Review : Electric Hawaii - Opossom
BbcNews recently emerged of a drinking game called Possum, invented in Dunedin on New Zealand’s south island. The rules are simple: you sit in a tree (Possum-style) and drink until you fall out of it.
Dunedin is also the spiritual home of New Zealand psych-pop. These two facts are only united by Kody Nielson. As Opossom he’s the spiritual carrier of NZ’s expert psych-pop gene, and Electric Hawaii is one of the most striking albums to emerge from the Land of the Long White Cloud in eons.
Just as New Zealand, per capita, wins more Olympic gold medals than any other nation, so the country more than pulls its weight when it comes to extraordinarily great psych-pop, almost all released by Flying Nun. One of the label’s most recent winners was Kody’s former band The Mint Chicks, also featuring his brother Ruban, who now fronts Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
Bar the odd vocal assist from Bic Runga and Kody's dad Chris on trumpet, Electric Hawaii is entirely Kody, whose 60s beat and 70s new wave leanings emerge. Like preceding NZ escapades, from The Chills to The Ruby Suns, Brian Wilson is a notable influence.
Electric Hawaii starts off simply, with the gleaming sunshine pop of Girl, Fly and Blue Meanies – the adjective “groovy” is rarely used nowadays but applies perfectly here. It soon shows off more complex manoeuvres, from Getaway Tonight via Why Why and Cola Elixir’s unfettered glee before closing on Inhaler Song’s bliss overload, as Nielsen pushes the studio controls into the red.
At which point, you might reasonably imagine a one-man Flaming Lips has captured your imagination. Yet if one comparison sticks during the album’s more maximalist second half, it’s Animal Collective as smitten by surf rock as they are The Beach Boys’ Smile. Kody slathers primitive echo and reverb all around, riffs are rubbery and his voice yelps, hollers and croons....full text
NzheraldHitting play on Electric Hawaii is like entering the swirling, hallucinogenic world of a garage party in the 60s, filtered through a futuristic astronomical lense, with a touch of the Pacific. It's somehow retro and post-modern simultaneously, irresistible in its mad blend of blues, psychedelic rock, Motown, fuzz pop, harmonies, and jazz, and it's hugely entertaining with its occasional snatches of humour and irreverence.
That's not to say it isn't a serious album, but it's unmistakably the product of a Nielson brother - Kody Nielson to be exact - who, along with his brother Ruban, helmed the Mint Chicks, notorious for their playfulness and flaunting any notions of conformity....full text
themusicOpossom is essentially Kody Nielson, formerly of The Mint Chicks. When they split, his brother Ruban formed Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Kody retreated to his bedroom to write, play on and record Electric Hawaii. The album retains much of the bright energy of Nielson’s former band but it is also decidedly more trippy and psychedelic, awash with an array of electronic and tropicalia influences.
Getaway Tonight, one of the standout tracks, manages to make a hazy melancholic vocal work over frenetic drumming and all manner of strings and synths. Melody has always been a strong component of Nielson’s work and here it is amplified to a day-glo level. Everything sounds like it should be accompanied by technicolour rainbows, neon and hallucinogenic imagery. On Watchful Eye Opossom veer close to the psych rock of Tame Impala while the title track eschews vocals and conjures up the ghostly sound of a haunted carnival ride. The psych aspect is omnipresent throughout Electric Hawaii both in the way Nielson structures his songs, layers their elements and the sonic light in which he casts them. There are also traces of Beck’s experimental side and playful way with rhythms, and on closing track Inhaler Song Opossom channels Flaming Lips before tipping the music into a sonic blender, chewing it up and spitting it out as static in fantastic fashion....full text
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