G I G R E V I E W
Half/Time & Glass Shards
Flight Mode 3 – The Never Project Space, Level 1, 123 Commerce St, Frankton, Hamilton
By Gareth Schott
Flight Mode Vol. 3 was the third instalment of the monthly ambient event hosted by The Never Project Space. It featured two well-known local musicians/artists: Wairehu Grant and Oliver Stewart.
First up was Half/Time, the new solo project by Wairehu Grant. Formerly of Cartoon Villain, Blood Lux, Celebrity Death Hoax, Grant is currently mixing with punkademics as he’s in the midst of completing a PhD at the University of Waikato (Te Whare Wananga o Waikato) entitled: Three Chord Rebellion and the White Cloud: Examining Indigenous Punk Identities in Aotearoa. The relevance to a gig review? His academic work is clearly not separate from his creative and community life. Grant’s current musical output as Half/Time is a vehicle for his current thinking and engagement with the politics of indigenous self-determination and rights (“I’ll Ask the Mountain”). The set featured Grant’s first song penned in Te Reo, “He Tangata,” alongside his version of “Pokarekare Ana.”
Described as: “Inspired by post-rock and film soundtrack assemblages of synth, guitar and rhythmic loops,” Grant’s set was indeed an eclectic mix of instruments and tools incorporating many aspects of his former projects. What’s new about Grant as Half/Time is the effortless blending of genres, with the set featuring elements of dark ambient, hints of ambient neo-classical, trip hop, protest song, post-punk, and garage rock. Large sections of the set began as ambient or instrumental tracks that then became a platform or container for more conventional song structures. I got the sense that the aim wasn’t to convince an audience they were watching a full band. On several occasions throughout the set Grant was content to play either guitar or keyboards unaccompanied by any other sonic layers. Moments that are rarely possible in a band context. Overall the set moved between melodic, serene ambient soundscapes, biting political commentary and nostalgic celebration.
As a segue between the two musical acts, the back-projection of visuals for both Half/Time and Glass Shards was also used to showcase new poetry of Essa May Ranapiri. A powerful piece titled:
After a wee false start (a small technical glitch) the unflappable Glass Shards, dressed for the performance in his Sani Does custom-made Shards tracky suit and clown make-up, got things going again. I think it is probably time for Stewart to review and update the way he describes his music as “the ringing in the back of your skull after a skull fracture” as Glass Shards has evolved into so much more. He has become a truly melodic, tuneful, rhythmic live act. In the earliest days of the band Stewart certainly seemed to purposely test (even punish) his audience with the most gruelling combinations of twisted, distorted, shattered, cracked sounds. While his sonic palette largely remains the same, sounds and effects are blended and used in support of increasingly more complex song structures. Stand out track was set closer “Roar / Whimper.” Like Half/Time the transitions between songs were flawless.
For both performers the venue worked to their advantage. So often solo performers are confined to the early part of the evening, first up, warming up the stage for full bands that are inevitably louder (but not necessarily better). With no stage, those present were able to gather around the performers, giving them access to all the actions and manipulations necessary to make the lush ambience and soundscapes of both bands. Performatively the coordination of pedal pushing, knob twiddling, channel selecting, string plucking and cable wrangling was amazing to behold. How Glass Shards recalls and sings lyrics whilst cueing up the next sound, sample, or instrument setting is a joy to watch. Staring at the slogan “shard me up daddy” written on his track pants backside, less so. Although, those words provide a reminder that Glass Shards will always find a way to unnerve regardless of how professional and efficient the music making gets.
It has been a good few weeks for the DIY local solo artist. The new single by Bitter Defeat “Light that Shines”, once a solo bedroom recording project (now a full band), has received radio play across the country. Nick Johnson (Sora Shima, The Changing Same and Dynamo Go) has just released the excellent Ultraviolet EP as solo project Empasse. Nick was in the audience for this show. Let’s hope that as he was enjoying Half/Time and Glass Shards he was also contemplating how he might translate his solo recordings into a future Flight Mode live show.