Words: James Frostick
Soda Boyz, a slowcore trio hailing from New Zealand’s north island, are on the cusp of releasing their new LP Farewell Spit. The record revels in restraint and release, a beautiful balance between muted delicateness and roaring pandemonium. We’re privileged to provide a pre-release listen to the record ahead of its official arrival on Friday May 29.
Hailing from Wellington/Pōneke and Palmerston North/Te Papaioea, New Zealand’s Soda Boyz are one of the country’s finest proponents of downtempo indie rock – that kind of ponderous and fragile sound that gradually builds in complexity until it detonates in a tumultuous outburst. It’s the genre made famous by downbeat maestros such as Slint and Duster, but where those bands conveyed the sparse desolation of early-90s America, the considered jams of Soda Boyz boast the brisk crispness of New Zealand air, imbued with a windswept melancholy rather than the oppressively still claustrophobia of their inspirations. The trio are less than a week away from releasing their new long-play record Farewell Spit through Papaiti Records. Consisting of eight tracks composed and recorded over the past two-and-a-half years, Farewell Spit is a confident and measured album – one that showcases both Soda Boyz’ knack for crafting finely wrought post-rock-tinged slowcore, imbued with with a disconsolate nature that is believable and gripping.
From the opening notes of ‘May 6TH’, my mind paints mental images of grey skies, choppy coastlines and ceaseless wind that is more than a breeze but less than a gale. The record’s lead single ‘Bad Friend’ is a cheerless but relatable number – the most verbose track on the album, it dissects the break down of friendships. From there, Soda Boyz guide us across this landscape they’ve conjured, trudging through the sombre plodder ‘Home Again’, then weathering the unhinged maelstrom of ‘Dead Beat (cult)’ before the drizzle of ‘Spit’ makes way for more bluster. ‘Renamon’ sees the band dip into boisterous noise punk before settling into a passage that makes me think of Fantastic Planet-era Failure, while ‘Fader II’ is almost serene, like the eerie quiet that settles once a storm has eased. Keeping us on our toes, closer ‘Saigon II’ gives us one more chunk of chop before leaving us bewildered and alone.
Farewell Spit is a record of ebbs, flows and stillness – imposing peaks, impossibly deep valleys and serene wide plains. It’s elemental in the sense that you feel vulnerable to it, like you would any encroaching storm or any act of nature that forces you to seek shelter. Soda Boyz masterfully heighten tension using a sparse palette of sounds. The guitars are often nimble, the bass flexible and drums largely restrained – that is until they elect to let go. While much of the record is spent dwelling on these softer moments, relishing the times where less is more, I feel like this is where we tread lightly knowing that at any moment the ground beneath us can give way to a yawning chasm of noise. When Soda Boyz’ vocalist Felix Carr elects to inject words into the mix, they are often caught and swept away in the storm, making it hard to discern what he’s hoarsely trying to communicate above the din. The sound Soda Boyz expel is all-encompassing, to the point where the silence experienced after the album’s end is unsettling. That’s when I start the record again, all too eager to let the winds knock me about once more.
Listen to Farewell Spit below: