Review: Ngaiire, “Blastoma”

After a three year wait, Ngaiire has returned with her sophomore album Blastoma. Taking time to tour across the world, including the legendary Glastonbury Festival, she announced her album last year, blessing fans with her first new single since debut album Lamentations, Once. Just over a year later, the wait is finally over.

A blastoma is a form of cancer found in children. For those unaware, Ngaiire has spoken of her battle with the disease as a child and how she wanted to name this record Blastoma as a memorial to how that experience shaped her as an artist and as a person. In a recent interview with The Guardian she spoke about how she wasn’t fully aware of the cancer at first. “I knew there was something bad growing inside me. I made friends with other kids in hospital who’d pass away, and I’d still be fighting. I understood that could happen to me as well.

“I’ve got a massive scar across my stomach. I got teased a lot at school, for having no hair, and for being smaller than the other kids. The treatment stunted my growth,” she said.

The album is a delectable blend of future soul and electronica, a diverse show of the musical versatility of Sydney based, Papua New Guinea born artist, who not only wrote, but co-produced the album, which is being released under her own label, Maximilian Brown. With production from collaborators Jack Grace and Paul Mac, Blastoma is slick, considered and well-polished.

A strange electronic buzz fills your ears and like a bright beam of light, Ngaiire’s voice emerges on opening of first track Anchor, before heading into the Megan Washington-aided Once, dripping in danceable funk and soulful melodies. The simple rhythm evokes a UK house influence, pulsating comfortably beneath Ngaiire’s vocals. Meanwhile, tracks like Cruel are complex and intimate, dealing with confronting themes, all the while being sonically beautiful. The energy shifts on first single House on a Rock, which manages to infuse a heady club feel while remaining true to its soul roots; the heartfelt lyrics, “Livin’ on I love you’s and recycled prayers” is guaranteed to be become an audience sing-a-long moment. A real strength of this record is how Ngaiire moves from theme to theme and from moment to moment. Blastoma is incredibly cohesive, but also dynamic and experimental in its approach. Songs like second single Diggin’, which is upbeat sit comfortably next to more slowed down performances such as I Can’t Hear God Anymore. 

The album closes with Fall Into My Arms, a beautiful stripped back track with gospel elements. Ngaiire’s voice is so rich and powerful, she truly sounds like no one else in Australia. Blastoma is a sonic exploration and emotional outpour all at once.

A triumphant sophomore effort, Blastoma is the sound of an artist who knows who she is, and is unafraid of taking that to its limits.

Blastoma is out now via Maximilian Brown and SME. Check out our full photo shoot with Ngaiire here. 

Catch Ngaiire on tour, with support from Lanks and Jack Grace:

Sat 11 Jun // Peak Festival, Perisher Valley
Fri 17 Jun // Fat Controller, Adelaide
Sat 18 Jun // Jack Rabbit Slims, Perth
Fri 24 Jun // Karova Lounge, Ballarat
Sat 25 Jun // Northcote Social Club, Melbourne
Sat 02 Jul // The Foundry, Brisbane
Wed 06 Jul // Festival of Voices, Hobart
Fri 08 Jul // Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Sat 09 Jul // Transit Bar, Canberra

Words by Chris Palmer

Image: Danielle Hansen / Howl & Echoes