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WATCH: Dag – ‘Staying Up at Night’

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Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Photo by Helena Papageorgiou

The first single from Dag’s debut LP The Benefits of Solitude, ‘Staying up at Night’ came out last month. I wanted to write it up then but, honestly, I liked it too much. It’s too breezy and, despite the uneasy melancholy of the lyrics and Dusty Anastassiou’s naturally doleful voice, rolls by so easily. It’s is a pop song from the jaunty acoustic guitar to the warmth and fullness of the chorus to the bow ba-bow bow bow bass line. To try and stop and think about like, ‘why do I like this so much? How can I explain what’s good about it?’ felt like it would ruin something, so I let it pass by.

But here’s a second chance, cause we got the very lucky scoop of premiering the video. It’s the work of Brisbane director and musician Helena Papageorgiou, who’s been responsible for many of the best clips you’ve been seeing coming out of Bris lately. This is a (deceptively) simple but imaginative and lovable version of the ‘we’ll have the band play their song, with green screen stuff also happening’ kind of video.

In it Anastassiou, Sky McNichol (Bent), Josh Watson (Sewers; also mixed and co-produced the record) and Matthew Ford (Thigh Master), who make up the Brisbane contingent of the band (Anastassiou now lives in Melbourne and plays with different members there), play their instruments in a dingy share house-looking room, while out the windows animated illustrations spin and swirl.

The drawings are by Anastassiou himself: colourful fun and freaky pictures of UFOs and weird misshapen people and anthropomorphic houses. There’s a wild world going on outside the concrete walls the band are contained by – though they break out at the end, with some cool shots of those walking down some animated streets and losing their heads in the big city.

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This clip doesn’t rest on a cute idea or one-watch novelty – you see something new and interesting in Anastassiou’s drawings and Papageorgiou’s animation with every repeat watch.

Benefits of Solitude will be out in February on Bedroom Suck

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LISTEN: Alex Macfarlane – ‘Cassette 2016’ & Hanibaf – ‘First Time Caller’

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alex-macfarlane sydney-2000

Hello and welcome to the first and possible only instalment of a new feature: mixtapes you may enjoy listening to at work or while relaxing and being low-key.

Here’s two odd ones, one from Melbourne and one from Brisbane, from two dudes who obviously also enjoy being low-key and making stuff in their spare time, and who have put out these releases for their friends and fans with little to no fanfare.

The good thing about doing that kind of thing is you don’t have to bother with album or EP ‘structures’. Hanibaf (Steve Rose, from excellent Brisbane band Sydney 2000)’s mix has about 22 songs and is 25 minutes long. Alex Macfarlane (Twerps, The Stevens)’s tape has four sides, 24 songs and is 40 minutes long. Macfarlane’s tracks run the gamut from sunken ambient music to spacey electronica to the kind of sweet poppy guitar stuff you might readily expect from someone who also plays in Twerps. His voice is naïve in a curious, wondering way and that keeps everything light and listenable even when the music gets weird.

Rose has made a hip-hop electronic record… Kind of? Like the beats and samples are chosen and put together really well and the first few songs are groovy as hell – but he also can’t resist doing a bit of noise and distorted guitar, cutting between low-key old soul record sounding sketches and hip-hop beats, and heavy, repetitive blues-rock guitar intros. It’s distracted and hyper but with so many smart moves that you can tell while Rose is mucking around, he knows what he’s doing (get into Sydney 2000, friends).

A lot of this stuff sounds like it was recorded off an iPhone onto another iPhone onto like a computer’s inbuilt sound recorder. But if you wanna get the full crunchy buzzy ambient effect you gotta listen to it (like me) through the speakers of a 2012 Sony PC laptop. Just, like, a warmer sound, you know?

If you have made a mix that sounds like something I might enjoy listening to at work or while relaxing and being low key you can send an email to Will help if you’re my personal friend/in Twerps.


