Nick Bollinger revisits a few of the local albums that stood out in 2017
Shake That Skinny Ass All The Way To Zygertron by Troy Kingi
I wondered whether I’d had this album long enough to know whether it really was one of my albums of the year - after all it only came out in November. Then again, there’s no other local album I heard in 2017 that comes close to capturing a groove like this.
Conceived one night at Taupo Bay in Northland, while Kingi and his brother were doing some star-gazing, it’s a full-on cosmic concept album about two people from different dimensions who fall in love and fulfil an ancient prophesy.
With a title that could belong to an old Parliament or Funkadelic album, the music recalls a raft of classic soul signifiers: Curtis Mayfield, Al Green and, inevitably, George Clinton.
It’s a wonderful, mad album of cosmic Maori funk.
Shake That Skinny Ass All The Way To Zygertron is available on AAA Records.
Little Arrows by Reb Fountain
Reb Fountain released two new recordings this year, after a long absence. The first of these, a five song EP, was recorded live and leaned towards a down-home, folk-rock flavour. This one – the second and more ambitious of the discs – is a full album that extends from Americana into what sounds more like Balkan gypsy music.
It had been substantially completed three years ago when the multi-instrumentalist Sam Prebble, who worked closely with Reb Fountain on the music, died unexpectedly, leaving the project to languish until she could find the fortitude to revisit it. Fortunately she did, and the result is a powerful set of songs and performances. In some ways the songs seem almost prescient in the way they address struggles, hardships, betrayal and loss. And yet there’s something in Fountain’s soaring voice that feels triumphant too.
Little Arrows is available on Fountain Records
Winterdust by Matt Langley
Dunedin was once the breeding ground for indie rockers, but these days its prime export seems to be singer-songwriters. Aldous Harding and Nadia Reid both originated in Dunedin, and have been widely celebrated this year, both home and abroad.
If fellow Dunedinite Matt Langley hasn’t had that sort of attention it’s hardly surprising. Winterdust is a modest, independently released collection, recorded entirely on his own, other than some sympathetic string parts added by Alex Vaatstra. But Langley’s songs stand up without any adornment, and there’s a Neil Finn quality about a song like ‘Delicate Sun’ - just one of the standouts on this gentle, sustained study in melancholy.
Winterdust is available on Bandcamp
Precipice by Indi
Until a year or so ago this Christchurch-based composer and performer was a member of Doprah, whose dreamy electronic pop had people predicting big things. But the band dissolved before those things had a chance to happen, and Force went back to working alone. And solitude seems to suit her. Combining electronics with orchestral instruments and her breathy, multi-layered vocals, she’s created an album of sonic depth and cinematic breadth.
For much of Precipice, Indi’s voice is a bit like a feather floating through an industrial landscape. There are extended instrumental passages that might be the score for a sci-fi or fantasy film. But there are also songs, where the underlying themes of womanhood and mythology crystallise in powerful personal lyrics.
Precipice is available on Bandcamp