Auckland’s Pat Kraus is one of the most quietly important and interesting people making music in New Zealand. With Flying Nun’s recent 30th anniversary, much fuss has been made of New Zealand music lately. But surely the last thing anyone wants is yet another sluggish and bloated reunion from the Verlaines. A little digging beneath the surface will reward you with cheerfully subterranean and thrilling artists who are actually national treasures, such as one-man-band Kraus.
Although largely anonymous, Kraus is also a cofounder of and former drummer in Dunedin noise rock group the Futurians. He happily makes his solo work easily accessible via his website if you write to him. I first did so in 2005, after hearing a Kraus cassette played on a friend’s clapped-out car stereo. He sent me a “Kraus Care Package” – many CDs and a beguiling note, typewritten on a page ripped from an Alison Holst cookery book from the 1970s.
Tacitly self-sufficient, Kraus masterfully uses synchronised loops, homemade synthesisers and free-range guitar laced with homemade fuzz pedals. This could easily be mistaken as a crude and naive approach to music-making but Kraus is technically savvy and considered. He seems to carefully gauge his very singular aesthetic. Scratchy and beautifully mangled guitars are tempered with a strangely sweet and wistful honesty. Even the stunning cover of his new four-track EP is nostalgic.
The scrunched-up and rinsed-out Let Me Eat Cake is what a primitive Jean Michel Jarre could have sounded like if all his pristine and flash gear was old and broken. Inspired by the historical romance novel Lorna Doone, Pangs of Lorna is a nicely fruity and clattering progressive folk offering. Like a science fiction take on an electronic Captain Beefheart peppered with Krautrock and catchy mutant pop, A Journey Through the First Dimension with Kraus is woozy and hypnotic. Although instantly listenable, these kaleidoscopic pieces grow and reveal more alluring hooks and facets upon repeated listening.