LISTEN: Den – ‘Current Riser’

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I like Sydney band Den’s first single ‘Poltergeist’ a lot – I don’t wanna get into the whole Cotal Tontrol thing but please everyone feel free to continue to make things that sound something like my favourite band of all time, thanks. What really put me off about ‘Poltergeist’ was the film clip, which is maybe unfair, but you get to see a lot of self-serious angry boys tryna be unsettling and it all starts to grind you down.  Still, that song sounded COOL and that bitey, gripping lead guitar line could stand up pretty good next to anyone you care to compare them to.

‘Current Riser’ is definitely more fun – I mean maybe the band are dead serious with that pop metal guitar and spoopy effects, but either way, they’re funny. And tough and exciting and it still get you all revved up. The vocals keep everything anchored firmly in post-punk territory, driving a straight thick line through the song to the end. Like ‘Poltergeist’, this is the sound of an outward-facing male anxiety. A fear that makes you aggressive rather than forcing you to look inward. But with ‘Current Riser’ DEN turn this into something tense, tight and frantic.

‘Poltergeist’ and ‘Current Riser’ with both be on Den’s EP, out November 11 on Rice in Nice.

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Okin Osan is a new band fronted by Sydney-based Rose Chan, sporting a hyperactive, grungy take on surf rock with a kind of 60s Japanese twist. She’s supported names like Jeremy Neale and Empat Lima, and if you know those artists, you’ve got an idea of the off-kilter kind of alternative pop-rock you’re in for. Rose also happens to be the sister of electro-pop mover-n-shaker Rainbow Chan.

Rose doesn’t take much inspiration from her sister’s already considerable back catalogue, instead focusing on carving a new vibe full of fuzzy chord progressions along with razor sharp riffs and vocal melodies. Rose clearly has a deep affection for the period of mid-1900s western dance-hall optimism, but digging deeper into the demos on her Soundcloud also shows her leaning towards the grungy angst of the ’90s.

Okin Osan’s debut single ‘You Tell, I’ll Listen’ is a strong starting point. It’s got that lonesome, sun-soaked delivery of something like Martha and the Muffins’ ‘Echo Beach’, but is a little more rough around the edges in a youthful, carefree way. It’s short but upfront, confident, and full of ideas that are begging to be expanded on.

Okin Osan’s debut EP will be out digitally and on tape via Healthy Tapes come November 10

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LISTEN: Unity Floors ‘Life Admin’ LP

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Whether they’re trying to or not, on Life Admin Sydney’s Unity Floors ask a lot of questions. Like, is there still place for two normal nice guys in Australian music? Obviously in most genres and spaces, men still take up most of the room – but in alternate music media, we know girls are the ones doing the exciting stuff in pop and punk and techno and rock and roll. So what about these two guys bemused by girls and their designer clothes and their yoga on their lunch breaks, who still think moving to Melbourne might be the answer to all their problems. What about these two white dudes probably closer to thirty than twenty, playing drums and guitar and making sweet garage pop music.

What space do these men take up in music right now? Does anyone care? What’s worth talking about at the moment? With Restless The Ocean Party have made something untouchably beautiful, introspective and sensitive and political. They’re trying hard to earn their voices. Then there’s party-rock boy bands who play the sell-out tours and keep Weed Culture hanging around in music like a stain. In Brisbane, and probably other places, white boys who play guitar but wish they were hip hop stars make samples and heavy techno or blunt wild-eyed dumb punk music. Unity Floors aren’t really like any of this. They’re earnest and naive in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way, with those jaunty fuzzy guitars that could be from anywhere between 1991 and now.

It’s a fun record, a domestic record to do the chores and ride the bus to. And yeah ‘Give and Take’ sounds like ‘Simple Feelings’ by Twerps but you know it wasn’t on purpose and they probably aren’t sitting around obsessively listening to Range Anxiety enough to pick it up. Just unlucky for them that Australian music writers definitely are.

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Maybe we’ll look back on Life Admin as the last of its kind. Or maybe garage rock for boys is here to stay and I’m talking out of my arse. But listening to this record made me feel nostalgic for something I’ve always loved but only just realised had slipped away, and it’s nice to remember it at least one more time.


