Entlang’s music trades in opposites: on first listen, one senses fragility, emptiness, a kind of slow consideration. The deeper you go, though, the more you realise this is music made of great strength and resolve, of fierce intelligence. “Airport” picks out a hypnotic guitar riff and a simple rhythm before spiralling into an interweaving, all-cogs-interlocking moment of black-and-white psychedelia. “Lisa” see-saws on Helen Johnstone’s gorgeous vocals and viola, the two threading together beautifully, riding into the sun on the simplest of Velvets melodies. “Walking Into Bars”’s ghostly backing vocals hymn a song of tender melancholy, Yuri Frusin’s plain-singing voice perfect for its hushed intimacy. “Nameless One” descends into plaintive chaos, from a core of quiescent beauty.
In many ways, Entlang are a return to a more traditional approach to song writing, after Helen Johnstone and Kristen Wineera had formed and spent time in the improvisational group Dress. Based in Wellington, the core members of Dress intersected with another nascent outfit, long-form drone-dreamers Surface Of The Earth, and Entlang was born. Alongside Frusin (voice, guitar), Johnstone (voice, guitar, viola) and Wineera (guitar, bass guitar, piano), Donald Smith, guitarist with Surface Of The Earth completed the core line-up on drums; for a time, Paul Toohey, also of Surface Of The Earth (and K-Group), joined on guitar.
The lathe-cuts Entlang released via their own label, Hell On Records, felt at the time like shots into the void – with a pressing run in two figures, they didn’t travel too far beyond an inner circle of New Zealand underground heads. But their legend has slowly accrued, helped by the reissue of The Garbage & The Flowers’ Eyes Rind As If Beggars on Bo’Weavil/Fire in 2013. Now, Rose Hobart presents The Four Sisters, a selection of Entlang, some rare New Zealand beauty magicked up from history’s byways. It’s a lovely collection of brittle songs that fully inhabits its own universe, while also perfect for anyone in love with the late-night mystery of the third Velvet Underground and Big Star albums, Galaxie 500, and Kendra Smith’s Guild Of Temporal Adventurers.