I am sitting in a dimly lit, velveteen draped lounge, somewhere in 1969 Central London – the air is smoky, the people dressed in long floaty khaftans, thigh skimming minis and corduroy jackets with flared lapels and matching bell-bottomed trousers. The music playing in the background is somewhere between H.P. Lovecraft, The Fallen Angels and Jethro Tull.
Which is great, except that I’m not in ’69 lush London listening to 60’s psych-obscura, I’m in a 2016 office littered with paraphernalia listening to the debut EP from Norwegian outfit, Mats Wawa.
‘Classics’ is the ultimate retro-fest mini-compilation and a must-have for any lover of 60’s/70’s psychedelia and prog-funk fusion. Mats Wawa could have been beamed up into the 21st c by Star Trek transporter straight out of Whisky A-Go-Go or the infamous Marquee Club so ‘swinging Soho’ is their vibrant vintage vibe.
EP opener, ‘Lord Bisnis’ is a soundtrack of the 60’s, a song that wouldn’t be out of place on Jethro Tull’s ‘A Classic Case’. Heartbeat of the ‘Tull’ sound, the flute, takes centre-stage. It sets the delightful cadence for a slipstream of melodic zen guitar riffs and ‘très, très cool’ bass lines, dotted with snatches of Fender Rhodes style keys, all topped and tailed by some uplifting vocals and groovy drumming. ‘Lord Bisnis’ is the business; the cool Top ‘TC’ Cat of the EP.
Second track in, tempo shifting ‘Worries’, is an Americana Country Blues ballad interspersed with snips of rock n roll that give it a ‘drinking song’ kind of vibe. This Nordic rendition of Wild West melancholia features seriously good guitar playing – heavy ‘way on down’ riffs so prevalent on Cash and Presley tracks mix it up with woozy drunken slide. The lonesome cowboy vocal and ‘yeehaw’ melodies will whisk you away on your tail-swishing horse to long grassed Norwegian prairies, singing the refrain,
“Why do we worry about the things that will never be, Why do we worry that our lives will never be free, We can fly away, spread our wings like some butterflies!”
So far, so good then. Up next, ‘Bed of Love’ is an intriguing two sides of the same vintage coin. The first half is in the mode of Billy ‘Pianoman’ Joel complete with a Doobie Brothers style backing band, all lazy guitars, even lazier drumming and an “All American”, Terry Jacks style vocal. Complimentary Joel style whistling thrown in for good measure.
The second and more interesting side, is pure 70s thriller cop show/film drama soundtracked by Lalo Schifrin and Henry Mancini. Vibing high speed car chases along the Pacific Coast, and fast-legged cops pegging it down the Streets of San Francisco, this sees Mats Wawa completely rockin’ out to 70s funk. Man, oh man, this track does for me, what two bongs and a crate of Dahl would do for others!
Last but by no means least, is EP closer ‘Planet Of The Grapes’. A quirky vocal is set against a playful, melodic instrumental backwash of sometimes dreamy, sometimes phantasmagorical (I save that word for music I really like) guitar sequences. This groovy little song is to music, as ‘day-glo’ was to Zandra Rhodes – bright, happy, catchy, and full of colour.
‘Classics’ is an EP full of zing that swings down Carnaby Street, lingers in Nashville, and speeds down Russian Hill, ending up in a West LA piano lounge dressed in Mary Quant and sipping a glass of Babycham .
This is one groovy journey you’ll want to make again, and again, and again …
Mats Wawa can be followed on Facebook. They are playing the Crossroad Club, Oslo on Thurs 3rd March, details here, AND, the super cool by:Larm festival, where I’ll get to see them live, woo, on Sat 5th March, 11pm at Mono.
‘Classics’, released via Oslo-based indie label Ville Vesten Platforening, is available digitally, links below,
EP Links here : Spotify: https://play.spotify.com/album/69RyJth1sRwzjKt3qp5T5e