Pop Video’s are like a late night trip to the 7/11 – expensive, unsatisfying and failing to substantiate the needs of the leading character, that is you or in this case, the album. And in this case Doprah without the videos are at their worst interesting, and at their best beautiful. But one doesn’t get that from their art forest darkness (Lucid Dreaming) or their surreal vivid irony (Stranger People) or their late night underwater gardening (Whatever You Want) or the suicidal bleak reality of a cult fantasy dreamer (San Pedro). So despite videos being the most powerful way to grow their audience. I urge you to listen to their album 5 times before you give in and press search.
I’m a big fan of Wasting – it’s Bristol meets Bournemouth on a trip to Christchurch with a layover in Reykjavik. Bristol and Reykjavik will be points of reference you know, Bournemouth is a reference to Caroline Crawley’s much underrated partnership with Jem Tayle in Shelleyann Orphan that boast the same duo like boy/girl partnership, here between Steven John Marr and Indira Force. (How I hope that’s her real name). Force and Marr share vocals that lean more towards her, with that special voice it’s unavoidable not to use it often. Other members of the band in varying roles are – Symon Palmer, Hunter Jackson, Ryan Fisherman, Matthew Gunn, Sagan Gunnforcemarrcraw. The band have announced that they will be performing in New Zealand and the USA in support of the album.
The album’s opener, Will I Be A Figure Eight is just fantastic, what a beautiful moody atmospheric and compelling opener with a sound rich, powerful and enticing. Force’s voice is perfect, the guitar sounds and instrumentation hit the spot.
The second track, Subaeruginosa is named after a magic mushroom that grows in their part of the world and continues to intrigue, although I can’t hear the abandon of drugs in their lifestyle, more a controlled direction, a desire to achieve a calculated appealing weirdness, intoxicating and accessible in its melodicism. Easily transforming from real drums and guitars where needed, to a world of machines, sounds and atmospheric keys with soaring vocals.
It’s in Borderline that I hear Caroline Crawley’s warble in Indira Force’s voice. A subtle expressive vibrato at the end of a breathy effortless catchy melody. Here the analog and the digital swing hand in hand down that creative New Zealand hot bed of varied talent that has given us a long list of artists that I won’t mention here, ok just one – Tiny Ruins.
Machinery has something of Nick Cave at Björk’s with its reverb piano and changing vocal that goes from dry personal and close to double tracked and then into a cavernous factory that reflects the title.
The mechanical continues in San Pedro of which there is a somehow satisfying maudlin live version on You Tube recorded in cramped hallway (in Christchurch I presume), the only joy is in Marr’s shirt but here the dark incessant pleasure of the song is redolent of Martina Topley-Bird and Massive Attack.
The sounds of an underground river opening out into a giant cave at the centre of the Earth with a scuttling Olm (look it up) is a mere 1.23 seconds, perceived by Doprah as something rather more space orientated the track is called Wormhole.
Wool has keyboard, Marr’s voice and almost a drum and bass rhythm or rather the soft drive that music suggests, it’s interesting how dry sounds go wet in this band like they are travelling through weather, one minute it’s arid, the next it’s raining. Like desert clouds they exceed their surroundings.
Lucid Vision might be The Durutti Column with vocals or a more adventurous Daughter on this beautifully sung track – Indira Force at her most mesmerising.
Stranger People takes me to Emilíana Torrini’s early work and here I would have preferred a purely Force vocal, it seems unnecessary to share, although maybe it makes sense to the two of them lyrically. Musically it’s beautiful (there’s that word again). Lyrically they are difficult to decipher. As a producer Marr has a sonic vision that he executes with aplomb and his skills are to be heartily applauded.
Omni the second last track doesn’t seem to quite work suffering from not being as good as the other tracks but not bad enough to discard.
The album ends with Black Lodge, a mechanical groove and filmic piano has you marvelling at their grasp of their genre. But the idea that songs with vocals that are “gibberish” (San Pedro) like say Cocteau Twins and sounds like these dispel pre-conceived ideas about how music sounds in one particular place, what a region might invent has long been assigned to history with globalisation and the internet. Anything that happens on any level is simultaneously transmitted to the world whether it be news or influence. Despite this, one hopes that local cultural influences in a far off land infiltrate and that the personalities and ideas of creative individuals like these can flourish into an unmistakable world of their own – maybe that’s what they are trying to achieve with the vidoes.