Posts By Alan Weedon

WATCH: friendships – ‘Monarch to the Kingdom of the Dead’

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When premiering friendships’ latest vid, the UK’s Clash Magazine lead with a description of Melbourne being a “hub for the arts”. Yes, this is true. Our CBD council boats of its arts prowess, and we’ve had a knack for producing globetrotting creatives who romanticise the bluestone-lined streets of Melbourne’s inner suburbs. Each one has its fair share of Melburnian tropes at the ready – cafes with Edison lightbulbs, white tiles, or a disinterested barista put-on for effect.

But, the Melbourne represented in this clip isn’t what you’d initially jump to if you’re looking to romanticise our fashionable inner city. The suburb, Footscray isn’t going to be featured in some Monocle roundup anytime soon. It’s one that hasn’t really given into the full force of gentrification, where wave after wave of immigration still continues to makes its mark. In the vid local cameos such as Ming Ming’s, Franco Cozzo or Little Africa shine like time warped diamonds in the rough.

It’s always funny to see this place get featured. It’s romanticised by outsiders who consider it ‘exotic’ — it’s ‘Footscrazy’ or ‘Footscary’ to others. It’s a world where a technicoloured multitude of random shit greets you at a dollar shop, where said colours have faded from years of neglect. friendships’ Misha Grace (a Footscray resident) produced this in collaboration with Melbourne-based artist Ami Taib. So it’s funny to see them capture the ‘burb’s mundane reality.

For a long time, listing Footscray among Melbourne’s ‘cool’ haunts would’ve been a no-go. But now a string of younger Melburnians are capitalizing on cheap rents and large post-industrial spaces, and hosting Laneway is sure bound to shake off perceptions that it’s the inner city’s poorer cousin.

But for past or current residents, we just get on. Nobody’s getting knifed anytime soon, and nobody’s getting deprived of some ridiculously cheap okra. So take this video as an interesting juxtaposition of Footscray in its current state of flux — a perfect reading of the old and the new: a place where a gun shop can turn into an Ethiopian restaurant.

friendships are heading to the US in late May and are holding an art-show tour fundraiser. ‘Digestiblez’ will show at Friday May 1st at Forgotten Worlds, Collingwood. DJ sets from the duo and RaRa.

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INTRODUCING: Asdafr Bawd

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You should always trust a conservatorium student who pulls apart hooks long forgotten. That’s what Asdafr Bawd (pron: az-das-ah-fah bow-d) has done to xTina’s ‘Can’t Hold Us Down’. It’s part of a two-track release out through Solitaire Recordings (run by I’lls very own Hamish Mitchell). ‘Nobody’ – which uses Aguilera’s hook – should be commended for giving relevance to someone whose star has faded, along with flip-phones, low-cut denim and the stand-alone MP3 player.

Asdafr Bawd (real name Alex Clayton), is a classical piano and percussion student at the University of Melbourne, and he seems to be someone whose music knowledge would extend well beyond your usual chitchat. Presumably, his studies are routinely making him note the difference between augmented, diminished and suspended chords – so don’t get all high and mighty when you realise he’s put Caribou through the works on the second track, ‘Love’.

Underneath all of this is one suave producer who you could place on a spectrum with UK garage at one end and the current post-dub / post-Jamie xx world that electronica is in right now at the other. So pop 19-year-old Alex Clayton on your next playlist – alongside the wealth of young producers Melbourne’s got going for itself right now.

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INTRODUCING: Crepes

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There’s something odd about central Victoria. Aside from quaint colonial re-enactments, the promise of gold nuggets and the odd medieval castle, towns such as Ballarat and Bendigo sure produce a lot of live music. This is the scene that produced Melbourne-via-Ballarat newcomers Crepes.

“To me it seems like Ballarat isn’t that much of a music hub, but I guess its had some pretty prolific bands come out of there,” says vocalist, Tim Karmouche. You might recognise Karmouche from his other band, Hollow Everdaze – another Ballarat alumnus. Crepes’ story is yet another tale of twenty-something regional flight. The four-piece first met in high school and have been on-and-off since its members started moving to Melbourne at the turn of the decade, but they’re back now with their debut EP, Cold Summers.

But more about that later. What is it exactly about this place that’s given rise to so many bands? If you drew a flow-chart including Gold Fields, Twinsy or Yacht Club DJs you’d find links everywhere, and most likely grouped around one venue: the Karova Lounge. “A lot of our bands have just cut their teeth at Karova, and Lachy and Sean who book and run it make the connections to Melbourne easier,” Karmouche says.

For a town whose reputation rests on its colonial history, it’s become an unwitting live music hub for the region. Right now they’ve got industry figures like Doug Wallen down there; he’s busy booking the Eastern and simultaneously telling stories about Heart of the Rat records. So Ballarat isn’t so much of a backwater but a regional centre where everything eventually finds its right place.

