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LISTEN: Lowtide – ‘Southern Mind’ LP

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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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LISTEN: Total Control – ‘Laughing at the System’ LP

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I finally got to see Total Control for the first time at the Opera House show. It was in Sydney so everyone basically stood there with their arms crossed the whole time, and it was a huge show so cunts called out for ‘Carpet Rash’, then didn’t really react or move for any other song, even like, ‘Black Spring’ or ‘Safety Net’. But whatever, I got what I wanted out of it – I got to see my favourite band play some of my favourite songs and I got to feel the anger and the energy and the melodies that tear you apart and look at all those men on stage and feel like I got some closure on something. After two staunchly beautifully complicatedly moving records they don’t owe us anything. But hey, this new record is something else entirely.

It doesn’t crack through like the other two, there’s less urgency and more playfulness. Maybe music in general has lost some urgency. With every new niche that opens up and every person that ages out of their scene and every new kid who books their first show we move away from the world of Serious Music that Henge Beat came out in. While it used to feel like genuine expression of anger and fear could change something, it’s now more like everything’s so terrifying it’s rolled over into being ridiculous. It’s hard to fathom how fucked we all are sometimes. I’ve moved to Tasmania and started hoarding car batteries. So let’s enjoy this very good and fun record.

It’s not the first time Total Control have had a sense of humour – those huge metal guitars in ‘Expensive Dog’, over the top in a ridiculously theatrical way, that felt like them having fun. But this is definitely the most irreverent we’ve heard them, despite the title track starting us off with a kind of sinister circus slide into madness, and the closing reprise finishing with something startlingly hectic. You’d be forgiven for thinking you were in for more of the same with those familiar obtusely serious, vaguely political lyrics; ‘celebrate intoxicants / laughing at the sentiment’, but you’d be wrong.

Because after that heavy intro we’re straight into the album’s strange and catchy highlight, ‘Future Creme’ with it’s toy-sounding instruments, Dan Stewart crooning ‘lost in the future / I am your milkman’ over a fuzzy groove and acoustic guitars, a strange echo-ey voice describes the process of cheese making in the middle. Have Total Control ever been weird before? Obtuse and abrasive, sure, but not silly. I love it.

‘Vanity’ again puts you off-guard with its preening stomp, it’s rolled ‘r’s and rhymes, Stewart announcing ‘guitar!’ before the most trashed-up, wacky guitar solo, like yeah, there’s the fucking guitar. This track might give us the most clear explanation of what’s going on with this record in the lyrics ‘when you stop having any fun / your mind stops loving anyone’. Maybe? ‘Vote Cops’ throws out a distorted play on a blues riff over Stewarts’ familiar matter-of-fact directives. The melody’s so hard to grip onto, it makes you wanna go back. Like what the fuck was that. The lyrics seem like the kind of obscure social commentary we’re used to ‘vote cops / more shops / more more more more’ and ‘get cred / move fast/ get spent / built’, but delivered in a newly resigned way.

Maybe they’re bored of big show-stopper riffs, cuz the electric guitar on this record seems like more of a noise or rhythm instrument. Most of the proper songs rest on light-as-air synth and acoustic guitar. The second half of the album, before the final jarring reprise of ‘Laughing at the System’ is all sweetness and light. ‘Luxury Vacuum’s swinging acoustic chords sound almost cheeky, after ‘Her Majesty, Budgie’’s pulsing and panoramic synth, and before the prettily weird bleep-bloops of ‘Cathie and Marg’.

This is the most happily confused I’ve been about a record in a long time.

LISTEN: Madboots & Areaboys – ‘2Hard’ EP

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madboots

Photo by Josh Watson 

Madboots have been around drawing crowds at live shows in Brisbane forever. They make a rare kind of RnB that’s funny and good, and put on live shows that are a mixture of pure hip hop showmanship and theatre. They open and close for rock bands and usually blow them out of the water. Madgif, their beat man, stands around on stage on his phone, wears full face bandannas, takes photos or makes cup noodles (one time), while Dewi Djamal Wilson and Angelica (Gel) Wilson rap, skit, and sing. Then their producer/scratch DJ, DJ Returnagain makes the music happen. They’ve put out videos and kind-of-mixtapes before, but 2Hard is them getting serious. Or nah, not serious, just like playing into the whole make an EP, premier it through a music mag with a video thing.

2Hard’s six songs make for a tight 17 minute EP (including remix) – they’ve got a short attention span, these songs give you the idea, the joke, the vibe, then disappear without outstaying their welcome. This is what they do. Whatever if you don’t get it.

It’s a great introduction for the uninitiated. You total get Dewi’s mix of sugar-and-sex ‘90s RnB vocals and Brisbane suburban talk-rap. She’s breathy and sweet on tongue-in-cheek opener ‘Cocktails’ then tough and dirty on ‘Snowy’; ‘put this pussy on ya like a winter coat-ah’, then bratty and hectic on ‘Facts’, a hard-hitting, totally nonsense song. The dynamics of Dewi’s vocals, supported by the more straight RnB hype of Gel’s backups, give these songs their likeable let’s-party-but-don’t-fuck-with-us character.

