Better known by his artist name The Nomad, DJ and producer Daimon Schwalger’s career as an independent New Zealand music artist goes back to 1989. After close to a decade of honing his craft he released his debut album, the acclaimed 1998 New Zealand drum and bass album Movement. He has toured New Zealand regularly and is a fixture at music festivals – and in 2023, after 25 years of album and single releases, he released Infinite, a limited edition two-LP career retrospective that’s already sought after and hard to find. Daimon has stepped up to share a selection of his favourite local tracks with AudioCulture.
Breaks Co-Op – Sound Advice
Local music really flourished in 1997 and one of the tunes that turned heads was ‘Sound Advice’ from Breaks Co-Op. This track was part of the early foundations of Aotearoa hip-hop, at its early days of smooth and refined music production. The intro filter and guitar lead up to the drop is so good. It’s short and to the point, then the lush vocals come in; sad, deep and powerful. The Scientist himself dropped the vocal rhyme that sits tightly like a needle in a record groove. The orchestra arrangements and saxophone strike from out of the blue to keep your attention before a breakdown smoothly drifts into a seamless outro. It’s an amazing cinematic experience, among the best hip-hop from Aotearoa.
Kora – Burning
In 2007 I performed at the Parihaka Music festival. I’d just finished my set and was about to head back to the campsite to debrief with MC Antsman when the guitar riff from this Kora classic stopped me still. It’s like it was precomposed; the sun was going down, Mount Taranaki was framed in the background. The sparse, compressed beat kicks in and then the occasional reverb dub on the snare makes me think it’s something I would do. The skanking guitar really sits so tight in the mix, the vocals are beautiful, and the harmonies mesh so well with the song. The beat just drives along, then the breakdown to the verse takes a turn to the slow dub track that became a summer anthem. The driving beat just keeps pounding throughout the song and the outro gives you time to breathe and reflect.
L.A.B – In The Air
It was a sunny Sunday afternoon back in 2020 and I was outside gardening when my wife hijacked the Bluetooth speaker. I was about to protest her decision but instead started to bop my head in amazement to this fresh track from L.A.B. The song had the most amazing, sweet innocent groove, from the beautiful guitar melody to the smooth bassline. The tune of that summer for me! I love how the vocals seamlessly fit with the groove and the keys are a perfect fit. The harmonies just glide sweetly. The chord progressions are just right, and the lyrics fit perfectly with the rhythm. The track has been mixed really well, which makes it pop in every sonic situation.
Lord Echo – Thinking Of You
I first heard this Lord Echo track a few years ago when a mate came to the West Coast for a gig and played the song at an after party. The dance floor was empty but after a couple of minutes the song had everyone up. The tune is so smooth – the guitar FX intro leads into a satisfying build-up, dropping into the sweet vocals of Lisa Tomlins. The silky harmonies are playful, and the drums are lush. It really does seem like this song was made to make everyone feel happy and loved. The whole way through this track makes you feel like you’re on ecstasy. The breakdown to the conga drums lets you take a break to come back and get your groove on again.
Oakley Grenell – Limited Time
Around 2003 I received a demo CD (one of many! Everyone was jamming and sticking demos onto CDs – burners were the new thing) which I stuck on while driving around the goat-track roads of Wadestown in Wellington. One particular song, ‘Limited Time’, just stunned me – and I put it on repeat for at least half an hour. The breakbeat programming was crafted in a way that makes you move your head and body in opposite directions. Smooth keys slide in just after the vocals, with a beautiful filter FX, the vocals from J9 wind in and out with the beat and lush groove. The breakdown just makes you hungry, the bass and the vocals playing in unison across a smooth-as bassline. I love the amazing guitar riff that bursts with the energy of one of New Zealand’s best guitarists and music producers.
Recloose – Dust feat. Joe Dukie
Around the mid 2000s I was DJing at clubs a lot in Wellington, and the one song guaranteed to move the crowd was Recloose’s ‘Dust feat. Joe Dukie’. I remember spinning it out around midnight as a secret weapon to get the girls on the dancefloor – do that and the guys follow; party started. The chord arrangement with the intro guitar and the delay FX is amazing, then out of the blue the horns blast in with a story of their own, followed by a synth like they were chatting to each other. The drums and bass drop, we’re full steam ahead with a beautiful homegrown summertime dancefloor hit. Then just when you’re all set for the ride Joe Dukie comes in and makes you melt like honey. The groove and bassline on this little number are so smooth it’s gotta be one that will always stand the test of time.
Rhombus – Clav Dub
I think it was 2002 when we hit the apex of the “Wellington Sound”. There were massive collaborations with every band around; the energy and vibrations resonating out of my musical mates was hugely fertile. For me, ‘Clav Dub’ is a track for those times. The intro leads with Imon Star (aka Murk 1) layered with a sweet dub delay of the horns, then the drums kick in with a nice filter leading to the drop. The beat hits, the bassline kicks in and the first MC starts his journey of lyrical rhymes. The skank is tight and brings the track’s essence together like glue. Imon helms the build-up then MC Rizla (Tiki Taane) drops his amazing vocal harmonies for that iconic chorus. The triple-time guitar kicks in at just the right time before a cheeky injection of a TrinityRoots sample to let everyone know this is a true Capital City Collaboration.
Salmonella Dub – They Are Among Us (Pitch Black Remix)
At the deluged Gathering 2000, I was about to play my 7am set to a lake-like dance floor and 10,000 soaked folk. Downtown Brown and I turned up to the drum & bass zone and the first thing we did was rescue all Salmonella Dub’s gear that was left on the ground near the stage from their set the night before. With trickles of water turning into torrents, something had to be done: these DJs had to become emergency roadies really early in the morning! I love the remix from Pitch Black as it has all their signature sounds: driving beats, perfectly sampled and timed guitar riffs, smooth yet hard-hitting basslines and of course the most amazing dubs and FX. Played loud and proud on the dancefloor, this iconic Kiwi track still rules.
Shapeshifter – Electric Dream
Shapeshifter’s‘Electric Dream’ has such recognisable hooks that even when I first heard it, it felt so familiar. What good energy! I worked out the sample was from a Candi Staton track I used to play often – ‘You Got The Love’. The synth has been slowed to half time, then the drum & bass beat kicks in – they work hand in glove. Then the vocal gives it the beautiful vibe that makes you feel like you’re at an outdoor music festival, P Diggs’ vocals comes in and the goosebumps kick in. Once the bassline starts it’s all on! Then the occasional big Reece bass hits at all the right times, the build-up just keeps climbing before culminating with a break layered with smooth harmonised vocals – the bass comes back in, and the build-up takes you to the climax – then you throw your hands in the air with uncontrollable excitement. That’s the theory, at least.
Shihad – Home Again
I wasn’t the biggest fan of rock music, at least until I attended Shihad performing in Brisbane in 2009. Jon Toogood put my name on the door and I went along not really knowing what to expect. I was situated next to Dave Wernham and the FOH mixing desk, undoubtedly the best spot in the room. They started their set and kicked right into gear. When they played ‘Home Again’ I was absolutely blown away. The guitar intro was so tight and then the drums kicked in – a match made in heaven. The drums are so tight and match the vocals perfectly. The lead guitar riffs are great and they make you want to go and find your old tennis racquet and jump up and down on your bed pretending to be a rock star. This song is by far my favourite New Zealand rock track of all time.