The island nation New Zealand, located halfway 'round the world from the U.S., is renowned for its multitude of sheep, its strange and star-shaped kiwi fruits and its cute little hobbits. To a great number of music fiends — including Ira Kaplan, Jeff Mangum, Stephen Malkmus and the dudes in Times New Viking — the strange pop music grown in isolation in the 1980s is among the best ever made. This often excellent 2007 collection from Table of The Elements brings to mind the Drag City label's early '90s compilations Hear the Devil Calling Me and Making Losers Happy, which turned the spotlight away from the weird pop of the Flying Nun sound towards the far grittier and more experimental XPressway label scene.
The music presented here is even less rooted in pop or rock structure than the typical '90s XPressway release. The best-known act of this bunch, Birchville Cat Motel, delivers a heavy and blissful sonic massage, while Peter Wright's drone-based music sets its controls for a steady nod. This Greg Malcolm guy plays three guitars at once on "Unknown Rembetika." Tracks by GFrenzy and Blowfly Saint — both new to this writer — do hew more closely to what one might call a "song," but both explode convention subtly, noisily and wonderfully. The only problem with Need for a Crossing: A New New Zealand Vol. 1 is that its successor hasn't been released yet.