I’ve never really been a fan of Ladi6 in the sense that I don’t retain the albums – can’t recall anything particularly wonderful from her two previous full-lengthers – but I’ve seen her perform a few times and she’s a great live act. Like, always worth seeing. A great band with just her and drummer Julien Dyne (he’s always worth listening to – in all his guises) and Ladi’s partner in music and life Parks (Brent Park). I should clarify perhaps that I didn’t in any way hate the previous records – they just sorta drifted in and out of the house.
Wow though – what a giant step up Automatic is; her third album.
The woman born Karoline Tamati has always had a voice worth listening to – I think back to when I first heard her with Sheelahroc and on through Verse Two. But here she’s dropping the forays into rapping – and the occasional tilts toward other genres. She’s all soul here but this is still a hip-hop album, particularly in the way it’s been built. Parks co-produced this album with American DJ/Producer Waajeed. And in so many ways this is Brent Park’s record just as it’s Karoline’s. For in fact they are Ladi6 – together. She is the soul and voice but he is part of the backbone and spirit. He helps to flesh the sound out.
Here that sound is a contemporary soul record – with some of the oozing wooziness of modern dance music dripping down around Ladi6’s cool-charm vocals.
I never entirely supported the lofty claim of her being “New Zealand’s answer to Erykah Badu” – but here I can see the point of it, beyond it being, obviously, a huge compliment. Where the two are similar – because Ladi doesn’t sound a thing like Erykah – is in the way they sing gimmick-free. There’s no vocal gymnastics, no big search and climb. They are singers, tunnelling to the heart of the song. Conveying these songs in the best, simplest way.
Here Ladi6 doesn’t put a foot wrong, she sounds fabulous and there are some great pop-writing instincts on show. Several of the songs on this tight, trim album (less than 40 minutes, I always like that) will show up on radio, will reach a mainstream audience. And then there’s the sly, subversive side to this record too. It’s slinky and groovy and – sonically – it’s a joy. It sounds cool. It sounds sharp and wonderful. And there’s not a single song that shouldn’t be on this album, the flow is perfect.
It’s the record of her career. The one that rightly deserves to see her raved about. And now I really can’t wait to see the band kick this stuff live. It’ll be fantastic. I’ve always enjoyed the shows. And now I have something to hang onto.