From fringe-playing Kiwi pariah (2006 six-track, Uuu It’s Teasy) to grandstand psych eccentric (pseudo-début, Forever Dolphin Love), never has there yet been a dull moment when it’s come to Connan Mockasin. And now, the notorious introvert having cut his teeth live alongside none other than Charlotte Gainsbourg and further refined his quirky lilt of his own accord, he returns with Caramel – a long-player that surely ranks among his most cogent, if it may not go on to be deemed his most delectable to date.
Certainly, so far as the Te Awanga oddball may be personally concerned, there’s little to revile, nor even so much as dislike on display – he’s an affable chap, trends in some truly gooey skronk, and boasts an almost inimitably seductive songwriting capacity. In short, he’s what his now-indigenous London may consider a real Julius Caesar, lemon squeezer, or fridge freezer. Or, in more internationally comprehensible terms, the the sort you’d be wise to keep acute dibs on, and with the woozy Caramel, the eulogies will surely only become that bit sweeter.
Beginning with Nothing Lasts Forever – a sort of retrospective sci-fi revision of Forever Dolphin Love, replete with coital groans, guttural bass and Metronomic fluidity – it becomes wildly apparent that not only is Mockasin looking to allure the listener into a sense of ultimate ease, but, once achieved, he’s seeking to dextrously mangle your grey matter beyond all recognition. For gloopy and lyrically unintelligible, this is outwardly esoteric fare rendered thoroughly accessible in truly discombobulating fashion. And, totally fashionable, it slips down a treacly treat. Its ribald voiceover – a smutty, posthumous amalgam of Barry White, Luther Vandross and Darth Vader perhaps, and somehow channeled by Connan himself – continues to haunt the ensuing title track, flickers of scintillating Purple Rain synths intermingled in the viscid mélange Mockasin strives to contrive, this mellifluous interlude of sorts the sumptuous wonder that really gets things going.
As such, it’s I’m The Man, That Will Find You, the album’s first actual track, that hears Connan’s irresistible charm offensive really begin in earnest, his again sexual squeak utterly magnetic. It’s the sort that, were you to hear it during a bout of hide-and-seek, you’d surely surrender even your safest of spots, such is its Pied Piper-like pull. Do I Make You Feel Shy? meanwhile, with its Ariel Pinkish, predated vocals and translucent Stratocaster chimes, ensures Mockasin’s proposed deal is signed, sealed and so too delivered in such emphatic fashion. “I’ll be the boy of your dreams” Connan ensures and, on this kind of evidence, few would likely negate, nor indeed neglect his advances.
Although this is Mockasin luring us into a false sense of security with his strangely witty licks and instrumentally sensual tricks, for Caramel remains an intrinsically tricky listen. There’s Why Are You Crying? – a question lacking coherent answer, but for yet more erotic exhalations layered sultrily atop the sort of smooth grooves to make a brothel wince as one. Then there’s I Wanna Roll With You, which once again features the White-Vandross-Vader overdub that torments the album as though it were Tyler, the Creator’s incessantly aggressive internal monologue quietened down by a clutchful of benzodiazepine. “Ah, you’re very welcome” it begins, reverberating about a warm inertia, before Mockasin ushers us into another perfectly soggy pièce de résistance psychédélique, androgynously crooning: “You’re such an easy flame” atop tubular guitar tones. So far, so (comparatively) conformist.
But we’re thus far missing a rather substantial chunk of Caramel, and It’s Your Body – a five-part opus-within-an-opus, of sorts – inevitably resembles the irregular centrepiece of the entire record. It’s the sound of Connan indulging his every creative whimsy, in a sense perhaps rebelling against the slightly more mainstream consciousness his stream-of-unconscious opera have been afforded in recent times. And so, in It’s Your Body 1, we hear an irreproachably Pink Floydian refrain reveal itself several minutes in. Smoky, altogether indecipherable vocals are soon swizzled into Mockasin’s burbly concoction, before we dribble into the impressionistic tape deck gurgle of It’s Your Body 2. It’s Your Body 3, meanwhile, hears Mockasin attempt to recreate the mega-rev raucousness of Formula 1 via the medium of snarling guitars, before sirens and background silence overwhelm its seventy-seven seconds. Again, a runny kind of continuity is key, as the strangely Mediaeval It’s Your Body 4 begins, a third interlude in as many numbers, before It’s Your Body 5 witnesses an umpteenth reversion to Princely modus operandi.
In a sense, architecting a record around a dizzying five-piece suite of sorts will likely alienate many of the listeners accrued during the Forever Dolphin Love era, although that may well have been Mockasin’s enigmatic mission all along. Nonetheless, in rustling up this aqueous, ever-mischievously icky opus, Connan has done himself not even the slightest disservice, as he continues to cook up some of the most intoxicating psychedelic brews possible. A maverick he remains, and long may his abstruse ways continue to dictate his opulent outpour. For this may well be what it sounds like, when doves cry.
Released: November 4th, 2013 [Phantasy Sound]