Sydney artist Joan Banoit delivers his debut album, Clerical, an impressive collection of splintered art pop full of moody electronics and longing vocals.
Following the hazy, neo soul of his self-titled debut EP, Banoit, assisted by producer Artefact, adds surprising dimension on Clerical pushing the music beyond any easily identifiable genre.
Single, ‘Bet Me’ is a masterful piece of songwriting, the rich arrangement drawing comparisons to genre pushers These New Puritans. Brass flourishes are punctuated by military drum bursts before opening up to make way for the devastating hook, an aching commentary on the internal struggles of a long distance relationship.
The complexity and minute attention to detail make the album even more beautifully difficult to pigeon hole. But this is pop music at its core, albeit not in the traditional sense. There are memorable vocal melodies and catchy rhythms but the treatments are intriguingly fractured, cloaking the more immediate moments in a haze of esoteric electronic soundscape.
Clerical is an arresting, multi-layered album that is as equally enjoyable listening to on the surface as it is going for a deep dive. Available now through Lazy Thinking Records.
Angie’s 2013 solo record Turning was one of the first things I wrote about for this site, and her 2017 piano album Shyness is one of my favourite Australian albums of all time. So my first hearing of The Underling’s first single, ‘Blood on My Eyes’ with its ROCK beat and its simple riff, took a little change of expectations. But maybe this was on purpose – a classic rock song to throw off all the nerds that just wanted more fancy piano. Because there’s nothing simplistic about the rest of The Underling.
The Underling illustrates the total uselessness of genres, the way Angie’s refusal to be restrained. Sometimes it’s a heavy sounding noise record, vocals are dredged up, with effort, from under layers of guitar and effects. Then ‘Your Style’ has a rhythm guitar like The Go-Betweens or something, totally out of place and easy breezy but still somehow it works. ‘Your Style’ is followed by ‘A Century of All This’; the biggest downer of the record, with its droning guitars and droning vocals and noise like a plane taking off.
You hear a song like ‘A Century of All This’, and you think there’s no way this is gonna turn into something easy or fun. But while The Underling sounds like a struggle a lot of the time, sometimes it’sounds like victory, like on ‘This House (Athens Reprise)’, a reprise of the track of the same name from Shyness. Where it once was a haunting piano ballad, a quiet statement of defiance, on the reprise the power of a full band is let loose and becomes less about desperately trying to ‘move on’ on more like fighting words; ‘gotta get it, before it gets to me’.
More in feeling than sound, The Underling seems to reference back to some of the stuff from Turning (which is, somehow, 6 years old now) but with all the growth and experimentation that’s happened in the period clearly audible. With her uncompromising attitude and classic rock sense with a noisy, experimental edge, Angie makes guitar rock seem like something worthwhile to invest time in, rather than just background noise to a night out. Something worth loving. And, at least when she’s doing it, it definitely is.
Brisbane forever favourites Bent may have stopped playing a couple of years ago, but singer and multi-instrumentalist Heidi Cutlack has given us plenty of good music since then. Her solo project Scaredy Snake was breathy, stripped back pop, and now, with bassist Phoebe BMX (from Come Die In Queensland, who released a truly terrifying tape early this year) and Matt Kennedy (from Kitchen’s Floor, of ‘pissing people off at The Sydney Opera House’) on drums, Brick Brick is Cutlack moving away from cuteness or naivety into something more disillusioned, heavier and ah, more rock.
Cutlack might be channelling a bit of Kennedy’s downer-than-you lyricism in the opening track’s drawled, ‘everyone is boooooooored / everyone is saaaaaaaaaaaaad’, but then, that song’s called ‘Sooky’ so you know it’s more tongue-in-cheek than that. ‘Sooky’ is that belligerent brat we can all be, grumpy for no reason, picking fights with whoever, and it’s making no apologies – a ratbag song and a fun listen.
