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LISTEN: The Ocean Party – ‘Mess & Noise Critics Poll 2015’

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Mess & Noise, the highly respected underground music website, has been somewhat out of commission since mid last year. The Ocean Party, however, aren’t letting the site fade out of cultural consciousness. Lachlan, one of the group’s primary songwriters, says that 2015 is the first year the site’s respected critics poll has been absent since the Ocean Party started, and considering the stock they (and many others) put into those lists, a tribute of sorts was in order.

Their new eight track collection is made up of material that either didn’t make it onto Light Weight, or wasn’t considered up to snuff for their next record. This honestly makes me question their judgement, because Mess & Noise Critics Poll 2015 (yes, really) is a delight at times, and shows that if this is the stuff you’re ‘throwing away’, then you’re clearly from some sort of secretive society of prodigal songwriters with ridiculously high standards.

2015’s Light Weight, was bristling and bloodied – cracked skulls, black blood and dead men filled out its thirty eight minutes. It functioned as artistic endeavours often do – as a space in which the song writers (the Ocean Party has six) struggle and comprehend their lives and themselves, and Light Weight never shied away from uncomfortable realisations. Many of those frank sentiments have carried over into the material on Mess & Noise, with opener ‘Cool Boys’ wasting no time – “I put my hand through the wall/my heart just fell through the floor/my brains against the glass”. It remains clear as day that the Ocean Party harbours some of Melbourne’s prodigal songwriters, the riffs and melodies as sharp as ever.

On tracks like ‘Fight, Fight, Fight, Die’ the Ocean Party wears the discomfort of identity on its sleeve – asking simply “wrong body or wrong mind?” What’s identity though if you can’t even ascribe what you’ve done to who you are? ‘No Local’ has this boiling throughout it – “the best years of my life being no one/quarter of my life went by and I hardly noticed”.

Two instrumental tracks show up here too, but whether ‘Rivers’ and ‘Pleasure Ghost’ are actually instrumentals or just missing vocals is a question still hanging. The former errs into funk territory with a 80s pop soul guitar groove carried along by sharp drums.

It’s ‘Fun’ though, that is the best song of the group, carried through by its chorus. Fuzzed synths wash under a beautiful call of “I’m fading out again/just like I always have” –  a melancholic mantra of missed moments and half remembered festivities that ought to find its home reaching out from scores of voices at Meredith. It’s a song built to sing; and the fact that it didn’t make it onto a formal release is mind boggling.

Mess & Noise has the same minor issue of almost no thematic coherence aside from varying forms of misery, much like Light Weight did, but it’s got some absolute gems on it. So here’s a toast to the Ocean Party’s B-sides, the things that the rest of us call A-sides.

 

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PREMIERE: Beloved Elk – ‘The Light of Dead Stars’

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beloved elkMelbourne duo Tina Nguyen and Amy Wright aka Beloved Elk have just landed ‘The light of dead stars’, a dark, lilting alt rock track with a fittingly melancholy film clip to boot. Footage “made in our shed” and frames from family movies of the girls respective childhood cuts away to a spotlight moving through tall grass, searching, revealing and being generally apprehensive.  

Two-piece bands have a habit of over-compensating with sound for their lack of womanpower, but not here. ‘The light of dead stars’ sees Nguyen and Wright fit snugly with one another.  The light, accented, guitar hook and more hi hat than kick drum produce a restrained balance. It’s a stripped back version of their last EP’s sound which sees Wright’s vocals stand in equal stead with Nguyens tight rhythms, with the vocal melodies mirrored in the guitar lines.

The new track carries an ominous weight, the source of which is difficult to pin down without the clip’s help. Neatly compressing angst is a serious endeavour, and Beloved Elk make music that requires your full attention without being draining.

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LISTEN: California Girls – Desire LP

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california girls

Sometimes, driven by yet another going-away drinks for a Brisbane mate leaving for ‘better opportunities’ down south, I’ve declared (unprompted) ‘I’d move to fucking CANBERRA before I’d move to Melbourne’ (cue: no one cares). But that statement is starting to lose its weight, as more and more weird and cool music is released down there – especially through the exceptional Moontown Records. Our great nation’s capital is starting to seem pretty happening.

