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Tiny Ruins, the project of New Zealand musician Hollie Fullbrook, are back with their fourth album, Ceremony, out on Ba Da Bing Records. The follow-up to 2019’s celebrated Olympic Girls, Ceremony goes deep into all the old and murky mysteries of what it means to be human—and sometimes it nearly goes under. Yet these songs also show how one can find the strength to swim from the shipwreck, push through the silt, surface into another new morning—another new chance.
Ceremony washes in and takes one out like a strong tide, its songs “chapters” of a saga set on the shores of Tāmaki Makaurau’s (aka Auckland’s) Manukau Harbour. Known to locals as “Old Murky,” its western fringe of the Waitākere Ranges are home to Fullbrook. And while the harbour itself is a treacherous and oft-polluted body of water, move to one of its many peaceful inlets and it’s all tidal flats, shellfish and birdlife. “It’s beautiful but also muddy, dirty and neglected. It’s a real meeting of nature and humanity” says Hollie. The album’s songs took shape as she explored the turbulent landscape on foot with her two dogs. The things Fullbrook was struck by there are annotated across Ceremony (cover art by Christiane Shortal) as luminously as a naturalist’s scrapbook.
After touring Olympic Girls both solo and with her long- term band line-up of Cass Basil (bass), Alex Freer (drums), and Tom Healy (electric guitar, producer) for eighteen months, Fullbrook returned home to the banks of Little Muddy Creek, exhausted and with the global pandemic looming. The songs that would become Ceremony existed as note files, “scrappy poems,” words written earlier during a profound period of personal loss, words from a “difficult place” that she’d become adept at avoiding. When lockdown started to ease, Fullbrook went to stay in an old train carriage in the town of Raglan and spent several days forging these hard lyrics into songs. The intuitive rapport of her bandmates steered these early demos in another direction, with inventive, often joyful arrangements that land Fullbrook’s hard songs into a blissfully warm bedrock of sound—steadied in a kind of musical trust fall.