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September 30, 2013 | by  | in Arts Music |
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How Many Padmes Hum – Zen Mantra

With sophomore releases from Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Tame Impala over the past 12 months, Australasia is at the very forefront of a thriving psychedelic scene. So it is no surprise that 18-year-old Australian-born and Christchurch-based Sam Perry is creating noticeable attention with his bedroom-produced project Zen Mantra.

His album How Many Padmes Hum is a malapropism on the Buddhist chant “Om Mani Padme Hum”, and was released earlier this year on Auckland based Muzai Records. Its international release in June from Stroll On Records (UK) and Crash Symbols (US) was remastered by none other than Kody Nielson (Opossum, Mint Chicks).

The opening track, aptly titled ‘Intro’, begins with a slow, incense-burning guitar, and is accompanied with a trance-inducing vocal drone provided by Perry. This is followed by ‘Cloudgazer’, a dreamy shoegaze number with female backing vocals in a Belinda Butcher fashion that adds to its phantasm.

‘Change’—which topped NME’s ‘Must Hear Tracks’ earlier in the year—and ‘La La La La La’ both have a slacker-punk quality that would be befitting of a Wavves record. The latter sees Perry creating an enthralling hook out of a childlike drawl.

The album’s highlight comes from single ‘Fossils’, a garage anthem of misspent youth. With Perry wistfully lamenting “thinking I still had time to waste, thinking I still had time by your side” over fuzz-driven guitars and handclaps, the track becomes a pop song very much in the same vein of The Chills’ ‘Pink Frost’.

‘Sakura’, Perry’s self-proclaimed ‘poppiest’ song, packs as much punch as Justin Bieber’s recent assault on the paparazzi. But all is forgiven when we reach the album’s closer, ‘I Wonder What It’s Like Out There’.  This is an escapist’s guide to the galaxy, drifting over an arpeggiated dream-pop chord progression and interstellar synths.

Being a DIY project created mostly by Perry alone, you can allow for some subtle flaws in the production. But, with a recent grant of $10,000 from NZ On Air, new, sonically refined sounds can be expected in the near future.

Featuring elements of psych, shoegaze and dream pop, Perry has created a concise and convincing debut with How Many Padmes Hum. Though adding nothing new to these genres, he is already towering above his peers. With a recent nod from electropop darling Lorde, hopefully we will see Zen Mantra follow suit.

4/5

Head over to Bandcamp to cop the album, and be sure to check out his show at Puppies on 4 October with Tommy Ill, Totems and $noregazZzm.

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