ALBUM REVIEW: Sean Koch – Natural Projection

As I’ve written before, an artist’s first album is always interesting. An artist’s first album is a statement of who they are. It’s what tells listeners their general direction and identity as an artist minus any pressure of following up as they consider two things: what has received a positive response (and, conversely, what hasn’t), as well as where the artist wants to go creatively—balancing these two things is not always an easy thing to do.

For this reason, then, a first release is a unique opportunity for an artist to introduce themselves, giving a first impression to listeners. Just as somebody’s impression of me starts to form upon my introduction—“Hi, I’m Matt; I write for SA Music Scene—a first album introduces listeners to an artist. The question then is, from this first impression, do I want to get to know this artist?

Comparable with artists like Jack Johnson and Jeremy Loops, Sean Koch, a Cape Town based singer-songwriter has made quite the statement with his debut EP, Natural Projection. The rich acoustic guitar tone, complemented by percussion and an idiomatic constant kick to ground the music in its folk music roots.

You can just picture the tumbleweed as the EP opens with an almost Western feel. The doubled vocal it opens with, complete with a slight disregard for intonation, completes this, really setting the scene. However it’s not long before the mood lightens with the entrance of the drums, bound to get the foot tapping.

But before we get too carried away with the almost Wild West sound of the first track, “Flow”, track two takes us back home, combining a care-free mood with a distinctly local flavour—a song aptly named: “Good Times Keep Rolling.”

The care-free mood these first two songs shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the Kommetjie surf culture from where Koch is from. A serious merit of the album for me, however, is how well rounded it is. We have the upbeat, carefree as well as the more serious, audible in “Rock Bottom Avenue.” However, what the listener will find is no lack of cohesion. What we hear is versatility within a genre and clear evidence that Sean Koch is comfortable and confident in what he is trying to achieve. All the way through, through the ups and downs of Natural Projection, we have an unmissable folk sound, from the foot-tapping upbeat songs like “Good Times Keep Rolling” to the story-teller song “Rock Bottom Avenue”.

The professional, polished sound, as well as the versatility, demonstrated through the album should come as no surprise—for this EP Koch worked with some of SA’s finest: Yanick Bathfield and Josh Riley (Grassy Spark), Tessa Johnson (Al Bairre), Anya Zinn (Birthday Girl), Jess van der Merwe, Ross Hillier and Shaun Cloete (Los Tacos), and Byon Willenberg. Produced by Shaun Cloete and recorded by Giles Hardcastle and Dean Bailey, it’s no wonder this EP sounds as polished as it does.

A first album is like an introduction. You can decide for yourself what your first impression of Sean Koch is from his debut EP – as for me, I want to hear more.

8/10

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