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The Mentalist Collective - Album Review: Signal Hill

13 Oct 2023 // A review by roger.bowie

Here’s a great new band from Dunedin, a collective of mentalists who write and perform and presumably subscribe to mentalism, which is a kind of magic but with psychology at its core. They might play tricks on you, but it’s for a good cause. For a start there are five members but actually six. Tricky. But we won’t let that stop us from listening. And they are not so new, they’ve been around for years, so that’s just another trick.

The Mentalist Collective have released a couple of EPs, in 2008 and 2018  but their debut album Signal Hill is out today, after a four year evolution from EP to Covid prisoner to LP, and great joy erupts with a stunning acoustic backdrop to a captivating riff and beautiful harmonies and we Realise With Me in the sense of making real, remind me of the star, relieve your aching heart, and the scene is set for a journey of rhythm and beat and ballad.

Soon we’re Running Through Long Grass, recently released as a single, memories of the writer’s childhood days in Hawea and this writer’s ancient days on the Southland farm. Searing electric sunset changes the tempo briefly before we frantically fade away…...

Baby Girl is haunting folk rock with an early Fleetwood Mac (Albatross) beat. And that’s the first clue, timeless acoustic folk rock with electric sparks and retro influences. Shades of Peter Green. Just gorgeous. 

The Mentalist Collective are a team of mainly teachers who all write and play multiple instruments and their diverse writing skills come together in eclectic and intricate fashion much like Bonsai when Danie Urquhart sings and we have a fairground attraction. Brendan Christie, Scott Campbell and Robert Milne all do vocals and guitars and harmonicas and keys and bass and a lot of ukuleles, while Brendan’s brother Simon chimes in on drums as well as Ed Lobo (the local big Loboski) and one of them is the invisible man. 

There are eloquent changes of pace and harmony permeating Beneath The Fog plus more than one hand clapping and a taste of Jeff Buckley. The same for Fly Away, a sombre outlook on life and the need to escape. Intertwining riffs of despair.

We’re halfway through and already enraptured, but wait, there’s more. Much much more. What a stupid thing to say To A Child on child support is a jazzy funky upbeat way to deal with a failure in the classroom. The juxtaposition works. Tap your feet to incongruity.

The psychology theme develops in Pieces of Home, perhaps further conversations exploring the impact of childhood trauma and how to overcome. The music gets heavier. Haven’t you lived long enough to find a place to go? Go, on, you can find it. Exquisite guitar outro. 

And rockier, but Crosby Stills and Nash style, upbeat, exploring the options to revive spiritual and emotional health. It’s important to take a little time to Know Where You’ve Been. More rock guitar.

Lots of great songs and no bad songs, but if I’m forced to (and I’m not), I’ll pick I’ll Make You A Star as my standout track, a heavy 70’s chug and riff, which could be a southern rock boogie odyssey (“lemme tell you now”), but then again maybe it’s just a segment from the King Kong story, embellished by searing guitar and a funky bridge. Outstanding.

No vocals are next, a great tune with a bouncy bass riff ricocheting off power chords to build and build until the Morning Mission is complete. Scale down. Where on earth to now? 

The grand finale is a complete and delightful surprise, a little haunted blues which could have been written and sung by [Delaney Davidson], a parody of Little Red Riding Hood, but this time Black & Red has murder and mayhem at its core, in a bluegrassy kind of way.

Signal Hill is a high point in Dunedin where The Mentalist Collective record and rehearse, and Signal Hill, out today, is a high point in Kiwi music, and a measure of the depth of talent which lives down south.

Great record, listen loud, and go see them live, I reckon they will be even better on stage, and won’t miss a trick. 


About The Mentalist Collective

“Evolution is a process of constant branching and expansion” – Stephen Jay Gould

The above quote sums up the philosophy behind the Mentalist Collective, an ever evolving musical group that thrives on the addition and subtraction of different members, instrumentation and influences.

Although the Mentalist Collective primarily focuses on original composition, creating unique arrangements of many well known songs by other popular artists such as Muse, Jake Bugg and even Lorde is another beautiful string to their ever expanding bow.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for The Mentalist Collective


Signal Hill
Year: 2023
Type: Album
Year: 2018
Type: EP

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