Album Reviews Music

Maia – Pepper Stars




Vandal Records | 26.11.12

Ever since Mumford and Sons left open the stable door, the shire horse of faux-folk has been running rampant, and generally exhausting its welcome (the less said of Dry The River the better). But Maia are not a bandwagon band milking another’s cash cow; there’s innovation here. “We invented sci-fi folk” boasts the website, and second album Pepper Stars initially seems to concur. Opening track Alien contains modern production not amiss on a Bonobo number, told from the lonely perspective of a visitor from space. It is here we are made privy to Tom Clegg’s voice, a charming instrument that’s like a more disciplined Stuart Murdoch, via Bowie. The latter’s obsession with cosmic themes is laced throughout, and Dear Io, dedicated to Jupiter’s smallest moon, is the album’s highlight, informing the little satellite “You shouldn’t be volcanic at all.”

It is at once charming and funny; the problem is that sci-fi and folk are, obviously, pretty uncomfortable bedfellows.   And while the two can gel together briefly, in admirable lead single Zuma Aluma for instance, or Jethro Tull, they must soon part, and the last few tracks of Pepper Stars abandon their grand galactic visions and return to trite prison-issue harmonicas. Perhaps Maia will eventually reconcile their influences; we’re not quite there yet.

Jimmy Dunne

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