Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Fresh Cuts for NZ Musician February/March 2016

Yet again I managed to sneak a couple of album reviews past the quality control police over at NZ Musician magazine (for the hot-off-the-press February/March issue). Publication of the Kong Fooey review (below) was especially timely, with the band set to play Wellington's Bodega this coming Saturday night. What a funky little album that one is.
I was also quietly a bit chuffed to see Yoko-Zuna feature on the magazine's front cover, given that I wrote the accompanying feature piece. Well, I say "wrote" but what I really mean is "co-wrote", given the hissy fit I had when challenged by the editorial team to make some minor changes to my original draft.

All I really did was conduct the initial interview, submit 1800-odd words, throw my toys, stomp my feet, then sit back wait for the co-editor to tidy-up my half completed mess. Hackdom 101 made easy. But I'll say no more ... let's just say I'm thrilled this incredibly talented young band got the exposure they deserve and leave it at that. My job was the easy bit.
I'll link to that piece in a few weeks, but in the meantime, here are those album reviews:

Kong Fooey – Final Destination
Final Destination is the soul-infused hip hop debut album from Kong Fooey; the collective work of ex-Pumpkinhead beatmaker Jason Peters, guitarist David Haslett, rap artists Maitreya (Jamie Greenslade) and Topaz (Alice Egan), plus guest co-conspirators, vocalists Ella Rose and Katerina Theo. It’s an album that positively oozes the good vibes and raw energy of old-school style funk, and a cursory glance at titles like Time To Move, The Mahina Shuffle and Get In The Flow only serves to confirm that Kong Fooey's sole intention is to make us dance. Awash with brass, heavy bass, vintage keys, and lashings of funky guitar, it’s also an album dripping with ubiquitous Stax and Motown reference points. That formula lays down a foundation for the vocal collaborators to do their thing, and when they do the message is almost always one of genuine positivity: “Life is too short to be wearin’ a frown” (on early single Let Go) being just one upbeat lyrical refrain on an album crammed full of them. There’s a strong element of humour across the generous 15-track release, and if that cover looks familiar, it’s because it apes the Elvis debut, and The Clash’s London Calling, with its distinctive pink and green lettering and font set against a black and white photo image. Something that only adds to the retro-feel of the whole thing. This one is as sharp and punchy as they come.

Golden Curtain – Hell Is Other People
Album number three for Hawke’s Bay’s Golden Curtain, the super tight three-piece consisting of guitarist Andrew Mckenzie, bass player Brad Gamble, and former Garageland stickman Andrew Gladstone on drums. Short in its duration, with just eight tracks clocking in a few ticks under 25 minutes, Hell Is Other People takes us on a whirlwind journey into the world of alt-country Bay-style, with ’60s passages (Toys), boy-girl excursions (Penelope Blue, Lucille), and an occasional venture into rockier climes (Like An Island). All supplemented with a pop twist, colourful textures, and subtle hints of psychedelia. Produced by the band, mixed and mastered by Brett Stanton, one of the album’s real strengths is the strong vocal harmonies throughout – something that seems to hint, inadvertently perhaps, at a certain togetherness or unity, or of a collective self-assurance. At the very least, there’s a sense that this band is perfectly comfortable in its own skin. Or it might just be as simple as Golden Curtain being right at the very peak of its powers. Despite the relative brevity it’s a solid album, with the musical package suitably complemented by the rather fetching pop-art album cover artwork by local music identity, artist, and all-round Hall-of-Famer, Fane Flaws.

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