Auckland’s noise rock trio Sulfate have released their climactic second single, ‘There You Are!’ from their upcoming album ‘Godzone’ — out via Flying Nun Records on September 10th.
‘There You Are!’ was not a delicately thought-out composition — it is fundamentally the sound of a band in a room. The band, consisting of Peter Ruddell (Wax Chattels), Hariet Ellis (Na Noise, Dick Move) and David Harris (Princess Chelsea), entered the recording session with the objective of capturing a kind of nervous claustrophobia through dissonance and waves of distortion, altering the arrangement as they went to best capture that sensation. To Ruddell, “The finished recording captured that feeling of being jostled about by strangers in a dark room, while simultaneously being blinded by the flashing lights of a stage. You’re a bit scared, but it’s a good kind of scared.”
18th September — Newtown Sports Bar | Wellington
24th September — The Crown | Dunedin
25th September — Space Academy | Christchurch
26th September — Wine Cellar | Auckland
Support acts for all shows are to be announced in the coming weeks — and tickets are available now from the always incredible undertheradar.co.nz
Sulfate began as the solo project of Peter Ruddell, known for his work with the noise-rock group Wax Chattels — who were nominated twice for the Taite Music Prize, as well as for Best Alternative Artist at the Aotearoa Music Awards. The solo endeavour of Sulfate quickly morphed into a two-piece band, with David Harris’ metronomic drumming proving integral to the sound of the group.
Sulfate released their debut self-titled album in 2019 via Prison Tapes, setting out with the intention of making a truly DIY record. From writing, recording and mixing through to the “evocatively raw-edged woodcut visuals'' (Undertheradar), each element was painstakingly laboured over by Ruddell — with reviews stating that it “marks a significant first step for Sulfate and definitely demands wider attention beyond the project’s DIY roots”. With their debut, the band reached #1 on multiple student radio stations, and completed two tours of New Zealand and a tour of Australia.
It is with this foundation set that Sulfate created ‘Godzone’, an album written during the chaos of 2020, and recorded early 2021 at Ruddell’s home studio in Balmoral, Auckland. Hariet Ellis, who featured as a guest on ‘Bush’ on the debut record, has joined as a full-time band member, adding grinding, distorted bass guitar to the mix and with vocals featuring more prominently.
Drawing on influences from Bailterspace and Tropical Fuck Storm to Jóhann Jóhannsson and Earth, this sophomore album displays a natural progression from their self-titled debut. Sonically, Ruddell has been honing his production skills over the past two years, recording and mixing local acts Dick Move, Na Noise (both nominated for ‘Best Independent Debut’ at the Taite Music Awards) and Jazmine Mary. This has paid dividends, with ‘Godzone’ sounding more polished, yet retaining the DIY character of the first record.
The thematic content of the record has its sights firmly set on New Zealand society. With “Bottle It In” we hear frustration over the pace of social change; in “Crossing”, how these desires for this change are not always followed through — instead we simply enjoy the scenery; and in the titular song “Godzone” Ruddell sings of the cognitive dissonance of many New Zealanders, and how we willfully ignore the effects our actions have on our surroundings as we go about or day-to-day lives. “Forgetting” echoes this sentiment, discussing how we often misremember facts and convince ourselves of alternative realities, be it deliberately or subconsciously, so as to not have to deal with consequences and face changing our behaviour.
The promised ‘intensity through restraint’ ethos is present throughout the record. On “Forgetting” the mood is firmly set by the film-score-esque swirling textures before Ellis’ haunting vocals enter, and on “Only Half Awake” we hear a familiar funereal tempo, but this time with a screaming free-jazz tenor sax solo in the interlude sitting atop slow, grinding chords. Even when the tempos are increased we see this restraint present, such as the climactic chord in “There You Are!” being held for what seems to last an age, and the chordal movement of “Bottle It In” never rushing — embracing the hypnotism of the krautrock drum beat.
On Godzone, Sulfate opens the door to the darker side of “God’s Own Country”; New Zealand — and is out on September 10th, 2021 via Flying Nun Records.