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Album Review

by Disasteradio

A Low Hum

Review Date
10th November
Reviewed by
Michael Harvey

Walking into Disasteradio's album release show a couple weeks ago was a little like walking onto the set of Nicolas Roeg's 70's flick The Man Who Fell To Earth, except with Luke Rowell commanding an awesome party as opposed to David Bowie's paranoid space visitor. With banks of televisions blaring 8-bit psychedelic graphics behind him, Rowell was performing in the middle of the ecstatic crowd on a raised platform - such a simple set-up yet ridiculously effective. Disasteradio makes totally righteous party music with an inherent sense of fun that immediately captures your attention. His previous album Visions collected the hits that have populated his live sets over the years - Charisma follows up that album in the party stakes, but it is also an album that rewards close listening. The attention to the layers of sonic detail that Rowell has lavished on this album is remarkable and is what makes it transcend the frivolity of music made for "da club".

Opening track "You Win" skitters out of the speakers on clipped synth notes and a straightforward beat, about midway through repeated "lala lala lala" vocals emerge that sends the track towards a dizzying climax - it's fantastic stuff, and this is only the first song of the album! Rowell has expanded his vocal work on this album as well. Previously obscuring his voice with copious vocoder (still happening here on tracks like "Computer Whiz"), songs like "Gravy Rainbow" find him clearly singing some wonderfully absurd lyrics. Nowhere is this more apparent than album centrepiece "No Pulse", probably his most catchy tune to date, which features Christina Hroch on the awesome scream-along chorus vocals. Elsewhere, "Hello World" unveils proggy classicism with some optimistic arpeggios, and title cut "Charisma" is a slice of retro-futuristic acid (house) flashback. Instrumental epic "Kids of 99" recalls Trans Am at their most electro, moody swelling tones and a cut-time rhythm that gives a welcome sense of space and groove.

Have I mentioned how utterly tremendous this album sounds? Rowell really has put in the hard yards as far as touring, writing and recording goes - this album is one of the best pop releases of the year, from NZ or anywhere really. Truly Charisma is what German philosopher K.F.E. Trahndorff would call a Gesamtkunstwerk or "total work of art" - dig the thematic videos and imagery, provided by visual collaborators Simon Ward and Don Brooker. It is infectious, fun, and totally devoid of the unsubtle bonehead-isms that cripples much NZ pop these days. Luke Rowell, you are a genius!


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