Little Bushman: Te Oranga (Little Bushman)

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Little Bushman: Dream of the Astronaut Girl Part II
Little Bushman: Te Oranga (Little Bushman)

Continuing their exploration of folk-influenced rock and the ethos, if not the actual sound, of Sixties psychedelic rock, this quartet (and friends) come over reflective and quasi-cosmic on this third studio album as they attempt to find middle ground between roots music/Maoritanga, social comment and the hi-tech world of the 21st century.

That many of these are in opposition plays out in lyrics and music which also sound conflicted at times and searching for a centre.

Lyrically some of this aims high (“Their atomic chord had opened a gate into another time . . . and in the maelstrom middle was made a Man” on Dream of the Astronaut Girl). But it can equally come off as clumsy and space-filling (“Sinner man, sinner man, cinnamon, cinema” on One Hand).

The juggle between traditional values/folk simplicity and the modern world often jars as this aims for meaning.

Gone (“I look around and what do I see, see a gigabyte of 10 delights dancing after me”) goes the whole prog-rock route as it shifts from simple acoustic guitar over a heartbeat drum to crashing chords in the manner of King Crimson.

But that it and Dream of the Astronaut Girl -- another Crimson-like piece with space-rock/Hawkwind lyrics -- come in two parts suggests they were conceived as separate sections rather than a cohesive whole. And they sound that way, although interestingly the slow and somewhat ponderous instrumental Astronaut Girl Part II links to the similarly epic sweep on the highly disturbing, eight minute Big Man (“a big big man put a gun to Grandma's head”) with their everything-and-kitchen-sink closing third (think Kashmir on downers for Big Man).

The most fully realised pieces come late: Backbone with its low, haunting bluesy quality from Joe Callwood's guitar and a vocal delivery by singer Warren Maxwell's which recalls his other band Trinity Roots and his star turn on the recent Ihimaera album; and – despite its lyrical pretensions and confusions – the haunting sound and genuinely psychedelic astral flight of the eight minute-plus closer One Hand.

You sense Little Bushman are taking themselves very seriously – the great failing of most later 60s psychedelic bands – and this is at its best when it tries less hard to say something significant.

Want more psychedelic music, but better? Start here.

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