Keeping Track

ARTS, Music
img_martynpepperellFourteen fresh New Zealand tracks to discover by way of compilation and upcoming music festivals Homegrown and Splore.

Martyn Pepperell was an early advocate for Lorde, and the rest of the new generation of young bedroom music producers in New Zealand. The Wellington music journalist takes us track-by-track through his recent guest mix of new wave New Zealand musicians. From rap to bedroom beats via video game disco and tropical house.

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She’s So Rad, ‘Refresh’
I first met Jeremy Toy (She’s So Rad) when he was producing Hollie Smith’s debut album Long Player and playing in Opensouls in the late 2000s. I always liked what Jeremy did as a musician, but I didn’t really lock in like that until he started his She’s So Rad project with Anji Sami. Their debut album In Circles was a marvelous suite of shoegaze rock. They followed up In Circles with Last Dance, an EP of disco-boogie underpinned by vintage synthesisers and drum machines. Jeremy sent me Last Dance about six months before it was released and I really fell in love with a few of the songs. In particular ‘Refresh’. It had that retrofuturist edge, but it also reminded me of ’90s video game soundtracks. Very cool.

Unmap, ‘Good Love’
‘Good Love’ is probably my favourite song he has released so far. Unmap has this great ability to generate a buzz though quality of music as opposed to viral hype. He doesn’t have a social media presence and virtually never does interviews or live shows. ‘Good Love’ approximates a perfect interzone between trap music, post-dubstep, and modern R&B. Killer arrangements, killer vocals, and a solid mix. A new Unmap song is always an event.

I came across FFFRRANNNO’s music after a few radio stations started picked up his single ‘Girls’. Then he signed up with Saiko Management and remixed ‘Bravado’ for Lorde. I talk to FFFRRANNNO on gmail chat a couple of times a week. He’s a cool guy. A small town kid from Paeroa with a very sophisticated set of international musical influences and benchmarks, and I suspect a sizeable collection of sneakers as well. The level of detail and colour in ‘Noah’ is amazing. FFFRRANNNO is really doing it.

Race Banyon, ‘Only Sixteen’
‘Only Sixteen’ is Race Banyon’s signature song. Now seventeen, this Wellington based teenage multi-instrumentalist, producer and vocalist wrote it in reaction to always seeing people use the phrase “only sixteen” when writing about himself, Lorde and Wellington rapper Name UL (all of whom were sixteen at the time.) It’s an amazing piece of longform house music. Brightly toned and well detailed, while ‘Only Sixteen’ is rooted in that club tempo, Race Banyon uses it to showcase a range of different rhythms and textures. Some really exciting things have been happening for him over the last twelve months. 2014 will be an exciting year.

@Peace, ‘Cake’
I’d been hearing Tom Scott’s voice for years before I met him in real life, mostly through recorded material from his well loved group Homebrew. Tom formed a duo called @Peace with a young former Wellingtonian named Lui. Lui was pretty nice on the rhymes, and him and Tom had great chemistry together. Since then @Peace has expanded into a full group and released a street album and an EP, and plan to release a proper debut album soon. ‘Cake’ comes from their EP Girl Songs. To me, it’s one of the better local rap songs to be recorded in awhile. You could almost describe it as a New Zealand take on soulful southern trap rap, but with a jungle drum and bass breakdown and chime bells attached. The chorus is amazing as well, serious earworm qualities.

Raiza Biza, ‘You Make Me Feel’
Rwandan rapper Raiza Biza has been an interesting presence within our national hip-hop scene for about eight years now. I remember seeing him perform as Raysa at MC battles in Wellington during the mid 2000s. Fast forward a few years and he remerged properly as one half of Caged Lion—a ragga hip-hop duo he shared with Max from Young Shottaz. Off the back of Caged Lion, Raiza launched a solo career, and has been doing pretty well ever since. Over the last year he released three albums for free download and has been touring the country to great fanfare. Raiza got the beat for ‘You Make Me Feel’ off a producer from Auckland named ChoiceVaughan. It’s got a cool syrupy DJ Screw vibe to it. Raiza is probably at his strongest as a reflective storyteller, you can literally hear him getting lost in his memories while he rhymes—which is ‘You Make Me Feel’ in a nutshell.

Paddy Fred, ‘Neighbourhood’ feat. Estere
Paddy was in the year below me at high school. Over what feels like close to fifteen years I’ve seen him evolve from a new metal guitarist into an extremely competent beats producer, with some serious dabbling in funk and soul along the way. I always knew he was talented, but I never really locked in with any of this work like that until he released his Laminate EP last year. ‘Neighbourhood’ feat. Estere is my favourite song on the EP. Estere is a talented young singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and a producer in her own right. When she teamed up with Paddy, they both took each other to the next level. It’s such a smooth song. A+.