“Ballarat’s probably got the best live music for the greater Ballarat region. When I was 17 there were so many like-minded people who were all into music and art in the one town. Because it’s a small place there isn’t much else to do besides play music or footy – otherwise you’re a complete dropkick,” he says. So in a way, Crepes genesis was inevitable.

“I was friends with Maceo [Wood], our guitarist in early high school. His dad’s a bit of a local legend, running L’espresso, probably the first record store in Ballarat. He got me onto a lot of bands that I fell in love with. I explored all of their back catalogues – like, Eels or Flaming Lips. I just fed off friends with cool parents,” he says.

All of this was happening around the late noughties. Now it’s 2015 and we’ve got Cold Summers.

On the first few listens, you can’t ignore Crepes’ place within the Australiana obsession that’s pervasive of late. Considering the warm critical reception of the likes of Courtney Barnett, Dick Diver and Twerps, those beyond the island continent are unusually literate in all things Australian right now. ‘Ain’t Horrible’s’ lackadaisical vocals are not dissimilar to the Conan Mockasins of this world—himself an antipodean mirror to the ironic sleaze of Mac Demarco and Ariel Pink.

It’s not like the world has suddenly realised that pairing jangly guitars with an Aussie accent is anything new, but this will make it easier for a band like Crepes to resonate with audiences outside their home country. Let’s just hope this EP isn’t lost in the headwinds of another peak in the global popularity of Australian music.

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Photography: Kresimir Saban

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LISTEN: Kirkis – ‘Hypno’

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Melbourne’s Matthew Kirkis once described playing live as “trying to do a handstand on a giant dragon all the way to Disneyland,” and that’s certainly what it sounds like.

Anytime you sit down to listen to an offering from Kirkis you’re inevitably blindsided. You’re excused for looking like Elaine each time your body tries to move to his time signatures. Before you even get close to working out what you think he’s trying to say, a cluster of rapid-fire melodies all shout at you at once.

So spare a thought for the man behind it all. He’s out with a new track titled ‘Hypno’, building on the hybrid jazz-cum-future soul he’s had quite the knack for – otherwise known (on Soundcloud) as #kirkis. The single comes off a forthcoming LP to be released through Eglo Records, thanks to a chance meeting with label reps at the Evelyn Hotel during Melbourne Music Week.

For a musician who isn’t formally trained, countless hours of consuming myriad influences have sure made their mark. It’s telling that he first studied Painting at the Sydney College of the Arts before jetting off to the New York Art Students League, considering he told us that “colours and moving picture play a large role” in his work. What that work is can’t be pegged solely to his music: he’s a painter, he’s also Anti-Kirkis (his experimental electronic alter ego), and he dabbles in a bit of set-design, too.

‘Hypno’ then, is yet another expression of this guy’s desire to create. He seems to have this boundless energy that you need to see in person if you’re ever given the chance. To describe him, best take a leaf out of the Hiatus Kaiyote playbook, because there has to be a Kirkis equivalent of ‘multi-dimensional polyrhythmic gangsta shit’. ‘Doing handstands on giant dragons’ is halfway there.

 

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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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FEATURE: Sugar Mountain Festival 2015

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Photography by Bec Capp

 

There are certain things that should be left unsaid in order to avoid conflict. At this year’s Sugar Mountain festival, Nas bulldozed through that rule with charming American gusto: “Man, these buildings – it’s like we’re in the projects”. Hold it there, mate. If you were looking for one sure-fire way to turn Sugar Mountain’s inner- city white kids bright red, this was it. The Victorian College of the Arts isn’t exactly the same place Jenny used to sing about. But you can’t really blame Nas for getting a bit carried away—this year’s Sugar Mountain played itself out like an epic.

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We were made to wait two years. 2014 saw the festival get a much-needed injection of cash from the Mushroom Group. This was like Broad City’s comedy central moment. And boy did they sure deliver the goods—Nas’ Illmatic (in full), Kim Gordon’s art rock experiment Body/Head, and surprise appearances from Neil Finn and Dev Hynes via video link during Kirin J Callinan’s set. Throughout the day, though, you got a sense that this festival wasn’t riding off sheer spectacle. Sugar Mountain bills itself as a “summit of music and art”, but that tagline forgoes the most important assertion of all—this festival does so much to distill and communicate a Melbourne story that’s wholly our own. For some of this city’s inhabitants, our ‘indie’ culture is increasingly bleeding into a mainstream definition of Melbourne. We’re a city that boasts of coffee that’s second-to-none, a music city that bites the hand that feeds it and wins, and a city that “demands some level of civic engagement beyond simply walking the streets.

