High dependency reunion


I won’t be at the Laneway Festival on Auckland Anniversary Day. I wanted to go, but I’ll be working, organising a factory opening up in Northland. Hardcore. So enjoy the sun, sounds, and especially the intensity of HDU (aka High Dependency Unit).

Along with Grimes and Battles, the reunion of the beautifully noisy and trippy Kiwi trio was the reason I wanted to be there.

The inner city festival has always been cool – perhaps a little too cool for me, given I haven’t heard of half the bands. But when Laneway organisers bring old noisy favourites back together then I’m happy. While Bailter Space in 2013 weren’t quite as devastating as they were in the 80s and 90s, it was just good to hear gems like Your Invisible Life again.

It’s been a little while since HDU played, but brace yourself.

The band’s gigs were something else. Volatile, suffocatingly intense, and beautiful. The songs built up, lurched, and were at times tranquil, before another slab of heaviness and intensity was added to create something all consuming and beautifully brain-rattling.

They could nut off too – Visionon off Fireworks (2001) is evidence of that.    

I remember a gig at Galatos, sometime in the mid 2000s, for a classic moment of HDU volatility. It’s a little hazy, because they were good fast times, but the show was going along nicely until Tristram Dingemans (singer and guitarist) wound up his guitar and hurled it into the back of the stage, just missing drummer Dino Karlis’ head by inches. Dingemans walked off, yet Karlis and bass player Neil Phillips kept playing an unflinching and fiery groove until Dingemans returned and the gig resumed. It was menacing psychedelic rock theatre at it’s best.

I also interviewed the band in the early 2000s before a show at Auckland’s Kings Arms Tavern. I jokingly dropped in that Amino had “a bit of U2 about it”. Well, it does, listen to it! Dino jumped down my throat. Tristram looked pissed off. And Neil just sat there looking concerned, similar to what he looked like most nights on stage.

The thing is, yes they took their music seriously, but HDU played every song as if they were never going to be able to play it again. More bands should have that philosophy. And to be able to combine that unbridled approach to playing with a fearsome mongrel like HDU did is what made them so magical, transcendental, and heavy.

That’s what will hopefully unfold at Laneway.

If the health and safety guys allow it onsite at Marsden Point tomorrow (not likely) I’ll be listening to HDU’s finest work, Cross Channel Multi-Tap, in my headphones as I set up tables and make sure the marquee isn’t going to blow away. There are no records quite like it.

Postscript: No, I can’t make it to the band’s side show at Kings Arms tonight either, so I’ve got all my HDU CDs out and I’m playing them LOUD.