In an effort to cajole my silent partner - the elusive "Second Dragon" - to actually write about a song or something, I have agreed to do a write up of his new project "The Living Diamonds". It also serves as a shy tilt at relevance since, as Ben said to me in a recent money-counting session, "ain't no-one give but five percent of a shit about them stank-ass old rekkids, no how".
So here goes.
The Living Diamonds were initially forged from the wreckage of late Auckland outfit "The Shades", a live neo-soul/hip-hop outift who were something like what The Roots would be if they were white Aucklanders and there was a strong lady vocalist taking over from the rappers for every other song. The bones of the Shades still show through in the Diamonds' ability to stitch together heavy, memorable rhythms from less-than-obvious elements - the groove on "What's On Your Mind?" is reminiscent of intro music from 70s live shows, a riff for the hype man to bellow over before some sequined soul celebrity jogs out onto the stage with a wave. But the Living Diamonds also represent a new trajectory for budding Kiwi superstar Ben Anderson, into territory closer to psychedelic rock, and with a new rawness and hard-won authenticity in his vocal performances.
"What's On Your Mind?" is the Diamonds' only recorded single so far but their entire set impressed when they played late at Whammy Bar last Good Friday, energizing a crowd that had seemed about ready to be kissed on the nose and tucked in, and leaving them baying for an encore which, Ben sheepishly admitted, could not be provided as they had run out of songs. The core line-up has changed since the single was recorded last year with celebrated guitarist Hayden Booth and feared yet admired drummer Alex Freer bringing strong contributions alongside Shades alumnus swoon-worthy starlet Cass "Fresh" Mitchell on bass and of course Ben Himself on vox and ill vintage keyboards. I confess that I was pretty drunk but it seemed to me that they were all playing their instruments real good and when I looked at faces in the crowd I could tell they all agreed.
The Living Diamonds sum a diverse set of influences into a sound dangerously new yet instantly familiar that harks back to the rawness and strength of the late '60s without falling into the trap of shallow reproduction. I'm confident all that remains for Ben Anderson and the Living Diamonds is to write some more songs and count that money.
You can hear the studio version of "What's On Your Mind?" at the Living Diamonds' myspace.
There's also this recording of a live session on bFM below...