Hollie Smith & Mara TK – Band Of Brothers, Vol. 1 (EMI)

Tattooed style chameleon Hollie Smith is as well-known for sporting urban street-wear as she is for rocking high fashion looks that make her look as though she’s a sexy alien from Planet Sphinx. Whatever she’s wearing, one thing’s guaranteed – you know the girl who’s been to Blue Note and back is going to look cooler than anyone else in the room. Band of Brothers, Vol 1 is a musical extension of Smith’s sartorial style; unexpected, elegant, enigmatic.

Smith plans to release a series of collaborations with other artists, of whom Mara TK is the first. TK is well-known for his work with Fly My Pretties and Electric Wire Hustle. He also happens to be the son of “Maori Jimi Hendrix” Billy TK (with whom he is working on a project called Taniwhunk, intriguingly described as “Maoris in space”).

On Band of Brothers, Vol 1 the mysterious Smith and the spacey TK are the tastiest combination since blue cheese and pear. After the short and loungey intro Wait for Me, Smith really hits her stride with Autumn Rain which teams her sultry vocals with TK’s eccentric squeaks over a pulsing heartthrob beat. Lives for Living is like an electro version of an old film score where Smith wears her soul on her sleeve and reveals a hint of a soft and seductive side we haven’t seen before. Ship Her to Another World features silky harmonies and extra-terrestrial textures, ambidextrous duet The Spirit Racing The Mind pleasantly confuses the brain and Transcendence is like an extreme downbeat Waterfalls for the 21st Century. Promised Land Hotel Pt 1 & 2 is a six minute long soul extravaganza with an outro that sounds the way Ike and Tina might have sounded if they’d been more into heroin than coke.

This album is available for digital download just about anywhere, so with any luck you’ll be able to avoid the one major flaw of this record – the crime against art that is the album cover (a McCahon-esque scrawl teamed with an arbitrary feather).

There’s a lot to listen to here, and if you’re into submerged underwater beats, lazy keys, honeyed voices and psychedelic touches you’ll appreciate this layered album, which is more ‘Hollie Sphinx’ than ‘Hollie Street’, and which contains the promise of many more great moments to come from chanteuse Smith.

Kathryn van Beek

Click here to listen to Lives For Living from Band Of Brothers, Vol. 1