Words by Keane Fletcher

The pandemic has affected all of us in different ways. Some people have quit their jobs and moved to the countryside (see: The Great Resignation). Some people have taken up baking, or crocheting, or Peloton. And then there are those people like Ariki Perana who, as artists are wont to do, have taken their experience -- all the angst, the isolation, the new self-awareness -- and channeled it into art. And voila! MILKGANG VOL.1 was born, a collection of heartfelt, electro-grunge meets indie-EDM tracks that aren't afraid to wear their emotions right on their sleeve.

The first EP from Perana's newly established label MILKGANG, MILKGANG VOL. 1 is a great introduction to the New Zealand-based producer's unique brand of genre-defying electronica. We were given a taste of what to expect from the EP a couple of weeks ago with the release of 'CAUSTIC' (check out our previous interview with Perana here), a darkly atmospheric track that drew inspiration from the way COVID restrictions had made an impact on Perana's mental health. And indeed, the thread of that is continued here, especially in the first half of the record, in tracks like 'Get Me Out ft. Zerotonin' and the post-grunge sound of 'Outta Space ft. Meelo'. You can hear the angst reflected in Perana's carefully considered production, the way he moves seamlessly from digital to more analog sounding textures, bringing in drums and electric guitar to emphasise a cacophony of inner turmoil.

The later half of the EP, with the exception of 'CAUSTIC', pulls back on these heavier sounds in favour of gentler, more ambient sounding textures, and it's a nice bit of tension relief when it happens, 'Fire In Your Eyes ft. Flux Psyche' giving us a more expansive and perhaps even a more radio-worthy piece of hyperpop, while the trap influences in 'Stone Cold ft. Y+' help to consolidate the EP's back half with the darkness of its first.

As a point of interest, I found it quite intriguing to discover the ways in which each of the vocals were recorded here. Meelo’s done laying down in bed; Zerotonin recording theirs on their phone one afternoon; Flux Psyche putting theirs down via a gaming headset AND with someone vacuuming in the next room! Whether or not COVID had anything to do with this process is hard to tell, although by hearing these anecdotes you can’t help but be moved by the sense of isolation, the kind of making-the-art-by-any-means-neccessary solidarity that happens when artists are cut off from one another.

All in all, it goes without saying that Perana is an immensely talented producer and the soundscapes he delivers on MILKGANG VOL.1 are some of the most polished I've heard in a long while. My only gripe is that I wish there was slightly more cohesion between the tracks, a lengthening out if you will. Indeed most of the songs start and stop abruptly, and with most of them coming in at safely under three minutes I almost wish Perana could have given us some outros or interludes to help encourage a smoother overall feel; god knows he has the imagination and the talent to do so. That being said, MILKGANG VOL.1 is a great taster of what we can expect from the MILKGANG EP series and I for one can't wait to see what Perana releases next.

You can stream MILKGANG VOL.1 on all good streaming platforms now!

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