Gather 'round the Gooseclock by Mali Mali is on some Thom Yorke moonshine. The peripheral beats and measured piano playing in the first track "Pages" led me to suspect this and when front man Ben Tolich's voice came on, it was all over. I was a believer. Well, it turns out I was led astray; "Pages" doesn't let the listener accurately predict how the rest of the album will sound. There are more Yorke moments, make no mistake, but otherwise the bulk of the sound draws upon influences from the electroacoustic genre. The piano still plays an important role in the songs. In "Magnetic North," for example, sunset-inspired piano playing leads the track out on a bittersweet note.
Some of the songs get too bittersweet for their own good. "Good Arvo" is a super-quiet number with gentle percussion and frail guitar with Tolich's bruised voice singing through the cupboards holding his heart. It's a nice effect but I'm inclined to think I'd have to be in a very specific mood to enjoy music like this.
And yet, the band is at their best at their most stripped down. "Swims Alone," the album closer, is starkly different to any sound they've produced thus far, with lower production value adding emotional and aesthetic strength to what sounds like an ode to Neutral Milk Hotel.At its most acoustically energetic, Mali Mali reminds me of Damien Rice, which is a high compliment. Man, what happened to Damien Rice? Maybe he went to Auckland and assumed the identity of Ben Tolich? Of course I'm being facetious, there's enough of Tolich's personality stuck to the songs that calling this effort a mere copycat production would be crass on my part. This is listenable and enjoyable, though maybe not in a crowd setting, definitely if I were picnicking by myself on the beach.
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