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Although some Aussie listeners may be unfamiliar with Doprah, there’s been a growing buzz surrounding the Christchurch six-piece following the release of their self-titled EP in 2014. Under a veneer of Kawaii visuals the group draws from studio experimentation of Radiohead, Portishead and Massive Attack to create their own unique signature sound.
It’s easy to draw some analogy to the music cut by Sydney’s Sarah Blasko circa 2004. Like Blasko’s debut EP Prelusive and follow up LP Overture & the Underscore, Doprah’s music straddles a line between brooding yet infectious indie rock and ambient alt rock.
By far one of New Zealand’s best exports, you need to prepare for Doprah to send chills down your spine with their debut album Wasting.
Formed in 2013, the project is anchored around vocalist Indira Force and producer Steven Marr. Force’s flighty vocals encapsulate the luminous other-worldness of Beth Gibbons and the simmering alienation of Thom Yorke. Combined with Marr’s elaborate production and the duo’s shared songwriting chemistry the pair make for a formidable creative force.
As with their Doprah EP, echoes of the group’s UK predecessors permeate Wasting’s tracks. There’s no shortage of minor chord progressions, unconventional electronic layerings and emotive lyricisms. From the opening seconds of slow building leading track I Will Be A Figure Eight through to closer Black Lodge a seductive ambience permeates the album. Lucid Visions interweaves sonorous instrumentals and shivering vocals to create an arrangement with pulses with anguish.
Warmer track Borderline reveals more of Force’s distinctively New Zealand intonations. Contrasting with the darker brooding introspection of previous tracks, there’s a certain sweetness to the track. Perhaps a slight move towards poppier New Zealand contemporaries like Lorde and Broods, Borderline is a true testament to the band’s versatility.
Contrasting pastoral themes with industrial imagery, Machinery weaves a dark ambience. Melding bass lines and reverberant fretwork which evoke Portishead’s Sour Times with unconventional rhythmic fills, San Pedro readies the listener for immersion within the dark soundscapes of Wormhole. Stranger People features an elaborate sonic collage that serves as the LP’s climactic moment. Force’s melodic vocal hooks providing a bright counterpoint to the track’s unorthodox production and Marr’s downcast lyricisms.
Considering that it’s been five years since Radiohead’s The King of Limbs graced the musical mainstream, there’s an entire new generation of ears untouched by the distinctive sounds of Doprah’s Oxfordshire and Bristol antecedents. With an arresting signature sound and some well-earned momentum the world might again be hungry for a band like Doprah. But regardless of commercial ambitions, Wasting showcases a burgeoning creativity and formidable musical talent. There is little question that there’s plenty more great music to come from this talented New Zealand act.
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