A summer spent recording in a spooky space on Queen St has proved worthwhile for Claire Duncan, aka Dear Time's Waste, writes Lydia Jenkin.
With a day job in a book store, and a strong intellectual stylishness, one might expect Claire Duncan to be a quietly academic musician, but though she is influenced by literature and philosophy, it's her emotional response to these other art forms which inform her passionate otherworldly music.
"I've always been a big reader, and responding to things that I read, and films and art, that's really important to me. I've always found it much more interesting to respond to things that resonate with me, but things that are outside myself, rather than just writing about my bad day, or some recent experience."
While working on her second album Some Kind Of Eden, released tomorrow, Duncan was particularly struck by a book called Six Memos For The Next Millenium by Italian writer Italo Calvino.
"He only finished five because he died before he wrote the last one, but basically he explores five particular qualities that he values in good writing. They're really vague and abstract, things like lightness, exactitude and multiplicity, but he has an amazing way of writing that takes these unseeable, unfathomable things, and talks about them in a way that's very precise and concrete and direct ...It's like a kite, you're trying to fly this thing, but have control over it too."
She's also found herself shifting away from the more band-based instrumentation of her debut album Spells and venturing into the world of electronica.
"People will be horrified to realise there is not a single guitar amp used on the whole album," she laughs. "Apart from the vocals it was entirely digital."
Her primary reason for going electro was a developing interest in the genre (though fans can rest assured, bands like Blonde Redhead, The Cure and Cocteau Twins are still key influences), but there was also a more pragmatic, realistic aspect to the decision.
"In the past as an artist forming a band around something that I'm doing, I've always wanted to take responsibility financially, because I don't think it's fair to expect people to buy into something where they don't really have any creative control. But basically I went totally broke and couldn't tour any more, and so this time I wanted to create something that I could tour more simply."
Duncan will be performing with the help of Shannon Walsh (Deer Park) on the upcoming national tour, but the creation of the album was very much a solo pursuit, and so the spaces in which she wrote and recorded had quite an effect. The album was mostly written in her bedroom, trying to avoid disturbing her flatmates, but when it came to recording over summer she was invited to utilise a space in the Sunday School Union building on Queen St, which was empty for a couple of months.
"Some friends of mine run a production company there and they were away and asked if I wanted to set up in this huge room. It's a creepy old building with this crazy security guard, this really old man who kept forgetting who I was, and asking 'who are you, you're not supposed to be in here'. Sometimes he wouldn't wear a shirt and he'd just be wandering around in his shorts. It was really bizarre ... It was quite lonely at times, especially over summer when everyone else was at the beach. I was in there on New Year's Eve," she remembers with a laugh.
Writing and recording in solitude can sometimes make it difficult to know when to stop adding new elements to each track, perhaps one of the most noticeable progressions on Some Kind Of Eden is the development of sparsity in Duncan's layers of sound.
"I was particularly interested in the Cocteau Twins' album Garlands, specifically with drum sounds, and a sparseness that I hadn't really done in my own music before - I'm always like a 'layers, layers, layers' person, and there are still a lot of layers in the new tracks but some of them are very minimal, and very specific."
The attention to tiny details coupled with this space gives the listener an opportunity to truly hear the wide array of sounds Duncan has created - and to get lost in her constructed dream space.
"I didn't want the record to be tied geographically to any particular place, which I guess reflects the title being Some Kind Of Eden.
"You don't really know what it is or where it is, it's this kind of thing that's just out of your reach, a space that's sort of mythical. It's much more of an idea than a reality, but it's an idea that everyone is hoping for.
Who: Dear Time's Waste, the musical moniker of Claire Duncan
What: Second album Some Kind Of Eden
Where and when: Album release show at Grey Lynn Library Hall this Saturday