The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra
The Dreaming EP
There's something about the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra.
Ever since I saw them live when I lost my virgin cherry at my first Big Day Out (relive the highs of my first ever Big Day Out here) they've been on my musical radar and their recent EPs have been constantly on my stereo (much to the chagrin of my neighbours).
So I have to admit to somewhat looking forward to their new EP Dreaming, which comes hot on the heels of a nationwide NZ tour (currently underway) - and a recent performance inside Auckland's Real Groovy one lunchtime.
It was perhaps appropriate the EP arrived on the day the sun had broken through the horrendous weather which had been battering NZ because the minute I flipped the disc into the computer, like the sun creeping through the rain clouds, a huge smile began to creep across my face.
As with their previous EP, A Little Bit Wonderful, there's five tracks on this latest one - and every one's an infectious gem blessed with rays of sunshine for a dreary office bound work day - and for parties long into the night.
The tracks are all covers - Toto's Africa, The Coral's Dreaming of You, Blue Smoke, Prince's I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man and That's Amore - but that shouldn't put you off in the slightest.
From the opening chords of Africa to the melodic melee that ends That's Amore, this EP is guaranteed to put a melodic sway in your step and a song in your heart.
What the WIUO manage to do is produce layers of lush vocal harmonies, toe tapping melodies and moments that make you want to sing aloud (don't worry I didn't distract my work colleagues with the toneless warbling of a strangled cat).
I'm sure you probably wonder if a ukulele band would be nothing more than a novelty act, but there's definitely a sign of musical maturity in this latest EP - from the aloha themed vibe of Blue Smoke, to the opening clap salvo of Could Never Take the Place of Your Man, what the band's done is to create a series of multi layered vocals and harmonies which are pitch perfect and insidiously catchy in the extreme.
And more importantly than all of that, they've made music beautiful, harmonious fun.
If I'm forced to pick a favourite from the EP it has to be their cover of the Coral's Dreaming of You - from the opening seconds of the deep double bass to the wonderful uke solo and vocals, this is rambunctious and raucous fun - and perfectly suited for a band who're fast becoming one of New Zealand's musical tour de forces. It's the perfect partner for all those upcoming summer barbies and late night deck parties.
While the EP's a reminder of why they're great, I'd strongly urge you to check them out in a live forum - there's something about the energy which the group brings to the stage which will have you up out of your seat, singing loud and bopping along (even if you're as rhythmically challenged as I am).
The band's out on tour in the North Island - taking in the Hawke's Bay Opera House on Saturday October 17th, Auckland's Montecristo Room on Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd October, Leigh Sawmill on Sat 24th October before spending Hallowe'en in Tauranga.
Visit The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra site here and see if you can get some tips for playing here!
To get a flavour of the catchiness, check out the Dreaming Of You video below - it was produced and conceived by the Orchestra for $5.98 after a show at the Boathouse in Nelson!