I really don’t know why I like Connan Mockasin. His slick music and creepy high pitched vocals have always made me feel uncomfortable but yet very, very comfortable at the same time. His 2011 debut, Forever Dolphin Love, to me is like an aquarelle of sound that wraps around you like fuzzy blanket. It was only the beginning of more steamy vagueness because on the follow up Caramel (2013) Mockasin showed off more of his willfulness. The album wasn’t only titled Caramel is also sounded like, well… caramel. Don’t know how, but it did. It had something to do with the syrupy sound design together with Mockasin’s unadorned moaning. Although I like Forever Dolphin Love slightly better, Caramel’s ‘I‘m the Man, That Will Find You’ will never leave me.
Now Connan Mockasin releases Jassbusters which is the soundtrack of a film written by Mockasin called Bostyn ‘n Dobsyn that took him a whopping 20 years to develop. Jassbusters is sort of a trailer to this five-part melodrama about an middle-aged music teacher, Bostyn, his student Dobsyn, and features music by Bostyn’s band (with three other music teachers) called Jassbusters. The film isn’t distributed widely, only the first episode has been premiered during shows. So the music has the speak for the film and with the above premise in mind and after an initial spin I would say Bostyn ‘n Dobsyn could be a very odd film.
The New Zealand born picks up where he left us in 2013. Jassbusters is an extension of the surreal and yep again very slippery R&B we know from Caramel. The album shifts between the bizarre and tense but still is groovy in one way or another.
On the 8 and half minute opener ‘Charlotte’s Thong’ all is as smooth as on Caramel. Exactly this watery sound has something addictive to it. The whispering stretched out lyrics ‘Thong, that’s a thong’ a probably the most legendary words you’ve heard coming from you speakers this year. ‘Con Conn Was Impatient’ is about a restless longing and takes Mockasin’s dive into R&B to deeper waters. It’s something we heard on his earlier work before only this time the sensitive falsetto vocals are more carefully placed within the arrangements of reverberating guitars. Mockasin sounds a bit like Prince yet is his own weird manner. Mockasin sounds dreamy, vulnerable and desperate all in just one song.
As said Jassbusters mainly is the soundtrack to Bostyn ‘n Dobsyn but never feels like a soundtrack. At points bits of dialogue from the film between the music teacher and the pupil are heard: “You can do anything to get good grades” or “Your grades are slipping, every subject except for music […] mister Bostyn seems to like you…” are vague. But if you add that up with the washy, reverby sound on ‘Sexy Man’ and ‘Les Be Honest’ you’ll get some sort of feeling where this all leads to. Is Connan Mockasin transforming into a kiwi-like version of Michael Jackson with a blonde wig? Hmm well, who knows. I’ll leave it for you to decide. However, the mist created around Bostyn ‘n Dobsyn fits Mockasin’s odd image perfectly.
This odd feeling stays on full display on the album. ‘Momo’s’ featuring James Blake is a drowsy ballad that slowly moves along while ‘Last’ a little self-mockery is not shunned, with some squeaky-door samples at the start, Mockasin and his band create a vintage 70s R&B sound with laid back drumming and smooth bass play.
After a few more spins of Jassbusters I was surprised to learn that the album clocks at only 34 minutes. The multi-textured and layered production got me drifting away. Jassbusters brings the grooviness we know but is more cohesive than Forever Dolphin Love and Caramel. Mostly Mockasin sounds more precise and simple than before while he works through different forms of slow burning R&B. And for me that’s more than enough to hold on to for a while.
Label: Mexican Summer, 2018
- Charlotte’s Thong (8:56)
- Momo’s (3:38)
- Last Night (5:08)
- You Can Do Anything (1:47)
- Con Conn Was Impatient (3:15)
- B’nD (3:36)
- Sexy Man (4:06)
- Les Be Honest (4:13)
Review by Wander Meulemans // 241218