Blue Whale is the debut release from Dunedin, New Zealand quintet Porpoise. They take inspiration from the classic “Dunedin Sound” while giving it a modern twist: jangly guitars and pop-aware melodies mix with their own takes to create a “shoegazing, post-rock style,” as they dub it.
The band--Lucy Pollock, Joel Field, Seddie Hewitson, Tom Schultz and Ellen Walters--are a two-guitar, bass, drums, and vocals lineup. Porpoise has played a number of live gigs since their late 2020 formation, and Blue Whale is their first venture into a recording studio. The EP documents their working-band ethos with tracks laid down live. The band says that only vocals (and some lovely cello parts) were overdubbed later, although there may be an extra layer worked in here and there. Similarly, the mix is similar to a live show with guitars well-separated left and right. This works just fine, and allows us to hear the well-constructed parts clearly.
The opening track “Running Race” is an introspective, minor feel mid-tempo rocker and sets the tone for the disc. The vocals are plaintive and match the lyrics well. The album’s lyrics begin with “I know that times have changed so we change too / I just don’t know how I’ll catch up,” and they continue exploring emotional challenges throughout the record. The guitars sparkle with their separation in the mix giving a good effect. Bass and drums are locked in, and the cello parts add a terrific extra layer of texture and tension. It’s an engaging start.
The remaining four tracks continue along in a similar vein, each with its own highlights and extended instrumental sections. “Blue Whale” brings in backing vocals. “Sperm Whale” features an engaging introduction that matches brooding drums with an upbeat, almost mandolin-like guitar figure, and a left-side rhythm guitar that incorporates a nice use of the whammy bar. The band turns up the distortion a bit for “Kudu” to break up the stanzas of a spoken-word poem. The cello adds a lovely counterpoint to the album-ending “Back In My Room.” There are nuggets in each track for you to discover.
Blue Whale is a promising start. As they get more comfortable with the studio--and their capabilities within it--their music and sound should evolve. In the meantime, Porpoise have delivered a fine set, worthy of their Dunedin heritage.
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