Okay, we have plugged this chap a few times now BUT HAVE NO INTENT TO STOP. Connan Mockasin is a brilliant novelty gonk, a lemon-haired wobbly man with a quavery voice, a gentle psychedelic soul able to able to marshall quiet sonic freakouts, hazy guitar meanderings and horizontal band members with equal ease. His debut, totally recommended album ‘Forever Dolphin Love’ is full of tropically distressed pop songs that are barely there but still feel like looking at sunsets through Quality Street wrappers. And he just wanders through life being himself. Good souls sometimes win.
Hear No Evil have teamed up with Eat Your Own Ears to Present:
S J ESAU (Anticon)
Followed by Hear No Evil Dj’s
21.00 – 02.00
Start the Bus
Welcome, folks, to the delightful, slanted and enchanted world of CONNAN MOCKASIN. Like David Lynch’s wilfully surrealist take on American suburbia, or Richard Prince’s paintings investigating modern cultural tropes, the New Zealand born, current London resident Mockasin makes beautiful, off-kilter music which subverts as it compels, challenges as it mesmerists, startles as it seduces, even drawing fans as diverse as Johnny Marr and Radiohead to Ed Banger chief and ex Daft Punk manager Pedro Winter into its wide-eyed, childlike exploration into the final frontiers of pop music. It is all too rare, in this current climate of manufactured pop acts, grey over produced ‘alternative’ guitar music and press-fuelled mania for the next-big-thing, to hear something truly striking and original, but a strong case can most certainly be made for Connan to be a true pop auteur, taking his rightful place in a proud lineage which includes past mavericks such as Joe Meek and Brian Wilson, right through to current cult heroes like Ariel Pink, Sufjan Stevens and John Maus.
Written from start to finish one hot summer, while camped outside his parent’s church-like house in a tent, “Forever Dolphin Love” is an LP which brims with the beauty and solitude of summer evenings, a miasma of psychedelic tangents, jazz interludes and echoing guitars which hum with a distant, haunting resonance. Somehow, a peripatetic past – which includes a decamping from his native Te Awanga to London to form Connan And The Mockasins in 2006, before repeating the trip again a few years later to restart as Connan Mockasin – has conspired to produce an album so unique a first-time listener may have to listen to it again just to take it all in, so powerful is the spell it casts. It exists in its very own, free-floating parallel universe; a world where lush psychedelia morphs unpredictably into Spanish salsa (“Faking Jazz Together”), breathtaking, short interludes (“Grandpa Moff”) nestle alongside languidly unravelling epics (the title track) and above it all, Connan’s feather-light, alien vocals gently hover – not always in English, by the way, but sometimes in their own, made-up language – tantalisingly, beguilingly out of reach.
It was this brilliantly ingenious approach to invention, and his masterfully unique charm that caught the attention of Erol Alkan, who signed Connan to his label Phantasy after hearing initial demos for the record. On first seeing Connan play live at DURRR in London: “He was completely out of step with everything else out there, performing some of the most beautiful songs I had heard in years, to hundreds of people in a crowded nightclub, and being able to silence them to the low volume of his music. Having that power is rare.
S J ESAU
Before you meet SJ Esau, you’re going to have to forget a few things you haven’t yet learned. For instance, that at the tender age of 10, he was halfway through a four-year rap career in the burgeoning late-’80s Bristol scene. Erase from your memory the image of a young Samuel Wisternoff (as he’s known to his mother) with microphone in hand, freestyling with 3D from Massive Attack at a local party. Forget that it was Tricky who turned the scrappy little lad onto the great adventures of Slick Rick. And that under the name TFP, Sam (still 10 years old) and his older brother were signed to Smith & Mighty’s prestigious Three Stripe Records. Most importantly, put it out of your mind that before retiring from the rap game at 12, Sam battled his way to second place in the cutthroat DMC emceeing championships.
Though Sam still has the tape that started it all—a hip-hop mix his father made for him, culled and compiled from the John Peel show—his pre-pubescent life might as well have been someone else’s entirely. SJ Esau, as you’ll now know him, is a master manipulator of organic sounds, a singer with a sense of humor and an ear for the beautifully bizarre, and a maker of expansive and explosive ventures into the unexplored musical back alleys of Great Britain. His corner of Bristol is a rarified junction where bedroom rambles and aural collage meet inspired collaboration and true song. It’s more Pavement and Low than De La Soul, though his love for all three is no doubt equal.
While his brother Jody went off to pursue dreams of becoming a world-renowned deep house DJ/producer (see Way Out West), SJ Esau was busy carving out the most unique of existences for himself. Through a number of band incarnations (for instance, the Sonic Youth- and Pixies-inspired outfit, the Pudding), various solo explorations (from raw acoustics to layered noise works), and ongoing collaborative projects (the harsh, loop-driven Onanist Homework Robot & the Guano Ignoramus; as well as the prettily apocalyptic Jeremy Smoking Jacket with singer Rose Kemp), SJ has developed his own carefully constructed brand of chaos which neither repeats itself nor spins wild beyond the realm of comprehension.
With three and a half SJ Esau LPs under his belt (and Stop Touching My Cat, a compilation of reworked SJ originals featuring WHY? among others), Wisternoff brought his impressive body of work to Anticon in 2007, releasing the internationally ballyhooed Wrong Faced Cat Feed Collapse that spring. In 2008, he returns with Small Vessel, threatening to once again change what we think we know about the man and his music. Of course, some constants have remained throughout: Sam Wisternoff still lives in Bristol, and is surrounded by a still under-publicized community of hard-working artists poised to start a revolution in sound. He has two cats (who occasionally provide backing vocals), admires the works of Kurt Vonnegut, and is usually confused, which seems to work out just fine for the rest of us.