DJ RECLOOSE featuring HOLLIE SMITH / “The Game Goes On”
Most of the musicians are Wellingtonians, and are pretty established in the musical community here. Joe Dukie (aka Dallas Tamaira) is probably the best-known of these collaboraters as the vocalist for the Wellington band Fat Freddy's Drop. I was also able to enlist some horn talents from Fat Freddy's and had Toby Laing and Warren Maxwell mix their sounds up with my own sax squeaking. I've got Jonathan Crayford on the album, one of New Zealand's premier jazz keyboardists, and Riki Gooch, the drummer in our live outfit and a brilliant producer in his own right (he has his own album on the way). Other vocalists include Hollie Smith and Lisa Tomlins, two of Wellington's standout vocal talents who play in multiple bands around town.I want to warn you—it’s not what you think. Whatever you think, this is not what that is. The former DJ Bubblicious, a student at the University of Michigan, moved to Detroit after graduation. There the man born as Matthew Chicoine did what most college graduates dream of doing: instead of using his degree as a 'go directly to jail' card (i.e. get a corporate job), my man followed his muse, a muse who stroked his ego and whispered into his soul, “go make music,” which led to Chicoine slinging sandwiches at the Russell Street Deli whilst moonlighting as a DJ, creating beats and looking for a big break.
"Hiatus" has to date probably done the best here. There has been lots of TV, radio, and print press and we just sold out our debut live appearance here in Wellington. I think the response comes from the fact that audiences are hearing their favorite local musicians in a pretty different light (namely dance floor bizness…), and the merging of what it is I do--I suppose funk-driven Detroit styles--with the sound here (more acoustic, laid-back sounds) seems to have worked.
Here is where the fairytale part begins: one day Carl Craig, a legend of Detroit techno music, stopped in the deli for a sandwich. That same day Matt’s muse was wide awake and on the case. Again the muse spoke: slip a tape in with the sandwich. There is no record as to whether or not Carl enjoyed the eats, but for sure he dug the beats. Ended up offering to sign my man Matt. Here is where Hollywood would end the story with DJ Recloose’s name up in lights (you know he had to get a hipper moniker than the juvenile “Bubblicious”). But as is always the case, life makes fiction look like, well, look like fiction.
What had happened was, Matt fell in love and his new living and breathing muse led him to move to New Zealand to live. True he had seen the island while on tour doing his DJ thing, but it had never occurred to him to live there. So, of course, once he was there he set in to making music that reflected where his new 'there' was. The album is called Haitus On The Horizon. (Get it? "haitus" - a break from the daily routine; "horizon" - somewhere far out there in the distance. Get it?) This new release is a true hybrid. You can’t tell if it’s an acoustic album buttressed by beats or an electronic album warmed by live musicians. You might called it amphibian music, equally at home in water and on land.
I’m clear that two main elements make it work: the vocal talent is outstanding and the production work is stellar.
Joe Dukie is Dallas Taraira, lead vocalist with Fat Freddy’s Drop, which in turn is the leading independent band hailing out of New Zealand. Joe is to vocalizing what a fish is to water, he just does it, seemingly effortlessly, as if all that is required is that he open his mouth and out jumps song. Nothing flashy, nothing dazzling, everything is mellow; before you know it you are closing your eyes, nodding your head, and savoring the sonic irie-ness. “Dust” is a major hit as a single thanks in no small part to Joe’s presence.
The other featured vocalist is Hollie Smith, whom it would not be an exaggeration to describe as the queen of south Pacific soul. This wisp of a woman has a deep, earthy sound that is as solid as an Aoteroa mountain. Those “oh-ah-s” and “um-ah’s” on “The Game Goes On” are the kind of a hook that can ignite a whole club into spontaneously singing along.
Neither Joe Dukie nor Hollie Smith have a full length album, both have self-produced EPs, plus numerous guest appearances and one-off projects. I will spotlight both of them in another write up to be shortly featured on BoL.
I am mightily impressed with the production values on Recloose’s second full length release. He is not only an excellent engineer who knows how to craft a fat-sounding record, he is also a composer and arranger. If you listen to this music with earphones, you will hear bunches of subtle touches that deepen the emotional attractiveness of Recloose’s music. Check how he mixes vocals, doubling and tripling, adding a shadow voice up under the lead, phasing the backing voices across channels—it’s a painstaking process that can easily produce a murky, messy, mucked-up cacophony rather than the the inviting rush of enticing audio waves washing over one’s eardrums. Recloose spent two years on this album and the production quality reflects both craft and inspiration.
But beyond the engineering, he is full of inventive compositional touches. He likes aural ribbons that he weaves into a song tapestry. Hook-like riffs are buttressed by percussion touches that range from live drums to bells, from judiciously employed cymbals to deft conga breaks. While there is no doubt that the vocal tracks lift the songs emotionally, one listen to "Mukutu Man" demonstrates that composing is Recloose’s strong suit. Clearly living 'Down Under' has been wonderful for DJ Recloose, giving him the environment and the cohorts to help make his musical dreams come true. Indeed, New Zealand may even have given him a new dream.
There must be something in the water down there.
—Kalamu ya Salaam
On my first listen, I thought, "Not bad." I certainly didn't dislike any of Recloose's stuff, but I wasn't crazy about it either. Then I read Kalamu's comments and listened again, and a little closer. Except for the Hollie Smith track (
"The Game Goes On" "Still Beyond Me"), which I do like a lot, I'm still not crazy about the tunes, but at the same time, I do hear the different elements that Kalamu is describing. Strangely enough, I also hear more than a passing resemblance—mainly in the relaxed, unhurried vibe of the music—to Fat Freddy's Drop, the other New Zealand band Kalamu talked about a couple of weeks ago. I say 'strangely,' because Recloose is apparently from the Midwest in the U.S.A., not New Zealand or Austraila or anywhere else in that part of the world. In any event, I'll be checking for Kalamu's post on Hollie Smith's EP, and in the meantime, I'm going to give Recloose's music a few more spins.
—Mtume ya Salaam
This entry was posted on Sunday, July 16th, 2006 at 2:35 am and is filed under Contemporary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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