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Here's Five: Artists That Have Inspired The Music Of Dawn Diver

Here's Five: Artists That Have Inspired The Music Of Dawn Diver

Ben Lemi / Chris Cudby / Photo credit: Capital Magazine and Anna Briggs (Photographer) / Wednesday 10th February, 2021 11:34AM

Pōneke multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Ben Lemi (Trinity Roots, Estère, Vera Ellen) brings his Dawn Diver project to Wellington Museum for a sure to be magical headline performance this coming Saturday. Fronted by Lemi with live bandmates Deanne Krieg (Whim), Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa, Will Sklenars, Rose Blake (Blaek) and Louisa Williamson, Dawn Diver's songs draw upon a wealth of diverse sonic elements and experiences to create their own dreamily distinct sound, as recently heard on 2020's tender-hearted student radio favourite 'Rosemary'. In advance of this weekend's event, Lemi generously shared his thoughts and feelings about five of the artists who've inspired the music of Dawn Diver — read his words and listen / watch below...

Dawn Diver
Saturday 13th February - Wellington Museum, Wellington (doors 7.30pm, 8pm start, koha entry)

For more info head along here

1. PJ Harvey

When I was in high school my step brother introduced me to PJ Harvey’s album Is This Desire. The song 'Angeline' really grabbed me and made me think about lyricism in a way I hadn’t before. Simplicity of imagery and a transparent yet melancholic tone gently pull you in before you’re swept away in to the chorus.

“Rose is my colour and white
 Pretty mouth, and green my eyes
 I see men come and go
 But there will be one who will collect my soul and come to me”

One of the best concerts I’ve seen in the last few years was PJ at the Michael Fowler Centre in 2017. The show she put together had a lot of subtle detail, and was curated so beautifully. I’d still love to see her in a smaller club thrashing out some older heavier tunes, but either way I’m constantly inspired by PJ's work, and can’t help but consider her artistic contributions when I’m developing ideas for Dawn Diver.

PJ Harvey - Angelene.

2. Flying Lotus

To my ears Flying Lotus glides somewhere between Sonic Arts, Jazz and IDM, and hearing his music for the first time was a bit of an awakening for me. I was introduced via the album Until The Quiet Comes which was released in 2012, and at that time I was pretty deep in the world of DIY recording and mixing. Analysing this album and reading about some of the techniques used really compelled me to think about functionality within the frequency spectrum. Thundercat and the late Austin Peralta provide flourishes of virtuosity and expanded harmony, and these flavours do well to offset the density of the Sonic Arts and Sound Design aesthetic of the album. Additionally Erykah Badu and Thom Yorke are featured who I’ve been following since Baduizm and OK Computer.

Flying Lotus - See Thru To U feat. Erykah Badu (Thundercat's unmistakeable tone here as well).

3. Dimi Mint Abba

Dimi Mint Abba (1958 - 2011) was an incredible Mauritanian musician born in to a family of hereditary caste musicians known as Iggawin. Her voice has been an elixir for my ears and mind for many years. The profoundness of her music took a while to sink in, partially because I’m not fluent in Hassaniya or classical Arabic. Also I hadn’t heard music that ebbed and flowed in a rhythmic sense like it does on Dimi’s album Moorish Music from Mauritania featuring Dimi, her husband and two daughters. There’s a hypnotic quality to this album which causes me to feel as if I’m not experiencing the music just as a listener, but am somehow existing inside it. Dimi’s vocal agility is astounding, but it’s the innate interweaving of push-and-pull rhythmic energy and enchanting call-and-response motifs that keeps me constantly checking the rigidity of my Western ear.

Dimi Mint Abba at Womadelaide 2009.

4. Steve Reich

Steve Reich’s music is constantly helping me to appreciate the value of simplicity and repetition. 'Six Marimbas' was composed in 1986 and is a favorite of mine. The piece cycles slowly and shifts deceptively in tonality for a good 16 minutes, and I just love the attack and resonance of mallets on wood. I've not yet delved in to the “phasing” realm for the live band (it's on the to-do-list), but an awareness of Steve Reich’s minimalism has been absolutely essential in regards to shaping the tone and intention of Dawn Diver.

Steve Reich - Clapping Music.

5. FKA Twigs

M3LL155X is an adventurous production that FKA Twigs released back in 2015, and it really ticked some boxes for me in terms of artistic depth that I appreciate. In a similar way to FlyLo, I love the detail in her production and the juxtaposition of soothing and harsh sounds. Her honey-like vocals at times seem trapped inside a world of anxiously meticulous sonic treatment, and as a listener it’s like you’re being shunted and caressed through an aural endurance test. The accompanying short film to M3LL155X is quite an intense ride, but I take a lot from this kind of fearless conceptual approach to creating art. I feel like FKA Twigs carries this kind of tradition on from the likes of other visionaries such as Kate Bush and Björk.

FKA Twigs - Mary Magdalene, Live on Jools Holland.


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Dawn Diver
Sat 13th Feb
Wellington Museum, Wellington