Bad Blocks – ‘Circulate EP’ (Oct 2014)
Bad Blocks – ‘Weekday EP’ (2012):
In IT, “bad blocks” are digital corruptions that render information unreadable and unwritable. For Hamish Lang (26, production) and Daniel Neeve (26, vocals, guitars, production), Bad Blocks render music that is at once familiar and yet quietly corrupted. As a two-piece electronic band, these New Zealand natives (currently residing in Melbourne, Australia) have a passion for sound, from the cold precision of drum loops to the warm hiss of analogue feedback. Think 80s and R&B for melody; Kendrick Lamar and Lapalux for beats; Celer and Arvo Pärt for space; William Basinski and Tim Hecker for deconstruction; and Clams Casino and Jon Hopkins for production.
While working at a Wellington record store, Neeve struck up a friendship with Lang, who invited him over one Saturday for a lazy afternoon jam session. What was supposed to be a few hours stretched into an entire weekend, and soon the pair were writing songs together under the name South City Sushi Cop. While SCSC’s moody-yet-invigorating dance music proved popular in New Zealand, the duo soon moved to Melbourne to avoid creative stagnation. Finding jobs as a part-time bank teller and computer technician, the pair moved into a small house outside of Melbourne, becoming flatmates and bandmates. Isolated in suburbia and scraping by, they channeled their energies into studying the reduction and essence of dance music. Slowly their party-band persona began to shift into something slower, darker, and less defined. The nature of dance music may be fast, regimented, and clear cut, but Lang and Neeve use background texture and authentic emotion to nurture their songs into something wholly their own. Lang uses soundscapes as a kind of aural diary, often wandering and listening to the world in real time through his field recorder, as one would an iPod, sifting through the emotions each sound can deliver when suddenly unfamiliar. Renaming their project Bad Blocks, record sessions became sprawling experiments in space and subtle disintegration: the band would set up recording mics in one room, then play in another, mixing in the dissonant vibrations to add color to their sharp and precise drum loops.
Lyrically as well as musically, origin stories play a huge part of Bad Block’s inspiration. Neeve was raised the son of a pastor on the Kapiti Coast, a hippie-based community on the Tasman Sea. By the age of 8 he was learning guitar and writing his first lyrics (a rap about melanoma) soon followed by countless poems and songs. Neeve eventually made his way to the New Zealand School of Music in 2008. For Neeve, a painfully shy teenager, songs were an attempt to tell epic, sprawling stories without having to say anything at all.
Lang grew up in Christchurch with his mother and brother. A former devotee of the Dunedin music scene, his mother would clean house to her blues records—always cranked to full volume to compensate for her hearing loss. The warmth and grit of those old blues and jazz records, combined with the soft purr of the audio degradation, created a feeling of nostalgia for Lang—a feeling he would later try to capture, corrupt, and recapture. While in high school, and later when studying graphic design at university, Lang immersed himself in music: studying production, playing classical music, or simply sitting alone in empty music rooms, experimenting with the vibration of piano sustain pedals.
Originally self-released as their debut EP in 2012, Weekday expands on the duo’s narrative universe and represents a moment in time when Lang and Neeve started to reimagine for themselves what dance music could be. Whether it’s metallic zings distorted to sound like shooting stars (“Forest Spitting Cola”), filter-wept synth pads drenched in field recordings of crashing waves (“Weekday”), or time elastically stretched to fill the cavernous void of an empty Berlin club on a Sunday morning (“Seven Fields of Sigh”), Weekday is a seemingly-effortless study of space, texture, and atmosphere—all observed in equal measure through the prism of acid-fueled youth and old-soul scientific curiosity in the nature of human existence. Elements are discovered, singled out, distorted, layered, and lost. Dancing, distracted, half awake. Sort it out.
Weekday is now available world-wide as a digital EP via Stars & Letters. Their follow-up EP, Circulate, releases Tuesday, October 14th 2014.
“Bad Blocks combines several great dance tracks with an atmospheric vibe that keeps the album upbeat while giving it a certain tenseness all at the same time. It’s a tremendously solid combo. Expect some great buzz…” — In Your Speakers
“One of the best thoughtful, ambient-techno pop releases I’ve heard this year.” — MAAMF
“A very smooth, diverse and danceable release which will immediately catch your ear. I do recommend checking out “Forest Spitting Cola”, my favorite track off the EP. I just love it!” — Against The Odds
“This duo from Melbourne excels far beyond any traditional grading. Generalizing them as “dance” does not do them justice…” — Partyaids TV
“Dan Neeve’s choice to sing in his own unaffected and clearly New Zealand-accented voice is a bold one, and it pays off. His earthy tone and catchy hooks sit nicely in a wash of layered lasers, ambient chimes and shifting rhythms. There is something cheeky and sneaky about this music that catches me off guard. I use this EP as an energy injection when I’m feeling lazy or want to dance like I’m at a robot disco in a rainforest.” — Off The Tracks
“Combining the nostalgia of 90s food courts and the naivety of the Power Rangers.” — Everguide
“A euphoric debut EP” — Acid Stag
“Mixing together live vocals and guitar with misty yet danceable electronics Bad Blocks create vivid soundscapes with a pop leaning.” — Under The Radar (NZ)