Ed McWilliams and Geoff Maddock met in art class at high school in Auckland, New Zealand, and formed the trio Breast Secreting Cake with drummer Joel Wilton. The group were forced to change the name of their band, and chose Bressa Creeting Cake. Each member took a part of the moniker as a faux surname; Maddock became Geoff Bressa and McWilliams became Ed Cake. The trio signed with legendary indie label Flying Nun and released a self-titled album in 1997. Their debut wasn’t a commercial success, but showcased two creative young songwriters, full of ideas, and has deservedly become a cult favourite in New Zealand.
The creative partnership between McWilliams and Maddock splintered; Maddock formed the mainstream folk-rock Goldenhorse with female vocalist Kirsten Morrell, enjoying top-selling records in New Zealand. Cake chose to remain on the fringes with his more challenging solo records, while producing for other New Zealand artists like Don McGlashan and Anika Moa. Joel Wilton was last seen working as a vice-principal in the education sector.
The members of Bressa Creeting Cake haven’t been very prolific, but there are some great records in their output that deserve more recognition outside of New Zealand.
Bressa Creeting Cake
After receiving alternative radio play with self-released singles, Ed Cake and Geoff Maddock’s first full length statement s a much loved New Zealand album. Bressa Creeting Cake is certainly not out of place in the Flying Nun stable of artists, with its jangly guitars, but it’s a notably eclectic record. You’d expect a quirky indie record like Bressa Creeting Cake to feature endearingly sloppy musicianship, but the trio’s playing is surprisingly sharp, able to pull of the jazz fusion flavours of ‘Superstation’ and the thrash of ‘Papa People’. Bressa Creeting Cake is reminiscent of the absurdity of Ween and Frank Zappa, but with mild subversion rather than overwhelming crassness.
Bressa Creeting Cake opens with the faux calypso ‘Palm Singing’, and it’s a good teaser for the genre hopping nature of the record. The record vacillates between jangly indie and hard rocking fare like ‘Papa People’ and ‘Wood For Her’, sometimes changing style mid song. ‘Zenax’ features an invented language that’s part Hungarian and part Mongolian, and there’s charming folk like ‘Egyptian Tanker’ and ‘Rocky Mountains’ that would have been a good direction for the band to focus on if they hadn’t been so restless.
Geoff Maddock and Ed Cake would go on to produce great music apart, but Bressa Creeting Cake is their only album in tandem, and it’s endlessly fascinating, two talented kids in a proverbial candy shop.
Riverhead (by Goldenhorse)
After the demise of Bressa Creeting Cake, Geoff “Creeting” Maddock and Joel “Bressa” Wilton formed Goldenhorse, recruiting Kirsten Morrell as front woman. Morrell’s sweet voice gives Goldenhorse a commercial appeal that Bressa Creeting Cake could never have achieved, and her English voice suits their folk-pop sound. Wilton left Goldenhorse before their debut was recorded, while singer and guitarist Ben King also joined the band. The album was a slow burner – it was released in 2002, but was a #1 album in 2004. There’s a tension between the Goldenhorse’s straightforward radio-friendly songs like ‘Golden Dawn’ and ‘Maybe Tomorrow’, and more esoteric material, but Riverhead is a strong record that streamlines Bressa Creeting Cake’s essence into the mainstream. With the folk-oriented sound and Morrell’s vocals, Riverhead is sometimes reminiscent of a 1970s Renaissance record.
Coming to Goldenhorse via Bressa Creeting Cake album, I prefer their unsettling side. ‘American Wife’, is evocative of the opening scenes of a horror movie set in 1950s smalltown U.S.A.; it’s bouncy and wholesome on the outside, but there’s something off-kilter and unsettling lurking underneath. Along similar lines, the best song is the title track;
a creepy male vocal from Maddock sets a dark scene before Morrell’s voice soars. The more straightforward material is strong too – songs like ‘Golden Dawn’ and ‘Northern Lights’ are great showcases for Morrell’s lovely voice.
Riverhead was a huge hit in New Zealand, and deservedly so, but Goldenhorse were never able to match its success with their subsequent work.
