Ngaiire, to me, is an artist who has existed on the perimeter for far too long. As someone who doesn’t live in Sydney, my exposure to Ngaiire pre-2013 came merely in the form of a backing vocal feature here, a live spot there. ‘Why haven’t we seen more of this girl before?’, I’d think. Then came her debut album, Lamentations. A wild and eclectic fusion of soul, beats and R&B, a wider music audience was introduced to Ngaiire and we all heaved a sigh of contentment. This girl was here and she arrived in a flurry of stunning sounds.
Then, life happened. Touring and a multitude of things off road would fill in the years that would follow and ultimately form what we have here: Blastoma. Three years on from the impact “Dirty Hercules” and “Rabbit Hole” had on us, Ngaiire returns with what is arguably her most confronting and passionate collection of music yet. The wait has been long but boy, has the artist made it worth it.
Ngaiire continues to explore a diverse musical palette on Blastoma (one live crowds in particular will have noted over the past 6-12 months of live shows), incorporating gritty electronics (“House on a Rock”) with some well produced hints of trip-hop (“I Wear Black”) and of course, that soul-soaked R&B vocal throughout (“Once”, “I Can’t Hear God Anymore”). She shifts between the glossy and the raw with skill, allowing the listener to access this sonic environment she’s meticulously established before coming at us fast with evocative lyricism and music that hits right to your core.
In the same way that Kanye’s 808s and Heartbreak gave listeners an insight into a frenzied, perhaps unexpected level of writing from an artist who on the surface, they thought they had figured out, Blastoma mirrors this when it comes to Ngaiire. Sure, there stands to be a whole new load of fans who will consider this the Ngaiire record, but even so, the music we’re presented with here bucks against expectation and offers a stunning, at times melancholic and beautiful, peek into the fountain of potential we can still see the artist tapping into.
The record, named after the cancer Ngaiire beat during her childhood, is a reminder that behind strength and bravery often exists different shades of vulnerability. It also is the result of heartbreak and coming out the other side intact. “I Can’t Hear God Anymore” and “Fall Into My Arms” are unapologetic in their heartstring-yanking. “Once” and “Diggin” entices the listener to find that beat that makes you want to bliss out and bop. “Cruel” brings in Jack Grace’s contrasting vocal, marking a nice direction change on the record and adds a bonus layer to the song itself.
Once again under the production and guidance of Paul Mac (as well as Grace), Ngaiire has emerged as more than a flash in the pan talent to be watching this year. She commands, soothes and captivates with Blastoma and most definitely proves that that perimeter I mentioned she hovered on earlier? Left utterly in the dust.
Get Blastoma into your world and see Ngaiire perform at the next opportunity.
REVIEW SCORE: 8.7 out of 10.
Blastoma is out June 10th via Maximilian Brown (Independent).