Release Date: Nov 5, 2013
Record label: Because
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Australia and New Zealand got wise to the magically sexual, psyched-out being Connan Mockasin years ago, apparently. I caught his first U.S. performance recently, at a Kiwi friend’s emphatic urging, and immediately saw the big picture. Mockasin is a helluva storyteller, a real wizard with words, synth and titillating hip-swerving.
Caramel begins with slowed, deep groans atop an ethereal backdrop of synth and that classic Mockasin guitar—so thin, so sultry. With the title “Nothing Lasts Forever,” he’s found the perfect opening track for an album steeped in the pleading depression of a hopeless love. He’s given up before it’s even begun. And then it begins.
There's a complicated subplot running throughout Connan Mockasin's second album. According to the Kiwi psych singer, it involves a dolphin, a man being in love with said dolphin, a car race and ultimately a car crash, but you wouldn't necessarily ascertain all this from listening. Instead, Caramel sounds more like an LSD binge in a sleazy motel, or an elf covering a Barry White album, or maybe even a rom-com set on Mars.
You’ve got to admire a guy willing to put out music that resembles Syd Barrett, Prince and Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac mashed up and played backwards. Connan Mockasin recorded his second album alone in a Tokyo hotel room, and it doesn’t feature many songs as such. Instead it’s 11 opportunities for the New Zealander to experiment with gloopy singing, sleepy guitar solos and Asian women chanting “C-O-N-N-A-N”, then squeeze these noises into segments of hypnotic weirdness.
Taking his talents for strangeness and mood-making in a very different direction, Connan Mockasin's second solo album is a far cry from the whimsical psych pop he made with the Mockasins, and pretty far removed from his acclaimed 2010 album, Forever Dolphin Love. Yet Caramel does take musical and thematic inspiration from that album's poignantly woozy title track, which Erol Alkan reworked into an indie club hit. Mockasin claimed that the story Caramel's songs told picked up where Forever Dolphin Love left off, though this isn't the kind of concept album with a strong narrative thrust.
"I liked the idea of making a record called Caramel," Connan Mockasin told NME. "Then I made the whole record around what I thought a record called Caramel would sound like." It might not be an especially deep concept, but take a listen: His Caramel sound quickly introduces itself. The album's title track begins with a deep voice, which is pitched down and smoothed out for a flirtatious monologue in the vein of Barry White.
The entirety of Connan Mockasin's second album, Caramel, sounds like it was recorded underwater—backwards. This is psychedelic pop at its boldest, and Mockasin puts his emphasis on the first half of that term. Gurgling his way through waterlogged lyrics, the incomprehensibility of what Mockasin is saying is overridden by his overall tone; he sounds sincere, like a gabbling toddler telling a story.
Connan Hosford, a man reported to only listen to Prince, Sinéad O'Connor and Jimi Hendrix, makes songs that come into wobbly focus like soft toys left out in the rain – warped, forlorn, their cuteness overtaken by creepiness. When, as on the title track, there's melody in the weirdness, the album seems perfectly named, sounding like funk that's been melted down via psychedelia and stretched into gooey sweetness. There is though, a lot of getting lost too.
Caramel, the latest release from the genre-defying New Zealand artist Connan Mockasin isn't an easy record to stomach. Since I begun writing up thoughts on music and attempting something close to legitimate critique as a teenager, I've always made sure to avoid the so called curse of non-professionalism that is first person writing. Regardless, this isn't a conventional album and if it helps me settle on something akin to an opinion by the end of this review, then it's worked.
We see clouds every day from the ground, wispy little bundles of pulled cotton floating against the blue, flattened out like a photograph wrapped round in a sphere. Maybe that’s why it’s always so surreal to be inside a cloud. Unless you’re Rihanna, constantly jetting around in your Boeing 777, the novelty never wears thin. It’s one of the simplest pleasures of the world, being cuddled by candyfloss in the sky.Connan Mockasin’s ‘Caramel’, is up in the clouds too, bobbing gently on a undercurrent of ebbing turbulence, with misty melodies lighter than air.
Releasing his otherworldly, acid dripped debut in 2011, Connan Mockasin announced himself as distinctly unique voice. A soporific meld of Jazz, Psychadelia, Electronic and Funk, the album’s subtlety and nuance – alongside its ambiguous humour and production – marked it as a shining, if not bizarrely shaped, gem of a record and one I find myself returning to time and again. Suffice to say I was buzzing with anticipation at the prospect of a second full length record from the New Zealand born space cadet.
Connan Mockasin’s seduction scene isn’t quite working for him. I suppose it depends on what your definition of “seductive” is, but the sophomore album from the 30-year-old New Zealand native spends too much of its 40-minute duration navel-gazing instead of turning up the heat. True to its title in most respects, the music of Caramel embodies a gooey, languorous quality that would benefit from the removal of any and all vocals.
Connan Mockasin takes in everything from FM soft rock to the fried psychedelia of Syd Barrett, crafting music whose reference points are familiar yet hard to pin down. This makes the Kiwi singer one of the more unlikely signings to Erol Alkan's Phantasy Sound label. His sound hasn't changed all that much since 2011's Forever Dolphin Love—as on that record, wobbly, 4AD-ish guitars provide an unstable structure for his vocals to reverberate around in.
Connan Mockasin’s second album is a spin on classic soul, as recorded by an off-kilter freak folker from New Zealand while cooped up in a Tokyo hotel room for a month – a far cry from the wilderness and night skies of his native New Zealand that fueled his debut Please Turn Me into the Snat. Mockasin chose the word Caramel for the album’s title since it works so well as a descriptor for the sounds found within; the eleven tracks are mostly made up of smooth, rich bass lines and lustrous guitars, all easily suited for romantic devotions to be laid on top of them. This is where Mockasin’s voice enters the picture.
A 8-track cartridge left to warp in the sun for 30 years? The sound of an elf singing in the bath? However you choose to describe the weird, warped sounds of Caramel, the second album from New Zealander Connan Mockasin, there's an undeniable warm, oozing sensuality to it. Even the cover image - a soft-focus boudoir shot of the singer reclining, shrouded in his own baby-soft, flyaway blonde hair, rocking a bumfluff pencil moustache and a come hither look - has a strong air of unthreatening, buttery sweetness. Then there are the songs themselves - delicious confections that pull in a hundred and one reference points, from Sinead O'Connor and Prince to Ariel Pink and even Ween, all layered with fuzzy guitars and breathy declarations of desire.