20 Jun 2021
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Lou'ana - Album Review: Moonlight Madness

29 Oct 2020 // A review by Mike Alexander

The official release date for Lou'ana's debut album is October 30. Whether by design or accident, it’s serendipitous. In the northern hemisphere it’s the day before the full moon, known as the Hunters Moon, which was preceded earlier in the month by the Harvest Moon. The occurrence of two full moons in a month has given rise to the expression "once in a blue moon", because it happens so infrequently.

The same could be said of Lou’ana. Rarely, in New Zealand, does a singer come along whose voice is so big, so beautiful and so luminous it contains worlds within worlds. Moonlight Madness is magnetic. It pulls at the emotions on different levels, even when the content of a lyric is a familiar story, such as a relationship that has gone sour.

It basks in the afterglow of four singles - Eye To Eye, Move Along, Summer In May and Feel This – that announced the arrival of a special talent, who had found her 'shine' in an assortment of bands including Hipstamatics, The Andrew Faleatua Band and Two Many Chiefs.

That it should have taken so long for Lou'ana to emerge as an artist in her own right speaks more to the humility and honesty evident in a collection of songs that reveal misgivings, doubts, uncertainties, disappointments than anything else. There's little arrogance or artifice.

Moonlight Madness is fully formed, meticulous in its attention to detail and draws from retrospective musical styles with forward-thinking production values, courtesy of creative catalyst and producer Nathan Judd, who makes the perfect dance partner.

The impression of the two of them moving in unison metamorphises on the opening track Eye To Eye, a song full of sexy tango passion, a sleek but booming vocal, and some gristly guitar and piano. It swirls around the head while seducing the senses with its body language.

While Eye To Eye inhabits the sensual, the rhythmic dynamics of Move Along, Reign, Feel It and Wolves alternate between funky, sassy, sophisticated, earthy and stylish. If you aren’t moved by the soulfulness and sheer power behind Lou'ana's vocal range, then the music will certainly shake you up.

I’m not sure who specifically played on the album but the ensemble cast of 14, including a full horn section, are as tight-knit as the second-generation Samoan New Zealand community Lou'ana was bought up in.

If there is one song that more fully embodies the smokiness, depth and fluidness of her vocals it’s Silence. A warm and breezy strum-along acoustic guitar and humming bass line sets the pace for a song that’s whispery, wistful and yet resolute. It blossoms with a flourish of strings that reach for the heavens as the vocal swoops and soars between the earthly and divine.

And then there's the riveting and transcendent ballad Don't Let Me Fall that threatens to tear itself apart with the intensity of its prayerful confession and plea: "My mama never told me to keep my heart safe because every time I came to love I saw my heart go away, never saving it for you, the one who pulled me through the chains and the walls that would keep me from loving you". The invocation could be intended for an intimate lover or a divine one.

It's the voice though that smoulders at the core of these songs, whose muse is the moon as is most evident in the grinding funkiness of Feel This: "Lyrically this song is about an indecisive relationship and the frustration and madness it causes-complete with a lyrical reference to my main muse, La Luna. The chorus line, "Moon is high, pulling tides to the centre of my mind, need you to feel this" refers to the medieval lunar lunacy belief that on a full moon, water is pulled to the brain causing madness."

Suffice to say, I’m thoroughly enchanted by Lou'ana and her Moonlight Madness. It is a once in a blue moon album.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )
 

About Lou'ana

The free-spirited, eclectic sound of Auckland, based artist, vocalist and singer-songwriter Lou’ana (Whitney) is one of unparalleled magic. Having carved a place for herself within Auckland’s vibrant music community over the past 6 years as a proud, second generation Samoan New Zealander, Lou’ana’s voice carries the stature of an old soul; a cosmic cocktail of sweet and soulful, with an added gritty, blues edge that references the golden age of Etta James, Emmylou Harris to the rawness of Stevie Nicks and Amy Winehouse. Her heart and soul translates through sound, in that unexplainable alchemy that happens when music meets word.

Whitney has performed all around New Zealand as part of the inimitable funk troup Hipstamatics, playing a multitude of festivals across the country including some of their favourite haunts such as Hipstamatics’ “birth place”, Grand Central in Ponsonby. The spell-binding artist also performs as part of Two Many Chiefs, and has supported a number of New Zealand jazz acts including Andrew Faleatua at Samoana Jazz Festival and the 2015 Pacific Music Awards, as well as providing live vocals for kiwi electronic outfit Sola Rosa.
2019 will be the year Lou’ana releases her debut solo material to the world, as she takes to the road on a number of dates soon to be announced.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Lou'ana

Releases

Moonlight Madness
Year: 2020
Type: Album

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