ConnanMockasin-CaramelPackshot.115814The first thing I heard about New Zealand’s Connan Mockasin was the fact that he listened to  his own music exclusively, the one exception from this habit being a Metronomy single given to him by his manager. This was then listened to at the wrong speed for a prolonged period of time due to the fact that he never heard it played anywhere else so had no idea as to what it ought to sound like.

Now when asked to think up – High Fidelity style – a top five of traits that make an artist sound like an insufferable, self-gratifying egotist, “listens almost exclusively to his own output” would certainly be a strong contender to be on said list. And when considering somebody who fits within the parameters of a typical artist, such a label would be entirely applicable. However, as reflected by his second LP Caramel, Connan Mockasin is about as far from your run-of-the-mill musician as you can possibly get (he decided to make the album because he likes the way the title sounds – the music followed). It is this weirdness – the unusual listening habits, the rejection of mainstream culture, the absurd musical output – that makes Mockasin such a fascinating figure.

Although somewhat more accessible than his debut LP, 2012’s Please Turn Me Into The Snat, Caramel still incorporates the woozy synths and underwater bass-lines that lends Connan Mockasin’s music its trademark dream-like quality. The album starts with ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, a psychedelic, slow paced opener described by Mockasin as depicting the departure of the dolphin which featured on the first LP, and the consequential sadness of the person who was so in love with the dolphin. He goes on to say that, following this opening track, “It kicks into the new album”. It is from this point that the LP becomes much more upbeat, incorporating funk-driven grooves underneath the maintained liquid synths present in the first track. Title track ‘Caramel’ features more of the effect-laden voices introduced in ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, and that will feature regularly throughout the album, giving a sense of absurd, dreamy narrative. Catchy synth hooks feature throughout the song, and it is these, along with the songs short length, that ensure the album’s contents remain fundamentally grounded in pop as opposed to the prog-like sprawls of …Snat.

Highlights of the album, ‘The Man That Will Haunt You’ and ‘Do I Make You Feel Shy?’, follow consecutively. They continue with the undeniably funky trend set by ‘Caramel’, at times reflecting a sound perhaps best exemplified by Egyptian Hip Hop’s swampy grooves on their 2012 debut ‘Good Don’t Sleep’, combined with the more dominant synth work present within EHH frontman’s side project Aldous RH. Perhaps surprisingly, Mockasin’s latest work is entirely listenable and danceable. More defined song structures and tighter production allow the album to feel more like a collection of songs rather than the unrestrained creative output of an ingenious, yet rather inaccessible artist.

Mockasin has by no means lost his psychedelic, experimental charm however. The latter half of the record is predominantly occupied by the five song collection titled ‘It’s Your Body’, a sprawling journey through the experimental mind of its creator, moving from indiscernible voices and sporadic bleeps to melodic chill-out music, and then back again. ‘It’s Your Body 5’ exhibits perhaps the most pop sensibility, reverting back to the funk driven verses and memorable hooks that were ever-present in the former half of the album. However, it’s not long before the song is reduced to a chiming synth in the background – a stripped back reprise or the riff from ‘Caramel’ – and a number of high-pitched voices spelling out the artist’s name and thanking him for his musical efforts.

The record ends with yet another treated vocal informing the voices at the end of ‘It’s Your Body’ that they “are very welcome”, followed by perhaps the funkiest track of all. ‘I Wanna Roll With You’ is a culmination of all that is good on Caramel, combining both the more experimental with the catchy; the end result being a gorgeous, swampy, bass-driven finale to the record.

There is no denying that anything released by Connan Mockasin will be somewhat left-of-field. However, on Caramel he manages to create something entirely original in such a way that the listener is left having felt they have enjoyed, rather than endured, the experimentalism. Mockasin successfully harnesses his exotic creativity and packages it in an entirely digestible and thoroughly re-listenable way.


Release Date 04/11/2013 (BECAUSE)

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Lloyd Bent

Manchester born radio-dabbler who burrows away under record and book collections whenever possible. Has interest in an eclectic variety of music, perhaps most significantly funk, post-punk and the more underground indie. Harbors ambitions to be a full-time writer, currently studies at Uni, works as a radio DJ and runs Indie DJ nights in the bars every now and again. Plays and attends gigs all over the place, but preferably in Manchester where independent venues are both commonly found and reliably fantastic.