Article thanks to James Beavis of VUW’s Salient Magazine.
From smaller beginnings in 2006, Thomas Lambert and close friend Matt Faisandier began the label as a logical step from their furious creative output.“[We] were in three or four bands or projects each at the time (In the Interest of the Convoy, Akaname, Ornithologist, 100 Suns, A Flight to Blackout, The Enright House and i.ryoko), and it was obvious that we would be making music for the rest of our lives, so it just made sense to start a label,” Lambert says. The label has been an evolving process, one which now consists of core members Lambert, Faisander and Sean Kelly (of Seth Frightening)—“close friends who I know will be obsessed with music and general good times until we die.”
Which seems like a pretty bold statement, considering the relatively young age of those involved—all under 23. But their commitment to producing and releasing quality music is pretty concrete, once you look at their list of releases; old This City Sunrise material still rules, the Glass Vaults EP was received extremely well, and Seth Frightening’s The Prince and His Madness has been cited again and again as a landmark New Zealand album. (Let’s not forget that this is the same Seth Frightening who recently was chosen to tour Australia with Jonsi of Sigur Ros). In addition to that, the current projects on Sonorous Circle look to also be stone cold classics—Paperghost’s latest album (which you can find reviewed among these pages) is of the highest calibre, as is the recent release from Christchurch’s Arkitype. Collaborations that have worked exceedingly well, and exceedingly simply. Lambert explains: “Arkitype is Alex Wootton, a friend I lived with in Christchurch. He would spend the majority of his time making music on his computer in the shed we had out back that he had turned into his musical lair. I’d just have to ask him if I can hear what he’s been up to and he would give me some tracks. The Meats the Beatles album he did (a “sacriligeous, but highly tasteful” mashup affair) was a favourite listen last summer and it seemed a crying shame for people not to hear it. So I just asked if he wanted me to put it through the website. That’s about the extent of it.” And on Paperghost and other Sonorous Circle artist Minelli, he continues: “These are just people we have known for a while. I consider myself very lucky to be consistently in the vicinity of such talented people.”
Again and again, this sense of community has yielded some of the best music across New Zealand in the last few years, across many labels, across most genres. One specific facet of Sonorous Circle that perhaps sets them apart is their attention to detail in the music-making process—their output may not be gargantuan, but they are exemplary of the “quality, not quantity” ethos, something that Lambert simply puts down to the group of people that work together being, well, geeks. “I can say that for me personally and for the people associated with Sonorous Circle, our lives pretty much totally revolve around music,” he says. “Perhaps that could be the difference. I can’t speak for any other scenes, but for us geeks there is a lot of thought, care, experimentation and time that gets put into the music, which must come through when listening. Perhaps it just depends on how much one values the craft.”
And apparently, there is also some ‘hydroponic aid’ involved in judging whether or not a Sonorous Circle product is ready to be unleashed upon the masses: “There is also what we call the ‘stoned-test’, whereby one sits in a dim room with an ideal-as-possible listening environment (perhaps in the centre of some nice speakers and a cloud of smoke) and engages with some music in a concerted act of focussed submission. If executed correctly this process allows the true value of the music to be revealed in all its detailed splendour.”
Lambert also represented Sonorous Circle in the recent ‘For The Record’ discussion at the Adam Art Gallery, pondering the future of music distribution, in which panelists from Papaiti to Flying Nun intimated the importance of working for the music, not the money—Lambert included. “There is a massive group of us who just don’t care about money or the system that places so much importance on it and as someone pointed out, there is a generation of music enthusiasts who have come to expect everything for free. Due to the fact that I am a poor student, I am by default one of those people,” he admits. “I don’t think anyone should be denied an experience because they can’t afford to pay for it. And it is a horrible truth that that is how the world (for the most part) currently works. So it will be interesting to see what the future has in store—when our idealism wears off and we start voting National (not going to happen).”
The near future holds more of the same for Sonorous Circle. In addition to the aforementioned releases, there is a physical release planned for Glass Vaults (“hopefully on coloured vinyl!”), and more to come. As always, as with everyone, money is their primary constraint—“We don’t always have access to decent amounts of money. We just have to make do. But all releases deserve the best presentation they can possibly get.” Their level of commitment to their output is apparent. As is the quality of said output —just sample any one of their releases from this year. They may have only really come to prominence in 2010, but if Sonorous Circle actually do continue like this until they die, then Wellington need not fear for a lack of quality bands in the near future. Like, at all.