Welcome, folks, to the delightful, slanted and enchanted world of CONNAN MOCKASIN. Like David Lynch’s wilfully surrealist take on American suburbia, or Richard Prince’s paintings investigating modern cultural tropes, the New Zealand born, current London resident Mockasin makes beautiful, off-kilter music which subverts as it compels, challenges as it mesmerists, startles as it seduces, even drawing fans as diverse as Johnny Marr and Radiohead to Ed Banger chief and ex Daft Punk manager Pedro Winter into its wide-eyed, childlike exploration into the final frontiers of pop music. It is all too rare, in this current climate of manufactured pop acts, grey over produced ‘alternative’ guitar music and press-fuelled mania for the next-big-thing, to hear something truly striking and original, but a strong case can most certainly be made for Connan to be a true pop auteur, taking his rightful place in a proud lineage which includes past mavericks such as Joe Meek and Brian Wilson, right through to current cult heroes like Ariel Pink, Sufjan Stevens and John Maus.
Written from start to finish one hot summer, while camped outside his parent’s church-like house in a tent, “Forever Dolphin Love” is an LP which brims with the beauty and solitude of summer evenings, a miasma of psychedelic tangents, jazz interludes and echoing guitars which hum with a distant, haunting resonance. Somehow, a peripatetic past – which includes a decamping from his native Te Awanga to London to form Connan And The Mockasins in 2006, before repeating the trip again a few years later to restart as Connan Mockasin – has conspired to produce an album so unique a first-time listener may have to listen to it again just to take it all in, so powerful is the spell it casts. It exists in its very own, free-floating parallel universe; a world where lush psychedelia morphs unpredictably into Spanish salsa (“Faking Jazz Together”), breathtaking, short interludes (“Grandpa Moff”) nestle alongside languidly unravelling epics (the title track) and above it all, Connan’s feather-light, alien vocals gently hover – not always in English, by the way, but sometimes in their own, made-up language – tantalisingly, beguilingly out of reach.
It was this brilliantly ingenious approach to invention, and his masterfully unique charm that caught the attention of Erol Alkan, who signed Connan to his label Phantasy after hearing initial demos for the record. On first seeing Connan play live at DURRR in London: “He was completely out of step with everything else out there, performing some of the most beautiful songs I had heard in years, to hundreds of people in a crowded nightclub, and being able to silence them to the low volume of his music. Having that power is rare.’