The Mamaku Project: Mal de Terre (Mamaku)

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The Mamaku Project: Small Breath
The Mamaku Project: Mal de Terre (Mamaku)

The Mamaku Project don't fit into simple boxes -- and that's a good thing. Their debut album Karekare found favour at Elsewhere for its blend of lazy South Pacific attitudes, the dub-influenced pop quality and its easy assimilation of French chanson and cafe/wine bar musics. This made for something unique -- and highly appealing -- in the landscape of "New Zealand" music.

This follow-up doesn't mess too much with the winning formula (that's a good thing too) and if anything adds another element rather prominently, the increasingly popular sound of gypsy rhythms in upbeat songs such as the trumpet-splattered Nomade and Rhino Attaque (a nod to the multi-culti French group Louise Attaque perhaps?).

There's a kind of boho-jazz appeal about this bi-lingual album (lyrics in French and English, many much darker than the bright melodies suggest) and you can hear why they are popular on festival circuits: this is music which commands your attention for its clever detail but also puts a smile on your face while appealing to your dancing feet.

Some months back I posted the album by Rupa and the April Fishers from San Francisco which I sort of liked but had some reservations about too. It tried to work much the same territory as The Mamaku Project but seemed a bit too deliberately inclusive to be genuine.

No such problems with The Mamaku Project: this is music with humour, heart, romantic accordion, wide appeal and just enough diversity to be interesting without making you think they are offering a broad-based calling card to hook in everyone.

There are also some winning songs here and the lazy Pacific-reggae shuffle of the lyrically penetrating Plastic Castle (among many others) deserves to be breezily coming out of your stereo on the warm days ahead. 

Mal de Terre is launched at Auckland's 420 Bar on Friday November 14. I suspect a party atmosphere will be evident.

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