19 Sep 2020
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Lasair - Album Review: Lessons

26 Nov 2019 // A review by Mike Alexander
Lasair is quite an unusual name so a quick Google search reveals some interesting options. Firstly, it’s old Irish for flame and then there are the various references to a laser diode aerosol particle counter. The Lasair, who has composed, orchestrated and pretty much played everything on his debut album Lessons is neither of the above but you can certainly see the flame of inspiration and the man is a machine in the sense of mastering his work environment to its maximum potential.


Lasair is, in fact, the alias for Hamilton musician George Dryburgh, who, in another world, you would call a bedroom musician but is oh so much more and seems to have mastered the various software programs available to musicians these days and delivered a concept album that crosses genres and simply begs to be listened to. 

The get go is the sound of a buzzer, the type you might recall from school days that signalled the start (or end) of a class period. An acoustic guitar signals time to pay attention and then a beautifully balanced and revealed thunderclap orchestra stomps its way into Let Me Try This Again, which has the kind of keyboard melody that’s overflowing with long forgotten memories and then a simple instruction to ”now listen up, class is in session pay close attention, these are my lessons”. A gorgeous rumbling bass line introduces Restart, which appears to be a lesson with “all the risk involved in love”. It has echoes of the best of ABC and Depeche Mode lyricism with its bulging and sweeping banks of synthesiser and segues beautifully into one of Lessons' highlights, the single House Of Cards, which is a bit like taking something of Boy George and turning him into Man George, an emotional mirror play of boys to men and all of the frailties that entails.

If Lasair has shown his hand as an old romantic in the musical sense, then I’m Not In Love, is a classic throwback to good old rock and roll, the kind with a great guitar intro, punchy chorus and a lyric that boils away inside of you “I wish I could keep myself from loving you”. Forget any allusion to 10cc, this is I’m Not In Love juiced up on a 500cc brute of a demon that carries your heart and soul into a different terrain, wind blowing against your face, the hope of something new reborn out of something old. It is at this point that you realise Lasair’s Lessons is evolving into something special.

As someone who has spent the past 42 years writing about New Zealand music and even had the god fortune to own his own record label, Bunk, and chart a top five hit, The Knobz Culture, I have had the privilege of hearing the best of New Zealand music that multi-nationals and independents have had to offer, and yet Lessons goes beyond anything I might have expected from those who have had the money to invest in what took their musical fancy.

There’s two other buzzer ringing classroom moments, Learning How To Speak, which is a wonderfully metaphoric instrumental followed by Thinking Up, an enlightening life lesson about sinking into the ocean we are all thinking up, and Rushed, a funky interlude that struts and sways to a smooth groove until it surrenders into another anthemic highlight, Blind, with its massed vocal and banked rhythmic wall of sound. There is almost a thematic resolution to these “lessons” where the acquired “learning” is put into perspective by the vagaries of life experience.

There is a final “bell”, fittingly called Closure, which again speaks to a different gene in the non-genre specific thrust of these lessons. A solitary piano motif and gentle, swelling orchestrations almost reflect the compositional maturity that Lasair has undergone during his personal and music lessons. The buzzer sounds one last time but needlessly so. The butterfly has sprung from its cocoon and it is, indeed, a thing of beauty.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )
 

About Lasair

Having spent years writing and producing music that was constrained by expectations, opinions and labels, I adopted a mantra of 'Genre Fluid'. Not as an act of rebellion or as a rejection of labels, but simply because I cannot fit into any one music culture anymore. With a childhood spent travelling, and now residing in New Zealand (one of the most multicultural countries in the world) I’ve found too much inspiration to be limited any longer, and I’ve realised I don’t have to be.




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