There are a lot of reasons to recommend Soft Hair’s debut album to anyone even remotely interested in the project or in the respective career trajectories of its creators Connan Mockasin and Sam Eastgate. To start with, they’ve crafted a near-perfect rendering of the vibe they’re going for: it’s freaky mutant pond scum Prince, sacrificing the Purple One’s sexuality to indulge their more comic whims but ironically coming out with something ribald and sensual along the way.
Loosely speaking the album is the cohesive sum of its parts, and there are four distinct parts in total. Opener ‘Relaxed Lizard’ is a 'Forever Dolphin Love' era Mockasin song, while ‘A Gooood Sign’ is lifted straight from Eastgate’s 'Inji' album as LA Priest last year. The ambient side of the record comes out in ‘i.v.’ and ‘I.i.v.’ and the remaining four songs can loosely be termed the ‘Soft Hair’ component proper. Interestingly at eight tracks, the LP is not very long and with the amount of original material on it it’s closer in form to an EP.
Of the two pre-existing songs ‘A Gooood Sign’ is the most gratuitous. It is presented here pretty much exactly as it was on Inji minus the intro. Mockasin’s ‘Relaxed Lizard’ takes us back to its writer’s imperial period with Eastgate adding an unmistakably satisfying touch. But it’s when we get to the core songs here that the album actually becomes insightful and even inspiring. ‘Lying Has To Stop’ and ‘Jealous Lies’ are floor-killers with Mockasin and Eastgate’s respective voices lending the cuts terrific character.
Later on, the songs ‘In Love’ and ‘Alive Without Medicine’ are formless and arty, aligning the duo’s work here with Ariel Pink via Arthur Russell and Eno and Bowie. However, any comparisons thrown at this album run the risk of reducing it to a formula. The truth of the matter is that Soft Hair is the sound of two musicians who are mostly influenced by each other. Their seminal albums 'Inji' and 'Forever Dolphin Love' cast long but welcome shadows over the record.
Mockasin and Eastgate are similar in many respects, but also very different. Mockasin never found it easy playing to be heard, his clunky 'Forever Dolphin Love' follow-up 'Caramel' (an album that often feels restricted by its own theme) attests to this. Eastgate on the other hand is more adaptable. Ultimately Soft Hair is the sound of two musicians filling in each other’s blanks while only seeing the best in each other. When it works, it’s captivating.
Words: Tim Hakki
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