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Little Bushman: Pendulum
Reviewed by Tim G
Little Bushman’s Pendulum sends me back to a poignant moment in my musical education. The latest offering from the Wellington blues-infused psychedelic rock band reminds me of the time I discovered my father’s vinyl collection; echoes of Electric Ladyland, Zeppelin II and The Wall radiate. The essence of these LPs I dusted off at the age of 14 has been resurrected by Bushman and inspired a unique and instantly compelling album.
Warren Maxwell – the Wellington musical icon – Tom Callwood, Joe Callwood and Richard Cranson have evolved and developed a distinctive style on this sophomore collaboration. The aforementioned influences are obvious, yet the band manage to pay homage while defining their own brand of psychedelic blues. Pendulum is a more channelled album, with complex arrangements and honed songwriting. Maxwell admits this was not the case with their debut, The Onus of Sand. “The first album was really us looking to get something out, it was a matter of us finding our feet and getting to know each other as a band.”
The songs on Pendulum are all distinguished in their own right. ‘Nature of Man’ is a stonking blues-driven tune that epitomises the band’s vigour and determined energy of Pendulum. ‘Mary’ is a heavy wah wah infused song that references Hendrix and climaxes in a wonderfully soulful conclusion backed by stunning vocals. The psychedelic nature of the ‘Seed (part one and two)’ illustrates the band exploring the heavy sonic soundscapes and their journey into psychedelia. Maxwell also includes his trademark soulful acoustic genius on ‘Next Time’, revisiting his past life in Trinity Roots and adding another stripped-back element to this diverse album.
Cranson’s drumming on this album is something to behold; it holds the music and is inspiring. Both Callwood brothers also play proficiently and their style never falters. This all held together by Maxwell, whose voice sits amongst the music stirringly. Pendulum’s musical arrangements and inclusion of a range of instrumental experiments shows a band so comfortable in their art, they have evolved into something fuller and more epic. “On this album we spent a lot more time arranging and adding different aspects” explains Maxwell. “After the first album we took time to defrag and rebuild our sound.”
The evolution from Onus to Pendulum is also striking in the lyrics conveyed, and in keeping with the era of inspiration, works as a commentary on political and social issues. Cranson describes the message with balance being the key theme, “it’s about having balance on a global, environmental, social and personal level.” He sites ‘Corrupt Demeanour’ as an example of a song which aims not to preach but question modern day yearning for commercial fulfillment. “It’s not about finger pointing, its about questioning the choices we make, why do I actually want this?” Maxwell adds, “it’s not about being preachy or righteous but dealing with our own nemesis and thinking about that balance.”
Little Bushman’s other raison d’etre is to play live. The refreshing enthusiasm both Cranson and Maxwell show for taking their music to another level is invigorating. “We are going to resurrect the dying art of playing live,” asserts Maxwell prophetically. With such a wealth of talent in the band the prospect of seeing the band in action is exciting to say the least. “We have the luxury of being able to take it somewhere... yet it is intangible and subconscious and you can only control it so far.” Both Maxwell and Cranson describe it in terms of a journey. Interestingly, Cranson reveals that this inspired the shortening of jams on Pendulum compared to Onus: “on the album (Pendulum) we would get to a point where we would decide ‘that’s enough, the listener’s heard enough’ where as live its all about tension and release. We made sure we left the listener wanting more and that’s where we expand it live.”
Pendulum is a fantastic album. The spirit of classic rock is well understood and embodied by Maxwell, and he’s ready to carry the torch. “You’ve just got to put it all together... and fuckin’ go for it.”
Little Bushman play the SoundSplash Reggae Festival in Raglan on February 15, and the Crystal Palace in Wellington on March 14-15. myspace.com/littlebushmanband.