Music review: Dudley Benson

Dudley Benson. Zealandia. Golden Retriever. ★★★★★

Hot on the heels of Kamasi Washington's cosmos-spanning, genre defying epic, Heaven & Earth, comes an album from Dunedin of no less ambition. Eight years in the making, Dudley Benson's Zealandia opens with the birdsong of previous work before soaring off across a continent-sized exercise in music making and existentialism, as his album ponders the big questions about Aotearoa to a soundtrack of harpsichord and electronica. We fly by pop hooks, delicate strings and synth drums, woven seamlessly together by the beautiful instrument that is Benson's singing voice. The earworm moments catch, but never threaten to detract from the direction of travel across a shifting landscape.

The music is part of the story, the politics equally significant, as Benson tackles the topic of decolonisation. Early on, in Birth of a Nation, he sings "Come below deck, to the captain's quarters/I'm gonna jack up a deal ... Gonna make you forget everything you know, like I do".

It is ethereal yet grounded, finely produced and orchestrated: a masterful piece of musical story-telling and inquiry.

For those who like: Japan, Serpent with Feet, Gareth Farr

Single download: Birth of a Nation

- Tom McKinlay

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