Thus far in 2013, Australasia is proving to be a prospective goldmine of niche, psychedelic, and somewhat dreamy guitar music. Popstrangers exported Antipodes earlier this year, and impressed everyone lucky enough to have wrapped their ears around it. Splashh have arrived via London, and their upcoming debut LP has got fans of this sunbathed, fuzzed-out motif effervescent with anticipation. Zen Mantra is the latest to be checked out on a conveyor belt of cool, and his infectious knack of creating music with all the energy of punk, but the sub-tropical atmosphere of psychedelica, has resulted in a genre as authentic as the influences that have undoubtedly had a huge bearing on the composition of How Many Padmes Hum?
Zen Mantra is the alias of 18-year-old artist/producer Sam Perry, and the watertight nature of his debut LP far outstrips his years. Even the title of his album screams a horizontal sophistication, and is an ideal underwriter (once I researched its meaning) for the melodic, dream punk that the record houses. In the large part, the exuberant energy is controlled by contagious melodies that will act as highly proficient de-stressers, and on occasions, the energy overflows on the edge of control to keep you guessing, adding flamboyance to the flow of an extremely strong debut effort.
Imaginably titled bookend track Intro sets the scene, placing you in the surf-zone of an isolated beach, sauntering at a gentle pace. The production shines through from the outset; a simple melody and a continuous vocal drawl is allowed to meander for almost 4 minutes without loosening the hook. As a result, the appetite is whetted overwhelmingly for the beautiful Cloudgazer to truly announce how much attention this album is going to be worth giving. Perry’s vocals are garnished with an angelic female harmony over an introspect pop song that is sublime in its restraint. La La La La La boasts an attitude to combat its energy before slipping into another dreamy chorus; a prime example of how the flow of the album is punctuated admirably by shots of proclivity, sessions of R+R and inoculations of requiescence.
Soothsayer showcases more of the beautiful male vs. female vocal trade-offs, echoing all to potently of some of the more celebrated compliments of yesteryear – Black Francis and Kim Deal are the ones that spring to mind. The track emphasizes further the knack of Perry to intertwine his influences into something original, and pay homage, whether inadvertently or not, to some of the greatest names to tiptoe around the punk/rock genre. Fossils quickens the pace enough to eliminate any hint of monotony, and gives a listener no chance of losing interest in this euphoric listen.
It’s often easy to get over excited when hearing fresh produce that makes an instant impression, but How Many Padmes Hum? really isn’t far from a complete package. It’s worth noting that the record loses a little momentum in its second part, and the geography of the sonic origins is showcased in no uncertain terms with Change. The track is brash, and comes across as what Tame Impala would have sounded like if they’d written Lonerism in a soft play. This, however, is one of the few backhanders that How Many Padmes Hum? will receive. This is quickly recovered however, with Karma’s a Scam maintaining the pace and regaining the maturity, conveying the Zen Mantra ethos once more. Album closer I Wonder What It’s Like Out There puts the rubber-stamp on the solidity of the LP, emanating a fascinating, pensive motif and emphasizing the grasp Perry has on both songwriting and production.
How Many Padmes Hum? is a stellar debut effort, and it’s hard to believe that the man behind it all is only 18. Ultimately, it is a euphoric listen in which Perry has proved himself a sublime exponent of melody, and the record itself is celestial in its simplicity. A sun-kissed marriage of energy and recreation is the name of the game, and a procession of infectious, accessible dream punk is the result. A very encouraging debut. 81%
Zen Mantra – La La La La La – Video