In an interview that I’m hoping one day will get out there (my fault, I keep not writing it), Dewi told me that the lyrics and song writing in general are often based on jokes, or ideas for music videos, or just some funny phrase she or Angelica can’t get out of their head, and it makes for totally un-laboured song writing. The joy for them is often in the production, in messing around with the sounds, in making things that sound like real songs they used to hear on the radio. Madgif’s beats lay the clever and layered but always smooth groundwork for the sunny West Coast vibes of ‘Respectful and Cute’, a light-as-air love song, or the album’s super catchy centrepiece ‘Headstone’.

It’s cool that after decades of ‘Aussie hip hop’ being the butt of every Triple J or festival bashing joke, our underground RnB scene is the one pumping out the music that you wanna listen to, and putting on shows you actually want to go to.

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LISTEN: 2017 in 10 Tracks

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In the hubbub of year-end lists we’re keeping it simple with 10 great tracks released over the past 12 months. This list does not attempt to be definitive in any way, it is simply a bunch of great tunes created by some amazingly talented artists. If you’re not familiar with any of the music listed, do yourself a favour and give it a spin, consume it in your preferred method and hold it forever in your heart/mind/soul/other intangible essence incomprehensible to human beings.

Mere Women – Big Skies

Mere Women’s album Big Skies is a more sombre affair than its predecessor, the darker mood giving their distinct brand of post-punk a rich new depth. While tracks like ‘Tin Rooves’ and ‘Curse’ saw the band exploring a more spacious, restrained sound, the title track finds them in full flight. Murky guitars, driving rhythm, and a commanding vocal delivery which charts the full gamut of Amy Wilson’s range, from brooding baritone to urgent caterwaul.

Kirin J Callinan – Friend of Lindy Morrison

Kirin J Callinan delivered (at long last) his divisive second album, Bravado. Equally complex and simple, Bravado was an assured statement from an artist not content with repeating himself. While the tongue-in-cheek humour throughout the album makes it difficult to embrace at times, there are moments of sheer brilliance which transcend any questions of the artist’s intent.

‘Friend of Lindy Morrison’ is a stone cold classic. The music could be ripped from a 1980’s pop songbook with Callinan and guest Weyes Blood trading vocals in spine-tingling fashion.

Yon Yonson – Pattern Recognition 1

Yon Yonson’s quirky and eclectic blend of electronic indie pop hit a new high point with the release of their cracking album Yes No Sorry earlier this year.
One of the edgier moments from the album comes in the form of ‘Pattern Recognition 1’, with its sleek synth bass line and tough hip-hop beat giving Andrew Kuo a chance to deliver a punchy vocal performance.

Lovely head – Show Up (Rebel Yell remix)

This dream pairing fully lived up to expectation with Rebel Yell transforming Lovely Head’s dark experimental pop track ‘Show Up’ into a pulsing industrial stomper.
Rebel Yell and Lovely Head have each had a pretty flawless strike rate to date and the future certainly looks promising for both artists.

Shady nasty – Upwardsbound

Equally influenced by post-punk, hardcore, and jazz, Sydney-trio Shady Nasty make heavy, cathartic music punctuated by the searing vocals of front man, Kevin Stathis.
Lead single, ‘Upwardsbound’, is more melodic than the rest of the trio’s self-titled EP. Cascading guitar, crawling tempo and dramatic, soaring vocals. Exciting stuff from these newcomers.

Phile – Deadzone

Phile are Sydney duo Hannah Lockwood and Gareth Psaltis, whose harrowing techno creations are not for the faint-hearted.
‘Deadzone’, the final track from their self-titled EP, begins with a squelching, syncopated acid rhythm, but just as you start to get comfortable you enter the darkness. Sinister synth chords envelop the rhythm providing a suitably haunting end to the duo’s killer debut.

Total Control – Laughing at the System 2

In the death throes of the year Total Control managed to sneak a new (mini) album into the world. Much like 2014’s Typical System, the band continue to laugh in the face of conformity jumping from insistent post-punk, to modular synth experiments, to more conventional (in Total Control terms) garage rock.

The album is bookended by alternate versions of the title track, the opener a brash cacophony of clanging chimes, fuzzy guitar and synthetic drums. But it’s the album closer which finds the band at their scuzzy best. Urgent, scrappy and loads of fun.

Jikuroux – Cradle Bay

Hot on the heels of her Ruptured Pulse EP, Sydney producer Jikuroux aka Jess Lavelle returns with another solid effort on Cradle Bay.
There is something exotic about the music of Jikuroux, the melodic elements coming off like some mutant new-age music, while the hard-hitting beats keep it firmly rooted in the modern-day bass music landscape.
The title track captures this fusion nicely with sharp synth stabs and tight rhythms counterbalanced by a smooth melodic undertone.

