Steve Roche and David Donaldson are the duo behind Thrashing Marlin and Donkey Deep is the fourth album in a 15 year career. But both members have other musical projects to keep them busy, including soundtrack and music production; their multi-instrumental and compositional/arranging skills see them creating folksy pop tunes and free-noise/experimentation. And pretty much everything in between.
Donkey Deep is almost self-consciously clever in that way when the musicians own their own studio and record on a whim, for a lark. So opener Time Of Your Life, has a wagon-hitchin’ lilt to it, as if a folk song has been married to a piece of Michael Nyman film score. And then Tangiwai Train turns the tables, almost uncomfortably. Now it’s Phil Judd singing a Tom Waits song – if you (want to) believe it.
And from there it’s always clever, always interesting, dark, narrative songs croak and crawl and it is all exceptionally played. A little too much head and not quite enough heart for me though. I like the band – but have found this to be their least accessible album so far. That said, I’d welcome another record from them anytime. There’s always something worth hearing in this duo’s work.