‘Forever Dolphin Love’ was both one of the oddest titled and utterly brilliant releases of 2011. Its genre ignoring blend of folk, psyche and Connan’s falsetto vocals led it to being included in many ‘Best of 2011’ lists and making a surprise star out of the New Zealand born artist. Two years and a tour with Radiohead later, he releases his new record Caramel on Erol Alkan’s Phantasy imprint.
Opening with a strange pulsar sequence which is accompanied a slow, deep and distorted voice that floats around the opener ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’. It is this same voice that ‘welcomes’ us to the record before Mockasin’s distinctive vocals kick in and the bass sets off. Moving from the album’s title track into ‘Im the Man, That Will Find You’, the bass becomes deeper and more luscious, this song highlighting the slight change in direction for Connan from his previous record.
Caramel seems to take more influence from Soul and Funk than his 2011 record did, at points it sounds as if Prince was hanging around at the production desk. Vocally he also fits with his change in sound, producing deeper vocals alongside his quivering, high pitched style that worked so well on ‘Forever Dolphin Love.’
The albums highlight is it’s smoothest number – ‘Do I Make You Feel Shy?’ – an unapologetic love song that channels Ariel Pink perfectly. However, after this track the album deteriorates in quality and focus. The groove remains but it is accompanied by sound bites and effects from the recording process, which took place in a Tokyo hotel, making the latter half the record slightly irritating to listen to.
The five song sequence of ‘It’s Your Body’ exemplifies this infuriating combination. ‘It’s Your Body 1’ and ‘5’ could have been great songs, but instead Mockasin spent too long at the production desk adding unnecessary sounds which overshadow the rest of the song. Luckily, the album doesn’t finish on such an unneeded low.
‘I Wanna Roll With You’ possesses the strong bass line that is found throughout the record, as well as the floaty production which makes the less cluttered tracks extremely dream-like. This track is evidence for what Connan Mockasin could have done with this record, instead Caramel ends up as a polar album – one half of which is dominated by sensual grooves and the other being overworked and so much worse because of it.
Download: ‘Do I Make You Feel Shy?’