Raised in Christchurch, and with Guyanese, Maori and Pakeha heritage, Isaac Aesili is a force in the New Zealand soul scene. Although having only released his debut album in 2009, Aesili has spent the last decade touring and recording with the likes of Recloose, Open Souls and Solaa, as well as Ladi6 and Tyra Hammond. He has also worked with Hollie Smith, House of Shem and Crowded House as a session trumpeter.
2009 saw the release of Eye See, Aesili’s solo debut, featuring vocals from Aaradhna, Rosita Vai, Mara TK (Electric Wire Hustle), Deva Mahal and Rachel Fraser (Recloose). The sparse, introverted songs are built over tight rhythms. Layered, thoughtful and textured, each song burns slowly, reminding the listener of soul greats such as Erykah Badu and Jill Scott.
In 2011, Aesili collaborated with his brother, Mark McNeill on The Karlmarx Project, a concept album released under the name Karlmarx. The album is “a soundtrack for a science fiction movie that was never made”, and draws its inspiration from synthpop, future soul and instrumental hip hop.
2011 also saw the release of Chequered Thoughts, a collaborative album with Rachel Fraser. Again driven by the rhythms, the album is brighter and more funk-heavy that Aesili’s other work, giving it a nod-your-head feel. Featuring Fraser’s soulful vocals, and plenty of futuristic sound effects (channelled from the Karlmarx Project), this infectious funk is no doubt the most radio-friendly of Aesili’s creations.