Great Sounds Great; Bad Sounds Bad: Sunken Seas ‘Seesaw’

Sunken Seas

Great Sounds Great; Bad Sounds Bad is a column which sees a panel of writers for The Corner review a range of local singles and grade them out of 10. Check out the song below, read through their opinions and let us know in the comments section your own thoughts and what you’d like to see reviewed next time around.


[Grade: 7.8]

Oli Lewis: This is what I imagine drinking copious amounts of cough syrup sounds like: absolutely, mind-numbingly, euphoric. ‘Seesaw’, the lead single from Wellington space-rockers Sunken Seas most recent EP, Cataclysm, doesn’t immerse the listener so much as it drenches them; drowning out the outside world in layers and layers of thick, beautiful guitar noise.

Opening with bursts of shivery ambience, the track quickly assumes a more visceral tone when, heralded in by the crack of a snare and a stutter of toms, great, crackling waves of noise begin to cycle through a two chord refrain. Half buried in the thralls around him, singer Ryan Harte’s voice reaches the listener encased in amber. Reminiscent of Kurt Vile’s viscous, lazy intonation, his vocals provide the perfect tonic to the turbulent drifts that make up the song.

Could Sunken Seas have chosen a more apt name? Probably not. Before I heard their music I wrote them off as an overly dramatic metal or post-rock band. But after hearing ‘Seesaw’, with its waves of beautiful noise, their moniker seems decidedly appropriate. Drowning never sounded so good. [8]

Chloe Cairncross: I don’t know why…this song really should not be as enjoyable as it is. Not a lot seems to happen, it drones like wasps, and has more grunge than my old student flat. But, for some reason, this is exactly my jam. I’m hypnotised by the dour rhythm that sounds like they’re dragging an emotional ball and chain in their wake. The guitars pierce through to my gut. I just want to lie on the floor and soak it all up. This is music without a conscience but with a hell of a lot of raw energy. [10]

Michael Kerby: This is one of those reviews where, due to the song itself being barely a song and more of a gorgeous mood-setter, the reviewer (me) is forced to use a bunch of vague descriptions (“it’s quite post-cloudburst, proto-gnomic”), some impenetrable references (“harks back to early Moby Grape”), and maybe even some NME-isms (“sounds like Andy Bell smoking a spliff inside the Reid brothers’ shared hive-brain while an uninvited Kevin Shields peers in through the windows/eye sockets”).

The reviewer (me again) then leaves the reader with no tangible idea of what the song actually sounds like, beyond it being a bit trippy and psychedelic and shit. They then plaster a higher-than-average score on it just to confuse things even more. [10]

Hayden Currie: No one knows exactly what Ian Curtis was thinking before he made his fatal decision, but this paints a pretty good picture. [9]

Ben Tuimaseve: This is not their best of efforts (going through some of their previous work) and doesn’t do much for me but in saying that I saw myself sinking in sea while listening to it 10 times so I guess the track fulfilled its purpose. This is a pretty flat song that sounds like a loop influenced from a Kings of Leon cut and due to the mixing I could not understand much of the vocals, which maybe was to give a drowning effect and if so, well done. If not, I’d like to know why it was mixed like music on vocals and not other way around but if you want to get a good taste of Sunken Seas, my advice would be to check another jam. [4]

Alex Braae: What a glorious dirge this is. For a while listening to this I thought the treble on my headphones was broken, but no, this song is pretty much all mids and lows. And not in a bad way necessarily, they make the most of their limited palette of sounds.

I’m not sure the gap in the middle really adds anything, because the great strength of this song is the momentum that builds and develops throughout both halves. I’d see this band live though on the strength of this recording, mainly to see if they could channel that energy into making a crowd sway. [8]

Eden Bradfield: Electronic sludge dirge treacle as good as anything Bowie put out with Eno. Triumphant vocal lines like disgraced aristocracy, buzzing particularly glorious at 1.10 that continues well after. Music you can get lost in, or, finally! a single you want to hear the whole album for. Which is pretty rare, don’t’cha’know. [8]

Robyn Gallagher: Here’s my dilemma. I like this song but I seriously doubt I will ever listen to it again. After the first listen I was indifferent, but the song started to grow on me. It’s like make-out music for former goths, all sexy and crunchy and fragile. Around the two-minute mark it sounds like it’s about to end, but it keeps going, which leads to even better things. As it progresses things get noisier and more emotional and there’s a bit of swagger in there. But as much as I appreciate it, it’s not a song I’ll come back to. But right now, it’s good. [7]

Elizabeth Beattie: It’s a decent song but drifts on for too long. I found myself tuning out after the first minute. It sounds too heavily influenced by the 90’s Christchurch music scene for my liking. The musicianship is decent, the vocal performance interesting and I generally like the Sunken Seas, but this track just doesn’t do it for me. [6]

Luke Jacobs: I would love to see these this band live to hear how it all comes together. There’s a hint of barely restrained angst there that helps ‘Seesaw’ get under your skin.

The texture of the song has that duality of gross and pretty that I love. For me, the best aspect of the song is the last minute. It feels so much like the band is working well as a group and it all comes together. It’s hard work to make the audience really feel something and Sunken Seas have that ability. [8]


  1. Marshy Michaels says:

    No one thinks the guy sounds like singer from Interpol or The National?

  2. True story – I listened to Interpol once again after hearing the mixes the guys gave me. So I’m in agreement Marshy :)

  3. Makes me think of Bailterspace.

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