30 Sep 2020

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Lake South - Album Review: Wellington - Te Upoko O Te Ika

22 Aug 2019 // A review by Peter-James Dries

I seldom review anything with any degree of commercial appeal, on account of my conscious attempts to avoid overt radio-bate. The music consumed by the masses hasn’t spoken to me for over a decade. I’m too much of a depressionist/realist to relish the escapism of major chords and superficial lyrics.

That meant at the outset of this assignment I didn’t have high hopes for Wellington – Te Upoko O Te Ika. My first listen, walking through the drizzle in the forests of Prince of Wales Park, headphones around my neck, I only half heard. It was the distant hum of student flats, passing cars, and channel surfing past music countdowns on defunct Freeview channels.

Then came work sprints that require muscle-memory more than conscious thought, the man-flu from this damp Brooklyn house, and opportunities for realigned headphones. I found that despite being optimistic and bright electro-pop on the surface, Lake South’s sophomore long play hides an emotional depth I haven’t seen since I discovered Ænima.

It’s a trick pulled by Blue Traveller all those years ago with their song Hook; using catchy music to mask songs with feeling and meaning, enemies of the shallow. It’s a neat marketing tool too. You don’t alienate the casual listeners that way. The earworms on hooks, like the refrains Mt Victoria/Tangi-te-keo or Holloway Road, snare them, while the lyrics keep the thinkers busy. Yet I don’t feel that was Lake South’s intention here. Wellington – Te Upoko O Te Ika, the album, positively reeks of being an artist’s pet.

Poetic and clever, free from crutches like pun and rhyme, the lyrics are deep and contextual. Their true meanings are locked within the experience and memory of the writer, but with sentiments are universally relatable. “These hands are old – are these hands mine?” Wellington really is the head of the fish.

The physical release comes with a selection of postcards serving as lyric sheets (a different take, and fitting in a world where the CD case is going extinct). A mere curiosity at first, in this form I could truly appreciate and contextualise the songs as letters to a time gone by. To friendships lost, childhood lamented, and stories shared. They’re steeped in a nostalgic sense of place that only comes from absence, physical and emotional. That inevitably failed attempt at reconnection with a school friend you left behind in the real world, while you sojourned your inner and outer universe.

They remind me there is more beyond the walls of this mini-city of healthcare professionals, within which I am bound by gainful employment. There are small pockets of the city I will never know, frequented by social circles I’ll never orbit. Artist, thinkers, drones, and poets. Their stories, their lives, their memories, unknown and individual. Sonder: a made-up word for the feeling that each passerby is experiencing a unique life as vivid as your own. It reminds me of my own small pockets. Of friends that have married off and bred. Those that emigrated. Those that live so close, yet an email of text seems so far away.

While the postcards are different, the Pokemon Go style music player is unique. Instead of awarding you the collectable lives of imaginary wildlife, which you turn to candy and feed back to the survivors, your proximity to the locations that serve as track titles and geographic anchors for the memories in the lyrics awards you the songs. You can experience Makara as you walk windswept towards the wind turbine guardians of the hills. You can sit in the carpark before the walk to Red Rocks listening to South Coast. You can trip your way down the path from the Polhill bunkers listening to Holloway Road. Spectate the city listening to Mt Victoria. Spotify is for the lazy.

Wellington – Te Upoko O Te Ika is a record that has embraced the digital age. It’s the sound of the future for those, like me, stuck in the bygone age of rock music. But behind the computer is an artist who grew through a world before this technology, transcribing memories of the past through the lens of this future world in the form of discourse with the imaginary. Love, loss, and looking around. Ballad, elegy, and ode.

Recommended for both the misunderstood thinkers searching for meaning as they traverse this new world, and the shallow casuals looking to avoid it. Five out of five.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )

About Lake South

Lake South is the solo project from Lake of Urbantramper. He has released two songs via Bandcamp; Good Keen Man and Can We Still Blame Youth?

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Lake South


Wellington - Te Upoko O Te Ika
Year: 2019
Type: Album
Lake South
Year: 2014
Type: EP

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