Life Admin is out on Pop Frenzy now. Unity Floors also do a great live show, which you can catch in Sydney, Melbourne or Hobart on their upcoming tour:

Hobart – The Brisbane hotel, Satuday October 8
Melbourne – The Old Bar, Saturday October 22
Sydney – Chippendale Hotel, Friday October 28

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Image by Greg Holland Photography

Liam ‘Snowy’ Halliwell isn’t a content man. You see it his songwriting, and the fact that his main band camp page looks like this. He reminds me of the classic fervent artist – constantly immersing himself in creative process, creation and destruction, rarely rising up to the surface to breathe in and take stock, always sorting through his ideas as quickly as possible.

The focused movements of his best-known work with The Ocean Party are probably the result of having to work to the combined schedule of five other dudes, but in his new project, No Local, Snowy is purely himself.

His debut release under that name is Nolo Contendere, named after a kind of plea bargain where the defendant admits neither innocence nor guilt. If you’re familiar with Snowy’s preference for darker self-reflection, these themes will come as no surprise.

Here Snowy’s exposed, no longer hidden behind a guitar or nestled in with others’ sounds. Last time I saw No Local perform was at STRINE WHINE’s August residency at Melbourne’s Gasometer. In that performance Snowy approached a pop-star iconography, his all-black outfit bookended by his mess of blonde hair on top and white Converse All-Stars on the bottom.

Zach Denton, also of The Ocean Party (and other groups, like Pregnancy and Cool Sounds) backs him up on drums, so Snowy’s not totally on his lonesome. In a conversation we had the other day about the project, Snowy told me that he was looking at No Local as a collection of shifting parts, different players coming in and out, bolstering and subtracting as they come and go. He likened it to operating Sui Zhen’s live outfit.

Nolo Contendere is scattershot in its sounds but unified in its intent. Speaking on that lack of cohesion, Snowy harkens back to Aphex Twin’s 2001 release Drukqs, a double LP that flits between classical composition and razor’s-edge electronic production. To him, as much as that record is sonically unpredictable, as an Aphex Twin project it all makes sense.

Nolo Contendere contains two songs that’ll eventually make their way onto No Local’s debut album later this year – the already released ‘Thinking the Wrong Things’ and ‘Somebody Else’ – but it’s the deep cuts on the tape that are the true gems. ‘Do What I Said’ could almost be summer anthem, if it weren’t for Snowy’s hushed vocal delivery. ‘I.W.B.W.U.’ is a contorted chop up of Flowertruck’s ‘I Wanna Be With You’, showcasing deft vocal sampling.

Skating the edges of indie pop, house, funk, and dance music, Nolo Contendere sounds unique. Snowy coming out from the conventional (but still wonderful) world of guitar pop is something to behold.

No Local are about to go on a wee tour in support of the Nolo Contendere release. You can catch them on these dates:

22 September – The Phoenix, Canberra, w/ Sachet, Dog Name, Territory

24 September – The Fitzroy Pinnacle, Melbourne, w/ The Finks, Frances Fox + Yours & Mine Zine Launch

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LISTEN: Akioka – ‘Right Here’

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Akioka is the solo project of Tess Darcey, a key member of Perth’s small but extremely industrious experimental electronic scene. She plays in both Mei Saraswati and Phil Stroud‘s live bands, and shares with those artists a taste for light-handed, organic compositions blending soul, dub and new age influences.

Her latest release, a two-song cassette called Right Here, is out this Friday on Pouring Dream, a bedroom-size label responsible for ambient pop releases by local artists Spirit Level, Leaving, Bahasa Malay and more.

The title track is a gentle, minimalist drone built around Darcey’s vocal loops, which flutter and tumble over a bed of sparse keys and thumb piano. Listening to it is almost a somatic experience – like lying in a shallow stream with sunlight and clear water running over your body, the sounds of birds, insects and rapids mixing in your ears.

Preorder Right Here on cassette and digital via Bandcamp. Each tape comes with a risographed cover and artwork by by Dolphin Secrets. West coasters can also catch the tape launch, presented by Pouring Dream and Semi-Decent, at Highgate Continental on 24 September.

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