Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Pepa Knight - Hypnotized Vol. 1 (2014)

When I first discovered that Jinja Safari co-frontman/songwriter Pepa Knight was embarking upon a solo career, I could barely contain my excitement. Though he and songwriting partner Marcus Azon both draw from various regional musics, Knight is often the one manning the instruments procured from their travels - harmonium, sitar, reed flute, they all have a place in Knight's at home studio. Essentially what I expected from Knight's solo venture was more of the same with a wider array of instruments and Pepa Knight's first ever single "Rahh!" seemed to offer that up in spades.

It's not until you get into the nitty-gritty of Knight's debut solo EP Hypnotized Vol. 1 that you get a real sense of Knight as a solo artist. Beginning with the epononymous "Hypnotized" Knight commits heavily toward the album as a cohesive medium. Where "Rahh!" introduced us to Knight's solo effort by throwing fans and new listeners alike right into the deep end, "Hypnotized" takes a much more languid approach with a notable exception - like "Rahh!" or any of the other singles released ahead of the EP, Knight paints his songs in vibrant technicolor. Even with it's unfurling development, we're introduced to a bright, dynamic lushness before the first words are ever sung.

Without the full weight of Jinja Safari's five person manpower, Knight is freed up a bit for a much more subtler approach. The layering is carefully arranged, providing a sense of widescreen openness - reminiscent of the wide open plains Knight calls home in his native Central Coast, Australia. Similarly to Jinja Safari, it's easy to get lost in the immersive radiance of the album, swept along in the kaleidoscopic vision and diverse textural palette and not realize that in terms of actual songwriting, Knight has a unique but subdued voice. Pepa Knight takes not only what he's learned as a band member and intrepid world traveler but also as an adult human being for lyrics that stripped free of their resplendent poppy dressings are quite affecting. Each song builds on the idea of coming into your own and it's a theme that's given as much time to gestate as it does to actually do so - with album tracks substituting for years. "Do you feel alive?" Knight posits in "Hypnotized" before offering answers in each subsequent track from the subtle ("Fortress", "The Desert Guide") to the extreme ("Rahh!", "Clams").

Pepa Knight's debut solo EP Hypnotized Vol.1 is available on cassette, limited edition 12" vinyl as part of a deluxe bundle, or digitally through Knight's website or via the standard digital retailers. You can stream the album here:

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