25 Jul 2024

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Living Clipboards - Album Review: All Over Tawa

13 May 2024 // A review by Peter K Malthus
Coming together through the vibrant Wellington indie scene, alternative rock band Living Clipboards' Mark Williams, Denise Roughan, and Jim Abbott are already well known from acts such as The 3Ds, MarineVille, and Ghost Club. The basic guitar, bass, and drum tracks were recorded over one weekend in the band's rehearsal space. Misreading the manual for the 4-track digital recorder they'd borrowed from the Wellington public library has resulted in a sonically diverse collection of songs, contributed to by layers of overdubs required when Denise and Jim relocated to Dunedin, before the album's completion.

Album opener Tawa Golden Night has a dreamy and full sound, with gorgeous chorus vocal harmonies, lyrically as if relating a fondly recalled adventure, a song like a warm welcome. Clouds is a sweet love song, a gorgeous slice of laid-back pop with golden, bell-like guitar, artfully restrained drums, and a simple but lovely piano line, with a harmonica lending an earthy feel. An ode to feuding neighbours, Off My Chest has fraught and angular guitar interacting with the bass and drums in post-punk starkness, which blooms into something more foreboding before morphing back again, ultimately fading out with a suggestion of peaceful resolution.

There is a distinctly earworm chorus to the fun and happy Jessie, a beautifully composed song. Cicadas could hardly be a more stark contrast, the music of which quite brilliantly evokes the distinct thunder of a cloud of large flying insects. The basis of Teenage Retreat came from a 9-year-old being tasked with writing a real estate listing from the perspective of the house, and it's a suitably loud and huge fuzzed-out thumper, brimming with defiance and self-righteous snark.

Petrichor is all about one of my own favourite experiences, that glorious scent of rain falling on dry soil, delivered in a richly powerful package of song, wonderfully emotive. Omar's Holiday is billed as "an instrumental inspired by Egyptian guitarist Omar Khorshid". Shuffling drums and brooding bass conspire to produce a sultry and forbidding rhythm, over which guitars jangle and clang, producing a heady musical brew of dark beauty, Lastly, CYMYM rounds things off with an almost folk-like feel, then briefly turning a corner into dirtier overtones before turning back again, a fitting song to end with, embodying many of the myriad moods of All Over Tawa... plus, its ridiculously hooky chorus will be stuck in your head long after listening...trust me on this.

I certainly hope that Living Clipboards manage to overcome geographic limitations to produce follow-up albums to this superb debut. With this amount of serious talent involved, I reckon that's a pretty strong likelihood.


About Living Clipboards

All Over Tawa is the debut album from Living Clipboards, a New Zealand 3-piece featuring local indie luminaries Mark Williams (Cookie Brooklyn and the Crumbs, MarineVille), Denise Roughan (The 3Ds, LBGP, Ghost Club, MarineVille) and Jim Abbott (Ghost Club).

All Over Tawa is a collection of 9 songs veering between low-slung menace (Cicadas), petulant snarl (Teenage Retreat) and languid pop (Clouds). The basic tracks for the album were recorded in the bands practice room over one weekend using a digital recorder rented from the Wellington public library. Due to the band members reading the 4-track manual incorrectly, the resulting set of songs that would become All Over Tawa move sonically between pristine to lo-fi and scorched earth; a combination the band happily embraced. Shortly after the initial recording session, Jim and Denise left town for Dunedin. Working over distance, Living Clipboards completed overdubs, layering the foundation of guitar-bass-drums with melodica, keyboards and a surprise appearance by Dunedin’s Leith Valley Brass Band. The album was subsequently mixed and mastered by Tex Houston.

Lyrically, All Over Tawa finds the band deep in the suburbs; singing about neighbours at war (Off My Chest); the corner dairy (Tawa Golden Night) and the smell of rain (Petrichor). For Teenage Retreat the band asked 9 year old Alfie Williams to rewrite a real estate advertisement from the perspective of the house. The album artwork and music videos continue the theme, with photos mostly taken at night around the streets of Tawa and South Dunedin.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Living Clipboards


All Over Tawa
Year: 2024
Type: Album

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