Cutlack’s voice on this EP is strong and expressive – pouting then powerful, sinister on ‘Fill Me Up’, then plaintive and desperate on ‘Houseshow Song’. ‘Houseshow Song’ is chaotic and catchy – one you could imagine shaking some floorboards and inviting noise complaints. Anyone coming to this record looking for Bent’s wonky pop savant won’t find it, but there’s plenty to like in this collaboration of Cutlack’s bare-bones poetry with BMX and Kennedy’s tough-as rhythm section. The bass especially fills up all the cracks with a deep kind of muck. Combine that with the thick, uncomfortable, production, Chip 4 Chip is the kind of tape that makes me pine for Brisbane.
From the first golden second of Love Songs & Poetry, I’m blissfully drowning in sweet melancholy, nostalgia, romance. I put it on in the background at work but it’s too beautiful to focus on anything else. Esther Edquist’s voice is so rich it’s rude. Like how dare someone sound so good when they’re saying ‘I don’t wanna be your girlfriend / I just want someone to hold you / give you all the love I told you you deserve’. Oof. That’s from the very first track, ‘Girlfriend’, and while that song hints at an irony in the EP’s title (also see: ‘some of us are made for coupling and suffering / but that girl ain’t me’), these are definitely love songs. More in how they feel than what they say – the way they build and shimmer and fill up your whole heart. The goddamn strings. The low-key intricately lovely base and guitar. Fucked me up.
Love Songs & Poetry is Edquist’s first release on Chapter Music, and it’s a perfect fit for their clever Aussie pop vibe. I loved O.K. Permanent Wave, that moody, intimate LP Sweet Whirl put out in 2016, but this release is so good in such a different way. Can’t believe I put off listening to it for a few days cuz I thought the first single ‘Strange News’ was a little too cute at first. I was wrong! It’s a gently swinging country-tinged gem, looking up under its eyelashes asking for a kiss, while warning you all the reasons you shouldn’t give in; ‘I’m not the kind you should be taking home / drunk and lingering’. That’s a trend across lyrics on this EP; they’re resigned, knowing, sometimes cynical, warning you to keep your eyes open the whole time the music is begging you to just let go. The music wins every time.
These are six songs for people who wish that Sharon Van Etten had could have resisted the synth a bit longer (… even if they’re still insisting they love the new direction). It’s emotionally generous; Edquist gives us plenty of material to get to know her, to relate to her hopes and mistakes. Final track ‘Rubber Heart’ is a perfect evocation of that ‘oh no, I’ve kissed every single person in this town’ feeling, ‘each ghost has a street name, each corner a voice I once knew’. It’s a movin’ on song, skipping along, shaking off the cold water ready to start again. Edquist, like the rest of us, is unable to resist the pull of another big, messy splash.
Melbourne’s Lucy Roleff returns with another taste from her forthcoming album, Left Open in a Room, following on from whimsical lead single, ‘A Woman’s Worth’.
Roleff’s enduring, folk-leaning music draws comparisons with understated artists such as Vashti Bunyan and Nick Drake. Its ageless beauty is imbued with a sense of history despite its current context, even Roleff herself at times appearing to have emerged from some mystical time capsule. This is not to say the music is in any way passé, more so that it is impervious to the fleeting (and ultimately forgettable) tendencies of some contemporary music
The songwriting on the new album is refined and confident, exposing a vulnerability in the lyrics, adding to her already rich musical universe. Latest single, ‘Sometimes Do’, exemplifies this vulnerability; a delicate harp arpeggio cradling Roleff’s exquisitely elegant vocals that appear suspended atop the sparse, pin-drop arrangements.
Left Open in a Room is due out May 15 on Lost & Lonesome, Little Lake Records (au) and Oscarson Records (eu). If you’re in Melbourne, you can catch Lucy launching the album on May 26th at Eastmint, Northcote with supports from Mindy Meng Wang & Genevieve Fry, and Pascal Babare & Band. Full event details here.
Seven years ago WTH photographers ventured into the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre and began taking photos of What Goes On. By Golden Plains Eight there was almost a complete shift from live music photography to atmos photography, capturing what truly makes GP extra special ~*YOU*~. By Golden Plains Ten our photo pit pass was no more – aside from a few photos taken from the front row, the punters became the stars of our photographic reviews of the festival. I like to think that we started this trend.
