Music Reviews

A Few Words About Bill Direen for Cropped Out 2018

FH000028The annual Cropped Out music festival just wrapped up in Louisville, KY this past weekend. I wasn’t there, but I did get to pen a little thing in the festival program about Mr. Bill Direen, who came from New Zealand to play a set there.

Truth be told, I stole most of it from my own intro to the interview I did w/ him in Dynamite Hemorrhage fanzine #2 (still available!). Yet I shuffled the words around enough that I thought it might be interesting to Direen fans and/or potential Direen fans who stumble across this on the internet, whenever and however you got here.

Here it is:

Bill Direen has cast an enveloping and beautifully unpredictable shadow over New Zealand’s indigenous rock music landscape the last forty years, after starting up a disjointed, all-shards experimental punk rock band called Vacuum back in 1977. His music has both skirted the edges of some dominant underground musical trends while being very deliberately out of step with them as well. Direen’s strange, abstract pop creations have been both “of” and “not of” the country’s Flying Nun-dominated post-’77 musical history.

Six Impossible Things, 1980

He’s a recognized hero to those who gobbled up anything and everything Flying Nun & 1980s New Zealand coughed up, yet those who were willing to dig several layers deeper, on the periphery of the Velvets-inspired scene, have found many incredible gorgeous, offbeat pop gems such as “Alien”, “Dirty and Disgusting”, “Girl at Night” and literally dozens of others.

For you more patient and/or musically adventurous types, those who revel in the abstract and the off-putting (tape splices, compromised fidelity, live recordings and piss-takes released as LP cuts, and the like) – and who moreover get a big charge out of records released in editions of 60 or 100 or 150 – Direen’s got a goldmine of material to offer up to your camp as well.

When challenged with others’ ideas of how his music should be played, marketed or otherwise shaped, Direen has found new ways of strategizing, whether by starting his own label (South Indies, in the early 80s); by rapidly changing band members or band names; by deliberately botching his bands’ spelling and thereby willfully obscuring his own greatness (Bill Direen and the Bilders; Builders; Billdireen; Bilderburgers; Die Bilder, etc.), or by even releasing his material on CD-R.

Bill Direen’s musical output into the 21st century continues to reinforce every aspect of this iconoclastic musical ethos: contrary, beautiful, slapdash, non-commercial, raw, spontaneous and stunningly weird.

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