Where The Chills are concerned, there’s no simple summary of who, what and why. Perhaps only ‘when’, and even then the last 30 years seem to blur. This is testament to the physical persistence of Chills founder and centrifugal force Martin Phillipps, but also his kaleidoscopic, obsessive and idiosyncratic nature. For no other Flying Nun associate had such gumption to reach out overseas, nor was beset by both simple and turbulent twists of fate. Which meant no one could keep up with Phillipps’ wayward path - hence The Chills’ now infamously documented personnel changes (there are over 20 line-ups to peruse if you choose).
At least the music remains, and here there is much more certainty. The Chills were exemplars of the so-called Dunedin Sound – an often moist and melancholy, simultaneously dark and breezy amalgam of Western garage-pop roots but invested with an otherworldly aura, as if those overseas influences had indeed seeped in upside down. But only Phillipps was this quixotic, bridging folk and bubblegum, Bowie and Syd Barrett, with feverish shivers and childlike whimsy. (No one else would have dared wear pixie boots with no irony, only joy.). If music has a psycho-geographical bent, then it’s the air, waves and light of the Otago peninsular, and the spaciousness and remoteness of NZ itself, that glows and thrums through his songs.
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