Side-tracking from the successful ethnic-pop collaboration that is Jinja Safari, Central Coast native Pepa Knight released his debut EP Hypnotized Vol. 1 last Friday and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Alongside an exciting start to his solo act, just over a month ago the man welcomed a baby boy into the world, which would be sure to inspire any regular man let alone a musical maestro. Perhaps a lot of that life affirming, dawn-of-a-new-day type of thinking shines through in the new work. Perhaps it’s just a really great listen. The way this EP reaches out and grabs at your heart and mind, I think you’d be a fool to listen to it and believe it’s anything but the first option.
The record introduces itself with the opening track “Hypnotized”, beginning the journey that is getting to know Pepa Knight, because that’s what a lot of this collection actually feels like. A journey and an experience. Sounds wanky, I know. But seriously, listen to it and tell me I’m wrong. It’s probably why his live performances are well complimented by 3D glasses and are commonly held in teepees. It’s something you need to actually feel to believe. The title track is littered with world music inspired strings and percussion, brought together in a likeable collaboration in large part thanks to Pepa’s pop infused vocals, which add that much needed element of familiarity. Near the end we hear the words, “Do you feel alive?”, offering an eager clue at the tangibility of what’s to come.
The most obvious choice for highlight of Hypnotized Vol. 1 would be the debut single “Rahh!”. Feeling like an incoherent and passionate scream at the world, there’s something very Gotye-esque about it, with much catchier undertones and use of the signature sitar and thumping drums. It’s an uplifting, life-affirming collage of travel, freedom, love and loss. A cacophony of every feeling you’ve ever felt meshed into one. With this number, I suggest you just put your ear-buds in, close your eyes and listen. You’ll fast find that you love wherever you are, whatever you’re doing.
“The Desert Guide” and “Fortress” continue on with the ethereal, wispy vocal style Pepa seems to have patented throughout the recording process. While the EP doesn’t exactly hit its peak at this point in my opinion, these tracks provide good fodder for a respectable first offering. It’s here where the experimental nature of the whole project shines through, and will earn big points with fans of his previous stuff.
The latest single release, “Coyote Choir”, is a happy little tune, giving a courageous nod to harder times. It’s a very solid number, perhaps the easiest to digest on the collection if you’re into simpler pop tunes. That’s not to say it’s actually “simple” in any recognisable way. It’s just very heightening. Again, intensely busy percussion sections mix with an uncommon mix of string elements to create something truly unique. Not just because of the fact that this is a style of music not often heard on the Australian circuit, but because Pepa somehow manages to mix his pop prowess with the unknown in such a masterful way. Honestly, in songs like “Coyote Choir”, the most unique part about it is that when it comes to pure likability and respect for musicianship, you don’t have to sacrifice one for the other.
I know this is supposed to be an album review. But it feels like an injustice for someone like me to talk about Pepa Knight’s Hyptonized Vol. 1 in terms of the music. The man is a fucking talented virtuoso, way outside of my ability to describe. It’s much easier to listen to the album and just get happy about life.
8.7 / 10
Hypnotized Vol. 1 is available now. For more information visit the online store HERE