2002, Sugarlicks Recordings, SUGARCD001
Soul, funk and hip-hop with a pacific flavor seems to be emerging as the new catalyst of the New Zealand underground music scene. Over the past 5 years, a fine blend of well-crafted soul, funk, hip-hop and down-tempo has revitalized the flailing Wellington and Auckland music scenes. Where once Wellington was known for their hard rock outfits (Shihad and Head Like A Hole being the primary exponents), this has since been eclipsed by the likes of Fat Freddy’s Drop and Imon Star – with diverse acts from around New Zealand making Wellington their home.
Starting slowly with the least contemporary track on the album, Lole‘s “Samoana” layers up soft whispering Rhodes keyboards, gently strummed guitar and very traditionally styled vocals – not really my cup of tea, but a nice album opener nonetheless. From there things get progressively funkier. Ekadek‘s “Love In Your Eyes” lays down a phat bass-line accompanied by breathy whispers drenched in reverb. Brother J carries on this vibe with the aptly titled “The Scary Song”. Portishead-styled music backing mellow twin vocals and a killer chorus due to one heck of a funky guitar sound- very nice indeed.
Submariner‘s “Generation to Generation” carries forth Brother J‘s flirtation with ragga-influence vocal licks, all over a tasty shuffling drumbeat, before the centerpiece of the compilation, Fat Freddy’s Drop‘s “Runnin”. Greeted by horns, funky bass and skittery drums, it’s apparent why Fat Freddy’s Drop have been making such a name for themselves, and that’s without vocalist Dallas’ laconic, soulful vocals, which announce themselves like a familiar friend. Keep an ear out for these boys, they’ll go far.
The Nomad offers a funky retake of his (by now) signature track – “Concentrate” which trades funky drum licks with repetitive, driving vocal lines and a slippery guitar backing. Juse‘s “Music/Life” is a familiar jazz sample-based laid-back track with some nice, if somewhat uninteresting drum backing – too formulaic to catch my attention.
We’re back into soul mode again with La Brisa Louca‘s “Strangest of Places” – an array of percussive sounds, keys and both funk and Spanish guitar. Imon Star start slowly with “Vitality”, before a funky synth-bass lick sets the stage for a great vocal performance. Star’s work with Jodie Lloyd has always been of high quality, and “Vitality” certainly lives up to that reputation. Kaya‘s “Top Shelf” opens up funky house overdrive, twin wah guitars and a steady beat propelling the track forward until the song compounds with an array of grooved-out synth and bass lines, and vocals (with a-typical whispered french backup vocals).
Henry Taripo‘s “Mururoa” is a song of protest that relies on some gorgeously orchestrated vocals over a somewhat sparse musical background. Mesh‘s “Dragonfly” is another of the album’s dance numbers – again infused with a 4/4 beat and a repetitive melody, luckily compensated by some nice synth pads and vocal coloring – wouldn’t have been my choice of album closer.
Overall a fine, cohesive reflection of things to come from sugarlicks recordings, if a little inconsistent. The album ebbs and flows from start to finish, maintaining a mellow tone. Not a bad choice of album for a lazy sunday afternoon in front of the fireplace.