For those of you unacquainted, Castlemaine is a country centre that’s about an hour’s drive west of Melbourne. Situated between Ballarat and the Victorian capital, it once was a town fuelled by gold, then left to fend for itself after the hordes of new money left.In 2014 it still remains as a country centre, but it’s evaded the plastic re-hash of most urban centres. It isn’t mall-i-fied, and nor does it rely upon an antiquated mirage of ‘colonial heritage’ to get tourist dollars in. It is this town that now lays claim to DD Dumbo (aka. Oliver Hugh Perry).
Posts By Alan Weedon
I feel there could be a turf war between Melbourne and Sydney soul soon. Down here, we’ve got a knack for big brass; as Saskwatch, Clairy Browne, and The Cactus Channel have gone on to reflect the city’s penchant for gritty live shows. And in true form, Sydney’s hit back with something slick. That person behind it all is Sarsha Simone.
Previously front woman of Dojo Cuts—a revivalist funk outfit—Simone has brought out the Gold EP: five tracks that serve up a mix of neo-soul, hip-hop, and contemporary RnB. But, Simone’s voice is hard to place. It’s raspy in part, but it’s smooth as well — almost like Winehouse’s raw voice on her debut Frank. You can her this more clearly on Jazz Soul Scent, Simone’s recent collaboration with French artist DJ Moar. And, in the vein of your neo-RnB revivalists, she can rap to boot. This could raise ire in others, but she seems to rap in a style that’s akin to spoken word poetry on tracks like ‘All Night’. And of course, you could look to the likes of Candice Monique for further comparisons.
The EP ticks all the boxes of the RnB tragic. Gold presents themes of lust, sensuality, and sultry nights out in language of the genre. You’ve got your usual dose of heavy bass, with Simone directly addressing you on tracks like ‘Move’. And while it’s safe to say that Hiatus Kaiyote has broken the ceiling for local neo-soul, this EP doesn’t seem to following its direct path. On ‘Gold’, the EP ramps up the electronica, with vocal lines distorted and melodies that break out of RnB’s DNA.
But, ‘Goin On’ seems to be the front-runner. With a bass line that subtly references funk, this track illustrates why future soul has become as big as it is now. This reminds me of ‘Everytime’, a track from British producer Eric Lau, precisely because production takes a back seat to vocal agility. Here, Simone’s voice is allowed to fully branch out as you’re enveloped in her vibrato.
On the whole, Gold is a tight release that knows how to play to its strengths. Considering the sheer amount of acts that have spawned from the neo-soul trip, Simone’s yet another welcome addition to a scene that’s hitting its stride.
Silo Arts seems to fit the bill of a label that seems to be dripping in cultural cool. Being a Brisbane-based, outward looking label that’s pegged to Frenchkiss Records, the Silo Arts collective have managed to make a real mark since their start in 2011.
The likes of Rainbow Chan, ƒriendships, and Tincture lead the charge for Silo, creating a niche of young, curated electronic music that reaches beyond domestic ears. Tomorrow, they’ll be staging their unofficial Melbourne Music Week showcase at The Workers’ Club.
In the lead up to this, we asked label founder Hugh Francis to explain Silo’s deal:
Silo Arts started in 2011 as a little artist collective. We got a bunch of like minded Brisbane producers together and started doing some shows around town, and hosting some internationals. The exact birthday of Silo Arts is unknown, however it’s roughly September, around Bigsound. We started in 2011 as a little arts collective, doing gallery shows with a bunch of unknown producers. We were lucky enough to be discovered by the peeps at Frenchkiss when I was working for CMJ in New York City in 2012. Those guys are pretty close to the CMJ crew, and I guess someone mentioned that I was running a small label back home. They had a listen to our sampler, and sent us a contract within a week. For me, that’s point where I really got my head in the game – up until then it had been a DIY collective. That’s when we decided to really have a go at this whole label thing….
Rainbow Chan, the Sydney-based songstress who’s responsible for one of Australia’s more notable pop releases this year, has come out with a side project, Chunyin.
Chan’s Long Vacation EP (out through Silo Arts & Records) set indie scensters alight with her brand of delectable pop, but this latest project sees a break in that trajectory.
Often associated with Sui Zhen (hopefully not because of inadvertent racism), Chan’s melodies inhabit a space that could be considered whimsical—no doubt fostered by a love of vintage toys.
However, Chunyin’s a whole new ball game.
The first, and only track posted on Soundcloud, ‘Monochrome’, is reminiscent of Collarbones circa Iconography. It’s an abstract work that probably won’t be as blissful to the ears as say ‘Fool’s Gold’. The vocals that underpinned that release aren’t present here. Tagged as ‘Stonewashed’ on Soundcloud, ‘Monochrome’ distorts the the ‘vintage toy’ aesthetic into that of chopped up samples, loops, and general electronic goods.
