Surface Of The Earth cover

Surface Of The Earth


Surface Of The Earth’s debut album, from 1995, is one of the monoliths of New Zealand free noise. The trio — Paul Toohey, Donald Smith, and Tony McGurk — were based in Wellington, where they were part of a small group of like-minded souls, including The Garbage & The Flowers and Fever Hospital, whose insularity allowed their music to develop slowly, incrementally. Surface Of The Earth applied that pace to the very nuts and bolts of their music, though — this double album consists of nine blocks of asphalt-grey drone, a desolate, yet strangely urban sound: think the humming of power stations, the singing of long electric wires, the shorting static of tannoys. It sounds as though it’s broadcasting from several miles away from where you’re listening, and it pours from the speakers like treacle and molasses.

Jon Dale

Between 1994 and 1995, musicians Tony McGurk, Donald Smith, and Paul Toohey got together in “a cavernous wooden community hall in the city center of Wellington, New Zealand,” and let their machines ring. One guitar had no truss rod and everything was running into vintage Gunn 100-watt valve amplifiers. The keys on a Juno-106 were taped down and the whole affair was recorded with two Shure SM-58s to an Akai GXC-709D cassette deck, the one with the glass tape heads. If that seems like shit you don’t want to know, wait until you hear this album. How did they make this by doing that? There aren’t that many albums that operate in the space of “drones” and “long tones” and “noise” with this kind of peaceful vitality, that gives such a sense of profound safety. This music has been compared to the works of Tony Conrad and Éliane Radigue, and with good reason. This is a miraculous thing, a slab of bonedeep warmth.

Sasha Frere-Jones

Stack Music cover

Stack Music

Konrad Sprenger
Hi Scores cover

Hi Scores

Boards of Canada
Live 1974 cover

Live 1974

Copula cover


Lp1 cover


Le Piano Englouti cover

Le Piano Englouti

Jim O'Rourke, Brunhild Meyer-Ferrari
Ex Machina [Original Soundtrack] cover

Ex Machina [Original Soundtrack]

Ben Salisbury, Geoff Barrow
Piece for Cello and Saxophone cover

Piece for Cello and Saxophone

Charles Curtis, Terry Jennings