Watching the Fly My Pretties IV DVD in the office, I just about found myself clapping and cheering along to final track Turnaround. That's quite a feat for a DVD of a live concert, and a reflection of just how absorbing these live performances were.
The fourth series of FMP concerts took place last November, and live recordings of the 16 new tracks performed in various theatres round the country make a charismatic collection.
It's not just Wellington dub or folky singer/songwriter tracks that people have somehow come to associate with FMP - there's rock, funk, blues, soul, R&B, and a good helping of psychedelia, although there are still some lovely gentle folk numbers (from the likes of Amiria Grenell and Justin Firefly Clarke), and original pop songs too (Eva Prowse has a charming one about space).
But it's not really about genre, because when you get 16 diversely talented professionals together, you can play with arrangements and embellishments to your heart's content.
It also allows for huge dynamic range, which is something this ensemble does very well, building up to some massive, layered, climactic moments but also stripping right back when the song calls for it.
Opener Doorstep Blues is a classic rock-out medley, harnessing some of the heaviest, catchiest riffs on the album.
Another early highlight is two songs back to back from Christchurch-based LA Mitchell. You Know Now is a funked up R&B number, full of sass with a touch of 80s electronica, while Apple Heart is a dreamy pop song, with a choir of backing vocals and 60s-leanings.
Both showcase Mitchell's voice but she's not alone in that arena - the array of characterful vocal performances across the album is impressive. Flip Grater's deep, dark, caramel ballad I Am Gone is striking in its simplicity, her voice blending in a goosebump-inducing fashion with the deep bluesy baritone of Ryan Prebble and the smooth soul style of Fran Kora (both of whom turn in great performances on their own tracks Hit the Hay and Am I Gonna Make It respectively).
Folding Over is another original pop song from Age Pryor, joyous in its psychedelia, and Underneath the Stars is Anna Coddington's turn to shine after being a key player for others on guitar, drums and BVs. Final track Turnaround is a favourite and gets the entire 16 on stage for a giant party groove led by the hilarious Aaron Tokona. Dancing is fairly well compulsory, and this will be a classic in no time.
Lee Prebble's recording and mixing is as exemplary as on a studio album, beautifully balanced, but while the CD will be a great revisit for anyone who went to the shows, being able to watch the DVD too really captures the magic, and gets you up close with the musicians and all their head-bobbing, shoulder-grooving, hip-swinging, foot-stomping showmanship.
Verdict: Eclectic and charismatic collection from the collaborative ensemble.
Buy this album here.
-TimeOutBy Lydia Jenkin Email Lydia