9 Jun 2023

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Strangely Arousing - Single Review: Airplanes

16 Sep 2020 // A review by Steve Shyu

Ska and reggae specialists Strangely Arousing hail from Rotorua, and the five lads have been making plenty of waves in the Aotearoa music scene over half a dozen years. They won SmokeFree Pacifica Beats in 2013, went on to perform at numerous Raggamuffin and Rhythm & Vines festivals, and even toured South Korea and China. Having nailed down a full-length album in 2017, plus a healthy handful of grooved-out singles tucked under belts, the band now have a second single released off their upcoming EP Don’t Panic.

The sounds of this single Airplanes are nicely interwoven and layered, driven by the shuffled syncopation of Oliver Prendergast’s drums, and Shaun Lopez’s plodding, moseying finger-bass rhythms which is typical of reggae songs. The rhythm section, when coupled with the airy, psychedelic keyboards courtesy of Forrest Thorp, creates a hypnotic blend that is highly interesting to listen to. Arguably, Strangely Arousing’s songwriting secret weapons are the twisty and wonderous keyboard riffs. The addition of a light trumpet in the first few verses is also a nice touch, providing a little coy, playful attitude. Near the end of the track, the keyboards crescendo powerfully to a fun, bopping groove, while the guitar tastefully doodles some sly-sounding notes.

The lyrics are told from the viewpoint of a down-on-his-(or her!)-luck beggar, who’s downtrodden and been neglected by the well-off. Bitterly, the beggar claims, "They tried to disown me, tried to cut my natty dread", while dispensing his personal wisdom that "Nothing lasts forever, so enjoy your luxury". With a mixed tone of both desperation and resentment, the writer ultimately is humbled in the knowledge that at least "Money don’t own me". Poverty isn’t an often-chosen topic for many songwriters, so having a deep narrative to ponder makes this little ditty a refreshing listening experience.

The song flows very well, and the passages are beautifully articulated. Production is polished, and the balance of vocals and keyboards is magnificent to listen to. With such a good amount of depth, it’s a small pity that the song clocks in under 3 minutes. Ones feels the atmosphere that’s built up near the end could have been utilised and explored more, even if for another eight bars.

Aurally, in all, Airplanes lays out the perfect summer vibe that Aotearoa’s reggae and roots music is known for. With spring and summer just on the horizon, one can picture with ease this song warming up an open-air gig in a park, or accompanying the smells of a barbecue out in one’s backyard.

Fingers crossed we can all go to a reggae show and have a decent knees-up; follow Strangely Arousing on Facebook or Instagram for any and all updates on upcoming gigs, save them on Spotify and stayed tuned for new music!

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )

About Strangely Arousing

Strangely Arousing are a five-piece progressive reggae/ska band, effortlessly blending other genres and styles of music to create their unique sound, laced with brass, synth, dub, and guitar. Strangely straddles the line between the bizarre you know you love and the weird you don’t know you love yet, like old pros. Whether you come to marinate in dubs and bass, or simply to melt into a puddle on the floor, Strangely Arousing offers a new wave of music inspired by New Zealand’s legendary hip-hop and reggae dub forefathers.

Formed in 2012 and hailing from Rotorua, this talented bunch made a statement with their first foray into the New Zealand music scene by winning the SmokeFree Pacifica Beats in 2013, and went on to win Battle of the Bands in 2014. They have since played at sell-out shows on multiple tours around NZ, and appearances on the main stages of festivals such as Raggamuffin and Rhythm and Vines, alongside their musical heroes such as Damien Marley, Fat Freddy’s Drop and Sticky Fingers. The band has performed internationally in the Middle East, China and South Korea, including headlining the Kiwi ExPats ball in Dubai in November 2018.

Their first EP Extended Play was released in 2014 followed by their studio album Strangely Arousing in 2017. Recorded at Roundhead Studios and debuting at number 3 on the NZ Music Charts, the album was also a finalist for the coveted Taite Music Prize ‘Best Independent Debut’ Award in 2018. The music video for single Groove Shooter made headlines, as it featured the members trying to win over Nazanin ‘Naz’ Khanjani from The Bachelor in a multi-million dollar house. Proudly weaving their M?ori heritage into their music with lyrics in Te Reo, Strangely deliver revelation by vibration.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Strangely Arousing


Strangely Arousing
Year: 2017
Type: Album
Extended Play
Year: 2014
Type: Album

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