LIVE: Connan Mockasin – The Dancehouse Theatre, Manchester
Over the last decade or so, there are few artists who have enchanted and intrigued us in equal measure as much as Connan Mockasin.
The New Zealand native and former Manchester resident first came to our attention in a solo guise thanks to his typically oddball debut LP, Forever Dolphin Love, a record that cemented him as one of the most interesting signees to date on superstar DJ Erol Alkan’s Phantasy label.
But following this came Caramel in 2013, a follow-up that simply had to go down as our alternative masterpiece of that year – marrying a knack for soaring falsetto harmonies with an oddball exterior that certainly challenges the casual listener.
Five years on and (apart from his Soft Hair collaboration with Late of the Pier’s Sam Dust), Jassbusters is the next solo record we have been treated to. It very much stays true to the aforementioned characteristics of Mockasin’s output – but also marks the first edition of an ambitious five-part series entitled ‘Bostyn ‘n Dobsyn’.
To continue our expansion on this, our night at the Manchester leg of his current all-seated tour at The Dancehouse Theatre begins with a short film, laying out the unsurprisingly surrealist concept of Jassbusters. Mockasin plays Mr. Bostyn, a teacher apparently attempting to expand the musical credentials of pupil Josie Dobsyn through a series of excruciatingly awkward exchanges. Bostyn is a former big-time musician and frontman of – you guessed it – The Jassbusters. The film ends with Bostyn putting on a film of his former glories, which then leads into a ‘support set’ from the fictional group themselves.
This first part of the night sees Mockasin perform with the band completely in character, treating the audience to tracks from the latest record with his trademark virtuoso spirit. This encapsulating performance is then followed by a 20-minute interval and a second career-spanning set.
Mockasin appears as his usual self and alone to start off with, before the band join him for flawless renditions of ‘It’s Choade My Dear’, ‘It’s Your Body 1’ and ‘Forever Dolphin Love’. Each are sprawling examples of psych-pop awkwardness and fragility – with Mockasin’s voice often as soft as a whisper – yet still the audience are in the palm of his hand throughout.
It’s the first time we’ve witnessed Mockasin’s warped balladry within such civilised surroundings, but the seamless brace of ‘Caramel’ and ‘Im the Man, That Will Find You’ has the crowd on its feet. Then, there are even a couple of stage invaders during the final number – Soft Hair’s standout single ‘Lying Has to Stop’.
It’s been a richly textured night of jazz-infused psych-pop brilliance within novel surroundings – and to be totally honest Far Out is already on tenterhooks for the next instalment.