Re­leases by Alien Weaponry, The Adults, Leon Vyne­hall, Tami Neilson, and Cow­boy Junkies.

An in­fu­sion of Su­danese mu­sic helps en­sure Jon Toogood’s lat­est un­der The Adults ban­ner will be one of the year’s most dis­tinc­tive re­leases.

Metro Magazine NZ - - Contents - RE­VIEWS — GARY STEEL

THE ADULTS HAJA (Warner Mu­sic)

Re­mem­ber when our very own hard-rock ti­tans Shi­had were ac­cused of be­tray­ing their fan base by buck­ling to Amer­i­can cor­po­rate pres­sure and chang­ing their name — al­beit tem­po­rar­ily — to Paci­fier? And re­mem­ber when that end­less tour­ing through Amer­ica soft­ened them up so that they weren’t even very hard any­more and started sound­ing a bit like all those other bands whose mu­si­cal im­mune sys­tems had been com­pro­mised by the ma­chine?

Those same fans must have been aghast when Shi­had singer Jon Toogood formed his oc­ca­sional su­per­star side pro­ject with former Strait­jacket Fits man Shayne Carter and singer-song­writer Anika Moa, among oth­ers. That group’s self-ti­tled 2011 de­but was oc­ca­sion­ally soul-in­fused and al­most dance­able, in parts at least.

Imag­ine, then, the apoplec­tic re­ac­tion to the lat­est it­er­a­tion of The Adults, which biffs the pre­vi­ous crew over­board in favour of a flavourof-the-mo­ment, com­mer­cially ori­ented se­lec­tion of guest stars that prob­a­bly have never once head­banged to Shi­had or ex­pe­ri­enced the de­lights of a gen­uine mosh­pit.

Then again, times have changed. Heck, when that first al­bum came out, Lorde was 12, and Toogood must have no­ticed the sea-change away from rock to a much more pop-ori­ented R&B and elec­tronic stage. Maybe he even likes the new thing.

It’s tempt­ing to dump all over Haja, the sec­ond Adults al­bum, not be­cause of its stylis­tic evo­lu­tion but be­cause of the loss of iden­tity pre­cip­i­tated by hav­ing star turns rather than a core unit. First sin­gle “Blood­lines”, for in­stance, fea­tures Welling­ton R&B diva Estère and Auck­land rap­per JessB, while “Take It on the Chin” fea­tures a cameo by vi­ral hip-hop star Kings, and open­ing track “Boom­town” boasts both dream-pop queen Chelsea Jade and Kiwi/ Rwan­dan rap­per Raiza Biza. And so on.

But you know what? It would be churl­ish to slam an al­bum that packs as much en­ergy and cre­ativ­ity into one disc (or down­load or stream) as Haja does, and there’s much more to it than at first ap­pears: In 2014, Toogood was mar­ried in the Su­dan, where he was in­spired by the aghani-al-ba­nat (wed­ding mu­sic) per­formed dur­ing the cer­e­mony. Later, he re­turned there to record the Su­danese mu­sic which is used as a gelling and en­er­gis­ing back­ground through­out the al­bum.

Cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion? Well, Toogood is se­ri­ous enough about Su­danese mu­sic to have taken it on as his masters sub­ject at Welling­ton’s Vic­to­ria Uni­ver­sity, and the Su­danese sound files aren’t just an ex­otic un­der­lay but pro­vide in­trin­sic melodic fig­ures and tex­tures, a kind of ar­chi­tec­ture that the songs are par­tially con­structed around.

The suc­cess or fail­ure of the songs is to some ex­tent de­pen­dent on the star turns, al­though there are no real clunkers here. I’m not wild about Raiza’s rap on “That Gold”, for in­stance, but the song is res­cued by Aaradhna’s soul­ful con­tri­bu­tion.

Toogood him­self takes some­thing of a back­seat on Haja, singing only on the fi­nal two tracks, “Like the Moon” and “Gisma”, both of them bal­lads, while the ti­tle track is rem­i­nis­cent of the sem­i­nal 1981 David Byrne/Bryan Eno al­bum My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. The whole thing is mas­saged into a sin­gu­lar piece by pro­ducer/en­gi­neer Devin Abrams (Pa­cific Heights), and if noth­ing else, will prove to be one of the most dis­tinc­tive re­leases to have come out of NZ this year.

Haja will be re­leased on July 20.


LEFT— Jon Toogood is do­ing his masters in Su­danese mu­sic.

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