Archive for the Birchville Cat Motel Category

Birchville Cat Motel – With Maples Ablaze (Scarcelight Recordings) 2004

Posted in Birchville Cat Motel, Drone, Music, New Zealand Bands, noise with tags , , , , on February 26, 2011 by noisenoisenoise

Two of the first “out there” experimental/noise bands that I heard were the almight Yellow Swans and New Zealand’s Birchville Cat Motel, basically the alias of Campbell Kneale. Sadly both “bands” are now gone. They’re all still making records under different names and both bands left a legacy of fantastic records.

It’s worthwhile tracking down some of Birchville Cat Motel’s work because I think he is one of the few artists that managed to combine field recordings and drone so well that a menacing pastoral ambience is created.  BCM also straddled other genres. I’m a huge fan of his black metal/psych records like Bird Sister Blasphemy  and Astro Catastrophes but I think he did his finest work when he embraced the drone. Maybe With Maples Ablaze is my favourite record of his entire catalogue. I found this heavily discounted at my local record store a fortnight ago and I nearly wept when I found it.

Over its 10 untitled tracks Kneale creates extraordinary palettes of field recordings and drone.  With Maples Ablaze often sounds somewhere between KTL, Menche and ambient Kevin Drumm. It is superb and like just about everything BCM released now out of print. This record has inspired me to reconnect with the ten or so records of his that I own. There are some great records you need to track down but if the only thing you can find easily is Seventh Ruined Hex put your hand in your pocket. When I reviewed it a few years ago I was dismissive of it. I was wrong. As an aside – I don’t advocate this often but if you find a sneaky download of With Maples Ablaze start clicking. An important work from a band that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Birchville Cat Motel & Yellow Swans (Important) 2006

Posted in Birchville Cat Motel, noise, yellow swans with tags , , , , on March 30, 2010 by noisenoisenoise

(If you think you’ve read this before it is probably because you have. This is a review I did in 2006 that was combined with BCM’s Chi Vampires – I hate my review for that record so decided to have another go and post them separately)

I don’t know what it is, but once Yellow Swans decide to team up with other noise artists the results are certainly a mixed bag. I recently came into possession of their outing with The Cherry Point, Live at Camp Blood. Now that is the most horrendous thing I’ve heard in quite a while. There is no light just an unrelenting maw of the most extreme noise. It’s a sadistic slice of ear-buggery.

Likewise there is little light in their outing with BCM. It consists of two tracks which were recorded during Yellow Swans tour of New Zealand. Terminal Saints clocks in at over 27 minutes and starts promising enough. An incessant mid- frequency throb gets proceedings underway. Found sounds are added as the tension slowly builds and then …. nothing. This is pure BCM in many ways. The track does not build to a crescendo. It merely exists. Perhaps the point is the tension. The electronic throb stays constant but the intensity of the track slowly builds as layer upon layer is added, before each new noise is thrown aside for the next. When it seems the track will collapse under its own weight, it teeters on the edge before retreating  and continues …. incessantly. There is no relief. There is only noise.

The second track is Marble Carcass which comes in at a sprightly 22 minutes. This track is a very different beast from the first. At times it is an extreme ugly chaotic mess but at least there is relief. The noise does what is supposed to do. It cannibalises itself in a self indulgent, aural orgy of bastardry.

In the end the collaboration works but it never trumps their individual output.

Black Boned Angel – Verdun (Riot Season) 2009

Posted in Birchville Cat Motel, Black Boned Angel, Doom, Music, New Zealand Bands with tags , , , , , on July 21, 2009 by noisenoisenoise


