Mali Mali – Pages

I’ve just been acquainted with the glorious work of Mali Mali – as today beaming over from Auckland, New Zealand they (primarily the work of singer/songwriter Ben Tolich) bring to yearning ears a debut album, “Gather ’round the Gooseclock“. On a changeable day like today, it is quite easy to become smitten.

Opener “Pages” is a sparse arrangement centred around a cloudy sequence of piano chords, the discreet pulse of a kick drum, and voice – a wonderfully human performance; understated, fragile but with an indeterminate emotional weight carried through Tolich’s excellent phrasing. It is lovely also to hear the unique shades of his accent come through in an age when so many mask their own, or steal others. When the strings arrive (in a haunting manner almost in homage to Robert Kirby’s work on Nick Drake’s “Five Leaves Left” or Ben & Jason’s “Hello”) it is as if the the remaining pieces of a floating jigsaw puzzle have suddenly become buoyant and completed a picture that is both beautiful and beguiling.

While nothing else on the broadly acoustic “..Gooseclock” is quite as stark as “Pages”, I easily can see it finding a home with fans of King Creosote & Jon Hopkins‘ “Diamond Mine”. It absolutely deserves broader consideration beyond antipodean waters. Gather ’round.
Mike Phillips