Album Reviews

Album Review: Troy Kingi & The Upperclass - Holy Colony Burning Acres (Triple A)

Sam Smith

Troy Kingi is quickly turning into a national treasure of Aotearoa. The singer/songwriter from Rotorua released one of 2017’s best local albums in Shake Your Skinny Ass All The Way To Zigatron and now he has returned with his latest offering which forms part of an ambitious quest to release ten albums in ten different styles in ten years. Although his last effort was anchored in p-funk and soul, his new project, the third in his ten-part series titled Holy Colony Burning Acres is an exercise in roots/reggae, a genre which has a strong history in New Zealand going back to the 1970s.

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Troy Kingi & The Upperclass by Michael Allen

Although more contemporary roots/reggae acts in New Zealand tend to mix things up and introduce elements from other genres and styles, in particular, dub and techno, on this project, Kingi stays by in large within the reggae box musically speaking, with his outstanding vocals combining nicely with some strong rhythms laid down by his seriously talented ten-piece band, including full horn section The Upperclass.

Songs like Ethiopia, Born of This Earth, and Babylon Grows give off that classic reggae groove and in many ways are an ode to the Marley’s off this world, as well as local greats Herbs and Collision. But it is on songs like Colour of My Skin, Pseudo Ego, and Mighty Invader where you can hear Kingi and his band giving themselves more room to play around slightly with funk, afrobeat, soul, and even small flourishes of psychedelia coming into the equation with excellent results.

Lyrically, Holy Colony Burning Acres also stays true to the deep historical aesthetics of roots/reggae in Aotearoa and in particular the strong links with colonialism and politics. Indigenous issues such as the plight of the West Papuan’s get a mention, while the wider effects of colonisation on society are also explored in what is a significant departure thematically from Kingi’s 2017 record which had a strong sci-fi and space bent to it.

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Troy Kingi

Kingi is now three albums deep into his ten-album quest and so far, he has been successful in his mission. He has managed to produce three completely different records, all unique in their musical stylings and lyrical themes.

From laid back batch guitar rock, to space funk, to Aotearoa reggae, Kingi has covered a lot of space in three years proving to be quite the versatile musician in the process. He and his band have thought outside the box as to what is possible when it comes to genre in the twenty-first century and in many ways are trying to prove a point, consciously or not, that one can play around with genre and not simply be backed into a corner when it comes to genre.

After this effort, it will be interesting to see where he goes next for album four. At this rate, anything is possible and we could be receiving a Troy Kingi heavy metal, ambient, or even jazz fusion album very soon. The possibilities are now endless for this unique and special musician and given his current success rate I would bet on him pulling it off.

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Released: 12 Jul 2019

Written By: Sam Smith When he is not writing for Radio 13 Sam works in media and journalism at 95bFM radio and the University of Auckland. He also has is own personal music blog Nowhere Bros.