Ballon D’Essai


Ballon D’Essai Woot! is the Word LP

Formed in the early ’80s by a group of schoolboys in Christchurch, New Zealand, BALLON D’ESSAI played arty, bricolage post-punk in the style of so many like-minded projects of the era whose enthusiasm and ideas eclipsed what their technical skills could actually replicate: a slightly off-center mix of menacing, FALL-inspired rhythmic tumble, the anxious and moody post-VELVETS moves of Postcard Records, and requisite serrated, bass-forward danceable agitprop. They were actually one of the first handful of bands to ever release a record on Flying Nun, but their modest output (a pair of 12”s released in 1982 and 1983) has largely been lost in the shuffle amidst the Dunedin Sound holy trinity of their labelmates the BATS, the CHILLS, and the CLEAN, while also never really reaching the cult status of some of Flying Nun’s more noisy and experimental acts like the PIN GROUP or the GORDONS—Woot! is the Word cherry-picks tracks from both of the aforementioned EPs and a posthumous cassette comp, doing some minor leveling of BALLON D’ESSAI’s overall hit-to-miss ratio. At their most spiky and serpentine, like on “Armchair Tourist,” “He Who Kills,” “Smash Crash,” and “Artificial Romance,” they really get the most out of their dual-bass lineup, with some of the best faux-Rough Trade Kiwi post-punk this side of THIS SPORTING LIFE, while “Peanut Butter Jar” flips JOSEF K’s taut jangle to the opposite hemisphere, and “War Effort” clatters with a bit of sparse, sing-song UK DIY naivety. Is there any greater pleasure in life than just-inept-enough teenage art-punk?