Rock’n’role: Kiwi auteur’s career-best concept album.
The lyrics are hard to discern at first. But there they are, hidden in thickets of woozy, chorused guitar and delivered in eerie falsetto. “Once again/It’s Bostyn and his friend Dobsyn,” Connan Mockasin sang, as if a powerful equine tranquilliser was about to kick in, on “It’s Choade My Dear”, the second track on 2011’s Forever Dolphin Love.
The song remains one of the highlights of his strange, otherworldly debut proper, but few had any way of predicting the importance that Bostyn and Dobsyn would come to play in Mockasin’s music almost a decade later. These two characters, created by the singer and guitarist, his two brothers and his neighbour Blake Pryor as kids in ’90s New Zealand, have now been resurrected as the stars of a five-part TV series starring, directed and written by Mockasin, and filmed in the dead of night in a former hair salon in Los Angeles. Mockasin’s new record is a companion piece to the film, an album made in character by Bostyn and his band of music teachers, the titular Jassbusters.
It certainly all sounds messily out-there but, to be fair, the unexpected is pretty much de rigueur for Mockasin now. he began performing seriously in Wellington, New Zealand, as frontman and leader of Connan And The Mockasins, before moving to London in May 2006. There, he played every night that he could, dragging a shopping trolley full of equipment to dive gigs put on by exploitative promoters who’d pair his bluesy psych-rock with any other genre that brought in the punters. By 2010, he’d gone solo and recorded his debut on four-track at his parents’ home in Te Awanga. It’s still a stunning madcap record, echoing the cracked whimsy of Syd Barrett and Skip Spence, the psychgarage of Ariel Pink, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Gong, and the clanging, droning textures of 20th-century experimental music. Whether Mockasin had ever heard any of this music is debatable: he’s always come across as someone who makes these sounds because that’s the way his head is wired; these leftfield elements just pop music to his leftfield brain.
2013’s Caramel was something else again, but still no closer to normality. Recorded in a Japanese hotel room, it explored funk and R&B but, being a Mockasin creation, was disturbing and submarine, with pitch-shifted voices and extreme chorus effects dominating, and much of the second side taken up by a meandering suite, “It’s Your Body”. If you think this