New CaledoniaMade possible by

Making music from the found sounds of New Caledonia

To craft its new campaign, New Caledonia Tourism sent Australian electronic group Crooked Colours to its islands to record everything the country had to offer and turn it into a track that would combine the group’s summery aesthetic with both the country’s musical heritage and the sounds of their experiences on the islands. We asked them about the experience of making music out of paradise.

New Caledonia is sunny and bright, upbeat and fun. It’s relaxing on a beach or exploring in the wilderness. It’s a crowded market and metropolitan city as well as a hidden paradise. So what better way to represent that musically than a tropical electronic track from Crooked Colours, an Australian electronic act that combines programmed beats and live sampling with organic, indie flourishes?

“We wanted to break away from creating another glossy destination video set to an upbeat music track,” says Caroline Brunel, a director of New Caledonia Tourism, when asked why they chose Crooked Colours, who are better known for their sets at festivals like Laneway than their campaign soundtracks. “Instead, we looked to create something that would not only spark emotion and desire when heard, but that would also reflect on the true essence of New Caledonia.”

So they sent the band for an intensive tour of the islands, armed with a digital recorder and followed by a video crew to capture the experience. In response, Crooked Colours recorded two songs, highlighting the two sides to their trip: ‘Sounds of New Caledonia’, an upbeat and danceable jam, reflecting the cosmopolitan vibe of the country’s capital city, Nouméa; and a ‘relaxation track’, an ambient mix of gentle waves, chirping birds, and buzzing insects, reflecting the calming, meditative side of their experience.

“When we travel, sound is a defining part of the fabric of our experiences,” says Crooked Colours’ Phil Slabber. “Sound is embedded in every memory of our holiday, be it the music we take with us, the tongues of new local friends, the songs of wildlife, the percussive rhythm of transport, the soft flutter of fresh sheets or in the collective orchestral boom of a city. Sound is everywhere.”

“From the outset, we wanted to draw on all of these sounds to create a track that would capture a different side to the destination. We wanted to let the destination guide our journey. New Caledonia didn’t disappoint, the more we explored the more bespoke sounds we uncovered. All of this combines with the visual content we captured; the realistic documentary-style brings an authenticity to the sounds.”

CROOKED COLOURS

Slabber says the group was surprised by the diversity found across the country’s many islands. “You can experience so much in such a small place, it’s incredible.”

To experience that diversity, the group embarked on a full itinerary of activities – from swimming at remote beaches to exploring the bustling markets to hacking through the jungle. “We tried to get as much in every day so we did hours and hours of recordings from pretty much everything we could find. From local cultural singing to kayaking to waterfall sounds and everything in between. The country is so diverse so we had a lot to work with.”

To start assembling the recordings of the trip into a song, they followed the sampled the recordings chronologically, building an audio portrait that followed their journey across the islands. “We tried to keep it very transient-based, so a lot of hits and a lot of textural sounds. I think people would be surprised if they really listen to it, there’s a lot of stuff buried in the song that you’d never guess was just a sample that we recorded.”

The band collaborated with local musician Edou who introduced them to some contemporary New Caledonian musicians and sounds, and the track has since made its way back ‘home’. “They are really happy with it [the final track], which means a lot to us,” says Slabber. “If we can make something that is an accurate representation of their home then we are happy!”


This content is brought to you by New Caledonia Tourism. With Nouméa only three hours from Auckland, New Caledonia is fast becoming a destination where travellers can take in some truly unique sights, sounds and tastes.

The Spinoff Longform Fund is dedicated to facilitating investigative journalism. Our focus is on supporting in-depth reporting on important New Zealand stories. Your donation will help us sustain this most resource-intensive form of journalism, ensuring that the most complex and important stories still get told.