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LISTEN: Reuben Ingall – ‘Thread’

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thread

Reuben Ingall has many faces, somber avant-pop mangler, drone experimentalist, abstract beat maker, jocular mashup artist, and although his oeuvre is far-reaching there are distinct elements that join the dots, one of which is his guitar. His homemade effects can change the sound of his guitar from spacious reverberation to complete audio destruction, the instrument used to generate noise rather than melody and in some cases pushing the sound as far from the original source as possible.

Thread, his latest collection released via Canberra label hellosQuare recordings was recorded between 2015-2018 and spans pastoral acoustic pieces, reminiscent of Richard Youngs’ folk dabbling’s, meditative ambience, and sprawling, barren post-rock. And while Reuben did not set out to make a guitar-based album, in fact he states he “shied away from the guitar as an obvious source”, once he had 3-4 arrangements he was happy with he decided guitar would become the focus for the album.

Field recordings also play an important role, at times sounding like an extension of the guitars organic, earthy tone, other times placing the music in a context that is uniquely Australian. As to his approach, Reuben says “the writing of melodic and harmonic material mostly comes after my initial ideas around a way of recording and arranging and treating a sound.” This concentration on sound is another common element that runs through much of his work, but for those familiar with Ingall’s music you can’t help but expect to hear his melancholy vocals, fortunately the unfolding arrangements need no help keeping the listener engaged.

In addition to the music, Ingall has also created accompanying visuals for two of the pieces, each perfectly capturing the respective mood. The perpetually rolling topography of ‘Sediment’ simulates the vastness of the music, while the dizzying kaleidoscope of ‘Floriade’ mimics the flickering arpeggios. Always true to form the visuals provide another outlet for Ingall’s experimentation, the latter clip composed of footage taken with a phone camera attached to a cordless drill, the YouTube description claiming “no processing, only a dozen edits”.

Thread adds another notch to Ingall’s ever-expanding belt, an artist consistently pushing boundaries and continually innovating.

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VIRTUAL MIXTAPE: Setec

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Virtual-Mixtape_Lucy-Roleff

Illustrations by Lucy Roleff

Setec is the moniker of Sydney-based artist Joshua Gibbs, whose extraordinary new album recently made its way into the world.

Atrial Flutters (or Raise Yr Hand If Yr Afraid), the second full-length for Gibbs, is a warts and all dive into his own anxiety and the turbulent journey that led to the album’s creation. At times the music seems at odds with the candid and personal nature of the lyrics, bursting with utter jubilance but can just as quickly curl up into a tiny ball, each note exposed and vulnerable. The contrast capturing the roller coaster of emotions explored over the course of the album.

The unique way in which Gibbs uses samples in his music is somewhat of a trademark of the Setec sound. Breathing new life into dusty old samples, Gibbs takes unassuming vocal snippets and adds layers of his own voice, building choral arrangements that are nothing short of amazing. So it seems fitting that the theme of this Virtual Mixtape is ‘Found-sound and samples’ in which Gibbs discusses three influential albums from 2005.

Setec virtual mixtape

Cornelius – Sensuous

The first time I heard Cornelius, it was all in my head. My close friend Alex had described the opening track to Sensuous to me in such detail that it existed before I’d ever listened to it. Usually that would take all the joy out of a song, like someone live-reading a comic strip or when you accidentally set the wrong audio settings on a DVD and spend an hour wondering why there’s a buttery-voiced narrator describing things that are already happening on the screen. (For reference, I eventually found out this was intended for the vision-impaired). But this time was different: there’s a mechanical and exact quality to Keigo Oyamada’s music that easily lends itself to description, and instead of rendering it predictable makes it unexpected, dangerous and exciting.

The opener and title track ‘Sensuous’ ends as one would expect, settling on the major root note of the song plucked on an acoustic guitar – but then it keeps going, with the sound of an acoustic guitar’s low E string being slowly, slowly detuned while the sound swoops left to right. It keeps descending and descending, and you can hear the slack of the steel string slapping against the wood of the neck. It continues until pitch has all but vanished and all we can hear are the raw materials: steel and wood, plastic from a plectrum. This concept was so beautiful to me. I’d heard some music before that could be classed as ‘aleatoric’, but only in a contemporary art sense. Never sewed seamlessly into what was, at its core, a pop song.

