MESTAR : PORCUPINE : EYE 020
Onward into a new century and a new generation of good old Dunedin quirky twisted guitar pop legacy MESTAR emerges with their third CD and first released on YELLOW EYE.
MESTAR comprises John White (vocals, guitar) , Stefan Bray (vocals, bass) and Ian Wilson (vocals,drums). It's a classic framework, a guitar based three piece, with a guest cast including HDU's Tristan Dingemans (space guitar), Jay Clarkson and CLOUDBOY's Dermania Lloyd (vocals). The result is PORCUPINE.
"Our plan was to make an album of three minute, rock anthem, fairytale, pop songs. Then we found ourselves in MESTAR-LAND with our all-time favourite guitar-music-scientist, Dale Cotton (HDU, Dimmer and Sola Rosa), working the levers and buttons. We wanted this album to have a much wider scope than our previous releases - to explore more fully the places that the MESTAR sound could travel - the result is a very diverse record. The intention was for each song to inhabit quite a distinct space, the album constituting a kind of journey through these places. We explored various musical styles, veering away from straightforward 4/4 guitar pop in order to create a vast landscape - the MESTAR world. We are very happy with the finished record - our grand pop extravanganza! It exudes the confidence that we felt during its creation and has that multi-layered feeling about it that many of our favourite albums possess. Enjoy!!!"
RIPITUP Juny/July 2002 (4/5 stars)
Recorded with engineer Dale Cotton (HDU, Dimmer) and several special friends including HDU's Tristan Dingemans and Cloudboy's Demarnia Lloyd, Mestar's third is one of the better Kiwi pop albums of recent times. The songs and arrangements have a particular gangly elegance that makes them unmistakably Dunedin. John White's voice exudes purpose and character while frequent harmonies support and lift the sound seamlessly. Guitars strain then settle, crackle then purr. Porcupine is a modern pop construct that endears itself with a grainy, matt finish.
- Daniel Loughnan
TEARAWAY October 2002
This Dunedin trio use drums, bass and a fuzzy wash of guitars to achieve some curious effects. They're upbeat and quirky - think mid-1990s New Zealand band Bressa Creeting Cake - but John White's voice lends itself well to more pensive tunes.
With a few synthesizers and space guitars the album becomes a lovely mixture of soft and spiky.
These songs are full of fairlands and strange galaxies, bumblebee trees (?) and distant planets.
Mestar are captivated by distance, travel, and that drifting void between one place and the next; and they're always on a journey.
Listen to Porcupine late at night, when you're in that drifty place between wake and sleep
The real power in the album is the eyes-closed drug-rush plough rock in 'Drift' and the stand out track 'Start To Cry', which seeps slowly, surely, pushing waves of sound in a uniquely Dunedin manner. Songs like 'Ovientar, 'Distant Star' and Land Of Dreams' remind me why MESTAR became popular - an utter mastery of the post-grunge pop rock songcraft. With a little bit of marketing, there is no reason why PORCUPINE shouldn't breach parts of the New Zealand market that are untouchable to so many other bands.
OTAGO DAILY TIMES (CD Of The Week)
To the list of strong NZ releases made in the past few years, add the name MESTAR. Don't put it near the bottom; put it near the top. Then highlight it. Formed in Dunedin several years ago (1996), MESTAR comprises John White (vocals, guitar), Stefan Bray (vocals, bass) and Ian Wilson vocals, drums). It's a classic framework, a guitar based three piece. Twist the sonic potential with a cast including HDU's Tristan Dingemans, Jay Clarkson and CLOUDBOY's Dermania Lloyd and the result is PORCUPINE, MESTAR's 12 song second album.While songwriter White provides the inspiration for MESTAR's material, his cohorts, aided by the ears of engineer Dale Cotton, alternately bludgeon or hone it. Songs are cast into a disturbed outer space (yes, there are subtle 3D's influences here, opening track 'Ovientar' one example), or are stripped down to the heart of the matter. Take 'Bumblebee Tree', frail, delicate almost twee, or 'Starry Eyes', a beautifully simple song, unafraid to speak of love in plain words. Elsewhere there's 'Distant Star', which has at its core a haunting, harmonic gutiar/ keyboard line (the sound is so deliberately grainy it's hard to work out its source) which urges the song forward into the ether. Perhaps the highlight of the album is 'Journey', a heavily compressed effort which benefits from Dingeman's 'Space Guitar'' in the verses and Lloyd's vocal contribution in a bridge which splits off from the song, providing an engaging electronic interlude before the hammer comes down and the band returns to its hypnotic rhythm, aided by a drum machine. Finally , warmed by the double bass and close harmonies of closing track 'Black and White', you emerge from MESTAR's cocoon, perhaps not shaken, but certainly stirred.
Continuing in a NZ Music month-friendly vein, the second album from Dunedin-bred trio MESTAR shows that they should be considered - alongside Auckland's BETCHADUPA, PLUTO and GOODSHIRT - as yet another band of vivid pop imagination and creative rock'n'roll urges. PORCUPINE's dozen tracks neatly balance three-piece guitar-fired, hook-and-harmony-heavy numbers such as the lead tracks 'Ovieneter' and 'Jitter' with adventurous sonic wanderings like the electro-beat powered 'Journey' (featuring guitar wig-out by HDU's Tristan Dingemans and guest voice of CLOUDBOY's Demarnia Lloyd) and the squalling 'Land of Dreams'. Wasn't too taken with the near-parody folk psychedelia of 'Bumbletree' or 'Fairytale' ("the porcupine needs some turpentine to shine" being just one of those lines that stands out for the wrong reasons). But the quite lovely Nick Drake-esque semi-acoustic 'Starry Eyes' makes up for it among the album's quieter offerings. Elsewhere they can resemble modern echoes of Dunedin ancestors the CHILLS (especially 'Rock'n'Roll Word') or SNEAKY FEELINGS, while sounding like one of the more vital pop-rock outfits to come out of our southern climes in quite some time.
If these guys were in Britain they'd be hailed as the next COLDPLAY. But then if they were living there they wouldn't be producing music like this. Dunedin based three piece MESTAR have echoes of many great kiwi bands- the clever song structures of the CHILLS, the restrained sonics of HDU and the pop touch of the STEREOBUS - but create a sound thats all their own . From the whimsical pop of 'Rock n Roll World' and 'Fairytale' to the fuzz guitar of 'Land Of Dreams' and 'Start To Cry' this album is packed full of good songs. The sound is characterised by singer/ guitarist John White's distinctive voice- he reminds me a bit of ELLIOT SMITH. Its rare to find a rock vocalist who can hold centre stage as covincingly as he does on the beautiful acoustic gem 'Starry Eyes'. Another standout is 'Drift', with its sonic, driving insistince and wonderfully pointless refrain - a classic. If you like original, alternative guitar music, you won't find better.