Desire, from California Girls (not actually girls, not actually plural – actually Canberra dude Gus McGrath), is the city’s newest prime cut – hectic desperate dance music that perfectly captures those nights when you party hard not necessarily cause you feel like it, but because what else can you do?

If you’re looking for something to fill the Workshop/Multiple Man shaped hole in your synth-starved heart, this might do the trick. McGrath’s music, though, is without the moody, middle-distance detachment of those two bands. The vocals are a focus point almost as much as the beats, with lyrics that are personal (‘cherub-faced boy/ tears run down my cheeks’) but in a kind of throwaway way – like an accidental drunken overshare followed by a ‘nah, not really’.

Ambition and need and disappointment and resignation all pulse through this record. It’s called Desire maybe cause some of it’s about sex, sure; some tracks, like opener ‘Skin on Skin’, are grimy with suggestion. But there’s also a kind of generalised want, a dissatisfaction that drives so many of our biggest nights. This is obvious on ‘Holiday’, where McGrath lays out his plans to forget someone who’s gone on to bigger and better things: ‘I’ll put out an album/ I’ll go on a tour/ maybe I’ll go to Tasmania… You’ll see the wonders of the world/ I’ll probably get drunk’.

This is dance music before anything else, so obviously keep an eye out for a live show. I saw California Girls in a shit ‘rock & roll’ venue where the sound was way too low, and it still Went Off. Desire really hits its post-2am stride smack bang in the middle, with the Crystal Castles, X-tinnies vibe of ‘Euphoria’ and the slow-build trop-pop of ‘Hidden’ – but the whole thing is packed with opportunities for a bit of reckless abandonment and throwing your body around. This record is up there with the best local underground dance music around at the moment, in a scene that’s only getting more and more interesting and exciting.

Desire has already sold out on cassette but you might be able to snag a copy at a show, and a vinyl release is forecast for the near future.

Catch California Girls at the Moontown Records Melbourne showcase on 23 February. He’s also supporting Naked, alongside fellow Canberrans Wives, at the Phoenix on the 20th.

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LISTEN: Chook Race – ‘At Your Door’

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chook race

Brisbane record label Tenth Court is a pretty safe bet for good shit that’s worth your time. Melbourne three-piece Chook Race know how to make writing jangly hits look both easy and breezy. It’s a match made in SBS-game-show heaven. Keep your eyes peeled for Chook Race’s second LP, Around the House, coming out in a couple of months. For now we’ve got a taste with ‘At Your Door’, a scrappy treat that dreams about escaping it all in some deserted town, in a house you built yourself. At least until you remember that the shops close at 4 and you’re all out of papers. Or someone comes along and reminds you of what you’ve left behind.

Maybe I wish it went a bit harder – if they pushed that downbeat Boomgates guitar thing a bit further and made it feel like they actually had something to run away from. But they still do a pretty great job of making a single that’s immediately listenable but not immediately forgettable once its three minutes are up.

The whole album was apparently recorded in a day, which is a good sign – this isn’t fussy music to agonise over: it’s meant to be heard live or thrown on the record player on hungover afternoons. ‘At Your Door’ is a pretty good indication that Around the House is gonna be some solid blunt-edged guitar pop stuff that we (and I really mean I) can’t fucken get enough of.

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PREMIERE: Naked – ‘Critical Half-Arsed’ video

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Tasmanian experimental punk malcontents, Naked, are on the cusp of having a very big month. The three-piece made some waves in late 2015 with ‘Sprinters of the World Unite’, a ramshackle but intriguing piece of outsider noise. Around the same time it was announced that Naked would be releasing a full-length record through Brisbane label, Tenth Court, who released some stellar LP’s last year from the likes of Wireheads and Mope City. Pink Quartz is the name of the record, which is set to drop into our hot little hands on Friday, 5 February. To make sure we don’t forget, Naked is offering up a new single and video, ‘Critical Half-Arsed’.

‘Critical Half-Arsed’ is one minute and twenty seconds of buzzing and strained noise punk. Taken at face value, you might think the title accurately describes the offering, but in eighty seconds the band manages to fit a large amount of urgency and tension into the mix. Toothy guitar slashes and quick pummelling of the drums keep you on edge, as lead singer Kieran Sullivan offers a halted recollection of a deadly accident.