Spycc, ‘Slowdown’ feat. Mahalia Simpson
Spycc is that dude. Hailing from Onehunga in Auckland, he’s one of those all rhyming, all beatmaking, executive producing rap polymaths. I first came across his music when Lani from Lani Says blogged about a collaborative EP he put out with his friend INF. Around the same time David Dallas started tweeting and facebooking about him as well. Then he dropped a brilliant solo EP titled Self-Progression. Musically speaking, Spycc has found a real ill way to take the classic West Coast hip-hop sound and filter it through a Polynesian tinted South Auckland lens. He’s got a real everyday life sound going on. His songs aren’t too street, and on the flipside he doesn’t go over the top on the lyrical-miracle-spiritual art school raps either. Spycc dropped ‘Slowdown’ as a single last year.

Tlaotlon, ‘Flayed Vert’
The first time I met Tlaotlon (Jeremy Coubrough), he was wearing a tiger skin coloured camo jacket, rave pants and a bucket hat. He already had a sizeable beard. Back then Jeremy was a mean saxophone player, and was getting busy as a DJ and an electronic music producer as well. These days he runs in Orchestra of Spheres (my favourite contemporary New Zealand band) and creates loop based psychedelic techno as Tlaotlon. ‘Flayed Vert’ is a pretty remarkable song, and it comes from an equally remarkable LP. To date Jeremy has released two albums, an EP and a few singles as Tlaotlon. They’re all gems, some of my favourite electronica of New Zealand origin ever. Maybe just some of my favourite modern electronica full-stop.

Christoph El Truento, ‘When someone is drowning you, is a good time to realize you’re a fish’ feat. Lontalius
DJ Art Official put me onto Truento’s work as a producer and a DJ many many moons ago. Truento has evolved into a very talented producer, as is evident throughout his work with @Peace, Some Other Planets and his two solo albums What We Used To Know and a series of oopsie daisies and various other flora. ‘When someone is drowning you, is a good time to realize you’re a fish’ is a very colourful and creative song, which sonically speaking sits somewhere between jazz, jungle and grainy lo-fi psychedelica. Truento asked Lontalius to sing on it, and Lontalius sang on it very well indeed. You’ll already know of him as Race Banyon.

High Hoops, ‘Heatwave’
I first met High Hoops on Skype while putting together a press kit for an electro-pop group he was part of, they had a few huge singles. During their downtime Hoops came up with a new solo project. Hoops has a great sound, I’m tempted to call it Yachtronica. It sits somewhere between tropical bass, rave, yacht rock and blue eyed soul, and is pretty perfect for those summer months.This guy has really worked out how to translate a bedroom production style into an impactful live show.

Skymning, ‘Feeling Better’
Skymning is a kid who a lot of people believe in, talented people at that. He constructs these really vibrant and atmospheric soundworlds riddled with interesting melodies and drum patterns. In general his songs are pretty damn perfect for late night headphone listening. I suspect he’s spent a lot of time listening to Take Care and NWTS by Drake after midnight. File Under: #4amBalconyMusic.

Totems, ‘II: Chonyid’
I’ve been watching Totems (Reuben Winter) perform as a live musician since he was fifteen, when he was playing guitar and screaming in one of his many noise punk bands at Thistle Hall in Wellington. Reuben was screaming his lungs out, rolling around on the floor, jumping off tables and playing some wildcat guitar. His energy was immediately infectious. Around that time he was also playing in a slightly poppier noise punk band named Bandicoot. They were fronted by Pearl McGlashan, daughter of Don,  and made some real headway within the local indie scene. I interviewed Reuben for Rip It Up, and it turned out he was also a fan of hip-hop, dubstep, and modern beat music (think: Flying Lotus, Samiyam, etc), too. Reuben was also rapping in a group called Google Cops, and making beats on the side. A couple years back the beats side of his work really started to gather some traction, which led to him releasing several EPs as Totems and doing a lot of touring around New Zealand. He got to open up for Lil B, Gold Panda and Tokimonsta along the way.

Yvnalesca, ‘Yu’
Yvnalesca is part of that ten percent (of the many) who email me who send me something I actually connect with. He’s been flicking me through his beats, a mixture of future garage, L.A. style contemporary beats and classic dubstep for a couple of years now. They pretty much always hit the sweet spot, and he’s really figured out how to write music informed by his life as a young dude growing up in post-EQNZ Christchurch. Yvnalesca’s production style really speaks to the bleak beauty of the central city red zone in Christchurch, in particular when they were about half way through demolitions. ‘Yu’ is a great example of this, vibrant yet ghostly future garage for a generation that has heard stories about the classic warehouse parties of the nineties, but are too young to have been able to really attend.

Listen to Martin Pepperell’s picks on SoundCloud.
Paddy Fred, Totems, and @Peace perform at Homegrown (Wellington Waterfront, February 15); Estere and High Hoops at Splore (Tapapakanga Regional Park, Auckland; February 14-16).

Main Image: Martyn Pepperell, © Fran Gleisner.