As some of you may know, Campbell Kneale, Mr Birchville Cat Motel himself hung up his feline moniker at the end of last year to focus on his new project Our Love will Destroy The World. The good news is that his side project Black Boned Angel continues to go on strongly. I was a huge fan of his BCM project yet had never dabbled with  Campbell’s drone-metal project, Black Boned Angel, a trio of Wellington musicians which includes James Kirk and Jules Desmond.. Fuck knows why really because I absolutely loved BCM’s Bird Sister Blasphemy. This, the band’s latest release on the awesome Riot Season, is an absolute gem. In fact it may be one of the finest doom records I have ever heard. The album itself lists three tracks but they are pressed as one continuous track. The titles references the battle of Verdun during World War One which claimed 250 000 lives. The thing I find interesting about the title is how tragic, military misadventures are a huge feature of schooling in the Antipodes and battles such as Gallipoli are etched into the psyche of most Australians and New Zealanders. Our understanding of  war is sober, without glory and critical of the folly of war.  In listening to Verdun it makes sense that the conflict is scored through crunching Sunn O))) riffs and futile drones. What lifts this above your average drone record is the addition of an operatic chorus belting out Wagnerian funereal hymns underneath the wall of crushing guitars. The effect is magic and somehow a natural fit for the horror that was Verdun. This record comes across a lot like Gorecki’s Misere on steroids. Riot Season are only releasing 1000 copies of this and you’d be smart to get one before they sell out.  One of the best albums of 2009 so far.

Birchville Cat Motel – Gunpowder Temple of Heaven (Pica Disk) 2008

Posted in Birchville Cat Motel, Drone, Music, New Zealand Bands, noise with tags , , , on March 2, 2009 by noisenoisenoise


Now this is a treat for the Birchville Cat Motel and/or drone fan. In term so of the  music what you get  is one 40 minute track of sublime drone/noise. I’ve always migrated towards Campbell Kneales more rock base noise projects rather than his forays into a pure, minimalist drone. Gunpowder Temple of Heaven may have finally converted me and over the next couple of weeks I’m going to re-listen to all of the BCM recods that I already own to get a sense of where this fits in. Another treat for fans of BCM and New Zealand underground music in general, is  the essay by the Dead C’s Bruce Russell that accompanies the beautiful and thoughtful packaging of this record. I’ll quote:

” Thus for me, Gunpowder Temple of Heaven is a complex cluster of metaphors: linguistic, historical and musical. the proof, however, is in the pudding. It is the psychotropic effects of listening to this carefully laminated composition which makes it clear that there is in fact more than accidental confluence of image and sound. What you see and hear is , remarkably, exactly what you get – a consciousness-capturing dose of sounds that grips your skull like an abductor’s taped-on mask. I personally recommend it.”

Birchville Cat Motel – Summers Seething Pulse (Mar/ino) 2003

Posted in Birchville Cat Motel, Drone, Music, New Zealand Bands, noise with tags on October 11, 2008 by noisenoisenoise

I’ve been a bit ambivalent about Birchville Cat Motel this year. It’s because of the extremely disappointing Seventh Ruined Hex that he released on Important last year. That record highlighted just how careful a drone artist has to be in injecting enough texture into their noise to keep the listener engaged. What Seventh Ruined Hex managed to do was bore the shit out of me. It had it’s moments but those moments were few and far between. This year I drifted over to the recordings of Daniel Menche and I hadn’t given Birchville Cat Motel’s new output  a great deal of thought. I’m happy with the records of his I own  but his last release made me wary of dabbling again. 

Birchville Cat Motel release two different sort of records; the dark ambient rock pig records like Our Love Will Destroy the World and Bird Sister Blasphemy and the blissed, transcedent, drone ambience of Birds Call Home Their Dead and Chi Vampires. I’ve always loved the field recordings he infuses into his sound and whether it’s his drone or rock based recordings Birchvile Cat Motel is still one my favourite artists. Summers Seething Pulse is a record I never knew existed until three weeks ago. I have no idea how I stumbled over it but somehow during a late night surfing session I got directed to stumbled across this and I clicked that purchase button before I had time to think. Like most BCM records, Summer’s Seething Pulse is beautifully packaged. It’s limited edition and is on the elsieandjack sub-label Mar/ino which is all about the simple packaging of superb sounds. It’s cheap as chips (even with the horrible exchange rate) and if you have any interest in Birchville Cat Motel it would be difficult to find a more tremendous example of his transcendent drone music than this record. The field recordings infuse the whole project with a pastoral elegance which few noise artists get right. These are the true sounds of a Southern hemisphere summer.  It is breathtaking and has stirred up all those amazing feelings I got when I first heard Birds Call Home Their Dead. I mean this is quite simply awesome. I’ve added elsieandjack to the blogroll. Buy this record. It’s really that simple.