The clip sees the members of Naked rinsing off in showers and bathtubs fully clothed. It’s as if they are trying to wash themselves of some distasteful experience – a cleansing of something unshakable, something that can’t be unseen. Quick cuts build on the tense nature of the song, and it makes for a suitably unnerving accompaniment.

You can preorder Pink Quartz on digital or limited edition vinyl via Tenth Court now. Once the album drops, catch Naked on their extensive east coast tour:

Fri 5th – The Grand Poobah, Hobart w/ Native Cats, Orlando Furious (Melb) and Henry Savery

Sat 13th (arvo) – 4ZZZ Carpark, Brisbane w/ Thigh Master, Clever, The Mosaics and Hexmere

Sat 13th (eve) – Trainspotters, Brisbane w/ Cannon, Pillow Pro (Melb) and Rebel Yell

Sun 14th – Seespace, Lismore w/ Dracopede, Skinpin and Poetaster

Tues 16th – The Croatian Club, Newcastle w/ Nailhouse and Polyfox

Wed 17th – Rad Bar, Wollongong w/ Julia Why? (Syd), Orphans (Syd) and White Blanks

Thurs 18th – Marly Bar, Sydney w/ Julia Why? and Lenin Lennon (Facebook)

Fri 19th – The Union, Sydney w/ Mope City (LP launch), Point Being and Pillow Pro (Melb) (Facebook)

Sat 20th – The Phoenix, Canberra w/ Wives and California Girls (Facebook)

Sun 21st – Grace Darling, Melbourne w/ Faye Soft, Orlando Furious and Sweet Whirl

Mon 22nd – Northcote Social Club w/ Taipan Tiger Girls, The Bunyip Moon and Secret Valley

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SEQUENCE: Sampa The Great

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Sampa The Great-26

photos by Pat O’ Hara

We recently spent a cruisy Sunday with Sydney via Zambia songwriter Sampa The Great & her producer Dave Godriguez.

Sampa really hit her stride last year – rousing our attention with her expressive spoken-word prose, flanked by Dave’s progressive funk & jazz tones.

Pat shot series at Dave’s house in Newtown, before rolling onto their show on the rooftop of the Museum of Contemporary Art (how about that sunset, hey).

Get your free download of Sampa’s debut The Great Mixtape, then head along to one of her upcoming dates at Golden Plains, WOmadelaide or supporting Guilty Simpson. More information right here.

 

Sampa The Great-1 Sampa The Great-13 Sampa The Great-14Sampa The Great-17 Sampa The Great-2Sampa The Great-12 Sampa The Great-19 Sampa The Great-20 Sampa The Great-21Sampa The Great-23

 

(View full photo set below) 

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PREMIERE: S M Jenkins – ‘Mikrowave’

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SM Jenkins B+W

Forget cohabiting and childbirth. When all the records you once revelled in start reaching their milestone second and third reissues, that’s when it’s appropriate to start mourning your age. In just a few months, it’ll be almost 21 years since Pavement released their third record, Wowee Zowee –  an opus full of stoner oddities, and songs about castration, brazil nuts and other stuff only Stephen Malkmus could apply his half-baked, poetic genius to.

It’s a decent milestone to reference – as Steve Bourke has done. S M Jenkins (Malkmus’ alias on Wowee Zowee) is the new name of the Step-Panther frontman’s solo project. ‘Mikrowave’ is the first track off his upcoming EP, Out There In The Zone.

Bourke wrote and recorded the EP when he was living in “relative isolation” in Mittagong, in the NSW Highlands located 110KM out of Sydney. Bourke is on his lonesome here, so Step-Panther fans shouldn’t be expect the Superchunk anthems (cc: ‘User Friendly’, ‘Zombie Summer’) the band stirred up on Strange But Nice.

‘Mikrowave’ rolls on at a steady pace with the kind of breakfast positivity Kurt Vile rallied when he brought out ‘Walkin’ on A Pretty Day’. Try as you may – it’s hard to hate this song. Bourke’s nuances are affected with that self-effacing slacker drawl, here ironically singing about “saving time” instead of wasting it. Bourke notes that the track was about “trying to make the best out of whatever you’ve got going on”. And he does – as he murmurs some perspective over ‘Mikrowave’s melodic mid-tempo guitar line, assuring us that it’s alright to be just where you are. 

 

Out There In The Zone is set for release in late February.

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