We’ve been sending Tessa Mansfield-Hung along to the ‘sup since Golden Plains Twelve and needless to say she has been killin’ it. Her photographic review of Golden Plains Thirteen is perhaps the best yet. These photos speak many words (mainly, FOMO) though here are a few from the gal who went along to capture all that was;
“Oi! Raise your sour beers and cheers to the weekend that you swore you would never forget but maybe have a little already. Do not fear, some pics for the jog of the mems is here.
Four Tet sparked joy. Someone trashed the campsite. There wasn’t a storm, just storm like qualities. I saw a T-Rex and Kyle found 50 bucks.
Bless up and big love to our heroes Millú & Pjenné for closing the weekend of our dreams.
Becki Whitton is an audio engineer based in Melbourne who records under her solo moniker, Aphir. Aphir’s debut full-length, Twin Earth, was released via Provenance Records in 2017 and since then Whitton has self-released a steady stream of singles and EPs, the frequency and quality of which, highlight a restless talent with plenty to say.
Although Whitton’s music as Aphir typically leans towards the pop end of the electronic music spectrum, her most recent outings are more exploratory. Last year’s Dyscircadian ventures into more ambient territory, while Ceci n’est pas une Popfrom earlier this year, is an effortless batch of smoky, downbeat electronica. Both EPs are collaborative efforts with Whitton working alongside some of her music pals including Happy Axe, KAIAR and Dear Laika among others.
Aphir’s Virtual Mixtape taps into her recent travels, including a handful of songs that would enter her subconscious while working. Over to you Becki…
“I’ve been travelling a lot this year – I’m an audio engineer and for the first half of the year I didn’t have a studio, which meant that I was often travelling to different places to record the artists I was working with. In September I had the opportunity to visit California for three weeks and there was a whole stretch of time where I was too busy to listen to Spotify, so it was really interesting to just listen to my mind singing whatever random song it reached for to suit the moment. The songs on this playlist are a small selection of those, I guess it’s essentially a travel playlist.”
Lupa J – Drift
This is one of my favourite songs that’s been released this year. It’s about hiding parts of your identity from yourself because you’re scared they might hurt you or hurt other people which, in the first place, is such a deep thing for a song to be about, and in the second place every nuance of the production and arrangement of Drift reflects that feeling so perfectly. This song has the perfect feeling for exploring a new city at night.
Freya – Cohabitation
I started getting this song stuck in my head a lot while I was staying in other people’s houses in the States. Freya’s music is amazing – her tracks sound like a five-piece band of killer songwriters teamed up with a very expensive producer but actually it’s literally just all her. She released an album called The Fifth recently and I really hope it ends up on some best of the year lists because it absolutely deserves that.
Buzzy Lee – Coolhand
I just got into Buzzy Lee this year and I really love her stuff. I met her manager by chance when I was overseas and I was so nervous that I literally asked him what his name was three times after already being told twice. I love how this song is lo-fi but in the most deliberate, satisfying way – every sound has been carefully chosen and sits in the best possible place. Listening to this song really changes my mood in the best way every time I listen to it (which has honestly been a LOT).
Eilish Gilligan – S.M.F.Y.
One of the things I’ve been travelling for this year has been to occasionally DJ for Eilish when her band can’t play a show for one reason or another. S.M.F.Y. is the song she finishes her set with mostly, and it’s the perfect way to close because it transforms this heartbreaking experience she had into a pure moment of energy and connection with the audiences she sings to. I think is one of the best things music can do, and I’ve never seen the people in the crowd not love it.
Ravyn Lenae – Spice
This song is so cute and sexy. Mostly when people say “oh that song is so sexy” (about whatever song) I don’t really relate, but I think this is my kind of sexy song because it’s also kind of weird. This is a good song to listen to after spending a whole day navigating a new place and getting super gross and sweaty, but then finally arriving where you’re staying that night – I would say listen to this song while you’re changing out of your sweaty clothes to go to some place nice in the evening.