It was cheeky but also serious, playful and exacting, and that’s true for the whole record. My personal favourite, ‘Breezin’, blends shimmery synths with staccato drums, a track that should feel busy but actually sounds spacious and vibrant, like a realtor’s description of a studio apartment. It builds with a chorus of clean dry vocals across the stereo spectrum, each cooing a vowel sound and sometimes completing the other’s words. The way Cornelius gives new context to these vocal samples gave me my first ideas in production and drove me to play around with sounds before I’d written any songs. It also led to me letting the songs write themselves around particular samples or vocal snippets, rather than writing long-winded acoustic ballads with too many chords (because I wrote a shitload of those).

Also, the cover art is dope and looks exactly how the music sounds.

The Books – Lost And Safe

I’ll never be able to describe exactly how this particular album made me feel. It remains to this day one of my most listened to records, and I still find myself singing its praises to people thirteen years later. Everything about their approach felt new to me- with time I would find similar artists using similar techniques but none were as influential on me as The Books. Listening back for this article conjures more vivid and colourful memories than I can ever muster on my own.

Lost and Safe was their third album, and at the time their most accessible work. It was still dense with samples and melodic ideas, but now delivered with a patience that let the songs breathe, giving moments to quietness and pauses where they felt natural. The percussion was sparing, dropping in and out of songs like waves; instead of providing the pulse, riding the other sounds and reacting to them. Big and little slices of cello wound around the space, mingling with acoustic guitars, effected voices and chopped samples of spoken-word, converging into something like complete stories.

This music was still calculated and mechanical, but not like Cornelius – there was more room here, a sense of loose improvisation mingling with the meticulous programming. Breakout track ‘Smells Like Content’ was a perfect example: a winding, choppy percussion track looping unpredictably, slowly, underneath a floor of soft bass chords. A salvaged recording of Nick Zammuto’s brother wandering aimlessly in a forest bookends this song. “Balance, repetition, composition, the mirrors”- somewhere between serious poem and silly stream of consciousness: this was a line The Books continued to toe until their breakup several years back.

‘Venice’ is so lovely and whimsical and always makes me smile. We listen to the sounds: a jubilant reporter talking us through a street-painter giving a show of his work, throwing paint on a canvas and the press below, eventually splitting open the canvas to let out twelve pigeons who then fly away. A real special slice of life underpinned by a light, airy soundtrack of rolling basses.

Juana Molina – Tres Cosas

I mean, yeah, I’m missing half the story because I don’t speak the language. And truth be told, I actually never looked up the English translations of the lyrics. The music sounded real summery to me, and I think I just mentally attached images and colours to it in place of understanding the words. Juana was writing such gorgeous, layered music on this album. All the elements comfortably fit together, and the production just felt warm and inviting. Softly plucked guitars underpin each track, but mysterious just-so warbly synths take pride of place. There’s always a sense of the slightly detuned, the not quite but almost pitch of a bending keyboard line.

‘Salvese Quien Pueda’ has such a perfect pop melody that it floors me. It almost reminds me of a nursery rhyme, although the music isn’t childish. Synths gurgle behind this melody giving a sense of warped time. It feels dream-like more than anything, like I’m walking slow-motion in a field of heavy cream.

The ear-splitting frequencies of some of those synths threatens to pull the songs off-course, but they end up integral to the sound of the record- it’s so easy to get comfortable, and then she pulls us out of our reveries and yells in our ears.

The looped nylon-string guitars feel delicate but resonant, and I’d love to know how she recorded them. Seeing her live multiple times further demonstrated that Juana is a real master of her instruments, be they vocal, strung or pressed. I’ve seen her do things with a loop pedal that don’t start with nothing and end up with everything, which is the greatest praise I can afford an artist who works so closely with loops- not everything simply goes from small to large. Things build up and scale back, melodies come and go and are reintroduced as guests at later times.

I love ‘Yo Se Que’ not only for it’s beauty, but also because of that disgusting, jagged synth noise towards the end, rewarding our previous serenity with a new sense of unease. It hurts to listen to but I just love that idea. It’s like she’s saying “Try and fall asleep now, motherfucker”.

