Disjecta Membra - Pearls Before Swine

Disjecta Membra, 2019 (L-R): Kane Davey, Michel Rowland, Jaz Murphy.

Photo by Rosebud Garland.

Founder and mainstay, Michel Rowland (also of Wellington dreampop trio Dreams are Like Water and US-based darkwave outfit Licorice Chamber), elaborates:

Disjecta Membra essentially began life on 13 December 1993: me and a couple of Pink Floyd fans, Dave Jones and Derek Shaw, running through my first few basic song efforts in Dave’s garage, along with a cover of ‘A Forest’ by The Cure. It was also the day Dave’s son was born. Thirteen has been a magickal number for Disjecta Membra ever since. It’s the reason there are thirteen tracks on Pearls Before Swine, and the reason we shared it with our followers on Friday 13 October… Not to mention December is just rubbish for promoting new releases…

Disjecta Membra live. 2015: Michel Rowland.

Photo by Alexander Hallag.

There is a whole world of Māori-centred thinking as yet unexplored in the music of today. Music being made by Māori that is deep and intelligent, that embodies pathways taken in the last 45 years that have been deeply personal, responsive, rebellious, and for good reason. Māori who turned to punk and post-punk understanding its connections with reggae and radicalism, to music that is dark, emotive and heartfelt, reflective of the grief, the loss, the wasteland of colonising change occurring around them. ‘Whakataurangi Ake’, while composed in a very old style, easily visits these more modern roots, without being changed in any significant way, and in so doing, shows a natural position that indicates a whole new territory for Māori music, that is beautiful, dark, deep and lush.” – Rob Thorne

Disjecta Membra live, 2016 (L-R): Jaz Murphy, Michel Rowland, Kane Davey.

Photo by Stella Gardiner.

Pearls Before Swine ranges from ‘Whakataurangi Ake’ to the soaring, melodic synth-pop anthem ‘Madeleine! Madelaine!’; or from the spiky post-punk screech of ‘Lilītu’ to the solemn, dreamlike introspection of the band’s cover of ‘Subversion’ by Australia’s IKON - Disjecta Membra’s version reputed to have brought a tear to the eye of IKON’s Chris McCarter.

Also featured among the band’s fan favourites are the riotous, snarling gothic punkabilly of ‘Death by Discothèque’ – its ‘extended version’ replete with drum solo and EBM breakdown; a deadly earnest rendition of the German disco classic ‘Rasputin’ by Boney M.; and the epic guitar-whorl treatment of Th’ Dudes‘ new wave / kiwi-rock classic, ‘Walking In Light’, which recently prompted Th’ Dudes frontman Peter Urlich to remark:

I’ve only just discovered (Disjecta Membra’s) cover of Walking In Light. It’s so good... Touches of Bowie, Bauhaus, John Cale et al.” – Peter Urlich (Th’ Dudes)

Disjecta Membra, 2014 (L-R): Kane Davey, Matthew Tāmati Scott, Isobel Te Aho-White, Michel Rowland.
Photo by James Black.

Remixes meanwhile include a stomping neo-tribal synth reworking of ‘Death by Discothèque’ from Danish electro-industrial giant Leæther Strip; and the ecstatic prog-pop version of ‘Madeleine! Madelaine!’, by Blondie / KMFDM guitar virtuoso, Andee Blacksugar, from Brooklyn, New York. Andee became friends with the band in 2013, while touring as guitarist for UK goth granddaddy Peter Murphy (Bauhaus), with Disjecta Membra playing support for the New Zealand shows.

I really enjoyed pulling this tune apart and putting it back together with an altered harmonic landscape – and all the maximalist ear candy I could throw at it. Good stuff!” – Andee Blacksugar (Blondie, KMFDM, Black Sugar Transmission)

Peppered throughout Pearls Before Swine, meanwhile, are the more overt “gothic rock” numbers that Disjecta Membra first became known for during the 1990s: the debut single ‘Cauldron of Cerridwen’ (1996), the Achromaticia album-cut ‘Skin Trade’ (1997), compilation promo-track ‘Antoinette Marionette’ (1998), and a cover of little-known Hamilton NZ band The Haunting’s flagship song, ‘Rats’.

Disjecta Membra live, 1996 (L-R): Tamlyn Martinovich, Michel Rowland, Ben Cauchi.

Photo by Kapil Arn.

Michel recalls:

The Haunting were a band I first saw practicing in the basement of a local record store, when I was about 15 or 16, so around 1990-91. Up till then, I’d played drums and sung with a high-school garage band since about 1988, picking up some basics of guitar along the way. But seeing The Haunting’s guitarist, Holly Barlow, or ‘Wheels’ as she was then known to friends, is what really made me want to learn guitar and start my own band. She was phenomenal, and more than any other band, The Haunting (Wheels, Ree, Lu, and Paul Tee) gave me the idea that there was actually a point to playing the sort of music I wanted to make.” – Michel Rowland (Disjecta Membra)

Disjecta Membra, 1995 (L-R): Ben Cauchi, Michel Rowland, Paul Kennedy.

Photo by Kristi Kennedy.

Holly Barlow, the original songwriter behind ‘Rats’, says:

Disjecta Membra’s cover of ‘Rats’ adds an emotional resonance and intensity that is both reverential and, I have to say it, hauntingly original. It not only captures the essence of The Haunting’s version, but complements it with its own evocative layers of fallen darkness and silent screams. A spiritual successor to the original.” – Holly Barlow (The Haunting)

All tracks featured on Pearls Before Swine have been meticulously remastered at MediaLuna Studio in San José, Costa Rica, by Ariel Maniki (Ariel Maniki and the Black Halos, The Waning Moon):

One thing I love about (Disjecta Membra) is its versatility and how they have navigated different (almost opposite) sound landscapes along their lifecycle.” – Ariel Maniki

Disjecta Membra, 2019 (L-R): Kane Davey, Michel Rowland, Jaz Murphy.

Photo by Bern Stock.

Pearls Before Swine meanwhile features cover art from Seattle-based illustrator and designer Layla Reyna: also bandleader for both Licorice Chamber (whose recordings feature Michel on guitar), and Strap On Halo:

It was as an absolute pleasure designing the cover art while listening to these tracks on repeat. Disjecta Membra has been one of my favourite bands for several years, and Michel is a good friend now. Ariel did a fantastic job remastering tracks from different points in their career, bringing together a seamless experience.” – Layla Reyna (Licorice Chamber, Strap On Halo)

Download Pearls Before Swine free from Bandcamp at the link below, or pay what you want. Pearls Before Swine will also be available for streaming via Spotify and all the usual outlets from 13 November, where Bandcamp donations will go towards the associated licensing fees for cover songs.