New Zealand produces more left-field pop music geniuses per capita than any other country. Consider the likes of Dead C, Split Enz, Chris Knox, Bailter Space, The Bats, and so on. Even in this company, Peter Jefferies stands out by making stark, emotional music that commands your attention. When he sings, his voice is naked, brittle, and sharp, like a male version of Jean Smith of Mecca Normal; Jefferies sounds as if he could burst into tears or fly into a rage at any moment. Substatic, however, is an instrumental album, and as such, it lacks nothing. Jefferies is a renaissance man, playing drums, keyboards, guitar, and bass with equal skill. Able to milk the most desolate or rich sounds out of his arrangements, his instrumentation ranges from the somber, introspective piano of "Three Movements" to the soaring tape loop and guitar tapestry of "Kitty Loop." The songs themselves can travel a wide breadth of emotions, too. In "Index," Jefferies regularly slows down and speeds up the music to shift the tone of the song from joyous to fearful, only to strip most of the instruments away by the end, leaving a lone piano and a wave of uncertainty. Substatic is made up of only five songs ranging from 4 to 16 minutes, but they're all highly charged, mostly toward the negative end of the emotional spectrum. It's not an album you can just slap on at any time, but at the right moment, it's fantastic.

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