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From the inner-city’s gentrified masses to the sports-luxe goths roaming Melbourne’s CBD till the early-morn, Sugar Mountain was a summit for Melbourne’s disparate microscenes. If we’re a city defined by villages, then the villagers flocking to Sugar Mountain would all have a link to an ‘alternative’ culture that’s continually eroding into ever more niche divisions. The club kids could’ve stayed with the 2 Bears while Kim Gordon resonated with the crowds old enough to remember Sonic Youth. Melbourne, though, was in fine form: Twerps, Chela, Slum Sociable, Banoffee, NO ZU, Oscar Key Sung, Ash Keating, Leif Podhajsky—if you thought there couldn’t have been a more ‘Melburn’ festival than Paradise, then Sugar Mountain sure blew that out of the water.

Oh yeah, and don’t forget our local craft beer and gourmet food trucks.

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As much as this could’ve devolved into an insular Melbourne love-in, SM felt more like a celebration of local and international artists who have contributed to the city’s broader culture. TwerpsMarty Frawley revealed that his Mum studied painting at VCA. I’llsHamish Mitchell (as Sangkhara) and collaborator, Nicholas Keays did the video art for Oscar Key Sung and Cassius Select. Lauded Melbourne photographer Prue Stent helped to create Sugar Mountain’s art direction. Ash Keating’s multi-storey abstract painting, arguably the festival’s artistic centrepiece, adorned the VCA (of which he’s a graduate). The very fact that Sugar Mountain hosted art reminded us that we’re a city that we do ‘culture’ without tokenism, sometimes.

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People actually went into the VCA’s exhibition spaces and viewed Leif Podhajsky’s mixed- media works—the same could be said of Hisham Baroocha’s sitting next door. If most major galleries are afraid of declining audience numbers (apart from MONA), then Sugar Mountain went on to show that it’s not that hard to re-contextualise visual art’s consumption (despite parts still being shown in a traditional white cube). The idea of mixing a music festival with visual art is a promising one—a decision that lends itself to Melbourne’s inherent thirst for involved civic engagement (ahem, MPavilion, NGV’s Friday Nights).

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So as much as it could’ve been criticised as a festival where privileged inner-city white kids dance to Nas like they’ve been through their fair-share of #struggles, Sugar Mountain is at its best when it lets Melbourne tell its own stories through a mix of local and international artists who have directly or indirectly contributed to our collective identity. For a generation raised on a late-90s definition of pop culture—one where hip hop, R&B, and pop reigned supreme—Sugar Mountain gave everybody the chance to relish a interpretation of popular culture, which made the Johan Rashids of this city sit alongside Body / Head without fear of being caught in their shadows.

It’s these moments which remind us all, that hey, not only have we got one world, but we’re actually making a contribution to it even though we’re stuck at the end of the earth.

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INTRODUCING: Fortunes

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If you’ve ever listened to Usher’s ‘Climax’ you’ll understand the vocal gymnastics involved. For Fortunes’ Conor McCabe, this wasn’t an issue. He hit every single note. That means he hits two full octaves (Usher ranges from Eb3 to a falsetto D5). He did this when Fortunes opened during Oscar Key Sung’s residency at Melbourne’s Hugs & Kisses. It was one of those moments that slaps you in the face—much like discovering Banoffee’s vibrato, or the first time somebody demands you listen to D.D Dumbo. In McCabe’s case, his falsetto will keep ringing in your sleep.

Fortunes are McCabe and Barnaby Matthews, a Melbourne-via-Auckland duo. You can’t really separate these two from their origins once you’ve seen them live a few times. The first thing you notice is McCabe’s Kiwi twang. The Melbourne in them a lot harder to discern, given the subtle cultural differences between these two cities. Melbourne’s a city composed of villages—we let others know who we are and what we’re about.

Fortunes cut through this bullshit. Auckland breeds minimal fuss because (a) there’s not enough of a population base to generate microscenes and (b) its mainstream doesn’t see indie/hipster culture as something exotic to consume.

So enter Fortunes’ Hoodie EP—a ridiculously tight compilation of four tracks, to its last ounce oozing contemporary RnB and highlighting connections between NZ and Melbourne. Auckland’s Louie Knuxx features on ‘Communion’, for example; a steely, stripped-back affair done in the fine tradition of cinematic hip-hop storytelling.

The EP’s narrative is strongest on ‘Paper Thin’, a track rich with metaphorical flourishes. It initially tos-and-fros around the lyrics, “I’m grabbing papers to roll up and light up and spell out and (write up) / the lines they don’t line up”. It’s a slow burn building to a subdued chorus: “the line is paper-thin / it’s rippin’ / it’s rippin’” – a brooding moment where you can almost picture a spliff being stamped out on a bluestone laneway.

Throughout this release Hoodie’s sense of place grips you firmly, whether it’s signposted through McCabe’s Kiwi accent or through its noir-esque imagery. This is an assured, confident record that distils honest memories, not just trends.

Though it clocks out at 16 minutes, rest assured that won’t be long enough to absorb everything Hoodie packs in.

Image: Ben Clement

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