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INTRODUCING: Yaws

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One thing Australia certainly isn’t suffering from right now is a lack of left-field electronica. From Lower Spectrum to LUCIANBLOMKAMP, there has been a noticeable rise in both the quantity and quality of local electronic music, with those on the fringe yielding some weird and wonderful sounds. However, you are unlikely to come across anything as immediately strange and ultimately compelling as Yaws. The London-based, Adelaide-bred producer crafts dense sonic soundscapes as alien as the obscure tropical disease that forms his namesake.

His first release, ‘Seventh Continent’, was recently debuted by up-and-coming net label Etched Traumas. Emerging from an oblique flanged rhythm that wouldn’t sound out of place on the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange, the track evolves into a bold minimal-techno jam, adding intricate layer upon layer over the course of its 11 minutes. There are shades of HTRK‘s hazy electro-surrealism, alongside overtones of Factory Floor’s ruthless proto-punk industrialism. The track’s ascent is so subtle that you barely notice it, until the glorious static-soaked climax hits.

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INTRODUCING: Gaiamusic

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Seekae’s Alex Cameron once said that an instrumental electronic record “isn’t really what people need to hear right now.” So then where does that leave more downtempo players like Gaiamusic?

The producer/DJ (also known as Julian Welgus-Dillon) has released his first solo single, ‘Neptune’ via Melbourne collective REAL Music. Sonically, this sounds like something out of trendy East London. You know, you can imagine some guy in a spray jacket, most likely toting a five-panel cap on with the frame of Archie Marshall. This is music you’d hear in a room lit with the soft glow of a laptop.

And it’s nice, there’s a subtlety to this shared with other producers like Planète. It’s electronica with a gentle rise—it’s not out to promise too much but doesn’t give too little. That is, it seems to avoid being self-consciously ‘ambient’.

There’s an almost cinematic quality to it, ‘Neptune’ seems to be a track that understand its place—where to bring sections in, where to mix the electronic with a guitar line. So it’s neatly packaged, but you leave it you can’t help but shake off the feeling that its still searching for some kind of narrative.

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And maybe that’s what the likes of Cameron are getting at. Instrumental electronic records aren’t as readily consumable as those mixed in with vocals. So it’s interesting that Gaia cites Flying Lotus as an influence, considering that his last record uses Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg and even Herbie Hancock to flesh out its narrative of death. It seems like spoken-word samples are used to flesh out some wider dialogue that would’ve otherwise left a pretty barren instrumental track begging for some context.

So what kind of dialogue does Gaia engage in? “Knowledge is preferable to ignorance”. And then it ends. For something just over three-minutes, that’s not a lot of time to digest something like this. But maybe that’s the point, because when isolated, instrumental tracks don’t really make sense. So consider ‘Neptune’ then, a little nod to story that’s going to play out on Gaiamusic’s forthcoming EP.

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LISTEN: Ella Thompson – ‘Arcade’

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Ella Thompson has been seriously busy. You might recognise her sweet-as-custard pipes from Melbourne electro-funk duo GL, or Dorsal Fins, or you know, the days when she kicked it with the Bamboos. Thompson has just released ‘Arcade’ off the back of supporting Angel Olsen last month.

The single is a melancholy synth pop introduction to her debut album, Janus, slated for release later this year. Despite her impressive resume, ‘Arcade’ sees Thompson come into her own distinct sound, with gravelly synths, moaning melodies and vocals layered with harmonies and subtle distortion. The clip is generally what I want out of a synth pop track – blue-washed silhouettes pressed through a VHS time machine.

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LISTEN: Sarah Mary Chadwick – ‘Am I Worth It’

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The cover of Sarah Mary Chadwick’s forthcoming album, 9 Classic Tracks, is a blotchy, lurid watercolour painted by Chadwick herself. It depicts three clothed men performing sex acts on a woman in high heels, her yellowing skin covered only by a bodice that’s been dragged beneath her drooping breasts and a shock of smeared red lipstick.

Chadwick’s Tumblr is covered in images like this one – tableaus from online porn (with a particular predilection for golden showers), blood-spattered animals wearing sinister expressions and washed-up models with nostrils blistered from cocaine abuse.

Sarah Mary Chadwick’s element, in music and in art, is one of self-abasement. Since moving on from Batrider, the Kiwi downer rock band she fronted for 10 years, her songs have been stripped of their fuzz and left sounding vulnerable and melancholy. Her new single, driven by chilly synths and a riveting, understated hook, seems to come from a place of creeping self-doubt – the kind that causes you to ask, over and over again, despite all reassurances, ‘Am I worth it?’.

