MADEIRA: Bad Humors

Does MADEIRA sound all (too) familiar?

- MADEIRA has travelled all over the world to be by herself. Kim Pflaum, as she’s otherwise known, hooked up with the likely young folks in Yumi Zouma over in Paris and jumped on board for some dreamily relaxed synth-pop, contributing quietly cool vocal murmurings. Nominally they were all from Christchurch, but were living -like Pflaum- in all sorts of different places around the world. The globe-trotting continued with a Yumi Zouma tour that took them all sorts of places. Finally though, Pflaum decided to head back to New Zealand, make a new start, in a new city -Auckland- and pen some new music, as MADEIRA.

The folks in Yumi Zouma are surprisingly high-flying in the biz. Take Josh Burgess for instance, his other gig is working for Captured Tracks, in Brooklyn, where -among other things- he’s been overseeing the resurrection of Flying Nun’s back-catalogue. Despite being out on her own in the antipodes, MADEIRA still appears to be very effectively plugged into the industry. In the lead-up to Bad Humors, her debut EP, Pflaum has been getting enthusiastic support from tastemaker and doyen of trap-dance, Ryan Hemsworth. The EP itself is coming out on the highly regarded US indie label Carpark Records, which would be a desirable situation for most Kiwi bands, never mind one debuting their first ever EP.

Having garnered all this attention, what does it sound like? To me? It sounds quite a lot like Yumi Zouma. The same breezy, electronic pop that -in a good way- lilts across your ears and leaves you sometimes wondering what exactly it was you heard. Yumi Zouma are often described -with various levels of bemusement- as a band that are both timeless and placeless: it’s really hard to pin down exactly what they remind you of. It must be something of an achievement, then, to have recreated that indefinable quality so effectively.

If there is a difference it might be that MADEIRA ties her sound that little more distinctively to the dance-pop of the ‘80s. There’s a taste of what took Haim to the top here too. The hashtag ‘Balearic’ keeps turning up around MADEIRA’s stuff and Yumi Zouma’s stuff too, for that matter. It may be something to do the eclecticism of what’s on offer, or their working connection to Swedish dance duo Air France, but it seems to have relatively little to do with the sound of either group. If I had to pick one place they seemed to belong it’d be among the similarly eclectic, but primarily French nu-disco charm of the Kitsuné roster, which is...well that’s a pretty pleasantly cosmopolitan place to be.

If MADEIRA sounds a bit like her old band, her EP doubles down on it. All five cuts here are quite similar. If you were being unkind you might say they’re a bit difficult to tell apart from each other. Each is mid-tempo electronic pop, with a dancey inclination and a soft-edged production style. The mood is, persistently, one of quiet melancholy, which probably accounts for the title, Bad Humours. Once you get a little bit more familiar with the music, subtle differences can be teased out, but really, at EP length you can only just about get away with this. At album length you’d have to shoot for a more diverse appeal.

In a streaming world where singles rule, MADEIRA’s initial offering might actually be really effective. Her individual songs have exactly what it takes to make the dancefloor their own, at the right time of night. As a debut EP the initial intrigue is tempered by the frustration that someone who sounds so urbane and sophisticated doesn’t have more to give you. Like Cinderella fleeing the lusting suitors at the ball, perhaps there’s a happy ending down the track, when the other shoe drops. I certainly hope so, MADEIRA gets you moving and I really don’t want to lose the vibe.

- Chris Cobcroft.

Album Details

Album Title: Bad Humors
Record Label: (Carpark)