On Electric Wire Hustle’s third full-length, The 11th Sky, the New Zealand act keeps walking through a world where electronica and soul are one in the same. Since their acclaimed 2010 debut, vocalist Mara TK and producer Taay Ninh have gradually transcended their neo-soul beginnings, moving toward a bigger, more psychedelic sound.
That’s not to say The 11th Sky or its predecessor, 2014’s Love Can Prevail, completely abandon the group’s musical roots. But they’re clearly evolving—pushing themselves further, and digging deep to explore a new level of songwriting. The 11th Sky is a slow-burner, an album reveals its true magnitude over time. Its nine tracks were mostly created by TK and Ninh, but they benefit from the appearance of a few carefully-placed guests.
On opener “Go Slow,” rap producer Just Blaze adds light touches to the spare, melancholy beat, and the woozy, gauzy “March,” wouldn’t be nearly as transcendent without the heavenly vocals of rising Hawaiian singer Deva Mahal. But The 11th Sky succeeds mainly because of TK and Ninh, whose music remains comprehensive and unique at the same time. They tease big bass drops and embrace Radiohead-like bliss on “I Light a Candle,” and, on the gently-weaving “Red Window,” they blend a thick low-end with slowly-winding vocals and curlicues of guitar.
But beyond the musicality, there’s power in TK’s lyrics. He often speaks in riddles, but there are clear protest anthems here. “Aeons,” “March” and even “OH I”—with its Biblical references—all carry weight without being on the nose. The intention is clear: The 11th Sky aims to enthrall with its music, and uplift with its words.