What propelled Chan to break open this side-project is anyone’s guess, but it’s going to be interesting to see Chunyin develop as a counterpoint to the stylings of Rainbow Chan.
It’s hard not to read over this track with the multitude of sampled influences that could’ve been referenced in the making of ‘Monochrome’. From Four Tet’s ‘Rounds’ to Mount Kimbie’s back catalogue, the creation of Chunyin taps into a scene which places the musical ‘figurehead’ in the backseat. And, considering all the attention Chan’s received for Haircut, can Chunyin be seen as an antagonist to the pop idolarity fostered by the Long Vacation EP?
Probably not, but I’d love to find out.
If there’s one thing that’ll keep creative enclaves around Australia up all night, it’ll be this EP. From Northcote to Newtown, rest assured that those dripping in cultural cool will have their ears tuned to this latest offering from indie/art powerhouse, Two Bright Lakes.
If you’re familiar with Oscar + Martin or The Harpoons then there’s no doubt you’re familiar with Martin King. One half of the former, and a staple of the wider community of Two Bright Lakes, King has finally given us something of his own. Renowned for his production skills on a series of releases on top of 2011′s For You, he’s a man that’s well seasoned in the art of production.
So, you’d be excused for assuming that this EP has a lot to answer for. And while that may be a trap, there’s no escaping the lineage that it stems from. On the face of it, you’ve got the elements that TBL’s been renowned for over the past few years: a performer who collaborates with a series of other ‘hip’, ‘up and coming’ acts, on top of an aesthetic that seems to tap into the cultural zeitgeist (or whatever buys cultural capital from TBL’s audiences).
But, trying to place King on a spectrum of sorts, this is something that gets tricky very quickly. The retro-soul of The Harpoons differs greatly in style in comparison to the urban minimalism of Oscar + Martin. Speaking to Melbourne-based photo-editorial website, Grilling Me Softly, King spoke of his admiration for Iggy Azealea. And if you think that’s something that bred consternation for those reading that, then you wouldn’t be the first. But then King went on to say this:
“I’m not really sure why (I like her) because some of the stuff she does is really atrociously bad, and her rapping is not very good, but I just like that she’s representing Australia”
So, looking to what Fitness Vol 1 does for local music is maybe not the right question. Make no mistake, this is a release that’s bound to make an impact – to the right people – but this may not be the definitive release that Oscar + Martin fans might have been hoping for. Be patient.
When describing this EP to Grilling Me Softly, Fitness was designed with 80s synths and Euro-trap in mind and that comes across in parts. ‘I’ll be’ nods to the 80s, but soon descends into a bass line reserved for contemporary RnB. On the whole, there’s no clear single that leaps from the stables, or a ‘banger’ – for a lack of a better term. Intended or not, the EP has this restraint that’s refrains from tying itself to an overt genre. I mean, on face value, and with the lineage that King has, you could easy mistake of pigeon holding this into RnB – which it sometimes steps into, but not entirely. Here, the tracks are short, tight, and sweet, straddling a musical aesthetic that’s eponymous of King’s past work. The only thing that sprung to mind was Collarbones‘ mix for Oyster Magazine, but even then there’s elements to this EP that belong solely to King himself.
And that’s exactly why I for one, prize the impact that TBL’s had on Australian music over the past few years. With Collarbones unabashed avowal of pop, to Brothers Hand Mirror’s re-imagining of Australian hip-hop, it’d be strange to imagine a musical landscape without TBL. And I’m glad it’s the likes of King who’s the next in line to do this.
If you’ve ever had one of those experiences where you’ve liked something on Facebook, forgot about them, and then they’ve suddenly popped up all over your barometers of ‘cool’, then Alba’s my most recent example.
There’s a bit to know about Alba. Being the first imprint for Plastic World, founded by Future Classic and Astral People alumni, Knokke/Law’s a solid release for a label touting itself as a home for ‘forward-thinking Australian music’. Whether Plastic World reaches the same level of ‘forwardness’ that the likes of New Weird Australia has, or if it builds off the success of its founding members is something that’s going to be interesting to watch in 2014.
Alba were once Albatross, off the now-defunct Life Aquatic. They’re a Sydney duo comprised of Thomas McAlister and Sam Weston, who first introduced themselves with Murder/Caspers Theme. It was a debut exploring minimal electronica that you actually should listen to, right now. Occupying a space that typified the reason why festivals like Sequence exist, Murder/Caspers Theme seemed to tap right into the bedroom-producer/beat scene that’s dominated non-Flume electronica over the past few years.
Now, enter Knokke/Law. Detroit House anyone? If you’re hankering for a boogie, then look no further than this release. Moving away from their otherwise ambient predecessors, both ‘Knokke’ and ‘Law’ combine the elements of Detroit that has been appropriated ever since. The 909 hats, arpeggiated crescendos, and the immersive synths grip where other local electronic efforts sink into melodic introspection. This is topped off by remixes from Detroit’s Jimmy Edgar and Rick Wade, that make this release’s lineage just that bit clearer.
