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Album Review
Spells for Travelling Forth by Day

Spells for Travelling Forth by Day
by Spa


Review Date
11th August 2011
Reviewed by
Ricardo Kerr

Spa are a trio from Auckland consisting of Steven Tait (vocals / guitar), Hayden Sinclair (bass) and Brian Donnelly (drums). For your enjoyment they have just released their new album, Spells for Travelling Forth by Day. It is a quaint little album that tries in earnest to be more than the sum of its part but falls a little short of the mark. The first song is “The Ladies Man”, a charming wee instrumental to set the mood. It features a toy piano counterpointing the simple melody in an almost baroque fashion. If you were to only hear this track then you might be preparing yourself for an album of pastoral folk jazz. If that was what you were expecting then the following song, Fraulein, is there to bring you back to earth. It is an witty, inoffensive pop-rock jangle that recalls the famous “Dunedin sound” and classic Flying Nun artists from days of yore.

The most immediate thing you will notice about Spa is their uncomplicated approach towards sound. It is lo-fi alright, at times too much so. The album was recorded at Auckland’s Earwig Studios but the thin production sounds more like a basement / garage / bedroom recording job which I guess was a conscious choice by the band. There are many out there who will champion Spa’s DIY sound and see it as striking a blow for self-made music by self-made musicians. I am not one of them. Some of the songs on the album could definitely benefit from a little polish. That is not to say that there are no good tunes to be had. ‘Lionel Lopez’ gets the blood moving for a whole minute and a half. I don’t know if this is in spite of the puzzling lyrics to the song (a strange tale of multi-lingualism, ham & cheese sandwiches, and school grades) or because of them. The gutsy but all-too-brief interlude ‘Blondini’, clocks in at a staggeringly short 34 seconds. ‘Dry Bones’ sounds like a song that fell off the back of a Fly My Pretties truck. Only three songs on the album break the three minute mark with another three coming in at less than two minutes. This makes the album only stretch out to an economical 29 minutes.

From the hand-drawn album art to the dull thud that accompanies much of the percussion on the album, Spells for Travelling Forth by Day is very much a homespun effort. I can’t help but think that this album will not satisfy as many people as it should do. The short songs are so tight and free from padding that even a three minute number seems decadent by comparison. At the end of the day what you have in Spells for Travelling Forth by Day is eleven short snippets (and a twelfth even shorter one) of sunny, but not overwhelmingly so, pop tunes. Some are indeed full songs but others feel like mere sketches of a finished product. Fans of homemade recordings should not be dissuaded from checking out Spa, they should just know what they are getting in to beforehand.


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