Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Among the encouraging signs in New Zealand music at present -- the counter argument to all the pop which seems aimed more at radio programmers and funding money than coming from the heart -- is that some bands are moving past reggae as their default position.
The ubiquity of reggae (and its cousins dub and ska) has meant it has become the most cynical of styles in that it's the easy option to get an audience on-side and up'n'dancing. It's a crowd pleaser, and while there's not a lot wrong with giving people what they want, you do seriously wonder about just how far the epidemic has spread.
Innocent children are being infected.
Kora here advance their case as being in the vanguard of a style which has reference points in reggae/dub, but they bring so much more to the table. There are hip-hop influences all over the urban thump of Last Generation; electro-tickles on Dream Life; salaciously cosmic pop in Love in the Shadows; soul power and r'n'b traces . . .
As much being the offspring of the Aotearoa/Bob Marley lineage, Kora here assert that they also grew up with Michael Jackson, Prodigy, Outkast, Prince (and possibly Rick James' guide to the laydees), some serious boogie-funk and of course old school hip-hop.
Out of that melange of influences they have created an album which has more than just a thick reggae taproot but spreads its reach wider and deeper.
The revolutionary sentiment of Hit the Wall ("we're gonna rise tonight") sounds considerably less than convincing as a call to arms but elsewhere Kora (mostly) manage to step past the cliches endemic in Kiwi roots music (love your family, look after the kids, stand proud, Jah love) which is another encouraging sign.
Not everything works here -- Galaxy Express and Bring the Sun at the end largely retread ground broken previously -- but bands in rehearsal rooms right now just about to write yet another one-drop might look in Kora's direction.
There's a broad palette of ideas here which is healthy and, coupled with a pop sensibility and some ear-catching effects, make this a real stake in the sand for them.
And, with any luck, for the rest of us weary of the oh-so familiar.