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Atrial Flutters (or Raise Yr Hand If Yr Afraid) is available now. Check the Setec website for more details.

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LISTEN: Wives – ‘White Dogs’

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Wives

Wives are from Canberra and they know how to do it!

*link to video*

End of article.

Nah, we promise this is still a serious music blog. So, Wives are from Canberra and they know how to make music that makes its point, hits hard, no frills, no fuckaround. This new single is post punk at its best, minimal, cutting and cool. The video does everything that good Australian horror does – juxtaposes our perfect landscape with deeply flawed white culture. Beautiful pink galas and native flowers, framed in soft pastels, the chorus breaking into a scene from Summernats – a car festival that seems to attract an especially rabid kind of rev head.

Personally I love a good old fashioned rally down a mountain, but what’s happening here, either in fact or in clever editing, is something that seems about to boil over with violent excitement. Burnouts and shirtless dudes in speed-dealers and sombreros, terrible cars souped-up to all hell. It’s ugly.

The concept is clear, but never over explained. The refrain of ‘let sleeping dogs lie/ no comfort in this home’ will be familiar to anyone who’s felt the extreme discomfort of broad, hyper-masculine Australia. They perfectly capture the can’t-look-away fear of a drunken ‘sporting’ spectacle in ‘I peer inside / the white dogs mouth open wide’.

This is one of the most commanding tracks I’ve heard in ages, and I can’t wait to hear more from their new LP Doomsday, out April 4 on Black Wire Records.

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Look: Golden Plains XII

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I never meant to make your daughter cry. I feel like a natural woman. Baby blue. How long, till I see your face?

Attempting to write a few words about a festival you know and love—but this year didn’t attend—is damn right awful. If you didn’t get along to the 12th Golden Plains Music Festival held at the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre, I suggest closing your browser right now, as these photos are about to pour a lot of salt into your fomo wound. We sent Tessa Mansfield-Hung along with her camera and great eye for capturing the good times in the ridic balmy sunshine. Here is our annual GP photo recap and it is better than ever, so I’ll let Tessa’s photos do the talking:

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LISTEN: Tangents – Stents + Arteries EP

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Stents and Arteries 600

In anticipation of their forthcoming album New Bodies, instrumental quintet Tangents deliver a new EP featuring album cut ‘Arteries’ along with two more new tracks.

On opener, ‘Stents’, the processing and production of Oliver Bown isn’t as immediately apparent, the band instead opting for a sound more akin to their live form. The flittering thrum of the electronics still provides the pulse, while the piano and cello parts gently inhale and exhale giving the controlled frenzy of Evan Dorrian’s drumming freedom to explore. As the track approaches a mid-point this balance soon shifts as Bown takes control, the drums swallowed up and spat back out in pummelling drum n bass rhythms, while the band paints in wild brush strokes across the musical canvas before a sputtering dissolve.

‘In the Beginning’ has a far more spacious feel, at times recalling the sparse post-rock landscapes of Talk Talk. As with ‘Stents’ the piece gradually morphs into something altogether different, in this case slowly building to a blissful, hypnotic crescendo as a perpetual drum loop and floating piano collide until neither is recognisable against the enveloping milieu.

Final track, ‘Arteries’ feels similarly sparse to begin, the undulating piano, subtly affecting guitar, and almost celestial atmospherics giving an air of euphoria, a mood that suits the bands sound perfectly. Flickers of this could be heard on their previous album – the final act of 12-minute opus ‘Oberon’ springs to mind – but this feels more fully realised here, an exciting preview of how the group has evolved since we last heard from them.

As with their previous effort, Stents + Arteries is released via U.S. label Temporary Residence who will also release the new album due out later this year.

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LISTEN: Bilby – ‘Walkin 2 the Lake’ EP

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walkin 2 the lake

Sydney artist Bilby (aka Blinky Trill, aka Harry Moxham) returns with a new EP, Walkin 2 the Lake, a precursor to the full-length follow up to 2016’s Botanicals. Here Bilby enlists the help of US producer Meltycanon, whose whimsical beats meld seamlessly with Bilby’s playful rhyme schemes and silky hooks.

