Wukong the Monkey King: 21st Century Time Travelling (digital outlets)

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Wukong the Monkey King: 21st Century Time Travelling (digital outlets)

It's widely accepted that some of the most interesting things in life and the arts happen when cultures rub against each.

Focus that down onto music and when genres are scrambled or denied, and when sounds from various cultures come into play you get Womads, contemporary world music and things like the recent albums by 75 Dollar Bill, Sarathy Korwar and . . . and this five-piece from Auckland.

Musically they draw from soundscapes, hip-hop, jazz and rock, but also pull in sampled voices. And singer/trumpeter Wade Wu is bilingual so this album – recorded at the Depot on Auckland's North Shore – has lyrics in English and Mandarin.

With the standard rock line-up of drums (Jordan Neil), bass (Kyle Ranudo) and guitar (James Smith) as well as that trumpet, and keyboards and sax (from Bryan Arriola), their musical reference points are as wide as the Beastie Boys and Eminem, psychedelic rock, angry jazz-hop and a light-heavyweight dance band.

The excellent Battlefield implodes most of those into fewer than five minutes which aims for the epic . . . and gets there.

There's a dreamy 90 second interlude called Shangdu but their best mode is a dyspeptic thump: try Who, one of the songs in Mandarin, which rides hard rock riffery to fine effect and lets that sax off the leash for some punk-like energy.

The funk of Solar Power doesn't quite go as far as it might have, but it is sure as hell catchy. Even in Mandarin.

The final track 2008 opens with radio samples about the Beijing Olympics before a tough-minded, geo-political rap.

Taking their name from the key character in the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West (and as adapted for television), Wukong the Monkey King offer something unique out of multi-culti Aotearoa and it doesn't feel like a gimmick.

Just cultures and genres (mostly) rubbing abrasively together.

If these people can stick together – and they've been around for a few years, paid their own way around China for over a year and recorded a previous album in Beijing which suggests they can – then they will certainly be worth following.

If they do hang in for the long haul this probably won't be their finest work, but -- with half a dozen full-length songs, an intro and two interludes, done and dusted in half an hour – this is a strong platform to stand, and thump, on.


You can hear it here on Spotify.

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