Kraus, ‘Golden Treasury’
For Auckland, New Zealand based sound explorer Pat Kraus (better known in D.I.Y circles as Kraus), Swedish cassette label Oma333’s reissue of his 2009 album Golden Treasury couldn’t have come at a better time.
As the story goes, Oma333 chanced upon a copy of his excellent Supreme Commander cassette while visiting New Zealand’s Audio Foundation Centre in Auckland. Proprietor Gavin Maycroft fell in love with it on the long flight home, and not long after, the KRAAK crew in Belgium invited Kraus to perform at their festival — providing the nucleus for a European tour, and allowing Oma333 to book him in Stockholm. Having toiled away in relative obscurity for over a decade, Kraus was fast discovering his music had a cult following on the other side of the globe. Kraus quickly built on this with new music, a vinyl reissue of his classic album I Could Destroy You with a Single Thought and a well-received series of shows in Australia.
After digging into his substantial back catalogue of limited edition CD-R, cassette, vinyl and digital releases, Oma333 approached him about reissuing his 2009 album Golden Treasury in a beautifully packaged cassette tape format. Kraus agreed, and just at the right time, ears were drawn back towards some of his more crucial work.
Eleven songs long, Golden Treasury sees Kraus working with a palette of sampled drum loops, organ, homemade synthesiser trickery and fuzzy but considered guitar work. Note by note, he articulates a sonic interzone that integrates vintage b-grade sci-fi film OST aesthetics and freewheeling 60s psychedelica and garage rock motifs. Recorded and mixed in a D.I.Y garden-shed-style the music is a testament to invention, imagination, and the fine art of making do with what you’ve got, or as we call it in New Zealand, the ‘No. 8 Wire’ attitude.
Generally favoring snippet or pop song lengths, across the half hour long tape, Kraus uses the restrictions of his equipment and his overall aesthetic as a platform to explore a variety of shapes and moods. Where introductory track “Cashmere” kicks off with a Link Wray feel, second track “Dog On The Loose” is pure pounding primitive rock with psychedelic organ flourishes. Later on the tape “Happening for Lulu” juxtaposes earworm guitar licks with complimentary flute and shuffling drums, before giving way to the stumbling lo-fi synth wonk of “Sherry.” “Ode To A Delicious Pudding” is a sliver of practically perfect retrofuturist sonics, and album closer “Let Them Eat Cake” sees Kraus creatively displaying his homemade electronics skills through a cacophony of wobbly bass tones, bright 8-bit style synth blips and bleeps alongside windswept pads. If you relate to the works of Joe Meek or Raymond Scott, it’s a body of work well worth getting inside.
When it first surfaced as limited run CD-R in 2009, Real Groove Magazine critic Chris Cudby described Golden Treasury as “Sounding like a Soviet-era Dr. Who special invaded by ’60s psych guitarists,” which is a summary as cinematic, playful and adventurous as listening to the album. Seven years later, it remains a vital and worthy listen.