I’ve been aware of the ‘Spoilers’ for a year or more and have seen them play on a number of occasions. The collective began as a vehicle to explore Albert Ayler’s legacy and for a while you could hear brassy interpretations of the ‘The Truth Goes Marching In’ or other compositions by Ayler. There is however no such thing as a cover band of free Jazz offerings and band was always centred around John’s own compositions or his interpretations of Salvation Army and various evangelical hymns. In more recent times the repertoire has evolved to include compositions by band members. With John on hand to arrange, contribute his own charts and encourage, the project has finally been shaped into the ‘Spoilers of Utopia’ album. There are so many good compositions and vignettes in this music that singling out the individual musicians for praise would be a Herculean task. I can only congratulate them all and hope that there is more to come.
I have seen the band described as the purveyors of ‘apocalyptic’ sounds or ‘tongue in cheek’. I am not so sure about that, as there is is both structure andchaos in their music. The familiar sits comfortably with the unruly and the sweet with the sour. That sounds more like modern life than doom and gloom. Out of the completely free you will hear snatches of raw beauty and just as quickly the beauty dissolves into dissonance. I would call that a Zen koan – Life is a deadly serious stupidly happy joke.
There is no crying declamatory saxophone voice on this album (as there would be with an Ayler recording). This is a brassy sound closer to the military bands and to the street bands of the church militant. Any analysis of New Zealand’s colonial history will reveal a proliferation of such bands. Add in a Moog, squeeze horns and a skittering electric guitar and you have arrived at the Spoilers doorstep, Jazz April 2013. This is a manifestation of avant-garde New Zealand.