Monday 22 July 2013

Zen Mantra - How Many Padmes Hum?

Album review by

I'm sure I'm not alone, so I thought I'd use the power of the internet and look up what "padmes" meant. Turns out it doesn't really mean anything. So that's that mystery solved then. As for Zen Mantra, well that would be the alias of eighteen-year-old, New Zealand-based producer Sam Parry who wrote and recorded this debut album himself in his bedroom. The more you think about this the more amazing it seems. 'How Many Padmes Hum?' sounds like the work of an accomplished and seasoned band, not a DIY, home-recorded project. Quite how Parry has managed to create an album of this calibre in such circumstances and at such a young age is a mystery, but we're mightily glad he has.

We're looking at psychedelia here, not 1960s flower-pop psychedelia, something more up to date, although it does draw on a few of the genres main players of the last decade or two. There's a spaciousness to 'Intro' that allows you to drift skyward with the music, almost becoming absorbed in its chiming guitars. 'Cloudgazer' is a fitting title for the breezy and airy track that follows, but it's not just about ambiance and there's a strong sense of melody to be found, plus it's not the only time on the album that this is the case. Melody flows freely through 'Soothsayer' and 'Sakura' also packs a punch in the tune stakes. The final song on the album, 'I Wonder What It's Like Out There' is also buoyed by a strong melody.

'La La La La La' draws from the same psych-pop bands of the past that Blur used as guidance for parts of their seminal 'Parklife' album, and 'Change' is powerpop of the variety that band have been known to make too. The high-octane 'Karma's A Scam' shows the punk side that Parry set out to incorporate into his music, but it's the single 'Fossils' that provides the album's high point, with its surging bassline and non-stop rush of guitar-pop bliss. Zen Mantra is still young and you could argue that the album would benefit with production that's a little less muddy, but if he can keep making songs that are anywhere near as good as 'Fossils' then he's unquestionable onto a winner.

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