trace / untrace
Though I’m not really a gamer, I was a fan of Crash Bandicoot. (Wasn’t everyone?) Now I’m sure you could dig Koizilla’s latest EP anyway, but being a Crash fan (past or present) will provide extra special memories, for this is a reimagining/re-arranging of six of the pieces of music from Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped – a Sony PlayStation game that was all the rage a couple of decades ago.
Koizilla is a psych-surf, garage-rock band that takes its name from the mid-00s animated series Avartar: The Last Airbender. And where previously they’re written their own tunes across three other EPs, here it’s about a playful, quirky gimmick of recontextualising video-game music. The muscle and movement of the band’s music transcends any notion of mere gimmickry however.
Joining brothers Josh (drums) and Zac Nicholls (guitar) and Connor Blackie (bass) for the Warped EP is new member Hillary Faul (flute, organ). Her use of flute in particular gives a near-prog sound to some of the work here – particularly when combined with Zac’s guitar work on the opening, title track.
This Dunedin-based band conjures musical motifs that might make you think of some of Frank Zappa’s work – it’s almost like they’ve taken aspects of his early Mothers and doo-wop pastiches and combined them with the ‘serious’ jazz-rock of his mid-70s period. Another obvious touchstone is the instrumental moments of Devo which feels strangely prescient given the Josh Mancell-composed music of Crash Bandicoot was released via Mutato Muzika, a production company formed by Mark Mothersbaugh.
There’s something instantly fun about this project. But these are some serious music-makers. And from the garage-rock groove of Tomb Time through the ska-punk bounce of Midnight Run to the four-on-the-floor party vibe of Future Frenzy’s backbeat the band nails all and any possible styles. Somehow it feels like contemporary surf-rock and prog all at once, and those two genre-feels would ordinarily seem like a clash or just unlikely. Here, through great playing and a commitment to the project it never comes over as wink-wink cleverness, just great musicality.
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