2 Dec 2022

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GiGi Genie - EP Review: Seasons of The Soul / Wa O Te Wairua

21 Nov 2022 // A review by Nicholas Clark
Seasons of The Soul or Wa O Te Wairua, is a collection of songs by multi-instrumentalist and self-described folk noir artist GiGi Genie. The group is led by songwriter GiGi Crayford and her support band which includes flautists, violinists, zither and percussion players. Crayford herself plays the autoharp which features prominently in this release, but every instrument is balanced and steps aside for others to shine at moments. The tracks are based off the four seasons, although they have other names also. This artistic decision to have two names and a seasonal relevance is no doubt to add to the depth each song the artist has imbued them with, and to hint at the complexity of their improvised compositions and their original inspiration.

The EP was recorded after the 2020 l
ockdown, but inspired by events dating back to 2018. This collection, it would seem, is a long time coming and holds many memories and emotions for the songwriter. According to Crayford herself, they are “early explorations of writing music and they bring me back to a time of vulnerability and visceral memories of the seasons they sprung from.”

The EP begins with Waiata O Koanga (Spring) or Bird Song, written for her grandmother. The track begins gently, with more instruments joining hesitantly and almost warily. All the tracks feature field recordings, and this first one features some rich bird song recorded from Zealandia. Crayford plays the rain-stick (or seed percussion) that operates like a paragraph break between ideas that are loose enough to glide over into other sections. It’s all very organic until a violin enters with a little more of a deliberate melody to end the piece. The song is sweet and uplifting, hinting at beginnings and the potential for things to develop. There are more than a few unusual vocal melodies giving some tension that is resolved through sweet harmonies that follow, and a few bird sounds impersonated occasionally with Crayford’s mouth. If that sounds odd, it doesn’t sound like it in the context of the song.

Second track, Waiata O Raumati (Summer) or The Seed features more instruments, including zither and an expressive slide guitar. The song seems quieter, slower, somehow warmer, with many different sections to it. At five and a half minutes the track reduces to a field recording of birds and insects, and then the instruments return but are rearranged as if a new song entirely is being built up again. There is some Mexican folk element to this ending, perhaps an exotic Phrygian note selection that works perfectly for the “we are the seed” lyric that repeats until the song ends.

Waiata O Ngahuru (Autumn) or In My Bones is a little more introspective and slower still. There are more than a few stop-start sections, with the minimal approach leaving dead silence for a few seconds between. GiGi sings ‘I surrendered to the light’ as if there is a suggestion of a non-negotiable change being imminent. These songs definitely do not seem to relate to the traditional five stages of grief (Denial, Anger, Fear, Bargaining, Acceptance) but there is an unmistakable acceptance to the proceedings on this track.

Finally, Waiata O Takurua (Winter) or The Phoenix ends the EP with what is closest to a single. A music video supporting this EP has been made for this song, directed by Sam Tattersfield, and it really is something to behold. Two hidden interpretive dancers, one covered in white fabric, the other black, interact dramatically on a Wellington beach. Musically, you can hear autoharp, guitar, mandolin and flute, but there are also deep breaths added to the mix and the sound of fire crackling which relates to the fire element of the Phoenix. It is a natural place to end the release, hinting at rebirth and a cycle to repeat once an energy force is spent. This track features the most raw emotion, and GiGi’s voice is at its most stricken with feeling.

Crayford is joined by Michael Sutherland on guitar, keyboards, percussion and vocals, Christopher Ding on flute, Hannah Fraser on violin, and Khailana Kendrick providing additional vocals. They create a rich tapestry of melodies that overlap with her voice and percussion, and they almost appear to be polite in their appearance. The whole release is gentle, natural, unusual and encompassing to the point of hypnotising. I can imagine this being played at retreats and meditation gatherings. It’s hard to compare the music with too much else happening in New Zealand, excepting Wellington’s other soundscape artist: Serpent Dream, but they are more haunting and ambient building than the joyful and expressive sounds to be heard here.

A record to play while making art, travelling or healing.

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )

About GiGi Genie

Let yourself be drawn into the raw world of folk noir with songstress GiGi Genie and band. Growth and empowerment ripple through the sounds of autoharp, guitar, mandolin and flute. Exploring our relationship with nature, being an evolving human and the expanding cosmos through delicate melodies, eclectic expression and intense crescendos.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for GiGi Genie


Seasons of the Soul
Year: 2022
Type: EP

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