When David met Sam

by Nick Bollinger / 09 May, 2009

David Kilgour and Sam Hunt's Falling Debris is a work of instinct and fate.

You could say both artists have made careers out of being themselves. Each discovered at a young age the thing he was apparently put on this planet to do: in Hunt's case, making poems; in Kilgour's, playing thrilling guitar. And each quickly established a voice that was uniquely and recognisably theirs, something most poets and guitar players never achieve in a lifetime.

Both are masters of economy. With Hunt, every word and comma is carefully chosen; some of his best poems are so lean you wonder what is holding them together. Kilgour can get a song out of two chords, or one. What matters most to both poet and guitarist is tone.

In a written introduction to their album, an uncharacteristically expansive Kilgour recalls he was 10 years old when he first encountered Hunt, who was paying a visit to the Dunedin hotel that Kilgour's father managed. "He is dressed in white denim, head to foot. I'm impressed, he looks so bloody cool and even at this stage I know who he is." Criss-crossing paths over the next few decades eventually led to a crucial meeting on a plane in 2007, and ultimately to Falling Debris.

It is not the first time Hunt's poetry has been placed in a musical package. That was in the early 70s, when he cut an album with pioneering Wellington band Mammal. Sometimes they gave melodies to Hunt's words, other times he incanted over their music. While intriguing, with moments of beauty, it rarely gelled.

By contrast, Falling Debris makes the poetry and music inseparable. Hunt's distinctive spoken delivery is absent. His words are entrusted entirely to Kilgour, whose singing has always had a laconic quality, almost as though it were an afterthought, or another string on his guitar.

If you didn't know, you might think at first this was one of Kilgour's solo discs. Lines like "I throw you flowers/it could be a rope" have the brevity of Kilgour's own writing. Kilgour picks up each phrase and drops it, not appearing to give one any more weight than another. I'm reminded of the nonchalance with which Bob Dylan turns over cue cards in the Subterranean Homesick Blues video.

Yet listen closer to the lush tangle of mostly acoustic guitars, drums, occasional keyboards and Kilgour's voice, and Hunt's perennial themes emerge. The elements are raging. Clouds stir memories of women; women conjure steam, and wind in trees. There are mountains, dogs and children. There is God, and death.

Hear how effortlessly the broken lines of Everytime It Rains Like This fall into verses and choruses, or the way Kilgour's electric guitar answers the elegy of Friend to Many.

You realise that these aren't poems grafted onto music but something far more intricate and personal. It is as though Kilgour's music has grown up around these poems, attaching itself to the words like they were always meant to be together.

FALLING DEBRIS, David Kilgour and Sam Hunt (Arch Hill).

Latest

Kiwi film Stray shows an ambition that is often lacking in NZ cinema
97738 2018-10-15 15:01:54Z Movies

Kiwi film Stray shows an ambition that is often la…

by James Robins

It doesn’t say much, but there is something hypnotic in Dustin Feneley’s crowdfunded debut feature Stray.

Read more
Simon Bridges amended electoral donation return, insider claims
97734 2018-10-15 13:26:57Z Politics

Simon Bridges amended electoral donation return, i…

by Jo Moir

A National Party insider has told RNZ that Simon Bridges amended his personal electoral donation return to remove two donations totalling $24,000.

Read more
Simon Bridges points to Jami-Lee Ross as the National Party leaker
97732 2018-10-15 13:13:30Z Politics

Simon Bridges points to Jami-Lee Ross as the Natio…

by RNZ

The MP is denying he was responsible.

Read more
New Zealand finally gets its own version of The Great British Bake Off
97514 2018-10-15 00:00:00Z Television

New Zealand finally gets its own version of The Gr…

by Russell Brown

In a reality-television landscape riven with cruelty, the popular Bake Off competition is actually nice to people.

Read more
Big bang theory: The annual torment that is Guy Fawkes
97356 2018-10-15 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

Big bang theory: The annual torment that is Guy Fa…

by Mike White

Guy Fawkes might only come around once a year, but the sale of fireworks means noisy nights for weeks after November 5.

Read more
New claims of war crimes and sex assaults inside the NZ Defence Force
97663 2018-10-14 00:00:00Z Social issues

New claims of war crimes and sex assaults inside t…

by North & South

Investigative journalist Nicky Hager reveals a culture of impunity and cover-ups within the New Zealand Defence Force.

Read more
The good and bad news about Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court appointment
97633 2018-10-14 00:00:00Z World

The good and bad news about Brett Kavanaugh’s Supr…

by Paul Thomas

The US is more divided than ever with the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh. The mid-term elections loom as the next round of bipartisan warfare.

Read more
Putin's treatment of his critics is causing problems for Russians in the UK
97672 2018-10-14 00:00:00Z World

Putin's treatment of his critics is causing proble…

by Andrew Anthony

Like Boris Berezovsky and Alexander Litvinenko, many opponents of Vladimir Putin have died in strange circumstances in Britain.

Read more