Open up a science documentary on YouTube and hit play. Open a pack of chicken-flavoured chips. Take a big hit from the bong, hand on face, and as Neil deGrasse Tyson explains astrophysics let your mind wander, let memories about your childhood in the country flit past, think of your father’s recent illness and death, and wonder what it all means to be a unique product of a star that went supernova billions of years ago, ending up with you, this person, sitting here, getting high and having a good old ponder.
At least, that’s my guess as to what went into creating @Peace & The Plutonian Noise Symphony, the debut full-length album from Auckland band @Peace.
I loved the first self-titled @Peace mini-album, it’s stoned and thoughtful considerations of politics and poverty in suburban Auckland, but the subsequent Girl Songs EP and whatever Homebrew otherwise got up to didn’t really do all that much for me. So I wasn’t expecting too much from this new album, but when I spotted Simon Sweetman raving about it, and that it was (at the time) “pay-what-you-like” on Bandcamp it was a no-brainer to check it out.
Immediately, it is obvious that @Peace’s sonic palette has expanded greatly from their earlier lightly-jazzy, slightly folksy hip hop. This is big vast psychedelic hip hop, complex and often surprisingly altered beats holding down big stoned synths and washes of guitar that sit somewhere between Funkadelic and gentle jazz.
The vocals are, for the most part, treated and layered, taking a far more g-funk feel than on the earlier EPs. Pitch shifted high, adding a sense of unreality that strangely makes more real the raps about physics, evolution, mortality and finding sense in the world.
This is, frankly, hippie hip hop, and it’s a freak out, man. And its freaking good.
There’s so much going on even in the quietest tracks. The production is very lithe and tricky, rhythms constantly shifting and twisting, almost shocking bursts of double-time beats flying in and out. The vocals play around with the beats, staccato shots of lyrics often playing a counter-point to the underlying rhythm, while the big gentle mid-range guitar and synth wash in and out.
In less than two days I’ve already listened to this album six times, and I get the feeling I’ll be exploring it for some time yet. The psychedelic variety, the fascinating, intelligent and sometimes brutally honest lyrics, and the overall relaxed stoned vibe of the thing melds into one of the strongest slabs of music I’ve heard in a while.
And, as I listen to it I feel so damn happy for @Peace. This is a brave album. I’d be surprised if it sells huge amounts, so challenging and intelligent it is. But it deserves to be huge. It probably won’t be the soundtrack to winter nights with a glass of what you fancy (or a smoke, if that’s your thing), but it should be. There’s an honesty and purity within these psychedelic tunes. This sounds like an album that took a lot of effort to create, and is very personal to those who produced it. An album that feels important. Necessary, for both the artist and the audience.
You can check it out and buy it from their Bandcamp page, here, at a price of your choosing. Do it.
Beer match: I’d want to listen to this album with something relaxed and relaxing, something warm to comfort you as the evening’s get longer and colder. Kereru’s toasty and beguiling ‘For Great Justice’ wood-fired toasted coconut porter is one of my favourite beers so now. Full of warming, nutty flavours, it’s great for an autumn evening.
And, in keeping with the science theme of @Peace & The Plutonian Noise Symphony, if you can get hold of it, why not also pour a glass of ‘For Science’, the brown porter that is the base for ‘For Great Justice’, sans toasted coconut Compare and contrast, see which one you prefer, and maybe have a good old think about life, the universe and everything.