Release Date: Oct 28, 2016
Record label: Weird World
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Conan Mockasin and Sam Dust (of Late Of The Pier) have formed a group that has a sound that’s as squelchy, genre-evading and fun as you might have expected. And whether or not it’s ever been the actual intention of either man to deviate from the norms of rock’n’roll “supergroups” seems irrelevant when a record as joyous as Soft Hair is the end result. So prepare to be taken on a journey around the pair’s sonic universe that touches on everything from US R&B, Nilsson-esque singer-songwriter numbers and back again, all under a heady sheen of studio shimmer that can feel woozy, psychedelic or just 110 per cent odd at any one point.
Good luck trying to pin down Soft Hair, the collaborative album between Connan Mockasin and Sam Eastgate, which exists on the same plane of reality as its creators – certainly not ours. It’s no surprise; after all, they’ve each challenged pop conventions within their solo material, albeit in very different ways. Mockasin’s penchant for lustful psychedelia infuses his music with an unsettling eroticism, while Eastgate, aka Sam Dust, now records under the moniker LA Priest – heavily leaning on vocal loops and minimalist production to construct his futurist sound.
The relationship between Connan Mockasin and Sam Dust began with happenstance and folly. Yet a listen to their years in the making joint effort gives the impression that theirs was an intersection of fate disguised as coincidence. After an acrimonious introduction, parallel moves through time gradually ushered in mutual respect for their kindred sensibilities and a visiting—and revisiting—of collaboration.
In a few short years, New Zealander Connan Mockasin has proven himself game for all manner of chameleonic collaboration. With just a few days in Marfa, Texas, he cooked up a little something with Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes, wrote for and served as Charlotte Gainsbourg’s backing band, and apparently played around with Vince Staples and James Blake on a not-released project. But most tantalizing was a long alluded-to collaboration with Sam Dust, formerly of the British dance-punk Late of the Pier.
Sam Dust (LA Priest) and Connan Mockasin, the duo behind Soft Hair, originally crossed paths at a party in 2007 that culminated in them, err, fighting over the robbery of a fibreglass pig (no porkies here). Luckily, the duo managed to get over that beef (or ham) and join forces to form Soft Hair. The ridiculously extensive list of their self-titled debut’s recording locations reflects the pair’s chameleon music styles: a council house in St.
Connan Mockasin and LA Priest make some of the most peculiar modern-day pop-funk, and so a collaboration was always going to be oddball. Together, they present an Iggy and Bowie-ish pairing, except with trembling falsetto, dolphin mating sounds and rippling electronic effects. But it’s unclear whether they are sending up macho male sexuality by contrasting pervy lyrics with their wimpy bare chests and luscious locks, or just using their “weirdos, us!” image as an excuse to be a bit Bloodhound Gang.
Soft Hair is a collaboration between New Zealand psych artist Connan Mockasin and British pop outsider Sam Dust. The two friends first met when Dust's previous band, Late of the Pier, supported Mockasin on a 2009 tour, prompting what would turn out to be a four-year, part-time studio venture. In the intervening years, Dust -- formerly known by his given surname, Sam Eastgate -- reinvented himself as LA Priest, a proprietor of slinky, synth-based art pop.
‘In Love’ does the same, professing love for “Chinese and Japanese girls” over brass that (honestly) evokes George Michael’s ‘Careless Whisper’. But more than anything else, ‘Soft Hair’ is about intimacy, creativity and a zest for life – two singular musicians liberated by collaboration. For proof see the springy ‘Alive Without Medicine’ with its delirious “Oooh eee ohhh”s, and cloudy closer ‘l.i.v’.
Connan Mockasin and LA Priest/Late Of The Pier’s Sam Dust present Soft Hair as: “a view into an exotic world with a blend of familiar, unfamiliar and unconventionally attractive sounds”. This line, gracing the bottom of their Bandcamp page, is pretty hard to beat when it comes to summing up their debut eight track LP. "Unconventionally attractive" was also the brief for their first music video.