allows its true beauty to shine.

From Wallace Line (fast becoming my favourite track of the album) through to successful singles Fish and Strangers, French 80’s cover C’est Comme Ca, and finishing out with the melancholic Infatuated and ever-reflective Mind And Matter … The album, on the whole, is a very satisfying journey. A celebration of musical literacy and playful vulnerability, showcasing a body of work from a multi-faceted, interesting, and talented band. It’s a big hearty Bravo! from me.


About Ha the Unclear

Ha the Unclear (an anagram for Nuclear Heath) is a band from the Gothic harbour town of ?tepoti/Dunedin, New Zealand.

After recording a run of lo-fi EPs, the band migrated northward to Auckland. While student radio peppered the national airwaves with singles like Growing Mould and Secret Lives of Furniture the band soon garnered wider reception with performances on prime-time TV shows 7 Days and Seven Sharp. More success followed with Invisible Lines reaching #9 on the NZ Album Charts and 2020 elevator anthem Strangers hitting #1 on the Radioscope Alternative Airplay Charts. Accompanying this, the band released a series of mind-bending music videos featuring a room full of furniture meddling in the life of their owner (Secret Lives of Furniture), an astronaut crash landing on a foreign planet (Kosmonavt), and the emergency delivery of a baby puppet in a broken elevator (Strangers). The latter track was later released on the Threads EP alongside the Sylvia Massy co-produced Julius Caesar and time travel lament Supermarket Queues.

Now signed with Paris-based label Think Zik!, the band has been warmly embraced by French audiences with playlisting on significant national radio including Europe 2, FIP, RTL 2, and France Inter and a milieu of college radio taste harbingers. 2023’s Handprint Negatives EP was recently released in the EU to critical acclaim with French press describing it as "a sweet madness" (Rolling Stone), “a real triumph…maybe confirmation of a major band” (Benzine) and a “spontaneous enthusiasm with a feeling of freshness” (Revue Pop Moderne).

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Ha the Unclear


A Kingdom In A Cul-De-Sac
Year: 2024
Type: Album
Invisible Lines
Year: 2018
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Bacterium, Look At Your Motor Go
Year: 2014
Type: Album

Other Reviews By Cathy Elizabeth

Thomas Powers - Album Review: A Tyrant Crying In Private
01 Jun 2024 // by Cathy Elizabeth
This stunning 14-track debut solo album from Thomas Powers, of The Naked and Famous fame; A Tyrant Crying in Private is intense yet delicate, holding sadness and beauty in equal measure, deliciously gorgeous in all its glitched and distorted goodness. Parts of the album feel very heavy emotionally, particularly the neo-classical instrumental pieces, which have a vast cinematic effect.
SNRXG - EP Review: True Story
06 Nov 2023 // by Cathy Elizabeth
Huntly born and raised artist SNRXG keeps the quality tracks coming with this 6-track EP True Story. Collaborating with top-notch local talent, the production on all of these tracks is mint.
Phorrest - EP Review: On My Way
19 Sep 2023 // by Cathy Elizabeth
Tuning into the new EP from Auckland hip hop artist Phorrest, the intro track does well to set the scene for the rest of the EP. But wait, why is the title track of the EP in brackets and labeled Intro (On My Way!
day13n - Single Review: PA1N x SAG3
11 Jul 2023 // by Cathy Elizabeth
Listening to Day13n’s new single PA1N x SAG3 is the stuff of nightmares, with a dark and edgy musicality underpinning the intensely whisper-screamed lyrics. The song is divided into two halves, which nicely illustrates the forces of duality that are at play in the mind of the artist.
Will McClean - Single Review: Seem Alright
21 Jun 2023 // by Cathy Elizabeth
This week Will McClean releases Seem Alright, the second track from his upcoming album Don’t Forget To Breathe, alongside an accompanying video clip. Seem Alright is a punchy upbeat jazz-funk hip-hop track that has been nicely arranged, with a dash of clarinet, strings, and a sampled jazz vocal for the chorus.
Jaqualyn Taimana Williams - EP Review: Guns of Dialogue
20 Jun 2023 // by Cathy Elizabeth
Successful children’s music creator Jaqualyn Taimana Williams has recently released a 5-track EP called Guns of Dialogue to follow up her 2019 multi-genre album Statues of Liberty. Guns of Dialogue has a great rock vibe overall, with a fusion of various other elements woven throughout its tracks.
Gig Review: Mel Parsons @ Meow, Wellington - 28/05/2023
30 May 2023 // by Cathy Elizabeth
It’s been a good while since I’ve been to a gig at Meow, Wellington, so the first thing I do is weave my way through the growing crowd to get a good look at the size and layout of the stage. It’s nicely raised and fairly spacious, more spacious than I remembered actually!
Dillastrate - Single Review: I'm Crazy
22 May 2023 // by Cathy Elizabeth
Dillastrate, the powerhouse duo from down Christchurch ways, have released another fantastic single that is sure to get you moving and grooving. I’m Crazy dropped at the start of May Music Month and is already making waves and amassing plays, demonstrating that it's been well-received by their fans.
View All Articles By Cathy Elizabeth

NZ Top 10 Singles

    Kendrick Lamar
    Billie Eilish
    Tommy Richman
    Sabrina Carpenter
    Sabrina Carpenter
    Teddy Swims
    Chappell Roan
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