30 Mar 2020
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dharmarat - Album Review: WLKNZ

24 Dec 2019 // A review by Peter-James Dries

This review took a long time.

This isn’t my usual genre. This is more of my brothers’ thing. I’m older, old enough to have watched the death of rock music, seemly just as I got into it. Old enough to hold a grudge against Hip Hop and Rap for killing it.

I didn’t think I’d even be able to review this album. Not in the way it deserved. I could tell from my first listen that this was the product of hard work and suffering. But to review something you need the history, the terminology, some sort of background in a genre to be able to talk about the album, and some kind of reference to see how it compares to other albums.

I don’t have any of that. While my brothers were listening to the soundtrack of the invisible people of New-New Zealand, the working middle class, the ones we didn’t see on TV back then, I was dreaming of becoming the next Kurt Cobain, 10 years after he sang his last note.

But people have the capacity to learn new things. I had to put the whole Rock versus Hip Hop war aside, and just keep listening. And not just because I had to. But because it was good.

This isn’t my usual genre, but I found a lot I could relate to in dharmarat’s new album WLKNZ.

I made some music once. A lot of music. It wasn’t good, but it was me, and what I wanted to do, how I felt, and what I thought. It was more therapy for me than music. It would never be on the radio - it could never be on the radio - but I told myself I was an ‘Artist’. People just don’t get me. I’m too smart.

When I look back over dharmarat’s prolific back catalogue, I see that this is an actual artist. The kind of artist I thought I was. He does what he wants, and lays down how he feels, and what he thinks. He’s smart, both intelligent and clever, in the things he says, and the ways he constructs his verses. His lines are simple and relatable, but emotionally deep at the same time.

And those things he says, and how he says them, are in the language of the people. The music of New-New Zealand. That’s something I didn’t understand when I was making my music. If you want people to know how you feel just tell them straight, and in the style they understand. It’s not that other people don’t get me. This society is depressing for everyone. It’s just that I was talking another language.

WLKNZ has a certain style, a distinct sound. It's raw, the way it’s produced, the samples it's used, and the soulful, sometimes bluesy, grooves. Even with all the collaborators featured on the record, and the chaos of dharmarat’s mind, it’s pulled together into what feels like one album long flow. It’s what being true to yourself sounds like.

Like previous releases, of which 2019 has seen three, the lyrics are personal to the point you can feel the pain, or the love, or the despair. It takes a lot of strength to pull your own skin off and walk around more than naked. Existential and depressive, yet at the same time reflective and chill.

It was relatable, the words and the pain. Not only is it the voice of the people, but it’s how we’re all collectively feeling in this post-Boomer world. Everyone’s playing a game that we’re going to lose because we don’t know the rules. But while most people will whinge about it on Facebook, WLKNZ and all of the releases before, are dharmarat’s way of trying to deal with it. Like therapy.

WLKNZ is therapy for all of us too. Not because dharmarat pretends that he has all the answers, or a way to win the game. But in laying down the pain we’re all feeling, we can relate, and know that we’re not alone.

This isn’t my usual genre, but I got past that. Dharmarat has a unique vision, obvious talent, and lay himself bare in a way that was deep and relatable. How could I give WLKNZ any less than 5 of 5 stars?

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )
 

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