Out Of The Moon (by Goldenhorse)
Surely the most famous band whose name sounds like it was inspired by the local Chinese takeaway, Goldenhorse returned with a whimper in 2005. On the strength of the previous album, Out Of The Moon soared to #2 on the charts, but it was far less inventive. Riverhead was an inspired blend of creepy progressive folk and radio ready pop. Out Of The Moon is staid in comparison, a collection of mid-tempo folk rock with few standout tracks, and with little personality beyond Morrell’s lovely vocals.
The best song captures something of the multi-part epics from Riverhead. ‘Trinkity Trunk’ juxtaposes a ringing guitar riff and joyful chorus with moody, minor key verses, giving it the feeling of the epics from the last record. But elsewhere, there’s little beyond some nice folk rock tunes – songs like ‘Run Run Run’ and the title track are accomplished enough, but after the glorious invention of the debut, Out of the Moon feels hollow.
This bland album spelled the death knell for Goldenhorse’s career; their third album, Reporter, barely cracked the NZ top 40, a disappointment from a band that had New Zealand enthralled a few years earlier.
Reporter (by Goldenhorse)
2007, not yet rated
I never bothered with Reporter after the disappointment of Out of the Moon, although I may come back and cover it for completeness.
Downtown Puff (by Edmund Cake)
After the dissolution of Bressa Creeting Cake, Edmund Cake became involved in production work and collaborated with Neil Finn for the soundtrack of the 2001 movie Rain. It took until 2004 for his first fully fledged solo album to emerge. It was largely written from Cake’s flat, which overlooked the red light district in Auckland, and collaborators included the Finn brothers, his former bandmates in Bressa Creeting Cake, and Anna Coddington, who provides vocals on ‘Silverdale’. Given its eclectic nature, Downtown Puff is the record from Bressa Creeting Cake’s spin-off projects that’s closest in spirit to the trio’s debut. Downtown Puff is named after Cake’s favourite throw pillow.
The opening ‘Secret Girl’ is straightforward guitar rock, where Cake dazzles with his twisted riff and vocal range. But from there, Downtown Puff takes a series of detours, like you’d expect from the Bressa Creeting Cake founder. There’s the psychedelic folk like ‘You’re Watching Me’, but there’s also the electronic bleeps of ‘We Live Like Kings’, where the prosaic lyrics deflate any rock star aura around Cake. It’s a twisted musical genius who can produce both the twisted blast of ‘Gunga’ and the breezy ‘Silverdale’ on the same record.
Downtown Puff is a great companion piece to Bressa Creeting Cake, a creative pop maverick exploring a different genre in every song.
The Fearsome Feeling (by Pie Warmer)
As part of a burgeoning production career, Edmund Cake co-produced Anika Moa’s second album, 2005’s Stolen Hill. The end results were strong, reflecting Moa’s Maori heritage in a way that her slick American produced debut failed to do. But the recording sessions were difficult, particularly a studio fire. Cake suffered a breakdown, and the songs for The Fearsome Feeling were written during his treatment and recovery.
The Fearsome Feeling is recorded as the band Pie Warmer, but beside from a lead vocal from Tamasin Taylor on ‘Left Here Waiting’, Cake’s in the driving seat. It’s different in character than Cake’s other work, less eclectic, rawer and more personal. With the context of Cake’s breakdown, it’s songs like the stream of consciousness in ‘God Help Me Aunt Daisy’ and ‘Crappy St.’ that leave the biggest impression, giving Cake the aura of New Zealand’s Brian Wilson or his generation’s Phil Judd. The Fearsome Feeling was released during the era when physical album sales were drying up, so Cake sometimes took copies from his record label’s headquarters and left them in the CD racks of gas stations.
Among the slightly unhinged moments, there are still plenty of Cake’s more typical material – the title track opens the record with a memorable guitar riff, while there’s pretty jangly folk like ‘Never Mention Eyes’ and ‘The Motorway’. The Fearsome Feeling is less musically dazzling than Cake’s releases as Bressa Creeting Cake and Edmund Cake, but it’s a fascinating, personal record that fans will want to hear.
Ten Best Songs from Bressa Creeting Cake
Never Mention Eyes
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