Songs with a contemplative feel dominate the Song Crush selections this week, with songs from The Cinematic Orchestra, Neneh Cherry, Scott Mulvahill and Koffee.
Joining host Kirsten Johnstone is RNZ Concert jazz-man, host of Inside out, and The Works - Nick Tipping, RNZ Music’s Tony Stamp, and special guest, DJ Dubhead.
Neneh Cherry - 'Fallen Leaves'
Reteaming with UK producer Four Tet for their second album together (after 2014’s Blank Project), Broken Politics finds Neneh Cherry in a contemplative mood. Her melodies are still playful though, and on 'Broken Leaves' they’re paired perfectly with pastoral harps and a shuffling backbeat. It’s been thirty years since her debut Raw like Sushi, but Cherry’s voice and no-bullsh*t attitude are still sublime. TS
The Cinematic Orchestra - 'Lessons' / 'Wait For Now'
Music can act as a salve, an escape, and a place to contemplate, which is what I - and I’m sure many others - needed this week, after the horrific events of Friday the 15th of March. The sound of The Cinematic Orchestra is both familiar and comforting, and sad at the same time as being uplifting.
They've just released their first studio album in twelve years (though producers Jason Swinscoe and Dominic Smith also worked on a Disney soundtrack together in that time) and while there’s new textures in there, it harks back in some ways to their seminal 2000 album Every Day, particularly with the familiar voice of Roots Manuva in the mix.
To Believe is an examination of belief, and I hear many unanswered questions, both lyrically and musically in the album. Swinscoe has felt close to a couple of recent terrorist attacks, being based with his family in Paris at the time of the Bataclan and Nice Bastille day massacres, and says (in an interview with The Guardian) that with this album, he wanted to make people “Stop, look, listen and feel. And be conscious of the decisions you’re making. Because it feels as if the world is spinning off its axis a little bit and it’s scary.”
‘Lessons’ is a nine minute long instrumental, with egalitarian layers of sound that drop in and out through the track. There’s an omnipresent, marching rhythm, and then synths, strings, and guitar swirling around on top. It gives me a feeling of standing still in the midst of chaos.
It’s followed on the album by a gospel number called ‘Wait For Now’ featuring London raised Ghanian singer Tawiah B. She was raised in the pentecostal church, and she brings that religious, reverent tone, while Swinscoe and Smith give it the space and sensitivity in needs without over-blowing the sentimentality of it.
Scott Mulvahill - 'Begin Againers'
Bass player / singer / songwriter Scott Mulvahill spent time with bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs before releasing his own debut album in 2018. Himalayas starts with a stripped down track about redemption and clean slates. It features just Scott on double bass and vocals, but by the end you’ve forgotten what’s not there as he pulls you in with his hypnotic bass groove. NT
Koffee - 'Throne'
At just five foot high and nineteen years old, this up and coming Singjay is destined for big things. Mikayla Simpson as she’s known to her mum went viral on instagram a few years ago with her acoustic song for Usain Bolt, and she’s run her own race to public adoration. She already has a management team and major label backing, some high profile collabs and cosigns in the reggae scene, and she’s just released her first EP - Rapture.
With socially conscious lyrics, a fast and distinctive flow, and charisma to boot, she's already significant. With this track she's bridging generations, using a riddim familiar from a Horace Andy song.
Flamingo Pier - 'Find Your Way'
Three kiwis meet in London, put on some dance parties, then proceed to create floor-fillers of their own. Luke Walker, Dominic Jones and Bradley Craig (formerly of Two Cartoons) make up the trio, and on this track they create the most infectious groove I’ve heard all year. They’re signed to London label Soundway Records, in fine company alongside fellow NZers Lord Echo and Julien Dyne.