Estere's new album is a beautiful mix of everything the music world is lauding and lusting after right now.

You've got African-inspired funk, hip-hop beats, richly layered production, an impressively poetic knack for storytelling and Estere's angelic, yet soulful vocals.

What's most impressive is that Estere has nailed the album's production single-handedly, with her trusty synthesiser Korgi and sampler Lola.

The combination of synths, organic sound samples, and vocal layers creates a rich and textured production that makes the slick studio sound of mainstream pop songs sound boring in comparison.


Vietnam kicks in with the sound of bamboo in the wind, heavy bass, and percussion which almost sounds like clay before the synth comes in. Every song is an exploration of sound and noise and with each listen you can pick out new and exciting layers.

Lyrically, Estere is a storyteller at heart. Not many of these songs are terribly personal; almost all of them seem to be from others' points of view (hence the album title).

There's a sultry tune about a sex worker who wants to be president, a rap-inspired track about a "child of the trigger", and one where she explores Underwater Whale Knowledge, which is complete with video game synths and underwater-esque warbling vocals.

You do still get a feel for Estere through her lyricism; On Control Freak she belts: "I command like a general and rule like a queen" and on Rent, she tackles arbitrary measures of success and self-empowerment.

Who cares what people think? "Because I can pay my rent", she repeats in a triumphant chorus so joyful it would make anyone who's ever struggled to make ends meet throw up their hands and dance.

Then there's the cinematic Grandmother, an exploration of her African roots and the grandmother she never got to meet, and L'oiseau dans l'etoile in which she explores her father's language for the first time, singing entirely in French.

My Design's unique collection of genres, sounds and ideas and is something unlike anything I've heard out of New Zealand - or anywhere, for that matter. It is singularly Estere, and a treat to explore.

Estere, My Design, On Others' Lives

Artist: Estere
Album: My Design, On Others' Lives
Label: RPM/PrisonTapes/Rhythmethod
Verdict: A fresh new sound with fresh new takes on life