Elastic Wasteland by SJD - album review

by Nick Bollinger / 13 December, 2012
<em>Elastic Wasteland</em> contains some of the most satisfying and sophisticated songs Sean Donnelly has ever put to disc.
Sean Donnelly
Sean Donnelly: solo again, photo Deborah Smith.


There is a picture in the booklet of SJD’s Elastic Wasteland that shows Sean Donnelly alone in his studio, clutching an acoustic guitar. Oddly, you will hear little acoustic guitar on the album – or any non-electronically treated sounds, for that matter. Yet that classic image of the solitary singer-songwriter is fitting for an intimate set of songs Donnelly recorded entirely on his own.

The sense of solitude is comparable to that of Pink Moon, Nick Drake’s lonely masterpiece. The synthesisers and drum machines that provide virtually the sole accompaniment to Donnelly’s sublime voice are just this craftsman’s equivalent of the folk singer’s guitar. These are some of the most satisfying and sophisticated songs Donnelly has ever put to disc.

Melody and lyric are treated as equals, with just one dance-friendly instrumental to break up the mid-to-slow tempos. Aside from a robotic vocal effect on one song that comes riskily close to novelty, he has never sung more affectingly, particularly on those vulnerable and true top notes.

Elastic Wasteland marks Donnelly’s return as a solo artist after a long period as a collaborator. His instrumental and production prowess were crucial to Neil Finn’s recent Pajama Club project; before that he alternated bass duties for Don McGlashan with intermittent releases under his SJD moniker, which grew from its solo beginnings into a full band.

Now he is back on his own, and more than one song finds him contemplating aloneness. In Empty World, everyday beauty is rendered meaningless by the absence of a loved one, and The Lizard Kings portrays a world turned on itself by a race of reptilian invaders. In both songs, the sense of alienation is enhanced by the whirring electronic chord-scapes.

In spite of its jokey title, Elastic Wasteland is full of such ominous portents. Song of Baalmatches one of Donnelly’s most plaintive melodies to the monologue of aElastic-Wasteland by SJDmythic tyrant, and Jumping Over Fences finds a fugitive seeking temporary solace while pursuing choppers buzz overhead. And yet there is hope and comfort, too.

On the Driveway – the first of three exquisite songs that close the album – evokes a classic Kiwi New Year’s Eve, complete with “the moon’s reflection in piss puddles by the porch”. Like a local Auld Lang Syne, the gently stirring melody strikes a tone of cautious optimism. It evokes feelings of family, loved ones and home. In a wasteland ruled by reptiles and tyrants, these are things to hold on to.

ELASTIC WASTELAND, SJD (Round Trip Mars).
MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

Jacinda Ardern pregnant: Politicians past and present lend their support
86105 2018-01-19 15:45:44Z Politics

Jacinda Ardern pregnant: Politicians past and pres…

by RNZ

Politicians from at home and abroad are reaching out to offer congratulations to the Prime Minister mum-to-be.

Read more
Jacinda Ardern is going to be a Prime Minister AND a mum
86091 2018-01-19 12:36:44Z Politics

Jacinda Ardern is going to be a Prime Minister AND…

by Katie Parker

New Zealand’s newly minted PM and bizarrely cool and normal lady Jacinda Ardern has announced that she and partner Clarke Gayford are expecting a baby

Read more
Jacinda Ardern announces pregnancy
86074 2018-01-19 11:11:36Z Politics

Jacinda Ardern announces pregnancy

by RNZ

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that she is pregnant, with the baby due in June.

Read more
What the media silly season taught us
85933 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z Politics

What the media silly season taught us

by Graham Adams

To the eternal gratitude of media chiefs, each holiday period seems to throw up at least one minor scandal that runs in the absence of anything newsy.

Read more
Richard Prebble: Jacinda Ardern will face the tyranny of events
86009 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z Politics

Richard Prebble: Jacinda Ardern will face the tyra…

by Richard Prebble

I predicted Bill English would lose the election and the winner would be Winston Peters. But no forecaster, including the PM, predicted her pregnancy.

Read more
Aokigahara: More than just the ‘suicide forest’
85966 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z World

Aokigahara: More than just the ‘suicide forest’

by Justin Bennett

It's known as a 'suicide forest', but Justin Bennett found Aokigahara's quiet beauty outweighed its infamous reputation.

Read more
Truth and Lye: New perspectives on the brilliance of Len Lye
85816 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z Arts

Truth and Lye: New perspectives on the brilliance …

by Sally Blundell

New essays on New Zealand-born US artist Len Lye elevate him to the status of Australasia’s most notable 20th-century artist.

Read more
Brain activity may hold the secret to helping infertile couples
86046 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z Health

Brain activity may hold the secret to helping infe…

by Nicky Pellegrino

For about a third of infertility cases in New Zealand, there is no obvious reason why seemingly fertile couples struggle to conceive.

Read more