A couple of years ago, blond-haired New Zealander Connan Mockasin had a nightmare. He and Sam Eastgate were cooped up in a dirty bedroom in Loughborough. Mockasin was lying in pain on a mattress, prostrate and feverish. Eastgate, brown-haired and from nearby Nottingham, was crawling around on the floor, chanting.
In the dream, Mockasin had fallen ill after pricking himself on an HIV-infected needle. He hadn’t, of course, but when he woke the pair took Eastgate’s dream chant and added wavesof synth to form ‘i.v.’ – the disorientating third track on their debut album as Soft Hair.
Although this is their first album together, the pair actually met in 2008 when Mockasin supported Eastgate’s old band, the cult day-glo indie boys Late Of The Pier. The shy, reclusive pair struck up a collaborative friendship and began a five-year-or-so recording process (the “dream” occurred midway through). Both have released solo records in the meantime and although Eastgate pursued a dancier direction with his LA Priest project, both men share a gloopy, psychedelic sound. Their songs together squelch rather than thump, as evidenced on ‘Soft Hair’. Recorded in patches across Europe and New Zealand, the eight songs here don’t so much start and stop as undulate like the chest of someone in a deep sleep. Loungey opening pair ‘Relaxed Lizard’ and ‘Jealous Lies’ initiate a deep, watery groove and introduce Mockasin’s feline mewl and Eastgate’s deeper vocal.
After that, things get slower and stranger. The deathly crawl of the aforementioned ‘i.v.’ bleeds into lead single ‘Lying Has To Stop’, which can be filed as an unlikely indie floorfiller alongside Ariel Pink’s ‘Round And Round’. It also highlights the creepy side of Soft Hair’s world (“I’d like to watch you run but I’ll never touch your bum”).
‘In Love’ does the same, professing love for “Chinese and Japanese girls” over brass that (honestly) evokes George Michael’s ‘Careless Whisper’. But more than anything else, ‘Soft Hair’ is about intimacy, creativity and a zest for life – two singular musicians liberated by collaboration. For proof see the springy ‘Alive Without Medicine’ with its delirious “Oooh eee ohhh”s, and cloudy closer ‘l.i.v’. Praise be for these bare-chested, paint-covered lunatics.