Setec – Cotton Bones

The first single from Setec’s forthcoming album (due out next year) further refines the delicate intimacy of his debut, Brittle As Bones.
The melancholic ‘Cotton Bones’ opens on a minimal piano loop, with spectral echoes dispersed among pitter-patter rhythms. The song gradually blooms into a bright singalong moment, as vocal layers are added atop a typically gauzy and nostalgic sample.

Ptwiggs – Exuviae

Ptwiggs’ debut EP, Purge, is a provocative and uncompromising take on bass music. A white-knuckle ride through fierce sonic territory.
The second track, ‘Exuviae’, steps up the anxiety factor with a propulsive urgency that could soundtrack some futuristic chase scene, a scene where there is little reprieve for the poor soul being chased.

LOOK: Meredith Music Festival 2017

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G’day! Here at whothehell we know that the days following Meredith can be tough. Chin up, take the rough with the smooth, never fear—you’ll feel human again before you know it. Though for now, to make you feel a bit better about the whole festival-hangover-situation, we bring you some snaps from the weekend that was (if these cannot cheer you up… well you are on your own).

We sent the illustrious Tessa Mansfield-Hung @tessamansfieldhung to the sup for MMF’17 to capture all that glittered, enjoy:

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VIRTUAL MIXTAPE: Various Asses

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Illustrations by Lucy Roleff

Various Asses are a force to be reckoned with. The incredible debut Loción, released via Nice Music late last year, exemplifies the self-described Body Horror aesthetic with its tough low-end, menacing samples and pummelling rhythms.

Led by Melbourne artist Raquel Solier, Various Asses is more than just amazing music. Featuring musicians, dancers, MC’s, video artists and more, the V/A family have been destroying dance floors and forging their own path with an uncompromising live show, killer film clips and a general take no prisoners attitude.

We are excited to hear that a new Various Asses EP is slated for 2018 and we can’t wait to see what else the crew has in store.

For this latest instalment of Virtual Mixtape, Raquel guides us through the diverse creative output of some of the V/A family members. Consider yourself schooled.

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Meet the Various Asses family

KANDERE

Lakyn and Ripley are Kandere; Naarm’s most progressive and relevant hip hop act.
Lakyn’s rapping is featured on the forthcoming Various Asses EP (2018) as well as being an incredible dancer for the live V/A show.

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YUM GOD

Another family member in the Filipino diaspora making bent footwork club tracks.
Future collaboration in the works between his performance at west side clubs and hosting music production workshops.

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NASHO

Total badass Serwah Attafuah, vocalist, dancer, 3D modeller and collaborator tearing down white supremacy in hardcore band Nasho.

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TRIANA HERNANDEZ

Manager, film clip director and creative collaborator of all things Various Asses.
Also a writer, bottomless pit of inspiration, commanding vocalist for Sexistential Waterfall and a name to remember.

SOPHIE GROPHY

Growing star and rapper Sophy Grophy collaborates on Various Asses’ ‘MK’94’ single.
She’s the face and voice of the next generation so we stare into her grills looking for eternal youth.

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HABITS

Mohini and Maia are the synth goth angels Habits.
Aside from being a banging producer, Mohini is an extraordinary dancer, social media icon and fashion designer that will make you look twice.

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PATRICK HASE

VR mapper, 3D modeller and video editor of our ‘Down, Down’ and ‘MK’94’ film clips, and producer and one half of dirty club act Sexistential Waterfall.

 

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LISTEN: Body Promise – Fantastic Effects

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body promise

Body Promise, founded by Doug Wright of Fishing fame and current FBi Radio music director, Amelia Jenner, started life as a radio show on the aforementioned station’s digital outing, FBi Click. Their passion for new and interesting club music and penchant for expertly curated guest mixes made the show a hub for forward-thinking producers across the club music spectrum. The duo has since expanded, dabbling in show promotion, making the move to FBi’s Sunsets slot, and most recently becoming a fully-fledged record label.

Drawing from their experience as purveyors of exciting local and international talent, the first outing for the label was Harmony from a Dominant Hue, a compilation showcasing the who’s who of the local Australian club underground. Just a little over 12 months later Body Promise present Fantastic Effects, which picks up right from where Hue left off. Pulling together another stellar list of primarily local artists, Fantastic Effects explores a more percussive palette, spanning outright rollers from the likes of Hot Wavs and HED Ardennes to more esoteric contributions from DIN (Rainbow Chan & Moon Holiday) and fake (aka Cassius Select).

Elsewhere, Melbourne heroes, friendships, turn in the distinctive and expansive ‘GUT ROT’, while Sydney mainstay, Tom Smith, dishes out a couple of rhythmic workouts, firstly under his T.Morimoto moniker, then later as one half of new duo Poison with fellow Sydney-sider DJ Plead.

Having already left an indelible mark on the Australian club music landscape it will be exciting to see how Body Promise grow and diversify in the future. For now, grab your copy of Fantastic Effects and while you’re at it grab a copy of Harmony from a Dominant Hue too and really set yourself up for the summer.

 

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