18 Jan 2022

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Troy Kingi - Album Review: Black Sea Golden Ladder

28 Jun 2021 // A review by Kev Rowland

I was first introduced to the music of Troy Kingi when I was over at Red Room Studios one day at the invitation of TeMatera Smith some years back, who told me I just had to hear the person he was currently working with. I was fortunate enough to be there for some of the sessions of Shake That Skinny Ass All The Way To Zygertron, and I was blown away by the sheer musicality and ear of Troy who was able to listen to a track for a few seconds and then say, “it needs this” and then go back into the studio and record it. This was the second in what was to become Troy’s famous 10 10 10 project of 10 albums in 10 years of 10 different genres. A while later I went over to Red Room to record a voiceover for an album, and while I was there TeMatera sat me down in the producer’s chair and promptly played me excerpts from Holy Colony Burning Acres, which left me reeling as Troy had gone from funk to reggae and the result was incredible. I saw Troy at The Tuning Fork for the resulting tour, and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. He of course followed that up with his first official #1 album, The Ghost of Freddie Cesar, which as I write this is back in the Top 20, alongside Golden Ladder which is sat at #2.

Given the nature of the project, one would expect this album to be quite different to the others, and that is indeed the case. While it is being labelled by some as folk, that is not really an accurate description, as while there is indeed a huge number of acoustic guitars this is also rammed full of hooks and songs which demand the listener sing along as well as additional electric instrumentation when the time is right. Also, unlike his other releases, this is a duo album in that it was written and recorded with Delaney Davidson who is of course widely regarded for his work in folk, blues, rock and country. Troy and Delaney only met properly some three days before going into full songwriting mode when Troy had the Matairangi Mahi Toi Artist Residency in Wellington, the first time he had sat and written outside of his beloved Kerikeri. The original concept was that Troy was going to provide poetry detailing a man’s journey from birth to death, but it was agreed his lyrics were not really strong enough, so Delaney worked with him to understand what he wanted to say, and the result was this full collaboration.

Having been playing this album a great deal over the last few weeks I am still somewhat surprised at the performance at the Auckland Folk Festival earlier this year when the guys turned up on stage and basically played electrically, and promptly blasted the audience. I was there for both sets and made the comment to TeMatera that I wasn’t sure what it was, but at times it felt almost like QOTSA meeting The Beatles and wasn’t folk! On the recorded version these heavier elements are stripped back, so although they do come in at times and totally change dynamics, there are also numbers like Come Around, where we have wonderful acoustic guitars, dated piano, and superb harmonies from Delaney and Troy. Working with an additional confident performer and songwriter has undoubtedly allowed Troy to move his music in directions he may not otherwise have investigated, stripping back the bombast yet removing none of the commerciality and somehow adding even more beauty. Opener Sleep is delicate, with a restrained power and is the perfect way to drift into the album, while Hunt Down Happiness is more strident, with guitar, bass, and held-down keyboards providing an edge of nastiness, and the feeling of being in a bleak environment. The more one reads about the inspiration behind the album, and a diving trip which could have been fatal, the more one realizes just how much the two of them have managed to produce something which really does fulfil Troy’s vision.

This is nothing like any of Troy’s albums to date, yet at the same time it very much is, in that whatever genre he turns his mind to becomes a triumph in his hands. The promotional tour is starting later this year, but while that is going to be an incredible unmissable experience, one can only start to wonder what the next album is going to be like? Personally, I would love to hear Troy attack grunge, but knowing him it could be disco, or soul, or AOR. Whatever it is, we all know it is going to be a masterpiece, just like this one.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )

About Troy Kingi

Bay of Islands-based musician/actor Troy Kingi has embarked on an eventful few years with major acting roles in Hunt For The Wilderpeople, Pa Boys, Mt Zion and The Kick, while also enjoying a successful music career. Troy Kingi was nominated for an APRA Silver Scroll last year and earned Vodafone Music Awards for Best NZ Soul Artist and Best Maori Artist in 2018. His side project, collaborative soul band L(())VE & HOPE also received rave reviews but Troy's most recent offering is his politically charged roots/reggae record, Holy Colony Burning Acres.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Troy Kingi


Black Sea Golden Ladder
Year: 2021
Type: Album
The Ghost of Freddie Cesar
Year: 2020
Type: Album
Holy Colony Burning Acres
Year: 2019
Type: Album

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