Opening with a sense of nostalgia in first track Remembrances, the spiritual, poetic tone of ‘Azimuth’ is quickly set. There is a journey ahead, the pathway likely shrouded in mystery! Aucklander Ben Tolich is the artist behind Mali Mali and this is his third album; the previous music remarked on for its experimental nature and authenticity. ‘Azimuth’ extends this repertoire beautifully with a sense of reflection and wonder evident throughout the album.
It’s a largely self-contained release. Enlisting the help of Alice Tolich to play harp, cello and cornet, plus Jordan Ireland on 12-string acoustic for one track, the album was recorded by Tolich in his own home. Mastering was done by Grammy-awarded William Bowden at King Willy Sound in Tasmania.
Tolich’s live-sung vocals and frequent spoken delivery give a distinct Kiwi edge to this release, his songwriting tendencies, samples and spare instrument choices creating distinctive patterns that carry each piece. Based mostly over piano, sometimes acoustic guitar, there are simple themes in each track that the music falls into. Open spaces left in the instrumentals successfully compel you, without wish or will, to your own memories.
Ethereal tracks that feel warm and peaceful include When We First Saw Saturn’s Rings, where the harmonies are the brightest colour of the scene painted in the music. A personal favourite, the drifting 5min-long A Tornado In El Reno, contains rapid and messy swirls of music – a tricky but neatly-achieved feat! By the time the 25-minute album is complete, you’re left with a feeling of wonder. Tolich’s journey has become also yours.