It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of young Auckland band Yoko-Zuna. Last year’s debut album, This Place Here, was a heady genre-defying mix of the many styles we routinely categorise as “urban”, with a heavy emphasis on sounds at the jazzier end of the spectrum. This week the band released its follow-up, an EP called Luminols, recorded at Red Bull Studios in Auckland, and released on Loop.
Once again the four-piece band nail it, as a unit, and alongside the many co-conspirators involved, which reads like a mini who’s who shortlist of the current Aotearoa hip hop scene – see the likes of Tom Scott, P Digsss, Lukan Rai$ey, Laughton Kora, LarzRanda, and Heavy. The five-track EP is another boundary-pushing, innovative, thoroughly mature piece of work.
For me, the best hip hop is that which embraces a live backdrop (see The Roots, as the most obvious benchmark) and that’s exactly what makes Yoko-Zuna special amid a sea of young up-and-coming local hopefuls. These guys use a range of instrumentation (that sax is a killer) and it’s hardly surprising they – along with regular producer Cam Duncan – manage to woo “big” names (in a local context, at least) like Scott, Kora, and Digsss, along with the relative newcomers featured here. Just as they nabbed David Dallas for the debut.
Without really wanting to single out highlights too much, it’s that more experienced trio who provide special moments here; the P Digsss (Shapeshifter) collab, ‘Lightning Sabres’ is an infectious excursion into clubland electronica, Kora’s contribution, ‘One Question’, is as soul-drenched as anything else he’s ever released, while Tom Scott (HomeBrew, @Peace, and Average Rap Band*) adds yet another masterclass in rhyme and flow on ‘Orchard St’. Complete with his trademark relevant, clever, and mildly-amusing set of lyrics.
(* I think the Average Rap Band debut album, El Sol, is one of the best local releases of 2016 so far, and I will review it for the blog at some point soon).
You can stream or pick up a copy of Luminols on Bandcamp here, and check out this clip for ‘Lightning Sabres’ below: