12 Jul 2020

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Simon Hirst - Album Review: Feet of God

02 Apr 2018 // A review by Trevor Faville

This is not quite the first release from Hamilton based artist Simon Hirst. Preceding Feet of God have been two EP’s, Shining in Silver from 2017, and the online-only The Cats Out of the Bag which as well as containing alternative versions of some of the Feet of God tracks, functions as quite an important companion piece. This man is well known to audiences around the “Tron as a high profile local solo performer and this breadth of experience gives his first full length release a powerful sense of maturity and confidence.

The self-assurance comes through firstly in terms of melody, and this is probably Hirst’s strongest element in both his song writing and live work. It is immediately apparent from opening track Arohanui that here is someone who can combine an ability to craft a quality melodic line with the technical and musical ability to deliver it to maximum emotional effect. This melodic sensibility doesn’t waver at any point through this album. It’s a rare combination, and one that he shares with Neil Finn from late-period Enz through the early 90’s Crowded House. This is a musical touchstone that is impossible to ignore simply because like Finn, Hirst writes songs that, if they were stripped down to melody, harmony and timbre, would lose no impact at all.

This is not to play down the next point which is the attention to detail in the arrangements and structure. This is handled throughout with intelligence and skill, from the deft touches of instrumentation and timbre (listen to the ‘just-so’ lead guitar lines in Signs and Wonders and the subtle keys/ambient/guitar pad in the background of There She Goes) to the musically sensitive production and mixing. One notes the playing and arranging input of Eddie Rayner which does extend that line of influence even further into Split Enz territory. There is no way that this can ever really be a bad thing- witness his arrangement on the version of Through the Wall of Light (Orchestral Version) on The Cats out of The Bag. It's that good, easily first choice (to these these ears) for standout song of this collection. It's the moment when arrangement, melody and delivery combine to maximum effect.

One needs to reiterate the maturity in this music, which may well date it to an older demographic in terms of how the songs a structured and arranged- this is not dancing music, nor ‘track and hook’ Max Martin ‘ultra-contemporary’ pop. The choruses go dynamically up for the lift, not down for the breakdown, and there is none of that tiresome post-modern irony either. In future work care will need to be taken to make sure that the tempos, instrumentation and timbres don’t make the listening too easy, and at times the relaxed mellow/melancholy vibe overall cries out for more variation, too.

What Mr Hirst has done, though, is played to his strengths. He has taken ownership of both his influences and experience for this recording. The end result might perhaps hark back to another era of song writing, but this is certainly not any sort of “stylistic tourism”. He places himself there quite clearly and apologetically, and to commanding effect.

Review written by Trevor Faville


Other Reviews By Trevor Faville

Venice Qin - EP Review: Dreamboy
29 May 2020 // by Trevor Faville
Venice Qin is an Auckland based singer and Songwriter. Dreamboy is a four-song collection and is her first release.
isunray - EP Review: Balancing Act
09 Mar 2020 // by Trevor Faville
isunray essentially consists of multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Hay, who has quite an extensive history of songwriting, arranging and producing. For this release, he is joined by vocalist Jade Eru, who makes a powerful and significant contribution.
Al Fraser, Sam Leamy and Neil Johnstone - Album Review: Panthalassa
17 Sep 2019 // by Trevor Faville
This trio of highly experienced creators (aided by an impressive cast of guest contributors) have created a suite of sonic explorations with quite clear ‘‘abstract and impressionist” intent. The attendant press notes explain in detail the scope, intent and process of this work.
Tablefox - Single Review: Always Always
05 Sep 2019 // by Trevor Faville
Tablefox have been on a career climb since 2013, steadily building momentum with some notable live gigs and recorded work. Along the way the group has grown from three to five and their sound has evolved in scope and focus as a result.
Albi & The Wolves - Gig Review: Albi and the Wolves @ Nivara Lounge, Hamilton - 23/08/2019
30 Aug 2019 // by Trevor Faville
There is a group of New Zealand musicians who are really putting in some time around the touring circuit at the moment. It's cliche to describe them as ‘hard working’ - that's glib and a redundancy - but certainly, the work is getting done and it is showing in terms of their successes.
Single Review: Blue River Baby
06 Jun 2019 // by Trevor Faville
The hard working Wellington based 'electric psychedelic soul and funk rock' ensemble Blue River Baby have released their self-titled and third single as a video. Blue River Baby clearly has the same evolution as Walk of Shame and Black Yard Town.
New Telepathics - Single Review: Life On Other Planets
27 Mar 2019 // by Trevor Faville
The New Telepathics are an Auckland based ensemble with quite an extensive recording and performing history-and a history that deserves a thorough exploration. This is a refreshingly independently minded ensemble.
Blue River Baby - Single Review: Black Yard Town
19 Feb 2019 // by Trevor Faville
The Blue River Baby band have been working and evolving in Wellington for the last two years or so, and this tune is a clear representation of the style and sound that they have developed. Black Yard Town moves through a range of tempo and dynamic changes in a funk/ soul context, with an arrangement that is in one way tight and at the same time fluid.
View All Articles By Trevor Faville

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