New Zealand band Sulfate have just released the most terrifying and unsettling video for the track ‘Bottle It In’, off their recently released album ‘Godzone’ (Flying Nun Records). ‘Bottle It In’ is over six minutes of a prowling and rumbling sonic menace that builds up to a cathartic crescendo. Squalling guitars and an undercurrent of feedback underpin the deep sonorous vocals that have the menace of a serial killer with a melodic burnish and a spring in the step.
The lyrics are warped and unsettling – protect your child from earthly desires – and the video could be something done by Michael Haneke (‘Funny Games’ and ‘Hidden’) or Jordan Peele (‘Get Out’ and ‘Us’) with a Midwich Cuckoos theme – intense and brooding doppelgängers of the band subverting a scene of suburban ennui and featuring child endangerment.
Director and editor Frances Carter, on the song and video, says:
I got really attached to this track during the August lockdown — cooped up at home and trying to pretend everything was fine. Every time ‘Bottle It In’ came on the radio I’d crank it up and have this cathartic experience. It has such a tense, ominous energy that builds up and explodes into something completely unhinged at the end. It reminded me of one of my favourite disturbed anthems, Gaskrankinstation by Headless Chickens, and I wanted the video to have the same mix of darkness and comedy.
My original concept felt a bit ambitious; Body doubles? A kid? Set entirely at night in multiple locations? — but the band was on board. It all came together over three late nights in January and everyone threw themselves into their characters. I had such a good time watching the band play up the Jekyll and Hyde energy. Special mentions to the body doubles / “backtors” who amazingly agreed to spend their Friday and Saturday nights facing away from a camera, and The Kid, Huia, in her debut role being transformed by the ultimate shreddiness of this excellent song. Hoping everyone does a bit of cathartic headbanging amid these wild times.
It’s an utterly brilliant and compelling visualisation of the track:
‘Bottle It In’ is off ‘Godzone’, available through the link below.
From the album, ‘Crossing’, is a delicious, fuzzy, angst-ridden piece of darkness that buzzes with a satisfying intensity. A metallic syncopated undercurrent is swamped by angular, crunchy guitars and yearning vocals that have echoes of the brittle, observational delivery of the Robert Forster side of The Go-Betweens.
The themes match the gothic darkness of the music, as Peter Ruddell says:
This track is a comment about how we, as New Zealanders, have lofty ideals but often don’t follow through with them in tangible ways. We talk about having a strong social voice on the global stage, and how clean, green and pristine our country is, but our track-record tells us otherwise. Sonically, we wanted this song to capture the expanse of New Zealand’s scenery — how we are in awe of its beauty, and blissfully unaware of the ongoing social concerns which plague us.
This is exciting stuff: dark indie fare with a bite and a passion.
Another track, ‘There You Are!’ coasts over an insistent bass, barely contained feedback and Ruddell’s voice a deep, sonorous ominous rumble. There is a vaguely threatening air and a mesmerising, transfixing urgency that creates a enigmatic thrum. The song is like a panther prowling before the kill.
Ruddell says of the track:
The finished recording captured that feeling of being jostled about by strangers in a dark room, while simultaneously being blinded by the flashing lights of a stage. You’re a bit scared, but it’s a good kind of scared.
Sulfate indeed have an ability to create a satisfying aural tension: building up a uneasy and unsettling hypnotic vibe that circulates inside your head. It’s ultimately very cathartic and thrilling music. You can get the album below.
Feature Photograph: Frances Carter