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by Nick Bollinger / 04 December, 2010
A welcome return - in a new guise - for One Million Dollars frontman Richard Setford, plus other new Kiwi albums.

The first time I saw Richard Setford, he was fronting 10-piece funk band One Million Dollars, so it took a while to accept that Bannerman was the same guy. For Setford's debut album under the Bannerman banner, brassy grooves have been replaced by personal, guitar-centred songs, which he delivers in an adaptable baritone. In his darker moments, he might be a more tuneful Nick Cave, but his melodies are so full of unexpected twists, his chord changes so cunning, that I'm equally reminded of the Beatles' White Album era.

Setford hasn't entirely abandoned the use of horns that characterised his early band, only here they are used almost orchestrally, alongside violin, occasional pedal steel and Setford's own guitars and keyboards.

His songs describe a fantasy world, of sorts. It could be the storybook one suggested by Angela Keoghan's lovely line drawings that adorn the cover. But it's more likely that the forests, caverns, hills and valleys to which Setford repeatedly alludes are emotional places as much as physical ones.

Fourteen longish tracks make The Dusty Dream Hole a full programme, but it never gets dull. That this was at one point going to be a double album suggests, fortunately, that there is more where it came from.

THE DUSTY DREAM HOLE, Bannerman (Rhythmethod).

The revived Flying Nun label has shown it is not mired in nostalgia, with fresh releases from noise-popsters Die! Die! Die! and one-man wonder Grayson Gilmour. But it maintains continuity with its roots with Ends Run Together, the latest solo album of Robert Scott, who as a member of the Clean played on the first (or second, depending who you ask) record the venerable indie ever released.

Scott has a musical signature and it is stamped all over songs that are folky and floaty, anchored in solid guitar parts and hypnotic hooks.

There are tunes you could imagine him playing with the Clean, the Bats, Magick Heads or any of his other outfits. Yet there is a depth of sonic detail I haven't heard in Scott's work before, making it one of the loveliest and certainly most ­sophisticated things he has ever done.

ENDS RUN TOGETHER, Robert Scott (Flying Nun).

There's a painter's eye that reveals itself in the songwriting of Barry Saunders, this land's most trusty troubadour. It's in the way he deftly sketches the landscape in his lyrics, and even applies colour to the scenes: Bay of Blue, One Red Morning. So the idea of commissioning 14 visual artists, each to illustrate a classic Saunders song, is more than just a novel way of presenting Far As the Eye Can See, effectively his "greatest hits". You might see it as a natural marriage of art forms.

The song selection - drawn from 15 years of the Warratahs frontman's solo recordings - has an easy flow. Yet the illustrations tend to settle on the physical description in the songs, while Saunders's voice travels on to places that can only be described in sound: the howl with which he launches into Wind in the Pine; the little catch in his voice each time he sings the name Maureen.

FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE, Barry ­Saunders (Native Tongue/Ode).

 

It is not for want of extraordinary songs or a voice uniquely capable of plumbing their depths that Emma Paki has only ever made one album.

Unfortunately, the album-length Trinity is not the follow-up to 1996's Oxygen of Love Paki's admirers hold out an increasingly faint hope for. It is just three songs, each presented in three (and, in one case, four) different mixes, from unadorned acoustic readings to dubbed-out dance tracks.

What's more, the songs are not even new, Century Sky and Stand Alone having already appeared briefly as radio singles earlier this decade.

Best are the acoustic mixes, sensitively overseen by Bic Runga. Of course, they are full of that mysterious soulfulness that characterises all Paki's work. Still, the term "lost soul" has never seemed more appropriate.

TRINITY, Emma Paki (Heart Music).

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