And, if you consider the fact that their first signed act has supported Four Tet, Mount Kimbie, and Gold Panda, that’s a trifecta that I don’t think many local acts can put on their CV.
Yon Yonson seem like the band you want to hang out with at the end of a gig. Reading through their Soundcloud is a case in point. With lines like, ‘Sorry about the shit-stream of links but we be livin’ in crazy modern times’, it’s nice to know there are bands out there who don’t take themselves too seriously. The Sydney duo are Andrew Kuo and Nathan Saad, and they’re another one of those duos who are hard to pin down. Citing ‘the internet’ as their primary influence, there’s truth behind their self-deprecatory streak in saying that Yon Yonson was a way to ‘cope with musical ADHD’.
Hearing ‘How Bad Do you Want It’ proves to be a starker contrast to the tracks found on their excellent Antipodes EP. If you were to characterise an ‘aesthetic’, you’d be hard pressed to move beyond the handling of both their vocals. Sydney rap-bag Simo Soo’s layered harmonics proved to be a good choice. This latest track is a lot more interesting though. It’s something that certainly doesn’t grip you from the start, it’s more of a slow-burner. That’s of course until the track descends with a sequence of brash vocals and electronica. Samples chop and change, and vocals mirror that of the punk-styles of Coolies maybe.
YY have definitely carved themselves an interesting perch amongst a rather crowded ‘indie’ scene. Stay tuned.
While Yon Yonson are busy working on their follow up, Simo Soo will be playing around Australia through October & November on these dates:
If you’re wondering how a generation brought up on American cultural imperialism translates musically, then look no further than Melbourne’s Banoffee (Martha Brown). This chanteuse seems to have come out of nowhere, until you unpick her linage as part of Otouto, and sister of Two Bright Lakes head-honcho, Hazel Brown.
It’s fair to say that Banoffee has been long-awaited.
I first came to discover Martha through Otouto, a band which I think is peerless. Brown’s vocals are distinctly Australian (but not), whimsical (but not forced), and most importantly, in a class of its own (and underrated). It’s rare to find an Australian vocalist who manages to stamp a definitive identity through the mic, and Brown has this in spades. Here sits a voice that belies classification – vaguely reminiscent of the subtlety of Pikelet’s Evelyn Morris, but not quite.
On ‘Ninja’, you’ve got this mixed in with Brown’s reclamation of a certain late-90s, early-00s R’n’B aesthetic. This track’s antecedent is clearly Destiny’s Child’s ‘Cater 2 U’, and that’s really refreshing. Looking at Two Bright Lakes’ roster, Collarbones and Oscar Key Sung have done enough to instill R’n’B throughout the Melbourne-based collective. And this is where I feel acts like Banoffee mark a paradigm shift in Australian music. Considering the dominance of American urban music at the close of the last millennium, it’s high time for musicians brought up on this to translate this to contemporary audiences. In an Australian context, our failure to produce credible urban music has always been a chip on our shoulder, but with Q-Tip collaborating with Hiatus Kaiyote, times seem to be a changing. With Brown touting UK Bass and Detroit Synths as influences, here comes an artist that will most definitely shake up connotations of Australian ‘alt-pop’.
In sum, you need Banoffee in your life.
Photos by Alan Weedon
(photo: Karl Scullin)
Ooooooweeeeeee. It’s time for some new Pikelet everybody.
‘Pressure Cooker’ is a groovin’ jam replete with the characteristically scattered vocals of lead, Evelyn Morris.
What this Melbourne based four piece does well, is provide ‘alt-pop’ that goes completely against the grain. As a band that’s a staple on community radio, Pikelet who makes you think about the construction of music than what’s presented through perceived national tastemakers. Tagged as ‘psych pop’ on their Soundcloud, it seems ‘Pressure Cooker’ does exactly that. From the get go, you’re immersed in those Pikelet synths, furthering that with woozy trip with reverb-laden guitar lines, and ever-subtle arpeggios.
While I think a band like Pikelet transcends labels, it’s tracks like ‘Pressure Cooker’ that really does make you think about Morris’ vocal style. Morris’ reminds me of Dirty Projectors’ Amber Coffman. They both possess a voice that fronts as hollow, almost ghost-like at points – but underpinning all that there’s some subterranean soul that’s waiting to be released, given the right context – just like Coffman on Major Lazer’s ‘Get Free‘.
And it’s only on this track which Morris hints at this, her voice working well within restraint particularly on the refrain “these are our darkest days”. The overall feel here makes you think this track could be a shoe-in for a video clip with projection art, dusty floorboards, and distant looks from the foursome (…maybe).
Pikelet will launch ’Pressure Cooker’ at the Tote Hotel, on Friday June 7.