Michael Skinner hasn’t been to the Mallee. The region’s stately, arid plains, hidden beneath the ocean for most of the Earth’s history, are nevertheless a good analogue for his band, Mallee Songs. Their music is deeply influenced by the dark alt-country sounds of the 90s – particularly American artists like Jason Molina, Mark Linkous and Will Oldham. Those songwriters are present in Mallee Songs’ solemn lyricism, restrained feedback and vicious guitar solos.
Last year Mallee Songs released Gum Creek and Other Songs, a compilation of Skinner’s early home recordings. Cleaning out these scattered folk songs was a final step in his transition from bedroom to stage. He wrote the forthcoming album with a four-piece band, drummer Pascal Babare also producing.
‘Since the Kingdom’, a pretty, Silver Jews-like track, is the lead single from the new record. In the video – premiered here – Skinner wanders, jaded and sleep-deprived, through the Australian countryside, stalked by wordless strangers. Meanwhile, someone, somewhere is playing a lament: ‘All my brothers in a slow decline / I need a new feeling to describe / the arc of a mountain in a cloudless sky’.