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Birchville Cat Motel

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From a bedroom in a suburb of Wellington, New Zealand, Birchville Cat Motel issues forth a steady stream of albums of alternately ghostly and aggressive drone-heavy noise rock. The alter ego of guitarist, songwriter, and producer Campbell Kneale, Birchville Cat Motel is akin to fellow D.I.Y. space rock luminaries like Alastair Galbraith, Roy Montgomery, and the Flying Saucer Attack. Kneale played in a succession of minor and largely unrecorded indie bands in his native New Zealand from the mid-'80s through the mid-'90s, until a growing interest in the musical properties of feedback and drones -- partially inspired by the appearance of other New Zealand drone rockers like the Dead C, Wreck Small Speakers on Expensive Stereos, Gate, Surface of the Earth, and Handful of Dust -- led him to ditch both the bands and pop music entirely. Taking his nonsensical group name from a sign he saw while driving through the small rural town of Birchville, New Zealand, Kneale settled in with his guitars and effects pedals and began recording. Originally, Birchville Cat Motel recordings came out exclusively on hand-dubbed cassettes (later CD-Rs) on Kneale's own Celebrate Psi Phenomenon label. A handful of vinyl singles and EPs began appearing in 1996, including oddities like the 8" square single "Tin Foil Teeth" and a similarly outsized split single with the California improv combo the rhBand. Birchville Cat Hotel's self-titled debut CD was finally released in 1997, followed by 1998's Siberian Earth Curve and the LP Lion of Eight Thousand Generations. Another pair of LP-only releases followed in 2000, Jewelled Wings and Cranes Are Sleeping (the latter released in the U.S. on Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace label), along with the CDs Shapeshifter, Birchville Cat Motel Vs. the Ecstasy Trio, September, and Long Vanished Spirals, all on Kneale's own imprint. 2001 was even more wildly productive, as no less than six new albums came out on a variery of worldwide labels: Vespertine, Swarming Tamagotchi Plague, Blank Angel Space, Crop Circle Empires, We Count These Prayers, and Creeping Frost Onset. Besides his own releases, Kneale has produced, played on, and/or released albums by a variety of obscure New Zealand noise rockers. ~ Stewart Mason

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