Troy Kingi Releases Black Sea Golden Ladder (Allgood Absolute Alternative Records): Album Review

Troy Kingi continues to evolve and mutate as he reaches album five of his Ten Discs in Ten Genres in Ten Years musical odyssey.

Black Sea Golden Ladder is his Folk opus. It was featured in his Special Guest Artist spot at this year’s Auckland Folk Festival in recently flooded Kumeu. There are certainly some Folk sounds. There is a lot more besides. On this one, he lays claim to being a Maori Brian Wilson with a sophisticated palette of beautiful melodic Pop.

Troy KingiHis collaborator and partner in crime on this album, Delaney Davidson, is the key to the overall sound. He is playing the Van Dyke Parks role, maybe.

Kingi describes himself as a Maori Actor, Artist and Bad MaFucka. He is draping himself in the coat of Brian Wilson like Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs.

The songs began as poems. The cycle and passage of life from birth to death and into the mystic, spiritual realm. Starts with Sleep and ends in Sea of Death. He told us at the Folk Fest that he realised he was… a shit poet and my forte was melody. So, with Davidson they worked through some alchemy and this album came out.

Each song is given a subtitle as to its theme.

Sleep is the start. Puts the music into the realm of a dream which allows all elements to pop up and convey some mystery. Feel the darkness descending/ How long can we stay apart? He is touching Hamlet and talking about the endless dream of death. Melodic Indie Pop with a blue-eyed Soul voice. A little chamber music piano and the first hint of psychedelic era Beatles.

Call My Name immediately bounces off with a Folk-Latin rhythm and the sound of Seventies Paul Simon. He sings with a Dylan Folk Rap. You’re late Mr Kingi/ Pull up your socks/ Stand in front of the class/ Break all the rules.

You in my Arms. Armfuls of psychedelic era Beatles from A Day in the Life to Magical Mystery Tour. I am you and you are me. A complex song with a tapestry patchwork of Country, Soul, and Rock’n’Roll.

Connecting to the time Popular music was being recognised as serious Art. Brian Wilson kicked it off with Pet Sounds. Lennon and McCartney replied with Sgt Pepper. Wilson kept going as his madness kicked in.  

Fork in the Road is stark and Gothic. As in American Gothic and Davidson’s presence is to the fore. Country Folk in sound with some tribal kick-drum thumping. A great lyric is thrown up. Torn between nature and binary code/ you know you have come to a fork in the road. That’s Ballad of a Thin Man’s Mr Jones speaking.

Hunt Down Happiness is one of the peaks of this work. Theatrical with complex changes in tone and melody. A dreamlike dissonance and uses the same galumphing rhythm of I am the Walrus. Davidson’s home-grown oddball type of genius is at play. A good electric guitar workout caps it off.

Come Around is prefaced as a father to a child’s eye. Slow start opens out into a beautiful melody. Kingi sings Folk Country and a violin accompanies in counterpoint. An acoustic guitar picks the song up in the middle and strums its way through to finish.

Twilight is Rockabilly Country and a twanging electric guitar. Voices blend smoothly and evoke a nostalgic sound of Fifties Everlys. Or Roy Orbison in his Sun Studios days.

Forgotten Like a Dream and we are cycling back from the start. Complex Baroque Beach Boys Pop. But Kingi remembers his past albums up and adds some Funkadelic Psychedelic. More of this and I would be thinking…Maori Prince. MaFucka!

Sea of Death. Take this burden from my shoulders/ I don’t belong to just me anymore/ Not an individual/ I live in my ancestor’s world. The ocean and waves of melody and a beautiful high tenor vocal.

There’s twenty seconds of silence before the music starts again. That corresponds to a different song to me. A Robert Johnson jagged starting-a-Terraplane guitar riff. Dirty R’n’B and back comes that galumphing rhythm and Beatle’s White Album accents.

In the kitchen with my back up against the wall. Well, you shouldn’t have tried to come on in my kitchen!

Ambitious and aiming high. A Folk album but not as we know it. Life and Death in music but it’s also much more than that.

Rev Orange Peel