Ceremony seems to suggest formality, yet Tiny Ruins new album is far less formal than the title suggests. Hollie Fullbrook wrote the album during walks with her dogs along the turbulent landscape of “Old Murky” – Tāmaki Makaurau’s (aka Auckland’s) Manukau Harbour. This stretch of land, from the polluted, treacherous harbor to the peaceful inlets and tidal flats, features a variety of shellfish and birds. “It’s beautiful but also muddy, dirty and neglected. It’s a real meeting of nature and humanity” Fullbrook admits. These locales serve as the backdrop for Ceremony.
While the songs were started during a period of personal loss, with the help of the entire band, Cass Basil (bass), Alex Freer (drums), and Tom Healy (electric guitar, producer), what eventually developed were arrangements that found the joy in personal healing. Amidst the finger picked guitar, bass and drums, their lyrics tell a story that moves in the area between the unknown and understanding, “And like honey/ Deep in the hive/ It stings to be there/ But I go there all the time.” Nature and humanity, beautiful and muddy – a pretty good description of life in New Zealand or almost anywhere.
Tiny Ruins do a delicate dance between depression and something more positive. ‘In Light of Everything’ has the sort of downbeat opening that suggests all is not well, yet when the bass begins to lay down a series of 1/8 notes everything seems to change. Bearing an uncanny resemblance to modern life, things can change in a heartbeat. A lovely dose of strings on ‘Out of Phase’ doesn’t jolt the system, it brings out extra texture and tone that adds an additional element to the song.
There’s an electricity to ‘Dorothy Bay’ existing outside the nature of the instruments. The song crackles with intensity. Fullbrook feels the strong pull of the harbor as the lyrics reveal, “You carry on/ The tide is a radar/ Breathing on/ Like it or not.” It is a force that cannot be controlled. You simply come under its spell. And it is in those moments that you realize how truly special this band is – these songs hit at a level completely unexpected.
The magic of Hollie Fullbrook and Tiny Ruins resides in their ability to take difficult subjects and frame then in a way that illustrates their ability to transcend the obvious. They walk on pathways leading in directions that aren’t always taken and Ceremony is a fit to anyone who likes to think outside the box. Perhaps not always joyful but most definitely transcendent.