6 Mar 2021

Remember Me? | Join | Recover
Click here to sign in via social networking

Empasse - EP Review: Ultraviolet

13 Sep 2020 // A review by Mike Alexander

Ultraviolet has history – literally. As its composer Nick Johnston explains in the press release accompanying the EP, his first under the moniker Empasse , it is a “soundtrack to a story that is not well known in New Zealand outside the Waikato region where I live. The story of the town of Rotowaro, a former mining village that was entirely removed in the 1980’s to make way for an opencast coal mine.”

“The mine fuelled the Huntly Power Station, the largest thermal power station in New Zealand, which has been identified as responsible for over half of New Zealand’s carbon emissions from electricity generation.”

With that in mind, it gives listeners a road map of sorts and specific signposts – Lockdown, Battering Ram, Ultraviolet and Sam – in relation to where the music is intended to take them.

The sweep though is a lot broader and in some places grander or more cinematic than you might initially expect. Lockdown is eerily dark and shimmering as it pans open with the hint of a piano melody that becomes clearer and clearer and then fades away into a moment of silence before a flourish of synthesisers and a drum stick beat suggest (almost like a mini overture) a turning point. Battering Ram, doesn’t quite segue seamlessly but its hammering rhythm and thudding bass and piano and sweeping electronics certainly conjure up images of “industrial activity”. The title track is equally as busy musically with a treated snare sound, rock steady drum pounds, throbbing synthesisers and a slightly grandiloquent bridge, which insistently churns away as it expands and contracts. When it recedes, it gives way to the fluttering piano introduction to Sam, which becomes more stately with added percussion sounds and a nagging melody that has an almost merry-go-round sound.

It’s not always readily discernible just exactly how the sounds you hear are generated and that’s part of the beauty of these tracks.

“My musical background is mainly in pop and rock bands, so when it came to creating electronic music, I was not very familiar with how to manipulate synthetic sounds” Johnston says. “Rather than manipulating the sound of the synthesisers, I ended up blending synthetic sounds with organic sounds to create new instruments and textures.”

It’s quite ingenious how the use of manufactured and organic sounds is in keeping with the thematic thrust of Ultraviolet – the impact of industry on the environment.

Music with a wordless message can be just as powerful as the spoken word. I hope we hear more from Empasse.

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )

About Empasse

Musician from Kirikiriroa, Aotearoa New Zealand creating cinematic instrumental music.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Empasse


Year: 2020
Type: EP

Other Reviews By Mike Alexander

Naircol - Single Review: Turbo Outrun
04 Feb 2021 // by Mike Alexander
In an interview with Naircol, following the release of his debut album Isolate late last year, he put collaborative ventures at the top of his wish list. It seems Santa Claus came calling in the form of Canadian producer Tokyo Rat, the result of which is the dynamic driving anthem Turbo Outrun.
Claire Cowan - Composition Review: Hansel and Gretel
16 Dec 2020 // by Mike Alexander
The Brothers Grimm fairy tale Hansel and Gretel is, ah, rather 'grim' to say the least. It’s the story of a brother and sister who get lost in the woods and are befriended by a cannibalistic witch who lives in a house made out of sweet things, most notably gingerbread.
Mahoney Harris - Single Review: The Shifting of the Light
19 Nov 2020 // by Mike Alexander
There's an evocative image conjured up early on in The Shifting of the Light that beautifully illustrates the underlying theme of letting go. In referring to "paradise ducks made for life returning to their bowers time after time" singer-songwriter Mahoney Harris might well be talking about 'soul-mates' or a similarly intimate relationship that felt as if it was meant to last but didn't.
Eden Iris - Single Review: I Just Can't Turn It Off
12 Nov 2020 // by Mike Alexander
Having exorcised a few ghosts, so to speak, on her soul stirring 2018 EP Demons, Eden Iris is finally set to release her debut album next year. It’s been an age since the now LA-based, singer-songwriter first came to national attention through Mike Chunn’s Play It Strange competition.
Lou'ana - Album Review: Moonlight Madness
29 Oct 2020 // by Mike Alexander
The official release date for Lou'ana's debut album is October 30. Whether by design or accident, it’s serendipitous.
Raw Collective - Single Review: Good Things (All We Need)
22 Oct 2020 // by Mike Alexander
Feel-good grooves are part of Raw Collective’s DNA. The Wellington-based 10-piece have been sowing sunflower seeds of optimism and cheerfulness for many a year now and it seems the well of goodness never dries.
Naircol - Album Review: Isolate
16 Oct 2020 // by Mike Alexander
Naircol is Tauranga-based synthesiser whizz Matt Hennessey. I like that it is an anagram of clarion because this is quite the impressive calling card.
Bartells - EP Review: Let's Go
08 Oct 2020 // by Mike Alexander
Sam Bartells has a way with words. In an interview with Darryl Baser from Muzic.
View All Articles By Mike Alexander

NZ Top 10 Singles

    Olivia Rodrigo
    Glass Animals
    Lil Tjay feat. 6LACK
    Niko Walters
    The Kid LAROI
View the Full NZ Top 40...
muzic.net.nz Logo
100% New Zealand Music
All content on this website is copyright to muzic.net.nz and other respective rights holders. Redistribution of any material presented here without permission is prohibited.
Report a ProblemReport A Problem