Cool Rainbows – Whale Rocket (Lil’ Chief) CD REVIEW

IT’S PERPLEXING HOW under-the-radar Auckland’s best record label, Lil’ Chief, remains. Every label releases a few clunkers now and then, and Lil’ Chief is no exception, but 99 percent of its releases have been amongst the best albums made in NZ over its ten-year history.
Whale Rocket, like everything on Lil’ Chief, has a sound that fits right in with the label’s sonic and stylistic aesthetic, without being homogenised into a singular sound. Like so many other Lil’ Chief releases, it’s the very personal singer-songwriter project that relies on adept studio moves, smart pop-writing skills and an off-centre view of the world to get its message across, rather than power chords or big drum sounds.
Cool Rainbows is essentially Djeisan Suskov, a producer/engineer whose Dad owns Revolver Studios, and who clearly oozes everything he’s been exposed to from a young age – including music! The 10 songs on Whale Rocket aren’t demanding, exactly, but they are enticing, as Suskov and his pals draw you into his world. And it’s clearly a very Auckland vision, soaked in long summer days and nights at the beach and tangled up in a particularly Kiwi way of looking at life.
Its sound shimmers with an almost Spectoresque quality, filtered through ‘60s psychedelic folk and ‘70s warped power pop (Dennis Wilson, Big Star). In places, it sounds like Sneaky Feelings, but without the wet and winsome factors that plagued that group’s work.
Suskov knows how to craft a song and a sound, how and when to place a deft minor chord into an otherwise straight-ahead melody. But more importantly, he gifts this album with an unusual sense of wonder. Typically, pop music (indie or otherwise) is littered with complaint and melancholy and downright depression, but somehow, he manages to write and sonically script songs and stoned dreamscapes that are in awe of life and love, without the usual sentimentality.
It’s not a hi-fidelity recording, but it works on a good rig, and it’s a very good album. GARY STEEL
Music = 4/5
Sound = 3.5/5

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