Across its 5 tracks the EP finds Moxham playing many roles; Bilby the romantic on opener ‘ILY+YLM’ (released on Valentine’s Day no less), Bilby the blunted jokester on ‘Barnaby Joints’, or Bilby the critic on ‘Sydney Rapper’. The latter a commentary on his disillusionment with the local rap scene, a sentiment no doubt shared by many of his fans. And why not? There is very little common ground with Bilby’s music and the regurgitated clichés present in a lot of Australian hip hop. His eclectic musical taste and their influence on his own music makes more sense for it to be pegged as indie pop, or some other less restrictive genre tag.

But it’s on closing track, ‘Sittin’, where we see yet another side to the artist, a contemplative, almost despondent side that gives new meaning to his emo-rap prince title. That’s not to say he hasn’t dabbled in raw emotion before, in fact his candour is what makes his music relatable, but there’s a level of introspection on ‘Sittin’, that we’ve yet to hear from the artist.

On his upcoming full-length, Shade, Moxham takes on all writing and production duties, further developing the Bilby sound heard on Botanicals and 2 High 2 Sign High. And with the artistic growth displayed here, the album promises to be something very special.

Walkin 2 the Lake is available as a free download via Yes Rave here.

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LISTEN: Lowtide – ‘Southern Mind’ LP

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lowtide

Two weeks ago me and my boyfriend moved from Brisbane to Hobart. So you have to excuse me if I get a bit drippy and sentimental over Lowtide’s new record, a record called Southern Mind, a record that breaths transition, progression and a clear-eyed kind of optimism. A ‘letting go’ record with only a suggestion of melancholy.

Then there’s the other thing; Lowtide’s self-titled album, which, somehow, came out in 2014, is one of my favourite Australian albums of the last ten years. One I’ve never gotten sick of, still gives me the same kind of ache today. The main difference between that album and Southern Mind is the necessary letting go of lightness. There’s no such thing as an ‘effortless’ song or album, and most bands give up trying to pretend there is by their second record. So while nothing on this one seems as kind of incidentally perfect as Lowtide’s ‘Held’, the simple pop smarts they showed on songs like that one and ‘Wedding Ring’ have become something more complex, but just as listenable.

‘Elizabeth Tower’s’ ‘Open hands, go on your way / stand and deliver, your task is forgiveness’ is the album’s pop song, open-hearted and immediate, a perfect choice for the second single after the more scrappy ‘90s-feeling ‘Alibi’.  ‘A.C’, with its more straightforwardly pretty guitar melodies, opening up into spacious, introspective verses, may be the song that most resembles that first record, though sadder, more resigned. Though when Giles Simon [who’s since left the band] consoles with ‘separate yourself / you’ve had enough’ you still feel like it’s about giving up to move forward. It’s a striking song, particularly when all the atmospherics drop out for a few bars in the middle, leaving resonant guitar and bass and Simon’s vocals, matter of fact and unadorned. Final track ‘Fault Lines’ leaves you with Lucy Buckeridge’s impressively swooping, twisting vocals, sweet and searching. With its slow, steady rhythm developing over it’s 4 and a half minutes, it’s maybe the most structurally simple song, but also one of the more personal and intimate, the counterpoints of Buckridge and Simon’s voices, ‘you’re always on my mind / you used to say this all the time / you’re leaving’.  It works to end the album with a kind of meandering, band-wanders-off-into-the-distance fade out than a resounding bang.

We know why people dismiss shoegaze (or dream pop, which is… faster, brighter guitars? I understand genres) as kinda wussy, almost boring. It’s samey by nature, having a consistent tone, drawn-out effects, a sense of each song lingering through the next is all part of the charm, and if you need your music to beat you up to make a point then it’ll never be for you. It’s also the genre that attracts the most cliche kind of description. You know, people says ‘dreamy’ ‘wall of sound’ ‘reverb-drenched guitars’ in their 200 word new music piece and think you get the picture, when the real feeling of the music is much more complex and particular. Like, there’s nothing really dreamy about this record – it’s purposeful, composed, exact. And as much as, going in, I wanted it to be something romantic and pastoral about love and loss in a harsh southern landscape, it’s not that either. It’s beautiful in totally its own way.  And the only way to really find out how is to listen.

Buy this beautiful record via Rice is Nice here

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