BAND OF THE WEEK: postcards from new zealand
A mysterious shape-shifting entity with over twenty albums to their name already. Hang tight.
It almost got deleted. You have to understand, if I leave my email inbox alone for a couple of hours, I return to 562 unread messages. So a weird email just saying “postcards from new zealand”, all in lower caps like that, will only elicit a “why didn’t this fucking travel website ad thing go directly to spam in the first place?”. But then I noticed the email preview also said “New Promo Materials Available”, and it was coming from a good PR, so a little alarm went off. This is how you discover things sometimes, like when the equally strange and mysterious (though not so anonymous these days) pando slithered into my inbox in all their similarly lower-capped glory with their fantastic debut ‘negligible senescence’, still one of my favourite albums of this century. So anyway, yeah, turned out postcards from new zealand was a band, described as an “illusive and anonymous project”, maybe from New Zealand, maybe not.
In that initial email, I discovered they are going to release an “epic trilogy” of albums this year. The trilogy is called ‘betwixt and between’ (a title taken “from the 1967 essay by Victor Turner in which he explores the concept of liminality, based on the work of Arnold van Gennep and his 1909 book Rites de Passage”) and it starts with the violence of ‘burn, witch, burn’, the album that was kindly offered as a promo with this press release. Says there it “explores humanity’s hatred, how it grows out of fear for the unknown that leads to acts of destruction even against one’s own kind,” and also that it focuses “on discrimination towards women but also of women and men turning against each other in through the spread of hatred.” All of it sounded great and like there was some serious thought behind things here, so I slapped the album on, figuratively slapping of course as we are talking .mp3 files, and as the initial trio of bizarrely titled songs (‘who’s wearing pants’, ‘on a silver plate’ and ‘all the same’) soon exploded - no intros, no bullshit - into a noisy, sludgy, pleasingly well-produced (I was somehow expecting a bedroomy, super raw thing) oblique black/death metal-ish affair, far from obvious in terms of structures and variation, the kind that will give super-orthodox “trve” black metal people more hilarious hissy fits, I stopped doing whatever it was that was keeping them in background noise status and decided to investigate further.
I was thinking all this time that this was a bold way to announce yourself as a band, so you can imagine my surprise when I fired up their bandcamp and discovered these people have been around since 2008 and have since then released, wait for it, over TWENTY albums, including a live release and an EP. None of them are throwaway stuff either - there are thematic series among these, like the ‘we watch them devour’ albums which are “an ongoing series of instrumental albums that paint post-apocalyptic scenes of urban devastation,” the ‘the viral trilogy’ released during Covid times, or the newer ‘sketches of pain’ series, apparently covers made just with synthesizers, drums and vocals. Around all this, a steady string of albums, all of which shockingly different from each other - from the raw Neurosian ‘pfnz iv: spare graves’, to the weird heavy psych of ‘atlas moth’ (apparently their first record without screams or growls, which considering the quality of the clean vocals employed, is surprising in itself), the Gnaw Their Tongues-ish electronic nightmare of ‘pfnz vi: empty room’ or the amazing ‘blood at the root’ which features drone/noise/black metal-infused reworkings of old blues songs, including some that people like Diamanda Galás have made all their own like ‘See That My Grave Is Kept Clean‘ or ‘The Thrill Is Gone‘ (sorry guys, these ones have their own capitalization already established), just to mention a few of the ones I’ve explored better and have become my favourites, discovering this band feels like one of those fever dreams where you’re at a festival and you don’t know anyone who’s playing and everything is awesome.
(they seem to have a great sense of humour and they post fake covers of their albums like this one on their Instagram, how cool is that?)
As for the current trilogy, well, yes, ‘burn, witch, burn’ could even be a good place to start off your exploration of pfnz’s many, many, MANY style ramifications, slightly more conventional than most of their discography and a great, hard-hitting bout of sludgy black metal that will have a tremendous impact all on its own, even if you forget the deep rabbit hole that this band turns into as soon as you get even a little into their stuff. It was officially released on April 15th and you can find it on their bandcamp as the latest release, but since then, another promo has already landed on my inbox, fully prioritised as soon as I saw what it was (one learns), with ‘nin-an-ak’, the second installment of that announced ‘betwixt and between’ trilogy, and whaddya know, it’s a completely different beast from ‘burn, witch, burn’. Scheduled to be released on July 8th, it’s a five part instrumental suite about the Sumerian goddess Inana: a cinematic, often bombastic, orchestral affair, almost like a soundtrack to a particularly evocative horror movie.
So, though there’s still a lot of their past catalogue to get to know better, currently I’m both in awe of this new chapter, and super looking forward to what the closing of the trilogy will bring. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will be equally surprising and remarkably well done. Not many bands with over twenty albums in their discography can still say that about their current stuff, right? postcards from new zealand, man. Who would have guessed it?