Yoko-Zuna: Voyager (Loop)

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Voltron
Yoko-Zuna: Voyager (Loop)

With a lowkey Prologue, a Midterlude and an Epilogue, this cracking second album by Auckland's electronica/dance/hip-hip four-piece (with guests) Yoko-Zuna might be a tad too long at an hour and perhaps a little pretentious with those bookends and the halftime entertainment.

But . . . that will seem a carping criticism of a play-loud collection which rides addictive beats, comes with widescreen production, offers more often than not the danceable solution, and shifts from aggressive chant-down (Day Job with SWIDT, still putting themselves in the picture and repping their Stoneyhunga trope) to the almost seductively addictive (the embracing Peace of Mind which follows Day Job and features the talented Rwanda-Kiwi rapper Raiza Biza and Bailey Wiley on dreamy backing vocals).

Elsewhere soul stars Ladi6 and Noah Slee, mixer P-Money (on the soundscape of The Lovecraft Mixtape), hot'n'hard rapper Jess B and others (all illustrious fellow travellers) bring their soul, smarts and energetic commitment to this project . . . which really does feel like a well-conceived arc of separate pieces of a very colourful jigsaw puzzle.

So the arc is created and that forgives the pro/epilogue.

The punishingly tough beats and rockist textures of Voltron – which follow the 40 second breathing space of the ambient Nortlov – remind you of the musical scope Yoko-Zuma can command.

Melodownz offer one of the many standouts on the snakes'n'ladders construction of the beats Vs-cum melodies track Take Me to Your Leader which sounds like a surreal marriage of forceful rap and a distant vocal from a long forgotten yacht-rock album. It is quite remarkable.

And right at the end -- just before that Epilogue which is a rehit of the Prologue, of course – is the swooning dancing-in-the-moonlight groove of January Sun which evokes a beach dance-party mood . . . just in time for summer.

This is an album to admire (and for their peers in the genre to privately deconstruct) as much as it is one to turn up loud and simply enjoy.

Said it before and will say it again: this has been one helluva year for New Zealand music . . . and this just adds to the problem for music award judges next year.

And after this year's narrow focus, that is very good news indeed.

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