The first thing you hear is a note.
It might be a plucked piano string or some celestial harp, it’s impossible to tell, but it is echoing to infinity, like a sonar signal bouncing off the cosmos, creating an irregular percussive rhythm as it moves through space.
Otherness his third record with Flying Nun Records, follows on from 2014’s critically acclaimed ‘Infinite Life!’ (nominated for both NZ Music Award and the 2015 Taite Prize) and over a 15 year music career, Grayson has built himself a dedicated fan base and admiration from music critics across New Zealand and internationally for not just his solo work but his band So So Modern and his more recent film and TV work.
In the first moments of Otherness, Grayson Gilmour’s wonderfully rich new album, he has given an object lesson in how intimately word and sound can be entwined. These aren’t just a few cool samples splashed around some nice songs. This is a place where song and sound are inseparable. And that intricate weave of tone and imagery continues through 43 minutes of music.
Gilmour has had plenty of practice at this. He began making recordings in his teens, if not earlier. His first releases were handmade things: home-recorded and presented in inky packages, meticulously photocopied, folded and glued. As time went on these grew more sophisticated.
Though an accomplished player on all the traditional rock instruments – piano, guitar, drums, bass – he has a more specialised gift for making music out of things that weren’t instruments to start with: found sounds, sonic detritus, which he has been known to copy back and forth between two old cassette recorders, until they develop a patina, a kind of acoustic cortex. Sometimes these will become the textural and rhythmic foundations for songs. On Otherness such building blocks are enmeshed with electronics and those more traditional instruments, to which he also adds live strings. The results are lush, surprising and ever-shifting.
But if Gilmour is more sonically inventive than ever, he has also become more direct in the way he expresses himself; more generous with his melodies, more open with his emotions. His singing has never been more prominent or assured. Above all, Otherness is an album of glorious pop songs – yearning, heart-tugging, romantic – encased in beautiful sound worlds.
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