Ha The Unclear Release New Album ‘A Kingdom In A Cul-De-Sac’

  • Ha The Unclear Release New Album ‘A Kingdom In A Cul-De-Sac’
Ha The Unclear Release New Album ‘A Kingdom In A Cul-De-Sac’

Ha The Unclear Release New Album ‘A Kingdom In A Cul-De-Sac’

A new album from Aotearoa New Zealand band Ha The Unclear is here. A Kingdom in a Cul-de-sac releases today via Paris Label, Think Zik!

This 12 track album features exciting new releases including hit single ‘Fish‘ (released October 20), a cover of iconic 80s French number ‘C’est Comme Ça’, ‘Alchemy’, and ‘Mind and Matter’, alongside highlight tracks from their back catalogue.

“This is an immense release for us, stylistically, the album shifts through a lot of our gears and so we feel like it represents a good chunk of who, how, and what the band is about” share the band. “ We’re grateful for the opportunity to put it to the wider world, to tell a bit of our story, and excited for what’s next.”

Ha the Unclear formed in Dunedin, but later migrated northward to Auckland are now signed to Paris-based label Think Zik !

“We initially travelled to Paris and met Think Zik before signing with them and we really felt good about who they were, the values they espoused and how they understood our musical world” says Ha the Unclear. “ It is an entirely unique label, they hold vinyl in high regard and that suited us. They also serve up a banging macaroon.”

The band have been warmly embraced by French audiences with playlisting on significant national radio including Europe 2, FIP, RTL 2, and France Inter and a milieu of college radio taste harbingers. 2023’s Handprint Negatives EP was recently released in the EU to critical acclaim with French press describing it as “a sweet madness” (Rolling Stone), “a real triumph… maybe confirmation of a major band” (Benzine) and a “spontaneous enthusiasm with a feeling of freshness” (Revue Pop Moderne).

Ha the Unclear will spend the month of April in Europe playing shows in Paris.

“This will be our second time performing in France, but it feels exciting to be returning with a new album” shares the band’s frontman Michael Cathro. “We are playing iconic venues in Paris and Nantes which we are very excited about and looking forward to connecting with media, like-minded acts and bringing a bit of our perspective to an overseas audience.”

A Kingdom in a Cul-De-Sac is Ha the Unclear’s (whose name is an anagram for ‘nuclear heath’) second album. The band released their debut album Bacterium, Look At Your Motor Go in 2014, follow-up album Invisible Lines in 2018, and most recently Handprint Negatives EP in 2023.

Speaking to the evolution of Ha the Unclear’s sound Cathro shares “in the beginning I was writing songs influenced by the simplicity and faux-naivety of outsider folk, I think I enjoyed how it was kind of disruptive, that there was a criticality to it, they were emotionally honest. Then I became a bit more interested in harmonic development, I’d started incorporating a lot of backing vocals into my demos I think to fill frequencies, create depth, and add extra hooks and that became pretty characteristic of our sound. As we became more of a touring band, we were influenced by how particular songs in the set created better energy and excitement and we started writing and arranging with that in mind a bit more, more frantic instrumentation, more dance-able. That probably also reflects that relational growth. While we still place importance on the role that slower, more introspective songs play within our creative world, I think over time we have created a space for ourselves to blend and move across and between those worlds.

Michael Cathros academic pursuits have also influenced the new songs. Cathro recently completed a Master of Science (first class honours) the research topic for his psychology thesis was on wellbeing and music making. He shares “developing a relational ontology, an understanding of everything as in relationship with itself, has pretty much coloured how I see everything in music. From the creation and production of it, to the places and spaces in which it is performed, the communities and cohesion it creates, to the socio-political environments and economic frameworks that people who do music work have to subsist in.

Thematically A Kingdom in a Cul-De-Sac dives deep. ‘Alchemy’ is about “being bombarded with unrealistic ideals to live up to in our lives is a recipe for never feeling good enough, never feeling fulfilled.” Cathro continues “This song was meant to be about shifting that, untethering from that kind of rigid ideal and defining actualisation on our own terms.” ‘Mind and Matter’ is about flattening time and existence, and ‘Fish’ talks about “feeling powerless, an exploration of agency”.

Early singles ‘Growing Mould’ and ‘Secret Lives of Furniture’ saw the band played extensively on student radio, more success followed with ‘Invisible Lines’ reaching #9 on the NZ Album Charts and 2020 elevator anthem ‘Strangers’ hitting #1 on the Radioscope Alternative Airplay Charts. Accompanying this, the band released a series of mind-bending music videos featuring a room full of furniture meddling in the life of their owner (‘Secret Lives of Furniture’), an astronaut crash landing on a foreign planet (‘Kosmonavt’), and the emergency delivery of a baby puppet in a broken elevator (‘Strangers’). The latter track was later released on the Threads EP alongside the Sylvia Massy co-produced ‘Julius Caesar’ and time travel lament ‘Supermarket Queues.’

Check out all things Ha The Unclear below:

Photo credit: Alex Lovell-Smith