The vast majority of unsigned bands out there are either shit, superfluous, disposable or just copies of another band. Unfortunately, the race for a record deal is usually won by those bands sprouting in the better watered plots, and the rest of the seedlings will wither and die – such are the strains of being in band. So when I come across a band that’s really decent but is lurking in the shady, untended parts of the musical garden I immediately get a bit nervous – if someone doesn’t sign them soon, they may stop what their doing and get a proper job, which would be very bad.
New Zealand’s Photonic are one such band. Photonic is really one guy called Craig. His music has nothing to do with much of the other music out there today. Somehow he has crafted a set of tracks that is both forward leaning and backward looking. It’s also totally unclassifiable.
So where do we start with this brilliant, self-published, motley collection of vignette’s and vast-scapes he’s dubbed Recorded Contact? First and foremost, this is not metal, at least for the most part. There’s no predominant style here other than perhaps sparse, indignant hardcore reminiscent of Fugazi with post-rock tendencies drifting into Mogwai territory. However, the spirit of this collection is as much rooted into the petulant lo-fi of 90’s alt icons like Pavement and Guided by Voices, and the psych-pop-metal of Pixies.
Photonic’s songs veer between half-complete ADHD experiments and fully formed post-rock mini-epics. Vocals sprinkle this album almost at random, and styles change mid-song. On the first couple of listens (and I’d listened to most of these tracks on the band’s Myspace, like, 5 times, before buying the album) you really don’t know what’s coming next.
The production is stripped back to the point of being resolutely lo-fi, which constitutes a sizeable chunk of this album’s charm. It’s difficult to tell whether this sound is intentional or the result of having too little wonga to afford a decent recording. However, let’s keep our man Craig away from Pro-tools lest he be tempted – the production here is just perfect as it is.
Photonic are another one of those bands that mix a bunch of my favourite styles in magical ways, but what an unexpected mix this is. It’s impossible to know where to place this within the modern skewed-spectrum of *cores. Craig describes Photonic as “a rock metal power-chord psychedelic beats party” and appears unable or unwilling to classify the band himself – indeed there is no-one else out there is recording music like this, at least to my knowledge. Given this, anyone who signs Photonic will be gambling on a band that damn near impossible to market. This is the travesty of the music industry, where conformity is rewarded and individuality is ignored.
Shit, someone better sign Photonic, otherwise I’ll start a record label and I’ll do it myself!
In the meantime, I implore you, give Photonic some of your money and time (check out most of the album on their myspace here). This seedling needs watering, as the world will be a duller place without it.