New Zealand's Wax Chattels play noise rock of the most glorious kind

They roared through Northcote Social Club's Monday Night Mass is lionlike fashion.

Occasionally I will completely pass on a band because of the name. Sometimes it’s when the name is obviously terrible or unappealing, but other times it’s merely a judgement I make without reason. Wax Chattels was a band mentioned to me on several occasions and more than once in the context of, “best thing I saw at BIGSOUND this year” (not a selling point). I don’t know what a chattel is and I still don’t understand after trying to Google the definition, but I was under the impression that Wax Chattels made that nothing-special sort of indie rock music. Cut to a tired and reluctant Monday Night Mass attendee on February 25 and I can say Wax Chattels are definitely not an indie rock band.

To my surprise and confusion, the band came on stage all dressed in black, with large LEDs at their feet, a minimalistic drum kit, and an organ with heaps of pedals and bass. I then experienced a solid 40 minutes of complete noise; the most satisfying kind.

Immediately after seeing the band I purchased the record and went straight home to listen.

They weren’t even the last band to play that night, but I had to get out of there. Upon listening, I learned that their opening track of the night ‘Concrete’ was also the opening track of their 2018 self-titled album. Both live and recorded it’s an intense build up of loud stops and starts, setting the pace for the whole offering and my new perception of who Wax Chattels are. Each song they played was intense, and in my mind, the recipe for hardcore – loud, fast, tense and slightly angry. As a band, they were so tight and metronomic while also being aggressive and chaotic, making them amazing to both watch and listen to. I was hanging onto every organ key, every crash and every fat bass line. I was experiencing hints of Sonic Youth, with bassist Amanda Cheng having that similar Kim Gordon vibe, as her vocals went from deep, dark and haunting, to intense confident yells.

I have since learned that the band all met at jazz school. From what I could tell at the time, there was no hint of jazz in their sound. Upon listening back several times and recounting the show, the jazz school may have come out in how tightly and well timed the band played, with nothing messy or confusing about it. Three extremely talented musicians who seemed to know exactly what they wanted out of their sound.

Still unsure of what exactly their genre is, it was like nothing I’ve ever heard or experienced. Something of an argument with my friend after the gig left me debating its punk versus post-punk elements. My friend finished the discussion with a perfectly put sentiment, saying; “Well. That’s what post-punk should sound like.” 

By Morgan Mangan