'Ultraviolet' EP, by Empasse
by Ian Duggan
Rather than celebrating the coal towns, however, Nick describes ‘Ultraviolet’ as being “about the damage and wounds that we cannot see – in this case, it is the rural communities that have [been] battered over many generations to grow and power our larger cities…”; “successive generations in some of those communities have been hit particularly hard for land and mineral extraction. In the case of Rotowaro, a whole village that had to be destroyed to keep the coal flowing to Huntly Power Station, or the power station itself being built on sites of importance to local hapū, with the station built right next to Waahi Pā”. All of this resonated with me, having grown up there through the ‘boom’ and eventual ‘bust’ of the mining and power industries, witnessing the social change of the area first-hand, before I eventually escaped to Kirikiriroa.
But what of the music? Composed primarily during our first COVID-19 lockdown, Johnston describes it as “having cinematic qualities… something that would not feel out of place on the big screen”. This is certainly true; I can easily see these instrumentals, each of which represents different moods, from the dark and atmospheric opening track ‘Lockdown’, to the more upbeat ‘Battering Ram’ (with its relentless beat reminiscent of industrial progression), being picked up for the soundtracks of New Zealand movies. As much as I love The Phoenix Foundation, heaven knows we need a bit more variety in our movie soundtracks!
The EP is scheduled for release on 14 September 2020, and will be available through Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Tidal and YouTube.