Birchville Cat Motel – Seventh Ruined Hex (Important) 2007

Posted in Birchville Cat Motel, Drone, New Zealand Bands, noise on March 1, 2008 by noisenoisenoise


My bias towards this band has been comprehensively detailed in this blog. In fact three of their records made my best of list for 2007. All of them were worthy additions and lets face it as a body of work the three I listed were pretty fucking awesome and if you haven’t bought Birds Call home Their Dead yet then there is something wrong with you. The thing that anchored all of those albums was a avant garde distillation of rock music shot through a prism of drone. Transcendence through noise and all of that. So why can’t I get excited about this “proper” release? Both Amazon and Tiny Mix Tapes have this descriptioin on their sites:

A further step in Birchville Cat Motel’s ruminations on time-space distortion, featuring the additional mystikal talents of fellow gravity destroyer Matthew Bower (Hototogisu/Sunroof!). Seventh Ruined Hex presents like a lonesome planet occasionally struck with super-sized fragments of space detritus, but for the most part just haning around, spinning on its axis, and doing fuck-all. Like the deepest love, it is warm yet tenuous, filled with the ever-present potential for loss and brutality. More in line with the estranged love-tangle of the Birchville classic Chi Vampires than the most recent befuddling hyperspace rock-overload of recent albums like Our Love Will Destroy the World and Birds Call Home Their Dead.

This paragraph pretty much nails it. This record does fuck all. Like an anemic set of bagpipes being strangled by a snake, these tracks go no where fast. It was my main criticism of the collaboration with Yellow Swans and when I bought Seventh Ruined Hex I was hoping for more of the fucked up space jams of Astro Catastrophes rather than Chi Vampires re-dux. It’s not all bad though and I suppose it really depends on what you want from your noise/drone experience. This is one for those who like to pick the subtle shifts in the unrelenting assault on their ears. And I am one of those listeners but those little changes that usually send me into noise heaven are a little too subtle on Seventh Ruined Hex. If we take the description on Tiny Mix Tapes as fact then all I can add is that the onesome planet occasionally struck with super-sized fragments of space detritus is not being struck nearly enough and the  pieces of space detritus are beige and on prozac. In fact I found listening to this a bit of a slog. It’s still interesting but all I want is more of Mr Campbell’s inner filthy rock pig.

Birchville Cat Motel – Bird Sister Blasphemy (C Psi P) 2007

Posted in Birchville Cat Motel, Drone, Music, New Zealand Bands, noise on January 11, 2008 by noisenoisenoise


Out of all of the posts on this blog the most popular is Birchville Cat Motel’s Birds Call Home Their Dead. In fact the majority of visitors to this blog are either looking for posts about Birchville Cat Motel, Yellow Swans or the Dead C. The trouble with BCM is the speed at which new releases are issued. I’m not complaining. Everything he released in 2007 is in my opinion fucking essential. But some of the releases are tricky things to come by and sometimes of such limited number that if you intend to try to hear everything he does you’ve got some work cut out for you.

Luckily one of the most readily available BCM records is Bird Sister Blasphemy.  From what I can work out this record is the darker companion to Birds Call Home Their Dead. I thought I’d read somewhere that this was release on Campbell Kneale’s “black metal” Battlecruiser imprint. Well my copy is C Psi P if these things mean anything to you This certainly could have come out on Battlecruiser though. It’s dark as in black metal rather than some neo-gothic nonsense. It’s a rock pig’s, psychedelic metal fantasy shot through a prism of drone. When I got this last year I chucked it in my car’s CD player  straight away and the interior of my car literally throbbed. It makes me grin and playing this is almost a guilty pleasure. I love each and everyone of my Birchville Cat Motel records and this is no different. In fact this is occupying so much of my time I have Seventh Ruined Hex still wrapped and sitting next to my computer. This  had little of the pastoral repetitive beauty of Birds Call Home Their Dead but it does prove that Mr Kneale always has fresh ideas and some of those fresh ideas rock hard!

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