Troy Kingi & The Electric Haka Boogie – Guitar Party At Uncle’s Bach (Lyttelton)
Musician-actor Troy Kingi, is probably best known for playing the role of TK the selfish dad in Taika Waititi’s blockbuster Hunt for the Wilderpeople, although he’s also done a stint in the movie Pa Boys and Mt Zion, where he actually played a musician. Upon listening to his new double-album Guitar Party at Uncle’s Bach, you can’t help wondering how much of those experiences rubbed off.
Music and acting have been a constant for Troy since as his boarding school days where he picked up the guitar as part of Te Aute College’s kapa haka group. In between raising his four children in Kingi has been a dive instructor, jobbing actor and mentored prison inmates in the final season of Maori Television’s Songs From The Inside. Which may explain why it’s taken eight years to write and record this album.
The music might be inspired by Kingi’s love of guitar singalongs at family gatherings, and recorded in Lyttelton at Ben Edwards’ Sitting Room studio but the music feels much more sophisticated than just a jam around the Hangi. Sure, it starts with a sample from a New Year’s party countdown but then it breaks into some very cool psychedelic guitar fuzz mixed with perfect dread beats on Leg Space. Harmonies from Mara TK, who helps out on the album are all too clear. There’s a bit of Otis Redding old Skool soul on Cold Steel, delivered so well I think Holly Smith might wanna call up and ask if she can do a duet on this one. The flavours mix again into big 70’s riffs on Coke Lines, with the wah-wah pedals in full force. This tune is very catchy and a real party groover.
Here and there Kingi shows off his blues skills like on You In A Nutshell, which is so close I had to check it wasn’t an outtake from some lost Stevie Ray Vaughan album. The album moves around between blues, rock soul and reggae but occasionally gets very delicate. Such a moment is Man From Mercury, a slow soul bearing contemplation that principally hangs together with a few simple piano lines, punctuated by swelling rock chords from the band.
One of my favourites is a very funky number called Can’t Help Feeling Strange. It’s a slow burner in the style of Marvin Gaye, especially around the time of What’s Goin’ On? Again, you here Kingi’s sweet, sweet vocals and harmonies with Mara TK, offset by an understated groove cadence and the perfect Motown template.
Oil Spill is a heavier grungy number, revealing Kingi’s love of Hendrix and possibly Deep Purple. It certainly belongs on that playlist. With distorted vocals and a deep, spindly, jangly guitar riff it completes Tahi (The first disc).
Rua (The second disc) begins with Moko, a more simple track that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Fly My Pretties set. There’s an old surf tune crying to get out of Kingi’s amp. It’s clear when you hear Clean Sea Air, which mixes up all those great elements of summer BBQ dance music with a tad of consciousness and play it all back through a funnel of delicious distortion. You get more 60’s garage rock on Under Ledges, which also is heavily bathed in distortion and vibrant tremolos. Another turn at psychedelia and reggae come on the oddly labelled Bats n Vampire Squid.
I must admit I’ve only just scratched the surface of this collection, which feels more like a retrospective box set than a first release. Clocking in at 22 tracks, its ambitious, but I can’t say there was ever a time I was bored or felt the need to fast forward. Given the sheer weight of this body of work, it can be a little overwhelming to take in all at once. More like the opposite. I need to spend more time re-listening to these songs. Good thing the summer holidays are coming up.