Thing of the Day
Mr Sterile Assembly
Who are MR STERILE ASSEMBLY? They’re pretty unique actually,
uniquely excellent… Mr Sterile Assembly are from New Zealand, they have
a minefield in their playground, and their latest album, Transit, is
something we rather recommend..
MR STERILE ASSEMBLY –Transit (Skirted) – They sound like a more frantic Gong - a slightly stressed day on that planet - or maybe a band on the run from the raggity zaggity crowman of planet Ring? They sound good from the off; hold the front page, we got one here.
There’s a slight sense of claustrophobia, a threat of some sort, with song subjects based in the harsher realities. The album opens with the menacing, urgency of Hibakusha, a song written about a real-life survivor of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they have delightfully awkward sound that continually evolves and never fails to challenge. Gone a little Wilco Johnson messing with The Ex right now: intricate clever rhythmic weaving, that old school Pere Ubu new wave weird-punk art-fuelled feel, and all the while with details and tunes (and clever moves) all of their own…or maybe Cheesecake Truck? Dog Faced Hermans? Their combination of sometimes intricate time changes, female voice, dark-edged melody and real-world lyrics can even be reminiscent of Thinking Plague.
They’re rather unique actually, uniquely excellent. Mr Sterile Assembly are from new Zealand, they have a minefield in their playground, (a mindfield?), they’re exploding things in your mind, they’re forever shifting, changing shape, never retaining a status quo. Gong at their most edgy, at their probingly subversive is probably the nearest thing you can pin on them in terms of a positive comparison - playing with fire, to question and to learn…. This latest album stands out far far more than previous things we’ve heard from these rather creative New Zealanders; this is great, even with all that paranoia and that electric Orwellian warning and the monitoring of your every logged-on communication check in, the watching of everything you ever say or do tagged there by the Man in cyberspace…
Mr Sterile Assembly have a sound that somehow is oppressive and delightful both at the same time. They sound paranoid, they sound switched on, they sound aware, they also sound like thoroughly decent people, inviting people, come join our band - a Crass-like collective you’d really like to be part of and muck in with (Crass always sounded like they’d be such hard work to be part of: this gathering sounds inviting). And even when the sound is getting a little frantic and the saxophone is sounding a little like a maniacal goose, they still flow so well. Mr Sterile Assembly are never aggressive in terms of musical style, never pecking at your head. They may be throwing out questions, but it's not just head-on arguing. They’re too artistically intriguing to be about mere confrontation as they take you on their ever flowing, ever shifting, ever thrilling musical/lyrical ride… All open mouth expectant, man swallows his own tail, all clever time changes and awkward song structures (along with a fine dress sense).
The band are mostly drummer/vocalist
Kieran Monaghan and
bassist/vocalist Chrissie Butler - the two piece are augmented by a
number of guests and scuttling collaborators. Transit is a
challenging album, hardboiled but somehow never difficult to listen to,
album that at times is brilliant, an album that’s always very very good
(and complemented by good artwork/packaging). They may be from the
side of the world and we may not get that much of a chance to see them
live, but this is an album and a band that you do need to go explore.
Video for Stella, a track off this latest album
Mr Sterile Assembly, Anarchist Shop, Newtown, Wellington, NZ
Live at Fredstock, 2010