9 Classic Tracks will be out on 27 March through Rice is Nice.

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PREMIERE: Big Smoke – ‘Try A Little Love’

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I got a big ol’ soft spot for the quaint acoustic diddy. A song that is stripped back to its basic elements, without excess flourish or pretension ­­– just a well written song that cuts to the quick. Melbourne band Big Smoke has just come forth with this sweet tune that does away with embellishment and puts the musicianship first and foremost.

‘Try A Little Love’ is the name of the song, and it’s the fist piece to surface in the lead-up to the release of the trio’s forthcoming EP, Lately. Gentle acoustic plucking, relaxed and whimsical, is met with crisp and earnest vocals and harmonies that are swoon-worthy.

The whole song sounds like a bit of considerate advice.  Pop and folk are often used to convey positive sentiment, but Big Smoke do it with such earnestness that you can’t help but buy into it completely. Last year saw Big Smoke release its debut EP, River Queen, and lead single ‘Colours’ was a similarly enchanting song. Throwback feelings litter the soft sounds of Big Smoke, but when the tune is good so is the reaction. This song is perfect to soundtrack the sun breaking through rain clouds (much needed up here in cyclone territory). It’s a reminder that compassion and love might really be all you need, rain, hail or shine.

The single launch is happening on 14th March at Old Bar, Fitzroy – more details here.

The Lately EP will be released through First Love Records/Shock.

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LISTEN: White Shadows – ‘Give Up Give Out Give In’

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Does anyone care about Craig Nicholls anymore? Some people used to, but I got the impression that the songs stopped coming out the same after he put down the orchy bottle. In more recent times, promo shots of a rejigged Vines have circulated, featuring Craig and a couple of fresh-faced Sydney fellas spruiking a new album, but it seems few people paid much notice. I didn’t. Sorry Craig, but it just seemed that by album number two you were rewriting the same couple of tunes over and over again (granted, they were good tunes) – and people switched off.

So… does anyone care about Craig Nicholls in 2015? It would seem that Nick and Sam Littlemore do – they of Pnau, Teenager, Peking Duk, Empire of the Sun and Elton John fame – which could be a real shot in the arm for our hero from Sutherland Shire. They’ve taken a bunch of Craig’s songs (ones that didn’t fit the latest Vines incarnation, which seems encouraging) and done their thing to them. I’m predicting anthemic synths, thin guitar licks, a huge, processed vocal surging over the top of some driving drum machines. The stuff that more than a few guilty pleasures are made of.

Which sounds like it could be alright. Well, at least more interesting than hearing Craig drawl his way though ‘Homesick’ part 7.

So here is ‘Give Up Give Out Give In’ by White Shadows. I have no idea how it sounds because I haven’t listened to it, but I dare say I’ll give it a go. Which is more than I can say for the last Vines album.

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LISTEN: Nathan Roche – ‘In Dresden They’ve Been Dressing in Black Again’

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Itinerant, conman and genuine good bloke, Nathan Roche is one of the most prolific artists in the Australian underground right now – and he’s certainly the most flippant. He’s a self-published novelist, frontman of the now defunct Camperdown and Out, plus half a dozen other bands, and head of his own record label, Glenlivet-a-Gogh. Roche, however, harbours no romantic illusions about his creative endeavours. Speaking to Polaroids of Androids back in 2013, he described music as ‘a curse’ and claimed that there’s ‘no such thing as art. Like the food we digest and put into our bodies, occasionally we “pass gas” and a stench goes airborne.’

Well, in early 2015, an odour is hanging in the air again. The day after returning from a tour of Europe and the US, Roche went into the studio – via a trip to the Centrelink office – to record the third installment of his Newtown Trilogy: Cathedrals Made Outta Green Cards. The album’s 23 tracks veer from the brilliant to the ridiculous, replete with bad puns (‘S-Car Go!’) and spoken word interludes, including a woman enumerating the contents of her refrigerator in alluring French.

As always, the best moments on Cathedrals… channel the luminaries of 70s avant-rock – Lou Reed, Roxy Music, John Cale. I’m not sure if the second single, ‘In Dresden They’ve Been Dressin in Black Again’, is about Pegida, the vices of fashion or both, but it rollicks snidely along like something off Transformer, sounding less like pastiche than a skillful homage.

Roche has said that Cathedrals… is to be his final musical outing. (His Soundcloud profile currently reads ‘R.I.P.’). As a guy who somehow plays the role of piss-taker and straight-shooter simultaneously, I wouldn’t doubt him when he says there’s some sort of change afoot – but nor would I be betting on his disappearance. There’s far too much going on in Nathan Roche’s head for him to put down the guitar for good.

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