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Outland Sessions - EP Review: Daylight

13 Jul 2018 // A review by Steve Shyu

The Outland Sessions is the result of a large collaborative project between 20 Kiwi musicians who gathered in Pahiatua over February 2018 to jam, write and record songs. The end products are twenty entirely different-sounding songs, mixed and mastered by Mordecai Records and released as three separate EPs.

Part 1 of these three acts is titled Daylight, and Paul T Gheist had the honour of getting these tunes in his ears. Here’s what he took away from his journey into the Outlands.

1 – A New Song

The EP begins with an attention-grabbing funk rhythm, provided by a dreamy bass guitar sound and deep-grooved drums. The soulful vocal lines cut straight to the chase, welcoming you to the 7-track party.

A level of playfulness is added to the tune as the drumbeat changes to a shuffle for the choruses, and the guitars break in to a psychedelic tone, accompanying the youthful vocal drawls.

The song peaks as the singing soars into a bold, head-turning long note right before the breakdown begins, boasting a groove deeper than before. Bass synthesisers come out to play, with vocal ad libs added in that classic 80’s style. Right before you begin to daydream too heavily in the warmth, the song hops right back into the mid-tempo bounce.

The vocals in A New Song takes centre-stage, with soul and classic rock influences evident as the male lead proclaims, “I’ve got a new song, hey hey, honey”.

Truly, a new song, and looking to be a cool new EP, too.

2 – No Chance Mate

Obvious in its Brit-rock influences, this one illustrates a quaint short story of a disillusioned millennial musician unable to fit into a scene, which, frankly, could be all too relevant for some!

The drunken-geezer singing style, set to a ska-infused garage rock vibe, makes for a humorous, easy-to-love little number.

The pub-friendly feel is further amplified by the “Oi oi oi oi” chant at the end of the choruses, and never strays far from the Blur-esque sound.

For a spot of fun, be sure to stop by and get your ears on this one.

3 – MR. 5

Perhaps the most different-sounding track on this EP, it begins to a powerful, stomp-and-clap rhythm to an odd time signature of 5/4. Bold male acapella singing then follows, harmonising over the unified chorus of “Mister Five”, and before long, you’ve found yourself tapping your fingers and your feet to the mystifying rhythm.

To mix things up, drums, bass and a light guitar suddenly enter a third-way through the song, taking you by surprise but amplifying the positive mood evoked with the acapella, then gradually stripping back to the solid tabletop-stomping rhythm.

This track is a refreshing break from the common “four on the floor” timing we all hear, with kudos to the all-voices-on-deck approach, experimenting with harmonies and, for most of the piece, using as few instruments as possible.

4 – In My Sigh

The fourth track feels very much like a Kiwi rock song plucked straight out of the late 90’s. With a light tempo provided by the hi-hat and snare, plus a simple, finger-picked acoustic guitar riff, the opening of the song is mildly reminiscent of The Shins. The lyrics appear to reflect on some life-changing turning point, yet strikingly the vocalist soberingly adds “the best of my life is the end of time”.

Like the sun breaking through clouds, the song switches up to a faster-pace, with broader strums of guitar strings and more drive behind the dumkit, adding a boost of uplifting energy, evoking imagery of a coastal drive on a summery Sunday.

Juxtaposed beautifully here are the moody lyrics set to a brisk pop-rock setting, with a falsetto line echoing “Ooh I feel it in my sigh” until the track fades, leaving a mild, melancholic aftertaste.

5 – Angels

Although dark, this song is easily the highlight of this EP. An emotionally deep piece of songwriting, the simple mixture of blues guitars and low, heart wrenching female vocals makes for a sombre but reflective listen.

The lyrics are plainly personal, introspective yet offers comfort, delivered by a hauntingly-pained singing voice that grabs at heart-strings.

Another attraction on Angels is the whiskey-soaked slide guitar solo that features all too briefly, not overly-complex but fits the atmosphere extremely well.

This particular song cuts but is quietly empowering at the same time; you’re guaranteed to have the line “Angels watch over you” in your head for hours – if not days – after listening.

6 – And If I

By the time this track comes around, you realise you aren’t out of the moody part of the woods just yet.

This is another song that’s marked by unusual time signatures and noticeably off-beat drum patterns, the tense atmosphere is projected by an urgent, high-register vocal delivery, drifting piano arpeggios and eerie guitar effects.

The chorus lilts, alternating between major and minor key, with layers of tenor voices backing the lead singer, while the piano acts as the driver of the song, much in the way Radiohead has been known to do.

This piece changes in and out of different colours, altering rhythms and tempos, plus switching between keys, which makes this one for fans of experimental alt-rock to ear-mark.

7 – Stop Once

Perhaps alluding to the stop-start beat, the last track closes the set of seven in the form of a jazz instrumental, providing a bookend with the feel of a cafe or a small, underground wine bar.

The bass guitar and the keyboard work well together to form a playful, twirly series of riffs, whilst the drums attempt to hold the rhythm steady, oft-times overusing the cymbals.

A tasteful keyboard solo then takes over, adding a layer to the jazz and groove, but ends abruptly, signalling the end of Part 1.

There and Back Again

All up, Outland Sessions EP Part 1: Daylight is a very eclectic collection of songs, with a vast range of influences and styles, from soul to funk, garage rock to folk, courtesy of the large number of great New Zealand talent who contributed.

The EP starts with a fun, uplifting weekend-friendly vibe, at times experimenting with shifts in tempo and timing. The EP becomes a little more personal and carries more soul in its second half, with a quick and casual instrumental jam to close it all off.

Appropriate, as it seems to serve well as something of an interlude between acts of a play. No doubt, I’m highly interested to see what curious goodies the next instalments of this trilogy have to offer.

For the review of Outland Sessions EP 2: Duskfallclick here.

Review written by Paul T Gheist


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